amongst books

amongst books

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Bibliophile

This morning on CKCU at 6am. Nigel Beale spoke to Tracy Quan, former prostitute and author of Diary of A Manhattan Call Girl: A Nancy Chan Novel, then John, our favourite blogger and literary gadabout about e-bay and then Richard Fitzpatrick about Canadian literature and customers in his used bookstore on Dalhousie in the Market. There was a brief bit of the Odyssey thrown in at the beginning and some lovely music from Amelie.
Lots of literary references thrown in to the Quan i-view: Flaubert, Colette etc. John's discussion of e-bay finds and techniques was quite interesting. He owns a play by Morley Callaghan that he got from Annex Books in Toronto...many other copies were destroyed in a fire. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat John on E-bay apparently. He's one of those last minute guys, but he doesn't use sniper software that places bids in the closing moments of the auction. No mention was made of my favourite place to buy books on line:
In his conversation with Fitzpatrick, Beale questioned the notion of buying Canadian literature for nationalisms sake. He also got Fitzpatrick to discuss some of his pet peeves about customers. At a recent half price sale, customers quibbled over the pennies. Fitzpatrick says he sells mostly reading books rather than collectables. His advice for anyone who's considering collecting is to collect what you love. It'll be interesting to hear subsequent shows. I'm advocating for Nigel to play the Moxy Fruvous song: My Baby Loves A Bunch Of Authors on his show. Now time for breakfast.

Dusty Owl - Open Mic

Last night at Swizzles. This was the Dusty Owl's annual fund raiser for the food bank. I am always so impressed with the DO's community spirit. Last night they raised quite a bit of money for the food bank and also filled two large boxes with food to donate. The place was packed for the opening act, Dave Lauzon. After Dave's instrumental (17 pedal) performance, there was a long open mic with a variety of performances. What stood out for me last night were Steve's impromptu backup singers, the Stevettes, including tambourine player, L.M. Rochefort's erotic and skilful poetry, a new guy named Moishe who shared his experiences growing up in Iqualuit, and a marvelous singer named Rhonda who sang a Billy Holiday song. The object of desire, the DO's cheap item to write a poem about, was a ball of twine; Six contestants riffed on the theme and the winner was Kitty, a regular, who often wins the OOD. The genorisity and warmth of the evening was marred somewhat by a few yahoos at the bar who yacked loudly during the whole set, and actually told people who complained to fuck off. Where's a bouncer when you need one? That's the first time I've actually felt uncomfortable at the Dusty Owl, and I hope that trend doesn't continue. Otherwise it was a lovely evening and I ate too much chocolate.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Andy Stochansky

at the CBC Radio taping of Fuse last night along with Andrew McPherson/Eccodek. This is only the second time I've heard Andy live and his voice is even stronger and more resonant in person than it is on his CDs. The problem with Fuse is that there's too much banter, but in between that were some great collaborations between Andy and Andrew.

Andy performed Shine (which has gone on to be a big hit for Shannon Noll of Australia for some reason); covered a song by The Waterboys called This Is The Sea, then performed a song from his upcoming CD. The song is called Foolish Heart and it is incredible.

When Andrew was in the spotlight, Andy got to play percussion with some brushes on the back of his guitar, and he even for the last song Voices Have Ears stuck his hands inside the open piano to play brushes in there! That was a bit scary, but it sounded great.

I was there to hear Andy really and he was phenomenal, but I also enjoyed Andrew as well.
Andrew stuff is quite different: ethereal, reminiscent of Brian Eno, Roxy Music type stuff. Eccodeck combines beats with all kinds of interesting world music, African drums, Turkish singers...At one point Andrew played the flute while Andy gently played the piano layered over some ambient sounds. Andrew was mellow and Andy was intense. Somehow the combination worked.
Andy's site is
and Andrew's site is

Not sure when the show will air, you can check out to find out more about the show.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Xmas Tree

Last night in the ever hot and steamy basement of the Royal Oak II. There was quite a turn out for this last Tree with James Moran as host and Jennifer Mulligan as treasure(r). This event, along with Midsummer Night's Tree in the summer, are the two readings where it is permissable to read "cover" poems, poems written by others (usually published writers). I always find these cover readings enlightening when it comes to understanding writers' influences. Eleven readers filled the open mic, reading everything from Shannon Bramer (picked by both Anita D and Jennifer L.) to the Surrealistic poet Paul Eluard and Samuel Beckett (Mark R.). It is sad to see James go as host; he has put so much energy into making sure that Tree has a sensational roster of writers from all over Canada, while still not neglecting the local community of writers. He also has a skill for listening to every kind of open mic reader: from the completely ridiculous (e-mails about meeting women in the tropics) to the neverending prose, to the occasional moments of genius in between. Rhonda Douglas takes over in January and has already announced the first featured reader, Jon Paul Fiorentino to read in early January.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The New Canon - Anthology of Canadian Poetry launch

last night at Art's Court. The sound wasn't great-all echo-y. For the launch of a Canadian poetry anthology, I expected a larger audience. This is the fourth anthology of Cdn poetry to come out in the past two years: Crozier and Lane's Breathing Fire 2, Pissing Ice edited by Fiorentino and MillAr, Open Field edited by Sina Queyras, and now this. A new anthology has just come out called Shift and Switch. Its Ottawa launch will be in January. I think it will be decidely more modern.

A few years back I spoke with Betty Gustafson whose husband Ralph edited the Anthology of Canadian Poetry in 1942, and The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse in 1958. She told me that some poets actually measured the amount of space they had in the anthologies and compared it to the other poets published.

I can see that anthologies lead to petty jealousies, and a new one edited by Starnino, a well known critic who's made a name for himself with scathing reviews, would be controversial. Calling a current anthology, The New Canon seems a tad arrogant somehow, especially when you believe that all poetry is perishable anyway. We'll have to see what the response is.

The reading itself was fine, not earth shattering, but not boring either. Due to the poor sound quality the first few poets were hard to hear. I enjoyed hearing Anita Lahey read a long Diana Brebner poem called Port about the pain of dealing with cancer, doctors etc. This poem affected me.

Other works that stood out were
David O'Meara's The War Against Television: to introduce the poem he commented that there is a difference between staring blankly due to attention and staring blankly due to inattention, or something like that...anyway, I liked what he said and the poem that followed, especially these opening lines: I know about the time, as a child, you'd stare/beyond far-off cottages on the opposite lakeside/wondering how it would feel to die..."

To introduce his poem, Nomad, David told an interesting story about taking a louage, a kind of five-person taxi in Tunisa to get from one place to another. David is good at in between poetry banter.

The other reader who made an impression on me was Geoffrey Cook. His poem The Seals At Green Rock was gorgeous, full of sound play and double entendre. Out of everyone who read, he was the one who seemed to still pay a lot of attention to sound and diction. I'll have to read thru the anthology more.

I am old fashioned in my need for poems to still sound like poems, to have cadence, strong diction and strong imagery, but that's what I like. As an exercise sometime, I'm going to do a list of current poems and poets, I'd include in my own anthology....nah, but wouldn't it be fun? Then I could write a really long introduction, and at launches talk longer than the poets.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Arc Reading- Collected Works

last Thursday. With all the literary events occuring on Thurs eve it was difficult to make a decision about which to go to. I was very tempted by the reading at the War Museum with Simic, Ede and Heighton, but I wanted to go to the Arc reading very much, so that's where I ended up. I barely got a seat because it was so crowded.

The new layout for Arc is wonderful; there's much more space. Is it my imagination or has the mag become more irreverant since Anita took over as eddy? Every issue plays with the whole "Canada's National Poetry Magazine" which people always took way too seriously anyway.

Anyway...about the reading.
It was good. The wine was plentiful, red being the favourite. In a room full of poets, always bet on red. I particularly enjoyed hearing Sylvia Adams read her winning poem, Water. I'd heard it before at Sasquatch and it lingered. Another poem that made an impression on me was Cock Pheasant by Karen Hoffman, about some old poet who was obviously a character and a good writer. It was read by one of the editors. It would be great to see an anthology of poems about poets, especially about poets that people have crushes on.

The subtitle of Arc, Canada's Smoking PoetryMagazine led to the smoking themed door prizes, ranging from old-fashioned ashtrays, smoking paraphenalia and rolling papers. It's nice to see a reading where things aren't stiff, where people relax a bit.

It was lovely to chat with people before and after the reading. I was heartened to see at least three Bywords published poets: Sandra, Stephen and Caleb at the reading.

We also heard a poem from Brebner's Ishtar Gate and a quote from Brebner's essay in the same book. Alas I can't remember which passage was quoted, but I'll put this snippet as versimilitude:
"We have the opportunity, through language... and, with spectacular openness, through poetry, to stand at the edge of the infinite holy wells, the portals and portholes that connect us all, whether in gulag shacks or laundromats, to our origin and our teleological destination.
And occasionally, for the patient watchers, the holy trout jumps up and a flash of rainbow and light is revealed. Then we are the poet and the poem, creator and created, observer and leaping fish, and heaven is ours."

My very favourite Brebner poem is "Snow Angels." Perhaps I'll read it at an upcoming Poetic Desserts or the Tree Xmas Tree reading this week.

I intend to go to the New Canon reading on Sunday eve at Arts Court. It's interesting the way there are so many anthologies of Canadian poetry out and about. I first thought this was some kind of new formalism thing, but apparently the writers thumb their noses at tradition. How can I resist?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Why I Write Erotica

I've just purchased a book by Brenda Ueland, "If You Want To Write A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit." This is what it says on the back: "In her 93 remarkable years, Brenda Ueland published six million words. She said she had two rules she followed absolutely: to tell the truth, and not to do anything she didn't want to do."

This is how I feel and that's why I think it's important for me to write stories about sex and sexuality, to be open and honest about it, in a time when we are once again being told we should be embarrased by our desires and sexual identities. I say no to that and I want to be a voice that readers can count on to show tolerance for all consensual adult sexual activity, to show the transformative nature of accepting one's sexuality.

I am so tired of mainstream fiction that depicts sex negatively or vaguely. I've heard writers and publishers substantiate this by saying that they don't want to arouse the reader and make him lose the point of their stories. That is such a crock of shit.

Writers arouse all kinds of emotion in a reader: hate, sorrow, joy, etc. They don't flash a scene of the fireplace when someone is crying because it might cause the reader to cry so hard, he can't finish the story. They live for that kind of reaction.

I write fictionthat depicts sex and sexuality in a positive light. I think it's more needed than ever. Would most people rather read stories where their urges and needs for sex and intimacy are a dirty shameful secret? I guess so, and so, big surprise, I'm not writing for the masses. I knew that.

I write for those souls who feel alienated from societal convention, the truth tellers and the blatantly unapologetic: the women who wear plus sized clothing and want to be seen as sexy, the kinky who aren't ashamed of being flogged or wearing rubber, the gay men who have come out of the closet and want their own romance stories, the lesbians who are treated cruelly by society....all of those who don't feel accepted and need positive sex stories.

Those are the people I write for. And I still want to make the stories riveting and not all fun and flaky, but with depth, sensitivity and conflict. It's a challenge, but one I feel is worth taking on. In my bios, I call myself a love anarchist. I want to speak out and I'm not afraid. At times I hear snarky comments about the fact that I write erotica, but so what? I've never really cared about what people think of me, and I'm not going to start now.

For an aritcle I wrote on this subject, please go to Voracity Beat:

Here are a few of my very kinky, sexually tolerant and often ridiculously zany erotic stories on line; I'm still really a beginner fiction writer, so I share these with you, even though I see flaws, cliches and crappy dialogue.

Others are on sites you have to subscribe to, so I can't give you links.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Of pomegranates, papaya, poems and chocolate

Despite the snowy evening, we had a wonderful turnout for Poetic Desserts. Eight of us read, listened and indulged in a variety of sweet offerings from the dangerous: chocolate truffles to the exotic: papaya and pomegranate; Seamus Heaney to Di Brandt. John read an Atwood poem thru his camera; Adam read his own poems plus Melissa's, I read a whole pile of poets' stuff and not all of the poets I chose were dead this time, a rarity for me apparently. Michelle read a bit of French poetry also. The next Poetic Desserts will likely have to be changed from January 1 to the 8th. It's really interesting to hear the selections everyone makes. You can see how they are influenced. It was no surprise to find Stephen chosing Heaney with his precision of language and grotesque imagery. Powerful stuff. John matched Stephen in gruesome imagery with a poem of Irving Layton's. I should have read Bukowski.