Monday, October 31, 2005

Last week

So I did a few things last week after the BookThug launch that I figure might be worth mentioning. Here's the first installment:

Wednesday: went to hear Maggie Helwig read with Karen Solie, David Seymour, David O'Meara, and Goran Simic at the Parliament library. Maggie was great, and I especially enjoyed her "if beauty or the comfort of the mind" poem, which I'd read before. I suppose, though, that this was the first mostly anecdotal lyric reading I'd been to in quite a while, and I was struck by the frequency with which the audience sighed at the end of poems. This called to mind some lines from Margaret Christakos's new book:

...If the story shocks or carouses some reader to

such vesicular inflated vagary that the story's effects will not
be packed away promptly neither is it a good short

story for a good one goes into the reader and
holds her there working its turns inside her until she's

roundly roundly dispensed to its virtuals and then a good
one gets up and goes so she can regroup to

work where she is recompensed and required to be She
does not own all day after all (from "Waiting")
So, yes, that sigh. Is it, um, the enactment of closure, the poem "getting up" after the listener has apprehended its affective significance and is now ready to consume the next morsel?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Thoughts on last night's BookThug launch:

I was struck by how Rob Read injected the human back into his treated spam (or at least emphasized what's already there) through his declamatory reading style (complete with fake accents). On the other hand, maybe this reading style is actually a prime example of the human robotic. Oh, I think I get it.

I liked it best when Stu and Morten S√łndergaard read S√łndergaard's original Danish and the English translation simultaneously. Why isn't this the standard way to read translated material? I think it worked extremely well.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Russell Smith on the silence when it comes to experimental fiction in Canada (use the Google back door):
The thing is, we don't really have schools of writing here.

Any differences of opinion about valued storytellers tend to centre on setting and theme: how to define what is truly national; are urban settings as authentic or representative as rural ones? Experimental writing isn't even in it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Thinking that the key to writing well is sometimes just finding a form or approach that makes sense given your current situation. The old getting out of your own way trick. Thinking about why Jay's Lack Lyrics are so strong.
One of the things I like best about Lex is how it reaches out to overlapping communities, pulls them closer and gets them talking. Last night, which featured high-school po phenom Jap-Nanak Makkar; a blipfreak (my word; hope that doesn't sound demeaning) ensemble composed of Hamiltonian poet, novelist, musician and wunderkind Gary Barwin along with John Kameel Farah; and Eye Weekly's own Damian Rogers, was a perfect example of this. You could see the pollen in the air. And I think the key to Lex's success is that it does this consciously. Whereas its organizers could (as some, I suspect, do) just deny that the poetry world comprises various communities with dearly held (and sometimes conflicting) poetic orientations, the Lex team recognizes this and plays the skillful and gracious hosts. It's a swinging party every time.

Gary and John were all keyboards, mics, wires and cables leading to a mixer and two laptops. Coming out of the speakers was a delightful melange of voice, electronic squawk and Barwin's eminently-well-disposed sense of humour. Farah's facial expressions and bodily attitudes as he tinkled the ivories would have been worth the price of admission had there been one. I had a bit of what I think was an anxiety meltdown part way through their performance (through no fault of the music), so I missed the highlight of their set, the crashing of a computer, as I was outside getting some air.

Damian Rogers namechecked Dorothy Parker, and indeed her poems resemble Parker's in their angular humour, though there were also moments when her poetic voice's composure broke to reveal disarming tenderness. Rogers is working on a manuscript (called Redbird, I think) and I'm looking forward to seeing where she goes with it.

The range of Jap Makkar's performance, which included poetry and fiction, betokened an enthusiastic and infectious curiosity. Her poems seemed to straddle the line between spoken word and more language-oriented writing, while her fiction came out of regions nearer the mainstream. Expect exciting things from Makkar if she sticks with it.

Another highlight of the evening was the unveiling of Rob Read's O Spam, Poams, which is a beautiful object to behold (of course it's difficult to open). I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy next week.

Oh yeah, there was a bit of one-up-personship regarding sexual content throughout the evening. I don't know, but I don't think anyone's going to be topping Neil Hennessey's open michelle appearance in a while.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

See you tonight?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Anne M. Wagner on Richard Tuttle:
Sometimes, of course, Tuttle fails. Inevitably: Making something from (nearly) nothing is never easy, and the risk in courting such simplicity is that a work might end up looking like nothing much at all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

It is generic and perfect

Much off-line activity and exciting e-mail correspondence these days, so little posting. Here though, quickly, is something interesting I've found. I think it relates to some recent discussion 'round these parts.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Silliman on Jay.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Another perspective and another issue (this one on the internalization of pop music's measures as self-flagellation): Ange Mlinko on Dylan.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Material imposes its form on form

Here's a thought experiment. The following is Richard Serra:
My foundation is industrial process, but so is architecture's, though it is most often masked there. Buildings are always more interesting to me before they're clad. I'm not saying structural integrity is authenticity—that's not my polemic—but people can recognize when surface is not coming from structure: It looks superfluous, frivolous. One of the big problems in contemporary architecture is division between the structure, the more-engineered part, and the skin, the more-architected part. Many architects now focus a little on the layout and a lot on the ornament, whether it's glass, titanium that bends, or scenographic surface, while the structure is handed over to the engineer. (That isn't the case with, say, John Utzon's opera house in Sydney, or Rem Koolhaas's library in Seattle. There you still have the architect and the engineer of one mind, and there's a tectonic clarity to those buildings that takes one's breath away.) The division becomes problematic with postmodern architecture, and more and more architects are limited to the design of the ornament as skin. In my work, on the other hand, the structure and the skin are one and the same. I still believe that material imposes its form on form; that's why it's important for me to stick with a material I understand.
I wonder if it's possible to think of language, and specifically poetry, in the same way, perhaps with reference to Silliman's distinction between form and pattern. I would go further (I think it's further, and I think this has been part of my project for the past while, though I haven't articulated it this way) and follow Serra with his "I still believe that material imposes its form on form" and look at form in terms of grammar, letter forms, strings, lines, etc. Even more interesting would be to ask what form is in these cases, and perhaps think of it as the intersection of various forces. I suspect this is nothing especially new (maybe it's another Zukofskian horsey moment), but still.

So I realize I've fallen down in my promise to deliver boring posts each day this week. What can I say? Life interferes with blogging. I'll try to pick things up a bit.

More on more soon.