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.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

On Writing #131 : Laura Farina

On Writing
Laura Farina

I love a good detective story — dark clues hidden in dark places.  I love the pace them and how they unfold, each clue falling into place with a satisfying thud, until the whole picture is revealed.  For me, writing poems is a bit like that. I write scattered images that I often don’t understand, and then piece them together to figure out what I actually think. 

What do I actually think about the process of writing?  It changes so often it’s hard for me to tell.  But today, I can give you four images.

1.      A friend has some things he wants to say to me about my writing. We are two beers in, sitting across from each other at a sticky pub table when he tells that one of my poems made him cry. “It just made me so sad that you’d ever felt that way,” he says. I don’t know what to say because I have felt that way, but also, sort of not. You know that part of your brain that makes you tolerable to others?  That part of your brain that, when things are bad, reminds you that you also live in a world filled with people who love you and also pizza?  I try to write with that part of my brain turned off. Poems don’t need to worry about being tolerable.

2.      Is the word “accessible” a compliment? I can never tell. It feels, so often, like when girls in Grade 8 tell you they like your shirt.  My husband plays video games, and sometimes I try to play, too, but I didn’t grow up with them, so even if I know what I’m supposed to do, I don’t have the hand-eye coordination to do it.  I just haven’t put in the hours. This is my point. If there’s something poems are trying to communicate about the world or language or any of the other things we claim to care about, is it inherently better to communicate those things solely to people whose parents bought them a Nintendo back in the 80s?

3.      I’m a poet because I have to walk everywhere slowly. I have a rare lung condition and rheumatoid arthritis, so I move at the pace of something ridiculously slow — honey, turtles, watched pots. When I was 16, I walked up the tallest peak in the British Isles with my father.  It took me all day.  I’d walk fifteen steps and then stop, fifteen steps and then stop. When we were almost at the top,  I paused for about the thousandth time, and we happened to look down. Just below us, were tiny rainbows scattered in low-hanging clouds. Poetry takes its time like I take me time, and allows me to see things I might otherwise have missed. 

4.      If I’m honest, I am a sporadic writer at best. When things are going well, I can write a poem a day.  When they aren’t I sometimes don’t write for months. I’m a flighty person. I make New Year’s resolutions I don’t keep, I bail on people to go home and do nothing, I can’t not eat the last cookie. My lack of writerly discipline used to bother me. It was the subject of many broken New Year’s resolutions.  Because those messages are out there, aren’t they? You have to show up to your desk. You have to have the burning desire to create poems at all times, or you have no business calling yourself a writer. I don’t know. All that may be true. For me, it’s true that the poems have always been there when I needed them, sort of like a coaster at a fancy person’s house.

Laura Farina is the author of two collections of poetry Some Talk of Being Human (Mansfield Press) and This Woman Alphabetical (Pedlar Press), which won the Archibald Lampman Award. She lives in Vancouver, where she writes poems, teaches creative writing and waits for the rain to end.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

call for submissions : h&

Currently seeking submissions of visual/concrete poetry for future posts.

The site so far features work by J4, Jeff Batago, Logan K. Young, Pearl Button, Rob Stuart, hiromi suzuki, Andrew Topel, sean burn, Texas Fontanella, Mark Young, Daniel Van Klei, derek beaulieu, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, Amanda Earl, Robert Swereda, Ali Znaidi, Pearl Pirie, Nico Vassilakis, Eileen R. Tabios, Rob Flint, Lawrence Upton, Michael e. Casteels, Gary Barwin, Michael Basinski, a rawlings, Sheila E. Murphy, Natalie Lauchlan, bruno neiva, Mark Young, Ken Hunt, Joel Chase, Tony Rickaby, Robert Swereda and Chris Turnbull.

The prior iteration of this journal was barely distributed, and might even have been imaginary.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

On Writing #130 : Billy Mavreas

On writing
Billy Mavreas

I write sporadically although I more often work with text. I find it easy to convince myself that my text-based visual arts practice is the main part of my writing practice. This gets complicated because my visual arts practice is quite multi-disciplinary, involving collage, concrete and visual poetry making and comics/visual storytelling. If that wasn’t enough my habit of collecting paper ephemera and found paper scraps has insinuated itself into my art.

When I actually get around to using just words in writing, the context is either random semi-foolish tweets (an extension of my long standing practice of bumper sticker poetry and band name poetry) or earnest blog posts mostly about creative process.

This all doesn’t stop me from telling myself stories about things in life and using personal (unfolding, unwritten) storytelling as a guiding principle in life. Neither does it stop me from self-identifying as a writer. As in writer/artist.

I’ve been drawing all my life and writing on and off since adolescence. I studied undergrad English Lit for what that’s worth. I worked on my college paper and university literary journal. I wrote poems. In university I shared my poems with another student writer and he unceremoniously suggested I stick to drawing. The advice of another 19 year old froze my poetry for decades. Kids, don’t listen to kids.

At the time I was increasingly self identifying as a writer (art was something I always did, hence took for granted, was known about me so it didn’t have the same weight or loftiness to me as did calling myself a writer). That silly episode broke the spell and I continued - a little- writing in secret. Mostly awesome song lyrics and slogans. I started writing graffiti more seriously, always in clear capitol letters. I got way weirder with my text. Invented alphabets, channelled entities.

I cannot successfully extract ‘writing’ from a myriad other creative processes. My visual poetry is composed with collage and found fragments more than type or text. My drawing is heavily informed by the minute strokes and gestures well known to the calligrapher or long-hand writer. My hand writing is an odd semi-cursive that grew out of all caps lettering. I am a decent letterer. I enjoy sigil crafting and logo designing.

I am glad I’m well over forty now so I can presume I have something to say. I am able to express myself competently in short personal essay form however choppy. If I have writing goals they include more graphic novels, at least one solid fantasy short story, at least one decent YA novel, and some children’s books. I have little interest carving out a larger place for myself in the various literary writing scenes I’ve been around for years although I do want to find the opportunity to write more, straight up word after word writing.

I love reading and I love books. I love odd puzzling books that aren’t necessarily hard to read. I want to make odd puzzling books. I’ll make them, as I already do, regardless of the kind of writing they are made with.

The challenge for the multi-disciplinary writer/artist, as I see it, is to achieve a balance in output, a union of voices and tendencies, that speak of a whole person. It’s ok if I am known as the guy who paints bunnies or the person who draws stoner comix or the guy who makes Xerox abstractions or yet another one who publishes small collage zines, as long as I know that I am cresting towards a unification process, wherein all my offerings are part of the same coherent universe. Writing can function as a glue of some sort as I use it most to explicate to myself and others what I am doing as an artist, as a writer/artist, as a writer.

Billy Mavreas is a Montreal based multi-disciplinary artist/writer and co-director of Monastiraki, an art shop in the Mile End neighbourhood.

He is the author of three graphic novels, one book of posters and many mini books, prints, zines, pamphlets and assorted ephemera.