Sunday, October 15, 2006
I was at jwcurry's last night. He much informed me about his readings of all of bpNichol's 'The Martyrology' (each book) that occurred in Toronto on the dates noted above. This is one of those events that in retrospect one shd'v panhandled, hitchhiked, cancelled all previous commitments to attend. I'm not going to talk to about what he told me yet: there is the possibility of posting some notes to this blog regarding his Martyrology readings; perhaps I'll be able to relay some of his thoughts about the experience.
Gio (you know Gio dont you?) made a bunch of photographs & plans to post them to his new web site: http://shangorama.com/ *hopefully he'll do that soon
Daniel f. Bradley comments, includes a photo at: http://fhole.blogspot.com
Some notes & images:
As an aside, in the book 'See What You Think: Critical Essays for the Next Avant-Garde' David Rosenberg argues that bpNichol was actually a translator of Sumerian cuneiform & that this played a role in the writing of 'The Martyrology'. I've only glanced at the book which was first published in 2002. Now I'm very eager to read it.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
It was a most excellent Ottawa International Writers Festival. I'd go on about it but there's plenty below. Of note however was the combined launch for the CD 'Hail: Canadian Art Song' & Betty Warrington-Kearsley's book 'Red Lacquered Chopsticks'. I was extremely impressed by the musical performance accompanying the launch for 'Hail: Canadian Art Song'.
There is a spider crawling across my desk. Not sure yet if my grandmother will become the oldest living Canadian or human for that matter, she has a long way to go, she's only 95 you know.... we spent some excellent time together this September. She lives in downtown
The New Wolves on my silly blog at maxmiddle.blogspot.com
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Chapters, 47 Rideau Street
Sunday, October 15, 2006, 2pm
The launch of the fall Bywords Quarterly Journal with the music of Mike Yates and the poetry of Terry Ann Carter, John Gilles, Kathryn Hunt, Heather McLeod, Sean Moreland, Chris Pitre, Stephen Rowntree, Rona Shaffran, Guy Simser, Chris Sorrenti and Luminita Suse
Contact Info:Amanda Earl
613 868 1364Amanda Earl
PO Box 937
ps: There will be a post reading and birthday (mine) libation at the Highlander pub around 4:00 pm after the reading.
Friday, October 06, 2006
I’m not going to spend much time talking about the Goldenberg event, except to say that the music was as smooth and well-rehearsed as any conductor of political symphonies could orchestrate. I would have liked to have heard more excerpts from the book rather than a description of what was in the book, and I would have liked to have heard a more hard hitting interview with Angelo Persichilli, a reporter from the Hill Times.
I wanted to go to Writing Life 2, especially to hear Michael Redhill, but I couldn’t be in two places at once. If festival organizers would be so kind as to invent a cloning machine, I would really appreciate it. It’s on my Christmas wish list.
My main reason for attending last night was to hear fellow Bywordian, Betty Warrington-Kearsley read from her first poetry collection, Red Lacquered Chopsticks (Tsar, 2006). Betty’s poems were spell binding and exotic. She has a magical way with words. The poems she read were chiefly narrative and there were quite a few autobiographical poems. I don’t have the book yet to see if this is the case throughout. One poem about learning to write her name in Chinese was especially enjoyable. Betty combines precision with a good sense of fun. I’ve known Betty for a few years. We both took a poetry workshop at Carleton with Armand Garnet Ruffo a year ago and both of us were students of Seymour Mayne’s Creative Writing workshop at Ottawa U. It’s quite satisfying to see a fellow classmate publishing her work and to hear a poem we workshopped in Armand’s class too.
Next up was Seymour Mayne who read a few of his word sonnets from Hail, but this was by means of introduction to the featured event: soprano Doreen Taylor Claxton’s performance of his word sonnets, with music composed by John Armstrong. I have to admit that I have no education about classical music and therefore am not really able to comment on the performance in any intelligent way; however, I am fascinated by the idea of music and poetry together. Such collaborations have been tried before, notably by Terry Ann Carter, who sometimes performs her haiku to the accompaniment of an ensemble or accompanies herself on autoharp, and by Susan McMaster, whose spoken word pieces are often accompanied by jazz (her husband is an excellent jazz musician!).
Moving on to the auditorium, we ended our evening with the music of Bryson, Miles and Ungerleider (Oh Susannah). This was the festival’s first songwriters’ circle, I believe, and I think it’s an excellent idea. I heard Lynn Miles two years’ ago at a similar circle at CBC. Singer-songwriters discussed their literary influences and sang a few songs. Lynn is very well read and enjoys Canadian poetry. This comes as no surprise, given that her lyrics are poetic and moving.
Last night, along with some beautiful music, Oh Susannah read a chilling poem by Carl Sandberg and a piece of her own prose from a journal. She’d transformed the prose into a beautiful ballad. Jim Bryson, who is good friends with poet Ken Babstock, merged two of Babstock’s poems and added a bridge to create a song.
These days the calls for submissions are all about cross genres or pushing the boundaries of genres such as poetry. The songs I heard last night were most definitely poems set to music.
With two more days left to go for the festival, I’m starting to wish it wouldn’t end. I always begin the festival wondering how my attention span will make it through the whole thing and then I end the festival wanting more.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Last year’s Newlove recipient, Melissa Upfold, came up from Sarnia to read from her chapbook, Welcome to Beautiful San Ria (Bywords, 2006). She also read four John Newlove poems, including her favourite, Driving, from the Night the Dog Smiled (ECW Press, 1986)
And now, since many of you who weren’t at the event might be interested in knowing the results…52 poems published on Bywords.ca from September 2005 to August 2006 were eligible for the award. The judge this year was Erin Moure, who chose four honourable mentions and one winning poem:
Honourable mentions were
One More Vanished by Kathryn Hunt, (July 2006)
Meredith Quartermain’s “I Canadian dream of English,” variation three, rob mclennan, (January, 2006)
look into, Heather McLeod (August, 2006)
Burnt forest, Rona Shaffran (August, 2006)
The winning poem was at the pizzeria 100% real juice written by Roland Prevost (May, 2006)
I was pleased that the readers all read with enthusiasm and held the audience’s attention. One of my favourite parts was when rob noted that it was great to not win a contest he didn’t even enter. Was also good to hear lots of Newlove poems. The reading and award is meant to honour and celebrate the poetry of John Newlove, to help, in a small way, to ensure that writers continue to have access to his words as their inspiration.
Roland won a signed copy of The Cave (McLelland and Stewart, 1970), and the opportunity to have a chapbook published by Bywords to be read at next year’s fall edition of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, if they let us come back!
The reading was truly a celebration, honouring Newlove’s work, the Writers Festival tenth anniversary and also the ninth anniversary of Dusty Owls Cathy and Steve Zytveld, not to mention celebrating the achievements and talents of the poets in Ottawa’s literary community.I wanted to stay for Writing Life 2, especially to hear Stephen Heighton, but I didn’t have the attention span, after all the organizing and planning for the Bywords reading finally ended without any of the bad stuff I dreamt about happening (all the writers and the performer showed, the Festival organizers didn’t forget we were holding an event, there wasn’t a fire or flood and no large apes left over from Stuart Ross’s performance of Ape Play the previous night got loose from their green garbage bag captivity.
All in all a great evening. Now to finish planning the October 15 launch of the fall Bywords Quarterly Journal and to start on next year’s Newlove award planning! The fun never stops…at Bywords. It was great seeing so many familiar and new faces at the reading.
Hunkamooga’s Return: Coffee Stained Notes From The Underground was a delightfully expanded reading from the usual fifteen minutes allotted to festival authors. After entertaining us with his audience participation notes to Ape Play, a "broadway production", Ross read us a few lines from his first novel, “Father, the Cowboys are Ready to Come Down from the Attic,” written for Pulp Press’s 3-day novel contest in 1978, when Stuart was just 19 years-old. Anyone who is willing to let the audience hear something he's written when he was 19 and also to laugh at his own writing is someone who can win an audience over easily, as Stuart did.
We were also treated to one of Ross’s essays from Confessions of A Small Press Racketeer, new poems and old poems, an excerpt from his novel in progress, The Snowball.
One of my favourite moments from the reading was listening to Ross’s poem “Submission” about sending in poems to the “Unhappy Potato Quarterly” and having them accept the poem, showing up in his bedroom to let him know just how much they loved it. It’s a goofy poem, full of humour, but also a great comment on the ego, something I think Ross often satirizes and plays with in his writing.
Aside from the humour and imagination, there is much precision of language in Ross’s poems. In a poem called “the Church has a Church Beside It for instance,” I caught the line “the fierce bronze puddle of Olaf.”
I enjoyed the fact that Ross writes poems about writing. One poem “A Novel Punched Another Novel in the Head” was about working on several projects at once. In the poem the older novel the author has been working on is usurped by a skinny new novel with an attitude. It was funny but also gave the audience a glimpse of what it’s like to be a working writer.
Stephen Brockwell did a great job of hosting, as usual, offering a flattering and informative introduction to Ross and his work. I like it when a host really knows a writer’s work when he introduces him. I learned something about Ross from that intro and the ensuing Q&A with Brockwell at the end of the reading.
During the question and answer period, Brockwell asked about Ross’s workshops, which he’s been offering for years in many forms. One of the types he’s been doing most recently is the Poetry Boot Camp in which students spend the day writing lots and lots of poems based on exercises such as translating from a language they don’t know, exchanging each other’s words and a host of other techniques meant to inspire creativity and a bunch of rough drafts to work with.
Another question focussed on the writing process. Brockwell asked Ross what blocks him and what gets him excited. Ross likened writer’s block to depression. In much the same was as when someone is depressed, he thinks he’ll always be that way, the writer who has a block, thinks he’ll never write another poem, but then does so and the cycle repeats.
During the interview, Brockwell asked about Ross’s poetic tastes, which include poetry by David McFadden, Gil Adamson, and Ron Padgett. Ross likes poems that offer humour while also dealing with serious things. Ron Padgett, in particular, has been an inspiration to Ross since he was a teenager. Padgett is the second generation of the New York school of poets, such as Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler and John Ashbery. Padgett believes that the role of poetry is to give pleasure in words and images, not necessarily to offer a meaning.
There were a few questions from the audience. rob mclennan wanted to discuss Ross’s founding of the Toronto Small Press Fair and the evolution of the small press scene. Ross talked about how the early days of the fair saw poets putting poems in cheese sandwiches or walnut shells and making chapbooks, whereas today he sees less of that. Ross mused that perhaps young, emerging poets are already publishing their first collections with publishers like Coach House, and are not involved so much in chapbook making, which he sees as a very instructive part of the process of writing poetry. mclennan likened this to today’s blogs, since many emerging poets are writing them.
Nicholas Lea asked Ross to comment on surrealism and the climate of surrealism in Canada. Ross admitted that when he was choosing a title for his anthology, “Surreal Estate: 13 Canadian poets under the influence,” many of the poets did not see themselves as surrealists per se. Surrealism has become a dirty word in contemporary writing circles, yet from it many other movements have sprung, such as magic realism, which is more popular today.
After a short break, involving wine and conversation, I moved to the foyer of the auditorium for the Tree Reading Series’ Form and Function reading, hosted by Rhonda Douglas. Mark Frutkin read from his latest novel Fabrizio's Return and also from a commedia dell ‘arte play. Paul Glennon read from his collection of twelve fiction pieces, The Dodecahedron. Daphne Marlatt read from her poetry collection, This Tremor Love Is and Seven Glass Bowls.
I enjoyed the cinematic writing style of Frutkin and the experimental play of Glennon, but here I will offer a few notes on what I retained from hearing Daphne Marlatt. I have been excited about Ms. Marlatt since I read a poem of hers on Wanda O’Connor’s blog last year sometime, I believe. I immediately got myself a copy of Readings from the Labyrinth, Marlatt's collection of essays. It was such an amazing thing to hear her read and for a change, just as I imagined it would be.
In This Tremor Love Is, Marlatt weaves the words of women writers throughout her poem. She read “crossing” which contained quotes from French poet Renée Vivien in French. The poem felt like a hymn with its beautiful chuchotements or whisperings throughout. In “crossings” Marlatt blends and weaves lyrical descriptions of nature and the body. The strong, repeated sound patterns and rhythm of the poem made it hypnotic and hushed and simply beautiful; here’s a dip into the poem:
“out of wind rush, transient, intransigent beating forward to reach
(you) bridge (that gap) your leaving left caressed skin baffled
Marlatt read from Seven Glass Bowls (Nomados Press, 2003) and said that she is interested in the way silence works as a kind of resonating membrane. To hear her translate these silences was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced at a reading. I didn’t see Seven Glass Bowls at the Nicholas Hoare Book table, but I plan on getting a hold of a copy very soon. It feels urgent to have it and read it while I can still hear her voice.
Marlatt referred to Seven Glass Bowls as a “fictmem:” part fiction, part memoir, part long poem in prose form. I captured a few lines from those floating in the air:
these small ceremonies ribbonned through the day we shape and shape
between sits of this and that
gap gape a word that is love and not love
Rhonda Douglas, Tree host, talked to all three writers about form and genre in their writing, and it was fascinating, which is a feat at nine pm.
Douglas asked when the writers knew what they were writing, whether it was a poem or piece of prose, a short story or novel. We learned that Marlatt often works in sequences. After two or three pieces, she notices a relationship and the shape becomes clearer and informs the piece about what it is. For Marlatt, poetry is a more intensive working of language, almost syllable by syllable.
Audience member Nadine McInnis asked about the rhythm patterns in Marlatt’s work. Marlatt explained that for her the rhythm drives the sentence and it comes from things like the seasons and the cycles of the day; she is not necessarily creating the rhythm consciously.
For Marlatt, when writing fiction, she is attempting to undermine the drive known as plot.
An audience member expressed a yearning for a return to poems that were easy to memorize. Marlatt said that there is a current movement toward a more formal, closed form of verse, easily memorizable with a definite metre and end rhyme, but said that contemporary poetry listens to the speaking voice and has rhythms which are more subtle.
Grant Wilkins asked about the role of the visual in each of the writers’ work. This is definitely part of Marlatt’s writing and she tries to translate it acoustically when she reads. For his book, the Dodecahedron, Glennon actually created a dodechahedron. Frutkin’s novels are very cinematic and visual.
Kevin Dooley asked about point of view and voice. Marlatt pointed out that lyric poems use first person while dramatic poems use third. Some contemporary writers try to make their writing neutral, taking language from other sources and having no particular speaker except language, allowing language to tell the reader about class and the power dynamic.
Marlatt finds the interchange between first and third very interesting, commenting that we are surrounded by third person voice yet we have our own internal first person voice. Glennon mentioned that the second person is also being used in fiction, referring to “If on a Winter’s Night, a Traveller” by Italo Calvino.
We could have gone on easily for another hour, with such an interesting topic, but it was time to wrap up. I have to commend Tree for this well-constructed event and the writers they chose. It made a lot of sense to have writers who wrote in more than one genre or who addressed the issue of genre in their writing. As usual the Writers Festival opens up horizons of possibility and inspiration for those of us who are learning how to write.
Don’t forget to come to Bywords’ John Newlove Poetry Award presentation and reading tonight (October 4) at 7pm in the auditorium foyer of the National Library. It will be a moment to celebrate John Newlove’s poetry and the influence he continues to have on Canadian poetry, to toast the award winner and honourable mentions and to savour the music of Andrea Simms-Karp, who has the voice of an angel.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Ronnie’s poems about dreams continued a theme that she’s been writing about in many of her collections. She mentioned that writers write until they get something out of their system. It turns out that the title of her latest book comes from a poem in States of Matter called Summer Haze, which includes the words “night echoes.”
Ronnie’s reading was serious at times but also quite playful with poems like “Going Down,” based on a song by Aerosmith. Turns out Ronnie is a big Aerosmith fan.
The cover of Night Echoes has a picture of a motel sign with no vacancy in front perhaps to suggest the final poem of the book, the Epilogue, a long poem which documents the dreams of various guests at the Holiday Inn. Ronnie’s poems make you feel like you are seeing inside the minds of all kinds of different people. Her characters are the people we all run in to in daily life. She says she tries to use colloquial expressions that we can all relate to. She does this, but she also is skilled at sound play and metaphor. In the poem Summer Haze (States of Matter) there’s a “soft slurp of suction” that is onomatopoeic for summer. The poem Predator (Night Echoes) clearly shows the big cast iron pan called a spider by the grandmother, the one used to beat the boy in the poem. These are the images of dreams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up in my own dreams tonight.
The next reader, Afua Cooper, had already given a talk earlier today on Slavery in Canada, and was worried her voice might give out; however her voice was strong and powerful, even allowing her to sing some of the words, turning them into refrains and the poems into hymns. There were times when I wished I had the hymn book, so I could join in. Her words were full of power and movement. In the poem “Dub for Lisa,” she describes Lisa Carter as a “woman whose words blazed a hundred fires/beneath a blue black sky” (Copper Woman). Bird of Paradise gives us a strong woman: “I have peopled the world with the numerous men/ and women that my body has birthed…./Now it’s time for me to birth other things” In the poem Richard Pierpont, Revolutionary Soldier, Cooper presents three voices at the same time: the internal monologue of Pierpont, the formal voice of the letter writer who is petitioning to return home to Africa after fighting in the War of 1812, and the poet “who knows everything.” The poem that stayed with me the most was one called “Negro Cemeteries,” in which Cooper evokes dead slaves whose graves have been discovered in Ontario, in various towns, such as Priceville. It’s an amazing poem full of word play and accumulation of all these graves being discovered. Here’s a short excerpt:
Like Osiris ancestors burst from the earth
in green resurrection
African skeletons shaking the dust from their bones
skulls with rattling teeth
reciting litanies of ancient woes
(Negro Cemeteries, Copper Woman)
Jon Paul Fiorentino or beta male, as he referred to himself, read from his book, Theory of the Loser Class, a work inspired by The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen, Star Wars and other more mundane contemporary bits and pieces, such as Photoshop. I enjoyed the playfulness of his language, and as always, had a hard time keeping a straight face as he talked about things like The Republican Party of Canadian Poetry, a group who likes poems to be read in a British accent with a formal and conservative style. Fiorentino is witty and skilled at word play and thought play. The sarcasm is sometimes so thick you can cut it with a plastic knife, for instance in “Right In The Spine”: “Crooning Gertrude Stein songs/but sounding shallow, somehow.” If he’d brought them, he could have shaken the maracas as good as bill bisset ever could in poems like STET with its few words but three syllable chachacha rhythm. I was sad to miss his sonnet of R2D2. He did read some of his Winnipeg Angst poems, otherwise referred to as “Wangst.” There’s so much wit in JPF’s poems and so much kinship as we recognize a bit of all of us in these poems.
I think that was the thing that linked all of these poets together, that feeling of relating to the experiences and personalities in their poems: the connection we all had, sitting in that small room and escaping into the worlds of three very different, yet somehow the same, poets.
I enjoyed both the fiction (James Bacque and Seán Virgo), and poetry, but here I’ll concentrate on the poetry. The first reader, former Ottawa resident Priscila Uppal, read from Exile Editions 300th book published. I don’t have the title of her publication. Can’t find it anywhere on Exile’s site or elsewhere, that’s how recent it is, I guess. Her poems were like mini stories and juxtaposed entertaining and absurd fantasy with day-to-day reality. One of her poems, Cleaning the Piano talked about how a woman found her orgasm in a song.
Poet Janice Kulyk Keefer read from a special limited edition chapbook (signed and numbered in 50 copies, of which I snagged # 37) called Jasmine from the Balcony, which is a suite of poems from her soon-to-be-released poetry collection, Midnight Stroll. The poems were mesmerizing glimpses into the life of Amsterdam writer Etty Hillesum, who kept diaries and journals on her experiences in World War II, volunteered at a concentration camp and perished in Auschwitz at the young age of 29. The book also features the drawings of Claire Weissman Wilks, the photography of Goran Petkovsky. The cover and additional artwork was done by Natalka Hussar.
There were lines of such beauty in Ms. Kulyk Keefer’s reading that I wanted to just have the whole room stop and pause on just one line. “And when/I can no longer write,/I’ll have this one thing left://to simply lie down and try/to be a prayer.” Packing for Transit.
As a special treat Barry Callaghan read also from Raise You Ten: Essays and Encounters 1964-2004 (either Volume one or volume two, I’m not quite sure which). Like Kulyk-Keefer and novelist, James Bacque, Callaghan’s writing contained a reference to World War II, the tattoo with numbers on it, encountered by a man’s lover, a mermaid, or was she? I liked the sensuousness of Callaghan’s words and his description of the scent of the ocean from the woman’s body and smoke from the man’s. Callaghan is the type of man you need to listen to while sipping a few glasses of single malt, the fire burning down your throat, his words filling your mind and sating you, right along with the whisky.
I can’t resist quoting Barry Callaghan, thanks to the kind audience member who asked him to repeat his quote on maturity which he first gave when discussing the idea of starting a publishing house.
“Maturity is the ready acceptance of the inevitability of the defeat of your dreams.”
Aren’t we glad that Mr. Callaghan resisted maturity. Exile Editions sounds like it will be around for another 30 years. And perhaps this gives hope to up and coming young presses like Chaudiere Books!
poetry by Nichita Stanescu
translated by Oana Avasilichioaei
a Romanian/English bilingual edition
with a reading by Oana Avasilichioaei and Erin Moure
date: Friday, October 27, 2006
location: The National Library of Canada
395 Wellington Street, Ottawa
for further information, contact BuschekBooks at (613) 744 2589 or firstname.lastname@example.org