the news editor snapped her pencil in half. it was mechanical.

The first issue of The Incongruous Quarterly is now online, including Mike Hingston's great short story "Comic Sans" (which generously provided the title for this post) and a lots of other random + good things (like, say, this little essay on Tiger Woods' sex habits). Here's my contribution:

Reconciliation During the Great Fires

I didn't write it, though, just arranged it. Thank you to Robert Bly, George Bowering, Ray Bradbury, Patrick Friesen, Adam Getty, Jack Gilbert, Jason Guriel (well, W.C. Williams), Karen Houle, Aislinn Hunter, David W. McFadden, Roy Miki, A.F. Moritz, Helen Potrebenko, Philip Schultz and Zach Wells for doing the heavy lifting.

And thanks, Incongruants!


some vancouver summer haps

George Bowering's Burning Water Marathon Reading
Friday, July 30th, 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Outside on one of those weird patches of astroturf, I'm guessing
700 block of Granville Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Whoever wants to read. Apparently GB will be making an appearance in the "late afternoon"

Harmony Arts Festival Reading
Monday, August 2nd, 1:00-2:00 PM
Art Tent at Ferry Building Gallery
Ambleside Park, West Vancouver
Featuring: Trevor Carolan, Daniela Elza and guitarist Andrew Collins

Taddle Creek Travelling Series of Happenings
Tuesday, August 3rd, 9:00 PM
The Brickhouse Bistro & Bar
730 Main Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Michael Christie, Peter Darbyshire, Lee Henderson, and Marguerite Pigeon

/diagonal west coast zine fair
Saturday, August 7th, 4:00 - 11:00 PM
221a Artist Run Center
221 E Georgia (at Main), Vancouver
Featuring: Readings by Nikki Reimer, Taryn Hubbard, Jason Sunder (and more!), and booths for a gaggle of local magazines, including OCW, Poetry is Dead, and Sad Mag

The Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival
Saturday, August 21st, 2010 12:00 - 7:30 PM
Lumberman’s Arch, Stanley Park
Featuring: Susan Musgrave, Betsy Warland, Catherine Owen, Brad Cran, and more!

Oh, and speaking of summer haps - if you're in Toronto on Friday, August 6th, check out the Incongruous Quarterly launch. If you are headed that way from Vancouver, let me know and I can give you a stack of books to read for me at the launch. That last sentence will make much more sense after the issue goes online on Saturday...

Oh oh, and speaking of haps - High Altitude Poetry, which at some point moved from a "bi-monthly" publishing schedule to a "print issues whenever we have money and time without updating the issue's stated publication date" publishing schedule, has just release their Spring 2010 issue. If you're up at SFU, be sure to grab a copy!


if you blog them, they will come

A day after posting on my upcoming publications, and noting that I hope they come out by the Fall, BAMMO! the Summer 2010 issue of Prairie Fire arrived in my mailbox, featuring three of my poems: "Ouchton Bay, Cape Scott, Kwakiutl Territory", "The Wailing Machines" and "Old men at the community pool".

Three poems breaks my previous record (2) for most poems in a single issue of a print journal. Hurrah! Even better than that, I got to share the issue with one of my good friends and favourite poets: Consort, Alberta's own Nora Gould (as pictured, at her wistful best, above). Nora had told me she was going to be in the issue, but neglected to mention that this was because she won the 2009 Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award. That's a lot of words to keep secret! And Nora won them all! Congrats to Nora and the other winner, who are listed here.

And thanks, Prairie Fire!


confuse simplicity with simple-mindedness

I think the over-emulation of strangeness in modern poetry has led to something pernicious, a shunning of named emotion, direct statement, as though these were, by definition, unpoetic. Reading world poetry in translation, I'm struck by how naturally poets of other cultures can say a thing like "I am sad today” – the simple articulation of a state of mind – and how moving and human such a naked utterance can be, set amid the imagery of a poem. Why does our current aesthetic reject plain statement? Do we confuse simplicity with simple-mindedness—have we come to regard plain speaking as simple-minded? Are we so in thrall to the Creative Writing doctrine of "Show don't tell" that we have lost our ability to appreciate "telling" under any circumstances? Used judiciously, I vastly prefer direct statement of feeling to the fashionable poeticisms proliferating like an algae bloom in contemporary Canadian poetry: lapses into rhetorical, heightened language, solemn quasi-philosophical pronouncements that are really a kind of posturing, neither grounded nor emotionally honest – a retreat into high-sounding vagueness that dodges real emotion to deliver pseudo-emotion.

- Robyn Sarah, from her essay "Poetry's Bottom Line: Towards an Essay on Poetics" in Little Eurekas: A Decade's Thoughts on Poetry. You can read the whole essay here.


self-promotion feat. a whack o' weblinks

Hey! I've got a poem coming out in the inaugural issue of The Incongruous Quarterly, which is going online on July 31st (a full list of contributors, including my pal Mike Hingston, is available here). I'll post a link to the poem when it's up.

It's been a long while since I had a non-Ghana poem published online (the poems in the "some online poems of mine" section of the sidebar are getting a bit dated), so this should be fun.

I have been publishing poems, but they've been appearing in print magazines. I've been listing those publications on my website's main page. That said, I have a stat counter, and I know the percentage of readers of this blog that end up on that site. So, if you're interested in finding a poem of mine out there, here are some spots:

I've got new poems in the current issues of Riddle Fence, Other Voices, Quills and One Cool Word (which launches a new issue and title, "OCW", tonight at The Rickshaw), and I've got poems forthcoming in SubTerrain, CV2, Prairie Fire, Poetry is Dead, and The Antigonish Review (Hopefully in their fall issues, but if not then certainly at some point - unless I get "Paris Re-screwed").

I haven't been dilligent about hyping this stuff. These are great magazines, and you should give them a look!


Ok, that's enough for now. I'm a little light-headed.

See everyone at the OCW relaunch tonight?


giant books to be cleared

We're talking real paper books, people - for only two bucks a pop!
Geist Giant Book Clearance
Wednesday, July 14th - Friday, July 16th
Monday, July 19th - Tuesday, July 20th
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Geist office
2nd floor, 341 Water Street, Vancouver

UPDATE (Thursday Evening): I just came back from the sale with nine poetry books. There are about 30 left. Go and buy some. Or go and judge my tastes based on the books I didn't buy. Either way, get down there!

party time

Party #1:

Heather Haley Book Launch
Saturday, July 17th, 7:00 - 10:00 PM
W2 @ Storyeum
151 W. Cordova, Vancouver
Featuring: Heather Haley, Peter Trower, Jenn Farrell and Shannon Rayne

Party #2:

OCW Relaunch Party
Friday, July 23, 7:30pm
Rickshaw Theatre
254 E Hastings St, Vancouver
Featuring: comedy by Charles Demers, Bronx Cheer, Ivan Decker and more! And music too!
$15 (includes a free one year subscription to the mag!)



what be the tweets, yo?

Zach Wells just stole a bit of my considerable thunder, but I joined Twitter a few days ago and, unlike Facebook, didn't hate it. So I just might stick with it for a while:


If you're on Twitter, I look forward to tweeting, hashing, @ing, retwitting, blornking, reblornking, etc. with you soon.


just when you thought it was safe to go back to your desk

We've got another desk blog, folks!

Okay, this one is just a single post, but it features eight (8!) different desks (and a video of a whale shark, natch):
What Is Your Ideal Space to Create?

If you're keeping track at home, that makes five (5!) desk blogs and counting:

On My Desk

Desk Space

Sitting Pretty Magazine

Writers' rooms

I know you must be as excited as I am about this development. I've gone back and tagged all my earlier posts on desk-blogging for your perusal. You can follow the saga-to-date here.

Internets, you keep trying to satiate our lust for photos of strangers' desks. OH INTERNETS, WHEN WILL YOU REALIZE THAT YOURS IS AN IMPOSSIBLE TASK???


and don't call me shirley

If we take the avant garde as primarily a process... rather than a family of finished products, then process is destined to become our means of understanding and appreciating a text. Asking only that they “fail or succeed on their own terms” sounds fair and everything, but if our concern is process, and not product, then I’m worried we see everything that successfully self-directs, that follows itself, as an inherent success.

Surely a dull procedure that creates a dull book is not a successful project on the strength of it being successfully dull, is it? I feel like when a scientist blows up their lab mid-experiment (or, more aptly, their experiment renders zero results), s/he is willing to admit their failure. S/he doesn’t publish their findings or expect the attention of the scientific readership. This is the difference between an experimental scientist and an experimental poet; the latter still publishes their findings, and ships their products into the world with only a “Handle With Care” sticker (or “Difficult Text” Sticker) to limit and protect potential readers.

- Jacob McArthur Mooney, in the comment section of his own blog, the latest home of The Great Avant-Garde Accountability Debate. Read the original post and subsequent comments here.


reminder: two great readings!

One tonight, one tomorrow. I'm away for the weekend, but I'm hoping to catch an earlier ferry so I can take in the Sunday reading. I hope to see you there!

Wired Monk Reading/Launch
Saturday, July 10th, 7:00 PM
The Wired Monk Bistro
2610 West 4th Ave, Vancouver
Featuring: Fiona Tinwei Lam, Al Rempel, Daniela Elza and Christi Kramer

Montmartre Reading/Launch
Sunday, July 11th, 7:00 PM
Café Montmarte
4362 Main St, Vancouver
Featuring: Kate Braid, Al Rempel, Daniela Elza and musician Clyde Reed


obviously you're not concerned with language as decoration

Interviewer: Do you see a connection between poetry and prayer?

W.S. Merwin: I guess the simple answer is yes, if only because I think of poetry as an attempt to use language as completely as possible. And if you want to do that, obviously you’re not concerned with language as decoration, or language as amusement, although you certainly want language to be pleasurable. Pleasure is part of the completeness. I think of poetry as having to do with the completeness of life, and the completeness of relation with one’s experience, completing one’s experience, articulating it, making sense of it.

I: How about the influence of Zen in your work?

WSM: When you talk about prayer in Judeo-Christian terms, prayer is usually construed as a kind of dualistic act. You’re praying to somebody else for something. Prayer in the Western sense is usually construed as making a connection. I don’t think that connection has to be made; it’s already there. Poetry probably has to do with the recognizing of that connection, rather than trying to create something that isn’t there.

- W.S. Merwin, recently crowned U.S. Poet Laureate, from a 1987 interview in The Paris Review. You can read an excerpt here, and the full interview here.


it's hard enough to create a poem

I think the notion of a poetic project may actually be very toxic to poetry. And toxic to poetry not only in the way that it is bad for the poets who are living and working in the context of poetry today, but toxic to the new, burgeoning poets among us. And the future ones, who are yet to be. The term "project" seems to suggest that a poet can set about his life path knowing what he is doing at all times. And to tell a young poet that is to make him feel like he has to know how to create both a project and a poem. It's hard enough to create a poem. If he is destined to be a great poet, he will never know what his project really was, no matter what he says it is, was, or what he might imagine it could be. Which is to say that a poem, as a thing, resists being talked about linearly in its very nonlinearity. In its very nonlinear life.

- Dorothea Lasky, from her sharp little chapbook, "Poetry is Not a Project."


a buttload of bloodless poetry

I heard a story on NPR once about country-western radio focus groups. The test subjects were asked to rate the songs they heard from 1 to 5, with 5 being “Most Exciting.” The songs that were deemed best for radio weren’t the 5’s, or the 1’s. They were the 3’s, because 3’s didn’t interrupt people’s routine — they didn’t create any overwhelming feelings. I see a buttload of bloodless poetry that inexplicably seems to be shooting for a 3 — there’s no big feelings in sight — no vulnerability — it’s too-cool-for-school. And nobody’s fucking! I don’t know if poets are doing it on purpose, or on accident, or which, if either, is more excusable. Opaque poems are a great place to hide your feelings — even from yourself.

- Jennifer L. Knox, warming up for an interview with Rachel McKibbens over at the Best American Poetry blog. You can read the whole thing here.


rempelfest 2010, one weekend only!

After some lean weeks when it comes to readings, there's a whole lot happening next weekend, all of it having something to do with Prince George poet Al Rempel. He is in town to launch his new Caitlin Press collection, Understories, and he's doing it in style: four great readings in four days. The two readings on the weekend seem particularly good - make sure you check out at least one!

4 Poets Reading
Thursday, July 8th, 7:30 - 9:30 PM
Joy Kogawa House
1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver
Featuring: Al Rempel, Daniela Elza, Onjana Yawnghwe
Admission by donation (RSVP at kogawahouse(at)yahoo.ca)

TWS Reading Series
Friday, July 9th, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
Take 5 Cafe
429 Granville Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Al Rempel, Daniela Elza, Antonette Rea, and more!

Wired Monk Reading/Launch
Saturday, July 10th, 7:00 PM
The Wired Monk Bistro
2610 West 4th Ave, Vancouver
Featuring: Fiona Tinwei Lam, Al Rempel, Daniela Elza and Christi Kramer

Montmartre Reading/Launch
Sunday, July 11th, 7:00 PM
Café Montmarte
4362 Main St, Vancouver
Featuring: Kate Braid, Al Rempel, Daniela Elza and musician Clyde Reed


a small creature in an open field beneath avian predators

Poems demand a concentrated lingering to which we are unaccustomed. This is why they cause discomfort. When we stand still in one place, attempting to document and respect the details, we feel as vulnerable as a small creature in an open field beneath avian predators. Rapid and sequential page turning gives us a sense of progress and accomplishment, relieving us from the double threat of frustration and impatience.

- Jennifer Moxley, from her essay "Fragments of a Broken Poetics" in the Spring 2010 issue of Chicago Review. You can read the whole thing here.


the word cannot be so weighty

My only observation of Canada that I am mystified about is the political correctness, which makes people use words to hide their thoughts instead of to express them. I am still struggling to learn how to be politically correct! In the Yoruba world, there is a proverb which says that the "word" - as a unit of discourse - cannot be so weighty that you have to dissect it with a knife. The moral is that no idea can be so sensitive that we must dissimulate about it and refuse to address it. The refusal to let things get bottled up is what informs my critical poetics.

- Amatoritsero Ede, in interview with George Elliott Clarke in the Summer 2010 issue of Arc.

Amatoritsero, I'll take your cue and not bottle this up: the Black Stars lost yesterday and I'm a little heartbroken (heartcracked? heartchipped?). We're going to keep the Black Stars poetry party going at OGOV for one more week, anyway. This interview in Arc actually helped cheer me up a bit. Any piece that recommends great African poets (like Leopold Senghor, David Diop and Dennis Brutus) to Canadian readers seems to have that effect on me!