Monday, July 31, 2006

jwcurry reading The Martyrology; an all-weather event
all things fall

all things are one in the end

all that is all encompassed in that word

ah sweet saints of sameness
you are that saint

his all (bpNichol, The Martyrology)
On Saturday, July 29, 2006, Ottawa poet, publisher and editor jwcurry held a reading of bpNichol's The Martyrology, a nine-volume poem that appeared in trade form with The Martyrology Books 1 & 2 (1971) and ended with the posthumous The Martyrology Book 9 (1993). Being the bibliographer of bpNichol for some twenty years or so, curry has been working toward completion and publication of A Beepliographic Cyclopoedia and its side-project, a concordance to the martyrology for some time; this reading, to continue from the beginnings of Book 1 and continue until audience or voice gave out, was planned as both teaser/tester and a consideration of fundraisings for such a project (the pre-sale price of the complete A Beepliographic Cyclopedia is $3000.00, at an estimated 4,000 manuscript pages, and he has already sold a copy); what is it about this work that so completely holds the attention of so many people? (One can even argue, why is there a disproportionate amount of work on bpNichol's The Martyrology against all the other things he did, which easily outnumber the pages and the range of such a work?) What is it that keeps jwcurry coming back to the work again and again, making the life work of bpNichol the subject of his own?

Held secretly at the gazebo [a photo of such here] behind Parliament Hill, promoted almost exclusively by word-of-mouth, the former Barrack's Hill gave the most spectacular dusk view of the Ottawa River, Gatineau and at least six inter-provincial bridges, various boats and boat-noises, and the sun soothing down over the rolling buildings of Ottawa's sister city across the water. The reading started at 8:30 and moved through all of Book 1 and through most of Book 2. There is something very interesting about listening to a complete book (even if not a complete work) in one sitting, taking in all the things that exist there to be taken in as one extended idea, as opposed to simply dipping in.

At one point there were seventeen deliberate audience members in attendance (as opposed to the curious onlookers, who dipped in and out of listening range), including Stephen Brockwell, Steve Zytveld and Cathy MacDonald-Zytveld, Katherine Hunt, Amanda and Charles Earl, Monty Reid, Anita Dolman, James Moran (he brought a big bottle of wine and very little plastic wine glasses) and Carmel Purkis. With the gathered crowd for fireworks across the water at the Hull Casino, the break after the first hour or so was longer than curry expected (he was pretty excited about the crowd and the fireworks, though), he eventually resumed around 11pm to complete Book 2, and read straight through near the end of Book 3 around 12:45, when the three of us left (Steve, Cathy and I) took his pause as the time to call it a night (that's a lot of reading to take in).

In what other country, curry asked, could you have a sly reading of poetry by the national government buildings? Not in the Kremlin or at the White House, he said, that's for sure; he even reminded me of how we were but inches away from where bpNichol got talked about in the House of Commons for writing "filthy material." If you can imagine, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, as well as a number of his colleagues, didn’t like a number of things, including bpNichol's references to Billy the Kid's dick in THE TRUE EVENTUAL STORY OF BILLY THE KID (1970), or that both it and Michael Ondaatje's own The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970), co-winners of that years' Governor General's Award for Poetry, were about an American and not a Canadian.

On the whole, curry seemed enormously pleased at the event, and probably would have been, even if no one had actually showed up (since I left before the other three did, I have no evidence to say that curry simply just didn’t continue reading after we toddled off).

related notes: Amanda Earl's post on the reading; Charles Earl's photoblog of the reading; my previous post on jwcurry.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

the one book meme

I don’t know where this originally came from, but I saw this on Toronto fiction writer Kate Sutherland's blog recently, & it got me thinking about my own. The hard part really is keeping it to only one title.

1. One book that changed your life:

Immortality by Milan Kundera. Sure, The Unbearable Lightness of Being was immeasurably good, but reading Immortality really did change my life. I couldn’t even begin to tell you why. That was more than twelve years ago, though; more recently, I'd have to say New York novelist Paul Auster's Book of Illusions (2002). Why couldn’t his novel after this one be as good? To know that such things have already been done open up so many wonderful possibilities for writing fiction of my own… Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, collected in a series of graphic novels, easily changed the way I saw fiction of any kind; Gaiman has to be the best storyteller I've ever read. Even the movies Magnolia, Smoke or Until the End of the World altered the way I saw writing & reading fiction; but do films count? Why can't I keep to just one?

2. One book that you've read more than once:

Stones, a short story collection by the late Timothy Findley. The shorter his books, the better they are. There is just something about this collection that burns.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

The Night the Dog Smiled (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 1986), the last individual collection by the late Saskatchewan poet John Newlove. Or maybe expat-Canadian Suzanne Buffam's Past Imperfect (Toronto ON: House of Anansi, 2005) [see my note on such here]? No, actually. The Newlove. Yes.

4. One book that made you laugh:

George Bowering's memoir Baseball Love (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2006) [see my note on such here]. I've always liked Bowering's sense of humour (I think I have about 5,263,237 of his titles), but this one had something particularly more free & playful going on inside. There is something particularly entertaining about sitting in a public place & laughing out loud at something you read.

5. One book that made you cry:

I can't recall anything that made me particularly weepy in fiction; movies, every so often, really strike, & take a long time to leave my system. Romeo is Bleeding hit pretty hard, as did Lulu on the Bridge (I couldn’t interact with anyone for hours after watching either of them), but nothing I can recall from fiction. Ah, well.

6. One book that you wish had been written:

I could list a series of writers that I wish had lived longer to have written longer, such as poets John Newlove (not that it might have made much difference) or Gwendolyn MacEwen or John Thompson. Otherwise I can't really think of anything (I seem not to be very good at this game).

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

That’s a pretty high order; the removal of something from literature. There have been a few books along the way that haven’t really done a lot for me, but nothing I would feel the need to wish away. I'm of the belief that to remove even a bad thing from the past would alter any consideration of the present, & I tend to like my present pretty much the way it is. Mostly.

8. One book you're currently reading:

Ivan Klíma's Love and Garbage. I remember an interview with him over a decade ago on the earliest version of TV Ontario's Imprint that very much impressed me, & it was about this particular novel. I'm barely into it, & can't even remember where it was I recently found it, but I knew I had to pick it up. About ten years ago, I read another one of his novels I particularly enjoyed, but of course I can't recall the title of that one, either. He can hold me over until Milan Kundera has another novel out for me to read. I picked up a few titles by Australian writer Peter Carey recently to read when Kate & I get out to the farm, but I haven't opened any of them up yet.

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

Simple Recipes by Madeleine Thien, her collection of short stories. I was so completely taken by her reading at the ottawa international writers festival this past spring, & then even more by her novel Certainty (Toronto ON: McClelland & Stewart) that I think I have to read more. The new novel The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, actually; I haven’t felt the need to read anything but her non-fiction since the late 1980s (by then, I had actually read everything up to that point), but there is something about this new novel that really intrigues me; & any other part of that international series of rewritten myths; didn’t Jeanette Winterson do one? (I love her work) & anything by Paul Auster that I simply haven’t found yet.

10. Now tag five people:

I think I would be very interested in hearing the same from friends & blogger-poets Amanda Earl, Mark Truscott, Jordan Scott (he really needs to be posting more anyways), Sina Queyras & Wanda O'Connor (& Jessica Smith too; why can’t I just keep to five?). Dare they answer?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

the small press action network - ottawa (span-o) presents:

the above/ground press LUCKY THIRTEEN (the angry teen years...)

thirteenth anniversary party/launch
Friday, August 18th, 2006 at The Mercury Lounge, 56 Byward Street, Ottawa; doors open at 7pm, readings start at 8pm (map here)
$5 at the door (includes a free chapbook)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan, above/ground press editor/founder/publisher

featuring new poetry chapbooks & readings by

Phil Hall (Toronto)
Jesse Ferguson (Ottawa)
& Wanda O'Connor (Montreal/Ottawa)
with opening & no less important readings by

Jennifer Mulligan (Gatineau)
Stephen Brockwell (Ottawa)
& Anita Dolman (Ottawa)
Author bios:

Phil Hall lives in Toronto & Perth, Ontario. He has been publishing poems since 1973. His book Trouble Sleeping (2001) was nominated for the Governor General's Award. His most recent book An Oak Hunch was a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize. This spring he was in writer's residence at The Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon.

Jesse Patrick Ferguson is a poet, reviewer, musician and graduate student.His work has appeared recently in dANDelion, The Nashwaak Review, Matrix and The Dalhousie Review. He is also the author of three previous poetrychapbooks: Near Cooper Marsh (Friday Circle, 2005), Old Rhythms (Pooka Press, 2006) and Commute Poems (Thistle Bloom Books, 2006) [see my recent note on him here]. In the fall of 2006, he and his fiance will be relocating to Fredericton, NB to continue their studies.

Wanda O'Connor once embraced a fond affection for trap shooting. Her work has been published in such locations as Toronto, New York, Montreal, Australia, and Fredericton, New Brunswick. She reads and reviews a variety of books that make nothing happen.

Jennifer Mulligan will still be 31 at the staging of this event. She writes poetry, screenplay-like things, and she likes to watch people. On the average day, she attributes most of her rational/emotional life to being a Virgo sun/Scorpio moon combo (imagine a Vulcan (Virgo) + an Earthling (Scorpio) = SPOCK). Her work has appeared in YAWP, Peter F. Yacht Club publications, ottawater, above/ground press broadsides, and in the chapbook Winter2 in celebration of Ottawa’s Winterlude. She is currently finishing a series of six poems based on the work of the ancient Roman poetess, Sulpicia. Some of her work is available online through

Stephen Brockwell spent the first half of his life in Montreal and the second half in Ottawa. Where he will spend the third half is uncertain. His most recent book is Fruitfly Geographic (ECW Press, 2004), which won the Archibald Lampman Award.

Anita Dolman is an Ottawa poet, freelance writer and editor. Her work hasappeared in various journals and magazines, including Grain Magazine, Geist, Utne, The Fiddlehead, Prism internationaI,, and The Antigonish Review. Her chapbook, Scalpel, tea and shot glass, was published by above/ground press in fall 2004.

& then stay for Friday night resident dj Lance Baptiste to spin you late into the night from 10-10:30pm on..

.for more information, contact rob mclennan @ 613 239 0337 or

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Writing magazine, Vancouver

Lately I've been rereading a stack of Writing magazine from the Kootenay School of Writing, issues 8 through 22 that Rob Manery gave me years & years ago. The issues span the range of editorial by Vancouver poet/filmmaker Colin Browne, after some of the other editorial periods including David McFadden & John Newlove, but before Jeff Derksen produced a couple of issues in journal format; the earlier incarnation of the current online pdf W, Writing magazine existed throughout the 1980s producing experimental works by Canadian & international authors, & even produced an issue of work writing (edited by Tom Wayman, after the KSW/Vancouver Industrial Writers' Union co-production Split Shift: A Colloquium on the New Work Writing in August 1986). Issues include writing by Karen Mac Cormack, Steve McCaffery, Gary Whitehead, Gail Scott, Ron Silliman, Paulette Jiles, Maxine Gadd, Susan Yarrow, Gerald Creede, Kevin Killian, Tim Lilburn, Lyn Hejinian, Gerry Gilbert, John Newlove, Charles Bernstein, bpNichol, Daphne Marlatt, Margaret Hollingsworth, Norma Cole, Margaret Christakos, Erin Mouré, David Bromige, Phil Hall, Dan Farrell, Peter Culley, Gladys Hindmarch & piles of others.

A Valentine for Peter

Elysium Pass

Exploration went rapidly traverse bivouac Lick Creek Athabaska
Waterfowl Lake, Waterfowl, Waterfowl Lake, Waterfowl
trails of the pioneers licked Kicking Horse Pass cracks chimneys ledges
cols Mount Alberta pitiless limestone slabs with no moss campion anyhow
queens generals politicians cities pitons on the south face allowed
nomenclature trainstops 50 degrees below zero
Mount Assiniboine, Mount Trident, Mistaya Lake, July Morning
Mount Assiniboine, Banff, Beaver in Colour, Pack Train on March, pack
spillikin on marble spillikin saloon car existing track name failing to
invent one.

Note: arranged and adapted from Frank Smythe's Rocky Mountains (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1948).

Meredith Quartermain, Writing 14 (June 1986)

Having a drink the other night with Monty Reid, I can't comprehend getting rid of magazines I think I will actually go through again & again & again (I have the whole run of Queen Street Quarterly, & long for more issues of Open Letter; but I also don't admit that I've run out of space for many of these things). Spending the past few days with these (I have no idea what the original impulse was to start putting these out) has sent me in all sorts of interesting directions, in reading and in writing both. One of the highlights had to be in Writing 12, the essay "The Use of Poetry" by Basil Bunting, who had just died. The transcript of a lecture he had given at the University of British Columbia in the fall/winter of 1970, this is something that should be read by many more people (& makes for an interesting counterpoint to the interview with Peter Quartermain in a recent issue of The Capilano Review, where he talks about Basil Bunting). Is there a place where one can find more essays by Bunting? I think I have to find some of this at some point; he must have been a fantastically engaging speaker (I wonder if there's a way to perhaps get one or two of these, he thinks out loud, for….). As the essay opens:

Possum and Pound used to maintain that poetry was a useful art, even a necessary one. The poet's business was to purify the dialect of the tribe, or clarify it, or otherwise keep words clean and sharp, so that men, who mostly think in words, could have thoughts with sharp edges. You might draw all sorts of surprising conclusions about their metaphysics from this contention, but I think the only legitimate conclusion is that they were muddled. For one thing, fruitful thought seems to be very rarely precise. Precision goes rather with barren logic. It is a virtue for clerks and accountants, for the lawyer who draws up a contract or for the man who compiles a technical handbook. Nevertheless when I was young and puzzled I followed Pound and Possum if ever I was asked what poetry was for.

I was wrong, of course. Poetry is no use whatsoever. The whole notion of usefulness is irrelevant to what are called the fine arts, as it is to many other things, perhaps to most of the things that really matter. We who call ourselves "The West," now that we've stopped calling ourselves Christians, are so imbued with the zeal for usefulness that was left us by Jeremy Bentham that we find it very difficult to escape from utilitarianism into a real world, and I don’t know whether I would ever have been very sure that Bentham and Mill were wrong, or even that Benjamin Franklin was a fool, if the chances of war hadn’t planted me out for a time in Moslem lands with an urgent duty to find out how people's minds worked there so that our rulers might handle them more astutely and overreach the Germans and the Russians. Moslems don’t ask what is the use of this or that; and there are lots of things in their countries that are not for sale. You can't buy respect in Baghdad.

Utilitarianism is the extreme case of humanism, for what they mean by "useful" is "what ministers to the material needs of man" — that's Franklin — or "of mankind in general" — that's Bentham. If religion is what we are all taught from our youth up, what is meant to influence all our behavior and guide most of our thought, utilitarianism is the religion of the West in this century as it was through most of last century: a religion that has put an abstraction called Man in the place that used to be occupied by a foggy idea called God. The fellow who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before is the greatest benefactor (therefore it was right for the Italians to conquer Libya, and it is right for Jewish farmers and manufacturers to drive out nomad Arabs, and it was right for the settlers on this continent to starve or shoot the Indians). It is wrong to loaf and gawp about instead of working steadily at something useful, and of course it is wrong and foolish to write poetry unless it can be shown to purify the dialect of the tribe or keep the plebs in order or perform some other useful function. (Football keeps the plebs in order. It was chariot-racing in Byzantium, dice and cards in Imperial China.)

But when you look at what poets write, it is very hard to convince yourself that their art contributes anything to the process of thought. The things they say are sometimes silly, very often conventional, the commonplaces handed down from poet to poet; and even the few who do set out a system of thought worth considering, have usually taken it over wholesale from some prose writer: Dante from St. Thomas, Lucretius from Epicurus and Democritus. Moreover you may thing a poet's ideas tommyrot without in the least affecting your pleasure in his poetry — an atheist or a Calvinist can enjoy Dante just as well as a Roman Catholic. Many of the poems we all consider masterpieces seem to contain no thought at all. "Full fathom five" only says: "Your father is drowned"; and when Ariel says it he is telling a goddam lie anyway. "O fons Bandusiae" remarks that Horace will sacrifice a kid to the little stream tomorrow — or one of these days, if he remembers. "Heber alle Gipfeln ist Rue" comes up with the bright discovery that we will all die one of these days. Other celebrated poems notice that spring weather cheers you up, or being in love makes you restless. If these poets were providing the tools of thought, why didn’t they make some use of those tools themselves?

Monday, July 24, 2006

astrology + doomed love affairs

I'm not sure where she found it, but I got this in a recent email:
Not always content to advance within an existing structure, some March 15 people find it necessary to initiate new endeavors in which they play a central role from the very start. Therefore, once they have made a commitment, establishing a family or business comes quite naturally to them.

The dual relationship of Venus and Neptune (ruler of Pisces) grants great charm to March 15 people, but can also make them vulnerable to romance and likely to associate with unstable or questionable characters.

Those born March 15 must take particular care not to get involved in destructive love relationships. They have a propensity for sex-and-love addictions, which although tremendously pleasurable can ultimately prove to be claiming, dependence promoting, and painful.
I won't even go into what ideas and theories this brings up, or what led to a particular young lady to send me this in the first place. Ah, the Pisces male.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Verse Book of Interviews

I recently got a copy of The Verse Book of Interviews: 27 Poets on Language, Craft & Culture (Amherst MA: Verse Press, 2005), edited by Brian Henry and Andrew Zawacki. Published over a series of years in Verse magazine (which I don’t think I've actually seen), it includes interviews with predominantly American poets such as August Kleinzahler, Edward Dorn, Reginald Shepherd, Agha Shahid Ali, Marjorie Welish, Anselm Berrigan and Marcella Durand, John Yau, Lisa Jarnot, Matthew Rohrer, Hayden Carruth, Heather Ramsdell, John Kinsella, Kate Fagan, Don Patterson and Kevin Hart, among others. What I find interesting about this collection is precisely the fact that I haven’t heard of most of the authors, and those that I have heard of, I've only actually spent time in the work of two of them; what becomes interesting is the process of discovery. Each interview is prefaced by an up-to-date bio of each author (which is much appreciated), as well as when the interview was conducted, and when it appeared originally in the magazine. Unfortunately, it would have been nice for the book as a whole to have some sort of introduction, to give a sense of framing; of how the book was constructed, and even how interviews are chosen for the magazine. Are these all the interviews done over a particular period of time, say, when Henry and Zawacki took over Verse in 1995? Are interview subjects a result of deliberation, or happy accident (I have no problem with either)? Is this everything, or a selection of the best of a larger group of interviews?

Books of interviews are a hard sell at the best of times, especially books of interviews with poets; I'm still going through the collection (it weighs in at over three hundred pages), but there are already some fine, fine moments, and parts that need to be read more than once, and during more than one sitting; if this is the best, it is a fine selection. If these are most of the interviews the magazine has published over the past few years, it speaks very well for the magazine. One of the interviews I've enjoyed most has been with New York poet John Yau; the great strength of an interview, I think, has to be in engaging a reader who has no previous knowledge of the subject, and this interview made me want to start looking up Yau's work.
Language is a set of rules. And I guess OULIPO just calls attention to it by making a new set of rules within the set of rules that we already accept as a given. And I think that really intrigued me. Just as, you know, with a painter, it may be that you accept a certain set of rules. Just as, you know, with a painter, it may be that you accept a certain set of rules. A painting is a flat surface, and it's sort of accepted by a lot of painters. And therefore they try to figure out how to deal with this flat surface. And I always was intrigued that they just accepted this given, or that they tried to fight against this given but they also accepted it. There was this notion, I guess, when I was in college, and I think it still persists among some people, that poetry is an expression of freedom. That somehow there's no given. And I thought, "but there is a given." Why don’t we call attention to it. The given is language, first of all, so there are these rules. And then we agree that language functions in a certain way so that we can understand each other, but built within that are all sorts of sentimental codes, codes of authenticity, codes of certain kinds of emotion. And I guess in a way, I'm against that. Not that I'm against it, but I question it. So I wanted to find another way to write so that whatever was given, maybe I decided in advance what was given, and see what I could do with it. So I'd work with a limited vocabulary, like seven words or five words, and I'd keep trying to rearrange them, recompose them. That's not really different from, say, Mondrian working with red, yellow, blue, black, and white. And working with only verticals and horizontals. Yet to me his paintings are both incredibly sensual, expressive in some way, they're all sorts of things. And the emotion of them is not so easily reducible to a kind of code. I distrust the codes. (pp 182-3)
Another interesting piece was one of the last interviews with the poet Ed Dorn [see my previous post on Dorn here], conducted just a few short months before his death in December 1999, and shows some of the depth and range of Dorn's political engagements, and engagements with history, and how it worked into the body of his work; but with the expansiveness of the interview, and all the places Dorn goes, it becomes almost impossible to excerpt it without giving only a fragment of what he was talking about (you have to read the interview as a whole).
I got into Languedoc Valiorum really through my teenage experience with going through the rites of the ritual hero, Jacques de Molay, who was flayed by the church and was set up as a heretic because Innocent III—I think it was Innocent III; Innocent, that's very, very funny. At least the Huns had a sense of their own importance. They'd be like so-and-so the Momentus. That's cool, you know. But Innocent? Anyway, deeming someone a heretic was an excuse for seizing the property of the Knights of the Temple, the Knights Templar, and so Jacques de Molay was singled out. He was tortured hideously, and finally he was flayed; this is while alive, of course—that was the ultimate treatment of the heretic. And he was drawn and quartered, and his body was utterly taken care of. Jacques de Molay wasn't the only knight to be tortured; he just suffered the most spectacular and sentimental torture. And death through torture: very, very slow. That's why the stations in the Masonic temple are so developed. You wear robes and you memorize your parts and you re-enact, because this is tantamount to or parallel in some strange way. I don’t think it was intended by the Church, but it is the suffering of Christ that's evoked here very strongly, at least in my mind. That's the propaganda of the Western Church, and the ultimate goal of its centrality of power. And that's why, in fact, they couldn't stand the realism of orthodoxy. And that's why they had to stay behind in Rome, to make the biggest empire that ever was, the most successful empire, which is still actually largely intact. You have to know a lot about the Austro-Hungarian Empire to understand this current heresy, and the consequences for the Serb people, who are heretics now en masse.

Anyway, what I'm talking about is essentially a high school experience, which didn’t come back to me until two or three years ago when I started reliving vividly the experience of when I was 16-18 years old. I was always rather doubtful about, well, virtually everything, because I grew up in a milieu which encouraged a lot of doubt if you wanted to survive with anything intact at all, but still I could see the point and meaning of the Jacques de Molay story. So I interposed a lifetime of learning and experience when I went to Languedoc in 1992. I used to go out after work, at the University of Montpelier (Paul Valery's university) where I did my exchange, and just wander around, and the idea just presented itself. I mean these little towns, the people, the density of the Crusade history. When the Holy Army returned to southern France, these were the most experienced military men in Europe at that time, and there was nothing for them to do. All they knew how to do was fight. They were expert marauders and wasters, and they had their practice against a really tough enemy. I mean Saladin had valiant and experienced soldiers. These were professional armies going against each other. This is not kidding around. This is not death at a distance. This wasn't a cowardly, you know, B2 bombing. This was looking your man in the eye. This was real. (pp 83-4)
And then, of course, here are two fragments of the interview with Lisa Jarnot [see my two previous notes on her here and here], conducted in spring 1999:
If you were to start your autobiography today, what would the first sentence (or paragraph) be?

"I, Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the history of the war waged by the Peloponnesians and the South." (p 202)
or, subsequently:
What's most important?

Love. Like Allen Ginsberg says, "the weight of the world is love."

Friday, July 21, 2006

its been suggested i repost this, since its ongoing:

(still) willing/able to edit up to 10 pages of poems/poetry for whoever might think my eye might be useful. $25 (payable to me), & you get paper back with marks all over & notes. if we meet in person, you probably even get a pile of odd littlepublications.

questions/queries either over email (, or if sending work, or by calling 613 239 0337.

mail c/o 858 Somerset Street West, main floor, Ottawa Ontario K1R 6R7

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry

Snare Books is pleased to announce the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. The prize will be awarded annually to the best poetry manuscript by an emerging Canadian writer (a writer who has published two books or less). Each year the winning manuscript will be selected by an established poet in co-operation with Snare Books. This year's judge is Darren Wershler-Henry. The winner will receive a trade paperback contract with Snare Books which will include the publication of the manuscript and a $500 honourarium. The deadline is January 31, 2007.

Each entry must be accompanied with a business size SASE and an entry fee for $30.00 Canadian. Please make all cheques payable to Livres Snare. No cash please.

About Robert Kroetsch:

One of Canada's most celebrated literary artists, Robert Kroetsch is without a doubt Canada's most important postmodern writer. His novels, poetry and theory have consistently been benchmarks for literary innovation in Canada. He won the Governor General's Award for his novel, The Studhorse Man, and in 2004, he was made an officer of the order of Canada. Snare Books is proud to honour his literary legacy through the establishment of the annual Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry.

For More on Robert Kroetsch please visit:

The Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry
c/o Snare Books
#1A 4302 St. Urbain Street
Montreal QC
H2W 1V5

For more information check out or email jon [dot] fiorentino [at]

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ongoing notes: mid-July, 2006

Did I tell you: after my posting on Kate Van Dusen (who lives in Toronto now, I found out, & not Vancouver), I got an email from her, & found out that she not only had a book out with Underwhich Editions in 1990 that I didn't know about, but she's working on a "Sex at Forty-Eight" poem, which is pretty cool. Did I tell you: after my posting on my mother + Alan Ladd (father of Cheryl Ladd, I found out, from the original Charlie's Angels…), my aunt Pam in southwestern Ontario sent me an email that included, "I really enjoyed your relating Joanne's remembrances. It was quite a thrill for her to meet Alan Ladd and his dog." Did I tell you: I reprinted a John Newlove broadside I'd done a few years back (the "DEATH OF THE HIRED MAN" poem), for the recent John Newlove documentary premiere (years of research, filming, travel & other work by Regina filmmaker Robert McTavish) at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words? (The same festival is also hosting a launch of the 30th anniversary edition of Andrew Suknaski's Wood Mountain Poems, published by Regina's Hagios Press, & a tribute to him & his work; hopefully by next year we can celebrate at least one of the three books I'm working on by/about Suknaski, whether the forthcoming selected poems with Chaudiere Books, the essays on his work with Guernica Editions, or the essay manuscript by him… do you know of something of his I might be missing, needing for any of these…?)

Did I tell you: I just had a new poetry chapbook out with Peter & Meredith Quartermain's Nomados in Vancouver? Perth Flowers is part of a longer poem, "52 flowers (or, a perth edge), – an essay on Phil Hall," that was written after Wanda O'Connor & I spent a day with Toronto poet Phil Hall & his wife Ann at their cabin in Perth, Ontario last August, & writes as both interview with him & a response to his work. The poem as a whole is part of a manuscript called "glengarry: open field" that I'm still working to get placed; built out of three long poems, including "52 flowers (or, a perth edge), – an essay on Phil Hall," "glengarry: open field, (a postscripted journal)" & "whiskey jack." Other than this new chapbook, none of the manuscript has actually seen print; what journal would want to publish anything so long? (it seems to be too much of what I've been doing lately). The new chapbook even includes a photo collage by Hall on the cover, which is absolutely cool.

Did I tell you: after my posting on what else I've been reading, I found out that Edmonton fiction writer Thomas Wharton is a comic book reader too ("I didn’t know you were a fanboy," I believe, were his words). Although he reads more DC & I read more Marvel; does that mean we have to fight? & Edmonton poet/critic Douglas Barbour told me that Planetary is far better than The Authority

Did you notice: that Toronto poet & editor Mark Truscott responded (with a Gary Barwin follow-up) to my recent post about title-less poems? I think the idea of poems sans titles are entirely possible, but remain (I think) difficult in traditional formats of how poems are presented; is it a matter of switching formats? & honestly, if anyone could pull off poems without titles, it could be Mark Truscott, who writes some of the smartest, smallest poems around (aside from Paris, Ontario's Nelson Ball).

Windsor ON: the new issue of Karl Jirgen's RAMPIKE arrived in the mail recently, the second part of his 25th anniversary issue, featuring interviews with fiction writers Joyce Carol Oates and Alistair MacLeod, fiction by Stuart Ross, Bob Wakulich and Richard Scarsbrook, a whole swath of poetry by Roy Miki, Di Brandt, Douglas Barbour and Sheila Murphy, Christopher Dewdney, Jeff Gundy, Margaret Christakos, Rachel Zolf, myself, Carla Hartsfield and Una McDonnell, as well as inter-media by Charles Bernstein and George Elliott Clarke, and a whole pile of other things. What has always been interesting about RAMPIKE has been its range of content as well as a more international scope, from text to visuals and beyond, including a combination of all of the above, and twenty-five years is nothing to be scoffed at. How does any (basically) one-man show keep going for that long?


Was it your intention
to move your hand just then,
to nod, to scratch, to look
this way or that?
Or was it a confabulation
a reassurance that
you had so moved yourself
after the fact? Certainly you can
test and retest, flexing fingers,
lightening your jaw, calmly,
voluntarily. But attention recedes
and soon these willed thrusts, and more,
return to that unattended realm,
that place where the span of you,
is no more than coincidence,
a place against all odds
when you had moved your hand,
as if you actually had. (Christopher Dewdney)
Some of the highlights in this issue have to be the rarity these days of seeing a new Christopher Dewdney poem, spending more of his publishing life over the past decade or so as a non-fiction writer (where has the poet gone?); or even a poem at all by Ottawa-area writer Una McDonnell; its good to finally see more of her work in print, a marvelous little poem called "The Heart's Dumb Memoir" (I think she had something previous in Arc magazine, and the second issue of ottawater; she's currently taking a summer creative writing course at UBC).

The next issue, which I've been waiting on for some time, features contemporary poetics in honour of Frank Davey, after the Frank Davey conference last year at the University of Western Ontario (there's also an upcoming Open Letter issue on the same).

Ottawa ON: Cornwall poet Jesse Ferguson (living in Ottawa the past few years) self-produced a little chapbook of poems for a highly successful shared reading he recently did at The TREE Reading Series with poets Nicholas Lea, Gwendolyn Guth and Robin Jeffers. Jesse Ferguson has been producing some interesting work over the past few months (from what little I've seen, and even included in things such as ottawater, winter 2 and The Peter F. Yacht Club), but the poems in his COMMUTE POEMS (Ottawa ON: Thistle Bloom Books, 2006), the first in what he hopes will be a series of books from a brand-new imprint, has a mix of both good and bad poems (I wonder if he has too many pieces out at magazines, and had little else to include in the collection). His third poetry chapbook, after Near Cooper's Marsh (Ottawa ON: Friday Circle, 2005) and Old Rhythms (Vancouver BC: Pooka Press, 2006), his COMMUTE POEMS gives some good moments in fairly uneven poems, such as in the piece "Winter in Glengarry County," including italicized lines from Al Purdy's "Winter at Roblin Lake," writing:

the endurance of root cellars,
the pride of fading usefully
and the stubble of razed wheat fields comforting as
the little golden hairs on your belly.
There are moments, and there are some bad poems, but the ones that are good are pretty good, and worth the price of admission, and show just what Ferguson is and can be capable of, such as this one, about the recent Norval Morrisseau exhibit at the National Gallery (which is interesting by itself; I recently found a fragment by Toronto poet Phil Hall on the painter). From this chapbook alone, it's as though Ferguson is most effective when he keeps the poems sparse, simple.


Morrisseau's solution
is sophistication, simply put

countless spirit birds screeching
sophistication's dilution

in other words, wordlessly
cutting the crap

and grandfather clausing
into the jetstream of archetype

or better yet, into a water stream
because water lasts

and scoffs our brief

his paintings tell us
there are no new pigments

these fish in fish in birds
are always cutting

to the chase and chasing
each other into otherness

like Norval's fingers
when a brush was too clumsy

for his thick paint
or not clumsy enough
I look forward to what he produces next, whether as chapbook or something further, and hopefully whatever does happen, has at least someone else's eyes to go through first, before it appears. To find out about getting a copy of COMMUTE POEMS, or to hear more about the future of his Thistle Bloom (he says he wants to eventually start publishing other poets), email Ferguson at

above/ground press will be publishing a chapbook of Ferguson's visual pieces, catch a bird (some of his visuals appeared in the most recent issue of dANDelion, as well as on the cover of Nicholas Lea's light years chapbook with above/ground), in just a couple of weeks. Watch for the reading/launch of it as part of the above/ground press LUCKY 13TH event at The Mercury Lounge on Friday, August 18th, just before Ferguson moves east to school at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton (watch out Joe Blades…)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Rory, etcetera
Jennifer & Kate & I drove down to the farm yesterday, to see what my sister's new baby, Rory, looked like. Here's a photo I took while we were there (from left to right): my daughter Kate (15 1/2) holding her cousin Rory (11 days old), Rory's sister Emma (2 1/2) & my sister Kathy. Apparently Kate & I are going down to the farm again for a week, just before the August long weekend, for (perhaps) the Glengarry Highland Games, my sister's annual day-long bbq, & to help out with Emma while my sister recovers.

& then late last night, stayed up far too late watching Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World (1991). Easily my favourite film (Smoke is another favourite…), but its three & a half hours long, & didn’t even start until 11:45pm (but Wenders, who also did Faraway, So Close, Wings of Desire, Million Dollar Hotel & Paris, Texas, is genius). Apparently it was co-written by Peter Carey, which makes me want to at least see what his writing is all about; is there anything in particular I should start with?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

setting stone
Harvest of shadow
open so sleep will last
— Phil Hall, Old Enemy Juice

a weight; a concentrated northern rime
of fibre-optic burn

where northern goes; a treelined blur

landscape rocky melt of colours drop canadian shield
a weapon held

or to be; precambrian drift, lake huron heat

a lungful lug & long collapse; if nothing shadows season lengthy long

an alphabet its stations of the cross; an alphabet its stations

a pressure etching back, a stones throw; barring depth
untended; a shape of sedentary skin

circling flesh; a pleasure pulled apart

or lidless, lipless, crush; a hard place, waiting cast

what crude pretended, decimated; by thousands & our tens
of thousands

forget-me-not; a splintered shore a cabin brace

I am hopelessly beyond; tough skin or lodestone ribbed

a feet of grey grass, shouldered concrete

am mealy-mouthed, besieged

Friday, July 14, 2006

Ongoing notes: blog on blog action

Lately I've been going through various writers' blogs (predominantly Canadian writers, and poets at that…) to see what it is they're doing, what it is they keep them for. What is the point of a writer keeping a blog at all? My friends Randy Woods and Jennifer Mulligan have been talking lately about the blog as not working as a game of telephone, where one tells one tells one more, but more as a central hub, like a bicycle wheel; we work our information from a series of central points, before we move back out again. It would explain the 1,200+ hits on Ron Silliman's blog every day (which is so freakin' cool). I think I've been averaging about 150 a day for months now; but what do all these people want? Thanks to Laurie Fuhr, I even found a site that tracks when folk come to my blog from certain others, helping me go backwards & find out about some I wasn't previously aware of. Is everyone blogging now?

It's interesting, looking at the range of activity (& quality, too), and surprising (to me) who exactly has started (often quietly) keeping blogs, whether it be more of a place for a journal, various essays, thoughts, some writing &/or otherwise (the predominant/general blog usage; but why do so many of them have not a single link to another...?),

including Stuart Ross (Toronto), Michael Winter (Toronto/Newfoundland; writing these lovely bits of nonfiction/fictions), Corey Frost (Montreal/New York), poet/critic Gregory Betts (St. Catharine's ON), fiction writer Kate Sutherland (Toronto), expat Sina Queyras (New York), Jennifer Mulligan (Ottawa/Gatineau), Mark Truscott (Toronto), former Ottawa resident Wanda O'Connor (Montreal), Jon Paul Fiorentino (Montreal), Rhona McAdam (Victoria), Ariel Gordon & her other one (Winnipeg), Tracy Hamon (Regina), Karla Andrich (Winnipeg), Jennifer LoveGrove (Toronto), Ken Kowal (Winnipeg), Rob Budde (Prince George BC), Jordan Scott (Coquitlam BC/Calgary), unknown (Toronto), Gary Barwin (Hamilton ON), Julia Williams (Calgary), George Murray (now in St. Johns NFLD), Thomas Wharton (Edmonton), Brian Campbell (Montreal), Erin Noteboom (Waterloo ON), Zoe Whittall (Toronto), Harold Rhenisch & another one (150 Mile House BC), Kellie Underhill (Sackville NB), Peter Garner (Montreal), Bernadette Wagner (Regina), Jan Lars Jensen (Nova Scotia), J.R. Carpenter (Montreal), Pearl Pirie (Ottawa), Claude Lalumiere (Montreal), Abigail Friedman (QC), Marcus McCann (Ottawa), Lou Reeves (Ottawa), Nienke Hinton (Toronto), "mompoet" (Port Moody BC), Vincent Tinguely (Montreal), Sherwin Tjia (Montreal), Shawnda Wilson (Montreal), Jude Goodwin (Squamish BC), Jim Munro (Toronto), William Gibson (Vancouver), etc
more focused on poetry,

including poet ryan fitzpatrick (Calgary), Bywords editor Amanda Earl (Ottawa), Jeremy Stewart (Prince George BC), Denielle (Prince George BC), Ian Whistle (Nepean ON/Winnipeg), Jennifer Mulligan (Ottawa/Gatineau), Chris Hutchinson (Vancouver), Weldon Hunter (Vancouver), etc
reviews & announcements,

including poet/editor derek beaulieu (Calgary), former Ottawa resident Laurie Fuhr (Calgary), Bywords editor Amanda Earl (Ottawa), Nathaniel G. Moore (Toronto), kevin Spenst (Vancouver) etc

entertaining visuals, whether artwork, comic books or visual/concrete poetry:

ross priddle (Medicine Hat AB), Tom Fowler (Ottawa) etc

many of which still work some variant on all of the above (none of these considerations, as I give them, are absolute). What floors me are the ones who can keep more than one blog going at a time (I can barely keep up with my one). Why does Toronto lad Nathaniel G. Moore need one, two, three, four blogs? There's even a writers retreat with a blog, & then of course the blog for the late Montreal poet Irving Layton...

The collaborative ones are particularly interesting, including the one Ariel Gordon, Bren Simmers & others keep, as well as this one (when does Gordon find time to do anything else?) or this one, by folk I don't seem to know, as are the geographically-related collaborative blogs, including the one Rob Budde plays about in his northern British Columbia, The Calgary Blow-Out, or trans-cribing Canada, the Winnipeg Words, or my own attempts through the ottawa poetry newsletter. I think Anansi has touring authors get blogs, which is why (it seems) Lisa Moore started, and Michael Winter too, but he keeps going...

Vancouver writer/editor Wayde Compton keeps one with others, on his Hogan's Alley Project, working to celebrate the early histories of the black community in Vancouver. Apparently Toronto poet and ECW Press editor Michael Holmes has started one for mostly ECW business; The Mercury Press also has one for notices (& then all the others on my sidebar that I just haven't mentioned...). Has the blog simply replaced the noticeboard?

And then there are all the Canadians living abroad, working their own variations, including Sina Queyras (Toronto/Montreal) and Corey Frost & his other one (Montreal) wandering New York, or Todd Swift (Montreal), Frances Kruk (Calgary), Richard Rathwell (Ottawa/Vancouver) and John Stiles (Nova Scotia), currently living in England, or poet Neile Graham in Seattle. Where else?

I know American poet/editor Ron Silliman has a million or so blogs linked on his sidebar, and I just can't see myself doing that. It's simply too much, and there is so much going on, who can keep track? (I also don’t have internet at home, so I can't afford to spend $2/half hour wandering around just reading…). The ones on my sidebar are, for now, the essentials, that I (mostly) visit every day, including John Macdonald's essential Ottawa blog, Queyras' and Jessica Smith's, among others. For more expansive lists of what else is out there, there are plenty of other blogs that allow such on their sidebar; do I have to be doing exactly the same thing? And then there are those folk who started a blog, but don’t really post, such as Toronto writer Stephen Cain; unfair to point him out, I suppose, but I would love to hear more from him generally on such things. I understand teaching and kids do tend to slow the production of any such work down, but I still check his out every few days, hoping.

I've never wanted too many of my own poems on this blog thing I do; there are enough other places where I can do that. After three reviews a week in the Ottawa X-Press from mid-1994 to the end of 1998 (it took them two years to get rid of me, wanting to remove me for the sake of 50 music articles per issue, instead of only 49; it took a long time after I was bumped before someone was writing about books at all in the paper, & no one has written about the amount or the range of writing since), I would rather put my energy into writing about books and such than finding homes for what it is I've written. There's nothing worse than writing a review of a book fresh from the printers, only to wait twelve months for a print journal to tell you they don’t have space for the thing; I am tired of working to place dead reviews. For me, the blog is the perfect place for such a conversation about poetry, books, literature and whatever other blather the newspapers and journals don’t feel they have the time or the space for.

& I know how badly organized this appears; but its an awful lot of information to go through, aint it...?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

above/ground press: the angry teen years

In August of this year, my above/ground press (with very out of date website), with more than five hundred publications including magazines such as STANZAS, The Peter F. Yacht Club and drop, innumerable poetry chapbooks and over two hundred and fifty "poem" broadsides, will be thirteen years old (two and a half years younger than my lovely daughter). Just entering puberty (so expect it to get ugly), I find it absolutely strange and unbelievable that I've managed to keep the damn thing going for as long as I have.

I've always thought that unless you're willing to continue something, there is almost no reason to start, whether a reading series, press or a magazine; I've always been able to hold a long-term idea far better than a short-term one (I've found it difficult, even, to both write and read short fiction, for example, but have been working on longer fiction for years). There is something pretty entertaining to me about working to be both a national and a local publisher, working to publish work I find interesting on a national level, as well as around Ottawa (Sean Wilson of the ottawa international writers festival once described above/ground press as the only Ottawa publisher deliberately interested in the "local"), and working to distribute large scale, mailing boxes of chapbooks out into the world for various people to distribute (and even getting some pretty cool things back, eventually), whether to derek beaulieu in Calgary, Sheila Murphy in Arizona, Sina Queyras in Brooklyn or Dennis Cooley in Winnipeg; the books do get out there. As Stephen Cain wrote in his introduction to Groundswell (one of the few pieces written on the press at all):
I raise the issue of format and permanence here for mclennan's enterprise has been one that has purposely and consistently resisted the small press tendency toward the fetishization of the material object as a rare and restricted commodity. above/ground press publications exist in a discourse of excess and are distributed via potlatch — most chapbooks are produced in runs of 200-300, broadsheets consist of 250-500 copies, and the magazine STANZAS often approaches a circulation of 1000. The majority of these items are distributed free of charge to interested readers and, considering that Clint Burnham has characterized the consumers of small press and alternative writing as consisting of no more than 2000 readers, it is conceivable that every "interested" reader and "active" writer in Canada has at least one of mclennan's publications in his/her collection.
I'm currently in the midst of working on a reading/launch for some part of August, an above/ground press "lucky thirteen," as both a party and a fundraiser both; as an acknowledgment of all the papery bits scattered throughout my apartment that seem to be multiplying, as well as to financially help me produce more books (I lost my cheapcheap photocopying options in February, so have to pay real prices for the stuff now; but still, people like Cath Morris in Vancouver, Barry McKinnon in Prince George and Karen Clavelle in Winnipeg have been waiting for three or so years for me to produce their chapbooks…).

I'm also currently working on schemes that will include future chapbooks by (hopefully, eventually) Phil Hall, Wanda O'Connor, Jennifer Mulligan, Jesse Ferguson, Margaret Christakos, Andrew Suknaski, William Hawkins, Lea Graham and various others (I won't tell you yet which ones might be launching their publications at the anniversary party…). At some point I would even like to do a 20th anniversary above/ground press anthology, the second ten years, after Joe Blades let me produce Groundswell: best of above/ground press, 1993-2003 (2003). (There is so much more still to do.) How can I not continue?

And then come September, when we launch Chaudiere Books; details to follow.

related posts: old interview on The Danforth Review on above/ground press; some recent publications; some less recent publications...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


I've been thinking lately on something Mark Truscott wrote recently on his blog, of writing poems without titles; is that even possible? There are some poems online in the Vancouver journal Forget Magazine by Toronto poet Phil Hall, five pieces individually "untitled," but, knowing how Hall works, they will probably appear in some larger grouping in a future chapbook and/or book under the umbrella of some other title that isn't "untitled." And isn't "untitled" a title unto itself?

"sixteen untitled poems" as a section or chapbook header is certainly possible; "sixteen poems" as well, to produce the feeling of nothing happening before you enter into the poem directly. Is that the point, is that the consideration? Musicians have untitled or self-titled albums all the time; Ottawa fiction writer Geoffrey Brown had the most brilliant novel Self-Titled out with Coach House Books a while back. Does that count?

It's an interesting idea, but how do you present it in a chapbook, book or magazine without the expectation of even "untitled" as your poem title?

Here's an untitled fragment from a longer work; is that something I should even tell you? Would it ruin the whole point of an untitled fragment to let you know it's part of a work I've been struggling to begin, "report from the emptied city," or should I just keep quiet about that? What, in the end, does a title even mean?
free from the end of love's tradition
, a red couch moving off the main

I would be unfair; apathy
to her final day; presume nothing

a long provincialism entering self
& readjusting view; a sentry record

of what already may have been
I've always thought the title a part of the poem, not something over it explaining anything, but the first thing you see of a poem; you can't fix the house and ignore the front door. The door is a part of the house. It's the first thing you see; it's impossible to enter without first going through first.

It's easy enough to write them, for sure. But what happens next?

How do you present a poem without a door?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Ongoing notes: summer lovin'

Where the hell has spring gone? How can it be summer already? What the hell have I been doing with all of my time? Moping, mostly.

Apparently Dan Wells, who runs the publishing company/bookstore Biblioasis & the (seemingly former; I can't find any current info) Windsor Festival of the Book down there in Windsor, Ontario is also now running Canadian Notes and Queries, recently acquired from The Porcupine's Quill, Inc. Also, the new issue of the Toronto pdf journal Paperplates has arrived. & did you finally see the BookThug review I did in The Antigonish Review? Did you know that Robert McTavish is finally premiering his documentary on the late poet John Newlove at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words in Moose Jaw? & my little sister Kathy & her partner Corey, too, premiered new baby Rory (7 pounds, 14 oz) on July 5th, a sister for 2 1/2 year old Emma (my daughter thinks they're naming their girls after tv show girls, from Friends & Gilmour Girls, but I seriously doubt that, even though I wondered it too…); Montreal poet Stephanie Bolster + Patrick Leroux are also due to premiere any day now (& so did Chris Turnbull, a while back). Is everybody in the family way? & if you missed her reading recently at The Factory Reading Series, shame; both John MacDonald & Amanda Earl blogged on such, with other photos up now at the official website. Working on a potential September event of same, possibly with Winnipeg poet K.I. (Karen) Press.

The 2006 edition of The Drunken Boat is almost online, including a Canadian section edited by Sina Queyras; it even has poems by myself as well as an interview I did with Toronto poet Rachel Zolf (who I found out recently lived in Ottawa from 1969 to 1974, when her mother Pat helped prevent traffic from going through the Glebe & instead around; does everyone have an Ottawa connection?). Also, I recently discovered a series of "blog-type" postings on this site, including magnificent pieces by Canadian poet Lisa Robertson, & New York poet Rachel Zucker. & I've been told I'm featured poet on this month's BC Poetry page, which is a lovely gesture (so thanks to them!). & even though The Danforth Review is shut down for the summer, various places like Northern Poetry Review & are still needing & posting reviews, & the online component of Rain Taxi is always available, Vancouver's Rain Review of Books, or the ongoing Jacket magazine.

I've been getting emails lately from people who think all I do is read poetry (even though I feel as though lately all I've been doing is reading Phil Hall's poetry, in an essay I'm working on already twenty pages long…). Who has time to write blog entries on everything I do & see?

In my ongoing research on Glengarry County, Ontario [see other entries on such here & here & here & here] I recently read The Scottish Pioneers of Upper Canada 1784 - 1855: Glengarry and Beyond by Lucille H. Campey (Toronto ON: Natural Heritage Books, 2005) which was very good; & I'm still in the midst of that massive Saskatchewan: A New History by Bill Waiser (Calgary AB: Fifth House, 2005). I recently read Madeleine Thien's magnificent first novel Certainty (Toronto ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2006) & Tim Conley's near-electric short story collection Whatever Happens (Toronto ON: Insomniac Press, 2006) & would recommend them both highly (but for different reasons). I've been reading various issues of Granta lately, including #54 (summer 1996), "Best of Young American Novelists," & just started reading Christine Wiesenthal's The Half-Lives of Pat Lowther (on the late British Columbia poet murdered by her husband in 1975; Toronto ON: The University of Toronto Press, 2005), as well as the ongoing scouring of a million billion books on Ottawa this & that for my Ottawa: The Unknown City (Vancouver BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, forthcoming) (did you know that Buffalo Bill Cody brought his Wild West Show to town in 1893 to perform at what is now the intersection of O'Connor & Strathcona Streets? Did you know that Sir John Carling, the Governor General who started Ottawa's Experimental Farm is son of the guy who started Carling Breweries?).

& that's not even to get into the roughly 7,000 comic books I have in my current collection; in many ways I think Brian Michael Bendis & Josh Whedon have saved Marvel Comics from itself (I know a few people that disagree with me, though). Even though I've been a dedicated fan of Spider-Man in most of his incarnations since 1974 (if Toronto poet Phil Hall's token is the "killdeer," can mine be Spider-Man/Peter Parker?), the stuff in The New Avengers, Daredevil and The Astonishing X-Men, including The House of M, Civil War & X-Men: Deadly Genesis, has been some of the best stuff I've seen in mainstream comics in years; & now that Vertigo's magnificent Lucifer series is now over, where am I supposed to get my Vertigo fix? I mean, Hellblazer is good, but far too uneven… I'm liking the Frank Quietly Superman, but read almost nothing else from DC… & will we ever see more of The Authority?

& then the eight hours a day I try to watch of television; & then the fact that Kate & I see a new film almost every single Saturday; The Break-Up was better than I thought it would be (but Jennifer didn't like it as much); X-Men 3 was mind blowing (saw it twice); Nacho Libre is the greatest movie of all time; Superman Returns was okay, but the best part was the Spider-Man 3 preview; Venom is gonna kick ass

Would like to learn some more Johnny Cash on guitar.

How Soon is Now? Danger, high voltage! Munich.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sex at 31 redux: Kate Van Dusen

Apparently I haven't completely finished with my "sex at thirty-one" essay that is due to appear in my collection of essays in fall 2007 with ECW Press [see it here in an issue of]. For a while now, what I'd found of poems written as part of the ongoing series started by Barry McKinnon and others, there were no poems written by women until very recently, by Wanda O'Connor and Kristina Drake [see my note on such here]. That is, until I found one by poet west coast poet Kate Van Dusen (born and raised in Ottawa, she has long moved to Vancouver) in her first (and seemingly only) poetry collection, Not Noir (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1987). Are there any other poems out there I've been missing?
Sex (at 32)

and I worm my way
under this cold city
like an inelegant mole
in his brown coat. nor
so eloquent as one.

smell (now that nothing's
sweet) nothing at all
as donuts
waft from the subway.

don't look down. try
to find a job. try
to get a little writing
done. or reading. before

one of them shows up
bearing book or bottle
boring me all to hell
with his kind persistence

and love. as I have done
you with mine. sex better
really when you don’t feel
anything at all.

the tactful act. puts
the stress on nothing
but flesh. what

is it all if not
anything at all?
If anyone is interested, Barry McKinnon and I are still collecting poems for our anthology Collected Sex (Ottawa ON: Chaudiere Books, 2007), seeking poems that are/were influenced by the original "sex at 31" series. Inquiries and submissions can still be sent to me (with subject header "sex at 31 submission") at

Friday, July 07, 2006

Jason Christie's Canada Post


The poem puts us into battle. Language versus. A landscape emerges amongst the words, nations between the letters, earths the pristine page into your heart's content: Let mud slowly bleed into the poem's veins. Nature versus. X equals a jetty, an extension of the nation into the sea, a skeleton, a linebread, scaffold, land, gift, an address, atitle, a deed. Keep me safe from the poem. As though it rained. Rain. (p 13)
With Jason Christie's first trade collection Canada Post now published by Montreal's Snare Books (an imprint of Montreal's Matrix magazine, and edited/published by Jon Paul Fiorentino and Robert Allen), it makes trade books this year by all three of the Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry (Toronto ON: The Mercury Press, 2005) editors: Christie, angela rawlings and derek beaulieu. One of two books out with the new Snare Books, Christie's Canada Post is a lovely collection of short pieces by one of the crew built up in Calgary over the past ten years in/around filling Station, dANDelion magazine, housepress and other activities come through and out of various of the University of Calgary writer/professors and creative writing classes. Writing from points of various quirks and gradient leaps, Christie's Canada Post makes reading a more difficult and socially-engaged deliberate act, writing poem and nation as a combination of lyric possibility and impossibility, slamming the two ideas headlong into each other.


Have some
turkey with
sweet potatoes.

Now you and I
are conquerors.

This is our
poem. (p 41)
When considering the recent contexts of Calgary, think Fred Wah, who retired from the University of Calgary a few years ago (to return to Vancouver); think Aritha Van Herk; think Christian Bök who started teaching there a couple of years ago. Think of so many other writers that have been through town such as Nicole Markotic, Jonathan Wilcke, Louis Cabri, Nathalie Simpson. Think of who is still there, currently: derek beaulieu, Julia Williams, Tom Muir, Rajinderpal Pal, Natalee Caple, Jessica Grant, Suzette Mayr, Chris Ewart, ryan fitzpatrick and Ian Samuels, among so many others. As impressive as the community of writers and activity in Calgary is, there is still that divide, as fitzpatrick writes in an editorial in a recent issue of filling Station number 38):

[…] but why should it be? fS cannot act as a wiki ― it is an extremely mediated space with a very specific history in a very specific place. Though there are ruptures in our local community in terms of poetics ― the poets associated with Single Onion or the Calgary International Spoken Word Festival are very different in poetic than most of the writers associated with filling Station or dANDelion ― a community of socially-engaged and innovative writers have been fostered here that cannot be ignored. filling Station was born out of the crucible of the formation of this poetic orientation. In 1994, a number of students at the University of Calgary formed fS out of a desire to make a space that would mediate the divide between the lyric conservatism of Chris Wiseman's poetry workshop and the innovative poetic of Fred Wah's workshop. In 2005, the magazine is left with a similar divide but one that may not be able to be bridged.

Instead of acting as a meeting place to tie the local literary ideologies together (filling Station is decidedly interested in the innovative), fS is interested in negotiating the divide between the local and the national by giving exposure not just to local writers but exposing writers from elsewhere to our community. […] Approaching the magazine in this way rather than with a vacant "publish everything" mindset will hopefully support not just a community but a critically minded community. A community interested in not just a poetics of reflection or a poetics of action, but a poetics of praxis and of change. (p 3, "editorial")
Writing in two threads of alternating sections, from "PAST ORAL" to "PAST AURAL," they alternate from the "PAST ORAL" sections of "i. Metathesis," "ii. Revelry. Correspondences," "iii. Spring Tension," "iv. Make Fire" and "v. An Emotional Database" and the "PAST AURAL" sections of "i. anamnesis suite," "ii. short terse poems," "iii. neutrino (means little one" and "iv. swerve" (a reference to Calgary spoken-word diva Sheri-D Wilson, anyone?), and opening the collection with two separate quotes by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer quoting both the "hi-fi system" and "lo-fi" soundscapes. What are the differences Christie is alternating between?

And a mountain's edge,
tectonic cleft trebles,
aeroscopic field notes,
play the flax landscape.
Bass viewed from a plane
sideways, or Charlie
syntagmatically drops
not a shift or a shrift, but
that keen target slides
for acumen, hides
whitehoused behind
missals or missives in
a bizarre cardboard box. (p 88)
Writing between sound and space, I like the way Christie's language troubles the expectations of phrases, working against meaning and into further meaning, citing reference only to twist it into otherwise-familiar forms, as in the poem "Auctoritas."

He makes a fire
and watches TV.

The headlines are
behind the times.

I waste it while
I watch tv.

The USA created
the super power vacuum.

In order to feel secure
go stand in the light.

The child's box
is in the pen.

One of the seals
in my car leaks.

Penguins flew from
Pittsburgh to Toronto.

He helps an old lady
across to the GAP.

In order to feel secure
go stand on the right.

While in school
wear something reflective.

Even when you move
you never really unparsed.

Learning to derive
is an automotive process.

Don't end your sentence
with a preposition. (pp 83-4)
Part of the consideration of Christie's Canada Post is in the incomplete quality of some of the poems, where parts of many of them end before they truly end. I'm a big fan of both incompleteness and process in any consideration of writing, but how much is too much is not enough? Can something so incompletely incomplete be considered a complete work? It's something that has been echoed in two different blog posts by Canadian expat Sina Queyras, where she writes:
Some poems seem to have achieved that 20-something bed-head feel: you know, the irristable [sic] look of a thing that has such sublime bone structure and shape no matter what it's wearing there is a spine of pleasure. Others however, fall flat. The off-hand, and slight-of-mind, the pun that is not quite pun enough. Poems such as the one titled "Gallop Poll," that consists of the single line: Fuck off! or "Game vs. Real":

There are typos
all over the word.

There are just a few too many like this. And this play doesn’t seem poem enough--not for this reader in any case. At least not yet. Which makes me consider what one should expect from a first book, or indeed any book.
I think in the end I have to agree with Queyras (and her follow-up post here). I do very much like many of the pieces in this collection, and work by him generally, but still wonder: is the seeming incompleteness of the book Canada Post as a unit the point, or was the collection simply not ready yet? Is it simply something that I as a reader don’t get?