Tuesday, January 10, 2017

On Writing #120 : K.I. Press

On Being Off
K.I. Press

Sometimes you’re just off, you feel so off, you wonder if you were ever really on.

They keep saying that writing is a muscle. You know how you’re out of shape? Not you, I mean, I don’t really know you, but me, I mean. But you’re so far out of shape that the expression doesn’t really even apply anymore, because to be out of shape implies that you were once in it. In a shape. They mean like a statue, like a rippling Michelangelo, though the first thing I think of tends to be a perfect cube, wooden and hollow. A crate.

And now you are not a shape.

You are liquid.

There are advantages to being liquid.

You fit, you move, you flow.

A little too easily maybe, and downhill.

See what I mean?


I’ve been off poetry. This is neither a success nor a failure. It’s a change of state.

Maybe it’s because I’m not new anymore and the welcome party has worn off, or because I moved to the middle of winter, or because I don’t believe in anything, or because I ran out of ideas, or because I couldn’t figure out how to write poems about zombies, or because [blame the internet], or because I gave up, or because I melted in the sun, or because it’s hard and I’m lazy, or because nothing means anything anymore, or because young people these days, or because I want to be cool, or because I have nothing to say, or because everyone’s doing it now, or because it’s not fun anymore, or because I’m tired, or because it’s the end of the world.

Well, actually, that sounds like failure, doesn’t it?

I want to have it all. Baby. I want poetry, prose, comics, a double shot of scriptwriting, even a song. I want arch-villains, beaches, very serious issues, car chases and internal rhyme. I want to collaborate, infiltrate, organize and publish. I want to go to sleep right here on the couch.

But one thing at a time. O, God.

I want to read something that doesn’t glow.

I am a loser.


Lately I’ve wanted a world in which professors don’t sleep with students. I’ve been doing it for eight years. Not sleeping with my students, I mean. Sleeping with students turns out to be remarkably easy to avoid. Actually, it never seems to come up. But then again, I’m just a loser and a failed poet, so I guess not worth the trouble.

Why bother with any of it, really.

I’m going to go off and write my novel now. It’s about an actor who once starred in a Bertolucci film. He loves his teddy bear. He runs for President. His mistress drowns in a bathtub. There are zombies.

K.I. Press’s most recent book of poetry is Exquisite Monsters (Turnstone, 2015). She is a student in the Optional Residency Creative Writing MFA program at UBC. She teaches creative writing in Winnipeg.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

many gendered mothers : call for submissions

O god save all the many gendered-mothers of my heart, & all the other mothers, who do not need god or savior,

our hearts persist in excess of the justice they’re refused.
Dana Ward, “A Kentucky of Mothers”

many gendered mothers is a project on literary influence featuring short essays by writers (of any/all genders) on the women, femme, trans, and non-binary writers who have influenced them, as a direct or indirect literary forebear.

This project is directly inspired by the American website Literary Mothers (http://literarymothers-blog.tumblr.com/), created by editor Nadxieli Nieto and managing editor Nina Puro. While we hope that Literary Mothers might eventually return to posting new pieces, this site was created as an extension and furthering of their project (in homage, if you will), and not meant as any kind of replacement.

Basically: which female ,femme, trans or non-binary writer(s) made you feel like there was room in the world for you and your artistic temperament, or opened up your understanding of what was possible, either as a writer or a human or both? Perhaps you were closely mentored by a particular writer or editor, or perhaps their work was highly influential, even if not in the most obvious ways.

While submissions by men are highly encouraged, the argument that male literary influence has been long explored in print and online is a reasonable one. This isn’t an argument for levelling the field but, instead, expanding it.

We are currently accepting short essays of 500-1000 words as a .doc or .docx file, with “many gendered mothers” in subject line. Please include: “Your Name” on “Author Name(s),” subtitle (optional) and a short bio for yourself, as well as a .jpg image of your subject (if possible). And: multiple submissions are encouraged! Simply because you’ve already had a piece accepted for the site doesn’t mean you still can’t submit something further down the road.

Submissions can be sent to any of our editors (if you know how to reach them), or directly to neitherliterary@gmail.com

Sunday, January 01, 2017

We Who Are About To Die : Sacha Archer

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 (parenthetical). He has work forthcoming in Experiment-O. He is the author of the chapbooks Dishwashing Event, Part One: Tianjin, China (no press, 2016), and Dishwashing Event, Part Two: Ontario (Puddles of Sky Press, 2016). His chapbooks Acceleration of the Arbitrary (Grey Borders) and Detour [D-1] (Spacecraft Press) are forthcoming.

Where are you now?

Ontario. Waterdown. I think I’ll be leaving this town soon. I certainly hope so. It’s near Hamilton (technically part of it), and near where I grew up, Dundas. Why do we come back home? I don’t recognize anybody who can confirm it is. The Bruce trail that winds through the escarpment into the Dundas valley and into Hamilton…is one reason.

What are you reading?

I just finished Anne Carson’s new collection, Float. Currently I’m in the middle of Quentin Bell’s biography of Virginia Woolf, and also Injun by Jordan Abel.

What have you discovered lately?

That it is suffering that unites us, and which is at the root of all our actions. It has made me much more comfortable. I was standing at Pearson Airport, looking around, and everyone suddenly could barely hide the wincing nerves just below the edifice.

Where do you write?

It depends on the project. I’ve been working on a lot of collage/ concrete poetry recently, and have found myself at the kitchen table or in the basement in my late grandfather’s office. My next project will likely find me somewhere else. And we’ll (my family) be moving soon, so. Some of my writing practices fail to resemble writing in its traditional form, and consequently where I write becomes unconventional. This past summer I was wandering through the woods (a return—I wrote in the woods as a boy) making rubbings under the sign of poetry. 

What are you working on?

Like I mentioned above, I’ve been doing some collage. There are two escapades. One focuses on excised speech bubbles from the funnies of various newspapers. The other project is—perhaps, not collage—using hole punched circles from various novels and manuals to create, at this point I know not what. Scores? There is a large project demanding my attention which I have had trouble starting. It begins with me reading Virginia Woolf’s The Waves underwater in a bathtub. It will begin very soon.

Have you anything forthcoming?

Grey Borders is publishing a chapbook of mine under the title Acceleration of the Arbitrary. It is the first third of a larger manuscript which imagines a future senseless brutal revolution (same old). Also, Spacecraft Press will be publishing my chapbook Detour [D-1], which is a conceptual translation of the Dao De Jing. Again, it is the first part of a larger project.

What would you rather be doing?

This “interview” in person. Slightly drunk.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On Writing #119 : Lesley Buxton

Talking to Myself
Lesley Buxton

Some years ago, I was reacquainted with a friend I’d known as a teenager. “Do you still talk to yourself?” he asked in one of our initial conversations.
“What? I never talked to myself.”
“You did.” Despite my denial, my friend’s observation concerned me.
Sometime afterwards I was having dinner with my husband, Mark and I made some casual remark and he didn’t answer.
“Were you talking to me?”
His question annoyed me. Who else could I be talking to?
“I just wasn’t sure,” he said. “I thought you might be talking to yourself. You do it all the time so I’m never sure if I’m supposed to answer or not.”

Since then I’ve begun to notice I talk to myself a lot—even in public. Not long ago I was at the Value Village and I caught myself considering out loud if I should buy a leather jacket I’d found. It scared me. After all it’s one thing for friends to notice but another to be regarded by strangers as that odd middle-aged lady at the thrift store babbling to herself.

Recently I saw the movie, The Lady in the Van based on the writer, Allan Bennett’s relationship with Miss Shepherd, a homeless woman who resided in her van in his driveway for fifteen years. In the movie Alex Jennings plays two versions of Bennett, the writer who watches Miss Shepherd from behind the safety of his desk and the other Bennett, the one who engages with the world. Throughout the story the two of them frequently discuss Miss Shepherd’s strange behaviour from very different perspectives. Early in the movie the writer Bennett explains, saying that writers are always talking to themselves.

I liked the movie, but it was the idea of the writer being divided into two distinct characters that most struck me. I’ve felt that all my life but have never been able to articulate it. Lesley the non-writer is happiest at the pub with a pint in her hand and surrounded by people who know how to tell a damn good story. Whereas the writer in me likes nothing more than to spend her day alone writing in her pyjamas—and God forbid anyone disturbs her —she has none of the social graces of my other self. She’s grumpy, with bad breath from drinking too much coffee and is liable to ignore other people if they try to talk to her while she’s thinking. But in truth, she’s the nicer of the two, less judgemental, more prone to empathy and, best of all, able to see a story from all angles.

For the past two years I’ve been working on a memoir based on my blog, Fall On Me, Dear. It tells the story of what it’s like to survive one’s only child.  Before my life changed so radically it was never my ambition to write a memoir. I wrote short stories—long before that I was an actor. In both endeavours my enthusiasm was based on the same desire, a need to interpret the history behind a character’s actions. I love trying to decipher a person’s motivation, all those layers that make certainty so elusive. This is why I love gossip, especially when I hear the same tale repeated by different sources. It amazes me how a story can be moulded by perspective. It’s like collecting recordings of the same song sung by a variety of artists. Take the Leonard Cohen song, Hallelujah for example. None of my friends can agree on who interprets it best. 

In memoir, the only voice is your own. This is daunting. Yes, I know the bones of my story, but for the most part I’m forced to rely on my memories for guidance and like human nature these are fragile. For this reason I spend a lot of time questioning myself, analysing my actions, seeking truth as if it were black and white and not hidden under the murkiest of greys. I’ve always been the queen of self-doubt. A quality that has wreaked havoc in my personal life, but served the writer well. Throughout this process, there have been days when the sound of my own voice has driven me crazy. Days when I would’ve given anything to be writing a story where I was not a central character. I say character, as the only way I have discovered to write about myself is to employ the techniques I’ve learned by writing short stories. This means leaving space for the reader.

The odd thing about writing a memoir is there’s an assumption that it’s cathartic. Over and over again, I’m asked if I’ve found this process therapeutic. This notion makes me uneasy. After all if therapy was all I required I could simply keep a journal and spew my feelings onto the page. Sure, this might be healing for the non-writer, but soon the writer would appear—out of the two of us, she’s the strongest and most relentless. Her concerns reach far beyond the small and personal to where she hopes the intimate will meet the universal. By aiming for this, if the timing is right and she’s fortunate, she joins the Babel of other writers all lost in conversation with themselves.

Lesley Buxton studied theatre in London, England, and travelled extensively before settling down in Penticton, British Colombia. Her short stories have appeared in a variety of reviews including: The Antigonish Review, Hazlitt, The Fiddlehead, and The New Quarterly. Her blog Fall On Me, Dear, chronicles the last years of her daughter’s life. She has a MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She’s working on a memoir, One Strong Girl, based on her blog.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

On Writing #118 : Elee Kraljii Gardiner

Essay on Inclusivity
Elee Kraljii Gardiner

My literary community in Vancouver seems to rotate around and on social media – or maybe that’s just my epicentre. It’s a question worth asking myself beyond lamenting writing time lost to gif giggles and memes. In truth, social media has enabled me to do far more writing and creating with other artists than I would have managed without the internet and it has given me an easy channel to connect with writers and editors with whom I can exchange thoughts and eventually, poems.

Social media is where the bulk of calls for submissions I know about are shared and spread. It’s easy to retweet a call from a literary journal – publications (every one of them underfunded and understaffed compared to the amount of labour they face) work hard to reach readers. But their submissions may be sampling only one end of the pool of writers. Who is not part of the conversation?

We know lack of access to technology isolates people, but how is it skewing our literary community? Especially in Vancouver, one of the cruelest cities in Canada for income inequity and unaffordable housing?

Editors, presses and publishers might expand their ring of writers and dilate the experience of the literary community by considering e-privilege. Where are most submissions coming from? Are they weighted towards a certain population? Why? Who aren’t they seeing in submissions?

In September 2016 I participated in a panel on inclusivity in publishing with three smart and active writers who are pushing against racialized and genderized borders in publishing. [1] Jónína and Chelene and Jen made the panel accessible, permeable and conversant using their multi-layered experiences as writers and editors as reference points. I spoke about a slant form of exclusion: how reliable access to computers and sufficient Wi-Fi is a barrier to many of the most committed writers I know.

Most Thursdays since 2008 I’ve spent the afternoon writing with Thursdays Writing Collective,[2] a non-profit writing group for residents of the Downtown Eastside. Many of my cohort can’t count on steady, private, convenient computer availability. I don’t have to leave my house to find wifi or mitigate restricted time slots for public computer use. I have my own computer and when my laptop crashes I can take it to the repair shop and get it back in a day but that’s because I have a credit card, transportation to and from, the mental bandwidth to deal with the frustration of computer problems. I can more or less drop everything - besides my kids - to prioritize my computer.

If a writer living in an SRO (https://dtescollaborative.org) can acquire a laptop they may not have the time, connections or quiet they need to figure out saving and backing up, a confounding experience for me even when I am rested, fed, focused and undisturbed. If belongings or housing aren’t secure, the writing isn’t either. Theft and damage of laptops or jump drives means losing novels, submission records, bios, author photos, literary CVs, manuscripts, editing conversations, journals – imagine all of that hitting you at once. Imagine it happening repeatedly. These practical difficulties in the writing life are a colander, straining the breadth and depth of voices from a fuller literary community. Award-winning poet Henry Doyle (https://vimeo.com/178824020), who periodically struggles with Wi-Fi issues told me on the phone, “It’s really hard to be out of the loop. I don’t know what’s going on or how to get in touch with people. I feel like I’m missing a lot.”

When John Asfour and I coedited V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012) our mandate was to create an holistic picture of the neighbourhood by yoking published and unpublished authors in one cross-genre anthology. We had to figure out alternative ways to connect and communicate beyond and outside of the pool we knew how to reach. How do you reach people you don’t know how to reach? We tried our best by asking everyone we could for suggestions.

For starters, we accepted handwritten submissions. We established a box at the library to accept texts so people didn’t have to pay postage to submit their handwritten texts. We sent a submission call out on radio repeatedly. We passed out handbills, published notices in newsletters, handed out posters and asked people to use word of mouth to spread the call. We contacted outreach workers, mentors, volunteers and asked them to share the info. I posted and handed out my cell number so writers could ask me questions or arrange to submit their pieces.

We used social media to target organizers and activists who could print out the call and share it face to face with people who might be interested. We did a good job but there are undoubtedly many venues of contact that never occurred to us.

Other ways to bridge the digital divide are common sense, and contagious. After writing long hand in class, it’s a frequent occurrence for some TWC writers type up writing for the people who don’t have computer access. This need has at times been so crushing that Thursdays Editing Collective, part of TWC, has held “type-up” sessions after class where we quickly convert handwritten texts into digital forms that are easier to edit and preserve.

A few years ago WORD Festival (which also programmed the 2016 inclusivity panel) asked what kind of event was most needed in the Downtown Eastside. Since then they have held free public Type Up events at Carnegie Community Centre where people can bring ten pages of writing - short stories, poems, letters or legal documents - to be typed on the spot, lightly spellchecked and turned into a doc/cd/printout for free.

When we connect with a writer who is offline some or all of the time we can ask what the challenges are, what they need, what would make things smoother. Maybe they need help getting their work to one of the journals that only accepts through the online site Submittable. Maybe we ask our own publishers and editors what they need in order to hear from people outside the standard stable of frequents.

Other hacks around e-exclusion abound, and we’d do well to share the info with each other to make a more robust community. We need to hear from the creators who aren’t at the epicenter of the update matrix.

After the panel on inclusivity an audience member, Jessica Key, contacted me on Twitter to ask more questions. She wrote a paper for her MPub class you can read here: https://eleekg.com/2016/10/17/how-can-publishers-be-more-inclusive/
It’s not lost on me Jessica and I were able to do this thanks to social media but like any other privilege, e-privilege can help dismantle itself.

[1] Sep 25, 2016 at the WORD Festival in Vancouver programmed by Natasha Sanders-Kay for Magazines BC. My co-panellists were Jónína Kirton and Chelene Knight and the panel was mc’d by Jen Sookfong Lee. http://www.magsbc.com/magsbc-presents-inclusiveness-panel-word-vancouver
[2] I started Thursdays Writing Collective in 2008 and passed the directorship in September 2016 to Amber Dawn. www.thursdayswritngcollective.ca

Elee Kraljii Gardiner [photo credit: Christoph Prevost] is the author of the book of poems serpentine loop (Anvil Press, 2016), which is going into a second edition. She is the co-editor with John Asfour of V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012), which was shortlisted for the 2012 City of Vancouver Book Award. Elee founded Thursdays Writing Collective, a non-profit organization of more than 150 writers in Vancouver and she is the editor and published of its eight anthologies. Her efforts to foster writers earned the 2015 Pandora’s Collective BC Writer Mentor Award. She is originally from Boston and is a dual US/Canadian citizen. [Ed. note: Today is also her birthday. Happy Birthday, Elee!] www.eleekg.com