Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I had something to say.

A big wind loped inside.

I could barely discern the curve of her tongue.

If I suggest to you the outline of something.

He asked to take the upper right portion, to move diagonally with a dragging left foot.

In the old days things were crisper.

Over time everything moves.

Glass ages, bevels, sags, furrows.

Blocking comes easy to some.

Elbows up. Chin to the east.

Two genres without shape, without direction, meet on a proscenium.

Two genres in an earthquake.

Two genres without paddles.

I am saying something directly to you.

If you hear something indirectly you might turn sideways.

(In the distance a large ear rolling)

Every line has several hooked beneath it.

Every line without bolts.

She ate her cues.

She spat her lines.

Someone from wardrobe came round but they were all with their heels in the air.

She thought, What would I give to be devoured?

The table came to with some difficulty.

In her ear sand.

In her fingers glass.

The audience hanging by strips of gauze.

--on TCR's special Poet's Theatre Issue with thanks.

Monday, June 28, 2010

poempark vs. ...a day at the park

Crows rest on the rollercoaster track at the PNE, vacant in the off-season (2009.)
The gates will be ever open and it will be kept as a beautiful park, such as will be greatly appreciated by the people, particularly those in the eastern side of the city.
- J.J. Miller, 1910
This year marks the centennial of Vancouver's Hastings Park, which struck me as a good time to re-read Oana Avasilichioaei's feria: a poempark, published in 2008 by Wolsak & Wynn.

Incidentally, I couldn't find my copy on my bookshelves and thought I'd gotten rid of it, but after I'd borrowed it again from VPL, there it was, peering at me from my Canadian poetry section, just where it should be. Since feria is a book about erasures and ruptures, I found my copy's disappearing act to be quite apropos.

The City of Vancouver is currently undertaking public consultations about their Master Plan towards the redevelopment of Hastings Park and the Pacific National Exhibition (known as the PNE.) The paper version of the master plan is marked by a kelly green footer with the text:
Hastings Park / PNE Master Plan ... a day at the park
on one side and
Hastings Park / PNE Master Plan ... a day at the fair
on the other.

If, as Avasilichioaei's feria suggests, "a park is constructed upon fractures of landscapes, histories, buildings and (the park) with its visitors, exists in continual response to such fractures," then might the City of Vancouver's plans enact a further fracture? The Hastings Park Conservancy group thinks so. They've created materials in response to this perceived "ungreening of Hastings Park." In fact, the current plans do seem to contradict the 1996 plans to re-green Hastings Park, which gave greater import to the restoration of the park's stream and to environmental concerns over recreational and commercial uses.
This, a slaughterhouse
built over a stream.
The stream blushing into Burrard Inlet. (17)
Of course no park is natural as much as it civilizes "a land into the worshipped other" (26). Hastings Park and feria stand as objects that are also long poems, continually writing and rewriting history into present. Avasilichioaei's lines repeat the iterations and attempted erasures on this landscape; she "render(s) the skin puckered" in this "park with no history," though the word skin calls to mind the bodies formerly of this land, the aboriginal peoples whose land was not ceded and the Japanese Canadians who were interned on this land before being shipped to internment camps (24). And the park ruptures past back into present:
Each year the bones work themselves
closer to the surface, threaten/to break through (25).
Hastings Park is "a void bordered" (10), "a slaughterhouse built in haste" (16), "a piece of forest/with a small stream" (16).
Of course, as usual in these sort of circumstances,
the smell is a problem (19).
City of Vancouver:
Traffic calming and landscaping to create mini park gateways from the neighbourhood into the park.
on exhibition/crowds of throbbing humanity pour/along the 'skid road', the future/removed from the first/condition of things" (32).

City of Vancouver:
A new urban heart of the park featuring: comfortable seating, public art, high-quality paving and lighting where on [sic] can grab a coffee, access Wi-Fi, read a book, chat with friends, or play in the water fountain.

feria / lonesome
needs spectators
storms inhabit this word (43)
City of Vancouver:
The Master Plan proposes to add more park space in many different forms, especially within the southern portion of the site. Please indicate your level of support for each new park space described below.
industrial exhibitor/can be summed up in a /few words/:/space/space/space/space every year/from the very first, we think/we say all that is necessary." (35)
City of Vancouver:
Momiji Gardens, located on the south side of the Garden Auditorium building, along East Hastings Street, were completed in 1993. The Momiji Commemorative Garden serves as a reminder of the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. The garden’s location is significant because it was in the P.N.E. buildings where the internees were temporarily housed before being assigned to various camps around the province.
a bonsai
here is a garden of violence (69).
City of Vancouver:
Double-decker barns with approximately 300 stalls to replace existing barns.
(No horsing around beyond this point) (67)

Vancouver residents have until June 30 to have their say and fill out the online questionnaire in response to the City of Vancouver's plans. (Current public consultation materials are available as .pdfs on that page).

Nikki Reimer lives and writes in East Vancouver, stumbling distance from Hastings Park / PNE. She likes to watch the ducks at the Hastings Park Sanctuary. [sic] was published by Frontenac House in 2010, and has nothing to do with parks.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Really. I have no idea what to say about this. The whole Blackbloc thing was very disturbing  yesterday. Then today the scenes in Toronto are terrifying in another way. Makes me think there is something very askew about the possibility of protest, about feeling heard, and as we know, but don't seem able to do anything about...the direction Mr. Harper is steering this country.

Raw footage here.

Twitter feed ongoing.

Images of police over-reacting.  Still find it very, very curious that police officers seem to have abandoned cruisers in the middle of the street. Seriously, were those calculated in the cost of the event because it seems rather staged to have done such a thing...

Why all this energy on the fence, on keeping people out, and no thought of a way to have a feed from the protesters to the participants...would it not have made sense to have some kind of way to offer up what protesters wanted to say to world leaders? Would that have been so terrible?

Very depressing.

This just makes a muck of things.

The cost in Canadian currency is $930 million, a figure newspapers and angry politicians have rounded up to a billion. While that figure may be closer to the truth once the final bill is reckoned, it has also encouraged use of the alliterative aspersion “billion-dollar boondoggle.”

By far the largest chunks are for personnel. The security force for the two meetings includes 20,000 soldiers, intelligence agents and police officers drawn from across Canada, a draft of about 13 percent of all available police officers and troops in the country.

The Public Safety Department has budgeted $438 million for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Another $285 million was designated to reimburse local and provincial police departments for the officers borrowed by the federal government. The military gets $72 million.
And this much money allowed for a handful of folks to burn four police cruisers and arrest upwards of 500 individuals...

You just can't get anything for a billion dollars anymore...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thinking of appropriation?

Rob Fitterman's "Failure," yet another failed conceptual poem by one of the great conceptual poets of our time. 

You can't take it with you... at least not without a U-Haul

For the first time since I was four years old, I’m moving. I’ll be starting school in September in a city on the other side of the country, which means that instead of shoving unused items into the nether regions of our basement, I actually have to go through my stuff and decide what to pack up and ship, and what to get rid of. While I can part with skirts that haven’t fit in years, or a bouquet of dried roses from some forgotten occasion, I am dreading the prospect of trimming my bookshelf. From history textbooks to photography manuals, poetry books to dictionaries, the letters of T.S. Eliot to travel guides, I want to keep them all.

So why this covetous relationship with books? I’m pretty sure I can find a copy of the complete works of John Milton at a library in Montreal, and considering I’ve never once read through the library discard, why do I want to keep it so much? I think it’s hard to overemphasize the relationship we develop with books. While I may not read The Inheritance of Loss or A Humument on a regular basis, it’s comforting to see them there on the shelf. Each title reminds me of a different experience—either the class where I read the text, the person who gave me the book, or the effect the contents of the book had on my life. They stand in a row almost like a series of family snapshots, each a reminder of an important moment in my life.

I am certainly not the first person to fetishize my book collection. The World of the Book by Des Cowley and Clare Williamson is a well researched and fantastically well designed chronicle of our long and varied obsession with books. The World of the Book is arranged thematically, covering everything from illuminated manuscripts to comic books, addressing everything from the relationship of books and imagination to modernist experimentation. Every page of the book is decorated with vivid, striking images of the texts being discussed. In this way, The World of the Book gives a spectacular tour of the world’s library, letting you paw at a first edition of Ulysses, and then flip through a collection of books from 17th century Japan. The World of the Book is equally well written, with summaries of historical eras and events that are interesting and full of surprises, even if you are familiar with the era or subject being discussed. While I am still only half way through the 247 page volume, I am looking forward to reading this one through to the other cover. This is a problem since the book is on loan from the university library, so if I don’t finish it before I move, I may have to buy a copy and cart it along with all the other books on my shelf. If there’s anything The World of the Book has taught me, it’s that that’s okay.

Helen Hajnoczky overpacks. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Woman content living in 84-sq. ft. dream home

Unfortunately you have to watch a wee commercial first...but then you get to 84 sq. ft of heaven. I'm thinking 200 sq ft would do for me, and suddenly I feel a bit piggish...oh yes, this is definitely a west coast thing. Not imaginable in Quebec. Though an urban version, say a Toronto version, might work, no? And I'll take mine in a bit more of a minimalist fashion thanks. No quilts please.

Here's another one:

Quote of the week

Much to like in this interview by Jacob Mooney with a new poet, Jeff Latosik. The word "again" in the title as in "I want to make things difficult again," makes me think this young poet isn't reading poetry...or is engaging in that hot-new-boy-poet move of setting up all the straw men his book will purportedly knock over. Not a practice I understand, or admire. But still, a good interview and the poems have real energy. That I do admire. Here's a snippet for you:
Poems are not Swiffers or Gatorade or Harlequin Romances because they are not emptied. So buying a poetry collection means participating in a wider sense of value.
Yes it is. Well said.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This aint a plea

It's more an order. It's something concrete that we can do. Don't send money to clean the Gulf. Let oil money clean the Gulf. Let the dividends the company wants to pay out clean the Gulf:
Hey ya’ll, the Gulf Coast still really needs our help. Text ‘COAST’ to 50555 to donate $10 to helping the oil spill.  @theellenshow
about 9 hours ago via web
I can't even believe people are asking for donations to clean that bloody oil, but I digress.... There is a link to a paypal site and the donation process is easy to help keep This Ain't afloat and that would be a good thing. They do good work. We need them. Send them some money. Order a book.

The larger question is how can we assure book stores exist in our world? How can we assure they remain viable? I wanted to make some glib comment about the relationship of car travel to diminishing book sales, even neighbourhoods, but that would be glib. I wish there were a way in which book stores could get some kind of status that allowed them to operate outside of taxes, for example. Or, in a mixed use model where we set aside a certain percentage of retail space as fulfilling a cultural purpose (well aren't they?) and offered reduced rent...sorry, but when I hear the kinds of rent these book stores are paying I shake my head. It. Does. Not. Compute.

And we need to stop this deep discount pricing bull shit with Amazon and so on. Sorry all who take advantage but as Marilyn Hacker points out, in France discounting of books is illegal so there are book stores, physical book stores that thrive. How many books they sell, I don't know. But what I want to know is why are these huge companies allowed to basically steal small businesses and wipe out competition? How is that fair?

And why are books taxed? Why on earth are books taxed? Why can't we give book sellers special status. Seriously. Give them a break. You give Amazon breaks...what would you rather have, a big empty building in some suburb sending out books or a hundred small, viable, businesses?

And here's an order for you, This Ain't: get your online business going. Many writers are out in the nether-lands unable to get into Indie book stores and Amazon has their business. Why can't you take a cut of that?

And Canada Post? Give us a bloody book rate. Can we send a book without it costing more than the book?

Perhaps not this, but close

Every movement creates energy. For more on the Human Car.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Scrapbook of my Life as a Flaneur: Poetics & Anxiety

At the KSW Negotiating the Social Bond of Poetics (NSBP) seminar led by Nicole Markotic (poet/critic/novelist, whose latest book is Scrapbook of My Years as a Zealot)

(my notes taken during Nancy Gillespie's recap of previous seminars)

-We are entangled in the affect of neoliberalism / the society that demands complete enjoyment
-Fear of not getting on the property ladder (Jeff Derksen, NSBP seminar)

-Fear of pretty houses and their porches/Fear of biological wristwatches/Fear of comparison shopping/Dogs on leashes behind fences barking/Pretty little couches and floral pillows (Metric, "Patriarch on a Vespa")

-At the end of analysis, the Lack of the Other is addressed / realized.

(my notes taken during Nicole Markotic's talk on Freud/Lacan/Disability Studies/Prose & Poetry)

-The implication (in narrative/narrative cinema) that disability is an abject position

-Binary construction of abled body vs. disabled body

-Poetry as possibly rejecting the notion of a complete subject

-Can we think of hysteria as a social bond, as a confrontation to the Other?

-The patient constructs & reconstructs herself

-The hysteric's relationship to desire

-The fragmented body // the mirror stage

To explicate fragmentation in poetry, Markotic refers to a prose poem from Lisa Robertson's The Weather
The rain has loosened; we engage our imagination. The sentence opens inexpensively; we imagine its silence. The shrubs and fences begin to darken; we are deformed by everything. Therefore we're mystic. The sky is closing in; we mediate an affect. The sky is curved downward; we desituate memory. The sky is dominant; we lop off the image. We come upon our thought. The sky is lusty; so are we.
and a poem from my chapbook fist things first, and asks me if my fragmented incomplete subject poetic voice in the piece is the hysteric, or is it the truth that no one else recognizes?

And I answer Yes.

A joke, an evasion, a verbal tuck-and-roll to expose the tummy and demonstrate friendly submission, as is my habit. But also perhaps the truth that cannot be spoken, which is nothing if not poetry.

I'm Depressed, You're Hysteric

We discuss the fad of self-diagnosis (self-fragmentation?) Donato Mancini mentions the current fetishization of certain super- or supra-natural "mental disabilities" such as Asperger's or OCD, which suggests that the ideal or the new normal is now the super average. (i.e., "I have a disability, but it makes me extra smart!" or "I have a disability but it writes my poetry!" and also "I'm an asshole at parties because of my disability!")

And I, ever the Populist Flaneur, remembered reading Leah McLaren in the Globe and Mail that morning, getting it right for once on chemical imbalances by suggesting that "the disease was invented to justify the cure." But not speaking, not wanting to reveal my vulgar interpretations of theories I've only heard about or be seen quoting from the Globe instead of Althusser, or whoever I should be reading now.

Twitt, Twitt, Twitt, Twitt

That is, being intellectual, but not "an intellectual." On the poetry that never went to grad school. That my recent, glib online comment

(Nikki Reimer) has thoughts and opinions, she just can't back them up by citing any Known & Important Theorists

was liked or retweeted by several poet friends. C.L. suggested: "Play-invent a theorist. Throw a multisyllabic last name into the conversation, and people will nod, too afraid to admit they've never heard of Elsanov or Tattakana."

Wait, do we all feel this way? Then why the fuck do we all perpetuate it? Me, who's never read Zizek, but who may start citing Zelichosky (the name of my great-great-grandfather) when I need to express my own opinion, who wants to participate in conversations about poetry but who needs to keep one foot in the populist world because I need to know enough middlebrow-culture to be relatable when I'm out in the workforce. Or maybe that's a lie I tell myself. Maybe I prefer the middlebrow, am comfortable in the middlebrow, don't challenge myself enough to reach the highbrow, to digest the important or the difficult.

Choose Your Poison Carefully

That the choice between the Online Social Media World of Liking & Reposting and the High Theoretical Academic World of Ready-Made Opinions and conversations that require works-cited addendums is in fact no choice at all. I'm ever the flaneur, ever mixing poetry with theory with journalism with pop music, ever searching for a non-ex(is)tant third way to live. Always one foot in the colloquial mouth of the horse.

Ooops, I (read the Globe and Mail) Again

It was a John Barber article on books & e-readers. Barber quoted Kate Pullinger,

e-book pioneer and Book Summit speaker, (who) wishes more writers would make an effort to find out what today's horseless carriage really wants to be.

"Writers need to be really seriously engaging with the new ways to tell stories that these technologies potentially allow us,” she says.

On her own account, Pullinger is experimenting with hybrid forms that use images, videos, text, music and sound to tell a story. “It's a very different experience from reading a novel,” she says. “But I think there's room for this kind of form within the realm of literature.”

Me, one in the morning, hysterical that I have to figure out The New Way to Write. That my poems need pictures video flashing lights and hyperlinks. My partner, ever-patient, ever-suffering, "Writing is composition with words. Anything else isn't writing." He at 35 says he's too old to learn new media composition. Me at 30 on the cusp between Gens X & Y, not sure about that, not sure I don't need to immerse myself in new technologies to keep from being left behind. Hysteric, hysteric.

At the end of the blog post, the I was still the lack and remained othered to itself. The I was fragmented, disabled by its subjectivity. The I was hysteric, ran a red and end(ed) up/crushed under the wheel.


Nikki Reimer wrote a book called [sic]. She freaks out about stuff in Vancouver.

Poetics of Anxiety

No wonder poetry is so tense. It never gets sleep. Can't roll over for fear of squashing its dreams. Turn right it steps on its own toes. Turn in circles to avoid the Academy. Ah, the snowy path. Ah, the tidy couplet. Oh, the project, the project! If you can't describe it, you ain't a poet.
“I would argue that a poet who has a project that he can lucidly discuss is a pretty boring poet, at best. I would argue that a poet with a project might not be a poet at all. Or at least a baby poet, not a great one…. I would argue that a poet who says he has a project probably has no sense of the idea of habitus and its intersection with the act of creation. Yeah. I think the term “project” has nothing to do with poetry.”
I send you back to the combined source for this. Ms. Place on Fitterman via Lasky over at Constant Critic.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

En la calle San Sebastian : Poetry Everywhere : Video : The Poetry Foundation

Martin Espada read the other night at Concordia. One got the feeling he had read those poems many times, many locations, until they were perfect performances. And it was good. It worked. A pleasure to hear.

Liz Bachinsky also tore up the stage. Love a poet who plays to the crowd by not playing to the crowd.

Jason Camlot and Dave McGimpsey also read very well. A great, diverse night. One wonders though, why so few Montrealers are showing up for these amazing readings organized by Summer Literary Seminars?? More readings next week. Check the schedule.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Describe the worst poem you have ever read?

Um, it involved testicles and moon babies and a total desire to be lumpen and woolly in front of your momma...or something like that...or why art can sometimes be more frightening than poetry.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ye Olde Couch Potato

Most people don’t get super excited at the mention of Medieval English literature. I am among the few people who do, however, and in an effort to proselytize a bit, here are a few fun things that make Middle English Lit a bit more accessible and entertaining. The main ingredient? Television. While using TV to entice audiences to care about medieval literature is, perhaps, a little shameless, medieval lit actually translates quite well to the screen (when in the hands of a good adapter). As for tracking down the two television shows mentioned, some episodes are available on YouTube, some from the public library, and some through sneaky internet means which I, of course, know nothing about.

The first show is the Canterbury Tales series from BBC. This series presents six stories from the Canterbury Tales, each rewritten in a contemporary setting. Popular tales, such as The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and The Knight’s Tale, are included, as well as some of the less frequently studied stories, such as The Sea Captain’s Tale and The Man of Law’s Tale. Each tale is adapted by a different director, giving each episode a very different feel and atmosphere. The two most daring and successful reinterpretations are The Knight’s Tale and The Pardoner’s Tale. In the original Canterbury Tales, The Knight’s Tale is one of the least interesting, sticking to a medieval romance form, and with little of Chaucer’s bawdy humour. In the BBC series, however, the tale’s two imprisoned knights are replaced with prison inmates, and the princess whom they both love and fight over is replaced with the prison’s literacy instructor. Rather than a stiff and dull romance, this tale is transformed into a moving piece about friendship, love, jealousy, and redemption in the contemporary world. The Pardoner’s Tale, on the other hand, recasts the greedy clan of buffoons on their way to kill Death with three disturbed and violent thieves and rapists. The ring leader, the most despicable of the three, crosses the moral line of even his band of criminals, setting in motion a chain of events that leads to the downfall of all three characters. Because Chaucer’s original allegorical tale casts Death as a main, yet absent, character, and because the wild goose chase to find Death would be particularly unbelievable to a contemporary audience, this tale presents significant problems when it comes to adapting the story to a contemporary setting. For this reason, the re-telling of The Pardoner’s Tale is the most impressive, while also the saddest and most disturbing.

The second show is Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives. Most people are familiar with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but may not know that one of the sources of the movie’s indisputable awesomeness was co-director Terry Jones’ background as a medievalist. In Medieval Lives, Jones combines his wit and knowledge of the medieval period to produce an engaging and funny look at medieval history, including frequent references to medieval texts. The episodes each focus on a well-known and stereotyped type of medieval person, such as king, minstrel, knight, or damsel, and then proceed to dismantle the stereotype to reveal a more accurate image of each medieval life. The episode about the medieval damsel is one of the best installments, with its nods to the Paston women’s letters, and its neat summary of The Book of Margery Kempe. The episode about kings is also entertaining, with Jones retelling the stories of three King Richards.

In addition to these two shows, BBC also has frequent specials about subjects such as manuscript illuminations or old maps, and the library (in Calgary, at least) has a wealth of other shows and movies about the period. While it may seem a little frivolous to pursue an education in medieval literature by sitting in front of the TV, I think the medium is actually quite fitting. Story tellers, visual representations in texts, and reading out loud to a group were all much more popular in the middle ages, so reproducing early texts and histories for television is actually quite appropriate. So, grab a bottle of mead, pull up a chair, and start watching.

Helen Hajnoczky is actually really interested in Margery Kempe, but promises not to talk about it all the time. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.

Amory Lovins is still talking

and still making sense. rethink oil. rethink our relationship to oil. our relationship to space. to mobility.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Michael Nardone: Transcribing poetic dialogues

Greetings from Blachford Lake, up near the east arm of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories.

Via the satellites, I've been working under the direction of Al Filreis at the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania, transcribing some recent and classic dialogues on poetry and poetics that will eventually be published in Jacket magazine once the journal takes up its new residence in Philadelphia.  Occasionally, I hope to post on Lemon Hound a few excerpts from discussions I'm working on, and wanted to start with these selections from a conversation with Christian Bök featuring Charles Bernstein and students from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Here is a link to the PennSound audio file of the discussion. This discussion, a reading, and other Bök recordings can be found on his PennSound author page.
--Michael Nardone

Bök on constraint-based work and meaning:
 If what you’re suggesting is that I’ve demonstrated that it’s possible for a person to be an avant-garde poet and actually mean something, right, when indulging in this kind of formalism, I could say yes, but what seems to me true about any combination of words, you know, according to any series of formal rationales, is that what we call meaning is really, in a certain sense, a side-effect of a particular kind of activity.  That no matter what combination of words I might use, no matter how they are arranged, disposed, no matter what kind of formal, formalities brought to bear upon them, you’re going to find some sort of way to make them, those associations mean something to you.  It seems to me that meaning is always the side effect of that activity.
T.S. Eliot used to say that meaning was the meat the burglar throws to the dog. That you had to put some meaning in the poem so that, you know, something else could take place, right.  You had to satisfy those readers who are begging for some sort of rationale, some sort of purpose for this activity, which, in many respects though, is done for its own sake, you know, as a kind of hedonistic enjoyment of language, language free from the need to mean.  It takes a little holiday.  For me, that’s what’s going on in [Eunoia]: language has taken a little holiday from the dictionary.  I’ve merely shown some incipient or possible combinations and permutations of the words that are actually imminent within the dictionary, within the language itself, but have been somewhat occluded or eclipsed by other activities in language.
Bök on his working conditions while composing Eunoia:
While I was working on Eunoia, I was a PhD student at York University.  I was working sixty hours a week.  Forty at a retail book store, a giant monopoly, and spent the other twenty hours tutoring students in chemistry and algebra for fifty dollars an hour to make up for shortfalls in my income.  Then I would go home and I’d work for a few hours on my dissertation.  I was trying to complete my graduate work at the time.  And then once that work had been completed, usually around ten or eleven o’clock at night, I would proceed to work from about eleven o’clock until four or five in the morning on Eunoia, and then probably get up two or three hours later to go to work.
So, for about four or five years at least, quite sleepless, a real insomniac, I would crash on the weekends.  I was unpleasant.  [...]  And I couldn’t get money to support this project.  It was impossible to get a grant.  In the seven years I worked on it, I couldn’t seem to get funding for it.
Bök on the ideological and historical conditions of being a Canadian poet:
Canadian poetry, in effect, defines itself against the kind of colonial experience of being at first a colony of Britain, and now an economic colony of the United States.  There’s a great deal of, at least historically, a great deal of xenophobia around poets who are influenced by international practitioners of writing.  So, certainly, for the last thirty or forty years, the main concern has been to produce a kind of home-grown poetic experience that would be a lyric expression of the innate essentiality of Canadianness.  You know, what does it mean to be a Canadian?  What exactly is a Canadian?
I find that pretty tiresome because it always comes up with the same set of clichés and hackneyed sentiments.
As a consequence, the literary history in Canada is very conservative and doesn’t have a very rich avant-garde tradition.  Despite the fact that the country has been around as long as the avant-garde itself, it doesn’t have a long or deep experimental writing history.  So, in a certain sense, it’s very difficult, I think, to be a poet under those circumstances, especially if you are doing something unorthodox.  At the same time, however, at least until recently, socialist democracy meant that there was actually money available to support artistic endeavor and creative activity in a way that may not be the case now in the United States.  But that’s, of course, changing.  We have an increasingly conservative political agenda in our country, which is threatening many of these institutions, cultural institutions, which were created, in effect, to try and protect Canada from the cultural incursions from the United States.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Big Rethink (or several small rethinks)

As tonic to my El Negativsmo post of last week, I find it necessary to state that I believe it is important to resist complacency and seek out those who are attempting to creat change, however small. One such person is poet and Stain of Poetry co-curator Amy King, who was interviewed on HuffPo last week, in an article titled "The Poetry Feminaissance." Her take on the changes to publishing in our time is refreshing:
How people read & how they publish is a wholly new Borgesian beast in the 21st century, and I think this is cause to celebrate.

A few from the old guard characterize this growing multiplicity as "chaotic" and the "watering down" of poesy, as though mediocre poems never fell from industry presses, as though we might breach a mythological stalwart horizon and create too much. Really though, they fear losing the power to dictate the canonical and omit the peripheral, a fear that opposes asking exactly how we determine value and engage with texts, now that literature is opening to more democratic vistas reflective of our ever-changing population. That power speaks mountains about sustaining status-quo-think and keeping specific people "in their places."
Speaking of water, and breaching, and resisting the neo-liberal status quo, King is also editing, with Heidi Lynn Staples, the Poets for Living Waters project, an online poetic and political response to the BP oil spill.

The call for submission is as follows:
Poets for Living Waters is a poetry action in response to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico begun on April 20, 2010, one of the most profound human-made ecological catastrophes in history.

The first law of ecology states that everything is connected to everything else. An appreciation of this systemic connectivity suggests a wide range of poetry will offer a meaningful response to the current crisis, including work that harkens back to Hurricane Katrina and the ongoing regional effects.

Please submit 1-3 poems, a short bio, and credits for any previously published submissions to: poetsforlivingwaters@yahoo.com
This reminds me of Rita Wong's Downstream: A Poetics of Water project, a research-creation-interrelationship project undertaken well in advance of our current crisis. Wong also has a wonderful resource page, for "people who want to think through water issues." Right now, that should be most of us.

Nikki Reimer has been bankrolled by Big Oil since 1980, but she is trying to think of small ways to make a difference.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Brief update

Unleashed gets some love. And over at Lambda both Expressway and Unleashed get a little action. Thanks to the reviewers.

Back in Montreal after a whirlwind trip to Toronto--sorry to those I said I would visit and didn't. Did manage to get my locks shorn, and did manage the LCP reading at Bar Italia last night--though I didn't stay for the final readers, mea culpa.

Panel yesterday with Jenny Sampirisi and Lola Tostevin was great, I thought, followed by good questions that could have gone on if we had more time. Tostevin is preparing a new book that I'm very much looking forward to, as is Sampirisi. Croak is going to rock. No doubt about it. Someone best snap it up. You can find an excerpt of Croak over at The Puritan. Seriously. Thanks for a great panel you two.

One of the questions asked after the panel on Saturday was how far can a poet go, or let go, or let be, as I was describing, a bit unruly, before the poem is considered too obscure, too difficult. I also assumed that in this question, which I am paraphrasing here since I don't recall with absolute certainty how it was originally phrased, that the person asking was also interested in the question of how much effort need a reader make before concluding the poem is not for him or her, or less generously, that it's crap and not worth the effort, and so on.

I've spoken about this in several interviews so I won't go on too much here, but I think it's an important question. To me, the work of Erin Moure, Lisa Robertson, Jorie Graham, Rae Armantrout, Lynn Hejinian all now feels quite familiar, but in each case there was a long period of unease as I situated myself in it...the same unease I felt when I discovered Beckett as an undergraduate, or Woolf, or Stein... The same unease when I began to read Shakespeare, or Freud, or Judy Butler, or Georgio Agamben.

For me difficulty is usually about unfamiliarity. There are relatively few poets that I engage with that I regret the time spent. If I do, I tend to get testy, as we all do, but it's not that often. To me, there are many poets and writers that I'm simply not interested in, or don't have or don't want to make the time for. It isn't that it might not be worth it. It's that life is short and there are many, many books. I didn't mind carrying Lisa Robertson around for a year as I learned to read her. There are others I do mind and am not inclined to put in the work needed to truly *get* their project.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Bye-Bye Bookstores

As I’ve gushed before, Budapest is full of great bookstores. Calgary is not. There are a few really good bookstores holding out, like the ever popular Pages, but the variety and mix of bookshops that I remember from the Calgary of my childhood has now been replaced with one monolithic big-box chain. Little shops went first (Sandpiper Books was my personal childhood favourite), and then medium sized stores like McNally Robinson began to close their doors. A Winners now stands ironically where McNally used to be.

There are many problems that come with the homogenous rule of Chindigo. A family trip to the bookstore today found one person griping about the craft section being faddish and geared towards an unskilled and general audience, another complaining about the unavailability of "The Writings of David Thompson," which they believe to be indispensable to a knowledge of Canadian history, and me debating ordering a book through the company’s website instead of just buying the copy I had in my hand, since the online price is about $20 cheaper for the sake of competing with Amazon. Trips to Chindigo almost always result in these kinds of annoyances and disappointments—despite the enormous size of the stores, they never seem to have anything. Worst of all, slowly but surely, we are losing the ability to choose to go elsewhere.

One of the many drawbacks of Chindigo’s dominance only became apparent to me after poking through the bookstores of Budapest. Because I only read Hungarian at about a sixth-grade level, and because what I know of Hungarian literature I have pieced together from random, broad, and flailing Internet searches, I often didn’t know what I was looking for when I arrived at a bookshop. Despite my vague ideas of what I was searching for, I left all the bookstores we visited satisfied, and with a bag full of books. The wide variety of small privately owned stores in the city not only meant that there was a wider choice of books available, but that the people working in these stores actually knew their holdings, and were adept at helping you find a book you didn’t even know you were looking for.

photo source

At the spectacular Irok Boltja, the clerk helped me choose some books that were appropriate for my reading level that she thought would also give me a sense of what literature most Hungarian students would have to be familiar with. Additionally, the bookstore carried books of Hungarian visual poetry, books of fairytales told exclusively through illustrations with no text, and a series of little books focusing on odd little subjects, such as peepholes or pen nibs.

Our visit to a used bookstore was similarly awesome. The bookseller was able to find the exact poem by Radnoti Miklos I was looking for, digging the book out from behind two layers of tomes, based on my vague description, “The poem they found in his pocket.” I also got a bunch of itty-bitty books, on everything from the history of the printing press in Hungary to the 60th anniversary of communism in Hungary, all of which were sitting temptingly by the cash register.

The great thing about these little bookstores was not just that they each carried interesting and unique books, but also that the employees were knowledgeable about what they were selling. The staff has shaped the store’s selection, and is there to help you navigate it. More than punching a time clock for a big company, the people working in these little bookshops have at least a minimal expertise in the genre or subject of the texts they are selling, and can take an active role in helping readers find material. Here in Calgary, we’ve relegated this role to the inaccessible and distant people who choose what Chindigo carries. This is not only bad because it limits our browsing to the things that company thinks will sell, but also because we are losing access to knowledgeable booksellers who can give customers access to a world of books beyond that set out by one big company. Do we really want just one company choosing what books we can buy? The issues that small bookstores in Canada face are large and complex—I don’t pretend to know all the facets of these issues, and I certainly don’t presume to suggest a solution. All I can say is that I miss browsing though our little bookstores, and that with their disappearance, we are losing something important.

Helen Hajnoczky holds a 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.

Jakub Stachurski: Almost Random: A Reading of Phil Hall’s White Porcupine

Phil Hall’s lyricism in White Porcupine establishes and shares with the reader an individual ideologue, a semantic and syntactical coll[i][u]sion of poetic structure and tenuous diction exhibiting the immediacy of an impulse which propels the work. Much incongruity is painted into the white space of this long poem (silence, which says as much and as little as Hello) the writing on occasion spiraling, splitting at the level of sentence and of sense, falling away from linearity into the fictive aside native to all recollection, the wink of the unconscious in the skewed detail recalled of some evening, sliding away from what could have been prescribed or sewn. Not tangential for this is essential, though the appearance, of what could be termed a sporadic diversion in the stream, a departure of tense, what only appears as digression, what in Indian literature would be termed “upside down language,” (see The Tenth Rasa: An Anthology of Indian Nonsense) nonsensical in its attempt to gain sense, keeping the poems cognitively accountable—the poem as thought unit (sans unity). A naturalized disruption of a cognitive chain as opposed to a single uninterrupted continuum of thought, Woolf’s modernist dictum that “the mind receives a myriad impressions--trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently— ”In Hall’s suite of poems the accent falls on a hermetic urban and rural Canadian experience,  on recollecting childhood hardships and then occasionally the accent falls onto the white porcupine, creature mythopoesis, a snowy scene and a mind that conjures a street  decades or minutes removed when there is certainly the accent of something trivial in the recollection.
    My father and I are driving at night into a great white porcupine that would be just deep weather if we went any slower
    speed changes a storm to quills that are broken passing lines in sharp bouquet
    we’d say we want to pull over & stop & get out & go our separate ways
    because we hate each other – but really we love the porcupine more

There is logic, similitude, and theme as much as there is misjudged distance, isolation, and uncertainty. (There is fantasy as an appendage of isolation and uncertainty.) There are the blurred squiggly lines of sometimes farsighted and sometimes nearsighted and occasionally clear glimpses. There is the trivial overheard misquote.

Within the domestic tableau, a purported semantic uniformity of the quotidian archive, an attitude of lyrical certainty, particularly one set in the past tense is, at best, illusory, and sometimes a pretense of capitalist and conservative values, an allegiance to the fallacy of nuclear family mores and antithetical to the attempt, since Modernism, for accountability for the richness of the folly of our thinking—which is really the commonplace, the way it’s always been done, with mistakes.

In recalling a domestic scene, an offhanded comment made by a parent elicits a small laugh which leads to a nursery rhyme of substance abuse to another room where a birthday party is taking place but years ago a collar bone was fractured with the smell of pizza. Discontinuity of the  quotidian.  Discontinuity is character and the flaws that precede it, and our inability to really tell of, and to tell.

     the forged nail through the bare foot of a rubber boot
     or the log homestead that turns into a pig pen?

Hall writes verse that is clear, incisive and compressed when need be, but knows when to use the soft focus, the anti-flourish, the head-scratching palette cleanser, the insightful aside. There is humility and courage in not always being overtly articulate, or risking something in making it new. Description, narrative, the distance between subject and object, embodiment and synesthesia, geographical grounding, are contracts between the author and the reader, often more generative when the terms are carefully broken and toyed with, much like the metrical contract set out at the beginning of a metered poem. Hall maintains narrative authority while playfully and thoughtfully pulling the reader aside, changing course, making rhymes, undoing a small stitch, tearing the tapestry of a song of often hoarse, sometimes trivial humming. Melodious with unstrung guitar, muddled by white noise, whispering small truths.

Jakub Stachurski has lived in a city, as well as in a town. His poetry has been published, rest assured, but not that often. He has a degree in biology from the Discovery channel.

What's it like to swim in oil?

You can see video of this dive here.
AP journalist dives into Gulf, can only see oil
2 hours, 46 minutes ago

By Rich Matthews, The Associated Press
Some 40 miles (65 miles) out into the Gulf Of Mexico, I jump off the boat into the thickest patch of red oil I've ever seen. I open my eyes and realize my mask is already smeared. I can't see anything and we're just five seconds into the dive.

Dropping beneath the surface the only thing I see is oil. To the left, right, up and down — it sits on top of the water in giant pools, and hangs suspended 15 feet (12 metres) beneath the surface in grapefruit-sized blobs. There is nothing alive under the slick, although I see a dead jellyfish and handful of small bait fish.

I'm alone because the other divers with me wouldn't get in the water without Hazmat suits on, and with my mask oiled over and the water already dark, I don't dive deep.

It's quiet, and to be honest scary, extremely low visibility. I spend just 10 minutes swimming around taking pictures, taking video. I want people to see the spill in a new way, a way they haven't yet.

I also want to get out of the water. Badly.

I make my way to the back of the boat unaware of just how covered I am. To be honest, I look a little like one of those poor pelicans we've all been seeing for days now. The oil is so thick and sticky, almost like a cake batter. It does not wipe off. You have to scrape it off, in layers until you finally get close to the skin. Then you pour on some Dawn dishwashing soap and scrub. I think to myself: No fish, no bird, no turtle would ever be able to clean this off of themselves. If any animal, any, were to end up in this same puddle there is almost no way they could escape.

The cleaning process goes on for half an hour before the captain will even think about letting me back in the boat. I'm clean, so I stand up. But the bottoms of my feet still have oil, and I fall back in the water. The process starts again. Another 30 minutes of cleaning and finally I'm ready to step into the boat.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Oops! Hellman's is full of GMOs...

Margaret Webb on the Hellman's ad I posted a few days ago...

Seriously. We can't get local food the same way we can't find local books in the bigger systems...it's the systems that are being bought up. Break em down.

poetry and neuroscience

I've been sick for the past several weeks, and since I seem to have slid into permanent unemployment, I spend all my time at home, with social networking passing for social interaction. Say what you will about the evils of Mark Zuckerburg et. al., Facebook can be a vital method of communication for the shut-in.

I won't speak any further about my own petty trials here, as I have done enough Gen Y Type solipsistic bitching on my own blog. Suffice to say I have been thinking about The Body even more than usual, especially the Disordered/Sick Body, as well as that cursed body-mind connection. That creative types are more prone to mental illness than non-creative types is a banal cliche until one is suffering under it.

Oxford poetry professor nominee Sean Haldane speaks, in this Observer interview about his career as a neuroscientist and poet, on the capacity of poetry to enact more change than psychotherapy (a heady claim from a scientific therapeutic professional):

"...poetry has more capacity to change people than psychotherapy. If you read a poem and it gets to you, it can shift your perspective in quite a big way, and writing a poem, even more so."

Reflecting on my own experiences with psychotherapy, significantly more expensive than my experiences with poetry, at least financially so, I can’t say for certain whether I agree with Mr. Haldane or not. I’m not familiar with his work as a poet, and a quick dip around his website suggested that his poetry is not my cup of tea. In any regards, he is a middle aged man with a job, which is so far from my own experience at the moment as to be alien, like, Mars alien.

Also, please feast your little poetic hearts on this little program. This is what you’ve been missing! Triple Threat!

Nikki Reimer is fighting the urge to lash out angrily at everyone/thing in sight.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Driving west from Toronto, or north of Oakville

Such a strange feeling...heading to Toronto on Thursday (see earlier post) and it feels like I'm heading home. Or, I'm heading to Canada. Ontario isn't what I think of as home, BC is home. Still, being in Quebec, in Montreal, one feels one is in Quebec, in Montreal, not necessarily in Canada. Will I ever feel at home in Quebec? Will I feel adequately expat as I did in New York? Or will this floating in the between lands continue?

How strangely lonesome the landscape above, no? I post this because it was my first afternoon back in Canada after being in America for seven years...a quiet, heavy afternoon. Still, quite beautiful in its desolation. 
Speaking of changing landscapes...and more costs of cheap and dirty oil. This is currently making the rounds online:

Systems keep growing...is this big oil or big food?

***Here's a local author, Toronto that is, talking about the Hellman's ad. Go Margaret.

Cities have their shadows


it's not only people...

from MS Magazine.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Men & Equipment, Slow Down, Summer Hours, or June & July

Although there are many posts in progress, the pace of life has picked up. My life seems to be calving whole weeks to busy-ness with nary an hour for my own work never mind updating the blog or social networking. To that end I've given up trying to resist the pace. Updating may be sporadic as we head into a few months of travel and workshopping.

Next weekend the League of Canadian Poets AGM in Toronto. I have never been to one of these AGMs so it will all be new to me. I will be reading this Thursday, June 10th, at Bar Italia for the Welcome Reading along with Lillian Allen, Jeanette Lynes, Phil Hall and others.

On Saturday I will be part of a panel discussion with Lola Tostevin (finally get to meet her!), and Jenny Sampirisi from 12:30-2:00. There will also be a reading of Pat Lowther's work which I am very much looking forward to. Anne Simpson is giving a lecture and I'll attend that as well.

I imagine I will be in attendance for the award ceremony too--I have never manage to make it to a ceremony where I have been nominated for anything, so that should be an interesting experience. Would love to have been in New York for the Lambdas, but was packing up in Philly to move to Montreal/Calgary...and would loved to have been at the National Magazine Awards last year...by the way, congrats to the Malahat for taking gold, again. Congrats to all my fellow Lowther and Lampert nominees, and good luck.

The following week the Summer Literary Seminars start here in Montreal. Yours truly will be facilitating a poetry workshop and looking forward to some patio and pint discussions with Liz Bachinsky and other guest writers--Mary Jo Bang, Chuck Klosterman, Catherine Bush--there's a lot of people coming through and I look forward to some new conversations. If you're in town do check out the schedule of events. Aside from the workshops, which should be amazing, there are lectures and of course, readings, readings, readings.

I am spending the month of July in London, in Bloomsbury to be precise. Mornings I intend to have my coffee in Russell Square before heading off for a long walk in a different direction every day. Afternoons in the British Library. Evenings? Who knows. Side trips? Farley Farm, Sissinghurst, Sussex, Manchester, Berlin...and so on. I may not post at all while there.

Meanwhile, I leave you with this to ponder.

It's incredibly difficult to operate ethically...or, are you aware of the system, or do you simply embody the system? Or systems.

Friday, June 04, 2010


DSC_0192, originally uploaded by lemon hound.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Home Again

I don’t normally write poetry while travelling, with the exception of a few random lines here and there. On this trip, however, I did fill one-hundred-and-six pages of a travel journal. But as a writer, you can get more out of travelling than copious notes on the appearance of local junk shops and unfortunate spelling mistakes on menus. If you travel to a country where you speak the language, you have the opportunity to learn endless oddities you’ve never heard about before—for instance, while in Budapest I learned that the Hungarian word for paradise is the same as the word for tomato, and managed to find a copy of Milton’s Tomato Lost in a used bookstore. If you travel somewhere where you can’t speak to others, you have the chance to see everything you miss when you get caught up in text and easy communication. Everything you do suddenly becomes an adventure, as you muddle through the simplest of tasks. You also get to see how people react to you when you can no longer speak to them—suddenly, you have to really communicate with them, paying close attention to their body language and facial expressions. You also have a chance to see how other people live, even if their culture is in many ways similar to your own. Everything from only having coffee to stay, to closing all the shops on Sunday pushes you just a little to rethink your automatic actions and reactions to the world around you. This defamiliarization of mundane details makes everything stand out more sharply, making the world more poetic. Most of all, travelling changes the way you see home. Returning from a long trip always makes Calgary seem new and a little strange to me. The streets seem wider or more narrow, the buildings are taller or shorter, the people or more friendly or suddenly distant, depending on where I have returned from. No matter where you go, or how close or far away it is, travelling refreshes the world around you—a quality travelling shares with poetry. Even you don’t want to write about your trip, it’s hard to not be inspired to write upon returning home… suddenly, everything is new again.

Helen Hajnoczky holds a 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.

Yay! A camera

Finally got a new camera...and so the testing begins. Building a slide show here.

Feminist Boot Camp #24

Sniff things out. Go ahead, stick your nose into things.
Poets from all corners of the poetry map come together to write about the Gulf Disaster. And yes, they mention Gaia, and invoke, and describe birds and write hymns to water...

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Marina Abramović wraps up at MoMA (post in progress)

Day 18, Marina Abramović, originally uploaded by MoMA The Museum of Modern Art.
The show was compelling, right down to the final minutes. Even as I watched via the Marina Cam. The final visitor stood up shortly before 5pm, moved toward Abramovic, and embraced her. I was shocked. She then stood up and had a long bow, a stretch, before standing up to face the crowd. The camera, trained on the atrium for some weeks now, has no sound, but I could see the ring of hands applauding.
The Abramovic show at MoMA is the single most powerful visual art show I have encountered in my lifetime. And I have encountered many, and many that have moved me in surprising ways. I knew the show would be powerful, which is why I drove down. Just for the show. As familiar as I am with her work I wasn't prepared for the wash of emotion. Real, complicated, intellectual emotion, but also at a gut level the kind of emotion poets, it seems to me, only dream of evoking in their readers. Only dream of accomplishing in their work. 
The show was so powerful I couldn't see anything else after. There were several other shows worth seeing, but there was no way. I walked into the Women and Photography room but had to walk immediately out. It's a feeling I've had a lot of lately. A sensation of being absolutely starved for genuine emotion. To be genuinely moved by a work of art--be it visual or literary. 
The only thing to do after seeing the show was to spend time with Abramovic in the atrium. There were about thirty people waiting in line to sit with her, but even if there had only been two, I wouldn't have sat. Not that I didn't want to sit across from her, but partly because I was already crying before I walked into the room, and also because Abramovic is one of those artists I would rather have to my imagination. I want her work, selfishly, unfettered by direct human interaction.Tempting as facing her is/was.

Just take a look at the slideshow over at her Flickr page. It's amazing. Everything about this show is amazing: watch the slide show of people sitting with Abramovic here. You can see how varied and ordinary, and beautiful these faces are. They are not the steady stream of hipsters one might assume relating to a performance or conceptual artist. They are people. People from all walks of life--another poet dream it seems to me. Speaking outside of one's small, critical circles. 

After returning to Montreal I continued to peak in on the show via the MoMa webcam, and was able to track down the people sitting with Abramovic while I was there. This woman was sitting when we arrived. She sat for some time...it says precisely on the Flickr page actually.

It would have been fun to arrive on the day Bjork was there. This guy apparently came back seven times. He was compelled.

What would it mean to encounter compelling poetry? What is the last book of poetry that you picked up and could not put down? What verse inscribes itself? What line or image makes it impossible to hold back the visceral, the physical response? More on both the specifics of the show, the power of conceptual art/writing for women, and hopefully some equally compelling poetry...

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Feminist Boot Camp #37

Appropriate. Innovate. Innervate. Move forward. Have fun.

34 minutes ago via web

about 16 hours ago via web

8:15 PM May 30th via web

12:30 PM May 29th via web

3:54 PM May 28th via web

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