Culture & Conversation

Peut-être le destin

What I like about the Noroît? Their faith in the work. Their fine-art 40th anniversary print, their ruby composition commission, the giddiness of the venerable Montreal-based poetry press’s tenacious and discerning publisher, Paul Bélanger.

Publishing any poetry is a wheelbarrow, sometimes red, sometimes tippy. From affirmation to utopia, Bélanger this night presents some recently published poetry, which touches art, and life, and “peut-être le destin.”

Anglo poet friends, I have disclaimers: it is late, much prose and verse has swooped in the ten-dollar-beer swill under the bar bridge, and the English-language contemporary Canadian poet parallels I offer to these Noroît poets are superficial impressions rather than in-depth anythings. So, sorry, but mostly it should be fine, and mostly they were good. And you should read their work, and purchase it, and probably buy them a beer, sawbucker or otherwise.

Mahigan Lepage writes of blind machines, of all manner of tree uprooters and the category of Quebec rivers that will never be rivers again. Lepage describes an ecological apocalypse from which he manages to also unfold a discovery, a possible new world. To read if you’re Zach Wellsian.

Louise Cotnoir’s Les sœurs de, is about the forgotten sisters of celebrities. It seems a lost art, giving voice to the voiceless, yet Cotnoir does it beautifully. Alice James, Camille Claudel and Fanny Mendelssohn are the tender, more dramatic French flip of something akin to Carolyn Smart’s Hooked.

“Je suis un monstre de durer,” one of Cotnoir’s overlooked sisters wails. For Alexandre L’Archevêque, meanwhile, it’s a bit less lasting, a bit more thanatos: “chaque mourrant est une goutte d’eau dans le sable.” L’Archevêque’s surrealism is somewhat facile, though initially surprising. I’d like to see him shoot pool with Steve McOrmond.

Newly Noroît-anointed, the disarming Patrick Lafontaine is of the proverbial fridge-sales-to-the-Inuit class. Bazinga, however; he is also a good poet, playful and Babstockian (cf. some love poems in Airstream Land Yacht). “Leur puissance,” he writes, “tient à tout autre chose,” and you’d kind of like to know what.

Andrea Moorhead, who also be participated in the earlier Poets at Night: Changing Lands, Ecletic American, is the second American writer published by the Noroît, after—pas pire—Charles Simic. Her work hinges on memory, and her gestures at and with the natural world are redolent of perhaps May Sarton.

Louise Dupré, then, weaves words that push us up against the rapaciousness of history, as history greedily strives to become mythological.

And the aptly named Normand de Bellefeuille, who has been writing for ever, who does it well, and who means it. His Mon visage, trilogical predecessor wistful, and successor soon to follow, is here on my desk. My money would be on him and John Steffler in the bar nodding at the problems of existence.

Finally, Denise Desautels, whose work helped buttress the Noroît from its infancy, poetic love child of sorts of PK Page and Steven Heighton, who has published everywhere and won everything, and whose lens on the world—the caress of the “corset velu des mouches”—is still minute enough to keep us counting.

Joyeux anniversaire, mon Noroît, and here’s to many more returns of the day.

Poet, editor and translator Katia Grubisic has many disclaimers.

#43: 40 ANS DE POÉSIE AU NOROÎT, Friday April 29, 8pm.
The 13th annual Blue Met Festival Metropolis Bleu continues through May 1, 2011, at the Holiday Inn Select centre-ville (in Chinatown). For more information visit

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