readings and launches for you

The Writer's Studio Reading Series
Thursday, February 4th, 7:00 PM
Rhizome Cafe
317 East Broadway (at Kingsway), Vancouver
Featuring: Betsy Warland, Elee Gardiner, Cullene Bryant and more...

Poetry is Dead Issue #1 Launch
Sunday, February 7th, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Grace Gallery
1898 Main St (at East 3rd), Vancouver
Featuring: Chris Gilpin, Sean Horlor, Rachel Rose and more...
$7 (includes a free issue)
$12 (includes a year's subscription)

Memewar Issue #11 and Book Launch
Tuesday, February 9th, 8:30 PM
Railway Club
579 Dunsmuir St., Vancouver
Feauturing: Tony Power, Shannon Rayne, Alan Girling and, that's right, more...
$10 (includes a free issue)


me.... eat.... poetry....

New Vancouver poetry magazine Poetry is Dead (home to the freakiest homepage photo I've ever seen on a poetry mag's site), is launching its first issue soon. "But poetry is dead!" you say? Well, yes, Editor-in-Chief Daniel Zomparelli seems to agree with you, but also believes it will rise from the grave, like one of those Jane Austen mash-ups.

The PiD team is using some familiar tactics in their attempt to ressurect the dead: poems, reviews, interviews, essays and local event listings. Still, here's hoping they pull it off, and poetry is soon feasting on innocent Vancouver brains.

They already have some content up, including a review of Rocksalt with some nice things to say about both the book and my contribution. If you like what you see on the site, their first paper issue is launching on February 7th. All the details are here.

Ok, Zombie Haiku time:


margaret atwood talks to economists

Or at least tries to. Her speech at Davos was cut due to time constraints. An excerpt:

Unlike the discipline of economics, and indeed unlike money – a lately-come tool we invented to facilitate trading at a distance — art is very old. The anthropologists and neurologists are now telling us how old – it’s as old as humanity. It isn’t a frill – something human societies can choose to indulge or to discard. Art isn’t only what we do, it’s what we are. Our musical and dancing and linguistic abilities appear to be built in to every single one of us, in every society on earth. So it’s not a case of whether or not we’ll have art: it’s a case of what sort of art we will have. Good, or bad? Old, or new? Our own, or somebody else’s? Whatever the choices, any theory of humanity that fails to take account of human art fails indeed.

Read the whole thing here.


the archaic characters recur

The "Dead Poets" reading on Sunday was a great success. Of the other poets being read, I had only known of Charles Bruce, and then only peripherally. I enjoyed something in all of the readings, and was particularly taken with Bruce and Nâzım Hikmet.

Hikmet was a political prisoner in Turkey for much of this adult life, and his work held a condensed and focused power similar to that of fellow political-prisoner-poets Visar Zhiti (Albania) and, to a lesser extent, the recently deceased Dennis Brutus (South Africa).

Bruce's lines were dense and pleasurable - the title of this post comes from Bruce's poem "10954H" from his book The Mulgrave Road, excerpts of which were republished in an online chapbook by Vehicule Press, which can be read here.

Personally, my reading of Purdy's poems went well (I stuck to the set list I mentioned), and I managed to raise some money for the A-Frame Trust by selling copies of The A-Frame Anthology and the movie Yours, Al. (I still have a few of each left over, if you're interested).

Thanks to all the readers for their generous introductions to new/old poets! And thanks to David and the Sunday Afternoon Poetry Group for putting it all together, and letting me participate.

A photo of the readers (one of few groups I'm photographed in that makes me look tall):


purdy reading today

I'm reading some Purdy poems today. 2 PM, North Vancouver. All the details are here.

I think the set list will be: "Red Leaves", "Alive or Not", "Piling Blood", "Lament for the Dorsets", "On Being Human", and "Untitled". Nothing pre-1970s and nothing overtly funny. I know, I'm a bit surprised too. A couple of those may change though between now and showtime. There's only one way for you to find out...


accessibility is far more complex than our current theories are willing to accept

Poetic revolutions are revolutions in diction. That’s why the troublemakers responsible for such linguistic shake-ups — Wordsworth, Whitman, Lowell — base them on a return to ordinary speech. In every case, however, renewing contact with the “real language of men” didn’t stop poets from composing poems that spoke over the heads of those men. Getting back to basics, in other words, had nothing to do with making poems accessible. It was an intervention: an idiom battling a decadence addiction was rescued before it was too late. The “breakthrough into life” that produced Life Studies, after all, was a solution to a technical problem (“I felt my old poems hid what they were really about,” Lowell explained in a letter).

The point here is that aesthetic change is an elite activity, done out of professional boredom. Poets who say different, who claim to heed the wishes of the common reader out of populist duty, are lazy bastards. Lazy bastardism kowtows to the convenience of see-Jane-run simple-mindedness because, by gosh, that’s what most people want from their poetry. Lazy bastardism is the only way to explain the existence of phrases like “the roaring juggernaut of time” or “the once gurgling fountain of creativity” (both plucked from Billy Collins’s The Trouble with Poetry). Lazy bastardism will never come clean and tell you that poetry is an acquired taste, that the pleasure of reading it is assembled over years from smaller, slow-to-learn skills. Lazy bastardism will never insist that you should read a lot of poems, old and new, and try to keep them in your head to help train and trust your ear. And lazy bastardism will certainly never stress that you need to love poetry’s artificial and formal aspects.

It is, of course, trivial to think that “amateurs” don’t have the taste for this. Those who protect the common reader from difficult poetry—promoting plain-speaking and conversational directness as having greater relation to real things and real problems — have an odd idea of who this reader is. Accessibility is far more complex, and readers far wiser, than our current theories are willing to accept. The audience-wisdom that helped establish the worth of certain key poets in our tradition —Shakespeare, Whitman, Dickinson, Frost — did so precisely because of the loveliness of their writing, and not just its meaning. But readers can be lazy bastards as well. Faced with a poet who has taken the pains, some would rather not take the trouble. They don’t have to, of course. And as far as I’m concerned, better they don’t. But let’s not let the many who don’t sell short the few who do.

- Carmine Starnino, in his essay "Lazy Bastardism: A Notebook" in the January 2010 issue of Poetry.


duthie books to close

And then there was... almost nothing? Duthie Books is closing at the end of February. It's the End of Days for independent bookstores in Vancouver...

So, you're going to the People's Co-op Bookstore's Birthday Party/Fundraiser on Friday, right?


Another take on arts cuts:

When poets were required to make their living by writing for the public there was a give and take – a kind of death and rebirth in every public appraisal of their effort. Artists disputed but also encompassed their audience’s demands and tastes. There was a balance, perhaps imperfect but a balance nonetheless. The interaction produced our greatest works of art. Conversely, careers sometimes sputtered, poets starved and some had to quit writing altogether. But that’s the way it should be. This is how art thrives.

The best thing that could happen to poetry is to drive it out of the universities with burning pitch forks. Starve the lavish grants. Strangle them all in a barrel of water. Cast them out. The current culture, in which poetry is written for and supported by poets has created a kind of state-sanctioned poetry that resists innovation. When and if poetry is ever made to answer to the broader public, then we may begin to see some great poetry again – the greatness that is the collaboration between audience and artist.

- Patrick Gillespie, on his blog. You can read the whole thing here.


back in the swing of things...

After a slow start to the year, the readings are coming fast and furious now - including Friday night's sliding-scale-fundraiser-off, featuring good causes and good readers: People's Co-op v. WISH! Bowering v. Bachinsky! The only ethical choice is to invent a time machine and attend both...

Play Chthonics
Wednesday, January 20th, 7:30 PM
Graham House at Green College
6201 Cecil Green Park Road
Featuring: Gregory Scofield and Christine LeClerc

People's Co-op 65th Birthday Party
Friday, January 22nd, 7:30 PM
Wise Hall
1882 Adanac Street, Vancouver
Featuring: George Bowering, Charles Demers, David Chariandy, and more!
$10 - 15 sliding scale

Friday, January 22nd, 7:30 PM
Rhizome Cafe
317 East Broadway, Vancouver
Featuring: Elizabeth Bachinsky, Daniel Zomparelli, Amber Dawn, and more!
$5 - 15 sliding scale

ThrilLiterate 2
Saturday, January 23rd, 7:30 PM
Rhizome Cafe
317 East Broadway, Vancouver
Featuring: Mette Bach, Chris Gatchalian, Cathleen With, and more!
$5 - 15 sliding scale

Sunday Afternoon with Dead Poets 2
Sunday, January 24, 2:00-4:00 PM
The Café for Contemporary Art
140 East Esplanade, North Vancouver
One block up from the Lonsdale Quay and Seabus
Featuring: Sandy Shreve, Christopher Levenson, Russel Thornton, Kate Braid, and me! reading Charles Bruce, Edwin Muir, R.S. Thomas, Nazim Hikmet and Al Purdy.

Robson Reading Series
Thursday, January 28th, 7:00 - 8:30 PM
UBC Bookstore at Robson Square
800 Robson Street, plaza level
Featuring: Billeh Nickerson, Craig Boyko


sidebar explosion!

As part of my commitment to, in my little way, help make the internet even more vast and overwhelming, I've added the "followers" feature to my sidebar, along with a blog roll. If you'd like to contribute to my mess of a sidebar, you can add a little square picture of yourself (or anything else, for that matter) by clicking on the "Follow" button somewhere over there. =====>

And BOOM goes the internet!


While I got a few out there, I fell well short of compiling a book worth of poems for James Moore. I have a feeling that Stephen Brockwell and Stuart Ross will have more success with Stephen Harper.

Get writing quick and send your poems in for their Rogue Stimulus: The Stephen Harper Holiday Anthology. All the info is here.

Need inspiration? I figured this picture might help...


P.K Page - 1916-2010

I'd hoped to send P.K. Page a copy of my new chapbook when it came out in the fall - it's an extended glosa and I can't imagine writing it without her coming before me and writing poems like "Planet Earth." At 93, her death may not be shocking, but that makes the loss feel no less immense.

The Times-Colonist report on P.K. Page's death can be read here.



If you are looking for a place to donate, here is where our money goes:


I've served on the board at Oxfam Canada and can vouch that the money is well spent, and even better spent via this coalition with Oxfam Quebec, Care, and Save the Children (significantly reducing administrative costs and directing the money to where it can best be used).

Live updates on the situation in Haiti are coming in all the time on the BBC website here.



Nikki Reimer has a good post on the BC arts cuts up at Lemon Hound. You can read it here.

Her links are a bit wonky for some reason right now - I'm sure it will be fixed. Until then, here are the important links:

The info: http://www.stopbcartscuts.ca/artscutsinfo.html

Send a letter o' protest: http://allianceforarts.com/speak-out-about-bc-arts-cuts


Sunday Afternoon with Dead Poets

I've long promoted David Zieroth's Dead Poets readings, both at their current location and at the now-defunct Upstart Crow Books. Each time I learn about new (well, for me) poets, and hear familiar poets in new ways. Not enough reason to go? Well, I'll be reading this time! Still not enough? Hmm... I'll let you take the SeaBus with me for free? Gotta love bring-a-friend Sundays!

Seriously, dudes, you should come.

I'll be sticking to my pledge and reading Al Purdy, promoting the A-Frame Trust and Anthology (which rob mclennan recently blogged about here) as best I can. I'm open to suggestions of what to read - I only have one "must read", his "Untitled" from To Paris Never Again. Let me know if there's something you'd like to hear.

The details:
Sunday Afternoon with Dead Poets 2
Sunday, January 24, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
The Café for Contemporary Art
140 East Esplanade, North Vancouver
One block up from the Lonsdale Quay and Seabus

Charles Bruce read by Sandy Shreve
Edwin Muir read by Christopher Levenson
R. S. Thomas read by Russell Thornton
Al Purdy read by Rob Taylor
Nazim Hikmet read by Kate Braid


dennis brutus tribute

We've got a little tribute to South African poet and activist Dennis Brutus, who died on Boxing Day, up on OGOV. If yer interested, you can read it here.


Zieroth reading

Recent GG winner David Zieroth is the feature reader at tomorrow's "Locution" reading. Shannon Duncan, Nadia Pestrak, Kimberley Fu, and Kaitlin Fontana will also be reading. Here are the details:

January 7th, 2010, 7 PM
Pulpfiction Books
2422 Main Street, Vancouver

Looks like it's free. Hurrah!

p.s. I've redesigned OGOV - check it out here!


chemistry doesn't influence our reading

Sina Queyras: Is there a quality you are looking for in a review that you haven’t found?

Ange Mlinko: What Daisy Fried said: "I wish there were more reviewers who were articulate about poems and really showed what it is to have an individual human response to an individual work of art."...

Reviews generally don't answer the big question, which is: what makes us fall in love with one poet rather than another? The question of taste runs up against the same mystery as romantic love does. We explain the latter by "chemistry," but chemistry doesn't influence our reading. Or does it?

- from the "On Reviewing" series on the Lemon Hound blog. Read the whole Q+A here.


red fez #25

The latest issue of Red Fez is now online, and you can read it here. My pick of the issue is "Alligator Boots" by Doug Draime.


ogov favourite poems of '09

The votes have been tallied, and One Ghana, One Voice's "Favourite Poems of 2009" (including one by frequent silaron commentor Daniela Elza!) have just been announced. Check it out here.