Composer Frederic Rzewski turns 80

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Photograph of Frederic Rzewski by Eleonore Schönmaier (2012)

 

Nocturnes

 

during

winter months

of insomnia

 

Frederic inks

three nocturnes

hoping sleep will

 

reach him like a gift

dropped through

the mail slot

 

like a feather

fallen from a

blue wing, like the

 

memory of the sunset

slipping through

the late evening blinds

 

like the midnight

train where the two single

men, the couple,

 

the family with children

all have their

eyes shut, a few soft

 

snores and Frederic

with his head

against the window

 

also falls away

from the world

as he hurtles

 

toward a destination

whose address he

often fails to find

 

From Dust Blown Side of the Journey (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017)


“[Frederic Rzewski] has, for decades, been making thought-provoking, heart-wrenching music about issues that dominate the headlines today: the perils of incarceration, the tension between the government and the governed, the struggle for gay rights, the decimation of the industrial working class…Mr. Rzewski practices the progressive ideas he preaches, making his scores available online and encouraging, rather than blocking, the dissemination of his recordings on YouTube. He remains, he says, a revolutionary optimist. Asked if it’s possible actually to affect politics through music, Mr. Rzewski answered, “Probably not,” before adding, with a wry smile: “But you have to write as if you could. You can’t be sure. You might.”—Zachary Woolfe 

 


 

 

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry month in Canada and the USA and the Poem in Your Pocket Day brochure is already available online and includes poems by W.S. Merwin, Louise Glück, Joy Harjo, Juan Felipe Herrera, Kim Fahner, Greg Santos, Eleonore Schönmaier, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Shakespeare and Walt Whitman among many others. I also love the fact that the brochure includes instructions for how to create a folded swan.

 

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“Every April, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, and on social media using the hashtag #pocketpoem.”

 

“Poem in Your Pocket Day was initiated in April 2002 by the Office of the Mayor in New York City, in partnership with the city’s Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative to all fifty United States, encouraging individuals around the country to participate. In 2016, the League of Canadian Poets extended Poem in Your Pocket Day to Canada.”

Conversation

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Emily Doolittle’s Conversation, a setting for soprano and ensemble of Eleonore Schönmaier’s haunting poem of the same name will be debuted on February 21 in Scotland as part of Music Planet’s programming with the St Andrews New Music Ensemble.  “Schönmaier’s poem explores what Doolittle describes as a ‘slightly uncanny sympathy between humans and grey seals’. Humans are musical creatures. Sounds are so important to how we communicate and how we create that we are naturally drawn to the sounds other animals make, especially when we perceive those sounds as music. Marine mammals are especially musical — underwater, visibility is poor, but sound travels far. Grey seals are particularly captivating because their voiceboxes are the closest to ours of any other animal.”  Emily Doolittle’s Conversation was commissioned by Bede Williams with funds from the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

For a taster of what’s to come you can listen to another Doolittle work also based on a Schönmaier poem “Migration.”

 

Vallum Poem of the Week: “What Gets Blown In” by Eleonore Schönmaier

Vallum: Contemporary Poetry

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What Gets Blown In

The cricket that lands
on his thigh. In the house

there have been no flowers
for weeks, yet a red petal

floats in the bath that he
draws for her. A large bee

finds the strawberry
spoon in the kitchen sink.

Unnoticed, a mosquito
drones in the bedroom

at night. And on the breakfast
table a tiny white feather.

Eleonore Schönmaier’s most recent books are Dust Blown Side of the Journey (2017) and Wavelengths of Your Song (2013) both from McGill-Queen’s University Press. Her poetry has been set to music by Canadian, Dutch, Scottish, American and Greek composers. Her poetry has also been performed in concert by The New European Ensemble. She has won the Alfred G. Bailey Prize, the Earle Birney Prize, and has been twice shortlisted for the Bridport prize (UK). Her poetry has been published in The Best Canadian Poetry, and has also been translated…

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Nine poems

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Nine of my poems were selected for the Canadian National Poetry Registry (covering seven different constituencies). George Elliot Clark, Parliamentary Poet Laureate writes “My hope is that Canadians will look up a constituency and discover poets whose work will gain additional relevance via their verses about a place—or places—therein. I also hope to inform parliamentarians about how poets have viewed—or view—a riding and acquaint them with the poets who have lived in or visited their electoral districts.”

New Brunswick Southwest

Three poems set on Grand Manan:

“Libretto.”  Wavelengths of Your Song McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013

Saxifraga.”  Wavelengths of Your Song McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013

“Wild.” Wavelengths of Your Song McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013

 

Nova Scotia Halifax

Poem about the crash of Swissair Flight 111 and the effect of this on a Nova Scotia village

“What We Don’t Think of Packing.” Treading Fast Rivers Carleton University Press, 1999

 

Nova Scotia South Shore-St. Margarets

Poem set in Kejimkujik National Park 

“Journey.” Wavelengths of Your Song McGill-Queens University Press, 2013

 

Nova Scotia Dartmouth-Cole Harbour

“Medieval Thoughts.” Treading Fast Rivers Carleton University Press, 1999

 

Ontario Kenora

“Copper Thunderbird.” Treading Fast Rivers Carelton University Press, 1999

 

Northwest Territories

 “Paradise Evacuated.” Dust Blown Side of the Journey. McGill-Queens University Press, 2017

 

Vancouver Centre

“Vancouver.” Wavelengths of Your Song. McGill-Queen’s University Press 2013

 

 

Harnessed

 

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“Our fate rests on human traits that haven’t yet been defined in scientific terms, such as common sense, kindness, rational thought, and creativity.” —Jaron Lanier (from Dawn of the New Everything:  A Journey through Virtual Reality)

Vision

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“Making things visible, looking, feeling—’they are my form of resistance’.”  —Jorie Graham

One Room Ensemble

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“Inspired by beautiful poems from Eleonore Schönmaier (Canada), Giuseppe Ungaretti (Italy) and Gerrit Achterberg (The Netherlands), the musicians show their most sensitive and lyrical side.”  CD from One Room Ensemble.

Branches over Ripples

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“Eleonore has gone back out onto the lake, this time in her kayak. Truly no other friend of mine has canoeing more in her blood. She’s practised it since her childhood in Northern Ontario, and isn’t just a fair-weather paddler; she also likes the challenge and exhilaration of being on lakes during rains, mists and surging waves. No wonder images of water run through so much of her new poetry collection, which is also filled with music and musicians, so the title Wavelengths of Your Song fits perfectly. I’ve read some of the poems two or three times, but it just dawned on me, after canoeing with its author, that you could re-experience the book with the act of canoeing constantly in mind, and wonder how rhythms and lines might’ve been influenced by the dips, strokes, manouverings and driftings, all the movements of both energy and relaxation, in canoeing around a lake again and again.”

 From Brian Bartlett’s newly released Branches over Ripples (Gaspereau Press)

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“Over two years, author and amateur naturalist Brian Bartlett sat down beside various bodies of water (bays, rivers, streams, lakes, waterfalls) to record his impressions, capturing both sensuous details of natural phenomena and reflections on his life and reading. Making a virtue of leisurely digression, Bartlett’s experiment in plein-air writing wanders beyond everyday personal journal-keeping into a meditation on the rich connections between the seemingly disparate experiences of our days, and on the enduring value of indulging our curiosity.”

“Brian Bartlett has published seven collections of poetry (including The Watchmakers Table and Wanting the Day: Selected Poems) and two books of prose (Ringing Here & There: A Nature Calendar and All Manner of Tackle: Living with Poetry). His writing has won numerous prizes, including the Atlantic Poetry Prize, The Malahat Reviews Long Poem Prize and the Acorn-Plantos Award for Peoples Poetry. Bartlett lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he teaches at Saint Marys University.”

 

Oh Canada

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When Armand Ruffo, Guest Editor of Arc Poetry Magazine #84, asked me to submit to this special issue I wrote the poem “Afloat.” I’m honoured that my writing is included in #84 along with Louise B. Halfe (Sky Dancer), Gwen BenawayJane Munro and Katheryn Wabegijig, among others