New publications, tour dates

A lot going on, such as a beloved work in print: the first poem I wrote about my son (for my wife) has been published in (parenthetical) magazine from words(on)pages in Toronto. You may read it online but I strongly suggest ordering a copy of the magazine—words(on)pages produces beautiful books.

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New chap-poem: A cento after Cameron Anstee’s  chapbook ever the night goes beautiful has been published as a chap-poem by Puddles of Sky Press—it’s called “the night goes” and it’s free with an order of something awesome, like the graphic novel issue of illiterature issue v. the graphic novel or The Hopeful Barnacle: New & Selected Poems of Andrew Nurse.

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Two upcoming tour dates: Tues. June 28 at the Tree Reading Series (Ottawa) with Talya Rubin & my friend, the incredible JM Francheteau, and Sat. July 2 at Artfest (Kingston) with tourmates Cameron Anstee and Justin Million, and the wonderful Frances Boyle. Both those shows are free, so please come out and buy some chapbooks if you can. Artfest is going to be just incredible, with sixty poets reading in Kingston’s City Park over the long weekend. Cannot wait.

2016 05 22 Blackman Jeff author photo for Tree Reading -  credit K Maxfield

New title from Horsebroke press: My little press is taking on its first poet (who isn’t me) with a collection from Amanda Besserer. It will launch Fri. June 17 at the Factory Reading Series (Ottawa) and be available at the Ottawa Small Press Fair the next day (Sat. June 18). If you can’t make it to Ottawa, you’ll be able to order it via our Etsy store at that time. More details on this project very soon.

Civilization: Single Player Setup

 

I’ve been trying to up my people’s happiness.

The central tenet of our faith: water is good.

Ottawa is hash-tagged with rivers and canals;

today, we should be ecstatic to be alive.

 

One suicidal friend fled west, says

he is shamed by dignitaries. The downtown

BIA shuts down a t-shirt giveaway;

you must ask for the right to be generous.

 

Another suicidal friend ripens in subsidy.

She repays charity with other charity,

literally. She dreams of renewal;

to be made useful in the arrow of ex-pats

 

teaching English in the East. A third friend,

also suicidal, once East, appears automated.

From above he appears to be in perpetuity

finishing a painting, thick with better edits.

 

More friends, maybe also suicidal, pen odes

to their prescriptions, fatten with baggage.

I feel each draws on my productivity, heathers

my vision of a hundred percent self.

 

These are not my stories to tell but I am in them.

The rural legislator describes the defense

he pit against his arsonist son-in-law. His daughter

condemns what Hansard cannot deny;

 

it was not his story to tell. My friends

once saw themselves in my words for myself,

my baggy self-portrait. I am sorry

for saying nothing so long, and now so much.

 

My advisor has no answers. She assigns icons.

When I will not share she presents me a red shield.

To my common cloth she has affixed a purple medal.

But I do not know if the gold diamond or blue vial is better.

 

I have never been assigned a plain, smiling face.

The eye is winked or the tongue is stuck. Maybe

the Pac-Man’s cheek is blushed, but it is never

a plain, smiling face. I am sick with nuance.

 

This is my story but I am not in it.

This baggy caricature slips off my motion.

In three-hundred words, a stranger insists

Robin Williams did not die from suicide;

 

he died from depression. No one dies

from suicide, the stranger insists. This

they insist is requisite to development,

to people who live so long they stack.

 

I’ve been trying to up my people’s happiness

posturing as a provider of day-dates and texts.

My advisor has no answers. She identifies

my greatest share of costs is personnel.

 

I close my window, lift my red shield.

The sky is off-white with water, rain today

or snow tomorrow—either way the city wet.

I ask someone to chill, but fuck if they forget.

 

For them

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In/Words Magazine founding editor & mentor Collett Tracy told me recently I oughta give voice to the voiceless. My contemporary contempt for the appropriation of suffering riled, but she & more recent events have swayed me that there’s a way to do this right. Right?

 

For them

Playing Civilization for the umpteenth, behind in happiness and faith

feel a little woke. Within those simulated states, virtual folk

virtually content and lockstep in their random creeds. IRL

I am a mosaic chip in someone else’s argument

about the West or Canada, or anyone

who isn’t them, anyone

who doesn’t know

how hard it is.

Poetry (Blog) Tour 2014

“you saw me / the saddest i / know how / to be.” – Jesslyn Delia Smith, “camping, again and again

1. What am I working on?

Primarily I’m working on what might be (**spoilers**) my first full-length manuscript (as in a book of poems). Largely it’s a lot of building up from So Long As The People Are People, of which I’m immensely proud. Some of the reviews of that work, particularly by JM Francheteau, gave me perpsective on my own work that I’d been lacking – as in, what is it Blackman’s trying to do. The plan, as is, is to try to generate more chapbooks that, along with So Long’ would be harvested towards a cohesive book.

Otherwise, my friend Justin Million and I, who made me participate in this tour, have a lot of big plans. Over the past year we produced two collaborative chapbooks, which you can download here and here. Working with him really shook up my writing, and reminded me poetry’s as fun as any team sport.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

People have been telling me for a decade that I have a very distinct style of writing. 10 years ago one person proclaimed at the end of a workshop course that all my poems have a signature ‘Jeff line.’ Last week a friend told me all my poems contain lines that, quote, “shouldn’t work but do.” But five years ago my good friend Peter Gibbon and I did a collaborative chapbook where we each wrote half – but didn’t note who wrote what – and people were all like, “That’s so you!” and I was all like, “That’s so Pete!” Anyways.

“Jeff is the risk-takingest poet I know—too bad he has a full-time job.” – Bardia Sinaee, Odourless Press

To this day I don’t know what Bardia meant by that, what risks it is I take. Leads into next answer…

3. Why do I write what I do?

So my friend Ben Ladouceur pretty well stole my go to answer, writing in his tour entry:

“It takes guts to know some happiness / & not make a poem about it.” That’s from The Brave Never Write Poetry by Daniel Jones. I write poetry because I am not brave.”

I’ll take a second stab at it: I try to make people happy armed with things that have made me happy. It definitely doesn’t seem that way, especially if I’m posting poems about conservationists mutilating animals to save them or aging, it’s because to me that’s funny in a sort of grand ironic way. And seeing that makes me happy, and I’d like you to be happy too.

4. How does your writing process work?

I under-perform to be honest. The pattern for at least the last year or so has been period of nothing, period of excavating old words, period of destruction, period of lots new, period of excavating, lather, rinse, repeat. I have no loyal routines, at least not for writing.

I am grateful for anyone who’s taken the time to review my work, respond to it, and been honest in their criticism. It’s genuinely hard to find that community, and that’s key to my process; engaging with other poets who are friends or catching as much local poetry as I can. I get charged by it, and can ride a good performance for hours, wind up at a bar alone just writing pages, getting stuff off my chest I’d caged for ages. I guess I could say I’m ready to write when I see/hear/read something that is just amazing, and I feel like, yeah, I could open for them one day. I just gotta sit down and do it.

***

Thanks to Justin Million for getting me to do this, and my apologies to whoever I said no to before finally conceding. It was fun. And a special thanks to Jesslyn Delia Smith who unknowingly chickened me into finally self-publishing online a year ago. I did not find three friends to do this after me, so I command you: add jesslyndelia.com to your blog reader, and watch her crank out a poem a day for NaPoWriMo, bravely. And publish yourself while you’re at it.