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The poems below are featured in Canadian Poetry Review #29. Poetry copyright © the authors.

Katerina Rooke ~ Stephen Bett ~ Ken Cathers ~ P.W. Bridgman

 

Katerina Anghelaki Rooke (translated by Manolis Aligizakis)

What Poetry Gives, What It Takes

What does poetry give and what does it take?
When under the weight of a cloud
all your viscera leans sideways
when one glance scratches old wounds
when a new handicap opens new wounds
when the sky’s lanterns shine
at a close distance to your future
and when the pieces of life you’ve saved aren’t enough
when a sorrow that hasn’t yet come tyrannizes you
when pain has neither name nor color
then poetry touches your forehead like a soft hand
and convinces you of your special purpose
that your verse won’t end with your life
that poetry is the accountability of your soul.
Then you take the pen
and you think of being one
with beauty and immortality.
But what sacrifice is poetry asking of you?
What does it want in return?
Only one thing:
don’t demand anything
of the soil you walk on
don’t expect reality to reward you
nor to enrich you
with infinite ties nor to become
the way you wish it to be.
You better crave for one thing:
that reality will remain around you and that
you’ll love it being there
even if it is frowning, even if it is grumpy.

Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke was born in Athens, February 1939. Her work has been translated into more than ten languages and is included in numerous anthologies. She won the 1985 Greek National Poetry Award for the Greek version of Beings and Things on Their Own. She has translated from English and French as well as from Russian the works of Shakespeare, Mayakovski, and Pushkin. She’s the recipient of the first poetry award Prix Hensch of the City of Geneva, the National Literary Award of Greece, the Kostas Ouranis poetry Award and in 2014 she was awarded the National Poetry Award for the whole of her literary accomplishment. ~ back to top

 

Stephen Bett

Raymond Queneau: Fa’der of Oulipo

brownwaters, blackwaters, wonderwaters
seawaters, oceanwaters, flashingwaters
brighten the night, nighten the day
songs Sunday to Saturday
Les Ziaux
—Raymond Queneau (with a nod & a wink & thx to P. Simon, for the chops)

brownwaters, blackwaters, wonderwaters
wanderlust of an unrestrained M. Oulipo
pataphysical swat team walling off imaginary
solutions, constrain-eyed zone-outs

seawaters, oceanwaters, flashingwaters
lightning over troubled waters (‘friend’ indeed)
sail on silver girl, syrup strained & stained
oh it’s double trouble now sunshine, capital Ds & Ts

brighten the night, nighten the day
lighten up all the bars on Oulipan way 1
oh when darkness comes (runnin’ around)
put a glose spell on you— Restraint!

songs Sunday to Saturday
bridge to lay me down, so rough
when time chops weary sea thru sea, too tough
you will be unconstrained, that gap in the fence

 

1 Oulipo law: “A text written according to a constraint describes the constraint.”

Stephen Bett has had more than twenty books of poetry published, as well as a memoir, So Got Schooled. (Ekstasis Editions).His work has also appeared in well over 100 literary journals in Canada, the U.S., England, Australia, New Zealand, and Finland, as well as in three anthologies, and on radio.His “personal papers” have been purchased by the Simon Fraser University Library, and are, on an ongoing basis, being archived in their “Contemporary Literature Collection” for current and future scholarly interest. Reviews of his books can be found at www.stephen bett.com. He lives in Victoria. ~ back to top

 

Ken Cathers

death & the garden

1

it is in the precise
description of flowers
she excels

the understated parallel
between her life
& these delicate
green offerings.

this is the covenant
she keeps with
spring. from her

these flowers will
want for nothing
feed on sun
unshadowed.

freed from parasites
& blight they will
grow into her
anticipation

become prayer
opening to
the frenzied hum

of bees, while she
has somehow
pollinated herself
with language.

2

it is the season
of passion
reconfirmed, she writes

possessed by this
acquired form of
ecstasy, compost

of unlived minutes
days spent
seeding, weeding

her hands clenched
on the root pulse
of some god
imagined.

solstice.
she dreams herself
naked:

part of the green
ganglia, swollen
pre-bloom

arms raised
waiting for rain.

Ken Cathers is married with two sons and lives with his family in the town where he was born, Ladysmith, B.C. He has worked at Harmac Pacific Pulp Mill in Nanaimo for thirty-two years. He has a B.A. from University of Victoria and an M.A. from York University in Toronto. His earlier books include World of Strangers, Blues for the Grauballeman and Missing Pieces (Ekstasis Editions). He has published six previous books of poetry. ~ back to top

 

P.W. Bridgman

Not the Way a Bullet Leaves a Gun

Ruth leaves Jim the way a hand leaves a glove,
with five gentle thumb-and-forefinger tugs from right to left.
Each of the fingers comes partly free,
then the thumb:
each tug a little more confident,
each causing the gentle, leathern grip of wedlock
to relax a touch more until, at last,
it comes full away
with a sound
like a sigh.

She leaves him the way a ferry leaves a dock:
with four short soundings of the ship’s whistle,
spaced months apart
(their import unmistakable to anyone but him),
followed by a long one
(the one that signals imminent departure).
Her hull begins to shudder,
engines churn inside it,
water boils up in the widening
space between them,
between loading ramp and dock.
Going nowhere and everywhere, she waves.
He waves back.

She does not leave him the way he had always feared,
the way a bullet leaves a gun (all trajectory and target,
with a bang and a puff of smoke,
gone in a trice and forever buried,
deep in another’s heart).
At least not that.

At least not that.

P.W. Bridgman writes from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Bridgman’s writing has appeared in anthologies published in Canada, Ireland, England and Scotland, and his first book—a selection of short stories entitled Standing at an Angle to My Age—was published in 2013.
~ back to top

Katerina Rooke ~ Stephen Bett ~ Ken Cathers ~ P.W. Bridgman