Tuesday, April 26, 2005

North Of

Ron Silliman's (kind) post about awards and marginalization got me thinking about nationality, which got me thinking about nationalism, which sent me back to Jeff Derksen's essay on Steve McCaffery's North of Intention:
On the basis of an identity described by this centripetal activity (which excluded any formal investigations of writing) there was a move to situate contemporary poetics in what had quickly become a "tradition." "Contemporary writers surprise us with a determined regionalism, another version of traditional Canadian concerns with the land, wilderness, the pervasive notion that an ill-defined terror of space defines the authentic Canadian sense of things." The concerns for place, for one's own voice within a national idiom ("This is a sturdy, flexible tone, which draws on the resource of daily speech in Canadian English"), and for the definition of the many through the one, which were "imported" by the Tish poets from largely American influences, became part of the making of an identity that defined "an authentic Canadian sense of things." These poetics, attached to nationalism and the "traditional" use of landscape images, have solidified into the sort of monologic imagism concerned with landscape that dominates most CanLit magazines. Also it could be seen as a force within other forces that smooth over "the heteroglossia of language, forces that unite and centralize verbal-ideological thought, creating within a heteroglot national language the firm stable linguistic nucleus of an officially recognized literary language." Other voices do not necessarily fit into these poetics, or more correctly, they are spun out to the margins.

Monday, April 25, 2005

TGIF, or, why we're going where we're going

When I feel totally down about the world, I remind myself that Rick Salutin has a national column. I know he's a token lefty in a right wing paper, but at least there's a tiny bit of space for something vaguely resembling thought about current events in the mainstream media.
It's a shame. I mean, and I know this sounds a bit stupid, why should truth matter so much? Especially since, as Nietzsche said, “Our apparatus for acquiring knowledge is not designed for knowledge.” He meant our minds. What are they designed for? Wondering. Pondering. Asking. There are times when it's nice to know, and times that it's necessary. But those tend to be specific moral or practical moments. On broad metaphysical or theological questions, what is the urgency, really? Hannah Arendt wrote that we expect truth to come from thinking because we mistake the urge to think with the urge to know. Where knowing works best, in science, it is always tentative, gradual and rejoices in overturning what it once knew.
And then I think to myself, is this it?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Clark Coolidge's Space

An appreciation of a book worthy of appreciation:
This is a terrifically rich book, in a minimalist manner: it impresses the shapes and sounds of individual words upon a reader, holds out momentary possibilities of syntax and connection, always immediately withdrawing them. The little prose poems of Stein's Tender Buttons (evoked in the Steinian pun "writ tin"?) seem like symphonic orchestrations of symbolism next to Coolidge's verbal scrawls (via Lime Tree).
Yeah, I've often marvelled at the fact that Space was published by Harper & Row, too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Here are some Canadian poetry blogs I've noticed lately: Jon Paul Fiorentino's Asthmaboy, Wanda O'Connor's Miss Wanda, Brenda Schmidt's Bird Schmidt, and Rob Budde's Writing Way North. Go visit. Also, check my blogroll for other, more familiar blogs and sites.

UPDATE: Also, while I wasn't paying attention, Natalie Simpson started blogging again.

Ottawa report (Don't you key that brand new Camry)

Fun reading Friday night after a great ride in (Lisa and I found Rachel Zolf in line for the train). Wigged Wanda O'Connor treated us to some of her subtly projective lyrics, Rachel read from her current manuscript, in which she investigates the relationship between the commercial writing she does for her day job and her artistic work, and I did a slightly anarchic version of my schtick. Tired drinks and passing of the birthday baton after, with, among others, Rachel, Wanda, rob, Max Middle, and Susannah Smith.

Saturday: Beautiful day with N.E. Thing Co. et al almost ruined by right wing freaks in front of the supreme court. Remind everyone who wants to vote Conservative to punish the Liberals that the Tories hang with people who say that homosexuality is immoral. Also, please remind them that Stockwell Day would be our minister of foreign affairs.

Sunday: Lazy day in the market, and then a train ride home. Had the opportunity to dig in to some of my birthday CDs. Okay, Jason McBride is right for once in his life. The Fiery Furnaces' EP may well have keyed in to a pop culture vector as Beck's Odelay did in 1996. Somehow the Velvet Underground and Television chill with Foxtrot-era Genesis, and Kate Bush finds her place beside Joplin. That would be Scott, by the way. "Tropical Iceland" is a pure pop confection straight from the corner store's freezer. Think "Cannonball" among the Klondike bars. See if you can keep your finger off the repeat button.

LATER: So little did I know that EP is a collection of B-sides. I'm surprised, because it's pretty damn coherent. Better than Blueberry Boat methinks.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I like this paragraph:
"When I shoot an oil field, I understand that I live within a contradiction, because I arrive at that oil field in a car, using oil and burning gasoline. It's our everyday existence. I got to that oil field in a jet. I realize that everything I'm doing is absolutely engaged with and part of the problem," he says. The smell of photography chemicals wafting through his office is also a reminder that Burtynsky himself works within an industry with its own toxins. (more)


If you're in Ottawa tomorrow night, why not come to my reading with Wanda O'Connor and Rachel Zolf?

8 April, 7:00 p.m.
Factory Reading Series at Gallery 101
236 Nepean Street

Say hello. If I don't know you already, it would be good to meet you.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A visual artist after my very heart

Christian Bök on Micah Lexier:
In True Three Ways (Word Count, Letter Count, Line Length) Lexier performs an almost Oulipian exercise by writing in pale, neon tubing: "the thing/half/two times the thing". The poem is true if, for example, "the thing" considered is letter count, since the first line contains "the thing" (eight letters), while the second line contains "half" (four letters) and the last line contains "two times the thing" (16 letters). While he knows that such conceptual artwork often uses textuality to dematerialize the experience of artistic "thingness," his own procedural writing uses textuality to rematerialize the experience of artistic "wordiness"—aestheticizing the internal, rational logic of language itself.
from "Micah Lexier: Still Counting" (Canadian Art, Spring 2005)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Said Like Reeds or Things (the book) has won the poetry category of the Alcuin Society's 2004 Award for Excellence in Book Design in Canada. I'm thrilled, because this award highlights the fact that the book was, when it comes down to it, a group effort. Darren Wershler-Henry, the winner, has designed a book that feels like an extension of the poetry, not like packaging. And of course he benefited, as I have, from the practical and intellectual advantages of working with everyone at Coach House Books and Coach House Printing.

Here is my memory of part of Darren's, Coach House editor Alana Wilcox's and my meeting in which we discussed the book's design. This should make clear how little help I was with respect to this facet of the book:

DW=H: Let's talk about the cover. So, Mark, what sort of associations come to mind when you think of your book?

MT: I dunno. It's about things.

DW=H: Things? What kind of things?

MT: Just things. You know, things. The thingness of things.

AW: There are a lot of domestic images in the book. A lot of windows for instance. How about a window on the cover?

MT: Nah, I like toasters.

(Actually, I don't think I helped even that much.) Congrats, Darren. Congrats also to Tony Glenesk and Oliver Barnett, who printed the book; to John Barbados and Nicky "Drumby Sureshot" Drumbolis, who folded and bound it; to John DeJesus, who oversaw the printing and binding; and to Stan Bevington, who worked his book magic.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I'm guest curating the May 17 installment of the Lexiconjury reading series, and I've just found a fabulous surprise in my in-box. This on top of some recent stellar acquisitions. Who needs the NHL draft?

Details to be revealed soon.