amongst books

amongst books

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vicious, Like A Yo Yo

[the first in my plunder blender series, with vast apologies to Lou Reed's Lou Reed's Vicious blended with the Osmond Brothers' Just Like A Yo Yo ... this is what happens when creativity is used for evil rather than good ;)]

Vicious, Like A Yo Yo

Vicious, you hit me with a flower
Well it's hard for me to see, how you got such a hold on me.
First I'm up, and then I'm down, then my heart goes around and around and around.
You do it every hour.
Oh baby you’re so vicious, vicious like a yo yo.

Vicious, You want me to hit you with a stick
Bet you five dollars I'm the only fool, who'll climb up a string for you.
And need I say I just can't break away, you control every little thing I do.
But all I’ve got’s a guitar pick,
Vicious like a yo yo

When I watch you come, baby I just want to run far away
I used to be a swinger,
til you wrapped me 'round your finger.
You’re not the kind of person around whom I want to stay,
Vicious like a yo yo.

When I see you walking down the street, I step on your hand and I mangle your feet.
Turnin', turnin' love keeps a-burnin' like a fire in my heart when we're apart,
but when we're back together, you keep changin' like the weather.
You’re not the kind of person that I wanna meet,
Vicious like a yo yo.

Vicious, hey, why don’t you swallow razor blades.
Where I go, and what I do, well it all just depends on you.
You build me up just to let me down, but I dare not to make a sound.
You must think that I’m some kinda gay blade,
vicious like a yo yo.

When I see you coming, I just want to run.
No matter what you say or do,
I gotta bounce right back to you.
You’re not good and you certainly aren’t very much fun,
Vicious like a yo yo

When I see you walking down the street, I step on your hand and I mangle your feet.
'Cause I'm so afraid you will cast me away like a beat up, worn out toy.
So I hold on tight with all my might, just to be your loving boy.
You’re not the kind of person that I even wanna meet.
Because you’re vicious, vicious like a yo yo

Monday, May 19, 2008

John Barton

read yesterday afternoon at the Dusty Owl to a small but engaged and attentive audience. For an insightful entry on John’s poetry, please visit the May 14 entry of my friend Marcus McCann’s blog.

John read poems from his book Hypothesis (Anansi, 2001), poems from his forthcoming book Hym (Brick Books), some ekphrastic poems based on the art of Paul Cadmus and new work.

What I particularly enjoyed were the unusual combinations of words that added up to form a memorable image or took us in a surprising direction. Especially fun were what he referred to as his botched up glosas (sometimes using five lines from another poet’s poem, instead of four) and a botched up Chant Royal, a variant of the ballad form which is supposed to include a refrain but in this case, John forgot it, which he said made the poem a little less royal.

I have to say that John Barton’s work, like a lot of other poetry, didn’t really get my attention, until the launch of Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay Male Poets (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007), but faced with many distractions and other stuff to read, I didn’t read anything further of John’s. The reading at the Owl was a great opportunity to give his work a fair listen.

I found the poems to be compassionate, loving and playful. I like poetry that succeeds in writing about sex and about love without the cheese. It’s not easy to do. There aren’t enough romantic poems about men loving men, are there? John Barton, I think, succeeds in writing a modern day romantic lyric love poetry between men. And this is fabulous. And then there is the fact that he deals with HIV/AIDS in his poems without sounding overly tragic, too preachy or didactic.

John places the subjects of his poems who have HIV/AIDS in commonplace settings and in hospitals and hospices. It is a realistic and not overly romantic or gothic portrayal. I go back and find him in one of my favourite anthologies, Written in the Skin: A Poetic Response to AIDS (Insomniac Press, 1998). Basically, the man’s work has been on my shelf for years and has just been sitting there waiting for me to discover it, which is what happens to me frequently with writers.

Here’s one of the poems John read from Hypothesis:


There are no pockets in the shroud.
--Edmund White

The Living Room

Their rubbish alone was left.
He was a vacant lot,
he had become an exemption.
The squares of his mind were empty.
--P.K. Page, “In Memoriam”

At the drop-in clinic near the centre
of town, I namelessly drop off
cotton shirts wrinkled as grey skin
to be slung on hangers and rifled through
by men whose flesh thins under the shaking
force of their scapulae, the deft
articulation of fingers, a memory
as they thumb through gaunt fabric—
the colours so bereft
their rubbish alone was left.

Even as I drive away, a man buttons
wash-worn cotton about his body
as it vanishes, ribs rising through
jaundiced skin like stains as he breathes
haltingly, or so I think, driving away
with my fears intact, overwrought
about whatever might or might not be
deadly in my own blood, haunted
by my one parting thought:
He was a vacant lot.

Against my will, I slip inside
his flesh. Its slim vitality sits
amply on my shoulders as I drive uptown
every remaining bit of pleasure to be
had from it an undiscovered country
lying within reach, vague satisfaction
of desires unable to die
with him, the body a cairn, fog
lifting as I pause at an intersection.
He had become an exemption.

His world opens up: his death is my death
his love my love, the men he kissed
and held are men like us who’ve passed
through the ordinary arms of several others
dates in loose cotton shirts who drove us
home after the movies, each entreaty
to love made on nights when warm was wanted.
Guys who made us feel safe not cautious.
One foolhardly night he fleetingly felt free.
The squares of his mind were empty.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Monty Reid

read from his latest book, “The Luskville Reductions” and performed live music with Sarah Hill and Mike Rivoche at Rasputins last night.

Brick Books graciously provided wine and snacks, all prepared lovingly by Dean Verger, Rasputins proprietor, who also hosted the event and knows quite a bit more about Monty than I think even Monty realized. It's always a surprise for those who know Monty from one group to learn that he is involved in music or poetry or that he works at the Canadian Museum of Nature and has hung out with the dinosaurs of Drumheller, Alberta. The cafe was packed full of friends from all three worlds.

The Luskville Reductions is a long poem (or poem series) about Monty’s time living in Luskville, Quebec in the 1990s, where he first moved to the area from out west with his then wife. The relationship ended and Monty wrote these poems. He has been reading off and on from a selection of this work since I first heard him read in the early oughts or 2000s, if memory serves. Some of these poems are in 01 (2001).They are sad, minimalist and deftly wrought. Brick has done a fine job of publishing them too. The cover of a rock formation, “Erosion in Granite” by Adrian R. Searle is beautiful and apt.

I’m looking forward to reading the whole long poem and think I have to go somewhere in nature to do so. What Monty read last night was achingly beautiful, heart-rending, sometimes bitter and deeply personal. Here’s one of my favourite bits from last night's reading:

The light
which is just a filament

that resists
is on late

and the moths
always the same

soft-hinged moths
accumulate on the screen.

Their antennae
bend up into the technologies

signals of disaster enrich them
they know the talks have failed

the light that burned so late
is going out

and the visible
has become just another invention.

They close their wings.
This is as close

as they can get.

[p. 33, The Luskville Reductions, Brick Books, 2008]

After that it was wonderful that there was music, not to lighten the mood, but to sustain the beauty. Monty played guitar and sang, Sarah Hill played fiddle and sang, and Mike Rivoche played the cello, an instrument that barely fit on Rasputins intimate stage. Most of the songs were written by Monty, some of them based on the poems in the book, such as the one about the little black dress. Another The Luskville Mud was a wonderful murder ballad and another was about taking the ferry to Quyon. I was really impressed with the lyrics and the way the three performers seemed to work so well together.

The loveliest discovery of the evening for me though was the mesmerizing voice of Sarah Hill. She has an excellent vocal range going from husky lows to sweet highs. The trio performed a song she wrote called “Get up and Go,” which was a lot of fun. Sarah’s voice reminded me quite a bit of that of Margo Timmins and I’d love to hear her perform that old Hank Williams song that Margot covers so well, "Mining for Gold."

The whole evening was a celebration and felt nostalgic to me somehow, to see so many of Monty’s friends and so many of us from the literary community, sharing conversation, poetry, melancholy, music and wine. And to hear Monty read from what is hopefully the end of a grieving period. And then to walk out into the night with good friends....To those of you who would have been there, if you could, like rob, a splash of red wine your way.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Canada’s (Sexiest) Postmodernists

[the disclaimer: the people listed herein were chosen based on their involvement with the Canadian Literature Symposium, Re: Reading the postmodern, which took place from May 9 to 11, 2008 at the University of Ottawa, the Avant Garde Bar and the Atomic Rooster Pub. no claim is made that those listed are actually followers of postmodernism, nor is this list meant to be an exhaustive list of all the sexy Canadian postmodernists who are alive or were alive at one point. the list merely reflects the writer’s fascination with the ideas, the inner beauty and in certain cases the charisma and animal magnetism of those listed. the writer apologizes for not creating lists in the past of Canada’s sexiest female writers, but is left with the conundrum that many of her sisters often feel that referring to women as sexy is a type of objectification and does not wish to create that idea. men may feel objectified but the writer is not sure that they do or if they do, she is not sure that they mind. regardless, objectification of anyone is not the writer’s intent. this is, of course, a controversial subject and the writer is stepping into a pile of doo doo by raising the issue. by not including women, the writer could be considered as guilty of not taking into account their amazing contributions, of which they were legion at the conference and clearly in the field of study itself, for that reason the word “sexy” is in parentheses, so that those of you who do not like its use can remove it and substitute “provocative” or “intelligent” or a word of your choice that is complimentary and reflects your own understanding of a positive assessment. you will note that reverse alphabetization has been used for the purposes of avoiding the uncomfortable position of ranking; the writer of this entry by no means suggests that A is more important in the hierarchy of letters than Z or versa vice and finally, for those who have not been included on this list, it doesn’t mean that you are not sexy, but rather that, overwhelmed with the plethora of sexy postmodernists around her, the writer has missed you this time and this is a flaw of her own.]

Jason Wiens, for his talk “Bowering, Postmodernism and Canadian Nationalism: A Short Sad Book,” which made me think about the role of the narrator in fiction and the idea of “shove over reader,” as quoted from the ever playful Bowering’s book (he should also be here in this list by the way, but he didn’t come to the symposium, alas). who is the reader and who is not the reader? this topic arose for me throughout the conference. at once point a panelist spoke of the reader as a separate entity and this surprised me because the entire room was made up of people who read the works, even as they write about them and study them. seeing the reader as someone outside is to me an interesting and potentially problematic point of view for writing. another SCPM (sexy Canadian Postmodernist) Alexander MacLeod raised the issue that the most well-known criticism of the work of Robert Kroetsch is by Robert Kroetsch himself, once again making me wonder if those who study literature do not see themselves also as readers. another talk on postmodern cultural workers and the institutionalization of Canadian poetries by Karis Sheerer was one in which the role of writers who act as their own critics, whose work and critical work is studied in universities and who publish themselves and others who are in their specific area, perhaps one could say subgenre, was questioned. i have heard this line of argument before and have to say that i find it preposterous precisely because it does not take into account the fact that writers are primarily readers and critical thinkers. if we were to silence ourselves from talking about our work and the work of those we admire, there would be next to no critical writing in existence today. i also thought that Sheerer could have spoken about the role of the internet and the dissemination of writing about writing through blogs, for example, but of course, a 20-minute limit for each speaker made this sort of thing not possible.

Andy Weaver, not just for his fascinating talk on Darren Wershler Henry’s the tapeworm foundry, a talk that played with that hoary old literary concept of the sublime, but more particularly for his fantastic reading at the Atomic Rooster. i was fortunate to get a copy of "were the bees" (NeWest Press, 2005)

Fred Wah, for his brilliant essays and poetry and the innovative nature of his work, as demonstrated by his reading at the Avant Garde bar from his latest collection “Sentenced to Light” see some of the text on Fred here. i discovered Fred through the amazing Philly talks organized by Louis Cabri. it was rob mclennan, my great friend and mentor who put me on to the talks. the one with Fred and Brian Kim Stephens is a fascinating, by the way. i picked up Faking It: Poetics & Hybridity (NeWest Press, 2000) thank goodness, but missed my chance to get a book of essays by Dennis Cooley.

Peter Thompson, for his innovative paper on ecocriticism, which made me think about the role of reverence in contemporary Canadian poetry, something that i find difficult to understand not only because it feels so old and unprogressive, but also because it distances the writer/readers from nature to such an extent that it makes it difficult to believe it is a healthy way of looking at the environment as something outside ourselves or remote from ourselves. Thompson remarked that ecocritics are not taking into account writing that deals also with urban environments and that this is problematic. this made me want to return to some of the nature poets i have read before but haven’t been able to get into, because a) i have never seen a cormorant and b) i don’t really like lichen all that much.

Christine Stewart, not only for her provocative and powerful talk on Catriona Strong’s Low Fancy, and the consideration of whether language is already charged or whether the writer puts the charge in the word through a consideration of different translations, but also for her reading at the Atomic Rooster of “bridges,” which was captivating and mesmerizing. i snapped up a copy of “from Taxonomy,” her chapbook from West House Books and am looking forward to reading it. i already have and suggest you should pick up “The Trees of Periphery” Alberta Series # 3 (above/ground press, 2007)

Jenn Stephenson for her talk on metatheatricality in Canadian millennial drama. i found the concepts used by the playwrights in these plays to be a rich and imaginative territory to explore in writing. reminded me very much of the concepts of Pirandello’s play Six Characters in Search of An Author from the 1920s. interesting to me that these concepts of metatheatricality and metafiction are posited as something new and yet they aren’t, but perhaps haven’t been taken up as much as they should have by contemporary writers.

Robert Stacey, the orchestrator of the event and the hands-on co-ordinator. so much thought and attention has gone into the making of this symposium. the man is enthusiastic, hard working, friendly, supportive, a force and damn easy on the eyes. a shout out also to his graduate students and all they did, particularly Malcolm Sutton. i can’t say enough either about the internal and external beauty of the University of Ottawa team. to be subject to the exquisite combination of beauty, caring and intelligence is heady and inspiring.

Sylvia Söderland, for her audacious paper “F#&% the Ineffable!: the Allegorical Intention in Ghostmodernism.” i don’t recall the audience ever being given the finger over and over at a conference before, but then I was a child during the early Trudeau years.

Karen Sheerer, for her talk on the institutionalization of Canadian poetries; see entry on Jason Wiens. i was surprised she wasn’t challenged more by the audience.

Susan Rudy for her keynote address on Why Post Modernism Now. i believe it was Susan who mentioned the social activist poetry of Jeff Derksen. if i could add a category for sexiest audience members and their questions it would go to my friend Mark Schaan who asked an intelligent question concerning the role of poets, social activism and caricature. personally and sadly, mostly when i read do gooder poetry, it makes me yawn with its banality and reminds me of the position on high of writers from the 19th or 18th centuries. i find it patronizing to be told what to think and why i should think it by anyone.

Ian Rae, not just for his talk on Anne Carson’s the Fall of Rome from Glass, Irony and God, but also for his provocative and intelligent questions throughout the panels.

the Max Middle Sound Project composed of Max Middle and John Lavery for their performance at the Atomic Rooster. i love this stuff they do. i had never been exposed to any sound poetry until i first heard Max at Cafe Nostalgica back in 2002 or 2003. later on i would get to hear the amazing jwcurry and be blown away also. i would love to have the lack of self consciousness to do what they do. i worship sound and especially sound which as Steve McCaffery (who would be on the list if he were at the conference) has said shifts the pattern of meaning from the literal.

rob mclennan, who is on every sexy list i have because he is beautiful, intelligent, inspiring, supportive and just plain fun, and whose reading at the Mercury Lounge on the eve of the conference was enjoyable as always. see his entry on the conference here

Alexander MacLeod, not just for his robust talk, mentioned above, but also for his the fact that almost every panelist referred to him in their discussions and also for his excellent and engaging questions and the raw physical beauty of these maritimers always stuns me.

Robert Kroetsch, for so many things, the sensuality and double entendres in his poetry, his kindness and approachability, his wonderful reading at the Atomic Rooster and his talk at the end of the conference about the creation of boundary 2. see an intense photo of Robert here.

Linda Hutcheon for her perspective as someone who is no longer involved or not very much involved in postmodern literature anymore and yet one of the primary writers about postmodernism, even if she didn’t write much about poetry, i learned, and for her raising of other contemporary literartures. when she talked about the start of the graphic novel as being Art Spiegelman’s Maus in 1981, i did wonder whether she had given any thought to the surrealist and dadaist works of the early twentieth century, such as the work of Max Ernst. to me this is really the beginning of the graphic novel, or perhaps the cave painting is.

Frank Davey, for the way in which he disrupted his own narrative at both his reading at the Atomic Rooster, by placing an alternate text on the screen to pay attention to as well as his reading, and when his papers fell to the floor and they were unpaginated, so that he read from them pell mell. this caused me to think about starting a new literary movement which i refer to as pellmellism. also a fascinating talk with him and Cheryl Cowdy Crawford, and later Christian Bök about sound poetry and voice recognition software and translation.

Cheryl Cowdy Crawford for her paper on reading the suburb as a (Canadian?) (postmodern?) space, which made me think about treating cartography as language and also made me think, as Peter Thompson’s paper did, about urban spaces and how to translate them into text or even visual poetry.

Dennis Cooley for so many things, including his essays and poetry, of which i am a huge fan, but also for his friendliness and approachability throughout, his talk on the postmodern writer abroad and his reading from Bloody Jack at the Atomic Rooster.

Stephen Cain, not just for his powerful reading at the Atomic Rooster in which he played with Marx on Lox a la Seuss’s Fox in Sox, but also for his fascinating talk on feeling ugly about the postmodern condition, the way in which he situated the pre and post 1985 writers, which was provocative and also the mention of numerous works that are not critically studied and should be, such as Lynn Crosbie’s book Paul’s Case about Paul Bernardo and Daniel Jones book Obsessions. i wanted to ask him for a bibliography. the man is a delight to my brain and i intend to read his work with a finer ear than i admittedly haven’t had in the past.

Andrea Cabajsky for her talk on the new formalism and Canadian historical fiction. i have to say that the main thing i took from this talk was the concept of paratext, the pages and pages of endnotes in a Quebec novel she cited (the name of which escapes me at the moment). i have tried in the past and failed so far to read Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves with all of its paratext. i love the idea of footnotes, front matter and backmatter as a form of unreliable authentication of reality and have myself worked before with text in this way and plan to again, excited but its promise of troubling and messing things up, because i love to mess things up.

Pauline Butling for her keynote address along with Susan Rudy. of particular interest to me was the section on Rita Wong’s Forage with the embroidered text around the edges of the text body.

Russell Morton Brown’s talk on the narrative of Robert Kroetsch. i haven’t even gotten to Kroetsch’s novels yet, so enamoured am i by his poetry, but Brown gave me a way in with his reading of the fiction as if it were a series rather than individual books. and later Fred Wah’s comment about perhaps seeing the fiction as one long poem, which appealed to me very much.

Christian Bök, again for so many things, for being a visionary, for not being afraid to speak his mind and for saying that the role of the poet is to have imagination, something echoed by Robert Kroetsch in his address at the end of the conference. also for his amazing performance at the Atomic Rooster which had me bouncing in my seat, and his support of his fellow readers with animal calls and hardy clapping. see a wonderful photo of Christian here.

Gregory Betts for his talk on visual and concrete poetry and his reading at the Atomic Rooster; this is the third time i’ve met Greg and each time i am fascinated by his work and by him. it is because of him that i began to dabble in variants of plunderverse, an exciting and inspiring form that helps to carry on the conversation.

i could also mention my friends and fellow audience members: Emily Falvey, Pearl Pire (who has blogged about the conference here), Sandra Ridley and a few new friends who it turns out are readers of my blog, such as Correy Baldwin of Vehicule Press and lastly the very dynamic and sexy Sean Moreland, who should be on my sexiest Canadian male poets list and will be next time, i update.

For this weekend we were postmodernists and we were damn sexy ;)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

last night's reading

was the best reading i have ever attended in my life. (i am not being hyperbolic or even hyperalcoholic, having been so drunk on poetry that i drank water all evening at the Atomic Rooster;)

i'm too exhausted right now to blog about the reading and the conference (still one more day)...except to say that i am learning a lot and meeting fascinating, wonderful people.

here's Charles' photo of the brilliant and kind Robert Kroetsch.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

On being an ethical slut and a love anarchist

I have sex with men for mutual pleasure. That makes me a slut. And I’m comfortable with that word, not in the pejorative sense that society often ascribes but in the sense of being sexually free and taking control of my own choices, taking responsibility and savouring the pleasures of the body, the mind and the heart. Here are some thoughts on how I strive to be both ethical and a slut, rejoicing in my own sexuality while being respectful of and loving toward others. I don’t deny that in this attempt to lead a polyamorous and sexual lifestyle I stumble, I make mistakes and hopefully, I learn.

I do not believe that long-term relationships are always the end goal or the way in which one can gauge a relationship’s success. I enjoy various types of relationships including occasional dates, friendships, ongoing romantic commitments, and life partnerships. A relationship to me is successful if it has provided mutual pleasure. And furthermore, the end of a sexual relationship does not have to mean the severing of all ties; a break up of a sexual relationship can just mean a shift in the relationship.

Sometimes I will experience a connection that makes me want to get to know someone in depth, to become close friends. Even if we become close, I want us to enhance rather than inhibit one another’s lives, be part of each other’s worlds, if possible. The question I always ask when I’m involved with someone is how is he helping me to grow and learn about myself and the world, how am I contributing to his growth and learning? What positive effects can come out of our association? Since I write, I find sex and connection to be very inspiring for my creativity. I am a big romantic sap who will write cheesy love poems and songs and walk around on air, especially if the connection ends up really sparking.

When a spark happens, I let myself fall into an intense romantic crush on a lover. I adore these crushes and I freely use the word “love” to describe them. That’s right, I admit that I fall in love with someone. I want to feel love and I joyfully embrace it and nurture it for as long as it lasts. Love to me doesn’t have anything to do with ownership or control. As Wendy-o-matik says in her book on polyamory (source listed below): “Love is inherently the ability to accept whatever the outcome may be, because there is no outcome that is written in stone or that might still reverse itself five minutes or five years later.”

I believe the world needs more love and less hate and I try to do my part by offering as much love as I can and making myself open to the expression and experience of love. I am more beautiful when I am in love. You are more beautiful when you are in love.

A crush can be short-lived or longer and it’s delightful and satisfying and damn scary even or especially if the crush is reciprocated. [Sometimes it’s fun to have unconsummated sweet old fashioned crushes...such as the one I have for a certain singer/songwriter;)]

In romantic crush mode, I have to watch out for my own and my lovers’ outbreaks of insecurity, neediness and desperation. We are all at our most fragile and vulnerable in romantic crush mode and I know myself well enough to see that I can make colossal mistakes when I’m crushing on someone. I’m trying to get better at this. One of the ways I deal with all of this is to communicate to my lovers and to my friends. I know I’ve cried on a few shoulders over the years when a relationship has become dysfunctional. It helps to have a supportive group of friends/family.

I believe in living for today, for the moment and celebrating it. I want to give and receive joy and pleasure and comfort and be great friends with lovers without any sense of obligation, but rather to understand that each time we are together it is a choice we both make. To be chosen and to choose someone are lovely experiences; to be stuck with someone or to feel like someone is stuck with me is the ultimate ugly experience. I won’t put anyone in that situation and I won’t be put in that situation.

In fact I don’t want to hurt my lovers or bring them harm or hurt anyone who is close to them and I don’t want to be hurt or harmed by them or have them hurt anyone who is close to me; however, if we do hurt one another, I want us to work it out, to forgive one another and move on to whatever stage our relationship naturally takes us. Often facing the hurt and resolving it can lead to catharsis, honesty and a stronger relationship.

If there are risks, I want us to identify them together and to avoid or minimize them as much as possible. I want every part of our coming together to be consensual. I want us to be honest with one another and ourselves.

I do not believe that there is such a thing as too much sex.

I do not believe I have the right to control anyone or that anyone has the right to control me.

I am capable of jealousy, and when that happens, I allow myself to feel it, I communicate it to my lover and that alleviates it or it turns out to be some other issue that i need to identify. It’s often a case of insecurity. I want to know about my lover’s jealousies and help him through them.

When I manage to rise above this jealousy, I can feel what is called compersion for my lover. That means that I can be happy for him if he is involved with someone, I feel a kind of sympathetic joy. I’m rooting for him and on his side, in other words. I derive a feeling of universal compassion and unconditional love. It’s a transcendent feeling that makes me feel at one with the universe.

I am not interested in having sex outside my relationship with Charles because of any inadequacies in our relationship, but because I love sex and I love connection. And in fact, different types of relationships satisfy different facets of my personality and my desires. No one person can satisfy every desire or need.

One of the advantages for me in my situation is that I have a stable and committed relationship with Charles. This enables me to indulge in moments of passion and instability with others, if we so desire. I can also have structured relationships with others. I’m an all purpose kinda girl and come in (on?) many different packages, so to speak ;)

I strive to understand that I am whole already; the fundamental sexual unit is one person; I shouldn’t need another person to complete me. This is an area I’m still working on, I admit. I see that I am rather reliant on others for self-validation and it worries me. In my heart I know, as a good friend recently told me, that life is my lover. I do believe that personal fulfillment comes from loving oneself and sharing that love with others. As I said, I’m working on it.

I believe that romantic love, desire, intimacy and connection are not finite but infinite. The more I receive, the more I have to give, and the more I give, the more I receive in return.

Time is something that I need to juggle in order to take full advantage of my polyamorous lifestyle and to ensure that I give and receive love and desire to all who I care about and who care for me. This isn’t any different from parents with multiple children, extended families, or even busy single people trying to date. We all have priorities and obligations and they must be taken into account. I love and need to spend time with the people I love. I have a family of close friends, not all of whom are in sexual relationships with me, and they are also very important to me. So I tend to need to schedule.

Communication is essential for this to work out. I need to communicate with those who wish to be a part of my life and receive communication in return. A lack of communication leads to confusion, uncertainty, my wild imagination will overreact and I will become insecure. I will not be able to make plans with all the various parties in my extended family and that will make it difficult for me to lead the lifestyle I want to lead and to support my family. Silence is a relationship stumbling block for me, unless the reasons for it have been communicated or my lover has alleviated my insecurities somehow.

One of the surprising benefits to being in an open relationship is that it has increased my intimacy with Charles and with others. We learn more about one another through our involvement with others. In an ideal world, lovers would know and enjoy one another’s company, take on supportive and nurturing roles in one another’s lives. That hasn’t happened too much, but it does happen for me from time to time. And I love that.

From this lifestyle I gain

sexual variety
a sense of belonging and connection with others
an expansion in my knowledge about people
personal freedom, independence and responsibility
evidence & reassurance that the world is not as cold and lonely as it seems

In order for my lifestyle to work I need to

be emotionally honest, that means asking for reassurance and support from my lovers and offering them the same
receive and give affection
honour my commitments, respect my friends and lovers
have a clear understanding of my limits
know myself
own my own feelings and not blame anyone else for them
love others based on respect and warmth, not desperation and neediness
respect boundaries
listen and be listened to
let go of learned behaviour about conventional relationships
trust in myself and others
enjoy my own company
make responsible decisions about sexual health

I care as much about my lovers needs as my own and I want to make sure that their needs are being met, that any issues are dealt with openly and honestly.

My own rules with Charles are that we are respectful, supportive and communicative with each other and that we treat our lovers the same. We work hard to ensure that there is no hierarchy. If either or both of us has a lover, we treat that person as part of our life, meaning we don’t automatically prioritize our own time together. We have to adapt to the ever-changing rhythms and patterns of our fluid relationships. We are careful never to let each other feel abandoned or neglected and the same goes with our lovers. We both have enough love to give that we can nurture our own relationship and our relationships with others.

I should say that I respect other people’s choice to be monogamous or whatever other choice they make about their sexuality and lifestyle and that all I have said is about my choices and no one else’s. I celebrate your choice to lead a consensual relationship with whomever you choose, and if necessary I would defend it with words, but not with sword, since I save my thrusts and parries for other activities.

Thanks to “the Ethical Slut, A guide to infinite sexual possibilities” by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt (Greenery Press, 1997). This book has served as reference in the construction of this quasi-manifesto and is one of the books that I return to again and again in my quest to understand myself, share myself with others and articulate what it means to be polyamorous à l’Amanda.

If you are interested in learning more about polyamoury, or “polyamory” (US spelling), I recommend the above book, available in Ottawa at Venus Envy and elsewhere all over, including on line. Other sources I’ve found useful are...

Wendy-o-matik, “Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships” (2002)

the alt polyamory FAQs page

the Polyamory Society

Polyamory: A Mono/Poly Dialog

Polyamory in the news

Rachel Kramer Bussel, “The Case for Open Marriage”

a slight retraction to the last post

even though i come to this conference a bit like a tourist visitng a foreign land i am someone who enjoys dwelling in the realm of ideas and being fully engaged in the reading of contemporary poetry, i can't help but apply what i'm hearing to some of the works i'm reading or have recently read. today there will be more on poetics and i will be interested to hear those talks particularly. i simply haven't had the inclination or priority to explore fiction either modernist or postmodernist in Canadian literature. the last time i studied fiction wholeheartedly was in French when doing my Masters, which means that i was firmly mired in the 19th century and in Romance for fiction and for poetry very much interested in symbolism, and eventually surrealism, although is more of a current interest.

all this to say that while i can't be fully engaged for every talk (and who can?), my neurons are definitely firing.

Friday, May 09, 2008

post modernist drinking game

when you hear any of the following words, take a drink:







historiographic metafiction (that’ two big gulps)

am enjoying getting to chat with folks like Robert Kroetsch and Dennis Cooley, telling them how much I love their poetry. some great talks, some heavily jargon filled for the non academic kids like me, but all in all very eye opening. i like being immersed in language that would take me eons to learn if i had to read too much of it.

Linda Hutcheon’s keynote address on the Glories of Hindsight was a refreshing end to the afternoon, looking back on 20 years of postmodernism. She talked about some of the areas where pomo has the potential to make new, such as kid lit, revamping old fairy tales for example, graphic novels and opera, complete with video and music. the question of what comes after postmodernism was asked and no one had an answer. which is the right answer, i think.

i was particularly fascinated by the talks of

Jason Wiens of U of Calgary on George Bowering’s A Short Sad Book.

Alexander MacLeod, St. Mary’s University, whose talk on the role of regionalism in postmodernist writing was indeed robust, noting that the most widely published post modernist is Robert Kroetsch, who is the most widely published critic of postmodernism also.

kinda surreal (if you’ll forgive the term in reference to a postmodernism conference) to have the people who are the subjects of the talks right there in the audience.

Ian Rae of McGill gave a really fascinating talk about architecture and the Fall of Rome by Anne Carson. I haven’t gotten around to reading Ms. Carson yet, and I will now for sure. I loved all the references to Dante’s Divina Commedia and Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Dennis Cooley on the Postmodern Writer abroad with references to Kroetsch, Daphen Marlatt and Frank Davey's work.

Cheryl Crowdy Crawford of York U's about the suburb as a Canadian ? Postmodern? space. We also talked about apartments as postmodern spaces, based on a question raised by organizer Robert Stacey. one of the things that i enjoyed about the talks yesterday was the integration of the philosophies of postmodernism with every day realities, the spaces we inhabit. I want to read Lisa Robertson's the Office for Soft Architecture and other works that explore the concept of space in light of some of the ideas I've been learning about at the conference.

The conference is exceptionally well-organized. The Fred Wah reading at the Avant Garde was well attended, standing room only. See Charles picture of Fred Wah here. My only wish is that we could start drinking just a wee bit earlier, like say 11am...instead of 6 pm ;) the professionalism and hard work of the organizers of this conference is amazing. it’s fun to meet people from across Canada too and to make new friendships and enjoy the company of old.

two more days to go...expect the unexpected. don't look for conclusions...

last night’s A B # 9

at the Mercury Lounge was glorious indeed, a reunion of friends and an impressive array of poetic styles.

with not ten but eleven outstanding performances, i should really be providing you with details on all; however, thanks to brain limitations, i can provide merely the following morning after bits and pieces:

Monty Reid’s dilemma on what to read, an amusing monologue that entailed misinterpreting Max Middle’s invitation to read on the eve of a PoMo conference as reading at a Porno conference. Hear Monty read from his fresh poetry collection, The Luskville Reductions (Brick Books) at Rasputin’s on May 15.

Chris Turnbull’s reading of visual poetry, beautiful, minamalist, hypnotic, especially the silences read out loud. I had never heard her read before and it was an amazing discovery.

Shane Rhodes' boozey poems with fun language play on the ai and ee of martini. He also wears great shirts.

John Lavery's accurate and imaginative female voice describing an adolescent's onset of menstruation and a mother's response.

Gregory Betts' performance of his Coke poem, the way he tapped that microphone. His above/ground press chapbook, the Curse of Canada with its plunder of poets who died early and a plunder of Shakespeare’s sonnet 150...a manuscript with 150 poems. See Charles’ photo of Greg here. Greg is reading again on Saturday at the Atomic Rooster with other conferenceers.

Surprise performer jwcurry’s exquisite sound poetry; although he may have taken umbrage at my likening what i heard to Yoda on pop rocks.

I enjoyed the others too: the word play of Marcus McCann and Nicholas Lea, the atomic poetry of Sandra Ridley, the depth and minimalism of Roland Prevost, the cadence and imagery of rob mclennan’s poems for Monty, Sandra, Stephen Brockwell...

the room full of the famous. was that Christian Bök whooping encouragement during Greg’s reading? Robert Kroetsch, Fred Wah and Dennis the house. phew.

my good pals Emily and Roland and rob and Warren and Carmel and a bunch of others all around. a handful of handsome conference organizers scattered about...

a great reading, had me bouncing off my chair, made me want to drink, made me want to write. instead i went home to bed because today is an early day and i want to listen in.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Drop everything and attend these must sees this weekend

starting this evening with the A B Series # 9, On the Eve of Re:Reading the Postmodern featuring Monty Reid, Sandra Ridley, Roland Prevost, Chris Turnbull, Nicholas Lea, rob mclennan, Shane Rhodes, Marcus McCann & John Lavery with special St. Catharines guest Gregory Betts at the Mercury Lounge, doors open at 7:30 pm with readings starting at 8. $7.00 at the door (free to those on low income).

Friday, May 9: Fred Wah at the Avant Garde, 135 Besserer St. 8pm, free

Saturday May 10: Robert Kroetsch, Frank Davey, Christian Bök, Dennis Cooley, Christine Stewart, Stephen Cain, Gregory Betts, Louis Cabri, Andy Weaver, and The Max Middle Sound Project, 8:30 pm. The Atomic Rooster, 303 Bank St, free.

Note that the occasion for these readings is the University of Ottawa’s Canadian Literature Symposium “Re: Reading the Postmodern” which begins Friday morning and goes until Sunday afternoon. Keynote addresses are also free to the public on Friday and Saturday afternoons:

Friday, May 9: The Glories of Hindsight, Linda Hutcheon
University of Ottawa, Faculty of Arts Building, 70 Laurier, Arts 257, 5:00 pm.

Saturday, May 10: Why Postmodernism Now? Or, What Recent Experimental Poetries Are On About Instead, Pauline Butling and Susan Rudy
University of Ottawa, Faculty of Arts Building, 70 Laurier, Arts 257, 4:45 pm.

I’m registered for the conference, so will be attending all weekend. I’ll blog about it, likely.

I’m excited but also slightly off kilter at the thought of being surrounded by writers who I consider to be my writing mentors, based on my having really connected with their writing these past few years: Robert Kroetsch, Dennis Cooley, and Fred Wah. I will probably just gawk at them open-mouthed like a rubber-necker at an accident, alas.

on a slight tangent, but not really...this afternoon I will have the fortunate opportunity to speak and listen to a class of secondary students taking a University of Ottawa workshop on creative writing. Thanks to the amazing Faith Seltzer and Nancy Burgoyne of the City of Ottawa Arts and Culture Department, I am armed with a slew of information about writing and publishing opportunities for young people in Ottawa.

I have to say that I haven’t uncovered that many poetry-related activities that directly involve youth and this concerns me. As someone who wasn’t exposed to poetry in high school except as a historical relic, I am always on the look-out for ways to demonstrate the vitality of poetry today and to raise awareness about Ottawa’s vibrant poetry scene and the poets who are alive, well and working at pushing their limits in poetry today. If young people don’t know that poetry is an act of creation involving the living, the chances of them being interested in it are remote. More on this...later...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Adam Getty

read this afternoon at Plan 99 at the Manx. Adam Getty, a Hamilton poet, read from his newest poetry collection, “Repose” (Nightwood Editions, 2008).

He introduced his poems by talking about the role of form and structure in our lives today, referencing an essay of Ezra Pound’s on form. Getty said that the forms and structures we are living in today are changing, but that his work with form in this collection is about recognizing that we do have to live in some way with structure.

He said that his work is sometimes seen as bleak, but I didn’t really find that from the poems he read .I was excited by the sensuality and the unpretentiousness of his work. Getty, like former Hamiltonian, Matthew Firth, who writes prose, deals with real life situations, with factories and with work in his writing. There’s nothing lofty about it, but it is also very lyrical. The rhymes are there but aren’t forced; for example, end rhymes for an a b scheme are distrupted.

I enjoyed how he made use of paradox, making use of lyric in poems like "Comment on Blake’s Garden" to talk about the Hamilton steel mills. Adam mentioned at one point that he came to a reading with blood running down his arm and had to be told about it. David O’Meara, Plan 99’s host [don't forget to go see David's play, "Disaster" taking place from June 18-29 at the Natalie Stern Studio, OSSD294 Picton Ave], mentioned that Adam had been working at a slaughterhouse at the time. Apparently CNQ will publish his essay, Poetry in the Slaughterhause, sometime soon. I’m looking forward to reading it very much. I liked the mix of blood with form. I found Adam's work, like the man himself, when I spoke to him after the reading, to be quite approachable. At the same time there were inspirations from writers such as Derrida.

I hadn’t really thought before about working too much with form in response to today’s conventional societal constraints. I found Adam’s poetry and his thoughts very inspiring and provocative.

What I liked about Adam’s writing was that his connections between real life and nature weren’t full of reverence or some kind of attempt to have a poetic voice coming down from on high, yet his writing was intelligent and the man is well-read.

The last in the Plan 99 series for this spring will be Nova Scotia poet & novelist, John Stiles, reading from his novel, “Taking the Stairs” (Nightwood Editions, soon) on May 24. I am partial to this reading series, not just because of the diversity of writers who participate, but also because David makes sure that anyone who comes is there for the reading or is aware of the reading and won’t just chat thru it.

I leave you with one of my favourites of the poems that Adam read to give you a hint of what you missed if you didn’t make it out and perhaps to tempt you to buy this wonderful book.


One morning I wake in a new city. The wet crackle
of butter frying, clattering plates, steady beat of knives
and forks pressed to the table like angry cries falling
in rhythm. Over it all, over the buttermilk smell, two
voices: one a lilt, a gently rising inflection, coo-coo
of a mother soothing her child; the second voice wary
of song in a slow time, the didgeridoo lament
of a funeral hymn. They sang the stagger of brown glass,
the shatter of their men’s reddening bodies whose hands
careened through acquiescing air to somehow rain acid
over their recoiling bodies. The voices scaled over
each other, stamping and clawing to prove their song closer
to their husband’s fury. I remembered another morning,
waking up, the grey storm of smoke burning my eyes and he
bore me to the window, pushed my head out into the wide world
and said: breathe! And she already there, sucking the air
like a cigarette, like the suffocating fire; he’d saved
her first. As the voices spiralled even higher, I turned
in bed to the blank wall, thinking there was no one voice:
the world musician laid its song one track at a time.

--Adam Getty Repose (Nightwood Editions, 2008)