Plan 99: Hall and Corral

Phil Hall David O'Meara Eduardo C. Corral
Plan 99 did a Versefest fundraiser with Phil Hall and Eduardo C. Corral. And there were door prize draws of a bag of books each from Anansi, Brick and Arc.

Phil Hall’s most recent book of poems is called The Small Nouns Crying Faith (BookThug, 2013). Hall was the 2011 winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in English for his book of essay-poems, Killdeer. In 2012, Killdeer also won Ontario’s Trillium Book Award, an Alcuin Design Award, and was nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize. Previously, Trouble Sleeping (2001) was nominated for the Governor General’s Award, and An Oak Hunch (2005) was nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize. He has taught writing and literature at York University, Ryerson University, Seneca College, George Brown College and elsewhere. Hall has recently been writer-in-residence at Queens University & the University of Windsor. In fall 2013 he will be an instructor at the Banff Centre for the Arts, in the Wired Writing Program. He lives near Perth, Ontario.

He read from new poems and had Hellbox’s X: A Poem Sequence in 16 Parts on the table for sale. Pretty letterpress. He read a poem on invisible holidays such as “day day” which is like a glass over a normal day, and also the day where things on balconies all disappear and the problems and advantages that lead to.
At CBC CanadaWrites now has up BloodLines: “Artery” by Phil Hall, which he read at Plan 99. It takes its cue, he said from Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowles and part from one also about sleep in public spaces, about falling asleep on a subway in Tokyo. Hall’s meditates around the notion of what is blood, what is connection. Is language the other blood connection. The poem’s up at that link but here’s a teaser of how it reads in part,

I drifted off—silent—immense—my arm is numb—asleep
Useless bastard arm—this very line—family trees drop branches here
I dream water on the brain—my origins unraveling—into any local swamp
My hand is an inflated glove—full of heavy water—can we shake—we have the shakes
I am always surprised when I see my blood—coming out—little tube after little tube—I guess I don’t believe in blood—not really

He has a fascinating way of linking ideas together, connecting and moving among them. It was a pretty happy crowd, but there was more, besides Hall and the draw and raising Versefest funds.

Eduardo C. Corral earned degrees from Arizona State University and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His debut collection of poetry, Slow Lightning (2012), won the Yale Younger Poets Prize, making him the first Latino recipient of the award. Praised for his seamless blending of English and Spanish, tender treatment of history, and careful exploration of sexuality, Corral has received numerous honors and awards, including the Discovery/The Nation Award, the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. A CantoMundo Fellow, he has held the Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship in Creative Writing at Colgate University and was the Philip Roth Resident in Creative Writing at Bucknell University. He lives in New York City.

I’m new to Corral’s work. I’m not sure how many minutes in before a little bell in my head went bing, sold. Was it when he said it took 9 1/2 years to write this book? Or that was just the hand raised to hit the gong. Further along, his poems are intense and non-literal, plundering among Christian symbolism. “A serpent is a fruit to be eaten to the core”. That could have done it. Anyone who can make that metaphor can do other good things.
He related that he tells his students to jot things down that catch the ear even if you “can’t use it” because “you never know what a bit of language will open up for you.”
The poems come in the language they come, code-switching between English and Spanish, touch on HIV, death, love, passion, family. He read “To the AngelBeast” and “To the BeastAngel”. The former starts, p. 55, “All that glitters isn’t music//Once, hidden in tall grass,/I tossed fistfuls of dirt into the air:/doe after doe leaping.” One thing becomes another thing without ceasing to be what it was. Things merge in a heat shimmer sort of way so they are empty air and are thin hovering water both. It’s an interesting sensation.
Here’s a snippet of Slow Lightning (Yale U, 2012) from After Bei Dao/After John Valentine, from p. 18

The skin of your deity smells like gasoline
Your prayers are added to the pyre
A gold wheel spinning
Once your voice broke out in a sweat
Each word a salt lick

This is the last Plan 99 for the fall as a bonus in the regular Plan 99 time slot on Sat, Dec 7 at 5pm at the Manx again is the relaunch of Chaudiere.

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