This autobiographical narrative poem is mapped onto a Google satellite image of the Mile End neighborhood in Montreal, where J. R. Carpenter lived for 11 years. This lends the poem a sense of reality but from a physical distance, perhaps analogous to the speaker’s temporal distance from the neighborhood. And much like those satellite images are composed of multiple photographs taken at different times and combined to provide a clearer picture, this work has several writers, lending their voices in English and French as multiple perspectives on Mile End. The main voice belongs to Carpenter, whose previous work “Entre Ville” brought textures to life in this neighborhood.
Daily my dog and I walk through this interior city sniffing for stories. Poetry is not hard to find between these long lines of peeling-paint fences spray-painted with bright abstractions and draped with trailing vines. Cooking smells, laundry lines and alley cats criss-cross the alleyway one sentence at a time.
Williams Carlos Williams’ famous aphorism “no ideas but in things” resonated with his Imagist poetic roots in “A Sort of a Song” (listen to it in PennSound ), and echoed throughout his epic poem Paterson, adding a sense of place to his concept. J. R. Carpenter’s poem is organized around five ideas— “à louer” (for rent), “à vendre” (for sale), “perdu” (lost), “trouvé” (found), and “vide” (empty)— and they are grounded on things, places, and vignettes. As you read these short narratives and prose poems, you’ll gain a sense of how a decade lived in a neighborhood is as intimate a relationship as any.