Monday, November 29, 2004

A little dustup on the blog

Jason: I was going to use the word "stalk," but Lisa told me it wouldn't be a good idea. And what I meant to say is that while you're probably the best-adjusted person I know, I'm beginning to recognize your many idiosyncrasies.

I was going to post a funny photo of you, but Flickr is temporarily down. You're lucky, man.

Friday, November 26, 2004


I'm working on my Speakeasy talk (December 12, 2:30 p.m., This Ain't the Rosedale Library), which is tentatively entitled "A Field Guide to One-, Two-, Three-, and Four-Letter Words."

I got no lips, I got no tongue

The Pixies' performance was competent and professional if not tremendously inspired. Only Kim Deal seemed particularly excited about playing (she was also the only one with a hair on her head). Still, the show was one of the best I've seen, and it was because of the music itself. I found myself thinking that Doolittle and its b-side Surfer Rosa (both sampled heavily on last night's setlist) could be rock music's greatest hits album. My thinking is slightly less hyperbolic today, but still, those are some fine songs.

Also striking was the swag at the merch table. I know this is the Pixies' "Sellout Tour," but I mean, what's with the shoulder bags.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Slicing up eyeballs, ha ha ha ho

I've always said that the one band whose reunion tour I'd go to see is the Pixies, and tonight I get my chance. (Idiot I am, I missed all opportunities the first time around.)

From what I understand, they play "Gigantic" every night, so Lisa will be happy. I'm hoping to hear "Monkey Gone to Heaven," which is almost as assured, and then everything else is icing. There's something fundamentally wrong about seeing the Pixies in Mississauga, but who cares. It will be good. (Report tomorrow.)

P.S. Pixies, if you're reading this, I'd like to hear "Crackity Jones," too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

One letter at a time

Brian Kim Stefans's resetting of the Ginsberg poem that got me excited about writing, "Howl, One Letter at a Time," reminds me of a work by some friends, Boredom Research, called "7960 characters arranged in a dangerous order," which presents accurate instructions for the construction of a hydrogen bomb, you guessed it, one letter at a time.

The first difference between these two works that strikes me is in the palpability (or lack thereof) of the original text in the resettings: the one encourages the reader to focus on the text as artifact and, beyond that, on each letter as material in its own right; the other actively dares the reader to reach beyond, to connect the letters (or the dots, as it were). Is this just because one is a known text and the other isn't? Maybe. Is this just because one was framed as a poetic text and the other as instructions? Maybe. But maybe we can dispense with the "just."

Monday, November 22, 2004

Books acquired in New York

William Bronk, Selected Poems
Geoffrey Brown, Self-Titled
Frank O'Hara, Collected Poems
Michael Palmer, The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972-1995

Waiting for me when I got back:

Nelson Ball, At the Edge of the Frog Pond
Nelson Ball, With Held

Still more New York highlights

Involved in a three-way tie at number 1 is the fact that I started writing again after about six months. Who knew the power of having to wait for Lisa (H) to finish her shower in our hotel room.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

More New York highlights

Also at number 1 is our lunch with Lisa, Thomas, and Jason. It was nice to see Lisa and Thomas so happy together and to hear about Jason's puppydog search for Amy Sedaris.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

New York highlights

Number 1 was Eileen Myles's reading at the Biting the Error launch. I have to admit, I was aware of her only vaguely by reputation and expected her to be restrained and coolly urbane. Her reading, though, was striking for its barely contained energy, and it transformed the audience from intently interested listeners to full participants. They were no longer carefully seated observers at a launch of a collection of essays but a group of friends catching up with her anecdotes full of off-the-cuff wisdom in someone's East Village kitchen.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The bright side

"On the day after Bush's 3.5 million vote presidential election victory, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank was asked What It All Meant. 'I think a large part of the public likes the conservatives' theme music,' he said. 'Now they will be tested on whether they like the lyrics.' Aside from being a good line from an entertaining and eminently quotable politician, and aside from being an expression of sour grapes--Frank is not only a friend of John Kerry's, but also was angling to take his senate seat if Kerry had won--Frank was alluding to something profound: The Democrats may have won this election by losing it."

(I don't know how grammatically sound that final sentence is, but still, the article is a worthwhile read: via Peter Culley.)

I'll be in New York for a few days. We'll see how the posting goes.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Best blog post ever

Jordan Davis calls this the best blog post ever.

Friday, November 12, 2004

New York reading alert

This ad appeared in last week's issue of the Village Voice. It's a little bigger and crisper there.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Public service announcement

According to the Palm Beach Post, over the course of election day 2004, the electronic voting machines in Broward County, Florida, counted backwards: yes, as more people voted, the official vote count went down.

In one Columbus, Ohio, suburb, election officials have acknowledged that electronic voting machines credited Bush with winning 4258 votes, even though only 638 people voted there.

In a letter to Republican donors, Walden O'Dell, CEO of Diebold Inc., the manufacturer of voting systems used in Ohio and Florida, wrote, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

While these cases aren't in themselves evidence that the Republicans stole the 2004 election, they are fishy enough to warrent investigation.

To that end, please encourage all of your friends in the U.S. to sign's petition.

Also, check this out. (Discovered on Stephanie Young's blog.)

On the NHL lockout

I'd imagine people reading this blog are wondering what my views are on the current NHL lockout. I have to say, I'm pretty much with the NHLPA on this one. The players are the ones who have dedicated their lives to hockey, dragging themselves to early morning practice as teenagers and enduring the physical punishment of an 84 game schedule now. Yeah, they make a lot of money, but let's not resent them for it. Better them than the fat cats in the board rooms. Let's find out what their salaries are.

And don't buy the ticket-price argument. Do you think prices will go down with a salary cap? How much were tickets for the World Cup? Hundreds of dollars, right? How much did the players make? Nothing.

Some epigraphs missing from Said Like Reeds or Things

This, which I discovered after the book was in production, could have gone on the title page to the "Said Like Reeds or Things" section:

"Prior to Meaning studies the ways in which language behaves as opposed to how it's designed to function."

--Steve McCaffery, from the introduction to Prior to Meaning: The Protosemantics and Poetics

This could have gone on the main title page:

"Art is boring."

--Joseph Kosuth, "Notes on Conceptual Art and Models"

Or maybe I just like these quotes.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Just to confirm what we already knew

Ignore the caveats. It's true, dammit.

(Thanks to Pejk and Lisa.)

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Super Wednesday

A veritable bevy of events coming at you this Wednesday. More proof that the universe is bountiful yet unjust. Wear your running shoes. All events are free.

Jennifer Reeves' The Time We Killed (2004, 94 min, B&W)
Starring Lisa Jarnot, and including her poetry!

Cinematheque Ontario
November 10, 6:30 p.m.
Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas St. West
*The director will be present for Q & A at the screening
(more info. below)

Lexiconjury XXVI: The Secret Swingilicious Lexiconjury Martini Party!
November 10, 8:00 p.m.
Cobalt (Bathurst/College)
featuring Alice Burdick, Stephen Cain, and Ryan Knighton

Art Starts Youth Open Mike Night
November 10, 6:30 p.m.
(w/ host Mark Truscott)
Maria A. Shchuka District Library
1745 Eglinton Avenue West

A Sparky Pictures Inc. Production. Produced by Jennifer T. Reeves and Randy Sterns. Written, directed, edited by Jennifer Reeves. Poems by Lisa Jarnot. Music by Marc Ribot, Elliott Sharp, Zeena Parkins, Pitt Reeves. With: Lisa Jarnot, Valeska Peschke, Rainer Dragon, Susan Arthur, Jennifer Reeves.

"In this film, an agoraphobic writer retreats into the presumed safety of her New York City apartment, only to be confronted with psychic travails triggered by
overheard conversations about suicide in a neighboring apartment, televised images of the American invasion of Iraq, memories of September 11, and thoughts and dreams of childhood experiences, travel adventures, and former lovers. The confinement of the protagonist's apartment world is visually expressed through crisp black-and-white digital video cinematography. These present-moment scenes are interlaced throughout the film with more lyrical passages, which represent the flights of fancy of the protagonist's internal, subjective world. Such moments are visually expressed by the filmmaker in more abstract fashion, through the use of dazzling images photographed on 16mm black-and-white motion picture film. The panoply of landmark experimental techniques, such as grainy and overexposed shots (all photographed and optically manipulated by Reeves' own hands), imbue this film with a rich and varied texture. A brilliant feature debut".
--JON GARTENBERG, Film programmer, Tribeca Film Festival.

Berlin International Film Festival: FIPRESCI Award in the Forum section Tribeca Film Festival: Best NY, NY Narrative Feature OUTFEST, Los Angeles: Outstanding Artistic Achievement Award

A full-length interview with Reeves about The Time We Killed (by Brent Kite), appears in the Fall 2004 Cinema Scope issue.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Pissing Ice

If you've bought Breathing Fire 2, you should check out its secret companion volume, Pissing Ice, edited by Jon Paul Fiorentino and Jay MillAr.

The latter is published by BookThug and includes important work by Elizabeth Bachinsky, Derek Beaulieu, Daniel f. Bradley, Alice Burdick, Stephen Cain, Jason Christie, Jason Dickson, Paul Hegedus, Jesse Huisken, Jake Kennedy, Jeremy McLeod, Gustave Morin, Alessandro Porco, Angela Rawlings, Rob Read, Jenny Ryan, Nathalie Stephens, Mark Truscott, Andy Weaver, and Mike Woods.

Get it at Appolinaire's Bookshoppe or, if you're in Toronto today, at the Small Press Book Fair.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Reads from Said Like Reeds or Things

Below is an article based on an e-mail interview Chris Watson conducted with me, from Hamilton's View magazine. I'm not sure I believe my own answers. I may have been talking about my next book.

Warning: What follows is not for those easily offended by pseudo-theoretical bombast. I wrote my answers on my lunch at work and didn't have a chance to check them for silliness.

By Chris Watson

Reads from Said Like
Reeds or Things

Saturday November 6, 7pm
270 Sherman Ave. N

Poet Mark Truscott has a way with words—or maybe, to
be more precise, a way without them. His new book of
poems, Said Like Reeds or Things, gives ample
evidence of this. His brief, precise pieces offer readers
moments of insight into not only what they’re reading,
but also why.

Through the magic of e–mail, View had a chance to
speak with the ex–Burlington/Hamiltonian and McMast-
er graduate about his poetry, poetry in general, and
whether he thinks the form even plays a role in today’s

“I’m the a product of a capitalist country, so I’ve inherited
the impulse to look for purpose or payoff,” Truscott
admits. “I have always been skeptical of this way of
thinking and, in some sense, this book is an attempt to
get beyond it. Many of the poems frustrate readings that
seek the payoff of a literal meaning, and I think it’s useful
to consider this in economic terms. In a way, some of my
poetry is less than purposeless; it’s wasteful. I’m not sure
how to think of my poetry’s or poetry’s role in general
under these circumstances.”

There are some truly beautiful passages in Said Like
Reeds or Things.
The pieces can be very evocative and
even emotive, both despite their brevity and because of

“I like short poems,” Truscott says, “because they give
the reader an opportunity to pay attention to the smallest
of linguistic behaviours. When faced with a poem of five
words in which almost nothing is happening in the
referential sense, the reader has to, for instance, look at
the relationships among letters or at the balance or lack
thereof among the lengths of the words. A five–word
poem also encourages the reader to ask why these five
words are a poem, so there’s the possibility of some form
of questioning of definitions and, well, institutions."

“Some of the poems are distillations of much longer
pieces. 'Circularity,' for instance, had 157 words when it
was published in the Malahat Review, and now it’s down
to eight including the title. Many of them began short
though. “I’ve just started reading these poems in public,
and I think their brevity is sometimes a little startling to
people, which is good I suppose. I think some people
find the brevity funny, and that’s definitely a good thing.”

Truscott’s work confronts and challenges people’s
assumptions about how and even why they read. How
does he recommend a reader approach his work, or
poetry in general?

“I think if this book is 'about' anything,” he replies, “it’s
about the fact that language always exceeds our reading
of it, and I think that what occurs in my book occurs in
any use of language, though maybe not as obviously. I
hope that readers of my book will come away with a felt
sense (and I’d like to underline “felt”) that language is
more than a tool, that while language is the element in
which we live, it is ultimately other than us and beyond

“I think the key to approaching my poetry is to
acknowledge the materiality of the language in addition
to its semantic component. Most poetry solicits this
acknowledgement, though my poetry probably does
more insistently than the average contemporary poem.”

Truscott’s gritLIT reading won’t be his only in Hamilton
next week—he’s also launching his book on November
4 at the You Me Gallery. Another thing next week’s
readings won’t be? Truscott’s first time in the region.

“I’m thrilled to have a launch for my book at the You Me
Gallery,” he says, “because Bryce Kanbara, the owner,
taught me how to ask questions about contemporary art
when he was the curator at the Burlington Art Centre
(then the Burlington Cultural Centre) and I was a punky
17–year–old part–time security guard there. Lorraine
York’s modern and contemporary Canadian poetry
classes at McMaster were important first exposures to
many of the poets I still read regularly. Hamilton was a
great place to be during university. It’s a city of humane
size in that it’s big enough to give you the opportunity to
try things out and small enough to allow you to escape
widespread notice when you fail.”

Fortunately for us, Truscott’s poetry is far from failure.
You can verify that fact for yourself when he comes to
town for two separate readings, tonight and Saturday.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Wanted: a progressive American candidate with actual vision

Don't get me wrong, I got to like John Kerry, inasmuch as he was the slightly hapless fellow who was clearly trying as hard as he could for our side. And I think he'd be a good guy to watch a hockey game with.

Imagine, though, a leader who could make a sizable portion of straight middle America see that legalizing queer marriage would actually strengthen the institution. Imagine one who could make people enthusiastic about renewable energy sources. Imagine one who could apologize first and foremost to the people of Iraq, then to the families of soldiers killed there, to the maimed soldiers rotting in broken down military hospitals, and to the rest of the world, and then, having won the election, cede control of Iraq to the U.N. I don't think this would be that hard.

Or maybe I just don't understand the U.S.

Hello to my good friend Bill in Jacksonville, Florida, who did his part.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


If you're in Hamilton:

4 November, 7:30 p.m.
my Hamilton launch
You Me Gallery
330 James Street North

6 November, 7:00 p.m.
Cotton Centre
270 Sherman Avenue North
(I'm reading with Linda Frank, Nino Ricci, and others)

If you're in Toronto:

4 November, 7:30 p.m.
The Rivoli (upstairs) 334 Queen St. W.
Mercury Press launch
(featuring Stuart Ross's new anthology, Surreal Estate: 13 Canadian Poets Under the Influence, and Nelson Ball's new book, At the Edge of the Frog Pond, among others)

Now, if only I can figure out how to break the laws of identity.

The Chimp is going down

You heard it here first.

No offence to our fellow primates.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Public service announcement

Remember, this is what counts.

Any U.S. citizens reading this, please, please vote.

Poet alert

I'm probably about a year behind in saying this, but if you haven't already, check out Jill Hartman's book A Painted Elephant. I'm only part way through, but already her formal versatility is astounding, and her reach is huge. I have this fantasy that the elephant of the title appeared to her during a dictionary play session and led her into this charming and, well, fun book.