"Weather" Book Launch and Tour

My new book, Weather, is almost here! If you're in the Lower Mainland, I will be launching the book in Port Moody on May 24th. The event will take place at the Old Mill Boathouse, next to Rocky Point Park, where I wrote much of the book!

I will be joined by dear friends and brilliant poets, Kayla Czaga (whose new book, Midway, was just published) and Raoul Fernandes. The event is free and open to all, and will be kid-friendly (read: snacks!).

The details:

Weather - Book Launch and Reading
Featuring: Rob Taylor, with special guest Kayla Czaga
Hosted by Raoul Fernandes

Friday, May 24, 2024, 7 PM
Old Mill Boathouse
2715 Esplanade Ave.
Port Moody, BC

Poster time:

In advance of the launch, I will be embarking on a quick four-city tour of the Southern Interior of BC with fellow new-release poet, and friend of the blog, Kevin Spenst. We'll be in Enderby on May 11th, Nelson on May 14th, Rossland on May 15th and Kelowna (with Dallas Hunt, Matt Rader and Cole Mash) on May 16th

You can learn more at those individual links, or in these news articles, or by reading this poster:

If you're in the neighbourhood for any of these events, know that I'd love to see you there!


on the way to knowing

Kate Dwyer: I worry that—in America at least—the act of critical thinking is being devalued from a cultural perspective. Do you notice that as a thinker or teacher?

Anne Carson: That’s part of the thing that made me start thinking about hesitation. The last few years I was teaching, I was teaching ancient Greek part of the time and writing part of the time. And the ancient Greek method when I was in school was to look at the ancient Greek text and locate the words that are unknown and look them up in a lexicon. And then find out what it means and write it down. Looking up things in a lexicon is a process that takes time. And it has an interval in it of something like reverie, something like suspended thought because it’s not no thought because you have a question about a word and you attain that as you go through the pages looking for the right definition, but you’re not arrived yet at the thought. It’s a different kind of time, and a different kind of mentality than you have anywhere else in the day. It’s very valuable, because things happen in your thinking and in your feeling about the words in that interval. I call that a hesitation.

Nowadays people have the whole text on their computer, they come to a word they don’t know, they hit a button and instantly the word is supplied to them by whatever lexicon has been loaded into the computer. Usually the computer chooses the meaning of the word relevant to the passage and gives that, so you don’t even get the history of the word and a chance to float around among its possible other senses.

That interval being lost makes a whole difference to how you regard languages. It rests your brain on the way to thinking because you’re not quite thinking yet. It’s an absent presence in a way, but it’s not the cloud of unknowing that mystics talk about when they say that God is nothing and you have to say nothing about God because saying something about God makes God particular and limited. It’s not that—it’s on the way to knowing, so it’s suspended in a sort of trust. I regret the loss of that.

- Anne Carson, in interview with Kate Dwyer over at The Paris Review. You can read the whole interview here


to balance an algebra not meant to be solved

When we absorb images, dance or music from a culture outside our own, we may project substantial misinterpretations, but it is also possible to receive the sense of what was intended: a face, a fright, an ode. A written poem in a foreign language is inscrutable. Someone has to ferry it across the difference... To translate a poem faithfully is to balance an algebra not made to be solved; a task for which it does not hurt to invoke the primordial spirits.

- Sadiqa de Meijer, from the essay "stilte/silence" in her essay collection alfabet/alphabet. 


poems do more than soothe or teach

We take poetry too seriously. This occurred to me as I reviewed the magazines my publisher, Biblioasis, sent to me in hefty boxes. When I first took up the form in the mid to late aughts, surrealism and irony were in. The hot new poets rarely said what they meant or meant what they said. They mixed Latinate and vernacular diction and wore the skinniest jeans I’d ever seen. For all their ingenious descriptions of the globalized, technological moment, these poets’ perspective seemed removed from the world, not transcendent but aloof. At worst, their poems were trifling, with little feeling or gravity. Where was the beating heart?

Then history took a turn: asylum seekers’ bodies strewn along European shores, Trump’s chintzy demagoguery, pandemic lockdowns and mass graves, neo-Nazi marches, police violence, historic wildfires, the air thick with ash. As daily life grew more surreal, the dominant voice in poetry became more direct and serious, more rooted in real individual experience. A new generation of literary gatekeepers emerged to facilitate this shift. A number of the magazines I read for this anthology opened with an editor’s note that solemnly reflected on the need to heal, both from the terrors of the recent past and from the legacy of genocide and slavery upon which the so‑called New World was built.

When this trend first emerged, I was excited to see so many poets write candidly and with real political rage about our denial of the past and the untenability of the status quo, often with the same technical adventurousness that drew me to poetry in the first place. At some point over the last decade, however, the content superseded the form. Canadian poets and magazine editors have confused good poetry with good politics. Many poems in journals today consist primarily of solipsistic observations, social justice tropes, and moralizing narratives delivered in a uniform first-person voice. They are wooden and boring. What’s worse, poets cheapen political subject matter when they treat it with formal laziness or as a platform to signal their virtue.

I don’t believe poetry has gotten worse. Great poems continue to be written and published, as I hope the anthology demonstrates. However, the editorial curation now skews heavily in favour of poetry with a social justice message, regardless of how (or how well) it’s written. This orthodoxy is stifling. I read hundreds of magazines in the course of a year, and sometimes it seemed like every other poem was about trauma or the politics of personal identity. Some of these were excellent, but many were indistinguishable fluff.

Poetry may be therapeutic, but it is not therapy. Poetry may be enlightening, but it is not pedagogy. The best poems do more than soothe or teach. They enter and alter our consciousness such that our perception of everything else is filtered through them.

- Bardia Sinaee, from his essay on editing Best Canadian Poetry 2024, "Line by Line." You can read the whole thing here.


we took the desert's role for granted


Those downtown institutions - the Sam the Record Man and HMV - are gone now, of course. Vintage Video was uprooted by developers. It doesn't seem to have taken in its new location, which Google Earth reveals is now a Wine Rack. 
Perhaps Netflix and other streaming services are sending young twenty-first-century minds rafting down tributaries of their own... But speed of scrolling, algorithmic assistance, and instant access weren't what my friends and I needed, even if we might've welcomed them as conveniences. We needed that long subway trip downtown. (We were the farthest stop west.) We needed the sobering disappointments and sporadic victories. We needed the longueurs that new technology seeks to close, as if abolishing boredom ever does anyone a favour. Mostly, we needed wind resistance. It took effort to cultivate our enthusiasms in a desert, but it's clear now that we took the desert's role for granted. Knowledge tends to stick when you've toiled for it. 

- Jason Guriel on acquiring physical media in the pre-internet age, from his book On Browsing.


in the absence of style a poem is hamstrung

... precision and technique are paramount. Without them a genuine style cannot be achieved, and no matter how clever the conceit, how deeply felt the emotion, in the absence of style a poem is hamstrung, its race brought to a premature halt. I can imagine several ways to measure the success of a poem or collection. As a common reader, I ask whether I want to read a poem or book again, while as a critic I ask whether I am compelled to write about the works in question. Poets, I suspect, ask whether there is anything to be learned, imitated, or, as T.S. Eliot had it, stolen. But the true test of style is more visceral. Does the poem prompt its reader, arrested yet suddenly moved, to abandon the book and take a breathless lap around the room?

- Nicholas Bradley, reviewing his selection criteria in picking the books in his omnibus review selected from Canadian poetry titles published in 2021, in the "Letters in Canada 2021" issue of University of Toronto Quarterly.


the 2023 roll of nickels year in review

2023 saw the addition of more of my favourite things here on the blog: eight new interviews and thirteen new quotes on writing. Those eight interviews put me over one hundred total! And more will be coming your way soon, including interviews with Gillian Sze and Sue Sinclair in the next issues of The Antigonish Review and ARC Poetry Magazine, respectively. And my Read Local BC Poetry Month series will be back for its fifth year. 

Far more important than any of that, in 2023 the Malahat Review Listserv experienced a second "unsubscribe" meltdown down (you can read my summary of the 2014 meltdown here). This time round, I opened up the opportunity to publish found poems drawn from the dozens of "unsubscribe" requests to all Listserv members, and poems poured in from Rhonda Ganz, Patrick Grace, Penn Kemp and more (you can read them all here).

Some of my favourite reads of 2023
On a personal level, 2024 was a very busy year, which largely explains the sparse posting! In addition to writing and teaching, I served as Writer-in-Residence at the University of the Fraser Valley in the winter, and then returned to campus to coordinate the Fraser Valley Writers Festival in the Fall. I also wrapped up edits on my next book, Weather, a companion piece to my 2016 collection The News, which will be published this Spring from Gaspereau Press.

Enough preamble! On to my review of my favourite posts of the year:

July 2023: On Display in My Mind: An Interview with Nick Thran
"I don’t see the engagement with other art forms in my poems as an interest, really. It’s just my life. Maybe it has to do with trying to rid oneself of the ego, of the preciousness that can sometimes accompany one’s identity as it relates to a singular art form. I think it’s important to think about the metaphor of an artistic diversity, like a biodiversity, as something that has the potential to save and sustain life. It never has made sense to me why anyone would impose a hierarchy of value upon, or a border between, an episode of Succession, an album by Frank Ocean, a quilt by Anna Torma, and a poem by Sarah Holland-Batt. And it has never made sense to me why I wouldn’t write about the ways any other person or group’s work has burrowed itself into my own consciousness, into my own point of view and practice. " - Nick Thran


November 2023: Listening For My Breath: An Interview with Délani Valin
"I’ve long had the sense that being Métis isn’t a checkbox we tick off, nor does it end with the knowledge of Métis ancestry. Being Métis is an ongoing process: a way of seeing, being, knowing and connecting. Being in relation with other Métis people helped me see this, and made me realize the validity of my own experience. It echoed the experiences of others, and was in some places distinct." - Délani Valin 


November 2023: The Poem's Hum: An Interview with Roger Farr
"At times I imagined what I was doing as a kind of psychoanalysis—deciphering exquisitely complicated “defense mechanisms” designed to throw me off the case. But the realization that I would never “get it right” was very liberating. I let go of any desire to “master” poetic language a long time ago, and instead learned to enjoy the free play and signification of words. It’s something I notice a lot of my writing students struggle with. For me, difficulty and complexity are an invitation into collaboration and creative problem solving. As a writer I thrive there." - Roger Farr


November 2023: Uncooperative with the Expected: An Interview with Dale Tracy
"Outside of poetry, I worry a lot about misunderstandings and about misrepresenting myself. But communicating with poetry circumvents those worries. There’s always more meaning in art than any one person can arrive at, so I have no impulse for readers that would get in their minds exactly what I have in mine. " - Dale Tracy
December 2023: Choosing Not To Cry: An Interview with Jane Munro
"There is a draining of the body when a lover goes and will not be replaced. I am hugely grateful for the fullness of life I have been given. But now solitude is to my soul what food is to my body. I feel a profound need, and gratitude, for the solitude that has come lately into my life, giving me time and space to write." - Jane Munro


December 2023: Close to the Barbed Wire: An Interview with Tāriq Malik
"It was a struggle pinning the words to the pages. Often, all I wanted to do was violently break open the language to express my own rage." - Tāriq Malik


December 2023: A Little Clearer and Cleaner: An Interview with David Zieroth
"write to find what the initial idea or inspiration wants me to find, and I feel this process not only creates action on the page but also is the most exhilarating and exciting in my life, and also the healthiest. " - David Zieroth

December 2023: Learning a Second Language When It Should Be My First: An Interview with Wanda John-Kehewin
"I wanted to use poetic elements like tone, diction, syntax, meter, form, etc. to weave my way through discovery and what it felt like to write in another language which wasn’t my own, but which was the only language I spoke. It felt foreign and still feels foreign to try to sound out Cree words, like I am trying to learn a second language when it should be my first. " - Wanda John-Kehewin

Happy New Year, all!