Monday, March 30, 2015

On Writing #56 : Sarah Burgoyne

a series of permissions-givings
Sarah Burgoyne

i am a schooled poet. schooled by other poets.

in my schooling, i was given a set of plates. they were rules about what one could or could not do in a poem. you could eat off them (for your whole life if you wanted to). please oh please oh please, do not use clichés, was one. please do not start your poem with “i remember,” another. always and forevermore: show, don’t tell, please. please stop ogling the blackbirds. please make astute enjambments. please stop making enjambments. please avoid the words love, heart and—for frost’s sake—the moon. scratch thou and thee. and ye. and malagrugrous… these were helpful rules. i hung them on the walls. i admired them.

once, as a newborn writer, i came across a poet whose work i'd never felt stronger about. at the same time, i had never been at a greater loss as to how to talk or write about poetry before. it seemed this writer had pestled the rules. consequently, i couldn’t tell you the “theme” of the poems. i couldn’t tell you the “meaning.” i couldn’t tell you what a "hundred-tongued perjury poem" or a "noem" was. but somehow these poems deeply moved me in my house of rattly plates. so i wrote a thesis about it. and some plates fell off the wall.

years later in new york, i attended a poetry reading; the poet reading told us she was sad, and had written her latest book of poems during a four-year sadness-bout. this made me sad and reminded me of lots of other poets and their relationships to poetry (including myself, des fois). and i realized i was bored with gloom. so i broke a plate i didn’t realize i had, and decided to try and write happy poems. praise poems. psalms. poems with love and hearts and golden bones in them. and blueberries. (this is where my workshop drew the line).

since then, it’s been a series of permissions-givings. a plate-smashing jamboree. i was careful at first though, and didn’t wreck them all at once. soon, i abandoned syntax, punctuation, line breaks, but not always. in that way, i guess, i’m lying: i didn’t really smash the rules. the rules just transformed. it was like they became cats—the way vegetables become convincingly stately chariots sometimes—that float in and out as they please, depending on how they feel. and of course, like most cats, they like to stay in a lot and i never regret them.

i guess i've started making some of my own rules since, like never be boring. or stop writing poems that are supposed to be interpreted, and write poems that read the reader, instead. i try to keep these in-house, but, like all cat-summonings, it’s often a struggle.

i wasn’t raised in a bar, like many good poets of earlier times. whiskey hasn’t been my only teacher. sadness hasn’t been my only room. toronto has never been my home. i grew up in the suburbs and was told that school was a good place to learn things, so i went to school, and i was lucky enough to learn some things about writing. looking back, no poet ever taught me to stick to the rules. but they named them for me, and i arranged them how i thought best at the time. it just took me a while to learn about shape-shifting. and magic. and winged cats.  

Sarah Burgoyne lives and teaches in Montreal. Her latest chapbook Love the Sacred Raisin Cakes was published in November with Baseline Press. She has a forthcoming manuscript with Mansfield Press.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On Writing #55 : Anne Fleming

Anne Fleming

There’s a point at which, when you’re funny, you think about stand-up. I mean, not me. Not seriously. Not for real.
This isn’t totally related, but there was a time in high school when the fourth or fifth person after antics or goofiness of mine said I should try out for the school play that I did. You had to sing. That was one thing. I had no imagination: all my troubles seemed so far away. Then you did a monologue. That was another. True, true, very nervous I have been and am. But why will you say I am mad?
The play that year was one of those school plays where the students make it up and it’s about, like, high school. So after I shrieked, Villains! Dissemble no more! ‘Tis the beating of his hideous heart! I had to improvise, Jesus Christ, improvise, a classroom scene. With me as the teacher. The students are acting up. What do I do? I don’t know how to improvise. I don’t know how to begin to improvise. Cheech and Chong is what I do. Cla-aass, through my nose.
I tanked. It scared me off the stage for years.
But a few years later, I had a friend who was funny, who wanted to do stand-up, who worked at the Olde Spaghetti Factory with some guys who performed at the open mic nights at Yuk-Yuks. We started work on a routine. “On a queer day, you can see forever.” That was the opening line. We liked Kate Clinton. We could recite all her routines. I thought the pope was on a catheter!
I forget my point.
Oh. I know.
To make my friends laugh. When I started writing it was to make my friends laugh.
I still think that’s a good reason.
It still pretty much is my reason, only now I hope to reach more people than just my friends, and I hope to make something happen that is more than just laughter. Although, “just laughter.” Why did I say that? See, that’s a problem. “Just laughter” is almost never “just laughter.” Because if you laugh at something because you recognize it, it’s about our common humanity, and if you laugh at something because it’s absurd, it’s a criticism or an observation about what we find meaningful or relevant, and if you laugh at it because you’re shocked and can’t believe a person would say that, it’s about what limits we set ourselves and why, and if you laugh because it’s clever, it’s about human ingenuity, and if you laugh and then can’t believe you just laughed, then it’s about how we use humour to deal with pain. And so on.
I struggle more and more with wondering if it matters, writing. Whether my writing matters. But I never question whether making people laugh matters. Weird, eh?
At the book launch for Gay Dwarves of America in Kelowna, I was lucky and happy to share the launch with Nancy Holmes, for her book, The Flicker Tree, which has its share of funny poems. So Nancy got the crowd laughing, and then it was my turn and they kept laughing. I stepped down from the mic and had that feeling: I killed.
Yeah. Those words: I killed. Comedy jargon. Stand-up jargon.
And then this little thought bubble. Hey. Maybe I could do stand-up. Maybe I’ve been thinking about it wrong all this time.  I thought you had to be funny, that that was the goal. But it’s not. The goal is something else. The goal is to tell a story. Make a point. Convey a character. Funniness is a side-effect.
We never finished that routine, my friend and I. We didn’t really know what we wanted to say. We didn’t have a point. We didn’t have a story. We didn’t have characters. We kept looking for good lines, for punchlines. We found some, sure, but they didn’t make up a routine. Not even five minutes. What we needed was a throughline.
I feel like I learn this same lesson over and over: don’t do it their way, do it your way.
Yesterday I heard a baby laugh. Kind of amazing when you think about it. It’s one of the first things babies do. They cry. And they laugh. And that’s pretty much it for the rest of our lives.
I don’t know.

Anne Fleming’s latest book is Gay Dwarves of America (Pedlar 2012), whose stories netted some nice awards and nominations. Rumours of a poetry book are afoot, plus two novels with goats in them, one for children and one for adults. She divides her time between Vancouver and Kelowna, where she teaches at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Serial Interview with Bruno Neiva ~ A entrevista de série com o Bruno Neiva

March 14, 2015

Not so long ago, I came across the work of Portuguese artist Bruno Neiva, in particular the first part of his ongoing project, The museum of boughs, which Neiva has described as an “ongoing, itinerant museum where artificial environments are built through intermedia installations”. Both The museum of boughs (boughs: 1 room) and The museum of boughs (alt.version) can be viewed online. The museum started off as a one-room installation; the following rooms will be extensions of the first one. The museum alludes to Pound’s 'In a Station of the Metro’ and Marcel Broodthaers’ “Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles”. In general, Bruno’s work is various, made up of installations/exhibitions, digital/text art, multi-media, sound, and print. He uses found materials, waste materials, asemic/averbal/literate writing, space. Versions. There is a sense of generous brevity; the extraneous could serve a different purpose, or none. There is a subtext of clarity without a drive to explain; reference points are implicit and remnants themselves.

Neiva’s recent work includes washing up (Zimzalla: 2014), dough (erbacce press: 2014) and averbaldraftsone&otherstories (Knives Forks and Spoons Press: 2013). His work can be found in multiple print journals intercontinentally (he's in ditch, too) and is featured in the The PO.EX Digital Archive of Portuguese Experimental Poetry.  With graphic artist bárbara mesquita, he co-runs the artist's books and e-chapbooks faux publishing house umaestruturaassimsempudorreedições. He curates the visual poetry section of the Turkish experimental literature magazine mosmodern. A recent project is a collaborative poetry and performance work with Paul Hawkins (Britain), Servant Drone.

Over the next little while, this blog will feature a serial interview with Bruno. In the meantime, his work can be found through the links above, and primarily here: 

seen / 2014 / digitally altered photograph, text
published in OAKS magazine, HOAX ed., London and Glasgow, UK, April 2014
/ bruno neiva / 2013 / décollage, acrylic on card stock / 250 x 147 mm
published in otoliths magazine/e-zine, Issue 31 (pt. 2), Home Hill, Queensland, Australia, October 2013 (online version), July 2014 (print version)

 she/items / 2014 / digital animation, voice recording

videopoem by bruno neiva, based on his prose poem 'she/items' (published in Boscombe Revolution magazine, Issue 2)

Thursday, March 05, 2015

On Writing #54 : Julie Joosten

On Haptic Pleasures:  an Avalanche, the Internet, and Handwriting
Julie Joosten

If I decided to go mountain climbing and if, while I was climbing, the forces on the mountain snow exceeded the snow’s strength and an avalanche formed, sweeping me downhill and burying me in snow and ice, and if global warming somehow didn’t end my indefinite winter and if my preserved body were discovered millennia from now by climbers from a civilization with the capacity to date snowbound bodies with delicate instruments and sensitive forensic tests, and if that civilization’s scientists, interested in my provenance, made me the object of their study, they may be able to date me to the  age of elaborate dentistry, pasteurized, fortified cow’s milk, and wireless radiation that has shaped me.  But my skeleton perhaps makes another admission that dates me more exactly:  on the third joint of my middle finger on my right hand I have a  bone spur.  This bump formed incrementally over years from my constant use of pens and pencils.  I read recently that people born before 1985 are of the last generation to have grown up without the internet, and my body (b. 1980) carries the marks of my generation, perhaps the last generation of the writing bump on the dominant hand.  I type now as much as I handwrite, but handwriting remains for me an integral part of reading and writing, which are always for me haptic pleasures.  I never read without a pencil in my hand and a pen nearby with my notebook.  I always begin writing with a pen in my notebook before moving to typing.  I remember when this writing bump formed—I was in grade 1—and I was amazed and proud and delighted with its emergence.  I often ran, and still do run, my pointer finger over the bump unconsciously, a habit that soothes.  Even now I take pleasure in understanding that my body has come to accommodate writing and to be shaped by it, that this shape is perceptible, and that the slow sedimentation of bone rising up both to meet and to enable the act of writing is continuously occurring, though itself imperceptible.  The questions of the intersection of body and mind, of thought and action, of a thinking that occurs on the level of the body, are for me indistinguishable from the physical processes of reading and writing.

Julie Joosten is the author of Light Light (Book Thug, 2013), which was a finalist for the Governor General's Award for Poetry. She lives in Toronto.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

On Writing #53 : David Dowker

Micropoetics, or the Decoherence of Connectionism
David Dowker

Everything is in the connections, of course, but at the risk of sounding like the middle-class Maoist's Marianne Moore, I will say that I do adhere to many of the tenets of modern Confusionism. Now, I do and do not believe in God (depending upon which side of that category-concept mistake I drag my hypothetical self out of), so I have to make and unmake meticulously syllabic matrices. I love montage and décolletage. I even like rhythm, assonance and all that stuff. You just pluck your nerves and sing. If someone's ripping your clothes off at the podium, you don't grab the microphone. (You don't say. That's for the writing thing.) As for the reception of said writing thing, suppose that you're in love and you do and do not believe in love and the object of your affection does not even know that you exist. Is this not about as close to God as you can get? Let the differences fall where they may.

I'm not saying that I have the most inciteful ideas of anyone writing today, but who is anyone to be critical? As I sit in my loft of relative luxury, sipping my coagulated coffee, aimlessly browsing the web, I begin to think of aetheric entities with fleshly enhancements . . . and that's when the screen freezes.

Ah, the micropoetics of the situation!

But does anyone ever get it, or get what it would mean to get it, and how could it ever be determined? Too many poets act like some middle-aged crazy trying to explain the sapling with asymptotic legs apprehended in the shower playing with his rainstick. Who doesn't like the movies, though? After all, the rushes from this life, day after day, would drive (he said) anyone to poetry. As for the measure of other lovers, their technical expertise is incomparable to the pleasure of another. It's simply a matter of not making sense. If the cloud-server catches you with your trousers down, remember: there's nothing physical about it.

Poetry is an abstraction. Abstraction (as poetry, as painting, is) is a fact of life (or perception, at least). I think it appears most acutely in those memetic particulars where decision is unnecessary. For instance, the collapse of the state vector explained as interactive decoherence implies an innate aptitude of composition. Micropoetics, an autonomous 'pataphysical assemblage recently coded for flowing and which only certain hypothetical machine entities yet know about, obviously interests me immensely, being so integrated with the pragmatics of the situation within this earthly regime of signs.

Micropoetics has nothing to do with metaphysics – it's only art. It does not have to do with philosophy or spirituality, far from it! To give you an approximate correspondence, one of its primary aspects is a certain "focussed uncertainty" (Nick Piombino) with the implicit necessity to address that attribute in no uncertain terms, thus evoking overtones of involvement which stimulate a kind of linguistic intensity while maintaining a participatory distance. That's micropoetics for you. It was discovered after a dream in which Hilda Doolittle and I were having lunch by the Nile, swatting flies and discussing August 27, 2012, a day on which my love was with someone else. I woke up and wrote a poem entitled Beeline. While I was writing I realized that this was the answer to the question I had forgotten to ask H.D. The message was the poem, the poem was the massage. Then, my love came home and the hard drive crashed. So micropoetics was born. It's an easily excitable movement which will undoubtedly confuse lots of would-be adherents. It puts the poem roundly in its place (which is the centre of a circle whose circumference is nowhere). The poem at last is everywhere. With all modesty, I must confess that this may be the living end of literature (as always never seen before, and coming to a theatre near you soon). Poetry being a special case of prose, it is only obviously appropriate that poetry assimilate the distinction. For a time it was thought that language(-centred) poetry had accomplished this, but actually, for all their diffusion, these w*r*i*t*i*n*g*s are more an interpolation than interface.

What can we expect of micropoetics? Nothing, but we won't get it. (This is getting ridiculous, isn't it?) It is too much of a sum over histories to do anything but decohere. The propagandists of the future had better watch their backs. Something might be againing on them.

            with apologies to the ghost of Frank O'Hara

David Dowker was born in Kingston, Ontario but has lived most of his life in Toronto. He was the editor of The Alterran Poetry Assemblage (which can be accessed at Library and Archives Canada) and has published two books with BookThug: MachineLanguage in 2010 and Virtualis:Topologies of the Unreal (with Christine Stewart) in 2013. The possibility remains that his extremely intermittent posts to the Time-Sensitive Material blog may become slightly more frequent.