Friday, April 30, 2010

Even Bill Murray has difficulty reading poetry to construction workers

via NY Magazine "Bill dropped by the then-in-progress Poets House in Battery Park to share some short verse with the builders. (It gets going at the one-minute mark if you'd rather skip the intro.)" Though there is one poem he seems to connect with...isn't there? I won't say, but maybe you can tell.

On the matter of the Laureate

There are some aspects of the contemporary poetry world that I find particularly disturbing. The fact of what Emily Warn described recently on Harriet as the Pyramid Scheme that is the MFA industry is one. The popularity contest is another. That I allowed poetry to become muddied this way bothers me. I don't take readers or followers of this blog lightly. Nor do I take my friends and my network of poets lightly. So, that I spent time this week advocating for votes is strange and a little off-putting.

On the other hand, the best part of the entire process was hearing from people who share a similar vision of poetry. People who believe in poetry as community, but not a community made only of inspiration and support, but of advocacy and difficulty, of agitation and experiment, innovation and archive, disagreement and challenge, a community that presses one another to think beyond and move beyond the small world of the "I."

As well, I heard from family, which for me was particularly sweet. My only living maternal aunt, some 80 years, got wind and was advocating on my behalf. She got hold of cousins I have not seen in twenty years and urged them to vote. My uncle was a politician, and my aunt understands the process of acquiring votes you see, so it was a surprise, her energy at my virtual doorstep, and if anything spurred me on, it was her desire to aid me in this way. Poetry, she may not quite understand, or like, but votes--that she could do.

So while I am thankful for that energy, it is back to the actual work of poetry now. Which is, as I said in a Tweet the other day, more a business of silence and introspection than self promotion and publication. Whether the poetry is conceptual, or lyric, or narrative, or formal, or comes from a place of play, or political will, or a desire to express emotion, silence is the air of poetry, the depth, the elasticity. There is a reason writing poetry takes time--and it is not only about the crafting of it, or the gathering of material, it is that relationship to self and to values that one needs to constantly keep in check.

As for the laureate, the tie, the sudden calling of the vote without letting anyone know that the voting was actually over? It's actually a fitting end I suppose. A reminder that, as Mr. Jacob Mooney said, people make too much of things. And it is arbitrary and artificial, unlike the oil that will reach the shore some time this afternoon. That is very real. And at the risk of sounding melodramatic, that, and our addiction to oil is what we need to be taking more seriously.

Thanks again to all who voted and advocated and believe in poetry. I was truly inspired by your support. And congrats to my competition.

I will report on the matter of my status of half-laureate and what I will accomplish with my tenure shortly. Perhaps we should have been required to supply these statements prior to the madness?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Voting Update

Um, can a lowly blogger really win poet laureate of the blogosphere? I'm up against folks like WritersDigest Tweeting to its 40,000 followers. They can't spell, but they're tweeting. It's really insane....

Name Writer's Digest
Location Cincinnati
Web http://www.facebo...
Bio Helping writers since 1920. Publisher of Writer's Market series.
RT @WritersDigest: Help! WD's @RobertLeeBrewer is up for Poet Laurette of Blogosphere & needs votes! Please RT
about 3 hours ago via TweetDeck  
Help! WD's @RobertLeeBrewer is up for Poet Laurette of the Blogosphere & needs votes! Takes 2 seconds. Please RT
about 4 hours ago via Seesmic

Now I'm seriously wanting to win this. Please vote and pass it on.

Apologies all for the strangeness of this entire thing...a tie called but the voting continuing after the tie is called...very strange.

But I want to thank all of you who voted. I very much appreciate your support and promise never to ask for such efforts again.

A post to come on the experience of this, but not tonight. Just big thanks, and good night.

Vote, vote, vote

Last day of this madness. Sorry to have to ask you to do this--it's not the usual fare over here at Lemon Hound and won't be again after today, but we're down to the wire, so please vote.

Good luck to Robert Lee Brewer.

And thanks to all for your support.

(Sorry to bump your post, Helen.)

Framing Thought: Anthologies and Influence

If you’ve ever studied English in a university setting, you’ve probably got at least one giant, brand name, brick of a literature anthology stuffed under your bed or holding up an off-kilter coffee table. These books are not only a pain to carry around, but they’re also a pain because of their closed approach to literature. Of course, an intro class cannot cover everything that there is to cover, but which texts make it into these anthologies is telling of our attitudes towards literature, and indicative of our approach to literary history. No matter which monolithic anthology you were required to purchase, chances are it purports to supply you with everything important that you need to read in English. Unfortunately, these anthologies usually fail in this regard, and not only when it comes to contemporary radical poetics.

Through the Glass Window Shines the Sun, edited by Pamela Norris, avoids many of the pitfalls of big anthologies in its selection and presentation of medieval English poetry and prose. The first advantage of this book is that each poem is accompanied with either a manuscript illumination or a medieval painting. The inclusion of visual art with the poems not only makes this anthology far more beautiful than the typical first year anthology printed on low-grade tissue paper, but it also generates a more complex and less anachronistic reading experience. We are here reading poems from an era where books were rare, expensive, richly illuminated objects, and where many audience members relied heavily on visual arts to convey messages obscured by their inability to read text independently. It seems fitting that works from this era should be read alongside images that enhance the meaning of the text. There is nothing definite or absolute about the bland, times new roman presentation of medieval texts in typical literature anthologies, and rather than being an overwrought gimmick, the inclusion of visual art with medieval texts enhances the reading of these works.

By including or excluding works from an anthology, editors have the opportunity to construct a particular vision of the material from which they are selecting. In Through the Glass Window Shines the Sun, Norris achieves an interesting if precarious balance between challenging our preconceptions about the Middle Ages, while at the same time avoiding a revisionist approach to history. While Norris samples from Chaucer several times in the slim anthology, she frames these selections with less frequently anthologised, anonymous poems. Of all her selections, the most interesting is the passage Norris has chosen from The Book of Margery Kempe. Margery Kempe (c. 1373–after 1438) was a travelling mystic whose main calling card was having very loud, long, and public weeping fits. Her writing was known only in excerpt until 1934, when a complete manuscript was uncovered. Suddenly, we found that Margery, who in excerpt was described as an anchoress (a religious recluse walled into a cell) turned out to be a world-travelling rabble-rouser. In Through the Glass Window Shines the Sun, Norris selects a passage where Margery takes to the choppy seas in a small boat, a selection that flies in the face of the centuries of the misquoting that Kempe’s text endured. Norris does, however, also include several misogynist clippings from chivalric romances and religious poems dealing with The Fall. By selecting a passage about travel from The Book of Margery Kempe, yet still including less savoury pieces deriding women, Through the Glass Window Shines the Sun reframes literary history where reframing is due, yet still avoids denying the unpleasant truth.

Through the Glass Window Shines the Sun is a well-edited and charming presentation of medieval verse, prose, and art. More importantly, however, this type of anthology can inspire a critical look at the standardised anthologies that we are often prescribed as the cure to English literature. Even when the content of the anthology is centuries old, the inclusion and exclusion of works from an anthology is no less political. Through the Glass Window Shines the Sun is not only pleasing to the eye, it’s a reminder that a critical eye should be turned to all anthologies, particularly those that appear to be presenting a neutral and factual canon.

Helen Hajnoczky recently completed her BA Honours in English and creative writing from the University of Calgary, where her research focused on feminist avant-garde poetics. Her work has appeared in Nod, fillingStation, Rampike, and Matrix magazines, as well as in a variety of chapbooks. She is the current poetry editor of fillingStation magazine. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Prose Poem Contest

What makes for a great prose poem? Is it image? The quality of the prose? The turn? Is it the gait of the sentence? Is a prose poem primarily composed of the sentence, or the phrase, or is the unit of composition the phrase? The vowel? Is a prose poem story? Must it have narrative? Send your submission. We'll publish the winner and the best runners up.

Prose Poem Submission deadline May 5th

Winner will receive new poetry titles from Coach House (Toronto) and Les Figues Press (Los Angeles) plus a copy of Lemon Hound the book.

Please put Prose Poem in the subject heading and paste into the body of an email to conceptual fiction care of gmail.

Judges will be myself and Emma Healey (who will have the final say) is this years winner of the Irving Layton Award for Poetry at Concordia, and editor of the upstart online journal The Incongruous Quarterly.

Oh, and I can't ask you to vote for me every day, but apparently that's what we have to do. So yes, vote today and if you haven't yet, vote tomorrow, and thanks for your support. Really, it's not something I like to ask readers to do...

Sometimes the poet's job is silence

Or under the noise of making poetry one often finds poetry.

Vancouver Morning & Art Fix

Thanks to all who came out to Emily Carr last night and wave to those I didn't get to talk to. Only a few hours left in the city and I'm wondering what is essential viewing, art wise. Where must I go?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quick reminder: Sina Queyras tonight!

The On Edge readings series presents:
Sina Queyras

7 pm, Tuesday, April 27
Room NB 245
Emily Carr University of Art and Design
1399 Johnston St.
Granville Island, Vancouver/Coast Salish Territories

Imagined quote of the week

What the interviewee said when pressed about his use of the phrase "good poetry" in relation to poetry that resembles his own....and "difficult" or "innovative" (quotes included with much derision), in relation to things he doesn't like.

"Hm, I had no idea my tastes were that transparent."

Monday, April 26, 2010

On publishing in 2010

In March of 2009, during the same week, I learned that my first book of poetry would be published and I learned that my contract at CBC would not be renewed. Amazingly, 13 months later, I appear to be still unemployed, or rather, writing-and-not-getting-paid-for-it (and I would like to thank Employment Insurance Canada, my spouse, and my father for their respective assistance in keeping me solvent), however, I am about to leave on my very first book tour (eeek!) and as such have been reflecting on the business of publishing in the year 2010, obsessed as I am with business and poetry, and poetry about business, and the business of being a poet.

Surely publishing in 2010 is vastly different from publishing in 2000, or 2015? What with the digital revolution and all. It's changing our brains, you know.

The April 75th Anniversary Issue of Quill & Quire has an article titled "7.5 Ideas for Fixing Canadian Publishing." Even though these ideas have been written from a publishing perspective, I was curious to know what a poet could take from them. (Note that I've just grabbed the highlights, and I recommend you find the article for an in-depth discussion of each point.)

(Also, No, I don't want to be one of those intensely irritating, continually self-promoting poets, and Yes, I do keep the writing entirely separate from the promotional aspect in my mind, but as an unknown first-timer, it surely behooves the poet to at least know what's what, does it not? Further, although writing is an art, a craft, an obsession and a way of life, publishing is a business, and I do think it is important for writers to have a sense of how it works and where it might be going.)

1. Less is more. More thought should be given to the all-important decision to publish. By which Q&Q means publishers need to put out less mediocre books, but this could be extended to say that poets should put out less mediocre poems.

2. Choice is king. Booksellers shouldn't cling to their preference for physical books. I do love the book as object, so I'm pleased that I get to have my first book be a physical book; who's to say whether the physical book will still exist in 10 years? But, unlike friends who first published in the early part of this decade, my book will also exist in downloadable form, for all the Kindle-owning poetry fiends out there. And if you know any, let me know, because like the unicorn, I'm just not certain they exist till I see them with my own eyes.

3. Diversify the workforce. The industry must hire from a wider talent pool. Makes sense to me. I'd love to work in publishing. But there ain't many jobs outside of Toronna, especially for a 30 year old who's never worked in a bookstore.

4. Making more efficient blockbusters. Blessedly not my problem, nor poetry's. Let's keep it that way.

5. The Web is where it's at. Social networking doesn't have to be a full-time job, but it's essential that authors put in an appearance. This section, drafted by Seen Reading's Julie Wilson, is most relevant for the poets of 2010.

In the past 13 months alone, I have embarked on a website/blog, Twitter, a FB fan page (which at the time seemed like a way to separate personal stuff from literary beings/doings, but in reality only a few already-friends are fans, and it starts to feel/looks like an exercise in narcissism), an Amazon author profile and a GoodReads author profile, with a LibraryThing profile forthcoming. Sure, the social networking (or as the kids are calling it, "social") doesn't have to be a full-time job, but when the writer in question doesn't have a full-time job, it's all too easy to get sucked in to constant pruning and tweaking, adjusting the bio, reading and re-posting everyone else's blogs. But I can rest assured that I am building my public profile as an author, generating interest for my poetry. On the other hand.... maybe not.

6. Needle in a (virtual) haystack. Better metadata will ensure that Canadian books don't get lost online. I did a bit of googling to figure out what metadata is, but my eyes glazed over and I started drooling. Think we'll leave this one to the publishers.

7. In it for the long haul. Publishers need to break the bad habit of short-term thinking. I know I'm in it for the long haul! Are you?

7.5. Don't be a buzz-kill. It's a little thing, but publishers shouldn't make it difficult for the media to cover their books. i.e., Keep giving the love to traditional media. Cool. As long as trad media keeps giving the love back.

Nikki Reimer wants you to buy her book. Or not. Whatever.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Hound In Vancouver

Sina Queyras @ Emily Carr University
This event is scheduled to start at 19:00 
Tuesday 27 April 2010 
NB 245, 
Emily Carr University, 1399 Johnston St., 
Coast Salish Territories/Vancouver/Granville Island

Reading from Expressway, which you can find out more about on the excellent Influency site, courtesy of Margaret Christakos and a lot of other fine poetry people and Unleashed.

Thanks for the votes all. I'm letting that little game go now. It was fun for a minute, fun to spar with you McLennan, and again, thanks for the votes.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Judith Fitzgerald gets it wrong

It's great that Fitzgerald is throwing support behind Rob McLennan for poet laureate of the blogosphere. It's a good vote, as I posted here earlier in the week, and I would be happy if he won. But not mentioning the fact that there is another Canadian poet up for the title is, well, it's just a little sloppy isn't it? I mean it's relevant to the slant she takes in her post. 

It's all pretty silly, yes, but you know...

So yes, go and vote for a Canadian. About the "vote often" slogan. Not sure that's actually legal.

And thanks to all of you who have voted for me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Winner of the ekphrastic poem contest

where is the door?

after Brian Jungen’s Bush Capsule 

invitation : light

softshelled, spiked

arced and hungry

a skin tense stretched

round, asking why

(mind the ovoids)

don’t you come in?

Congrats to Gillian Wigmore. Her book, soft geography, won the 2008 Relit award.  Her work has been published in magazines, short listed for prizes, and anthologized.  She lives in Prince George, BC.  I'll be sending out a copy of Unleashed shortly.

Thanks to Kevin Connolly for making the selection.

There were some very fine entries, and a few, such as those from Alessandro Porco and Kevin McPherson Eckhoff, really made me think about the possibilities of ekphrastic poetry and remind me that so much avant-garde work is absolutely enmeshed in the practice it's actually hard to think of the practice as somehow detached, or separate. See Thom Donovan's thoughts on this over at Harriet. As I have said elsewhere, I generally include two ekphrastic poetry projects in my Intro to Poetry class. The first involves flat art, paint or other visual and/or still mediums. The second involves conceptual art. The results are instructive.

What are we doing when we describe art? How does the way we craft a poem reflect the way the work was created? For more on this check out my earlier post After Ekphrasis, on Harriet. Wigmore's poem captures something of the architecture of Jungen's piece, the minimalist aesthetic, the well crafted simplicity. Block by block how he crafts the most potent symbols out of the most banal objects, which is what Wigmore is doing in her response with lines such as "a skin tense stretched." Deceptively simple. When the design is elegant, the idea the gesture of the poem arrive similarly.

Do have a look at the image that Wigmore is responding to. But let the poem work a little before you do.

Next up, prose poem.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Congrats everyone. This is an amazing project. Very happy to be part of the inaugural issue and looking forward to watching this grow. This is not ballroom poetry.

Reassuring Failure: CBC's Being Erica

Countless biographies, movies, and television programs celebrate the successes of great writers and literary figures. These odes track the lives of precocious and unique authors seemingly fated to brilliance, even when the poet protagonist does their best to throw it all away. Being Erica is not such a series. We meet Erica Strange, an English MA-holding call-centre employee in her early 30s, on the eve that she is fired, stood up by an internet chatroom date, and hospitalised after accidentally eating nuts, to which she is extremely allergic. While in the hospital, Erica meets Dr. Tom, a psychiatrist who asks her to make a list all her greatest regrets. After scribbling a long list of her biggest mistakes, Erica is sent back in time to fix them, giving her the chance to do the right thing. Her tasks range from helping out a drunk friend at a high-school dance to not picking sides in her parents divorce. What interests me most, however, are those stories that have to do with Erica’s failed attempts at writing, or at finding a career that suits her English major passions.
While the show’s premise of time-travelling psychotherapy sounds a bit goofy, Being Erica offers an honest look at the disappointments and tribulations that most writers face. Having failed to find a career in the literary field, Erica lusts after an old rival’s position as fiction editor at a Toronto publisher, and then goes back in time to try to steer her career more deliberately. Though Erica fails to rewrite her past into a successful present, she does manage to nail down a job as an editorial assistant at the fictional River Rock publishing house, where she makes coffee, files papers, and is bullied by her boss. Erica’s boss publicly mocks the overwrought stories Erica wrote as an undergraduate student, prompting Erica’s therapist to send her back in time to confront her overbearing poetry writing professor. Erica does not come back to the present a brilliant writer, but she does gain the confidence she needs to confront her new boss.
While Erica quickly settles in to her new job and even manages to get promoted to junior editor, in the second season of the show, the book she was responsible for editing and promoting turns out to be a flop. For this failure and some other workplace shenanigans, Erica gets the boot. She is subsequently sent back in time to see if she could have been a great novelist had she had the money and leisure to write instead of working, only to discover that money can’t buy writing chops or motivation. Erica also goes back to fix a major blunder that landed her in hot academic water, and to see if her MA could have been turned into a PhD and a career in academia. Turns out, Erica wasn’t meant for academics either. However, Erica finally decides a career in publishing is her real calling, and picks herself up to start her own small company in the third season of the show, which has yet to appear.
Erica Strange is an endearing character because while she is not fated to literary greatness, she isn't a total failure, either. Aside from the cutesy, fluffy entertainment that this show offers, Being Erica also provides realistic assurance for the average writer. This programs suggests that you don’t need to have published a book, landed a great literary job, or proved yourself to be a literary genius by the time you’re twenty-two in order to eventually find your stride as a writer and to find an interesting literary job that makes you happy. Like most of us, Erica is still getting there. It’s both fun and comforting to watch. Also, you can watch the whole two seasons free online through CBC.

Helen Hajnoczky recently completed her BA Honours in English and creative writing from the University of Calgary, where her research focused on feminist avant-garde poetics. Her work has appeared in Nod, fillingStation, Rampike, and Matrix magazines, as well as in a variety of chapbooks. She is the current poetry editor of fillingStation magazine. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poet Laureate of the blogosphere

Seriously? Rob McLennan and myself do this blogging thing for free and we have to compete with a Writer's Digest commercially paid blogging dude for Poet Laureate?

That's pretty funny actually.

So yah, go and vote.

Vote for Rob McLennan, in fact.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bhanu Kapil vs. The Dictionary (by Alex Leslie and Ray Hsu)

Experimental prose writer Bhanu Kapil has been contributing definitions to Urban Dictionary -- the online archive of slang and personal speech -- for a while now. In a post on her blog ( she writes about having her elliptical definitions accepted and rejected by Urban Dictionary.

Below, we respond to Kapil's definitions with our own. We submitted our definitions to Urban Dictionary to test the line between acceptable and rejectable definition alongside Kapil. Our definitions link logically to hers using (and responding to) her language. By testing the Urban Dictionary, maybe we can find a critical language hidden up the sleeves of definition.

Bhanu Kapil's Heart:

Millions of tiny white clocks stuffed into you. Often made of soft cloth. Nocturnal presence of a sibling's body living in the bed next to yours for a decade. Pulmonary logic is not a ceremony or a choice but it will make you stronger than the sum of the air. Was that a question about the process of what moves my air? Words put together in spiky bundles and pushed down your throat, then rustling and they roll around, gathering dust, and on occasion an inexplicable sense of expansion, followed by pain. It is not possible to breathe the same air as another human, or only in complete darkness, and that is a story inside a story.

Usage: That time in elementary school when I was chased up a chainlink fence by a bully, felt like my lungs were collapsing. Have you read Julio Cortazar on disappearing people who are not murdered but disappear like mythical spiders? I wish you would just listen to me, it is so tiring to shout this way.

Keywords: Darkness, Breathing, Pinatas, Julio Cortazar, How To Tell Time In The Nighttime, Bullies

Bhanu Kapil's Humanimal:

Flarf is a one-trick pony that thinks a unicorn is another kind of horse

Flarf is a one-trick pony that thinks a unicorn is another kind of horse

Thanks to Vanessa Place for the following. Given that a few days ago we had the response to this piece offered recently at AWP here on Harriet, it seems important to post the original text for your consideration. I think this clears the matter doesn’t it?

1. Conceptualism asks what is poetry?
1. Flarf says sez you!
2. Flarf is never about anything other than poetry itself.
2. Conceptualism is allegorical. It is about things other than poetry itself.
3. Flarf is the court jester. As such, it is still a member of the court.
3. Conceptualism courts jest, but is not the king’s dog.
4. Flarf is composition.
4. Conceptualism is composed.
5. Conceptualism employs a variety of techniques that compromise and complicate the question of excess text, of unreadability, of extra-textual narrativity, of the need for and love of categories and the acategorical, of the false and adored divide between praxis and other praxis, addition and subtraction, theory and things with two types of teeth.
5. Flarf is a one-trick pony that thinks a unicorn is another kind of horse.

Monday, April 19, 2010

oh, neoliberalism

I’d wanted to write about new poetry books every Monday in April, but getting my hands on new poetry books proved trickier than I’d bargained for, because the books I wanted to read were not to be found in the local indie bookstores that I frequent and I refuse to shop at establishments owned by Heather Reisman.

Instead, I’m going to talk poetics. I’ve spent the past several weeks wading through The Politics of Poetic Form: Poetry and Public Policy, edited by Charles Bernstein, which, though published in 1990, seems to reflect my own concerns about poetics at each juncture. When I read in the preface:
With more than a couple of happy exceptions, the poets presented here are not affiliated with any university and their investigation of poetics and politics continue to be conducted without much institutional support. I find this encouraging; and it shows up the narrow frame of reference of those...who would insist that there are no longer “public intellectuals” in America. Perhaps the problem is that there is no public for its intellectuals, which means that a republic (of letters? of, as we now say, discourses?) needs to be found(ed), which is to say made. That task requires poetic acts, but not just by poets.
I thought of the recent flurry of posts on LH, harriet and elsewhere on academic poetry vs. non-academic poetry. (Ron Silliman explores the nature of the institution more fully in his "Canons and Institutions: New Hope for the Disappeared" essay, also in Politics.)

When I read, in Nicole Brossard’s essay “Poetic Politics”:
I have often said that I don’t write to express myself but that I write to understand reality, the way we process reality into fiction, the way we process feeling, emotion and sensation into ideas and landscapes of thought. After all, the difference between a writer and a non-writer is that the writer processes life through written language and by doing so has access and gives access to unexpected, unsuspected angles of reality – which we commonly call fiction.
I thought of the buzz surrounding David Shields’ Reality Hunger; Linden Macintyre had interviewed Shields on that morning’s The Current.

And wrote the following in my notebook: "Everything Brossard is saying about form/language/reality is now reinvestigated, 20 years on, by folks like Shields. So what does that mean?"

Then I looked down at the ripped bookmark stuffed into Politics: Duthies Books. celebrating 50 years. still proudly independent. Duthies, which once boasted 10 stores throughout Vancouver, closed for good in January 2010 after 52 years of business. From their website:
Everybody knows that Independent bookstores have been under pressure from the 'big box' operations for many years now and it is clear that it is not going to get any better; the likes of Chapters, and Amazon are ruthless in their drive for market share and we cannot compete on price anymore. The book itself is in the throes of a technological transformation and book readers undergoing a major demographic shift.
(Incidentally, Celia Duthie is also thinking Reality Hunger...)

Which brings us neatly to neoliberalism, and to Jeff Derksen, who read at KSW on Friday night as part of the Negotiating the Social Bond of Poetics series and as a launch of his Annhilated Time: Poetry and Other Politics. Annhilated Time is a collection of essays that "explores the ways in which seemingly minor forms of culture—poetry, visual art, and critical practices—encounter what (Derksen) calls “the long present neoliberal moment” of the imperialist agenda of globalization."

Poetry, politics, reality/fiction, globalization, bookstores, culture. Check, check, check, check, check, check.

Nikki Reimer [sic]

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What is more natural: thinking space and poetry

Red Visual

Blue is the more difficult color,
made of mineral blood and fades fast.
The right hue is hard to settle, of blue.
Fragments shift and delineate, light
roams shards, coalesce to fold of cloth.
As hand to light turns blue and red
is nowhere in sight. What unreliable color,
medium carries flowering in.

Unfeminine giant wheels unfold flowering in.
Metal powders as water slopes. Fire pops en
route to opacity: how often returns! Often
indiscernible one from the other. Shards fan
to circle—a hand of acuity. Cyclical tasks
are the ones that grind. Figuring, bills,
numbers, figuring. Halos burn.

Tendons, fascia, calcium accumulation
relay to tangle of cables. Wood item
and extinguishing agent. Where is tree?
Tree sputters and quickens heat, but water
weightier and in weight truer. Fixed
and in a pattern, helix clings to octagon.
Triangle stands itself.

Water vs. fire and water verisimilitude
blue is the more difficult color. When
mineral blood bonds carbon to oxide ring,
helix and upward sky.

–Marcella Durand

For the entire interview see Harriet.
SQ: Marcella, thanks for the poem, and for taking a few questions. Let’s start with what you consider eco-criticism, or eco-poetics to be?

MD: It’s debatable to me whether the term “eco-poetics” should be a defining term at all. It’s convenient and catchy, but poetry concerned with ecological issues needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the stream of information and rethinking and renaming that is ongoing around ecology, culture, science at the moment. Ecologically minded poetry may be more interesting, more investigative when there isn’t so much a predetermined manifesto, when it is not congealed into a sort of school with dictums to follow and practitioners. I realize this is rather hypocritical of me to say, since I did lay out a kind of schematics back in 2002 (“The Ecology of Poetry”), but I did from the start intend those to be possibilities only. I also meant that talk to be an alternative to the nature poetry I had been steeped in, but I didn’t want it to replace as the next de rigueur mode or whatever. Actually, the more I dig and think and research, the more all poetry seems like it could be read ecologically, as so much of writing deals with relations between self and other, re-engineering language subject, perception and exterior, where we fit into larger systems, landscape, history, culture—where and how we inhabit and how we negotiate with others inhabiting the same spaces.

SQ: Do you think that poetry can be part of a reactive matrix dealing with our perceptions and relationship to environmental social and cultural issues around climate change?

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Poet as Standing Nude or Marina Abramovic I love you

Moma is about the art yes, but it's also about the people. In fact I have a file of photographs taken of people looking at art. Many of them at Moma, though not only. It's not surprising then, to hear of the intense experience participants in Abramovic's show at Moma right now. The show includes reenactments of some of Abramovic's performances over the years. Lots of bodies. Nude bodies. Standing in the gallery. Check this out from a recent piece in the  New York Times:
despite the physical and emotional discomfort of these encounters — and the draining nature of the work — all the performers interviewed said they were often exhilarated by their daily shifts (some of which are now as short as an hour 15 minutes, because of several fainting episodes). There are plenty of magical moments with strangers, including those who innocently touch bare skin, whisper “thank you” or do improvisational little dances that have the usually stoic performers cracking up.
Many of these artists have their own careers as dancers and choreographers, and they described the MoMA experience as making them feel simultaneously more vulnerable and more empowered. Asked how the museum setting differed from a stage show, Mr. Lai said it was far more fulfilling.
“You get immediate feedback,” he said. “You’re causing a definite reaction in the audience, different from the typical reaction you want in a regular stage performance. This is more about human nature.”
"Performance for me, makes sense if it's live..."

Thanks to Steve Evens for pointing out this set of photos from Abramovic on flicker. See the slideshow.
From the MoMA site, which has a fabulous interactive component.
These photographs document visitors to the exhibition Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. Abramović is seated in the Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium for the duration of the exhibition, performing her new work The Artist Is Present for seven hours, five days a week, and ten hours on Fridays. Visitors are invited to sit silently with the artist for a duration of their choosing. Please select "Show info" to see the date and duration of each visitor’s participation. Photographs © 2010
Marina Abramović

Is that some warmth I feel in the air?

Good morning! Couldn't just cut and paste the nugget, sadly, all the swag around it persists. But you can scoot along to approximately 55 seconds in...

Singing in the Rain - Good Morning !! - The best video clips are right here

Can't post that without posting Madame Bjork

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Get Published

As National Poetry Month chugs on you may be thinking, “Poetry Month! The perfect time to finally get my poems published!” Or maybe not. In any case, my time as a poetry editor has taught me a few things about what you can do to get your poetry submission from the slush pile to the pages of a magazine. If you’re beginning to send your work out, here are my tips.
-Don’t send more than 5-10 pages: It’s up to you to identify your most publishable work. Pick your best poems and nothing more, or you will risk alienating your reader.
-Include practical information: If your work is accepted, the magazine will need your biography and mailing address. Send your bio written in the third person, and keep it to five or six lines. Present yourself professionally in your biography, even if you’re submitting to a quirky magazine.
-Give a short introduction to you and your work: Include a cover letter with your submission, but keep it to a few short paragraphs. Include a brief, objective description of your submission, and a short paragraph of relevant details about your experience as a writer and why you chose to submit to the magazine. Be neither self-deprecating, nor aggressive and pushy. Simply give a short, professional introduction to yourself and your work.
-Include a link, but just one: If you publish a blog of your creative work, feel free to mention it in your cover letter or biography. I have, on occasion, asked for work that I spotted on a blog when I was just about to send a rejection notice. Don’t overdo it though—one link is enough.
-Don’t send the same poems over and over: A rejection letter might invite you to submit new work in the future. However, numerous poets receive their rejection notices and immediately submit the same poems. This won’t help. Pick a different piece to submit the next time.
-Read submission guidelines carefully: If the magazine accepts neither multiple submissions, nor previously published material, please don’t submit work while claiming in your cover letter that it has already been published.
-Don’t spell the editor’s name incorrectly: You’ve probably found the editor’s name on the magazine’s website—just copy, paste, and avoid getting off on a shaky foot. Same goes for the title of the magazine.
-Submit electronically: If you have the choice between submitting your work electronically or in hard-copy, email it. This will make it easier for the editor to keep track of your work, to contact you with any questions, and to send your work to other key individuals like the managing editor or graphic designer. If your poem is published, sending an electronic copy will also ensure that things like line breaks and spacing are reproduced correctly.
-Be patient, but not too patient: Many small magazines work on a volunteer basis, so don’t be anxious if a month or two goes by without a response, and don’t send numerous inquiries about the status of your submission after only a few weeks. If it is the magazine’s policy that they only contact successful submissions, please respect that policy. If the magazine responds to all submissions, however, and several months have passed, feel free to ask for an update. Email problems occasionally arise, and you may want to confirm that your submission arrived safely.
-Only submit to magazines you read: The editorial collective and I have, on more than one occasion, rejected competent submissions because they were not stylistically appropriate for the magazine. Don’t submit visual poetry to a hyper-conservative magazine that only wants nature poems, and don’t submit confessional, lyric poems to a magazine of experimental poetry. Your poems don’t just have to be good, they have to be a good fit, too.
If you send your perfectly polished cover letter, biography, and 5-10 poems into the world and get nothing but rejection notices, don’t be discouraged. Try, try again. Read as much poetry as you can, find magazines that publish work like yours, write, edit, edit, edit, and submit. Eventually, you’ll see you poems in print.

Helen Hajnoczky recently completed her BA Honours in English and creative writing from the University of Calgary, where her research focused on feminist avant-garde poetics. Her work has appeared in Nod, fillingStation, Rampike, and Matrix magazines, as well as in a variety of chapbooks. She is the current poetry editor of fillingStation magazine. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.

Joy is to feminism as language is to Exhuastive?

SH: I get asked this a lot, which makes me wonder if there’s too much sugar on my pills. I feel there’s a lot of feminist, anti-homophobic material in there, and that that general ethic underlies the whole book. It’s interesting, though, to hear someone say of “Girlwatching,” which I imagined as two lesbians chatting about gals walking by, “I love that poem about the two guys watching girls.” You have to work hard to keep that heteronormative lens from flipping back into place. In my ridiculous S+7 tampon poem is buried the line “The tomboy should now be comfortably inside you”; I take that line very seriously. I just recorded the entirety of Joy for the Book Madam, Julie Wilson, which meant I had to read the whole of “Nursery” aloud, something I’ve never done. I myself was a bit shocked by the naked emotion of it, and realized I’d written a seriously passionate poem. I guess I’m pretty serious about the power of playfulness, about the ways a ludic disposition toward language puts you in more flexible, empowered relation with it.SH: I get asked this a lot, which makes me wonder if there’s too much sugar on my pills. I feel there’s a lot of feminist, anti-homophobic material in there, and that that general ethic underlies the whole book. It’s interesting, though, to hear someone say of “Girlwatching,” which I imagined as two lesbians chatting about gals walking by, “I love that poem about the two guys watching girls.” You have to work hard to keep that heteronormative lens from flipping back into place. In my ridiculous S+7 tampon poem is buried the line “The tomboy should now be comfortably inside you”; I take that line very seriously. I just recorded the entirety of Joy for the Book Madam, Julie Wilson, which meant I had to read the whole of “Nursery” aloud, something I’ve never done. I myself was a bit shocked by the naked emotion of it, and realized I’d written a seriously passionate poem. I guess I’m pretty serious about the power of playfulness, about the ways a ludic disposition toward language puts you in more flexible, empowered relation with it.

Joy is to feminism as language is to Exhuastive?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Canada gives it away, again

"Our Government is committed to strengthening Canada's economy through all its sectors, especially arts and culture," said Minister Moore. "Amazon has shown its willingness to promote Canadian cultural products, and we are pleased it is continuing to demonstrate this through this new investment."
Yes, it's ready to simply offload or download, or abdicate cultural responsibilities to the highest bidder.

If Canada wanted to support the book industry there are much easier are a few without giving it much thought....

1. Offer book rates. Shipping books in this country is ridiculously expensive....oh, wait, they'll give that to Amazon!

2. Stop charging taxes on books. Seriously. WTF? Again, Amazon will be able to take advantage of that through bulk buying and unfair discounts...

3. Encourage funding formulas that don't emphasize print over online...(there is no incentive for Canadian publishers either of books or journals to use online, in fact there are disincentives). Oh wait, Amazon takes care of that...

This is a complete lack of imagination and a total sell out of our culture to corporate interests. That they are foreign and have already decimated the book industry in their country of origin is aside from the fact. It's just stupid.

Many Canadians don't seem upset by this at all. If you buy your books at Walmart or in any case this won't seem like a big deal. What does Canada get? An internship clause (oh, yes, more free labor!) and some money thrown around at promotion. Plus
According to Heritage Minister James Moore, those “commitments” include a $20-million investment in Canada, $1.5-million of which will go to “cultural events and awards in Canada and the promotion of Canadian-authored books internationally.”
So what would that look like? Welcome to the Atlantic Amazon Book Festival? What kind of gag clause do you think that will involve. Where is the public in this Literary Sell Off? And excuse me, but I think we've got more than enough Prize action. Prizes are great, but they become about the Prize givers themselves ultimately, and the party and the feel goodness around the giving, which is fine, but it doesn't sustain an infrastructure. It can't take the place of publicly funded and maintained arts...

Hello? It can't replace a distribution system...this isn't a general note of not allowing Amazon to sell into Canada's more a frustration that this is seen as a boost when what we need are incentives for the industry to flourish, not become more centralized and corporate owned. What will it look like when they download the Canada Council? Surely that could be more competitive too.

Here's what the G&M had to say.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Distractions, digressions, nationalistic feelings and literary mudfights on the internet

There have been many, of late. Do we all have spring fever?

Good V evil
Originally uploaded by Shahireh.

The Globe and Mail wrote a fine editorial praising "industrialist Scott Griffin" for his upping of his namesake poetry prize; unfortunately they had to quote an American poet to do it. Do with Emily Dickinson what you will (and I'd prefer to leave her in the attic, but that's just my opinion) but the fact that the fine folks at Canada's other national newspaper couldn't find a single poem by a single living Canadian poet to quote from is mighty unfortunate, to say the least, and it perhaps underscores the need for patrons like Mr. Griffin to put some financial heft behind our national literature in order to demonstrate "to the rest of the world that Canada holds poetry to be as critical to its culture as more popular pursuits such as writing a hit song, and ... establish Canada as a mature, literate Western nation with an intact soul." Soul; schmoul, I can think of 40 Canadian poets off the top of my head who could have been quoted in this editorial!

In any case I have been having a delightful debate in the comments field of this story with some individual who feels that poetry in Canada has gone downhill since "poetry was captured by Postmodern pretensions, or politicized by marxists in the English departments, whose literacy extends to comic books and Japanese anime." Fun!

Ian Brown thinks that sneaking poetry into the office is a perfect waste of time. I used to sneak poetry out of the office...snippets of texts, conversations, meetings. I was forever emailing words and phrases to myself at home. The comment streams of news stories were quite fruitful. In his article, Mr. Brown does mention the names of the Canadians nominated for this year's Griffin prize, and name-drops Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes (U.K.), Francis Turner Palgrave (U.K.), Stanley Kunitz (U.S.), Ben Jonson (U.K.), Percy Bysshe Shelley and the Norton Anthology of English Literature (natch) but he quotes: Thom Gunn (U.K.-U.S.), Ian McEwan (U.K.), J.V. Cunningham (U.S.), Frank O'Hara (U.S.) and Mary Oliver (U.S.).

I think Mr. Brown is a good journalist and I enjoy his columns, but I think we need to sneak him some Canadian poetry ASAP, c/o Globe and Mail. Anyone?

Stephen Patrick Clare and Trevor Adams, authors of Atlantic Canada's 100 Greatest Books, are working on a collaborative Canada's 100 Greatest Books project, to be published in book form in 2011, however they've taken criticism from people like Sean Cranbury for not including poetry or drama in their allowable genres and for not using a transparent, quantifiable method for tallying the votes. They now appear to be trying to rectify at least the omission of poetry and drama, if their Facebook wall is to be believed. These two also mention "the soul of a nation" in their project statement...what's with all this "soul" business? The entire concept gives me hives, but I wish them luck.


Nikki Reimer enjoys a good fight, on or offline.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bring on the future

Seriously. I have never been able to figure out why there are not green roofs and walls and corridors and bring it on, bring it on.

For more see today's New York Times...the Design Section...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Corgis or what?

Poet, and Hound fave Jennifer L. Knox was just boasting that her Corgi video celebrated 20,000 hits today. Awesome. You can also find two poems from Knox here on an earlier Lemon Hound post.

Two visions of the future, or

Linh Dinh makes me feel downright cheerful!
Memo to Kenny: We will not become more machine-like in the future. Quite the reverse. Like it or not, we’ll be yanked from our virtual, surrogate existence and plopped into the splendor and squalor of life in the flesh. Down with the tyranny of the eye! Make some room for the nose, will ya?
As for the 18th century, it will reappear momentarily, but don’t count on wearing a wig, fanning yourself and lounging on some country estate. Pick up your hoe, born again peasant!, even if you have multiple degrees of higher learning, because we’re chuting towards the mother of all depressions.
Like dog food, university writing programs will quickly be phased out of existence, to be replaced by workshops held at someone’s home, a maestro who’s likely just a village explainer, local yokel but with a gift for angular assonances and weird metaphors. Compensation will eventually be in barter, say, an old ring, rare can of tuna, lumps of coal or unadorned, funky human contact, after class.
Not feel depressed enough? For the full on full on.

Now for a bit of Kenny G.

The text cycle is primarily additive, spawning new texts continuously. If a hosting directory is made public, language is siphoned off like water from a well, replicating it infinitely. There is no need to assume that — notwithstanding any of the above mentioned catastrophes — that a textual drought will occur. The morass of language does not deplete, rather it creates a wider, rhizomatic ecology, leading to a continuous and infinite variety of textual occurrences and interactions across both the network and the local environment.

The uncreative writer constantly cruises the web for new language, the cursor sucking up words from untold pages like a stealth encounter. Those words, sticky with residual junky code and formatting are transferred back into the local environment and scrubbed with TextSoap, which restores them back to their virginal states by removing extra spaces, repairing broken paragraphs, deleting email forwarding marks, straightening curly quotation marks, even extracting text from the morass of html. With one click of a button, these soiled texts are cleaned and ready to be redeployed for future use.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Margaret Christakos: Latches, Hyphens & Dashes Oh My

Q; Margaret, I have described your work as “rigorously honed syntactical and etymological machines,”  that are as domestic as they are conceptual, or in conversation with lyric desires as much as flarfist desires. Would you classify your own work as conceptual? Could you pledge association to flarf?

MC: I relate to minimalism and proceduralism, and have used selecting, framing and text-processing strategies intentionally to aerate grammar and redistribute syntax. I’ve harvested from the net, counted and used a lot of substitution procedures. These tactics go on always in relation to other poems and parts of series that do not operate this way, that in fact privilege writing from the imagination. Flarf is a trend I observe but do not mimic or extend, really; whatever continuity of Flarf’s outcomes found in my work has been generated within my handling of a counterpuntal banal and shallow piece with maximalist spread/leak in relation to segments that strive for affective lyric intensity and centripetal focus. I compose relationships among disparate poetic parts. I’d say my field is a lyric field within which these acerbic scores and gashes of the anti-lyric somehow stand in for the random, the belligerently chaotic, the boring, the ironic, the flat.

I really would not use the term machine in relation to my work, even though generatedness is obviously an important value, and engine is part of my lexicon. Cyborganics, sure, to reach for a body that is both natural and technologized: my interest in writing has to do with the relationship of parts to each other, of parts to their past or origins, of parts to their variant reappearances. It is/I am always interested in human relationship, and the relation of subjects to subjects. “Something inside me” takes for granted that there is, safely, something inside me, and it can be usefully lampooned, and it can also be a lung turned inside out to a life raft. I’m disturbingly sincere, often overtly concerned with grief, which I don’t think Flarf is.

SQ: I’m thinking of what many term Flarf’s limited range of responses, noting that, as you say, you are cognisant, perhaps even parallel in ways but not in that tradition. Wondering about the complicated relationships between humour, feminism, lyric, desire, and what you term “disturbingly sincere.” Is that a tactic or inscribed in DNA?

MC: This question makes me want to move into a resistant frame; let’s talk about writing as artistic practice instead of strategy. Tactics are the framework I use for teaching, yes, but not for poetry. What I am engaged in when writing and building poetry calls on the uncontained, unnamed, unknown as well as on the lost, missed and crushed, heard partially. I’m summoning, not reporting.

For the entire conversation, check out Harriet.

Kevin Connolly to judge the Ekphrastic Poem Contest

Just a reminder: April 14th is the deadline and the fabulous Kevin Connolly will have the final say.
Do you think ekphrasis is dead? Are you tired of noodly, sentimental poems describing representational art? What are we doing when we are writing poems about art? What makes for a remarkable ekphrastic poem? How far can we take our description? Where is the self in an abstract ekphrastic poem? Following up on, After Ekphrasis, my post on Harriet, and to kick off April on LH, I'm looking for the best ekphrastic poem I can find. The best one to land in the handy conceptualfiction (care of) gmail account by April 14th will be published here on LH as well as receive a copy of Unleashed. Please use the subject line ekphrasis since there will be a few other contests this month. Stay tuned.
Stay tuned indeed. Two more contests to come. Lemon Hound correspondent Helen Hajnoczky will choose the best visual poem. Helen's first book will be out with Snare Books this year. You can see some of her visual poetry in the New Feminisms Issue of Matrix. My fabulous freshman poetry student, Emma Healey, winner of this year's Irving Layton Award for poetry, will select the best prose poem. Find out more about Emma over at the National Post Book Blog. Go Emma.

Prose Poem Submission deadline April 21st
Winner will be published here on Lemon Hound and receive poetry titles from Coach House and Les Figues Press out of Los Angeles
Please put Prose Poem in the subject heading and paste into the body of an email to conceptual fiction care of gmail

Visual Poem Submission deadline April 28th
Winner will be published here on Lemon Hound and receive last year's catalog of Snare Books
Please put Prose Poem in the subject heading and paste (or attach) to the body of an email to conceptual fiction care of gmail

Good luck.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

There is no C in Bingo? On not being at AWP

My career will suffer, I have no doubt.
I'll be on anti-depressants soon.
I'll have no idea what to read next.
Christian will not lead me into temptation.
Vanessa will not pepper the air with scaldingly pointed one-liners.
Clearly I won't see Dan Nester to thank him for the excellent playing card above.
I will not make plans to meet A, B, and C, and then not be able to find C, B, or A, but end up drinking with F and G who haven't the faintest idea who B or C is but don't care for A in any case.
I will not wave at Julie Sheehan, or Evie Shockley, or Kate Greenstreet, or Kazim Ali, or Elaine Sexton, or David Groff, or Pat Rosal, or Matthew Zapruder, or Catherine Daly or any of the dozens of poets I would like to actually talk to....
I will not have to feel bad for seeing the above seconds after they have a/ given a paper or b/ given a reading...doh.
I will not find Rachel hiding behind boxes of books.
Or Nathalie/Nathanael wondering how this happened. Again.
I will not miss Don, or Stephen, and spend an hour circling tables in the opposite direction.
I will not sit at the Coach House table (sorry Alana), or the Persea table (Hi Gabe), nor be surprised that the small book tables are my favorite in the end.
I will not stand in wonder that the placating poets always fill a huge room.
I will not have to worry about being crammed into an elevator with Billy Collins and Kenneth Goldsmith, nor being locked in said elevator for an extended period with Sharon Olds.
On the other hand, nor will I have to worry about all the bad lighting and terrible patterned carpets.
Or listen to people complain about teaching or wanting to teach.
Though the regular round of book launches will be sadly missed.
As will the opportunity to bump shoulders with Eileen Myles.
As usual, I will miss out on the Wompo gathering and hear about it from Mairead.
I will not have to soothe the poor fiction writers who find themselves in the effervescence of poets and are overwhelmed by the intensity.
I will miss the latest bits of gossip, and seriously, seriously, having a dozen or so really great books of poetry land in my back pack...
I will not, on the other hand, have to face that glazed over look that often happens after people find out that I'm from Canada.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Poem Poems

Since the ‘90s, April has not only been the month folk longen to goon on pilgrimages, nor just the month that lilacs are bred of the dead land… it’s also National Poetry Month here in Canada. While it’s great to have a whole month dedicated to fostering an appreciation of poetry, poets certainly didn’t wait for Poetry Month to show their love (or self-love). A casual flip through most intro-to-poetry textbooks will reveal almost as many poems about poems as it will poems about graceful, unattainable women. Poems about poems share many thematic points with love poems. Poem poems range from selfish and jealous to pleading and desperate, painting the writer’s relationship with poetry as everything from a plate-throwing, fiery mess, to a an arm-in-arm stroll along the beach at sunset. Whatever their take on the relationship of the writer to the word, however, all of these poems explore the hold that poetry has on the writer. In fact, love poems and poem poems are often blurred, so that it becomes difficult to tell if the writer is more in love with the subject of the poem, or the act of writing. In honour of National Poetry Month, here are a few of my favourite odes to poetry.

from A Kite is a Victim
by Leonard Cohen

A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you fool;
because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon
in the high sweet air,
and you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer…

A kite is the last poem you've written,
so you give it to the wind,
but you don't let it go
until someone finds you
something else to do.

Poem Poem
by Milton Acorn

Yesterday a bust of breath
Poems broke from the white dam of my teeth.
I sang truth, the word I was;
And with each shout curling my tongue
Heart and fist thumped together.

But the poem I write today grins
While I chop it like a mean boy,
And whittles my spine.
Insinuating friend or stranger
It is truth, the word I am not.

from Sonnet 18
by William Shakespeare

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

from Ars Poetica
by Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.

from The Thought-Fox
by Ted Hughes

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.
Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness

from Eunoia: Chapter I
by Christian Bök

Writing is inhibiting. Sighing, I sit, scribbling in ink
this pidgin script. I sing with nihilistic witticism,
disciplining signs with trifling gimmicks -- impish
hijinks which highlight stick sigils. Isn't it glib?
Isn't it chic? I fit childish insights within rigid limits,
writing schtick which might instill priggish misgiv-
ings in critics blind with hindsight. I dismiss nit-
picking criticism which flirts with philistinism. I
bitch; I kibitz - griping whilst criticizing dimwits,
sniping whilst indicting nitwits, dismissing simplis-
tic thinking, in which philippic wit is still illicit.

The Red Wheelbarrow
by William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Helen Hajnoczky recently completed her BA Honours in English and creative writing from the University of Calgary, where her research focused on feminist avant-garde poetics. Her work has appeared in Nod, fillingStation, Rampike, and Matrix magazines, as well as in a variety of chapbooks. She is the current poetry editor of fillingStation magazine. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.

Ya da ya da ya da

she recited the typical spiel about the mfa racket, the academic cash cow, “you cant teach writing,” the fraudulent promises…all couched in a smug “but it pays the bills” etc.
I'm with Craig on this one: if you don't love teaching, don't teach.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

On writing about writing: 32 poet/critics respond

It seems to me, particularly in Canada, we have had this binary used to deflate difference for too long. Anything that resists hierarchical evaluation is cast out as flaky. But one of the real uses of this negative stance it seems to me–and to several people below–is as a tactic to cast “other” as “less than.” To constantly uphold the poet or book of poetry under review as symptomatic of or a solution to the ills of contemporary poetry. Such as the post prior to this that suggests in the end, Kenneth Goldsmith’s provisional language is somehow to blame for something to do with to with the lack of readers.

from On writing about writing: 32 poet/critics respond

A totally depressing, in my opinion anyhow, piece up on Harriet from Lin Dinh that describes a review climate that is all about flattery and poetry as a "pyramid scheme":
As with contemporary poetry criticism, flattery has become the dominant mode. It could only be called encouragement if so much money wasn’t involved. As is, it really is a pyramid scheme.


Book Zoo

Book Zoo, originally uploaded by tara holland.

Monday, April 05, 2010

New books: The Inquisition Yours

April portends many spring things: daffodils, precipitation, bunny rabbits. One peed on me yesterday.

April is also a month for book launches! And it’s poetry month!

Ergo, writings on new books. Behold!

I have been reading many of the new books of poetry in the past several weeks, and many of these were much too usual, lyric, narrative and expected for my tastes. However, Jen Currin’s third book of poetry, The Inquisition Yours, subverts the expected lyrical tropes with what one might call a surrealist lyric, in a way that touches on emotion and ‘meaning’ but that remains entirely within the world of language and its turns.

The Inquisition Yours is a pastiche of magic, magicians, absurdity, family members, animals, god with a little g, a fair bit of bread, a sense of play and a sense of seriousness. At times quirky but never cute, sentences/sentence fragments are set out carefully, with space between to consider each one. The shifts are subtle, and pronouns are important.

“Two o’clock and it was coffee
ordered. My home
of flour and water.

When I was tired of him
I set his things outside the door.

This was called divorce.

He made a hundred clay boats
for his murdered father.

Borrowed a book from god’s shelf.

Mischief of the holy city, whitest pig.
Only half my persona.”

There is a small p politic here too; recognitions of war and terrorism, feminist assertions, multiple and unreliable narrators, interrogations of language.

A poem titled "Patriarch" ends thusly:

"Spellcheck changes reality to realist.

The pathetic hope with which you approach all things.

An author dies & is more present in our lives.

Your text, a funeral dress.

Pack up the poem, boyhood of innocent greed.

In his introduction, in smoking jacket & cigarette:

The poet, he...

The critic, he...

The reader, he...

He he he he he

I’m laughing."

This is but a brief preview, and certainly not a complete analysis, but you can download a section of The Inquisition Yours from Coach House and read more for yourself.


Nikki Reimer will never, ever, ever write about the cherry blossom haiku contest.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

David McGimpsey Cover

David McGimpsey Cover, originally uploaded by johnwmacdonald.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Having fun with Frederick

A naked man at any age is just a total nightmare
And through the door they never come with mop in hand
to mop up the hard edged shapes of male design and
bend to kiss the bruised hips of domesticity or care

To make their ideas just a tad more smooth
or unscented, or less in need of another product
or with as much love as one buck for an other buck
staring across their wives in some louche booth

Totally respectfully love Seidel, but it was fun, and in progress. I'll try to note the drafts. Looking for more playful satires of Oooga Booga et al. A good use for the comment stream...

Now must go try to fit the following "these silly ideas of men that linger like cow flops of the floor" into the poem...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April, Ekphrasis & Poetry Contests

Do you think ekphrasis is dead? Are you tired of noodly, sentimental poems describing representational art? What are we doing when we are writing poems about art? What makes for a remarkable ekphrastic poem? How far can we take our description? Where is the self in an abstract ekphrastic poem? Following up on, After Ekphrasis, my post on Harriet, and to kick off April on LH, I'm looking for the best ekphrastic poem I can find. The best one to land in the handy conceptualfiction gmail account by April 14th will be published here on LH as well as receive a copy of Unleashed. Please use the subject line ekphrasis since there will be a few other contests this month. Stay tuned.