Saturday, February 28, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 9:19 AM
Friday, February 27, 2009
The Essential Don Coles (The Porcupine’s Quill)
Edited by Robyn Sarah - 64 pages, sewn paper, $10.95
"All those things which we require of poetry – intelligence, illumination, pleasure in the placing of one surprising word beside another, sudden unexpected deepenings of feeling – all these are present in Don Coles' fine poems... Furthermore, they are rich in content as well as in reflection, and in those qualities which we admire in our fellow humans as much as we do in literature: tenderness, affection, humility, respect, courage."
- Carol Shields
The Essential Poets series aims to provide the best possible introduction to a preeminent Canadian poet, by selecting poems that carry the essence of an individual poetic sensibility as it evolves over time. Each volume includes an editor’s foreword, a bibliography, and a thumbnail biography of the poet. The series is based on the ‘less is more’ premise that a smaller selection of poems fosters deeper reading and re-reading, and that the full pleasure of poetry is to be found in the poems one has lingered over and lived with for a while.
Toronto Launch on Tuesday, March 24
5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Ben McNally Books, 366 Bay Street
Please join us if you can. And please forward to Toronto-area friends who might be interested.
To order book: Ben McNally (416) 361-0032
or direct from The Porcupine’s Quill (519) 833-9158
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 10:53 AM
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Among twenty lowing Holsteins,
The only moving things
Were the flies and the cowbird.
I was of three minds,
Like a nest
In which there are six eggs.
The cowbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
A male cowbird and a female cowbird
A male cowbird and a female cowbird and a finch
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The cowbird screaming
Or just after.
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the cowbird
Was nowhere to be seen.
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the cowbird
Pecks around the feet
Of the cattle about you?
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the cowbird isn’t involved
In what I don’t know.
When the cowbird flew out of sight,
It sought the edge
Of one of many nests.
At the sight of cowbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bards of phony
Would cry out sharply.
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
The river is moving.
The cowbird must be fleeing.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The cowbird sat
In Mexican cedar-limbs.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:20 AM
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Orr's piece reminds me of another favourite poet of Ashbery's--and of mine--John Clare, a poet in many ways similar in sensibility to Elizabeth Bishop: a poet who values a close look at a small thing more than the windy effusions of ego favoured by his elder contemporary, Wordsworth the Great. (Not that Clare couldn't turn on the rhetoric when he wanted to.) The ambition is more humble, and for a long time Clare's work was neglected and ignored, or dismissed as quirky. But lately he seems to be one of the most talked-about of the Romantics. He's certainly my favourite. I think he's pretty great. Bishop too.
I think Orr's a bit too broadstroke about Lowell. Like Ashbery, Lowell wrote a great many disposable poems. But he did leave behind a fair clutch of amazingly good work, too. The little Selected published by Faber, edited by Michael Hoffmann, is probably a better place to read Lowell than in his doorstopper of a Collected.
UPDATE: A roundup of responses to Orr's article. But really, I'm just linking to this for the video.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:30 AM
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I also dislike the rather naive argument routinely trotted out when funding cuts happen or are threatened: that the arts are good for the economy. Why do I dislike this? Because only some arts are good for the economy; if we're going to determine funding on a case by case basis in terms of potential return on investment, a lot of the things we value would get zip, zero, zilch.
Something I learned of today confirms that I'm right about this. Quill & Quire reports that a new rationalised funding programme for magazines introduced by the Heritage dept. of the Conservative government will result in mags with fewer than 5000 subscribers getting no funding. That will include every literary magazine in the country. Some of these mags probably shouldn't be receiving as much moola as they do, but this has nothing at all to do with their subscription base. This is absolutely the wrong way to go about redistributing the monies allotted to magazines.
CNQ, the magazine I work for, will lose $10,000, according to the publisher. They already don't have enough money in the budget to pay me for my editorial work. A hit like that will drastically affect the way the magazine operates. It will affect production values, frequency, page count, contributor payments, etc.
Fortunately, these new guidelines are not in effect yet and there seems to be some optimism that the Heritage dept. can be headed off at the pass. A quick, strong and broad response is needed. Write to the Minister. Write to your MP.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 7:39 PM
Friday, February 20, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 8:56 PM
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
UPDATE: Thanks to Steven Beattie for posting this link. Apparently, Dr. Banting had nothing to do with Mr. Stenson's book being on the shortlist and will have nothing to do with whether it wins or loses. Prize administrator Jennifer Sobol has been quoted as saying you can "stick a needle in [her] eye" if this ain't so.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 10:29 AM
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 8:11 PM
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 4:24 PM
Monday, February 16, 2009
I have sired more young than Genghis Khan.
I went into a room with a cup and magazine.
I haven’t ever met a single one.
I did it for a dollar, I thought it might be fun.
I didn’t think, at first, that it would mean
I’d sire more young than Genghis Khan.
Spread out my offspring on a lush suburban lawn,
You wouldn’t see one little blade of green—
But I’ve never met a single one.
At any given moment, twenty ovens, twenty buns
Rising like the beanstalk from the bean.
I have sired more young than Genghis Khan.
No one tells me where it is that all my seed has gone.
It’s just as well, they’re only genes.
I don’t ever want to meet a single one.
I like to go to bars at night, I like to cruise for cun.
I really dig the swingin’ singles scene.
I have sired more young than Genghis Khan.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a single one.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 12:36 PM
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:17 AM
The book, which we bought in the lobby, is a thing of beauty, both the text and Cybèle Young's artwork. I highly recommend it.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 5:42 AM
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Coté is right to complain about subsidies not keeping up with inflation. That should be fixed, if it's so. But I wish he wouldn't bemoan the cosmopolitan tastes of Canadian readers. It's a bit ... provincial. I'm gonna go back to reading my Faulkner novel now.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:39 AM
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Something in this story I found bemusing is the statement that some 3000 "writers" declared no earnings from their writing. How can someone report this without commentary? I wonder how many "gardeners" found themselves in a similar predicament. At some point, you have to stop pretending that your past-time is your occupation. It's figures like that that make me very damn skeptical of statistical surveys on such things. 3000 zeros skew the numbers pretty damn badly.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:06 AM
Friday, February 13, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 9:06 AM
Thursday, February 12, 2009
You can tell it’s hard times for the arts
By how many buskers are out hustling
Quarters on street corners. You can tell
By their bewildered looks, the exceeding
Refinement of their style and their swell
Manners that they are unaccustomed
To such crude environs and to the rude
Rebuffs of passers by with no intention
Of being detained. Pity the poor buggers,
Forced by the twin threats of starvation
And creditors, from their studios, stages
And pits out into the dinful, bustling
Market. They are such sensitive creatures—
Can’t you see how your lack of appreciation
For the nuances of their interpretations
Plunges them into sullen depression?
Can’t you see how brutal it is for them
To be grateful for the handful of change
You toss in their box as you stroll by?
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 10:08 PM
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 8:58 PM
My advice to young Canadian writers is ... to take a temporary part-time job. It could even be in a university, especially in a Creative Writing course, so long as it is temporary or part-time. But better perhaps to fish salmon in the season and work on novels out of it it, as one ex-student of mine is doing; or run a rooming house and write plays for the CBC, which is how a young woman I know is managing both to live and to write what she wants; or take a nine-to-five banking job with no homework, as Raymond Souster has done.
--Earle Birney, "The Writer and His Education"
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 9:10 AM
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:59 PM
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 1:27 PM
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Thanks to Carmine for posting this awesome video by Leigh Kotsilidis, accompanying music by Mathias Kom and The Burning Hell.
I stayed at Leigh's place in October when I was in Montreal for the Jailbreaks launch. All the sets for the video, which she made herself, were in her hallway. So awesome to see the finished video.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 11:03 AM
Each poet read his or her poem from the book, along with 2 or 3 others. One highlight of the night was Amanda Lamarche, who had some of the best between-poem banter I've heard. She could be a stand-up comedian, I swear. The humour was a nice counterpoint to the pathos of the poems she read. Another was Matt Rader, who gave the best reading I've heard him do, of his outstanding poem "The Great Leap Forward," which he launched into with no preamble other than a quick witty joke about Amanda's reading. Matt's poem is one of the best in the anthology. He then read a poem by David O'Meara and sat down. Short and sweet. His reading and Amanda's made for a nice study in contrasts, how totally different approaches can both yield attention-grabbing performances. I also dug Yvonne Blomer's "The Roll Call to the Ark," a poem in two voices, which she read with her husband. There were some laughs in a couple of the poems read by Leanne Averbach, who reads very well. I wouldn't say they were terrific poems, but they were entertaining at least.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:26 AM
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Please join us in celebrating the launch of Tightrope Books’ new anthology series, The Best Canadian Poetry In English. This year’s collection of poetry, edited by Stephanie Bolster, is the first in an annual series showcasing poems published in Canadian literary journals. The evening’s festivities will include readings by contributors, and a performance of music and spoken word by Leanne Averbach & Indigo.
Saturday February 7th, 2009
7:00 pm (readings start at 7:30)
4362 Main Street
About the anthology:From a long list of one hundred poems drawn from Canadian literary journals magazines, this year’s guest editor, award winning poet Stephanie Bolster, has chosen fifty of the best Canadian poems published in 2007. With this anthology readers, baffled by proliferating poems and poets, can for the first time tap into the remarkable and vibrant Canadian poetry scene. Readers are invited to explore the currents and cross-currents of poetry in a distinguished volume distilled by a round robin of esteemed editorial taste.http://www.tightropebooks.com/anthology.html
Leanne Averbach & Indigo:FEVER with Leanne Averbach & Indigo is a sultry fusion of the spoken words of Vancouver/New York poet Leanne Averbach and the original blues/jazz accompaniment of Astrid Sars' band trio INDIGO.http://www.leanneaverbach.com/index.html
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 3:48 PM
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 10:19 AM
Friday, February 6, 2009
I can see you. You can see
Me. I can see you
Can see me. You can see
I can see you. I can see
You can see me
Seeing you. I can see me
In you. I can see you
In me. I can see you
Seeing you in me, seeing
Me in you. You can see
Me seeing me in you,
Seeing you in me. You and me,
We can see me and you.
I can see you can see. You. Me.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 8:35 PM
Most profs and administrators are so conditioned by the grading system that they don't even think about this sort of thing. When I was choosing courses for my fourth year at university (a year I was only enrolled in for a piece of paper, not for education per se), I signed up for a couple of 2nd year courses in my major. Even tho the department's guidelines said I could take these courses because I'd fulfilled all the specific requirements for an English degree, I was called in to see the department chair. He advised me not to take those courses because they'd be too easy for me. I told him that was part of why I was taking them. He looked at me like I had two heads. I guess that kind of pragmatism doesn't come naturally to an academic. He had no concept that without grades, those kinds of decisions wouldn't be made.
I hope Denis Rancourt prevails. He sounds like a damn good teacher who, unlike so many profs, has actually given a lot of thought to pedagogy. Which you can see for yourself in this interview.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 1:28 PM
Here's me reading Bruce's "Nova Scotia Fish Hut":
UPDATE: Carmine Starnino has posted about the Kosub essay and provided a link to this virtual chapbook of Bruce's poems. Sounds like the Bruce book I'm looking forward to will be out in a couple of years, 40 years after his death.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 9:10 AM
Thursday, February 5, 2009
In my section of the mag, there's some very good stuff, including
- Jason Guriel on Nick Thran, JD Black and Christopher Patton's debut collections
- Nick Thran on Jason Guriel and David McGimpsey's mass media-inspired collections
- Alessandro Porco on a couple of slippery poets, Kevin Connolly and Walid Bitar
- Jim Pollock on the black and white magics of Jeffery Donaldson
- Steven W. Beattie on the Giller list
- Lyle Neff on David W. McFadden's selected
- Martin Wallace on WJ Keith's cultural conservatism
- Yours Truly on first collections by Suzanne Buffam and Pino Coluccio
But the highlight of my section, if I'm allowed to pick favourites, is Pollock's review essay of Donaldson's oeuvre to-date. James has emerged in the last couple of years as one of the few truly top-notch Canadian poetry critics. His criticism is very precise and meticulously argued, but never dryly dispassionate. An earlier part of this essay was published at Contemporary Poetry Review a while ago. The updated piece takes into account Donaldson's new book, the outstanding Palilalia, as well.
There are also four poems each from a couple of poet-critics who are no slouches themselves, Jason Guriel and Mark Callanan. After precociously strong debuts, they've both got new books coming out soon, I do believe, which I'm looking forward to seeing. An awful lot of good-looking poetry collections on the horizon.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 9:57 PM
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 5:05 PM
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 9:24 AM
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Ooooh, wasn't that a clever postmodern pun!
But "In 2005, 42 per cent of artists said they took part-time jobs, compared with 22 per cent for the overall labour force." Newsflash: the other 22% didn't "take" a part-time job; many of them probably had no choice and had to "take" several such jobs to pay for rent, food, transportation and such. These are the people we might know as actually poor. I hear their hearts are bleeding for the almost-poor artists.
Another thing: how many artists at or below the poverty line (set for a single person in a city of 500,000+) are actually single people in cities of 500,000? What kind of dough do their spouses make? (Full disclosure: my mother is a full-time artisan whose net income is well below the single-person-in-a-city line. She lives in the country in a province with fewer than 200,000 people. My father is a retired deputy minister. My mother used to be federal civil servant. She much prefers being a poor artisan.) Is a tenured professor who teaches a subject related to his or her artistic professor an artist or an academic? It would seem the latter, since the "aristocracy" is identified as being comprised of "producers/directors/choreographers." This skews the numbers something fierce, considering the number of writers who work for university English and/or CW departments.
Interesting to note that 42% of artists are self-employed. At least we know who's exploiting those poor fuckers.
My favourite part:
What makes the situation even more distressing is that artist earnings have been decreasing since 1990 – a decline likely to intensify over the next two years. While average earnings for the overall labour force rose by almost 10 per cent from 1990 to 2005, artists experienced a slide of 11 per cent – to $22,731 from $25,433 – at the same time as the cultural-sector work force tripled in size. Actors experienced the sharpest decline in average earnings among artists, dropping 34 per cent to about $18,000 in 2005.
It takes a really piss-poor grasp of maths--something for which artists are notorious--not to get this. I think it's safe to assume that the non-cultural workforce did not triple in the 15 years between 1990 and 2005. If it did, boy would the average wage take a hit! That the cultural workforce did triple, and that--recall--42 per cent of that workforce is self-employed, and that the wages dropped--all this might just signify, oh, I don't know .... that there are too many artists for the amount of money available!!! Y'know what, I bet it's those foreign artists, you know the ones, the "exiles" from Bosnia and Iran, coming here and taking our arts dollars. Those bastards.
Finally, what the survey doesn't even pretend to address, because it's not quantifiable: shitty artists don't deserve to earn a living by their art. Many do anyway, but that's another story.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 10:24 PM
Having been in and out of the service industry for the past 18 years--wow, that's one long low point--I've encountered my fair share of each of these types of obnoxious customers. Or "guests" as we call 'em on board the train.
I'd add "The Nic Fitter" to the list as a transportation specific problem customer. This is the asshole who asks twenty-five times when the next smoke stop is, if you'll wake him up when we get there, constantly pulls his pack out of his pocket and stares at it longingly, tries to sneak a smoke in a washroom or vestibule and then pretends he didn't know he wasn't allowed.
And a somewhat less job-specific jerk is "The Raging Drunk." On the train, this is someone who brings on their own booze, because most train staff--unless they're gettin' real well tipped--won't serve a person till they're in a state of incoherent incapacity. Some of these drunks are Jekyll and Hyde types, sweet as pie when they get on the train, unable to walk and talk or abusive six hours later.
The best thing about the train is that, whether it's the Nic Fitter, the Drunk or the Ticking Timebomb, I have the option of removing them before their stop--and have exercised that option several times. There aren't too many jobs where you can get revenge on the asshole customer. The other categories I pretty much just have to put up with. I actually have to court "The Soapbox" in one of my train jobs. But I also make better coin than most service industry pros, so I shouldn't complain too much.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 2:32 PM
Monday, February 2, 2009
I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 8:16 AM
Sunday, February 1, 2009
508 HASTINGS (AT
NONFICTION POETRY IN
THE THEME OF
FRIDAY, FEB. 13, 2009
7:00 TO 9:00 PM
GUEST POET JENNICA HARPER is a screenwriter and poet whose books include The Octopus and OtherPoems (Signature Editions, 2006), and What It Feels Like for a Girl (Anvil Press, 2008). Her poems have been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards and featured on Vancouver buses as part of the Poetry in Transit project. When not working on poetry, she's teaching a UBC course called "Introduction to Writing for New Media" and adapting a kids' comic book into an animated feature film.
GUEST WRITER ZACHARIAH WELLS was born and raised on PEI and has since lived all over Canada. He is the author of Unsettled, a collection of poems distilled from his time as an airline cargo hand in Nunavut, the editor of Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets, and co-author, with Rachel Lebowitz, of Anything But Hank!, a children's picture book. Wells is the reviews editor for Canadian Notes & Queries magazine, writes freelance book reviews and works seasonally for Via Rail as an onboard train attendant. He has a new collection of poems forthcoming in the fall and a collection of essays and reviews for 2010.
for more information visit www.thewritersstudio.ca
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 9:44 PM
I had the freakiest shit today—
no, wait, don’t walk away,
I’m not the sort of sicko dude
to wax weird about lewd
pervy fetish stuff, this is
something heavier than shits and pisses,
alright? Alright, so there it was: one
solitary turd, the sort of bun
I always hope for,
no mess clean-up, walk away—but just before
I put my finger to the lever,
I realize it's a nugget unlike any I’ve ever
seen: see, it was the same shape, exactly,
as a human brain: two perfectly
symmetric hemispheres, the curvy folds
and involutions. I was totally bowled
over—I mean, it blew my mind
that my sphincter could extrude
such an intricately lined
scale model out of shit—
Eh? What do you think I did with it—
I sent it down the fucking drain.
I told you, I’m not that kind of dude—
brain, or no brain.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 4:05 PM