no amount of looking would make that pilgrim's art / make sense

When I approached Daniel Karasik with a request to republish his poem "The Pilgrim Looks Up" on One Ghana, One Voice, I mentioned that I was also considering writing a “How Poems Work” essay on it. Daniel sent me a reply confirming he was happy to have the poem republished, and even went so far as to offer me his own take on a “How Poems Work” essay for “The Pilgrim Looks Up.” It was two words long: It doesn’t.

So begins my new How Poems Work essay over at One Ghana, One Voice. Needless to say, I reject his summary (almost) completely, and go from there.Thanks to Daniel for being a sport with this.

You can read the whole thing here:

How Poems Work #7: Rob Taylor on Daniel Karasik's "The Pilgrim Looks Up"

Inspired? If anyone out there feels like writing How Poems Work essays on poems written by Ghanaians or about Ghana, check out our submission guidelines.


deftness has become a substitute for compassion

I do not mean to make the “eat your vegetables because there are starving children in India” argument. But, also, c’mon. While many of the world’s poets are deeply preoccupied with war and hierarchy, with exploitation and power, there is a pervasive sinisterlessness in American poetry. There is hash and rehash of the quotidian, an alarmlessness, a niche of the nada. Deftness has become a substitute for compassion. Style a stand in for thinking and feeling...

Because so many poets face extreme violent risks in the world — and I do not mean the false risks extolled in America’s writing workshops — there is a need for American poets to own up to and reject our sheer terrorlessness, to reject aesthetic fetishization in favor not only of examining the barbarism of human experience but also in being less existential and more confrontational of our own complicity in favoring an art of theory over an art of life.

- David Biespiel, on kids these days, over at The Rumpus. It's a sharp and very quotable little essay, well worth a look - you can read the whole thing here.

Thanks to the Vehicule Press blog for pointing this out.


the podiatry oughta be worth some beeswax

Stuart Ross recently had some fun with Al Purdy's poem "At the Quinte Hotel" (you know, that one with Gord Downie in it) for an A-frame fundraiser in Toronto. Ross starts with an intro re: the A-frame and the Toronto event - if you know about all that, you can skip to 1:26 for his explanation of his remodeling technique, followed by the poem. Enjoy!

p.s. If you want to pitch some of your beeswax money towards the A-frame (and my stay therein), you can do so here!


Al Purdy A-frame Residencies Announced

The first seven writers-in-residencies for the Al Purdy A-frame have been announced, and I'm on the list! Needless to say, I'm ecstatic - and humbled to be selected and in such fine company. I found out my application had been accepted a while ago, but it's only now starting to sink in. My turn isn't until 2015, though, so I still have some time to get my head around it!

Here's the full press release:


Seven Canadian writers chosen for A-frame residency in first two years

January 21, 2014

For immediate release

AMELIASBURGH, Ont. – Seven Canadian writers have been chosen for the first working retreats at the Al Purdy A-frame house in Prince Edward County. They were chosen from dozens of submissions.

The seven are Katherine Leyton, Sue Sinclair, Nick Thran, Kath MacLean, Laurie Graham, Rob Taylor and Helen Guri.

“I’m so excited about the projects,” said Jean Baird, president of the Al Purdy A-frame Association. “The first writer-in-residence will be in the house by July.”

The A-frame house was built on Roblin Lake in 1957 by the late Al Purdy, one of Canada’s greatest poets, and his wife, Eurithe. Thanks to the generosity of Eurithe Purdy and donors from across Canada, the A-frame was acquired in 2012 by the Al Purdy A-frame Association, a national non-profit organization with a mandate to promote Canadian literature and to preserve the home as a retreat for future generations of Canadian writers.

The A-frame, a cottage beside Roblin Lake, was the centre of Purdy’s writing universe and a crossroads on Canada’s literary map. In their 43 years there, the Purdys hosted a who’s who of Canadian authors: Margaret Laurence, Milton Acorn, H.R. Percy, Michael Ondaatje and hundreds of others.

The Al Purdy A-frame Association gratefully acknowledges the generosity of all donors to the project. They are crucial to the success of this effort.

Special thanks are extended to major donors ($5,000 to $40,000): The Glasswaters Foundation, The Good Foundation, Avie Bennett, The Metcalf Foundation, George Galt, The Chawkers Foundation, Michael Audain, Jeff Mooney and Suzanne Bolton, Leonard Cohen, Rosemary Tannock, Tom and Helen Galt, The Griffin Foundation, Harbour Publishing, and Yosef Wosk.

For a full list of donors, go to alpurdy.ca.

Fundraising efforts continue and are critical to the success of the writer-in-residence program. Online donations are being accepted through PayPal at alpurdy.ca, www.canadahelps.org or cheques may be sent to The Al Purdy A-frame Association, 4403 West 11th Ave., Vancouver, B.C. V6R 2M2.

The Al Purdy A-frame Writers-in-Residence, 2014-2015

Katherine Leyton lives in Toronto. Her work has been published in various reviews and newspapers, including The Edinburgh Review, The Malahat Review and The Globe and Mail. She is the founder of HowPedestrian.ca, a video poetry blog. In addition to working on her own writing at the A-frame, Katherine plans to travel in the region and through her blog promote the poetry of Al Purdy and other local poets.

Sue Sinclair is a highly acclaimed poet and novelist living in Montreal. Among her published works are four books of poetry and three novels. Sue is completing a PhD in philosophy, and at the A-frame will work on a series of poems investigating theories of beauty, including its relationship with human technology.

Nick Thran is a widely published writer of poetry and prose. His book of poems titled Earworm won the 2012 Trillium Book Award for Poetry. He will undertake two projects during his time at the A-frame: completing work on poems for his third manuscript, and an essay incorporating his experience at Roblin Lake and what it means to be a Canadian poet in today’s social and political environment. Nick lives in Montreal.

Kath MacLean, a writer and filmmaker living in Edmonton, spent a week with Al and Eurithe Purdy when they lived in Victoria, B.C., and looks forward to residing where Al did so much of his writing. She will be working on a collection of poems based on the actions, manners and etiquette of characters found in the Nancy Drew mystery series. And as a certified Ontario teacher, she proposes to involve local students in the project.

Laurie Graham plans to use her time at the A-frame to complete a series of poems about the North-West Resistance, tracking events involving the Cree, Métis and government forces in the spring of 1885. It is a time-consuming and research-heavy project supported by a 2012 Canada Council grant. Laurie, a native of Alberta, lives in Toronto and is assistant editor of Brick magazine. Her first collection of poetry, Rove, was published by Hagios Press in Fall 2013.

Rob Taylor is the author of The Other Side of Ourselves, a collection of poems published in 2011 by Cormorant Books. He is working on a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of British Columbia, and on a second collection of poems. Al Purdy’s writing has had a major influence on Rob’s style, and working at the A-frame will be like a homecoming for him. He plans outreach with the local community to promote and expand the writer-in-residence project.

Helen Guri is the author of Match, a collection of poems published by Coach House Books in 2011. Her poetry column on Random House of Canada’s Hazlitt website was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2013. She plans to continue work on her second collection of poetry, tentatively titled Oracle, during her residency at the A-frame. Helen lives in Toronto.


fantastic reading alert!

This week's Twisted Poets reading features two silaron favourites: Raoul Fernandes and Mariner Janes (you can read a poem of Raoul's on this site here and a poem and interview with Mariner here). One of these two featuring would make for a good evening - the two of them back-to-back is an event! Don't miss it!

The details:

Twisted Poets Literary Salon
Thursday, January 23rd, 7:00 PM
The Cottage Bistro
4468 Main Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Raoul Fernandes and Mariner Janes
$5 (suggested donation)

You can RSVP via Facebook here.


an Ontario usage

My agent introduced me, when Jean and I were making an anthology, to the term "A-List Writers." I immediately assumed that it is an Ontario, or maybe Toronto, usage. You know that I deplore the shift of attention (by newspapers, etc.) from books to book prizes. I can see that fiction writers might be tempted (or if they are UBC Creative-Writhing students, trained) to make a career of writing, but for the life of me, I cannot understand a poet's wanting to do that. If you want a career, you have to produce something that resembles what is already there, don't you?

- George Bowering, in interview with Judith Fitzgerald, as published at the back of Bowering's new poetry collection, Teeth, Poems 2006-2011 (Mansfield Press, 2013).


i want to encounter whole persons in literature

Music hasn't always preceded theme for me. Sometimes I've been discursive to a fault. I find this balance hard to manage. What I crave is a music that's fused with and carries meaning. Detached from meaning, or without much meaning to bear, music can still give pleasure, and who am I to thumb my nose at pleasure? But it's rare that I get a memorable pleasure from poetry that's just music and wit. Music may precede theme when I write a poem, but it doesn't precede urgency, need, feeling, a vague but insistent sensation that something has to be said. I don't think that's writing "from the head." I think it's writing from the whole person. I want to encounter whole persons in literature, not just body parts (head, ear, heart, etc).

- Daniel Karasik, in interview with me over at One Ghana, One Voice. You can read the whole thing here, and the poem that inspired the discussion here.


a perfect storm

For those of you who weren't lucky enough to be on The Malahat Review's newsletter mailing list, which experienced a rather spectacular reply-all unsubscribe email storm today, I have compiled a summary in the form of a found poem. A few well-known writers chipped in by composing some of the individual lines, but for their sakes I will keep their identities secret.

- A found poem sourced from the Malahat Review's mailing list email storm of 2014

Hi, please remove me from the mailing list. 
Please remove me too.
I don't understand why it came to me.
this is the fourth email ive rec'd from this list
Somethings up. I'm getting these notices too.
Same here—I’m getting requests to be removed from the Malahat list.
These emails are going to everyone on the list...
This could get very messy very quickly.
You can remove me.
I am also getting unsolicited information about this
People, we’re all getting all the e-mails
Me too. I don’t know why.
I have also received several emails from people wishing to be off the list. Please remove my name from the list as well. Thank you.
Please stop replying to the group address. It goes to everyone on the list.
Please can you fix this bug?
This probably shouldn't be there!
Hi strangers! I'm in the same boat. Maybe this is the start of a beautiful new friendship! Lalalalalaaaaaa!
I just received an email from...
I have no idea why these e-mails are reaching my box.  Please remove me from the list if you are able to do this.  
Please fix this shit. Hundreds of people are getting copied.
Please, please no more: ALL of your emails go to EVERYONE on this listserv.
Let's all stop hitting Reply All, please! This will go on all night!
I've also received this message.
Attached please find a photo of my cat. Please send me photos of your cats.
Stop emailing. Stop replying. 
Please do remove me from all Malahat spam lists. 
Again: please don't reply to the mailing list address. Thanks.
I assume my request to be removed from this list has also cluttered up many in-boxes. And that this one will also.

Yeah please remove me too y'all


do I look like the Answer Man?

Judith Fitzgerald: What makes a poet a poet?

George Bowering: What a terrible question! I mean how should I know? I mean that's for me to know and you to find out. I mean if I told you we'd both know. I mean do I look like the Answer Man? I mean you tell me, and we'll both know. I mean it depends on a lot of variables. I mean, we're working on it.

Okay, it's time for me to quit futzing about, if that is what I have been doing.

What makes a poet a poet?

1. Insatiable curiosity about the facts.
2. An ear that likes what words do other than designate.
3. A desire to continue the work.
4. A lot of skepticism.
5. A love for oneself as a stranger to oneself.
6. A highly competitive ego-loss.
7. Compassion on the part of one of the nine muses.
8. The inability to leave the house without a book in hand.
9. A record of failing one class in high school.

- George Bowering, in interview with Judith Fitzgerald, as published at the back of Bowering's new poetry collection, Teeth, Poems 2006-2011 (Mansfield Press, 2013).