only as they become necessary to me

Matthew Walsh: How does this project fit within your body of work?

Robyn Sarah: It’s funny to hear it called a project; I don’t think of my poetry collections as projects, even though our prevailing literary culture encourages poets to conceive and think of poetry books that way. I write poems only as they become necessary to me, and each is conceived as an individual work. When enough new poems have accumulated to gather into a collection, I begin assembling a manuscript and it naturally will reflect my preoccupations (conscious and unconscious) of the period in which they were written.

- Robyn Sarah, in conversation with Matthew Walsh over on the PRISM international website. You can read the whole thing here.


all the good and complex richness that might have fed the chickens

A fundamentalist reads a parable only for its moral lesson; such a reader of a Flannery O'Connor story takes with her only the flimsy, so-called theme - don't be a blowhard! Don't lean too much on your own crutches! - leaving behind all the good and complex richness that might have fed the chickens. The literary equivalent of eschewing well-cooked meals in favour of a daily vitamin.

- Liz Windhorst Harmer, from her essay on O'Connor and religion, "My Flannery", in the Winter 2016 issue of The New Quarterly.


Al Purdy Is Here!

Al Purdy Was Here: Come for the poetry, stay for Michael Ondaatje's nipples

Al Purdy Was Here, the Al Purdy (and A-frame) documentary I've blogged about in the past, is finally coming to Vancouver!

The Pacific Cinamatheque will be hosting three screenings, starting tonight.

The dates:

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 6:30pm
Sunday, January 31, 2016 - 4:30pm
Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 8:15pm
You can learn more details about the screenings, and buy tickets, here.

A-frame representatives will be at the screenings taking donations, if you're keen to spend some of Margaret Atwood's money. I'll be at tonight's show - I hope to see you there!


Mineral School: Washington State Artist Residency Wants Canadians!

Hey BC (and Alberta) writers! A residency in the States! That likes Canadians!

Mineral School in Mineral, Washington is offering four two-week residency programs this summer. The residencies will take place in an old, abandoned (haunted!?) schoolhouse. You stay in a modified (haunted!?) classroom, complete with bed, writing desk, etc. My guess is the bathrooms are down the hall, and the (haunted!?) men's room has one of those trough urinals that have sadly fallen out of fashion (which, like all trough urinals, is most definitely haunted).

Applications for Summer 2016 are due in on February 15th, and can be sent in via Submittable.

Fellowships are available for each of the four residency periods, and cover all expenses beyond transportation. One fellowship is available per residency period, and they are open to writers from BC, Alberta, and the Yukon.

The application fee is $25 USD, or $2,000 Canadian at the current exchange rate. Non-funded residency spots can be purchased for $400 USD, which really is a terrific deal despite the exchange rate and (I suspect, I fear) the complete lack of ghosts.

Here's the letter of invitation, from Jane Hodges:

Dear British Columbia Authors,

I'm one of the founders of Mineral School (www.mineral-school.org), a new artists residency in a former 1940s grade school near Mt. Rainier, in Mineral, WA, a funky and forgotten fishing lake town that's two hours southeast of Seattle or about five hours from Vancouver. I wanted to pass along to Canadian writers some information about residency opportunities on the west coast for summer 2016 -- and the fact that we have some fellowships for Canadian writers.

We hosted our first year of residencies in 2015 and have just opened up 2016 summer residency applications for our four two-week residency periods -- the application deadline is Feb. 15, 2016. We have five fellowships for Northwest writers, including four applicable to writers from Western Canada, so we wanted to get the word out to writers in your community -- MFA students, creative writing faculty, alumni etc.

We'll host 15 writers this year. Non-funded residencies are a very nominal $400 (US). All residents are fed all meals (allergies accommodated), and we'll host visiting writer readings as well as a residents' reading for those who care to share their work with the public.

We're an all-volunteer organization founded by writers and creatives and we're doing this all on a shoestring and as a labor of love (even our chefs are volunteers -- in '15 they were grad students in nutrition at a WA state holistic college), and we appreciate any word-of-mouth you care to share on our behalf with writers seeking a summer residency in a pretty place.

We hosted MFA candidates from Sarah Lawrence and U Michigan this past summer, as well as established authors working on second or third books -- including a few who were nominated for Pushcarts, members of the Seattle University and Pacific Lutheran University faculty, and a poet who was published in Best American Poetry 2015.

More information can be found on our Submittable page: https://mineralschool.submittable.com/submit or on Facebook or our web site.

I'm happy to answer any questions (jane(at)mineral-school(dot)org).

Yours in literature,
Jane Hodges

Mineral School (Ghost added for effect and NOT TO SCALE)


Margaret Atwood wants to give you her money

Photo Credit
Well, sort of. She insists you donate her money to the Al Purdy A-frame, and you have to donate an equal amount yourself. And I'm pretty sure she keeps the tax receipt for her half. But still, neat eh?

If you make a donation to the A-frame before March 15th, Margaret Atwood will match your donation (up to $5,000 in total donations). You can donate here.

I've been stumping for the A-frame for some time now, but this particular call is a special one, and not just because you get to shake Margaret down for a few bucks in the process.

In April, my wife, myself and our eight-month old son will be heading to the A-frame for a two month stay (!!!).

It's a rarity that a writer residency will support you traveling with your family, which bars all but the most wealthy and/or neglectful of parents of young children from attending. Thankfully, the A-frame residency is a different beast, and is very welcoming to our situation.

The A-frame is still very much a "fixer upper", but fixes are being made all the time. New insulation was added to the A-frame last year to avoid frozen-baby-syndrome, and I've even heard rumours of a crib under construction!

One big essential-to-writers-with-infants repair job is currently underway: the restoration of Al's writing shed (pictured below, w/ sleek muscle man, dog, lady in orange shirt, etc.).

Photo Credit

If you need to know why having a space for writing detached from the house will be essential for me, well, you've never lived with an infant, have you? You lucky, lucky, hopelessly naive people. I remember being one of you only just last year.

So, if you donate not only will Margaret Atwood thank you, and the ghost of Al Purdy thank you, but I will thank you as well!

To donate you can send a cheque to:

The Al Purdy A-frame Association
4403 West 11th Ave
Vancouver BC
V6R 2M2

Or via PayPal here or CanadaHelps here.

Now go spend Margaret's money, alright?


waiting for the rules of the game to become clear to me

I’m willing to give a fair amount of control to language itself to determine what a poem says. I think I’m in a sort of middle camp between the people who think the writer’s job is to make language say what they want, and the people who think it’s impossible to use language to convey meaning. I think language and I are more so passing a soccer ball back and forth, and I’m not so sure either of us has a clear idea of where the goal is. At times we seem to be moving in a purposeful direction, and at other times we seem to just be running in circles for fun — I’m not sure. I feel like with every poem I’m kind of waiting for the rules of the game to become clear to me. Sometimes I get annoyed and tired with all the running around — I think if it were solely up to me, the goals would be more clear. But (in our relationship anyway) language seems to have its own priorities.

- Linda Besner, in interview with Katherine Leyton in Arc Poetry Magazine's January 2016 Newsletter. You can read the whole thing here, and subscribe to the newsletter here.


yes, there is a war on

While I love the idea of "camp," I don't believe in "camps." So many people confuse aesthetic choices with ideologies. I can't imagine anything being "off limits" for an entire group of individuals bound together by common beliefs. It's a kind of intellectual segregation. Good art is good art, regardless of how you yourself write your own poems. We should be celebrating aesthetic diversity instead of using aesthetic principles to beat up on one another. I shake my head sometimes at poets. We are a plural lot. And yet, sometimes, some of us get entrenched as if there's a war on. Yes, there is a war on. But it's not poet versus poet. It's poetry versus other kinds of cultural stupidity. And yes, I meant it to sound that way.

- D.A. Powell, in interview with James Cihlar in the May/June 2011 issue of American Poetry Review. Thanks to Bren Simmers for pointing this out.


New Decade, New Look

2016 marks my 10th year of blogging here at silaron. Crazy, eh?

My first thought: Wow, the internet is old!
My second thought: I am even older than the internet.
My third thought: I could collapse into dust at any moment.

Naturally, this called for a mid-life-blogging-crisis. I've revamped the look (gone is the absurdly skinny template, source of many a formatting nightmare), and even changed the name. Well, shortened it. Most people I talk to about the blog just call it "that nickel blog" or "your stupid website" anyway. So, "spreading" is out (you hear that, men?).

From now on, you can just call this little guy ron.

Internet, you may be old, but you are still as strange as ever.


accuracy is an underrated virtue

I say I’m a scholar, but really I suppose I’m a collagist. One of the scholars I most respect recently told me that what I take for his erudition is really a scramble of patched-together surmises made to shore up his poetry. Perhaps I’ll say the same, someday. (And the poetry a scramble of patched-together surmises made to shore up the life?) I respect scholarship, though. I think accuracy is an underrated virtue, and bibliography the great, boring, important critical task. But it’s not an unliterary task. Think of Melville’s sub-sub librarian, at the beginning of Moby Dick, who establishes the ocean in which the great white whale will shortly be set loose.

- Amanda Jernigan, in conversation with Alexandra Oliver, over at Partisan. You can read the whole thing here.


told to queue indefinitely by my inner comptroller

I’m superstitious about beginning to write too early, before the “idea” has accrued that sense of urgency, of resonating essence, of which you speak. A lot of ideas are therefore simply told to queue indefinitely, by my inner comptroller. But the key thing for me is, when a poem does present itself — not just the “idea” but the whole nexus of memories and allusions and associations and feelings, including, of course, centrally, that feeling of ineffable freight — to really let it jump the turnstile and take over my train of thought, completely. To write while the spirit moves, if you like. Because I’ve learned that if the thing doesn’t get written down then, it’s likely to never get written.

- Amanda Jernigan, in conversation with Alexandra Oliver, over at Partisan. You can read the whole thing here.