it's almost october 1st, eh?

October 1st is the deadline to order my new chapbook - don't miss out! All the details are here.

October 1st is also the date of the launch party for Poetry is Dead #2. It should be an interesting shindig, with contributors to the issue invited to speak on anything they like for five minutes. I'm bummed that I won't be able to make it, especially because I have a poem in the new issue - which is great, by the way, if my quotes from the issue haven't yet tipped you off to that fact.

The details:
Poetry is Dead Issue #2 Launch
Friday, October 1st, 8:00 PM (Doors at 7)
206b Carrall St., Vancouver
Featuring: Billeh Nickerson, Donato Mancini, Nikki Reimer and more!
$10 (includes a copy of the issue)
Go check it out!


'tis the season...

to pretend you have a poetry project. Zach Wells has had enough:

None of my poems has been written according to a pre-conceived blueprint. The variety of subject matter, form, voice and technique in my enclosed writing sample reflects my credo that with every poem one writes, one starts fresh. Having composed a poem on one subject and/or in a certain manner, I am not interested in following the same patterns again. I want to surprise myself and my readers, which is, as a goal, rather difficult to convey in advance of its advent. Writing for me has always been experimental, a process of discovery, rather than an agenda of tasks to be checked off upon completion. Sometimes, I write prolifically. Often, I don't. Much of the creative work I do does not qualify as grantable art, much more yet fails to amount to anything worthwhile, but most if not all of what I decide to publish contributes to literary culture. If I were perfectly honest in a project description, I would have to admit that there is some chance that I will not write a single poem during the period covered by the grant. History suggests otherwise, but it is nevertheless a potentiality I confront on a regular basis. The thing is, one never can say how much work a poet gets done when she appears to be doing nothing at all. One year, I spent several months in an anhedonic funk, during which I wrote almost nothing despite having a wealth of free time; at the end of it, I wound up producing what I think will stand as one my very best poems. This is why “project descriptions” are, frankly, absurd for so many of us (even while, I concede, there are some who seem to work very well within the parameters laid out by a project description).

Read his whole "project description" here.


some oh-damn-i-guess-it's-fall readings

Sixteen (and counting) readings now that we have nothing better to do than sit around inside:

Spoken Ink Reading Series

Tuesday, September 21st, 8:00 PM
La Fontana Caffe
101-3701 East Hastings, Burnaby
Featuring: Burnaby Writers' Poetry Contest winners Michael Aaron Mayes, Franci Louann and Lynda Pupo

Locution Reading Series
Thursday, September 23rd, 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Pulpfiction Books
2422 Main St, Vancouver
Featuring: Lee Henderson, Kevin Spenst, Andrea Bennett and more!

Rob Halpern Reading
Friday, September 24, 8:00 PM
Spartacus Books
684 East Hastings Street
Featuring: Rob Halpern and Taylor Brady

Taylor Brady Reading
Saturday, September 25, 8:00 PM
W2 Storyeum
151 West Cordova Street
Featuring: Taylor Brady and Rob Halpern

Word on the Street Vancouver
Sunday, September 26th, 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Library Square and CBC Plaza
300 West Georgia, Vancouver
Featuring: Gary Geddes, Garry Gottfriedson, Anna Swanson, Heather Haley, Billeh Nickerson, Jen Currin, C.E. Gatchalian, Elaine Woo, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Aislinn Hunter, Marion Quednau, Rachel Rose, Kate Braid, Evelyn Lau, Miranda Pearson, Daniela Elza, Ray Hsu, Bren Simmers, and more! And that's just the "Poetry Tent"...

The Shebeen Club - Going Pro: Getting Real in the Writing World
Monday, September 27th, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
The Everything Cafe
75 East Pender, Vancouver
Featuring: Federation of BC Writers Executive Director Sylvia Taylor
$20 in advance, $25 at the door (includes dinner + wine)

"So Large an Animal" by Bibiana Tomasic Launch
Wednesday, September 29th, 7:00 PM
Vancouver Museum
MOV Studio
1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Bibiana Tomasic

Robson Reading Series
Thursday, September 30th, 7:00 PM
UBC Library/Bookstore, Robson Square
800 Robson St. (Plaza Level), Vancouver
Featuring: Melanie Siebert and Mette Bach

Garry Thomas Morse Reading @ Emily Carr
Thursday, September 30th, 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Library @ Emily Carr University of Art + Design
1399 Johnston Street, Granville Island, Vancouver
Featuring: Garry Thomas Morse

Lisa Robertson, SFU Writer in Residence Reading + Reception
Friday, October 1st, 7:30 - 10:30 PM
Segal Centre (room 1400), SFU Harbour Centre
515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Lisa Robertson

Poetry is Dead Issue #2 Launch
Friday, October 1st, 8:00 PM
206b Carrall St., Vancouver
Featuring: Billeh Nickerson, Donato Mancini, Nikki Reimer and more!
$10 (includes a copy of the issue)

Literary Deathmatch 100
Friday, October 8th, 8:00 PM
W2 Storyeum
151 West Cordova Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Nikki Reimer, Charles Demers, Steve Burgess and Sarah Bynoe
$10 pre-order, $15 at the door

Sad Mag Live
Sat­ur­day, Octo­ber 9th, 8:00 - 10:00 PM
The Cultch
1895 Venables St., Vancouver
Featuring: Barbara Adler, Jason Sloan Yip, Lizzy Karp, and more!
$18 (includes a free copy of the fifth issue)

Robson Reading Series
Thursday, October 14th, 7:00 PM
UBC Library/Bookstore, Robson Square
800 Robson St. (Plaza Level), Vancouver
Featuring: Steven Heighton and Ian Williams

TWS Reading Series
Thursday, October 15th, 7:00 PM
Take 5 Cafe
429 Granville Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Michelle Elrick, Rachel Thompson, Alexander Winstanley, and more!

Canzine West
Saturday, October 16th, 1:00 - 7:00 PM
W2 Storyeum
151 West Cordova Street
$5 (includes a free copy of the latest issue of Broken Pencil)

A Taste of Words
Saturday, October 16th, 7:00 — 8:00 PM
Cafe Montmartre
4362 Main St., Vancouver
Featuring: Gurjinder Basran, Daniela Elza, Mona Fertig and Peter Haase!

Spoken Ink Reading Series
Tuesday, October 19th, 8:00 PM
La Fontana Caffe
101-3701 East Hastings, Burnaby
Featuring: Kate Braid and Clyde Reed


no one will take away from me the moments of poetic creation

I hate these people who are more concerned with the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, where something is going, and what is happening to American poetry, than the act of creation itself... [Y]ou're not involved in some historical process which is consciously shaping the future of American letters. It's English Department talk. It's the talk of people who are more interested in the historical process than they are in the poetic moment... When they come to evaluate the historical process and what's going on in this country, I'll be long dead. It will make no difference to me. But no one will take away from me the moments of poetic creation and reshaping of the world. Small as they may have been. Unimportant as they ultimately, historically, turn out to be, they are the heart of poetry. And this is what the poet ought to be concerned with.

- George Hitchcock, as quoted on Don Share's Squandermania blog. You can read more here.


go do something sensible

Daniel Zomparelli: What advice would you have for young poets?

George Bowering: If you fuck up, screw ‘em. Actually I was talking to a 15 year old poet, and the father told me to give him advice, and I said “stop writ­ing poetry and go do some­thing sen­si­ble.” He’ll either stop writ­ing poetry, or con­tinue to write poetry and that’s that. Oh, also another piece of advice, read 100 books for every poem… and write a poem every day. Ha!

- George Bowering, in interview with Daniel Zomparelli on the Geist Blog. You can read the whole interview here.


Lyric - my new chapbook (order by October 1st!)

My new chapbook, Lyric, is ready to order! I've seen a proof copy and it looks beautiful.

The chapbook is being published by The Alfred Gustav Press, an excellent series that I've rambled on about in the past. As usual, my chapbook will be one of three in a package - you have to buy all three, and you have to pre-order. Fortunately, it's cheap ($10 for all three!) and the other two chapbooks are by very strong poets: Shane Neilson and Diane Tucker.

Here are the write-ups for our three chapbooks:

Elision: the Milton Acorn Poems, by Shane Neilson

Elision is a series of lyric poems based on the biography of Acorn, a force in Canadian poetry. Shane Neilson tries to capture that force without taming it: the poems roughhouse as they venerate, they are pieces of irreverent worship, but they stick to the sad arc of Acorn's life, authenticating themselves in the questions asked by the example of this dead Canadian master.


Lyric, by Rob Taylor

Lyric is a long poem about the loss of a father and the lessons on love and language that follow. Lyric’s form, an extended glosa, arises from the ten lines of an untitled poem by Al Purdy.


Sandgrain Leaf, by Diane Tucker

Sandgrain Leaf speaks into being the birds, bugs and flowers the poet learned to love while growing up in a blue-collar neighbourhood in south Vancouver. These poems are a handful of bright fruit, a bouquet of foxgloves, a summer morning filled with birdsong and wind in the maples.

You can read the full press release for the series here (PDF).

If you're interested in ordering a set of the three chapbooks (did I mention that it's only $10!?). To order, fill out and mail in this form (PDF). The deadline for orders is October 1st.

Note: The inset photo is of Series 4, from Spring 2010.

those rhythms combine to create deep emotional states

Alan Fox: Many poets have talked about music or jazz as being akin to poetry. It seems to me in terms of expressing emotion, maybe it’s easier in music, or painting, than it is in words.

Molly Peacock: Well, music is perhaps the most purely emotional art in that it doesn’t have to “articulate” anything. And painting creates the image. And those are two arts that I feel are tucked inside poetry. When we talk about the vision of the poet, we can liken that to painting, and that’s where we get ideas of word-painting. The music of the poem is—well, there are two musics in the poem: there’s the music of the line, which I think of as like a baseline—if we’re still in the jazz mode—so there’s that baseline going; and then there’s the music of the sentence, quite separate, it’s prose music. People who only pay attention to the music of the sentence get accused of writing chopped-up prose, but there is a distinct sentence music that unfolds over the lines. Those rhythms—the base-line rhythm beneath each line as well as the rhythm of the sentence wrapping around the lines—combine to create deep emotional states. And sometimes, as poets, we’re not even aware of what those emotional states really are. And the imagery—when we talk about the vision of a poet, I think actually we’re talking about a poet’s imagery. When we say, “Wallace Stevens’ vision” or “William Carlos Williams’ vision” or “Elizabeth Bishop’s vision” or “Sonia Sanchez’s vision,” I think we’re largely talking about what they envision in their imagery.

- Molly Peacock, in conversation with Alan Fox of Rattle. You can read a longer excerpt (and hear the original conversation) here.


only the expectation of an emotional kick would deter the reader

I will refer to the kind of writing in which I am involved as conceptual writing. In conceptual writing the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an author uses a conceptual form of writing, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the text. This kind of writing is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless. It is usually free from the dependence on the skill of the writer as a craftsman. It is the objective of the author who is concerned with conceptual writing to make her work mentally interesting to the reader, and therefore usually she would want it to become emotionally dry. There is no reason to suppose, however, that the conceptual writer is out to bore the reader. It is only the expectation of an emotional kick, to which one conditioned to Romantic literature is accustomed, that would deter the reader from perceiving this writing.

Conceptual writing is not necessarily logical. The logic of a piece or series of pieces is a device that is used at times, only to be ruined. Logic may be used to camouflage the real intent of the writer, to lull the reader into the belief that she understands the work, or to infer a paradoxical situation (such as logic vs. illogic). Some ideas are logical in conception and illogical perceptually.

- Kenneth Goldsmith, in an essay published in Poetry is Dead #2. You can read the full text here.


an understandable critical privileging of stuff that required critics

Emily Gould: You are the first author since Stephen King in 2000 to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. In the profile, you say that it's important for books to be compelling because readers must resist so much distraction. But I've also heard the complaint from writers that there's enormous pressure to write clear, compelling realist narratives because they're so much more marketable than difficult, densely written art novels. Are books stooping too low in order to level the playing field with TV and the Internet?

Jonathan Franzen: There was a time when it was assumed that a novel was readable. You go back to Richardson and Defoe and then up through Austen and Stendhal and Balzac and all the way through the 19th century, it wasn't even a question. And then we have modernism, which was made possible by the existence of a long tradition of reading novels. The moderns were able to start doing crazy things with narrative and investigate important questions, like "How does time pass?" and "What is the nature of time?" Faulkner was writing about that in numerous books, Proust was writing about that, in his way, and they were doing this in ways that were very challenging. They could do that because the novel was the dominant form, and what they were doing, at its extremes, was only comprehensible to people who undertook with scholarly seriousness to really study the book.

What happened then is modern literature became something comfortably ensconced in the university, and there was an understandable critical privileging of stuff that required critics. But even as late as the '80s, when I was still in school, there was an assumption that the very best serious literature was challenging. And it was never in my nature to write books that were really hard to read. But for a long time, for decades, I thought that that was a fault in me. And it's really only with this last book that I found my liberation from what was arguably an artifact of a particular place in the development of the novel in the early 20th century, and how it coincided with the development of English departments.

So this is all by way of saying that unless you want to discount everything written before 1900, I don't think there's anything wrong with being readable.

- Novelist Jonathan Franzen, interviewed by Emily Gould for Goodreads. You can read the whole thing here.


withdrawing from the realm of common speech

Christian Wiman: You write in your essay that we have “communication sickness.” I wonder if you might explain that for us.

Tony Hoagland: We are terribly, terribly wary of untrustworthy speech. The ways in which we feel helpless and hopeless about our public discourse and about our situation... in a very commercial society. What I’m really concerned about is that poetry, as a result of that “communication sickness,” as a result of that profound disillusionment, and legitimate disillusionment, is withdrawing from the realm of common speech and is no longer building the bridge between [itself and] ordinary readers...

- Tony Hoagland, in conversation with Christian Wiman and Don Share in the September 2010 Poetry Magazine Podcast, discussing his essay "Recognition, Vertigo, and Passionate Worldliness" which appears in the September 2010 issue of Poetry Magazine.


back to school readings

Summers over, kids! Time to go get learned at some readings:

Memewar Fundraiser
Tuesday, September 7th, 9:00 PM
The Railway Club
579 Dunsmuir St, Vancouver
Featuring: Music by Brent Lawrence, Jeremy Braacx Band, and more!

TWS Reading Series
Thursday, September 9th, 7:00 PM
Rhizome Café
317 East Broadway, Vancouver
Featuring: Jen Currin, Kathy Page, Taryn Hubbard, Jason Sunder, and more!

Launch of "Breathing the Page" by Betsy Warland
Sunday, September 12th, 5:30–7:30 PM
Rhizome Café
317 East Broadway, Vancouver
Featuring: Betsy Warland!
Free (and free appetizers)!

Spoken Ink Reading Series
Tuesday, September 21st, 8:00 PM
La Fontana Caffe
101-3701 East Hastings, Burnaby
Featuring: Burnaby Writers' Poetry Contest winners Michael Aaron Mayes, Franci Louann and Lynda Pupo

and who can forget...

Word on the Street Vancouver
Sunday, September 26th, 2010, 11am - 5pm
Library Square and CBC Plaza
300 West Georgia, Vancouver
Featuring: Gary Geddes, Garry Gottfriedson, Anna Swanson, Heather Haley, Billeh Nickerson, Jen Currin, C.E. Gatchalian, Elaine Woo, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Aislinn Hunter, Marion Quednau, Rachel Rose, Kate Braid, Evelyn Lau, Miranda Pearson, Daniela Elza, Ray Hsu, Bren Simmers, and more! (And that's just the "Poetry Tent"...)


some ghanaian poetry updates

One Ghana, One Voice is humming along nicely these days. Our latest endeavour is a Ghanaian version of Arc's "How Poems Work" series. Our first "How Poems Work" went up a couple weeks ago. It's an analysis of recently-deceased Ghanaian poet Kwesi Brew's poem "The Sea Eats Our Lands" by still-living Ghanaian poet L.S. Mensah. It's great stuff, and can be read here.

Along with L.S., another up-and-coming Ghanaian poet making his mark on the scene is Darko Antwi, who has started up the new blog/magazine for African writing, Phillis Wheatley Chapter. My poem on Kwame Nkrumah, "Child of Saturday", has been posted on the site and can be read here. He's accompanied the poem with some photos of Nkrumah, including one with his wife and W.E.B. Du Bois, whose house and library in Accra I visited regularly - those can be viewed here.

Another upstart African publishing venture is Mensa Press, founded by Maryland-based Ghanaian poet Prince Mensah. The press is publishing five (!) poetry anthologies of primarily African content in the coming months. It's a great, and risky, project and I wish Prince all the success in the world in his efforts. One of the books will contain a few of my poems on Ghana, and I have written the introduction for another. I'll be sure to pass on more info about the books as it comes out over the next few months (for now, the sample cover in this post will have to do).

And while I'm on things Ghanaian + poetry, a blog post by one of our OGOV contributors, Holli Holdsworth, has been Twitted about by some local poets (small world, eh?). It's a post on food costs/consumption in Ghana and it's padded out by some... let's say "borrowed"... images and statistics from Hungry Planet: What the World Eats on the average weekly food consumption of families from various parts of the world (which were originally posted on the food blog of one of our dearest friends from Ghana [now living in Nashville] Erin McDonnell - smaller world!). You can read the blog post in question here, and a poem of Holli's from OGOV here.


the poem as a way of paying attention

Considering the confusion about where "poetic qualities" are found, [Stanley] Fish is clear that they arise not from the something "in" the text, but from the "developing tendencies of history" that - in his example - are unfolding under guidance in a university classroom. Fish writes: "It is not that the presence of poetic qualities compels a certain kind of attention but that the paying of a certain kind of attention results in the emergence of poetic qualities... definitions of poetry are recipes, by directing readers as to what to look for in a poem, they instruct them in ways of looking that will produce what they expect to see." The poem which, due to grammar, due to ideology, due to capitalism, always appears to be a thing, is really best understood as a cultural process, as a way of paying attention that arises collectively.

- Donato Mancini, in interview with editor Daniel Zomparelli in Poetry is Dead #2.


red fez #28

Issue 28 of Red Fez has just gone online. It's the 13th issue that I've helped edit since jumping on board in 2007, and it's also my last. I've had a great time with the Fez, but after three years I felt it was time to move on and make way for new editors. For this last issue, Michael D Grover took over the helm as Poetry Editor and I assisted with a chunk of the submissions.

With the qualifaction that I didn't read all the submissions, my pick for this issue is "The Dogs of Paris" by Steven Gulzevan. You can read it here, and the whole issue here.

If you're interested in following my footsteps into the lucrative field of online poetry editing, the Fez is looking for my replacement.

Thanks to Leopold McGinnis for founding the thing, publishing some of my early poems (what a confidence boost that was!), and giving me a shot as editor. Thanks also to Editor-in-Chief Michele McDannold and everyone else at Red Fez for helping make the last three years so enjoyable!


a short list of lists

Hey, I'm back from vacation! While I was gone there was a list explosion (especially in regards to various writers being overrated - what fun!). Here are some of the non-grumpy Vancouver-related lists I missed:

List #1: Winners of the aforementioned Pandora's Collective awards:

Lifetime Achievement Award: Susan Musgrave

Publishers of Magazines Awards: Room, Event, Prism, subTerrain, Geist, The Vancouver Review, The Capilano Review, and OCW (remind anyone of the ReLit long list?)

Citizenship Award: Daniela Elza

Organizer / Promoter Award: Fernanda Viveros

BC Writer Mentor Award: Ivan Coyote

Publishers Award: Alan Twigg

List #2: Poetry in Transit 2010
Congrats to all the poets who'll get poems up in BC busses this year (so damn cool!), including frequent silaron houseguests Daniela Elza and Al Rempel, who both had poems selected via their contributions to the 4 Poets anthology.

The full list is here.

And speaking of Daniela and Al, here's a poem they co-wrote.

List #3: BC's Literary World Online

The Tyee's been Facebook creeping the BC Lit World. Here is what it's learned (and listed) so far.

Useful stuff!