Sunday, April 30, 2006

Collected Works of Samuel Beckett, Grove 2006

Wow. That about sums this bit of book-fetishist-eye-candy. Handsome in that welcome-to-the-canon sort of blue-backed, hard-bound, conservative way. With introductions by series editor Paul Auster, and a host of other boys--Rushdie, Coetzee, Albee, Toiban--introducing the volumes themselves: two for novels, one for the plays, and one with poetry, short fiction and criticism. Well, is it criticism really? Perhaps if one squints. Interesting to be sure, but criticism? And who has read Beckett's poetry? The same person who read Auster's poetry no doubt. Not I. But now I can, at my leisure. Here was the first lovely surprise:

Serena II

this clonic earth

see-saw she is blurred in sleep
she is fat half dead the rest is free-wheeling
part the black shag the pelt
is ashen woad
snarl and howl in the wood wake all the birds
hound the harlots out of the ferns
this damfool twilight threshing in the brake
bleating to be bloodied
this crapulent hush
tears its heart out

and so on...(Reminded me of Dennis Lee's Un, which I am a big fan of.) The novels, the fiction, the PLAYS!!! I'm so excited. Now all I need is the 4 volume Beckett on Film, and I will have satisfied my Beckett archiving lust. (Who am I kidding...) One minor flaw: where are the women, Mr. Auster? Why not an introduction by Lydia Davis, Mr. Auster? It's so irritating over and over to see this broad gender blindness. The other night at the Three Penny Opera for instance, of the 10 orchestra musicians was there one woman? Nope. Course not. Not a one.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Irritations of the week

Normally I try not to fan the flames of that which irritates, but this week Camille Paglia ranting on about saving the canon was just too much. Who are these people and how do they hold those massive, inflated, heads up in the world? The other irritation is Martin Amis in the New Yorker. What the heck was that all about? If you're going to go imagining the last hours of one of the most notorious figures of our time, I would say IMAGINE. What a waste of ink "The Last Days of Muhammad Atta" was...and just to round out an irritating day, yesterday I missed the Etgar Keret/George Saunders reading because I thought it was today and planned on attending after the Ear Inn...Saunders and Keret at the same time?? That would have been heaven.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Hound @ The Ear Inn

Saturday, April 29th @ 3pm
THE EAR INN
326 Spring Street
West of Greenwich
New York, NY
For More Information

Jane Jacobs

One of my favorite Torontonians gone this week, at 89. A long life, and in Death and Life, a great contribution. Her simple premise still makes sense. If you love New York, and you know you do, create it elsewhere:
"Death and Life" made four basic recommendations for creating municipal diversity: 1. A street or district must serve several primary functions. 2. Blocks must be short. 3. Buildings must vary in age, condition and use. 4. Population must be dense.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

3 Penny Opera

The new production of the new translation of Brecht's Three Penny Opera is great fun, much better than reviews would have you believe. Part of this may be as they say, the difficulty people have with Brecht, but there are some major flaws too. First the greatness: Wallace Shawn's translation is funny, clipped, and in places, inspired. The direction was interesting, but too slow for a modern audience--perhaps it would have been too slow for Brecht's day too, I wouldn't know that. Cyndi Lauper does a kind of Marianne Faithful approach to the songs, which are brilliant, but she's not comfortable in her role of the whore with a heart of gold without the heart of gold. She hits the opening song to perfection, but otherwise appears lost.

The entire Peachum family is brilliant--absolutely brilliant. Nellie McKay played Polly Peachum the way Cate Blanchett played Katherine Hepburn in Aviator, and Ana Gasteyer
, a SNL alumnae, played Mrs. Peachum as if she were a character on the Sopranos. Both were brilliant: McKay particularly so in the marriage scene where she performs her first song, and again in the scene with Lucy Brown, also brilliant, and the scene one of the most inspired. I'm not sure who Jim Dale, Mr. Peachum was, but I am sure he was the brightest light in the play. His voice--also famous as the voice of Harry Potter--and his physicality both stunning. At one point he got so much applause he stepped forward and flirted directly with the audience before stepping back and into character. He moved like a sheath of silk, the gorgeously tacky suit a whole character unto itself. The set and costumes were fitting, the staging functional. Costumes by fashion shark Isaac Mizrahi were gay (quell surprise) and fun, a 70s punk feel. But he failed in the most important character: Macheath himself. Actually Macheath--Mack the Knife--was the biggest disappointment. From the costume to the timing he was all off. Strutting around like the emcee in Cabaret, which I'm sure he was born to play, and like his recent turn as Billy on L Word, which was also fun, but it didn't translate here. It's impossible to figure out why anyone would be "in love" with him. No charisma. Not the brightest light on the stage, not mercurial, in fact one-note from top to bottom. The other problem was with the "gang", a bunch of wooden actors looking nervous in their glittering heeled ensembles.

The politics seem so naive, so atari 1973. Particularly in that setting, and particularly with folks such as Mizrahi--who at one point dresses everyone in corporate logos--involved. Of course I identify with Brecht's position, but how do we achieve such statements now? I mean the play was a hit, ran for what, 3 years consecutively? What political theater would do that now? Not this one. The political messages largely seemed quaint. Not all, the "How do humans live" was actually powerful, but it didn't seem to implicate anyone. Must theater implicate? Perhaps not, but it must connect.

In any case, a fabulous night of theater, and in general a successful production. The night was made more fabulous by the idiots who wouldn't leave our seats--finally the play started and in frustration we went to an usher who sat us in the front row balcony. Fabulous seats. Great night. Def' see.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Elena in Chernobyl

First saw this site a few years back, and thought that today, on the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl, I would look at it again. Someone needs to revamp her site--but Elena's journey and photographs are still moving. The morning I first heard of Chernobyl I was planting a garden in Vancouver. It was just prior to Expo 86, and Vancouver was losing all of its best creative minds--first to Aids and then to development as the waves of bulldozing gained momentum. And then this. Never had a gesture seemed so useless as that morning. I left for a cabin in the woods shortly thereafter, where I stayed for several years...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Montreal still rocks

the Hound & Jonny
Back in Montreal, just for the night, but enough to get a hit of that crazy, excellent vibe. Loved the host, the bartender, the Green Room, the whole crowd, a wonderful event. Even following JP Fiorentino was good. And he ended his reading by tossing his book off the stage and into the crowd. No eyes were poked out... Thanks Chris Ewert, A. Rawlings, Jonny, and Melissa Thompson for sharing the stage, and for kicking ass. More readings, I love reading. There's just not enough opportunities and those Montrealers were way cool.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Hound reads in Montreal

Sunday April 23rd. 7:30 pm
The Green Room, 5586 St. Laurent
Free Admission

Join Coach House Books for the Montreal edition of our spring launch

Sina Queyras - Lemon Hound (poetry)
Chris Ewart - Miss Lamp (novel)
Angela Rawlings - Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists (poetry)
Jon Paul Fiorentino - The Theory of the Loser Class (poetry)

and special guest
Melissa A. Thompson launching her first novel, Dreadful Paris, (Snare Books)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I am I because my lap top knows me...

Canadian poetry in the New York Times

In the spring round up in the Sunday Book Review you'll find a review of Don McKay's new book, Strike/Slip. McKay, who you will also find in Open Field: 30 Contemporary Canadian Poets, offers a surprisingly lyrical and mischevious entry into what we think of as "nature poetry." He stubbornly resists all things postmodern; he makes his leaps in metaphor and simile, as much as seeing. His work is humorous, sharp, and accessible without pandering. I recommend that you read him alongside Tim Lilburn and Christopher Dewdney who are both also represented in Open Field. I've been thinking about their legacy--the Lilburn/McKay duo that is. McKay has sheparded many young poets through their first books (including the Hound), both at the Writing Studios at the Banff Center for the Arts, and as founder of Brick Books, one of Canada's most important poetry presses. He has a quiet, but persistant influence on the world of Canadian poetry. Perhaps I'll muse on that and get back, but for now we can celebrate Don McKay's presence in the Times:
STRIKE/SLIP. By Don McKay. (McClelland & Stewart, paper, $12.95.) Want to read a book of poems named for a type of geological fault, featuring titles like "Precambrian Shield" and "Gneiss"? I didn't think I did, either. But these are not dull paeans to glaciers and schist. McKay doesn't write about natural science so much as through it, using its terms and principles to explore the science of human nature. A poem ostensibly about marble is actually a droll analysis of our wish to thwart mortality, and in "Loss Creek," a hike through "the broken prose of the bush roads" gradually, gracefully metamorphoses into a meditation on desire, where the poet recognizes "the sweet / perils rushing in the creek crawling / through the rock" and knows "he should not trust such / pauseless syntax." Other poems face environmental questions more squarely, but even then never ponderously; McKay doesn't use his knowledge to berate us for our ignorance. In "Stumpage," he asks us to see the aftermath of a timber company's work not through veils of jargon, euphemism or analogy, but as exactly what it is. "How the slash looks: not / ruin, abattoir, atrocity; not / harvest, regen, working / forest. How it looks. The way it / keeps on looking when we look away." This insistence on seeing things for what they are doesn't stop McKay from elsewhere piling up dazzling heaps of similes, a tactic he clearly enjoys, and at which he excels. In the space of a couple dozen lines, he compares a logging company's locomotive to "a squashed Rodin," "the Vienna Philharmonic smelted down," a "petrified / rhinoceros or else some manic futurist's / reclining nude." These exuberantly musical and shrewd poems are ecological in the fullest sense of the word: they seek to elucidate our relationships with our fragile dwelling places both on the earth and in our own skins.
Now that was a refreshing moment.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Toronto Launch Shots

Being a little distracted, I didn't take many photos of the Coach House Launch in TO (see report below), but here is one of Jon Paul Fiorentino for your viewing pleasure. You can also check out my ever-expanding poets & writers set where you will find a few more.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Coolness of the week

I haven't met Mark Truscott, but I loved his book (why haven't I posted on that yet?), and now I'm a fan because a/ he as started a new reading series in Toronto, and b/ a site to store sound files. Test, is the reading series, and Test is the site. Next month they have Lisa Robertson, which makes me even more fond of the whole project. This is a great resource, and so far the line-up looks fabulous.

Little house on the corner...

So odd. I was walking in the Lower East Side and there, in a dusty window of a would-be loft, was my doll house. Well, it was mine for a while, in the spirit of finding an object, photographing it, and letting it move on to its next life...but you know I rarely see the next life. Alas, I didn't have my camera. But here's the original post.

Coach House Launch report

Coach House does it good. I have to admit that the launch was about 5 times the size I was expecting, and so I was a little thrown when it came time to read. But you know when you do books that good, you have to raise the bar on the festivities as well. I'm not sure I'll see a press outdo that bash any time soon. Of course reading for 3 minutes is a little difficult, and I apologize to folks who were expecting more. But there were 6 readers, and you know, all that in between stuff. All of them were great--and I was very, very happy to share the stage with actor/playwrights as well. Love that there isn't the same split most presses have. It seems to me that poetry is closer to playwrighting than it is fiction, so if any of the literary arts should be sharing a bed its those two... So thanks to fellow readers, the fantastic Karen Hines and Darren O'Donnel, the charming Chris Ewert (isn't Miss Lamp the best fiction title ever?), Jon Paul Fiorentino (who has the best poet name ever, not to mention an awesome long term poetic project), and a. rawlings, who brings a fresh, feminist perspective in her extension and exploration of the natural history as performance, an echo of the work of Christopher Dewdney, one of my favorite Canadian poets...
All that was fun, and the smaller reading at Felini's Shoe (where the other poet named Simic presides), was also great--and thanks so Diana Fitzgerald Bryden for that--but the highlight for me was the afternoon Scotch at Coach House and meeting all the press guys. Now that was amazing. I loved, loved, loved, that the guys who did the binding, and cut the paper, and printed, yes, books were being printed while we sipped, were all there. I loved that these guys have laid hands on some of the most important books in Canadian literature over these past 40 years, and I love that they do it with such intelligence and dedication. That was the best. The smell of the press, the churning and stacked paper, the palettes and the discussions about tone and temperature of an image, the font, the weight, the shape...the pleasure of the book as material object, form as well thought out as the content. We forget what that might be like. We forget that like everything else in our lives we have let the production of our work become disconnected from its very intention...
Coach House deserves big-time support for the work they do. Instead of print-on-demand maybe people will ship books to them to print?? Just a thought. A good one damn it, but just a thought. What, after all, are we supporting with our work? What world do we wish to create?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Centenary!

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Congrats to Greenboathouse

Jason Dewinitz gets some props from the Alcuin Society. Book designers...lets face it, they don't get enough attention. Dewinitz's books are amazing works of art. Beautiful paper, smart design, clean, clean surfaces. Still & Otherwise is gorgeous....

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Lemon Hound, the launch, Toronto dates

I'm reposting this, just as a reminder for those of you in Toronto. Come and help me celebrate the publication of Lemon Hound! Two events next week and more to come.

12 April – Coach House Books Spring Launch!

Join us for the launch of eight exciting spring titles! With readings by Chris Ewart (Miss Lamp), Sina Queyras (Lemon Hound), Jon Paul Fiorentino (The Theory of the Loser Class), a.rawlings (Wide slumber for lepidopterists), Karen Hines (Hello ... Hello) and Darren O’Donnell (Social Acupuncture).

12 April, 8.00 pm
Revival
783 College St.
Toronto
Free
416 979-2217 mail@chbooks.com

And a smaller gathering just for the Hound.

Thursday, April 13, 8 p.m.
Fellini's shoe (downstairs)
226 Carlton Street (Carlton and Parliament)

This Magazine gets a Super Power Editor

I'm now at that age, it seems unbelievable, but yes, I'm now at that age where one's friend's offspring are popping up in the most unusual places...so I feel a little maternal pride in the fact that This Magazine has named Jessica Johnston its new editor. Go, Jess! Use your super powers for the good!

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Hound gets a few strokes

How to talk about reviews of one's own work? It makes me a bit squeamish. I'm more at ease talking about the work of others...still, it's not every day one gets a glowing review of one's work. It's not every day one gets a review, in fact. So, thanks to the G&M. You can find a pdf of the review on Coach House's website. It discusses Coach House Books' spring line-up.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Open Letter: Kenny G issue, Bowery Poetry Club



We want Kenny! Time ran out and all Kenny G. got to say was "Thanks for coming." A great afternoon of readings however, the highlight of which was hearing Bruce Andrews, a first for the Hound, and Monica de la Torre, another first. de la Torre has been archiving letters to the New York Times for the past six years or so. I'm not sure how diligently, but wow, the effect of hearing the collages move through time is wonderful. Even if there is no direct reference to the event that the letter is addressing, our collective memory connects with the concrete, and sometimes bizarre reactions. And of course the fun of juxtaposing lines like this is endless. I'm curious to see how she ends up framing and/or containing this project. Also, how each entry will work.

One thing that is clear from a series of readings of conceptual poetry: sometimes more is just more. The success of a piece might be in drawing the limitations. We might agree that Fidget is a fabulous text but do we want to read it in its entirety? Though I suppose that's not the point...Making of Americans is also a great text, though I can't make it all the way through and I don't care. It doesn't diminish my pleasure... Though I have made it through Woolf's The Waves, and many times over. So is it reasonable to assume that one can expect a sort of ingestible whole?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Book I'm most coveting this week

Oh, I saw it at BookCourt, my local book store on Court Street! It's the 4 Volume set of The Complete Works of Samuel Beckett published by Grove and edited by Paul Auster. To die for. They wouldn't let me slobber all over the pages. In fact I couldn't even see inside...the dreaded shrink wrap.

Art! Brian Jungen, Chelsea


He's just brilliant. "Thunderbirds" is another riff on the mask, brilliantly conceived in a half dozen rear-view mirrors placed on a gallery wall, each with ghostly white feathers dangling. Part homage to the fluffy dice, part dream-catcher, part mask, these mirrors offer an immediate point of entry into the work. Lonesome highway? Northern lights? Descending into the endless road of white culture?

This theme is expanded upon in the eerily soft skulls stitched together from old softball hides and stretched to their max as if running from some unearthly force--more unearthly than raw bone? The garbled soundscape was inaudible to me, but I got the message without looking at the title: "The Evening Redness in the West." What Sherman Alexie did for the short story, Jungen does for conceptual art.

The third installation, "The Evening Redness in the West (1)" is saddles that look as though they've been crafted from the slick leather jackets of sports starts, nestled on wooden tables (I thought they were saw horses, but no). Apparently these move around the room as a heroic battling soundtrack explodes in the room. I couldn't see, and I couldn't stay to watch, but again, a powerful, well conceived show.

I missed the more playful tones of the transformation masks, but I think the pleasure of that last work was probably a little unsettling. The stark white, stripped down essence of this show hits home.

Ashbery Festival

Last night at the Tishman auditorium on West 12th, in a room that resembles an inside out Easter egg with layers of pink and white, cross-hatched icing, surrounded by poetry luminaries and MFA students, we witnessed a generous reading by John Ashbery; a delicate performance of poems spanning the length of his career. At his most sentimental Ashbery delivers lines like late afternoon "light like honey in the trees," and piercingly concrete intellectual imagery: poetry is what's left when all the ideas have been combed out, imagine if you will the furrows of life, the long, neat lines...

Funny and warm, he also possesses great timing: "this is from a long poem...in fact I'll start at page 105," pause. "You don't have to know what came before. It won't help..." By the end one could see that Ashbery had found a way to touch some larger pulse, to transcribe the dialogues of some more grand and pedantic conversation with a faux nonchalance. Obviously just the right amount to both satisfy and unsettle so many.

"He just came up one day and had a look around," was a line that seemed to capture Ashbery's essence. This sense of us meandering in a lost garden, bemused, a little lost, but in no particular panic about it. He said "They could keep on doing what they were doing--it was okay. Only don't say that he said so. But it was okay."

And that's precisely what one felt in the end.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Griffin Prize List

An admirable list. Surprising and very solid. But you all know that I'm pulling for Erin Moure, despite the good company. What is great about this list is the diversity, and the sense that even if one doesn't care for the poetry, there is a solidness to it, and a sense of project that is outside of the poetry factory scene.

And a good year for translation!
Snowing in Brooklyn! Caught this moment about a half hour ago when the snow was at its fullest, and seemed to want to linger in the air. Now it has thinned and will likely be rain by the time I post this...a friendly snow all round.
My blog seems to be freezing on Mozilla. I hope others aren't having the same problem. It's a bit of a drag, sorry.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Talking about visual/concrete poetry

I wanted to respond to derek beaulieu's winnipeg suite (discussed earlier), without too much analysis, primarily because the people whom I dream of encountering poetry are people who don't necessarily possess that language. However, I have read beaulieu's "an afterword after words: notes toward a concrete poetic" which you'll find on ubu listed alphabetically. Among other things, the essay acknowledges (laments?) the lack of critical language to talk about concrete poetry, while providing some useful tools at the same time. Ubu being the comprehensive resource it is, you will also find many of the texts referred to in the essay itself on the site.

One thing I was comforted by is the notion that this work does not require a "close reading," which I took to mean that it was fine if I showed up ready and willing to engage, whatever I came up with. But when the author states that he is opposed to the reward system around the activity of close reading, I began to worry. All well and good to resist simplistic readings, or systems of reward, but not to urge close reading? Aren't we supposed to be urging folks to look closer? Don't we want people to have strong critical and visual language, to think and interact creatively? But no, I think that the resistance to close reading is a resistance to commodified language, and to specific ways of reading, to specific meaning, not to looking, but rather perhaps that which is too easily ingested.

Now those aren't the same things it seems to me, but I'm willing to accept this premise for the moment and try not to feel stupid for seeing the work so literally. And I feel it's important to do this, to be public about our not knowing, our engaging, our trying out new ways of thinking and writing and being. People are so busy trying to be an expert at something they get defended, they dig in, and especially as practitioners and instructors of poetry I think it's a good idea for us to be put in the position of reader, of the one responding publicly, the gristly muscle of our minds put to the task for all to see.

"Concrete poetry," beaulieu writes, "momentarily rejects the idea of the readerly reward for close reading, the idea of the 'hidden or buried object,'" which it is argued interrupts the "capitalist structure of language." He also discusses the value of silence, though I think not in the sense that Sontag means in this essay (which I also love), though it also resists the idea of commodity, or poetry as commodity, which after all is the most ironic result of the MFA industry. The silence that beaulieu describes however is a "poetics of disgust." The poem, in this case the concrete poem offers what Sianne Ngai terms "our most common effective response to capitalism & patriarchy." Thus the concrete poem is an interruption of value exchange, and on a practical level it offers a moment of silence for those who might acknowledge the passing of meaning.

Pause.

Look.

Suffice.

There is something radical in that.

There's a lot to bat around in this essay, and I urge you to do so. But as I said, showing up to the page and being open to it should prove satisfying enough. You might not appreciate the breaking down of structures that has occurred in concrete poetry since the 50s however, if you don't read the essay, and that was something I found fascinating. And a scan through Shift & Switch bears this out: beaulieu's entry rubbed away, Matthew Hollett's "Rabbit Track Alphabet," just as you might imagine, even Rob Read's Heiroglyphs, which I thought might elude such distinction, fits. Though, Read's pieces more than any of the others, resemble the corporate logo (which most of us can apparently identify 1,000 of, but only a handful of local plants and/or trees).

And that last statement might be what sells me on the value of such experiences: if the spectator feels a moment of shock when encountering a concrete poem, it isn't the worst that can happen in a day...is it? In fact, perhaps it's the best.

Monday, April 03, 2006

No Press, Calgary


winnipeg suite, derek beaulieu, 2005
Compulsive Asphyxiator, Paul Kennett, 2005

There is something substantial about the two No Press chapbooks I received in the mail recently. This, despite a somewhat hastily assembled quality. One must speak of the quality in a chapbook, after all. Take the excellent handiwork of Jason Dewinitz over at Greenboathouse, each book an absolutely stunning piece of art. Compared to the upstart frenetic pace of publications such as Stanzas, Rob Mclennan's industrious project out of Ottawa, Dewinitz's chapbooks seem like gallery objects--and I know because he published one of mine last year. The sheer number of hours that went into the physical labor were staggering, not to mention the editorial and design processes. But that's not all there is to a chapbook of course: there must be something good inside it, and we must know how to get it. There are a good number of chapbook presses now, and more daily. I suppose that's the reason for the new chapbook site, I heard about this week. So far it's an extremely limited selection, but who knows where that will lead.

But on to the books. winnipeg suite, by derek beaulieu is the more beautiful object of the two titles I have before me (last year alone there were a dozen or so published, mostly of Calgary writers, a whole vibrant tribe of them stampeding across the nation). The cover is a detail of a larger concrete poem. There are six poems in all, and my first impression of them, was to think Winnipeg from the air. Even without the title they put me in mind of bp Nichol's work, though I can't say at the moment what work in particular, I can say that it was regarding the neighbourhood where he grew up in the funnel city. Having grown up there partially myself, his description of the physical feeling of walking in his subdivision made sense to me. I may be way off, but the churning of autobiographical detail in the flotsam of the Red River is evoked for me in the first one with the swooping lines on one side, the elongated 0s on the other, the ses, hs and gs...bunching up. So too are the bridges and dykes that contain and range over the cities two rivers, the flood of language always a threat, and the rail lines and broken dreams that cut the city in half (likely beaulieau does not intend this with the ds, and ts in the third poem, but I like it). The fourth poem? The forks. The fifth? Well, I'll stop there. Suffice to say I had a satisfying poetic encounter.

The only quibble I have with concrete poetry is its tendency to make the viewer/reader seem like an idiot. The poet has his intentions. Once the interpretation is given it's usually obvious--hence the idiot. I'm not sure what to make of such a problem. To require a statement seems regressive, reductive. And yet, when I think of the conceptual poetry of Kenny Goldsmith (whom apparently Sheila Heti dispises for some reason?), or Caroline Bergvall, I note that there are usually prefatory notes, and that they are sometimes essential, and always illuminating. Of course if the intention is to allow the reader to interpret as he or she will, if all that the poet asks is attention, presence, openness, then leave well enough alone. But no giggling when the (re)viewer gets it all wrong. That's no fair game at all.

Compusive Asphyxiator is two short pieces of fiction by Paul Kennett. This is the kind of fiction that has the potential to live in a journal such as Noon, the Diane Williams publication out of New York. It has the moves, the clipped lines, the odd turns, the absurd conjunctions. The language is almost sparse enough, but not consistently so. Still, the energy is great, and the pace confident, punchy. But for this strand of fiction to work it seems to me that one of two things need to be highly condensed: plot, or language. These pieces hover betwen the two. The pace is often a kind of George Saunders or Etgar Keret gait, but it lacks the turn of either writer (they're building fast for a reason). Nor are the language, or emotional, or intellectual currents as distilled (a la Lydia Davis) as they would need to be to fully satisfy this reader in any case. I am holding the bar high here, but why not? The chapbooks arrived, and when text goes out into the world it must live up to the standards it bumps into. Promising. Not such a bad note to end on.
**Note: I added the image above because it was kindly forwarded to me in a wonderful high resolution, so now you can see what I'm talking about. Though this is not one of the images from the text, which seem like smaller parts of this bigger one...beaulieu's latest book is fractal economies, recently published by Talon, who also publish George Bowering, Rob Mclennan, Adeena Karasick, bill bisset, and some damn fine playwrights as well.
Alas I have not yet seen that book, but you can expect a report some time in the future.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It's that time again!

You know, there just aren't enough geeks in the world! Certainly not in the poetry world (well there are geeks, they just don't know they're geeks). So, here's one of my favorite geeks for your viewing pleasure.

Emily Dickinson epigram of the day

These brief imperfect meetings
have a tale to tell.
Random epigrams here. Refresh for a new one.
Today's NY Times Book Section offers a wonderful cento by poet David Lehman (you only have a week to download that pdf before the link expires). Over the years I've begun and abandoned this project time and time again and find myself with lines from favorite poems scattered about. The problem is at the moment I can't seem to stomach such left margin clinging poetry...so I would have to have the lines sprayed like a Jackson Pollock in order to satisfy my poetic eye.
April is poetry month, and we waste no time getting to the big guns. The Times has a fabulous feature tying in with the recent publication of work by Elizabeth Bishop. The strangely titled Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments, is edited by New Yorker poetry editor Alice Quinn, and published by FSG. Of course Bishop is wonderful, wonderful, and I'm curious to see what Quinn turns up in this volume. I know she is a huge fan--anyone who reads the New Yorker even on occasion would know that. I also know that Quinn, and many other formally minded poets, view Bishop as the "only" Canadian poet (with Anne Carson now occupying one half of that slender spot). This will comes as news to many, I'm sure...it was a surprise to me. It would be nice to have an updated image of Canadian poetry outside of our borders, but that seems a difficult task to manage.

CBC on Canadian bloggers

And guess what, they're pretty well all male! Over and over again, I have to point it out...if you think you guys are bored, what do you think it feels like being a woman? Oops, I think I'll just forget that there are any males on the planet, well, aside from a token one or two. But he has to be tied to a woman, damn it, or I'm not giving him the time of day!

Otherwise, it's a pretty fun list.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April Fools!

No, Canadian poetry is not the hottest selling thing in the US. Sorry, guys. And sorry too, to all my lovely Americans. I wish I could report that poetry sales were up for American poets, not to mention Canadian, but I doubt that's true. The writing of poetry I am sure continues to increase if submissions are any indication, but alas writing poetry does not seem to translate into reading poetry...

So no, poetry in general is not the hottest selling thing...but there is interest. I was by
Poets House tonight for the public reception and was, as usual, overwhelmed by the number of books. Many of them compelling: Joshua Beckman, the Paul Auster translations, collected Berrigan, a new book by Derrida on the poetry of Paul Celan. It's worthwhile to drop by and have a look. And for those of you New Yorkers who complain of not being able to find and test drive the Canadian poetry I talk about here, and you hear about in general, you will find a good portion of this year's titles included in the mix (and Open Field as well!), so, no more excuses (unless you've ordered them already, which is even better...).

But here's a reality check for Canadian presses: if you don't send to Poets House your books aren't going to be on display. It's an important resource, added to substantially last spring with the launch of Open Field , and the donation of an impressive collection of Canadian poetry through the hands of Scott Griffin of Anansi Press and The Griffin Prize. Of course actually getting Canadian books distributed here would be a better solution. I rarely see Canadian titles on the shelves, except Coach House in St. Marks on occasion, and the odd title from Arsenal or Polestar in a lesbian/gay bookstore.

So, if you want Canadian poetry read send books to Poets House, thank Amazon.com, and someone, fix the distribution problem!

Canadian poetry tops sales list in US

Yes, amazing as it sounds booksellers in New York cannot keep up with the demand for Canadian poetry. Titles fly off the shelves. Even big chains like B&N have had to add new shelves to the poetry sections. "We're run ragged," one would-be novelist and full-time bookseller complained, "we've never seen anything like it..." What is it about Canadian poetry? "I think it's that wacky sense of humour," an MTA worker and poetry enthusiast mused, "I mean we have Billy Collins..."
Elsewhere several young poets set up a picket-line outside of an unnamed school. "It's just not fair," they ranted, "Canadian poets have poets inside poets, translating themselves and others. We invented open field poetics! Why can't we have all that imaginative space in our poetry?"

Enough said.