omg v125pc ebd

Tomorrow (September 1st) is the "early bird deadline" to register for the Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference.

If you haven't heard about the conference yet, I commend you for keeping away from electronic media all summer. Otherwise, you are probably already well aware that "v125pc" is the honking-big term-ending project for outgoing Vancouver Poet Laureate Brad Cran. Running over four days in mid-October (full schedule here), mostly out of SFU Harbour Centre, it will feature a whole lotta poets and cost a whole lotta coin to attend (by poetry standards, that is). We're talking $129 for students and low-income, and $179 for you high-rolling normals out there. This makes taking advantage of the early bird deal, which cuts $30 off both rates, all the more important. So if you're keen, get registering people!

I'm not sure if I'll be attending the full conference. It's difficult for me to justify the cost considering that the majority of the poets either live in Vancouver or visit often enough (and give free readings when they do). That said, it will be hard to stay away from a few of the individual readings (it's $20-$25 to attend a single session). Some samples of the great readings that will be happening:

October 20th, 4:30 pm
Barbara Nickel
Chris Hutchinson
Carmine Starnino
Stephanie Bolster
Reading and in conversation with George Murray

October 21st, 2:45 pm
David Seymour
Matt Rader
George Murray
Ken Babstock
Reading and in conversation with Carmine Starnino

October 22nd, 10:30 am
Steven Heighton
Christopher Patton
Elise Partridge
Sue Sinclair
Reading and in conversation with Gillian Jerome

And on top of all that there is the Friday Keynote reading with Don McKay, Fanny Howe and Martin Espada!

So if you're interested in taking it all in, make sure you register ASAP. If you decide to pass on registering, maybe we can listen in by an open window together?


last chance to win my book

The deadline for the Goodreads contest to win a free copy of The Other Side of Ourselves is midnight tonight. You can enter here.

I'll be giving away three books, and as of this writing 750 people have entered the contest. If you don't like those odds, as a special offer to silaron readers I have arranged a deal with your local bookstore to guarantee you victory in the contest. It will only cost you $18 + all applicable sales taxes. To enter simply go in to the store and say you'd like to "order in" a copy of The Other Side of Ourselves. That's the password for the secret deal. If you're lucky they might have some contest copies in stock and you'll be able to walk away with yours right then and there.

Don't say I never did anything for you, faithful readers. Whichever route you choose, I wish you luck!


end of the road

We've arrived at the fifth and final entry in my East Coast trip literary report. This time we're going bronze. And busty.

We'll start in Quebec City, whose BPC (Busts Per Capita) rate must be the highest in the country. Did you serve as a politician in Quebec at any point over the last 400 years? You get a bust. Did you fight for freedom against colonialism/racism/sexism/the English/the Americans/complex carbohydrates? You get a bust. Have you ever voted for the Bloc, or once ironically worn a Bloc button at a house party? You get a bust. A poet? You might just get a bust, people.

Here are a couple examples. First, a monument bonding Quebec City and St. Petersburg using the poetry (and enlarged metal heads) of Émile Nelligan and Alexander Pushkin:

And second, me doing my best Dante impression next to Dante doing his best Mrs. Butterworth impression:

On to New York, for the obligatory Hotel Chelsea shot. Lucky Brendan Behan, you get to be the meat in a Schuyler/Cohen sandwich:

But Gertrude outdoes them all, relaxing in Bryant Park:

Last on the New York leg of the trip is the Harlem YMCA, which doesn't have a plaque or anything, but darn well should, considering how many leaders of the Harlem Renaissance stayed there (most notably Langston Hughes, who is honoured at the nearby Schomburg Center, as I blogged about here). C'mon New York, make it happen!

And to close things off, one statue from Toronto. This one is for you, National Post:

That's it! It only took me three months to summarize a three week trip. And I thought writing my first book in eight years was fast!


you put everything into it that's needed

The Paris Review: We’ve heard that you don’t give readings from your own work. In America, this has become a business for poets. Do you enjoy attending the readings of others?

Philip Larkin: I don’t give readings, no, although I have recorded three of my collections, just to show how I should read them. Hearing a poem, as opposed to reading it on the page, means you miss so much—the shape, the punctuation, the italics, even knowing how far you are from the end. Reading it on the page means you can go your own pace, taking it in properly; hearing it means you’re dragged along at the speaker’s own rate, missing things, not taking it in, confusing “there” and “their” and things like that. And the speaker may interpose his own personality between you and the poem, for better or worse. For that matter, so may the audience. I don’t like hearing things in public, even music. In fact, I think poetry readings grew up on a false analogy with music: the text is the “score” that doesn’t “come to life” until it’s “performed.” It’s false because people can read words, whereas they can’t read music. When you write a poem, you put everything into it that’s needed: the reader should “hear” it just as clearly as if you were in the room saying it to him. And of course this fashion for poetry readings has led to a kind of poetry that you can understand first go: easy rhythms, easy emotions, easy syntax. I don’t think it stands up on the page.

- Philip Larkin, in interview with The Paris Review in 1982. You can read the whole thing here.


steer clear of english

Paris Review: Would you like to give any advice to young writers?

Peter Levi: Yes. Steer clear of the writing departments of universities. Steer clear of English. Learn foreign, preferably dead languages, but learn them properly. Do not be a wastrel, don’t just hang about the world. Poetry is about life. The quality of your poetry will be the quality of your life. And you can’t regulate that by a knob. Read. Get or get near a very good library. Take more notice of Randall Jarrell than you do of any academic critic. Don’t spend time attacking other writers. Dig to the bottom of your mind, and don’t give two damns about publications.

Writing is like breathing or it ought to be. One’s got to write poems. Like one has to go to church. Not out of social duty, or because there’s any pressure on one to do so. Not even out of reaction to people who say one shouldn’t do so. But just because of some decent, natural good behavior. One might as well go on with it.

- Peter Levi, in interview with The Paris Review in 1976, just after Levi had left the Jesuit order to get married. You can read the whole thing here.


it goes without saying...

but my wife is awesome. She whipped up this painting one day, featuring the text of my poem "Early Rain" (fulltext of the poem here, or you can click on the image below and read it straight off the painting):

It's already been sold to someone, so don't go thinking you can snatch it up. If you ask nicely, though, she might be up for custom orders...


astonished at what is chosen by others

Welcome to part four of my hopelessly drawn out East Coast trip report. This time, it's my favourite book stores of the trip! These stores are, in large part, the sources of my airplane-weight-limit-busting suitcase of books.

I'm only commenting on bookstores I took pictures of - I went to far too many overall (thank goodness I didn't know of Nigel Beale's Literary Tourist site at the time, or it would have been much worse). I also missed most of the bookstores I wanted to visit in Toronto, due to time constraints. So, with those qualifications, here are my favourite bookstores that Marta and I visited in Ontario, Quebec and New York:

I didn't realize this was a "chain" bookstore until I started writing this post. Chapters, take note - spacious and beautiful with literature profiled up front, instead of board games and Celine Dion CDs.

We lucked out in Ottawa and stayed with a friend who lived almost across the street from this bookstore. Plenty of poetry, author visits, and open mics. And style points for the giant book dangling from the sign.

The Word, Montreal

I already blogged about how The Other Side of Ourselves made it onto the display shelf at The Word, so it's not too surprising that I enjoyed my visit. The picture above doesn't show much, I know, but then I don't think that there's a sign outside the store to photograph, even if I had remembered to. The Word could easily be missed, hidden away near the McGill campus on, appropriately, Milton Street. It shouldn't be, as the selection in this new-and-used bookstore was quite impressive (and is only a small sample of a collection that sprawls out into numerous nearby storage areas).

Ok, this isn't a bookstore, but it was a first for Marta and I, and seemed worth noting here: a church converted into a public library. Could be a good backup plan, Toronto...

The Strand, New York City

I think I was supposed to know about The Strand in advance, but I did not. Luckily, we stumbled upon it on our very first day in New York (and returned with a bigger backpack a few days later). It's a small town, we were bound to run into it eventually.

You see that man on a ladder - he is risking life in pursuit of poetry. While I was there a number of people did the same, and there were a couple near-falls and bump-overs as we jostled about in the narrow poetry corridors. As I've said before, poets are not exactly experts at moving through space. Sitting, we're good at. Really good. But when it comes to coordinated human movement... yikes...

But it was well worth the risk to see their selection, which included far more lesser-known Canadian poets than our bookstores feature lesser-known Americans. We win this round, NAFTA!

So those are my picks. Don't like them? Well, Nick has a message for you:

p.s. For all I saw, nothing came close to the wonder and insanity that is MacLeods. So don't feel too jealous, Vancouver!

p.p.s. CBC Books just announced its readers Top 10 Canadian Bookstores.

p.p.p.s. In sad news, everyone's favourite little Winnipeg bookstore, Aqua Books, has announced that they will be closing in the fall.


FIVE videos + fundraiser + Project Space

FIVE was OCW Magazine's fifth birthday party, which took place back in April. It featured a gaggle of artists from various disciplines giving PechaKucha style talks on their work. I was honoured to be one of them (before the event, I blogged about it here).

The presentations from FIVE were recorded, and the videos have just been posted online. Highlights include Barbara Adler's love song to her accordion and Kevin Spenst's twisted world view. All of the videos from the evening can be viewed here.

I spoke about the first meeting between myself and my One Ghana, One Voice co-founder, Julian Adomako-Gyimah, which was entertaining in some typically Ghanaian ways, and one very atypically Ghanaian way:

It was quite fun to be able to tell a Ghana story to a Canadian audience, and an extra challenge to try to compress one into five minutes (and to dig up photos that even vaguely fit with the story I was telling). Thanks for the opportunity, OCW!

Speaking of OCW, they are hosting a fundraiser this Saturday at The Cobalt. The details:
OCW Summer Benefit Concert
Saturday, August 13th, 8:30 PM
The Cobalt
917 Main Street, Vancouver
Featuring: music by The Stone Pines, Sunny Pompeii and Ailsa Rose
The crazy kids at OCW will be putting the fundraised money to good use, as they're about to take on their most ambitious project to date: Project Space, a "curated bookshop, programming space, and studio" on Georgia Street in Chinatown. It's scheduled to open in September. I'll be sure to post more details about the grand opening as they come in.


interested in language as pure material

Dean Rader: Where do you think you find the language for your poems? What do you want that language to do and be?

Matthew Zapruder: I think a misconception some people can have about poets is that they are mainly interested in "language" as pure material, as something outside of its function as a communicative mechanism. Maybe this is because at least on the surface some poems seem uninterested in a reader. I am very interested in the reader, in fact there is probably nothing I am more interested in.

It is not exactly a breakthrough in cultural criticism to point out that nowadays our world is filling itself up more and more with distractions that take us out of the moment and into other spaces. I write poems to take myself out of that distracted, half aware, limited space, which I am just as susceptible to as anyone else. And when I find the "door" it comes in the form of some sentences that I, and also anyone else who picks up the poem, can read and understand and feel something deeper and stranger and more mysterious and more real.

- Matthew Zapruder in conversation with Dean Rader over at The Huffington Post. You can read the whole thing here.


two big events for august

Early each month I usually post info on a number of smaller Vancouver lit readings taking place around the city, but there really isn't that much happening in August. Instead, I figured I'd use this space to profile two big literary events happening in the city this month: the Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival and the Main Street Magazine Tour. If you're interested in other readings in town (which certainly do exist, if few in number), I encourage you to visit the Federation of BC Writers events listing page.

Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival
Friday, August 12th (7 PM) and Saturday, August 13th (12 - 8 PM)
CBC Studio 700 (Friday) and Lumberman's Arch, Stanley Park (Saturday)

Friday night will be an evening of recognition, with awards being given out to members of Vancouver's literary community. George Bowering will be receiving the main award of the evening, and other awards will be given to Poetry is Dead, RC Weslowski, Sean Cranbury, Betsy Warland and Mother Tongue Publishing.

The full-day festival at Lumberman's Arch in Stanley Park kicks off at 12:30 PM with a reading by George Bowering, and closes at 7:30 PM with a performance by CR Avery. In between, dozens of poets and musicians will perform, run workshops, and participate in discussion panels. And I've heard rumour that there'll be a literary game show...

I'll be involved briefly, as well, participating in a discussion on collaboration from 5:00 - 5:30 on the "Granville Stage". The full schedule for the day is here.

Here's an interview about the festival with Summer Dreams founder Bonnie Nish and volunteer (and silaron regular) Daniela Elza:

I'm excited to actually be able to make it to Summer Dreams this year (I've been out of town the last couple years), as Summer Dreams was one of the first literary events I participated in way back in the early 2000s. As event founder Bonnie Nish notes in the video, the whole point of Summer Dreams was (and still largely is) to pull together the diverse writing groups in the city for one big collective event. Our SFU writing and publishing group, High Altitude Poetry, participated in the first few years of Summer Dreams, and through the festival I got a big boost of confidence and made a number of good friends.

I'm looking forward to seeing old and new faces alike this year. The same goes for the second event of this post...

Main Street Magazine Tour
Thursday, August 18th, 6 - 10 PM
Starting at Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens

The Main Street Magazine Tour is moving North this year, touring around Chinatown, giving the area a chance to show off its growing number of new artist-friendly spaces, such as 221A, Blim, and Hogan's Alley Cafe (which hosts one of the city's many new reading series, the aptly "Hogan's Alley Poetry Reading Series") - speaking of which, if you don't know anything about Hogan's Alley, you best get learning.

The tour is, as usual, split into two, which means options, people. Tour "A" lets you take in readings and panels organized by Room, Event, and Prism (featuring, among others, Gillian Jerome, Donato Mancini, and Jen Currin), while Tour "B" gives you discussions and workshops organized by Poetry is Dead and Lester's Army. The evening closes with a reading of "deliciously rotten writing". Will any of it be on the subject of cheese? One can only hope. For a full schedule, click here.

I was lucky enough to participate in last year's Main Street Magazine Tour and it was a blast, featuring a very warm and diverse crowd. You are both warm and diverse, no? Then you should join in.

Happy August, all!


poetry isn't soul magic

A close friend, also a poet, once asked me why I write poetry, and I replied that, among other things, it gives me a chance to make my narcissism palatable to others. She laughed. Her husband laughed. It was no joke. It seems to me that narcissism is ineluctably at the heart of poetry, maybe of every human enterprise. One-third of people will think I’m an idiot for bothering to state this. Two-thirds will think I’m repugnant for suggesting that poetry isn’t soul magic. But, however magical your soul, doesn’t its unveiling imply a touch of egotism? In lyric poetry, especially, some degree of narcissism seems unavoidable. Even Dickinson and Hopkins sought readers at some point. Now let us observe a moment’s silence for the Unknown Poets, who have defeated narcissism and won oblivion. Then, since there’s nothing to build on there, let us quickly turn in gratitude to their egotistical fellow poets, who reached through self-regard to give the bitter world a little beauty and insight.

- Joshua Mehigan, from his essay "I Thought You Were A Poet: A Notebook" in the July/August 2011 issue of Poetry Magazine.


win my book

Last I checked, no one buys poetry in August (or the 21st century, for that matter). So to keep things moving until September 2101, I'm giving away three copies of The Other Side of Ourselves over at Goodreads.com!

It's free to enter, just click below and follow the instructions (you have to be a Goodreads member to enter, it seems). The contest closes at the end of August - enter early and often!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Other Side of Ourselves by Rob  Taylor

The Other Side of Ourselves

by Rob Taylor

Giveaway ends August 31, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Good luck!