amongst books

amongst books

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sex First & Then A Sandwich

is my new chapbook of ghazals & anti-ghazals soon to be published by above/ground press on the occasion of the press's 19th anniversary.

to celebrate the anniversary, I am pleased to be reading with these wunderbar poets & friends: Cameron Anstee, Stephen Brockwell, & Marilyn Irwin.
the event takes place on Thursday, August 9 at 7pm at the Mercury Lounge. There's a $5 cover which includes an above/ground press chapbook.

above/ground is my fav small press because of the wide variety of work published & also because of how well the work is promoted. thanks to rob mclennan for his constant encouragement, guidance & hard work.  
in theory, a coupla my poems will be read (via the fancy mechanical tricks of Charles who recorded them for me & the CKCU radio folk) on Literary Landscapes tonight at 6:30pm. rob mclennan will be on the show, talking about the event with host Dave Currie. Another live interview on CKCU's Special Blend with Susan Johnston will take place on Friday, July 27 August 3 between 7-8am, featuring rob, Cameron & Marilyn.

also rob has done another one of his excellent media blitzes for the launch. I'll post links to relevant stuff when it's on line.
furthermore, I neglected to mention that the Puritan's new issue also contains recordings of the poems in the HTML version.

finally…I've made a  "Sex First & Then A Sandwich" playlist on Youtube.
1. MacArthur Park - Richard Harris
2. Seasons in the Sun - Terry Jacks
3. Nights in White Satin - the Moody Blues
4. I Want To Know What Love is - Foreigner
5. Everybody Hurts - R.E.M.
6. Desperation Row (cover) - My Chemical Romance
7. Cherry Bomb - the Runaways
8. These Boots Are Made For Walking - Nancy Sinatra
9. Sugar, Sugar - the Archies
10. Ballroom Blitz - The Sweet
for some reason it includes ads (sigh) , 70s music from my childhood & smarmy, angsty stuff from later on…we had joy we had fun…we had nightmares in the sun…ah the fuckupery that instigates poetry...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Publication News

The Puritan - Spring Issue has just published four ghazals from "ghazals against the gradual demise," a manuscript that has received funding from the Ontario Arts Council Writers' Reserve Program & the City of Ottawa's Creation and Production Fund for Professional Artists, much to my delight.

Puddles of Sky Press has made an elegant chapbook out of a visual poetry series of mine entitled "Of The Body."

My return to smut writing will be marked by the publication of a new story over at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association in September. Stay tuned...

Thank you for your kind attention. What's new with you?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Poetry, poetry

thoughts on the eve of a poetry workshop conducted by Stephen Brockwell

As a complement to our work, our dear instructor has provided us with some germane articles to read.

Philip Larkin presented some interesting perspectives about poetry in his Paris Review interview. His aim in writing a poem, he said, was "to construct a verbal device that would preserve an experience indefinitely by reproducing it in whoever read the poem." He wrote for anybody who would listen, rather than having a specific audience in mind. He never went to readings or read to an audience because he felt that an audience was missing a lot when hearing a poem aloud, "shape, punctuation, italics," & you have to follow the speaker's pace rather than your own: "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." I have to say I haven't heard that opinion expressed in many years & I think it can have some validity. I try to write my work so that it can stand up on both the page & aloud.

Larkin espoused the effects of Yeats, Hardy and Auden, "the management of lines, the formal distancing of emotion," "the poet should touch our hearts by showing his own," "the poet takes note of nothing that he cannot feel,"  "the emotion of all the ages and the thought of his own."
One of the most inspiring things I took from the article was this: "I think a young poet, or an old poet, for that matter, should try to produce something that pleases himself personally, not only when  he's written it but a couple of weeks later. Then he should see if it pleases anyone else, by sending it to the kind of magazine he likes reading. But if it doesn't, he shouldn't be discouraged. I mean, in the seventeenth century every educated man could turn a verse and play the lute. Supposing no one played tennis because they wouldn't make Wimbledon? First and foremost, writing poems should be a pleasure. So should reading them, by God."

I hadn't read any of his work before, so I popped into the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library, which has his collected poems, published just this year by Faber & Faber. Much of his early poetry is metered with heavy rhyme, but by the 70s it becomes more open. What struck me about his writing was his wit, his keen observations, memorable & unique imagery  & muscular diction. I recommend "This Be The Verse" from High Windows to one & all. It begins with the line "The fuck you up, your mum and dad." You've probably read it before. Do it again...There's a disenchantment with the way the world works in his writing that any post-modernist/post-post modernist would be at home with.

Seamus Heaney's Nobel Lecture from 1995 was quite different, also very inspiring. Having grown up in Northern Ireland, his main preoccupation with poetry seems to be the need to restore order. "I credit poetry, in other words, for being itself and for being a help, for making possible a fluid and restorative relationship between the mind's centre and its circumference." "Poetry can make an order as true to the impact of external reality and as sensitive to the inner laws of the poet's being as the ripples that rippled in and rippled out across the water in [a bucket]. He has found that he often needs the poem not only to be "pleasurably right but compellingly wise, not only a surprising variation played upon the world, but a re-tuning of the world itself. We want the surprise to be transitive like the impatient thump which unexpectedly restores the picture to the television set, or the electric shock which sets the fibrillating heart back to its proper rhythm."
Charles Bernstein, on the other hand, concentrates on the diversity offered in contemporary American poetry & its aversion to conformity. "It is particularly amusing that those who protest loudest about the fraudulence or aridness or sameness of contemporary poetry that insists on being contemporary, dissident, different, and who profess, in contrast, the primacy of the individual voice, fanned by a genteel inspiration, produce work largely indistinguishable from dozens of their peers and, moreover, tend to recognize the value only of poetry that fits into the narrow horizon of their particular style and subject matter. As if poetry were a craft that there is a right way or wrong way to do: in which case, I prefer the wrong way--anything better than the well-wrought epiphany of predictable measure--for at least the cracks and flaws and awkwardness show signs of life." I found this very heartening; although I think today we are seeing more hybrid forms, a combination of traditional narrative & lyric with contemporary sensibilities of dystopia & disjunction & the belief that we can't all speak with the same voice, as Bernstein says here: "We have to get over, as in getting over a disease, the idea that we can "all" speak to one another in the universal voice of poetry. History still mars our words, and we will be transparent to one another only when history itself disappears. For as long as social relations are skewed, who speaks in peotry can never be a neutral matter."

Louis Zukofsky defines & describes the mechanics of poetry in his statement. He sees poetry as "The rhythmic or intoned utterance that punctuates the movement of a body in a dance or ritual, aware of dead things as alive, as it fights animals and earth;" One of the most inspiring parts of his article for me was this: "If read properly, good poetry does not argue its attitudes or beliefs; it exists independently of the readers preferences for one kind of 'subject' or another. Its conviction is in its mastery or technique."

Gérard Genette talks about the poetry of Valéry in order to get at the question about whether word & concept are fixed, whether language is arbitrary. This tension between a conformity or not of language to a concept, of sound to a meaning is of central preoccupation to poets: "The nonmimetic character of language is thus, in a certain way, the opportunity and condition for poetry to exist. Poetry exists only to "remunerate," in other words, to repair and compensate for the 'defect of languages.' If a language were perfect, poetry would have no reason for being, since it would have nothing to repair."

Genette talks a lot about the difference between poetry and prose;  I found these differences to be absolute & not really in keeping with the poetry I'm reading or writing today. For example, he describes prose in analogy to walking, the object being to get to one's destination, a utilitarian goal, whereas poetry is likened to dance in its skill & its playfulness, its lack of goal. I ponder where prose poetry might fit in such a binary & have come to the conclusion that prose poetry is a wander, a chance to explore, to observe. Genette posits via Valéry et al that the basic character of poetic discourse is harmony between sound & meaning. Perhaps that was true in the time of the symbolists, but I think today many poets are more interested in disrupting or breaking that so-called harmony, or at least questioning it.

The articles have returned me to pondering once more about what makes a poem, what makes my poems. I am keen on being flexible in what types of poems I write, but in general, at least for now my sensibilities run less toward harmony, meter, reassurance, restoring order & more toward disjunction, listening to the variety of voices around me, avoiding artifice or elevated language, concern for erosion &delipidation, not having any answers only questions. I like Brenda Hillman's phrase "singing against singing" quoted in the Introduction to "Lyrical Postmodernisms: An Anthology of Contemporary Innovative Poetries" edited by Reginald Shepherd (Counterpath Press, USA, 2008). But I reserve the right to change at any moment…

Sunday, July 01, 2012

small press bounty

the spring edition of the ottawa small press book fair fair wasn't packed but there was a reasonable number of people, given the crazy hot temps outside & the holidaze. I was impressed with the vendors, quite a few from outside Ottawa, including Kingston & Montreal.

I had the chance to speak to the folk from Siren Song, a small press out of Montreal that published Bill Brown's wonderful short story collection "When Jupiter's Aligned with Mars." We have in common a love of transgressive fiction. Their magazine "Loose Canon: Fiction that Flies Under the Radar" is being brought back to life after a few years' haitus. I purchased the 2nd issue, which contains some of my favourite literary transgressors: Matthew Firth, Salvatore Difalco & Joel Williams, among others. Hell knows we need more venues for short fuck-you fiction.
I noticed a lot of fiction being hawked at this  year's fair, particularly short fiction. Sean Moreland was at a table to sell Postscripts to Darkness 1 & 2, the 2nd having come out recently. I'm looking forward to reading the second volume, which features stories & illustrations by a few of my favs, including Dominik Parisien, Brenda Dunn & an interview by James K. Moran. & apparently Kevin Matthews had a hand in the design too. Ottawans are a talented bunch.

I picked up a wee chappie entitled "Stage Right in the afterlife" a satire in one act by Ian Truman. Truman was there with another person whose name I didn't catch. she had  beautiful illustrations.

I received another packed envelope from rob mclennan as part of my above/ground press subscription. the press has been on fire with chapbooks this year. this envelope contained "The stone-boat heart: letters to Andrew Suknaski" by rob mclennan (Apostrophe Press), "Richter-Rauzer Variations" by Robert Mannery, "from Lamentations" by Robert Hogg & two broadsides by Natalee Caple & Sarah Pinder. the above/ground press & Chaudiere Books tables were packed with goodness, most of which i already own. Christine McNair was there selling copies of her book, "Conflict." & lots of people flocked to her table to buy the book, which was great to see.
I was very excited to talk to Michael e. Casteels of Puddles of Sky Press out of Kingston. he had a bunch of very cool chapbooks. I purchased one of his concrete poetry titles "Cave Paintings of the 21st Century," which was beautifully made. PoSP's got a microzine of surreal & concrete poetry called lliterature & it's currently looking for submissions. He had some freebies, so I picked up his "Sunset/Sunrise & Landscape 3" & "Mouse, a poem."

Monty Reid was manning the Arc table along with Frances Boyle & Kevin Matthews. He handed me a freebie copy of his latest chapbook, "Garden (dec unit) from France's Corrupt Press.  This is another in the series on gardening. Apparently I'm all about the freebies, I picked up some of Arc's poetry postcards for my wall o poetry. & did you know Arc now publishes 3 issues a year? It's good to see Arc participte in so many local activities. It's quite a bustling concern these days.
The Buschek Books table (actually 2 tables) was smokin' hot with poetry titles for 5 bucks, some were even $2. I picked up Chus Patos trilogy translated by Erín Moure, mainly because I'd read Pearl Pirie's blog entry some ways back on the books & was intrigued. I also purchased Rachel Zolf's "Her absence, this wanderer" (1999). just flipping thru now & in pen on pages 58: "I WUZ HERE…kaput" & "Tammy loves Derek, July 11, 1977"…um…book graffiti. I'm enchanted by surprises of such. on a more serious note, I am always interested to see the evolution of a writer's work, so this early book by Zolf was a great find.

Speaking of Pearl Pirie, she had a table for her phafours press. I always like the way Pearl sets up her table: she puts something beneath a table cloth to give the table a bit of a platform to showcase the work & this year she used strawberry baskets to hold the chapbooks. Hurray for creativity unleashed. I picked up two wee chapbooks, beautifully folded pieces of paper: "Sprockets Away" by Pearl Pirie & "Late Plate" by Gwendolyn Guth. the covers were sweetly designed. here's the 411 on phafours' name, if yr wondering: "The phafours in phavours press is a play on favours (as in party favours, as the first few things I gave out as that including some paku paku) and Pha-4, the gene that somehow governs the development of the pharynx, sphincter and longevity."

At Room3o2 Books jwcurry was offering acetate posters of his Unwanted series, which he would then, spraypaint a poster of. (thanks, Christine for the correction; i had thought he would spraypaint directly on yr walls. wrongo). I did pick up 4 to the 4th (sorry I have no bleeding clue how to do superscripts in Ms. Weird.). This booklet was published by Score of San Freaking Cisco, which is pretty cool.

from Apt. 9 Press I picked up the much coveted broadside by Bardia Sinae, "Keys to the Idiot" beautifully produced with linocut by Cameron Anstee. Cameron who is always very generous with copies of chapbooks freebied me Claudia Coutu Radmore's chapbook, "Accidentals," which won last year's bpNichol Chapbook Award.

from the freebie table I wasn't shy to snag quite a few volumes, including "Headlight 5, an anthology of poetry & fiction from Concordia in Montreal, 2 issues of the Prairie Journal & an issue of West Coast Line.

the Bywords/AngelHousePress table made a wee bit less than we usually do, but we had fun, managed to stay for the whole fair before collapsing into a 9-hour sleepathon. I missed a few tables because of my timing when I did my table walkabout, but on the whole got to chat with most folk at one time or another. my wee AngelHousePrint imprint for ephemera, Le Temps des Cerises, was sort of launched at the fair this time round (even though I've given out a few chapbooks under the imprint already). People ate up the cherries & kindly accepted the editions of one that I created with acrylic paint, wool, glue, scrap odds & ends of St. Armand paper & words this past winter & spring. I had a basketfull at the start of the fair & by the end only two poems remained. I'll have to get my paints out & make a new batch for the fall fair.

Thanks to all who came out. & for those who missed, hope to see you in the autumn. it's fun to get a chance to talk about the subversive beauty of chapbooks. I love them.