Saturday, January 31, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:50 AM
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 11:20 AM
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The good folks at Riddle Fence, who are publishing a couple of my poems in the near future, are looking for submissions for the less-near future. Why not send 'em somepin?
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Call for Submissions to Riddle Fence Issue #4
For Immediate Release
January 19, 2009
Kill Date: March 2, 2009
Riddle Fence, a Newfoundland-based journal of arts & culture, is currently accepting submissions for its fourth issue.
We are currently considering previously unpublished submissions of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and reviews. Please send no more than 3-4 poems or 1 piece of prose, maximum 5000 words in length. Payment is $30 per printed page (prose and poetry) for first Canadian serial rights, plus a copy of the issue in which your work appears.
What are we looking for? What is anyone looking for: brilliance, innovation, that certain je ne sais quoi de sage-like insight that will blow away the doldrums and give our lives greater meaning.
The deadline for submissions is March 2, 2009.
Please note, due to the extraordinary volume of email submissions received for previous issues, we will no longer be considering electronic submissions. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Submissions may be made by regular post (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope or sufficient IRC postage in the case of submissions from outside Canada):
PO Box 7092
St. John's, NL
For more information, contact us by email at email@example.com, or visit our website: www.riddlefence.com
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 2:33 PM
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 10:08 AM
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 9:02 PM
Thought I'd share some of the fruits of my internet trawling. Below are choice quotations with links to the interviews whence they came. Below those, various links to her work in various formats on the web. Enjoy.
I don’t really like poets. They are awfully boring and not honest about anything at all. [From an interview in The New Quarterly, which is, alas, not available online]
I don’t feel I’ve earned the right to call myself a poet and I’m not sure I have the right to say that, yes indeed, what I do is poetry. It is so grand and so beautiful, I’m not sure I could say I’m that grand or that beautiful. I do feel I’m still outside and looking in. I love the minds that are drawn there and the minds that are there. I want to be part of their looking, of their creating.
Choosing favourites has less to do with fairness and more to do with pride. I think you should be proud of what you make. You should have favourites. Favourites are the result of having a standard, a sense of what you want your work to be. I am skeptical of writers who love everything they write. There’s something wrong [t]here. When I like a poem, it is the same as a carpenter knowing and seeing how well a table is built. I know and see all the things I did right. It feels sturdy and no matter what anyone does to it or says of it, it doesn’t wobble.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 4:46 PM
Monday, January 26, 2009
WRITERS’ TRUST TO SEND AUTHORS NORTH:
Upcoming Writers-in-Residence of Berton House Announced
January 26, 2009 – The Writers’ Trust of Canada has announced the four writers that will be writers-in-residence at the Berton House Writers’ Retreat during the 2009-10 year. Each writer will travel to Dawson City, Yukon, to live in the childhood home of Pierre Berton for a three-month period.
The writers selected are:
Pasha Malla (July to September 2009)
Born in St. John's, Newfoundland, raised in London, Ontario, and now living in New York City, Malla’s first collection of short stories, The Withdrawl Method, was published in 2008 and appeared on the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. He is currently working on his first novel.
Linda Goyette (October to December 2009)
An award-winning newspaper writer and editor, Goyette is a past recipient of the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy and Grant MacEwan Author’s Award. She lives in Edmonton and is working on a non-fiction book exploring the evolving nature of childhood in northwestern Canada.
Mylène Gilbert-Dumas (January to March 2010)
A French Canadian writer, Gilbert-Dumas has published award winning historical and science fiction novels for young adult readers. She recently published Lili Klondike, the first of a three-part series on the Klondike Gold Rush. She lives in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Jeramy Dodds (April to June 2010)
The winner of the 2006 Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award, Dodds lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick. His first collection of poems, Crabwise to the Hounds, was published last year. He is working on a translation of Poetic Edda from Norse / Icelandic to English.
Eighty applications were received from writers wishing to be part of the program. Applications were assessed by a three-member committee comprised of Dawson City-based young adult novelist Joanne Bell, and two past writers-in-residence, playwright C.E. Gatchalian and novelist Russell Smith.
To date forty-five writers have spent time at Berton House since its inception in 1996. Writers each receive a monthly honorarium, perform public readings, and interact with community residents. To be eligible for the program, applicants must be professional Canadian writers who have published at least one book and are established in any creative literary discipline (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, play/screenwriting, journalism).
The program is funded through an annual fundraising gala organized by the Berton House Writers’ Retreat Society and chaired by Elsa Franklin. Additional support for the retreat is provided by the Canada Council for the Arts, Dawson City Community Library, and Klondike Visitors Association. The Writers’ Trust is also grateful for support received from Aeroplan, the City of Dawson, Random House of Canada, and the Whitehorse Public Library.
For more information visit bertonhouse.ca
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 12:23 PM
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 12:14 PM
Sunday, January 25, 2009
They're obviously different, but it's a difference of degree more than a difference of kind, isn't it? Aren't they both, fundamentally, typographical collage?
And how about this famous image:
Why is this a painting and not a visual poem?
I have a friend who is a visual artist. A couple of her works in progress are 1) a "shapetionary," or a dictionary that organizes objects not according to alphabetical order but according to their shape (e.g. a pineapple would be found in the same neighbourhood as a hand grenade) and 2) cutting all the periods out of certain books and arranging them as a collage. I've talked to her about both these projects and never once has she used the term visual poetry. Is she practicing it without being aware of it? Or is visual poetry--to be precise, most forms of it--more a visual than a lexical art form? Is the terminology useful?
The strawman figure defensively cut by champions of vispo is that of the reactionary philistine who stamps his feet and insists vehemently that what they do isn't Poetry. I know there are some out there who fit that profile, but then there are others who don't feel the need to defend Poetry from the barbarians--it needs no defending--but who wonder if the use of the terms "poetry" and "poem" don't frame this work in an unproductively imprecise manner. I'd say I'm one of those people. Personally, I can't say I'd classify much of the vispo I've seen as poetry, but as visual art. Which is a different thing altogether from saying it isn't Poetry.
The distinction isn't original, but it's one dealt with particularly eloquently by Robert Bringhurst--who happens to be a world-renowned typographer as well as a poet and probably has invested more time thinking about the "solid form of language" than the vast majority of soi-disant visual poets--in his recent collections of talks and essays. I think the following passage is analogically a propos:
Still, I want to know whether "philosophical poetry" is a useful term ... I suppose the attempt at a "philosophical poem" could fail tactically in either one of two ways, or in both. It could fail to yield poetry, in which case what remained might or might not still be philosophy. Or it could fail to be "philosophical," in which case what remained might or might not prove to be poetry of some other kind.
If the vast majority of visual poems fail to be Poetry, then, truly, they are no different from the vast majority of lineated text-based poems. If they fail to be Art, then they are no different from the vast majority of paintings, drawings and collages. Which is one reason why I don't call myself a poet and my uncle, who is a painter of no small accomplishment, doesn't call himself an artist.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 2:04 PM
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
UPDATE: I've decided to bail. The temperature's near freezing and the roads are damp, so it's not safe for motorcycling and it's too damn far for transit. For my liking.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 4:08 PM
"Contemporary writers may generally be divided into two classes - one's friends or one's foes. Of the first we are compelled to think too well, and of the last we are disposed to think too ill, to receive much genuine pleasure from the perusal, or to judge fairly, of the merits of either." -- William Hazlitt
(Swiped from Squandermania)
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 11:19 AM
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Here's a deal: if you're a BC English teacher and you want to teach a book I've written or edited, I'll donate half the copies you need and sell the other half at cost (40% discount from cover price). Not all at once now.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 10:05 PM
And an even worse reading. What's with the e-qual em-pha-sis on ev-er-y syl-la-ble? We speak a stress-timed language, fer christ's sake! Contrasted to the speeches and speaking of Obama and the preacher who delivered the benediction, Elizabeth Alexander looked worse yet. Would have been interesting to see what, say, Martin Espada would have done with such a commission...
UPDATE: A pretty incisive critique of just what's substandard about Alexander's poem.
UPDATE 2: Adam Kirsch on why Alexander's poem sucks. Which seems another good argument for someone like Espada, someone who is not an establishment figure, someone who actually has a lot of firsthand experience of disenfranchisement, who has lived in Hell's Kitchen instead of just knowing about/having ancestors who picked cotton. But let's face it, Obama's way more about assimilation than protest. As such, Alexander was, as Kirsch puts it, a "too perfect" choice.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 11:29 AM
Monday, January 19, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 12:31 PM
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 7:22 PM
I am writing to you in response to Jonathan Ball’s letter to Geist, which proffers a review of Michael Hayward’s review of Michael Winter’s novel The Architects Are Here. I have not read
The original review of a review contains 30 sentences. I will comment briefly on some of these sentences in some kind of order.
- The opening sentence says that Jonathan Ball is writing a response to Michael Hayward’s review of Michael Winter’s novel The Architects Are Here. So far, so good, but I think Mr. Ball would have done well to avoid the repetition of the word Michael. Too many characters with the same name can be confusing.
or just about any Russian novel. See Wuthering Heights
- The second sentence informs us that Mr. Ball doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. This bodes ill for what follows.
- The third sentence merely announces the obvious. There is here another gratuitous and avoidable repetition of the word “review.” This is bad form, as any workshop leader will tell you.
- The fourth sentence tells us that the original review contains 10 sentences. This factotum tells us nothing of substance about the review itself, nothing at least that can’t be gleaned by a quick count of the periods [n.b.: this is an example of how one can avoid excessive repetition of a word] in
’s review. Since there is a link to Hayward ’s review, anyone who wishes to can do so with ease. (I haven’t bothered to confirm the accuracy of Mr. Ball’s count, since I have no interest in Mr. Hayward’s review, nor the novel about which it is written, since the location in space of architects is not a topic, frankly, that jingles my bells.) Hayward
- The fifth sentence is little better than throat-clearing. If Mr. Ball is going to comment on each of the sentences, he should really just get down to it, right?
- The sixth sentence is not commentary, but summary. Moreover it is summary padded by extraneous quotation that could have been compressed by the use of paraphrase. Furthermore, it contains an incredible improbability, viz. “notes the other books in which English has appeared.” Since English has in fact appeared in every book ever written in English, every book ever translated into English and any book in another language that quotes something spoken or written in English, I find it extremely implausible that, as Mr. Ball says, Hayward “notes the other books in which English has appeared.” Only one fifth of the way in, Mr. Ball has already stretched credulity beyond the breaking point.
- The seventh sentence shunts attention away from the review of the review and towards the author of the review of the review, notably towards his belief that shunting attention away from a novel and towards its author is “an intellectually bankrupt move, yet one still common in the 21st century.” Leaving aside the gratuitous use of the dubious temporal label “21st century” (presumably, Mr. Ball is referring to the Common Era) and its reference to the putative life and times of a supposed messiah/divinity, it must be noted that this is an intellectually bankrupt move and already was so late in what is, in the Western World and other benighted nations burdened with the belief that an almighty incorporeal divinity one day planted his seed in the uterus of a virgin, commonly referred to as the 20th Century CE.
- The eighth sentence informs us of an obvious fact (obvious, at least, if you’ve read
’s review, which, to repeat, I have not): that Hayward says that recurring characters exist in fiction. Hayward
- The ninth sentence belabours the point made in the eighth sentence and, again, proves nothing about nothing.
- The tenth sentence (ten of thirty, remember) reminds us that we’re already forty percent thru Mr. Hayward’s review, which anyone who passed grade six mathematics could tell you.
- In the eleventh and twelfth sentences get us to the midway point of Hayward’s review, and yet nothing of interest (to me, anyway, but as I said, this is a topic I find rather dull) concerning that review has been written yet.
- I will not mention the thirteenth sentence, as I believe this to be bad luck.
- [Intentionally Left Blank]
- In the fourteenth sentence, Mr. Ball complains that Mr. Hayward gives no examples of Mr. Winter’s “fine writing.” Since Mr. Ball has already stated, repeatedly, that Mr. Hayward’s review only contains ten—count ‘em, ten!—sentences, just where does he expect Mr. Hayward to find space for the extensive quotation that demonstrations of fine writing require. This is a novel Mr. Hayward is talking about (I assume, not having read it or Mr. Hayward’s review), not a freakin’ haiku.
- In the fifteenth sentence, Mr. Ball poses a rhetorical question, the answer to which he takes to be given. This is an example of the rhetorical fallacy of logic known as “begging the question.” (Not to be confused with the linguistic fallacy of using the phrase “begging the question” when one means to say that the question begs to be asked.) The actual answer to Mr. Ball’s question is not “no,” as he assumes, but “sometimes.”
- But to say “sometimes” would certainly beggar the rhetorical force of his next sentence, which draws its strength from an unexamined assumption, amongst people who assume that their BA makes them smart, that “readability and narrative speed or suspense” are not literary values.
- The seventeenth sentence—already seven longer than
’s and yet not notably more substantial (I’m guessing)—ignores the fact that Michael Winter himself often makes public statements to the effect that “[Gabriel] English is based on Winter himself.” Of course, he doesn’t say it quite like that, since he is Michael Winter and referring to oneself by one’s own last name is very odd practice, even for a Newfoundlander—albeit a “mainlander” from the “mainland” of England (hence, perhaps, the choice of surname for Winter’s fictional alter ego). This is another testament to Mr. Ball not knowing what he is talking about. For instance, Mr. Ball seems to think that a continent (viz. Hayward North America) can have a “fascination for “true stories.”” One hardly need be a geographer to know that a continent, being an inert land mass, can have a fascination for nothing. This is an example of what is commonly known in critical terminology as an anthropomorphic fallacy. Another example is when Mr. Ball says that fiction has a “secret heart.” This is not so much an anthropomorphic fallacy as an anatomical absurdity, since no animal possesses any such organ as a secret heart.
- The nineteenth sentence claims, in essence, that the point contested in the eighteenth sentence—look it up—“is beside the point and has nothing to do with the novel as it stands.” This is redundant. Also, the word “again” is used incorrectly by Mr. Ball, since he did not in fact make this argument beforehand.
- In the 20th sentence, Mr. Ball makes another argument based on nothing better than his poorly digested education in postmodern theory.
- In the 21st sentence, Mr. Ball assumes that Mr. Hayward is “reproducing [an] assumption.” It is by no means clear that this is the case; we have only Mr. Ball’s word for it. Also, Mr. Ball’s authoritative-sounding statement that the “values of literary realism” are “defunct” is without basis in fact. While one could argue that the subjective free-agent values of literary realism ceded ground to the more empirical, deterministic values of literary naturalism in the late 19th Century (Common Era; see above), it would appear from the number of realist novels being published every year, in this country (viz. Canada) and elsewhere, that the values of literary realism are far from defunct. That Mr. Ball wishes they were so does not change this fact.
- In the 22nd sentence, Mr. Ball again complains about Mr. Hayward’s failure to provide quotations, this time in defense of Mr. Hayward’s complaint of an “overabundance of “clutter”” in Mr. Winter’s novel. Presumably, Mr. Winter’s book, being a novel, is long. Just how Mr. Ball expects Mr. Hayward, in a short review—ten sentences, recall!—to provide quoted examples of longueurs is beyond me. Also, it should be considered that the intentional introduction of “clutter” into a text is stylistically infelicitous.
- In the 23rd sentence—thirteen more than the original review!—Mr. Ball finally gets to the final sentence of Mr. Hayward’s review. This proves Mr. Ball’s superiorty. Since Mr. Hayward could only dedicate ten measly sentences to an entire novel, whereas Mr. Ball has dedicated twenty-three to measly ten-sentence review, Mr. Ball is clearly the superior critic. But wait, there’s more to come!
- In the 24th sentence, Mr. Ball makes a sweeping statement, without citing a single concrete example by way of corroboration. He is also guilty of the fallacious assumption that there are such things as “actual literary qualities,” when no such critter has ever been observed on this planet (or on any other, to the best of my knowledge). It would be very helpful to know what Mr. Ball thinks these qualities are. Furthermore, Mr. Ball makes reference to “what fiction is.” As far as I know, this is not a settled question; again, if Mr. Ball is going to say that Mr. Hayward doesn’t know what it is, it would be very helpful to know what Mr. Ball thinks it is. Other than the obvious, that is: not fact. One thing is certain: fiction, as such, can’t “do” anything. Fiction is something made by a human. Humans do things. Like write novels. Which are fiction. Which pretty much just sit there until someone picks them up and reads them. Or decides not to read them. As I have. (It occurs to me now that Mr. Ball’s “review of a review” might in fact be a cleverly disguised work of fiction. If this is so, I offer Mr. Ball my hearty congratulations, for he has constructed a truly ingenious artifice.)
- What sentence are we on again? Oh yes, the 25th. In which Mr. Ball repeats that he has not read Mr. Winter’s book, thereby reminding Geist why he is ill-qualified to review Mr. Hayward’s review.
- In the 26th sentence, Mr. Ball gives Mr. Hayward—who presumably did read Mr. Winter’s book, and bully for him—“the benefit of the doubt and assume that [Mr. Hayward] is correct in his value judgements” [sic]. Isn’t this just a little bit rich?
- In the 27th sentence, Mr. Ball says “only three out of ten sentences has [sic] anything of interest to say about the novel.” Assuming that Mr. Ball is correct in this assessment (and I can hardly do otherwise, having read neither Mr. Hayward’s review, nor the book on which it is based), if Mr. Hayward were a baseball player and his sentences were at bats, Mr. Hayward would be batting .300. In Major League Baseball, this is good enough to earn you millions of dollars a year. Not too shab. The 27th sentence is sadly marred grammatically (as are several others in Mr. Ball’s review-of-a-review; I’d cite them all, but that would mean rereading it, and frankly I don’t have the inclination), in that “these claims” has no apparent referent. If Mr. Ball meant that “the claims made in these sentences are unsupported as written,” he should have said so.
- In the 28th sentence, Mr. Ball makes an absurd statement that flatly contradicts the content of the preceding 27 sentences.
- In the 29th sentence, Mr. Ball makes another such statement.
- In the ultimate sentence of Mr. Ball’s review-of-a-review, he makes another sweeping generalization, based on no stated evidence. Even if Mr. Ball is right about the deficiencies of Mr. Hayward’s review, in the absence of concrete evidence in support of his claims, Mr. Ball is guilty of the logical fallacy of generalizing from a particular (tho it could be argued in this instance that the fallacy in question is actually an over-inclusive premise—i.e. that reviewing in Canada sucks—but this is to split hairs). Mr. Ball is also guilty of being a pot calling a kettle black. Further, Mr. Ball makes the cardinal mistake of introducing new material in his conclusion when he refers to “ideological claims” made by Mr. Hayward. Now, I haven’t read Mr. Hayward’s review, as I might have mentioned, so it could well be that there are “ideological claims” festering within it. But I kind of doubt it, since Mr. Ball’s point-by-point plot summary of Mr. Hayward’s review seems to say nothing about such “ideological claims.” Also, this last sentence of Mr. Ball’s contains a split infinitive; only language mavens will insist that this is an error in English grammar—in fact, it is a hangover from Latin, in which the solecism actually does impede sense—but it nonetheless mars what should be a strong concluding statement. That statement is further marred by Mr. Ball’s reference to “dying literary values.” Presumably, these are the values of literary realism referred to earlier in Mr. Ball’s review-of-a-review. Unfortunately, in that previous sentence, Mr. Ball said those values were defunct. Defunct is synonymous with dead (see EE Cummings’ poem “Buffalo Bill”). Something cannot be both dead and dying. So which will it be, huh?
I mean to pick on Mr. Ball in this instance. And I am certainly suggesting that his review-of-a-review is poorly written and otherwise incompetent. Unfortunately, this seems to be typical of what reviewing of reviews in
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 12:09 AM
Friday, January 16, 2009
I can't wait for their upcoming publications of Robert Bringhurst's (long overdue) Selected and Carmine Starnino's new collection.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 7:11 PM
Your ambition puts me to shame,
Little man: the constant forward
Drive despite the pegleg lame-
Duck scuffle of your awkward
Proto-crawl. And look at me:
Unshaven, unemployed and slack,
Going nowhere, pushing thirty-three
Like a shopping cart heaped with sacks
Of cans and bottles. No one'd blink
If all you did was sleep and shit
And smile, but you squirm like a skink,
Scoot off in pursuit of that bit
Of paper or plastic or fluff
In the corner—which I’ve neglected
To sweep up, stuck here on my duff.
Next thing, you’ll be elected
Class president, voted most likely
To go places. I’ll be at home,
Contemplating the unlikely
Prospect of writing this poem.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:56 PM
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I've been meaning to read Clive James for too long. This piece of criticism reminds me why I should delay no more. Thanks to Rob for pointing it out.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 7:57 PM
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 10:30 AM
Friday, January 9, 2009
Dear Mr. Sirman,
Thank you for your response, sir, but frankly, far from "helpful," I find it enormously disheartening. No doubt you've sent out identical copies of it to all the other people who wrote to you about this matter.
You say that "not everyone will be happy with the decisions of a particular peer assessment committee, no matter how stringently we have met the requirements for selection of the peers and how strongly we have adhered to the process." This is indisputably true. In past years, I have rarely been satisfied with the shortlists and winners of this award. In past years, there has been a great deal of talk, and articles written, about conflicts of interest. That this is the first year such talk has escalated to the level that it was deemed worthy of coverage by national print and broadcast media--and that this is the first year I and others have been sufficiently moved to complain directly to the Council about it--is significant. I do not appreciate you downplaying that significance. This is not a matter of gripes and sour grapes, Mr. Sirman, this is a matter of a serious ethical breach and a matter of a serious legislative breach that allowed it to happen.
I know all about the Council's official position on conflicts of interest. In fact, one year that I applied for a grant, the editor of one of my books was on the grant jury and had to recuse himself from decisions made on my application. I was glad to learn of this because it assured me the grant I did eventually get was not won dishonestly. I know that there are different rules for the GG Awards, but don't understand why some similar exemptions can't be integrated into that process. At any rate, the relationship my editor had to me was far less intimate and intricate than the one between Di Brandt and Jacob Scheier. If it's true that "[e]very effort [was] made to avoid conflicts of interest" in last year's poetry award selection, then I can only conclude that Christian Bok is correct in his assessment that the Canada Council's administration is incompetent. Because all it took to identify the conflicts was a perusal of the book. Let me remind you of certain facts:
- Di Brandt is the co-author of one of the poems in the winning book
- Di Brandt's first name is the title of another poem in said book
- Di Brandt was a good friend of the author's late mother, to whom the book is a tribute
- Di Brandt is also a good friend of the author, who has described her as a "mentor"
- Di Brandt is thanked copiously by the author in the book's acknowledgments
- Pier Giorgio di Cicco provided promotional copy for the book, which appears on the book's back cover
- Pier Giorgio di Cicco is thanked by the author in the book's acknowledgments
Why was Di Brandt allowed to remain on last year's jury when Christian Bok was removed, at the last minute, in a previous year? Michael Lista, in researching an article on the controversy for Canadian Notes & Queries, was told that the disclosure statements signed by the jurors were private documents and therefore not subject to access to information legislation. So we are left to wonder: did Di Brandt disclose her relationship to Jacob Scheier? Did Giorgio di Cicco? If so, why did they remain jurors, when other jurors in similar positions have either voluntarily stepped down or have been removed? If not, what repercussions are there for dishonesty? If there are none, then it's an absolutely meaningless document, a redundant piece of paperwork. If enforcement of the conflict of interest guidelines amounts to, as Melanie Rutledge has said, having a good talk with the jurors about their ethical obligations, what real hope is there that conflict of interest will be avoided?
I can hardly credit that you believe there was no conflict of interest. If you honestly think that the jury came to a disinterested decision, I can only conclude that you're a very credulous person. Alternatively, your response to me is a disingenuous piece of bureaucratic boilerplate. I rather suspect the latter. And this is why I find your letter so disheartening, Mr. Sirman. I remember when you assumed the directorship of the Council. I remember you saying that you didn't want to see "boring art" rewarded. This seemed a refreshingly honest assessment of the Council's previous shortcomings. But, Mr. Sirman, one of the ways boring art gets rewarded is croneyism. I understand that it's too late to do anything about 2008's fiasco, but if, as your letter seems to suggest, the Council plans to do nothing about this in the future, if the Council plans to continue with business as usual, we will continue to see middling books chosen for bad reasons. Were your remarks empty rhetoric, or have you been brought down to the Canada Council's level of bureaucratic mediocrity? As a stakeholder in the Canada Council and as a taxpaying citizen of Canada, sir, I hope, perhaps vainly, to see better.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 12:19 PM
Here's his letter in full:
Dear Mr. Wells,
Thank you for having taken the time to write to me concerning the 2008 Governor's General Literary Awards.
I would like to stress that the Council is very sensitive to real or perceived conflicts of interest. Every effort is made to avoid conflicts of interest despite the likelihood that peer assessment committee members will know some of the authors under consideration. We have aconflict of interest policy tailored specifically for prizes and awards, which is distinct from the existing policy we use to govern our regular granting programs. The Council also has an open discussion with each committee members about possible conflicts of interest and members are required to sign a form indicating if they have a conflict of interest with any of the applicants.
In the case of the selection of the GGLA finalists and winners, it isimportant that all three peers be able to come to a consensus. This is not a decision that is made by one peer alone.
The members of the committee selecting the 2008 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry discussed the conflict of interest requirements and made their selection based on the criteria of artistic and literary excellence. We are confident the committee made its decision in accordance with the Canada Council's peer assessment policy and we stand behind the results.
We appreciate the interest shown in the selection of this year's winner and always welcome feedback on the process and selection. However, we also recognize that not everyone will be happy with the decisions of a particular peer assessment committee, no matter how stringently we have met the requirements for selection of the peers and how strongly we have adhered to the process.
I trust you will find these additional comments helpful and appreciate your contacting me directly on this matter.
Canada Council for the Arts/Conseil des Arts du Canada
350, rue Albert Street
(613) 566-4414 ex/poste 5200
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 11:10 AM
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 5:28 AM
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 5:23 AM
Monday, January 5, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 5:45 AM
Sunday, January 4, 2009
What a year 2008 was. In point form:
- Moved from New Westminster to East Vancouver
- Publication of Jailbreaks
- Back to work on the railroad
- Publication of After the Blizzard
- Pre-publication copies of Anything But Hank! arrive
- Birth of Kaleb Dovin Wells
- Publication of Anything But Hank!
- Laid off from work on the railroad
- Won my longstanding battle with Revenue Quebec
- Anything But Hank! promotional events in Toronto, Halifax and PEI
- Took part in some two dozen public events
- Published reviews of 18 books
- Made some 315 blog posts
Besides reading more books, '09 looks pretty eventful from here. We're going to Mexico in February for a brief reprieve from the gloom of Vancouver winter. We're clearing out of our apartment by the end of March, and shipping all our belongings to Halifax, in anticipation of moving back into our house on May 1. The first poetry collection I've ever edited (I'm still working on it) will be published this year, as will my own second trade collection, in the fall--both with Biblioasis. What else? We'll have to wait and see.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 4:41 AM