Stephen Harper * Rob Taylor

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently got a "Ghana" poem published in The New Chief Tongue, a print mag out of Ontario.

The mag is a great read, with lots of strong content - including visual poetry that wouldn't translate well to an online magazine.

Then, out of nowhere, WHAMO! Kemeny, the man behind the mag, posted it all online (scanned pages so the effect isn't lost). You can read through the whole thing here. My poem, "at makola", can be read here (click on the image to expand it). I also recommend you check out these pieces by bissett, Babineau and Barlow ('cause I loves my Bs).

Thanks, Kemeny!


ghana chapbook update

Marta and I spent a good part of 06/07 living in Accra, Ghana. We went because Marta received an internship through CIDA - I was the lucky tag-along. Between bouts of volunteering, traveling, and One Ghana, One Voice founding, I spent the majority of my time either being a housewife or writing. Not surprisingly, much of what I wrote ended up being about Ghana (though there were a few exceptions).

After paring off the exceptions, what I was left with was a collection of 40 or so Ghanaian-themed poems, a few of which I thought were really quite good. Considering that a number of them were fairly time sensitive (Ghana celebrated it's 50th anniversary in 2007, and many of the poems address this event and the issues that surrounded it) I sent them off like mad to journals and magazines in Canada and, lacking such venues in Ghana, Ghanaian newspapers. I managed to get three smaller poems into High Altitude Poetry, but beyond that everything was rejected.

It's understandable, really, that people weren't interested. Who in Canada cares about poems on Ghana, especially those which reference obscure elements of the country's history? Likewise, why would Ghanaians be interested in poems about their country written from an outsider's perspective in a foreign idiom? They are weird poems which don't have a natural home, so I wasn't all that surprised that they were passed over.

But the problem was that I really, really liked them. So when I got back to Canada I stubbornly compiled a chapbook of twelve of the stronger poems and sent it around to chapbook publishers. I also sent all the poems back out for a second round of journal rejections. Well, the chapbook thing seems to be heading in a familiar direction (80% rejection, 20% unaccounted for). The journal thing, though, is, for god-knows-what reason, starting to yield some results.

All of a sudden, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review and Kemeny Babineau's The New Chief Tongue have picked up poems - and not just any poems, some of the poems most heavily laced with Ghanaian historical and cultural references. It's been a pleasant surprise, and has shaken my belief in the provincial nature of Canadian literature (a little bit).

It's also made me more determined to self-publish the chapbook and get it out soon. I only need to get to printing the covers and the second edition of splattered earth will be done, then it's on to this new project. At the rate I've been working lately, though, it could take months...

My point, though, is that it is coming - a year later than I wanted it to, perhaps - but coming nonetheless. Likewise, I've been planning on posting the aforementioned poems here, but I think I might put them up as gap-fillers during slow periods on One Ghana, One Voice instead - so if you're interested, keep checking in there.

For now, thanks to those East-coast (coincidence?), Ghana-loving magazines for giving these strange little beasts of mine a shot...


we don't even know the questions

This view of science as the sole mediator of everything depends upon one unstated assumption: While art cycles with the fashions, scientific knowledge is a linear ascent. The history of science is supposed to obey a simple equation: Time plus data equals understanding. One day, we believe, science will solve everything.

But the trajectory of science has proven to be a little more complicated. The more we know about reality—about its quantum mechanics and neural origins—the more palpable its paradoxes become. As Vladimir Nabokov, the novelist and lepidopterist, once put it, "The greater one's science, the deeper the sense of mystery."


The fundamental point is that modern science has made little progress toward any unified understanding of everything. Our unknowns have not dramatically receded. In many instances, the opposite has happened, so that our most fundamental sciences are bracketed by utter mystery. It's not that we don't have all the answers. It's that we don't even know the question.


But before we can unravel these mysteries, our sciences must get past their present limitations. How can we make this happen? My answer is simple: Science needs the arts.

- from "The Future of Science...Is Art?" by Jonah Lehrer

This is a great article that argues for the merger of the arts and sciences (reminding me of this article from The Peak), which seems, like oh so many other things, both impossible and necessary. Thanks to Zachariah Wells for pointing it out!


two events, one quote

Event 1:

Upstart Crow Reading Series
Readings by Jen Currin, Christine LeClaire, and Michael Hetherington.

Friday, January 25th, ? - ? PM
Upstart Crow Books
238 Lonsdale Avenue
North Vancouver

Event 2:

Short Line Reading Series
Readings by Indran Amirthanayagam, Emily Fedoruk, Fiona Lam and Loretta Seto.

Tuesday, January 29th, 6:30 - 9:00 PM
Railway Club
579 Dunsmuir Street

"He is grateful to Science
the way a fish climbs
a ladder to a dammed river.
It will contain him
is all."
- from Seamless by Aurian Haller


pen pal

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm planning on making a second run of my first chapbook, adding to it a poem that I wrote after the publication of the first run, "pen pal".

The lovely folks at blue skies poetry have just published "pen pal" on their site. You can read it here. Thanks, blue skies!

My bio on that site mentions the second run - so I guess I have to stick to doing it now. I'll get down to it sometime in the next couple weeks, methinks.

p.s. If you've somehow avoided my propaganda on splattered earth, you can get the quick and dirty here.

p.p.s. Unrelated, but submissions for the next issue of Red Fez are now open.


book. movie. cash bar.

What? A screening of What to make of it all? The Life and Poetry of John Newlove and the Vancouver launch of A Long Continual Argument: The Selected Poems of John Newlove

In summary? Newlove-athon 2008

When? 8pm, Friday, February 8th

Where? The Western Front (303 East 8th Avenue, Vancouver)

How much?
$5 admission, $3 students and unemployed. Cash bar.

More info? Here.

p.s. Unrelated, but there's a contest a-brewin' over at Scene Not Herd. Check it out!


upstart crow

I'm sad to report that a fine little bookstore in North Van, Upstart Crow Books, is closing its doors. It's got a great selection - and not just in the poetry section - and John, the owner, (along with Jack the cat) often hosts great readings - including the Mutanabbi Street reading, at which I read.

They will still be open until March, though, and they are liquidating their stock, so definitely go by if you have the chance.


the worst kind of celibacy

It is a man.

It sits in the public library
coveting the women it fears.

They sense it has been without a woman a long time
and they loathe it.

They smell the worst kind of celibacy on it,
- from "Company" by John Newlove


"And Rob said, "let there be blog"...

and there was blog. And Rob saw that blog was good...And Rob said to blog, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the web and subdue it; and have dominion over those who search for "girls boobs after waterslide" and "free necrophlia pix" and over every living pervert that moves upon the earth."
For a brief moment yesterday, my blog count peaked at eight (I reluctantly accepted the fact that the BC Lions, not Casablanca blog, constructed in an unsuccessful attempt to win a particularly heated debate over TV viewing choices one night, no longer served much of a purpose, and deleted it).

I've had seven blogs going since mid-2007, and without enough keyboard-time to go around, some are beginning to whither and die. Next on the chopping block is the Geroy is Mr. Lube blog, which I grew tired of quite a while ago - though the flurry with which I launched the site is still one of my favourite things I've written. I haven't had the heart to drop it entirely yet, though.

One Ghana, One Voice, which hardly counts as a blog, is still going strong, as is this blog, but that's it, really. ACCRA and The Mercienaries are sputtering along terribly slowly, and Saturdays in the Park is on its seasonal hiatus.

In practice, then, my once mighty cabal of seven blogs was (as of last week) down to 2 or 3...which just wouldn't do. At that rate I'd soon have had enough free time that I'd have felt compelled to do something productive with it.

So, to alleviate that pressure, Marta and I scheduled an extensive brainstorming session to think up a new blog. Our best ideas at the end of the three-day weekend retreat were "wedding blog", "election-watch blog", "Barak Obama crying blog" and "pro-obesity blog". Instead of picking one of these great ideas over another, we mashed them all together. The horrifying result can be viewed at:


Check it out.

A genius point for anyone who can identify the video game on the TV screen


Free Kick Online

I just discovered that Free Kick Magazine has a website (it didn't when my piece, "Pick-up in Ghana," was published in its inaugural issue). The site includes .pdf versions of the issues, so you can see the piece as it was laid out in the magazine (as opposed to my hack-job) here.

I'm working on something new - about the 2008 CAF tournament in Accra - for an upcoming issue. If I ever get it done, I'll post it here.


new year, new magazine

The 16th issue of Red Fez - the first for which I sat on the editorial board - has just been posted. You can read it here.

We functioned as a collective, which was a similar experience to my work with HAP, though this group was quite a bit smaller (3).

At 19 poems, the issue a bit bulky, and could definitely be cut down, but it's progress from the last two issues of 39 and 31 poems, respectively. We're aiming to do smaller issues with greater frequency in the future. I know that in my experience once an issue of an online magazine gets over 8-10 pieces I start pick-and-choosing instead of reading the whole thing - which defeats the purpose of making issues in the first place, no?

Anyway, I've very much enjoyed the experience thus far - and being able to promote poems like this, this, this and this is quite rewarding. So take a look, and when submissions open again in February, send something!