Thursday, July 20, 2017

fwd: CFP: KANADA KONCRETE: Verbi-Voco-Visual Poetries in the Multimedia Age (The Canadian Literature Symposium, U Ottawa) (deadline: Sept. 25, 2017)

The Canadian Literature Symposium
Department of English, University of Ottawa
May 4-6, 2018

Arguably, there have never been more opportunities for poetry to live ‘off the page.’ Over the last 20 years, the radical proliferation and expansion of online social media, media-sharing sites, web-based archives, blogs, vlogs, institutional web-pages and the like have made archiving, accessing, and distributing poetry easier than ever before. The multi-media possibilities of the web, the optic flexibility of digital books, the ability to record image and sound cheaply and share that material quickly and widely over a variety of platforms, have drastically undermined poets’ dependence on the page and print-based forms of distribution. One needn’t be a technological determinist to acknowledge that something has changed in the manner we encounter ‘poetry.’ To what extent, though, have these technological changes transformed the forms and functions of poetry as such? Have they, for instance, finally produced the necessary conditions for truly ‘verbi-voco-visual’ work, a one-time dream of the modernist avant-garde?  Have multimedia forms of poetry displaced more traditional forms and formats, or do they operate alongside print journals and books—mere addenda to an essentially unchanged institutionalized discourse? How has Canadian poetry, in particular, exploited (or perhaps ignored) the available material supports for innovations in form, format, and dissemination?  Kanada Koncrete will explore these questions over three days, May 4-6, 2018.

We seek papers, talks and presentations on the preceding questions as well as the following topics:

  • sound poetry and sonic experiments
  • visual concrete
  • poetry in performance
  • kinetic poetry/ animated poetry/ video poems
  • web-based and digital poetries
  • comics poetry / poetry and comics
  • treated texts
  • illustrated poetic texts
  • poetry and photography
  • artists’ books
  • poetry installations
  • poetic graffiti
  • poetics of ‘the found’
  • poetry and social media
  • electronic distribution
  • collecting and archiving non-print poetry
  • teaching poetry ‘off the page’

Please submit a 250-word proposal and a short biographical statement to Robert Stacey at before September 25, 2017.

Monday, July 10, 2017

On Writing #135 : Carla Funk

On Writing: In Search of the Greengage Plum
Carla Funk

Some meditate cross-legged in a yurt. Some breathe the deep Om and yoga their way to transcendence. Some listen at the window for Rumi to drop a high and dervish thought into their cracked-open consciousness. At least, this is what I imagine some do to prepare the way for words that sizzle and glow. I do none of these things. Never have. Likely never will. But I do walk every morning—trails, sidewalks, paths in forests and around the nearby lake— with lit-up expectation that I will bear witness to something miraculous, that truth and beauty will slip out from behind the veil, appear in who knows what costume, as what image, what scent, what peculiar roadside thing, and stage-whisper—like a revelation of glittering eternity— ta-da!

I was nearly home, walking on the Goose, a well-traveled pedestrian trail, when I spotted a red mobility scooter parked in the lane, and just ahead of it, a squat, silver-haired man in a plaid shirt and denim overalls bent over the jutting limb of a small fallen tree, debris from the last night’s April windstorm.

“Well, what’re you doin’ here?” he said, brow furrowed my way.

“I’m walking,” I said. “What are you doing?”

He waved a pocket-saw over his head. “Cleanin’ up the trail. Git over here, and gimme a hand, why don’t ya.”

I joined him at the tree branch, and braced it as he finished sawing it into lengths. Then we chucked the pieces of wood off the trail and into the brush.

“You live around here?” he said. When he spoke, his mouth flashed gold—a shiny crown on one of his upper teeth.

I lived around the corner, I said. How long, he wanted to know, and so we talked about the neighbourhood, what used to be here, the RV park where he lived now, his scooter route to Timmy’s for coffee every morning, how long his battery kept a charge, that snake he saw not even two weeks ago when it tried to strike a dog—oh, he pinned that thing with his cane, then flung it off the trail—and the farm just down the road, soon to open for the season.

“That farm sell food?” he said. He ran his tongue over his teeth, over that glinting gold tooth.

I ran down the list of what grew there—potatoes, apples, Walla Walla onions, raspberries, broccoli, squash, and corn.

“Can’t eat the corn no more.” He shook his head. “Had the cancer. In the colon.” He patted the lower left side of his round denim-covered belly. “Got me the bag now.” He settled himself back on his scooter. “But if I could get me some greengage plums,” he said. “Haven’t had ‘em since I was a kid on P.E.I. My dear ol’ mum made greengage preserves.”

He closed his eyes, sighed. He shook his head. “Mmm—mmm. Nothing like the taste of the greengage plum.” He leaned forward over his handlebars and squinted at me through his dark-tinted glasses. “Think you can find me some greengages?”

Though the man was nearly a stranger, I said I’d try. And if I found some, I’d let him know.

“Name’s Dean,” he said. “You can find me at the RV park. Ask at the main office.” Then he motored away, tooting his horn as his scooted.

And I did try. I talked to the farmer down the road, to friends with fruit trees. No luck. I read up on the greengage, where it grew, the chalky clay terroir required for prime cultivation, the sun and heat needed to sweeten it. I learned of a farm in the Okanagan that used to grow greengages, but no more. Yes, their syrupy sweetness was unrivalled in the realm of plums, but they were too fussy a tree for market, too unpredictable in their yield.

I kept walking the trail where I’d met Dean. Greengage Dean. Every so often, he’d zoom by on his red scooter, honk, wave, but not seem to recognize me as the woman who helped him clear the trail, the woman now engaged with his greengage, on the hunt for, in search of.

Summer came, and with it, the farmer’s raspberries and potatoes, corn and apples, friends’ prune plums and red plums. The greengage faded, not fully, but enough that I no longer looked for it or asked about it. The greengage belonged to someone else’s mythology and nostalgia.

But then—as it is with ideas, with inklings and images and questions that won’t let go, with a poem whose final line will not, cannot be wrought, with a story whose plotline refuses to unsnarl, with a title that won’t emerge with clarity and metaphoric heft and unifying force—the elusive and mysterious and hidden came suddenly into view. There, illuminated by late evening’s low sun, across the road from our house, just down by the vacant house with the rotting fence, growing up from the far side of the ditch, a tree—a tree leaning and loaded with plums, some of them so ripe, they’d split and oozed a sticky syrup, some of that sugar hardened into what looked like tiny icicles dripping off the bottoms of the fruit.

I nearly walked past the tree without noticing, but then, a breeze lifted its perfume, and before I saw it, I smelled it. The greengage plum. As in the photographs, dusty and greenish-gold. I plucked one from a low-hanging branch and bit in. Honey. And butter. And caramel. And the sun poured into a wineglass. And the mock orange bush with its showy blossoms. And a picnic in a field of wildflowers in the French countryside, beside a river. And a river flowing toward the ocean, and the ocean around an island, and on that island, a dark red dirt that feeds the roots of trees that grow up flush with sun and fruit, and in one tree, a child who leans out to pluck from a leafy branch one fat gold plum, who bites in, closes his eyes, lets the juice run down his chin, who tastes yesterday, today, and tomorrow in that single mouthful, who witnesses one more secret of the intricate world undone, unhidden, and—ta-da!—laid beautiful and bare.

Born and raised in Vanderhoof, BC, Carla Funk lives and writes in Victoria, where she taught for 15 years in the Department of Writing at UVic. She served as Victoria’s inaugural poet laureate (2006-2008), and helped to promote the literary arts in the city. Gloryland (Turnstone Press, 2016) is her fifth book of poems. She is currently finishing up a creative nonfiction collection about childhood, God, loggers, and small town imagination.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

On Writing #134 : Sacha Archer

The Classic Guide to Strategy
Sacha Archer

Writing is a category of the arts. A statement like that is both meaningless and perfectly to the point. Such a statement is located in the same tradition as the Zen koan, except, not being wise, I give it awkwardly, with a balance of alcohol and pride.

If I do know what writing is, I don’t want to forget. I want to use it as a reference when I cannot remember where I am or what I am doing. Too often writing resembles itself too self-assuredly, and as such is good for an anchor in an hour of idiot bravery.

Use every possible means and material to perform the act of writing and to arrive at the material conclusions that are bound to occur. But, this is also a strategy of survival.

An advantageous fatigue has settled over me. I no longer work to understand. Understanding is the work pouring forth from the hands, feet, eyes, lips, tongue. This is not a lucrative philosophy of the body. Nor is it masturbatory. But it is physical.

In fact, I have more faith in misunderstanding which sends us on our way just as readily. To understand that which was never there, and which, through misunderstanding, materializes—independent of the source, or non-source. To attribute to another what is already yours. To thieve your own conception from the shadow of a doubt, that human figure.

And it’s not there at all. That is the field I’m in.

Writing is a god or writing is job. Writing is a category of the arts—when it is positioned so. Positioned so, writing is a category of the arts. As such, it need not resemble the text as we know it. That’s not writing, that’s wringing the air of its time. That’s not writing. That’s not writing, that’s surviving.

Sacha Archer is a Canadian writer currently residing in Ontario. He was the recipient of the 2008 P.K. Page Irwin Prize for his poetry and visual art, and in 2010 he was chosen to participate in the Elise Partridge Mentor Program. His work has appeared in journals such as filling Station, ACTA Victoriana, h&, illiterature, NōD, and Experiment-O. His most recent chapbooks are Detour (Spacecraft Press, 2017), The Insistence of Momentum (The Blasted Tree, 2017), and Acceleration of the Arbitrary (Grey Borders, 2017), and a new title is forthcoming from above/ground press. One of his online manifestations is his blog at

Monday, June 12, 2017

On Writing #133 : Jamie Sharpe

On Writing: Ich Bin Nicht Berliner (I Just Play One in Poems)
Jamie Sharpe

After the publication of Animal Husbandry Today, Buckingham Palace called asking for verse on the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.

I set to work immediately: Heaven’s sterling trumpet sounds/ soaring through the Commonwealth/ oh this joyous day!

Later, by letter, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, said kind words on my ode and regretted not accepting it as we received an overwhelming number of outstanding submissions.

I make poems, but I don’t know how to make a poem.

To write poetry I rely on a trick that involves not writing—I don’t write most of the time.

I wait.

Would that I could, I’d consistently manufacture poems.

The sixty-year reign of a foreign monarch is as good a reason for song as any, but it’s a line on jelly doughnuts that eventually jams itself in my head.

Something about holes tasting better than strawberry.

A practiced pastry chef makes doughnuts at will.

Though professionally accredited (check out my fancy MFA) I’m a perpetual amateur.

What congeals for me, and when, is a surprise.

Jamie Sharpe is the author of three poetry collections, Animal Husbandry Today, Cut-up Apologetic & Dazzle Ships.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On Writing #132 : Alice Burdick

Welcoming discomfort in poetry
Alice Burdick

Over the past few years I have existed in what I consider the most real and surreal of circumstances, as a mother of two young children, and a person from a big place who now lives in a small place, with all the beauty and derangement these entail. I have found ways of writing in the middle of other aspects of life: for example feeding people varying sorts of food, from my body and then the wider world; and doing endless laundry. Poetry has been the standard form of my writing, and I thought I knew how it mainly went, in fits and starts by necessity, but also what form it liked to take. But then there’s this: over the past three years or so poetry has been banging on my brain door and forcing my hand into increasingly unsettling territories. It’s a long-term practice, poetry, and I have gotten used to the idea of it just doing its own thing - connected to, via brain and fingers, but also independent of my intentions. I’ve been writing for a long time, and I have written the range – but I have become comfortable especially with the warm embrace of tangential surrealism. This appealed from a pretty early age – there’s something about wordplay and an ongoing exquisite corpse of line-work that has become quite comfortable and reasonable to me as an immediate mode of writing.

But things have been getting weirder in my writing, at least to me. I thought life was weird enough already, but it seems to be getting weirder still, so I guess poetry’s along for the ride. The work is more direct now (again, maybe only to me), clearer in its address, and this is a big thing to get used to. I think it may be mortality, as made apparent with the obvious reminders of aging – children growing, wrinkles forming, becoming closer to the age my mother died. I increasingly write poetry that scares me somewhat. The shadow is larger, but the light on the words is brighter – related, no doubt. Writing is more exhausting therefore than it was before, when I was not aware of what was going on. I can’t stop myself from big reveals, not that anyone’s asking, TMI. It may only feel this way to me, I’m not sure. Others seem to be affected more by my poetry now – perhaps it’s the explicitness that is more obviously understood than my earlier more triangulated poetry. It seems to please more people. I enjoy reading many forms of writing – the whole panoply – including traditional verse forms and vispo. My reading preferences haven’t changed at all to reflect this change in style. I don’t know what will happen next, but I’m both enjoying this process and cringing at it, because I know it’s embarrassing for some. For some reason I’m not embarrassed, although I feel sympathy – or is it sorrow? - for those who can’t take it. It’s tiring to dampen hot thoughts of all sorts, and life is short. It’s tiring to be “nice”, and a denial of the nature of the mind and heart. It certainly does no service to verse. So there you go. Hopefully there will be a lot more bold lines, uncomfortable but open lines, before I kick it.

Alice Burdick lives in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. She is the author of many chapbooks and four full-length poetry collections, Simple Master (Pedlar Press, 2002), Flutter (Mansfield Press, 2008), Holler (Mansfield Press, 2012), and most recently Book of Short Sentences (Mansfield Press, 2016). Her work has also appeared in Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry (The Mercury Press), Surreal Estate: 13 Canadian Poets Under the Influence (The Mercury Press), as well as other anthologies, and in numerous magazines, online and in print. She co-owns an independent bookstore in Lunenburg called Lexicon Books.