Friday, September 30, 2005

Thurston Moore on the mix tape on NPR. (Is it just me, or is he tuning up his voice for a possible career in FM radio?)

Later: On second thought, don't listen to it. It's pretty boring, and not in the Said-Like-Reeds-or-Things-approved sense either.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Boring post 2: I find the aesthetics of the configuration described here overwhelming:
A special situation obtains in some areas, in that there are successions of different dialects lying next to one another so that each is mutually intelligible with its near neighbours but those at either end are mutually unintelligible (e.g., a succession ABCDEFGH, in which ABCD, DEFG, and FGH are sufficiently intercomprehensible to rank as dialects, but not A and F, B and H, etc.).
Stay tuned for a boring post each day for the next week.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

On last night: stating the obvious: pop culture is for the masses; a high level of fluency in it probably isn't.

It's boring-post week at Said Like Reeds or Things, which is brought to you by Jason McBride. Here's the first installment:

Note to self: an obsession: the seriality of words in a sentence. How the fuck do they do that? But you can't stop those letters and parts of speech from jumping around and chit-chatting, can you? Here at Said Like Reeds or Things, we delight in the tension between the syntagmatic and the paradigmatic.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Okay everyone, No Direction Home is available on DVD (there are probably copies for rent at your local video store). See you tonight?

Kat Biscuits (scroll down), featuring Martin Figura, Helen Ivory, Sandra Alland, and Stuart Ross
Yammy the Kat
1108 Yonge Street, 7:30 p.m.


Brian Joseph Davis and Jason Anderson at This Is Not a Reading Series
The Gladstone Hotel Ballroom
1214 Queen St. W., 8:00 p.m.

Down with the comma of direct address.
Some interesting stuff regarding New Formalism on K. Silem Mohammad's blog. I think I used similar arguments in a backchannel conversation with an occasional commenter who asked me to justify my calling Books in Canada's aesthetic orientation conservative:
[P]lenty of "New Formalist" poets are politically aware in their personal lives, even as their work is complicit with a retrograde literary ideology—an ideology that nostalgically fetishizes the most superficial aspects of form, at the expense of appreciating fully the contexts within which such forms were put to use in their own historical moments.
I also need to qualify part of that stuff about New Formalism: better to say that NF work is "ideologically retrograde" to the extent that it is explicitly or implicitly presented as a corrective to other compositional tendencies. There's nothing "inherently" ideological about form.

There is nothing "inherently" radical or progressive about texts produced via aleatory procedures, etc., either. What makes them ideological in that sense is their deployment within a context of conscious poetic production in a given community and for a wider range of dominant response (or neglect).

Friday, September 23, 2005

Note to self: idea for poem sequence: engage the notion of utility head-on and work within the parameters of the how-to.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Okay, though I know how much everyone loves recounted dreams, I will tell you only that last night I had the most vivid ones I can remember. One was a kind of reenactment of my leaving my parents' house, and it starred my dad, Thurston Moore (as the older brother I never had), William S. Burroughs (sitting on a desk I recognized as the kind we had in my elementary school), John Barlow, and Princess Leia (circa the first Star Wars movie and not, as Lisa assumed, in a gold bikini). Thurston and I had to kind of jumpstart our spaceships by driving them off a cliff and hoping we'd catch some lift before we hit the ground. Even though the technique was inscrutable even to us, we made it every time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Funny. Last week I was asking the oft-mentioned-recently-'round-these-parts Bill Kennedy to explain metal (as in music) to me. He claims, more or less, that metal's appeal is visceral and that it comes directly from the low end of the tonal spectrum. (He went on to describe the effect on his bowels of standing near a speaker at a particular show. Nice.) So, by coincidence, it turns out that one of the most charming couples I know is debuting as a 'new metal' duo tomorrow night at Sneaky Dee's. Nadja is Aidan Baker and Leah Bukareff, who together or apart are always doing something interesting, whether it be launching a new record or poetry collection, printing an indie comic, making cool books, or helping to organize the Pedal to the Metal Craft Fair. (Leah also did the stunning window display for my book at Book City on the Danforth.) So go see them, with Khanate, Knurl, and DJ Miss Barbrafisch, $8–10 (so saith Zoilus).
Today's quote:

"You can't get any information from a good painting. You have to look at the bad ones." (Joann Sfar, last night at the Lillian Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library)

Not sure I agree, but interesting.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Today's quote:

"I'd like to get on a normal schedule of releasing albums—every four months."

Matt Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces (via

Friday, September 16, 2005

The thing I found most interesting about the Coach House do Wednesday night was how frequently conflict was alluded to. It arose throughout the survey in various guises: from mentions of being scared of another writer to a story of a colleague so overcome by tension that they yell "I hate you" repeatedly at a potted plant. It was somehow reassuring to have it confirmed that friction has always been part of the deal in this lit scene. Not particularly surprising, just reassuring.

This calls to mind a passage from Bill Kennedy's current Word essay, "Choose Your Nostalgia," the latter of which I'm now convinced (and not just because it opens with an excerpt of a poem of mine) is nearly universal in its potential application:
[Poetry communities] collect loosely upon lines of a shared aesthetic, though it doesn't take long to realize that the sense of commonality in any given poetry community is largely only presumed (anyone who's ever sat on a jury has found out how quickly those presumptions of commonality dissolve). This sense of like-mindedness is as chimerical as the notion of a general reading public for poetry, but it is a useful illusion: it provides a critical mass for poetry activity and an opportunity for poets to share ideas outside of their own micro-concerns. In the end, community is useful because it creates an intimate kinship between poets that has, and will, sustain poetry long after the fickle public has moved on to other distractions.
Throw into the mix the fact that people are passionate about their poetics, and you've got a recipe for discord. But, yes, the heartening element of all of this is that people do manage to stick together despite their differences (not saying that the manner in which we deal with our differences can't be improved upon; just saying).

So hey, I'm curious about the mechanisms that sustain this cohesion, that support the illusion of like-mindedness. Is the function of the idea of experimental or innovative literature similar to that of a nation? My first impulse is to think so. I guess the big difference is that the norm is to enter into this community by some degree of choice. What role do institutions like Coach House and Lexiconjury play? Alternatively, is the structure of the community a concatenation of overlapping interests without a centre? If so, is the illusion of like-mindedness a result of this configuration, or an imposition upon it, and not a constitutive feature?

"It's interesting, for sure."

Floating Island becomes a reality.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Check out the new-look Word. Now you don't even need to get out of your pyjamas to get it (not that I ever did).

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Some nourishing (though I guess at this point not especially earth shattering) quotes in Mark Scroggins's Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge:
Both Zukofsky and Joyce wind in as many meanings as possible: both consequently cultivate an opacity of text—for if the text is to contain the world, then it must, like the world, in its quiddity stubbornly resist the hermeneutic act (Peter Quartermain, Disjunctive Poetics).
Poetry's special privilege emerges at exactly this point [when we realize that "language comprehends reality" and is "self-authorizing"], for poetry is that form of discourse whose only object is to allow language to display itself, to show how it lives. What was once named "God"—that being whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere—has died and been reborn in language (Jerome McGann, Black Riders: The Visible Language of Modernism).

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sorry for the lack of posts here the past while. I've been a bit down in the dumps because of my insomnia, which I have a chronic case of (we're talking 15 years). Hence also (in part anyway) the slow pace at which I get things done (lost days). It could also be why my poems tend to be so short. Enough whining though.

When I was a budding poet, I took a poetry workshop in which the leader told me never to end a line with the word the.

Here's a poem by W.W.E. Ross:


Black of the
branches and
white of the
snow that is
upon them—

There I see
by the street
trees with
snow on their

light, not
heavy with
liquid to

Black of the
branches but
white of the

Too bad Ross was such a hack (that's a joke). Ross makes a point of breaking lines after the word the (he does so after just about every function word, actually) and in so doing renders syntax as palpable form. This is the kind of thing I've been digging lately, at least when my brain is functioning. I plan to write more about this.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Tomorrow night comes with its conflicts: among other things, the Coach House shindig and Gustav Morin at Spin. Who was it who was speaking about a central planning agency? Just kidding.

Oh yeah, please check my blogroll periodically. I've added a few blogs recently, and some of them are quite good. I'm never sure how much fanfare people want, so I've decided to add quietly from here on.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

A key paragraph, I think, from Rick Groen's article on Cronenberg and Egoyan in today's Globe and Mail:
In that scene, Cronenberg finds the art that Egoyan holds sacred. And he finds it for the very reason that nothing is entirely sacred to him -- even art, especially his art, must co-exist with the profane. So all hail our reigning monarchs who, in their different ways, serve us well. As to who has served better, I don't know where that truth lies -- but I'm damn sure where my affection does.
More soon.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Today's truism after an evening discussing the politics of poetry: It's the privilage of the powerful to be deluded into thinking they are avoiding politics.

In other news: Collectives. What are they? Would you join one?
The following from Maggie Helwig:

PEN Canada book follows writers into exile at Cabbagetown Festival
Speaking in Tongues book launch and reading
Saturday, September 10, 4:00 pm
Fellini's Shoe, 226 Carlton., 416-923-7463, Free

Writers championed by international artists' aid group PEN Canada face many kinds of risks. They are caught in wars, imprisoned, intimidated by governments or gangs, working in exile, or living as refugees. But the risks don't end when they escape their homelands, leave refugee centres, or even when they arrive in Canada. The uprooting often jeopardizes careers, written work, and family life.

Speaking in Tongues: PEN Canada Writers in Exile is the latest collection from The Banff Centre Press and offers a voice for writers in exile who have re-established themselves as writers in a new land and a new language. On Saturday September 10, as part of the Cabbagetown Festival PEN Canada and Fellini's Shoe celebrates Speaking in Tongues with readings by Zdenka Acin, Goran Simic, Maggie Helwig, and others.

The collection's contributors explore the central theme of the transition between cultures and languages, and its effects on their writing. "The world changes in a day, but how do you explain this to people," says writer Stella Lee, who has been working from her home in Toronto to free her husband Jiang Weiping, a journalist held in a Chinese jail. "How do you translate the experience across cultures when you can hardly understand it yourself?"

Contributors include Zdenka Acin, Reza Baraheni, Alan Cumyn, Andrea Hila, Martha Kumsa, Stella Lee, Fereshteh Molavi, Faruk Myrtaj, Senthilnathan Ratnasabapathy, Benjamin Santamaria Ochoa, George Seremba, Goran Simic, and Mehri Yelfani.

The editor of Speaking in Tongues, Maggie Helwig, sits on the PEN Canada Board of Directors. PEN Canada works within Canada and internationally to promote freedom of expression and to aid writers persecuted for the peaceful expression of their ideas. The organization is working to establish partnerships to assist writers whose professional and cultural contributions have been imperiled by the need to leave their countries of origin.