Monday, May 31, 2010

Feminist Boot Camp #98

Know how to age. Never stop working.Never stop exploring.
Never lose your sense of humour. Where feathers when you can. Oh, and yeah, nothing wrong with carrying a big stick.
By: The Associated Press
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Her studio's managing director says artist Louise Bourgeois has died in New York City, after a lengthy career of exploring women's deepest feelings on birth, sexuality and death. She was 98.
Wendy Williams of Louise Bourgeois Studio says the sculptor died at Beth Israel Medical Center on Monday, two days after suffering a heart attack.
Bourgeois worked in a wide variety of materials to tackle themes relating to male and female bodies and emotions of anger, betrayal, even murder. Her work reflected influences of surrealism, primitivism and early modernist sculptors such as Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brancusi.
Her work was almost unknown to the wider art world until she was 70, when New York's Museum of Modern Art presented a retrospective of her career.
Thanks for comments. Bourgeois has been an enormous presence in my life...a total inspiration. Many posts about her over the years. Here's a snippet from her project with Roni Horn/Anne Carson etc.
Here is Louise Bourgeois' offering:

I was always aware of a possible silence falling
like the cover of a tomb and engulfing me forever.

The silence overruns the room and I am afraid to hear
my heart beating; this danger coming from inside-
only a continual flow of words can push it aside,
if not control it.

Listen to chaos, waterfall, the Marne locks--
Beethoven, a river that carries rocks and trees,
the thunder rolling by.

Another post that features an interview with Horn and work by Bourgeois and another link to an interview. What an inspiration. Really. Should we all age so eloquently and let the arguments and projects not become old, but constantly refreshed.

Leslie Scalapino, 1944 - 2010

Compendium of Scalapino's works,
by KPH.
Leslie Scalapino passed away on May 28, 2010 in Berkeley, California. She was born in Santa Barbara in 1944 and raised in Berkeley, California.

An experimental writer associated with the West Coast Language poets, Leslie Scalapino attended Reed College and received an MA in English from the University of California at Berkeley. Scalapino’s writing often blurs the distinctions between poetry, prose, and even the visual arts—her book Crowd and not evening or light (1992) includes photographs with handwritten notes. Her collections include Considering how exaggerated music is (1982), that they were at the beach-aeolotropic series (1985), and the trilogy The Return of Painting, The Pearl, and Orion (1991). (From
PennSound currently has a moving in memorium message on their front page, with links to other resource pages on her, including their own author page. There is also a tribute page up on

KSW has a sound recording from a reading she did in 1995, introduced by Colin Smith. She read from from New Time (Wesleyan 1999), and from her novel Defoe (Green Integer 2002).


Nikki Reimer is the author of [sic].

Sunday, May 30, 2010

No, it isn't good till the last drop

A shout out to the folks up in Kitimaat this week as they walk to remind us of the dangers of losing the last clean salmon runs on the west coast should Enbridge be allowed to build their pipeline...

And here's a very handy little graphic along with a concise update of the BP disaster. What can anyone say? I have been attempting to quit oil for several decades Facebook, it's tough to quit. I get rid of a car and a year or so later get one again...I don't have one now, and haven't since year two of Brooklyn when my VW Fox rolled its last click into Toronto. Of course not an hour goes by that I'm not relying on something oil related. NB> I love to drive. I love cars. I love roads. I love moving through landscapes--city or pastoral--in cars as much as I do on foot. I just don't love the sagging and unconscious infrastructures we've built up around this as our primary mode of transport.

The narrative of trying to plug up this spill echoes the larger narrative of trying to find replacements to oil, and to the massive infrastructures around the oil industry...but this is the topic of Expressway and I think I said it there as clearly as one can given the tentacles and root systems of this pernicious addiction.

We are, as they say, at the bottom of the oil barrel. No more easy access. What oil we get from here on will come with similar environmental risks, and given the more excessive weather swings, risks that we haven't yet learned to account for. Isn't it time to embrace the pain and start to seriously fund other sectors? Other energy visions? Perhaps an entire summer of endless oil spilling into the gulf will drain the massive coffers of the likes of BP and show that the risks really, really aren't worth it for this kind of dirty oil.

I feel for the people in the Gulf. This latest failure to plug the well is just too depressing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Abramovic on the Body


Feminist Boot Camp #22

Who's your Mama?

The Second Coming

A new translation of de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. Preview in the NY Times starts with this statement:
In 1946, when Simone de Beauvoir began to write her landmark study of women, “The Second Sex,” legislation allowing French women to vote was little more than a year old.
A sharp reminder gals. My mother's generation the first to vote in that grandmother's the first to expect the vote in ours. The birth control pill just turned fifty. And so on.

On the matter of the preview, one wonders why lines such as "It should be noted that Beauvoir, at least in her personal life, did not hate men..." have to appear in a bit about de Beauvoir at this point in time. Why does looking at a woman's situation closely have to be about "hating men"? Virginie Despente's may be right. We have gotten nowhere if that is still where we are when we start discussing the lives of women.

Of course we have gotten somewhere--votes, pills, near wage parity, not quite, but near, at least in some cases. Despite the baffling ways the service sectors are gendered...but hey, progress is progress. And my favorite feature? More women doing stand up. Absolutely. Standing up in public and making people laugh still seems the most radical thing a woman can do. Making the body public in that way.

There aren't a lot of laughs in de Beuavoir, it's true. What I recall most from reading de Beauvoir was the awareness, the ability to conceptualize that being in a woman's body did not confine me to a particular trajectory, or a particular mode of being. Sounds obvious, but it wasn't, and it was a relief to know.  I was thinking just this morning, as I read about the gay couple (male actually), in Malawi who will surely be killed as they serve their 15 year sentence for declaring their love for each other, how difficult becoming the woman I wanted to be was. How, in a sense, I had to overcome the reactions to my physicality, the public relationship to it. My parents assumptions, my peers, the hysteria of my peers toward a certain outcome of my body. But also the assumption of the public. There is a particularly strange relationship between the public and the teenage body. There is a moment where one is not a self, but a startlingly attractive and available commodity--no matter the degree of individual appeal, there is a sense of availability that is difficult to avoid.
“What a curse to be a woman!” Beauvoir writes, quoting Kierkegaard. “And yet the very worst curse when one is a woman is, in fact, not to understand that it is one.” No one has done more than Beauvoir to explain the conditions of that curse, and no one has more eloquently, irately challenged us to turn that curse into a blessing.
Absolutely. I'm counting on the continued blessing part. The unknotting the curses part. The forward movement of the female body and as it conceptualizes itself, I'm hoping it reconfigures the world. Just a small desire I have. A wee little fantasy. Totally Romantic. Absolutely naive.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

English? Français? Magyarul?

Linguistically, Hungary posed very few problems. I could read signs, menus, and descriptions of items in museums. Communicating with others was also fairly simple—either I could conduct a conversation on my own, or my sister would cover the more complicated stuff, like figuring out how to retrieve our delayed luggage after we arrived from Frankfurt. About a week ago, however, we left Budapest to spend four days in Vienna, and I am now writing from Prague.

Vienna posed some definite language problems. However, knowing both English and French we were sometimes able to extract a key word or two from many texts. German menus were sometimes more comprehensible than their English translations—for example, a menu that listed Wiener-schnitzel in German offered Anglophones Viennese Shred in its place. A local also told us that Austrian students have to take either English or French as a second language, which may explain why so many of the Austrians we interacted with spoke excellent English. Those who didn’t, however, were willing to play along with our apologetic sign language, with special props going to the pharmacist who sold me the highly effective decongestants. Prague, however, is different. Czech is almost completely unrecognizable, with the exception of contemporary words derived directly from English, such as ‘notebooky,’ meaning a notebook computer. This leaves us much more helpless than in Austria, and people here are a bit less patient when it comes to breaking through the language barrier.

When thrown into situations where you can no longer count on your linguistic skills, it’s interesting to see how far you can get. Airports and train stations are particularly easy, with big, pictorial signs pointing you in the right direction. Shopping, too, can often be done by pointing or with hand signals, or you can wander around the store until you find what you’re looking for. Eating at places with pictures of food is also helpful, allowing you to just point at the item you want. The potency of graphic design also becomes evident—despite the label that reads, “Lentilky,” it’s immediately evident that a certain candy package contains Smarties. Obsessed with the value and weight of the written word, it’s strange to live without it and still get by, for a short while, anyway. Having no common language with someone can either be a hopeful experience, with both people patiently working towards understanding each other, or an alienating experience, with one person either rejecting or exploiting the person with limited language skills. Knowledge of any language is a powerful thing—and we don’t lose much by sharing our expertise.

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.

Actually, it was easy to quit you Facebook

But will you stay quit? I hear stories of people who have deleted accounts only to receive emails welcoming them back months after the fact. Sort of like those newspaper subscriptions that will never leave you alone after you've decided to move on, or non-profits that haunt you after you've been generous once. The matter of information use is of course becoming increasingly problematic. Paypal is awful. They never leave you alone once you've signed up and again, deleting your information is problematic. Ditto Amazon. And perhaps ditto Facebook. I'll report back in a few weeks when I check up on my "deleted account."

Yesterday Facebook made the front page of the Globe and Mail's online edition. I had no idea there was a Quit Facebook Movement, I had just had enough. Seems a lot of people have had enough of Facebook. And Zuckerburg is in damage control mode. Seriously. Anyone out there convinced? Want to give any more information to this dude?

As I said, it was fairly easy to quit Facebook and I don't miss much about it. There are downsides: all those event "literary" social calendar is lost. Seriously, how long did it take for social networking, particularly of the literary sort, to move almost completely to Facebook? Will presses continue to focus on Facebook, which it seems to me, over saturates tiny pods of friends getting no information out to new people? Not sure of the wisdom there. The few pages that grow tend to be "can this potato chip get 50,000 friends?"

Another downside though is losing many contacts that I would like to have maintained. That became impossible because Facebook is all about mining data for Facebook. The platform actually makes it impossible to export any information you gather (and apparently easy for Facebook to use all that information you've gathered). So if I've suddenly cut you off, sorry about that. It's not personal, it was the system.

In the end, what I do miss? Well, that's it, contacts and events. Event invitations via Facebook were fabulous. Very convenient how one could download onto iCalendar...perhaps the best feature. Being up to date on readings from New York to Los Angeles to Vancouver to Toronto, that was good...are people going to stop doing other kinds of promotion altogether? How will non-Fbook users be informed?

I also miss several friends, especially distant friends that I don't see often. Being able to check in on their day, seeing photos, that was very for the old friends recently discovered, a big apology. We'll have to find each other again, it seems, in another capacity. 

One thing that seems certain: the use for and need for blogging isn't going away. And the platform is way more reliable, democratic, and reliable than Facebook. A gated community. Or a bit of a Matrix. Users plugging themselves into Zucker__'s motherboard to generate data that he can sell. No wonder he's laughing at his users. Creepy, creepy, creepy.

Update: New York Times has a few different opinions about the new privacy rules... I'm still not buying it. Oh, and fine, I'll miss Wordscraper too. But I'll finally catch up on my reading.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Feminist Boot Camp #44

See, support, direct
Shirin Neshat's Women Without Men is a must see:

This was perhaps the only way to end a day in which I spent much of the afternoon mixing with the work of Marina Abramovic, and a coffee with poet Marilyn Hacker, briefly in New York from Paris where she is busy learning Arabic. We saw Neshat's film at the Quad, on 13th, with a smattering of other folks. A strange assemblage of people with various nasal problems and eating disorders: the large, curly-headed man in front of us ate Twizzlers continuously, stopping only at the credits to ball up the empty bags into his coat pocket. Why were there a dozen viewers only on a Saturday night in New York? That I can't answer.

I have no idea what anyone else thought, but I was both transported to Iran, 1953, and into Neshat's visual splendour, her complicated love for the sensuous and harsh contrasts of her country, and her people, and sharply aware of my body, the implications of my body on the planet in 2010. The film traces the lives of four women in what is surely an allegory for the impossible political situation of Iran, as much as the lives of women. It's deeply depressing how she captures the very narrow pathways available to women, and how, like Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, and other aborted escape narratives such as Kate Chopin's The Awakening, even when these women do make grand gestures--escaping a whore house, throwing oneself off a roof, buying an orchard and creating a cultural oasis for women, it can't last: bulldozers, or tanks, or oil wells, or some other human "desire" will arrive and begin to drill on your back.

It's a reminder of how far we have come in "the west," yes, but in its extreme nature it also illustrates the deeply entrenched assumptions of gender, or more precisely, the deeply interwoven ideas of power, domestic, social, cultural and otherwise that we seem unable, as a people to move beyond. I'm thinking of the recent King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes. Her vision of the world is quite simple: if women are still being raped, if statistics such as only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail, and 73% of victims know their rapists, etc., then how can the idea of women be said to have changed? This is not even to begin speaking of race, of poverty, of domestic violence or lack of equal access...and this is to say that my musings here are scratching the surface, I know.

The situation in Iran in the 1950s is not only heartbreaking for women. The men in this film seem equally trapped in their roles, which they play emphatically, from the most liberal to the most fascist. Neshat shows this brilliantly in her still photography as well: the divide of bodies, the concrete nature of ideologies. How systems becomes so deeply en"trenched" that it is the trenches we find ourselves inhabiting. Does the brother who threatens to break his sister's legs really want the best for her? One senses the deeply troubling nature of obedience. One appreciates the degrees of difficulty behind even such small gestures as turning to face the crowd. Here is Neshat from an interview on the NYT blog:
Which out of the four main characters is the closest to representing you?
I feel closest to Zarin, perhaps because of how she quietly suffers and inflicts her pain onto her body, an experience that many women, including myself, are familiar with. Zarin’s body becomes a tool — she punishes herself for all that is wrong with the world, the social stigma, religious taboos and her own feelings of guilt, shame and sin.
For women in Iran in the 1950s there were few avenues, but Neshat reminds me that when I think "women" I'm  thinking "life." I am thinking human life. Not military life, or corporate life, but "life." Or perhaps quality of life. For where women are not free, life is not free. Essentialist perhaps, simplistic for sure, but a basic. If these women are trapped, these men are equally trapped, even when, as we see here, it is the military that seems to free them, to make them less impotent.

My partner reminded me about the Bechdel test. It's a wonderfully simple little rule that she uses to assess whether or not she'll watch a film. It came out in one of her early comic strips but the formula is so elegant it has taken on a life of its own. It has to have
1. at least two women in it, 
2. who talk to each other, 
3. about something besides a man.
    Simple, no? Neshat's film fits, naturally. It gets an A+. But a film doesn't have to be so extreme to fit Bechdel's test, and to my mind this isn't about gender at all. It's about life (real or imagined). It's about the kind of world we want to inhabit. And it would have far-reaching implications if it was taken at all seriously.

    See also Ayaan Hirsi Ali's response to Neshat's film in this week's NY Times Mag.

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Internet Poetry Roundup

    One of the beautiful things about unemployment is that one can spend hours upon hours on the interweb. And one does, because the related poverty of unemployment has lead to certain Austerity Measures in which real-time social interactions are foregone (too expensive) for the social interactions to be had online (we're paying for internet anyway).

    I like the diversity of writers and writing on the internet. For example, some conceptual writing is too antiseptic for my personal tastes (I'm highly emotional and have limited attention span), but then along comes a great project like Rachel Zolf's Tolerance Project, the archives of which are now online, featuring traces of poetic DNA from eighty-six writers, artists and thinkers.

    On the other end of the internet, I was led to Elizabeth Ross's blog because she started following me on Twitter. She has several good posts on the occupational hazards of writing, including advice from other writers on the hazards of too much sitting (i.e., sitting around the house in one's pj's looking for work and reading all the blogs). Karen Shklanka’s post is particularly instructive, and stretching is still free.

    Some Vancouver artists/writers wish to know What Does Info Want? A neato idea, though they don't appear to have collected any info as of yet. I'll have to check back later to get the goods.

    Concordia University's Ticker Text Project "addresses the production and dissemination of new creative writing in relation to informing features of the historical stock ticker—text in motion, instantaneous telecommunication (transmitting messages across a distance), periodic updates and ‘telegraphic’ brevity." Is this the poetry of the future?

    Alan Davies' "The Dea(r)th of Poetry" essay recently came to my attention (Kaplan Harris/Narrative posted it on a non-academic poet I'd never keep abreast of anything were it not for social media, so props to the community). I've printed it off to read more fully...I think there are some interesting assertions, but I also agree with Chris Piuma/Dishwasher Thief that the essay is full of contradictions. In any case, my jury's still out.

    And oh oh oh! Cyberpoetry! oh (via Maia/Other Good Things on Twitter).

    What about you? What poetic internet goodness have you rounded up this week?

    Nikki Reimer is still (is always) online.

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    North America's Grumpiest Poet

    I'm thinking it would be a good topic of conversation. Dude's can be pretty dug in with their opinions of things. The one thing they seem to have in common is that their version of the world is the right one and all else are wallowing in delusion and despair.

    Sound like something you want to aspire to you youngins?  So who are we going to nominate? I have some ideas...but what about you?

    On second thought, a better idea might be just a fabulously grumpy line.

    Grumpiest thing on the Internet? I'm sure I can find something on this blog in the past...all's fair.

    This one isn't grumpy, she's angry, I think.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Pick a Book, Any Book

    ("Books and Wine" bookstore in Budapest)

    Budapest is full of amazing bookstores, many the kind with floor to ceiling hardwood bookshelves with rolling ladders attached. While there are many new bookstores including Libri, a Chindigo-type chain store, there are also countless Antiquariums that trade used and antique books. There are bookstores everywhere—I’ve heard that television dubbing in Hungarian is terrible, so maybe more people turn to books for entertainment, but whatever the reason, Hungarians appear to be voracious readers. They are also active writers—the shelves of these stores are crammed full of books written by Hungarians in every genre and style. This presents a problem for me—my Hungarian is decent, but not perfect, and as a result many of the books that line Budapest’s bookstore shelves are not readily accessible to me. Staring at huge shelves full of books that I can almost read, and knowing that I won’t be able to return anytime soon to choose more books as my reading skills improve, gives me an odd feeling of urgency and desperation (furthermore, I can only bring so many books home in my suitcase without exceeding my weight limit). It’s not just that the books look interesting, it’s that these texts offer the chance to gain a better understanding of the history and culture of a country where I am a citizen, but where I have never been a resident.

    (Front of the Terror Haza museum)

    Nowhere was this feeling more pronounced than at the museum bookstore at the Terror Haza (House of Terror) museum. This museum chronicles the reign of the Nazi Arrow Cross Party, and then the subsequent Soviet occupation of Hungary, in the building that both parties used to interrogate, jail, and execute their victims.

    (Mural made of portraits of Hungarians who died under the Nazi Arrow Cross and then Soviet regimes)

    In 1956 the Hungarian people unsuccessfully rebelled against the Soviets, with many of the revolutionaries meeting their end on gallows in the basement of this building.

    (Reads "Those who died for you")

    The revolution is of particular interest to me, since my father and his family escaped communist Hungary after the disorder of the failed revolution left the border to Austria open. The museum bookstore at the Terror Haza has so many books about the revolution that choosing was a difficult task, but I walked away from the store with a novella, a history book that follows the events of the revolution hour by hour, and an anthology of poetry entitled Piros a Ver a Pesti Utcan, or, The Blood Runs Red in the Streets of Pest. This sizable anthology contains nothing but poems written in 1956 about the revolution in Budapest. Though I haven’t yet had a chance to read through the whole book, the poems I’ve skimmed have all been great. Hungarian poetry has a clean, concrete, an onomatopoeic quality that sharply conveys the desperation and passion that started the revolution, and the tragedy of the revolution’s failure, which only led to further death, devastation, and oppression. I’m sorry that I can’t bring home cases and cases of books, but since I can only have a few, I’m glad to have this book. More than any other, this book captures a moment when an entire city came together for the sake of one common goal. More than any other book I could have picked, Piros a Ver a Pesti Utcan offers a condensed slice of what it has historically meant to be Hungarian.

    (Reads "We live quietly")

    Helen Hajnoczky is currently muddling through being functionally illiterate in Austria. Her first book, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Prose Poem Winner (redux)


    Michael Nardone
    Judge's Statement:
    There’s something about punctuation – not points on a page but the way words cut and slip through other words, the way it sounds to be alive and seeing. Prose steps in where lyric can’t, here, poemwise; it’s less like looking through a microscope, more like standing in the middle of a busy street with a blindfold on. A good prose poet is always all ears. Nardone in this poem is doing great things with sound and with that kind of punctuation. We can hear family, TV, dinner- and dish-sounds, plus something else (“—Coffee? Tea?—Coffee.—Coffee!—Coffee.—Coffee.—Cream? Sugar?—A dreamworld. A cartoon.—Both”) coming through the edges. There’s an understanding here of the way said and unsaid start and stop each other, how there’s always something heard plus something pulling what you hear. Which is why this poem. And which is maybe why prose poetry in general. Just a theory.

    Emma Healey is an undergraduate creative writing student at Concordia University. Her work has been published in Joyland, Cellstories, Broken Pencil and the anthologies GULCH (Tightrope Books) and Can’tLit (ECW Press). She is the Literary Arts editor at The Link newspaper, and the editor-in-chief of The Incongruous Quarterly, an online magazine devoted entirely to publishing unpublishable literature. She was the recipient of Concordia’s 2010 Irving Layton award for poetry.

     Michael Nardone will receive a selection of books from two presses that celebrate the prose poem: Coach House Press in Toronto and Les Figues Press in Los Angeles. Thanks to both presses for ongoing excellence.
    Congratulations, Mr. Nardone.

    Please note that the text is actually blocked in a specific way this blog is unable to replicate. *Okay we have images of the poem. Do let us know what you think.

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Winner of the Prose Poem Contest

    Coming very soon.

    Thanks to all who entered.

    It was a pleasure to read your work.

    If allowed, I will have to post a few of the runner's up.

    There were so many we appreciated.

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Feminist Boot Camp #77

    Just keep rolling.

    Even if you don't agree.


    Watch the elbows.

    Feminist Boot Camp #13

    The silence.

    Surprisingly it isn't the outright hassling by other poets that a gal needs to get accustomed to, it's the silence. It's being ignored in conversations. Not having one's ideas picked up on... It's scanning the mastheads and seeing no women (another kind of silence). It's reading an introduction to an anthology and realizing that even when women are included in the broader category of poetry, or art, etc, most male editors see the world in terms of other males. It's realizing that even when they respect a female poet, she's just that, a female, something a little different, a little outside the frame. Someone to learn from, sure, but not to remain in conversation with...

    So, in the face of the silence? Just enter into the discussion. When you get ignored, just keep responding. It reminds me of my instistance on joining a football team in elementary school. I loved football. I wanted to play, and the only team at my disposal was the guys. Coach made me run laps. And laps. And laps. He humiliated me in practice. I assume he did this hoping I would give up. No one would pass to me. Finally one day I was glaringly in the open and the quarterback threw to me. It was a long, long, pass. I sprained a finger catching it, but I caught it, I made the play. Not a touch down, but a nice play. It didn't change much in terms of the guys not wanting a girl on the team. No Hollywood ending there, just more of the same. But it let me know that I could do it--that if I wasn't part of the team it wasn't because I couldn't keep up.

    So when you're feeling that you're invisible? Not getting passed the ball? Just keep playing. Keep playing defensively but also offensively. Make opportunities for yourself. Do your job well. Be ready for the ball. (Happily a younger generation of poets is reading this and thinking, huh? Not in my world, and I hope that things progress that way.) But in hindsight, it wasn't necessarily the guys on the team (we played together off the team quite well otherwise...). No, it was something else.

    Or start your own game
    ? Personally, I would rather play a non-gendered league. And I kinda like the tackle.

    Saturday, May 15, 2010

    Feminist Boot Camp #23

    Get on board the Soul Train

    In outfits you can only dream of...

    better yet, get on the Love Train

    So wish I could find that without the annoying little ad...

    Who wants a line a date that can't dance?
    Who wants a line without rhythm?

    Feminist Boot Camp #12

    Come out. Or keep them guessing.

    Whatever feels comfortable.

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Feminist Boot Camp #9

    Don't be afraid to cover a tune, or a poem, or a story you love, but if you do, make it your own. If you must, wear blue mascara. When you make eye contact, well, make eye contact.

    Do crunches. Age well.

    If you're still reading the same poems twenty years later, don't let your wardrobe fall behind. Show your butt. Though I don't recommend leather pants for a poet. Fiction writers perhaps. Poets not so much. But strut. Yes. See last entry.

    What do crunches mean in a literary sense? Don't let your lines go slack: rein it in. Less is even more so the second and third time around.

    Get leaner, not looser.

    What to say when buddy says your poem lacks what he thinks makes for good poetry? (Fill in the blanks there it really could be anything...) Well? What to say?

    Say the next poem. More forcefully.

    Do it harder, firmer, louder, but keep your work on your terms. Don't respond to the critics. Unless what you're going to end up with is Art Objects. Or create your own dialog (and here and here).

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Feminist Boot Camp #6

    The strut. Very important. Even if you're not dancing you want to look like you got a whole lot of rhythm going on. This tends to unsettle the opponent slightly. Oh, yes, opponent, that one's covered in another segment. This is about age and the strut. Note Ms. Hynde is rocking toward 60. And note there is nothing particularly spectacular here, no sartorial excess, no over-the-top hip movement, simple, direct, powerful.

    or in out in out fly, baby

    or just do the hustle

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Airport Poetry

    I've learned not to bring poetry books along with me when I travel. Not only do I burn through them in the first hour of the flight, but I also find that planes and airports don't lend themselves to a slow, deliberate, and contemplative consideration of poetry. This doesn't mean, however, that there isn't something poetic or literary about the experience of travelling. There's the peaceful experience of turning back to see the rows of people of all ethnicities and ages dozing under the flickering lights of their televisions in the middle of the night on a transatlantic flight. However, catching a moment like this means that you aren't sleeping. On the way to Budapest, we went about 35 hours without sleeping. The whole thing takes on a Kafka-esque, theater of the absurd feeling. The moving sidewalks turn over on themselves endlessly, carrying no one, you stand in lines 3 people long for an hour and a half, and you run from gate to gate, repeatedly promised spots on planes that all leave without you. Once you find an airline employee capable of getting you to the correct country, the experience is much less alienating. Reading is suddenly brought into sharp focus - correctly reading and understanding a sign becomes a thrilling experience. It's also surreal to me, on my first visit the country where my father was born, to find that all the stuff that we do that seems unique to Hungarians in Canada is the norm here. You can buy pogàcsa in every grocery store, and everyone speaks Hungarian (not surprising, I know, but strange to finally experience). My favourite poety thing so far, though, has to be the Hungarian Scrabble game in the coffee shop where we had breakfast this morning.

    Helen Hajnoczky is currently writing to you from a country where people pronounce her name correctly. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.

    Narrow minded curr

    This doesn't happen any more though, right?

    Thanks to the Ninja, and to Harriet who both posted the above...

    Meanwhile in Cuba sisters got it going on.

    Watch through till the end. The woman in the yellow skirt rocks.

    Faceboook, Facist book

    I wish I could quit you, Facebook. Yes, that's right. I wish I could sever the ties. Completely. Except it's becoming increasingly difficult to do that. And the reason it's becoming increasingly difficult is that we've all been so good at migrating into your interface. Despite the fact that you are harvesting our data, and making it impossible to hide away from advertisers and that we have to be so diligent not to let every choice we make be broadcast to all of our friends and their friends...still, you aren't Myspace. Will you become as annoying as Myspace, with those roll over ads and links to porn sites that nab your cursor whether you want to go there or not? Time will tell.

    Okay, so I want off the Facebook band wagon but it's tough going. Why you ask? Have I no self-discipline? Yes, I do. But it's hard to quit. And not just in the sense that it's nearly impossible to delete your account, I mean in the sense of conducting basic daily stuff. For instance, the #1 reason I keep having to come back to Facebook is to contact folks that I only have contact with thru Facebook. That is, I don't have their email in my system. Increasingly Facebook has been corralling all of our personal information, our networks. All of those conversations via the Facebook messaging system? How do you think you're going to archive those. Not going to happen. So, fair warning: all your personal, direct messages via Facebook are gone if you decide to leave.

    The #2 reason? Now that we have all been so compliant about migrating our networks into Facebook we have to return to find out what's going on. Now many events are only sent out via fbook. And what's worse, or better, depending what side of the fence you are sitting, Facebook makes it so easy to migrate events to an online calender and for me, taking it to my hand held device for easy access. Not sure how I'll manage that now that everyone in the Poetry world is on Facebook....

    Those are just two of my are many more thanks to Nikki Reimer and courtesy of her Facebook account. Sigh. 

    Seriously. Send me your email if you want to stay in touch. I will continue to divest myself of Facebook. I want out of the evil empire. I will not be a good data miner in this way. In fact, I think one thing that a good citizen needs to be mindful of right now is in what way we are supporting online growth. We can't keep giving things away. We can't keep letting our infrastructures erode. In what way are we ensuring good economic and cultural developments at a local level with how we are clicking? With how we are spending our time online?

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    Poetry Online

    Excerpts from Expressway now available over at The Poetry Foundation website including one of my own samples of ekphrasis.

    Do you miss the old Harriet? There's quite a discussion regarding the "end" of blogging over at Don Share's blog.

    I couldn't make it to Terry Eagleton talk today at McGill (very sadly), but noticed that the new Harriet had posted a similar talk on the Death of Criticism...happily I can now watch it on my lap top.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Antipoetry Month, Language as Virus and Literature for Girls

    Kootenay School of Writing is in the midst of a little something we like to call "Antipoetry Month," otherwise known as a transformative spring and summer of poetic programming. We just finished a full weekend, with readings by poetic-fiction writer Hannah Calder (More House) and poet-critic Chris Nealon (Plummet); a talk by Nealon on materiality, capital and textuality, based on his soon-to-be-released The Matter of Capital: Poetry and Spectacle in the American Century, and another talk - on Mother's Day, no less - by the ubiquitous Christian Bök on his (generatively masculine?) Xenotext Experiment.

    This little poet's head is still reeling from all the ideas presented by our speakers, and by the ideas suggested in this Globe & Mail article on intelligent machines (incidentally, queries on the possibilities of machine-human interactions were foregrounded by poet Jason Christie in i-ROBOT, set to premiere as a play in Calgary some time in the future), so you'll have to forgive the lack of cogent analysis in this post.

    I count myself among the younger generation of skeptics, so I offer a guarded Happy Birthday to the Pill. (Now I know why keeps spamming my blog!) Though if you've got the time, a read through the comments section is oh so hilarious! Sample:
    All the estrogen in the environment from female urine, is converting male fish and amphibians to females... and accumulating in human tissue. Conclusion: The pill is turning our men into girly men. Thanks Feminism.
    I may not like it when Christian Bök refers, as he did yesterday, to science as the most important human cultural activity, but I'm unable to dispute the claim.

    Speaking of feminism, I wish that Joey Shithead were reading these stories aloud when I was a girl.

    Nikki Reimer is the author of [sic]. She lives in Vancouver.

    Friday, May 07, 2010


    Do not argue, do. That’s what I said and did. The shape of arguing isn’t interesting. Sentences flag. Attacking isn’t being. Attacking isn’t arguing either. Arguing is more appealing than attacking but being is better than both. Turning away isn’t interesting, but it can be blinding. When walking away it is best to walk with purpose. A way of walking that is thinking. Walking with purpose then is creating. The best response is being and doing and creating. Many consider simply being an attack. My being me is hostile because it isn’t what you thinks me should be. Me is elusive. So is I but I often doesn’t know I enough to know who I is and that I is some I apart from a larger force. Someone different being themselves is sometimes attacking without even doing. Is being attacking? Simply being without even doing? No one can argue with a body of work. They can not like the body but they can’t argue that it isn’t there.

    Actually apparently they can. Apparently they can argue that, even while tripping over them, entire physical things are not there. They can also argue that many things are at a given place. They can then use these ideas to attack, so you see, as with the atomic bomb, it isn’t interesting. I have seen wars and I can tell you they aren’t interesting to be in. Maybe they are interesting to plan and discuss from a far off room but within they are not at all pleasant. Arguing is an activity for its own sake nothing else.

    I have said elsewhere that sentences on their own are without emotion but interesting sentences deflate attack. So you see being is a kind of leaping because it is reaching. Sentences need air. One builds a paragraph like one builds a fire: a log, a log, a log, makes a place for air and a place for flames. Withholding creates gaps. But gaps need to be in proportion. Gaps too wide dampen. Gaps too narrow stifle. It is the same with being. Words are like logs. Words are like being. When a person argues what wins is the arguing. Arguing is like suddenly finding the world less convenient. Or space that is spiked. Space can be good, or it can be like a moat.

    People say I didn’t mention enough of life. But of what life? And whose idea of it? Being earnest isn’t more of anything. When one is being life one doesn’t worry about hitting other people’s notes. One doesn’t worry about other people reading one’s notes either. One simply is and by being and doing one makes space for difference. Small gaps aerate culture and new ideas grow.

    Now you may or may not appreciate that being and doing are not the same as complying and not arguing is not being truthful and being earnest is but I am here to say that being is more forceful than arguing and even better than saying is writing down, but not quite as good as thinking, which is after all the precursor to writing and difficult to say is not existing. I am me for me, not in response to you. I am not your idea of me reinforced in arguing. I am my idea of me in writing. Writing is what you and me are thinking. What is revealed is what you value. If you value being and doing it is useful because it makes a map for others. If you value and leave no trace you leave no map for others. Feeling full for it, that’s what to do. And do again with feeling.

    And that is how to be yourself and make a difference.
    I originally wrote this piece for Delirious Hem, in response to the Numbers Trouble Issue of the Chicago Review. I revised it for the fabulous Matrix New Feminisms issue. When asked to speak on the matter of contemporary feminism it's what I am inclined to say.

    Or, I could simply point people to this video:

    Wednesday, May 05, 2010

    Tell It Slant: Or Why Feminisms Should Not Be Blunt Instruments #7

    Currently I am a turtle, being washed ashore. I can hardly breathe.
    One of the disappearing Salmon trying to hide my tracks.
    Difficult in water.
    I do not want such risky energy developments.
    The new Feminisms are not the old, though the issues may be similar, even identical.
    There are reasons to be cloaked and uncloaked.
    There are moments to be direct and indirect.
    I do not want so much distance between consumer and product.
    Being counted is extremely important but in a society that is becoming dependent on ever sharper abilities to pool opinion and either a/ court it or b/ ignore it this feminist finds it a very important time to be an even more intense feminist even more intensely cloaked.
    I do not want to be an ineffectual orange boom trotted out uselessly as a front line defense against twenty foot waves and an unstoppable flow of raw energy.
    I don't care how well-funded the orange boom is.
    I will not be obvious for you.
    I will not react in a way you have anticipated.
    I will not go gently, or easily.
    I will not be compliant in the way you want.
    My imagination is not for conducting corporate research.
    Nor is my time best used compiling statistical data for your market research.
    I can't be outsourced.
    I do vote. I do agitate. I will continue to love fashion.
    I don't think design is only for the rich.
    My future includes rain forests and downtowns.
    I'm not the label you want to affix.
    I will, yes, continue to have fun.
    The minute you think you've figured me out I will transform.
    I am at your dinner table, thank you very much.
    I may even be you.

    Vanessa Place has been busy with her interventions. You can find quite a few of them over here.

    “Equal Rights for Men.”

    May 5th, 2010 by Vanessa Place § 0
    E Q U A L R I G H T S F O R M E N
    of New York
    In the House of Representatives, May 21, 1969
    Mr. CHISHOLM. Mr. Speaker, when a young man graduates from college and starts looking for a job, he is likely to have a frustrating and even demeaning experience ahead of him. If he walks into an office for an interview, the first question he will be asked is, “Do you type?”
    There is a calculated system of prejudice that lies unspoken behind that question. Why is it acceptable for men to be secretaries, librarians, and teachers, but totally unacceptable for them to be managers, administrators, doctors, lawyers, and Members of Congress.
    The unspoken assumption is that men are different. They do not have executive ability orderly minds, stability, leadership skills, and they are too emotional.
    It has been observed before, that society for a long time, discriminated against another minority, the blacks, on the same basis – that they were different and inferior. The happy little husband and the contented “old darkey” on the plantation were both produced by prejudice.
    As a black person, I am no stranger to race prejudice. But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a man than because I am black.
    Prejudice against blacks is becoming unacceptable although it will take years to eliminate it. But it is doomed because, slowly, white America is beginning to admit that it exists. Prejudice against men is still acceptable. There is very little understanding yet of the immorality involved in double pay scales and the classification of most of the better jobs as “for men only.”
    More than half of the population of the United States is male. But men occupy only 2 percent of the managerial positions. They have not even reached the level of tokenism yet. No men sit on the AFL-CIO council or Supreme Court. There have been only two men who have held Cabinet rank, and at present there are none. Only two men now hold ambassadorial rank in the diplomatic corps. In Congress, we are down to one Senator and 10 Representatives.
    Considering that there are about 3 1/2 million more men in the United States than men, this situation is outrageous.

    Tuesday, May 04, 2010

    Has the blogging moment passed?

    Well, Harriet has evolved that is to say, evolved and evolving. Is the blog moment over? Perhaps. There are few LitBlogs that make me want to revisit. There is perhaps, only so much of one poet one might want to know or hear from. I will miss the mix of poets posting over at Harriet. Oddly, I will miss the potential for discussion even if that didn't happen quite as often as one might want. Guess we're all just too sensitive? 

    Currently making the rounds on Facebook, and thanks to Danielle.
    Haven't read this strip in years...

    Tomorrow is the last day for prose poem submissions.

    How Poems Work

    I have a few more poem engagements coming up, but I'm opening the door once more. I would like to challenge poets to read a poem that they aren't comfortable reading. Grapple with a poem that they might not yet comprehend, or a poem that terrifies them in some way or another. I don't want to see perfectly polished readings of a poem--that you can find in Arc. They are doing a great job of filling that niche. What I invite here is a genuine grappling with a poem that for one reason or another attracts, but resists reading, or easy reading, or a poem that one feels torn about. Conceptualfiction (@ )

    Monday, May 03, 2010

    Tour Quotes, Real and Imagined

    Are you the right kind of poet? Do you write the right kind of poetry? Are you friends with the right poets? Can they advance your career? Have you signed with the right publisher? Are you being disingenuous? Where is the theory behind your work? Can you defend it? With footnotes?

    That’s a poem.

    No, that’s an anecdote.

    There’s a poem.

    No, that was a pithy observation.


    I’ve been on book tour all this past week and have been overwhelmed with excitements good and bad, highs and lows, ups and downs, lack of sleep, exciting words, lack of sleep and, um, lack of sleep. Granted, that’s not critical thought, that’s just “feelings.”

    I read that book; it wasn’t very good.

    My publisher had taken the perhaps unprecedented step of publishing 10 books of poetry together, and calling it "Dektet." Which led me to a tour event in two cities with 9 other poets, none of whom I'd previously met.

    Now write the "i got so wasted, and then...." narrative anecdotal subjectivist poem. Do it! (Then publish it under the name of one of your poetry enemies.)

    I’ve been humbled and encouraged by the diversity of voices and approaches that I encountered in the other writers. There truly are countless ways to live poetry.

    Thank you for introducing me to this “art” business; I was pleasantly surprised.

    I did remember that wine always makes me sick.

    I was feeling a bit nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight, but I was really impressed by all the poets.

    Sina recently posted “I hate the cuts too...but seriously...we can't sell 5,000 copies of a lit mag annually? What are we doing in the arts?” on Frackbook, in response to a Star article on the federal Publications Assistance Program/Canada Magazine Fund cuts. The party line in these parts (Metro Vancouver, West Coast of Canada), at least amidst the KSW/academic poetry crowd, as far as I understand it, is that “we” are largely uninterested in expanding/diversifying our audiences, in part because our poetry is inherently difficult and the expansion of our audiences could possibly cheapen the reading and discussion experience; also because the act of marketing our poetry is anathema to the poetry itself.

    Poets aren’t part of schools; they’re part of cliques.

    Several friends and relatives who were it not for me would never have been anywhere near a reading attended, and by all accounts, enjoyed the Dektet launch and the 10 diverse poets who read. Many bought books, and not just mine. They were intrigued, excited and inspired by the possibilities of language.

    This leads me to believe that we do in fact have an advertising problem.

    If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.

    So what are we doing in the arts? In poetry? In general? In words? In language?

    In the future, the girls are gonna be spiky.

    (Words stolen and modified from DM, TN, DC, KG, ED, KG.)

    Nikki Reimer is the author of [sic] (Frontenac House) and fist things first (Wrinkle Press Chapbook). She lives in Vancouver.

    Sunday, May 02, 2010

    Vancouver reading, April recap: Optimisms, McLennan, Swift, and more

    Thanks to all who came out for the reading at Emily Carr in Vancouver last week. Someone, I think Pauline Butling, brought up the book trailer for Expressway over dinner and I thought I would share it again here. Evan, the Coach House publicist, did a great job.

    The text he cut in over the course of the video is mostly from the final section of Expressway, which is a revision of Blake's Proverbs of Hell, but some lines are cut from the poems themselves as well. I wanted them all to be made into bumper stickers, but I had to choose one...

    The poems seem more relevant than ever this week. I read my google-sculpted poem, "Crash" for the first time and it felt good to do. I'll do it again. Relevant. Very relevant. It was great to try new things, and even a new reading from Lemon Hound, now a few years old. There are always new ways to read one's own work: new combinations, and I'll admit I read the poems themselves very differently. I leave out words, many words, and whole parts of the poem and occasionally I'll repeat lines, or circle around. It really depends on what I want from the reading...

    I have been feeling a little funky about Expressway, a bit shrill, forgetting that there is joy in dismantling, in retracting, and taking less...and rediscovering. Rita Wong sent along this link, a happy tale of uncovering and restoring a river in Soeul: well worth watching. And we need stories like that to be the daily news headlines....more like this...not washing off baby ducks and lamenting the death of clam beds because, what? It's better for capitalism that you drive your kid to dance class? That we live so far from work we have to drive?

    Dismantle. We have seen an unprecedented dismantling of all kinds of social services, educational organizations, ways of operating in the world, news organizations, manufacturing all gone to China, and yet we can't imagine dismantling oil based infrastructures? How crazy is that?


    I want to thank Margaret Christakos for the new site and for being one of the poets featured on the first issue. It's amazing, and this essay on Expressway by Jacqueline Larson is also amazing. Please take a look at NourbeSe M. Philip's Zong! if you haven't. There is also an essay on Zong! by yours truly, and you can hear NourbeSe read, and read student feedback on her work.


    As for the poet laureate thing, I am growing into my half-laureate status and would prefer to be addressed as "Your Halfness" henceforth. As promised I will offer an outline of my agenda which I doubt will look much different than my existing agenda, but I will nonetheless place it here for your perusal.

    Other April events? First of all, congrats to Rob McLennan who did an amazing job over at the G&M blog all April. He would have been a great choice for Poet Laureate, and in fact I was advocating for him before it seemed clear that I had more votes for some reason--then it was a matter of getting the Laureate on a Canadian. In any case, McLennan managed to get a lot of people up on the G&M book blog and that's hard to do. He has posted a master list on his blog, right here.

    The other excellent effort came from Jacob McArthur Mooney over at the Torontoist. His Optimisms Project ran all month and included newbies and some established poets as well. Here's that master list.


    The embattled Todd Swift, attempting to secure a place for himself in his adopted land across the pond, sketches out the Young British Poets over at The Best American Poetry blog. I would seriously not want to be a poet in that country:
    Charles Bernstein and John Ashbery are coterie poets here, read by few and feared by most who do read them – let alone Hart Crane or William Carlos Williams. Few American (or Canadian) poets are published in the UK. There is a sense of isolation, even xenophobia, in some poetry quarters – and why not? The popular Tory party wants to pull out of membership in Europe. This is a kingdom united, more often than not, in the idea of its superior difference.
    Or at least I would not want to be a poet that cared for an audience.


    Harriet was, to quote Emily Warn for the second time this week, a bit of a status update blog this month. Hard to follow. I did half the posts I wanted to, but it's been a busy and distracting month, so apologies to those half dozen interviewees in progress....they will arrive some time in the coming weeks. Meanwhile there are some 33 posts over at Harriet from me. Here's that master list.

    And in May? You'll hear about or from Suzanne Buffam, James Langer, Kate Durbin, H.L. Hix, Kevin McPherson Eckhoff, Jen Currin, Rae Armantrout, Anne Carson, Dorothea Lasky, and more.

    And thanks, thanks to Helen Hajnoczky and Nikki Reimer for ongoing excellence in posts, and to Ray and Alex for occasional posts. The new voices are smart and essential and point the way to a whole new generation of poets. You'll notice that Helen, Nikki and Ray all have new books this spring.

    Saturday, May 01, 2010

    Who's Afraid of Kathy Acker

    The world needs more "difficult" women

    thanks HTML Giant and also this cool blog.

    Take Action for the Center for Biological Diversity

    Seriously. Can we find out the true cost of these developments before going ahead?

    Take note all of you unemployed loggers in Northern British Columbia who are Jonesing for a pipeline through your pristine watershed...

    Can we stop lying about risk?

    Can we insist on sustainable employment that benefits locally as much as globally?

    I agree the north needs development. Absolutely. But think about it. Next fifty years? What do you want that corridor to look like? Pipes will burst. Anyone with a house, or simply a body, knows that...

    Can we insist on ethical and environmentally sound developments that benefit all?

    Poetry takes less, demands less environmental risk, urges sustainable development.

    Because some times the thing that makes a place great is what hasn't yet been done...

    Take Action for the Center for Biological Diversity

    And because it's never too late to do it right.

    You think you can't say no?

    Under Rich Earth Trailer from Marco Rafael on Vimeo.

    Think again.

    And yes, it does seem like the story Avatar was based on...

    A few words and poems: Mairead Byrne


    At sundown men in loose powder-blue overalls come in a white city truck and unfurl tarps stashed between the bars of the wrought-iron fence and nudge them up and out over the park occluding the darkening saturated sky, making a sky beneath the sky, a darker place through which they feel their way back, by smell, by touch, to the edge, where they hang briefly, more audible than visible, before zipping the park up for the night, piling into the truck and driving away.

    –Mairead Byrne

    Read the rest over at Harriet: A few words and poems: Mairead Byrne