Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back at 'er

Contrary to what my last post might seem to suggest, I'm no longer in Scotland. I'm now back in New Scotland, staying with my flu-plagued family at a hotel prior to moving back into our old house in the North End of Halifax. Once I have time and energy to compose some thoughts and words, I'll do a big post--with photos!--on our trip, which was splendid.


Everything here's impossibly old

and once you've seen one ruinous cottage

or roofless church, you're better off

breaking the spine of a book at the noust

than carrying on with the tour. It should

be said, though, that a crumbling broch

is far finer than abandoned brick-

n-mortar batteries, Brodgar boggles

the brain, and it must be something

else to see the solstice sun flicker

and ripple on the rear wall of Maeshowe—

but sure as this landmass drifted

from Orcadie, it'll all wind up

in the sea. Five millenia back,

the waves that buss the buttressed seawall

at Skara Brae were half a mile of dunes

away. The Old Man of Hoy's a peedie boy

compared with what’s crumpled about him.

Across Scapa Flow, the Flotta flare

burns all roofless day without blinking.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dodds Does it Again!

I've spent all day getting ready for our trip to Scotland, so I'm late with this, but as you probably already know is that the Griffin Prize shortlist was announced today. I don't know if the world is changing or I'm just getting soft, but this is one of the best Canadian shortlists I've seen. Which doesn't necessarily mean that it has THE BEST books of the last year, not necessarily the same three books I'd've picked, but that it contains three strong books and no head-scratchingly weird choices (unlike the most recent GG award, about which readers of this blog have already heard far too much, sans doute). Kudos to Michael Redhill, this year's Canadian judge.

It should be noted that Redhill has been published by both Coach House and Anansi and was on the Coach House editorial board for several years in the 90s. So I wouldn't go so far as to say this was an unbiased judgment on his part, given that the list is comprised of two Anansi books and one Coach House publication. Given that the prize is funded by Anansi's owner, it would have looked a lot better if Redhill had managed to shortlist but one of their books. But as conflicts go, it's fairly tenuous. Not to say that there aren't conflicts, but none that I know of.

Anyway, enough of such speculations. I'm very glad for all three shortlistees, especially my pal Jeramy Dodds, who is having a damn good April to-date and is about to hit the road on a cross-country train tour. (Wonder where he got that idea?) This might just be the closest that yours truly ever gets to Griffin gold, as my name appears in Crabwise to the Hounds. Also, it should be noted that Kevin Connolly, also shortlisted, edited Jeramy's book. Gotta be a good day for him.

We're off to Edinburgh tomorrow evening, which seems scarcely possible. The flight with a 9 month old should be... interesting. How he manages jet lag even more so. I'll be popping in from time to time, but mostly enjoying my holiday before getting back to the grindstone in Halifax, working on the train and getting my house and grounds up to snuff. Ciao for now.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Heard Reading

I'm poet o' the day at Seen Reading today. You can also hear me reading Edwin Muir's post-apocalyptic masterpiece "The Horses" in the archive.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Mansfield Revue

Mansfield Press has started up a new feature on their website, "The Mansfield Revue." It includes my recent review essay of Pino Coluccio and Suzanne Buffam's books from CNQ 76.

Friday, April 3, 2009

ZW in the Post

My "NaPoMo" questionnaire is now up at The National Post's blog, The Afterword. Check it out.

Elise Partridge

Carmine Starnino, at the Vehicule blog, has pointed out this very good interview with Elise Partridge, conducted by Dani Couture for Northern Poetry Review. It doesn't seem to have been announced publicly yet, but I'm told that Elise has also been named inaugural poet-in-virtual-residence at Arc magazine. Her second book is also up for the Dorothy Livesay Award at the BC Book Prizes. Good to see so many good things happening for such a deserving writer. She's one of the folks I'll miss when we leave this coast.

More efficient and less time-consuming distribution of the communion elements

In case there was any doubt about the link between Christianity and the culture of conspicuous consumption capitalism...

You have a choice in life

Tho, admittedly, the distinction is often hard to make. Perhaps this is more differential diagnosis than ultimatum...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gerald Lampert

The League of Canadian Poets, with its usual fanfare on such occasions, recently released the shortlist for this year's Gerald Lampert Award for best first poetry collection. It's an uncommonly good list this year--due in part, no doubt, to the presence of Barbara Nickel on the jury--with two of last year's best books, never mind debut collections, making the cut, and no egregious exclusions that I can think of. The two books of which I speak are Jeramy Dodds' Crabwise to the Hounds and Sachiko Murakami's The Invisibility Exhibit. Two very different books; I'd have a hard time choosing between 'em, were I a judge. Sachiko writes with skill and sangfroid about horrific subject matter. Jeramy assaults the page with a baroque barrage of sonorous imagery and metaphor. Neither one could conceivably write anything resembling the other's poems.

In another year, Katia Grubisic's What if Red Ran Out might be a serious contender, but tough comp in '09. A few months back I flipped through Johanna Skibsrud's book and took a pass; haven't looked at it closely enough to make a judgment, but what I saw didn't grab me. Chiles and Eichorn I know very little of. I hadn't even heard of Chiles' publisher, Cinnamon Press. Anyway, I've very curious to find out who wins this one.

"I'm working on a collection of poems that will be defined by the poems that end up being in it."

One of the only honest "project descriptions" I've ever heard. Likelihood of it getting Stu a Canada Council grant? Almost nil.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Julie Wilson interviewed...

...by Mark Medley at The Afterword, on the subject of 30 in 30.

The Cruellest Month

Hello, April. Blogger tells me this is the 801st post on CLM. Not including, of course, those that have been deleted. Pace the bean-counter, numbers lie as much as anyone else.

April is, of course, for better or for wourse, National Poetry Month. 30 days hath NaPoMo and as we know, Julie Wilson will be presenting 30 poets (or so) over at Seen Reading. She's already posted the archive, which is bound to grow. There you can hear all kinds of great stuff--I've only made a small dent myself--including yours truly reading a poem of his own and a poem of Edwin Muir's.

A bunch of other folks have undertaken similar serializations. The National Post's blog, The Afterword, will be publishing 30 poet profiles/Q&A's over the course of the month, including one of yours truly, on a date TBA. Angel House Press promises to also expose us to one verser a day. As does the League of Canadian Poets--members only, natch.

What am I doing for NaPoMo? Running. I handed the keys to my erstwhile apartment over to the landlord yesterday, our goods--what's left of them--were loaded on a truck on the 28th. We're now at no fixed address for 30 days. Right now, we're crashing at my sister-in-law's while she and her family are in Mexico. Tomorrow, my family and I head to Sechelt for a getaway weekend given to us by said sister-in-law as a marriage present last April and untaken advantage of till now due to Kaleb's birth and general busyness. On our return, we'll be spending a few days at my mother-in-law's in False Creek before leaving on April 8 (which happens to be my pa's 73rd birthday; so many of my relatives, including my darling wife, were born in April) for Scotland (another wedding gift, this one from Rachel's dad). We fly into Edinburgh, via Amsterdam, spend a night, then we rent a car and drive up to Stromness in the Orkneys (Rachel's mother's maiden name, coincidentally, is Strom), where we'll be spending what promises to be a glorious week in a stone cottage on a pier, hard by the erstwhile home of the wonderful Orcadian poet George MacKay Brown. I'm reading Brown's novel, Beside the Ocean of Time, in preparation for the trip. I've also recently finished reading the autobiography of Edwin Muir, former teacher of Brown and outstanding poet, translator (most notably of Kafka, along with his wife, Willa) and critic. The two make for an interesting contrast: Muir the cosmopolitan nomad and Brown the stay-at-home islander. A contrast familiar to anyone who grew up on an island. Or in any remote/rural community, for that matter. There are an awful lot of landlocked islands in the world today. From Orkney, we make our way back to Edinburgh, stopping in Glencoe before finishing the trip with 5 days in the capital city, where we've rented a flat.

We'll be back in Canada late April, flying into Montreal, then taking the train to Halifax, where we'll hole up in a hotel a couple of days before retaking possession of our North End house, resuming some version of the life we led between 2004-06. We're making this epic move--again--for a number of reasons, personal and financial. What it boils down to is that we're far better equipped to lead the sort of life we want to lead in Halifax than we are in Vancouver, a city far too expensive for anyone not wealthy or overfond of working hard.

So, CLM will be unwontedly quiet over April as we go, as Chaucer said, on pilgrimage. But I'll try to post the odd photo from our travels.