Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New chapbook: The Wild & Unfathomable Always

My book of visual poems, The Wild & Unfathomable Always is arriving soon as Xerolage issue 58 from mIEKAL aND's Xexoxial Editions.

I'm with Lan?uage: Reading at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Thanks to the brilliant poetry scholar, Alessandro Porco, I'll be reading at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington next month (Wednesday, November 19th.) He made this lovely poster for the event.

Language is always an emigrant

Friday, October 03, 2014

On Writing: an essay on handwriting and our default voices and ways of writing.

'the tongue is not in exile' —Yiddish proverb

Not just a "mother tongue," but a "mother script," my little essay on handwriting, scripts, and our default voices and ways of writing. 
Thanks to rob mclennan for inviting me to contribute.

Friday, September 19, 2014

International Talk like a (Yiddish) Pirate Day...

"A broch upon your pestilient kishkas for you are a sneaking hintl puppy, as are any who submit to be governed by the chazer rich who want only their own security, for the whelps have not the beitsim otherwise to defend what they get by such dreck-mouthed knavery. And,” he continued with an ostentatious wave of his hand, “a broch upon ye altogether. And damn them for a pack of crafty gazlonim thieves, and you, who serve them, for a petseleh of hen-hearted shmegeges. They villify us, the momzers do, when there is only this difference, they rob the poor and weak under the cover of law, and we plunder the rich with no protection but our own chutzpah. You should rather join our minyan than sneak after the groyseh tucheses of villains for bread."

This speech, from my forthcoming Yiddish for Pirates (Random House Canada, 2016) is a paraphrase of the speech that Edward "Black Sam" Bellamy is reported to have given, at least according to Cpt. Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pirates
thanks to Craig Conley for the image

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tor Lukasik-Foss and I remain very very still at the Art Gallery of Ontario

To Lukasik-Foss and I recently performed, along with live model/artist Tanya Hampshire at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Our performance riffed off the current Alex Colville exhibition. These snapshots show Tanya posing in the iconic "To Prince Edward Island" pose with binoculars. 

Our performance was based on the concept of a drawing class, and indeed, there was an actual drawing instructor and AGO patrons sitting on donkeys (the art kind) with paper and pencils sketching us. Tanya actually works as a professional life model and she was remarkable in becoming vibrantly immobile. A living sculpture. 

Tor and I explored a number of ways of disrupting the notion of being live model: We had changing silent-movie-style subtitles for the poses. I posed with a book which I intermittently read from (though always the same frozen page of Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveller). Without moving, we gave voice to our thoughts as 'live models.' Tor delivered a brilliant monologue about being concerned that people would draw him with a big head. We screamed without moving. Yodelled. We thought of ourselves as channelling Wes Anderson films, themselves very influenced by the aesthetics of Colville. (There's a great riff off To Prince Edward Island in Moonrise Kingdom.)

It was a remarkable experience for me. Not only were we performing in the presence of Group of Seven sketches and paintings (see the Lawren Harris above) as well as Norval Morrisseaus, but the performance was somewhere between a performance art installation where we eschewed a dramatic perforative arc, but instead were some kind of live installation and an actual performance where we played with elements of performative drama and development. 

And here, the AGO brilliantly misspells both my first and last name in a bit of conceptual legerdemain. 

thanks to Lesley Chan for the photo which includes me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My First Day as Writer-in-Residence at Western University

I greet my first writer at the London Public Library part of my Western University Residency
First day as Writer-in-Residence at Western: a grandmother from a small farming town (she'd never heard of Charles Dickens) brings in her life story. "My sister had wild black hair and liked to bite. It was how she dealt with what happened." And a grad student came in to show me mind-blowing visual poetry and to talk about post-conceptual poetry.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Chessbard by Aaron Tucker.

Aaron Tucker has created this amazing site, Chessbard which translates chess games into poetry. You can play classic games, play a game against a chessbot, or modify games. The site then 'translates' the game into poems: both a White poem and a Black poem. Aaron has also written an essay about the project and its development.

I was delighted to be able to contribute to the site. I created some poems (by modifying a classic game) and wrote a discussion about what I did and about chess in general. Read it here.

Really fascinating.

And while you're thinking about chess, definitely check out the very lovely, Calvino-Chess Dictionary by Craig Conley. You can buy the book or read it online. I'd recommend the book!

Sign of Four

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

My list of most influential books...

I've been thinking about this list thing. I’ve been tagged a few times to list the books that were my most influential books.

I think it might make my head explode and I just got this new haircut.

But I'm interested by the idea of what is an influential books as opposed to the books that I identify as the books that I think are 'the best.' Books by writers that made my head explode? From my late teen and 20s: Kafka, Beckett, bpNichol, Sir Thomas Mallory, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Calvino, Borges, James Tate, Stuart Ross, Dave McFadden, Ron Padgett, Mervyn Peake, John Cage, Tom King, Mark Strand, Chris Dewdney, Frank Davey, Maurice O’Sullivan, Gertrude Stein, (I know, no women…except Stein)

Borges wrote of his love for books which were clearly not what is usually considered 'first class.'
And what about books from my childhood: I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as a young teen. It was years before I looked at nature except through Tolkein’s eyes: some kind of pan-European syncretic pastoral/romantic/medieval filter of story, loss, nostalgia, beauty, wandering, poetry, music, mystery, and notions of grand narratives (metaphysical, social, emotional, cultural, linguistic.)
When I was twelve, I read Kafka’s The Castle. I remember how vivid it made trudging through the snow on the way back from school. But it wasn’t metaphysical or existential alienation, it was rather a warm feeling of being in a story, of being able to conceptualize an experience larger than me (that snow was metaphysical, ontological. Epistemological, even.) I walked through the music of Kafka’s language. I didn’t need to get into the Castle like K. I was happy wandering.

I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A brilliant collage of references, parody, bathos, science, and metafiction. Remarkable savvy, timing, quick witted play with a variety of tones. The sense that, Quixote-like, a text could play against itself.

And Seamus Heaney and medieval writing. The palpable physicality of language. A kind of peat (I often smelled peat in fires as a child in Ireland.)The inspiration of language and a world that was profoundly other but yet whose texture, light, weight, heft, I could feel with my fingers or my mouth. Its rhythms in my body. I'd say this about the synagogue chanting, too.

In high school, Mark Strand did a reading and workshop in our class. That was another music. A lightness. Fables. Simple language made silver, lunar, parabalistic, yet witty. Then first year at York U., and bpNichol introduced me to what was possible. Writing could do what I knew experimental music could. And art. Compassion. Play. Graffiti on the fourth wall. Invention. Humour. Continual re-invention and exploration.

This is about all I can say about my ‘influential’ books without writing a 100 page essay on reading. Influential books: it’s like naming influential breaths. Sure, I can identify some, but…

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sternenreich by Gary Barwin

The "Race & People" chapter of Mein Kampf but with all the letters erased and the punctuation retained but turned into stars (asterisks.)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

"NASA JPG: A View of the Earth from the Top," by Gary Barwin

The full text of a NASA JPG of the earth taken from above the North Pole.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Alex Porco writes about "Moon Baboon Canoe"; Arc Poetry Magazine, and 49th Shelf Red Letter Day.

I think, today, my mom programmed the Internet.

Three things came online.
1. A great interview with Alex Porco on LemonHound.
2. A piece I did about my "red letter day" on 49th Shelf.
3. The interview Sandra Ridley did with me at Arc Poetry Magazine.

Here's links:

1. Poet and scholar Alex Porco is a thoughtful, sensitive, engaged, enthusiastic reader who examines work from a variety of perspectives, introducing and exploring helpful and fruitful ways to read texts. He is a significant thinker and supporter of Canadian poetry and I'm grateful for this reading of my latest book, Moon Baboon Canoe, on the important and significant online journal, LemonHound.

2. George Murray asked me a bunch of questions about what I'd do if I could treat myself, bookishly. Here it is.

3. And here's the link to information about Arc Poetry Magazine where Sandra Ridley asked me some really thoughtful, probing questions.

I wonder if tomorrow, my dad will get his hands on some code?

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Jewish Voice of Hamilton: a Yiddish language newspaper from the 30s and 40s in Hamilton, Ontario.

I've been working on a book project involving this fascinating newspaper from Hamilton, Ontario that was written in Yiddish. It's a remarkable look into an entirely parallel world (at least from mainstream considerations of city life) of opinion, perspective, and experience. The plan is to publish a reproduction of some of the pages, a translation of many of the columns (there was an editorial in each issue written by the editor/publisher), as well as some other documents (letters to and from the editor's sons who fighting in Europe.) The newspaper stopped publishing soon after the editor wrote a heartbreaking eulogy on the front page for his son who was killed in Malta while serving.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

From Ug-Clomp to Uh, Okay: a recent review

unrelated screenshot of my computer screen.

Catherine Owen wrote a round-up of a whole bunch of recent Mansfield Press books, including my Moon Baboon Canoe. Her reviews are quirky and opinionated, and I don't agree with everything she says by any means ("ug-clomp"!) but she has interesting things to say and can be a sensitive reader of poetry. And I really appreciate the thoughtful engagement with all these titles.

Reviews here.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review in Winnipeg Free Press

Jonathan Ball can always be counted on to review poetry 
in the Winnipeg Free Press. I'm grateful that he continues 
to support poetry with his always intelligent and 
Insightful writing. Here is his review of my latest book.