Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tour notes, day five; November 5, Vancouver BC

The seasons shock us
w/ unbidden power, & we drink
when it thunders;
-- George Stanley, "The Hangover," Four Realities

White wine hangover, the worst. For some reason, more than a glass gives me a splitting headache.

Of course, I just found out that the day I arrived, there was a reading by Montreal poet Susan Elmslie, Vancouver poets Rachel Rose [see my review of her most recent book here] and Miranda Pearson and Barbara Nickel (I’m not sure where she is these days) at the Vancouver Public Library (but why didn’t The Georgia Straight list my reading, or Christian's or donato mancini’s [see my review of his first book here], on Tuesday night at KSW?); I would have loved to have gone, if for nothing else than to see Elmslie [see my review of her first book here]. I’ve been wanting to meet Rose for some time too (I think she lives in the US now, or is she here? I can’t keep track of everyone). Why doesn’t anyone ever tell me about these things? In a hotel room in Ottawa how many years ago, I got Barbara Nickel to play “Hooked on a Feeling” on her fiddle (you’d be surprised at how many musicians don’t take requests…). Today the official plan includes the Vancouver Art Gallery; I’ve only managed to get in there once, and have wanted back the whole time. I could live in the Canadian section, with the Kiyookas and the Curnoes and the what else.

Richard Simmons, the late Ottawa bookseller and photographer, was formerly one of the curators there, and was removed under unpleasant circumstances moons and moons ago; I remember when he and jwcurry met, and curry was able to quote from Simmons’ first and only novel, Sweet Marie, as well as a poem from the old 3 cent pulp days that Simmons was involved in (a precursor to the current Arsenal Pulp Press. Simmons had long distanced himself from the book; he’d even told the Ottawa painter (now in Madoc, Ontario) Diane Woodward that if she ever found that book and read it, he would never talk to her again. I always think of Simmons when I think of the Vancouver Art Gallery; apparently he was the first public curator in Canada to purchase Greg Curnoe paintings. Apparently his removal from the gallery was a political move, and less a matter of what he had actually done wrong. Apparently he used to run a used bookstore in the space now housed by Invisible Cinema at 319 Lisgar Street (at Bank, above Wallacks), what was previously Gallery 101, and just before he moved his store to Dalhousie Street (it closed in the early/mid-1990s).

An interesting quote (considering Brockwell was traveling with a book, again, of Collected Wallace Stevens poems (he did same when we went to Montreal last year, on the same trip I wrote the poetry manuscript strike out (a suite) ) ) from Robert Creeley (April 28, 1950) from Charles Olson & Robert Creeley: The Complete Correspondence, Volume 1:

Thinking of Stevens, who slipped into PR, with this: ‘Poetic form in its proper sense is a question of what appears within the poem itself… By appearance within the poem itself one means the things created and existing there… Basic. Yet they won’t see it, that it cannot be a box or a bag or what you will. Like Eliot: the imposition of tradition etc., etc. Both senses to apply. You cannot put 1 tradition on top of another, without losing what APPLIES in each… Like these idiots who will not take what is of use but insist on ‘returns’ &tc.

Anyhow—sick at the heart. (p 22)
I found an issue of the magazine FRONT: Contemporary Art and Ideas, tweaking my eye because of the fact it had ROSS PRIDDLE in big letters on the front cover; apparently he has a poem on the inside, which is pretty cool. He once turned up to visit jwcurry with his entire family from VAnderhoof BC (near Prince George), driving four days non-stop to get there, and same home, just for two days with john. Where will priddle (whom I’ve known for years as a lowercase writer) turn up next?

Commercial Drive: I have always felt comfortable hanging around Commercial Drive: poet Sharon Thesen used to live around here (Warren and I were trying to figure out where the cover image from her News & Smoke might be located...), just a few years back, before moving into the interior. Patrick Friesen used to, closer to the Skytrain; apparently Lionel Kearns around here somewhere. Meira Cook and husband Mark Libin, during their Vancouver year(s). Did/does Ryan Knighton as well? (And that little diner just south of the Skytrain, Seto Cafe, that makes the greatest breakfast…. When did Bukowski’s close (I read there with Anne Stone and kath macLean back in April, 1999…)? And that bookstore that used to be across from it, where I found that second hand copy of Stephen Scobie’s GOSPEL how many years back, or the one still around where I found that SALT book…) Anne and Wayde; Jason Le Heup used to live a few blocks away from where Stone and Compton currently do, and Fulton does, just a few blocks away from where Tom Snyders used to live, and run SPAN (the original small press action network). The same warehouse space I convinced Tom he should host a party for Anne Stone and myself during our spring 1999 tour, the night before our afternoon reading in the same location (we were lucky to make it, despite not having really left the building…), and where/when I first met Le Heup. The same warehouse space where Clare Latremouille and I spent the whole night talking with Tom and Gerry Gilbert after a reading in 1997 (telepoetics, perhaps?) and ended up on the roof to watch the sunrise, where Gilbert read us a poem and danced a jig, to a background of sunrise and mountains (there are photos of the event somewhere; with Gerry, I think?).

I met Snyders (who I haven’t seen now in some time) in 1996 in Sechelt, British Columbia at the weekend conference for small and micro presses organized by Michael Barnholden and Victor Coleman (with other participants including Rob Manery and Joe Blades; where I also met a pile of others, including Barry McKinnon, John Pass, Cybele Creery, Tim Lander, Doug Steadman, Wendy Agnew, Blaine Kyllo, etcetera… where we were unable to eat most meals because we were so full from the meal previous…); the idea was that the rest of us would go home and become a real network (an idea that never actually went anywhere), where the idea of span-o came from (cleaning out your literary clogs). Joe Blades would do spann-er (eastern region), and there was talk of either national or Calgary or Kingston as span-c/span-k (heh heh). Bad schoolboy humour, but what’s a boy to do, otherwise? Joe Blades even has a photograph of me standing outside of Molly’s Reach in Gibson’s Landing on our way from the ferry (Barnholden was nice enough to offer to drive us through) to the event, back when “Relic” was still alive; did you know the Reach actually exists as a half café/half tourist spot? I think it was the only part of my trip west that year that my parents had any entry point to…

Back at Warren’s apartment, there was talk of bowling, but we never got to it; an idea started by Bowering and Baird and Stone and Compton (etc), the Kootenay School of Bowling. An idea that apparently annoys a number of the actual Kootenay School of Writing folk, which somehow makes the whole thing much funnier. But, Warren says, there’s no point if none of the four of them are around…

The documentary film launch apparently tonight, not last night; Warren got his dates wrong. Last night quieter, working on machines with me writing and Warren producing a small broadsheet of a poem he’d requested (I wrote it yesterday afternoon), in a series of single-page broadsides that include photo booth photos (we took mine in the moring at the train station, while picking up my luggage…).

Rob Budde currently making a list of Canadian eco-poets (see his post on our Prince George adventures here); did you know Barry McKinnon working on a book on Al Purdy?

At the Vancouver Art Gallery (finally) around 11am, realizing a reading by John Barton, Kate Braid and others in the Emily Carr exhibit around 2pm, the same time Christian apparently reads at Spartacus Books; if he was closer, I’d pick his event, but I’m seeing him tomorrow at the college, and already paid my $15 to get into the show, so I might as well come back, partly for the reading, partly to just say hello to John. While I do like the work of Emily Carr, I feel somehow un-Canadian to admit that I never really got as excited as everyone else by the work of Emily Carr or the Group of Seven; I always preferred David Milne to the Group of Seven, always preferred the work of Greg Curnoe. The Carr exhibit works to put her work in a context larger than herself, which I always find interesting in any exhibit, working to show exactly what the work meant and means on the terms in which it was created. One of the pieces that really jumps out at me is one by Langdon Kihn (1898-1957), the piece “Gitwinlkool Totem Poles” from 1924, for its magnificent use of white and white space. Why is it most art doesn’t understand the use of white and space?

The other exhibit on the second floor is simply called PAINT; for some reason, I guess I had presumed a collection of permanent, to see some of the same works I'd seen before, but no. Still, this was far more exciting than the Carr exhibit (for me), showcasing Vancouver paintings from the 1960s on, including Brian Fisher, Claude Breeze, Roy Kiyooka, Takao Tanabe (I saw a 75th birthday retrospective of his a few years ago here, finding the little gallery while lost trying to find somewhere else), Attila Richard Lukacs, Robert Young, Jack Shadbolt, and showcasing the work of a number of younger painters, the most striking being Matthew Brown (his "Laughing Green" was magnificent), Jessica Stockholder, and Arabella Campbell, who's work reminded me somewhat of Ontario artist Barbara Caruso.

The reading by the three poets was interesting enough, in a little side gallery as part of the Emily Carr exhibit; Barton was far and away the most interesting of the three (I am looking forward to his next book, whenever; I never did get the name of the third reader). I’d never actually heard Kate Braid read before; part of that work poetry Vancouver stuff in the 1980s (with Erin Mouré, Phil Hall, Tom Wayman and others), it wasn’t really my thing, but I could hear echoes of Stephanie Bolster’s first poetry collection White Stone: The Alice Poems (Montreal QC: Vehicule Press, 1998) in Braid’s poetry collection on the life of Emily Carr; a similar kind of tone through her lyric “I” – was there an influence there, perhaps? Barton has been co-editing an anthology of gay male Canadian poets for some time, from the beginnings to poets born in the 1980s that is supposed to be out next year that I’m looking forward to, partly so someone somewhere gives acknowledgment to the late Ed Lacey (we’re publishing an essay/introduction on him in our next issue of Poetics.ca, whenever we get to it…).

Leaving the reading I found Warren Fulton walking along Granville with Christian Bök, apparently looking for a photo booth after Christian’s reading at Spartacus Books; we got lost in a mall after the pictures were taken (Christian tried to look exactly the same in all four pictures, but his smirk began to develop by the third); drinks after meeting up with the reading crowd (apparently) including donato mancini, Jeff Derksen, Michael Barnholden, Colin Smith and others, with Pauline Butling appearing a bit later, pre-KSW meeting, before Warren and I had to run off. The documentary Warren took me to, later that evening, and shown as part of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival, was the Vancouver premiere of Brockett 99 – Rockin’ The Country by Director/Writer/Producer Nilesh Patel. A very smart and very funny documentary, the official blurb writes:
In the mid-1980s, an audiotape made in Lethbridge, Alberta began circulating throughout Canada and parts of the U.S. It was ostensibly a morning radio show by members of the First Nations community of Brockett, Alberta. In 2004, Nilesh Patel and his crew embarked on a road trip across Western Canada to talk to fans of the tape, foes of the tape, and everyone in between. They were able to capture the unguarded opinions of Canadians of their perceptions of Aboriginal life, while revealing insight into the spread of racist humour. At times angry, at times moving, but surprisingly candid throughout.
Selected as best documentary at the Montreal First People’s Festival in 2006, what made the documentary really interesting was a film on racism against First Nations people in southern Alberta by a filmmaker from Prince George, British Columbia with an East Indian background (at an Asian Film Festival); what helped give the film weight was the fact that he was an outsider, talking directly about racism; against a particular community, sure, but racism itself knows very little boundaries. Interplaying the original tape as narration in parts (a tape I had never actually heard of), the documentary shows quite a range of engagement with the questions asked, and even a few unspoken.

And later last night, an email from Dana Bath letting me know that Montreal poet Robert Allen had succumbed to cancer on Friday

Tour notes, day six; November 6, Vancouver BC

Part of the morning working on my obit for Robert Allen [here]. Nearly an hour on the phone with Mark Cochrane, a Vancouver poet I’m lucky to see every few years, who had actually been searching out a confirmation on Rob’s death when I called; Allen was his supervisor when he went through Concordia University over ten years ago, working the manuscript that became his first collection, Boy Am I (Toronto ON: Wolsak & Wynn, 1995). He didn’t even know Rob had been sick. A few minutes on the phone with Simon Dardick, before running off to get work done, to catch Christian’s reading at Capilano College for 3:30pm, before my own reading with Brockwell tonight. So many things to do…

At Capilano College, Christian was magnificent, of course. After the reading to a couple of classes of students (and Michael Barnholden and Ryan Knighton, as well as reading hosts Andrew Klobucar and Jenny Penberthy), he answered questions, talking about how poetry is completely irrelevant to living, partly because of poets themselves refusing to think outside the bounds of what they’ve learned, unlike their contemporaries in visual art (I know I’m paraphrasing quite badly, but it was extremely interesting). Poets need to be able to compete with video games; it reminds me of the Gertrude Stein line that we all have to write of the times we live in. Christian, it seems, has got it figured out in a very interesting way, and in a way that makes so much sense it seems baffling that he’s the only one vocalizing it; how can we be expected to compete with video games (etcetera) if writers refuse to even think that way?

Spent time with Jenny Penberthy in The Capilano Review offices; she's been doing some interesting work on Lorine Niedecker for years, including that magnificent collected for University of California Press. Wishing I had more time to hear about her current projects...

Transiting up and down to Capilano College (I didn’t know that Dwight Gardiner was there; geez, when’s the last time he had a book out? What’s he doing now?), it’s always entertaining to watch the street and place names in this western Canada, taken from various First Nations languages that just don’t exist in my part of the world. I read so many of these names and wonder what they might mean; I read so many of them and think how wonderful it must be to live in a place with such an interesting and lyric name. Nootka. Skeena.

Otherwise, the Sea Bus (and the Sky Train; why not a Sea Train?) was lovely; although it took forever to get up to the campus, and over an hour to get back downtown from there for my seven o’clock reading. Thanks much to Elizabeth Bachinsky (currently up for GG-poetry; although we speculate it'll probbly go to Dionne Brand....) for setting up the reading for Brockwell and myself; had a small audience, but a good audience: Tom Konyves, Diane Tucker, Mark Cochrane, some random guy I didn’t know (who left half-way through), Colin Smith and Chris Gatchalian, most of whom appear regularly when I read in town (which is so lovely I can't even comprehend...). Brief drinks afterward with Konyves, Tucker and Cochrane on a patio where everyone asked for money we didn’t have (I must have been asked thirty times; by the end I was getting less polite about it all, and we were all out of change…).

I asked Colin Smith (whom I've known for a few years and a few provinces) if he would ever have another book out; he had a book out millions of years ago with Tsunami Editions; he said that donato mancini is currently working to put the Tsunami Editions titles not already up on the ubuweb site on the Kootenay School of Writing site. Amazing! Something to look forward to, and hopefully it might even spur Smith on to do something further?

Tour notes, day seven; November 7, Vancouver BC

Scheming my way to Salt Spring Island to visit Robert McTavish tomorrow, for two nights, before flying to Edmonton on Saturday; will I ever be able to figure it out? So much of writing (it seems) is waiting for money, and it never comes in fast enough. What is a poor boy to do?

McTavish is the one who did the documentary on late Saskatchewan poet John Newlove that was premiered at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in July; apparently they’re still waiting for a broadcast date from Bravo. McTavish is also putting the finishing touches on a larger John Newlove new and selected poems for Chaudiere Books to publish in fall 2007; we want it larger than Apology for Absence (Erin ON: The Porcupine’s Quill, Inc., 1993); we want to correct the cover of such that featured a photograph of an Alberta grain elevator…

This afternoon a meeting with Brian at Arsenal Pulp Press over that Ottawa: The Unknown City book I've been working on. Tonight a reading at Spartacus Books (8pm) hosted by KSW by donato mancini and someone else I admit I’ve heard of but don’t (yet) know; supposed to call Mark Cochrane after that, because he teaches until 10pm…

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