Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Some thoughts after reading too much poetry

You say there should be no I in poetry, no

Heart, no love, no mention of one’s great

Grandmother’s apron hanging

On the door. No, maudlin, no forked-

Tongues, no sentiment, no overwrought

Lines, empty rooms or signs of forced

Entries, breaks, no earnest, no sincere, no

Half, no heart, no self-indulgent diatribes,

No descriptions of former, fellating teenage

Selves; no glacial family dramas, no matter how

Original or spare, no making linen, no organic

When there are structures, constraints,

Poems wide, and wild, as Africa propagating

Daily your inbox, words, words, like so much lint

And silt, words, tough husks, upon the page.

No more the half-drunk glasses tipped

This way and that, the poet sitting thoughtless

On a bough, whimsically, confessing this

And that, a capricious grin, a gin, the light

Upon a seed of, no, no, not that…

No more poet standing ear to fox’s paw,

Or tongue in grandfather’s rusted—no

Familial, no roots, no digging or rhyming

Tools, no trivets, trinkets, familiar, no

Romantic fields of feelings, no seamless,

Scentless, sensual, no arabesques of desire.

In our times, you say the poet is a conveyor

At the belt of generated text, head bent,

Labouring information overload into shapely

Avant gard. And applaud we do your bent-

Boxed work, the clarity of your mind, decisions

Grappled, hooked, as well-trained Mountaineers

Scale the sheer face of text. But poetry

Is not a concrete structure, and if not

Wrought with tears and fears, how will these lines

Expose my shameless loving of all things rooted

In the earth, vein and blood, Mother, Father, shit

And death, sorrow and desire, words, common,

Soft as river rock, and oh, I’ll tell you just

How lonely we all are, abandoned in a pretext

Of connected thoughts, and reaching out

Right now, across the black gulf of what not

To say, or be, and touching the face of

Why not be poet, and let poet be.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rave on

Rave on
Rave on,
originally uploaded by lemon hound.
The Aids Memorial in Vancouver is quite moving. The large panels are set in along the hillside at Sunset Beach in--where the Pride Parade ends. Fitting. The names are cut out and depending on where you look you either see grass, or sky, behind the names. There are granite benches, which are essential because you must sit to read the names. And because the names aren't in alphabetical order you must read them all.
Beautiful.
Please see the story of Lyell Walker.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Mya Hee...

Mya Hee...
Mya Hee...,
originally uploaded by lemon hound.
I think this little gnome is listening to this. Yes, it's incredibly silly, but you know, if you can't hear the thin man who sings French songs with his ukelele on Granville Island, this is the next best thing.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Woolf fans of all shapes love street haunting

Woolf fans of all shapes
Woolf fans of all shapes,
originally uploaded by lemon hound.
"But after life. The slow pulling down of thick green stalks so that the cup of the flower, as it turns over, deluges one with purple and red light. Why, after all, should one not be born there as one is born here, helpless, speechless, unable to focus one's eyesight, groping at the roots of the grass, at the toes of the Giants?"

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Summer Reading

As usual, I've had some odd bedfellows this summer. Clarice Lispector and Carol Shields, Pessoa and Harry Potter; Don Quixote and Ian Mcewan. Although I'm a Mcewan fan, I wasn't able to make it through Atonement. On the other hand, I wasn't able to put Unless down until I finished it. Brilliant, I kept thinking, immediate, unflinching, and yet Shields, in the way of Atwood, is able to maintain a steady eye on the Common Reader. Not an easy task, to be unflinching in the eye of the common reader.
As for McEwan, he is a gorgeous writer, and Atonement is fabulous, surely worthy of all the rewards and fuss it has garnered. Quite simply, he is the kind of writer who creates a world and time in a ultra-literary sense, so if you love the world you are rewarded with a lingering afternoon in the beautifully crafted cradle of his prose. However, if the world doesn't strike you, or strikes the wrong note in you, then the weave itself becomes a bit of an irritant, and for those of us with a dozen other books stacked up by the bed, it's better to gently close the cover and move on, rather than acquire rashes where the weave rubs too harshly. And that has been my experience with this one. I haven't read Saturday yet, and despite my little encounter with Atonement, I look forward to a date with that one soon.
Unless, I couldn't put down, but I had a similar reaction to the ending as I had with Wright's Clara Callan. It was too tidy, too "book of the month". The narrative that Shields developed was too easily resolved--I don't think we can actually trace the moment a person goes off track in this way and it bothers me that popular fiction seems so invested in it. Too simplistic.
This was my reaction to the new Harry Potter as well. Thin.
Clarice Lipsector--now here's a writer who deserves her own post. And when I find more time I will indeed write a post about her.

Not so rainy coast

The west coast has had its first rain fall in 30 days. Perhaps this is partly why I was unable, yes unable to find any slugs or snails for the first 3 weeks of my visit. In fact it was difficult not to feel apocalyptic as I wandered through the woods hearing the crinkling of dead leaves under foot in August. Yes, the sun has been lovely, still...I was happy to run into this little guy the other day. More Vancouver shots here.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The truth will out?

The NY Times contemplates the demise of interest in literary fiction and the rise of interest in literary non-fiction. In a time of chaos people want expertise the author argues. I've heard this before, and have been mulling over this question for some time. Certainly the desire for facts seems sane and timely, but the reasons I've heard for this are what troubles me. Also, the conflation of literary and experimental fiction. They are not the same thing, are they? I mean experimental means "experimenting" no? What mainstream fiction is both experimental and literary?
Furthermore, decrying the opacity of experimental prose!? This is startling. If anything the commodification and wholesale manufacturing of "so-called" literary fiction is problematic. The kind of sweeping publication of a kind of highly polished, overly-workshopped prose that reads like extended narrative poems.
Experimental fiction seeks to make the reader aware of the act of reading. It seeks to offer a transformative, not sedating experience does it not?
While non-fiction may be on the rise, it won't necessarily make us think beyond our comfort zones. For that we need innovators. We need experimentors. We need writing that makes us aware of the very act of our thinking and processing as it is happening. That, it seems to me, is what makes writing art.

Skeena update

The Artful Cup has become my daily morning hangout, riffing on someone's wireless and downing a few Americano with cream. After a few days of solid cloud, there's sun in the Skeena valley, and when the sun pops out the town comes alive. Despite the cool morning temperatures people are out sipping coffee, but I'm in here with my hoodie pulled up over my head. By noon it'll be steaming.
More Walmart drama--all the other stores in town are slashing prices to try and compete. Shoppers Drug Mart has purchased Northern Drugs and is building a mega-drugstore in the Lakelse Mall. Meanwhile The Skeena Mall is looking a lot worse for wear. Once it was a bustling mall filled with a healthy variety of chains and local businesses. Not anymore.
My sister is happy with Wal-Mart because of the variety and low cost, and lets face it, in a town of 16,000, variety is welcome. But there won't be much variety when the othe
r stores all close. Perhaps WalMart knows something the average jane doesn't? Maybe there are economic developments in store for this area? I've heard talk of these offshore rigs finally coming to Rupert but I don't know that this would really benefit Terrace. I've also heard that Alcan is expanding in Kitimat, but how would that effect Terrace enough to warrant these big guns coming to town? Because of course where WalMart goes, so to will Staples--they already have McDonald's and A & W. (They actually elected a Mayor here based on his promise to bring McDonald's to town...).
The town will always be a supply center for the northern Native communities. Though maybe those communities will figure out a way to supply themselves and bypass the town altogether. Have these communities merged?
But I'm sounding snarky when I in fact find something roguishly charming about this town. There's a kind of naive quality about it. Quietly energetic. I wonder how has it held through this economic and industrial transition, and what is it transitioning to? The mills closed down a while back and though I've heard talk of them reopening who knows when and how?
We ate sockeye, red and rich, caught in the Skeena. I had heard that the salmon industry is in trouble, and no doubt it is, but the salmon are still abundant in the rivers up here. Unspoiled, aside from the patches of logging, the land is still relatively unspoiled.

Here's a photo essay of the area. So far nature, but town shots to come.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Northern BC


Descended into the rain forest of northern BC yesterday. Clouds hanging in the mountains and fisherman lined up along the Skeena. This week someone landed a 45 pound salmon. The town of Terrace is a little sad, though I'm about to head over to the farmer's market where I could find some lively exchange. Otherwise Walmart has shifted the balance of consumer power out to the edge of town so that the mall, and the small downtown area are even more ghostly than they were in this town's economic heyday. More to come. Meanwhile here's a shot of a glacier from the small Dash 8 that I flew up here on. It was flying a bit low for my comfort--I could trace the flight path of birds.