Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Overheard on the subway early this afternoon: "Well, you know, anything you put in your mouth ends up in your saxophone."

The Buffalo-Philadelphia trip was thoroughly enjoyable. Thanks to Andrea Strudensky and Janet Neigh for organizing. And thanks to Kevin Thurston (and Christine) and Karen Hannah for putting me up.

We didn't read at the bar in Philadelphia listed below. I don't know where we were, but it was a nice bookstore. Sorry if anyone showed up at the wrong place.

Back to regularly scheduled programming soon.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Shuffle off to Buffalo, Fly in to Philly

Well, I guess driving is somewhere between. See you there?

January 27, 7:00 p.m.

Rust Belt Books
202 Allen Street
(Saloon Conversation Series panel discussion on Canadian poetry with Lori Emerson, Alex Porco, and Angela Szczepaniak; readings Gregory Betts, Geoffrey Hlibchuk, Angela Rawlings, Rob Read, Trevor Speller, and Mark Truscott)

January 28, 7:00 p.m.

Night Flag Reading Series
Khyber Bar
56 South Second Street
(readings by Gregory Betts, Janet Neigh, Angela Rawlings, Rob Read, and Mark Truscott)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

As a sidenote to Jay's fable, here are some ideas I've been playing around with:

Another reason to publish, etc., in public: to attempt to engage society as well as one's own community (or to attempt to engage other communities). Of course this is problematic and fraught with danger, but so too (I think, anyway) is a community with few windows or doors.

A gated community is an extreme example of the latter.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Dear Election Santa, I would like an NDP-Liberal coalition. I'm even being realistic. If you think I've been really good though, please give me a place like this (except maybe one that's found its way out of the early 70s—don't be afraid of the name). I'm not sure how it would work in the long term, but it would be good to give it a try.

Public service announcement: If you're going to vote strategically, please at least do it right (er, well, left, but you know what I mean).

Also, there's a fable on Jay's blog that you might find interesting.

LATER: Okay, so I can see the attraction of the "let the Liberals die so the NDP can take over" scenario, but why not let the right-wing whackos implode first? And wouldn't the NDP become more or less the Liberals if they were to take over anyway? Isn't that what Layton's get-tough-on-crime-to-win-some-votes crap makes you think?

I'm still wishing.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Tuesday's Lex

Adam Seelig's opening "thank you" poem emerged subtly from his response to Angela's introduction, and the rest of his reading kept up this dramatic sensitivity, only perhaps blowing it with the Billy Idol call and response he demanded for one of his pieces, which seemed otherwise to solicit careful attention (it was fun anyway). My reservation about Seelig's work has always stemmed from my feeling that he frequently pushes a good thing a bit too far, and I was happy to notice that this tended to happen more in his older work, from his chapbook Hands Face, which I think sometimes sacrifices clarity and focus to density of wordplay and allusion and the temptation to dazzle with variety (and not self-consciously as far as I can tell). His new poetry, which features repetition with permutation and a felt sense of the absurd, seemed much stronger. More to the point, I think this newer work draws on Seelig's strengths. I'm looking forward to what he comes up with next. He also read dramatic work and, at times, chanted or sang.

David McGimpsey, it will surprise no one, was hilarious. He read a long poem about academic succession, complete with bad couplets about squid. McGimpsey is a crowd pleaser, and his poems are carefully rendered too.

Sharon Harris read from a startling large number of projects. Not having had much exposure to them, I'm not sure I get any completely, so I can't comment on their soundness. What sticks in my mind though is her final poem, which she performed in a tender, almost-singing voice. I hereby nominate Sharon the emotional centre of the Toronto poetry community.

Later: Oh, I forgot about Fun with Pataphysics, which is a charming project that I've had a pretty clear view of. It was interesting to hear how deliberate, or at least self-aware, Harris is with respect to the "targeting" of her work. For instance, she referred to I Love You as her mainstream project.

Open michelle: I was glad to hear Jacob Wren, the man formerly known as Death Waits, whose C essay on truth I enjoyed and blogged about a while ago. Nadia's found poetry (whether discovered in discarded notebooks or in dreams) was great as well.

Other accounts here and here.
Toward a decoding of the crypto-Republicans. (Three points for the best definition of "judicial temperament.")

Monday, January 16, 2006

Ottawa: After a trip involving many on-the-fly driver changes (the person in the front passenger seat would steady the wheel and slowly edge toward the pedals while the back passenger moved to occupy the front passenger seat and the driver made his or her way over the seat into the back, etc.), we finally landed in the fair city of Ottawa. Michelle Desbarats and Mother Tongue hosted the reading, which was a blast, while the eminently hospitable Anita Dolman and her invisible partner James hosted me (James was out canvassing for the Green Party day and night, so let's cut him some slack). Reading: Angela introduced both the anthology and Max Middle, who gave an electrifying performance of a variety of texts, the most interesting of which were the ones that walked the line between sound poetry and lexical verse. Max introduced Rob Read, who spammed the audience in the most delightful manner and then called on me. I did my usual schtick and introduced Angela, who closed out the readings with a breathless, breathy and raspy version of excerpts of Wide slumber for lepidopterists. The highlight of the Ottawa stop for me though was meeting jw curry. There are some people you just need to listen to. He's one.

Montreal: Thanks to impresario Jon Paul Fiorentino for helping Angela put this one together and for doing it in customarily ass-kicking style. The house was packed with people who listened and who weren't afraid to respond to the work. The multi-layered intros began with Jon's allusions to some controversy surrounding Shift & Switch and to the current political climate in the Montreal poetry scene. Then Angela introduced the anthology and Max Middle, whose reading had a little more edge to it than the night before. Next came Jon, who read a selection of his poems, including ones from the forthcoming Theory of the Loser Class, with a beautifully controlled looseness (though he did spill beer on my leg). Jon then gave me an embarrassing and untrue (or at least inaccurate) introduction, and I read. Next was Matthew Hollett, whose unstudied delivery (of text found and otherwise) charmed the pants off the audience. Angela read some different poems from the night before, and then Rob gave a slightly sleepy reading that still managed to captivate the audience. Chatting ensued, and I met a variety of members of the Montreal literati, including a seventeen-year-old poet named Emily. Thanks to my sister and Pascal for putting me up. And thanks to Vivienne for helping me practise my French.

Likely coming soon: some questions I'm asking myself as I read Gregory Betts's If Language.

Factcheck update: Angela read exactly the same poems both nights. Where was I?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Excellent readings in Ottawa and Montreal. Pics of Ottawa action here on photographic virtuoso John MacDonald's blog.

Details to follow. Yes, details.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Look out, Ottawa and Montreal. Some Shift & Switch events:

January 13, 7:30 p.m.
Mother Tongue Books
1067 Bank Street
(Jon Paul Fiorentino, Max Middle, Angela Rawlings, Rob Read, Mark Truscott)

January 14, 8:00 p.m.
Café Esperanza
5490 Saint-Laurent
(Jon Paul Fiorentino, Matthew Hollett, Max Middle, Angela Rawlings, Rob Read, Mark Truscott)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Free idea for a thirty-second political television spot:

0–3 seconds: Open with a black screen.

3–25 seconds: Fade-in white text: "If the Conservatives win the election, Stockwell Day will be Minister of Foreign Affairs."

25–30 seconds: Fade text out. Sound: distant derisive laughter.

LATER: Apparently Rick Mercer is on the same wavelength. Thanks, Hadley.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The following was the verification word in a comments box on Tracy Hamon's blog yesterday: ethynpo.

So, what does it mean?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Don't believe the hype 2

When the media spews hysterical hyperbole regarding gun violence in Toronto, this sort of crap can resonate.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Some important questions arising from the bits of the Leafs-Penguins game I saw tonight:

1) Why was Bill Watters sweating so profusely during the first intermission?

2) Did you see those two kids singing behind Michel Therrien?
Off the cuff on Ron Silliman's post on Shift & Switch: About half the time, my response is almost identical to his (also, I really wish the introductions had been copyedited better, but that's probably just an expression of an obsession of mine). The other half, I admire the anthology's scrappiness and willingness to appear uncoordinated. I think that the anthology captures what it feels like to be part of the scene—to be caught up in the welter—as opposed to pretending to present it as an object of some kind. The editors are part of what they're documenting, and I think they're honest about this position in their approach. Does this make for a good anthology? I don't know. I have to admit that I have trouble settling on any kind of opinion regarding Shift & Switch, partly I guess because I'm in it and partly because I count the editors as friends. Are readers invited to take a similar position? Will the ones not included be prompted to show up at a reading and join the fray? Is Shift & Switch a generative anthology then?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Yeah, years are arbitrary measures, but what isn't.

Some things I thought were good in 2005:
  • Deerhoof, The Runners Four
  • the Fiery Furnaces at Lee's Palace, October 9
  • Gus Van Sant, Last Days
  • Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man
  • the BGL show at Mercer Union
  • Tolling Elves
  • Rachel Zolf, Human Resources
  • Rob Read, 18 Full English Breakfasts and O Spam, Poams (together)
  • Betsy Warland's reading at the Mercury launch
  • Alexei Ponikarovsky
Last year was the first I posted resolutions on my blog, and it was also the first I didn't keep any. Let's see how it goes this year.

1) Get back into a regular writing routine: at least two hours a day with one day off a week and a pass on nights I go to a literary event.

2) Keep a reading notebook.

3) Try harder to finish leftovers before they go bad.

4) Talk more.