exhaustion of possibilities

What we're seeing in Canada right now is more an exhaustion of the possibilities of loosely structured vers libre than a concentrated and deliberate reaction against it. Rhyme and metre have always been a part of poetry written in English and, as resources, they are no less relevant to the present moment than they ever were. The way these resources are employed differs considerably from their use in past ages; if it didn't, it truly would be retrograde. Very few of the poets who use metre and rhyme do so exclusively, making the designation of "formalist" even more dubious.

- Zach Wells, "There Is No Such Thing As "New Formalism" in Canada"

That's two in a row for Zach. I think three is a record for this site...


how we all get here

rob mclennan: How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

Zachariah Wells: As opposed to being a rock 'n' roll star, actually. I'm completely tone deaf. So I went for a really lame second choice. Third actually. Pro baseball player would have been my first choice, but my athletic gifts are only marginally more impressive than my music skills. So basically, I'm kind of a loser and I'm pretty lazy. Isn't that how we all get here?

- from Zach's "12 or 20 Questions". Read the whole thing here, and view archives of 12 or 20s here and here.


restaurants that bake their own bread

And though some readers are devoted to fiction about ethnic minorities because it tells “their story,” there is a degree to which such literature is for outsiders, a variety of anthropology in which natives “inform” on their own cultures to literary tourists. The rest of the natives are often not thrilled to find their practices paraded before the gaze of outsiders. “To celebrate one’s family to the maximum, to put them proudly and visibly into print, might require betraying them to the eyes of an alien observer we might call ‘America,’ ” as McGurl puts it. “Portnoy’s Complaint” is a case in point. All literature about an ethnic minority by members of that ethnic minority is, potentially, a shanda fur die goyim. More striking is that writing of this kind coming out of creative-writing programs today is the subject matter of literature and ethnic-studies departments tomorrow. Universities have become restaurants that bake their own bread.

- From "Show or Tell: Should creative writing be taught?" by Louis Menard. Got your Yiddish-to-English dictionary handy?


fighting against lazy egotism

The ghazal allows the imagination to move by its own nature: discovering an alien design, illogical and without sense—a chart of the disorderly, against false reason and the tacking together of poor narratives. It is the poem of contrasts, dreams, astonishing leaps. The ghazal has been called “drunken and amatory” and I think it is. But what is a ghazal, exactly? And why do poets like Agha Shahid Ali claim so vehemently that those writing in English (who often mispronounce the form as “gazelle;” it’s closer to the word “guzzle”) are pillaging a literary museum to exoticize its artifacts? You can’t stuff whatever you want into a ghazal, he says; it’s a form that’s bigger than you are. “The ghazal is not an occasion for angst,” he says, “it is an occasion for genuine grief.” It’s not amorphous, but precise. Not eagerly waiting to be filled, but fighting against lazy egotism.

- Rob Winger, "A Brief History of the Canadian Ghazal," from the ghazal-crazy Summer 2009 issue of Arc. The first part of the full article can be read here.


a-frame trust update

The website for The Al Purdy A-Frame Trust is up and running and can be viewed at:


The site has a good deal of info on the project, some great old photos (such as the one in this post), and a PayPal link to donate money, which I recommend you click on early and often. Be sure to take a look, and spread the word.

One small way I'm helping to spread the word about the A-Frame campaign is to make sure I read a poem of Al's at every reading I do. Sometimes I think we need a little kick to remember how incredible a poet he was, and the more of his work that is out there being read, the better. Plus, it makes for an easy segue into a mention of the project. So, poets out there, I challenge you to do the same!


welcome, slovenian falsetto fans!

I've noted in the past some of the weird Google searches people use to arrive at this site.

As a sign of silaron's growing popularity, we've leaped the language barrier. Oh yes. If you Google search for:

this is how shoud be done i get so im trying make sound like this high lyrics

on Slovenian Google, my page is the number one result.

I've already gotten one hit this way, the flood gates should be opening soon. Dobrodošli, Slovenska falsetto navdušence!


kate braid book launch

Kate Braid, one of the best poets living and writing here in Vancouver these days, is launching her new book "Turning Left to the Ladies" on Thursday.

The publisher's description of the book is actually interesting, unlike most such descriptions:

In 1977 Kate Braid got her first job in construction as a labourer on a small island off the coast of British Columbia. Never in her wildest dreams did she plan to be a construction worker, much less a carpenter, but she was desperate to stay on the island and had run out of money, along with all the options a woman usually has for work — secretary, waitress, receptionist. Turning Left to the Ladies is an autobiographical account of the fifteen years she worked as a labourer, apprentice and journey carpenter, building houses, high rises and bridges. She was the first female member of the Vancouver union local of the Carpenters and the first full-time woman teaching trades at the BC Institute of Technology. Turning Left to the Ladies is a wry, sometimes humorous, sometimes meditative look at one woman’s relationship to her craft, and the people she met along the way.

Appropriately, the book will be launched at a woodworking studio:

"Turning Left to the Ladies" Launch
Thursday, June 18th, 7:00 PM
The Joint Woodworking Studio
445 West 2nd Avenue

It should be a great evening!


it's like a normal agm, but with poetry

Ok, for many that might sound like the most boring thing imaginable, but personally I'm pretty jacked about the League of Canadian Poets AGM/Conference/Festival, which is being held in Vancouver this year!

The conference is launching this Thursday evening at Cafe Montmartre and ending on Sunday, with most activities happening at SFU Harbour Centre. The conference will feature readings from both A Verse Map of Vancouver and Rocksalt, which has allowed me to sneak my foot in the door.

I'll be reading at both the "Welcome Reading" on Thursday night and the Verse Map of Vancouver reading the following day. The details for those readings are as follows:

Welcome Reading
June 11th, 7:30 PM
Cafe Montmartre, 4362 Main Street

Verse Map of Vancouver Reading
June 12th, 12:00 - 1:30 PM
SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings

I'm pretty sure anyone can go to the welcome reading. I'm not sure about the other - might be members only - but I doubt many people are going to suddenly skip work anyway...

The full schedule of events, including a Rocksalt reading on Saturday (11:30 - 12:30 PM, Harbour Centre), can be viewed here.



A really fun and interesting open mic last night - I was honoured to feature along with Daniela Elza, who had a few new knockout poems to debut.

It was a very diverse readings, with some high quality work on display. Oh, and lots of kookiness, including my first heckler and an appearance by the "naked poet." He wasn't kidding about the name. Having recently been dubbed a kook myself, I felt quite at home.

I had a couple friends out for their first ever poetry reading. I fear they will strive in vain for the rest of their lives to relive the experience. Or maybe next month's will be just as entertaining! Thanks, Pandora's Collective!


reading @ twisted poets

Daniela Elza and I will be the feature readers at the Twisted Poets Literary Salon this Thursday night. Hosted by Pandora's Collective, it's a great open mic series, and I'm very happy to have been invited to feature.

At 15 minutes, this will be the longest set I've done to date and, to make things more exciting, Daniela and I have come up with a theme: Travel. I'm working on a couple poems from the latest road trip which I hope to debut.

Oh, and it's free.

If I've won you over, here are the details:

Twisted Poets Literary Salon
June 4th, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Cambie Bakery and Cafe, 312 Cambie Street (N of Hastings)

Hope to see you there!