author biography ; extended biography ; author page

Thursday, February 28, 2013

new from above/ground press: new titles by McElroy, Wilkinson, Hajnoczky + Dennis,


Twentieth
Gil McElroy
$4

A Little Slash at the Meadow
Joshua Marie Wilkinson
$4

The Double Bind Dictionary
Helen Hajnoczky
$4

THE COMPLEMENT AND ANTAGONIST
OF BLACK (OR, THE DEFINITION OF ALL
VISIBLE WAVELENGTHS)
Amy Dennis
$4

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
February 2013

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 402 McLeod St #3, Ottawa ON K2P 1A6 or paypal (above). Scroll down here to see various backlist titles (many, many things are still in print).

Review copies of any title (while supplies last) also available, upon request.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Andrew Szymanski

I was born and raised in Ottawa, ON, spent five years in Waterloo, ON (where I did my undergrad in English Lit), and have been living in Montreal (where I did my Master’s in Lit/Creative Writing) for four years now.  Montreal is home for now.  The Barista and I is my first book.  It’s a book of short stories.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Well, this is my first book.  It hasn’t changed my life in the slightest and I don’t anticipate it changing it in any pronounced way.  Nevertheless, there’s a feeling of validation.  And also finality—it’s kind of unerasable now.

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?
I didn’t exactly.  I started writing journal entry-like one-pagers when I was a late teen.  These evolved (or devolved) into shitty prose poems and little vignettes.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
Sometimes, it takes several days or longer to wrestle my mind into submitting to write.  I’m not a note guy.  I typically write one sentence at a time and I don’t usually know where the story’s going.  I tried notes for a while but got bored trying to draft stories that I knew the ending to.  I write in spurts, starts & stops—I usually get a first draft out pretty quickly (if it gets that far—I have a lot of material that limps out of the starting gate).  The final drafts, I like to think, are much tighter… But I do have a bit of a maintain-the-initial-feeling-that-made-you-write-this chip on my shoulder.

4 - Where does a story usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
Begins with me tiptoeing to the computer frightened.  I start from the beginning and get ideas as I go… If I were to write a book, it’d be an accident (though this is slightly disingenuous b/c I’ve ditched at least three drafts of 10-20 grand that I intended to be a novel).  I do hope this happens soon.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I don’t particularly like readings that much—going to them or participating.  But my feedback from readings has been tremendously positive—I doubt I’d have a book out or be doing this interview if it weren’t for a few great public reading experiences.  Nevertheless, short answer: public answers don’t have anything to do with my creative process, no. 

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
Not really, no.  If I’m trying to answer any questions, it’s the old unanswerables, like “What’s the point of this/anything?”  I think the current questions are the same as ever.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I don’t see the writer as having any responsibility.  To me, he only has a role in the sense that he writes, instead of crunching numbers or hitting golf balls (but he can do those other things, too).

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Both.  Writing for me is a lot of navel-gazing, and it’s hard to be objective after staring at the old navel for so long. 

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
“Fake it till you make it,” maybe.

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
Inadvisedly, I keep a wildly inconsistent writing routine.  I have periods of being prolific and periods where I think I’d like to become a professional golfer or a carpenter.  A typical day begins with me hustling to get to work on time, or waking up in the afternoon if it’s the weekend.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Historically, if I’m not writing, it means that I’m probably not as miserable as I could be.  I just trust that my misery will return.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

If it’s my home, maybe a foot odour.  My parents’ though, turkey.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Sure.  Music, for sure.  Movies, sure.  David Lynch sometimes pokes around my mental landscape.  Photography, painting...  Nature, sure.  Can’t discard nature. 

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
These aren’t necessarily always my favourites but: Salinger, Bolaño, DFW, cummings, Bernhard, Hemingway

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Find a way to live freer and less encumbered, mostly.  Get a tattoo.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I’d like to be a pro athlete—maybe a basketball player or a golfer.  Maybe a stand-up comic.  (Though I wish I had the impulse to help people—like a doctor). 

Since I am far from sustaining myself financially with writing, I will say, the sad truth is I would have ended up working in an office as an editor (what I do currently).

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
A sadness and a romanticism and an attempt at immortality.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Last great book: Humboldt’s Gift by Bellow.  Last great film: The 400 Blows by Truffaut (though I even more recently watched Magic Mike, and I thought it was almost great—best I’ve seen of 2012).

19 - What are you currently working on?
Fiction and poetry.  Staying the course.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ongoing notes: late February, 2013



You probably already know that we were in Boca Raton, Florida recently [see my report on such here], but here’s another photograph from such. Our final morning on the beach, in the midst of a spitting rain, and high waves from the wind. Someone suggested that this might be a perfect cover for a Victorian-era novel. Wuthering Heights in South Florida?

Our pals William Hawkins and Greg “Ritalin” Frankson are receiving the first ever VERSeOttawa Hall of Honour Awards at a ceremony as part of the third annual VERSeFest, March 17, 2013. Congratulations to you both!

Oh Canadians, why do you send me so few chapbooks?

Atlanta; Philadelphia; Northampton; Jerusalem; Madison; New York: The only problem with a collective, is that you can’t tell where they’re situated. Perhaps this is their selling point. From the Agnes Fox Collective comes the short chapbook Luminous Terrene (January, 2013) by Matthew Gagnon. I’m taken already with any work that begins with a quote by French writer Emmanuel Hocquard. This ten page poem is composed as a generative abstract: generous, open, subtle and remarkable. This poem withholds more than it contains, and surprises as much as it reveals. I am intrigued by this work, and wonder if this is a single piece, or part of something larger.

            A gyre of minerals is visible from the outcrop, but can we really say we’d rally behind the visible?

            I won’t be extracted from a custom or assembled into the fold of a wave.

            A flock of fish is breathing on dry land. There’s nothing modern about the way we cook fish.

            An aggregate of water over a film of water. Do we tread the water’s timetable, survey the riptide’s antimony?

            Read the night as if the night is read, and in stoking the night, order it: punctuated.

            Fastened to the umbrage of what’s missing, my memory’s adrift in a receding tidemark.

Milwaukee MI: From plumberries press I received a couple of chapbooks, including Connor Strathman’s Some Were Awake (2011), chelsea tadeyeske and edwin r. perry’s suddenly you’re naked and wandering through pasturage, on the farthest point of the peninsula, they say, the form has failed. you’ve left so many of your things, left for more favorable destinations. (2011), cynthia spencer’s In what sequence will my parts exit (2011) and chelsea tadeyeske’s HEELDRAGGER (2012), as well as the fifth issue of Humble Humdrum Cotton Frock (summer 2012).

THE ONE ABOUT PUBLIC SPEAKING

A moron walks into a bar. He clinks a butterknife against a glass to get the room’s attention. He carries a butterknife always, in a special handmade holster. Night is the most mysterious time of day, he says. It’s 11:30 a.m. Like I said, he’s a moron. Stupid women are at least attractive; this guy’s only funny on accident. You would not exchange the word “love” for “power” in the adage “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all,” but the moron would. Somebody told him that “verb” means “word” and he interpreted this too broadly. Luckily, the moron lacks all capacity for embarrassment. You have to learn shame, along with algebra and how to hug. The moron loosens his tie. He’s on his way to a funeral. (kathleen rooney and elisa gabbert, Humble Humdrum Cotton Frock)

There is something about the simple yet attractive design and production that appeals, and some of the work as well, despite being highly uneven. Even in the collaborative poem by kathleen rooney and elisa gabbert, there are some striking lines and images, in a piece that otherwise could use some editing, and time. There is something reminiscent here of Carleton University’s In/Words [see my recent article on them here], of a group of young writers producing and encouraging and publishing, a number of which just aren’t there yet, but are awfully close. Not there yet, but worth watching, to see for when they do.

The smell of the street
is now dusted in static

Salt lips and naked leaf
buoying in the sprung wind

court of lightning window
            you lick your teeth

shows the image
of towels hung

on the ledges
Give me a heart of cloth

and a limit of tin
to protect it from the rain (Connor Strathman, Some Were Awake)


Monday, February 25, 2013

A short interview with Barry McKinnon


I originally did this interview with Prince George poet Barry McKinnon for the Prince George issue of filling Station. The piece was posted in four sections on the filling Station blog (one, two, three and four) as an online extension of the recent Prince George, British Columbia issue, but I thought it might be worth posting the entire interview here as well.
this interview was conducted over email from October 16 - 30, 2012

Barry McKinnon was born in 1944 in Calgary Alberta, where he grew up. In 1965, after two years at Mount Royal College, he went to Sir George Williams University in Montreal and took poetry courses with Irving Layton. He graduated in 1967 with a B.A. degree. In 1969, he graduated with an M.A. from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and was hired that same year to teach English at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George where he has lived and worked ever since.

Barry McKinnon’s The the was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1080. Pulp Log was the winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Award for the B.C. Book Prizes in 1991 and Arrhythmia was the winner of the bpNichol Chapbook Award for the best chapbook published in Canada in English in 1994. His chapbook Surety Disappears was the runner-up for the bpNichol Award in 2008.

His most recent trade collections include In the Millennium (Vancouver: New Star, 2009) and The Centre: Poems 1970-2000 (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2004). He launched his chapbook, Into the Blind World (above/ground press, 2012) in Ottawa in March 2012 at the second annual VerseFest poetry festival.

rob mclennan: In her review of your most recent trade collection, In the millennium, in The Bull Calf, Gilliam Wigmore wrote that “In the millennium is a continuation of Barry McKinnon’s lifelong project to process the meaning of making a home in an essentially inhospitable place.” How do you feel about that description? What does it mean to you as a poet, or even as a resident of Prince George?

Barry McKinnon: There are several levels to Gillian’s statement that interest me; at first it looks accurate but also seems too general given my complex relationship with and in Prince George and given the writing this place has inspired via its “essentially inhospitable” surface. I think wherever I find myself, I’m always confronted by complex particulars and as a poet any sense of “making a home” may seem close at hand, but paradoxically also far off.  I feel at home perhaps most in New York City with all that’s available there that interests me, and then at some point sitting in a bar in the Lower East End, begin to miss the mountains of Tumbler Ridge.

I was once asked by a professor if I was interested in being a writer in residence at the university here.  He later informed me that the Canada Council added a new rule that a writer in residence could not live in the same city. I facetiously said: I don’t live here!  but also felt this odd insight: the detached necessary sense of exile that can often prompt the poem. This echoes for me, also, William Carlos William’s line that for the poet there is the literal place, as say, Patterson, but that: “only the imagination is real.” So if one works from that metaphysic, where do Gillian’s statement and your questions take me? The truth of my experience is in the poems: The Centre, The Centre: Moving North, and In the Millennium. With regards to the question here, “Prince George: Part One” is an autobiographical piece that might provide an answer of sorts – fragmentary particulars of my experience in the early days (1969 and on). 

But for a literal background, the sociology of Prince George seems simple enough.  I’ve been writing a prose book, Chairs in the Time Machine, about my first years here, and a period through the 1980’s when the arts got gutted by a “new vision”.  At the college where I used to work, those with the power and the new management team to carry out their mandate, wanted polytechnic trades training – anything technical.  Poetry and the arts didn’t fit with this thinking, so we found ourselves clinging to the handful of arts courses left – and limped onward into the hostile 80’s. This is the story I’m working on now – the nasty confrontations after my layoff on the grounds that creative writing was redundant), pressure to reinstate me (Brian Fawcett and Pierre Coupey got 50 writers to write letters in my defense), another 12 years of survival under the same “management”, and my obvious but paranoid revelation that some of us caused so much trouble to the system in an attempt to save what we valued that I would never get hired anywhere else. 

To go back. In 1969 my initial sense that the place was, if not inhospitable, at least suspicious, driven by the lumber and pulp industry and populated by mill workers, loggers, and “hewers of wood” (as the clichés have it) and populated by a public initially very suspicious of the proposed college and of the bunch of outsider eggheads who were going to either threaten or change the established order of things. The mayor at the time felt that the trades school was good enough. A college would be a big tax drain. Later on during a referendum for a new library, he quipped: “libraries are for loafers!” The welcome-mat was not exactly out:  in the first weeks here an absentee landlord kicked Joy and me out of our first apartment because of my moderately long hair.  

I was aware that in 1968 it had taken two referendums before the city finally voted for a junior college that would offer its citizens, for the first time, university transfer courses.  Simply, the town movers and shakers as they’ve been called – those politicians, business men, & assorted other local professionals and managers – wanted, from what I could see, to determine and define a city and its “real needs” in what they claim is the “real world”. But the second vote won. In the fall of 1969 the college faculty moved temporarily into the high school to teach the range of arts and humanities courses, and open a new possibilities for hundreds of curious, bright, and a motivated students. So it seemed that at least some people] did want poetry, art, music, the social sciences, history, geography, geology, and the range of literatures we were hired to offer.  The college, to use D.H. Lawrence’s phrase, became the creation of a “new little habitat” within the larger community. We started a student newspaper, a literary magazine, a small press, a reading series that included over 100 writers (Atwood, Ondaatje, Purdy, Livesay etc – a series that prompted Earle Birney to say that “Prince George is the poetry capitol of B.C.!” ). All of these activities along with our university courses prepared our students for transfer to North American colleges and universities - and the larger world beyond. 

If the idea of home is too static & what that concept might sentimentally imply, I feel okay to say I have, as the poet Lissa Wolsak once put it,  “a very full life” here as a poet and citizen – within the wide range of all that living implies.

rm: What is it about the form of the long poem that still appeals after all these years?

BM: This is a Note I wrote for Sharon Thesen’s The New Long Poem Anthology, Coach House Press, 1991.

In the spring of 1970 while revising a short, unfinished poem, I sensed that the subject was too large for the kind of lyric I was in the habit of writing. The urgency, impulse and push of its untold story kept me writing steadily for the next three weeks. The route this little fragment opened seemed to say: you can sum up your life to this point if you keep at it. Yet, I was afraid that this emerging long poem with its complex set of elements and conditions (fragments, images, ideas, and memories based on a series of my grandfather’s photographs and stories about his life at the turn of the 20th century) –  would fail and end nowhere. The pleasure of the writing, however, was to be in a poem with such a large context of space and time – to be in a form that, paradoxically, gave me new energy and confidence. I didn't know what I was doing but I was doing it. The result was the book-length poem, I Wanted to Say Something.

Since then I've been writing the long poem /serial sequence, a form that gives me the necessary range in which to articulate the poem's central truth from various and variable angles and perspectives.
I would like to add that during a conversation with Rober Kroetsch some years ago – always a taciturn experience until the beer kicked in – I asked if it took a long time to write a poem that is also relatively short in length, does the temporal measure qualify it as “ a long poem”? I can’t remember if Bob answered but do remember his slight smile as some kind of agreement. My new work Into the Blind World runs about 6 or7 pages for each of the 2 sections. Two years of reading Dante, thinking, and writing words on post-it-notes got me a total of 13 pages. A long poem? 

A Note On Arrhythmia for Sharon Thesen’s The New Long Poem Anthology, Coach House, 2001.

When I started writing at the age of 16, I wrote fast, filling boxes with quickly scribbled lyrics dashed off with a sense of excitement and risk. I never knew what I was about to say or where the page was to take me.  Now I’m 68 and the energy and pleasure of the writing process hasn’t really changed, but I wait much longer between poems. I’ve had to learn patience. Much writing and thinking for me is practice in preparation for the event when the poem arrives.

I’ve also learned to live with another paradox of its activity: The poem simultaneously identifies its writer to the world, but only comes into being when the writer, so to speak, is out of the way. What a strange occupation and process that requires obliteration of self at the same time that it reaffirms it. I think I knew this early on.

When I wrote the sequence, Arrhythmia, I literally had the sensation that my time on earth was shortly up.  Arrhythmia is a condition of irregular heart beats (“glandular prosody” as I joke in the poem) that, in my case, created a great sense of anxiety that didn’t lift until I was diagnosed – thus the poem’s final line of release and relief:  “knowing is paradise”. Poetry, in many ways, has saved my life, given it to me.

The composing principle for Arrhythmia, and I hope all of my work, was in line with W.C. William’s dictum that each poem must sum up the poet’s life to that point. I wrote Arrhythmia daily with the sense that if I had anything more to say I’d better get at it.  If the word “subject” is still in the post-modern lexicon, I believe the poet’s subject is time – and that language discloses the actualities therein. Emotion is the poem’s fact.

I’ve always needed the accumulation of experience and a push from some unexpected angle (a political/ social/personal condition, the corporeal – a heart condition) to throw me into the process of the poem.  A woman I met in Hamilton asked me at a reading if I wrote traumatic monologues. I had to agree, instantly, yes! and therefore with her slip on the word dramatic, created a close description of what I do.

As D.H. Lawrence writes: “We’ve got to live no matter how many skies have fallen.” I believe the poem helps us live because it also contains our affirmation, hope, and joy. 

rm: You originally moved to Prince George to teach at the College of New Caledonia. What have you learned over the years as a teacher, and what benefits has it brought you as a writer? Obviously, Prince George is a rough town, but I know there have been writers that have emerged from your classes over the years. How does that add to your experience or knowledge of writing?

BM: When I arrived here in July of 1969 fresh from UBC, I was in a panic for many reasons.  Prince George looked rough and the air stunk. Joy wanted to turn around and go back to Vancouver, but I don’t think the 57 Plymouth would make it. The so-called college consisted of a few portable trailers in a muddy parking lot behind the local high school. The first principal had a “vision” inspired by high art and high purpose that seemed appealing, but his “passions” turned out to be narrowly defined.  He fought with the Nazi’s in WW11, spent time in a prison camp, moved to Canada after the war, and was eventually hired to run a college back east. He was an interesting man, but insistent in a way that rubbed most of us, and the town, the wrong way. We were called “masters” and had to follow a strict dress code – jackets and ties and were often reminded to get out hair cut. He insisted on a formality that didn’t fit the place or the time.  After a reading I gave to the new faculty – we were all asked to give an informative talk – he bluntly said to the effect:  “I didn’t think you wrote poetry like that!”

I had never taught before so was confronted with developing a syllabus for 3 courses, and the anxious question of how to teach, stay ahead of the students and appear that I knew something. What might have saved me is that my diffidence was misread as me being laid-back.  In reality, I was an emotional mess.  Before my first class I vomited. Charles Boylan, also hired to teach English and to become a close friend, walked me to that first class and said: “You’re a likeable guy, you’ll do fine man!” And I did, despite my nerves, do well because the students in most of my classes sensed that my lapses and stumbles were an invitation for them to talk, discuss, go off topic, and take-over. I liked them and got to know them better as friends during the many nights we went to the Inn of the North bar after class. In “The Barn” the class conversations continued: art, poetry, school and town politics, world affairs, gossip and questions like:   “What’s up with the weird principal?”

I started to see that the lyric mode I was practicing wasn’t adequate for what I began to experience in Prince George.  The town was once described as “peeled back”; beyond the surface I began to see what realities it revealed; it became visible via its many dimensions:  social, political, economic etc. and that many of us as writers, academics, and students now had the job of defining and revealing what we saw and felt beyond the Chamber of Commerce clichés. The college was changing the town in important ways. The students wrote articles about the local pulp mill pollution, reviewed the poetry readings, published student poetry, protested the Vietnam War, started a literary magazine, and overall shit-disturbed the established order. I think, too, that the town sensed that things at the college were out of control. Too many lefties, hippies, artists, and troublemakers. The College Board fired the principal at the end of his second year. Life at the college somewhat calmed down as we entered the more benign 70’s, but got worse, beginning in the early 80’s – a complicated and unhappy decade ahead that I’ve begun to document in detail in Chairs in the Time Machine.

Many students became friends. They wrote and published chapbooks, helped me organize the poetry readings, and run the Caledonia Writing Series Press, kept me on my toes with their intelligence, curiosity, and tenacity. Names that come to mind, the poets and writers Harvey Chometsky, Bill Bailey, Alice Wolzak, Connie Mortenson, Meryl Duprey, Sharon Stevenson, Barbara Munk, John Oscroft, Randy Kennedy, Steve Stack and many many others I could list. Two other writers I need to mention became dear friends and colleagues that kept me straight on the writing path: The great Western American poet Paul “Red” Shuttleworth who taught a course with me, and John Harris whose books Small Rain and Other Art tell the college story in all of its ironic, humorous and dark dimensions. I need to add that anyone interested in Prince George must read all of Brian Fawcett’s books. 

Whatever tradition there is for writing in Prince George now continues with the many writers and artists I’m glad to hang out with: Graham Pearce, Matteus Partyka, Alex Buck, Arianwen Geronwy Roberts, Ryan White, Greg Lainsbury, Sarah de Leeuw, Paul Strickland, David Ogilvie – and the many other writers who read and participate in Graham Pearce’s yearly Post North series of readings.

But, yes, those first years were exciting and inspiring and provided content for various poem/sequences.  I’m referring to the long poems in The the. that bpNichol published at Coach House Press.  The town for me became a kind of chimera, an interesting tattered muse. Later in the 80’s during the darkness described earlier, my writing became as W. C. Williams once said – a way to ease my mind. Writing The Centre saved me at the time; it was a daily articulation of a kind of breakdown, but also a poem that defined for myself the irony, ambiguity, cruelty and hypocrisy of the college administration. I think the metaphor it projects is a large one and includes the larger world. Pulp Log during this same period became a log in 52 parts that again traced the daily shifts, changes and confrontations I found myself in.  My “subject” was the institution itself and what it was, beyond what it appeared to be. 

rm: In the afterward to Into the Blind World, you write:

This poem/fragment is based on a selection of lines sent to me by Arianwen Goronwy Roberts, a young student, poet, and artist who I jokingly referred to as Virgil one night when she soberly drove me home after a drunken literary event in the fall of 2009. I got Arianwen curious to read Dante’s Divine Comedy & at some other drunken literary event asked her to send me the Dante lines or sections that she liked or stood out for whatever reason. This she did from an on-line translation (http://www.readprint.cm/work -7/inferno-dante-alighieri: The Divine Comedy: Hell - no translator given). Within those stanzas, verses, and narrative fragments I could see certain words/phrasings and images that prompted my own “translation” and improvised responses.

How did you approach the shift of “translating” the poem into a piece by Barry McKinnon? Did you approach it as a rewriting, akin to George Bowering’s Kerrisdale Elegies (1984)? How important was it for you to keep some of the original ideas and cadences?

BM: It’s interesting that writing poems for me can be prompted by a range of various conditions and sources. Here is my introduction for The Centre: Moving North.

          The eleven sections in this collection contain experience and language informed by a range of places in this urge to reveal a world in relation to all that is / was to become a life: family, work, sex, friendship, health, the politics of person and place – these large complex inaccurate dissolute human categories as prompts for whatever the poet is given to reveal. The particulars of these contexts and places I hope I partially found / made visible – as they sought me in the poems that follow.

Into the Blind World began capriciously with an odd request for Arianwen (“Virgil”) to feed me lines from Dante’s Hell via email for what then became a serious writing/collaborative project. This was the first time I’d ever put another person to use for the possibility of writing a poem. I would read each of the Hell cantos, think/meditate, and if I could see a connection to my own thoughts and emotions, scribble a note in the margins or on post-it-notes. Arianwen’s lines, in most cases, would throw my mind from what I was thinking, into other considerations – make me risk what became fast and often puzzling lines.  If they rang true and kept me wondering about what the hell they meant, I kept them. Here’s an example of my decision-making:  I wrote the early line, “some corrupt” and was bugged by how soft it was.  What are those moments worth for a poem when you say fuck it! and revise to : all corrupt! – the divine comedy for all time that we have lived in.  

W.C. Williams once said that each poem must sum up the poet’s life to that point.  Into the Blind World was both solipsistic, a “translation” from English to English, and a summation of whatever it is one can “know”.  Here is Bob Hogg’s email to me that might partly answer your question (underlines and italics mine):

Liked the play you did with Dante’s Inferno, drawing his diction in translation into your own voicing, wch it very much fits in the short fragment rob sent along to us all. 

Rilke in Kerrisdale? Why not Dante in Prince George. You gotta see, also, the bold presumption and humor in all of this.   


In the Millennium   ·   Prince George (Part One)
 for George Stanley

a man in himself is
a city – (W.C.W)


beleaguered/belied      the entrance (himself,
       
    he enters

 canyons
     in Hade's hot air


.


memory of that travel
 fear   to a sense of life ahead:  the literal city

busted out  -  clearing forests/ water/ air
   
not form but    what

shapes      

            the city     a body
to  its
       soul  - 

.


down
town tribes -

in their source of
detachment, begin to be
themselves again -  hunt/

history, the millennial weight: no clear stream/or abode
exists:
                  these  bulldozed souls

no pity or remorse   to equal what’s imagined

handouts on 3rd/ the giveaway suits
that clothe them. 

oh forest, oh bear - vestigial illumination / the
grins  
             in simple light

they see

.


what do we see  so clearly in its lack

to see  without image / articulation    - a reason

malls fill/downtown empties /history (capital / frontier
without  human hope:  this is the end, we sing ( crows peck puke, buckles in the side walk/holes of asphalt, piles of blood


.


the man, the city - what parts in
the metaphor, this way of dreaming - is the heart a down
town? 1969: the routes (bakery, bread, meat
balls, a pickle and up 4th to
the Astoria (beer - to the Bay, the Northern, Wally West, I.B. Guest &
down to the corner - 2nd & George, the Canada, the blues,
beer,
            the sense of here/not here - this want of places to
be, enter  & make
                                   sagacious.


.


libraries are for loafers

no blame to local realities.  nothing in the way of what doesn't exist,
in the simple mercantile presumptions

the smell of money  - the brushcut hero who could make it

the local ethos:  up
before the rest    went to bed   /   with his bulldozer. 

 and in a dream of this world woke to

         every one/every thing:    fuck  or be fucked


.


man a city:  the female forest -

to imagine the hard/the soft (winter, cycles to summer spring & fall
bleeding to the genderless human want of tenderness.

root hog or die

when a city becomes its coldest hearts
we live in the illusion of its habitat: 

the invisible/visible:  the city you see/ did good in

becomes an old cliché in the toxic mill cloud that fills the bowl
and drifts with the winds - a swirl of stink in the citizenry /penetrates the corpus while the corporate, that most visible as the source, least accounted for in the non-existent public square.

I can't breathe

a man must speak, to the threat dismissed, diminished,
coerced by need and want
to sing :  they think they
do me   no harm.


.


the they.  the who, the us in the disintegrated
       disintegration - nothing can be known; its own hopeless
statement - the north /everywhere (but not revealed -

in this   what?  will we only know the hot day in mid
July 69 into the stink, the heat, the Fraser
bridge / 57 Plymouth packed,
 
 I want to go back

to what humans imagine a version:  here / the beer
& coming out of the Barn into that heavy light decide
that moment, to stay.

the apt/penthouse - top floor Trojan Manor $300.00

where do you think you're going? don’t want   youse types here. 

moved to 1902 Queensway across from Marty’s Cafe (shack - 100 a month ( now    Assman's funeral

home - 

the city: a world

you entered - sensed body/parts
missing in the civic need the forces disallow - & that called specious

what saves us - a  clarity / conditions born of fog/
suspicion

the love  and hate of uneasy
marriage (man/woman - a city unto themselves


.


what is the source of this thinking?  ambiguity, contradiction
power, that hidden, conspiracies, pushed
buttons and cliché, until our bodies demotion to banishment. 

     a shit hole.


     .


when are you going  to write something good?


.


its activity is also its own resistance: what
to say:  what subject, or image - what body part contain
the life /  what weakness is strength when

the whole body vomits in nadir (the weakest
now culled once defined: a man vomits

in shame that now the city can not be made

this rotten  dark  soul, a man
a metaphor, a language convinced of its own rhetoric easily believed (men (the city
its self / fooled
by little stakes/little power (that those governed
men will thrust their outlines - will sacrifice the rest.  will
save themselves
others (those sickest

grin

at any scheme sabotaged by its own impossibility - know the inventors require such false faith and fear


.


the city exists / knows itself/ cannot change

easily

oh corpus of belched noxious gas 
oh corpus of the fruitless/oh corpus of malignment oh
generous corpus of the material world oh
industrial corpus behind the corpus oh corpus of the beautiful
& gentle wind oh corpus in our misaligned prayer oh corpus
of promise and care

oh grid of light, muscled male


.


stomp the tourists head into the walk - that part psycho
path - the city staggers in a hoedown dance/wild
in iconic illusion of how it sees itself - dressed
to kill any thing in sight

.


arms of the suburbs to father illusion: conglomerate homo unity:  turns place /
to no place / same place
to exist only in our attempt to define it


.


(off Queensway embarrassment, then disgust - teen hookers to cross through 

the riven world displayed by its line between:  us
and them

little girls, the man, a city - /homeless


.


why did you stay?   

the density of context peeled was revealed to a momentary
sense of simplicity, that it could be known, and therefore, the man
could  know himself, being a city: unto himself, - its maps and routes, the air it breathed, capacious unbalance to imply the need for its
opposite:  nothing to go on - knowledge without proof /its energy.

to work
a language in its attempt to equal
the anxious swirl in an angular world of charts, graphs - the
gizmoed patter claimed & believed as real - that any power required
subservience to its whacko notions, be revealed as public sense:  not
agreement, but truth of ones condition faced:  bloody head in its
second of consciousness under the killer’s boot -  in metaphoric
drama

be allowed to live.  





.


in the city:  Nechako, Fraser
    Husky, Canfor, PG Pulp, Northwood, Intercon, Lakeland, CN,                            
city core

     body is thought

through parking lot,  plumes 
 / trees,
  / polis / man