win my book...

along with twenty-nine others! As part of their "Poets in Profile" series, Open Book Toronto is giving away a prize pack of all the new books by profiled poets.

To enter, all you have to do is send an email to contests@openbooktoronto.com, subject line "Poetry Prize Pack" and include in the text of your email your favourite Canadian poet. Contest closes April 30th (tomorrow!), so get on it!

Click here for more info, and here to see a list of all the books you can win.

Good luck!

Cormorant Books Poetry Titles - Montreal Launch

I don't know much about Montreal's poetry scene. I know they like to give big money to small poems, and they are home to the real Signal imprint (nice try, M & S). Oh, and my editor lives there.

That seems like more than enough good reasons to be excited to visit, which I'll be doing for the Montreal launch of Cormorant's poetry line (a mere two days after my Vancouver launch).

The details:
Cormorant Books Poetry Line Montreal Launch
Monday, May 16th, 6:00 - 8:00 PM
Sparrow Bar
5322 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal
Featuring: Launch of books by Rob Taylor, Jack Hannan and Bruce Taylor, and the anthology Undercurrents: New Voices in Canadian Poetry
Free, w/ "complimentary hors d'oeuvres"

Spread the word, oh handful of Montrealers who read this blog!



OCW Magazine is celebrating its fifth birthday on Tuesday, April 26th with "FIVE", a PechaKucha-style series of five-minute talks on writing and art and who-knows-what-else. I'm honoured to have been asked to be one of the presenters.

Presenting with me will be, among many others, Barbara Adler, Cathleen With, Kevin Spenst, TJ "dear-god-don't-make-me-follow-him" Dawe, and Robert Fougere, who I don't really know, but whose website just gave me a seizure.

In keeping with the theme of magazine anniversaries, I'm going to be talking about the founding of One Ghana, One Voice, which just recently turned four. Spoiler alert: it involves a high-speed car ride and inter-species screaming.

If that isn't enough to entice you, I may have prepared some of my slides using MS Paint. Oh yes.

The event is $10, and tickets can be bought here. Each ticket includes a free subscription to OCW.

Here are the details:

"Five", OCW Magazine's Fifth Birthday Party
Tuesday, April 26th, 7:00 - 11:00 PM
The Waldorf Hotel, Cabaret Room
1489 East Hastings St, Vancouver
$10 (includes a free subscription)

I hope to see you there!


first review

It seems that if I write a post about someone, they publish a review of The Other Side of Ourselves within 24 hours. I'll keep this in mind going forward.

Michael Lista has my book's first review up on the National Post book site, "The Afterword" - it's a double-shot with a review of Nick Thran's Earworm, which I'm keen to pick up. You can read it here.

It's a mixed review. I expected to receive most of the criticisms at one point or another, my aesthetic not overlapping with those of many people these days. If I take one exception to the review, it's that placing locational tags on three of the poems was "vain and self-canonizing" - it was only meant to be generous to the reader and respectful of the locations (especially the Ghanaian ones, which are too often lumped into a blurry, homogeneous "Africa"). Oh well.

The compliments at the end of the review were less expected, and well appreciated.

Thanks to Michael for taking some time with my book, and to NP Books for continuing to make space for poetry on their site.


because i can't let fake james moore get the last word...

Over the past week I’ve gotten a few emails from people regarding my April Fool’s joke and the National Post article that the joke referenced. Everyone assumed that my position on the article, and the idea of writers calling for some lit mags to fold, mirrored that of my fake James Moore (i.e. “seriously, that’s messed up dudes”). I want to clear the air in case there was any confusion: April Fool’s jokes are... um... April Fool’s jokes... and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of their perpetrator. Here, then, over two weeks after the debate has died down (nothing but breaking news and opinion here at silaron), are my thoughts on the matter:

First off, I appreciated Michael Lista’s article. It hit a nerve, and that’s what a good article of its kind should do. The critics whose writing I seek out (and quote most often on this site) are united not by a particular aesthetic, but by their possession of a sharp stick, and their desire to seek out the untouchable bears of CanLit and give them a good poke. I’m thinking here of Jason Guriel, Carmine Starnino, Sina Queyras, Christian Bök, Zach Wells, and, of late, Jacob McArthur Mooney and Michael Lista (if you haven’t read critical writing from these people, get clicking those links!). Lista gets the double award of also shaking things up with his poetry, as my post on his first book, “Bloom”, and the debate that followed, clearly demonstrates. People who’ve jumped on Lista for his article are missing the bigger point – he’s brought to the forefront an issue that we clearly needed to be discussing more than we were, and we should all be grateful for that.

On the issue of magazine funding itself, I think it’s important that any discussion of the issue occurs within an accurate context. Lista lays out the impacts of the changes in his article: the number of Canadian lit mags funded has dropped from eleven to six under the new rules. In other words, only five magazines were clearly monetarily affected. Most magazines weren’t funded by the feds before the changes, and if they fold it won’t be because of the changes. That said, there is a chance that some of those unfortunate five will go, and others who would have theoretically been funded in future years will miss out on that opportunity. Still, it’s no Armageddon for CanLit magazines, and pretending that it is in order to sharpen an argument instead only weakens it.

You know you want one.
The bigger discussion, and the one that I feel we’re really having while we get fired up about the Canadian Periodical Fund, is more fundamental. It’s a debate about the systems/structures we use to nurture new writers, and help writers “rise through the ranks”. As I see it, the “tastemakers” that usher poets from “private scribbler” to “Canadian literary icon with your own robot pen” are shifting away from literary magazines and towards Creative Writing programs. The CPF only serves to accelerate this process, which makes those who prefer the old ways nervous.

I come at this from the (increasingly uncommon?) perspective of a writer who never enrolled in a Creative Writing program. Unlike those who have gone through such programs, I didn’t have a peer group to share my writing with, or mentors to evaluate and critique my writing. I also didn’t have anyone to champion my work in literary circles. Instead, I had the small literary magazines that have been made ineligible for funding.

Between 2003 and 2010, I submitted 305 different poems to magazines, most multiple times (though never simultaneously, rule-stickler that I am), so that in total more than 1500 copies of my poems landed in the inboxes of various Canadian magazines. This process, though wildly imperfect, served as my training ground. I had a peer group of sorts in editing rooms across the country, and all the critiquing that a boy could ask for (even if all I often saw of it was a photocopied rejection slip). Over time I gained champions as well – wonderful magazines that spurred me on by regularly publishing my work.

My fear is that if the publishing path I followed - in which a CV is slowly built through publications in magazines of ever-increasing profile - becomes increasingly difficult to navigate (less magazines, smaller editorial staffs, more limited editorial mandates, etc.), new writers will feel that they have no choice but to enrol in a program in order to find an audience, a community, and mentors.

In many ways, this process is already happening. More and more programs are being established, and more and more of the attention of the writing world is being focused around them. Last week on the Harriet blog, Kwame Dawes wrote about “The University as the Poet’s Community”, writing not on whether or not the poet’s community was in the university (this was assumed), but on how to make the university feel more like home. On the UBC Creative Writing program’s blog, The Grapevine (a fantastic blog for local events, by the way), a call was recently posted from a community writing group looking for writers who “Ideally... hold at least a BA or MFA in creative writing”. Even community writing groups are feeling the shift!

To be clear here, I have nothing against CW programs – I think they are a great option to have as a writer. But I do think they should be just that, an option, and not something new writers feel obligated to do. They are more exclusive and more expensive than the "magazine path", and often involve relocation to attend in person – all of these can serve as barriers to participation.

In the end what I’m saying isn’t a direct rebuke of the Canadian Periodical Fund. I’m against the changes, and disagree that losing magazines would be good for our writers and readers (who rely on the existence of quality writers, after all). But the changes are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. Instead, I think the CPF (and the suggestion that a culling of magazines would be beneficial) has served to highlight the real possibility that, going forward, lit mags will play a diminished role in the development of new Canadian writers (if they aren’t already). Will this happen? Will Creative Writing programs (or something else entirely?) fill the void? Is that desirable? Avoidable? These are the questions I think we should be asking, and whose answers should underpin magazine funding policies in that blessed Utopian future where we spend money on the arts instead of on empty prisons and engine-less fighter planes...


i'm reading tomorrow...

along with everyone else on earth.

A quick summary of the 128-reading madness:

Twisted Poets Literary Salon
Thursday, April 21st, 7:00 PM — 10:00 PM
The Prophouse Cafe
1636 Venables Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Rob Taylor and Catherine McNeil
$5 (suggested donation)

4 poets, 10 hours, 13 kilometers, 125 readings
Thursday, April 21st
Starts at 9:00 AM, readings all over town (see poster)
Finish line reading, 7:00pm - 8:30 PM
Vancouver Public Library, Meeting Room, Level 3
350 West Georgia Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Ray Hsu, Kim Fu, Andrea Bennett and Kevin Spenst

Robson Reading Series
Thursday, April 21st, 7:00 PM
UBC Bookstore, Robson Square
800 Robson St, Vancouver
Featuring: Jacob McArthur Mooney, Susan Musgrave and Matt Rader

Poetry is Dead Issue #3 Launch
Thursday, April 21st, 7:00 PM (doors), 8:00 PM (start)
Havana Theatre
1212 Commercial Drive
Featuring: Ben Rawluk, Renee Sarojini Saklikar, Shannon Rayne, and more
$10 (includes a free subscription)

If I were you, I'd go to the Mooney/Musgrave/Rader launch. It's the best lineup I've seen at the Robson Reading Series yet (and they've had some good ones), and I'm disappointed to be missing it. Of course, I wouldn't be offended if you came to my reading instead...

But for goodness sake, go to something!


2011 Pandora's Collective Awards - Nominations open

Nominations are open for the 2nd Annual Pandora's Collective Awards (2010 winners here), recognizing contributions to Vancouver's literary scene.

Three categories are decided by the Collective, and the winners have already been determined:
Pandora’s Collective Distinctive Body of Work Award: George Bowering

Pandora’s Collective Publishers of Magazines Awards: Poetry is Dead

Pandora’s Collective Citizenship Award: RC Weslowski

Three categories are nominated and voted on by the public. The titles and descriptions of those awards, as provided by the Collective:
Pandora’s Collective Organizer / Promoter Award: This award is for an individual who has put themself forward to help organize literary events, whether they are on-going or special events. Someone who has over the years helped give space to many writers whether they are new or established. (2010 winner: Fernanda Viveros)

Pandora’s Collective BC Writer Mentor Award: This award is for an individual who has taken the time to help foster other writers, giving them feedback and support over and above what may be expected. (2010 winner: Ivan E. Coyote)

Pandora’s Collective Publishers Award: This award is for those publishers who keep getting the word out, your words, every year despite cutbacks. Where would we be without the publishers? (2010 winner: Allan Twigg)

If a name (or many names) came to mind while reading those descriptions, send your nominations to Bonnie Nish at blnish_pandoras(at)yahoo(dot)ca.

Nominations are due in by May 15th. If all goes like last year, winners will be presented with their awards just prior to the Summer Dreams' Festival in August.

Here's a video from the presentation of last year's "Distincitive Body of Work Award" to Susan Musgrave. One can only hope the event this year is even bigger and more backlit!

p.s. Speaking of Susan Musgrave, she's reading with bill bissett on Tuesday as part of the Vancouver Poetry Festival, which runs all this week.


it's here!

I'm a little bit excited.

If you're wondering what I'm excited about, you clearly don't read this blog too often. You can get info on the book here, and on the Vancouver book launch (May 14th!) here.


putting me out of business?

I can only hope! As much as I love typing up the details to thirty-odd readings every month, I'd happily let someone else take over.

The Federation of BC Writers has started an Upcoming Events Blog, which will be posting information on readings from across the province. I'm glad to see a group with the size and connections of the BC Fed taking on this project - hopefully they'll be able to do a more all-encompasing job at it than I do. The more we know what everyone else is up to, the more we can collaborate (and avoid scheduling conflicts like April 21st's 128 scheduled readings - see below!).

The Fed folk (Daniela Elza and ?) are quick on their feet - they put up a post about my launch the day after I announced it. If you live in BC, be sure to subscribe to their RSS feed, and if you're putting on an event yourself, report it here. They're also looking for information on all recurring reading series in the province - if you run one of those, let them know here.

While I'm going on about events, here are two more for the big list for April, including one (well, 125) on the aforementioned April 21st:

Short Line Reading Series
Tuesday, April 19th, 6:30 - 8:30 PM
The Railway Club
579 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Jamie Reid and Daniel Zomparelli

4 poets, 10 hours, 13 kilometers, 125 readings
Thursday, April 21st
Starts at 9:00 AM, readings all over town (see poster)
Finish line reading, 7:00pm - 8:30 PM
Vancouver Public Library, Meeting Room, Level 3
350 West Georgia Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Ray Hsu, Kim Fu, Andrea Bennett and Kevin Spenst


international guitar month's got nothing on us

Following up on last week's post about "Poetry Month" activities around the internet (speaking of which: Harriet, what's with going from 0 to 500 bloggers in one day? Pace yourself...), here are a few more:

Open Book Toronto's Poets in Profile Series

OBT is celebrating poetry month by interviewing a whack of poets with books coming out from Toronto presses (hint - you know one of them). All the poets' answer the same seven questions, and most of the poets have given short, sharp answers. My favourite so far came from Sam Cheuk, who in answer to "What is the best thing about being a poet?", said:
Having access to the religious experience without necessarily being religious, and then having the tools to articulate it.
Thoughtful and to the point. If you prefer your Q+As wandering and long-winded (and feat. the occasional laundry joke), then look no further than my profile, which went up yesterday. You can read it here.

Canada Reads Poetry

An online Canada Reads! For poetry! With no Debbie Travis! Sonnet L'Abbé, George Murray, Susan Musgrave, Jacob McArthur Mooney, and Anne Simpson will be stumping for books by Rita Wong, Dionne Brand, Alden Nowlan, Erin Mouré, and Anne Carson.

Man, if Carol Shields was too "literary" for the last Canada Reads panel, I can only imagine what Georges, Debbie and the gang would have to say about this bunch. I mean, accordion books? Accents aigus? It's all too much.

It should be a fun couple weeks. Here's hoping it descends rapidly into name calling and thinly-veiled threats of panelist-on-panelist violence. It wouldn't be a good Canada Reads without it...

The Book of It

Not a "Poetry Month" project, per se, but Daniela Elza's first foray into writing an eBook (and my first foray into downloading an eBook) has just been released! One long poem, it is available from Amazon.com for less than the price of one of those ridiculous cups of coffee with whipped cream and chocolate goo on top.

I've only started reading The Book of It, but I can already tell that it's not simply a print book slapped into an eBook format. Instead, the elimination of length limits has allowed Daniela to stretch the book out - pages range from multiple stanzas to single words, and stanzas rise and fall like waves from page to page.

I hadn't yet been tempted to take up using an eReader regularly because it didn't seem worth the bother for a poetry fan: I didn't think there was much out there, and what was out there seemed of inferior quality to their print alternatives. The Book of It has got me rethinking all of that.


The Other Side of Ourselves Vancouver Book Launch

I'm launching my book, The Other Side of Ourselves, on Saturday, May 14th. The details:

"The Other Side of Ourselves" Vancouver Launch
Saturday, May 14th, 6:30 doors, 7:00 PM start
Rowan's Roof Restaurant and Lounge
2340 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver
Featuring: Readings by Rob Taylor and Aislinn Hunter, music by Jasper Sloan Yip
Free, including free appetizers

Everyone is invited (yes, even you). It's not necessary to RSVP, but it would help me with numbers - I don't want anyone to miss out on the free appetizers! You can do that on the launch's Facebook event page or by emailing me at roblucastaylor(at)gmail(dot)com

I hope to see you there!

p.s. I've signed up both myself and my book to Goodreads. If you're on there, check it out!


some more april readings/events

Added here, and to the big list for April:

BC Book Prize Soirée Night
Tuesday, April 5th, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
The Listel Hotel
1300 Robson Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Finalist authors signing books. Not sure which. Who cares, really - it's a free soirée at a fancy hotel. How do you turn down a free soirée?
Free (as I think I made fairly clear above)

Three Poets Reading
Saturday, April 9th, 3:00 PM
Alma VanDusen & Peter Kaye Rooms, VPL Central Library
350 W. Georgia St., Vancouver
Featuring: Cathy Ford, bill bissett and Mona Fertig

Lit Fest New West
Friday, April 15th (evening) and Saturday, April 16th (all day)
Douglas College, New West Campus
700 Royal Avenue, New Westminster
Featuring: Free worskhops, and performances by Steven Galloway, C.R. Avery, Dennis E. Bolen and more!


a search for footings

Bear in mind that I am an extremely un-prolific poet. I can't write poetry most of the time, so when a subject presents itself, I seize it. Mary Dalton once said to me, "You write the poems you need." The poems I write often articulate need, but should not be taken as representing the whole of my life. The Globe and Mail described my poems as "Dark and Moody" -- this took me by surprise, for I am actually a lighthearted person most of the time. I am one of the big hopers, yet my poetry deals rather scorchingly with sentiment and soft feeling -- but the truth is I live by these feelings and my poems test them with irony. It is a search for footings.

- Richard Greene, in interview with Carmelo Militano over at the Northern Poetry Review. You can read the whole thing here.


a little foolishness for everyone

For those of you who, I dunno, really doubt James Moore's competence and judgment - fair enough, given his recent track record - to be clear, yesterday's post was an April Fool's prank.

If you were wondering how I did it, I used this (now go have fun with the internet!).

Yesterday also marked the launch of a number of "National Poetry Month" projects. Gotta love that our national month starts on our day devoted to practical jokes. Has it been a trick this whole time and I've just never caught on?

Anyway, chief among the new projects: Harriet is back! The blog whose death I lamented less than a year ago has brought back its original format where actual people give actual opinions. Hurrah!

Contributors for the month include Canada's own Sina Queyras, who brought some great interviews to Harriet last time she blogged for them. So far everyone has just done their opening "I like what you've done with the place..." posts, but hopefully things will pick up soon.

Also this month, the League of Canadian Poets has started a National Poetry Month blog, which will feature a whack of Canadian poetry between now and the 30th. If you like your poetry experimental, Angel House Press is offering something similar at NationalPoetryMonth.ca.

It's our only month for poetry, people - so enjoy it! It'll be a long eleven months until you get another chance...


James Moore comes clean (for a split-second)

I was doing some late-night Canadian Heritage website surfing (I know, who doesn't?), when I came across this rambling personal message from Canadian Heritage minister James Moore. In the message he writes about the formation of the Canadian Periodical Fund and the recent flurry of discussion sparked by a National Post column on the Fund - it's pretty shocking stuff.

I had a feeling it wouldn't last long on the Canadian Heritage site (I was right, they've already pulled it down), so I copied the text and snapped some screenshots.

Click on the screenshots below to see the whole thing in its original context. I've also pasted the text below.

Screenshot 1 of 3 (click to expand)

Screenshot 2 of 3 (click to expand)

Screenshot 3 of 3 (click to expand)

Ok, fulltext:

The Honourable James Moore
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Can’t you guys take a joke? I mean seriously, c’mon you guys

I know it’s late but I’ve had this bottled up inside for too long and I need to let it out.

First off, I love Canadian literary magazines. My perfect Saturday morning: green tea, Kenny G, Snuggie and the latest Malahat Review. So when Steve came to me and said "We need a new policy on magazine funding", I laughed. Then he laughed. It was fun. So I was like, "Let’s have even more fun with this" and I drafted up this crazy idea for a Canadian Periodical Fund that would give millions to Chatelaine and nothing to the Malahat or almost any of the other lit mags I love so much. I was all like "Hey big, commercial magazines that promote the mindless consumption of Ugg Boots and Spanx, here’s a bunch of money. And hey magazines that produce art and writing and stuff that we’re always really proud of once the artists get "big", here’s a swift kick in the butt on the way out the door!"

I totally thought everyone would get it, guys. To be safe, at the end where it said "you sign below to approve the creation of the Canadian Periodical Fund", I changed it to "NOT approve" with a pen – so it looked like I’d changed my mind at the last minute. I know, awesome, right? So then I faxed it over to Steve and was all like LMFAO on the cover letter. A couple weeks later, while I’m immersed in the rich meditations of A.F. Moritz in the new Fiddlehead, my secretary calls and tells me the CPF has gone through! Turns out the "NOT" was too faded on the fax, and Steve never saw it. D’OH!

So I was sort of trapped – I mean, how do you tell your boss that he missed the joke? Especially when your boss is this guy? So I kept quiet and played along. The only person I told was Bev Oda. We were sitting together in the Parliamentary cafeteria and when I told her, she shot milk out her nose. Then she ran off all excited, saying she wanted to "give it a try." Weird.

I figured that it would all work itself out – all the writers, publishers and editors in Canada would rally against the new CPF, and by the time the next election rolled around, Steve would have no choice but to back down. But then this thing came out in the National Post books section talking about how good the CPF is. And then a bunch of writers chimed in in support of killing lit mags. Maybe you all just forgot to add the "NOT", I dunno. But seriously, that’s messed up dudes.

So now what am I supposed to do? How can I in good conscience read Prairie Fire, knowing that it stands on the mutilated corpses of Grain and CV2? Man, even my metaphors are starting to go...

So here it is. The truth. It was a joke, people. A joke I played on the government. It’s not a big deal. We should all just have a good laugh and move on like nothing ever happened. No one should get mad at me or anything. Ok? So we’re good? Awesome!

See you in April (oh man... it’s 2 AM... it’s already April. Time for nappies!).