Sunday, June 29, 2008


I was supposed to work the train to Winnipeg this evening, but the flu bug I picked up on my last trip still hasn't run its course. I'm feeling better than when I was delirious and febrile on Wednesday night, but I'm still achey all over, my throat's sore, my head's stuffed, I'm coughing and I have little by way of appetite and stamina (a brief excursion for groceries yesterday led to a 1.5 hour nap), so I booked sick. Not something I like to do, especially with time-and-a-half on July 1, but I like working sick even less. (Oddly, the company is hyper-paranoid about the spread of viral infections on the train, yet provides no compensated sick-days as such to employees.) So I'm off to see a medic this morning, to get a note so that Great West Life doesn't think I'm malingering.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm Not There

Rachel and I watched I'm Not There last night. Friggin' brilliantly layered film, which I think really has to be seen more than once. Cate Blanchett's performance is uncanny. Whoever thought to cast her is a genius.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jailbreaks lauded in the Walrus blog

Had this piece, by Jared Bland on The Walrus's blog, pointed out to me this morning. It's as much a paean to Biblioasis as it is a review of Jailbreaks. The former is very well-deserved. If I haven't said it before on this site, I'll say it now: I love Biblioasis. When so many publishers who have been around so much longer pump out catalogues of unremarkable books, it's wonderful to see a publisher with Dan Wells' levels of energy, commitment and discernment producing a varied and challenging catalogue every season. In its short history, Biblioasis has already published several excellent and even, dare I say it, important books. It's an honour to be part of such a classy endeavour.

But back to my book. I particularly like this line of Bland's: "It’s perhaps a fine distinction, but this is a collection for those interested more in poetry by Canadians than Canadian poetry."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

King Lear at Bard on the Beach

Rachel and I went to see the Bard on the Beach production of King Lear last night. Lear is probably my favourite Shakespeare tragedy; I've read it more times than any other play (except Twelfth Night, which I acted in many moons ago). So I had high expectations--held in check somewhat by the fact that Lear is notoriously hard to stage.

The show's worth seeing for some of the performances alone, especially Bard Artistic Director Christopher Gaze in the title role. Also excellent were Patti Allan as Lear's fool (or nurse, in this staging, in which Lear is not only old, but infirm, spending most of the show in a wheelchair), Scott Bellis as Oswald, and Andrew Wheeler as a chilly Duke of Cornwall. There were no really weak performances, although Gerry MacKay, as Kent, occasionally obscured his lines by shouting them.

The performance was marred by some highly dubious decisions in the direction and stage management. The blocking was bloody awful, amateurish even. We were seated to the side, granted, but I could tell from our vantage that even for people seated stage centre, much of the drama must have been obscured by bad angles--including lines delivered from behind massive pillars. The cave scene was mostly acted out from a high, cramped balcony, for no readily apparent reason.

There was a musical element that sometimes worked, but often felt tacked-on and I can't figure out why the musicians (a cellist and someone playing a couple of xylophonish instruments, one very large) spent the entire play in prominent positions on the stage; this can't have helped with the blocking. The music in the storm scenes was often so loud that it drowned out the lines being spoken by the actors. At times, music turned what should have been pathetic scenes into humorous ones, causing audience giggling at rather unfortunate moments.

The modernisation of the play did nothing for it, either. This Lear is set in the "near future," with guns substituted for swords. Why? It seems to me to make costuming and fight direction easier, because otherwise, it added no new nuance to the play, unlike say Ian McKellen's film version of Richard III.

But as I said, it's still worth checking out, as long as you don't mind spending $33 on an imperfect show.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jailbreaks Review

A couple of days after the Winnipeg launch, Jailbreaks gets reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press, by Maurice Mierau, who thinks the anthology should be in every school library. I couldn't agree more!

There's one remark that needs some qualification, however. Mierau says, "Winnipeg poet George Amabile is represented, but few other westerners are." I just did a run thru the table of contents, and by my count there are 28 contributors (out of 100) who are either from western Canada, live there now, or have spent a considerable amount of time living there. Manitoba has a population of 1.2 million; Saskatchewan, just under a million; Alberta, 3.3 million; and BC 5.3 million: in total about a third of Canada's population, so the demographics of the anthology, at least in terms of Western representation, aren't terribly out of sync with those of the country. Also, I think it's a significant factor that there's less of a connection to England and its traditions in the prairie provinces than there is in the east and in BC. The sonnet in English comes to us via our one-time mother-country, so I wasn't surprised to find fewer writers of the form between the Rockies and the Canadian Shield. It could well be that I missed some prairie sonneteers I wasn't aware of, whose work deserved inclusion; if so, I'd be curious to hear who those poets might be.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Audio: Winnipeg Jailbreaks Launch

Got back this morning from Winnipeg. Steady trip, quite fun; a lively bunch of very friendly Brits were hanging out in my car. I take back all the bad stuff I said about Brits before.

The audio for the Winnipeg Jailbreaks event is now up. I really enjoyed George Amabile's reading; hope you do too.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Winnipeg Jailbreaks Launch

Launched Jailbreaks tonight in front of a small but appreciative audience. It was wonderful to meet contributor George Amabile, who gave a charming reading from the anthology. I did manage to record the whole thing this time, and will post it once I get home (where I left the USB cable for my recorder).

The trip up was pretty uneventful, after a flurry--nay, a blizzard--of drink orders leaving Vancouver. That group left the train in Jasper, after which it was pretty dead. No complaints; I'm sure I'll have plenty of busy trips in the months to come.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I'm off to Winnipeg on the rails today, more anxiously than usual, as Rachel is now in her last month of pregnancy and the baby has already "dropped," which is one of the precursors to labour. We've got our fingers crossed that the little bugger waits until I'm home. This is one of the definite downsides to the railroading lifestyle.

The not-quite-compensatory upside on this particular trip is that I'll be taking advantage of my layover on Thursday to launch Jailbreaks in Winnipeg, 7:30 pm at the new Aqua Books location, 274 Garry St. Reading from the anthology will be contributor George Amabile and myself. If you're in the vicinity of Winnipeg, I hope to see you there.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Audio: Toronto Launch of Jailbreaks, Part 2

And here is part 2, featuring David W. McFadden (reading Malcolm Lowry--again, I started the tape late, so only caught the last half--and Peter Dale Scott), Shane Neilson, Stuart Ross, Goran Simic (as read by Jim Bartley), Joshua Trotter and Margaret Avison (as read by yours truly).

Audio: Toronto Launch of Jailbreaks, Part 1

I mislaid my digital recorder, but finally found it again this evening.

Here is part 1 of the Toronto launch for Jailbreaks, featuring Walid Bitar (I started the taping partway thru his preamble to reading Richard Outram's sonnet), Colin Carberry, Evie Christie, Eric Cole, Pino Coluccio and Fraser Sutherland reading E.A. Lacey's sonnet.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jailbreaks launch and press

26 hours after leaving, I touched down again in Vancouver. The consensus at the launch was that this was a crazy thing for me to do, but as I'd anticipated, it was totally worth it. The launch was well-attended, I saw several old friends and met a number of people with whom I'd only corresponded previously, and the readings themselves were terrific. I've made a recording of the event (with gaps, because a couple of times I stupidly forgot to turn the recorder on in timely fashion; unfortunately, this meant that I didn't tape my reading of Don Coles' sonnet nor Meaghan Strimas' excellent reading of Gwendolyn MacEwen's "The Discovery"; I also missed the first part of David W. McFadden's reading. I seem to be better at taping things I'm not involved in myself.); I'll upload and post the recording once I've had a good long nap. I didn't sleep last night. After most of the crowd left the I.V. Lounge, I stayed behind, talking the night away with Walid Bitar, Stuart Ross and Meaghan Strimas. I got to Pearson Airport at sunup, boarded my flight and slept all the way home. More anon.

Meanwhile, you can check out this very nice review of Jailbreaks by Alex Good, and this little interview about the book with Nathan Whitlock (who was taking photos of the launch, which I reckon'll be showing up online sometime soon).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New CNQ, print and online

Just got word that the new CNQ is out and about, and that after a bit of a hiatus, there has been new content added to the website. I haven't had a chance to check it all out yet and haven't got my copy in the mail, but can't wait. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but can't hurt to do it again: please subscribe to CNQ, it's a wonderful magazine (and not just 'cause I work there).


Just got home from five uninterrupted days of railroading. The train into Winnipeg was 3.5 hours late, which would normally mean that I would be exempted from having to work back (because the train arrived after my scheduled reporting time); all the other Vancouver employees, besides my counterpart in the other dome car, were allowed to exercise this right, but because I'm just so gosh-darn irreplaceable, I was "forced" (this is actually the term used by management; one of the few things they don't bother euphemising) to work home. I got paid time and a half for it, but would much rather have kicked back with a book and rested up. I'm totally bagged now, but trying not to succumb to a nap, as I have to catch a 7 am flight to Toronto tomorrow and a nap now means I'll have trouble sleeping tonight. My life often seems to consist of strategic acts of sleep deprivation.

So yes, tomorrow, I fly to Toronto for the launch of Jailbreaks at the IV Lounge. This is a silly thing I'm doing, travelling all that distance for one night, but it's a night I just don't want to miss, so off I go. If you're in the Toronto area, I hope to see you there and will certainly report back on the event.

Time: 8 pm

Address: 326 Dundas St. W., across from the AGO

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Stephen Henighan reading

There was a good turnout for Stephen Henighan's reading tonight. It was a good reading, with a lively Q&A afterwards. I made a recording of it, which you can listen to here.

Also met up with fellow PEI expat David Hickey, who's in town from London, ON for a conference at UBC. We went out for a bite to eat after the reading and had a fine conversation on a range of subjects, literary and otherwise.

I'm off on the rails tomorrow. I've got no layover in Winnipeg this trip, which is good insofar as I'm home a day sooner, but it promises to be tiring. Can't be as tiring as the twelve-day railroading odyssey I pulled on my last stint, however, and I'm just now getting over the cold I got on said expedition, so I'll be fresh and perky for the tourists.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Stephen Henighan reads in Vancouver

Noted--and notorious--critic, translator and fiction writer Stephen Henighan is reading here tomorrow night. I'm going. Are you?

Thursday, June 5, 2008
6:30pm - 9:30pm
Pulp fiction
2422 Main Street
Vancouver, BC

Sunday, June 1, 2008

All you care about is fruit and touching yourself. Well fuck you!

Saw Walk Hard last night. Pretty damn funny parody.

Further to My Last Post