Friday, June 30, 2006

Moure on community

Of course if one is thinking about community/citizen/consumer one must also be thinking about Moure, particularly the trilogy--Sheephish Beauty/Civilian Love, Frame of the Book, and O Cididan. And yes, lets talk about those. But lets start with Furious--or at least I'm going to start there, because it was my introduction to Moure. Posts to come next week, I hope. I just loaned a fellow poet my reading copy a few days ago, but she already emailed to say she had ordered her own, and I hope this is a trend...

More on Community

...the individual is merely the residue of the experience of the dissolution of community. By its nature--as its name indicates, it is the atom, the indivisable--the individual reveals that it is the abstract result of a decomposition.
Jean Luc Nancy The Inoperative Community
Capitalism and fragmentation...the dissolution of community. Citizen/consumers. Borderless is not a reality (realty).
One must attempt to distinguish between two different kinds of fragmentation. On the one hand, there is the fragmentation that corresponds to the genre and art of the fragment, whose history is closing before our eyes, and on the other hand, there is the fragmentation that is happening to us, and to "art."
Jean Luc Nancy, The Sense of the World
How does this thinking play out in the physical sense of the world? When I walk the streets of Philly or New York what am I seeing? Is time playing out differently in the two worlds? Movement certainly is...

Virtual worlds purport to conflate these worlds, help us delineate/create new communities, but I have my it naive to want to touch?

Jordan Davis says Trying to understand the community of writers in its totality makes no sense unless you imagine that it's also the totality of readers, which is hopeful.

Arbitrariness has to do with a generation which has been brought up on shopping for ideas

This last quote from Zaha Hadid and below Robertson's elaboration:
Could we differentiate like this in writing please? Could we recognize that arbitrariness is not in itself liberatory? Is arbitrariness truly attractive? How far can randomness go? How could a text partially occupy a site? By scrupulously pursuing a logic it thus transforms to an abstract symbolic apparatus? (I think here, maybe a little predictably, of Kenneth Goldsmith’s work; also of the work of Dan Farrell, Fiona Banner’s The Nam and Lytle Shaw’s Cable Factory.) It seems to me that we could climb all over this simple distinction Hadid makes, explore it and rub it shiny. I’d like that kind of exercise.
Indeed. How far can randomness go? When is arbitrary simply haphazard? A particularly juicy topic coupled with community, a word I've been mulling over, an idea, and my expectations of it, I've been examining. I want to believe in the power of communities to affect change in this world. In fact aren't they what makes us citizen and not simply consumer, the consumer the ultimate "I", singled out as the policital and economic kingpin? Robertson suggests that it is individual friendships and not necessarily community that feeds us (or her in any case). As a former west coast entity I haven't yet shaken off the desire for alternative worlds, leaving the grid, architectural independence, the creation of intentional communities. I think of poetry as one of those intentional communities. Perhaps naively.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Someone, somewhere is having this precise thought. Now. Or now. They are thinking it as they peel away a bit of knee-scab. Remnants of a library tumble. The fringed skin. Or now on a train to Rangpur, tugging on his hair, or ear, sucking in his right cheek, thinking why am I not original?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Times Square

Found myself in Times Square this weekend...two Broadway shows: Avenue Q and Faith Healer which couldn't be more drastically different in terms of a theater experience. Still, neither worth writing about...Sweeney Todd and The History Boys were sold out, but I suspect they would have been worth writing about.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bake sale at the Maronite church, Brooklyn Heights.


Well now. There's a new queer journal on the scene, and get this, it's on the international scene, and get this, it's actually kinda queer. With all the mainstreaming of queer literature these days this could be a cool drink of water...but I haven't actually seen an issue yet so this is pure speculation on my part. On the other hand, several intriguing people have suggested I check it out in the past week. So what does that say?

mclennan reviews Nathalie Stephens' latest from bookthug

Those of you in New York will remember Nathalie from the belladonna reading she did last fall with Rachel Zolf. Once again I ask, where does mclennan find the time?

Monday, June 19, 2006

The desire for a sense of "completeness"

My own comments about Christie's first book are still rambling around in my head, as is my question about what it is that I desire in a book, as opposed to work one encounters in other ways. What is this "completeness" that I'm after and is it purely subjective. Someone once told me that my first book was so polished it made him nauseous...(yes, we're still talking...). Certainly I don't mean "complete" in that sense, and nor do I necessarily agree with his assessment, though I do agree that some of the highly polished poetry one encounters in the world is in fact nauseating. I would also agree with Ryan Fitzpatrick's post, and favour work that is messy, that is "in process" to be sure--and further, I agree that the books I keep coming back to are those that are gloriously unfinished in the sense that they invite me in, that they allow me to engage in a variety of ways, and are instructive. But what I was suggesting is that the movement to a book is another step isn't it? Not one that to my mind, is always or necessarily the next step. What I'm asking here is at one point does one move from the sketch to the canvas?
Looking at the work of Eva Hesse at the Jewish Museum yesterday I was struck by this sense of both completeness and unfinishedness (I know that isn't a word...). Timing. A sense of when it's done. When to open the studio door...and when to keep it closed.
I have no idea when this is, or whether it is even fair to discuss it in terms of another's work. Nor am I sure what the perameters of discussion should be, or even if there should be any at all. One thing I know is when I sense the proportions, or timing, or whatever or however you want to describe it, are right, the work is immensely pleasing. The further apart the project can be pulled, the more the innards are revealed (a la Moure, Hesse, Robertson), and the more the work still seems to have this sense of proportion and timing, the more pleasurable the text. At least for this reader at this particular point in time.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

BorderCrossings Issue 98

Always a good day when BorderCrossings arrives at the door. I'm wondering what "post-minimalist" really is, and kind of excited about this thinking of this, and I'm taken with Fay Heavyshield.

Friday, June 16, 2006


A conversation I've had often lately with many different folks--from agents to writers to academics--focusses on the right to enter into, quote from, and expand upon the texts of others. Skeptical as I am about the intention of many academics, I do of course, argue for access. Particularly creative access. One Stephen Joyce however, elevates the whole matter to the extreme. The New Yorker has a word or two with Joyce, and traces Joycean scholars.

sporadic posting ahead

It's safe to say the summer posts will be random and scattered, but strands of thought will, I hope remain somewhat consistant, if not on one another's heels... Further to my post on the expectations of "the book" I offer a quote from the recent Lisa Robertson interview in the Chicago Review:
My books are not, so far anyway, composed out of bits and pieces; they're composed as books. When I write a book I have a group of problems that I'm working on, typically, and I know what they are--like I just tried to describe the group of problems I was interested in when I started writing The Weather. How I describe those problems to myself, and maybe what they are, changes....

Philly is not New York

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Roni Horn

Roni Horn's Wonderwater: Alice Offshore is a project consisting of a text annotated by four different writers (Anne Carson, Louise Bourgeois, Helen Cixous, and John Waters) and presented as a collection. A beautiful one at that. I'm fascinated by Horn's work, how her practice enfolds not only other artists, but other genres, how she gets at "the mutable" nature of art...the Wonderwater project has particular significance to me for several reasons: I love the three women involved here, and cross-genre work, but also the notion of endlessly different responses to a single text. Here is the first entry from all four texts. The title is "19th C. Water":
Plants do not sleep, Aristotle maintains. Think of that watchfulness. Tons of it, pounding in history, in hours--there they were awake at the Battle of Salamis, there they were awake when the snake licked Eve's toe, there they were nodding up bright-eyed and famished for news all along the path to the back kitchen door as Holderlin went slippering past for a ten AM tryst with Frau Gontard.

Not quite the 19th century yet.
Why he still had his slippers on.
Readers of Anne Carson will not need to be told that was her. 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.
and John Waters (I still can't quite believe it is the same John Waters, but so it seems), who sets his lines in the dead center of the page all the way through the book:
Sequel to Russian Ark-done in one continuous
three-hour take, filmed entirely under the Caspian Sea
and finallyHelen Cixous:
Before any century, when the earth was still alone, the water
was already not alone...
and so on. I am cutting Cixous short, but I will get back to her in a bit. Some of you probably already know Horn's work with Cixous.

Further to my comments on Christie's Canada Post I am thinking of the project of the book as a distinct undertaking, apart from the collecting of poems. I don't want to be unfair in my assessment--the jury is out as to what it might be fair to expect.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hey kids, rob mclennan has updated his poetics site. How does he manage to update his blog so often and thoroughly, as well as produce so much? I have mclennan's new book, published with Stride of the UK, and will post on that shortly too. Still working on Marlatt, who I hear has been given the order of Canada, and had her Noh play--developed from her Steveston text--produced in Richmond.

a door

read for the offering

who is more
than she?



to a bookshelf near you...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Canada Post, Jason Christie

Jason Christie's debut collection Canada Post, is a lot of fun. This is apparent in the whimsical cover: an Etch A Sketch floating in white space. There are poems in here, like "Swerve (Steeper Grade)," that excite me:
Rough music motivates our gentle recapitulated social need for norms and critics like Ebert and Roeper at the movies or Tucker Carlson. Who remembers Tucker Carlson? Won't someone please remember Tucker Carlson?
Why? Well, the energy for one, and the pace, and the direct address, and the reference to conservative pundit Carlson.... Other prose poems have a lyricism to them. A lyricism coupled with surprising images, as we see in "Language as a Multiple Gesture Defence":
If by a lake, then your body becomes a bouyant container for words, floats through paragraphs, past sentences; my geographic insistence maps..."
That first bit, is lovely, and offers a hint of the depth that this poet can achieve. Or, in "Lurk (Poem for [mailsnail])," the blend of high and low mixed with wordplay:
Yellow leaves and enters autumn, that hesitant Georgian architecture forms a venerated space from words: A wet season we weather...
The leaves/autumn I have heard before, but here is a slightly different echo, particularly followed by the reference to the Georgian. Still, Christie skirts a line here, that line of contrived simplicity. Some poems seem to have achieved that 20-something bed-head feel: you know, the irristable look of a thing that has such sublime bone structure and shape no matter what it's wearing there is a spine of pleasure. Others however, fall flat. The off-hand, and slight-of-mind, the pun that is not quite pun enough. Poems such as the one titled "Gallop Poll," that consists of the single line: Fuck off! or "Game vs. Real":
There are typos
all over the word.
There are just a few too many like this. And this play doesn't seem poem enough--not for this reader in any case. At least not yet. Which makes me consider what one should expect from a first book, or indeed any book. One thing I'm becoming more aware of is my own desire for a book with a sense of "whole", a whole project, or as I said in the barwin beaulieu piece, a thing thoroughly chewed idea torn asunder to a kind of, at least momentary completeness. It may be quivering, and without a thick skin, it may be frayed, fragmented, hopefully a tad fraught, but there must be a sense of whole; there must be a sense of a thing undertaken...Not only that of course, but the energy of the line, the attention to the poetic undertaking: compression, inter-text, everyday event, physical body, as laid out by Moure in Furious, or, Dionne Brand's will-to-hum, the political as/in cityscape, or the interrogations of Brossard, or the seeing of McKay/ isn't a matter of what the vision/undertaking is, it's a matter of sensing it there in the skin of the book.

So, while I'm excited about Christie as a poet, and Snare as a rangey new publisher on the block, and while this book is certainly one of the more personable reads I've had in a while, I look at the Christie poems included in Shift & Switch and I think, well, there is a larger project that I would like to see as a book. On the other hand, there is a poet in Canada Post, out on a limb a bit, with a fresh perspective and great energy. Is that enough? Perhaps it is, and what I'm noting here is merely a matter of sensibility. Either way, as I said with Truscott, this is a poet I want to see more from.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

frogments from the frag pool

Gary Barwin & derek beaulieu have created a fun little book here. There are so many variations on Basho's frog jumping into the pond, each more inventive than the last. Here the linguistic play has more resonance: even if one has no idea who Basho is (is that possible?), or hasn't read the haiku (I doubt it, still), the poems echo one another within the book itself. The combination of concrete and word play is also effective--a great way to introduce students to visual poetry and haiku and playfulness.

One of the things I liked about Mark Truscott's book was the sense of weight, a sense of whole, an idea thoroughly chewed through. Though Barwin & beaulieu seem more interested in surface play, and are content to splash around a shallow pond, they do so with gusto, and achieve a satisfying read.

in my hood

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Daily News & The New York Post

Here are the images that we have seen all over New York today. The covers of these "papers" are so vile that I have to make an effort NOT to see the cover most days, but once in awhile they get you. This is so problematic I have no idea where to start...They have both sunk to a new low, but The Post is lower than low...

My Parent's Bedroom

This week's New Yorker has an unbelievable story by one Uwem Akpan, a story that part of me love's and part of me detests, for its brutality and narrative power, for its absolutely awe-inspiring grit, how the narrative never falters, and yet a kind of predictability, a kind of western frame: as if story never gets understood until the writer fits it in a certain kind of word/emotional mill... My position is dangerously sort of cynical, and that's not quite what I mean. The story is brilliant, powerful, moving, wholly successful...yet something lingers there when I think of it as the commodity it is, arriving as it does in the folds of the New Yorker. But see for yourself. And you must do within the week or the link doesn't work.

And speaking of violence--did anyone read Alice Munro's offering in last week's New Yorker? My God, I was shocked.


apostrophe is a kick-ass book, with a kick-ass search engine. How many books of poetry can say that they come with a search engine? How many books of poetry even know what a search engine is? How many books of poetry allow a reader to enter into and create their own poem? Oh sure you got your fridge magnet poetry but just how creative can you get with "goddess" "cheese" and "pink"? What you have here is a whole lot more fun. This is a "metonymic romp" and it uses search engines, is fast and happy, non and sensical, a rabbit hole for every one of us, our very own portal into the hipster world of pomo poetry, even the lamest duck can compose here...Check out apostrophe by bill kennedy and darren wershler henry. Here is my very own first apostrophe poem:

apostrophe (not using the force luke)

you are askingyou are doingyou are doing alreadyyou are looking foryou are looking foryou are looking for," and, when that did not discourage the invaders, the first asked the second "what is that?" and the second replied "i don't know, but it didn't work!" in an episode of that '70s show, red forman tells his son eric forman he is going to "kick his assyou are looking for," in a tone similar to alec guinness' used in episode ivyou are looking foryou are looking foryou are not the man i'm looking foryou are looking for,' they will repeat it!" [edit] "try notyou are looking foryou are looking foryou are looking for," and, when that did not discourage the invaders, the first asked the second "what is that?" and the second replied "i don't know, but it didn't work!" in an episode of that '70s show, red forman tells his son eric forman he is going to "kick his assyou are looking for," in a tone similar to alec guinness' used in episode ivyou are looking foryou are looking foryou are not the man i'm looking foryou are looking for,' they will repeat it!" [edit] "try notyou are asking is probably this one: what does the whole deck look like? luke's rally 4 dark woman (a)4 luke skywalker (a)2 luke skywalker (j)3 yoda (i)3 yoda (h) 4 bespin twin-pod cloud car3 swoop bike3 rebel defense team3 rebel squad3 jawa sandcrawler 4 n-1 starfighter4 arc-170 starfighter4 cloakshape fighter4 sabaoth starfighter 4 departure time4 jedi training exercise4 rally the defenders totals:16 character16 ground16 space0 battle12 mission0 equipment0 location privacy statement©2006 lucasfilm ltdyou are not logged inyou are not my father! chicks dig the saber duel on the dancefloor threesome deck showdown

The second time I tried it I clicked on the line "you are an unceremonious ending" and got a blank poem, nothing but the apostrophe symbol (which says "you are not at the end of the internet yet" when you drag your cursor over it...). I went back and tried again, and got the same results...somehow I did not think this would happen. I will try again manana...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Peter Viereck

Regarding the conference that went ahead without Olson, Layton had this to say:
"Viereck, I knew some of his poems that I liked, I didn't think he was an important poet, but I certainly turned out to hear him...and Auden of course." To be fair to Dudek, the notes in Line suggest that he had no recollection of this conversation with Layton, so who knows...maybe Layton didn't really want Olson either. Still, an interesting moment. As for this Viereck, I provide a note on his passing from the NY Times, which to me, seems a little terrifying. And to counter that, a chapter posted on the U Penn web site from Viereck's The Unadjusted Man: A New Hero for Americans, titled "The Dignity of Lyricism".

West Coast Line

derek beaulieu** writes to say that Line has merged with West Coast Line--the very fine journal out of SFU that I thought was edited by Roy Miki, but since he was the editor of Line I'm not sure this can be true. In any case, do check out West Coast Line, always engaging, and for me, always inspiring. The last issue is titled: "Unfinished Business: Photographing Vancouver Streets 1955 to 1985" in collaboration with Vancouver gallery Presentation House. The issue includes Jeff Wall (a Hound favourite), Paul Wong and Geist editor/photographer Stephen Osborne, as well as contributions from Fred Wah, and Meredith Quartermain (who recently published Vancouver Walking).

**more clarification from beaulieu (thanks for this!)
LINE ran from spring 1983 to spring 1989 (15 issues) when it merged with WEST COAST REVIEW (1966-1989) to become WEST COAST LINE beginning with Vol. 24 #1 (Spring 1990). as Roy Miki states in the editorial of the 1st issue of WCL:
"I was offered the editorship while putting together what was to be the final issue of 'Line: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and its modernists sources.' The name change, from 'West Coast Review' to 'West Coast Line', is a sign of both amalgamation and inclusion of other directions. 'West Coast Line' will still publish innovative writing and criticism by young and established writers, but will offer an expansion of contents -- which translates into a larger number of pages per issue--include those materials that made 'Line' distinctive, namely correspondence and manuscripts from archives, special issues on writers, interviews and scholarship that connects us tot he modernist sources of contemporary literary theory and practice."
and the last issue under Roy's editorship was Vol. 33 #1 (#28) Spring 1999 -- at which point Miriam Nichols assumed the editorship, altho it is now edited by Glen Lowry and Jerry Zaslove.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

thinking with a small "t": or the small "t" of missed opportunities

Reading through an old copy of Line, the excellent journal out of SFU (is it still running??), in preparation for a post on Daphne Marlatt I find a series of letters from Charles Olson to Irving Layton of all people... This I found fascinating. Olson and Layton? Who knew. And it made me wonder how Canadian poetry might have developed had Layton been able to get Olson up to lecture at Concordia as early as 1954? What small thinking led to this oversite? Such a missed opportunity. Here is Olson's reply to Layton:
Black Mountain N.C. {end of March 1954}

God damn it. I'm sore. And just becoz I'd set my heart on this thing.

Look: fer chris sake (1) do you have to give it up so easily? & (2) why didn't you damn well let me know at any time previous that (a) it was a Lit Society, & (b) that you were having such other guests as Campbell, Auden & the shit Viereck? [How much do they cost???]
and later:
how come you find the till empty just now???
how come the money got spent on
Auden (Eng)
Campbell (Eng)
Viereck (Eng)
By God, Layton. Come on. Come up to it. Or don't, for Christ sake, dangle somebody like me 45 months or more....
Geeesh. How much about the development of Anglo-Canadian poetry does that tell us? But love this opening letter from Olson to Layton:
Mt. Sept 28 53

My dear Layton:

i take you as a sign. The sophistication of yr verse contradicts yr own cry that, there, sd poet is in exile.
(1) That he is, anywhere, conspicuously in the Northern American states;
&(2), that at a
certain point of time (end of Renaissance, atleast) this position
makes him leader of any citizen: all are exiled, from a usable earth

And so a point of connection did not blossom and extend to a larger body of poets/establish roots there in Montreal. All because Louis Dudek "did not like" Olson's verse! Damn the infernal ties with the most conservative strands of British poetry! (Isn't this still the case in Montreal??) Damn small thinking of all kinds. And so a whole other decade before the Vancouver conference! But what riches we have all inherited from that...thank God the west coast said Yes. Say yes, damn it! Just say yes!

Emily Carr

I was in the Met yesterday, in the American wing, looking at all those early landscapes and interiors, and it struck me how very different the history of Canadian painting would look next to American. I noticed the tell-tale signs of a voyageur across the room, and sure enough, there was one in a canoe, heading down the Missouri. (Even then we were migrating south for work...) I had gone to see Anglo-Mania, which was fun and really, really made me want to go to London (it's that mad-Freddy hair and gad-about trousers tight into boots...).

My companion knew nothing about Canadian art not surprsingly, not even Emily Carr. So I provide this link to a CBC feature on Carr's work, an artist that has come to represent the west coast to be sure. A blend of the light of impressionist France (Normandy to be precise), the mood of the rain forest, the curiosity of Margaret Mead, and a bit of Gaugin's madness, Carr entered into the forests and managed to find completely modern textures and light. Quebecoise playwrite Jovette Marchessault has written a great play about her: Le Voyage magnifique d'Emily Carr, and west coast poet Kate Braid got a lot of attention for Inward to the Bone.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Stunning Statistic

It's hard to shock me, but the BBC did today with the headlind "Global migrants reach 191 million..." That's just crazy...I'm clicking my heels and nothing's happening...nothing at all...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Griffin Winners

Well that was a bit of and information here. One thing I can say for sure: poets dance. Poets dance. Wow.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Women and Power, Sara Diamond

Madame President. Has a ring to it, no? Sara Diamond is one of my heros, a great inspiration for women, especially women artists and writers. She has been inspiring me now for, well, over 20 years, and watching the transfer of power today at Roy Thompson Hall was no less inspiring. The language she chose to talk about her vision for OCAD was open, creative, thinking about "more", not "less," seeing problems as opportunities for innovation, not succumbing to the "age of anxiety" and its predominance of "fear as the dominant currency." We must work for a "humanity," Diamond says, "as a species able to manage its own diversity." Power is a way to fracture our fear, to recognize that the "side effects" of our paradigm shift have taken over, and that knowledge of distruptions and edge conditions provides the necessary alchemy to create an imagination economy. In concert, not competition. Love it, love you Sara.