Spotlight series #36 : Franco Cortese

rob mclennan
Apr 1 · 4 min read

Curated by Canadian writer, editor and publisher rob mclennan, the “spotlight” series appears the first Monday of every month.


The first set of selections featured here (Transfusion, Germinate and Vale) are from an unfinished trade-length manuscript I’ve been working on since late 2017 entitled Root. They consist of a novel form of constrained poetry that I colloquially refer to as piems: parataxic micropoems composed exclusively of words sharing the same etymological root (in this case, the same Proto-Indo-European root), title included.

As such, they are products of severely constrained lexicons, using anywhere from 10% to 100% of the available inventory of words as given by my primary sources, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, and the online etymological dictionary,

Each root piem is then complimented by four perfect line-unit anagram poems, scattered around the four corners of each piem’s worldpage, which permute the letters of each root-piem into new meaning.

When finished, the full manuscript aims to feature 200 such “piem quintets,” amounting to 1000 etymontological micropoems that attempt to vivisect, permute and rebuild the evolutionary history of language in order to reveal the ontogenic fundament inherent in etymology, and to prize new, implicit and incipient meaning out of etymontologically related families of words.

The second set of selections featured here are from two of my most recent chapbooks, aeiou (No Press 2018) and uoiea (above/ground press 2019), as well as one poem featured in a recent full-color poetry anthology released by UK-based Penteract Press, Concrete & Constraint (Ed. Anthony Etherin, Penteract Press 2018). Part of another ongoing book-length project, these selections consist of a set of multilingual lipograms written according to a poetics of transition, translation and ablation. These pieces each feature a multilingual lipogram on the left, and that lipogram’s cognate English translation on the right.

The first piece, entitled “-i / ghosts,” was taken from my chapbook aeiou (No Press 2018), a work that attempts to approach the lipogrammatic limits of language itself through the construction of poems that feature just a single letter (a, e, i, o and u, respectively). This piece consists of the Romanized “rōmaji” transcriptions of a single Japanese logogram (い) with a multitude of distinct translations.

The second piece, entitled “u o i e a / mound inside you and i,” is taken from my recent chapbook uoiea (above/ground press 2019), and consists of a multilingual lipogram that eschews the use of all consonants (consisting of lines that present each of the five vowels in reverse-order) on the left, alongside its literal English translation on the right.

The third piece, entitled “Error Twin,” is taken from the anthology Concrete & Constraint (Penteract Press 2018), and presents two multilingual lipograms, the first of which eschews the use of all consonants, and the second of which eschews all vowels (using only “true” vowel-free words, i.e., excluding the use of words from languages that omit vowels orthographically but not phonologically). These two antipodal multilingual lipograms mutually encipher into the same literal English translation.

Franco Cortese is an experimental poet living in Thorold, Ontario with his wife and son. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Canadian Literature, The Capilano Review, filling Station, ditch and others. His recent chapbooks include aeiou (No Press, 2018), uoiea (above/ground press, 2019), teksker (Simulacrum Press, 2019). He also has leaflets, booklets, nanopamphlets and broadsheets published or forthcoming through The Blasted Tree, Penteract Press and Spacecraft Press. His work has been published both within Canada and internationally, most recently in the anthology Concrete and Constraint (Penteract Press 2018).

rob mclennan

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