Friday, July 29, 2005

See you Tuesday. All the action has been in the comments.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I really like Rodney Graham's Rock Is Hard. I bought it thinking it would just be cool to have a CD by the guy, but it's actually quite good. Think Lou Reed with fewer resources and a smaller audience and you're in the neighbourhood. There are those cringe-worthy yet disarming moments of direct statement in his lyrics. Nice, subtle rhythm guitar as well.

My favourite track is "Time Waster." Hey, everyone needs a theme song.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Here's another gleaning, this one a bit more provocative I think. In the latest issue of C, Jacob Wren introduces philosopher Alain Badiou, who claims that current philosophy is "too strongly committed to the polyvalence of meaning and the plurality of languages" and advocates a willingness to consider truth. But don't worry, as Wren assures us,
Badiou never sees truth as unchanging verity. To the contrary, he always views it as an "infinite multiplicity." Any given truth is not the only one, contains infinite aspects, and therefore should never be rigid. If it goes too far or becomes totalizing, it betrays itself, opening the way to terror and disaster.
Badiou's truth seems to me to draw heavily on Kierkegaard. According to Badiou, to live in truth is to live in "fidelity" to an "event" that creates a rupture in the "situation," or the status quo, forming "'a hole in knowledge,' breaking open the situation, pushing at the limits of what potentially can be said." There are four types of events: "artistic invention, emancipatory politics, scientific refoundation, and love."

To me though, the most immediately interesting part of Wren's essay is the following:
More to the point, I suspect an engagement with truth (or something like it) is essentially what most artists do anyway, almost as a dirty little secret or unspoken impulse. They feel that within their work there is something true and they bear this truth, remaining loyal to early breakthroughs and realizations, continually teasing out the many complications and consequences of their ongoing endeavour. Dealing with the language of "truth-procedures" more directly has the potential to challenge the unspoken nature of this struggle, asking us to think about what art means on a more fundamental level, intensifying our engagement with our fundamental artistic concerns, allowing the multiplicity of our practice to swarm around a central point, giving us back a clear, yet still hazardous, sense of direction.

Monday, July 25, 2005

For the most part, geometry has always been considered as something classical, as something timeless, as something divorced from the social landscape, as something ahistorical. In fact, geometry is often described as an a priori structure of human thought—that we naturally think in terms of geometric configurations or organization. I felt the need to challenge these assumptions based on my own growing intuitive perceptions of the city as a functional machine.

I wanted to redefine geometry as something that was in the world, that had a history and that was tied to issues of power and control. I wanted to show that geometry was not simply classical beauty, but that the use of geometry, in the space of our culture, was fundamentally linked to the goals and objectives of certain groups at certain times.
from Peter Halley, "Geometry and the Social"

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Having expressed my annoyance at the prevalence of the creepy-cute aesthetic in Queen Street visual art a few weeks ago, I come across this partial essay that might lead me toward a more nuanced view (via Josh Corey).

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

First, if you haven't already, go visit our man in Coquitlam at his new blog. There seems to be the potential for real conversation with all of these new blogs, which is pretty exciting.

In other news, all of this Latin talk has got me thinking about algebra.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Looking up Catullus's "Odi et Amo" this morning for a workshop I'm leading tonight, I remembered how struck I was in my university Latin classes by the different visually oriented poetic devices a heavily inflected language encourages (inflection is the marking of a word, often with an ending, to indicate grammatical function): for instance, the chiastic balance in velles dicere nec tacere posses (the ABCBA pattern the parts of speech form) or the way in which the beloved Lesbia is surrounded by life and love in Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus.

Don't worry, I'm not making the kids read Latin.

LATER: I guess the visual reading is likely my imposition.

STILL LATER: Maggie says it's not, so it's not.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

All multiplicities are flat, in the sense that they fill or occupy all of their dimensions (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 9).

Scream mainstage

I don't know, I thought the mainstage night was pretty good as a cross-section of the various Toronto lit. communities, which is what I think it functions as. I find getting a sense of what people whose poetics I don't share are doing useful as a means of getting my bearings. A few highlights:

While I wasn't completely convinced by his reading or his poetry, Michael Holmes somehow won me back (Lisa too) from wanting to throw something hard at him when he came out on stage.

I enjoyed Karen Hines's reading, though it wasn't as convincing as others of hers I've seen. She seemed a bit nervous, which, given the size of the crowd and her lack of makeup, is understandable. Still, I got a better sense of the weave of her satire than I have before.

I liked Emily Schultz's reading. I'm confused though by the reaction to her mention of "Owner of a Lonely Heart." I laughed because I've always thought of the song as utter Cheez Whiz. Has it picked up some form of ironic credibility in the past few years?

M. NourbeSe Philip's inverted anaphora on is: two thumbs up.

The words of our man Jordan Scott's blert are solid in themselves, but together they vibrate, fold, splinter, and, yes, stutter. At times, in their diffuse metaphorical relationships, they flutter. Scott read slowly facing slightly to the side of the stage under minimal and focused light. There were moments when I thought he was casting a spell.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Mood: removing a no-lick postage stamp from my tongue.

Music: cuck-kaw! cuck-kaw!
In the voice of a lonely, whiny eight-year-old: None of my blog friends are awake yet (partial list; don't be hurt). I've read all of my Hardy Boys books! I'm going downstairs to watch TV.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

And I figure the said or embodied need not be fully formulated. In fact, better that it not be. Better that it be something reached for. Better though that there be reaching I think.

Later: other possibilities: hypotheses or what ifs. Still thinking about the latter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I mean something to say or embody.
So what's that intangible something I feel a collection of poems has to have in order to be truly compelling? Is it as simple-minded as the book's having something to say (even if it's "I have nothing to say, and I'm saying it")? Something urgent, or at least compelling for the poet? Something felt, even while it might be theoretically oriented?

Is this coming to mind because this is a rare quality, or am I just feeling grumpy?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Okay, now I have to come clean. Lisa actually had nothing to do with the contest. I was just using her as cover.
Housekeeping note: the blogroll at the side now lists only blogs (I think). I'll add the non-blog sites to the links on my main site when I get a chance.
After yesterday's Mercury reading, I'm looking forward even more to the publication of Rachel Zolf's next book. I had a chance to hear her read from it when we were on a bill together in Ottawa, and her processing of her use of language at her paying job struck me as something needed as opposed to being just good or interesting. She's tightened the work up since then, adding in some search engine output, and it seems even more relevant.

Lisa and Mark's invisible dance contest

Little did the guests at Saturday night's Scream Gala know it, but those who took to the floor during Luther Wright and the Wrong's performance were being judged, and they were being judged harshly. Everyone knows that as a rule writers aren't the best dancers, but that doesn't keep them from notable accomplishments on the dance floor. Here are the results of Lisa and Mark's first annual invisible dance contest:

Best use of hair as a distraction from truly goofy moves: Bill Kennedy

Most humane use of restraint to avoid embarrassing those who really can't dance: Sharon Harris, Angela Rawlings, and (we think) Marianne Apostolides

Most sincere expression of the sheer joy of rhythmic movement: Hugh Thomas

Dancer most pleasing to the deities of chaos and order: John Barlow

Best argument for the benefits of sleep and caffeine deprivation: Maggie Helwig

Greatest distance kept from the dance floor after having been pulled onto it: Charles Checketts

Congrats to all contestants for their skill and courage. Congrats especially to Christina Palassio for putting together a great night.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Concept of the day

paranomastic image

As in Jakobson on "I like Ike":
Both cola of the trisyllabic formula ‘I like /Ike’ rhyme with each other, and the second of the two rhyming words is fully included in the first one (echo rhyme), /layk/ -- /ayk/, a paronomastic image of a feeling which totally envelops its object. Both cola alliterate with each other, and the first of the two alliterating words is included in the second: /ay/ — /ayk/, a paronomastic image of the loving subject enveloped by the beloved object. The secondary, poetic function of this electional catch phrase reinforces its impressiveness and efficacy.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Last night's blingo night was fun. Kudos to everyone involved. Brian Joseph Davis put on an exciting and funny game of $10 Pyramid and Kyle Buckley deftly steered the good ship blingo through sometimes choppy waters. I think blingo is Christina Palassio's invention, so she has proven herself a genius. Everyone seemed genuinely pleased, and as a blingo caller, I had a good time.

There were no conventional readings, and there's nothing wrong with this, I figure, because no one promised any. It's healthy for people in the lit community to get together to hang out and do things other than listen earnestly to one another's work, and a little levity and conviviality is necessary in relation to an undertaking that can be so solitary. I'm guessing as well that this sort of night is a good way to bring people from outside this lit community in and to give them a sense of what we're doing.

So my discomfort when I came home last night had nothing to do with the event itself (I want to underline the fact that I had a great time and that I think the event was a success). I suppose what I feel is a certain lack of a particular band in the spectrum of live literary activity in Toronto (Nate Dorward's Gig series probably occupies this spot but on an irregular basis). So, yes, what I realized yesterday was that I haven't had a chance to hear Stephen Cain or Shannon Bramer (to choose the two Coach House poets with books published this spring in attendance last night) actually read from their new books at any length. I haven't engaged with their work in any kind of focused manner except on the page, and, unless I'm missing something, there haven't been any opportunities to do so in Toronto. I'd like to hear them read, and I'd like a chance for something like immersion in their work.

To that end, I hereby announce, for real, a new reading series. I want to call it the Boring Reading Series just to be cheeky, but I don't think it's a good idea. Who knows. Maybe there's a reason people don't put on this kind of thing too often and I'll find out. So yeah, monthly maybe, maybe every two months to start, one reader for two twenty-minute sets or two readers for twenty minutes each. Break in between. Possibility for discussion or something after if people are into it, perhaps off site. I'll shoot for September to start. I think it will be fun, and maybe I'll even get to hear Bramer and Cain read at it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Note: Lame-ass post removed for further consideration. Sorry, screamers.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Saturday night's Scream event: As can now be revealed, the Music of No Mind: The First Jakeson Lecture was in fact David Helwig reading his novella The Stand-In in its entirety. The minimal staging (a lectern, a glass of water) lent the reading a theatrical aspect, and Helwig's delivery was likewise subtly dramatic. The two hours or whatever flew by as Helwig played the tweedy crackpot professor and made his way through his frequently hilarious and forever meandering monologue. (The time probably passed even more quickly for the guy sitting down the bar from me who drank at least eight double espressos during the first two chapters and then abruptly left.) Good chats after with Margaret Christakos, John Barlow, and Michelle Cross.

Saturday night also boasted the only Scream schedule conflict, but thankfully Angela has blogged about Youth Scream. I promised Maggie, who organized the lecture, that I'd be there before I knew when Youth Scream was, so my mind was made up for me. Let's hear it for passive decision making and general disorganization!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Another new blog: go see Alessandro Porco.

Friday, July 01, 2005


Not Roundup. It's evil.

On Malkmus, because Kyle asked: Yeah, I don't know. Face the Truth is fine. I just don't get the feeling he's challenging himself at all. And the lyrics are just okay ("Done is good / But well done is so much fucking better," picking up I think on S.M.'s obsession with roast beef, being the exception. Where's "pigs, they tend to wiggle when they walk"? I mean, look at the play in that line. And then the "crick" bit. Those were the days).

Eye Scream: I find it a real challenge to look at art in social situations, so I'll have to go back (report soon). Great though was Neil's (or was it Kyle's?) saying something like, "What you really want is a 50/50 split between outrageously positive and outrageously negative reviews." I think I liked the flower-language piece the best. Murmur tour: Showed up late, thinking it started at 1:00 p.m. Lots of non-poetry people there. Emily Schultz's account and poem about that awkward starting-out-as-a-writer period. Maggie Helwig's earnest and adept traffic control. The response to Sharon's intro of Danny Bradley's piece (highly ambiguous). All of Stephen Cain's talk in Matt Cohen park, which nicely incorporated the protest going on behind us. A chat with Hugh Thomas. David Donnell's telling me we need more "whole wheat bread" readings, and then suggesting a night dedicated Plato's Sophist ("you know, six readers, ten minutes each"). Excellent samosas at Coach House.

I think Nadia thinks I'm an idiot now, because I couldn't understand what she said when I asked her what book she's studying this summer (Kant's Critique of Pure Reason).

Oh well, happy Canada Day.

Here, as a bonus, is an excellent description of something I've wanted to see for a while now (via Zoilus):
Another video piece by Marclay, called "Guitar Drag," at first seems vaguely comic. A single monitor shows us Marclay tying an electric guitar -- a classic Fender Stratocaster, red and white, in mint condition -- to a stout rope, whose other end is anchored to a pickup truck that's got an amplifier sitting on its bed. Marclay wires the guitar to the amp, turns both on high, gets in the truck, then takes off down a rural road and through the scruffy landscape all around it. For 14 minutes we watch, and hear, what happens when Fender meets asphalt, or gravel, or high grass, in a kind of random suite of found-art power chords.

The heaviest death metal seems positively cheerful compared with Marclay's composition. In a witty riff on the whole macho-man guitarist thing, 4/4 time gets traded for 4-by-4 noise. If you earn your rocker stripes by smashing a guitar onstage, how much better to drag it from a truck with Texas plates?

But then, as the elegant instrument first loses its sheen, then begins to splinter and finally sheds the last of its strings, it's hard to keep a smile on. The sound caught by the guitar's surviving pickups eventually becomes a featureless roar and a sense of tragedy sets in -- of potential wasted, of an unnecessary, early end. You hardly need to know that Marclay made the work in response to the lynching death of James Byrd Jr., a black man dragged along a Texas road until his body fell apart. You feel it as you watch the piece.