Wednesday, December 27, 2017
A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.
And so it was with these words that I began a long poem entitled "9x11" in 2009, when I was that school year's Ellen and Warren Tallman Writer-in-Residence at Simon Fraser University. "9x11" is the basis for a book I have recently signed a contract with New Star Books to publish in fall 2018.
The manuscript I submitted is entitled 9x11 and other poems like "Bird", "Nine", "x" and "Eleven", though I am not sure that title will stick. The second choice is 9x11 and other poems, particularly since my friend the poet and scholar Jeff Derksen once told me how much he dislikes titles that have "and other poems" for a kite tail.
But I like my titles. Not in resistance to Jeff, who has encouraged me over the years and to whom I am grateful, but because they are closer to the truth of the book's composition. Indeed, if my past books have all been devised in advance of their realization, this one found itself from a file of discrete works, some of which, like the long poem "Avanti's", date back to BOO #5, which was published in 1996.
No pictures this time, though that could change, too. In place of pictures, some hybrid works of concrete and, because many concretists are polemicists, expression.
The poem "9x11" first appeared in West Coast Line #73 (Spring, 2012), a special issue edited by Jason Starnes and David Gaertner entitled "HERE COMES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD". Here is how the editors spoke of "9x11" in their Introduction "Encountering the Problem of the Neighbour in Space":
"As Turner described in correspondence with WCL, 9x11 works to translate time (the events of 9/11) into space (the 9x11 room occupied by the narrator of the poems) and form (the final work will include eleven poems each composed of nine lines). As suggested by the small space of the room (reflective of the diminutive floor plan available to most Vancouverites), the world of 9x11 is cramped, confined and claustrophobic. Relationships with the neighbours are simultaneously removed and intimate. On the one hand, private activities and communications are made public by the accident of thin walls, a shared toilet and a communal mailbox. On the other hand, the names of the people with whom the narrator is closest (physically and, perhaps, emotionally) are never identified; rather they are named by their spaces, represented by their respective apartment number. The neighbour who insists on candles in the bathroom is '5'; the one with the loud TV is '7'; the one he bumps into in the hall is '4.' The distant intimacy that Turner explores in these poems helps to further illustrate the uncanny relationship we have with the neighbour."