Sep 122010

Genni venice

Here are the opening pages of Genni Gunn‘s new novel Solitaria. Genni is an old friend of DG, dating back to the time before he had children and used to fly across the country to this or that summer workshop (the summer he met Genni, he did three in a row in New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan). Once upon a time, Genni used to tour with bands in western Canada, which always struck DG as exciting and romantic (given his own sheltered upbringing). Now she writes novels, stories, and poems and the occasional opera. She is Italian by heritage. The photo above was taken in Venice and seems to DG to be iconic–Genni in the mysterious aquatic city, only half-western, caught in the embrace of the golden and opulent east.

By way of a further introduction, here is the novel trailer.

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From Solitaria

By Genni Gunn

Facilis descensus Averni:
noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis;
sed revocare gradium superasque evadere ad auras,
hoc opus, hic labor est.

It is easy to go down into Hell:
night and day, the gates of dark Death stand wide;
but to climb back again, to retrace one’s steps to the upper air,
there’s the rub, the task.

— Virgil

Fregene, Italy, July 15, 2002

They navigate through thick traffic, from Rome, for an hour and a half, in stifling heat, among stalled cars and angry drivers. Finally, the Fregene exit leads them off the freeway, and onto Viale di Pineta through the ancient pinery, down to Lungomare di Levante, where they turn left at the seashore, and continue until they stop in front of iron gates, chained and padlocked. Visible through the bars, a dilapidated villa rises among pines and wild hibiscus whose magenta petals shimmer in the July heat. Yellow police tape girdles the entire area.

Once, this villa was the pride of its owners, nestled in a sprawling lot facing the Tyrrhenian Sea, surrounded by palms and oleanders on manicured lawns where children played and cats sunned themselves. Over time, the children grew and moved to the cities. When the owners died, the villa was sold to foreigners who came only in summer. In the winter months, small boys climbed over the fence and played in the tall grass no one tended. Sometimes, they built fires on the beach, and tried to pry open the green shutters. The villa was sold and resold, neglected and abandoned by owner after owner, none of whom lived there.

“This must be it,” the cameraman says, pointing to the number on a pillar whose plaster has broken away in chunks to reveal old bricks and mortar. He turns down the air conditioner.

The show’s anchorwoman sits beside him, fanning herself with a small spiral notebook. On the side of the van, the familiar logo — a large c ending in a question mark, inside which are the words: Chi L’Ha Visto? Who Has Seen Him?

A policeman unlocks the gate, checks their ids, and lets them in. While the crew unloads the van, the anchorwoman walks around, surveying the area for appropriate footage.

The villa looms over her, casting a dark shadow to the east, eclipsing the tent erected over the excavation site — a makeshift lab where forensic specialists gather specimens. She shivers under the unrelenting sun, then searches for the demolition foreman, interviews him, and jots his answers in the notebook.

The new owners want to tear it down and build something new.

We were going to take out the trees first, and that’s when we found him.

Continue reading »

Sep 092010

William “Kit” Hathaway poem (see links at the bottom of the post for two other poems published on Numéro Cinq plus other Hathaway web presences) is an acute and generous reader. When I asked him for a new poem, he wrote back: “Here’s a poem that seems to fit with the fine Balgach poem, though I wrote it thinking about a Tony Hoagland essay in Poetry before I read ‘Fighting.’”

Just to add a little perspective, here is a paragraph excerpted from Kit’s entry in the Dictionary of Literary Biography.

…he mixes tragedy and comedy to satirize and criticize himself, other poets, academia, and various other targets. This blending of tones and modes, along with his recent change to a more serious, wide-ranging satire, make him distinctive and may account for his high standing among his fellow poets, such as Albert Goldbarth and Norman Dubie, who have highly praised Looking into the Heart of Light (1988), with Dubie calling him “a great American poet.”


By William Hathaway

Yes, even for you
who weren’t here yet before
the traffic became too much, too always
and too loud to think, it is
what it is, even so. A saying you say
often that says no matter
what’s said nothing can change
what so relentlessly changes
and so the less said the better,
flipping open your phone,
beeping your car to life,
easing into the ceaseless rush.

A jackknife nests
in my pocket I’ve lost & found
so often for so long I’ve lost the story
of my feeling for it. When it’s lost,
nestled unbeknownst to me
in the crack of a dusty couch, is it
not lost until I miss it? No.
Yes, I’m always saying no
to you now. Look, I’ve found no
you’ll say when you listen.

There’s nothing to say
is the only thing left to say, you say.
So many amusing ways
to say this just by saying something
else before you finish saying
what you were saying. When night
falls and the road becomes
a gushing stream of light, out
creep dark creatures to eat
the dead swept up on the shores
of that river. Even without light
their eyes would blaze out
from black shapes into blackness.

— William Hathaway

See also “Bufflehead Dawn,” “Martin Points,” “Bitterness,” “Betrayal,” “The Poetry Career,” “Today.”

Author Interview with Adam Tavel in Poets’ Quarterly

Sep 072010

Here’s a poem by Martin Balgach. He sent me a batch, but it was difficult to choose. Martin and DG met in 2008 during the Vermont College of Fine Arts Slovenia residency. Martin was a student in DG’s workshop, a mixed workshop with poets, fiction writers and nonfiction writers and no end of exuberant discourse and inter-genre translation. Martin is a great traveling companion, full of appreciation, astonishment and gentle good humour. He bought DG coffee the day the ATM ate his card in Croatia–upon request DG can supply you with a photo of the ATM machine. Martin has since graduated, lives in Colorado, and writes lovely poems. The photos DG took in Slovenia and Croatia.



By Martin Balgach

In the battle for emotional supremacy
I’ve challenged the wind to a duel
but I’m carrying an idea instead of a gun

Now I know the wind is tough and cold
and not in that romantic
this is invigorating kind of cold
but more that middle-aged guy
in baggy black dungarees
drinking alone at a dive bar cold

It’s that tough in your gut
like a memory-you-want-to-forget
cold, it’s the kind of cold
that spits in your lungs
and tugs at your heart like a kid
tugging on the tail of a pet
but the pet is whimpering
because the game went too far

And I know why the motion
of each new morning keeps teasing us—
The problem is heaven—
We have the idea of more so we want more

I’ve been considering this for days
I’ve branded the hindquarter of my brain
with the melancholy symbol of a neon duck
fucking itself with a crucifix

Yeah, there are a thousand funny things to say
but the real things get caught in my throat like paste

Either way, tomorrow will be a new massacre
I’ll be losing the fight, staring at the sky

The cosmos will look like an old string of Christmas lights,
the kind that all go out when one bulb breaks
But it won’t be Christmas as the wind keeps kicking

—Martin Balgach

See also Balgach in Rain Taxi on René Char, another Balgach poem in Antique Children, and another in Redheaded Stepchild, and Balgach on Srečko Kosovel, and, finally, yet another poem in Opium Magazine.