Thursday, April 30, 2009

Comments, comments

Sorry all! I had turned on moderation because of a spambot, but neglected to actually check on comments...I have not been withholding on purpose. Here is a sampling...and yes, I love the comments on my blog, but when they get hijacked? My god, it's like some wacky descent into a food court/verse hell.

**es, Chris, the "me blog" or the puff blog. At least the purpose of those blogs are quite obvious. Much of what we endure for reviewing these days is doing something similar under the guise of objectively offering a book for review to the general public...

Jordan, I wish you blogged again. I miss your blog. It was a favorite, one I checked daily.

Jason, fyi the Poetry Foundation just welcomed Eileen Myles aboard, which was a great decision. They are clearly trying to break the old notion of them being a bastion of verse, and conservative verse at that. Good to see I think.

R. I keep the comments on largely with the hope that more women and other voices who don't take up public space will climb aboard...

I think the whole notion of anonymous commenting is just wrong. Dialog or use that energy in one's work. And yes, good idea not to get into a fight on one's blog--and there are people who are looking for that. Ignore, ignore, ignore.

Pass the tamiflu ineed.


Close this window Jump to comment form
Blogger Matt said...

I finally weaned myself off of Harriet a few weeks ago. The only comment I feel like making these days is "pass the Tamiflu".

1:52 AM

Blogger Jordan said...

Comments: Never had them, never will.

Corollary re Blogging: Been there, done that.

What's next: Twitter-mind either achieves singularity or pulls everybody tethered to it into the group-think ocean. I'm thinking ocean.

7:10 AM

Blogger Chris Banks said...

Yeah, we seemed to have hit a critical mass for sure. I love your blog Sina because you encourage real discussion about poetry but so many other poetry blogs are just digital soap-boxes to puff someone up or to laud their own poetic tastes and as Donald Hall has said, "taste makes fools of us all." This is too bad because I think blogs can be really great tools. I thought about blogging for a time but it is just not for me. I'm going in the other direction. I'm buying a letterpress and going to build a little print shop in my basement.

11:16 AM

Blogger Barbara Jane Reyes said...

Hi LH, Yes I too have stopped going over to Harriet, and to other places like Silliman's blog where comments do get out of control frequently. I don't really think the problem is blogging as much as it is how one blogs or regards his/her blog space, what s/he wishes to invite or maintain in that space. I used to think the not face to face interaction, and the distance enable us to be inconsiderate, but I also think folks who are e-bullies are probably bullies in person as well? For my own blog, I don't censor comments but I do make it a point not to indulge folks who are looking for a fight. Anyway, thanks for this post and for being in blog world.

11:59 AM

Blogger R. said...

Well, you can always just turn comments off. I had a blog some years ago where I did that -- interaction was via plain old fashioned email. Nowadays I have a blog where I post bad poems for my friends to read and comments are turned on -- not a problem, since there's essentially no traffic, or comments.

The problem with a site like Harriet is that it becomes a platform. Anything with a lot of traffic becomes that. Read the comments on for example,
or even (often) on Silliman's blog. I've given up. Comments aren't dialogue, they're my/your/his/her 150ms of fame.

Tragedy of the commons; well known effect.

6:51 PM

Blogger jason christie said...

In the spirit of no comments... o wait... I started to read the Poetry Foundation site about a year ago, but it was a combination of the articles becoming less and less interesting, and the comments devolving into the usual comparison between sticks that drove me away.

I've been off the blogging for a while now, questioning the limits of community... What does the potential for a boundless community joined around a virtual campfire mean?

word verification: budists... v.strange.

9:04 PM

Blogger Nada said...

I completely disagree! I love comments when they are given with love and thought.

12:12 PM

Blogger Chien Bâtard said...

Hi all, again, just realizing that there were comments here in the first place...Nada, yes, absolutely, thought and love. More on this when I catch up...

David Hughes on Carbon Shift

50% of the oil found on the planet has been consumed since 1950.

90% of all coal burned on the planet has been burned since 1910.

As for cars and the ridiculous state of the automobile industry, there were 70 million cars built in 2001 wonder there is a problem.

Think about what comes next rather than trying to resurrect a corpse.

Move toward relocalization of food productions.

Minimize length of supply chains.

Embrace a lower impact lifestyle.

Use the fossil fuels we have now to create sustainable infrastructures, not searching for more non-renewable sources.

A few of the notes taken during Hughes lecture here in Banff on Monday night. Much of what he said wasn't new, but it was very well researched, logically articulated. Compelling facts. Must get the book of essays edited by one Homer Dixon. Yes, we're in trouble, yes we're facing huge challenges, but also yes, there are so many opportunities for innovation ahead of us. Replacing styrofoam with organics. Recycling tires into footware. How about self-sufficient green gyms, for example? Why are elliptical machines sucking power when they could be generating it, or at least powering themselves? Why not green roofs? Why don't we have solar panels on parking garages selling energy back to the grid? Why don't we have rain barrels as a matter of course? Why don't we think about where we locate technologies? Supply chains, distribution systems, have had industries--everything from food production to magazines--by the throat for too long. Why not break down those chains and rethink them? Or make them more flexible in any case.

This is taking me back to my Vancouver and Vancouver Island days where I spent many hours dreaming of ways to get off the grid entirely...but ultimately one can't really get off the grid can they? To be human is to be part of the world, and if one is part, wouldn't one rather be part of the solution to use cliche speak. What I find baffling is that we have at hand so many resources, so much potential to innovate our way into a most intriguing future, and we've known about this for several decades now (peak oil in the US occurred in 1973), so what's the hold up? Yes, things are falling apart, but they're falling into the new as well. I'm wondering when the next tipping point will come. Not the hysterical one, but the one flush with excitement.

It's over

Survived another National Poetry Month, and my second since being back in Canada. It isn't quite the frenetic pace of a New York National Poetry month which features so much all at once--including of course the fabulous Poets House Poetry Show Case. The highlight for me? The National Post. They did a great job featuring a poet a day. Nice range, subtle, not too much fan fare--although those little interviews can be very revealing. It was good to see some familiar faces, and to get a little taste of some people I don't yet know. Some favorites? Pasha Malla, Margaret Christakos, Mitchel Parry, Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen, David Seymour, Stuart Ross, Katia Gubrisic, Anita Lahey, Caroline Smart, and of course, Erin Moure. Thanks to Mark Medley for that. And for including yours truly.

Very happy to see a review of Expressway over at Quill & Quire.

The strangeness over at Harriet kept me away of that site for much of the month. New comment rules and protocols in place may make a change.

Globe & Mail's daily online reviews are welcome, I hope they keep that up.

Highlights here on Lemon Hound for me were Chris Hutchinson reading Jeramy Dodds and my conversation with Adam Sol.

Always energetic Book Ninja serves up some vintage Atwood footage.

May will see Steve Evans' annual Notes to Poetry released one day at time--this is a favorite of mine and an excellent snapshot of who is reading what. We begin with Rae Armantrout.

Memorial reading for Derek Weiler in Toronto. Very sad loss for Canadian publishing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Days

Behind the scenes on flickr.

Geoffrey Cook

Geoffrey Cook, originally uploaded by johnwmacdonald.

Yet another amazing portrait from John W. Macdonald.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who cares?

The comment situation is out of control over at Harriet. Who are these people? Who cares what they think? I can't go to the Poetry Foundation anymore, it's just too awful.

I'm beginning to think that comments aren't the problem, but blogging in general. We have hit peak blogging now haven't we? What's next. Something without comments please.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Twitter verse

I've decided to have fun. Inspired by the new program and Arjun (see interview below). But I have long been a fan of the short-short, poem or story or play, I like it brief. The stanzas are created out of twitter posts available at the time of composition. Rules? Other than the 140 characters that all Twitter posters have, I make myself use the text that my followers provide, and if I click on, I use what's there and I use it before it changes, which would be cheating. So no refreshing. Quick and dirty.

Will I continue to do this? Not sure. But for now, here's what happened...odd to see it accumulate.

Plastic Ono poet du jour a deputy fury experiment in sound major or influential naked bumble bees awake breezes: nature needs a proofreader
4 minutes ago from web

The calm dream was peculiarly boring, lacking gossip or activism, anxiety birds sketching news stories, zero social testicles in beaks, see?
about 16 hours ago from web

She walks the caribou streets of Manhattan heading to boreal apple store for new Proust, fleshy & forest, babbling strewn cleavage tweetlove
about 6 hours ago from web

Carmine is not a big fan of teens partying with Morrissey. "His teeth frighten me!" Strange historical torture memo set to music. Buy? Skip?
7:17 PM Apr 24th from web

To daunting, in sex worker, of species, is twitter, or scenes links, then conductor flight, on Tribeca, was Captain Hilarious worth telling?
8:52 AM Apr 23rd from web

Dear Al: I tell myself an orgy of solar panels, or knick knacks, or bacterial robots must manufacture optimism or balance my life. #hipsters
9:52 AM Apr 20th from web

always two sides/ always leverage/ impact/ love kids a funk in the air/ the secret is change/ is change the secret/ how thin you slice air!
8:51 AM Apr 19th from web

So much sun, Vladimir! Estrogen in Soho while a tot snores. In Windsor blow torches, arc welder, sheet metal: dudes make shit. Serious shit!
1:36 PM Apr 18th from web

opacity is a courtyard for the pancake breakfast cabaret all night in meow meow / New York citizens sick of 5 alarm / glamorous copter crash
7:17 PM Apr 17th from web

Spartan & Simon Phoenix piss off stressed continuities / en route/ kegs and flip-flops / beatific gauntlet of high-fives/ silence of Ferrets
3:09 PM Apr 17th from web

Whose Denise? Almost Silence. Spot-on scam exuberantly live from midtown, walking data wizards contest truth once and for all. Woot Joyful!
7:05 PM Apr 16th from web

Be inspired & remember, never judge a persons capability too quickly! Persist & watch. Sometimes our car crash rubbernecking clips purpose.
8:14 AM Apr 15th from web

Summaries? Cranial Soup fame: super duh = S'uh. Now every time my tongue ensues trade center dirges diorama art. Eclectic Jews know yowl.
2:10 PM Apr 14th from web

Damn Heisenberg's birdhouse! Web editor tweets clouds on Venus at 11:00. Time to chisel popcorn & watch scorched holiday clips w/out noses.
11:01 PM Apr 13th from web

My 6 yo car built by arch, wry, Ford employees at joes: corner of waverly and gay, west village, now sq kms of empty pavement. Ahhhhhhh. 2.0
4:27 PM Apr 13th from web

An invocation caught / earth you steal my thunder/ songs rehire /primacy of oral / print trampolined / do / a history / a la / is/was / loss
11:05 AM Apr 13th from web

and so on....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lemon Hound talks to Emily Schultz

LH: Emily, I have been wanting to interview you since reading your collection of poetry Songs for the Dancing Chicken (2007), published with ECW--it's a gorgeous little book. Tiny narrative haikus. Would you call yourself a poet or a fiction writer, or do you see a distinction?

ES: I define as bi-textual.

LH: You have published several books including your first novel, Joyland (2005) and a biography of Michael Moore. Are you one of the lucky few who actually get to make a living as a writer?

ES: I pretend to be. Truthfully, I make most of my daily bread doing freelance book editing, everything from substantive down to proofreading, often nonfiction--sports, TV books, music. But several times I've quit jobs to be a "writer" so off and on over the years I have been a full-time writer I guess. The Moore biography was commissioned by ECW, so that one was written like a full-time job.

LH: Joyland is awesome. I love the different editors, and cities, with a unified sense of fun in the hubness of your vision. Where did this begin?

ES: I was jealous of Brian's website. It has so much to download and participate in. I didn't like the vanity of just posting my book reviews, so I asked him how we could make my site more comparable. Publishing others was his suggestion. The two of us workshopped it from there. We chose all of the city editors together, and hoped a real diversity would come through from the autonomy and the writers they would select. Our web designer, Bill Kennedy, was vital. The project wouldn't have happened without him behind it.

LH: Can you tell me about your new novel, Heaven is Small? What made you decide to put it on line for the week (details at the end of this interview)?

ES: I'd love to take credit for this, but it was all House of Anansi Press! It took some doing, I'm sure. All I did was say yes. I think we're at an important point in publishing and that reaching people in any form is a good thing. I love traditional beautiful book objects, but it's the words and stories inside them that really matter. The ideas and emotions.

In one day online my book has been seen by people I played soccer with when I was fifteen, and people who work with acquaintances of mine. The reach is just incredible, and the relationship occurs between the reader and the text immediately. There's not the long lapse between referring someone to the book and the search for the object.

LH: Joyland, Dancing are going to have people believing that writing can be fun. Is this intentional?

ES: Writing has to be fun, and seem fun to others. When all you own is a mixed breed mutt who's half-trained and a laptop and everything else in your life could be sold for fifty bucks--yes, you'd better believe writing has to amuse! It is a grim sense of humour to be sure though. I think of the new novel, Heaven Is Small, as being a slapstick dystopia.

LH: What is your least favorite novel?

ES: I've thrown a few novels across the room in my time, but I don't want to speak ill of anyone. After all, most of the novels I pick up are not by people making fortunes or going on Oprah.

LH: Canada produces a lot of comedians and yet not a lot of funny poetry or novels. Any ideas why? What is the last good, funny Canadian book of poetry you've encountered?

ES: David McGimpsey's Sitcom.
Emily Schultz runs the online short story hub Joyland, which the CBC called "the go-to spot for readers seeking the best voices in short fiction." She is the author of a novel by the same name (Joyland). Her collection of poetry, Songs for the Dancing Chicken, which was named a finalist for the 2008 Trillium Prize for Poetry. Her first collection of short stories, Black Coffee Night , was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award for Best First Fiction in Canada, and for the ReLit Award. A story from that collection was adapted for television, airing across Canada and the United States. Her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Eye Weekly, the Walrus, Geist, Event, Descant, and appears in the current issue of the Black Warrior Review.

Announced today, House of Anansi Press makes Heaven is Small by Emily Schultz available free of charge as a digital download exclusive to Shortcovers. This marks the first time a Canadian publisher has made a new release available digitally in its entirety for no charge through the Shortcovers distribution channel. This limited time offer runs Monday, April 20 to Friday, April 24, the book's official publication date.

Visit to learn how you can read anywhere -- at home, or on the go. Shortcovers is Indigo Books' new digital reading destination, both an online and mobile service.

"It's our first attempt beyond making electronic text available on to see if the promotion of a new book through a digital channel can affect book sales," says Sarah MacLachlan, President of House of Anansi Press. "We continue to believe that reading a physical book is the preferred medium for most book lovers. However, we felt we should try to create one of our books for the digital platform offered by Shortcovers -- a 'made in Canada' addition to the increasingly popular mobile reader applications."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Change is afoot

There will be some awkwardness here at the Hound's domain. But it is all in transition toward loveliness so do check back. One change is that comments will be moderated. This is to attempt to foil the spam bot.

As for the almond croissant? La Fromentiere on Laurier was the winner, but the others, Premier Moisson and Copains d'abord were a close second. Montreal is foodie heaven, what can I say?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Best pain au chocolate

The unanimous winner of best pain au chocolate within walking distance of chez nous (so far in any case, we certainly didn't get to all of the possible sources) is Boulangerie Les Co'pains d'Abord. This tiny cafe/bakery is located a little east of me, in the up-in-coming stretch of Mont-Royal, just east of Papineau. The competition was stiff, and personally I thought that Boulangerie Monsieur Pinchot was going to win hands down. This is a tiny little bakery at rue de Brebeuf and Marianne and I love stopping off (it's on the bike path on the way up from parc La Fontaine). The massive Quebec chain, Première Moisson, which has a location on Mont-Royal, came in last. La Fromentiere, our local cheese, prepared meats and bakery on Laurier, was second and in more than one case, nearly a tie (they are just so different!).

Why did it win? Well, my own reaction was instant and effusive. Everything from the pastry--fluffy, light and moist--to the chocolate, not too sweet, not too rich, and well distributed.
Sadly, the cheese shop at the end of my block, which I must pass pretty much every day, sells the pain au chocolate from Boulangerie Les Co'Pains d'Abord so in fact I don't even have to go east of Papineau to get it...between that and La Fromentiere any idea of dieting is ridiculous.

This morning we slogged our way through a selection of almond croissant. I'll report on that when my blood levels relax...out of fairness we included Premier Moisson again.
Premier Moisson is over-rated and everywhere. What they do best seems to be the smell. It's difficult to walk past those places, but evidently, at least when one is in the plateau, one should.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The problem with living in Montreal

Is the question of where one buys their pain au chocolate of a Saturday morning. Today Boulangerie Monsieur Pinochote, Première Moisson, La Fromentiere, and Boulangerie Les Co'pains d'Abord, which the Hound visited this morning. I must now work my way through one quarter of each sample.

Results to come.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A spoof of the spoofs of spoofs

I heard my name this morning.
I heard it later in the afternoon as well.
Over a latte and a brownie at JavaU it occurred to me to think of me.
If I think of me and tell of me it makes me more me.
I rarely hear other people's names (unless they are me).
I rarely offer other people lattes or brownies, though I admit
they often occupy the same space as myself.

It will feel like a big lump, he said.

You should move clockwise.

Have you had enough?
Have you heard of me lately too?
If not, please check my blog.
If you check my blog you will find instructions.

The inside is not as ripe as the outside.

Several poems occurred while you weren't looking.

What you thought about me earlier today really pissed me off.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Other Easters

I meant to put this up yesterday. Can't recall why I was working round the clock on Easter Sunday, 2005, but I was. This late night view looking uptown from Bobst Library, NYU (I believe the 6th floor).

Waiting for spring in Montreal

A long, grey wait. Last week a few crocus, and Saturday some green thanks to McGill's sprawling lawn, but otherwise grey, grey. Very much wish I were in British Columbia at the moment. Anywhere in the province (just about) would do. This is what I'm listening to this morning as I work. Very quiet today.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

In which

One fills out the questionnaire. More about someone named Sina Queyras in the National Post. They have had a new poet every day this month. I'm wondering if non-poets find these things and become intrigued by the world of poetry. Or even curious about one poet. One of my favorite non-poet observations about the wonders of poetry is that a book of poetry, unlike prose, offers mulitiple engagements. My non-poet friend noticed that the book I gave her, which she left on her coffee table for some months, seemed like an entirely different experience every time she picked it up, and that unlike prose, she could have these small experiences at her leisure.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Chris Hutchinson on Jeramy Dodds

Like many, I enjoy contemplative, epiphany-seeking poetry. Poetry whose contents and formal properties collude to make art and psychological reality appear as one. A lovely fiction! And I duly appreciate those empirically obsessed practitioners who squeeze their idiom for every last drop of conventional utility while sifting the bric-a-brac of the quotidian world. The mirror held up to nature, whether external or internal, is a wonderful thing! Hamlet thought so. But what of poetry that admits chance? Poetry that eschews a singular perspective to dwell and deal in what Keats famously termed “Negative Capability”? Poetry whose contents rock against rhetorical authority like punk tenants at war with their landlord? Archly playful poetry of malleable architecture where the arrangements and structures of consciousness are teased forth and disturbed, and established tropes, farcically recalibrated? What about the poetry of Jeramy Dodds in his debut collection Crabwise to the Hounds?


The tubas are full of fog and fallen thoroughbreds.
There are no dogs near the dentist’s office
due to the pitch of the drills. A poem
is meant to replace what the olfactory erased.
But it always comes out like a Gilbert-without-
Sullivan song.

In the birdbath my reflection sprains
with each plop of rain. We don’t find it odd
that mule saddles are made from cows?
But the moorhen is two birds killed
with one act of kindness.

Above all, the clouds are like tennis skirts,
fenceposts dark where dogs piss their names.
Her mouth a doily-gagged coal hole. No squawk
as my palm kowtows her gullet to the block,
her hind high for our singsong.

Now, if I tap-test the mic, and tell you all,
I’ll know the cassettes of our joy are socked away
in the secret drawers of my boudoir. O you
can’t tell someone just how lonely he is,
but a moorhen sure can.

I love how this poem goofs with our expectations. “The tubas are full of fog” is not atypical as far as poetic images go, and I can easily imagine these tubas in terms of foghorns or breath on a cold day. But then, after smoothly crossing the alliterative passage “full of fog and fallen,” we arrive at “thoroughbreds,” the opening line’s terminus. In an instant the image has slipped from the comfortably figurative into the surreally far-out.

Though Dodds’ surrealism is more than a series of random juxtapositions or Jungian archetypes pulled though a syrupy dream-logic. He also “sprains” the surface of ‘truthiness,’ presenting us with peculiar facts: “There are no dogs near the dentist’s office due to the pitch of the drills,” and “A poem/is meant to replace what the olfactory erased.” These statements, while possessing an aura of veracity, tease us with the shifty nature of their epistemological significance. Nor is Dodds above making pop-culture quips: “But it always comes out like a Gilbert-without-/Sullivan song” or refiguring common proverbs: “But the moorhen is two birds killed/with one act of kindness.” At every step, the poem lures us in with the outwardly familiar only to twist it into something else—sometimes dark, sometimes humorous.

Rather than jack hammering toward epiphanies or trolling the depths of the unconscious for leviathans, it’s as if the poem wants to call attention to our own cognitive processes. How the metaphoric and imagistic opulence of lines like “Her mouth a doily-gagged coal hole,” lights up the imagination more than it elucidates any external reality. The world per se is not made strange here; instead, our interpretative habits are being jolted. This also occurs in the Byzantine ambiguities of certain passages: “No squawk/as my palm kowtows her gullet to the block,/her hind high for our singsong.” These lines squirm through the fingers of our sense driven intellect. The curious use of “kowtows” invites a myriad of associations—fawning, worship, obsequiousness—which are seemingly incongruous with the sadism involved here. Poor moorhen: there is an implied violence in the meaning and, at the same time, a delicious cruelty to the meaning.

In the last line of the last stanza, the return of the moorhen seems to ask the reader to construe the entire poem in terms of this eponymous bird. But rereading the poem with this in mind, I recalled these lines from Emily Dickinson: “And through a Riddle, at the last — /Sagacity, must go.” So Dodds’ moorhen—mischievous, mercurial—riddles our habitual expectations—literal and literary—and leaves us deliriously flummoxed. Confronted with such disparate images, metaphors and frames of reference, we are stripped of everything but our capacity to find pleasure, and perchance a bit of sagacity, as we pass from the familiar into the unknown.
Chris Hutchinson is the author of two books of poetry. His most recent collection, Other People’s Lives, published by Brick Books, comes out this fall. With a freshly minted MFA from Arizona State University tucked under his belt, Chris will soon be heading back to Vancouver where he hopes to survive on rainwater.

The Twitterer: Lemon Hound talks to Arjun Basu

LH: I know you as a Twitterer, Arjun, but didn't you also publish a collection of stories called Squishy with DC Books? Is that your first book?

AB: Squishy was my first; it came out last spring. It was a compact book and I didn't think I'd be writing even shorter stories but there you go

LH: You were the editor of EnRoute Magazine. Do you still edit or do you write full time? Did Twitter intrigue or distract you from other work?

AB: I was EiC of enRoute for 6 yrs. I'm now Ed Director of Spafax, the publisher of enRoute among other mags. So I have a full time job + write.

LH: Twitter is touted as a new form of story but Lydia Davis and Anne Carson have been writing this way all along. Who are your twitterfluences?

AB: It's not a new form of story, just a new delivery system. It's so immediate. I started doing this on a lark. And then got obsessed. Still am

LH: Hemingway's famous one line short story "For sale. Baby shoes. Never Worn" has spawned many variations. Were you aware of it before Twitter?

AB: Well Hemingway's an influence on my writing period. Yes, I was aware of that story. Is there a writer that isn't? The short short isn't new.

LH: Conceptual writing-such as Christian Bok's "Eunoia"-has long made use of constraints. Structure is freedom. Is the constraint what attracts?

AB: The 140 character count is attractive, yes. It creates the underlying premise for my Twisters. It's what makes the form. It's the only rule.

LH: Is there anyone you follow with excitement? Who makes you laugh? Is there anyone out there doing anything remotely similar to your project?

AB: There's much great writing on Twitter. But mostly there's a lot of wit. I find it's a great forum for comedy. What do they say about brevity

LH: You are Twittering a serial narrative are you not? Are you privileging each piece? Can you see a whole yet? Or are you worrying about that?

AB: I'm not doing a linear narrative, no. Each tweet stands on its own. There are themes that reoccur but each Twister is a wholly formed story.

LH: Do you have one main character, or a cast of many characters that appear in one scene after another? Is the narrative singular or polyvocal?

AB: When I look back I will see some voices that keep turning up in the Twisters. But each Twister takes on different voices and different POVs.

LH: What are your plans for the project? Will these pieces transform into a novel? Will it be a conventional book? Will it demand "new" readers?

AB: I don't know. I have an agent shopping the idea. I see a small(ish) book. I see illustrations. I see an e-book component and maybe a series.

LH: Some of your posts are very funny. One quickly gets the sense of a heart breaking, heart broken, and relentless wooer of women. Is that you?

AB: Is any writing OF the author? That's a perennial question in all forms of writing. In a way, asking the question legitimizes what I'm doing.

LH: Thanks for the conversation, Arjun. People can find and follow you at @arjunbasu, right? Now can we end with a few of your favourite Tweets?

AB: What I would suggest is anyone interested go to a site like Favrd or Favotter and see what the Twitter community thinks are my best Twisters

Sample Twitters from Arjun Basu

_. He went to the post office everyday to ask her out but couldn't. One day, he found the courage. I'm not into you snail mail types, she said.
_. 12:35 PM Apr 5th from twhirl
_. They hiked along the trail, past windblown trees and bush and over rocky scree. He stopped finally and said to her: I think we're alone now.
_. 11:46 AM Apr 5th from twhirl
_. They sit side by side and watch the rain fall. The sky is the color of steel. We should, he says. But you don't even know my name, she says.
_. 7:57 AM Apr 5th from web
_. _.
_. Al saw the last plum at the same time as Jane. She was wearing five inch heels. And they hurt Al that much more as he reached for the fruit.
6:12 PM Apr 4th from web

From favotter

They sat around a table discussing strategy. About what they had no idea. But they had to do something. And so the lies told were tremendous
From Favrd.
Just picked up @arjunbasu 's book 'Squishy'. I'll let you guys know whether or not to keep following him.
(myr) from Jumping in the air
1 week, 6 days ago
View original
Favorited 3 times

He hoped that @arjunbasu would get 141 characters to work with one day, so that more would follow. In his ice cream truck, he wept quietly.
(C.m. Velazquez) from The Windmills of Your Mind
on 6 Mar 2009
View original
Favorited 5 times
Arjun is a writer and editor from Montreal. Last year, he published his first book of short stories, Squishy. He is now working on a novel.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Adam Sol: A conversation ending with a poem

LH: What was the inspiration for Jeremiah?

AS: There were a few different inspirations. First, I wanted to experiment with a highly rhetorical, loud voice, as a response to a mild frustration with the leading line of contemporary poetic voices that are subtle, lyrical, contemplative and quiet. Second, I’ve often been inspired by the biblical prophets (my first book was called Jonah’s Promise...), and as I learned more and more about Jeremiah, something really spoke to me about his circumstances and his character. And then, most importantly, were the events of Sept 11, 2001, which inspire the book indirectly and directly, and gave me a sense of urgency about the project. Not that the book is a gloss on the events — on the contrary. To my mind, the book is a kind of gloss of a gloss, a vision of Jeremiah’s vision, as seen through Bruce.

LH: Adam, as it happens, I was in Washington Square Park one day when a group of Mennonites from Ohio arrived to both show support to New Yorkers post 9/11 and also to preach. It was a very strange moment, particularly as the group seemed genuinely awestruck and delighted by the energy in the park. Jeremiah doesn’t appear at all taken by the big apple. I bring that up partly to query the relationship between the Americas we see—the Midwest vs. the Big East as it were—but also because there seems to be something very attractive about the biblical voice, it’s almost Talmudic as opposed to the Whitmanesque sweep. Can you comment on the relationship of voice to place?

AS: I disagree that Jeremiah isn’t taken by the big apple. He calls it “the center of iniquity,” but he’s also charmed by it, too. I think he is taken with a certain kind of New York: the old workmanlike New York of construction sites and immigrants in night school. But he also recognizes it at the center of what he thinks is wrong with the world, that’s true. Jeremiah loves people the way a disappointed grandfather loves people, with that powerless passion. And that’s all the more true in NYC, where he doesn’t exactly speak a language that the people can understand.

One of the remarkable things about the period just post-9/11 was that everyone suddenly loved New York again, even in the MidWest, which has so many reasons to resent it. The loud, brash, arrogant and unabashedly world-dominating city that everyone loves to hate was suddenly vulnerable, resilient, shattered. And to my mind, it took a biblical voice to understand—not to understand 9/11, exactly, but to understand our reaction to it. I don’t want to make too much of the events – subsequent history has made our understanding of them much more complicated and ambivalent. But I did – do – feel that there’s something about a MidWesterner with a prophetic voice being somehow the appropriate voice to respond to the legacy of our reaction to the events.

LH: I like how you have played with form as well as narrative. Not many contemporary poets do that. Recently Ange Mlinko in Poetry Magazine drafted a manifesto of the single poem, for example, saying she wouldn't write long poems or connecting poems. But one of the key features of Canadian poetry, it seems to me, is the long poem, and the book length poem. What's different about your take from most Canadian long poems however, is the attention not only to narrative and form, but the use of received forms. You really get a number of very different formal poems in here while maintaining the narrative--not an easy task. Can you talk about how the poems came together?

AS: I mischievously wonder if part of the reason why there do seem to be more project-books in contemporary Canadian poetry is that we fight for book-project grants while American poets tend to seek cv-padding lists of publication credits for job applications and tenure reviews. What do you think?

As for how the poems came together: honestly, I had the character of Jeremiah clear in my mind pretty early on in the process of writing the book (which began in the spring of 1999). He’s the most recognizable voice in the book, for sure, but he wasn’t the hardest one for me, once I got him going. As a series of voice-experiments started to develop a narrative arc and a series of circumstances, events, whathaveyou, the other character (Bruce) slowly and painfully emerged, as did a whack of poems that seemed to come from different efforts to “get at” the story. Some of those made their way into the book. Many did not. Because I’d never written a novel before, I tried to approach it with all the poetic tools I felt like I could get my hands on. I had it in my mind that Bruce may have been interested in syllabic poetries, which led me in that direction. But there were probably some ways in which I wanted the book to have what a friend of mine calls “tour-de-force-y” poems in it too. Some way for some of the poems in the book to reach outward beyond the story. I’ve read Moby Dick three times over the course of writing Jeremiah, Ohio and there was undoubtedly something of the “encyclopedic narrative” working in my brain, although none of the stamina, obviously. But maybe I’m just kidding myself on that score.

LH: But I come back to the rare use of singular forms in longer narratives and marvel at the success of it. I read some poems to my class recently and I was very happy to have the villanelle to Jeremiah’s son because it really spoke to them, it illustrated what I was trying to say about bending the form to other needs. They were also taken by “Ashland Radio” for the way it uses song titles to narrative ends. Form itself isn’t enough. These are poems that stand alone as well as fulfilling the narrative duty of pulling the story forward. It’s quite a feat. Can you talk about that a little? Did the order change when building the book, for example?

AS: I’m very glad to hear that the poems work outside of the context of the book as well as fulfilling the narrative. The villanelle in that case seemed to make sense because trauma and grief are so repetitive. I suspect that not all of the poems stand on their own quite as well. As for putting the book together: once I had a narrative arc in my head – getting from the Ohio wanderings to New York – some of the ordering was pretty straightforward. I had places to write about, and things Jeremiah wanted to say, and Bruce was generally there to lead us. And I’ve done that drive – from Cincinnati East across Pennsylvania to New York and New England – that I could call up that material fairly quickly. But other things were more complicated, because I did write the poems over a long period, and there were inconsistencies to iron out and developments that I wanted to highlight – about Jeremiah’s self-doubt, for instance, and about how much he trusts and reveals to Bruce. Sometimes I had three or four poems in a sequence that needed to be fitted into the manuscript as a whole – the sequence around the villanelle, for instance, in which Jeremiah talks about his son. But there were other poems that just happened and demanded a space in the manuscript, and I just had to work them in.

By the end, when most of the manuscript was written, I did have some places when I had straightforward narrative work that Bruce had to do: I had to get them from the moment J cracked at the CVS on 96th and Broadway to somewhere midtown, for instance. And I took on that poem with that “assignment,” which was very odd. I’d never written a poem with that sort of assignment in mind. But I tried to let things happen within that structure – things Bruce would be aware of, or see, or consider – that would occur more organically. It was a balancing act, especially at the end, because I didn’t want the poems to sound too programmed. Of course some of Bruce’s poems don’t have to stand on their own as much, but they still had to have a certain lyric integrity.

LH: Recently we did a panel together in Chicago at which you and Alessandro Porco suggested that there was no Canadian literature. You yourself are American, living now in Canada, but would you first of all, call yourself a Canadian poet, and secondly, expand on why you think there is no Canadian poetry?

AS: Did I say that? I remember Alex saying it but I don’t remember agreeing with him. I definitely think that there are a variety of “Canadian poetries” happening, some of which I’m interested and some less so. Because much of my initial “poetic training” had nothing Canadian in it — certainly nothing self-consciously Canadian in it — I’m pretty late to the game on thinking of myself as a “Canadian poet.” This is even more true because I live in Toronto, arguably the most un-Canadian of Canadian cities. That is to say that Toronto has much more in common with Chicago or Boston than it does with Timmins or Regina or Gander.
One thing I do remember saying is that because to some extent Canadian writers live in a “smaller pond” than Americans, there’s a bit more time for apprenticeship, for not feeling like you have to be born fully-grown, as I think is true for some American artists. Think of how hard the literary media made life for Jonathan Safran Foer after his outstanding first novel, imperfect as it is, came out with such fanfare and celebration. I think there’s a similar pressure being put on a poet like Matt Zapruder as “the next big thing,” which can be hard to live up to. So if I’m Canadian now, it’s because I live in and enjoy a Canadian literary scene which I think of as nourishing, and which has treated me pretty nicely thus far. I’m still new to the neighborhood, and will never be native, but I feel at home, and have been welcomed as much as I can ask. What’s the Lyle Lovett song?: “That’s right, you’re not Canadian, but Canada wants you anyway...”?

LH: One word description of your poetics?

AS: Orchestral.

LH: Who are you reading? What do you recommend?

AS: I’m in the heat of the semester, and am therefore mostly reading for class these days, including Henry Roth’s great great great novel Call It Sleep. And revisiting a touch of Neruda, which is a treat. What do I recommend? Depends on to whom. To you? Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Oh, do you mean books?

By the way, I should mention that just opening up the book of Jeremiah – or any of the prophets, really – would be a frustrating experience for most readers, because the narrative is jumbled and refers to events and characters who won’t be familiar. There are lots of good intros to individual books, but as long as I’m on the subject, for Jeremiah, I’d recommend Sheldon Blank’s really helpful Jeremiah: Man and Prophet. Really helped me to appreciate the poetry and complexity of the book.

LH: Can we end with a poem? Can you choose one?

AS: I don’t usually get to read from the end of the book at readings, so I’ll choose this one from when Jeremiah gets arrested and is speaking to his fellow inmates:


Fear not, young men of Judah!
We will be hauled from this hole by the shoulders.
Yea, we will be lifted like infants.

What sins you have committed before the Mayor,
He will commute.
Your fatal errors will not compute.

Here, take this ticket and stumble home
like the rest of the fumblers and tumblers.

Friends, I have seen you in your oblivion.
I know of your petty theft and possession,
and I have sent a shock to shake you.

Look around and tell me you see no message.

Behold I have marched from the marshes,
and fled from fields to tell you this.

It is a big day, good sons. Yea, a whopper.
Do not fail your ancestors who knew destruction
like an annoying uncle at the table.
Nay, yield not to your usual sad-sack escapisms.

Be steadfast with your spirits!
Do not neglect to floss!

The ink on your hand is a stain on your hearts.
Cleanse not with the cleanser, but with your tongues!

We had been spared the scary until now.
Let us not flinch before the mighty needle delivers
its purging medicine.

Adam Sol is, most recently, the author of Jeremiah, Ohio, a novel in poems published by House of Anansi Press. His previous books are Jonah’s Promise, which won MidList Press’s First Series Book Award for Poetry; and Crowd of Sounds, which won Ontario’s Trillium Award for Poetry in 2004. He is also the author of numerous essays and reviews for publications as various as The Globe and Mail, The Forward, Critique and CNQ. His work has been featured on, Poetry Daily, and the CBC radio program “The Next Chapter.” Originally from Connecticut, he holds an MFA from Indiana University, as well as a PhD from the University of Cincinnati, and is an Assistant Professor of English at Laurentian University, Georgian College. He lives in Toronto with his wife and their three sons.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Recently received

Ammiel Alcalay, Scrapmetal, Factory School 2007
James Langer, Gun Dogs, Toronto, Anansi 2009
Karen Solie, Pigeon, Toronto, Anansi 2009
Meredith Quartermain, Nightmarker,
Gary Sullivan, How To Proceed in the Arts, Cambridge, Faux Press 2001
Nazim Hikmet, R. Blasing & Mutlu Konuk (trans) Poems of Nazim Hikmet, New York, Persea 2009
Nazim Hikmet, R. Blasing & Mutlu Konuk (trans) Human Landscapes from My Country, New York, Persea 2009

Chris Piuma, Exercises in Penmanship, nine muses, 2006
Ken Belford, Lan(d)guage, off-set house, Prince George, 2008
Gary Barwin, Punctuation Funnies, 2008; Inverting the Deer, 2008; Serif of Nottingham, Hamilton
Gary Barwin with Gregory Betts, Chora Sea, The Emergency Response Unit, Toronto 2009

Marlatt/Minden/Hallett, Like Light Off Water, Otter Bay Productions 2008
Mavis Gallant, Montreal Stories, Rattling Books 2006

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Vowels by Rimbaud

Some Vowels from Rimbaud via Christian Bok

Thanks to Julie over at Seen Reading where she is featuring a new poet reading every day this month.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Strange Bedfellows

The Cow, Ariana Reines, Fence Books, 2006
A Metaphorical God, Kimberly Johnson, Persea 2009

As the books pile up I realize that the long reviews are not going to happen; there are simply too many books vying for too little time. With that in mind I offer some thoughts, in foment, on two books that in very different ways, startled and compelled me to think if not come to conclusions.

Reines probably needs little introduction. Winner of the 2006 Alberta Prize, The Cow was published with some buzz, and many reviews, as was the recent Coeur de Lion, which I have yet to read. There is much to engage with Reines, from the voice, to word choice, to the composition and daring content. It's uncomfortable. Not about letting you off the hook in any way:
If you can't find out where meaning begins can try to follow it down to where it might end. Siemens was a major consumer of concentration camp labor during that war but in 1998 they lost a lawsuit and subsequently established a reparations fund to pay their ex-slaves. Environmental safety! they ejaculate. A machine that digests the planet's great digestors. Whose illness eats their brains because they were forced to eat one another...
Like the narrator in Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, there is no quieting the voices of the slaughtered who appear at every turn. The facts and realities of our contemporary lifestyles mix in, each instance with the other, specific and horrific. The context for the above excerpt is a poem that deals with the notion of "waste" disposal. As with other language "generated" texts, Reines uses source material--the language of livestock handling--and grinds it down a la Rachel Zolf's Human Resources and M. Nourbese Philips' Zong!.

She, like Zolf and Philip, walks a tightrope of resisting meaning, and reinsisting meaning. But there is also delight, at least in the language itself "Finches grommeted the wall" or "I am wearing your lacerated face," and particularly in a text that is so excruciatingly graphic, a text that implicates its reader on every page, these moments are absolutely necessary. Those shard-like images glint with startling freshness reminiscent of early Lisa Robertson: "I love my emergency," the book announces on the back cover, "An alabaster fidget is impossible to imagine..." This is a book of kinky word pairings, a book of shameless SELF EXCLAIMING, a list of assertions, a book of titles that trumpet themselves. Don't believe me? Here's a sampling:
The Seed Is Rotten Under Their Clods

After I Died I Tried To Become The Night

I Want You To Inject My Face With Botulism

And He Shall Put His Hand Upon The Head Of The Burnt Offering

I Am No Prophet, I Am An Husbandman

In Which She Pays For Her Tardiness
This is the kind of poetry that makes a lot of other poetry scuttle under the bed and hope not to be drawn in comparison. It doesn't announce its prettiness, its banal security. I doubt it's gurlesque, but if gurlesque is embracing the abject--as I've read--then certainly this part cuteness though, there is no cuteness here. Not a whiff.

This poetry is hard to take in. On the other hand, there is playfulness. Here Reines toys with the over-proliferated sobriety psalm:



Um, yup, we who do not stick our heads inside the vortex of human intention and let it rip are all lame. This is at once a meditative book and a text that seems to showboat its own excellentness. It's hard to swallow, everything from the pile of slaughtered cows on the cover, to the juices secreted within its pages, to the way she makes words see like "eyes" and "tongues that flop out pinking as they dessicate..." The book will call to mind early Morissey too. You are what you eat, what you think, what you walk on, what you sit on, there are implications at every turn and under Reine's glare, nowhere to slither and hide. I could go on, but really, you should just get the book.

Johnson's book is quite, quite different in almost every way. I'll bet it would rarely end up on a shelf next to Reines, or in a review next to it, and yet I want to praise equally for it is not banal, it is not the avant lyric that has been dampening my heart. Johnson is a Renaissance scholar who has translated Virgil's Georgics; her poems are very tidy, very formal, and very polished. They take as their subject matter John Donne and Saint Augustine. This is a book that comes out of--or near, perhaps as an offshoot of, in the shadow of--a school of poetry that seems to consider "risk" the fudging of a line break or the inclusion of a pop culture reference. But unlike a lot of "formal" (which often means simply conservative) poetry, it seems to me that these poems also trumpet their excellentness, and they do that, from the Epilogue on, by exacting rhythms and language:
Before the sackbut, before the virginal
struck perpendicular chords, our madrigals
were sublime, loosing harmonies

to unhinge the spheres. In chantries unrehearsed
we'd wow the votarists and serenade
the friary to panting ecstasies

while summoned to kingly chambers we branked
the troubadours, turning the sovereign mind
to heaven, the courtiers left speechless
with neglect... (3)
Conventional, conventional: the poem begins in the garden, begins with spring "a fatness of front lawns," though from the outset, I'm telling you,this is not the usual fair. The fatness here is not the poet's she "whose blowtorch urge approaches/the ascetic." The language play itself is not the point, but it is a wonderful point.

I am thinking of Georgio Agamben's observation that "art does not satisfy the soul's spiritual needs as it did in earlier times, because our tendency toward reflection and toward a critical stance have become so strong that when we are before a work of art we no longer attempt to penetrate its innermost vitality, identifying ourselves with it, but rather attempt to represent it to ourselves according to the critical framework furnished by the aesthetic judgment..." (40). So minds select poetry that mirrors their own minds and positions without necessarily taking the risk of actual engagement. What would happen if a poet engaged with a work that was a challenge to their own work, for example? What would loving a poem that one didn't necessarily understand mean? Or, is it possible to simply arrive at or experience a text these days without trying to fit it in to our argument of art? Or poetry? And why is poetry so much work?

Every time I refer to my desire for poetry to compel, or my belief in its ability to move, to call to action, I get an email. You are naive, I am told. Poetry does nothing, I am told, Poetry has no "use." On his blog Eyewear Todd Swift recently claimed that he felt (or sometimes feels) that he has wasted his life in poetry. But then I find these poets coming from very different places who are both speaking directly, in very different ways, getting it on with language, and I am moved to write of them, and share. Is that not a call to action if nothing else? And actions are many, some of them more meditative than others, as with Johnson: "our text today is the heliotrope/swiveling its holy troupe." We are down in the violet bed oh, natural poets, we are down in "hoar" and our tongues a "fovent choir" (10). How unhip the language: "vulgate," "spinal block" and "womb," not the province of language poetry, far too sincere and bodily, far too rhythmic, but more unwieldly than the formalists. What would Heaney think? What would Silliman say? Can one have an opinion?

Back to Reines: "Shit. LYRIC. An integrity must come back to a body, and from thence, into a world, a world where a body can adore another one, or the sun, or a part of a thought under it, or the night" (56).

I am not making an argument here, I am presenting an account of reading, of strange intertextualities that offer no easy connections. And it seem to me the poetry that kicks ass knows no allegiance. Make of that what you will. Yes, Johnson is interested in the poetry of praise, but also the sheer gymnastics of language as we see from this excerpt from "Aubade"

Got shut out of that shitbox, gunshot
splintering to matchsticks. Boom-
Age plywood, feeble joists.
Thirty-three west basin days, and I
am sick to death of this campshack,
its ceilinged sleep coins me
claustrophobe. (49)

Is that simply delighting? Perhaps it is not doing the work of Reine's, but it is conscious, and it is beyond the sketch-like feeling so much formal poetry seems to exude: ekphrasis, check, sonnet, check, villanelle, check, Jordan Davis talks about this in a book that might have made it into this review, and I think we have similar reservations.
Let me sing, then, the beauty of creature

microscopic, who make the vastness gleam
in smithereens. (61)
A more logical question might be the way in which language play is or is not used to generate meaning, and/or action. The latter being decidedly Not the point! or at least not in an easy, straight forward way, not the point of many contemporary poets. And yet, it must be. And this is touching on the problem of quiet for me as much as the problem with new formalism. Not all quiet, but a kind of quiet, as much as it is a problem for other kinds of poetry too: say something, damn it! Take a risk.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Canada arriving online

Wow, did it take Twitter to nudge Canadian publications online, or was it the financial meltdown, the Tory cuts to our well-funded arts net or just time? Whatever the reason, Canadian publications are finally taking the plunge. The National Post, and The Globe and Mail, the two big quasi "national" papers are both there, with book blogs no less. Magazines such as Quill and Quire and This have long been on board, but now magazines such as Geist and Walrus are there too. Maybe people are realizing that this isn't the "end" of print, but the transformation of content delivery, and I don't mean that in the dismissive way that people tend to use the word "content" these days. Aside from the painful fact that all of this global economic melt-down seems like a giant union busting party--particularly in the world of news--it also signals the possibility of real change in terms of who has a voice. Possibility that is. Not probability.

Erin Moure reads Nicole Brossard

from Nicole Brossard, Installations

mets ton doigt pour garder la page

ne pas perdre la suite

ou relire inutilement faire un noeud

mets ton doigt pour tenir l’humanité tranquille

pour goûter seulement

sur la tempe et mieux percer les secrets

la prochaine fois mets-moi ton doigt là

à l’endroit si possible de l’avenir


put your finger on the page

don’t lose your place

or reread for nothing tie a knot

put your finger in to keep humanity quiet

just to taste

at the brow and better penetrate secrets

next time put your finger there for me

in the place of the future if possible

p.112 Installations (Trois Rivières: Écrits des Forges, 1989)

p.114 Installations (Winnipeg: Muses’ Company, 2000, tr. Majzels/Mouré)

Montreal’s Nicole Brossard has been one of Québec’s most important poets for over a quarter century; her work on forms, syntax, gender, sound, words and feminism’s possibilities in the French language has shaped even our English-language poetry in new, provocative ways.

How to bring the marvels of her language, the resonances, halts, sonorities even in the disturbances she creates, into English? It’s not obvious! For the disturbances themselves are part of the meaning; they work to halt and double-back our reading of the lines, sometimes producing open-ended or ambiguous effects: but these too are part of the way we humans determine meaning – leaving it open, ready to catch new shifts and lights. (For don’t fixed meanings lead to... wars? I, for one, don’t believe we live, or live well, with fixed meanings!)

Brossard’s Installations came out 11 years ago in French, and this year (2000) in English. It’s still fresh, a suite of taut, gentle, muscled, sculptural poems. Brossard gives the reader such pleasures with her torquing of what language normally “supposes.” She doesn’t use conventional narrative progress, but uses narrative bits to create a multi-dimensional space. As a whole, the poems install the amazement of being alive, and speaking, and living among others, particularly women, in a difficult end-of-century.

This small poem presents a finger’s gesture touching a book, as if touch is also a way of reading. The act of marking your place is one that usually means looking up, interrupted. So the poem, and the poet, interrupt us as readers. There’s an echo too of tying a string around your finger to remember some thing (which evokes the mother, for wasn’t it mothers who first advised this measure?), and an echo of tasting, illicitly perhaps. Here, the book’s surface is a “brow” that holds secrets, penetrable ones. There’s an undeniable sexual aura to all this but it’s the brow that’s sexual, as if brains are sexy! And the poet asks us to put our finger “there” in the book for her – for the future, as if touch and/or reading can let us endure in time, assure us of a place in the future, even if it’s tentative.

Erín Moure's most recent book of poetry is O Cadoiro (Anansi, 2007)... her translation of Chus Pato's m-Talá will appear from Shearsman (UK) and BuschekBooks (Can) in April of this year, and in the fall two books, essays from NeWest, My Beloved Wager, and a collaborative book of authorial impossibilities written with Oana Avasilichioaei, Expeditions of a Chimæra (BookThug). This is the last of five pieces to be reprinted here. They originally appeared in the Globe and Mail in 2000.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ellsworth Kelly, “Diagonal”

“At 93 Kelly has taken a radical leap,” said the gallery guide to a group of more than fifty art lovers lingering at Matthew Marks on Saturday. What was that radical leap? “You may not think it’s a big deal, but moving from one single panel of color to two panels…” Ah yes.
The old single to double panel trick. Notice the cotnrast of black and white and black and white, the shape of shirt, bench in the midde of the room versus that one single painting on the far wall. Quite bold in its simplicity. And it is. perhaps not quite startling as it was fifty years ago. Kelly is one of the few of the first wave of minimalist artists still alive and still very much working. His work is monochrome, and that seems to sum up a bunch of color field painters (Torontians might remember Kelly from the Colour Field show) but in fact it tells us very little. Marcia Hafif, who also shifted from one to two colours recently, also works in monochrome, but there is little in common between Kelly's solid (or broken) matte shapes and Hafif's nuanced and glossed illuminations.
Good art often seems simple. That's part of what makes it good. I have seen many shows at Matthew Marks and usually love them. Last year it was Jasper Johns, before that Roni Horn, Andreas Gursky, Nan Goldin, and so on. This one was no exception. It wasn't stunningly innovative in any way, but it was quietly, meditatively soothing without being overly flat. Bold in its way.

Ellsworth Kelly, “Diagonal”
Matthew Marks Gallery 523 W 24th St to Apr 11.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

LCP Short Lists

Congrats to all those on the shortlists for both the Lowther and Lampert Awards from the League of Canadian Poets

Lowther (book by a Canadian woman) Shortlist 2009:

What Stirs by Margaret Christakos (Coach House Books)
Kahlo: The World Split Open by Linda Frank (BuschekBooks)
The Office Tower Tales by Alice Major (The University of Alberta Press)
The Given by Daphne Marlatt (McClelland & Stewart)
Breaker by Sue Sinclair (Brick Books)
I can still draw by Heather Spears (Wolsak and Wynn)

Lampert (first book) Shortlist 2009:

Evening Land by Adam Chiles (Cinnamon Press)
Crabwise to the Hounds by Jeramy Dodds (Coach House Books)
Fond by Kate Eichhorn (BookThug)
What if red ran out by Katia Grubisic (Goose Lane Editions)
The Invisibility Exhibit by Sachiko Murakami (Talonbooks)
Late Night With Wild Cowboys by Johanna Skibsrud (Gaspereau Press)

National Poetry Month

So we'll be up to our ears in poetry events this month, and I say rah, to that. Some highlights include Julie Wilson's 30 Poets reading which begins with Kevin Connolly reading from Drift, Reb Livingston has NaPoWrMo over on her blog, featuring new poems, The League of Canadian Poets has a new poem every day as well and of course there are the prize announcements that come along with all of the festivities.

Meanwhile, protesters are in the streets of London letting the good leaders at the G20 Summit know that someone is watching. Is it the poets? Not likely. What a strange time, layoffs everywhere, car sales plummeting, the entire economic system of the planet pausing if not crumbling. A moment of reflection? A moment in which resources are what? Being shifted? Waiting for the next big opportunity to plunder?

It's National Poetry Month or some such thing as that. I wonder where the poets are in all these world events? What was Wordsworth doing in the Lakes District? Counting birds and flowers or plotting political manoeuvrings in verse? What has poetry become? The careering, the feting? Where is the action in poetry?