by Jami Macarty
Content Note: The following post has a brief mention of sexual violence.
Happy Poetry Month! I’m celebrating by reading poetry from the Vallum Chapbook Series, which published its first volume 14 years ago. I started with No. 1, Fanny Howe’s cosmic and contemplative Tramp (2005), read on to Nicole Brossard’s inquiry: “how do you remove time from / meaning” in A Tilt in the Wondering (2013), and continued to Yusuf Saadi’s Sonnets on a Night Without Love (2016 Vallum Chapbook Award winner)—a nod to Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Saadi’s chapbook features poems of longing for connection in the time of “Twitter, Tinder, Tumblr.” I wound my way to The Weave: A Work in Progress (2018) from co-authors Thurston Moore and John Kinsella, then finished the first round with Zach Pearl’s Ladybird Bug Boy (2018 Vallum Chapbook Award winner), a treatise on the “niche between” impersonation and I-ness, desire and impermanence, and the way the personal contributes to the global—crises of migration and the environment. Had I the word-count quota, I’d eagerly share more about what I find special in these books, and the five others I’ve read so far in the series (the month’s young!). Until that grace comes, let me say that what I appreciate about these chapbooks is how each is pulled together according to a particular theme or motivation; each is its own unique, sustained, and intimate expression; each takes artistic risks intrinsic to its subject and form.
No. 23 in the Series, Bhanu Kapil’s entre-Ban (2017), deserves special mention as a collection that seeks to acknowledge, even embrace, that which has been left out — “These Notes are for anyone who is…existing beneath a dominant gaze.” According to Kapil, “To be entre-Ban is to be “Ban-like.”” The word Ban, defined expansively within the poems, as noun and verb, is “an historic…residue washed off by rain,” is what or who is left after, is temporal — “Delete, delete, click,” is a woman raped, is a person of color with “racist colleagues,” is action and to be acted against with misogynistic or racial bias —“which nevertheless affirmed the increment, the part of being here that was a trap. That kept me in my place.” Ban is an “encounter with a boundary,” where human beings are “a site and repository of imperceptible transformations.” To create a collection that undoes deletions is to “delete the deletions” and to include that which has been excluded. “There’s no guarantee that you, nor I, will feel less homesick by the end of this book,” but this book will bring to the fore such topical and important questions as “Who is frightened of whom?” and “Who can’t at the end of the day, go home?” To take in these questions, and others Kapil poses, is to become aware of privilege. It is privilege, mine, here, to write about poetry I’ve read in the Vallum Chapbook Series; I take this privilege seriously, and acknowledge the freedom it conveys to my intellectual and spiritual life.
—————————————————————————————————————————————-The deadline for the 2019 Vallum Chapbook Award is April 30th. Submit your manuscript today for the chance to win $300 and publication alongside the chapbooks highlighted here.
Jami Macarty is the author of Mind of Spring winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award and No. 22 in the Vallum Chapbook Series, as well as Instinctive Acts (Nomados Literary Publishers, 2018) and Landscape of The Wait (Finishing Line Press, 2017. She teaches creative writing at Simon Fraser University and edits the online poetry journal The Maynard. For more information: https://jamimacarty.com/