the first politics

Jay Ruzesky: I have a friend from South Africa who is an artist and who was making art in the era of apartheid. She told me that it was very difficult to do anything but address political issues directly because if she didn't she would be criticised. I hear a kind of echo of that now and there is desperation to it. It's as if some people think: We are wrecking the world, how could we possibly spend time talking about anything else right now? What are we doing writing poems?

Tim Lilburn: Before we get caught up in the urgency or the panic of that question - How can we waste time when we should... well, do precisely what? - we might take a pause and look at the problem. I see it having different forms. One layer of the problem is colonialism and the way the European mind and the European sensibility came to this continent and never really settled her but remained restless throughout, always looking for new oil reserves, new gas reserves, new stocks of fish to catch. You can ask: What is that energy? Another way to look at it is to think about the anarchic, questing, omnivorous, absolutely irreverent energy of capitalism and to ask what that is. What's the most effective way to oppose either of those things? Insofar as both colonialism and capitalism are destructive - as well as being hugely creative - their destruction has a source in a form of thinking - utilitarian, acquisitive, or as Emmanuel Levinas says, totalizing: making everything that is not us, ours. So if that's where the problem starts and it's humming away as a problem generating more and more energy, then acts against that or acts that attempt to transform or disconnect the epistemological allegiances, the acts of poetry, the acts that take place through loaning our energies to the wilderness of language, those are centrally political acts, though they don't look political. It is the first politics. You can try to stand in front of the big machines, that is important work to do, but the machines are going to keep on coming and coming. We stop something here and it's going to come there. So the deep political change is going to be interior change. It's going to be, to use and old word, a psychagogic change. It's going to be a transformation of interiority. Now you're in the terrain of mysticism, the terrain of lyric poetry, probably the most neglected energy bundles in contemporary Western culture; this is where politics, real politics, is going to be enacted.

- Tim Lilburn, riffing off ideas from his book of essays, Going Home, and keeping his use of words the spellchecker has never encountered down to two (can you guess which?). From The Malahat Review #165, Winter 2008.


rocksalt review

Mona Fertig, editor of the Rocksalt Anthology, found a review of last month's Rocksalt VPL reading from an Abbotsford newspaper. It's a positive review, and even has a nice word about my contribution. You can read it here. (I don't know how to get it to appear the right way up, but if you right click and select "Rotate Clockwise" three times, it's fairly readable!)


beating the gold out further

Dennis O'Driscoll: Do you ever feel burdened by the sheer amount of work you know it will require to do justice to a particular inspiration?

Seamus Heaney: One of the difficulties is to know whether a little quick flash of lyric is sufficient. You have the invitation and the inspiration, for want of a better word, but the question that I can never answer is this: to what extent the will should do the work of the imagination, as Yeats said; how far you should push a thing...

When you're starting out as a young poet, you love the high of finishing. So you do the lyric quickly and that's a joy. As you go on, the joy of actually doing it, of beating the gold out further, is what you ideally want. But then the doubt comes in: Am I killing it? Am I deadening it?... Another question to which there are different attitudes is whether imperfection hasn't got its imperatives also, or whether you should make the poem as trim and as perfect as possible...

DO: What are your thoughts about accessibility and obscurity in poetry?

SH: ... I am a slow reader myself and have to be convinced that there's a chance a payload is going to be delivered... If I encounter difficult poems, I listen - that's the only way I can read - for an indication of somebody who knows the score poetically, who's after something beyond all this fiddle.

- from an interview in the December 2008 issue of POETRY, which also includes these fantastic poems by Todd Boss, some of my favourite poems from POETRY in 2008.


sticking to thrillers

Carmine Starnino: How would you describe the contemporary Canadian poetry scene to one of the baggage handlers you used to work with?

Peter Richardson: Could I get them to sit still long enough to talk for even a minute on that subject? But here I’m short-changing an extremely varied and surprisingly smart group of people from whom I was able to learn a lot and for years. I guess I would do a thirty-second sound bite. I’d say: “The Canadian poetry scene is a bunch of rabid dogs who mean well and get along well within their own tainted kennels. And in their favour, they represent about every type of poetry being written. Sometimes they make magnanimous gestures amongst themselves and reach across aesthetic lines to celebrate others who do not necessarily buy their way of seeing a lyric. But they’re still in the process of building something remarkable. They’re not there yet, which explains why you guys don’t browse in the poetry section of Chapters. You might be missing a few revelatory gems, but generally, I can’t fault you for sticking to thrillers.”

- from the Vehicule Press blog. Read the full thing here.


merciful silence

Frances Bula, on Vancouver City Council's first meeting:
It went on and on forever until we were begging for mercy in the media-peanut gallery, with councillors displaying many of the idiosyncratic traits that we will undoubtedly come to know and love.

Suzanne [Anton] kept going on about process and legality, grilling everyone in her prosecutorial way. She also pushed as many in-your-face buttons as your average provocative teenager (”I guess there’s no sense of facetiousness or irony in this chamber.” “I guess I’m an observer of this council and not a participant.” “This is shocking, shocking, shocking.” “This is a remarkably contemptuous way of dealing with this issue.” “I want to be assured that I am a part of this government.” Etc Etc)...

Raymond [Louie] kept interrupting her on points of order or trying to claim that there was nothing out of order with the procedure. Kerry Jang accused her of scare-mongering (before Suzanne rapped him on the knuckles and said he should not be directing comments at her personally). Geoff Meggs and Andrea Reimer mostly stayed out of it except to make succinct points. Tim Stevenson made an eloquent speech that wandered all over the issue of the homeless and why they come to Vancouver. George Chow was mercifully silent. And Gregor [Robertson], towards the end, quietly said he would take into consideration her remarks about process and that he had been trying to work quickly, but perhaps things could be improved.

Read her full report here.


fuck the dinosaurs!

The new issue of Red Fez is finally online, and can be read here.

As my ever so eloquent introduction to the issue suggests, my picks for this round are "a letter from spain" by Jeff Van den engh and "Jazz is Dead" by James Duncan.

Check it out!


working for the dictionary

Charles Simic: Poets are, basically, employees of the dictionary. They work for the dictionary.

Jeffrey Brown: You work for the dictionary?

Yes, we work for the dictionary.

Brown: What do you mean?

Simic: We keep the language, I think, honest and interesting. We look up words all the time, we open them up. We put some words to use that haven't been used in a long time.

-from an interview as part of NewsHour's Poetry Series


nerd slam

This week's Poetry Slam (Monday, 8:30 PM) at Cafe Deux Soleils is a "Nerd Slam". There will be costumes. I don't know if I should be terrified or excited... but let's go with excited.

High Altitude Poetry
is turning it into a social outing for the group, and I think I'll wander down the street and join them - you should too!

More info on it here.


the republic of canada

If I read one more Vancouver Sun editorial I'm going to sign a separatist agreement between myself and my lunch. At least Rick Mercer is making sense (a couple days outdated, I know):

[Harper] is required to allow for a vote on his economic update. To win he needs fifty percent plus one, and he doesn't have it. If he loses he must ask the Governor General to dissolve the House. And if she feels a coalition can govern with a majority of support in the House of Commons then she is required to ask them to do it.

Them's the rules and Harper knows it. And so his only strategy is to launch a full-fledged attack on the very institution he is sworn to protect.

Harper has taken to the airwaves saying that if he loses a confidence vote in the House of Commons it is a coup d'etat, comparing it to the hostile takeover of a legitimate majority rule government by a military dictator.

And so our Prime Minister is suggesting that the Governor General must not listen to constitutional advisors but to him and him alone. The Prime Minister's office, those same people who unbeknownst to him ensure there are people waving to the PM wherever he goes, is organizing a protest which will occur at the residence of the Governor General of Canada. In Stephen Harper's world it should not be 700 years of parliamentary tradition that determines the future but him and him alone. Incredible hubris for a man who received less than 38 percent of the popular vote in the last election. One imagines the Queen will not be amused. In a perfect world she would just knock their two heads together and call it a day.

This could be the beginning of the Republic of Canada. A nation where Stephen Harper and not the monarch is the head of state. A Harper republic will differ from others in the world, however, as he ostensibly will have majority powers without having that old fashioned 50 percent support in either the country or the House of Commons.

This is off his blog, which can be read here.


mutating the signature

Qarrtsiluni, one of the few online poetry journal I enjoy reading regularly (as I mentioned in a previous post) has a call out for collaboratively-written poetry, due in January.

, anyone?


final draught

Friend and fellow ex-HAPer, Colin Stewart, is going to have his screenplay read as part of the Final Draught Reading Series this Monday (two days!). Here are the details:

Monday, December 1st
The Other Space (a bar at Georgia & Cambie, above The Media Club)
Casting starts at 7pm, readings start at 8pm
Admission by donation ($5 suggested)

It sounds like a lot of fun, so go! And good luck, Colin!!!


Child of Saturday review

A review of Child of Saturday by Arts Editor Deanne Beattie has been published in this week's edition of The Peak. It's quite complimentary of the chapbook, and even better, gets a couple paragraphs in on One Ghana, One Voice - which is really fantastic.

You can read the review online here.

The Peak was one of few places I could think of to get a chapbook reviewed - does anyone have other suggestions?


rock: salt

I'm reading tonight, along with:

David Zieroth, Alan Hill, Trevor Carolan, Daniela Elza, Christopher Levenson, Heather Haley, Kate Braid, Zachariah Wells, Russell Thornton, Joanne Arnott, Peter Trower

As part of the:

Rocksalt North Vancouver Launch


32 Books, 3185 Edgemont Boulevard, North Vancouver, 7:30 pm

So you should:



Where is Rob Taylor when you need him?

Ok, I'm pretty sure he's meaning Australian actor Rod Taylor, but I'm still going to pretend that I save the day:

Bodega Bay Pantoum by Shane Allison


change i keep believing in again and again

Obama doesn't have to do much to excite me... Bush set the bar pretty low. Here's another example:

Obama spotted carrying poetry book

He doesn't even have to read it. It's that easy...


rocksalt vpl reading

Zachariah Wells has recorded and uploaded the reading from a couple weeks ago. Thanks, Zach!

It features readings by most of these people:

George McWhirter, Judith Copithorne, Jean Mallinson, Rob Taylor, Daniela Elza, Anna Wärje, Daphne Marlatt, Russell Thornton, Peter Morin, Susan Andrews Grace, Bobbie Ogletree, Jody Jankola, Susan McCaslin, Trevor Carolan, Christopher Levenson, Maxine Gadd, Joanne Arnott, Peter Trower, Susan Cormier, Zachariah Wells.

Here it is:


honey, honey, yeah

Another interesting event I heard through The Grapevine. Looks like it should be good:

Strong Words, a celebration of aboriginal poets and poetry, will take place on November 22 at the Chinese Cultural Centre.

The event will acknowledge the legacy of the poets Pauline Johnson, Chief Dan George and George Clutesi, with family and friends reading their poetry.

Event details:

Saturday, November 22, (12 - 9 PM)
Chinese Cultural Centre
50 East Pender St, Vancouver

While on the subject of aboriginal poetry, if you don't own this book, you should. While on the subject of readings, the Rocksalt North Van launch is the night before this. What a weekend!!!

Oh, and High Altitude Poetry is having a poetry slam up on Burnaby Mountain this Tuesday...though it may not be a poetry slam...in fact I'm pretty sure it isn't...finding out if it is or not will only add to the excitement of the evening!

Here's the poster:


complicity with fallenness

As far back as we can see, the economics of literary fame have been based on scarcity: there is not enough recognition to go around, so every human being's just claim cannot be met. Beauty is the currency, as arbitrary as gold or paper, in which recognition is bought and sold. We grant great writers the dignity of having really been, the posthumous recognition that we call immortality, because they please us with their arrangements of words. Because of how well they wrote, we remember not just their works but their letters, travels, illnesses, aspirations—we feel with and for them. But we do this as irrationally as the peahen rewards the peacock with the biggest tail feathers, which have nothing intrinsically to do with reproductive fitness.

If the scarcity of recognition is a symptom of the world's fallenness, then literary ambition is a form of complicity with fallenness. In other words, it is a sin. Because there is not enough money in the world, people steal; because there is not enough power, people do violence; because there is not enough recognition, they make art.


The Internet has democratized the means of self-expression, but it has not democratized the rewards of self-expression. Now everyone can assert a claim to recognition—in a blog, tumblr, Facebook status update. But the amount of recognition available in the world is inexorably shrinking, since each passing generation leaves behind more writers with a claim on our memory. That is why the fight for recognition is so fierce and so personal.

- from "The Fight for Recognition" by Adam Kirsch, from the November 2008 issue of POETRY.

Read the whole thing, for some reason retitled, here.


OGOV coverage

One Ghana, One Voice just got a mention on Ron Silliman's blog. Five words!!!

Hopefully his 1,880,000 hits worth of traffic will transfer a few eyes to our little 35,000 hit magazine.

Thanks, Ron, and thanks to Zachariah Wells for pointing this out.


stimulating intellectual passion

Poetry needs synthesis. The world contains hundreds of languages and literatures which more and more often form and reform each other. In the 1960s, personal expression was important. Now the personal is less important, and abstraction has increased. Young people continue to have new ideas. The body of feminist literature continues to expand, as does radical and egalitrian work in many forms. If grammar is innate, then language is also and so, probably, is poetry; thus, whatever methods of writing, if we don't take this instinctive basis into account our writing will dry up. Poetry predates particular traditions and schools and will continue beyond our innovations, for poetry is bigger than each of us. And yet we want to grow beyond our instinctual roots: as we hope to become less violent and selfish, so our minds help us to see how our will and our intentions might express themselves. Theory contains intellectual speculation, which is an interesting form of connection to poetry. So, although theoretical poetry may not produce the affects of other types of poetry, it can stimulate intellectual passion. Pure humor opens the mind, satire and irony shape it, sonic qualities and imagery sway it. Sound and visual poetries add further dimensions. Today modernist, lyrical, language-oriented and surreal poetry are only a few of the forms available to us. It is fascinating to sample the great riches available across the spectrum of poetry. Why not experiment with this wide range of poetry and experience its gifts of the mind, of the emotions and of the senses?

- Judith Copithorne, Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry

p.s. Rocksalt reading in North Van on the 21st!


readings old and new

The Rocksalt reading on Friday night went quite well, despite the fact that I didn't report in to the right person, and so almost missed my reading. The readings were, not surprisingly, of a very high quality, especially the readings by Daniela Elza, Bobbie Ogletree and Zach Wells.

It was a pretty intimidating group to read with, but it went well and I was able to promote One Ghana, One Voice a bit, which was nice. Thanks to all my friends, and Mom!, who came out for support.

If you weren't there, you missed out!

But you have more chances to catch some top-notch poetry in Vancouver (I'm pretty sure I'm going to all of them - hope to see you there!):

Robson Reading Series
Tim Lilburn and JoAnn Dionne
Thursday, November 13th, 2008, 7pm
800 Robson Street (Between Hornby & Howe)

Rocksalt North Vancouver Launch
David Zieroth, Rob Taylor, Alan Hill, Trevor Carolan, Daniela Elza, Christopher Levenson, Heather Haley, Kate Braid, Zachariah Wells, Russell Thornton, Joanne Arnott, Peter Trower
Friday, November 21st, 2008, 7:30 pm
32 Books, 3185 Edgemont Boulevard
North Vancouver

Shortline Reading Series
Tony Power, Ada Smailbegovic, Mercedes Eng, Larissa Lai, Zach Wells
Tuesday, November 25th, 2008, 6:30 - 8:30 PM
Railway Club, 579 Dunsmuir


new HAP + reading

A new issue of High Altitude Poetry, the second since I stopped being directly involved, just came out - and my god, the further they get from my influence, the better!

It looks really sharp (and probably cheaper than the original logo and tag line they're spoofing), and has some good poems, including the long-awaited return to HAP of Kalervo Sinervo...it's been too long, my friend! Read the online version here, and the .pdf here.

Oh, and Rocksalt reading tonight - be there!

Vancouver Public Library
350 W. Georgia St. Friday
Nov. 7th. 7-9:30 pm

George McWhirter, Judith Copithorne, Jean Mallinson, Rob Taylor, Daniela Elza, Michael Kenyon, Anna Wärje, Daphne Marlatt, Russell Thornton, Peter Morin, Susan Andrews Grace, Bobbie Ogletree, Jody Jankola, Susan McCaslin, Trevor Carolan, Christopher Levenson, Maxine Gadd, Joanne Arnott, Peter Trower, Susan Cormier, Roy Miki, Zachariah Wells
p.s. New chapbook!


munyori profile

Munyori Poetry Journal, an international poetry journal run by Sacramento English professor, Zimbabwean arts activist, and, most importantly (ha!), One Ghana, One Voice contributor, Emmanuel Sigauke, has just released its November/December issue. I'm very honoured to have been selected as one of the feature poets for this issue, which involves the publication of a short Q&A in addition to three of my poems.

Obviously, with our shared African poetry interests, the discussion revolves around OGOV - though I do get a mention in about Child of Saturday (as I will continue to attempt to do in every post for a while...like I just did again!).

You can read my interview and poems (and see some photos by Marta, like the one posted here, as well!) here, and read the whole issue - which includes some great poets, especially the Zimbabwean contributors, here.

Thanks, Emmanuel!


Child of Saturday - New Poetry Chapbook by Rob Taylor

My new chapbook, Child of Saturday, is finally ready for sale! It features 11 poems written while I was living in Ghana in 2006/07, some of which have appeared in The Antigonish Review and The Dalhousie Review, among other publications.

I'm selling CoS for $3 in person and $5 online (S&H included), and as a package with my first chapbook, splattered earth, for $4 in person and $6 online.

For more info on the chapbook, check out this promotional flyer. For even more info, or to make a purchase, visit my website: http://roblucastaylor.com.



you toob?

Everybody loves the YouTube. Finally, One Ghana, One Voice is getting on board. Laban Hill, an English prof currently on exchange at Cape Coast University in Ghana, is about to undertake a project to video record as many Ghanaian poets as possible throughout the month of November. He will then archive the videos and make them available to OGOV via YouTube.

So if you live in Ghana, or know someone who does, take a look at our press release and then get in touch with him!

Laban is also the poet in profile at OGOV this week, and has provided us with a great poem. Read it here.


poetry october

I've had a subscription to POETRY for the last year, and generally speaking I've been underwhelmed by the content. Usually, there's one or two good poems and then something random and underwhelming by or about a "big name" poet, just so that they can slap that name on the cover (like September's issue featuring doodles by Philip Larkin).

The October issue, though, has been a nice surprise. Yeah, it has another non-poetry "big name" addition (letters between Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop), but this one is at least interesting. And the poems are pretty damn good too, especially those by Sarah Lindsay (like this and this) and the poem "A Good Fish" by Derek Sheffield, which is bloody fantastic.

So pick up a copy while it's still on the shelf, or read almost all of it online here.


three completely unrelated things

1. Lyrikline.org - audio poetry galore.

2. Kae Sun - Ghanaian-Canadian musician and poet. Great stuff. Also, his MySpace and One Ghana, One Voice pages. Oh, and here:

3. Ladner and Robertson on the DTES disappearing - as reported by Frances Bula. Three elections at once... god, it was a wet dream. Two is still pretty good, even if they don't drop pucks at hockey games in our municipal race.


working harder and paying better

I just came across this site, run by an English student at SFU: Every Day Fiction.

As the title suggests, they publish a new short story every day - and I thought One Ghana, One Voice's weekly schedule was a strain...

And on top of that, these overachievers pay their writers! How's a guy to keep up with that?


feathertale review #3 feat. enjambment

I just got my (surprise) contributor's copy of Feathertale Review #3. Put out by the folks who run feathertale.com, it's a swank print mag chocked full o' satire and such. Each issue they publish a few pieces that originally appeared on the website, and this time they picked my poem "Haiku 1-4". Thanks, Feathertale!

Anyway, it's got some top-notch content, including a non-fiction piece by Richard Taylor and this, from "I Shot a Stray Cat" by Greg Boose:

Finally the cat and I made love
notes and we read them out loud.
She stood to recite the details of the orifices
that could be found in her little cat heart.

It's a great read, so buy a copy in one of these stores! Or online!


roblucastaylor.com: new poems? yes. spurious slacks? no.

I always thought it would be neat to own "robtaylor.com". Unfortunately, so did this guy. Having grown tired (and increasingly guilty) of wishing for the sudden demise of a Connecticut pop musician, I turned to the old middle name strategy.

So, Roblucastaylor.com it is!

As motivation to go check out the site, I've posted a never-before-online poem over there, entitled Viciously in our throats. It's from my new chapbook, which is next on my list and should be coming out soon.

I'm going to be moving a few things over there - which will mean less new poems from print magazines posted here (I'll keep linking online poems here).

With silaron no longer serving as both my formal and informal online poetry presence, tho, I plan on increasing the rate of awkward pant-related commentary on this blog - so I'm thinking it will be a big improvement overall.


october is spider month

...at One Ghana, One Voice. Ananse (Akan for "spider") is one of the central characters in West African storytelling. Originating with the Ashanti people of Ghana, Ananse stories (Anansesem) have since spread throughout Africa and the diaspora.

We're focusing all of October on poems related to the eight-legged trickster. Check it out here.


the imprint of the unsayable

For some poets, I think, the poem starts with an image; but I usually don't feel I've got the image until I hear the music. Anyway, I'm a music junky - and sometimes what I find most musically satisfying turns out to be in emotional bad taste: "dim lands of peace," etc. I'm instinctively drawn to the idea that poetry is memorable speech. But in - rightly, I think - depriving ourselves of certain rhetorical stances, what we are able to make is more like memorable image or memorable though. (That last not in some abstract sense, buit in a sense fully compatible with William Carlos Williams's dictum). So, the upshot is that I'm much less confident I could actually say what poetry is. But also, partly as a result of a lot of experience editing other people's work, I find I don't really care anymore. What's important, and moving, is the imprint of the unsayable on what is said - and there's enormous range in the ways the unsayable manifests itself.

- Jan Zwicky, from Where the Words Come From: Canadian Poets in Conversation, Ed. Tim Bowling, 2002.


antigonish review #154

The latest issue of the Antigonish Review just came out, featuring two poems I wrote while living in Ghana: "The Slave Castle of Elmina" and "What they are doing". Thanks, Antigonish Review!

The issue contains a whack of good stuff, especially a poem by Daniel Newman that starts with the title "You and I are the lucky ones (after Richard Dawkins)" and only gets better from there.

As far as Ghana poems go, I'm very near finished my chapbook of poems from Ghana, which includes the poems from the Antigonish Review. Check back soon!


i never said "tits"!!!

I'm not crazy about so much of a campaign being focused on such a small amount of money, symbolic as the funding cut may be (especially when similar cuts to essential social programs like women's shelters drew far less attention), but this is pretty damn funny.


the Arby's of common purpose

A great little commentary from Scott Feschuk in the new issue of Macleans. Read it here.


two beers diverged in a yellow wood, and i - i took the one with the light, crisp, refreshing taste

Kudos to the folks at Hacksaw (who published this poem of mine) for getting some press, and positive press at that (a two-"masterpiece" salute, even). I do wonder, though, about the author's assertion that there is looming corporate interest in local hand-made arts zines. Maybe my family will be proud of me one day, after all...

You can read the review here.



new website for HAP

Sean Wilkinson, the new web guru over at High Altitude Poetry has completely redesigned the club's website, and gawd it looks beautiful! He's even gone and gussied up the site with a few of my old, high-quality open mic ads.

As one of the former webmasters of the site, I can safely say that it's never looked better. Check it out!


Extra Rocksalt Launch

The anthology of BC poets I talked about in a recent post has added another Lower Mainland launch to its schedule:

Fri. Nov. 21st, 32 Books in North Van

It looks like I'm going to be reading at this and the Vancouver reading at the VPL (November 7th, 7-9:30 PM). Wootz!


rob taylor owns a hovercraft and can shoot lazers out of his eyes

I just got my contributor's copy of the latest issue of the Nashwaak Review, which includes a couple of my poems: "it kills them too" and "story". Thanks, Nashwaak Review!

The new issue also features some solid poems by Barry Dempster, Jesse Ferguson, and Changming Yuan, among others - so head on over to Fredericton (or your nearest bookstore) and check it out.

My poems were accepted more than 9 months ago, from a submission I sent while still living in Ghana (almost 1.5 years ago, now) so my bio in the back is pretty entertaining - stating that I live in a different city than I currently do and that I have poems coming out in the Spring 2007 issue of a now-defunct magazine.

From now on I'm going to attempt to guess what my life will be like two years in the future whenever I write a personal bio.


tricked out with some edifying thoughts and feelings

Brian Bartlett: Denise Levertov says on the back of your book of essays, Body Music, that your poems matter to her "because, more consistently than those of anyone else whose work I know, they manifest a full awareness of the poem as a form of musical score." What do you think Levertov meant by that?

Dennis Lee: ... Ok, I think Denise was talking about rhythm... We experience rhythm directly with our bodies, but now you're tying to convey it by means of words on a flat piece of paper... I think Denise recognized this preoccupation with how a poem enacts, in its rhythmic moves, a whole way of our being in the world. In fact if you're lucky, it enacts a way the world goes about being itself. Or at least tries too.

BB: But how does poetry "enact," rather than just reflect, those ways of "being in the world"? Or the ways the world has of "going about being itself"?

DL: For me, it means you don't just give a description of objects and events, tricked out with some edifying thoughts and feelings. It's a whole different gig. I sense the world as a polyrhythmic process - a dance of simultaneous energies. And the poem has to mime that process - not by describing it, but by reenacting its simultaneous sprawl and twiddle and ache. Right in the way it moves, its rhythmic trek. So when Denise spoke of the poem as a musical score, I think she was pointing to this dimension of scribbling. How the way you orchestrate words on the page manifests your deepest cosmological hunches - your sense of the vocabulary of coherence that obtains in the world.

- from Where the Words Come From: Canadian Poets in Conversation, Ed. Tim Bowling, 2002.


god i love political conventions

The first 3.5 minutes of Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention. Imagine a near-constant shriek of applause in the background:
Clinton: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen. Stop. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. You all sit down, we've got to get on with the show here, c'mon! Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to be here tonight. Sit down. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am honoured to be here tonight. Please stop. Thank you. Please stop. Sit down. Sit down. Thank you. Please sit. Please sit. You know, I..uh...I love this, and I thank you, but we have important work to do here tonight.
That was 40 "Thank yous", if you're keeping track at home. You can read the transcript of the speech here (it doesn't do justice to the opening, tho) and really, after an introduction like that, how could you resist?

UPDATE: Try as he might, Obama only got in 30 pre-speech "thank yous" tonight. He's got a lot of learning to do...


Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary B.C. Poetry

I just got the final list of contributors for the Rocksalt Anthology of BC Poetry I mentioned early - quite heady company:
Maleea Acker, Joanne Arnott, John Barton, bill bissett, Yvonne Blomer, Allison Blythe, Leanne Boschman, Marilyn Bowering, Kate Braid, Brenda Brooks, Howard Brown, Trevor Carolan, Ken Cathers, Karen Chester, Judith Copithorne, Susan Cormier, Jen Currin, Daniela Elza, Mona Fertig, George Fetherling, Marya Fiamengo, Cathy Ford, David Fraser, Patrick Friesen, Colin Fulton, Carla Funk, Maxine Gadd, Pam Galloway, Lorraine Gane, Rhonda Ganz, Heidi Garnett, Gary Geddes, Kuldip Gill, Garry Gottfriedson, Kim Goldberg, Susan Andrews Grace, Shirley Graham, Catherine Greenwood, Heather Haley, Genine Hanns, Diana Hayes, Iain Higgins, Alan Hill, Robert Hilles, Karen Hofmann, Sean Horlor, Jody Jankola, elena e. johnson, Sean Johnston, Eve Joseph, Donna Kane, Michael Kenyon, Tim Lander, Scott Lawrance, Christopher Levenson, Peter Levitt, Rhona McAdam, Susan McCaslin, George McWhirter, Jean Mallinson, Vera Manuel, Daphne Marlatt, Robin Mathews, Roy Miki, Peter Morin, Jane Munro, Susan Musgrave, Bobbie Ogletree, P.K. Page, John Pass, Christopher Patton, Shauna Paull, George Payerle, Sheila Peters, Meredith Quartermain, Henry Rappaport, Kyeren Regehr, D.C. Reid, Murray Reiss, Al Rempel, Harold Rhenisch, Ajmer Rode, Linda Rogers, Rachel Rose, Joe Rosenblatt, Rhoda Rosenfeld, Laisha Rosnau, Greg Simison, Pete Smith, Ron Smith, David Swanson, Rob Taylor, Russell Thornton, Peter Trower, Ed Varney, Ann Graham Walker, Danielle Walker, Anna Wärje, Betsy Warland, M.C. Warrior, Tom Wayman, Zachariah Wells, George Whipple, Rita Wong, Derk Wynand, Onjana Yawnghwe, Patricia Young, David Zieroth.

The book is going to be launched all over the place, including two launches in Vancouver:

October 23rd, 7 PM, Agro Cafe, Granville Island (as part of the Vancouver Writer's Fest)

November 7th, 7-9:30 PM, VPL Central

I'm planning on attending both, if anyone is interested in tagging along - it should be fun.


30,000 hits at OGOV

A year ago, I tracked a race between three of my blogs to 10,000 hits.

Well, a year later its hardly a race anymore, with One Ghana, One Voice 12,000 hits ahead of this blog, and 17,000 hits ahead of Saturdays in the Park.

The case could be made, and made well, that this disparity is simply a result of my comparative disregard for the latter blogs, but instead I've chosen to conclude that it's a sign of the growing popularity of Ghanaian poetry on the interweb, which makes me very pleased.

This week we are featuring another new poet for whom OGOV is his first publication. He's a 21 year old who is already running a poetry reading series in Accra - a feature of a healthy poetry scene that was almost non-existent in the city when I was living there less than two years ago. Check it out!


red fez 20

A new issue of Red Fez has just come out and after a one-issue hiatus I'm back helping edit the thing. My two favorites of this issue are "for k" by Jeff Van den engh and "Oceanic" by John Grey.

Another great addition to this issue is the online debut of Leopold McGinnis' 500+ page monster-novel "Game Quest". You can download the whole thing (wow!) here, then you can get swept away by it and buy a dozen copies of the paper-and-ink version.


new mag + poem

I just got my contributor's copy of the first issue of Hacksaw Magazine, a new lit mag started up by a fellow High Altitude Poetry alum (see my post on the submission call here).

It's a sharp little thing, obviously assembled with care, and is worth checking out (if only for the tiny, sealed manila envelopes on pages 6 + 7 which contain secret answers...intrigued?).

If you'd like to order a copy (they are three bucks a pop!), purchases can be arranged by emailing them at hacksawzine(at)gmail(dot)com.

Below is a scan of my contribution, a poem called "Lost Histories" (click on the image to enlarge):


crunching the numbers

My publishing schedule for One Ghana, One Voice got all messed up this week, so I decided - out of desperation - to look into just where all our poets were coming from.

I did something similar to this in April, when I reviewed our author's favourite poets.

The new summary, "Mapping OGOV Poets", can be read here.


orwell diaries

The "Orwell Trust" is putting entries from George Orwell's diary on a blog, one per day, exactly 70 years after each was written. It starts tomorrow. Neat!


this is why you cuil your name, people

As I've noted before, much good can come from Googling your name. By Googling my name, I once found that a poem of mine had been published, without any notice to me of that fact, six months prior.

Well, now I can add "Cuiling" your name to that list of good ideas. I just gave this new search engine, Cuil, a spin, and it unearthed something that broke my previous record for unreported publishings.

Apparently the editors of the Spillway Review, an online mag out of Louisiana which (seems to have) shut down following Katrina, published a poem of mine and simply forgot to link my poem to the main page of their "Water" issue.

This happened way back in 2005, when I was first submitting to lit mags and sites. Needless to say, I was quite excited to be accepted by someone (they did send me a note saying the poem had been accepted and would be included). When nothing came of it post-Katrina, I was disappointed, but certainly understood. Looks like it was just a forgetful editor, though, not a complete collapse of the site.

Three years between publication and author "notification"... that's gotta be some kind of record.

Anyway, I went on to get the poem published in the Mutanabbi Street Memorial fundraising chapbook, so it still found a home. Little did I know at the time, it had an online home, too. Here it is:




It only took 8.5 years, but I finally got her to sign on the dotted line! As of Saturday, Marta has a new last name and I have a very, very sweat-stained suit.

A week of visiting with family and friends is ahead of us, then a four-day honeymoon on Gabriola Island, then...just maybe...normalcy? We'll see.

p.s. If yer interested in baby pictures (of us...now don't go starting any rumours) and such, I've posted our wedding slide show on our wedding blog.


building a house that is never finished

It's the CanCon version of the Bukowski bungalow... though it doesn't look like we've gotten together much of a movement to save it yet. This one matters a helluvalot more to me than the Bukowski one:

"The house where Al Purdy lived is on the block", Globe and Mail, July 11th

p.s. The effort to save Bukowski's place was a success, as L.A. City Council in February declared it a historic landmark.


new email address

I don't know what made me think sticking the word "email" at the beginning of my email address was a good idea. It's tough to get a unique address with a name like Rob Taylor, and it made me a little desperate, I suppose.

Often enough people assume the "email" past is just a bizarrely placed note to them that what follows is my email address, and not part of the address itself. Because of this, the poor guy who owns "robtaylor AT gmail DOT com" has gotten a number of my emails over the last couple years, and a while ago got fed up and stopped forwarding them on to me.

It's especially been a headache during wedding preparations, with a few missed RSVPs and other similar problems.

The last straw, though, was the call yesterday from the editors of the Rocksalt Anthology wondering why I hadn't responded to a series of emails from them.

I'm really thrilled to be included in the anthology, and I can't believe I almost missed out on it because of my idiotic email address. So "emailrobtaylor(at)gmail.com" is dead. Long live:


i feel fine. i feel happy!

No, the blog's not dead - I'm just getting married in eight days. Sorry for the paucity of posts lately.

Only One Ghana, One Voice is staying green during this drought. Over there we are nearing the end of week one of the "Kwame Nkrumah Series", which features our first video post.

It's our second theme month after January's "Keta Series", which I rambled on about in a previous post.

Alright, break time's over...gotta run!


2 for 1 book launch

My old pal Colin Stewart is launching his book A Question of Extremes at Cafe Montmartre (4362 Main St) on Wednesday, July 2nd, starting at 8:30pm. "Two Mile Road" by Stephen Locke will be launched the same evening. More info can be found here. Check it out!


fun with digital camera, feat. nostalgia

As I mentioned in my last post, late last year I stepped back from any sort of leadership role (or role in general, really) with High Altitude Poetry, which I started up with when it was reformed in 2002 (it was originally founded in 1989 by Stephen Buckley, and then reestablished when he returned to campus in '02).

It took until seeing the latest issue, with its kind dedication towards our 2002 - 2007 "generation", to realise that, yeah, it's been a long time, and quite a bit of work.

So I went to the bookshelf and pulled out my archive of HAP issues - something I hadn't yet done. Considering that we've published almost 10,000 copies since the zine started in 2004, it's quite possible that others out there have complete sets (23 issues and counting, plus a tribute issue for Stephen) - but at this point the only collections I know of are mine and the two at the libaries at SFU and the National Library in Ottawa.

So it was neat to finally lay them out and take a look at them all (and a picture).

Upon viewing the arrangement, four thoughts immediately came to me:

1. It's obvious when SFU upgraded its paper stock.
2. Same for when HAP moved from in-house cover art to submitted work.
3. Perhaps less obvious for most, but painfully obvious for me, are the issues for which I was left in charge of the cover - think "ugly", "Papyrus", and "Typewriter".
4. My living room has terrible lighting.

It's been a fun ride, and even though I'm now off of it, I look forward to all the great issues to come from the 2008 - 20?? crowd!

p.s. Bonus point if you can find my toe in the picture.


new high altitude

The March 2008 issue of High Altitude Poetry is finally online, and can be read here.

I knew the March issue featured my poem "Hasting and Carrall" (which I posted here a while ago), but I hadn't actually seen the issue yet.

I was quite touched to find that it had been dedicated to myself and Colin Stewart: a thank you to "the second generation of High Altitude Poetry from the third." It's hard to claim much of the credit, as Colin and I were only a small part of a large group of "second generation" HAPers - but considering how thin the institutional memory is in most student organizations, that one generation knows any of the members of the last is remarkable (and a testament to the firm foundations laid by all our volunteers).

In case you aren't in the loop on this, I stopped taking a lead roll in HAP when Marta and I left for Ghana in '06. When we returned I reclaimed the helm somewhat for the summer of '07, then, after a brief transitional period, left it to the "third generation" to keep SFU's poetry club and zine going - and they've been doing a helluva job.

Thanks, HAP - keep it up!



If you haven't read qarrtsiluni, an online litblog/magazine, you're missing out.

The quality of the stuff they publish is far above most blog/magazines, and they publish more than once a year, unlike those folks over at forget.

They publish themed "issues" every two months. Photos, short stories and poems (often featuring audio recordings - something I'd love to get going at One Ghana, One Voice) are posted sporadically throughout that period.

May and June 2008 have the theme of "Water" and the last few days have brought the posting of these two great poems.

Check it out!


new red fez!

A new issue of Red Fez is out - and I had nothing to do with it! We had a guest editor come in for this issue: near-constant Red Fez contributor Jeffery Van den engh. You can check it out here.


which seems to undercut all that I’ve been on at up above

Stephanie Bolster: In “Someone Has Stayed in Stockholm” you write : “Although you can fall into places deeper than language,/ can’t you? Yes. He has.” Obviously you have, too. What is deeper than language, for a writer? And - the key question, I think - what is insufficient about language?

Don Coles: I think that almost anything we think about closely is deeper than language. Both the world and our thoughts flow/flows outside and beyond our language capabilities. Language tries to keep up, and its success can appear huge (in art, in good writing, etc.) - huge in that is does something, it slows the flow, it stops at least small parts of that flow and allows us to watch it or wade into it, stand in it. But it fails, inevitably, in terms of the totality of any moment…

“Deeper than language,” though, means many things. It can make the so-called artist (poet, etc.) aware in every step of what he’s doing that it’s at best a simulacrum of the reality he senses, notices, fails to rival. It can on the other hand intensify his commitment, because the knowledge of that gap stimulates the desire to bridge it. And of course, finally (well, probably not “finally” - what can be “final” about this?), I haven’t even touched the other argument, which loiters hereabouts keeping its mouth shut but knowing what it knows: and which is, of course, the certainty that language can lead us beyond the speechless word and deeper than formless thought. Which seems to undercut all that I’ve been on at up above. Well, that’s the way it is. Elusive, paradoxical, colliding with itself, endless.

- from Where the Words Come From: Canadian Poets in Conversation, Ed. Tim Bowling, 2002.


nothing against art garfunkel

nothing against art garfunkel
but i’d sucker punch the guy
if i ever got the chance,
really rattle his skull and
send what’s left of his
ridiculous, frizzy hair
skittering into the air

and even though some say
he is nothing more than
a tick engorged with
paul simon’s blood, he
wouldn’t deserve the
beating, not in the least

i mean, all he did was
move his lips a little after
paul’s and in so doing
created the greatest harmony
the world’s ever heard
which hardly makes him
a parasite, instead the
lesser half of a symbiotic
relationship, few of which
are entirely equal (long-
beaked birds tirelessly
picking bugs off the
backs of hippopotami –
suction-lipped fish clinging
to the underbellies of
indifferent sharks)

perhaps talent arrives
bloated and lumbering
at birth, the birds swarming
to sustain themselves
off of it, or instead talent
is found in the toiling
and it is the primeval rhythms
that we shape our mouths
to consume

but it hardly matters
either way, symbiosis
being a crutch of the
beasts, the animals that
cannot sustain themselves
inside themselves

and art garfunkel’s
career is the echo of
someone else’s song –
ringo banging pots and
pans in his basement –
it is a reminder of
something primitive
and pure and vital that
we muffle deep inside

a voice which echoes
our joys and sorrows –
repeats them, one octave higher –
asks us to listen

a thing which i cannot
mute with my fists so
instead i dream of punching
art garfunkel square in
the face and watching
him fall helplessly
to the ground.

- from the 2007/2008 issue of Acta Victoriana


a theatre of special interests

As soon as powerful new methods began to dominate English departments, the poet-critic gig lost its prestige. Literary criticism for the general reader — the sort championed by poet-critics — took on a belletristic odor; no matter how formidable the close reading, it would now exist on the margins of a more sophisticated cogitating...
Standing on postmodern ground for their higher surmises, academia outgrew aesthetic evaluations; artistic merit, as a concept, became an ideological fairy tale. What eventually filtered down to street level — if the industry-wide outbreaks of shock at negative reviews are any guide — was a hypersensitivity to strong opinions and the taste-correcting urge lurking inside. Show us somebody dedicated to sifting out the best from the merely good, and we’ll show you somebody with a hidden motive. As a result, the poet-critic lost the gig altogether. Criticism by poets, once the conscience of the art, is now exposed as a theatre of special interests...

-Carmine Starnino, from "The Plight of the Poet-Critic" in the May 2008 issue of Poetry.


new mag

Fellow HAP volunteer Taryn Hubbard, whose work was recently featured on the Antigonish Review's website, is branching out and co-founding her own print lit mag: Hacksaw.

Their first submission deadline is June 15th, and you should send them something.

They have this really classy looking .pdf ad with all the details, but I have no way of posting that here. Instead, here's the not-so-classy-looking blog link and a picture of a retired pro wrestler.

This lit mag is Jim Duggan approved!!!


end of the line (for now)

Battling with the launch of the sonnet anthology Jailbreaks for your attention on Tuesday night will be the last edition of Memewar's Short Line Reading Series. Here are the details:

This final evening of the season features readings from Ashok Mathur (The Short, Happy Life of Harry Kumar), Sachiko Murakami (The Invisibility Exhibit), and Aaron Vidaver.

When?: Tuesday, April 29th (6:30 - 9:00 PM)
Where?: The Railway Club (579 Dunsmuir)
How Much?: Free


precisely the problem

Piere Poilievre, Conservative MP: Frankly, Dominic is jumping up and down today with the conspiratorial fervour of someone who has just solved the Kennedy assassination...what we are talking about here in reality is the equivalent of divvying up a restaurant deal and adding the GST to each individual tab.

Don Newman, CBC Politics Host: Alright, Dominic, what do you have to say to that?

Dominic LeBlanc, Liberal MP:
Don, it’s a nice analogy. The only problem is that the people who were, in fact, receiving these invoices weren’t at the dinner. The Conservative candidates, Elections Canada believes, weren’t in the restaurant, they weren’t even waiting in the bar for a table, Don. So they’re dividing up a restaurant bill...

Poilievre: They had the meal!

...amongst people...they’re dividing up the...Elections Canada says they didn’t in fact eat the meal...

They did have the meal.

...that’s precisely the problem.

- our beloved representatives discussing the Conservative ad scandal on Thursday, April 26th's edition of Politics.



Zachariah Wells has edited together a new book: Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets. It looks nif-tay. It'll be launched on Tuesday, April 29th at 7 PM at Our Town Cafe (245 Broadway). Readers will include Zach, Crispin Elsted, Nancy Holmes, George McWhirter, Lyle Neff, Barbara Nickel, and Anne Stone.

I'll be coaching soccer, sadly, so I won't be able to make it...you must go in my stead...


bridge over garfunkel's philtrum

Man, that's a hell of a mustache ol' Art's been growing...isn't it?

The poor guy can't do anything on his own. I have a poem about this mustachioed gentleman entitled "nothing against art garfunkel", which just came out in the new issue of Acta Victoriana, a lit journal out of Victoria College (U of T).

I first came across Acta Victoriana while looking for an online version of "Concerning Ms. Atwood" by Al Purdy for a review of Atwood's latest collection which I was writing for The Peak.

I haven't gotten my hands on a copy of the new issue of Acta, yet, and I'm not sure if they'll be publishing things online, but if they do, I'll be sure to post the link here [update: I've posted the poem - you can read it here].


why do neat things have to be $38?

rob mclennan has highlighted on his blog a new collection of essays on Al Purdy from U of Ottawa Press entitled The Ivory Thought: Essays on Al Purdy. It's one result of the 2006 conference on Purdy held at the same University. Other than the cover image (which makes me think that "the ivory thought" is not a swan, but instead some sort of rapidly-multiplying parasite), the price tag, and the fact that it's probably unavailable just about everywhere, it looks good.

Speaking of good books being unavailable, I found out a few days ago that Magpie Magazines is closing. It's been ugly for independent booksellers in Vancouver for quite a while, and keeps getting uglier...and now the Drive is down to one bookstore offering new books...

Everything at Magpie is 50% off, though they've nearly been picked clean already. When neat things are no longer $38 they move pretty quickly, it seems.


the momentary retardation of time's erosions

Don McKay and Ken Babstock discussing the relationship between lyric and narrative poetry:

Don McKay: You know those structuralist diagrams where they have lyric going up one axis and narrative going up the other, that makes some kind of crude sense to me. It's a radical simplification, but narrative's going along historically - "and then, and then, and then" - the lyric can at any point leap out of it, with an implied eternity.

Ken Babstock: The eternal moment.

DM: "Now it's fit to die because we'll never get beauty like this again" - lyric attempts to pause there, but I think even while doing that there's a implied gravity. The narrative goes on to the next day. The meditative approach acknowledges this: that one moment will inevitably lead to the next. We accept mortality instead of fighting it off.

KB: That's the diachronic - being locked in time.

DM: I guess. Whatever the lyric aesthetic is, it probably has something to do with the momentary retardation of time's erosions, just for a moment. The narrative acknowledges, "Yes, it is just for the moment, now we're getting back into the flow, so fasten your seat belt."

- from Where the Words Come From: Canadian Poets in Conversation, Ed. Tim Bowling, 2002.


the dead, dead children were worth it!

The new Vancouver Olympics theme, by Geoff Berner. Take a listen here, and be sure to pass it along to fellow Olympics fan(atic)s everywhere!



all things bpNichol

A new site has been launched, devoted to archiving bpNichol's work. Check it out here.

A sample of his work, "Blues":


Hastings and Carrall

it seems entirely appropriate
how we slow to stops,
lean out our windows,
shake and curse.

how we ask questions,
check our wrist watches,
mumble the Lord's name.

how we turn the corner slowly
and wind through back streets -
a lurching procession around this intersection

where an ambulance only now begins
to pull away and a forensics team
squats to capture roll upon roll.

from the March 2008 issue of High Altitude Poetry

More of my poems from HAP can be read here.


ocw is two years old

One Cool Word is celebrating its second birthday on Friday. Hurrah!

Their b-day party will be held at East 3rd Gallery (Grace Gallery?), at 8 PM. All the details are here.

And, possibly, an "enlarged" version of my poem "The Violet Depths" will be pasted on the wall. Neat!

Marta and I are planning on going, and you should too.


poetry in three panels

1. Anyone want to do this together? Get together over the weekend and see what we come up with?

2. The Perry Bible Fellowship is great. Yes it is.


poets, poems and podiums

1. We've posted a great Q+A with Emmanuel Sigauke over at One Ghana, One Voice. Check it out!

2. Though I've been updating this blog less frequently lately, I've been keeping up the "five things that aren't mine" section of my sidebar with new poems that caught my eye. The latest additions are this, this and this.

3. I rescued a podium from an imminent home in a landfill. No, I don't know what I'm going to do with a podium, but I'll come up with something. And no, I have no idea where I'm going to store it. Stop with your questions and brow-furrowing.

The humble beginnings of a lucrative podium rental business?