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The Reading Series: Salamander launches

Please to present Please Don’t Tickle the Salamander’s Belly last night at The Reading Series. Thanks to Geoffrey Bates for the gorgeous cover design. The In/Words crew hand-stitched it and laid red thread through the pages in a sweet touch. Thanks to editor Drew, Geoffrey, Sanita and Jennifer for making this chapbook happen. If you are curious about how the poems relate to the French source text, contact me and I can get you a sample blurb.

For the launch all the photos by hubby are here but here’re a few:

Mike Caesar opening
Mike Caesar opening with his articulate poems. I can’t repeat back verbatim. It’s in the placement, setup, choice of words and the turns. A poem about eyelids, another about the vocabulary of wine. Got a wave of goosebumps during something in his third poem. Look forward to him having a book one day.

reading oldest to newest
Ah here I am when I am not looking entirely goofy. The sequinned jacket never fails to dazzle at least.

I read from the radish, and the Shreekin Violet chapbook of fictional reviews, and the newest of course. Check out Click Here tomorrow morning 8-9am or on playback after to hear the interview on CHUO yesterday.

music by  Scary Bear Soundtrack, featuring Gloria Guns
Ambiant music by Scary Bear Soundtrack.

the prize of piri piri
Themed prizes including my chapbook, pear(l)’s soap, and piri piri spice.

open mic sign up
Smaller open mic than usual, apparently. It sometimes goes to 1am but it wrapped at 11pm. It was a full house tho with friendly faces and full of people who gave encouraging words.

a biology song
In the open mic was a biology song to rebut the vacuity of love pop songs by Greg (Craig) that gets into the spleen and how eyes function was apt, funny and fun.

the canoe play
Another highlight of Jenny and Jeremy acting out the play in the canoe about Columbus. That makes it live dinner theatre

Dec 4 is the In/Words issue 15.1 launch at Pressed Cafe. 15 years. Good show.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.


Here’s an interview with Jason Christie at Touch the Donkey, supplemental about his own work.

Jason Christie curated an issue of Ottawa poets for Matrix.

Matrix, fall 2015

Matrix, fall 2015

Hear about that from Christie tonight at Literary Landscape with JM.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

Round Up

Cameron Anstee is interviewed at Ottawalife ““I can support writers that haven’t published very much yet, or I can chase down people that haven’t published in years. I’ve worked with heroes of mine; I’ve helped see first chapbooks into print. I couldn’t ask for a more rewarding experience.”

The tribute to Paul Dutton is up at PENN sound.

A kickstarter for paintings of poets

Kate Braid on the previous Literary Landscape.

The Georgia Strait asks Daphne Marlatt which book changed your life. Her answer. It’s an interesting series with previous answers from George Bowering and Michael V Smith.

The new issue at The Puritan is up.

A new face at the table-side of the ottawa small press fair was Brandon Crilly who reflected on the experience of selling words “Trying to sell your own stuff at a table is a totally different demon compared to drafting query letters or pitching to publishers, which is the cornerstone of the mainstream spec fic world. I realized very quickly that, if I just let me people take a look at my books and didn’t say anything, odds were they would put the book down and move on.”

If you’re on twitter, retweet this Penguin tweet to win Penguin classics.

Poetry Base is ways to divvy up aspects of form poetry, by device, metrical requirement, pivot, subject, etc.

An interview at Queen’s Mob with Gil McElroy.”Jacques Monod, his book Chance & Necessity, and found a hugely powerful scientific basis for the truly fecund possibilities of chance, of randomness. Monod’s argument was that “chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution …” (wow, I still get goosebumps reading that).”

CWILA interviews Jonathan Ball “What I want to see in a review is a surprising comprehension. Where not only do I get a sense of what’s important in this book, or even how it fails, but I get a sense of what’s important in literature, or how it fails.”

Thoughts on gender, voice and power.

If you’re local, send a poem to the poem-off for Sawdust by Dec 2nd for a reading spot with me in December. Details here.

At Rusty Toque Tanis MacDonald gave a lively reading of the pet radish, shrunken.

More quotes of reviews of the radish are here.

Nod has an open call on.

PoemBot is an online cento-maker. You enter a line and choose how many lines of response and it’ll kick you back a poem. Great fun.

Categories: Link Dump.

95books: List 22: Joyce, Choice, Death and Depth of Story 176-185

By chance many of the works on the billet at the moment circle around the ideas of boundaries of identity, of country, of living and dead. What is the individual to the nation? What is the collective to the individual?

176. Introducing William Pittman Lett: Ottawa’s First City Clerk and Bard 1819-1892 by Bryan D. Cook (self-published, 2014)

Been picking away at this one since June. The historical notes are fascinating as are the images. In 1882 Ontario became the first province to establish a Board of Health to manage sewers, which meant piping raw sewage directly into the nearest river. (Which apparently we still think is a good idea to do, even while we tell campers not to pee near a stream.) By the end of WWI only 1 in 3 municipalities in Canada treated their sewage. (p. 339). There are photos of old city hall and of

Lett was a man of his time more than one that connects easily to this one but reading only what is in accord with your own thoughts is unhealthy.

As an Orangeman he edited an anti-Catholic screed-letter. In one case he gives an occasion poem to royalty which last a page and a half but when a bridge he used to fish on is torn down he goes on in rhapsody for 7 pages. Likewise when his favourite watering hole is to be demolished. His rhymes are perfect in the sound-sense. Predictable thoughts within his framework of thinking.  He expounds on why we should have a national army and police, why war is glorious. In a tribute to 2 men, Osgoode and Rogers who died at the Battle of Cut Knife Hill, May 2, 1882 Lett supports suppression of Indian and Métis rebels.

“Red-handed lawlessness shall fall,
And wither before Patriot might,
Our flag shall triumph over all,
And wave victorious in the fight!
Peace, Law and Order still shall stand
The guardian Genii of our Land!

Mourn for each true and gallant one,
Who fought and fell before the foe;
Canada drops a bitter tear
O’er every grave; where lying low
Her hero sons are proudly taking
Glory’s sleep “that knows no waking.”

(p.330, Ottawa’s Honour Roll)

Although he had a native guide to take him hunting, he calls him an extinct race, wrote a paeon to his death but a longer more moving one about the death of his favourite hunting hound. He also writes odes to his boat and to his gun. He makes a list poem of all the birds he shot. He admires the new spiral inside his his gun that gives better accuracy to the better range and can shoot an exit hole 18” wide in a deer. What he doesn’t intend to disturb doesn’t convey.  He also wrote  “Concealed Weapons” (p. 246-247) which exhorts people not to do it after D’Arcy McGee was shot.

“Put it down! Assassins only
Carry arms concealed from sight;
Thugs haunt passes dark and lonely.
True born courage seeks the light.
Stand up firm and self-reliant
With the weapons nature gave;
Bold yet modest, cool, defiant
Is the conduct of the brave!

The god-given weapons borne on the end of the arms comes back thru various poems. And in this one he reiterates for 5 more stanzas against not being an agent of evil and coward to shoot people.

He sometimes uses a romping rhythm for sombre subjects and writes in an imagined Scottish dialect. Some is satire. Some is amusing verse such as one at length condemning the intricate woman’s hairstyle of the year, or how people go to theatre, not to see the play but catch a glimpse of who’s who.

177. Just My  Type: a book about fonts by Simon Garfield (Gotham, 2010)

This on GoodReads was highly recommended. For good cause. It is comprehensive and readable. The background of the making of typefaces, the lives of creators. The small facts like 1920s Germany banning any but blackletter as not properly Germany and calling some typefaces Jewish. How one typegrapher was in a legal bind that all his equipment would go to his former partner on his death so on a falling out he secretly bound up the metal type and made 100 night walks to dump it in the river. These Dove pieces were recently dredged since the time of writing. A worthwhile read for anyone curious.

178. Death with Interruptions by José Saramago trans. Margaret Jull Costa (Harcourt, 2007)

This has sat on my shelf for any number of years. It seems a daunting title. What if death quit and deaths stopped? What are the implications of aging but never being permitted to die? What are the impacts on state agencies, on families, on economics? And then the story pivots to the pov of death herself and what life she leads. The hard satire turns into a sort of romance. Bound to write as he will he leads a crazy journey, idiosyncratic and winking. An aside to the reader with an eye to logic and continuity, you may have wondered how death paid the cab fare? Let’s speculate that…

We read the entirely aloud. Dark at times but oddly entertaining and pointed and touching eventually. What just happened there? What? But worthwhile.

179. Obasan by Joy Kogawa (Penguin, 1981)

This is darker and more sombre and yet compatible to read alongside with Death with Interruptions. The cover presents it as the story from the point of view as a 5 year old, which was off-putting but also not true. It is chapters in before we get to a child’s point of view and the child ages quickly and it is filled with flashbacks and archival letters.

It builds the depth of detail of the injustice done to the Japanese people. the sudden pivot of “good” society to demonize individuals as enemies of state. People who acted as neighbours suddenly became a parallel society bound in blindness at not seeing the actions and implications of their own hands. The level of details of tenderness shown to family kept a constant thread of humanity in the inhumane.

180. Mayor Snow: poems by Nick Thran (nightwood, 2015)

I read this in the wrong order of books. Obasan is intense, concrete. Death with Interruptions is wild and true in a fantastical way. The Odyssey is full of drama. James Joyce is dense and chewy. Poetry doesn’t have the size of canvas to compete with thoughts just dipped towards in each poem a subject. This is the logic for making poems that resonate with old existing works, the larger canvas of history to get the depth of loop back. Inside a poem there isn’t the room the way there is in a novel. But to refer outside the poem or contemporary book of poetry can allow a similar effect.

Still, in reading from one work to another how to change gears enough?

This is floaty, abstract more so than it would be surrounded by my usual diet of poetry. What is it that I want poetry to do? What is it that this poetry wants to do? It is about the more everyday removed from drama. Even “Obit” has its root in a celebrity death,

“Seymour Hoffman’s eyes
from the year’s list of obits.
The perpetual, pouring
condolence note.
The grief muscle always alert
and working through grief.
A crow is the collar
of a funeral suit.
A flock like the black lace
of a funeral shroud.
real grief and also
the practice of grief.
Tom Hanks is going to die.
Tom Hanks is going to die
just as the mountains
and aspens will die.”

And then a poking mocking at brief grief as it ends “the Joan rivers of grief/that run in the cold, dark sea.” It plays at satire and keeping death at a safe distance and yet speak lyrically of the power of the ubiquitous grief muscle which doesn’t let up. Resented like a conjoined twin organ on a peevish day.

I rarely have found notes at the back of a poetry book such a useful codex. I could make heads nor tails of the Mayor series, which is cento and erasure. One gestures thru other people’s words and like speaking a foreign tongue doesn’t hit exactly the right words to be clear. But you say something that you might not have otherwise have said were you not trying to speak thru a constraint. It might erupt or dislodge something new. Likewise the muddiness of SEVERs Talking is a play with machine translation which yielded the fortuitous idea of a bird as a hot ember in the hand.

181. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (Oxford, 1929)

Interesting material but her thought structure is curlicues. Frequent long digressions. But she’s citing case after case making the case for how women write as they do because of economics. As does anyone. With a steady income and enough time one can rise to sublime but it is a luxury because of the systems at play, some of those being prejudice. It makes a defensiveness and anger as the primary focus of mind. One can’t talk of large things when nettled and netted and hemmed in by one’s own personal constraints that are based in injustice. This seems as true now as then. Queer people of colour who write of injustice are called one note orchestra’s who are asked to write of something new, that is to say, white entitled middle class privilege of abstracts and kittens and flower gardens and praise the holier purer happy gentle poor I suppose.

Things have progressed slightly since the time of writing. Women are allowed into libraries for instance. Are permitted to work. Women have had the vote for even longer, yet here still are less represented in elections. Are a tiny fragment of the CEO population.

She states that endowments that give a hand up to young men come from older men making more than they can use. Women haven’t tended to have an excess so colleges for women eat and heat their populations poorly.

We are no longer chattel so whatever we inherit becomes our own instead of transferred to our male guardians. Her idea that some write even-handedly and others by the habit of hypermasculine or hyperfeminine. Shakespeare, Keats, Sterne, Cowper, Lamb and Coleridge she says were androgynous. Milton, Wordsworth, Tolstoi and Jonson were skewed masculine. Proust towards feminine.

One must write for all. Confessional is dull, having no sense of the greater breadth.

why was I bored? Partly because of the dominance of the letter ‘i’ and the aridity, which, like the giant beech tree, it casts within its shade. Nothing will grow there.”

182. Small Waterways by Nelson Ball (Apt 9, 2015)

Beautiful encapsulations. Simple but not simplistic. Thought over not to make clever but to make clear as if drawing a line around one awareness. Not around an object or a story or an image but a small eureka, not tied up with a ribbon of form but the size it needs to be.

Short Take 1

It’s safe
to walk backwards

the hall

I live alone.

How touching. A twist in the end. An awareness of change. A freedom and new safety yet within a framework of sadness that gives it a mingled depth. Even the simply stated isn’t simple. Neither is it razorcut that slices away the aspect of joy. They both co-exist.

A bonus to the book is an interview at the back with Catherine who did a documentary on Nelson Ball and Barbara Caruso’s place. And notes on the location of poems and what memories they hold, putting a spotlight on people in those places.

183. illiterature, issue v, the graphic novel  (Puddles of Sky, 2015)

I suppose the fitting response to the visual would be the visual. But being able to perceive is one action. To synthesize and create at the same level is a whole other skill set. It is an interesting endeavour. I wish I’d got myself sorted in time to contribute.  Oddly p. 64 seems like an illustration for José Saramago’s novel. The rhythm of repeating and explosions and then sudden silence of p. 14 and 15 is like classical music. p. 25, 28, 29, 38, 46 strike delight. That it is set in chapters of story/non-story yet story is interesting to look at and move through.

184. How to Tell a Story: The Secrets of Writing Captivating Tales by Peter Rubie and Gary Prevost (Writers Digest Books, 1998)

This was enlightening. The idea of what makes story. Why something is included opened my seeing for novels, movies, and stories since then. The device of foreshadowing was never so clear. The Magic of Belle Isle got new depth of appreciation of simple gestures that fit the story laid so far and then did double duty of foreshadowing such as Carl being sidekick to the main character play acting a shootout giving a warning to the gunshot later. The complexity of novels such as Peggy Blair’s Hungry Ghosts, became mindblowing. I could see the intricacy of interconnection and pointing gestures of how story elements function.

The hero’s journey I’ve read about but it is about external plot more than internal motivation.The authors pointed out that every character is in it for their own reason.  Every character is the hero of their own story, including any villains. Each believes they are doing right. A story that has a subplot does not need to be there if it does not intersect and underscore and lead to actions which impact the main story. The same themes can roll through both stories.

What is a story? It is not something which is said. Anything can be said. That speaking does not make it a story. A series of unconnected incidents that have no bearing on each other are not a story. Each thing is a causality chain that causes a change. A story is about action setting something in motion. Action is interesting. A pile of books is not an action. A book stacked on the pile which topples and shows a character outburst of anger which is concealed from others is a reveal. The pile which is cut like a deck of cards revealing a letter of bill overdue shows an economic threat that is a motivation for money-driven action later.

The book describes a story like this,

“Once upon a time, something happened to someone and he decided that he would pursue a goal so he devised a plan of action, and even though there were forces trying to stop him, he moved forward because there was a lot at stake. And just as things got as bad as they could get, he learned an important lesson and when offered the prize  he had strenuously sought,  had to decide whether or not to take it, and in making that decision satisfied a need that had been created by something in his past.”

Reading the book over 3 months has pivoted my way of seeing more than any poetry. It is daunting to think that when I go to a poetry reading I often walk out saying I have learned nothing but walk out of a non-fiction reading and feel I understand more. But being exposed to information is different than learning. Learning is internalizing and putting thing into action.

185. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (1916)

I don’t think I have read a book more true. I was stymied a few attempts at the child perspective of the opening chapter but once I pushed on long enough the overall shape of the book, the detail of thought captivated.

It seemed at times paced at real life. Each stage of life having its intensity, from belief in hellfires and temptation to debate about the nature of what nationalism means. Must one adopt the rhetoric to be national? If all the Irish decide to adopt the Irish language and re-embrace the church, is that more Irish than to not if you are Irish by raising. All influences led you to be who you are therefore you cannot step outside your Irishness.

Like the debates raised in Obasan, what is it to be Canadian, if not having Canadian citizenship, being raised in Canada, being third generation Canadian, having all the same objects and schooling and clothes and points of reference. But by skin colour, Japanese had all their possessions and possession of nation revoked. Germans were harder to weed out. My grandparents-in-law were Hess but defensively claimed to be Dutch during this same period. Did people suspiciously blacklist their business or make inquiries about origin and leave it at their word of disavowal of bloodlines?

In the Portrait, there’s a cleaving from birthright of language. The only mother tongue is of Ben Jonson because earlier generations abdicated their heritage. Irish adopted the foreign religion and language and culture and erased their own and yet Irish are banned from being English, are still mocked as inferior and genetically so. They cannot become that which is the only thing they know as a nation.

The captured political conversations swirling around him, sermons from the retreat, sparring debates with students at university, his own telegraphic diary entries all capture a speed of life, an intensity of attention, a flavour.

“It is a curious thing, do you know, Cranly said dispassionately, how your mind is supersaturated with the religion you say you disbelieve Did you believe it when you were in school? I bet you did.
—I did, Stephen answered
—And were you happier then? Cranly asked softly, happier than you are now, for instance?
—Often happy, Stephen said, and often unhappy. I was someone else then.
—How someone else? What do you mean by that statement?
—I mean, said Stephen, that I was not myself as I am now, as I had to become.”

I can relate to much of the story. I went to no private school. I was not rich then poor and did not come from a rafterful house of siblings. I didn’t get to live in a boy’s world for long but spent a few young years there in the rough and tumble of jibes and sports.

I’m jealous of Stephen that he should be raised by Jesuits, equipped with thinkers who went before. Even if he is saddled with mental furniture and shape of rooms, he had a building rather than playing house as Adam in some lean-to pretending to be first man to learn everything as if nothing had gone before.

It is no wonder Baptists are fundamentalists, anti-intellectual as doomed to extinction as newspapers with their short-sighted views. Which causes which? If one is in economically depressed areas, sad country songs rise and so does religion. If you have too much sad music and power to religion as default, does it cause poverty?

Is it any wonder I drew on nature as spiritual when there was no recourse. Like Emily Carr and Pauline Johnson the holy was the wind because I was left with only the wind to instruct me having no mentor or moral leader. The principle of the only truth a bible, an incoherent, violent collage of petty hatred and the pulpit more so claiming my contrite born again, and again and baptised but it may not take because the gesture is nothing since god hates as unforgivable sin anyone queer which is an intrinsic nature. But we are all born evil. But some evils can’t be overlooked. Such as being female therefore being fit to clean the lord’s house but not to take up collection or be treasurer or speak a sermon. One can read the scripture publicly within a cloud of debate of this being transgressive, if the minister chooses the passage and it is only a verse. One can sing praise and teach the children, but only the stories which have been culled of woman’s voices. One can teach the story of the prostitute accepted despite, but not of women who led and were followed.

Is it any wonder it makes sense to me the practice of homophonic translation when one is laced blind to a text. One can’t research what it could have meant at the time because all history is tainted and suspect. The only truth is your own incomprehension laid on your heart as belief. So the “rich man and the eye of the needle” is to say only the impoverished go to heaven and the rich are evil therefore you should not do too well in business or be corrupted out of eternal prize. Thus perpetuate your own poverty. Forget the idea that the eye of the needle is a door-type in a walled city that a camel can go through if unloaded of baggage.

If one leaves Catholicism, does one become protestant? Stephen answered, “What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent.”

Categories: Currently reading.

Inner flame

Why do we do what we do? Why eschew one part? Write but not edit, or edit but not publish or publish but not promote, or promote but not edit, write but not think, socialize but not write, read but not submit? It all is part of the process.

“The promotion side is not contrary to our idea; it is the completion of our idea[...] Promotion is the hope that these ideas may inspire others to wake up in the morning too.” ~ How an Introvert does a book tour.

Because ideas matter more than the self.

There is a reason someone is motivated to write when it would be far easier to speak something half-cooked and do things. Why light a figurative fire when it would be easier to light a stove?

As the priest said to Mr. Dedalus,
“[Y]ou will see. There is an art in lighting a fire. We have the liberal arts and we have the useful arts. This is one of the useful arts.”

Do we take that dismissal as okay? Beyond talking there is the doing of anything. But doing without thought is where trouble begins.

As Faucault (yes?) said, It works fine in practice, but does it work in theory?

Categories: Poetics.

95books: list 21: Haiku, Carr & Homer, 167-175

To read less, deeper, or more, broader? I like a wide scope. As a child I was bitten by the idea of Renaissance Man.

Much leads to more. You can get to anywhere from anywhere. Especially with dopamine misfire but real connection isn’t a sensation but careful insight.

You can have the whole world siphoned thru a moment if you analyze enough but is it not still sap turning amber, a skewed word that reflects self?

Even when you read, you read self. But you alter self by reading rather than elaborate what was already there. Samuel Butler said that as a boy he was sure Odyssey was written by a woman, and in his 60s had the articulacy to expound it. He didn’t change his view. His view was his own but did all his reading and study transform him? Confirmation bias is a tricky thing.

This Diversity training panel talks about how entrenched our experiences are. How thorough and unrelenting and omnidirectional. Fiction is said to experience another live directly vicariously, like a body-transplant. Does poetry do that connection as well?

Anyway, the looks back at books.

167. Haiku Canada Review (Vol 9, Oct 2015, Number 2)
Journals rarely get in the list because I usually only read the poems and reviews. With this one I read the articles, the essays, the various poems, even the French which I can pick away at slowly in the small chunks of poems.

Nick Avis’ 4 part life of Basho essay is pretty compelling. This issue contains part 3. His peak life work was said to be written on the road, comes across as real-time diary but was cooked up as desk poetry, reusing some of his favourite pieces from renga games. He was making his own selected of sorts.

There’s a review of a Bruce Ross, Kato Koko, Dietmar Tauchner and Patricia Prime endeavour that’s fantastical in logistics I’m sure. “A Vast Sky: An Anthology of Contemporary World Haiku” which presents 500 haiku from 55 countries.

168. Forecast: Selected Early Poems (1970-1990) by John Pass (Harbour Publishing, 2015)

Since I saw him in town for VERSeFest I’ve meant to look into his work more and here comes a selected. I liked the earliest of these earliest poems best. They have a comfort in being in the world which looks you in the eye without playing chicken nor with shame. Another case so soon of yes, this is why writing isn’t pointless as a reinforcement of George Bowerings reinvigorating talk at Writers Fest. Is there something in the water out west that makes people healthier? More temperate minded?

This book was invigorating. It says yes to life, not in some hazy glee but a steady return to this is valuable. People matter. He intercuts with nitty gritty. There can be tree watching but And Hold (p. 127) doesn’t start and end with “these fail where they appeared/strongest, their trunks’ sheared//white wood for a few days before the weather/works its grey in”. As much as I love the attention to detail and cadence, it gets to the details of school where the class asks “abortion. So where
does life begin? Birth, conceptions, a glance/on the street” and doesn’t rest at this with a pairing of external and human world but there’s an actor. Much of poetry seems disembodied and without context of concrete place but within the one poem “At break//I get out for some air, step in/to the stress of the emptiness of questions//near a few trees and cars closer/asleep on the gravel.”

The poem continues for 3 more pages and has a sense of being considered and allowing its own ideas to move in tailored but not binding garments of ideas.

The Proximity (for Pierre) I shared in Two Thing I’m Reading at Literary Landscape 2 weeks ago. There’s a sense of adamancy and intimacy, word play of “My small poems /open a moment/ close to me”. There’s a looking at being called out as “complacent” and underachieving. Instead of anger back, there’s a compassionate look. He protests too much. There’s a tenderness to him without caving to his point. Not conceding, proceeding. He “is mad for something” he sees and when he gets a few thoughts later, concludes “I am sane for something.” There’s a self-assured statement of pursuing what is the cause of curiosity. The poem is about respect, enacting peace not by chanting Hari Krishna and ignoring conflict and speaking one side and talking over the other side and omitting it. It

169. Emily Carr: rebel artist by Kate Braid (XYZ  Publishing, 2000)

I saw this book when it came out and I’m slower on the draw than I knew. 15 years for me to get around to it. Yikes.

It fleshed out some details of her life with her sisters that I didn’t know about. Her connection with Lawren Harris if I knew about, I forgot. That she should be brought into the fold by Harris was touching.

This Sunday at Pressed Kate Braid, Peter Richardson and Rod Pederson read

170. West of Darkness, Emily Carr : A Self Portrait By John Barton (Porcepic Books, 1999)

Having come back across the one on Emily Carr, it seemed a good time to get around to this one.

I read the books in the wrong order.

Poetry takes a lot of space on a page so a book of 100-odd pages is apt to be 15 or 20 pages of prose words. It reads like a Cole’s notes of events recapped that I knew previously and from the previous book.

Because whatever you read sooner is more apt to seem true, Carr is a person of explosive anger, tendency to live alone, to reject church were dominant qualities and she waxes rhapsodic on church and forest.

In these poems she reflects, kindly and circumspect, on her childhood recounting things without much charge. It’s a stage removed. Rather than poems placed in the moment say of turning off the heat and water of tenants or hitting one over the head with a pot, she says, I was a lousy landlady and moving on. But then perhaps this decade or so didn’t register as real life and would have no weight to her.

I see a lot of anger in her brushwork not passionate happy energy. She loved the woods as home but the transport of painting somehow struck me as against my vision. Which isn’t to say he or I got it wrong.

There was a uniformity of tone to a tumultuous impulsive woman. Or has history read her so because history likes to read mental instability into the lives of woman who bucked rules in that era? Was her inner life calm as this when not acted on by outside force of fools and their rules that imposed on her?

171. Between Gods by Alison Pick (Doubleday, 2014)

This was a hero’s journey in a memoir with pieces fitting together. It felt effortless to read, utterly fluid. Narrative marquetry that doesn’t make the editor’s hand show. I can’t imagine how much work that must have taken to polish. We are slowly submerged into Judaism and her mental states as she fights depression and to keep eyes on horizon-line of humans that are good to her. What is it to belong?

The little ping of insight that people can be unreactive to something not because they don’t care but because they do. If you overuse an area of skin it becomes numb. Numb is not a lack of sensation but a reaction to too much sensation. If you shut off it may not be disconnect but being overloaded with sensation. Not something I’d considered.

Because I peck away at A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man slowly that seems to make it a point of reference. Both books pull in dialogues happening around them. She walks a school hall or in a streetscape and what registers fits the mood of the character, or sets it, or both.

172. Haiku Canada Review (Vol 8, Feb 2015, Number 1)
Almost finished it in spring except for the reviews. A re-peruse and to the end.

Each issue has an editor’s pick to be the poem on the back cover. This issue it was by Michele Root-Bernstein, a one-line poem form called monostitch which packs a lot of play and thought into it,

one season following another Mobius strip tease

A standout essay in this issue was by Christian Christian of Toronot who protests the use of the word haiku i Haiku Death Match for the rhyme slam ditties, comparing it to a minstrel show, cultural appropriation, colonization while gutting the intent of the original. The 10 page article is strongly worded. I don’t know of the writer. He also gives advice on how to do slam better. I wonder if the article landed anywhere with ripples. There was talk of changing the name of the death match earlier this year.

Ricepaper did a Haiku Death match a couple years ago but a haikuist won. Elsewhere the 17 syllable ditties got towards raunchy.

It seems the sense of haiku as syllabic verse can’t easily be shaken.

173. Humour Detection in Ulysses by Sebastian D.G. Knowles (Joyce Studies, 2004)

Sweet juniper. That’s nuts. He lists the 18 best jokes in the book. Humour is personal and I might have seen entirely other set but I see why maybe I never got far in Ulysses before. Obscure and odd and what mental break happened to that young religious man who wrote A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?

Usually when you explain a joke, you ruin it but here it was elucidated. It’s funny because structurally, it’s supposed to be funny but there is no punchline! Ha! It reminds me of my favourite joke as a gaffer passing around a blank piece of paper. What is this asks old person. It’s a cow eating grass? Where’s the grass? The cow ate it. Where’s the cow? There’s a snowstorm!

Except he does his with beastiality joke and Mary in stretched pun in French. My. In a way bad puns and sacriledge and religion should be right up my line but nope, seems not.

It makes a certain legibility by having read The Odyssey in parallel.

174. A Magpie Life: Growing a Writer by George Bowering (Key Porter, 2001)

This was a fascinating book. We read the whole thing aloud. What was early CanLit like? The people, the travel. What is Canada? His Canada includes natives. How odd. What other CanLit report did that?

Peppered with a swirl of essays taped together they cover baseball, life in the fruit belt, breaking an arm, chasing down history. Like so many books of essays it doesn’t assume you go from cover to cover and so repeats things. But a pretty enjoyable book.

175. The Odyssey by Homer, trans by Samuel Butler (1900)
The prose version of The Odyssey was an easier go than the previous time with rhymed English. This seemed modern although a century ago.

It answered why the dead may be burned. If not properly buried they’d be between heaven and hell. How curious that a ceremony in the kind-of purgatory you threaten the ghosts with a sword so only the ones you want to talk to can drink the blood they thirst for, enough to break the veil enough to recognize you and speak.

The frantic randomness of battle isn’t the main thing here. Curiously over the condensed version I read, the story kept going. That Penelope should wander into the battle scene, recognize him, hugs and curtains seemed strange. For some reason the condensed had Ulysses fighting 2 against all instead of 4. That he should go to his father makes more sense. That the other version should omit the peace treaty made by a goddess is strange. Having read the short, I can see Butler’s point of females being in prominent positions. The summary curbed them but this had women or goddesses at key junctures.

Reading this book fills in and complicates how Sir Phillip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella was tethered to it in structure, number of suitors being number of sonnets, and the hero being more analogous to the anti-hero moochers. That make the trajectory of Astrophel after the story a foul out and being killed by Stella’s husband.

In his other book, The Authoress of the Odyssey he has done a floor plan of the house, mapping all the actions. Because the text mentions no windows, he adds none.

Categories: Currently reading.

What works

How could you like that book? at NY Books Tim Parks says, although various authors are successful and competent, he cannot understand the attraction to some writing and how people commit to so many pages read.

I buy a copy, and halfway through I toss it away, literally, at the wall, in intense irritation. How can people like these stories, [...]
I live under the constant impression that other people, other readers, are allowing themselves to be hoodwinked. They are falling for charms they shouldn’t fall for. Or imagining charms that aren’t there. They should be making it a little harder for their authors. [...] I begin to wonder how people can be so wholehearted in their enthusiasm.

I feel that way more about movies, television and newspapers, but occasionally books too.

It’s not that he hates literacy I’m sure or literature nor is he probably a snob. There’s a frustration at disconnect when he can see others connect. Is it them or me? How can subjective be so very subjective?

What nourishes at this time and place won’t reach in another context, time, place, mood. That’s head knowledge.

Experiential knowledge is seeing people enjoy and also wanting to enjoy. I suppose a solution would to be vicariously happy for the person and drink in their enthusiasm rather than focus on the impassibility of sharing the experience from the inside.

He continues,

Reading other peoples’ takes on Primo Levi, or Murakami, or David Eggers, and comparing them to my own, I get some sense of who we all are and what we’re up to. Sometimes this turns out to be far more interesting than reading the book itself.

If this is the case, then, the important thing would be, first, really to understand one’s own reaction, to observe it with great care; and, second, to articulate it honestly, without any fudging for fear that others might disagree.

That sounds sound.

Silent, people may consider you a fool but open your mouth and they have grounds for proof, or however that expression goes.

To say something specific is to allow debate. People back or people back up in a way that they don’t for generalities.

Sometimes it feels like I’m colour blind in a non-colour-blind world but either way colours are being seeing differently a text.

How does that text meet a need? How do people stay on for the ride? Are expectations and gratification at low thresholds or they are seeing totally different things? It’ a crazy-maker to debate superiority of aesthetics. The act of communication is an act of persuading, marketing, saying this, omitting that. A statement of which values you value.

At OpenBook in an article on Meet the Presses and the bpNichol chapbook award tomororw, Nicholas Power says that reading is about finding affinities, inwards and outwards:

Read what’s being published, especially in the magazines and books of people to whom you’re sending your work. Support the work that you like and even the work you don’t like but that you know is breaking new ground. Buy books and respond to those writers. Go to readings and see what’s going on. You don’t have to be part of a scene but you can find out where your affinities are in the many worlds of writing.

Reading is to find a comfort zone, stretch it and tone it. It’s an exercise regimen really.

Categories: Uncategorized.


small press fair gleans

Dang, and doing gender audit afterwards, almost all male. Drat.

There are more photos of the day. You may all have seen the Ottawa small press photos I took.

It’s all over again until next June. What new presses? What new titles? Which old friends will come again?

Categories: Uncategorized.

This Exists!

This gorgeous little object is into the world.

marilyn irwin's press
Reviews of Non-existent Titles from Shreeking Violet Press, all hand-sewn binding.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

Bugs & minis

Not VW Beetles and mini cars but Monty’s microfauna.

If I have the heart to cut its price, it’ll be half off. $6 which is ridiculously cheap.

2011 thingee from phafours
And a mini I lost. I found a file from 2011 that I don’t think I ever brought to the fair so it’s getting reissued. A whole dozen maybe. I’ll see if anyone’s interested.

It’s been a wild week sorting paper stock and cardstock, books and chapbooks in the book closet. I’ve sorted mini chapbooks by year and season packages back to 2011, rather than have to rummage thru all the singles.

All this and a new chapbook from Shreeking Violet Press on Etsy for those who can’t make it to the fair on Saturday.

Categories: phafours press news.