5/11/2017

the candour and the ardour

The book, the statue, the sonata, must be gone upon with the unreasoning good faith and the unflagging spirit of children at their play. IS IT WORTH DOING?—when it shall have occurred to any artist to ask himself that question, it is implicitly answered in the negative. It does not occur to the child as he plays at being a pirate on the dining-room sofa, nor to the hunter as he pursues his quarry; and the candour of the one and the ardour of the other should be united in the bosom of the artist.

- Robert Louis Stevenson, in a letter to a "young gentlemen" who asked the question "Should you or should you not become an artist?" You can read Stevenson's full reply here.

5/09/2017

a thing that attempts to completely represent the world

In the most basic sense, the point I am trying to make is that the continued persistence of poetry as a human activity, across time and cultures, has to do with something it does that is different from all other types of writing. How it refuses to be beholden to all the other things we use language for. How it turns distractibility, inconsistency, dreaminess, leaping, all those things that we scrub out of everyday life and functionality, into something to be treasured. How it continually prioritizes an interest in the very nature of language itself: as material that has a sound, visual qualities, feels a certain way in the mouth, etc., and also in the larger sense as a thing that attempts—and ultimately fails—to completely represent the world. It seems interesting to me to think about what connects Sappho to Rumi to Keats to Basho to Eluard to James Tate to Alice Notley to Victoria Chang. My instinct is that there is something.

- Matthew Zapruder, discussing his forthcoming book of essays Why Poetry? with Travis Nichols over at the Poetry Society of America's website. You can read the whole thing here.

5/08/2017

to find those truths and bring them back

After the election, in frustration and confusion and despair, I started to write something just to clear my head, that became an essay and eventually the afterword to Why Poetry. In it, I try to make the argument that it is not only possible, but necessary, to preserve a free space inside oneself for the imagination. Probably some of my feelings about this come from having grown up in Washington, D.C., in a home where the minutiae and tactics of politics was a source of endless discussion. It took me some time to realize that this kind of obsession, however well-meaning, can be a distraction. Politics as entertainment, as sports. I also have seen myself and others around me at times become stunned, drained, and less likely to act, the more they follow the minute by minute spectacle of degradation.

But really, my belief in these spaces is beyond the merely tactical. I think there are truths about being alive that one can only discover in the imagination by liberating oneself from all obligation. To find those truths and bring them back for others is the role of the artist. And to do so is not only to preserve oneself, but also to open up the possibility, however slender, that someone else you disagree with might do the same, and to cross some kind of border that cannot be crossed by argument or even fact.

- Matthew Zapruder, discussing his forthcoming book of essays Why Poetry with Travis Nichols over at the Poetry Society of America's website. You can read the whole thing here.

5/05/2017

the rude intrusion of time

Ever since reading Douglas Glover’s superb essay “The Drama of Grammar,” I’ve been in love with the humble conjunction “but.” She felt she’d been more or less happily married for 11 years, but … Along with equivalent words, “but” serves as a pivot or hinge, a semantic fulcrum, a switch shunting a sentence in a fresh direction just when you thought you knew where it was headed. “But” is not going to allow you, the reader – or you the writer – to pursue an easy, plausible arc. Nothing is as it seems. Something in the latter half of the sentence wants to delve under surfaces; “but” is a quick surgical cut through which the sentence can enter as it feels its way inward, closer to the core. “But” is the bump in the carpet that trips you up just when you’re hitting your stride. Not so fast: here comes a proviso, one that won’t cancel out what came before but co-exist with it. “But” says nothing is absolute, categorical, final. “But” is the rude intrusion of time – of limitation, mortality – into a phrase that starts off Trumpishly asserting that it knows, forever. No story begins until the word “but” appears and every story, for grown-ups, ends with an invisible “but.”

- Steven Heighton, in interview with some godforsaken questionnaire over at The Globe and Mail. You can read the whole thing here.

5/03/2017

a congregant of two temples

Jane Hodgkinson: What are some of the ways that you keep yourself connected to whatever moves you to write?

Stevie Howell: I’ve been working in hospitals for the last 6 yrs, but only since my first book, Sharps, was published—for the last three years—have I been working directly w/ patients. I’m a psychometrist (I administer thinking & memory tests). I work one-on-one w/ a single person for up to two entire days. It can be pretty intense. I am constantly moved by people’s backgrounds & challenges, how they heal or cope, & by seeing ordinary people doing extraordinary things for each other, all around me. It’s given me a devout belief in humanity.

My “day job” has benefited my writing in many ways, but primarily by reminding me that poetry has always functioned similarly to actual care, IRL—poetry is composed of these small & focused & deliberate gestures that might only affect one person, or a handful of people, & in private & imperceptible ways, like prayer. But that’s actually as epic as it gets—to affect, or be affected by, one person. I believe the health sciences & the arts are the height of our inventiveness, & the proof of our goodness. I am grateful to be immersed in both fields, to be a congregant of two temples.

- Stevie Howell, in interview with Jane Hodgkinson over at The Rusty Toque. You can read the whole thing here.

4/30/2017

BC Poetry 2017: An Introduction

Last year I ran BC Poetry 2016 (and the corresponding #BCPoetry2016 hashtag on Twitter), featuring a new poetry book (and poem) each day throughout the month. This year I'm bringing it back with BC Poetry 2017 (and the corresponding #BCPoetry2017 hashtag), and it's grown: 21 participating presses compared to last year's 12.

Rocksalt: An Anthology
of Contemporary BC Poetry
In my intro to last year's series I spoke about judging the 2014 Dorothy Livesay Prize (BC Book Prizes), which was an eye opening experience for me (So many BC poets! So little coverage!). Lately I've been thinking about another BC institution: Mother Tongue Publishing and their 2008 anthology Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry.

At the time of its publication, it had been 31 years since the last effort to group together the poets of BC in one book, and to the best of my knowledge no one has taken up the task in the nine years since (though Vancouver-focused anthologies have been published, along with a couple Cascadia anthologies and Mother Tongue's own Forcefield: 77 Women Poets from British Columbia).

Rocksalt pulled together 108 BC poets, both established and up-and-coming, and - as one of my first publications early in my writing life - opened my eyes to the potential of being a poet in this province. It showed me the wealth and range of talent in BC, and - more simply - that we're damn well everywhere (from Massett to Smithers to Nelson to Richmond to...). I read the list of contributors now and am taken aback (Barton, bissett, Blomer, Blythe, Bowering, Braid... and we haven't even left the Bs!). I'm equally struck by the thought of the BC writers not included, and the writers who have started publishing in the intervening years - a list as long, or longer, than Rocksalt's.

This little project is no anthology, and it's far less exhaustive than any of the publications mentioned above, but if you stick with it over the next month, BC Poetry 2017 will give you 30 new poems from 30 new (and good-as-new) poets. I hope they inpsire you as Rocksalt did for me: get you reading and writing and appreciating anew that all these talented poets are hiding out so near to home!


Details on the Project

A new book will be profiled each day throughout the month. To be eligible, the book must have been written by a BC poet or published by a BC poetry publisher (ideally both!), and must have been released in either Fall 2016 or Spring 2017. Sundays will be "wild card" days featuring books that wouldn't ordinarily qualify - you'll have to check in to find out what they are!

Participating Publishers

Anstruther Press
Anvil Press
Arsenal Pulp Press
Biblioasis
BookThug
Brick Books
Caitlin Press
Coach House Books
ECW Press
Freehand Books
Gaspereau Press
Goose Lane Editions
Leaf Press
McGill-Queens University Press
Mother Tongue Publishing
New York Review Books
Nightwood Editions
Quattro Books
Talonbooks
Thistledown Press
Wolsak and Wynn

Some publishers were contacted and did not reply.

The copyrights of all poems included in the series remain with their authors, and are reprinted with the permission of the publishers.

BC Poetry 2017: "Prosopopoeia" by Shazia Hafiz Ramji (Anstruther Press)



See You Tomorrow

Tomorrow you’ll find me when you sign on.
You’ll send me a DM, ask me to drop you a pin.

I’ll say, “Hey! I’m here!” as if this here is enough,
as if the here is still now. You’ll ask me if I’m lost
and I’ll remember how far away you are from me.

But I’ve DM’d you once more to say
I saw the latest version of a human-size bot

that it walked with a limp
and I felt sad and sorry for it.

This is what she meant when she saw him
hanging from the ceiling and wanted to place a chair
beneath him, so that his knees don’t hurt when he falls.



Who?

Shazia Hafiz Ramji lives in Vancouver, BC where she edits books and writes poems, reviews, and stories. Her poetry was shortlisted for the 2016 National Magazine Awards and is forthcoming in Canadian Literature and filling Station. She is the incoming poetry editor for Prism international and was co-editor for the "Intersections" issue of Poetry is Dead. She has been a guide for Poor Yoricks' Summer and Sacred Jest, groups dedicated to reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.



What?

Prosopopoeia is a chapbook of poems that speak to the absent and the dead. These poems comprise the voices of screens talking to each other, the meanest employers, and the Internet under the ocean. Or, Prosopopoeia is a spectral chorus that strives for sincerity, particularly when addressing "you" and Philip Seymour Hoffman. This book should be enjoyed alone, in the light of a computer screen with the sound of "Rain - Gentle Rain Sounds - HD Sleep Sounds" on YouTube.


When?

Arrived February 2017.


Where?

Book Launches: Happened April 27th in Vancouver!

Purchases: From the Anstruther Press website. $10.


How?

Sincerely addressing Philip Seymour Hoffman w/ the voice of the Internet under the ocean.



The copyrights of all poems included in the series remain with their authors, and are reprinted with the permission of the publishers.


4/29/2017

BC Poetry 2017: "Helpless Angels" by Tom Wayman (Thistledown Press)


Excerpt from “Like Water, Music”
Indeed, the human throat and mouth
are shaped as much for music
as for any other utterance. Sung words
were perhaps coincident with speech
—one thinks of those stutterers
who nonetheless can mellifluously
sing.

When winter fog
hovers over white fields here, shelves of ice
materialize at the edges of the rivulets and creeks
that thread out of the mountainside spruce and cedar forest.

So, too, fingers absently strumming guitar strings,
or an ear that absorbs a sequence of heard or
imagined sounds, or a hand scribing time-signature changes
onto a sheet of lined staves
are transubstantiated
by a mind into harmonies, contrapuntal rhythms, ballads

while above the ridges
float enormous clouds
—vast reservoirs of future music.



Who?

Tom Wayman has published more than twenty poetry collections, three essay collections, two short story collections, a collection of novellas, and a novel. He has also edited six poetry anthologies. He has been Writer-in-Residence at the universities of Windsor, Alberta, Simon Fraser, Winnipeg, and Toronto. He is a co-founder of two BC alternative post-secondary ventures: the Vancouver Centre of the Kootenay School of Writing (1984–87) and the writing department of Nelson’s Kootenay School of the Arts (1991–2002). He is currently a director of the Calgary Spoken Word Festival Society and of Nelson’s Kootenay Literary Society, where he serves on the education committee and the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival organizing committee. Wayman lives in Winlaw, BC.


What?

Helpless Angels weaves several themes together: music’s impact on a life, expressed through memory; poems that are like songs; music found in or described through nature; poems that directly consider music’s power; and, as a counterpoint to how music carries us through life, how art — and each of us — deals with significant loss. Wayman looks at the ubiquitousness of widespread personal access to music that began in the 1950s and has continued to expand ever since.


When?

Arrives May 1st, 2017 (Monday!).


Where?

Book Launches: May 12, 7:30 PM, Oxygen Art Centre, Nelson. May 26, 7:30 PM, The Bean Scene, Vernon. June 8, 7 PM, VPL Central Branch, Vancouver. Details on all Tom's launches can be found here.

Purchases: From the Thistledown Press website or at your local bookstore. $20.


How?

Looking at the ubiquitousness.



The copyrights of all poems included in the series remain with their authors, and are reprinted with the permission of the publishers.

4/28/2017

BC Poetry 2017: "What The Soul Doesn't Want" by Lorna Crozier (Freehand Books)


When The Bones Get Cold
My husband sends me hummingbirds 
from his eyes. Only he and I know 
he’s going blind. For him, I don’t get old.
His fingers, chapped from gardening, sand my skin, 
bring out the grain he cannot see.
I am made beautiful by loss. The moon, too, 
grows more far-sighted. Its light compliments: 
the smallest birds don’t disagree. There’s a sweetness 
that comes from accepting what I am, 
not a mountain, not a river, not a tree.


Who?

Lorna Crozier, an Officer of the Order of Canada, is the author of sixteen previous books of poetry, most recently The Wrong Cat and The Wild in You. She is also the author of The Book of Marvels: A Compendium of Ordinary Things and the memoir Small Beneath the Sky. She is a Professor Emerita at the University of Victoria, has been awarded the Governor General's Award for Poetry, and is a three-time recipient of the Pat Lowther Award. Born in Swift Current, she now lives on Vancouver Island with writer Patrick Lane and two fine cats.


What?

In What the Soul Doesn’t Want, Lorna Crozier describes the passage of time in the way that only she can. Her arresting, edgy poems about aging and grief are surprising and invigorating: a defiant balm. At the same time, she revels in the quirkiness and whimsy of the natural world. Crozier’s signature wit and striking imagery are on display as she stretches her wings and reminds us that we haven’t yet seen all that she can do.


When?

Arrives May 2017.


Where?

Book Launches: May 30th at Munro’s Books in Victoria.

Purchases: From the Freehand Books website or at your local bookstore. $16.05.


How?

Balming defiantly.



The copyrights of all poems included in the series remain with their authors, and are reprinted with the permission of the publishers.

4/27/2017

BC Poetry 2017: "Linger, Still" by Aislinn Hunter (Gaspereau Press)


Despite Our Best Attempts to Catalogue
the body breaks into pixels, machine failure–
aches, pains, a dimming.

What once thrummed 
now flashes Error–

so that whatever philosophy 
you sailed in on,

whatever two-minute film of 
‘a day on the beach in June’ that said

this was my life to you,
comes stuttering to a halt.

Then, a silence, a proclivity
to witness,

an anonymity that wants nothing
but to linger.
 
In this last lick of light
before the day gives out, listen:

there are masterworks painted
by the wholly forgotten and unnamed,

and there are Rembrandts and Bruegels
so wasted and decayed

no semblance of art history
can remake them.

That is us: the dust in the room
where the new paintings hang–

but oh, the music 
in that sweeping.



Who?

Aislinn Hunter is the author of six books: two books of poetry, three books of fiction and a book of lyric essays. She is a contributing editor at Arc Magazine and has contributed to numerous anthologies. She has a BFA in The History of Art and in Creative Writing from the University of Victoria, an MFA from The University of British Columbia, an MSc in Writing and Cultural Politics from The University of Edinburgh where she has just completed a PhD in English Literature. She teaches Creative Writing part-time at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and lives in Vancouver with her husband Glenn and two Border collies.


What?

Aislinn Hunter writes of impossibilities that somehow function; of the tenuous interrelations that comprise our experience. Grounded by the questions "how to be good, how to be," Hunter's field of inquiry ranges across domestic, ecological, literary and philosophical subjects. Her poems are exclamations of recognition in the midst of caginess. This collection reaches for, and grasps, "what lists under every pose: the hope / that someone will love us".


When?

Arrived April 2017.


Where?

Book Launches: May 4th, The Main, Vancouver (w/ Catherine Owen!)

Purchases: From the Gaspereau Press website or at your local bookstore. $21.95.


How?

Exclaiming in the midst of caginess.



The copyrights of all poems included in the series remain with their authors, and are reprinted with the permission of the publishers.