Sunday, April 30, 2006

The literary event of the century

"How can you even know that?" you ask.

I just do, okay. Check it out:

The launch of Lisa Heggum's anthology of stories for teens, All Sleek and Skimming, featuring readings by Gil Adamson, Diana Aspin, Gary Barwin, Susan Kernohan, Derek McCormack, Stuart Ross, and Ania Szado and music by Carmen Elle and the Whoremoans.

Monday, May 1, 8:00 p.m.
Gladstone Hotel Ballroom
1214 Queen Street West

I'm making a playlist. I think I'll include some Sly and the Family Stone. Definitely some P-funk. Some Bikini Kill too.

Be there. We'd love to see you.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Stunning photos of the first installment of Test by Sharon Harris.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I think Test was beautiful last night. The highlight for me was an extended and engaging Q & A in which Margaret and Brian discussed, among other things, the need for closeness (a degree of sincerity?) when working with found text (I think Brian's soundbite quote was "there's no detail at a distance") and Brian and audience-member Darren O'Donnell riffed on their reasons for working among multiple disciplines. Margaret's easy manner and tendency to respond thoughtfully to questions and then ask her own of Brian or the audience pulled the entire room into the discussion, which at one point gave rise to a polyvocal swell of talk about the possibilities and challenges of cross-disciplinary fertilization. During the readings, Margaret treated us to a substantial bit of new work (including the riveting and playful "GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS"), and Brian spoke about his corpus in light of his practice of "stealing" (not to be confused with appropriation), read excerpts of Portable Altamont and an essay on the cassette tape, and played a clip from Voice-Over.

And all of this took place under the Evening Canopy and the Sunset Hour.

Points for me to keep in mind for next time: Keep extra chairs near the door for latecomers. Start on time, because this is likely the best way to be fair to the entire audience (from the punctual-arrivers-soon-to-be-fidgety-watch-checkers all the way to the unreformed stragglers).

I hope others enjoyed it as much as I did (for that is the goal). Sound files to come.

Also, stay tuned for the possible announcement of a special edition summertime Test. Please start studying for the May edition (that's the last dumb joke of this kind you'll hear from me).

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


the second installment of the Test Reading Series

April 26, 7:30 p.m.
Margaret Christakos and Brian Joseph Davis
Mercer Union, a Centre for Contemporary Art
37 Lisgar Street, Toronto

also featuring an opportunity to experience Karen Azoulay's the Evening Canopy and the Sunset Hour and marvel at Brian Joseph Davis's Yesterduh.

Click here for more info.

Be there or.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Well, yeah, I certainly proved my ineptitude around technology last night. (Self-indulgent-pop-psych-self-examination-moment: I've been realizing lately that I have trouble with motivation and focus in certain competitive situations, a problem that manifests itself most noticeably around video games and playing-cards.) Emily, Darren, Bill, and Ken Babstock weren't inept however. Emily's talk dealt with narrative tropes in early video games and how they function in her novel. Actually (and I admit my attention was fading in and out as I settled into the evening, and then it skittered around a bit when some of her ideas caught), it was as if she was talking about archetypes and breaking them down into their relational configurations, which was interesting to me because I'm haunted by space. Darren and Bill talked so comfortably I expected to see a two-thirds-empty pitcher in front of them, and Babstock was a good foil. Interesting moments included a statement on Bill's part that pushed the Apostrophe Engine beyond (or maybe beside) the artificial intelligence debate, discussion of the role of failure in art, and(unsurprisingly) talk about the role of context in the reception of poetry. I wish there had been a chance for the audience to jump in. I would have asked them what they've learned about the world through the Apostrophe Engine. A slightly dumb question, maybe, but I would have been interested in how they'd take "world" in the context of their work and where they'd go from there.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Okay, so I've joked about this in the past, but now I think it might actually be a good idea. Someone should set up a Toronto literary events planning registry. It could be pretty simple: just a year's worth of calendar online that lets people post events as they're planning them. Events could be assigned tentative status and then they could be confirmed. That way there'd be fewer conflicts like the one between Test and Pontiac Quarterly next week.

I'd do it, but I'm a loser around technology, and I already have a little computer project on the go as it is.
Is it just me, or does Hugh Thomas look a bit like Ezra Pound with that beard?

It suits him well. I just couldn't help but notice the resemblance.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Hadley Dyer's book launch for Johnny Kellock Died Today, 6-8pm at the Paddock (178 Bathurst Street at Queen)

Lex: Sandra Alland, John Lavery, Stephen Collis: Cameron House, back room, eight.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Hockey-buddy Hadley and my sweetie Lisa get some love from Deirdre Baker in today's Star.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Congratulations to Angela Rawlings, Jon Paul Fiorentino, and Sina Queyras for having their books reviewed (pdf) in this weekend's Globe and Mail. It's nice to see friends' books (in Jon's and Angela's cases—I've never met Sina) noted in the national media. At the risk of appearing ungrateful, however, I'd like to point out that if one ever needed evidence that the so-called avant-garde is marginalized in this country, one need look no further than l'Abbe's review, which, while certainly generous in intent, is stunning in its application of unexamined assumptions.

I think it's probable that the ability to offer assessments without bothering to justify key valuative terms is a sign that one is in a position of relative dominance, because for someone in such a position, one's values are self-evident: they are the norm. l'Abbe claims that Fiorentino's style has "moved further and further to the abstract end of the spectrum" and that "heightened abstraction would be fine if abstraction were left to move us as it does best: through impression, mood and sensual effect." Well, first, what does l'Abbe mean by abstraction? I can think of convincing arguments that, if we take ink on the page as concrete (vis concrete poetry), image is of the more abstract properties of poetry, since it is something mostly mental that readers map onto the work. Is this what l'Abbe means? Likely not, since, as she later claims approvingly, for Queyras "[w]ater waves are an image entry point to the waves of imagination and memory to which the poet is about to surrender. Queyras builds poems by layering images one atop the other." And who says that abstraction moves us "best" "through impression, mood and sensual effect"? Is moving the reader in this manner the object of all poetry? In any case, I would think that an explanation of how Fiorentino's work is abstract (assuming it is) is key to understanding it.

l'Abbe talks about Rawlings's "experimental placement of ... text in blank space." What does "experimental" mean in this sentence? Critics in various camps have argued that experimentalism is a hallmark of good poetry, that writing poetry is about discovering something new, and that therefore an otherwise traditional sonnet might be said to be experimental. John Cage, if I'm not mistaken, argued that the term "experimental" should be reserved for work that results from a process the outcome of which is unknown when it's undertaken. Is either of these what l'Abbe means? I suppose it's more likely that she means something like "not usual" (in other words, not what occurs in most of the poetry she reads) or maybe even "avant-garde." I think what she actually means is "not left-justified" and therefore "Other."

But here's the kicker: for l'Abbe, Queyras's Lemon Hound, the work on which she bestows her most comfortable praise, "shows the most restraint, achieving a lovely balance between lyricism and experimentalism." Wait a second, I thought this review was about experimental (that is, avant-garde) poetry. Are we to assume then that the best way for experimental poetry to be good (or to be lovely) is to moderate itself and be more like non-experimental poetry? Isn't this what l'Abbe is coming awfully close to saying? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I do actually think that l'Abbe means well by her review. I've seen her read during the open mic at Lexiconjury, which is relatively unusual for someone not identified as avant-garde and which I take as a gesture of good will. In writing this review, l'Abbe is using her cultural capital to bring attention to some work that might otherwise escape notice and acting as a kind of liaison between various sometimes exclusive poetry communities, and so she should be commended. I'm just not sure that, beyond garnering some barefaced exposure for the books she's considering, she's done the poetry itself any real favours by simply reading it through her own poetic and judging it.

In other news, I don't mean to whine about the marginalization of the avant-garde. I mean, who cares ultimately, because operating on the margins has its advantages. And what's with this throwing of the term "avant-garde" around anyway? I think I prefer something like "poetry that takes itself, its precursors, and the current times seriously." That's pretty messy, but you get the idea. Fit genuine humour in there as well. All that other stuff is for historians.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The sound files are up. Please listen.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Went to Harbourfront last night to hear Bill and Darren read and also to check out what Ken Babstock had to say. Bill and Darren read beautifully from Apostrophe, which is a nice thick tome, and Babstock confirmed that, while I'm not a huge fan of the kind of thing he's doing, his work is solid and worth reading further. Last night also confirmed that in my private hell, all poetry books will be by Don McKay. The guy seems nice enough, and I'm sure he means no harm, but his work actually makes me angry impatient. It's the way everything in the world of his poems lends itself willingly to his cuddly metaphors. The current M & S ad on Bookninja quotes a review calling McKay a "master of metaphor." I suppose it's right. And that's the problem.

Or maybe, you know, he's not the poet for me.

By the way, the same ad asks readers to "bask in the warm glow of four fantastic poets." I'm not even going to start on that one.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

All signs point to constructivism. That hiatus lasted long, eh?
I've been reconsidering the blogging thing lately. While I like the opportunity to write regularly, I'm not sure I want to publish half-formed thoughts and casual musings right now. I think a different rhythm, one in which I write in a more sustained fashion on a limited number of topics (i.e., reviews, essays and the like) might make more sense. Still figuring it out though.