Since launching my funding campaign a week ago today, I've already raised $1549--over 70% of my funding target. As with the last time I undertook such a campaign, I am feeling the love. There are few public endeavours I've undertaken as a writer that have felt more affirmative. Unlike a grant, I'm not just getting money to produce work or to go somewhere, but I'm participating in an exchange, creating new works that wouldn't have existed without the funding drive and getting old works in front of some eyeballs. The postal receipts alone tell a tale of how many books and broadsides have gone out over the past week. Thanks so much to everyone who has contributed so far and to everyone who will in the days to come.
Friday, December 13, 2013
Friday, December 6, 2013
As anyone still following this sleepy blog knows, my poems are being performed operatically at the Opéra National in Paris next month. I applied to the Canada Council for a travel grant, but learned today that my application, along with composer Erik Ross's, did not meet with success. So, as I did last time something like this happened, I've decided to use Indiegogo to raise funds to cover my expenses. Lots of quid pro quo on the table. Check it out.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 4:23 PM
Monday, November 11, 2013
Back from a couple of very well-attended and otherwise successful Baseline Press launches in Toronto and London. I was especially impressed by the turnout at the London event; a quite large venue space was packed to capacity. It's a city smaller than Halifax, but I couldn't imagine a similar-sized crowd turning up for an event here. So kudos to Karen Schindler and the other folks at Poetry London, who have clearly done much to cultivate a public for poetry in their city.
Pino Coluccio was on-hand at the Toronto event with his video camera and tripod. He kindly filmed and edited this little vid of my reading:
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 4:10 PM
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
In many ways, book reviewing is the most thankless of literary endeavours, but Arc Poetry Magazine has long been exceptionally good to practitioners of this unpopular dark art. I learned the other day, and it has just been officially announced, that I have won Arc's Critic's Desk Prize for my long review of Bruce Taylor's No End in Strangeness. This is the fourth time I've won the CDP, but the first time I've won it for a long review. Awfully glad to win it for this piece, if only because it gives a wee bit more press for Taylor's truly stupendous book. The review, slightly expanded, is also forthcoming in Career Limiting Moves, the book, which I just finished proofreading about an hour ago. Huzza!
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 2:36 PM
Very pleased to have two poems, "Swarm" and "Squalid," in the new issue of This magazine. Both poems have starlings in them, as it happens, but are otherwise quite different. The poems aren't up yet on the mag's website, but I am assured they are in the physical magazine, which I have yet to behold.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 12:54 PM
I have launches/readings coming up in Toronto, London and Charlottetown. Here be the details.
Toronto, Thursday November 7, 7:30 pm: Baseline Press and Frog Hollow Press launch, Black Swan Tavern, 154 Danforth Ave.
London, ON, Friday November 8, 7:00 pm: Baseline Press launch, Organic Works Bakery, 222 Wellington St.
Charlottetown, Sunday November 17, 7:00 pm: Joint launch of Baffle and Rachel Lebowitz's Cottonopolis, The Big Orange Lunchbox, 77 University Ave.
If you're handy to any of these events, I'd love to see you there.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 5:24 AM
Monday, October 28, 2013
“At least let us not be lulled into such a notion of our entire security, as not to keep watch and ward, even on our best feelings. I have seen gross intolerance shown in support of toleration; sectarian antipathy most obtrusively displayed in the promotion of an undistinguishing comprehension of sects: and acts of cruelty, (I had almost said,) of treachery, committed in furtherance of an object vitally important to the cause of humanity; and all this by men too of naturally kind dispositions and exemplary conduct.”
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 3:18 PM
Sunday, October 20, 2013
The individuality of authors is no more a product of the West, the Enlightenment, or the bourgeoisie than is the individuality of apes, and has no more reason to be hushed up. As readers of others and readers of authors, we have always had an intuitive grasp of individuality that we enjoy and rely on and need to articulate more clearly as part of literary theory, and that we can now trace to the capacity ofr discriminating individuals and intentions evident in many animal species.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:14 PM
Much of Theory, since Roland Barthes's 1968 announcement of the "death of the author," has sought--or professed--to downplay the individual, using the rhetorical strategy of referring not to authors but to texts, as if they were self-created or the product only of "systems of cultural production." In fact even if they have nominally challenged the idea of the "single historically defined author," most critics have continued to discuss single historically definable authors in articles and books that they would be indignant not to have attributed to their own single historically defined selves.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 2:01 PM
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Explanations in terms of cultural difference tend to lack many links in their proposed causal chains. "Refletionist" explanations of art, which assume that art immediately reflects its time or place, pre-suppose either that ages have a unitary spirit or that different pursuits within a period are inevitably contesting representations of the age. Film critic David Bordwell notes that top-down explanations in terms of an era repeatedly begin from preconceived notions and are very selective in their presentation of supporting evidence, first in the historical data and then in the artistic works they choose and the details they choose from them. He also observes that scholars who commit themselves "to a search for a single overarching pattern tend not to treat historical actions as shaped by a multitude of factors." Such sweeping explanations turn people into passive conduits of the impulse of the age or participants in an unavoidable common debate, rather than treating individuals as different in susceptibility to influence, according to their capacities, positions, roles, aims, and interests.
--Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:03 PM
Saturday, October 12, 2013
It's always a nice surprise to receive an acceptance for poems you forgot you sent out. Which happened to me the other day, as I got an email from the poetry editor of The Island Review, a newish and very sharp-looking online magazine, telling me that they wanted to publish two of the poems I sent them last December. (Nowhere near my personal record for elapsed time between submission and acceptance, which belongs to Elysian Fields Quarterly, who wrote me an acceptance message some three years after I sent them a clutch of baseball sonnets.)
TIR is based in Shetland and focuses on island-based and/or -themed writing. The poems they took are from Track & Trace, so nothing new to readers of my work, but I'm guessing that readers of TIR and readers of ZW are cohorts that don't much overlap, so it's nifty that these old poems have found a new home so far from my own shores. I'm also tickled about the publication because TIR's poetry editor is the redoubtable Jen Hadfield, whose work I admire a great deal.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 12:29 AM
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Stagger your seams. Vary sizes so that
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 9:27 AM
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Monday, August 26, 2013
Thursday, July 25, 2013
I often, only half-jokingly, say that I started writing poems because I'm tone-deaf and can't sing. Well, it looks like I might have unintentionally become a song-writer.
Back in December, I got an email out of the blue from a baritone singer named Phillip Addis. He had come across my poetry and wanted to have some poems set to music so that he could sing them. I was, of course, enormously flattered. Addis said that it would be several months until anything happened, as funding would have to be sorted out, etc. Since then, I wondered occasionally where things were, but I figured that the most likely outcome would be that nothing would come of it.
Shows what I know. A few weeks ago, I got an email from composer Erik Ross, saying that he'd been reading my work and was zeroing in on a shortlist of poems to score. And then he followed up a few days ago, saying that he has selected my poems "I" and "Waypoints," both of which will also be published in my forthcoming chapbook, Baffle. The score is supposed to be finished by September 1. Not sure yet what's happening with Addis' performance.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 8:10 PM
Monday, July 22, 2013
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 4:46 AM
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Friday, May 24, 2013
THE AUTHOR IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE AUTHOR! PATTERNICITY, THEORY OF MIND AND HUMAN ERROR IN IAN McEWAN'S SATURDAY
- THEORY OF MIND
Roland. Trans. Richard Howard. “The Death of the Author.”
Doherty, Martin J. Theory of Mind: How Children Understand Others' Thoughts and Feelings. New York: Psychology Press, 2009.
Fray, Peter. “The Enduring Talent of Ian McEwan.” The Age. January 29, 2005. http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2005/01/28/1106850082840.html#
Scurr, Ruth. “Happiness on a Knife-edge.” The Times. January 29, 2005. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article507285.ece
Michael. “Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless
Weich, Dave. “Ian McEwan, Reinventing Himself Still.” Powells.com. April 1, 2004. http://www.powells.com/authors/mcewan.html
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 11:11 AM
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
So here's a cool thing that happened recently. Through expat poet Suzanne Steele, I heard about a call for submissions for a project at the University of Exeter, where Suzanne is a PhD candidate. The project is called The Wall of Miracles:
A unique collection of original nature poetry printed onto handmade cards the size of luggage tags from writers around the world will be exhibited on a wall outside Reed Hall on the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus. The Wall of Miracles poetry installation makes use of a particularly beautiful section of masonry near Reed Hall, hanging poem cards about animals and nature by string to the wall.
The organizers of the WoM chose my poem, "Doe," which I think is pretty darn cool.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 7:32 PM
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Been a while since I posted anything, largely because my computer decided it no longer wanted to connect to the internet and I had to get a new one more willing to do my bidding.
I returned home on the 6th from the Irving Layton symposium at Ottawa U, where I gave a talk on Layton's improbable relationship with Black Mountain. I recorded said talk and will be uploading it once I get it off my defective PC and load it on to my shiny new MacBook (a purchase I could ill afford, but I just couldn't face the prospect of continuing to use the invective-inducing Beta-grade software known as Windows).
Anyway, the symposium was very stimulating. Kind of fun to take part in such a thing as a non-academic interloper, if only for the sociology of it all.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 11:24 AM
Monday, April 29, 2013
I don't think you can spend your whole life questioning whether language can represent reality. At some point, you have to believe that the inadequacies of the words you use will be transcended by the faith with which you use them. You have to believe that poetry has some reach into reality itself, or you have to go silent.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 12:51 PM
Saturday, April 27, 2013
What are virtues in a person can be liabilities of poems. Diffidence, gentleness, satisfaction with one's self, a certain sort of immediate sympathy for the troubles of the world and of others: all these can keep a poem from rising above the merely pleasant. Frost once remarked that poetry was a way of taking life by the throat, but for so many contemporary poets it seems a way of taking life by the hand. Certain tactics become deadeningly familiar: the privileging of specific subject matter ("Relate to me," you can almost hear some poems cry); the primacy of personal experience and the assumption that language can contain it; the favorite foreign country that becomes a sort of grab bag for subject matter; the husk of anecdote cracked for its nut of knowledge; the serious intellectual and psychological issues that do a soft-focus fade-out into imagistic unknowingness; the ease, even pride, with which the poet accepts such unknowingness. much of this poetry isn't "bad," exactly; you wish it were worse, in fact, because then you could more clearly explain to yourself why a large dose of it--a batch of books to review, say, or an hour spent browsing magazines--leaves you feeling not simply numb but guilty for that numbness, as if you were the only tainted thing in a world where everything was perfectly clear, perfectly pleased with itself. Intensity is the only antidote--of language, of experience, of ambition. In the presence of that intensity, all that is merely pleasant falls away.--Christian Wiman, Ambition and Survival
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 9:59 AM
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Finally got around to uploading and editing the audio from the reading Rachel and I did at Fables Club in Tatamagouche, NS, earlier this month. Not a huge crowd, but a very attentive one. Fables is such a great venue.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 5:22 PM
Monday, April 15, 2013
I'm not at all sure what causes or enables some poets to persist. ... Less generous motives are not difficult to imagine. it's easier to make a name for oneself as a reviewer than as a poet, though anyone who would value this lesser recognition is probably not a real poet anyway. Then, too, there are always those who are keen on accumulation "power" in the poetry world, and reviewing may be just one more means of doing so. One hardly knows what to say about this. Wielding power in the poetry world is roughly the equivalent of cutting a wide swath through your local PTA.--"A Piece of Prose," from Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 5:33 AM
Friday, April 5, 2013
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Alexandra Oliver talks about her forthcoming collection, Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway, a book I had the pleasure and honour of editing for Biblioasis. It's a good one, kids.
"The poems in Tormentors are not all about bees or bullies, but they do deal with the way in which life torments one in small ways, in the most mundane of environments. When I wrote these poems, I was living with my family in a bedroom community reputed to be the third best place to live in Canada.
If you’re the kind of person who longs for a split-level home with a two-car garage, who likes lining up for an hour at festivals to buy ribs and listen to Guess Who cover bands, who enjoys doing boot camp fitness, playing laser tag with co-workers, campaigning for the Conservative party, or getting plastic surgery, this would definitely be your kind of town.
It wasn’t my kind of town."
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:44 AM
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
I had a fabulous time last night being inducted into the University of King's College's Haliburton Society, the longest running university literary society in North America. I wasn't quite quick enough on the draw with my dictaphone, so the recording starts in the middle of Haliburton President Ariel Weiner's introductory remarks, alas.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 10:54 AM
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Just got back from a two-week jaunt in southern Portugal with my mother and my son, and I'm now looking forward to a spate of events over then next couple of weeks. If you're in the vicinity of any of these gigs, I'd love it if you dropped by:
Monday, March 25; 8:30 pm; University of King's College, Senior Common Room: I have been named this year's "Honorary Member" of UKC's venerable literary club, The Haliburton Society, and as such will be giving a reading. This is particularly cool from my p.o.v. because I attended King's way back when. Snacks and drinks, I'm told, will be provided at the post-reading reception.
Tuesday, March 26; 7:30 pm; Dalhousie University Killam Library, Special Collections Room (5th Floor): I'm reading with Rachel Lebowitz. This will be the first Halifax reading for Rachel from Cottonopolis, following a very successful mini-tour in Ontario and Montreal. I'll be reading more or less exclusively from my not-yet published chapbook, Baffle.
Thursday, April 4; 6:30 pm; The Company House, 2202 Gottingen St., Halifax: I will be hosting the launch of Rachel Lebowitz's Cottonopolis. Joining Rachel from Ottawa will be her fellow Pedlar Press author Sandra Ridley.
Friday, April 5; 7:00 pm; Fables Club, Tatamagouche, NS: Rachel and I will be reading at this fantastic venue, one of Nova Scotia's hidden gems.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 12:04 PM
Friday, March 1, 2013
The notion that it was animals who taught us to read may seem counterintuitive, but listening to skilled hunters analyze tiger sign is not that different from listening to literature majors deconstruct a short story. Both are sorting through minutiae, down to the specific placement and inflection of individual elements, in order to determine motive, subtext, and narrative arc. An individual track may have its own accent or diacritical marks that distinguish the intent of a foot, or even a single step, from the others. On an active game trail, as in one of Tolstoy's novels, multiple plots and characters can overlap with daunting subtlety, pathos, or hair-raising drama. Deciphering these palimpsests can be more difficult than reading crossed letters from the Victorian era, and harder to follow than the most obscure experimental fiction. However, with practice, as Henno Martin wrote in The Sheltering Desert, "you learn to rread the writing of hoof, claw and pad. In fact before long you are reading their message almost subconsciously."--John Vaillant, The Tiger
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 10:56 AM
Speaking of which, if you'd prefer to get a copy from her in person, Rachel will be touring Cottonopolis in Kingston, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal very soon. Details:
Monday, March 11: Kingston, The Grad Club (upstairs, 162 Barrie Street), 8 pm. Reading with Michael e. Casteels and Elizabeth Greene.
Tuesday, March 12: Toronto, Art Bar, Q Space, (382 College St West). 8 pm. Reading with Robert Colman and Clea Roberts.
Wednesday March 13: Toronto, Pivot Reading (The Press Club
850 Dundas Street W), 8 pm. Reading with Dave Cameron and Cary Fagan.
Thursday, March 14: Ottawa, Raw Sugar Cafe (692 Somerset St W), 5:30 pm. Reading with Sandra Ridley.
Friday, March 15: Montreal, Argo Books (1915 rue Sainte-Catherine ouest) 8 pm (doors open at 7:30 pm). Reading with Stephanie Bolster and Sarah Burgoyne.
There will also be readings and launches coming up in Halifax, Tatamagouche and Moncton. I'll post about those as the dates draw closer. I'll be sharing the stage with Rachel for some of these and also have some events of my own over the horizon. Seems the winter ice is starting to thaw.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 8:49 AM
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Friday, February 15, 2013
I returned home from an unexpected railroad trip last night and waiting in my mail pile was The Puritan Compendium I. In it are poems and fictions drawn from five years and eighteen issues of The Puritan. This includes two very weird poems of mine, "New Standards" and "Dramatic Stories." The book is beautiful, contains lots of good writing and has been printed in a ltd. edition of 100 copies, so if you'd like one, you'd best act fast. The Puritan has been very good to yours truly over the years. Besides the poems, they also published this great interview I did with Jesse Eckerlin.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 8:20 AM
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Don Paterson, besides being a brilliant poet and critic, is one of my favourite literary curmudgeons:
Unfortunately [experiment] is a word we do sometimes use in that context—as if there were any sexy virtue in experiment for its own sake, which I just don't believe. I mean—so you've done a homophonic translation of Cavafy in three-letter words and substituted every noun for one four entries along in the dictionary—big fuckin' deal. It's kid's stuff, only kids wouldn't trouble themselves with it because Minecraft is far more fun and creative. Wee word games.
Thanks to Carmine for pointing out the interview.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 5:45 AM
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
The terrible thing about ... any of the mechanisms and patented insights that make up so much of any style, is that they are habit-forming, something the style demands in ever-increasing quantities. We learn subtle variations or extensions we once would have thought impossible or nonexistent; but we constantly permit ourselves excesses, both in quantity and quality, that once would have appalled us. That is how styles--and more than styles--degenerate. Stylistic rectitude, like any other, is something that has to be worked at all the time, a struggle--like sleeping or eating or living--that permits only temporary victories; and nothing makes us more susceptible to a vice than the knowledge that we have already overcome it. (The fact that one once used an argument somehow seems to give one the right to ignore it.)--Randall Jarrell
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 4:34 PM
Monday, February 4, 2013
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 5:26 PM
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
[Yeats] has redeemed the dullness of the 'raving autumn' passage, but it has served its turn because a poem cannot be always elevated, always sublime, it has to have flat passages. Just as acrobats will sometimes appear to make a mistake, so poets know that poems are performances which must now and then seem to put a foot wrong in order to make the words dance perfectly the next moment.--Tom Paulin
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 8:44 AM
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 4:33 AM
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
--Thomas Hardy, LifeYears earlier he had decided that too regular a beat was bad art. He had fortified himself in his opinion by thinking of the analogy of architecture, between which art and that of poetry he had discovered, to use his own words, that there existed a close and curious parallel, each art unlike some others, having to carry a rational content inside its artistic form. He knew that in architecture cunning irregularity is of enormous worth, and it is obvious that he carried on into his verse, perhaps unconsciously, the Gothic art-principle in which he had been trained – the principle of spontaneity, found in mouldings, tracery and suchlike – resulting in the ‘unforeseen’ (as it has been called) character of his metres and stanzas, that of stress rather than of syllable, poetic texture rather than poetic veneer; the latter kind of thing, under the name of ‘constructed ornament’, being what he, in common with every Gothic student, had been taught to avoid as the plague. He shaped his poetry accordingly, introducing metrical pauses, and reversed beats; and found for his trouble that some particular line of a poem exemplifying this principle was greeted with a would-be jocular remark that such a line 'did not make for immortality'. The same critic might have gone to one of our cathedrals (to follow the analogy of architecture), and on discovering that the carved leafage of some capital or spandrel in the best period of Gothic art strayed freakishly out of its bounds over the moulding, where by rule it had no business to be, or that the enrichments of a string-course were not accurately spaced; or that there was a sudden blank in a wall where a window was expected from formal measurement, have declared with equally merry conviction, 'This does not make for immortality.'
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 8:05 AM
Monday, January 14, 2013
Yes, it's been a while. I've been much occupied with matters non-literary, having co-purchased, with my wife and mother, an income property in Moncton, NB. I also picked up a surprising amount of railroad work over the xmas holidays, so it's been a busy time.
But a more literary 2013 awaits. I just sent edits of a chapbook manuscript back to Karen Schindler of Baseline Press. The chappie is titled Baffle and will be out this fall in a ltd. edition run of 60 copies. This fall will also see the publication of a rather more hefty volume: Career Limiting Moves, a collection of my essays and reviews from the past decade or so. That manuscript needs a fair bit of attention in the weeks to come, so I shan't be idle, lack of day-job notwithstanding.
Speaking of which, funding was cut for my editorial contract at Reader's Digest, which was not a great shock, given the state of the magazine industry, but still has left a sizable income hole for me to fill. I'm actively interested in picking up additional freelance editing work, so if you've got something you think I could help you with, drop a line and we can discuss rates. Once I get my desk cleared off, I plan to set up shop formally as a red pen for hire. I'll be offering such services as manuscript consultations/pre-submission edits; essay and thesis editing; consultation on grant applications; copy editing; proof reading; etc.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:29 AM