open letter to james moore update #2

A letter to James Moore from Hamilton poet Marilyn Gear Pilling, after my challenge for silly open letters/submissions to the Honourable Member. This one is not silly, sadly, but a darn good letter nonetheless:

To: James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Dear Minister,

I know that there have been protests about your intention to cut off government grants to magazines with a circulation of less than 5,000, which would be every literary magazine in Canada. I am not sure whether anyone has explained the reason for the outcry, that is, the relationship between these magazines and the ability to become a writer.

There was a time when I did not know anything about this relationship, and there is no reason why you would be expected to know it, given the breadth of your responsibilities. Therefore I've tried to summarize it in this short letter, and trust that you will then see the effect this proposed policy would have. I do hope your staff will bring this letter to your attention.

There are steps involved in becoming a successful, published writer, and as you will see the literary magazines are a crucial element. The following is over-simplified in the interests of brevity:

Step 1 - The writer's work (fiction or creative non fiction or poetry) appears in the literary magazines of this country. Even this step is not easy for an aspiring writer. The literary magazines can publish only two or three submissions out of every hundred they receive, due to limited space. Many fine pieces of writing receive multiple rejections at this level.

Step 2 - Having built up a publishing record in the literary magazines, (and it may take ten years to achieve ten or twelve published poems or stories), the writer sends a full length manuscript of work to the small, independently owned Canadian publishers. If the writer has built up a track record in the literary magazines, he or she is much more likely to have work at least considered and read by these small publishers. The writer has a chance that his or her work may be published as a book. As well, literary agents and larger publishers look at these magazines to see what new talent may be out there. Another benefit is that writers read these magazines. The first level of success and the first level of encouragement for a writer is that other writers, as well as the editors of the literary magazines, read the work, respond to it , may encourage it, and become familiar with the author. A writer needs this initial recognition to be able to continue.

Step 3 - Having had two or three books published by the small, independent publishers, the writer, typically, uses these books to attempt to interest a larger publisher, such as McClelland and Stewart or Knopf, in publishing the writer's work. These larger publishers have budgets for marketing the book, and at this point, the writer may develop a name and find that his or her work is being read by the general public.

Almost all of Canada's name authors have followed this route. A handful of writers, due to a combination of luck or material that expresses the zeitgeist or winning a big prize will jump from obscurity directly to a position where their work is read and known by the general public, but the vast majority work fulltime at another job and follow the route I have described, which is long and demands a great deal of persistence and many years of slogging in the trenches.

If you effectively remove the trenches, over 98% of Canada's aspiring, developing writers will never get off the ground. A good analogy is the disappearance of the wetlands, which scientists now know leads to the disappearance of entire species.

The amount of money the government expends to allow these literary magazines to exist is so small that removing it will do nothing to reduce the deficit. However, allowing these grants to continue will mean that Canada continues, over time, to produce writers like Michael Ondaatje, Alistair MacLeod, Carol Shields, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Yann Martel - writers who are giants on the world stage and have resulted in Canadian literature proliferating and being studied and read and respected in many countries.

Of course, it is not only for the purpose of developing Canada's image abroad that it is important to assist writers in getting a start. The work they produce will enrich and deepen the lives of readers for years to come, and provide an important contribution to the nation's culture.

Yours truly,

Marilyn Gear Pilling
Hamilton, Ontario


sufficiently sublime

Finally, though, however it happens, by whatever complex, forbiddingly imprecise, dauntingly imperfect means, art is created, and beauty manifested. All over the world, if not every day then in every age, beautiful paintings and poems and pieces of music and buildings are generated: one can almost imagine little flaring lights on the surface of the earth, like those seen in photos from space, though they are much more sparse and scattered than the illuminating devices that bespeckle our globe. And then over time these embodiments of the beautiful are harvested, amassed, collected in books, in museums, in concert halls, to be distributed into the lives of individual human beings, to become crucial elements of their existence. Often, our experience of beauty will be the first hint of what each of us at some point will dare call our soul. For don’t those first stirrings of that eternally uncertain, barely grasped notion of something more than mere mind, mere thought, mere emotion, usually first come to us in the line of a poem, a passage of music, of the unreal yet more-than-real image in a painting?

And isn’t it also the case after all that beauty is the one true thing we can count on in a world of insufferable uncertainty, of constant moral conflicts? I’ve wondered sometimes if humans invented gods to have something appropriately sensitive, grand, and wise enough to appreciate these miraculous modes of beauty that are so different in material and quality from anything else in the world. Might gods have first been devised not to assuage our fears and hear our complaints and entreaties, but for there to be identities sufficiently sublime to understand what those first painters and sculptors—and surely, though the words and tunes have been lost, those poets and singers—had wrought?

- C.K. Williams, from "Solitary Caverns: On Globalisation and Poetry" in the March 2009 issue of POETRY. You can read the whole thing, again mysteriously retitled for the web version, here.


The smelly dog who pooed

Has spied me in the nude.

Respek, aaaiight.

"big antigonish tits"

Ok, as mentioned in a previous post, some pretty strange web searches end up here at silaron. Still, today's search of "big antigonish tits"... wow... that's in a class all its own.

I'm not sure if I want to know what makes an "antigonish tit" different from a plain ol' tit...


silence: a courtyard

My collaborative poem written with Daniela Elza, "silence: a courtyard," is now up at qarrtsiluni. The post includes the text of the poem, some notes on the collaboration from Daniela and myself, and an audio recording of the two of us reading it.

I haven't had an audio recording published since back in my undergrad when iamb, SFU's student creative writing journal, was still up and running - so that's pretty neat. You can read/listen to it here:

silence: a courtyard

The poem is part of qarrtsiluni's "Mutating the Signature" issue of collaborative poems which I mentioned here a while ago. I've long been a fan of qarrtsiluni, which is certainly one of the best web-based literary magazines I've come across, so I'm very glad to be included. Thanks, qarrtsiluni!


CoS cloud

Wordle is neat. Here is my chapbook Child of Saturday in word cloud form:

It doesn't tell you much about the chapbook, except which words I use in refrains and other repetitive bits. Still, it looks coooooool.



One Ghana, One Voice is now on Facebook. Our trusty North American promotions man Prince Mensah has got us facing and booking like nobody's business. So take a gander and join up here.


open letter to james moore update

Zach Wells comments on the nonsense: "James Moore's Little Blue Choo-choo"

He also stirs up a bit of his own: "Open Letter to James Moore"

Daniela Elza comments on the nonsense: "doomed under 5000"

My original post can be read here.


broken pencil review

Broken Pencil has reviewed my old chapbook, splattered earth! The review took so long to arrive that the contact info I provided them with the submission is three years outdated (email and mailing addresses that I stopped using in Spring 2006).

Oh well, I'm still very grateful to them for covering it. You can read the review here and learn more about splattered earth and my new chapbook, Child of Saturday, here.

Thanks, Broken Pencil!


An Open Letter to James Moore, Minister of Cultural Heritage and Official Languages

[New updates here and here]
[Read my follow-up query letter here]
[Read the government's rejection letter here]
[Quill and Quire blogs on the submissions here]

Well, I've finally gotten together a submission to James Moore, motivated by the proposed funding changes at Canadian Heritage that will kill off most literary magazines in Canada (if you don't know what I'm talking about, there's more info here, here, and here):

(click on the letter to expand it)

I had a false start in sending it off, choosing to deliver it in person to his constituency office in Port Moody instead of mailing it to Ottawa. The personal touch always helps with editors - or so I thought...

Alas! Theirs is not the literary wing of his operations. A good lesson for future submitters! My first submission was rejected thusly:

(click on the letter to expand it)

I've rebounded from this initial setback, as all determined artists must, and have resubmitted my poem to Mr. Moore's office in Ottawa. Hopefully there they will better appreciate the value of poetry in "Householder" mailouts - we all must open our minds to new possibilities if we are to survive the troubled times ahead! I will, of course, post here any response I receive.

If others wish to send similar submissions, please direct them to:
James Moore, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6
And please, send a scan or photo of your submission to me at roblucastaylor(at)gmail.com, so that I can post it here.

Lastly, here is the full text of my letter, in case the scans don't do it for you:

Mr. Moore,

I have written the following poem and am submitting it to you in hopes that you might publish it in your constituency newsletter or on www.jamesmoore.org. This request is part of my wider search to locate alternate publishing venues for my work, as I am preparing for every literary magazine in Canada to soon be shut down. The magazines will be closing, as you may know, due to some new government policy to cease funding magazines with circulation under 5,000. What will they come up with next, eh?

Anyway, Mr. Moore, here is the poem:

An Open Letter to James Moore, Minister of Cultural Heritage and Official Languages

You’re a few bricks short, a ten-second minute,
You’ve got a nice house, but there’s nobody in it.
You’re as thick as molasses, as sharp as a ball,
Your car’s cylinders just won’t fire at all.
You’ve got bats in your belfry, air in your head,
Your infinite monkeys are infinite dead.
I bring you this message as a citizen, friend:
James, your little blue choo-choo has wound ’round the bend.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. Obviously, if the government policy were to be reversed, I would immediately withdraw my request for publication.


Rob Taylor


i imagine a nun or two

After sitting in my "to read" pile for a few months, I finally got to the first series of chapbooks from the Alfred Gustav Press, a micropress run out of North Vancouver by David Zieroth.

The series featured three chapbooks, one each by gillian harding-russell, Richard Therrien, and David Zieroth. All three are beautifully constructed (obviously with a great deal of care), and featured strong work. David's own chapbook, Dust in the Brocade, stood out as the strongest. Dust in the Brocade (whose title is taken from a line in the opening poem, "The Nuns' Chair") features 13 sonnets (why not 14?), ending with the charming "After All These Years":

After All These Years

by David Zieroth

…still writing, they ask, gentle, mild types
curious but anticipating my capitulation
to the other side—theirs—where I will never-
ever-again take up a thought and turn it
this way or that into something other
than it was before, not necessarily
better but at best something better than
originally thought—oh, yes, still writing
I reply, surprised, as if they’ve asked
still breathing? blood continues circulating?
fecund ideas and senses wheeling? is that
how a glimpse is gained, gripped (how many
slip away?), how the unimagined grows
when you dream of it dreaming in you?

Series Two is already in the works, and looks like it might be even stronger than its predecessor, featuring chapbooks by Matt Rader, Susan McCaslin and Christopher Levenson. It's only $10 for all three, and the chapbooks are available to subscribers only, so sign up before the deadline (April 1st). Info on how to subscribe can be found here.


two readings

The Writing Studio Reading Series
Thursday, March 12th, 2009 (7:30 - 9:30 PM)
Rhizome Café
317 East Broadway

Elizabeth Bachinsky Reading
Tuesday, March 17th (3:00 PM)
Buchanan E Building – Room 472, UBC
1866 Main Mall, Vancouver


The weirder the name, the tougher the enforcer...

I can't wait for these two to tangle... will the announcer be able to keep from cracking up? Oh, the suspense!


the pumpkin is dead, part 2

This blog used to be a hideous orange colour. I finally updated it to the current template after it won the big race back in 2007.

Shortly after that, for god knows what reason, I decided to take all my orange-template energy and use it at OGOV, coming up with this on our one year anniversary (March 1st, 2008):

Not long after finishing the thing, I determined that this orange template was just as hideous as my last one. But I was patient, waiting out its year until our second anniversary (today!) would give me an excuse to switch things up. Now, it turns out, many were very attached to the orange beast. I tell them "Oh well, wait a year."

Check out the new look for OGOV here.