Thursday, January 26, 2006

Thoughts on Writing: Nicole Brossard

I write to make a statement of presence in language. In order for the alive to win out.

Writing can be done only in a body to body encounter with language, no doubt in involves listening as well, the emotion of making oneself available to one’s inner voice.

I have always made writing a place of pleasure, a quest, a place of dangerous intensity, a space of turbulence having its own dynamic.

My existence is a walking in writing; I don’t take my eyes of the horizon.

Quotes are from “Fragments of a Conversation with Nicole Brossard” in the recently published collection of Essays on Brossard, which I highly, highly recommend. This is a great series by Guernica. Well done.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Random Posts, Matrix, Brossard, Ian Curtis, 24 Hour Party People, Wayde Compton, Zolf, Bachinsky, Beaulieu, Goodwin, Carson, Joy Division and more

Apologies for the increasingly random posts. For some reason deadlines seem like magnets for other deadlines which seem like magnets for upstart combustions and implosion of various natures, expenses and irritations. I will say that some reading highlights include the collection of essays on Nicole Brossard, edited by Louise Forsyth and published last year by Guernica, as well as The Blue Book, published by Coach House the year before. I'm thinking about autobiographical writing and musing about the kind of autobiographical writing we find in Canadian women...more on that later.

Meanwhile, I also received a few issues of Matrix in the mail. Matrix Magazine is somehow tied to Concordia University in Montreal. I say somehow, because I'm not sure how. These allegiances are always mysterious. The Malahat Review, which I am partial to, is at the University of Victoria, but not part of their Creative Writing Program, while Prism, is an active part of the MFA program at UBC. I'm partial to having these journals tied to MFA programs, although I suppose there are problems with that approach. When I was at Concordia I barked loudly about what I perceived as a lack of opportunity for students of creative writing but Matrix arrived a year later.

And what of the magazine? Well, it has a smart design courtesy of Andy Brown, whom I believe is also publisher of Conundrum (which was just getting started in my day). Matrix has a light, airy feel to it, an Indie, cool-neighbourhood-boys in a basement kind of energy. Not to say it isn't smart, it's plenty smart. Smart everywhere. And aimed at a very particular crowd--one that crosses over with graphic novels and sound-track-of-my-life compilations. It's not an academic journal--say like Prism, the journal attached to the UBC MFA Creative Writing Program--but it is a literary journal, and has reviews. And this issue has a review of Teeth Marks, which is nice. Other highlights of recent issues include a great interview between editor Jon Paul Fiorentino and Rachel Zolf, and an interview by Wayde Compton. I also enjoyed poetry by Elizabeth Bachinsky & Derek Beaulieu, and an excerpt from Portable Alatamont which I keep hearing about and now know why...great stuff. There is also a great response to the work of Betty Goodwin (who Anne Carson writes about in Decreation), by Jason Camlot--another poet I'm looking forward to reading soon.

For me, rock n roll and poetry aren't as closely aligned as for some, but I do admire the energy. I was flipping through recent issues, watching Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People and remembering (fondly) when the night didn't start until midnight (and on the weekends we'd have to move out of our loft so bands could come in...) but you see, that was a long time ago. Still those songs are definitely part of my sound track--just one part of one soundtrack, but a good slice.

If you haven't seen 24 Hour Party People you should--before we're inundated. I hear there is a movie in the works featuring Jude Law as Ian Curtis from Joy Division. How he'll do a better job than the guy who plays Curtis in Winterbottom's tale I don't know...and you know there won't be much joy in it. But Winterbottom's take is amazing. Really.

And if you're curious about the Montreal writing scene--and I know you are--check out Matrix. You won't find any of that Manchester angst. (I guess Bush isn't as bad as the Reagan Thatcher era after all?) But now that Canada has gone conservative on us perhaps we'll see some of that simmer again? Here's me hoping what we don't see is a Harper-Bush alliance any time soon. I know I wouldn't like that would be a kind of hell.

Oh, and speaking of hell. I have to add a final note about an upcoming film from the director of Fast Runner--another movie I highly recommend. Here's an interview with director Zacharias Kunuk about the making of the first movie. Folks are interested in Iceland, in the Arctic, those last bastions of wild that are melting and assimilating faster than the polar ice cap: cultures going from hunting and gathering to filmmaking in a lifetime (if they're lucky in some cases). The perspective is rich. Not to romanticize it, but I'm fascinated by the odd disjunctions--those of us in the west have had a long time to adjust to the madness we're immersed in. This was one of my favourites bits:

MS: What’s your ultimate goal to come out of video making?

ZK: Just the truth of what happened, because we were really damaged by Christianity. Before Christianity we didn’t know hell existed. We all knew that people went down below, but after they’ve refreshed they would return up to the day. Day-heaven. Everybody went to the day-heaven. But now, Christianity came and ‘snap,’ ‘you’re going to burn in hell if you’re bad.’ We don’t believe that. So, a lot of our cultural ways that survived for thousands of years have been interrupted and completely changed in the last fifty years. Doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense. So, just trying to prove that it doesn’t make sense. That’s my job.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ask and ye shall receive...more bp Nichol

More bp Nichol on the U Penn site:

bp Nichol Audio Archive, ed. Lori Emerson

This is great news. But someone, please, create a similar site dedicated to Canadian poets and poetics. Is there funding out there for this? It would go a long way to making this, and new experimental work, more visible and accessible in and outside of Canada. But it could also be a site that houses readings and performances across the board--where are our sound files?? Aside from a few on UBU and Philly, and now the files that the Griffin Site is adding, there is relatively little out there. Where are files of Dionne Brand, Tim Lilburn, Chris Dewdney, Christian Bok--all the great readers we have and no resource?! How can that be?

I want to use this as a teaching tool. Create please. CBC? Anyone?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Philadelphia Story

Screen shots of a classic. Couldn't help myself.

The Chittendens

Catherine Sullivan's new installation at Metro Pictures is well worth seeing. The Chittendens, a five-channel video, explores gesture by assigning a set of "attitudes", as the artist describes it, to 16 actors. Using a remarkable score by composer Sean Griffin the videos present rhythmic patterns of distinct and random exploration of "the constraints and paradoxes of theatrical representation." This is an area of great interest at the moment. I'm thinking of Candice Breitz, who has a new installation also in Chelsea at the moment, which I saw yesterday as well. Her three pieces, titled "soliloquoy" are again taken directly from films--Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, and Sharon Stone. Condensing the speaking parts of one actor Brietz constructs quite a powerful soliloquoy. The Stone in particular was hard to move away from.

Sullivan's work was equally mesmerizing, history layered though costume, most effective when we saw the same actor gesturing in multiple costumes. However, unlike Breitz, Sullivan is creating entirely new visuals, not simply recycling and shaping. Furthermore, the music, composed for this installation, was brilliant. Bravo to composer Sean Griffin for nailing the mood (if you follow that link you'll find a sample). I've heard this described as "avant film noir" and yes, there is something in that. But there was something infinitely warm and inviting about Sullivan's piece--down to the choice of laying carpet, which created a muffled, parlour room feel.

This is a play on the 18th century idea of acting--we've see this recently in Restoration based narratives--but there is also something Steinian in this work. The variety of patterns, random combinations, but persistant repititions all add up to a moving experience.

The title comes from an insurance company that uses the lighthouse as its logo. But it is a choice that resonates powerfully even if you don't know that the lighthouse is positioned on Poverty Island--surely a place we all want to steer clear of.

The show closes this weekend at Metro Pictures, but continues at the Tate , until March 5th.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Film adaptation I'm most eager to see

Tristam Shandy, is due at theaters in NY on the 27th, and in a rare move, one reserved only for Woody Allen movies (I'm like Charlie Brown to Lucy's football when it comes to Woody...), I plan on catching it opening night. It looks delicious. Very exciting. Finally someone doing something innovative! And of course with Sterne, how could you do anything else? The movie website bodes well for the feature. And what about Michael Winterbottom? Have people seen 24 Hour Party People? I've heard murmurs, I've ordered, I'll report back. Meanwhile, back to pushing fluids and non-stop Curb Your Enthusiam, interspersed with Gertrude Stein and the 5 volume Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ah, the joys of winter in NY.

Oh, and here's the e-text version of the novel, Tristram Shandy.

Strange bedfellows

No, it isn't strange to follow Wordsworth with Stein, but it is strange to have a "Rat Snake" take to its dinner. At a Tokyo zoo a 9 cm dwarf hamster has taken up with a 1.2 meter rat snake. Officials presented the hamster to the finicky snake in an attempt to get it to eat

Instead of indulging, however, Aochan took to the furry rodent, according to keeper Kazuya Yamamoto. The pair have shared a cage since.

“I've never seen anything like it. Gohan sometimes even climbs onto Aochan to take a nap on his back,” Mr. Yamamoto said.

Next thing you know language poets will be taking up with lyric poets, and then where will we be? Of course the snake is probably just depressed, wanting out and on a hunger strike...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

TS Eliot Turns Blue

Isn't this the second woman to win the TS Eliot Poetry Prize? Good lord, what's happening to us. While I can't claim to be a fan of Carol Anne Duffy, I can content myself with gender winning out. Though what I'd like to see is some more innovative work appearing on the mainstream shelves of the world. What gives? I just don't get it...can't people read outside of their own perspective? Where's the curiousity about what's happening on the other side of the fence? When did poetry get so narrow minded?

Three Lives Book Store

Monday, January 16, 2006

Wiesel, Frey & Stein

Well, there are memoirs and then there are memoirs... This whole Frey mess might actually be contextualized with the Wiesel memoir. I doubt it, but I'm teaching a research writing course this winter on autobiography and memoir and plan on opening up this, and many other salient questions. I was disappointed to hear Oprah's statement about the "sense" rather than the "truth" being important. She leans so heavily on "reading" and "literature" as a transformative force that she doesn't stop to ask why or how this is happening. Makes for a gloss rather than a read.

But the question is endlessly fascinating. And I find myself drawn to autobiographical writing as much as I'm repelled. It's hard to find one quite as intriguing as The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, which I'm reading again. Yet again. It's pure candy, essential laid up with the flu reading... The New York Times offers you chapter one for free, right here.

And here is Richard Howard on the Library of American Edition published in 1998.

No, it isn't strange to follow Wordsworth with Stein, and I'm sure this isn't the last post on this whole question. Hopefully the next will be a little less fractured.

William Wordsworth

Ah, reverie. This energy I find in the most unexpected places--it need not be for hills and lonely streams, just as lonely as Manhattan's sewers, some 600 miles of them I learned today. In any case, I've been rereading Wordsworth, perhaps to stave off the cold, and because for some reason he seems essential to understanding so much of the work I love today. So here, from Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 1709, that text that I was too something to admit moved me as an undergraduate...

And so I dare to hope
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led; more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by,)
To me was all in all. -- I cannot paint

What then I was, The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite: a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, or any interest
Unborrowed from the eye. -- That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur: other gifts
Have followed, for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompence. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Not harsh or grating, though of ample power

To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half-create,5
This line has a close resemblance to an admirable line
of Young, the exact expression of which I cannot recollect.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Cat heads

Not a great photo--they were hard to catch--but there you are, the cat head and scarf. I prefer this to the boa constrictor scarf, seen occasionally riding by on a bicycle.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Arthur Sze

Thinking about Arthur Sze's book The Redshifting Web, which I like very much. It has a quiet hold on me, not easy to articulate, not simple. Quiet poetry, not to be confused with "empty reverence" which there seems to be a lot of these days. Sze's poetic is one of "appreciation" but his gaze isn't simple. The poem "Miracles" begins
His lens misses her,
the leaves cast double reflections
on the glass. The one
is his shadow; as he leans up
he discovers a new perspective...
Or from "Written The Day I Was To Begin A Residency at The State Penitentiary"
Inmates put an acetylene torch to another inmate's face,
seared out his eyes.
and later:
I tell myself to be open to all experience,
to take what is ugly and find something nourishing in it...
and finally:
I figure their chances, without people caring,
are 'an ice cube's chance in hell.'
which aligns the narrator in a way with the reader, but doesn't dislocate the meaning, nor offer a kind of congratulatory "aha" moment.

The poem sequence "The Leaves Of A Dream Are The Leaves Of An Onion", is wonderful. The second poem begins with the line "A Galapagos turtle has nothing to do/with the world of the neutrino" and ends with a line about a man throwing a molotov cocktail having everything to do with a sunflower bending towrad the light. A sense of hopeful connection is everywhere in Sze's work. But by the time we get to "Archipelago," the newer work dated 1995, there are enormous gaps in the text, like delicious springs of water:
True or false:

termites release methane and add to the greenhouse effect;

the skin of a blowfish is lethal;
and in another section,
a flayed elephant skin;

she stir-fries tea leaves in a wok.
what we are witness to here is the pulling, scraping, seeing, movement of self on earth, the attempt to connect and acceptance of disconnect, not embracing, noticing. As Tony Barnstone points out in Rain Taxi, Archipelago is Sze's "breakthrough book", the moment where his work reaches its "developmental arc." And as a translator of Chinese poetry, and a Chinese American, Sze is steeped in meditative poetry, so his minimalist project makes sense.
But I go by my gut reaction, and this is mine: as the collection proceeds I find myself feeling more and more hopeful, more and more light in my step as the poems become more serious in a way and focused. I suspect this has something to do with the gaps. Room to elbow in and peer into the eye of a dragonfly myself, perhaps?

10th Street, West Village, 9pm, Friday, January 13, 2006.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Take that!

No good reason to post this Barbie shot today other than the fact that I felt like it...well that and the fact that I've probably taken close to a 1,000 Barbie shots now (here's one of the many slideshows...)...oh, and also because I'm about to complain...again. Perhaps the levity is essential. A further to, or follow up on the Danforth Review post a few days back. Here are the sad statistics of either a/ the writers who responded, or b/ the writers who were asked to respond:

Greg Hollingshead
Brent Robillard
J.J. Steinfeld
Douglas Glover
Jonathan Bennett
**Lynn Coady
**Carrie Snyder
**Emily Pohl-Weary
Peter Darbyshire
Jon Paul Fiorentino
Nathaniel G. Moore
Ibi Kaslik
Harold Hoefle
Matthew Firth
Mark Anthony Jarman
Michael Holmes
Tony Burgess (w/ Derek McCormack)
Yashin Blake
Craig Davidson
**Sharon McCartney
Nathan Whitlock
James Grainger
Tim Conley
John Lavery
Dan Wells and
Michael Bryson.

Women marked **. How is that for a gender breakdown? I'm not going to stop mentioning this till things change people!! Check out the bad stats at the Paris Review as well...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

That's Szymaszek to you!

Stacy Szymaszek & Diane Ward
Seque Reading Series
Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery
New York, NY
4-6pm (Which I think is also happy hour!)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Must Read SHORT Fiction: A List

Over at the Danforth Review they are discussing essential fiction and 22 or so writers, Canadian writers I hasten to add, have added their 10 or so “must reads”. I couldn’t resist compiling my own. Particularly since, as usual, there were about 4 women in 27. (God this is getting so'd think there were no women who wrote, no women anywhere...) Anyhow, here it is. The list is alphabetical and assumes people have read Checkhov and Munro. If not I would have to add them—and of course it's a partial list. I’m already thinking of people Richard Ford, Clarice usual right across the spread…in any case...

Sherman Alexie,
The Lone Ranger & Tonto...
Raymond Carver, Where I'm calling from
Lydia Davis, Break it Down
Junot Diaz,
Mary Gaitskill, anything
Sheila Heti,
The Middle Stories
Etgar Keret, "Crazy Glue" (anything really “Crazy Glue” and “Fatso” are favorites).
Jhumpa Lahiri,
The Interpreter of Maladies
Lorrie Moore,
Like Life, Birds of America
George Saunders, pretty much anything in small doses only!
Gertrude Stein, "Miss Furr & Miss Skeene"
Linda Svendsen, "White Shoulders"
Virginia Woolf, "The Mark on the Wall" or "Kew Gardens"

I have to note that this is "short fiction". The novel wouldn't necessarily be the same list, though there are people who would be on both.

The Whole Frey For All

The smoking gun in the whole Smoking Gun examination into the James Frey phenomenon is actually the ridiculousness of a book such as this gaining the kind of popularity it did in the first place. I'm a bona fide Oprah fan here, but choosing this book is right up there on the bad moves list with Dr. Phil. Yikes. Giving attention to yahoo books like this is the kind of thing that makes 15 year olds go and prostitute themselves so that they "have a good story". That's what we should be talking about here...boy, am I on a rant today or what? Usually I try to be so positive.

Guess I'll mosy over to Big Jim Industries and have a look see... What a mess. And now Random House having to offer refunds!

Jen Benka is way cool

As posted last week, I heard Jen Benka read at "Battle Hill", the Brooklyn Reading Series located on Smith Street, at Bar Below--a bar in the basement of the restaurant above. She read with John S. Hall, another Soft Skull writer, and Cooly-Cat with his little Jazz-Man chapeau and uber-slick anti-Bush riffs. His cool vibes were pumped up, and with a title like Jesus Was Way Cool, which after all, is way cool, there's just no missing the point. The fact that some of Jesus Was Way Cool was written in Toronto made it that much cooler.

And it was interesting to see two different approaches to the political poem, though Benka largely read new work and not from a box of longing with fifty drawers, published by Softskull this fall. More on Benka to come, but I wanted to meditate on the divide in the poetry world. We hear all the time about a divide between language and formal poets, but I want to argue that there is a more intense, more subtle divide than that, one more difficult to articulate, but I sense it's more a divide of the humorous, or the uber "hip" and the earnest. The earnest being somehow less fashionable than the "protest as requisite mating call contained within a pre-dinner preamble." Can we thank Billy Collins for this? Or Paul Muldoon? I bring up Muldoon because flipping through his selection for the Best American Poetry this year makes one think that we're in a golden era of oozey kind of glory days...many of the poems are great individually, but all together like that it's like eating too much cotton candy and then going on the Cyclone, something is coming up.

I don't think Whitman was coiffing himself for the masses, nor I suspect was Ginsberg, and that's part of what made them "way cool". I think they really just meant the poetry. I get that sense from Benka. Here's a teaser from her "poetic deconstruction of America" through one of its essential documents, the Preamble to the US Constitution. Benka gives us one poem for each word in that Preamble and I give you "United," "Justice" and "America."


to stand alone together


one theory suggests
that all theories
in their translation to practice
rely on innocent people
to pay the price for progress.


an unsolved mathematical equation:
land plus people divided by people minus land
times ocean times forest times rive.

escape and the delusion of discovery:
across the mad ocean to the rocky shore
step foot onto land call it yours.

promised land lemonade stand.
auction block stew poet.

the dreams:
of corn field wheat field tobacco field oil
of iron cage slave trade cotton plantation
of hog farm dairy farm cattle ranch range
of mississipi mason-dixon mountains
of territories salt lake lottery gold
of saw mill steel mill coal mine diamond.

topographic, economic
industry and war.

a box of longing
with fifty drawers.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

On the way from the subway

A mother and son with no front teeth
Two slices of squished pizza
One man without legs
Two babies in red caps
One man with seven facial piercings
The tail of an animal
Too many discarded metro cards to count
Three women handing out Watchtowers
A man with an ear like a glazed donut
A woman whistling
One baby dressed in black faux leather
One man with a cigar, shuffling
The sky Tiffany blue
A bulldog shitting
The Luxepop condo salesman scratching his head
One (only one) discarded computer screen
Two piles of Christmas trees
Two men smoking outside of Kutz
The firemen, all six of them, outside sweeping

Readings of the week

Tomorrow Night: Two Jordan Davis Events

Wednesday, January 11
6:30 pm
Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery

and then 8 pm
Jordan Davis & Susan Wheeler
The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church
131 E 10th St (2nd Ave)

Stacy Szymaszek & Diane Ward
Seque Reading Series
Bowery Poetry Club
4-6pm (which i think is also happy hour!)

Poetics List, Blogging, Comments & Ongoing Commentary

I wasn't surprised by Silliman's recent post about the ever-declining number of posts on the Poetics Listserv, probably partly due to a shift in single-voiced blogs--upwards of 700 listed on his site now--but I think it must also reflect an ongoing problem with the levels of discussion found in such forums. Personally, I find the kind of attacks that go on in the listservs, and now in Silliman's comment boxes, particularly unwelcoming. Who wants to be called a "dweeb" or a "pathetic loser"? Even if it has a smiley face after it. How alienating is that?

Finally, like I've mentioned it before, but I'll say it again, I also think it's an effective tool for cutting out many of the female voices. I'm not sure many women have time to piss into the wind, and it seems like few are ever heard in the kind of shouting matches that occur in these forums.

Having said that, I miss the kinds of dialogues that were happening a few years ago when I first joined, and when poets were analyzing, or elucidating certain moments or aspects of poetics, I was impressed by the knowledge, and care taken with posts. I marvel that folks can sustain that kind of attention for so long--as with Silliman--day after day of intelligent, thoughtful responses. In fact overall I've found it inspiring. I just wish it were a little more welcoming.

Poem by Zang Er

Nu Shu: The Secret

Language of Women*

Hey you guys,

Shut up!

From sight progress by Zang Er

Translated from Chinese with Rachel Levitsky

NuShu literally translated as ‘female script’ was a written language invented and used exclusively among women in rural southern China. Scripts look like a feminine version of regular Chinese characters, with special signs, slender shape. Because women were not allowed to go to school to have formal education, Nushu was taught from mother to daughter. And used among female friends and lovers. It is speculated to have been used for thousands of years. The earliest specimen collected dates back 500 years or so, a letter on a silk garment from a palace concubine to someone in her family (a mother or sister perhaps) outside the palace to complain about her loneliness since she saw her husband, the emperor, only three times during 17 years… It was used more or less in that vein, women complaining of their situation in the family, sharing and comforting each other through a medium protected by the censorship of the male world, as no man was able to read it. It has basically disappeared from use now that girls go to school and learn standard Chinese. Only a handful of ladies in their 90s know how to read and write it. NuShu was the subject of a recent exhibition at the public library in New York City.

Marjorie Perloff on Stein & Eliot

Sporadic posts due to overwhelming deadlines, but I've been reading Perloff's 21st-Century Modernism: The "New" Poetics, the introduction to which is reprinted here. Lots of ideas, but loved this quote:
Prufrock's question "Do I dare eat a peach?" has no place in the world of Tender Buttons, where indeed one dares to eat a peach but where, in any case, the issue is not conformity to this or that social norm, but the nature of peachness itself.
So, to meditate on "ordinary things is to refigure one's own place in the world of objects", and yet how do we meditate? How do we refigure ourselves now some eighty years after Tender Buttons? Why do so many poems still get stuck asking the question of whether or not to dare eat a peach?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Open Letter: A Journal of Writing & Theory

Open Letter is perhaps Canada's most intriguing critical journal, at least where poetry is concerned. The latest issue is dedicated to Kenneth Goldsmith, proprietor of ubu.web and poet extrordinaire. My only complaint, and it's a big one, is why don't they have anything online?? Where is the Canadian online poetry presence? Where are the audio files? Where are the essays? The critical writing?? We need to see a more well-rounded picture of Canada from the outside. Come on guys--even Geist and Maisonneuve--get it together, put some of the work online, start archives, invite people in!!

Yes, I'll order Open Letter, but it's not the same...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Trouble with Billy Collins

Doesn't New York Times reviewer David Orr hit the nail on the head with this one? His parody of the great, empty parodier himself is too funny, but you need to see the way it's laid out on the page to get the full effect. How it mimics his often bland tercets...turning himself on himself. Ah, Billy. Darn. I suppose it doesn't matter how much anyone parodies the guy. Folks line up to hear the man make light of other poets, to swagger his anti-intellectualism, and willful lack of development. He's made a career out of being the affable slight of hand poet who over and over again waves his hand across the page to reveal, not even the exhausted birds that David Orr sees, but rather, nothing. I suppose that's quite a trick in its own way.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Post Katrina slideshow from the New Yorker

Photographer Robert Polidori's photo essay on the destruction of New Orleans. Sublime destruction. This seems to be something we're getting used to. Why do human beings live in lairs? An interesting thought, particularly while looking at these photos.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Readings of the week

John S. Hall & Jen Benka
Tuesday January 3rd, 8PM
Battle Hill at Below
209 Smith St, Brooklyn
Cross Street: Baltic Avenue
Phone: (718) 694-2277

Kazim Ali & Paolo Javier
Wednesday, January 4 at 8:00 pm
St. Marks Poetry Project
131 East 10th Street at 2nd Avenue

Quote of the week

Yes, well, this about sums it up doesn't it.
You can't think "My life is more important than the work" and get the work. You have to think the work is paramount in your life. An artist's life is adventurous. One new thing after another.
--Agnes Martin
And yet it's impossible to impart such a simple message. One always thinks, yes, yes, I understand that, now where is my rare Turkish fruit?

Some days the clouds are everywhere

Monday, January 02, 2006

Shawna Dempsey & Lori Millan

The Lesbian Park Rangers, interviewed here last fall at The University of Winnipeg where they were reorienting new students, are still hard at work, protecting the hinterland and educating young and old alike on the ways of the beaver. A proud part of our Canadian Heritage. Why not find out more about the Park Rangers?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Two must hear bands

New Music Canada, a feature of CBC Radio 3, absolutely rocks. I keep discovering the best music there. In fact today I had no choice but to order CDs of Broken Social Scene and Beef Terminal, both wildly ambient and quirky. Non-lyric music has become an essential part of my day, both in terms of commuting, and working. I seem to have enough words, and both of these bands offer up an amazing array of sounds and rhythms. Here’s a blurb from Toronto’s Eye Weekly about Beef Terminal’s new CD Anger Do Not Enter:
Matheson's renewed interest in cut-up-style beats and burbling, fluid melodies harkens back to his earlier affairs, but the ghostly feelings and six-string plucking that informed The Isolationist are still lurking about, making Anger an intermittently eerie and uplifting amalgamation…
These guys are fabulous—all the tracks I was able to hear online in any case. Grey Knowledge was the only CD I could get through Amazon, and it’s as wonderfully uplifting and collage like. Really, it feels as though these guys have spun a few decades up in the air and sample the very best “gestures” or “nuances” of those moments. Loved it.

Broken Social Scene
is equally burbling and playfully random—a kind of Paul Austerish approach to music if ever there was one. And now there is a label too. Noisefactory seems to have sprung up to deal with this great new sound. I haven’t been this excited about a cd since Morcheeba released Big Calm, or Saint Germaine’s Tourist, or Air's Moon Safari. Nor have I written much about music since high school—and I’m a long way from those days—but I can’t help myself. First Martha (below), and now these guys. Check it out.

Larry David on why the macho won't see Brokeback Mountain

I know there are a lot of guys out there who won't see Brokeback Mountain for a lot of reasons. Some of which are amusing. Larry David in today's NY Times:
"Oh, my God, you completely forget that it's two men. You in particular will love it."

"Why me?"

"You just will, trust me."

But I don't trust him. If two cowboys, male icons who are 100 percent all-man, can succumb, what chance to do I have, half- to a quarter of a man, depending on whom I'm with at the time? I'm a very susceptible person, easily influenced, a natural-born follower with no sales-resistance. When I walk into a store, clerks wrestle one another trying to get to me first. My wife won't let me watch infomercials because of all the junk I've ordered that's now piled up in the garage. My medicine cabinet is filled with vitamins and bald cures.

So who's to say I won't become enamored with the whole gay business? Let's face it, there is some appeal there. I know I've always gotten along great with men. I never once paced in my room rehearsing what to say before asking a guy if he wanted to go to the movies. And I generally don't pay for men, which of course is their most appealing attribute.

And gay guys always seem like they're having a great time. At the Christmas party I went to, they were the only ones who sang. Boy that looked like fun. I would love to sing, but this weighty, self-conscious heterosexuality I'm saddled with won't permit it.

I just know if I saw that movie, the voice inside my head that delights in torturing me would have a field day. "You like those cowboys, don't you? They're kind of cute. Go ahead, admit it, they're cute. You can't fool me, gay man. Go ahead, stop fighting it. You're gay! You're gay!"

Not that there's anything wrong with it.