Thursday, July 28, 2005


Wow. I had never been so close to these babies as we were yesterday, tacking back and forth across English Bay. Containers of goods spoiling one supposes, while the truckers battle it out... Bummer for all those kiddies who won't get their school supplies on time! Who knew they arrived on these ships??
More sailing photos.

Friday, July 22, 2005


Back on the west coast. Never left coast. Leftist of coasts. Subduction zone. Blinding all around and nowhere, wondering about a center. Full moon sea wall walk Wednesday. Wow. Welcome home.

Hejinian obsession

The profusion of fake blogs makes me scratch my head...what's up with that? I can imagine being obsessed with a text. And I can imagine posting it (I love clicking onto Samuel Pepys diary for instance). What I can't imagine is posting it anonymously.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


I'm quite drunk on colour these days...I just want to ingest it, there's no other way to describe it. Perhaps it's some kind of vitamin deficiency? Or just being in Toronto? (Ouch, two whacks on the head by my Toronto friends...) This is Anne's new Hibiscus which I planted on her patio. There are more shots here.

Difference between Poetry and Prose

The question of the difference between poetry and prose is a persistant one, and an important one to wrestle with at some point in any reader or writer's lifetime. I'm always interested in finding the edge of whatever genre I'm engaged in at the moment, whether it's a script or a poem. To my mind there is a wide range of writing within each genre, and then a range in between those ranges... Perhaps a better way to say it is, there is "pure" poetry and "pure" prose, and then the wild frontier between the two. Pure is a dangerous word. I could say "conventional", but I suspect any word I chose would be problematic. We can argue about what is or isn't prose, and we can argue about what is or isn't poetry (or drama or whatever) and we all love to argue about writing (or art, or...) that exists outside of our understanding. This isn't necessarily a discussion I want to spend much time on. Unless there's a way to make it productive and positive. I would rather be part of a discussion that is defining what it's doing than what it isn't doing!

On the other hand, while this frontier is what I'm interested in at the moment, it's only one of many strands of inquiry. All valid in their own ways...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Colour at the AGO

Great show on at the AGO. The Shape of Colour: Excursions in Colour Field Art, 1950-2005, takes the viewer on a tour of the last half century's fascination with colour and form. Artists such as Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, along with folks such as Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin, a Canadian artist who spent much of her working life in the US. There were in fact several Canadian names in the mix, some of which I hadn't heard of before.

This show is wonderfully curated. It's chronological, but also grouped in terms of responses to and experiments in, the formal questions regarding colour and painting. "Beyond Minimalism", "Shaping Space", "Optical Illusions" and one of my favourite sections, "New Generations".

So much of this was just fantastic--Polly Apfelbaum's "Gun Club", a crushed and dyed velvet sculpture that seems to have spilled across the concrete floor, and John McCracken's "Blue Violet", made in 1971. The simplicity of this piece can't be understated: it looks like a large Ikea shelf waiting to be installed over a bed. Still, it seemed so fresh, absolutely perfect in terms of colour and size. The gallery guide points out his "connections between the wall and the floor" as his innovation, and yes, that was part of the power of the piece, but there's something else too. It seems so radical to have such a clean, simple idea. And it's so confident in its "being". There was something incredibly powerful about this--but after doing a little research on McCracken I wonder if seeing a dozen of these boards would be as powerful?

Agnes Martin
deserves her own entry so I'll hold off on her. (I'm learning a lot about minimalism, but it's slow going for a greenhorn.) Canadian artist Anitra Hamilton's "Parade" (2000), was a fun addition, as was Christian Eckart. Charles Long has a fabulous, massive stereo unit (1995) which seems now to be a party-sized ipod loaded with Stereolab. Three folks can sit on a groovy orange couch and hook up to the lab sounds, zone out and watch a projection of field--this projection didn't hold my attention, but just about every thing else did.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Still & Otherwise

If you know anything about Greenboathouse, you know that they make beautiful books. I'm happy to say that Still & Otherwise is due out this month. Check out the boathouse.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Andre kertesz

Another great show at Stephen Bulger, always a first stop when I get to Toronto. And last weekend, despite the horrific heat, I paid a visit to Queen West to see Andre Kertesz's photographs at the new gallery. The gallery sports a gorgeous flat-panelled wooden door, but otherwise is simple, even a bit smaller. I will miss the old location right next to Coupe Bizarre--the best haircut and best photography gallery side-by-side. Not that Stephen Bulger is in any way similar to Coupe Bizarre, but in fact in terms of his eye and ability to curate the edgy as well as the classics, there is a kinship there. But no more. Now we have to wander down past Ossington. This was my old Toronto turf--in fact I wrote much of my first poetry collection around the corner from the Drake Hotel in the sun room of a Victorian duplex. But I digress.
Kertesz has had a long and varied career. The surrealist photos are wonderful (the famous nudes that call up images of Man Ray and Lee Miller) but so are the portraits and street scenes. There are several very small, technically perfect photos which fly in the face of the current desire for large, larger, largest, in photography. Not that I don't appreciate what Jeff Wall and others have done, just that this is a wonderful, and indeed a kind of hopeful, even innocent, gesture. There's a great piece on Kertesz here on PBS, which is where I found this fabulous quote: I've been making mistakes since 1912. I'm still learning from them.

Here's to being open to error. More shots here.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Poets Talk, by Pauline Butling and Susan Rudy

This is a fantastic book! I bought it this weekend and immediately read the Erin Moure, Daphne Marlatt, Fred Wah, and Robert Kroetsch straight through... The conversation is intimate and informative, not condescending, but challenging and critical in a feminist and humanist sense. The electrical current of the questions should be a sharp reminder to readers that critical engagement can be a positive, furthering impulse rather than a shutting down, attacking, or simply celebratory one.
Rudy and Butling ask, as Marlatt points out, "big questions". They've both been thinking, reading and teaching the work for a long time, and obviously have been in conversation themselves, as well as with the individual poets. This makes for extremely intelligent interviews--they are so concise they'll make wonderful teaching tools. As well they've included a fairly extensive bio for each poet. There really is a luxurious feeling to this book. I hope they're planning more. The University of Alberta press deserves big applause for this volume. My only quibble so far is that the interviews themselves are too short. I have yet to read the Derksen, Anneharte, and finish the Brand, but already I can tall you it's fabulous. I'll add excerpts a little later.

Jan Zwicky

Jan Zwicky has published three books in the past year or two. (And I thought I was busy!). Thirty-seven Small Songs and Thirteen Silences followed Robinson's Crossing last fall, and the most daunting Wisdom and Metaphor (Gaspereau Press, 2004) just before that. Zwicky's Songs for Relinquishing the Earth catapulted her into the national spotlight and imagination. She, along with Tim Lilburn, Don McKay and Robert Bringhurst, is responsible for a kind of philosophical and intensified investigation of Nature, but she also elevates quotidian lyric poetry to new levels of complexity. She is fiercely intelligent and I'm hoping that like Anne Carson, Zwicky will continue to blur the boundary between academic and poetic thinking. I am eager to see what comes next. Zwicky is also included in Open Field: Thirty Contemporary Canadian Poets.

From Zwicky's Thirty-seven Small Songs

Small Song: Height of Summer

Before breakfast is finished, the cicadas have begun:
the fly-casts, then the home runs of their drones
arc through the trees.

Love, too, is sometimes like that languid flashing line.
Hey-cicadas: it's morning again!
A morning that's a day that is a year.

New Sappho Poem

Thank you Sappho, for daring to broach the subject of aging. I'm sure even in classical Greece (maybe especially??), there were serious feelings about aging... This poem, from the TLS, includes the author of the piece's notions about how the poem might have been filled out.

These in brackets:
[You for] the fragrant-blossomed Muses’ lovely gifts
[be zealous,] girls, [and the] clear melodious lyre:

[but my once tender] body old age now
[has seized;] my hair’s turned [white] instead of dark;

my heart’s grown heavy, my knees will not support me,
that once on a time were fleet for the dance as fawns.

This state I oft bemoan; but what’s to do?
Not to grow old, being human, there’s no way.

Tithonus once, the tale was, rose-armed Dawn,
love-smitten, carried off to the world’s end,

handsome and young then, yet in time grey age
o'ertook him, husband of immortal wife.

And here is the first few lines without:

the fragrant-blossomed Muses’ lovely gifts
girls, clear melodious lyre:

body old age now
my hair’s turned instead of dark;

But I do want to think that Sappho went on to appreciate her gnarled limbs, tough as olive trees. And I have to confess that for me, now, there is only Carson's translations... I did at one time love Mary Barnard's translations. Now they seem so even, so orderly, so Poundish, so thoroughly "modern", that I am aware of how little I was hearing "Sappho" in the poems. Perhaps now I'm only hearing Carson, but it seemed to me that when I first read her translations aloud a shiver ran up my spine and really, it seemed I could hear the rustle of thighs as she reached for something cool to drink, so parched was she after waiting all these years to speak...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Nothing but flowers, Tavistock Square

There's just not much to say in response to ongoing violence the world over. It all seems incredibly far removed from the friendly shores of Ontario, I'll tell you that much. All I can offer is this Lily. Yesterday I spent planting a perennial container garden for Bob's Mom and I was thankful for such a small, satisfying task.

I leave the last word to Woolf, for whom Tavistock Square was central:
And all the tubes have stopped and all the omnibuses, she sais, turning round. A breeze went through the square. In the stillness they could hear the brances rustle as they rose stlightly and fell, and shook a wave of green light through the air.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Art Bar, Toronto

Karen Solie and Paul Dutton last night. Solie read from her new book Modern & Normal, due out from Brick this fall. Of course an excerpt from that book is available now in OPEN FIELD which is out in stores as I write this. Solie is one of the poets who came down to New York for the book launch.

I had never heard Paul Dutton read before. In fact I had little idea about his history (shameful I know), and his work, which I readily admitted here, and to him. Ah, he says, I didn't have any idea who the line up for the Scream was. How can you keep up? True enough, but he is an important Canadian poet (one of the Four Horsemen!!!) and I hang my head... Enough said. Mea culpa. He's a great reader--energetic and booming. Started off with a few pieces by bp Nichol which I appreciated having never heard Nichol read myself. I'm going to try and make the opening of a group show including Dutton's work tomorrow night at the Londsale Gallery. There is also work from Christian Bok, Steve McCaffery, Darren Wershler-Henry and others:
Metalogos, meaning “after words” or “beyond words”, is an international touring-exhibition of Canadian intermedia and language-based, contemporary art blurring the borders of poetry, music, and visual art. The Metalogos exhibition features objects, bookworks, video, installations, and audio-recordings. While the entire exhibition is intended as a formal presentation of cross-disciplinary practices, the individual pieces selected for this exhibition are specifically chosen to create a dialogue between materials and media in a celebration of language.

Featured Artists:
Christian Bok, Paul Dutton, Nobuo Kubota,
Beth Learn, Steve McCaffery, Sylvia Ptak,
W. Mark Sutherland, Francesca Vivenza,
Darren Wershler-Henry

Lonsdale Gallery
410 Spadina Road
Toronto, Canada M5P 2W2

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Toronto! A gorgeous day in the big smoke, not a cloud to be seen. And we had our usual high tech cloud defense system in place as you can see. More pix.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Cindy Sherman, new work at Metro Pictures

Cindy Sherman has new work in a group show at Metro Pictures in NY. This series reminds me of her earlier work, and it was one of my favourite shows in Chelsea last week. She achieves absolute transformation. The gesture is familiar from other work, and there's something sort of retro about it--both modern and absolutely unhip at the same time. Very rustic backdrop, bright lighting, crude in a way. The variety of characters moves outside of predictable zones. Check out the slideshow of a few of my favourites.

This show was a lot more successful than the clown show last year (there is a post on that earlier). Here's an interview she did with the Tate about the clowns.

Other people in the show were less impressive. A photographer with an incredibly pedestrian eye and not doing anything with that either. Not sure which one he was and can't find a sample of his work on line. The other less than impressive inclusion was Mike Kelley's series of collages that, well, this is the kind of thing
that gives art a bad name.

Robert Longo

Robert Longo was the other great entry in the group show at Metro Pictures...there were some people who could not figure out what this image was. It seemed pretty obvious to me.

The Modern

Friday night at the Modern, absolute madness. Art certainly as commodity. People everywhere and the new design, lovely as it is, more about moving people than art. Public space. Naturally. Still, one has the feeling of being in one of those ant colonies, cut away, ants up and down escalators, not with kernels of rice, but digitals held overhead, or at arm's length. Here's a slideshow.

140 years of Jesus

I'm sure this group show was timed for Billy Graham's Crusade to save the heathens of NY. Apparently he converted thousands out there in Queens, or wherever he was. I'll be he didn't get any mermaids! Anyhow, this show, titled 150 years of Jesus in Photography or something (I'll confirm as soon as I find my notes!) was the highlight of the day for me. These were a few of the best shots, and most surprising. There were some others that I liked--Arbus for instance, and Orlan's face of Jesus in a bloody bandage--but these stood out. Whoever curated this show did a fabulous job.
NOTE: The above photo is a detail from the Annie Lebovitz photo. Details for the show:
BRUCE SILVERSTEIN GALLERY 535 W 24th St 10011, 212/627-3930,, Mon-Fri 10-6. Through Jul 29:
Jesus Christ Superstar: 140 Years of Jesus Christ in Photography.