Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Sleep of Elephants, a short film.

A short film based on my poem/story "The Sleep of Elephants" which will appear in my forthcoming book, I, Dr. Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457 (Anvil Press, 2015.) I wrote the text for an old high school friend of mine, Melanie Drane.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Michael Brown and reading Kenneth Goldsmith

I wrote this to Jacqueline Valencia in response to her thoughtful and insightful commentary on the controversy surrounding conceptual poet Kenneth Goldsmith's recent reading at Brown University where he read as poem which was a version of the autopsy report of Michael Brown (who was killed in Ferguson by a police officer). I first want to acknowledge and remember the pain and the outrageous racism that is at the centre of what happened to Michael Brown.

I wanted to thank you for your thoughtful blogpost regarding Kenneth Goldsmith. I'm glad of an engaged yet considered approach, one not ready to pillorize someone immediately.

I don't like how these things usually go down on social media. It disturbs me how quickly people judge simplistically and ungenerously. And how quick to ad hominem (or ad conceptualwriting) attacks and bringing in other things which, I think, aren't directly related. Even if what someone did was insensitive or misguided or ill-considered. Or even just plain wrong. And I'm not certain how I categorize KG's reading exactly.

I did want to share a couple thoughts with you. The first thing that I wondered about was the fact that it was an autopsy report. I asked my wife (a criminal lawyer) who often must read such documents what she thought. I'd mentioned how KG ended with the part about the penis. I thought that it was a foregrounding of the racist tropes about black men being primitive, oversexed, etc. Exactly the kind of thing that might have been on the mind of the cop who shot Michael Brown. My wife said that they always write about genitalia in reports and when she reads them she also finds a particular pathos and humanity when the report turns to the genitals. She is struck always by how humanizing this mention of this intimate and private part of the anatomy is. So I thought (and for the moment turning aside issues of appropriate and the "unracialized" narrator) actually, ending the piece with a turn to this trope and a turn to this very intimate detail was, I thought, inspired.

Of course the whole thing is ugly. The murder of Brown was ugly.

My impulse is to read the text as text and not to interrogate KG's intentions (though of course part of the text is to read his racialized body and privilege.)

I wondered if the text could be read exactly as a white guy appropriating the whole thing, appropriating the issue, appropriating the death and its representation. So KG was deliberately standing up their and usurping (erasing, eclipsing) from his place of privilege the representation of this act by people of colour. Indeed reading the report was an interrogation (a problematization) of how the discourse (media, court system, culture, police, etc)  privileges subject positions such as his (white, middle class, privileged) over people of colour.  When KG wrote on FB, "Ecce homo" meaning "show me the man" and referring to how Michael Brown was a Christ-like sacrifice, actually it could be read as KG doing that. He is representing himself as a white appropriator doing exactly what the autopsy and the system it is part of is doing, in order to engage in a discussion of appropriation, master discourses, erasure of racialized perspectives, etc.

I know that there are many things in the discourse that may have clouded such a reading, but I still think it is a worthwhile take. A more meaningful positive way forward. A way of trying to understand how it is possible to engage with this issue as someone who isn't a person of colour, a way of addressing the complicity and complexity of the involvement of white people.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Jazz, poetry, ponies, dogs, and teaching creative writing: Two upcoming readings/performances

David Lee are performing our dog (jazz) and pony (poetry) show together for the Public Humanities at Western University. We've performed text and music together a lot and it's always fun and very improvisational. David plays double bass and/or cello and reads his own text work. I play saxophone, flute, or other woodwinds and perform texts and/or do sound poetry. It's always a happy surprise.

In April, I'm performing and doing a workshop at Hillfield Strathallan College where I used to teach music as part of their national conference for teachers—and prize winning students—of creative writing. It'll be good to be back here, relaxed, unharried and with no obligation to mark anything. CITE 2015 is on April 11. I'm part of a bill with author Terry Fallis and Patrick Dean, president of McMaster University.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shopping Cart Pastorals & a Nature Poem: essays in The Goose

Shopping Cart Pastorals and a Nature Poem: my prose essay, photo essay, and poem now up at The Goose, the official publication of ALECC (Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada / Association pour la littĂ©rature, l'environnement et la culture au Canada).

View it here.

And an interview with me in the London Yodeller about my writer-in-residency in London, Ontario.

Can Creative Writing Be Taught?

An article that I wrote for Access, the London Public Library's magazine.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Stream Beetles Write their Bodies through Scientific Text

A colleague of mine who is a poet and and professor and researcher in ecology, Madhur Anand, invited several poets to engage with some of her scientific articles and create poetry. The article that I am exploring is this one about stream beetles. The idea is to create a poem based entirely on the text of the article. While I was exploring this idea, I ended up creating this visual based on a superimposition of some of the pages of the article.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Video of my reading as featured reader at London Open Mic

A video of my February 4th reading as featured reader at London Open Mic with a lovely introduction by Kevin Hyslop, a writer and student at Western University.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The many ears and eyes of poetry (including Moon Baboon Canoe)

Jacqueline Valencia's perceptive and inspiring writing in about the many ears and eyes of poetry includes a discussion of several books, including my Moon Baboon Canoe (Mansfield Press, 2014.)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Eyedrum: The Future is Here Again,

I'm performing in New York at the AC Institute at a show entitled The Future is Here Again: Visual Language, curated by Nico Vassilakis and Holly Crawford. I created this video poem for the occasion using a sound piece based on archival samples of bpNichol performances and a series of visuals created from photographs of book pages. The first image riffs of an iconic image created by bpNichol entitled Blues.

In this piece, I was seeking to explore how the visual could be used as a rhythm element playing in polyphony with the music.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Israel, coffee cups, winter, politics, philosophy, and Hazlitt

Delighted that my poem about Israel (and coffee cups) is now up at Hazlitt. Really, when I consider it, I believe that this is the most cogent and sensible statement of the situation in the Middle East that I've heard in a long time.

And thanks to editor Linda Besner for including it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Comedy, capitalism, punctuation, New York City, Twitter, and me: some recent activity

I gave an interview about comedy, capitalism, Civilization, youth culture, social media and writing. This is in advance of my performance at the series, London Open Mic on Feburary 4th in London, Ontario.

I'm reading in New York. The last time I read there I had to wear a turkey hat. (It was the "Literary Death Match.") This time, I'm thrilled to be performing with Geof Huth, Erica Baum, and Richard Kostelanetz at what looks to be a fantastic exhibition of visual poetry, The Future is Here Again: Visual Languagecurated by Nico Vassilakis and Holly Crawford. The performance is on February 5th in New York city. 

I just got my copies of the Best Canadian Poetry of 2014, edited by Sonnet L'Abbé. Sonnet really drew on a wide and interesting range of work to include here and I'm very happy to be included. She chose a piece of mine from Ottawater, "3 Pastorals," a more-or-less visual/glyphic poem.


The Paper Street Journal wrote a review of Hugh Thomas, Craig Conley, and my Franzlations. Nice to hear about readings/readers of the book even a coupla years after it first appeared. Here's how Craig recorded it on his always amazing Abecedarian blog. And thanks James Puntillo for the review.


And there's this kinda hysterical review of a recent reading of mine in Toronto at the Plasticine Poetry series. Thanks, Christian Christian.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Kama Sutra of Words, Pwoermds, a forthcoming book, an interview, a Rusty Toque, audio turnips and a door

Four recent things.

1. An essay in which I write about poetry and the Kama Sutra of words, Geof Huth's one word "pwoermds," Aram Saroyan's third eye, and the limits of meaning. Also, bad word play.
Thanks Nico Vassilakis for curating this for Coldfront magazine.

The essay where I write about one word poems and visual poetry.

2. An interview with me about writing, creativity, cell division, and what I hope to write with Kathryn Mockler at The Rusty Toque.

3 One of my sound piecse based on archival performance recordings of the iconic Canadian poet bpNichol included in the excellent online audio journal Huellkurven. There's lots of great stuff in this issue, including work by Anat Pick and Kaie Kellough. Here's my turnips a door

4. The cover (see above) for my upcoming collection of short fiction, I, Dr. Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457 with Anvil Press.

Here's the details:

I, Dr. Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457
short fiction by Gary Barwin

At times comic, tender, dark, compassionate, and arrestingly bizarre, Gary Barwin’s latest fiction collection marvels at the strangeness, charm, and beauty that is contemporary life in the quantum world. Raging from short story to postcard fiction, Barwin’s stories are mysterious, luminous, hilarious, and surprising. A billionaire falls in love with a kitchen appliance, a couple share a pair of legs, a pipeline-size hair is given the Nobel Prize only so that it can be taken away, a father remembers with tenderness, the radiant happiness of his teenage child, trapped inside his body. As the Utne Reader said of his last collection, “what makes them so compelling is Barwin’s balance of melancholy with wide-eyed wonder.”

128 pages | $18 can/usa | 5.75 × 8 | Paperback | 978-1-77214-013-2 | Pub. date: June

Monday, December 08, 2014

Poem ("Inside the Gun")


inside the gun
the absence of bullet

inside the bullet
the absence of my friend

my friend who runs into the bullet
while we enjoy this poem

by the end
I will convince you that
this poem did nothing

inside this poem
the absence of my friend

Thursday, December 04, 2014

My new book: the wild & unfathomable always


Xexoxial 58 • Gary Barwin  

the wild & unfathomable always


 Order here!

Here, language is a human/machine hybrid in the heavens, an optical organism floating between the stars. Letters are geometrically entangled, warped, contorted, highlighting frustrated embodiment and the way we bend or play with meaning. There is magic here, and illusion. There are creatures of mad science and silent comedy. Gary Barwin is a Pharoah of the new dynasty, building vispo monuments in the sky.

 —Stephen Nelson

 Compelling compositions that surround you between constellations, language and symbols in a simple but intense utopia. The wild & unfathomable always immerse you in a passionate work of shapes and spaces defined by clearly delimited structures, going beyond the essence. Fascinating. Unfathomable (in) all ways.

—Mara Patricia Hernandez

 If you imagine, for a moment, that there is a world so solid and firm that you can understand every part of it, you are thinking of anything except these poems, which twist perception, textual meaning, and expectation into the shapes of balloon animals controlled by the optical illusion that is the gift of sight itself: We see only when that part of us that perceives the visual, that produces sight, is drowned by darkness. Only from within a pure darkness, can we accept the lift of sight. In this sequence of poems--part visual play, part letteral display, part meaning subsumed by vision--we see the contours of our understanding of the world without seeing the world itself, ever. We move into a parallel universe, where everything is recognizable but so recognizable that we recognize not a bit of it. This is language made dreamlike; we drink the wordlessnesses oh so pregnant with words.

 —Geof Huth