Monday, November 30, 2009

Beatbox Boy

Giving Mr. Bok a run for his money...

Follow @christianbok for more such affirmations of the human creative spirit.

Who is afraid of thinking?

A.O. Scott says
And, indeed, “Examined Life” is less a tour of present-day philosophy than a study in academic celebrity. Ms. Taylor has offered each of her subjects the chance to show off a little, and they find different ways of rising to the opportunity of subverting it. Some, like Mr. Zizek, Mr. Hardt and the Princeton ethicist Peter Singer, explicitly comment on their surroundings. Judith Butler, a gender theorist at the University of California, Berkeley, makes the act of taking a walk into an occasion for philosophical inquiry. Accompanied by the filmmaker’s sister Sunaura Taylor, who uses a wheelchair because of a disability, Ms. Butler in effect transposes some of her difficult and subtle ideas about bodies, identity and social space into the language of everyday life.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Open Wide

An email from Nancy Holmes regarding her anthology, Open Wide a Wilderness: Canadian Nature Poems:
Sina:  Thanks for a thoughtful commentary on OWW.  I have been expecting a response about the post-1960 representation.  Just a few words about intention:  I intended the anthology to be one that provided a foundation for a study of Canadian nature poetry, a historical foundation that included the poems that people of various eras would have selected as key (as the good Reverend of the United church noted—Campbell’s “Indian Summer” and Bliss Carman’s “Vestigia” being the two faves of the Edwardian or 1920s set) but also allowing diverse voices of women and some few indigenous writers of the pre-1960 era a place.  I also wanted to make room for poets who have become obscure or un-anthologized in recent years (e.g. Marjorie Pickthall or Kenneth Leslie)—to acknowledge their place in our national literature (if we have such a thing).  So I feel pretty good about the first 2/3 or ¾ of the book.  I think I did what I set out to do.  The post-1960s component was more challenging—first of all there was so much to choose from.  Some poets/ poems were already canonized in a nature poem sense—e.g. McKay and Atwood.  But I found that poems from the 60s and 70s are now being left out of recent anthologies—like the long poem The Great Bear Lake Mediations by J.M. Yates— a great deal of current long poem ecopoetics comes out of  that text, acknowledged or not. I needed to add poems like those which are part of the historical foundation I was attempting to create (and I should have likely added an excerpt from Marlatt’s Steveston—I had it on my long list but in the flurry of cuts, I decided to drop it and go with one of her shorter lyrics—probably a mistake.)   After the 1980s, there is such an explosion of poetry publications (accompanying the demise of an audience prepared to recite such poems as “Indian Summer”) it is nearly impossible to read it all (I probably managed to read nearly everything pre-1960!)  Oh the problems of contemporary poetics! Fraught with the various so-called controversies amongst aesthetic stances! The choices I made hauled up to support one “side” or another “side!”  Not my favorite place to be.

In fact, probably this last quarter of the book would change each year, depending on what I was reading at the time.  In my prefatory note, I said I hoped that some enterprising anthologist would take up the task of creating a contemporary nature poem anthology—I think such a collection is much needed to address the issues you raise and to include the poets you feel are missing, and that I feel are missing, too.   I haven’t seen Adam Dickinson and Madhur Anand’s new anthology—it might have some of the qualities that you sense are lacking in OWW.  I too would really welcome a volume that makes up for the deficiencies of mine. 

In the end, I chose shorter poems rather than longer ones (poets like Lisa Robertson are not very excerpt-able—extracting passages doesn’t do her justice—she does so much kneading of  language into  huge spatial forms.)  In the end, I also thought the book would have more coherence maintaining a lyric concentration.   In the end, I also do acknowledge my own allegiance to the lyric poem, the poem of the line and the voice and the image.  However, all your comments are fair and thanks for them.  Nevertheless, I hope that the book will function as a springboard for anthologies that will build on its work and I hope that people will discover poems and poets that they have forgotten or that please them.

Just one comment you made bothered me.  That is that you thought there was “not one complicated representation of nature” in the post-1960s selections—I’d take issue with this. Complicated representations of nature abound, I’d say, even in poems with a seemingly transparent and/ or “representational” use of language.  I’d argue that the last quarter of the book is complicated and implicated and ambivalent, as well as reverent, about tampons in the raccoon’s  supper and deer that raise the spirit of the hunt, the spirit of otherness, and the spirit of liminality of the interface zones of our suburbs.  All these things feel complicated to me no matter what their aesthetic energy.

Nancy Holmes

Here's a link to the post Holmes is referring to. There are some uneasy elements in the post-1960 poems. I do refer to Babstock's fabulous poem, and he, as well as Karen Solie do tend to startle the thing they are looking at it. In that sense, yes, they can be said to offer a more complicated depiction of nature. Tim Bowling offers a powerful political message in his poem "On the disappearance of Two Million Sockeye Salmon" in that deadly last reference to the chains dragging the ocean. George Murray's poem evokes the fear and hostility, as well as the disconnection from nature, when the father kills the snake because it "once could have" inflicted pain. Dickinson I also made mention of, and his poem does suggest a more complicated way of seeing "Homo Sapiens was a draft" certainly troubles the naive positioning one often senses afoot in "nature poems" too. Still...there is no sense of the urgency.

I have from the start of this discussion, revealed my uneasiness about the way nature is represented in poetry, but maybe Holmes is right in her response. Perhaps my resistance is more about the privileging of a lyric voice in the post-1960 work when there are so many other strong engagements (see my post), available. My point being that innovative work is accepted in mainstream discourse only at a minimal, and usually doesn't include people born after 1960. These depictions offer a skewed view of contemporary Canadian poetry, even (and maybe even particularly), poetry that is dealing with nature.

This is a beginning. And I think it's one of the important discussions, particularly because at a moment when people are in fact willing to face the reality of climate change and the urgency and complexity of environmentalism we need to have a variety of complex representations and assertions. These issues are not simple, and we need to have language, and imagery, and a sense of how to even begin to think about what nature is, not only what it was, or what we hope it to be. My concern comes from a very real sense of urgency.

Suffice to say it's a very important discussion and I appreciate Holmes taking the time to respond. She had initially intended to post this in the comment stream, but I think it deserves its own post. And I look forward to more responses to the anthology, these posts, the problem of post-1960 representation, the recent Regreen from YSP edited by Madhur Anand and Adam Dickinson, and the other texts that are now arriving on the scene.

Update 11/30/09. For me, this is the elephant in the room. Much of the poetry classified as nature poetry doesn't even acknowledge what's happening in/to/around it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

She's a bitch

If you're a bitch, you are at least in good company historically and otherwise.

And the stranger the better, no?

I want your shoes, baby. And then to be able to pull them off, of course. But poets don't really "do" shoes do they? (Warning I have some very candid poet shoe shots...)

Recent Tweets

via Lemon Hound 
Poetry has never tried a thong
9:31 PM Nov 25th from web

Poetry bends even the most rigid constraints, adds a little fur, some tooth, several consonants and a Stella McCartney boustier
11:03 PM Nov 24th from web

Thinking of scrolls, miniatures, over-sized books such as those in the Morgan: there has never been a "right way" to do books
3:01 PM Nov 24th from web

Poetry queries the movements built up in its defence, particularly since it cannot be contained and therefore requires no defence
12:56 PM Nov 24th from web

Yes, in fact Poetry does sometimes put a party hat on and have a smart cocktail at 5:08 all by itself
5:09 PM Nov 23rd from web

If his poems were cars, Poetry mused with some cheek, they would be beige Camry, beige Camry, beige Camry
7:44 AM Nov 23rd from web

Poetry isn't sure whether it is a bitch or a bitch. Sigh. Maybe both?
9:48 PM Nov 22nd from web

Poetry thinks Richard Serra is a very sculptural poet
12:27 AM Nov 22nd from Tweetie

Poetry finds itself on a gridded island and is quite content
10:11 AM Nov 21st from Tweetie

Poetry loves a parkway: appreciates the approach, the funnel and swerve
6:40 PM Nov 20th from Tweetie

Poetry is neither a Vendler girl or a Perloff girl
12:33 PM Nov 19th from web

Poetry doesn't need the gaps filled in thank you...
8:41 AM Nov 19th from web

Poetry can't be counted on to dress appropriately, or even dress, or even be appropriate for that matter
9:01 PM Nov 18th from web

Poetry feels about you as a window feels about the sun...
3:51 PM Nov 18th from web

Poetry puts on a "pair of loose easy palatable boots and me rendre chez vous"
12:39 PM Nov 18th from Tweetie

"If you are squeamish, don't poke the beach rubble." This PSA brought to you by Poetry and Sappho via Mary Barnard
11:39 AM Nov 17th from web

Poetry would like to remind you that it is not an idiot
9:55 PM Nov 16th from web

Poetry is not amused by those who make simplistic arguments in defence of it...
8:42 AM Nov 16th from web

Poetry suggests that all writing, even writing that purports not to be performative, is performative
4:32 PM Nov 15th from web

Poetry rejects the simplistic binaries of those who seek to evaluate it as though it were a fossil
11:18 AM Nov 15th from web

Poetry aims for not an ounce of flab in her verse, prefers concrete to treadmills, spade to weight, variety to routine
10:27 AM Nov 14th from web

Poetry gets tired of people confusing their personal aesthetic preferences with good poetry...
3:30 PM Nov 11th from web

Poetry notes that it too has squirreled into the eaves of your warm dwelling and taken shelter with its store of nuts
11:06 AM Nov 6th from web

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bending Perception

Richard Serra, Blind Spot, Gagosian to December 23

I always enjoy interacting with Richard Serra's work. This latest is by far the most intense and startling. I didn't look at the photos above before confronting the work in the gallery, though the entire time I was wondering how I could get on the gallery roof and look down through the skylights... Let me say at the outset that these Serra pieces are exquisite. They force the viewer to enter into the world of the artist, literally bending one, with actual force, to the shape of the massive steel sculpture. I wondered if it was only me so I paused to observe and everyone--from the smallest to the tallest--leaned in the direction of the bend in the steel immediately upon entering. I felt quite certain that it was simply a shift in visual perception, but even with my eyes closed I felt a kind of force. I have no idea whether steel gives off a particular energy. Of course, so does going below deck on a sail boat, and the result was similar; I was nauseous for several hours after.
In fact it was quite by chance that I found the Serra at all, as the show in question is in the Gagosian on 21st, not the one on 24th, the one I make a point of stopping in at whenever I am in Manhattan. And because the way to approach Chelsea now is by walking on the El from 14th Street to 21st (it will go the entire length of the El eventually, but not yet) one encounters a whole other set of galleries there. In fact I had forgotten Gagosian had the gallery on 21st, and forgotten Serra had a show. Over drinks the night before friends had suggested that the current face of Chelsea (3 week shows making things incredibly fluid) was quite forgettable. It was with few expectations that I set off. Fortunately even the most finely tuned eyes can rarely catch all of Chelsea in one day--Serra fans, these two did not venture down to 21st street, but instead took in the Mike Kelley exhibit on 24th. More on Kelley another time, and more on some of the other shows, several of which were extremely memorable.

One final note on the Serra: It occurs to me that these sculptures, like many of his towering works, represent containers, most obviously the prow of ships cutting through all things permeable in a glorious appreciation of material communion...and this may be why I dreamed there was a massive Serra sculpture outside my bedroom window last night, threatening to upend my little patch of terra firma. Despite the obvious danger I was glued to the window with a great sense of delight.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In A Gadda Da Vida

A note from Gary Barwin
Thought you might these two amazing Tuvan appropriations of Western kitch-hits. "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Tuvan band Yat Kha and (see below)  "In a Gadda da Vida," replete with the haunting overtone singing typical of Tuvan throat singing.
Amazing how they have a totally different conception of vocalization. To my Western ears, this sounds like a manically depressed Russian early in the morning, after too much vodka and too little coffee, though I understand how it emerges from an adaption of traditional Tuvan throat singing.
Thanks Gary. 
Everyone is interpreting everything and it is enlarging not shrinking.

Malahat Review, September 2009

Three good things from the issue:

I am not that familiar with Ross Leckie's poems, but I really loved the ones here grouped as "Wetlands of Pure Reason." Very nice. These poems, with titles like "The Brain of a Cauliflower," "Addition and Subtraction and All the Gorgeous Functions" have real energy, directness. They are conversational but ponderous as much as assertive. They make space--literally forcing the reader to turn the journal on its side--and they zoom about the mind, not taxing, but taunting, tempting a little. I like a direct question. I don't need, more emphatically, I don't want everything answered in a poem. Ground me. Direct me. Delight me. I can read. Give me images: "The sunlight like flashcards," and language "coruscations of the liliaceous plants," and yes, those questions "Why are they so afraid of that Arabic zero when they know it so well by heart?" (69). I do understand the "implications of a breeze," and yes, "the cortex remembers." It does. I just found these poems inhabitable, and engaging. Taking me out of the small. 

Susan Gillis' "Spring Storm" surprised me. It starts out with burned toast, moves into a series of serrated snippets of nature "the eddy...frilled like a doily...seethed" a "twig...helpless to go anywhere" the river "lifted by windhooks" and then the speaker, having been herself turned and tossed in these jets and columns of air, realizes that "the gaps among things" have closed. She may be on the other side of things: "blips, leaf-loss." She concludes "When I leave, understand, I will not be gone." Lyric or not, this, to me, is more indicative of the kind of complicated relationship contemporary poetry has (and has to have) to nature (but I'll post more on that in a few days).

Sandra Pettman's "Derrida's Butter Dish" simply pleased me. I don't know the poet, never heard of her before, but thought the poem had terrific energy, and I have a weakness for a good prose poem. They are not, contrary to popular belief, easy to do. The poem isn't particularly flashy in terms of imagery, or language, it is more narratively driven than imagistic or lyrically driven, it isn't overly surreal as many prose poems are, but it does make use of those conventions. At the center of the poem is the butter dish, its opaque utilitarianism symbolizing the difficulty and necessity of the French thinker. Part critique, part desire to make shortbread of him, and sit down to tea. Lovely. Surprising.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Go, go, go!

Quote of the week

Karen Solie describes what an "Anansi Girl" is or has:
  "a certain undefinable quality. In fact, it is impossible to determine simultaneously both the position and velocity of one or another of us with any degree of accuracy or certainty. An Anansi Girl might be the basis for the initial realization of fundamental uncertainties in the ability to measure more than one quantum variable at a time."
Curmudgeons abound, and they do have their charms. "Why aren't we talking about Ondaatje or Milosz..." Maybe we are, Professor, but if you want to simply ignore a whole thread of contemporary poetry, I guess you'll never know that... What am I on about? I am referring to the responses to Flarf in the Toronto Star this week.

I don't think the arrival of one discourse displaces another. I don't see this as an either/or. I think new discourses, such as Flarf, enrich discourse, even if by making one more in love with what one was already in love with. Maybe in love in a more complicated way. Bring it on. Here's how the piece in the Star ends:
Toronto's poet laureate, Dionne Brand, says poets from every period have used the material of the day, from "cave walls to digital walls."
"Whether one mines daily life or physical texts or digital texts, one still has to choose," Brand wrote in an email. "The choices are interesting, or not, and whether they are interesting is what makes the poem."

Roni Horn encore

Roni Horn--I missed this while in NY, but I found this footage and feel a little less disappointed.

Here is part of what I missed...

Watch Roni Horn, Louise Bourgeois / Hauser & Wirth Zurich in Entertainment  |  View More Free Videos Online at
Not quite the same, but...wanted to see the Blake exhibit at the Morgan and that was worth it. Absolutely. If only for the etching he did for Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which I don't think I have seen anywhere. It's gorgeous.
Oh lord.

A Gary Barwin find.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Part 2, Women of the Avant Garde

Is now up on Poetry Foundation. You heard it here. You have to get it there.

Thanks for the tip, Don.

The Malady of Modernism

It's true, you put stuff out there and you get lovely surprises. Some of them good. This from Kenny Goldsmith:
The Malady of Writing: Modernism You Can Dance To (MP3) In collaboration with MACBA in Barcelona, UbuWeb is pleased to present a podcast accompanying their new exhibition entitled The Malady of Writing, a project imagines a pleasurable, humorous and fun version of modernism. This podcast is based on Mark Klienberg's proposition: "Could there be someone capable of writing a science-fiction thriller based on the intention of presenting an alternative interpretation of modernist art that is readable and appreciated by the wider public?", which has actually been answered affirmatively in a certain undercurrent of artist's audio production over the past century; let's call it an unofficial unofficial history of modernism (doubly unofficial since artist's audio production has been viewed as secondary to the their plastic / marketable production). Artists featured include: Alfred Jarry and Charles Pourny, Erik Satie, George Antheil, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dal', Allen Ginsberg, Karl Holmqvist, Jack Smith, Karlheinz Stockhausen, The Beatles, The Mothers of Invention, The Beach Boys, Sue Tompkins, Flanagan & Allen, Gilbert & George, Kipper Kids, Laurie Anderson, Karen Finley, Chris Burden, Joseph Beuys, Martin Kippenberger, Miranda July, Seth Price, and Sean Landers.
And you all can subscribe to Goldsmith's podcast via the Poetry Foundation. Amazing stuff. Check out the women of the avant garde. Among the women you will meet is Judy Dunaway who composes musical scores for the balloon. Yes, I mean rubber balloons. Check. It. Out. Surabaya is my fave.

Rock On

Grey sky. Flash back.

Louise Bourgeois

Un refuge

A total giant, indeed. Missed Tracey Emin's show...but I saw an incrdible piece by Bourgeois in a group show. Took details of it and my entire card corrupted before I could upload. 120 photos vanished.

I am my own house...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Holding out for a hero

Bien sur

Thanks VP. My favourite moment is the few seconds before they start dancing. What I'm hoping for is a gaggle of singing and dancing poetry reviewers. I'm not sure Toronto is ready for it, but perhaps, perhaps, wait? Where in Canada could I imagine that? Winnipeg. That's it. That's where the future of Canadian criticism could be.

You think I'm kidding?

Trouble Soon Be Over

This one from Gary Barwin

Friday, November 20, 2009

Altnernate blurb entry

If you read the description on back of the book you will not only find out what is happening in the book, but how it happens and how you should feel about it too.

--Boy with bowl cut and very swish boots waving his library book at his nanny


So what do you think? Will you write me a blurb for my new book?

Um, I don't know. Who else is writing one?

We're not sure yet. There has been a lot of interest.

Oh really? Interest in the blurb writing?

It's the kind of book that blurbs well. People are kind of excited.

Oh, so I should be honoured?

Well, I mean, I don't want to sound pompous or anything--


But you know who has already offered.

Oh really?

As long as I put it on the front of the book, at the bottom, in quite a big font.

Why don't you just use it as the title?

I thought of that, but apparently it's a really bad idea.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

TABLE MUSIC: William S. Burroughs, from "A Review of the Reviewers"

TABLE MUSIC: William S. Burroughs, from "A Review of the Reviewers"


If I were to put together one figure from my many girls and from fragments of Joan of Arc, Charlotte Corday, and Anna Katharina Emmerich—just to touch on one possible combination—then I too could sing the praises of a heroine who would be happily and hospitably welcomed into the houses of the small towns if she were willing to stoop so low. But I see my girls getting scared. They are afraid I will haul them across all the abysses to each other, and will want this from one and that from another and everything from none of them; they are scared of being left behind as half-requited lovers with half of what they possess in their disappointed hands, like white roses a storm has moved through with its broad, merciless, terrifying shoulders. 
 Guess who wrote this at the tender age of 21? No clue? The following few lines might help: 
Go walk behind them. Your gaze will involuntarily lower; their bright clothes are blinding. Your eye will fall, with wings half singed off, onto the road, which lies spread out and wide like an open book. In its pages, bygone carriages have laid down their lines.
  See the Paris Review for the full piece. 

Bullet in the Brain

It happens we are discussing this story in my workshop next week. It's from Tobias Wolff, not in general a favorite author of the Hound's, but it's a great story, and among other things, it always reminds me to think about what, and how, I am thinking. You can hear it on the New Yorker read by T. Coraghessan Boyle, or here I give you Tobias Wolff reading the beginning

or a short film based on the story:
I give you part 2 first

There is a part 1 but it takes liberties with the story and loses its subtlety as it does with the one above, hammering away its more lyrical moments, turning up the sentimentality, moments that in the story are so condensed and quick that you don't see the turns coming. So really, I suggest listening, or better yet, reading the story.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Once again I point out the following contest offered by Arc for students writing How Poems Work pieces. This is exciting to me, getting new voices in the mix, and new ways of thinking about poetry and how we discuss poetry. Very much looking forward to the outcome of the contest, and to publishing more students and new writers here on LH. (Hint, hint.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


You have heard by now, and congrats are in order. To all the winners and nominees for the GG, bravo. Now, really, a wee celebration is also in order. And also, I believe, a well-earned break.

Shameless Hussy's Literary Advice

Dear Shameless Hussy,
I have been watching the debate about reviewing in this country with some interest. After reading several posts on the matter I did my own research. What struck me even more than the obvious bias of the reviews is the overwhelming number of them being penned by men, usually from the center and east of it, and with distinctly similar tones. Is there some reason we don't see more women reviewing?


Dear Curious,
We are talking about the poetry world I assume? The Canadian contemporary poetry world in particular? I ask because having spent time on both sides of the border and in many poetry worlds I am surprised to find that the current mainstream discourse has moved back in time. In fact it seems stuck in the early1960s. October, 1961, to be exact. I suppose if a woman was content to set up office in the store room, a pack of mimeograph paper by her side, blue pencil tucked firmly in her upswept hair, she might be able to write some copy--there are a smattering of women out there after all. But as it is I think your purpose in this world is to be supportive of these poor guys who are out there tirelessly reviewing and loading the canon on our behalf. Really, you should learn how to make a good martini, practice being a good ear and offering supportive feedback. That's more useful to society in general. What would happen if these guys didn't have healthy mirrors to reflect themselves? (Note that objects in mirrors may appear larger than they are.)

Joannie, Red, Shameless Hussy, Peggy, Emily, Cupcakes, Pink-Hearts-for you, and so on....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Who is claiming unbiased reviewing?

Here is the original piece from BookNinja:
November 10, 2009

On reviewing

Moby looks at a dust up over a review in which it’s become apparent that teh reviewer’s political agenda and personal disagreement with the reviewed author was driving the substance of the piece. Luckily, Moby turns this from a simple “FIGHT! FIGHT!” piece into a thoughtful bit about the nature of how reviews are, and should be, assigned and executed.
In an age where more and more readers are writing subjective reviews on their blogs, on Amazon and elsewhere, we must be able to look to professional reviewers and expect an objective opinion. That said, all reviews are at some level a matter of taste and preference.  But that doesn’t excuse Packer’s review, which seemed to me to be a review of Danner himself rather than the book Packer was supposed to evaluate.  After reading his piece, I now know more about the man behind the book than I do about the book itself.

The comment stream here is, well, I think it speaks for itself. Apparently in other countries people should care about the biases of reviewers...not in this country where people get the opportunity over and over again to tear apart work they don't like...hilarious.

PS Don't let these guys shift the discussion to the simplistic question of negative reviewing or not. That's a red herring. The issue is not at all about negative or positive reviewing, not at all. In fact I think I'm looking for reviews with a lot more bite than these guys can offer. I have a lot more to say about this, but not just yet. All I can say for now is that the binary of negative positive is a rhetorical trap. It's not the point at all. How convenient it has been to keep the discourse circling in that little rhetorical cesspool.

I reject those simplistic terms and all the defensive posturing that comes with it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


“I know you’re very busy, Mr. Harper. We’re all busy. But every person has a space next to where they sleep, whether a patch of pavement or a fine bedside table. In that space, at night, a book can glow. And in those moments of docile wakefulness, when we begin to let go of the day, then is the perfect time to pick up a book and be someone else, somewhere else, for a few minutes, a few pages, before we fall asleep.”

From the author of Life of Pi comes a literary correspondence — recommendations to Canada’s Prime Minister of great short books that will inspire and delight book lovers and book club readers across our nation.

Every two weeks since April 16th, 2007, Yann Martel has mailed Stephen Harper a book along with a letter. These insightful, provocative letters detailing what he hopes the Prime Minister may take from the books — by such writers as Jane Austen, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Stephen Galloway — are collected here together. The one-sided correspondence (Mr. Harper’s office has only replied once) becomes a meditation on reading and writing and the necessity to allow ourselves to expand stillness in our lives, even if we’re not head of government.
I like this idea very much. I really do. I like the smart, conceptual frame, I like the one-sided correspondence. Not sure if I'll like what Martel has to say about the books, but I look forward to finding out. Though in truth I don't think I am the audience for this book.

Biter Bit

One of the earliest poems I recall writing was an illustration of this and it left me feeling uneasy. Later I attempted to write a story in which the psychiatrist and patient end up reversing places. Being 13, and having never met a psychiatrist proved problematic, but again, as a young wanna-be-writer this ironic twist was very compelling. Always the twist. It may have something to do with the power imbalance most children endure. And perhaps a little bit of a revenge fantasy. In any case it has been a long while since I had the urge to frame a story in this way. There are strange examples online, the pervert's penis bitten by a raccoon, the broadcast journalist facing defamation charges, the outing of a policeman anonymously blogging in England. It also appears to be the title of a story by Wilkie Collins, which I have ordered but haven't read. It's an odd way to tell a story, a bit twisted indeed. Like an Atwood plot. Yes, perhaps just like an Atwood plot.

twisted ending; irony

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stormy Weather

Judy Garland

Lena Horne


Martha Wainwright

Etta James, Dinah Washington, Shirley Bassey, the list goes on and on, and on...but these four that stay with me. And of these, there is one that stands out isn't there? Impossible to choose a definitive version but one of these is particularly surprising and it's that one I keep going back to.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shameless Hussy's Literary Advice

Dear Shameless,
I was running my magazine's booth at a recent literary festival and someone approached me with a fistful of paper, expecting me to read and provide feedback on his poetry on the spot. He asked very casually, as though this sort of thing is done all the time. I was very taken aback and assured him I was not the editor, just management--he seemed to want my opinion anyway, perhaps on the theory that I must have some lit cred, sitting as I was behind the fold-out table? I assured him I did not and eventually he moved on to the next mag booth. However, I later got to wondering...does this happen all the time in polite poetry circles? Should I have read it and said something? Sigh.


Dear Perplexed,
Was his hair slicked back? Was he wearing a devastatingly styled blue suit with narrow tie? Did he say, with some true sense of wonder and an alarmingly vacant smile, What a thing*! when you dared deny his want? I'm wondering because it sounds like you've encountered Pete Campbell. A version of Campbell is often found in a slightly updated suit, or adorable Nordic knit cap, hammering away at editors across the eastern seaboard. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this is how Hemingway greeted Stein, and we all know how that ended up.

The fantasy here is that you might have taken said poems read them, swooned, declared them brilliant, offered to take him to dinner, given him copious amounts of feedback, gelled his hair, shown him how to speak his poems with steady gravitas and/or jejune irritation. In short you might have discovered the next poet phenom. Or not. After all, what kind of poem, let alone person, can be read in an instant?


*or A thing like that

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shameless Hussy's Literary Advice

Dear Shameless Hussy,
Recently I read with several poets new to me. After the reading I went up to one of the poets to introduce myself. The other two poets were talking to friends and before long, had left the building. Isn't it rude to read with someone and then make off without so much as a hello or good bye?


Dear Confused,
Yes, the infamous read and run. There are poets who famously don't even wait until the other poets are finished reading before donning their cape and heading off into the night. On the other hand, some poets are, as they say, shy. Some are socially awkward. (Some extremely so.) Some may think your poetry stinks, or worse, that you do. Some, perhaps those with capes, may think the whole affair (or you in particular) beneath them. Let's just say that beneath that robust "I'm a poet how cool is that" glow, lurks the seething, writhing, gnashing, anxiety ridden gut of a poet negotiating the fraught world of contemporary poetry. Not an easy place, and not always generous. You might describe this behaviour as diva-ish, boorish, boring, bad ass, or shy, and it may be a bit of all of that.

Alternatively, you may be, as they say, clueless. Said poets could well be performing a devastating institutional critique of the "meet and greet" poetry reading. (Let's face it, the post-anything scene is fairly icky). Your attempts to be engaging or otherwise collegial could be seen as interfering with their discursive gesture. My confidante suggests, think Andrea Fraser, think Vito Acconci. You may then assume your part in the new poetry hegemony and not give a rat's ass.


Monday, November 09, 2009

A Le Quartanier and BookThug book launch

Le Livre de Chevet (le Quartanier), an anthology edited by Daniel Canty
The Rose Concordance (BookThug), by Angela Carr
Expeditions of a Chimæra (BookThug), by Oana Avasilichioaei and Erín Moure

Join us on Wednesday, November 11 at Librairie Le Port de Tête (262 Mont-Royal E). Event from 5 pm to midnight, with readings from 7 to 8 pm. Drop in to celebrate with us and share a glass of wine.

About Le Livre de Chevet:
In English, this book might go by the name The Bedtime Book of Falling Asleep. In it are gathered powerfully hypnotic, narcotic and somnambulic texts from 24 writers. Those of you already familiar with La Table de Matières productions (design by Feed) will have an inkling of how gorgeous this book is.

About The Rose Concordance:
In The Rose Concordance, Angela Carr sets up the rules for a game and then breaks them. The poems trace a constellation of fountains, whose waters lap from an erotic medieval poem. Luxury rushes headlong into Felony, Love hears Irony in Ecstasy. Like fountains, these poems resist any one enduring shape or reading. For in Carr’'s voice, water is dappled, and wind catches the fountain and moves it sideways at night when no one is looking. In the mist of words, complicity is vilified and the precious is tenderly chided. The Rose Concordance is a fountain garden that invites the reader to tarry, and drink.

About Expeditions of a Chimæra:
Expeditions, taken up by the explorers we all are, ultimately cannot be read. Only experienced. On venturing into it, you’ll find your ticket is no good, expired, or valid only on Tuesday. Your fellow travellers will tell you you are wearing the wrong shoes. If you force your way past the gate, you will stub your toe, scrape your shins, lose your suitcase, throw the book across the room in a fit of outrage or fall under its spell and suddenly find it half-submerged in your bathwater. At times, you will even laugh aloud. Expeditions of a Chimæra is dialogic. Four pairs of hands try their luck at a game of cards. Nearby, questions sit, waiting to be asked. These expeditions are not progressions but digressions; they are translational in their effort to pull the author, kicking and screaming, out of the hat of authorial impossibilities.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Tonight at the Green Room

Sunday November 8, 8-10 pm
Erín Moure, Norma Cole, Steve Collis, video by Zohar Kfir
Hosted by Sina Queyras, Intros by Angela Carr
The Green Room: 5386 Boul. St-Laurent

Marianne Faithful

shows up in the oddest places

and here's a flashback...well, more than a flashback, first time viewing for the Hound.

and flashback encore

How odd is this?

Ass wiping bad...before there was the cornflower girl there was...

This one isn't odd, it's just funny, or funnier, as Vanessa says

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Devil's Toy is fitted with wheels of circular design

by Claude Jutra, and thanks to @heinrikfoibles and of course the NFB for putting their archives on line.

Friday, November 06, 2009

More Shakespeare

Paul Hoover, Sonnet 56, Les Figues 2009

Have Shakespeare's sonnets ever been more engaged with? Jen Bervin, K. Silem Mohammad, Harryette Mullen, and now Paul Hoover. He takes up one of the homely sonnets--and rewrites/revisions in all the hip ways, from N+7 to digression, villanelle to ghazal, haibun to haiku, flarf to homophonic--translation that is. Great idea. And some of the versions offered up here are quite good.

Here is the original
Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but to-day by feeding is allay'd,
To-morrow sharpen'd in his former might:
So, love, be thou; although to-day thou fill
Thy hungry eyes even till they wink with fullness,
To-morrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of love with a perpetual dullness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be
Which parts the shore, where two contracted
Come daily to the banks, that, when they see
Return of love, more blest may be the view;
Else call it winter, which being full of care
Makes summer's welcome thrice more wish'd,
more rare.
And here are a few of my favorite of the 56 (of course!) treatments. From the "Homophonic Translation," "Sweet glove, imbued by gorse, bleed it knotted/Twine sedge good hunter tea than batter tight". Or "flarf," "Love, force it and it disappears/Courtney Love is a force of nature," or here from the beginning of the "Peronal/Ad" "Scholarly SWM, 59, with discreet tattoo and private means seeks companionship with younger woman, 30-40, leading to long-term relationship. Enjoy reading, speed walking, romantic strolls..." and finally, here is the end of the N+7
As call it winter melon, which being full of carfare,
Makes supweed's wellcurb, thrice more wished,
more rare
This latter one wasn't a favorite. Perhaps it lacks the surprise because by now the constraint has become a cliche too... But I should say no more because discovery in this collection is half the fun. This volume adds handsomely to the growing body of responses to Shakespeare's sonnets. But it does beg the question: who of us is crafting work that will illicit such attention in even a decade? Oh, I know, I know, it's a nasty question, yet it hovers in the fun of these texts (not only Hoover's). Some of which are thrillingly composed.

Overhead dialogue of the week

Even when they have nothing to lose people don't want to take risks...

I guess taking risks is acknowledging risk.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Just because

It's so awesome

I hope Borat never attempts to play Freddie in a biopic.

Random Gendered Bites

I did this search after reading several book reviews in a row and realizing how infrequently I heard the sentence "she is a master," or "she is an intelligent poet...". I would rather cut the hyperbole completely and simply talk about the work, regardless of gender, but there is often such heightened language in reviews that it does give one pause.

In any case, here it is, top 20 "she is" and "he is" for the moment, these searches have a way of changing quite rapidly...and then not.

She is everything I need that I never knew I wanted
She is also eligible to apply for other Miss America scholarships
She Is Love
She is beautiful
She is an Astronomer who provides information to female professional and amateur astonomers
She is currently accepting submissions
She is holding students hostage
She is ready for babies
She is dead, you know
Who does she think she is?
She is beautiful
She is too fond of books
She is Martha
She is very beautiful and has great facial features
She is labels
She is Dangerous
She is attracted to me

He is the son of righteousness rising with healing in His wings
he is considering becoming a Roman Catholic
he is leaving Williams
He is the Architect of the universe and the Manager of all times
He Is Legend
He is sufficient
He is deeply disappointed
He is 112 and she is 17
He is not losing sleep
He is weird
He is the real deal
He is the main opponent
He is Legend
He is Legend
He is dead (thank god)
He is my master
He is the bride
he is lyrics

Wish I could find a better video...this is better audio in any case, but it isn't live...course I don't know that the above one is either.

In any case, some can say it. And get away with it.

Emily Dickinson: Beclouded, part one

The sky is low, the clouds are mean,
A travelling flake of snow
Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.

A narrow wind complains all day
How some one treated him;
Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem.

I have taken to reading Dickinson on the move: leaving the train, walking across the platform, up the stairs. I have approximately a third of her poems on my iTouch. A goal is to memorize several. They should be easier than most because of the dense and swinging beats, and the dissonant ends that keeps things interesting. But I always resists lines that seem to force me to work a syllable a certain way...suddenly one feels very public with a word like "diadem."

There are other poets I carry around and call up while on the subway, or waiting in line. Some, Homer for example, seem as though they were made to be read in this way (my version of Homer scrolls, it's brilliant). Others, TS Eliot, for example, I simply can't read in this mode. Dickinson is perfect. Though I am no scholar, nor would I claim to even be well-read where she is concerned, I take great pleasure in spending time with her poems in this way. There is no pressure. I tap the screen forward, and find the top line "Doubtful if it be crowned!" and tap back a few pages to see the poem is "Too Late," one I am not familiar with. The poems are not laid out perfectly, in other words. It's like the "Dover Edition" of Dickinson. But there are benefits--the random fragmenting of stanzas sometimes brings a poem alive for me in ways I hadn't noted before. Though in the case of "Too Late," it still does not particularly grab my interest and I tap ahead to "Astra Castra," which does. It's another I have not read before, or don't recall, and the familiar syntax pleases immediately: "Departed to the judgment, A mighty afternoon; Great clouds like ushers leaning...". There is a lot of judgment in Dickinson. But one wonders who is judging whom?

I admit that sometimes I'll leave a poem when I can't imagine another word following the one I have just read (as above, I want to be with the leaning clouds). Sometimes the poem remains half-finished for me, but usually I will go back when I can, and read the intended fullness. Reading poems, it seems to me, has always allowed for this flipping, but on the iTouch it makes sense to do so. The idea of clouds (mean, ushers, what else has she turned them into?) has caught me now and I want to go back and forth and search for more references to weather, or "easy sweeps of sky," which gives way to simple pleasures as Dickinson flashes  before me, now a chrysalis "feeling for air; A dim capacity for wings," now the buzz, the thimble, the dull flies, flash, and flash for while the poems are often so removed, they seem to me, bodily, they seem to me refreshingly bodily enacted in a public intellectual space. Not bad for one who "hid away."

Which Emily Dickinson am I imagining when I read her? I sometimes think of Lucy Brock-Broido, Susan Howe and Rae Armantrout all in the same room, talking about Dickinson, and the poet still takes shape despite the very different ideas and readings of her. But it isn't necessarily a body that is evoked for me, as much as an intellect, or an action of thought in space if that is possible.

In any case, this is one way of reading, the flash forward and back, the sudden disjunction of images, the lines snapping in half. But that is one way. Another is to sit, as I did today, staring at the poem Beclouded. It caught my eye first because I read the line as "a narrow mind complains" and thought that was far too on point, which it is. But the mind was there in the word wind. Absolutely, not even pentimento but assertive. And all the more for the last line with its reference to the diadem, or crown, one might wear upon one's thoughts, so to speak.

As I said, I am not a great reader of Dickinson, I don't study her work, and never have, it is a strange and angular place I can go (I can visit), but it seems to not be a place "for me." Though thanks to my iTouch, I can take her with me and puzzle through the "narrow wind complains all day" vs. "A travelling flake of snow Across a barn or through a rut Debates if it will go..." It is both of the flake, and of the body, of the host, it seems, and here Dickinson--not the Disney version, but a force--stands in the middle of the poem with her tongue out, waiting to take the host. And yes, the flake is there. Of course you can see it, right, the snowflake moving in a hurry downward, then no, to the right, then left, then--have you seen a snowflake hover, change direction, move in an upright draft? What I know of them is that I know little. One can watch and watch and it seems to me, always be surprised by the way they are formed, stacked, clung, move, layered, tongued, impossible to preserve, and so on. What wind is to thoughts.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Under Pressure: Everybody's Talking Trash

 Oops, I mean MFAs. Do these people have no respect?

Poets & Writers steps into the rankings game. 

Which pisses off the Best American Poetry machine.

Which leads to parodies: 
Writing is like sex: sometimes you have to pay for it. I’m not saying don’t get an MFA, I’m just saying wear a condom. Everybody ends up smelling more funny. Of course I’m kidding. We are all friends here.
HTML on the MFA

and more Silliness featuring Dan Nester, who is, yes, pretty funny. 

Meanwhile there is a serious conversation happening over at Rachel Zolf's MFA related blog. Her project actually gets at the mechanics of the MFA from the inside.  And exposes much in the discussion.
Still, I would rather be rocking out:

P.S. All great artists acknowledge each other...

Monday, November 02, 2009

PJ Harvey

Awesome. A Vanessa Place find. I was scheduling this for later, but I think we need it today.

Note, that's one way to get an audience. Here's another.

Student Essay Contest

Nice. Arc has entered the ring, offering a prize for a student "How Poems Work" essay. Very happy to see this: it's an idea long, long overdue. I just hope they are open to a variety of submissions, and that we can perhaps expand our idea of what good prose might be. Or good thinking and writing about poetry. Or poetry! Over and over again people assume, as they do with writing poetry, that there is only one narrow approach to writing and thinking about poetry. And like most literary journals in Canada, Arc seems to have a slant. Okay, a slope. Nonetheless it does what it does very well. The last issue I saw--in the loot bag of the OWF--had a fabulous essay by Rob Winger on the ghazal.

Kudos to Arc for this move. I hope bags and bags of submissions arrive at your door.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Fall book notes

Excuse the random and sketchy nature of this list--very busy and very much in progress--but here are a few books I am looking forward to:

NO GENDER: Reflections on the Life and Work of Kari Edwards, ed. by Julian Brolaski, Erica Kaufman and E. Tracy Grinnell, Litmus/Belladonna, 2009. I was just getting to know Edwards and then she was gone. Very much looking forward to this publication.

Haven't read her new book yet, but loved Kate Greenstreet's Case Sensitive and am pretty sure I'll love the new one. Here's an interview with Jean Valentine. Here's a brief review posted on Case Sensitive a while back.

I've given Rachel Levitsky's Neighbor one read and loved it. Need to read again so I can comment, but I can say that it is, like her previous book, Under The Sun, a long poem, an engagement, quite gentle and insistently political.

Melissa Buzzeo's Face is gorgeous. I have to write more about it, and plan to. 

Mina Pam Dick's Delinquent. Here's some fiction from her in the Brooklyn Rail.

The Rose Concordance, Angela Carr, BookThug 2009

Moure's My Beloved Wager, NeWest 2009 (I have this in my hands as I write this) as well as her Chimaera book. 

Very curious about Kate Durbin's The Ravenous Audience.

Excited about Joe Denham's new book, Windstorm, Nightwood 2009.

CA Conrad's Book of Frank.

From the Coach House Snare Launch on Sunday night I can say that all the readers were great--so now I'm curious about Kate Hall's new book The Certainty Dream, and young Sarah Dowling's book--Rachel Zolf chose and edited.

Zach Wells' latest certainly looks good on the outside. Amazing cover. Biblioasis does beautiful books, as I have said before. Canadian poetry shows up in the world well-clothed.

Books I have yet to talk about here, but deserve to be talked about more:

Robert Bringhurst's Selected (Gaspereau 2009). How many Canadian poets can actually warrant either a Selected or Collected book of poems? I was talking to Rob Winger and David O'Meara about this in Ottawa, the weight of Paul Durcan's new collected (amazing!) in my hand. Purdy, check. Purdy, check. Purdy, check...there was a lot of staring up at the ceiling. The collected Don Coles (How We All Swiftly) is impressive. bp Nichol. Steven McCaffery's Seven Pages Missing is also impressive. Margaret Atwood came up in the conversation, and my first response was no, couldn't hold up as a collected in poetry, but then I realized of course, that no one was imagining women as possibilities for a comparable volume. Well, other than Atwood. And don't bring Bishop up, she was not, other than being born here, Canadian.

All of this leads me to Bringhurst's selected (like it very much but have not formulated any observations or opinions yet...just that it's beautiful). 

Gregory Betts If Language is a fabulous book. A conceptual book, perfectly executed. And now it seems he has another one--with Pedlar Press which sounds even more exciting.

While in Ottawa I found an old Dalkey Archive collection of fiction by Diane Williams, which I was very excited about, but not so excited to read. I'll have to go back in. And I will happily go back in to  La Medusa. More on that soon.

Mark Wallace, Walking Dreams: Selected Early Tales, Blaze Vox, 2007. Very much enjoying the companionable and intelligent nature of these texts. It speaks to why I didn't love William's collected stories so much: all sharpness, no warmth, no settling in beyond the intellectual. Great use of second person in "A Walk In The Park," which is so far, my favorite. The only story I didn't quite get, and found disturbing in a number of ways is "Amanda Running," a fable, and a story that this reviewer in any case, also had trouble with (though perhaps not for the same reason). It just seemed too "on point," to me, and in a way, seemed to enact the very thing it was satirizing.

Exciting anthologies:

Prismatic Publics, Eichhorn & Milne, Coach House 2009
Regreen: New Canadian Ecological Poetry eds, Dickinson & Anand, Your Scrivener Press 2009
Feminaissance,ed. Christine Wertheim, Les Figues 2009 (cover to the left)

Overheard quote of the night

I'm fairly certain my people invented Halloween.


No, queers.