such a woman for the beanbag?

Due to a recent rash of spammers that are infecting Blogger sites, I've activated word verification for the comment section (i.e. you have to type some crazy word to confirm you are human if you want to leave a comment). I will be a little dissapointed if it succeeds in stopping the spammers completely, though, as they say some nutty stuff. As an example, here's a little jem some Japanese robot left a few days ago (ah, Babel Fish, what gibberish can't you translate?):

It is the guide of the sideline where 1 day 50,000 Yen ~ enters into the hand. The [serebu] woman of the man deviation eats the man who knows each other with the net one after another by power of the gold and scattering and others has done. It doesn't try making the large sum such a woman for the beanbag?


some december readings and launches

The bottom two involve me - hurray for leaving the house!

Play Cthonics
Wednesday, December 2, 7:30 PM
Graham House at Green College, UBC
6201 Cecil Green Park Road
Featuring: Roo Borson and a. rawlings

Matt Rader and Elizabeth Bachinsky
Wednesday, December 9th, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Kwantlen Polythechnic University, Surrey Campus
12666 - 72nd Avenue, Surrey, B.C., Room D3142
Schedule: 6-6:30 - Rader on DIY publishing, 6:30-7:15 - Student Open Mic, 7:15-9pm - Bachinsky & Rader

The Writers Studio Reading Series
Thursday, December 10th, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
Rhizome Cafe
317 East Broadway (at Kingsway)
Featuring: Margaret Thompson, Ray Hsu, Rob Taylor (that's me!), and more

Penned: Zoo Poems Vancouver Launch
Tuesday, December 15th, 7 PM
UBC Bookstore at Robson Square
800 Robson Street (Plaza Level)
Featuring: Stephanie Bolster (editor), George McWhirter, Shannon Stewart, and more

Sad Mag Issue #2 Launch
Thursday, December 17th, 8:00 PM - ??? AM
Anza Club
3 West 8th Avenue
Featuring: Music, burlesque and an interview with me (well, that's in the magazine, which you can read while you're there!)
$10 (includes a free issue... or free admission with the purchase of an issue... whichever sounds better to you)


larger and more permanent

Well, what does the reader want from a poem?... Primarily, I suppose, to be entertained. And that involves tuning in on some emotion or feeling or discovery that is larger and more permanent than he is. Some flashing insight that adds a new perspective to living. Values also. And that is a great deal. Most of the time it's asking far too much.

- Al Purdy, from "Leonard Cohen: A Personal Look" in Starting from Ameliasburgh.


poems as the way to arrive at poetics

There’s a way in which just about any poem a person writes can be interpreted as a statement of poetics. Ideally, I think, that’s actually the way it should be: i.e. poems should be the means by which a person — whether poet or reader — arrives at poetics, as opposed to poetics being the way one arrives at poems. Some poems read like essays in poetics; the poem itself appears to be a programmatic extension of pre-formulated theoretical concepts. I write — and read — poems in large measure to work thru things I haven’t been able to figure out; insofar as the two poems named show a person in the process of working things out, sure, they’re statements of poetics, but they’re statements of poetics that I think apply to other realms. And they’re statements of a poetics in progress, not of any fixed dogmatic position. Rarely does a poem actually provide me with solutions to problems, but they often help me to ask better questions.

- Zachariah Wells, in an interview with Alessandro Porco in Maissoneuve. Read the whole thing here.


we ordinary mortals

Loving my Poet as I do, though, I try hard to understand what a poet is. The first clue lies in the fact that my Poet—every poet—is an insomniac. My own reads or wanders about our apartment for the best part of most nights. She told me she often feels she would give up every poem she's ever written for one good night's sleep. A friend of mine, who's a literature professor, is very enamored of my Poet, whom he describes, tremblingly, as "the real thing." (I once asked if I was "the real thing," but it unfortunately triggered a grand mal seizure in him.) Anyway, he tells me he finds it profoundly reassuring that while we ordinary mortals are asleep, there exist lit rooms containing anxious, vigilant souls. A terrible responsibility, he says, devolves upon the poet, that requires her never to be fully awake or asleep: at night, wakeful poets buoy humanity to the surface, to consciousness, preventing our slumbering bulk from sinking too far; during the day, these same poets anchor the madding masses to the depths. The world will end, he once told me, when the final poet awake closes her eyes. Last night I woke up sweating, having dreamed of sinking with the rest of humanity into cold oblivion. Sure enough my Poet was fast asleep beside me—the first deep sleep she'd entered in more than a week. So I knocked a pile of books to the floor, and returned to my blissful slumbers, much comforted by the thought that at least one poet would wander the midnight battlements, keep watch, and preserve us all for one more day.

- From a hilarious essay on dating a poet, by fiction writer Naeem Murr from the July/August 2007 issue of Poetry. Read the whole thing here. Yay, online archives!


three readings!

One of them tonight! Check 'em out:

Spoken Ink
Tuesday, November 17th, 8:00 PM
James Street Café
3819 Canada Way, Burnaby
Featuring: Daniela Elza and Robin Susanto

Play Chthonics
Friday, November 20, 2009, 7:30 PM
Graham House at Green College, UBC
6201 Cecil Green Park Road
Featuring: Fiona Tinwei-Lam and derek beaulieu

A Benefit for Marc Creamore
Wednesday November 25th, 2009, 6:00 PM
Cottage Bistro
4470 Main Street
Oooh, poster:


essential to sound social organization

Here is a poem Juan Ramón Jiménez wrote for his mother in her extreme old age:

I wish I could carry you in my arms
from your life to nothingness
the way you carried me, when I was a child,
to the cradle from your breasts.

Notice the role of desire: I wish. The loving dialogue, a man speaking to his mother, giving back the care he received. The powerful, defiant transformations: the poet turns approaching death into a woman’s breasts, and nothingness into a cradle. Notice too the near hopelessness of the desire and the way the poem holds out, not eliminating hopelessness but never defeated, maintaining life in the face of annihilation. This poem is a primary political document. In addition to and because of its rich human meanings, it has greater relevance to public action than any work of political philosophy or political science, any constitution, bill of rights, speech, or policy paper. In fact, a society’s health might be measured by how it understands and admits that such a poem is essential to sound social organization.

- The opening of a great article by A.F. Moritz in the November 2009 issue of Poetry. Read the whole thing here.


acknowledge that it's all pretty weird

rob mclennan: Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

Jacob Scheier: Sure. The questions more often reveal themselves as I'm writing. I've been thinking a lot about making poetry politically progressive and how accessibility needs to a part of that. I think it's ironic that some poetry that claims to be rather radical often is fairly inaccessible to those who don't have a higher education, which begs the question radical for whom? On the other hand, there is also quite a lot of overtly political poetry I don't care for because it's lacking a certain artistic depth and emotional poignancy. I don't claim to be writing in the proper middle ground, only that the issue concerns me. I am also really interested in the convergence of the historical, theoretical and personal. For instance, I am researching and writing a lot right now about my grandparents and my parents, who were all communists (my father is the only one still alive) - how their worldview and the historical conditions of the 20th century interacted with the most personal, the most visceral and traumatic moments of their lives.

rm: What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

JS: I ask myself that a lot. This probably seems like the easy way out of the question, but different writers, particularly writers of different genres, probably have different roles. I think the role of a lot of poets is to give people pause, recall that we are alive now, and for lack of a better word acknowledge that it's all pretty weird. A poem has as much purpose, since it can be very similar, as those rare, truly honest moments between two people (whether silent or in conversation). I don't know why it's important that such moments occur now and again, but it makes me feel better about being alive when they do.
- from Jacob's 12 or 20 questions on rob's blog. Read the whole thing here.


amusing or engaging or spooky

Michael Shea: You’ve written before about “difficult” poetry and how we shouldn’t accept a “dumbing-down” of poems. What specific value does an intentionally obtuse poem have for you? Is there a point when a poem becomes too difficult to understand to be valued? How does this issue reflect the larger issue of American anti-intellectualism?

Robert Pinsky: I think that if an audience for any art is having a good time, they are willing to suspend the need for comprehension for a while—that’s part of the pleasure. So if the poem by Wallace Stevens or Marianne Moore sounds great, is amusing or engaging or spooky in a way that we like… then like the devotee of opera or rap music or rock music, we are happy to understand only gradually, over many listenings. And if it doesn’t sound good, it is boring even if we understand it. That’s the trouble with a lot of boring art: you understand the stupid cop show, or the tedious sitcom gag, too soon and too completely. Same for the stupid middlebrow poem.

- from an interview in The Southeast Review. Read the whole thing here.


desk blogs 4, laundry blogs 0

Another desk blog!

On My Desk

Not just writers this time, at least. Still, that's four desk blogs and counting. Sadly, though, no one has picked up on my proposal for a laundry blog...

The other desk blogs:

Desk Space

Sitting Pretty Magazine

Writers' rooms

Oh internets, how many more are you hiding out there?


oh man, readings

The Writers Fest may have finished its record-setting run for 2009, but the readings keep coming. Since they are free, most people won't go to them. It doesn't seem to be any different in Toronto, as Jacob Mooney observes. Anyway, I hope you will reverse this trend. Here are four opportunities to do just that:

Vancouver: The Imagined and the Prospected
Thursday, November 5th, 2009, 8:00 - 9:30 pm
Green College Coach House
6201 Cecil Green Park Road, UBC
Featuring: Roger Farr, Sachiko Murakami and more

Poet and Painter: A North Coast Collaboration
Saturday, November 7th, 2009, 3:00pm
The Marion Scott Gallery
308 Water Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Leanne Boschman and Edward Epp

Hunter/Pearson Launch
Sunday, November 8th, 7 PM
Chivana Restaurant and Lounge
2340 W. 4th Avenue, Vancouver
Poster here

Robson Reading Series: 4 Poets Launch
Thursday November 12th, 2009, 7:00 pm
UBC Library/Bookstore at Robson Square
800 Robson St., Vancouver
Featuring: Daniela Elza, Peter Morin, Al Rempel, Onjana Yawnghwe


life as a New York Poet

My life as a New York Poet begins at age 26, in seminar rooms near Washington Square, reciting first drafts with sober incantation. Star Teacher #1 orders us to read Poet in New York. I do. “New York has given me the knock-out punch,” Federico García Lorca writes back to his family in Spain in 1929. I share classes with a Troubled South African Poet of Indian Descent, who ululates and laments the absence of servants in her West Village apartment. She brings in handwritten poems, calls her classmates racists. Finally, one night, Star Teacher #1 tells her this is all inappropriate, calls her into her office. We never see her again.

Two years later, another student asks Star Teacher #2 what to do when we get out of grad school: Should we apply for teaching jobs, send poems to journals? Her tone is desperate; she really wants to know. Star Teacher #2 pauses, looks at the ceiling—dreaming of his summer house in Vermont, no doubt.

“Try just being a poet,” he says.

People write this down.

- Funny, sad stuff from Daniel Nester. Read the whole thing here.


red fez #24

The new issue of Red Fez is out, featuring work by editors of small press magazines (including me, representing either One Ghana, One Voice or Red Fez or both). My poem in the issue is "Creation Story" and can be read here. My pick of the issue is "Walking with Monet" by Alan Gann, which can be read here.

You can read the whole issue here.

Oh, and here's a picture of me as a bee.

Yay, hyperlinks!