omg v125pc ebd deja vu

At the end of August I posted about the end-of-the-month early-bird deadline for the Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference. Well, they've extended that deadline by a month (the new deadline is tomorrow, October 1st), so I'm back doing the same again (if you want all the details, click here to read last month's post).

It looks like they've also dropped the rate for partial tickets from $20-25 for one session, to $35-$50 for a whole day. The one-day registration seems like a pretty decent value, especially on the Friday, with readings by Matthew Zapruder, Nick Thran, Katia Grubisic, Matt Rader, George Murray and Ken Babstock throughout the day (among many others), and an evening keynote reading featuring Don McKay, Fanny Howe and Martin Espada. I think I'm going to take that day in. If you're interested as well, you can register here.


hogan's alley poetry festival - this weekend

Sorry for the late notice on this event - I only found out about it today!

The Hogan's Alley Poetry Festival is running all this weekend. Unfortunately that means it's competing against Word on the Street. It looks like the main event is tonight, though, which is the least "eventful" part of WOTS' schedule. That event is happening at the Vancouver International Film Centre, and will feature poetry, spoken word, music, a historical slideshow, and a screening of a documentary on Hogan's Alley. Poets involved include Wayde Compton, Scruffmouth, Julianne Bitek, and more.

You can get the schedule for tonight's event here, and the whole festival here. Check it out!


two fall titles

Poetry may only be relevant for one month per year, but it seems that no one told some of our best publishers that. A number of strong titles are coming out this fall, including Amanda Jernigan's first collection, Groundwork (Biblioasis). There are two titles which I'm particularly excited about, though, and wanted to take a minute to highlight:

Winter Cranes by Chris Banks (ECW Press)

Winter Cranes is Chris Banks' third book of poetry. Chris runs one of my favourite poetry blogs, Table Music. I've only read the first of his books, Bonfires, but I quite enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading both Winter Cranes and his second book, The Cold Panes of Surfaces.

Chris is launching Winter Cranes in Montreal this Sunday and in Toronto on October 5th. Sadly, he will be just about the only poet in Canada not coming to Vancouver in October.

To get more information on those launches, and to read the excellent title poem from the book, click here.

Gift Horse by Mark Callanan (Véhicule Press)

Mark Callanan is the author of one previous book, Scarecrow. He also published a chapbook with Frog Hollow Press entitled Sea Legend, which you can apparently read in its entirety here. I haven't read either yet, but I have read a number of poems of Callanan's that have appeared here and there in magazines and on the internet, and I've been consistently impressed.

Beyond his own writing, Callanan is the (co-?)founder of Newfoundland's Riddle Fence, which currently stands as my favourite non-subTerrain Canadian lit mag. He was also the judge for the 2010 Alfred Bailey Prize, which means his taste is impeccable!

He's launching his book on the other coast on October 11th (details here), and like Chris Banks doesn't seem to be making the long march out here, poetry conference or not. You can read a poem from Gift Horse here, and start picking up his book in stores at the beginning of October.


word on the street 2011, destroyer of bucket lists

Word on the Street is less than a week away! I'm all the more excited about this year's iteration for a number of reasons. One is that WOTS has been expanded to a three-day festival, with events at Joy Kogawa House and Banyen Books and Sound on Friday and a full slate of readings and workshops at the Carnegie Centre on Saturday, all before the traditional Sunday festival kicks off at 11 AM at Library Square. The full schedule for all three days can be found by clicking around on the WOTS "What's On" page.

If you click that link and check out the lineup at the poetry tent, you'll understand the other reasons why I'm excited this year. I'll be reading twice on Sunday, back-to-back, at 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM. The 2:30 PM reading will be for The Other Side of Ourselves. Getting a reading spot at WOTS has always been a dream of mine, and I'm thrilled and appreciative that it's going to happen for my first book.

The only thing that might top that is the 1:30 reading, where I will be participating in the launch of the 2011 "Poetry in Transit" series (along with Gillian Jerome, Christine Lowther, Kate Braid, Laisha Rosnau and David Zieroth). Yes, oh list of my crazy dreams, you just lost another member: my poem "Summer", from The Other Side of Ourselves, will be included in Poetry in Transit this year! I'm not sure when it will start appearing on buses and Skytrains, but if you want to be sure to see it you can come by on Sunday, as they'll have a bus on site displaying all of the poems.

Last on my list of dreams accomplished, if you look really closely at the schedule for my reading you'll see that I've achieved the dream of all dreams - my own corporate sponsor! It's the library's own community-run, tchotchke-dispensing, fundraising storefront, book'mark:

Oh poetry, even your corporate sponsors are non-profit... Thanks, book'mark!

There will be many non-Rob-dream-related reasons to swing by WOTS on Sunday, as well, including readings from their new books by Sachiko Murakami (Rebuild) and Garry Thomas Morse (Discovery Passages). Also, there will be music, and sales tables (usually with good sales), and info on community groups and magazines, and those crazy kids at The Word Under The Street, and gaggles of readings from authors who shun line breaks.

So I'll see you there, right?


a place that you can go to and a phrase to remember

Brad Frenette, National Post: A lot of your lyrics deal with the [theological] side of things. Your book has an angel in it. What do you believe in?

Josh Ritter: In terms of belief, I would have to say that the things that I believe in the most are songs. I believe that its important to have a place that you can go to and a phrase to remember. Like a pill, almost, that you can take when you need it. Leonard Cohen, he's better than most doctors. That's one thing. I also find that, as Bill Hicks says - the comedian - 'it's better to deal with the light in everybody and forget about the middle man.' And I find that to be very true, and more and more I find that a lot of times to be a writer, to be an artist, to do anything creative in our lives, whether we consider it art or not, we have to ask serious questions. And I find that the more entrenched religion becomes the more difficult it is to ask those questions.

- Musician and novelist Josh Ritter, in interview with the National Post for their sadly now-defunct Arts podcast (you can still download old episodes from iTunes, including one with silaron favourite Kae Sun).



I've received a number of thoughtful and generous emails and letters from readers of my book, and I've treasured them all. One of my favourites so far came from Vancouver-via-Ottawa-via-Netherlands-via-Germany-via-England poet Christopher Levenson, which included a poem Chris had written in response to my poem "Old Men at the Community Pool", which in turn was written in response to the epigraph to Wallace Stevens' "Evening Without Angels" by Mario Rossi: the great interests of man: air and light, the joy of having a body, the voluptuousness of looking.

Chris has agreed to let me share the poem here - hopefully it can inspire another poem by someone and keep the chain going:

Some antique ritual:
for an hour in the enormous sunlit pool
I am an anonymous token male
among a score of large elderly ladies
swaying like lily pads
to the pounding disco beat.
Our eyes are fixed on the instructor,
whose arms and legs lithe as a Hindu goddess
are showing us what to do.
Like trainee astronauts
we follow her in slow motion,
shedding our pounds, toning our muscles,
relishing weightlessness.

- Christopher Levenson



I saw a friend reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova recently. This was the blurb on the cover.  Amazing.


ride them like a horse

Student: How do you go about writing a poem?

Robert Frost: Well, first something has to happen to you. Then you put some words on a piece of paper and ride them like a horse until you have a poem.

Student: I think I should set myself a program and write two, four, even six hours a day, whether I feel like it or not. Do you think that’s a good program?

Frost: It sounds like a good program. I’m sure it’ll improve your handwriting.

Student (angered): I’m serious.

Frost: I’m serious, too. You want me to give you the truth wrapped in a bundle so that you can put it under your arm and take it home and open it when you need it. Well, I can’t do that. The truth wouldn’t be there anymore.

- Robert Frost, whipping up some bust-posing banter at the Harry Ransom Center. You can read the article the quote comes from here. Thanks to Don Share for pointing this out.


the solid or rickety stage you stand on

I am grateful to have come to poetry as a woman and as a mother, joyfully connected to the reproductive rhythms of the living earth, fearfully awakened to the possibilities of the future, the environmental dangers we now face on a global scale. The heroic maternal practice of intimate, daily caring of growing children, with very little social support, while at the same time competing with less-encumbered colleagues in the professional arena, taught me strength and courage to wrestle with the pervasive despair of our time, to reach beyond the fashionable postmodern stances of irony and exposé and shared narcissisms toward more intersubjective, recreative, reparative strategies to confront the daunting challenges of our age.

There is mystery at the heart of poetry: people want to know the recipe, but there is none. There is what Don McKay calls "poetic attention," to the beauty and ugliness, joy and suffering, of everything around you, there is the heightened attentiveness to sound, rhythm, image, breath, spacing. The grand struggle with form, the impossible leap between the blood, the wild heart, rooted in primitive, fantastic memories and sensations and dreams and desires, and the page in front of you, the here and now, the material world in front of you, the solid or rickety stage you stand on.

- Di Brandt, in her afterword to the book Speaking of Power: The Poetry of Di Brandt.