Prac Crit

Edition Seven

August 2016 - featuring poems and responses by:

Katrina Porteous

“How long have human beings been on the planet? Well, at the outside: hominids, about 2 to 3 million years, and here are all these creatures of the intertidal zone, things like lobsters, which are cretaceous, around 100 million years old...”

Sylvia Legris

“I take a weirdly shaped bit here, a glittery nugget there, and I try to crazy-glue them into some wild- and wily-limbed hybrid I’ve never seen. If I can create a creature that shocks and surprises me, that trips trillingly all over the place, I am gleeful.”

Matthew Welton

“I think you are saying something through form: it’s an aesthetic thing. I’m interested in what it means to say something – but I think about what John Cage says, ‘I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry as I need it.’”
Deep Note

Kiki Petrosino

“During my fevers, I dreamed vividly of forests, trees lined up like files. Each day, I went to that dream-place like it was my job. In these dreams, I understood that I was not special; I was just another commuter traveling between worlds.”

Human and animal, inward and outward, cosmic and microscopic are some of the worlds this edition moves between. Many of its poems invite us to attend to minute phenomena: flailing sandhoppers, a hummingbird’s alveoli, the bacterium behind a strawberry rash, or the shift wrought by a single comma. This intensity of zoom is apt, perhaps, in a journal that values the art of looking – and reading – closely. The first of our featured poets, Katrina Porteous, tells Jake Campbell about her fascination with history at various scales, from the dizzying vastness of geological time, to the after effects of industrialisation on a Northeastern fishing village. Jenny Holden’s essay follows the trail of Porteous’s Northumbrian dialect words, enquiring how poems so rooted in place ‘resonate beyond the local’. One of Canada’s leading poets, Sylvia Legris shares with Porteous a savour for the specialist vocabularies of science and natural history. In a playful interview with Eleanor Chandler, Legris describes her desire to create a poetry of ‘wild- and wily-limbed hybrid[s]’, patched from registers gleaned in diverse fields. Does a nightingale still sing in the forest if there’s no human ear to hear it? Reading Legris’s ‘Hummingbird’ sequence, Rachael Allen asks if there is a way to write about animals without ‘robb[ing] them of themselves.’ After a seven-year gap, Matthew Welton’s anticipated third collection, The Number Poems, is due out next month. Welton chats to Alex MacDonald about the poetic potential of simplicity and repetition: ‘how small a thought it takes to fill a whole life’, he muses after Wittgenstein in the Steve Reich song. The mathematics of small permutations is also the subject of Sam Buchan-Watts’s essay on Welton’s twin ‘Van der Kerkhoff’ poems. Closing this edition in style, Kiki Petrosino’s ‘Deep Note’ picks up the gauntlet of that title, offering an essay in the form of thirteen footnotes. Petrosino dwells on form, recurrence and recursiveness from still another angle: ‘Scarlet’ is a villanelle-as-fever-dream, whose delirious speaker is a ‘commuter traveling between worlds.’

We hope you enjoy this latest edition of Prac Crit. We’re proud to be a little magazine making big waves, having recently become the first ever web-based journal to be shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Hearty congratulations to Prac Crit contributors R.A. Villanueva, whose ‘Saudade’ was Highly Commended by this year’s judges, and Melissa Lee-Houghton, who will read from her shortlisted poem, ‘i am very precious’, at the prize ceremony next month.

Sarah Howe