Moving with nomadic grace across the terrain of his previous book, Decompositions, the poetic language of Ken Belford in Internodes shares similar roots, traversing decades at the speed of a search query – pressing onward through Hazelton, the Bulkley Valley, and the unroaded headwaters of the Nass River in the Damdochax Valley – and meanwhile coming to terms with a poetry that “is lived” on the rugged streets of Prince George.
In this twenty-first-century evolution, and one may say “mutation,” of Marshall McLuhan’s oft-repeated adage that “the medium is the message,” Belford’s text takes into account the nature of viral marketing and the impact of similar forms of social “trending” on our lives and our language, challenging linearity and order in favour of a work that may be read forward or backward or experienced with an abrupt sense of intimacy, in media res.
Whether reflecting upon the internodal segment that is a vital part of a nerve cell; upon the relationship between the nodes and internodes of a plant stem; or upon the internode merely as an interstice of jargon amid connections we forge through high-speed telecommunication and wireless networks, the text invites the reader to make an informed decision before inviting others to “Like,” to “Favourite,” or to otherwise invest their social currency in Internodes.
In addition to perceiving the poem as the “means of transmission” over time, Belford’s poetic lines welcome readership as a form of collaborative action and agency in an age of crowdsourcing and flash mobs – and also as a form of ongoing social process that is sensitive to the life and demise of many of the decision trees that ultimately nourish our wavering notions of the future.
About the author
Ken Belford, the “self-educatedLan(d)guage” poet, has said that living for decades in the “back country” has afforded him a unique relationship to language that rejects the colonial impulse to write about nature but attempts to write from nature and our relationship to the land.
Currently living in Prince George, BC, he continues to write outside the boundaries of the conventional forms espoused by what he calls the “tribal schools” of poetry. His six previous books of poetry are Fireweed, The Post Electric Caveman, Pathways into the Mountains, lan(d)guage, when snakes awaken and Ecologue.
Give the word, and disperse early and displace often. Let gaps fly open. Let the ambiguous in and begin with a little old-time melodic contour, the outcome of movement, the on-the-job practice of working out the variations and intervals of admission. Let in the elements of incidental intension. As far as the transparent, bald-faced texts that fan out into the obvious, release early, and release often. Let go, and get rid of the entangled fabric of arcane meaning, and breathe, and be something more than the immediate, repetitious sample.
It’s good to see Prince George, British Columbia poet Ken Belford’s new collection, Internode (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2013), shaped to conform to the poems he writes, as opposed to the standard poetry-book size of just about every other book out there, shifting from the more standard six by nine inches to five by eight inches. Belford’s poems have long been part of an ongoing, larger work, composing short, predominantly untitled single-stanza poems that accumulate to book-length and even larger structures, linking back to decompositions(Talonbooks, 2010) to Ecologue (Harbour, 2005) to much of his previous work. “I lived a branchy past of sprigs and / sprouts and internodes and twigs, / but didn’t occupy the land. In cahoots / with roots, I made a living in the bush.” he writes, and Belford’s ongoing poetry (or even, ongoing poem) is one that works to connect to all other things, articulating his connection to the world through a deeply considered eco-poetic. How does eco-poetry connect to pastoral? Belford composes a poetry that is part of the world, as opposed to the pastoral, which is more-often seen as separate, somehow, from the author and the writing. There is something worth comparing here to the works of American poet Fanny Howe for their interconnectivities, as well for the fact that neither poet have been self-conscious enough about any over-arcing project to name such a thing (and, perhaps, neither of them ever should). As he includes in his bio note at the end of the collection:
“The conventional standards of narrative and lyric poetry give me nothing. The intention of the sequences I write is to assemble words that can be messaged to the habituated souls of the city from the land-aware that live outside city limits.”
Rob Mclennan - robmclennan.blogspot.ca
Praise for Ken Belford’s Decompositions:
“What a daring and necessary enterprise – to write one’s life in terms of the land and its ongoingness. Breaking down the borders between discourses and processes, we glimpse an astonishing interchangeability, the mingling and blending of a human life with the life of the land, the two going on in concert. A new story arising from the old ones.”
– The Goose