12/28/2007

OGOV poems o' the year

Marta and I are off to a cabin in the interior for a few days - and back mid-next week. This means possible reading. Possible writing. Possible editing. Possible reviewing. Possible all of the above. Quite possible none of the above.

Anyway, no posts for a while. To keep you entertained in the meantime, I've posted the results of the Best o' 2007 vote for One Ghana, One Voice on the site. You can check out the results here.

Happy New Year, y'all!

12/17/2007

OGOV Poem of the Year

For those of you who are occasional readers of One Ghana, One Voice, I've just announced a "Poem of the Year" vote, in which readers can select their favourite piece from amongst the poems we've published in our first year (nine months, really) of existence. The voting details are here, and "back issue" can be read here.

Personally, I expected very little from our first year. Poetry isn't a big thing in Ghana anymore, and when it was a big thing back in the 60s and 70s, it was only so amongst an educated upper-class. With the crumbling of Africa's systems and structures of higher education, that group has withered away too. I wasn't even sure I could find enough poems, regardless of quality, to be able to post one weekly.

40 poems and 28 poets later, I can safely say that my concerns were unfounded. Yes, we've published quite a few poems that I wouldn't exactly classify as remarkable, but every once and a while a gem slips out - and that's happening more and more frequently these days. So if you haven't checked it out yet, and feel like trying something new in poetry, take a look. And if you like something you see, vote.

12/15/2007

a shimmering

Myself, I listen and read and watch. Phrases come into my mind, usually more interesting for their rhythms than for what they say, and sometimes they can ignite an entire set of rhythms, poetic, dramatic, horizontal (the line), perpendicular (the stanza and the whole piece), and at the same time it becomes important that I find the meaning of what is being said as well and make it as plain as I can. Sometimes it is not plain at all; sometimes there remains a shimmering or a veil or a hint of magic about which it is impossible to be more explicit. I can only approach it as closely as my craft or art allow me; then it must be left to itself.

- John Newlove, from the intro to A Long Continual Argument: The Selected Poems of John Newlove, ed. Robert McTavish. See my recent post on Newlove here.

12/13/2007

new site for local lit!

I recently came across this new site which lists lit events, submission deadlines, etc. for Vancouver writers:

http://scenenotherd.blogspot.com/

So far many of the submission calls and contests are national or international (stuff that placesforwriters has covered pretty well). That's understandable, though, considering how few Vancouver-focused magazines there are out there. There is already content from local mags One Cool Word and memewar on Scene Not Herd, though, which is a good sign for things to come.

So check it out!

Also, take a look at these photos from RC Weslowksi's "Christmas Special" that were posted on Steve Duncan's Commercial Drive - Live! blog.

12/09/2007

Submission

I was just informed that Shakespeare
wrote seven of the Top 100 Poems of
All Time, and that my share of those
top poems, though still at zero, could
increase dramatically if I entered this
contest, which, if I won, would not
only catapult me to the upper echelon
of poetic genius, but would also include
a $50 cash prize!

And this got me thinking
which got me dreaming
which got me worrying
What about the robots?

They're sure to crack the code soon,
invent a "Deep Blue" of verse
which will quickly be replicated into
thousands of compact, portable poetry machines
which will all sit atop their metal desks
tapping their digits and processing,
processing.

Soon, they'll be winning all the contests,
dominating the slams,
so we'll host a big "write-off" between
the top robo-poet and Maya Angelou.
It'll be held in Warsaw, or somewhere like that
and they'll serve those little triangular sandwiches.

It'll go seven round:
       Two wins each, two draws, and then
       on the seventeenth hour of the second day
       Maya will storm from the arena in disgust
       disqualified for misplacing a modifier
       (she'll later discover that is was
       in her jacket pocket all along,
       a mistake which she will carry
       to the grave, quite literally, as she
       will be struck down by a motorist
       less than a month later, the modifier
       still squeezed in her cold, black fist).

We'll write letters to the editors
protesting this new conquest of poetry
       (being robots, of course,
       they won't publish them)
but eventually we'll settle into this new arrangement.
We'll hear ourselves saying,
"I liked how all the words were in the right places!"
We'll forget a time when it was any different.

So I've decided I'd better submit to
this contest while I still have the chance.
I'm working on a piece that starts:
             100010001000111
but I'm thinking that's a little too
wordy, and from a distance it sort
of looks like a caterpillar, which, I've
heard, most of the judges find off-putting.


from the 2007 issue of The Feathertale Review.
see my notes on the issue, and this poem, here.

12/07/2007

next stop, hong kong!

The second issue of the Feathertale Review, an annual print supplement to Feathertale's great humour website, has been published. I'm fortunate enough to have a poem of mine, "Submission", included. My poem is accompanied by some fantastic robo-poet drawings by Anthony Swaneveld, and it looks really great - in my mind it competes only with One Cool Word's production of my poem "hook" for the nicest layout of one of my poems. In fact, the whole magazine is damn sharp. Just look at the cover:


Some sample pages can be viewed here, and copies can be bought online here for a mere 10 bucks. Apparently, the Review is available for in-store sale in Victoria, but not in Vancouver (Feathertale is based in Ontario). It's well worth the cost, with content from Greg Santos, Margaret "robo-pen" Atwood, and, most notably, the literary monstrosity that is Leopold McGinnis. It also features this hilarious maze by Matt Hammill, a copy of which has already been posted on the bulletin board at the Vancouver Maritime Museum:


I'll post my poem from the issue here in a day or two. I wrote it four years ago, during the period when we were starting up High Altitude at SFU and I was beginning to take this writing thing seriously. Needless to say, much of what I was writing then was pretty bad. The only two poems I have had published from that time (not that I submit that many of them to magazines) are "Submission" and "The Next Great Proletarian Revolution" - both rather playful, prose-y and heavily Billy Collins-influenced. I was a decent smartass before I was a decent poet, I suppose.

It's strange when something that's been kicking around for so long is finally published. Back when I wrote "Submission" I thought that it was pretty good, and that it could get published in some nifty magazine - and after four years of rejections it finally was! Now I'm submitting things I believe to be about ten-thousand times better than what I was writing four years ago and my result is a multicoloured sweater I knitted out of of all my quarter-page rejection slips. Maybe check back in four years? Forty-thousand?

Oh, and I almost forgot, THANKS, FEATHERTALE!!

12/04/2007

these are the days of lasers in the jungle

When I was fifteen, I was just starting to develop an interest in poetry. I was memorizing "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost and listening to "Boy in the Bubble" by Paul Simon over and over again. I still had yet to write a poem that wasn't assigned by an English teacher.

At fifteen, Andrew David King not only writes some pretty sharp stuff, but he runs an online lit journal, Wings of Icarus. Thank goodness I don't measure my self-worth against the achievements of others...

He's just posted my poem "Haiku 1-4" in the Wings of Icarus poetry section. You can read it here.

12/02/2007

i'm still too depressed to write about it...

but the picture needed posting:


Marta finally got around to uploading our photos from the CFL Western Final against the Roughriders. That's me, with my Mom in the background (Marta's paint-job was equally inspiring, I assure you).

I've written a few BC Lions-inspired poems, one of which I think is quite good (about injury-prone ex-Lion Tony Simmons). Another Lions poem of mine, "after the game," was published by HAP in September. If you're interested, you can read that here.

11/29/2007

but would he have had a blog?

Madly Singing in the Mountains

There is no one among men that has not a special failing:
And my failing consists in writing verses.
I have broken away from the thousand ties of life:
But this infirmity still remains behind.
Each time that I look at a fine landscape:
Each time that I meet a loved friend,
I raise my voice and recite a stanza of poetry
And am glad as though a God had crossed my path.
Ever since the day I was banished to Hsun-yang
Half my time I have lived in the hills.
And often, when I have finished a new poem,
Alone I climb the road to the Eastern Rock.
I lean my body on the banks of white stone:
I pull down with my hands a green cassia branch.
My mad singing startles the valleys and hills:
The apes and birds all come to peep.
Fearing to become a laughing-stock to the world,
I choose a place that is unfrequented by men.
- by Po Chu-I (772-846), translated by Arthur Waley

11/28/2007

hap poetry open mic

Wednesday, December 5th
7 PM
Highland Pub, SFU Burnaby Campus
FREE!

BE THERE!!!

11/25/2007

pictures of penises poking out of pants

Google searches that have led to my "on waterslides" piece:
"blogspot cumshot" (twice)
"cumshot blogspot"
"cumshots blogspot"
"download porn blogspot"
"farm cumm" (?)
"fucking sixteen"
"funny porn blogspot"
"funny slides"
"girls on water slides"
"pictures of penises poking out of pants"
"site: blogspot.com cumshot"
"titty poems"
"birney speard sex" (somehow my Birney review [and Britney Spears?] got tied into the whole sordid affair)

NEW ADDITIONS, NOVEMBER 27th:

two more "blogspot cumshot"s
"corndog porn"
"waterslide top came off"

p.s. I can only imagine the hits that will result from this posting.

p.p.s. Goat sex. Hot pix of cheerleaders riding mechanical bulls. Bugger bugger bugger. Necrophilia!!!!

11/22/2007

i wrote a series of titles for this post that featured bad puns about how he'll soon be your "new love" but all that did was make me feel pathetic

Jacket Magazine's latest issue features three poems by John Newlove. "Ride Off Any Horizon," one of my favourite poems, is one of the three. You can read the poems here (and for goodness sake, do!).

Newlove is right up there in my books when it comes to Canadian poets worth reading, and when he gets it right...wow...there is little better.

If you like what you read, Chaudiere Books in Ottawa just came out with a new Newlove collection: A Long Continual Argument: The Selected Poems of John Newlove. Check it out at an obscure bookstore near you!

11/19/2007

my wife tells me about the plane crash

the two hundred or so
charred bodies smouldering
in the fuselage on a
sao paulo runway
and i look up - i lift
my head - and i meet
her eyes and say
'that's terrible'
and for once mean it,
then i turn to my notebook
and write this hurriedly,
before it's gone.


from the November 2007 issue of High Altitude Poetry


read more of my poems from HAP here.

p.s. no, not married yet...next summer...

11/16/2007

Birney review

My review of Earle Birney's "one muddy hand: Selected Poems" is now online at PoetryReviews.ca. You can read it here.

Also, PoetryReviews.ca is in need of help! It's a great site, so if you can lend a hand - doooo it.

11/13/2007

on waterslides

My feature/commentary (poem?) "On Waterslides" has been published in The Peak. Thanks Peak!

For some reason the intro to the piece, which set it up in a number of ways, was cut from the printed version (as was my excessive italicization and capitalization...though they capitalized "jesus" and "christ", which was quite counterproductive, if you ask me), so like my review from last week's issue, I've reprinted my original below. You can read the "print" version online in .pdf form here (my contribution is on the last page...and you can also read a conspicuously related Peak Speak on page three. Have I started a movement?).

Anyway, here it is:

On Waterslides

Waterslides: big windy cocks that shoot us out like cumshots of joy. Wait, it’s too soon for that. I need a soft opening...

Waterslides: bullet chambers that fire us deep into the chest cavity of joy. Much better. Ok, now that we have a common image going, let’s get sliding!

First: The Ascent. This is always the worst part for me, what with my fear of heights. I suppose it doesn’t make sense to fear climbing when what you’re really afraid of is falling. But the truth is, if I ever did fall I doubt I’d be afraid. I’m pretty sure this makes me strange. Like airplanes, how everyone is afraid of flying in them even though they’re more likely to die on the way home from the airport - the steering wheel of their station wagon impaling their chest cavity and all that blood spurting on the windshield - because at least then it was probably their own damn fault. At least then they can believe they could have swerved out of the way, y’know, if they tried really hard. Me, I’m the opposite. Being in a plane, hell, that’s when I finally relax, push my chair back that extra two degrees, read over the movie schedule in that crappy little magazine, and buckle and unbuckle my belt a few hundred times. But cars, jesus, those things scare me to death. I still have my “N” and I’m not going back to get rid of it - you hear that, multiple passengers in my motor vehicle, I’M NOT GOING BACK! I failed the test twice because I kept speeding in a playground zone. Why is every side of Mundy Park a playground zone when there’s only a playground on one side of it (and ever since they took out that giant wooden pyramid, a shitty one at that)!? Now that pyramid, that was a blessing. When you climbed up the middle to use the slide, you couldn’t see how high you were. It was a fear-free zone. And once you got to the top, you were already on the way back down, which was the easy part. Of course, I had to go along with the other boys and try to climb the outside of the pyramid. Soiled a few pairs of underpants doing that. It was a stupid idea - it was dangerous and the pyramid wasn’t built for it so the wood would get all mushy and deteriorate - but our parents never said anything. Strangely enough, the damn thing fell apart. Now there’s no point in going there, so I have no clue why they need a playground zone! I suppose there’s still a chance a kid might come by, and hitting a kid would suck. I’d much rather fall out of the sky and land on a kid. Then I could blame my parachute or the fucker that pushed me out of the plane. And it would be sort of magical, how the kid broke my fall and sacrificed himself to save me and all. But if I slipped climbing the stairs to a waterslide and landed on a kid, geez, I can see the headline now: CLUMSY CLIMBER CRUSHES KID’S CHEST CAVITY. It’s enough to get a guy pretty damn nervous. Just put your head down, get to the top and let God and gravity take over.

Second: The Wait. This only applies for popular slides. If you don‘t have to wait in a line at the top of the stairs, then you are on a piss-poor waterslide - go to a new, more reputable, waterpark immediately. The Wait is the best part of the slide, because everyone around you is funny. The little girls are funny because they are squealing and holding their dads’ arm hair. The little boys are funny because they are chattering their teeth and tugging at their crotches. The teenage girls are funny because they are squealing and arching their backs. The teenage boys are funny because they are chattering their muscles in the direction of the girls and tugging their machismo. The adults are, well, just you and the parents, who, when it comes to waterslides, are more life preservers than participants. So it’s you and the kids and the teenagers and the life preservers and that sixteen year old guy who slouches in a deck chair and waves his arm every minute or two. You probably hate him. Most people do. Fucking sixteen year old training-wage-retard gets to decide when you slide. And think about this: after his shift is over, he doesn’t even slide down himself! He walks down the goddamn stairs! Hate him even more now? Not me, I love him for that. He’s living a different dream, a make-six-bucks-for-waving-your-arms-then-get-a-Slurpee-
and-corndog-and-go-download-porn-in-your-parents-basement dream. I’m hear to slide, he’s here to make Slurpee/corndog/porn money. That’s great stuff. Raise the minimum wage, I say! Let him subscribe to some real nasty chatroom shit! Think about the alternative: that guy is sitting there his whole shift just waiting, dying to go down the slide - but the man makes him sit there waving at the squealing, chattering masses. He’s not slouching because he’s dreaming of a Slurpaccino and man-on-man-on-dog action in the back of an abandoned station wagon, he’s slouching because he can’t slide! And there you are sliding over and over again in front of him! You’re rubbing it in, you capitalist prick! So, the next time you see that guy walking down the stairs, tip your metaphorical hat to him (not your real one, those things are BANNED in all reputable waterparks) - he’s totally disengaged so you can, like, totally engage!

Third: The Slide. This part is pretty dull. You don’t move around or anything. It doesn’t last very longer. Much less time than The Ascent and The Wait. In theory you can do spins and shit to mix things up, but these are BANNED in all reputable waterparks.

Fourth: The Splash. I’m willing to bet this is what Jesus felt like when John the Baptist dunked him. A few times I’ve seen birds when I’ve emerged. Usually crows. One time I saw a seagull, which is sort of like a dove. Anyway, my point is that this part is great. You usually slide gently into a shallow pool of water, though sometimes, at the more reputable waterparks, you sort of fall out of the sky into a deep tank. If the waving guy at the top did his job, you shouldn’t land on any kids, but mistakes happen. One time on one of those drop-landing slides, I saw a woman’s bikini top come right off! She sunk to the bottom of the pool, but her top stayed on the surface. Then she came up and was egg-beater swimming with her hands on her boobs, trying to figure out how to grab her top without flashing everyone. She tried sticking her elbow in one of the cups. I looked up at the waving kid to see if he cared, but he was too busy thinking about dog porn. It was a great moment. I’ve heard of people who don’t like The Splash, usually because they don’t like getting water up their noses. These people are insane. Not liking The Splash is like not liking sex. After all, The Splash is the cumshot from the big windy penis that is the slide, and everyone loves cumshots, with the exception, of course, of the women in pornos who don’t end up getting paid because the production company is not reputable. Because for them it’s all about the money. You think they’d be doing that if they weren’t getting paid? I mean, that’s only legal in Belarus, for christ sake! Most people don’t like to think about that - porn stars only working for the money. It ruins the whole illusion. I like it, though - they have their own dream, I have mine, the waving guy has his, and we all move along at the same time. We climb the stairs together. We wait in line together. Then we go down one at a time, bursting out slathered with stupid grins.

That’s how it works.

11/10/2007

it's the cabbage patch kids all over again


The resemblance is uncanny...

A year and a half after its release, I'm finally out of copies of splattered earth (they are still available at Magpie Books and The People's Co-op Bookstore, though). I'm still waiting for my new manuscript, child of saturday, to be rejected by a swath of chapbook publishers before self-publishing it. In the interim I'm thinking I might do a second printing of splattered earth, just so I'll have something to give to people if they are interested after readings and such.

I think I'll also throw in another "China" poem of mine, "pen pal", which I wrote after publishing the chapbook, though that will probably send the formatting all to hell. Gooooo, white space!

At this point, though, I just wanted to say THANKS!!! to everyone who grabbed a copy (or two) and helped me clear up some shelf space.

11/08/2007

two poems with "Vancouver" in the title, neither of which has anything to do with Vancouver

The Centrifugal Eye, an American online mag, has published two of my poems ("flying to Vancouver" and "a Vancouverite throws Toronto a bone") in its "Oh, Canada" issue. The poems can be read here.

Also, I got to make a bunch of smartass (and some not-quite-as-smartass) comments in their Round-Robin discussion on Canada and Canadian poetry. That can be read here.

Thanks, Centrifugal Eye!

11/05/2007

Atwood review

I have a review of Margaret Atwood's The Door in this week's issue of The Peak. You can read it here. Thanks Peak!

The title they gave it misses the point a bit, which is more the fault of my poor communication than anything, I suppose (and reinforces that I should darn well stop submitting untitled things to people).

Unfortunately, they had to cut out the funnest part of the review, so here's the whole thing in it's original form:

I’d just finished reading Margaret Atwood’s new collection of poetry The Door, when Mike Hingston, The Peak’s Arts Editor, sent me a note asking me to rush my review in order to fill a space in an upcoming issue. I quickly started jotting down notes. My plan was to open with this excerpt from an Al Purdy poem (“Concerning Ms. Atwood“):

There is Margaret Atwood
—she is meeting Premier Peterson
in the Ontario Legislative Buildings
he is congratulating her
for being Margaret Atwood.

There is Margaret Atwood
—she is swinging a champagne bottle
against the bow of a super icebreaker
It winces noticeably from the blow
and escapes into the water
muttering
"My name is Henry Larson"

There is Margaret Atwood
—she is accepting the Nobel Prize
and reporters are crowding around
with tears in their eyes
asking why she is so marvellous
she replies simply and modestly
"I am Margaret Atwood"


I’d then go on to explain how I felt bad for the poems - not for Atwood, but for the poems themselves - because they aren’t terrible. Some of them are really quite good. If they were contained in a new poet’s debut collection I could see most people saying “A pretty good start” or something like that. But these poems have to carry the weight of being penned by the Queen of CanLit herself. They have to appear in a collection whose publisher’s promotional blurb describes them as “lucid yet urgent poems [which] range in tone from lyric to ironic to meditative to prophetic,” and as being “brave and compassionate.” I was going to point out that most of those terms have little connection to the poems in The Door. It doesn’t seem to matter what Margaret Atwood writes, if it is good, or awful, or, as in this case, mediocre. What matters is that Margaret Atwood writes it. In other words, it appears the publisher doesn’t even have to read the book to write the blurb. And that’s not fair for the little poems.

And little poems they are. Rarely “prophetic” or “brave,” they are instead mostly quiet and reflective musings. Generally speaking, they read like the love children of the poems of Wislawa Szymborska and Billy Collins, which makes for a comfortable, if not always challenging read. While some of the poems appear polished, many seem to go on far longer than necessary. Take, for instance, the opening to “Enough of these discouragements”:

Enough of these discouragements,
you said. Enough gnawed skulls.
Why all these red wet tickets
to the pain theatricals?
Why these boxfuls of ruin?
Whole big-block warehouses full.
Why can’t you tell about flowers?

But I did tell, I answer.
Petal by petal


Now that’s great stuff. Unfortunately, the poem continues for another four stanzas, adding little to that powerful opening image, and ending up overstretched and drained of its original energy.

My plan was to say all this and then ultimately defend the book, to say: look, I know people are going to slag this because it’s not as amazing as something touched by the divine, autograph-robot-constructing hand of Ms. Atwood ought to be, but that doesn’t mean it should be discarded. I was all prepared to conclude the review by saying that the poems in the collection will probably get a raw deal from most in the poetry world, but in reality, while they won’t change your life, they will still make for a good Saturday afternoon read.

But then Mike sent me an e-mail saying he had found something else to fill the spot, and I could relax for a while. So I did. A couple days later, my review still unwritten, the Governor General’s Award for Poetry nominees were announced…and whaddya know, The Door is, apparently, one of the top five Canadian poetry books of the year! Perhaps I would understand this if the judges’ only criteria were the hype in the press blurb and the glowing reviews of past works by The New York Times and Washington Post that appear on the dust jacket, but otherwise…geez. After all my concern that the hype would bury the book many feet deeper than it truly deserved, it turned out the hype had, in fact, worked.

So I thought of changing everything, of really ripping into the book and explaining that yes, great poetry is being written in Canada, and no, it is no longer being written by Margaret Atwood. But then, that’s not my point. Instead my point is that we shouldn’t be evaluating on, or responding to, images and reputations, but instead on the poems themselves. We shouldn’t assault the book simply because Atwood is an easy target, just as we shouldn’t nominate her for a GG that there is little question her book doesn’t deserve. Both are unfairly distortive.

So, ultimately, my conclusions are the same, GG or not. I still feel bad for the poems, perhaps more so. More significantly, I feel bad for us Canadian poetry fans for all the meaningless noise we have to endure in our search for some good poems. The poems in The Door make for an ok read - there is much better and there is much worse out there - and if that is enough for you, then I encourage you to check out a copy.

11/04/2007

a flicker of content on the horizon + events

Some poems and a book review are coming real soon...until then, two more (free) events:

1.

Shortline Reading Series
November 19th
6:30 - 9:00 PM
Railway Club, Vancouver

The series bills itself as “featur[ing] a mixture of talent from students to professional writers, often putting people together who have never been in the same room”. This month features readings from two profs who both work next to earch other in SFU’s English Department. Yeah, it seems strange to me too… Despite the misleading hype, check it out.

More info here.


2.

World Poetry Series Reading
November 26
7:30 - 9:30 PM
Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch
350 W. Georgia St., Alma VanDusen room

Poetry and music from around the world, presented bilingually. World Poetry hosts are Ariadne Sawyer and guest host Diego Bastianutti.

Featuring readings by: Ashok Bhargava, Kyle Christensson, Jean Kay, Jaye (Julianna Low), Mandana Rastan.

Featured musicians: Pancho & Sal.

10/30/2007

demolition site

the way rebar juts into the air
shattered at so many points
though still rigid
as if ignorant of its own defeat
or defiant

placed here as a guide to the sky
for the sludge that would be concrete
a stoic artery
a nerve connecting hand to mouth to brain
in a network now obliterated

though the rebar remains
remembers its form and its duty
sends pulses down into the rubble
rusts over at each jagged opening.


from the Winter/Spring 07/08 issue of FreeFall

10/29/2007

lazyman's events

Why compile them when the grapevine: News from UBC Creative Writing does such a better job. Check out this link for news on a whack of neat-o literary events happening this week.

p.s. If you were wondering, "whack" is the technical term for a group of three or more neat-o literary events. "Gaggle" is also acceptable. But not "pile". "Pile" is right out.

10/27/2007

poetry in transit + sex reassignment

After missing a transfer during my commute a few days ago, I jumped on a 135 - a massive articulated bus that runs between downtown and SFU - and whaddya know, it was the (a?) poetry bus! All of its ad space was filled with the Poetry in Transit ad cards.

I think the bus usually runs the 98 B-Line route (to UBC) and I just lucked out. Knowing how much poetry activity there is on campuses, especially when compared to the rest of the city, it seems a shame to focus on reaching university students- they can already readily get poetry if they want it, while most others can't.

Anyway, I was only on the bus for 10 minutes or so, but I quickly paced up and down and read everything. I'd read most of them already, but there were a few new ones, including an excerpt from Earle Birney's "Vancouver Lights" from his new selected One Muddy Hand (my review of which will be coming out...oh, god knows when...with PoetryReviews.ca).

Once again, The Association of Book Publishers has made good picks - open to the non-poetry reader, yet still challenging - though there are a few oddities.

Firstly, despite riding far too many buses every day, I have still only seen half the poems offered (even the poetry bus was missing half). I assume this means that they are saving the other half for a 2008 release, but the fact that they have more in reserve makes it that much stranger that the poetry bus had 3-4 copies of the same poem posted next to each other as space-filler.

Also, having just read the Birney book, while I understand the attraction of publishing something Vancouver-themed, I can think of many excerpts that they could have picked which would have been much more in keeping with the goals of the series.

Strangest of all, though, is the layout of the ad cards: each poem has a photo of a person next to it. This person, though, is not the author. In all cases but one, it is impossible to tell that the photo is not of the author, unless you already know what the author looks like. This is because the gender of the name and the sex of the person in the photo are always aligned (with the exception of David Zieroth who, apparently, is an elderly woman). I can see what they were going for in putting "readers", not "writers" photos up - but the gendered alignment does lead to the assumption that David Zieroth is going through a life-altering tranformation, which I don't believe was the intended goal.

If you have very, very good eyesight you can read all of the Poetry in Transit poems online here. Or you can just ride the bus and be surprised.

P.S. One Ghana, One Voice is trying something new this week. Check it out!

10/25/2007

irradiated + mustaches

My poem "irradiated" has been published on OutsiderWriters.org. You can read it here. Thanks, Outsider Writers!

Also, this: Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century. Fascinating stuff.

10/23/2007

poetry stuff, belated and otherwise

I forgot to post a notice about Memewar's Short Line Reading Series event, which was last night. I hope it went well. But atleast I can note that their new issue is out, featuring a couple of poems by Matt Rader.

Now, a notice I'm on time for:

An Invitation

Come celebrate the fourth issue of Singing Crow in an afternoon of poetry, Sunday, October 28, 2007.

Since the early 1980s a group of poetry lovers has been meeting regularly in North Vancouver. They read poems (their own and those of poets they like), and they've published a selection of their work in the fourth Singing Crow.

Bring your poetry-loving friends to Upstart Crow Books, 238 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver (www.ucbooks.ca), just a few blocks up from the Seabus. The event runs from 3:00-5:00 pm. Copies of Singing Crow Fall 2007 will sell for $6 each. Enjoy light refreshments and good conversation.

The poets -- Susan Koppersmith, Herb Walsh, Richard Therrien, Robert Adams, Russell Thornton, David Zieroth, and Josie Scott -- will each read one or two poems from Singing Crow as well as a poem from a favourite poet.

That's all for now.

10/21/2007

hmm...

Am I crazy, or is this new poetry site an almost exact reproduction of One Ghana, One Voice? It's a Blogger template, granted, but it features the same modification of turning a weblink widget into a Table of Contents, and most of the same links. Also, check out their links page and OGOV's links page, their news page and OGOV's news page, and their archive page and OGOV's archive page.

They deny any connection and don't understand why I would want them to acknowledge OGOV on their site. Imitation and flattery and all that I suppose, but I can't help but be cheesed that they are unwilling to recognize OGOV, especially considering our position, as one of only a handful of African poetry sites, at the very fringe of the online literary community. Marta says I should sue them ;).

I've always had a long-term plan to use the Blogger template and modifications that I whipped up as an easy-to-learn package that other African poets could use to establish spin-off sites (One Zimbabwe, One Voice, etc.). At least this proves the structure is an attractive one, I suppose.

10/20/2007

because i'm sure the copyright must have lapsed by now...

The Herd-Boy

In the southern village the boy who minds the ox
With his naked feet stands on the ox's back.
Through the hole in his coat the river wind blows;
Through his broken hat the mountain rain pours.
On the long dyke he seemed to be far away;
In the narrow lane suddenly we were face to face.

The boy is home and the ox is back in its stall;
And a dark smoke oozes through the thatched roof.


- Lu You (1125-1209 AD), translated by Arthur Waley

p.s. Lu You is not Lu Yu, the Sage of Tea. Likewise, I did not play eight seasons with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers. Very confusing. In trying to figure it all out, I came across this Al Purdy poem. Neat.

10/16/2007

Fez (Red) + Review (HAP)

1. Out of the blue, I am soon to be the poetry editor at Red Fez (which just put out a new issue). So submit your stuff - it'll be nepotastic!

2. This week's issue of The Peak (Simon Fraser University's student newspaper) includes a roundtable review of the latest issue of High Altitude Poetry, in which Mike Hingston (whose blog has mysteriously disappeared - explain yourself, Hingston!) says some nice things about my poem "after the game". Reviews like this are a good way to help improve the writing of SFU poets and critics alike, so while some of it seems to me to be overly harsh on authors' first published works, I'm hoping it becomes a regular accompaniment to HAP's new releases.

BONUS from the vaults: This wasn't the first review-of-sorts of HAP in the pages of The Peak. That happened way back in September 2004, and can be read here.

10/09/2007

new poem + sports

My poem 'demolition site' has been published in the latest issue of FreeFall Magazine. I haven't gotten my contributor's copy yet, so I can't say if it's worth a gander - the only other author I know well is HAP-published, chapbook-reviewed, poet Jesse Ferguson - whose stuff always makes for a good read, so I'm optimistic.

I'll get to posting the poem sooner or later. I wrote it while on vacation with Marta, Karin and Dave on Pender Island - so thanks again to K & D for making that trip possible! It was written in the same abandoned construction area where Marta took this photo.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm thinking of starting up a poets' sports league (i.e. in all likelihood two teams) next summer. The idea would be that anyone could join, so long as they included a poem with their registration. It would be a normal league, except that each match the teams would select a representative and have that person recite a poem in lieu of national anthems and other such pre-game rigmarole. Also, at the end of the match the losing team would have to read the "poem of shame," written by the winning team. I'm open as to what sport we play - soccer, basketball, football, street hockey, ??? (just not baseball - Bowering already covered that one and its gawdawfully boring to play). Anybody interested?

10/06/2007

ten poems from a cutie

After a long wait, my ten-poem feature in The Green Muse has been published (it was supposed to be posted in May, but such is the life of the online lit mag). Feith, the editor, did quite a nice job of it - and was complimentary to boot! This is pretty damn neat, and I'm very appreciative of the effort Feith put in to making it happen.

The whole issue, which I've only started reading (and when it includes authors like john sweet, I'm sure that it'll be a good read), can be read here. My portion, including a giant picture of my head, can be read either page by page or all at once. A print version is supposed to become available mid-month, also.

The poems included in the profile:

the furthest away
irradiated
the new canada
these two dogs
cassius
shadowboxers (a previously unpublished version)
hook
what a robin thinks
chemical spill
questions to the stars

Thanks to HAP, iamb, One Cool Word, The White Wall Review, and Quills for publishing these poems previously.

10/05/2007

open mic + cheating

High Altitude Poetry Open Mic!
Tuesday, October 16th
Highland Pub, SFU Burnaby Campus
7:00 - ? PM
FREE!

A new zine and lots of new blood, so it should be interesting!

While I'm posting, this site is pretty damn great. I only wish they stayed in character at all times:

http://www.cheatneutral.com/

10/02/2007

creation story

my poem "creation story" has been published in the first issue of 1097 Magazine. it's a sharp little online and print mag that could go places - check it out here, and read my poem here.

9/30/2007

Word on the Street + Pants!

i went to the strike and rain beleaguered Word on the Street fest today (and the WotS and rain beleaguered library picket line) and picked up a back issue of One Cool Word that i missed while in Ghana (featuring a poem by Liam Ford and my poem "hook"), a copy of Viral Suite by Mari-Lou Rowley, and possibly a cold.

more important than all that, my one pair of blue jeans inexplicably descended (literally) to a new level of disrepair. before, they hung so loosely on my twigly frame that i could shake them off of my body by running with a narrow gait for a few blocks. now it's five or six normal steps and they're down, while at the best of times they are clinging desperately to my hips. i was the only gangsta at WotS, i believe.

i have developed two strategies for keeping the things up (and no, neither is a belt - don't get me started on belts):
1. the one-finger beltloop hook: this one works quite well, and is the only strategy that works when jogging/running, but it's also very obvious that you're holding you pants up, which, it turns out, often makes normal conversations take a turn for the awkward.

2. the two-handed pocket grab: this isn't very reliable and is guaranteed to fail when jogging/running (besides, who jogs with their hands in their pockets?). when using this strategy, it is hard for others to tell that your pants are falling down, but easy for them to tell that you have something valuable in your pockets and/or that you have an obsessive need to graze your balls with your thumbs every thirty seconds or so. surprisingly, this strategy does help you maintain more normal conversations than does #1.

more than anything, my current plight got me thinking about gangstas - i've got no problem with the look, but i now appreciate how damn frustrating it is to know that your pants could fall down at any moment. so, i've invented "Spurious Slacks": normal fitting pants with a fake second pantline that hangs below your shirt. comfort and style in one! tell your friends!

9/27/2007

you damn hippies

here are two things to keep you busy:

1. send a letter to the PM re: Burma + Security Council + Action here. and if you want to harass Bush on the same subject (tho he seems pretty gung-ho already - that boy loves his democracy), you can do so here.

oh, and i just got news of a rally:
Location: Robson Square, Vancouver Downtown, Vancouver
Date: Sept. 28, 2007 (Friday)
Time: 5pm
Organization: Vancouver Burma Roundtable and local groups
Contact: Naw Seng at 778-998-0966, San Aung at 778-888-1918 and Htay Aung at 604-941-5385

2. "Hello Al, Goodbye Gateway" rally against the Gateway Project this Saturday at 5 PM at the Westin Bayshore. Marta and i will be there gearing up our chanting for the 7 PM Lions game. more detail here.

9/23/2007

night of the dead poets 2

Marta and i went to the first one of these earlier this year, and quite enjoyed it. i'm planning on taking in this one too. let me know if you are interested in coming along. here are the details:

Upstart Crow Books
presents

Friday, October 12, 2007
7.00 pm.


The Night of the Dead Poets 2

You’re invited to listen to five readers bringing poems from the past to your ears.

- Poems of William Butler Yeats (13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939) read by Harvey De Roo
- Poems of William Stafford (17 January 1914 – 28 August 1993) read by David Zieroth
- Poems of Raymond Carver (25 May 1938 – 2 August 1988)
read by Rhea Tregebov
- Poems of Saint-Denys-Garneau (13 June 1912 – 24 October 1943) read by Richard Therrien
- Poems of Denise Levertov (24 October 1923 – 20 December 1997) read by Susan McCaslin

Enjoy language worth listening to. In each presentation you will hear a brief introduction to the poet followed by a reading of selected poems.

Upstart Crow Books, 238 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver, is just a few blocks up from the Seabus. For more information, call 604-980-2769.

9/21/2007

new books + "Yo, Raphael!"

as a challenge to my recent assertion that no one i know is publishing anything, two friends have whipped up new books:

first, Leopold McGinnis has released his novella, Bad Attitude. at 104 pages (well, 103 and a penis), it's a quick, engaging read about a big-box electronics store employee who is only slightly less deranged than the all-consuming monstrosities (read: suburbanites) he finds himself surrounded by. you can buy it for cheap off his site, read the whole thing online (he's serializing it - he's on chapter three right now), or check it out from my Vancouver lending library (the only lending library in town right now, i believe...).

second, Colin Stewart is soon to release his novel, A Question of Extremes, and has set up a website to hype the little beast. i don't know much about the book, but the excerpts look interesting. check it out here!

and as a special bonus for reading this far: "Firefighters rescue man trapped in chimney trying to enter home; says he was drunk". the tv newscast is here, featuring its own gems of "after that lewd gesture wrapped up in a bit of sarcasm" and "Alejandro Valencio: Chimney Climber". ah, poor, under-educated Americans - the media's best target of ridicule in order to feed their (and our) superiority complex. well, them and rich, under-educated Americans. and whatever is going on here. and Barbara Walters, when she does crazy shit like this.

9/20/2007

ms. hunter, i salute you

Aislinn Hunter is currently my favourite Vancouver-based poet (she teaches creative writing at Kwantlen). her two poetry collection are damn good, and she keeps getting better as she goes along.

her books, Into the Early Hours and The Possible Past are available in my Vancouver lending library (as is a second copy of The Possible Past that my mom won as an iamb event door prize - in her Port Moody lending library).

anyway, i'm writing this now because i finally found a site that's posted some of her poems (granted, i wasn't looking terribly hard, but still: what's with all the poem-hoarding? it's as though people think they can turn a profit off these things...). the posting, a feature on Hunter, is part of Arc Poetry's Scotland-Canada exchange project, and includes a very good introduction of her work, by John Burnside. an excerpt:

At this point in our history—in human, rather than natural history—the most urgent questions are ecological: questions about how we dwell in the world, questions about what we leave for our children, questions about “quality of life” in the most urgent sense. Yet, strangely, the most effective tool we have to defend the environment—from ourselves—is not polemic, or statistics. What matters is that we stop taking the world for granted and begin to see where it is we live. What matters is that we find a new way of thinking about, and feeling, and appreciating the world. This new way of thinking depends, not upon understanding and so taking possession of everything we experience and encounter, but upon making space for the mystery—making space, and participating, in all humility, in a Being that is, as Sartre says, haunted by nothingness. Reading Aislinn Hunter, I find a poet committed to that quest: a quest, not for authenticity, so much as immediacy, a quest to partake of the eternal through a more vivid engagement with time.

after Brunside's write-up are three of Hunter's poems - "The Story as I See It" has been one of my favourites since I first encountered it, and her "Barriers" sequence is downright incredible (though i don't believe that the section selected is the strongest).

hell, enough babbling by me. check it out yourself.

p.s. thanks to this wicked book for the subject line.

9/19/2007

there we go

Science is just one of the many ideologies that propel society and it should be treated as such (this statement applies even to the most progressive and most dialectical sections of science). What consequences can we draw from this result?

The most important consequence is that there must be a formal separation between state and science just as there is now a formal separation between state and church. Science may influence society but only to the extent to which any political or other pressure group is permitted to influence society. Scientists may be consulted on important projects but the final judgement must be left to the democratically elected consulting bodies.

- Paul Feyerabend, "How To Defend Society Against Science"

9/17/2007

two events

1. Memewar's Short Line Reading Series is back for another year - starting tonight, it seems. It's a free show at the Railway Club and who knows, Elizabeth Bachinsky might actually show up this time... Dunno the start time, but that's all part of the fun. Further readings will be held on October 22nd and November 19th.

2. One Cool Word is hosting a fundraising concert/button making party on October 4th from 7-10 PM at Rhizome Cafe (317 East Broadway). If you are a facebook zombie, there's more info here.

mmm...friends...pokes...brains...

9/16/2007

writing the land

the folks over at blueskiespoetry.ca have a neat project going called "Writing the Land", in which they profile poems about Alberta's landscapes. you can read the most recently posted poem here, then scroll through past poems using the "Next Poem" link.

the poems are hit and miss - though there are quite a few hits - and i think it's a fantastic idea. while i was in Ghana i was missing Vancouver and poems about the city, and i had the idea of setting up a site for writing on the city - not just sweeping generalizations about "VanCity" ("Asialopolis"?) but about particular places, artifacts, and histories - then mapping them all using GoogleMaps or something so people could actually go around and see the things and places the writing was referencing - sort of a literary tour of the city.

but then i started noticing a number of magazines that were interested specifically in writing on Vancouver (most notably one cool word and Vancouver Review) and i lost a bit of my gusto. at the same time, i began to appreciate the complete lack of venues for writing on Ghana, so i put my energies into One Ghana, One Voice.

OGOV is ticking along quite smoothly right now, and my guess that i might be able to find 10-15 Ghanaian poets out there has proven very short-sighted, which is damn exciting. it looks like we might even get a book...?

so, OGOV is keeping me busy. in addition, my interests in setting up a vancouver-focused crap-chapbook publisher and in helping to revive the slumbering giant that is High Altitude Poetry, have helped ensure that the "literary tour of Vancouver" idea stays shelved in the cluttered and dusty stockroom of my mind.

but reading things like "Writing the Land" gets me wanting to pull out the stepladder and explore what i've got stored back there. i'm still probably not going to do it - but if anyone else is up for it, i'd be sure to lend a hand.


photos by Marta Iniewska and genericstockroomphotos.com

missing

i recently found out that a friend from university and sometimes-HAPer, Asim Chaudhry, has been missing since late july - you can get more info here.

i don't know how i was so out of the loop on this to have only heard about it now, but if it's news to you, too, please do your part and help spread the word.

9/13/2007

i sometimes wonder about fruit flies

i sometimes wonder about fruit flies
whole civilizations born from
two horny bugs
empires that hover over
my decaying nectarines

they cluster and swarm
and i worry about inbreeding
about the thousands of retarded spawn
they must be producing

i worry that maybe it
gets so bad
that they forget how
to have sex

they fly around jabbing their
penises into each other
poking out eyes and shattering wings,
dying alone and loaded with sperm.

how tragic that would be, i think
as I drop the nectarines into the trash.

the cloud of flies scatters around the room
the buzzing grows steadily quieter.


from the September 2004 issue of High Altitude Poetry

more of my poems from HAP here.

save bukowski's bungalow

the place where Charles Bukowski lived from 1963-74 is slated to be demolished, but some keen people in L.A. have started a campaign to save it, and are looking for your inbox-clogging support. so get to it.

9/09/2007

stating the obvious


the pumpkin is dead! a new template for silaron! not many big changes to the content of the site, just a less cluttered archive and a few easier ways to browse the site by theme.

the refurbishment is this site's reward for reaching 10,000 hits, devastating its competition in the big race.

the final results:

spread it like a roll of nickels: 10,000
Saturdays in the Park: 9,651
One Ghana, One Voice: 9,609

thanks to all who participated in my elaborate gambling ring!

also, while i'm posting, High Altitude Poetry is going to be signing up members new and old on the 11th and 12th from 10 AM 'till 3 PM at SFU's Burnaby Campus. if you want to get (or stay) involved, come sign up!

9/06/2007

two poets

i spent the weekend away with friends at Green Lake and got the chance to read a couple of books by authors i hadn't read before, and i can safely say i recommend both.

first, Mark Haddon's The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea had me from the title. it's not terribly amazing stuff, but it is a good deal better than the average fare. the collection is a hodgepodge with a good deal of humour, some self-pointing-poet stuff, and occasional beauty ("A Tally Stick," for instance). the world certainly won't end if you don't read it, but it might pick up a little if you do.

second, Fran Bourassa's debut chapbook Songs for Fools. this was the best chapbook i've read in a long time. truthfully, that's not setting the bar terribly high (for all the obscure literary circles i involve myself in, no one seems to be coming out with anything), but Bourassa's collection far exceeds the usual "first chapbook" expectations. at times, in fact, the poems in the collection seem too "professional," too caught in the words and meters and blah-ness of "the good stuff" that fills literary mags and isn't really all that good. more often than not, though, the poems rise above this and are very readable and satisfying. the chapbook is only available at Upstart Crow Books in North Van, so if you are in that area be sure to take a look.

so maybe i'm reviewing books on this site now. or, more possibly, i'm posting one-paragraph blurbs on books i like. i doubt it will catch on.

poems poems poems coming soon, i promise.

8/30/2007

one of the sad little things that gives my life meaning (feat. pre-installed microsoft clipart)

three blogs i edit or co-edit are on track to reach 10,000 hits at almost exactly the same time. as of this posting, the race looks like this:

spread it like a roll of nickels: 9,700
Saturdays in the Park: 9,566
One Ghana, One Voice: 9,200

who will make it first? here are the current odds:

silaron: 2:1
SitP: 9:1
OGOV: 3:1

"Insider's Scoop" with Rob Taylor:

"Personally, I'd put my money on OGOV. It's a full year younger than its competitors and known to pick up speed down the backstretch, having doubled its readership over the last month. In all likelihood it will be a photo-finish between silaron and OGOV, so milk those odds and go with OGOV."


place your bets!

8/29/2007

some Wallace Stevens quotes

The poem reveals itself only to the ignorant man.

*

We never arrive intellectually. But emotionally we arrive constantly (as in poetry, happiness, high mountains, vistas).

*

Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.

- excerpts from Adagia, by Wallace Stevens

8/28/2007

and then, somehow, it's even worse than you thought

Much of the resentment toward Iraqis described to The Nation by veterans was confirmed in a report released May 4 by the Pentagon. According to the survey, conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General of the US Army Medical Command, just 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of marines agreed that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. Only 55 percent of soldiers and 40 percent of marines said they would report a unit member who had killed or injured "an innocent noncombatant."

- from a stunning article by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian in The Nation, based on interviews with Iraqi war vets. Read the whole thing here.

8/26/2007

mutanabbi reading

the Mutanabbi Memorial reading on friday night went quite well - a packed house with a number of strong poems from the likes of David Zieroth and Fran Bourassa. thanks to Upstart Crow Books and Pandora's Collective for putting on such a solid event. two of my poems were included in the chapbook (which i believe sold out, raising a couple hundred bucks for MSF in the process), including this here brand-spanking new one:


old words

- for Al-Mutanabbi

we clamour as they burn
bemoan what is lost
and yet they linger
in the ashes and light

choked and blinded
we stumble to our podiums
old words gathering
in our throats

8/22/2007

what once was lost...

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

- Reinhold Niebuhr

man, i love this quote. it was what i was trying to look up in my notebook a couple of weeks ago when i discovered the notebook was missing. i pulled it from a rather obscure book i encountered on Pender Island called How the Irish Saved Civilization.

after losing the notebook, and with the libraries on strike, i more or less gave up on the quote. then whamo, i ran into someone on a ferry (which in all likelihood is where i lost the notebook in the first place) who was reading the book! we were just about to unload, so i hastily scribbled the thing down. in all likelihood the man thought i was insane, but was polite enough about the whole interaction (afraid?).

p.s. Mutanabbi reading on friday. be there.

8/19/2007

Mutanabbi Street Memorial Reading + more

we're back from our trip to Cape Scott, which was fantastic (only came up with one poem, though). arrived home to find that a poem(s?) of mine will be included in a memorial chapbook and reading which is happening this Friday night at 7:30 PM at Upstart Crow Books in North Vancouver.

from the press release:

On March 5th 2007, a car bomb exploded on Mutanabbi Street in a mixed Shia-Sunni area of Baghdad. More than 30 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded. This locale is the historic center of Baghdad bookselling; a winding street filled with bookstores and outdoor bookstalls. Named after the famed 10th-century classical Arab poet, Al-Mutanabbi, this is an old and established street for bookselling and has been for hundreds of years. It has been the heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community.

Feeling a need to respond, Beau Beausoleil, a San Francisco poet and the proprietor of The Great Overland Book Company has formed a coalition of poets, writers, artists, printers, booksellers and readers; the Mutanabbi Street Coalition.

This tragedy is part of the wider and continuing debacle in Iraq, but one that we want to isolate and address---not only for the loss of lives but also for the implications underlying the destruction of a street where books were sold. Bookselling on Mutanabbi Street is no different from bookselling here. We traffic in memory, ideas, and dreams. In that sense, we feel that Mutanabbi Street starts at the front door of all bookshops.

In support of the work of this group, Pandora’s Collective (www.pandorascollective.com) and Upstart Crow Books (www.ucbooks.ca) are putting together a memorial poetry reading. The Mutanabbi Street Memorial reading will take place at Upstart Crow Books, 238 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver on August 24th, at 7:30 p.m.

Marta and i will be going via the seabus, and anyone else who wants in is more than welcome to join us. let me know.

oh, and i just got this one cool word notice. the new issue is being launched tonight!!! click on the image to see a bigger version with all the details.

8/12/2007

splattered earth at a bookstore near the last one

basically, take this post, replace "a few days on the gulf islands" with "a week at cape scott", and "People's Co-op Bookstore (1391 Commercial Drive)" with "Magpie Books (1319 Commercial Drive)."

and while i'm posting, the structure of this site looks great (perhaps the content, too, tho i haven't had much time to look into it):

http://www.lafovea.org/

see y'all in a week!

8/10/2007

Tim Lilburn interview

Interviewer: How can language act as a bridge between people and the natural world?

Lilburn: Language might be a wall between the human and non-human worlds, our way of stepping back, storing the present to savour it later, our way of not really being at the party. The name is more cherished than the thing; it cleanly designates essence, while trees and rocks drag around a mess of individual traits. Language, wielded in a particular way, could be a type of inattention, particularly difficult to correct because it supposes it supplies the forms into which true attention is poured. But there’s another way to think of this: language is nature. Then it just lies down in the grass like everything else, or works a course, or moves about at night. But then it would need to be as free of programmatic control as possible, and so a little frightening in its shape-changing autonomy.

I: What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of writing poetry?

L: Music first, speed and music. Then image, leaping audacious yolking. Finally story: but not story as a girder arrangement or frame—music should provide this—but as embellishment, decoration.


read the whole thing here.

8/07/2007

a request

dream, you sons-of-bitches
dream and hold your dreams
like stones in the pockets
of your mouths.

dream, you sons-of-bitches
and when you get the chance
o when you get the chance
            spit
                  everywhere.

8/02/2007

lost notebook

i went to do a blog post this morning and found that my notebook i'd been using over the last few weeks was lost - probably fell out of a pannier on one of our many ferry/bus transfers. it didn't have much in it, and i've managed to reconstruct most of the poems from memory (with some interesting gaps in places i never thought i would have forgotten things - titles, key lines, etc.). it's not a terribly big deal, but it's still one of those nightmare scenarios that runs around in my head and makes me back up every poem in five places (including my Fort Knox Gun Safe), so it rattled me a bit.

p.s. then i realised that some people (like Bo Derek and Bobby Knight) live in worlds in which it is acceptable to own large, fireproof gun safes, and got over myself.

7/28/2007

splattered earth at a bookstore near me

marta and i are heading away for a few days on the gulf islands, which means i won't be able to respond to the dozens of requests i receive daily for my year-old chapbook splattered earth.

my short-term solution has been to make splattered earth available via the People's Co-op Bookstore (1391 Commercial Drive). it should be selling for around $1.75. feel free to pick up five copies while i'm out of town.

also, the splattered earth online sale is still on. act now! or in a few days! your call, really!

7/26/2007

David Yezzi interview quote

Interviewer: How politicized is poetry nowadays? How much has politicization of the academy corrupted the art form?

David Yezzi: I recently participated in an exchange with another poet in the June issue of Poetry magazine in which, to my surprise, a number of old political hobbyhorses got paraded around the paddock.

The political entrenchment of the academy has been reported in all it’s gruesomeness by my colleague Roger Kimball, editor of The New Criterion. I would only add that things are equally entrenched from an aesthetic standpoint. It’s not that masters degrees in poetry, which function as excellent cash cows for universities across the country, are completely worthless. I have one myself, and I can say that they are only almost completely worthless. They do have one serious downside however: students seeking preferment begin to write like their teachers. They then graduate with a degree that is really only useful to teach creative writing in a program much like the one from which they have just graduated. Their students learn to write like they do and so on. This has had quite a deadening effect on contemporary poetry in general, I think.


read the full interview here.

7/23/2007

shadowboxers (two versions)

a poem i thought was finished and therefore submitted to a magazine, then returned to and (hopefully) improved, only to find the original version appear in print (which, don't get me wrong, i am very greatful for). upon rereading, i'm not completely sure which version i prefer, so i figured i'd post both here:

#1

i love a good fight
though i rarely get one

we crack each others' hearts
like eggs then wait in the
silence for the dripping of blood

some would call us masters
but masters understand spectacle
       fireworks shoot off when
       they enter the arena

we're still amateurs
touring the dusty whistle stops
covering middle america with
bruises
scars

no stadiums
or entourages
we stumble home at night
to nurse our wounds
alone.

from the 2006 issue of The White Wall Review


#2

i love a good fight
though i rarely get one

we crack each others' hearts
like eggs then wait in the
silence for the dripping of blood

some would call us masters
but masters understand spectacle
       fireworks shoot off when
       they enter the arena

we're still amateurs
touring the dusty whistle stops
covering middle america with
bruises and scars

no stadiums
or entourages
we stumble home at night
to nurse our wounds
and wait for the phone
to ring.

7/20/2007

High Altitude things

High Altitude Poetry is at the Summer Dreams Reading Fest all day tomorrow, and it looks like I might be reading something around 12:20 PM.

We'll be launching the print version of our July 2007 issue, which features a series of pictures from the editors' steady descent into madness.

7/17/2007

what is contained underneath

i just scratched off the
head of a mole so it’s
bleeding and i fear it
will become cancerous
and i will deny it until
it is too late and my body
has grown limp and rotten
inside and i will never
forgive myself for needing
so badly to discover what
can fall away - what is
contained underneath -
when i already know the
answer is this thick brown
blood which i dab at
with a square of toilet
paper and the fear that
i might get cancer that
i might rot inside
one day.


from the 2006 issue of The White Wall Review

7/14/2007

"Pick-up" in Ghana

5:10 PM. I'm late. Unlike at home in Canada, I don't have to worry about scrambling into my soccer gear - in Ghana the heat forces you to wear shorts and a t-shirt at all times, and shin pads or cleats would get you laughed off the pitch. I burst out the door and wind my way along dusty roads to the pitch, past my neighbour's ramshackle houses and humble streetfront shops. A few people wave on the way, though the site of a lanky, sweating obruni ("foreigner" in a local language) no longer surprises as it did only a few months before. I round the corner and the game has already started. The players know that there is only a brief moment each day when the temperature is low enough (under 35°C) to play, and they aren't about to waste a minute of that time. I squat on a concrete block on the sideline, waiting to be subbed in. The ball, a dull orange, half-deflated "sports ball", is already caked in its usual thick layer of grime, as three sides of the pitch are lined with open sewers.


5:15 PM. Arriving late often results in an evening on the sideline, as the subs can sometimes outnumber the players five-fold. Today, however, I'm in luck, and the numbers are low. "Crouch! Crouch!" yells one of the players, waving me into the game. (Soon after my arrival in Ghana, I acquired the nickname “Peter Crouch,” after the Liverpool striker, a name which they assured me referred only to my pasty whiteness, and not to my facial features. I pretended to believe them.) The pitch is small and the pace is frenetic. A cloud of dust whirls around the ball as it is chipped into the air, then travels off the feet, chests and foreheads of three players before bouncing off the cinder-block goal post and in. I flail about in my attempt to keep up, though this proves impossible. There is no time to stop and think; there are no set plays in this game. It is all speed and imagination, two things which I was left lacking in from my Canadian soccer training.

When finally the ball arrives on my foot, three voices are already shouting. Everyone is always open, and every pass is possible. I move the ball conservatively back to the keeper, much to the chagrin of my three streaking teammates. The keeper, in turn, lobs the ball deftly down the length of the pitch, as if to show me how to do it. One of our strikers quickly gathers it in and drills it through the goalposts. Generously, they give me partial credit for the goal as they trot back, grins slathered across their faces.


5:35 PM. Twenty minutes in and already two goals. I am half-blind from the sweat and dirt. My legs and arms are covered with a thick layer of sewage and dirt. My skin is still white enough, however, to get the occasional “Crouchy!” call from the primary school kids who line the edges of the pitch. They come every week to watch and hope, though they rarely play. I am gasping for air and sub one of them in – eleven years younger and two feet shorter than myself, I’m still rather confident that he’ll outperform me. His name is Peter, and though slightly bitter that I showed up and stole his nickname, he forgives me a little more every time I sub him in. Immediately, he is off and running, throwing himself against opponents and chasing down every loose ball. He knows that, as a twelve-year-old amongst adults, he has little time on the pitch to prove his worth, and he takes advantage of what’s given to him.


5:45 PM. I sub back in. Miraculously, Peter is still on the pitch, beaming like a headlight. The crowd ripples with laughter, as our team’s offensive attack now consists of the two Crouches – a white guy and a child. The opposition whets their lips with anticipation; they have been waiting all game for a goal, and now see it all but ensured. Peter, though, has other plans. Lifting the ball onto one foot, he flips it over the head of his six-foot defender and slips past him. Wiping the sweat from my eyes, I stumble after the play. Three defenders converge on little Peter – they’ve clearly decided who the offensive threat is on our team. Cornered, he butts the ball off his heel, back to my waiting foot. I’ve learned my lesson, and go straight for the goal. The kick is clumsy, but it gets the job done. 3 – 0. Peter’s face explodes, all white, chiclet teeth. The celebration is abbreviated, though. Peter is subbed out and the ball is tossed back into play, the opposition more determined than ever. Peter doesn’t seem disappointed, he knows he’ll be able to play a few more minutes tomorrow.


6:00 PM. The sun has almost disappeared over the horizon. The score is 3-1, and our opponents agree, begrudgingly, to call the match. Almost immediately, the pitch is empty; the lack of streetlights encourages quick exits. The sun will be back tomorrow, though, and the pitch will be waiting.

For now, we return, contented, to our homes. I take an ice-cold shower; watch as clods of dirt spin and dissolve in the drain. Peter lays in bed, his head swirling with possibility. Slowly, the city, the continent, goes to sleep.


from the July 2007 issue of Free Kick Magazine