Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dionne Brand, Poet Laureate

She's our smoothest poet, a brilliant gatherer of image and sound, she played one of The Men in Lisa Robertson's book length reading of the collection of the same name, she's certainly one of the Hound's favorite poets, absolutely included in Open Field, and now she's Toronto's new poet laureate. Excellent news. Go Dionne.

Nina Simone

Thanks Vanessa.


If one hasn't any ideas they can always think of their favorite book and remake it, or "adapt" it. This is very convenient. Taking one project apart, rethinking, transforming and inverting it so that it becomes another project. Oddly, people who applaud this on the one hand, can't see the benefit of it on the other. Where the avant garde is concerned. One can look at the word adaptation but if one gets a whiff of Charlie Kaufman, or say, Sigourney Weaver lying on the examination table in Aliens 3, well, then it's the wrong sort of word. Terrifying. As with all things in life, it may or may not have appendages. It may or may not be faithful. It might or might not include sentiment, artifice, satire, and or sincerity. Adapation is often used in conjunction with the terms rip-off, theft, appropriation or misappropriation, slaughter, overly or underly faithful. It may or may not have something to do with translation and as alluded to above, cloning.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dear Shameless Hussy,
Recently I read along with a spoken word poet. Someone wrote a blog entry on the event and praised the spoken word poet for performing her work, for having eye contact with the audience etc. and criticized the others for reading from a printed page.
This is clearly a stance of performance poets and it often represents a dividing line. I was wondering if you had thoughts about poetry when read aloud to an audience. Is the poet's job to make the work more performative and to engage with the audience?

Signed Concerned in Ottawa

Dear Concerned in Ottawa,
The line between performance poets and other poets wavers depending on the professionalism of the poets involved. A "page poet" can be an amazing reader of his or her poetry and offer a more authentic, moving and/or entertaining reading than a performance poet or a spoken word poet. The Hussy has noted that some spoken word poets seem to have a metronome stuck in their throat. Others over augment. Ev/ry. Syl/a/bull/. Ev/ry. Word. Ris/ing. Up! Ris/ing! Up! At the end of the line--when they



and ellipsis....

For emphasis.

Not always so subtle.

The Hussy's trusty confidant would like to add several other irritating reading mannerisms noted of late:
  • The jeune femme who keeps her head down and affects an adolescent flat affect, barely able to mouth the wee syllables of her abstract interventions.
  • The spread-legged urinal-stance of the young man, who reads as if delivering a freshman paper on the evils (it's true!) of apartheid and/or twee langpoetry.
  • The dissective discursions of the overly prefatory, those who bulimically reveal the where/when/how and whosis of each inscribing before letting the vowels drop like mouthed caramels...
The latter rampant: if you speak your entire poem, using all of the words in the poem, before reading the poem, and then read the poem, you will note a not-so-subtle ripple of unease in your audience.

But yes, back to your question. Memorizing a poem is a very good idea. I recommend it highly. But it won't necessarily make you a better reader of your work. Nor will enunciating. Or only enunciating, in any case. It doesn't matter how much a reader attempts to infuse feeling and/or meaning into a piece of writing: if it isn't there it isn't there.

In short, Dear Concerned, it's the poet's job to first write good verse, and second present his or her poetry in the best way possible, articulating the potential, whatever aesthetic quality the poetry--your poetry--embodies. Whether you choose to be sincere, aloof, Socratic, tempestuous, dramatic, undramatic, dry, impatient, jejeune, and so on, is up to you. There is no one way to read. Each of us must find our own way.

But find your way you must. That is to say, yes, yes, yes, one must give thought to how one presents one's work. Always.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Was it the return of Monet's Water Lilies?

Everything was a blur at MoMA on Sunday. Perhaps fatigue from doing three readings in 36 hours. But that's New York, and it was all good, if, by the last reading, very tiring for all involved. But first art. Or three views of looking at art on Sunday. More later on the Conceptualists and Amsterdam and other bits including a very strange, early Eva Hesse.

UQAM creates some Buzz

Gotta love Montreal


"The term in fiction does not have the same meaning as it does with reference to an action film"

I don't know, he was all over the map, I mean quite literally, jerking around, his chin seemed the only part of his body with a clear understanding of where it was meant to be going, if not wanted to be going because, like I said, he was all over, waving what seemed like a slingshot at the woman who was all freaked out and silent even when he got close and nearly struck her with the slingshot, which could well have been just a twig--though it seemed scarier, you know, the implement, which someone else said was a weapon, though that term seems more like, metalic or something than a piece of wood, which is after all burnable, and/or blunting, and has a kind of natural smell to it--like if it was cedar, which this wasn't cause I didn't notice it at all, even after the car was there and the map streaked with blood.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bowery at 4

If you're in New York this afternoon you might want to come by the Bowery. I haven't heard Minkus, Holbrook or Turner read and am very much looking forward. 

Sina Queyras, Kim Minkus, Susan Holbrook, Jacqueline Turner
Bowery Poetry Club, New York, NY
Saturday, September 26, 2009
4:00 to 5:40

Acquiring Editor

Someone is making a narrative about your life. Well, the fact of your life is absented from the making, rather your work is a larger narrative in the other's life. This can be a work of genius. The fact of sitting across the table from another person and feeling comfortable is not to be underestimated. Unless that person is Joyce Carol Oates, Arnold Friend peeking out from the abundant space between her thin arm, and its sleeve.

Friday, September 25, 2009


One route took me through the mall. It was either the mall or the parking lot. Either way the landscape at 8 am fumed, trees spindling out of concrete, bags collecting in the budless branches, a trail of somber brake lights. What is private is fenced, usually concrete, divisive lines thick as speed bumps. Freedom is usually mulitple choice. What is absurd is precisely what people think isn't. This is what Beckett taught me. How? Think of the moment when your focus adjusts to being 13. The awareness that what you inhabit is not voluntary. Think again of formal feeling. A formal feeling comes means many different thinks. (Things, but some typos are more insistant.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Speak to me of prose and tone and humour

There are several surrealist prose books out of Les Figues of late which I have enjoyed immensely. Stan App's God's Livestock Policy, Axel Thormahlen's A Happy Man & Other Stories, and this little bilingual gem, Voice of Ice, from Alta Ifland. It seems that people's resistance to Flarf and Conceptual poetry mirrors, in a way, my resistance to avant-lyric and lyric modes, which is to say that I feel they often aren't saying much, relying instead, as Lyn Hejinian notes, on nostalgia. I want to say the euphoria of nostalgia. That would make me sit up and take notice. Question: doesn't lyric poetry has a tendency to revel in aural play, to swagger its poetic craft much the same way folks accuse avant garde poetry of doing? And yes, there is the matter of sentiment. But then perhaps all poetry can tend that way. Isn't Kenny Goldsmith's Fidget just a little sentimental? I mean what are we talking about here?

In any case, it seems to me Ifland is saying something. Doing something too. It makes me ponder the difference between image and metaphor. Metaphor seeming to conjure up a pre-pentium era (getting there, getting there, it's coming, the image is coming, wait for it, wait for it...)

Whereas metonymy of course: snap.

Here from "Ink Shadows:" "Shadows of violet ink are sitting at my table, with crows of hot iron on their trembling heads. They are helping themselves, tearing apart the roasted meat with their long nails..." There is, as there is in most prose poems, the element of the surreal, and the echo of the fable. In "The mother," for example, "her pockets overflowing with pebbles, the mother surveyed her domain. She had a pitiless gaze and her crocodile tail..."

Prose poems tend to be less precious than the lyric turn--though in fact Ifland's poems (or prose pieces?) do veer toward the precious as well, just to give my neat categories a challenge. In "Nightfall" we get a very dark image at the outset:
From my left arm to my right an inky film extends, and in between, like a teardrop of golden light, hangs my gallbladder, which I've managed to extract. Night pours through the open window in inky waves..." (19).
Later darkness paints, stars leave traces, but the traces are of salt, silence drops and night falls.

The collection ends with a poem about Death.
An Arab friend once told me: "I find so reassuring the thought that one day I will be no longer."

This is a very natural way of seeing things: but who among us Westerners could say this? We fight against death and we fight against life.

There is somewhere a company that transforms the body of your dearly departed into a diamond. You can take it everywhere with you, even when he is gone. "Nothing is lost in nature, everyting is transformed," we have been taught in school.

Even death is no longer final.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The secrets of nature
Cannot be dished out
In neat little spoonfuls.
Kim Rosenfield, re:evolution, Les Figues 2008

The language of systems, the loving of language, the systems of books laid out, the systems of systems, the introduction by Sianne Nagi, the lay of language, the bit of book, the "re-enchantment" of Darwin, the ongoing reinvention of prose, the pocket of poesie, the human race "set free from all its sufferings."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Victoria Glendinning

On Can Lit
"It seems in Canada that you only have to write a novel to get grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and from your provincial Arts Council, who are also thanked. Complaints were once voiced that most shortlisted Giller novels emanated from just three big-name publishers, all owned by Bertelsmann, and that virtually every winner lived in the Toronto area. Now, many of the submitted authors, and their rugged subject matter, hail from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland. That’s maybe because small publishers too are now subsidised, and they proliferate. If you want to get your novel published, be Canadian."
via the Globe & Mail books blog...

Are we really just a self-congratulatory lot? The blog world is abuzz. Defense seems to be the only thing that gets people stirred up.

I don't know, I thought it was funny. How do Canadians think they look to the outside world?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Notes toward some thoughts on Canadian poetry

Interim Volume 27/ No. 1&2 2009
Kudos to Jen Currin for the folio of Canadian poetry in the recent issue of Interim. It's a wonder to me that the editorial efforts of people outside of Canada to promote Canadian poetry and literature abroad get so little attention here at home. Todd Swift's folio in New American Writing a few years back was excellent, I thought. Like Swift, and myself for that matter, Currin isn't interested in representing any one school of poetry, but rather a various and surprising selection including newcomers Kim Minkus (a book out with Line) and Chris Hutchinson (a book out with Brick this fall), alongside Fred Wah, Erin Moure and Christian Bok. Yours truly was very happy to appear next to Stephen Collis. The work included is a bit of a mash up, but very engaging, energetic and certainly creating a complicated rather than uniform sense of poetics.

This is so unusual for anthologies; most of which seem, to be honest, absolutely useless beyond the immediate vicinity of those included in them. More, as Marilyn Hacker points out, like a box of chocolates than anything else. And there are indeed great little boxes of chocolates and yes, they can be useful. I know that not everyone feels, as I do, that they should be useful. I know how difficult it is--impossible really--to actually find teachable texts, so when the opportunity comes around for one and it misses the mark (as 95% of anthologies seem to do) it is sad indeed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Zizek on the reality in the illusion: "we humans are not naturally born into reality..." Further to my earlier post on the possibility of hope as opposed to denial.

Notes toward a poem


"Meet my personality" Ron Silliman

The red wheel barrow has so much rust,
the wheels have eaten away.

A city might collapse under its own economy or
a body.

There is always an open letter.

The ragged brick, the splashes of paint,
the spiced wood, my UPC code, blood
on the cornice, way above your head.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More Joy, the Montreal Version

On Sept. 21, the Joyland Reading Tour stops in Montreal for a night of literary entertainment at the Green Room (5386 St-Laurent Blvd.). Presented in conjunction with Matrix Magazine, the evening will be hosted by Joyland's Montreal editor David McGimpsey and will feature Joyland founders Emily Schultz and Brian Joseph Davis, as well as local writers Jon Paul Fiorentino, Sina Queyras and Arjun Basu.

Notes toward a poem


Some bemoaned the body,
the lack. Some said it had waxed,
become its own angles.

Some had well polished nails,
some never did know
their credit rating.

Over in the corner a woman
blowing the fluff away.

After a few rhymes she saw
the well shaped petals and still
could not name the sensation
between her eyes.

What we hold the laptop with,
the stroke, stroke.

I am still thinking of the body
the collision, the fact of flesh
a skin around my iPod, a frame
I can see you in from.

I am still thinking,
which after all
is breath.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nick Thran: Ashbery's bridge

And now I cannot remember how I would have had it. It is not a conduit (confluence?) but a place. The place, of movement and an order: The place of old order. But the tail end of the movement is new.  Driving us to say what we are thinking.  It is so much like a beach after all, where you stand and think of going no further. And it is good when you get to no further. It is like a reason that picks you up and places you where you always wanted to be. This far. It is fair to be crossing, to have crossed. Then there is no promise in the other.  Here it is. Steel and air, a mottled presence, small panacea and lucky for us.  And then it got very cool. 
from Hotel Lautréamont, by John Ashbery

This poem opens in the congenial mist typical of his style, in the onset of confusion more welcomed than troubling: “And now I can not remember how I would have had it.”  The second line of the poem is a potent blend of hesitancy and declaration, pushing off from the bottom of an old idea, in this case the bridge as conduit, and even adding a second side note, complete with a question mark “(confluence?),” to soften the declarative blow of the essential message: “It is…a place.”

And it is a place. Beyond the bridge's function as a tool to get us from one place to another, it is somewhere to stand, something to consider on its own terms, at the very edge of its supposed usefulness.  Poems such as this, that do not attempt to communicate any particular information or feeling, but instead try to situate the reader at the edge of his/her own sense of the ineffable, “It is so much like a beach after all,” are arguably already part of the “old order” by now.  Yet the easy gate, the conversational method by which this poem walks us to the limits of consciousness, especially evident in the line “and it is good when you get to no further” still, to me, has a freshness about it, a whiff of something just up from the earth.          
That the poem is affixed to the beams of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge in Minneapolis is not an occasion for pomp and circumstance, that “old order”, but rather, I would suggest, one in which to subvert the very trope of monument itself. “It is fair to be crossing, to have crossed,” Ashbery writes with his trademark diplomacy, yet in this cross-section of a disembodied poetic monologue and the irrevocable material of industry, “Steel and air, a mottled presence…” our attention is drawn away from the occasion of this intersection and any received ideas of a bridge/poem's function. Instead we are invited to focus on the elemental way the changing weather is absorbed by the mineral and the beams become cool. (And isn't “mottled” a perfectly humble modifier to employ in this instance?) 

This unlikely marriage works because, “lucky for us,” Ashbery has undertaken this collaborative project not as an empirical poet affixing his signature to steel, but as a child coming in from the yard with his hands around a trembling bird.

Nick Thran is the author of one poetry collection, Every Inadequate Name.  He is at work on a second collection, Earworm. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Poetics & Activisim in New York

Participant bios

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Location: English Department Lounge

Opening Plenary I: Why You Talk Like That? Between Orature and Literature
Chair: Tonya Foster; Panelists: Meta DuEwa Jones, John Keene, Julie Patton, Evie Shockley
Location: English Department Lounge
Description: One aspect of “black aesthetics” involves two ostensibly dissonant strands of poetics the oral and the literary (which may include the visual). Their challenging of visual and oral groundings of identity markers translates Black female iconography from its historical depiction within a “So Black and Blues” matrix into a “So Black and Beautiful”. One aspect of “black aesthetics” isn’t merely the transcription of the oral onto the page but an attempt to transfigure the page in such a way that it creates/suggests an alternate space which demands that the literary engage the oral, re-inscribes the literary nature of the oral and rejects the clearly articulated boundary between the two, and, in so doing, suggests a different sense of time: look at Mackey and Brathwaite’s A History of the Voice.

Opening Plenary II: Wedge & Suture: Critical Language Practices & the Imperialist Event
Chair: Laura Elrick; Panelists: Ammiel Alcalay, Cathy Park Hong, Anne Waldman, Rachel Zolf
Location: English Department Lounge
Description: On the “here and now” continuum, on the radically material cusp that articulates past and future, what methods of political thought can poetry uniquely perform? How can poetry (as radical anathema to imperialist language use, and as intellectual hope) resist the dead-end traps of reification and teleological thinking? Our discussion will center on the complexities and difficulties (and therefore importance) of radical language practices within our unevenly-developed but globalized relations.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chris Burdon

Chris Burdon. Apparently he crawled through 50 feet of glass.

Here's another from 1971

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

70s classics Girl Rock encore

Girl rock

Patti Smith

and more Patti Smith via Vanessa Place (email)


and live in Toronto

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Writers Read at Concordia

Irish poet Sinead Morrissey as part of Writers Read at Concordia on Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the De Sève Cinema. Morrissey has published four volumes of verse - There Was Fire in Vancouver, Between Here and There, The State of Prisons and Through the Square Window - and has been short-listed twice for the T.S. Eliot Prize.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Voices raised in song

Legend, by Candice Breitz. There is something absolutely irristable about Brietz's series of installations including people singing along with famous songs--Marley here

She's done Queen (based on Madonna) and King based on, who else?

Candice Breitz: King (A Portrait of Michael Jackson), 2005/2006, clipping from Mary Scherpe on Vimeo.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Roni Horn & Clarice Lispector

Agua Viva: Seventeen Paradoxes, 2004
Horn often uses text as a source for her work. Here we have samplings from Clarice Lispector's The Stream of Life.

Horn has done a lot of work in/on Iceland, which seems to be still on the tip of everyone's tongue. As I hope Lispector will be. One of the great fiction writers of the 20th Century. Now there is a biography, which I can't wait to read. Here's an excerpt from the New York Times:

"Here’s a riddle for literary sleuths. Which 20th-century writer was described by the eminent French critic Hélène Cixous as being what Rilke might have been, if he were a “Jewish Brazilian born in the Ukraine”? By the poet Elizabeth Bishop as “better than J. L. Borges”? And by the Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso as one of the chief revelations of his adolescence, along with sex and love and bossa nova? The answer is Clarice Lispector, a Portuguese-language novelist who died in Rio de Janeiro in 1977, and who, despite a cult following of artists and scholars, has yet to gain her rightful place in the literary canon."
No, can't understand anything, but nice to hear her speaking nonetheless:

The biographer:

Bill Viola 1979

This is very early Bill Viola. Best known I think for his slow moving under water footage. Found some early work of his in the Banff Centre Archives too. For some reason the visual arts component of the Centre, along with the music program, has a long history of international involvement--the literary side not so much.
Here in a seminal moment of footage from 1976

A more expansive exploration of light and movement, 1977

From 1978

A strange attempt to come to terms with Viola's work

Here's Silent Mountain, 2001

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Robert Polidori et al at the MAC

"Why wouldn’t the walls have recorded and layered, one on top of the other, all the emotional vibes of the rooms’ successive occupants and visitors?" Robert Polidori

You'll no doubt recognize the photograph of a theater in Havana, a similar one, if not the same one, was used on the cover of Nicole Brossard's amazing Notebook of Roses and Civilization, which was nominated for a Griffin last year.

There are dozens of Victoria cribs gathered in a dimly lit room, assembled by Canadian artist Spring Hurlbut. Le Jardin du sommeil (1998) is a disturbing and remarkable installation. And if you haven't seen the Betty Goodwin? Well, it's the last few days to see all of this at the Mac here in Montreal.

More Acconci

According to Kenny Goldsmith Vito Acconci was the conceptual artist of the 1970s. Here is "Open Book" from 1971. Ubu has several more Acconci films and an interview.

Here's an excerpt from an interview in The Believer:
VA: The difference might be like how maybe writing electronically is different than writing on a page: They might be paragraphs, but they could be simultaneous, or one within the other, rather than this paragraph, then this one, then this one, then this one. They’re hopefully allowing for a variety of different kinds of movements and actions through a space. Are we setting up a space as a kind of very big page? Maybe it’s a page that already has sentences, but now the reader can go from the first sentence way up there, can go on a diagonal down here… I don’t know if I would want to say now that I’m a writer, but I certainly want to admit that I think primarily, for better or worse, in terms of writing. Sometimes it worries me because I think, well, is all this there just to demonstrate or illustrate a piece of writing?

SJ: Demonstrate or illustrate, that sounds too reductive. All your texts perpetually undermine themselves and offer alternate ways of looking at the situation. If your constructions are built on a foundation of writing, it’s a very shifty foundation.

VA: Yeah, writing is a very, very watery thing. It can seem very definite, but it’s very… cloudy.

SJ: A lot of your architectural works do seem to be kind of suspended or floating… flying carpet-like.

VA: But sometimes it seems like, why waste the energy? You can probably suggest more possibilities in writing than you can when something’s physical. Doesn’t this physical presence necessarily imply, this is the way it is, this is a fact, whereas writing is constant potential? You can describe facts, but everybody can read those facts in a very different way. When they see it in real space, well! They’re fixed.
And this is apparently David Byrne asking the questions...but...I...don't...know.

Reposting because more to say/think here. Flipping through the many records of performances through the 1970s--Acconci and others so aware of the body and its physical relation to space. Not to bemoan the loss of focus on this in a kind of essentalist/feminist romantic way (if those three things can go together), but yes, looking back fondly at the body writhing around on the gallery floor, or on a beach:

"Drifts," noember 1970, Jones Beach
1. Rolling toward the waves as the wves roll toward me; rolling away from the waves as the waves roll away from me.
2. Lying on the beach in one position, as the waves come up to varying positions around me.
3. Using my wet body: shifting around on the sand, letting the sand cling to my body.

No silly "like" or "dislike" button here, what we've come to in terms of our willingness to police tone out there in the world, and our desire to speak. Reduced to a yay or nay in a comment's box?

Ick, blach. Beach rubble. As Sappho would say in her modernist phase: "If you're squeamish, don't poke the beach rubble."

Or go ahead and poke it anyhow. Roll around in it. Do something other than yay or nay she says, thinking of these September days quickly passing.

Southern White Boy Rock


Lynard Skynard

Allman Brothers

Or The Atlanta Rhythm Section


Atumun Sonata, 1978

Out of left field

Absolutely awesome.

Bad footage, but live

Martha Rosler

Semiotics of the Kitchen, which I saw recently in Wack! the feminist art show.