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Topic: Sean Howard

Backslash Icarus: Portamento Poetics in Joshua Trotter Mission Creep

“I’m trying,” we read early in Joshua Trotter’s captivating Mission Creep, “to make my words as portamento as possible here.” Befitting the collection’s title, ‘portamento’ is the ‘gradual slide’ (literally, ‘carrying’) from note to note, often in a style between ‘legato’ (smoothly unbroken) and ‘staccato.’ And this, indeed, is the tempo, an unnerving semi-fluency in which all 12 ‘pieces’ in the book are played, leaving the reader, at least this one, both riveted and drained, thirsting for more varied pacing. Why, in fact, would Trotter want to make all his music as ‘portamento as possible’?

Alarming Testimony: John Terpstra’s This Orchard Sound

The slender strength of John Terpstra’s reissued chapbook This Orchard Sound somehow carries, with as much grace as grief, the weight of more than one Cross. In 2011, in his capacity as woodworker, Terpstra fulfilled a commission from a Hamilton church for a new Cross: a single, twisted branch, Cross as Christ, retrieved from a ruined urban orchard, its untended sounds (“as birds talk up / this stillness”) periodically drowned by Burlington traffic.