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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A Brief Essay by Derek Beaulieu

The manner/s of speaking


As founder and editor-in-chief of The Queen Street Quarterly, Suzanne Zelazo has filled its pages with a tight understanding of both lyrical and radical forms of writing. She has demonstrated an ability to combine two differing forms into a single magazine’s pages in such a way as to draw the similarities and commonalities forward. The QSQ rarely has editorial statements or an overt stated position, instead it leaves the editors’ decision-making process stated solely in what work is included. Zelazo’s editing is presented as a reading, a continuous documentation, a means of presenting a manner of speaking – a parlour for current poetics and prosody.
In Parlance, Zelazo’s first book of poetry, she parleys this engagement with writing and reading into a series of dialogues and responses, each uniquely her own. Her “taxonomy of the past” reacts to a community of writers, friends, family, teachers, mentors. Zelazo, instead of struggling against an anxiety of influence – where the “implication of verse” stilts production – has crafted her way through the social aspect of writing. The “prefix generation” of “post-” writers, of hyphenated voices, are engaged with and embraced – brought close into the texts themselves. Zelazo engages with her contemporaries and with Virginia Woolf whose To the Lighthouse is reworked as a phrase-based long poem by removing the prosaic framework of the novel and manipulating the vocabulary into a poetic form: “now the edges accomplished flattery / their woven community would speak.” The warp of community is held in tension by Zelazo’s weft, an independent thread woven through and joined.  
Zelazo’s community is woven into her texts (“we are an accompaniment”), fibres within a tight weave. The edges may be “accomplished flattery” but the pattern of the weave itself is uniquely her own.
By “sitting on the phrase” Zelazo concentrates on the swerve between phrases, the clinamen in the “fold, a stitch, dislocate. Promiscuous trick of the eye. Fetish.” Parlance’s grammar slows the reader, concentrates on the space and the shift between phrases and sentence, dwelling in the pause and full stop of composition. Here the sentence is both a medium of construction and a term; a length of service. The conversation of Parlance dwells in the synonymity of sentence and period.

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