Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Spotlight series #62 : em/ilie kneifel

The sixty-second in my monthly "spotlight" series, each featuring a different poet with a short statement and a new poem or two, is now online, featuring Tiohtiá:ke-based sick slick, poet/critic em/ilie kneifel.

The first eleven in the series were attached to the Drunken Boat blog, and the series has so far featured poets including Seattle, Washington poet Sarah Mangold, Colborne, Ontario poet Gil McElroy, Vancouver poet Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Ottawa poet Jason Christie, Montreal poet and performer Kaie Kellough, Ottawa poet Amanda Earl, American poet Elizabeth Robinson, American poet Jennifer Kronovet, Ottawa poet Michael Dennis, Vancouver poet Sonnet L’Abbé, Montreal writer Sarah Burgoyne, Fredericton poet Joe Blades, American poet Genève Chao, Northampton MA poet Brittany Billmeyer-Finn, Oji-Cree, Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer from Peguis First Nation (Treaty 1 territory) poet, critic and editor Joshua Whitehead, American expat/Barcelona poet, editor and publisher Edward Smallfield, Kentucky poet Amelia Martens, Ottawa poet Pearl Pirie, Burlington, Ontario poet Sacha Archer, Washington DC poet Buck Downs, Toronto poet Shannon Bramer, Vancouver poet and editor Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Vancouver poet Geoffrey Nilson, Oakland, California poets and editors Rusty Morrison and Jamie Townsend, Ottawa poet and editor Manahil Bandukwala, Toronto poet and editor Dani Spinosa, Kingston writer and editor Trish Salah, Calgary poet, editor and publisher Kyle Flemmer, Vancouver poet Adrienne Gruber, California poet and editor Susanne Dyckman, Brooklyn poet-filmmaker Stephanie Gray, Vernon, BC poet Kerry Gilbert, South Carolina poet and translator Lindsay Turner, Vancouver poet and editor Adèle Barclay, Thorold, Ontario poet Franco Cortese, Ottawa poet Conyer Clayton, Lawrence, Kansas poet Megan Kaminski, Ottawa poet and fiction writer Frances Boyle, Ithica, NY poet, editor and publisher Marty Cain, New York City poet Amanda Deutch, Iranian-born and Toronto-based writer/translator Khashayar Mohammadi, Mendocino County writer, librarian, and a visual artist Melissa Eleftherion, Ottawa poet and editor Sarah MacDonell, Montreal poet Simina Banu, Canadian-born UK-based artist, writer, and practice-led researcher J. R. Carpenter, Toronto poet MLA Chernoff, Boise, Idaho poet and critic Martin Corless-Smith, Canadian poet and fiction writer Erin Emily Ann Vance, Toronto poet, editor and publisher Kate Siklosi, Fredericton poet Matthew Gwathmey, Canadian poet Peter Jaeger, Birmingham, Alabama poet and editor Alina Stefanescu, Waterloo, Ontario poet Chris Banks, Chicago poet and editor Carrie Olivia Adams, Vancouver poet and editor Danielle Lafrance, Toronto-based poet and literary critic Dale Martin Smith, American poet, scholar and book-maker Genevieve Kaplan, Toronto-based poet, editor and critic ryan fitzpatrick, American poet and editor Carleen Tibbetts and British Columbia poet nathan dueck.
The whole series can be found online here.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Joan Retallack, BOSCH’D


Human [hyu-muhn]

The human is one of many humorous creatures rolled out in the evolution of this planet. Wholly animal, charismatically self-conscious, intellectually ambitious, emotionally feral. Prone to abstraction, estrangement, hubristic fantasies, bitter depression. Psychologically lethal while imaginatively promising. The “we” that are human are no more, no less than part of nature. Nature is the whole of us. Denial of that has been our greatest folly.

I’m intrigued by American poet, critic, biographer, and multi-disciplinary scholar Joan Retallack’s latest poetry title, BOSCH’D (Brooklyn NY: Litmus Press, 2020), the first of hers I’ve read. Retallack is a poet I’m clearly behind on, given the length and breadth of her publishing history, from books on poetics, artist books and numerous poetry titles, including Procedural Elegies / Western Civ Cont’d / Selected Poems 1970-2008 (Roof Books, 2010). Although it should be noted, that despite whatever other publications she’s produced over the past twenty years, BOSCH’D is her first collection of new poems since the publication of Memnoir (Post-Apollo Press, 2004).

The poems is BOSCH’D are set in two sections, “BOSCH” and “BOSCH’D,” which itself is broken up into numerous sub-sections: “IN LOCO (ON THE SPOT),” “IN LOCO SCIENTIA (MATH & SCI),” “IN LOCO TEMPUS (NICK OF TIME),” “IN LOCO MALUM ET ALTERITAS (EVIL & OTHERS),” “IN LOCO CONFESSIO (SPILLING THE BEANS) BLOOD*LITANY” and “IN LOCO POST SCRIPTUM (AFTERWORDS).” What is the difference between the short “BOSCH” and the extended “BOSCH’D”? The second poem of the opening section, “Bosch [bash, bôsh]” includes a kind of prose poem lyric biography of Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516), the Dutch painter known for his “fantastical paintings on religious concepts,” writing: “His paintings intermix species of many kinds, / realistic and fantastical. Part-human, part-animal, part-mechanical creatures, ethereal / figures, wily demons—a world filled with the exquisite and grotesque in startling clarity.” She writes of time and absolutes, of saints and statues, including numerous poems with codas: an intriguing boiling down of lyric and language, a Greek-chorus style of end-point reminiscent of Toronto poet Margaret Christakos offering the same, via “THEREFORE” codas, throughout her own wipe.under.a.love (Toronto ON: Mansfield Press, 1998). There is something in the way Retallack expands and contracts her lyric thinking I’m quite taken with, providing both the stretched-out exploration and one boiled down to the bone, both of which still provide an equally-delightful openness.


The exhaustion of truth in language was so
great there was no way to know what one
had to go on as one had to go on going on.

Retallack composes poems as a study of language, of Stein and Sappho, of science; writing the sparks and fragments of lyric. She writes big ideas and small details, exploring the connections across and through physical space, physics and theory, math and myth, philosophy and storytelling, and dreams of the impossible. BOSCH’D includes an array of some absolutely stunning lines in equally stunning poems. At the end of the poem “The Ventriloquist’s Dilemma,” she writes: “Someone will claim / real is a misleading construct. Someone will claim / night flew into a tree. Those five words in a line.” This is a wonderfully complex collection of poems of thinking that can’t help but spark further thinking; a poetry of inquiry as strong as I’ve ever seen, and there are echoes here that remind, also, of elements of Anne Carson, Norma Cole and Kathleen Fraser: an ongoing and deeply engaged poetics of language and inquiry. As Retallack writes to open the poem “St. Anselm’s QED”:

St. Anselm’s Proof of the Existence of God:
God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived:
omnipotent, omniscient, omni-beneficent.

If God does not exist, then something greater can be conceived:
one with a fourth attribute—existence. Therefore,
God, than which nothing greater can be conceived, must exist. QED.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Katie Cortese

Katie Cortese is the author of Girl Power and Other Short-Short Stories (ELJ Editions, 2015) and Make Way for Her and Other Stories (University Press of Kentucky, 2018). Her work has recently appeared in VIDA Review, Gargoyle, Indiana Review, Blackbird, The Baltimore Review, and elsewhere. She teaches in the creative writing program at Texas Tech University where she also serves as the fiction editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. Visit her at www.katiecortese.com or @KatieCortese on Twitter.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My first book arrived three months after my first baby and in my mind it's hard to separate the two. Both existed in theory for a long time before they began to take physical form, and both represent significant labor, imagination, and perseverance. My first book changed my life because it helped me begin to believe that I could achieve at least some of the seemingly impossible goals I'd set for myself, and that writing could coexist with momming and teaching and life generally going forward. My first book, Girl Power, is all flash fiction, and features all female narrators. It was a joy to write, partly because I didn't know it would be a book until I had forty something stories that shared some key concerns. The second book, Make Way for Her, is again focused on women and girls, but the stories are longer, so there's more space to explore the narrators' inner lives and dreams.

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?

I probably write more fiction than anything else because I read more fiction than other genres, though I do read memoirs and other forms of nonfiction and write essays as well. I've always been a consumer of narrative, whether in a book, on television, on the stage, or by paying attention to the way people interact in life, and I don't remember a time when I wasn't trying to make meaning out of events by fitting them into some kind of "beginning, middle, and end." Plus, I like the challenge of building worlds and scenarios from scratch that feel real and compelling enough for readers to want to go along for the ride.

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?

Flash fiction usually comes out whole the first time, but requires a lot of shaping on the micro-level--consolidating words and phrases, making images more precise, cutting and cutting until they say the most they possibly can in the fewest possible words. Short stories used to emerge through the same process, but I hit a point when the physical price for pulling all-night writing sessions grew too steep. Now I take weeks or months to piece together a big, messy draft, and then it can take years--sometimes setting it aside, sometimes concentrating on one scene or page or final line--to mold them into the best versions of themselves. So far, I've written three novels and each came out a different way--one almost linearly; one with scenes written out of order and stitched back together; and one from extensive research. So far, all of those drafts are still becoming, still in process. Deciding what they want to be.

4 - Where does a work of prose 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?

My first two books are collections that I didn't know they were going to be books when I started them. The flash collection was written over a period of five years and many of the stories sprang from one productive semester of my PhD when I took a class with Robert Olen Butler. We had to turn in a story every other week, and I didn't trust myself to write a good story for every deadline, so I wrote a lot--not quite one every day for four months, but close. I owe my colleagues at FSU a great debt for exchanging stories with me outside of class so that even when the instructor's eyes didn't fall on a piece, I still got lots of useful feedback. For the longer stories, I wrote them one at a time over an even longer period--probably ten years or so--and then pulled together the ones that had the most to say to each other. I'm grateful to Lisa Williams, the series editor for my book at the University Press of Kentucky, for her role in shaping Make Way for Her into the book it ultimately became.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I enjoy readings because I started out, way back in high school, thinking that I would go into theater. I was in drama club, did community theatre in the summers, studied acting in college--the whole bit. I love performing and haven't had the chance to do any acting in years, but when I write stories they are very scenic and focused on characters interacting in space and time, and when I read them out loud, my hope is that the audience can see the story the same way they might watch a play (except with the added benefit of interiority and narration filling in gaps). I love hearing other writers read too. To me, it's magical when someone's words succeed in sweeping me away to another world, or a different understanding of the one I'm in, and I like sharing those experiences with other listeners in real time. I'm that weird person who even loves Zoom readings--no commute, no rooms that are too hot or too cold, and the luxury to turn off the camera if one of my kids wanders into the frame.

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?

I think there are as many questions as there are writers--or people, regardless of whether they write. I can't say that I'm conscious of trying to answer questions, but when I've had the chance to go back and look at my work (either to defend it for a degree or to compose a synopsis for the submission process), I see a lot of the same concerns: agency and fulfillment in the lives of women and girls; what it means to love and be loved; the grave peril we face from climate change; the ways in which we can learn from and look toward the past and future; how to be a person in this messy, dangerous, troubled, and sometimes beautiful world. For me, the stories come first and the questions come after.

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?

Similarly to the last question, I think there can be as many roles for writers as there are people who write. In my life, I look to writers to help me understand both the lives of others and my own life, but I also look to them for instruction, solace, clarification, to be moved, to step sideways out of my own perspective for a while, to be reminded of how much I still don't--and probably won't ever--know or experience firsthand. I think people will always turn to writers for comfort, for community, for context, and for ways to say things that are notoriously hard to express. That's why poems are most often heard in mainstream culture at weddings and funerals, or else in viral social media posts after tragedies or great accomplishments. That's why people describe scenarios as Kafkaesque or talk about "the milk of human kindness" even if they don't always have a good working knowledge of "In the Penal Colony" or The Grapes of Wrath. Books influence culture because writers say what people feel but don't have their own words to explain.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I love getting eyes on my work. Especially after writing on a project for weeks or months, it's easy to get a kind of tunnel vision, and editors--or outside readers--poke all sorts of holes in the tunnel to let the light hit places that need attention or repair. Though I've heard of editors imposing their own vision on writers to the detriment of the writing, I've only ever felt grateful for anyone willing to engage with my work. I don't always agree with every editorial comment, but every suggestion is an opportunity to clarify my intentions with a word or sentence or chapter, and editors are necessary reminders that writers write for others. Without readers, we're writing journal entries or scribbling "notes to self," and while there's nothing wrong with someone writing with no intention of sharing the work, anyone who'd like to publish has to consider the person who will engage with the story or the book out in the world. Kurt Vonnegut gave such great writing advice over the years, and one piece I like a lot is that we should "pity the reader," or in other words, make it easy for people to access and connect with our writing.  It's a gift for anyone to read my work, so I'm going to honor their trust and generosity by creating the best story for them that I can.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

One of my wisest and most generous writing mentors, the great Julianna Baggott, always says writers should picture themselves whispering their stories urgently into the ear of just one person. I love that idea--we're not blasting out a message to a throng of people nodding in appreciation, but telling one person a story that needs to be told, and doing it in such a way that they can hear the story clearly, experience it vividly, and be moved.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (short stories to essays)? What do you see as the appeal?

I find that short stories evolve more naturally for me, probably because I feel them out rather than think them into being, but while essays take more effort to jumpstart, there's some comfort in having a set number of facts or true events to guide their progress toward completion. I write in each genre for different reasons. Usually, stories are prompted by feelings or images, but essays are sparked by ideas or experiences. In the process of writing and revising either genre, though, once they get going, there's little difference for me in the composition, or in the tools I use to craft them. I make use of scenes, setting, characters, plot, props, dialogue, and other storytelling elements in both genres. The appeal for me in either genre is looking closely at something I don't fully understand and making discoveries along the way, and then in shaping those questions and explorations for readers.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

When I first started writing, I worked best in binges--marathon-long sessions 2-4 times a week, and would usually either draft a full story in that time or tinker with a revision. I kept that up until my MFA where I heard somewhere that writers should write every day, and then I tried to do that, but I'd miss a day and then feel bad about it, and then I'd miss a couple in a row, and it just added unnecessary and unproductive pressure to the whole enterprise. I didn't want to go back to binge-writing, though, because that didn't seem sustainable either in the long run, so I had to teach myself to start a story and leave myself a few breadcrumbs in the form of notes for the next scene, and then I'd come back to a given piece in the next few days and there would be a readjustment period, but I found that I could still jump back in pretty easily. I still write that way now, except children and a full-time job sometimes force the gaps to last longer than I'd like. The best answer is that in an ideal world, I would wake up, take my kids to daycare, have an unhurried breakfast, and then write for five or six hours with a few snack and bathroom breaks (and I'm on development leave now--i.e. sabbatical, so I have been getting to do this most weekdays), but in less ideal versions of the world, I fit writing in the spaces between other responsibilities--an hour a day three or four days a week, if I'm lucky. If that time doesn't materialize, then I can usually count on a two and a half hour block during my weekly writing group meeting, which has been my saving grace for the past four years. Big shout out to the Women Faculty Writing Program at Texas Tech University: my second book--and any that might come after it--wouldn't exist without you.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I find that I don't often get stalled in writing, but I do sometimes fall victim to imposter syndrome or feel too drained to enter either the imaginary world of a short story or an essay that requires me to employ critical faculties. In those instances, I find it useful to "write the bad out." Basically, I just keep typing until either I trick myself into getting invested in a piece (even if I later throw it away), or I feel competent enough to start something new that I'm actually interested in from the start. When I need inspiration, though, I usually read (my go-tos are ZZ Packer, Karen Russell, Celeste Ng, Octavia Butler, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich, and others) and before long I'm usually ready to look at my own pages again. In a maybe-unpopular opinion, though, I tend to find plenty of inspiration in television too, especially smart HBO shows and (more or less) faithful adaptations of books or other published material, like The Handmaid's Tale and The Walking Dead, but I'm really a fan of anything with a good storyline and cast, and I learn something from every show I've seen even if it's what not to do.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

The ocean. I miss it terribly where I live now in West Texas, hundreds of miles from the Gulf of Mexico and more than two thousand from the coast where I grew up.

14 - 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?

Theater has had a big effect on my work, as I mentioned earlier, though I'm not sure if I can point to any one work in particular. It's more the idea of being present in a scene, using the physical surroundings to reveal character and motivations, and in working through the "beats" of a scene like an actor would study a script, determining motivation and justifications for characters' actions on a line-by-line basis. Anxiety about climate change also sneaks into my stories, and I've published a few pieces that I think could be classified as "cli-fi," or climate fiction.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

I mentioned some of my go-to writers for inspiration already, and I credit two of them with making me a writer today. The first is Stephen King because I read It when I was thirteen, and that was the first time I remember not just enjoying a book but deciding that I wanted to try and do for my own readers someday what he'd done to me. There's something about the way that book swoops through time and in and out of realistic-feeling situations and pure (often horrific) invention that showed me more of what was possible with a novel than anything I'd read to that point. Margaret Atwood is the other writer whose work always gives me so much to aspire toward. Her novel Cat's Eye gave me permission to explore the lives of young people and to privilege the stories of women. The Blind Assassin, Wilderness Tips, The Maddaddam Trilogy, The Pennelopiad, and of course The Handmaid's Tale have been hugely important for me as a writer, woman, and human.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

I would like to go to Calabria in Italy to see where my grandfather was born--a village called Magisano. I've been to Italy but haven't traveled further south than Rome. To keep with the theme, I'd also like to be fluent in Italian.

17 - 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?

My first goal was to be an actor and I majored in theater and English as an undergrad. My school was located about three hours north of New York City, and I had loose plans to go there after graduation, rent a tiny corner of a tiny apartment, work seventeen barista jobs, and audition until I broke or my budget did. I had headshots taken and everything, but someone told me in my last semester of senior year that there was something called an MFA in Creative Writing, and if I got in somewhere, the school would pay me to learn to write and teach. I thought they were kidding; it sounded like such an impossibly good deal, I thought it must be a scam (of course, the jury is still out on this notion for a lot of people--in my mind, MFAs are great places to develop a portfolio and make connections with mentors and colleagues, but only if one has a lot of support in and outside of their cohort so they don't have to rely on workshops for personal growth, and only if one doesn't assume that MFA degrees will lead directly and immediately to a job; I loved my MFA experience, and I wouldn't have landed the job that I feel so lucky to have if I hadn't started with an MFA, but I know they're not all created equal, and though I lived below the poverty level, I didn't have to go into debt for mine--plus, I had the privilege that so many people don't have of having supportive parents who would have extended their safety net and welcomed me back home if something went off course, so I had a better experience than a lot of people; and I had the freedom to fail, which was essential for me, and is not a privilege afforded to far too many immensely talented writers, artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs). Anyway, my heart about-faced immediately, and I realized that I didn't want to do anything in the world except write fiction. Since I was too late for the current year's application cycle, I got a temporary work visa with a friend and moved to England for six months, where I worked at the National Museum of Science and Industry in London, and then I moved in with a friend in San Diego, where I worked at SeaWorld for another six months, and then it was off to Arizona State University to learn how to write. Honestly, writing is something that I did before I earned any kind of paycheck, and it weathered all my other passions and tangents and preoccupations, so I'd probably still be a writer no matter who signed the checks that paid my bills. I'm just lucky enough to be able to get paid for doing what I love, and a day doesn't go by that I wonder how I lucked into my life.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I have a vivid memory of my mother coaching me to recite one of Juliet's speeches for her long-retired, elderly-by-then, high school drama teacher, Sister Gretchen. "Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars...," etc. I was three, and we were in Sister Gretchen's living room at the front of her very old house across from a set of train tracks. Beyond that, I could see a stretch of sand called Monument Beach. I remember the balding Persian rug beneath my feet, and feeling surrounded by a forest of house plants, and seeing Sister Gretchen delighted, leaning in to hear, clapping when I was done. That did it, I think. Language and performance and place wrapped up in one formative package. We've been cleaning out some old boxes at my house lately to reduce clutter, and I came across a trove of documents my mother kept from my childhood. Every third sheet of paper is a story dictated to her before I could write, or a staple-bound book in my own terrible handwriting, or a poem riddled with cutesy rhymes. The poeming didn't stick, but the stories did.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I'm reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee right now, and its depth and breadth are amazing as well as instructive for anyone who is thinking about writing historical fiction. I recently loved Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, Zone One by Colson Whitehead, Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang, and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I haven't read as much as I've wanted to lately, but as soon as my kids are older (and getting lost in their own books), I am counting on returning to a book-a-week habit. As for movies, of course, I haven't been to a theater in ages--even before the pandemic, it was rare that I'd have the chance to see a movie, but I loved Parasite, Arrival, Get Out, and Coco from the comfort of my living room couch.

20 - What are you currently working on?

Currently, I'm working on two projects--a story collection set "fifteen minutes in the future" in a world beset by dramatic climate change. I have two more stories to wrap up for that book (well, it's looking like one story and a novella) before I can try to order and finalize the project; the other manuscript is a historical novel focused on an Italian immigrant family in the North End of Boston during World War I, the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, the culmination of the women's suffrage movement, the onset of Prohibition, and alongside a few other significant moments from that era. Both books are forcing me to move past my writing comfort zone, and that's scary, but it's a good scary, and I'm excited to stretch and learn as I go.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Mouse Eggs (1976-81): an interview with Ken Norris and Endre Farkas, and (incomplete) bibliography,

this interview was conducted over email from December 2020 to May 2021 as part of a project to document literary publishing. see my bibliography-in-progress of Ottawa literary publications, past and present here

Ken Norris was born in New York City in 1951. He came to Canada in the early 1970s, to escape Nixon-era America and to pursue his graduate education. He completed an M.A. at Concordia University and a Ph.D. in Canadian Literature at McGill University. He became a Canadian citizen in 1985. For thirty-three years he taught Canadian Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Maine. He currently resides in Toronto.

Endre Farkas was born in Hungary. His family escaped during the 1956 Hungarian uprising, and settled in Montreal. He has collaborated with dancers, musicians, actors, and the other Vehicule Poets. He has published two novels, eleven books of poetry and two plays. His work has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian and Slovenian. He has read and performed widely in Canada, the United States, Latin America, and Europe, and has created performance pieces that have toured across the country and abroad.

He has also translated the poetry of Bari Karoly.

His book How To was nominated for the A.M. Klein poetry award in 1983.  He is the two-time winner of the CBC radio Poetry “Face Off” Competition.

His collaborative book and videopoem with Carolyn Marie Souaid, Blood is Blood, was the winner of Zebra’s International Poetry Film Festival (Berlin) in 2012.

His two novels Never, Again and Home Game were published by Signature Editions in 2016 & 2019 respectively. Home Game was shortlisted for the Hugh MacLennan prize for Fiction. He is a proud non-card carrying member of the Vehicule Poets and Mouse Eggs.

Q: How did Mouse Eggs first begin?

Ken Norris: Great question. I don't remember. Maybe Artie [Gold]. Artie had a sign, didn't he? A sign in his study about Mouse Eggs?

Endre Farkas: Ken, being the Vehicule historian, is probably the best person to answer this. I think Artie suggested the title. I think it was our prolific time and our looking to publish what we wrote toute suite. The sacredness of the immediacy. And in keeping with the Vehicule spirit of “if you want it done, then do it.” I don’t think it was a conscious decision but it was the Vehicule Poets’ house organ. Invitation was by mimeo. Serious little mags were popping up all over the country (I think) but not “playful” ones. Maybe TISH was our predecessor? (at least in name). And we had the “means of production.” Ken, correct me (he will) if I’m wrong.

KN: Artie had a sign, and he had a guy to draw the covers: Marc Nerenberg.

I was a Ph.D. student at McGill, and I had access to a ditto machine, and stencils. Endre had access to a ditto machine and stencils at John Abbott.

The Vehicule Poets were all talking to one another before we were the Vehicule Poets. We were all running magazines. But we wanted to do something that was instant and immediate. That was Mouse Eggs. Circulate the stencils this week and run it off next week. There were no editors. Everybody who was given stencils self-edited. Everybody also typed up their own stuff. Endre and I were the producers of the product. We ran the mimeograph machines and stapled the issues together. I think it was a run of 50 copies. Sold exclusively at The Word.

Was the Gallery the drop-off site for the stencils? I don't remember. Did we mail them in? Back when the postal service worked? Maybe.

Q: Endre: you mention TISH, but had you other models for Mouse Eggs? What else was going on around you in Montreal at that time? Had either of you seen copies of TISH, or had you only heard tell of it?

EF: We also put “Typos copyright of poets.” No, we didn’t mail them. At least I don’t remember doing this though John (McAuley) & Stephen (Morrissey) might have. Yes, John was publishing Maker & Stephen Montreal Journal of Poetics.

I had heard of TISH (Canadian Poetry class with Michael Gnarowski, and George Bowering was in Montreal at the time, so I might have seen a copy or two. I’m sure Artie had copies. George was already connected with Artie.

KN: Artie had copies of TISH, and he would let me “examine” them in his study. I couldn’t take them out of the room. So I’d seen TISH. And I THINK the Frank Davey edited reprint of TISH 1-19 came out in 1975, around Mouse Eggs time.

Booster and Blaster had been a few years earlier, but I wasn’t around for that. I was newly arrived in this incarnation.

Mouse Eggs wasn’t like anything else in Montreal. We just wanted an outlet for work that was hot off the pen. I think the “holiday” themed issues came later.

Q: How were the first issues put together? Were you soliciting work, or did you put out a call? How was work gathered?

KN: I remember handing out ditto sheets to the Vehicule Poets, maybe down at the Gallery. I think everybody got two ditto sheets, two pages. To put whatever they wanted on their pages. So it definitely started with the 7 of us, and maybe 14 pages. So the work was self-selected, and then everyone could be surprised. Including the guy who was putting the issue together, me or Endre. I believe the fourth issue was done in concert with the Spring Poetry Marathon, and maybe that was the Second Annual Spring Poetry Marathon, held at Vehicule Gallery (the first one had been at Concordia). And everyone who participated was given a page. So that was our biggest issue, and our most inclusive issue. I believe Augie Kleinzahler has a poem in that issue, along with LOTS of other people. I remember it as being forty pages, and difficult to staple!!

Q: The Vehicule Poets anthology through John McAuley’s Maker Press was published in 1979, not long after the initial run of the journal. How important was mouse eggs in helping the seven poets in the “Vehicule Poets” shape into an informal group?

KN: Good question. I believe there is a collaborative poem in the first issue of Mouse Eggs written by our seven. That’s the first “collaborative act” of the group, and it gives birth to Mouse Eggs. So I see Mouse Eggs as THE central document of the Vehicule Poets. It’s lighthearted, but it’s also a serious collaborative act. It’s the construction of the clubhouse. It’s the unofficial official organ of the Vehicule Poets.

Q: Moving through the bibliography for mouse eggs, what strikes me is both the incredible pace with which new issues appear, as well as the geographic range of writers, which suggest that word was getting out about what it was you were doing. You’ve contemporaries from across North America appearing in the pages of mouse eggs, but no elder poets, whether Bowering or Blaser or Davey or even Louis Dudek, who was around the Vehicule vicinity. Was this deliberate, or was the journal really one of ongoing happenstance?

KN: Let’s compare Mouse Eggs to CrossCountry for a minute.

In CrossCountry I was interested in getting ALL of the older poets in Canada and America into the pages of the magazine. Heavy-hitters and newcomers. I mean, I got a poem from F.R. Scott who was close to eighty at the time.

Mouse Eggs wasn’t really a magazine. Every issue was a moment in time. It’s Valentine's Day—let’s go!! What have we got?

Who have we got? Here’s the photograph of that moment; now let's move on to the next moment.

I agree--there was an incredible pace. I like what you said about "ongoing happenstance"—that is it exactly. I put poems in Mouse Eggs I would never try out anywhere else.

At McGill, Dudek was talking to me constantly about “permanence” in poetry. Mouse Eggs was as ephemeral as you could get. We were just leapfrogging from holiday to holiday, whim to whim. I tried my hand at writing a few forgeries. There’s a Tom Konyves poem that wasn’t written by Tom Konyves. There's a John McAuley poem that wasn’t written by John McAuley.

CrossCountry was getting money from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Canada Council. Mouse Eggs wasn’t getting money from ANYBODY. Endre was mimeographing issues at John Abbott and I was mimeographing issues at McGill. These days they would probably say that we were stealing paper. But things were looser then.

Louis probably would have been offended if I asked him for poems for Mouse Eggs. We weren’t The Tamarack Review. We were maybe like First Statement, but without the John Sutherland editorials. There was no editor. There was no cohesive aesthetic. It was just meant to be fun. Poets having fun, as opposed to working on their careers. At that time none of us had a careerist bone in our bodies.

Q: Once the Vehicule Poets were formed as an informal group, what did that mean, exactly? Was this a way for the seven of you to distinguish yourselves from the other poets working in the city? Was it a marketing tool for readings? What did it mean to the group of you?

KN: In a way, the Vehicule Poets became aware of themselves by being denigrated by other folks in town who called them “those fucking Vehicule Poets.” And what they meant were those poets who were running the Press and the Reading Series down at the Gallery. And it was, “Oh, they must be talking about us.” And “Oh, they must be talking about the group of us.” And the “us” was the three of us who were editing books for the Press: Endre, Artie, and I. And the “us” was the folks who were running the Reading Series, which was Claudia, Endre, Artie, John, Stephen, and Tom. So when people are talking about “the fucking Vehicule Poets” that must be who they are talking about.

So that’s the way that we were aware of the fact that we were being talked about and being dismissed all together.

In late 1978, we called a meeting at Artie’s house to discuss whether we all wanted to appear in an anthology together. Everybody showed up. Everybody talked about it for a couple of hours. And we decided that we DID all want to appear in an anthology together. So we applied the label “The Vehicule Poets” to the anthology, and it was published by John’s Maker Press in 1979.

But Mouse Eggs started coming out in 1975, before we were ever officially “the Vehicule Poets.” We were just a bunch of friends doing a mimeographed magazine together.

Once we were a group, what it meant was that, when Artie died, and they ran his obituary in the Globe & Mail, they called him Artie Gold, Vehicule Poet.

You should read my poem “Montreal, 1975,” which is in South China Sea. I talk about what it was like for me to find the other six. I say that once we found one another we were “no longer alone / in the vast soup of being.”

So there’s THAT. And that, for me, was significant. I suddenly had friends. I suddenly had friends in poetry. I wasn’t going to have to conduct “a career” on my own. We didn’t THINK in careers then. Did we think “in marketing”? I don’t think so. We were just stating the obvious—we were 7 poets who were hanging out with one another and collaborating with one another.

And one of the things we were collaborating on was Mouse Eggs.

EF: I don’t remember ever consciously thinking about being a Vehicule Poet as a way to distinguish myself from others. Ken is right us being dubbed the Vehicule Poets was derogatory.  I think Tom liked the label because it suggested motion, moving ahead. (Read “No Parking.”) We didn’t ever have a meeting about the name or writing a manifesto. Our manifesto, if you can consider it such, was our experimenting: Tom with his videopoetry, me with my collaboration with dance and music, Stephen in his work with a visual artist, John with concrete poetry, Ken in collaboration with Tom, John, Stephen and me. Claudia’s “radical” work was eroticism and feminism. I thought and still do that Stephen Morrissey poem “regard as sacred the disorder of my mind” was as close as we got to a manifesto. I consider it our unofficial anthem.

Peter Van Toorn referred to the Vehicule Poets as “the messies” and to himself, Solway & Harris as “the neats.” What he meant by “messy” was that that we didn’t focus on craft and form. It was a “fun” and “derogatory” term at the same time.  I think he and the other “neats” were wrong. We were probably as, if not more, concerned with craft. We just weren’t reproducing/manufacturing the old forms. We were interested in “making it new.” And we were having fun. Serious fun. And Mouse Eggs was one the ways we were having it. And for me that was important.

Marketing? The closest I got to doing that was going to the Atwater and Jean Talon markets to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

Q: What do you feel the journal accomplished, and what was behind the decision to end it? Did it simply run out of steam?

EF: I honestly don’t remember.

KN: The first “series” of Mouse Eggs was twelve or thirteen issues in 1975 and 1976.

We came back to it for a “second series” in 1980 and 1981. I still don’t remember how many issues were in the second series, but I am guessing that it was three or four.

We had a lot of fun doing Mouse Eggs. It was only produced in batches of 50 copies. We were mostly doing it for us. It wasn’t going for any kind of cultural impact. We wanted to have fun, and fun was had. It was probably less fun to do the second series, which is why there were fewer issues. The second five years of the Vehicule Poets was less coherent and less energetic. We were still hanging out in twos and threes, not so much in sevens. Claudia left for the States, and I was in the South Seas a lot.

Mouse Eggs bibliography [incomplete]:

Mouse Eggs, one dozen. Poems by Ken Norris, Tom Konyves, Artie Gold, Stephen Morrissey, Jim Mele, Claudia Lapp, Peter Kaye and andre farkas.

Mouse Eggs, two dozen. “SPECIAL HOLIDAY ISSUE--CHRISTMASS,” 1976. Poems by Raymond Filip, Ken Norris, Artie Gold, Tom Konyves, s. morrissey and Patricia Walsh.

Mouse Eggs, three dozen. “Valentine’s Day.” Produced as Stephen Morrissey and Pat Walsh wedding announcement. Poems by John McAuley, Artie Gold, andre farkas, Harland Snodgrass, Ken Norris, TEEK (T. Konyves), Arnold Snardon and stephen morrissey.

Mouse Eggs, four dozen. _____. Produced to coincide with the Second Annual Spring Poetry Marathon. Poems by Mona Elaine Adilman, G.C. Ian Burgess, Muriel Byer, ritchie carson, Catherine Cole, Frances Davis, Donna Dimaulo, Raymond Filip, Gilbert Gelinas, Artie Gold, Bob Johnson, Gertrude Katz, T. Konyves, Helen Kosacky, claudia lapp, Carole H. Leckner, John Lehndorff, Orin Manitt, C.W. Marchant, John McAuley, Elizabeth Metcalfe, stephen morrissey, Dick Mundel, Ken Norris, Leslie Nutting, Inge (Mrs.M.) Packer, Edward palumbo, Robert Rayher, Elizabeth Richards, Allen Roth, Ray Shankman, Harland Snodgrass, Ari Snyder, richard sommer, Paul Walker and Pat Walsh.

Mouse Eggs, five dozen. Easter, 1976. Poems by John McAuley, Ken Norris, janet kask, Jim Mele, andre farkas, Jesus of Nazareth, Jr., Artie Gold and Geoff Young, Murphrie Roos, Jim Joyce and T. Konyves.

Mouse Eggs, six dozen. “Mouse Warnings,” 1976. Poems by Susan Blaylock, guy birchard, Helen Kosacky, stephen morrissey, Patricia Walsh, G.C. Ian Burgess, Marquita Crevier, T. Konyves, claudia lapp, andre farkas, Ken Norris, Robert Galvin, Artie Gold,

Mouse Eggs, eight dozen. “Back to School,” 1976. Poems by Mash, penny chalmers, T. Konyves, claudia lapp, Guy Birchard, ritchie carson, andre farkas, Artie Gold, Maurice Zerkon, Sean Seamus Wilmut, Jeffrey and Colin Morton, Henry Hershfelf, Michael Largo, Ken Norris and T. Konyves.

Mouse Eggs, nine dozen. “Trick or Treat,” 1976. Poems by Hopeton Anderson & Guy Birchard, Jim Mele, S. Morrissey, John McAuley, Opal L. Nations, Ken Norris, T. Konyves and Barry Cornwall. “ENDGAME by Samuel Beckett, A Review,” “Oct. 24, 1976. Powerhouse Gallery, St. Dominique” by T. Konyves.

Mouse eggs, ten dozen. “Christmouse issue,” Poems by guy birchard, morrissey/Walsh, stephen morrissey, Artie Gold, Opal L. Nations, Ken Norris, T. Konyves, Tom Cornmash, andre farkas, Helen Kosacky, Bill Davis, James B. McGinniss, Carol E Cohen, Mike Breiner and Tinker Greene.

Mouse Eggs, eleven dozen. “The Tattooed Mouse,” February 1977. Poems by T. Konyves, Opal L. Nations, Ken Norris, john maccawley, stephen morrissey, artie gold, August Kleinzahler and guy birchard.

Mouse Eggs, twelve dozen. “Reuben’s Garage,” April 1977. Poems by claudia lapp, Opal L. Nations, Stephen Morrissey, Tom Konyves, Andre Farkas, Ken Norris, Artie Gold and ritchie carson.

Mouse Eggs, thirteen dozen. “Baker’s dozen,” June 1977. Poems by Artie Gold, stephen morrissey, Ken Norris, Opal L. Nations, Ken Norris, T. KonYves and Andre Farkas.

Mouse Eggs, one dozen, Series B. “breaking through to the EIGHTIES,” circa February/March 1980. Cover and back cover by Artie Gold. Poems by Stephen Morrissey, Ken Norris, Tom Konyves, Endre Farkas, Claudia Lapp and John McAuley.

Mouse Eggs, Second Gathering (Raiders of the Lost Mouse issue) 1981.