Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How do you design a beautiful book? A discussion of the cover of "I, Dr. Greenblatt, 251-1457, Orthodontist."

How do you design a beautiful book? Really delighted for this discussion about the cover and design of "I, Dr. Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457" (Anvil Press) over at All Lit Up and the great design work of Clint Hutzulak at Rayola. There's even images a handful of cover outtakes. Fascinating to see a cover develop, I think. (Thanks to Nitang Narang!) 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What happens when a highway decides to beatbox?

I've just posted Here are several new tracks on SoundCloud.

The above track is a short track of manipulated highway sounds. (The picture is of a booth at a street fair for a funeral home. Yes, those are actually balloons on the hearse. It's courtesy of my brother Kevin. Thanks.)

The sound of vehicles driving on Highway 403 heading between Hamilton and Burlington, Ontario and the sounds of a starting car were recorded in the summer of 2010. These sounds were then superimposed, looped and repeated to evoke the relentless rhythms of traffic always present on this highway (the major highway in and out of the city). This highway bisects the regenerating Cootes Paradise marsh, a location both environmentally and historically important to the city, and Kay Drage Park, a recreational park built on the site of a former landfill. For most people passing through Hamilton, the highway is the most iconic audio representation of the former industrial city, however, just beside the highway is the large marsh increasingly filled again with a great variety of the sounds of wildlife. Like the sounds of a train whistle, the traffic sounds are strangely beautiful and compelling but yet evoke the places which are both left behind and arrived at.

There are also a couple other new tracks including work which incorporates sound poetry, opera singing, noise, applause, and other found sounds.

The tracks can be accessed here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Parliament, a video

"Parliament," a video from my new short fiction collection, I, Dr. Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457 (Anvil Press).

"A knock on the door, I open it, and there on my steps is Parliament, wrapped against the cold…"

Monday, June 08, 2015

Old Man Harper Remembers

Old Man Harper Remembers
(for Kathryn Mockler)

strained peas don’t exist
icebergs or glaciers

and yams, yams don’t exist
children downstairs singing

chesterfields of seniors don’t exist
or their teeth which I’ve stolen

pastel walls don’t exist
or linoleum and walkers

personal service workers don’t exist
or their meddling fingers

I hide in the closet
filled with newspapers

news doesn’t exist
or history just an Original Six

and war
Indians don’t exist or their schools

and science, science doesn’t exist
and what it says about the tailings-pond soul

also Canada doesn’t exist
and its metastasizing weather

just a few good elections
I seem to remember

locking us inside

Monday, May 11, 2015

Open the RED DOOR

Happy to have several video poems and visual poems in the latest issue of Red Door Magazine.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Authors for Undies, I mean, Indies Interactive Story at Epic Books.

For Authors for Indies Day I was at Epic Books with Ariel Gordon and Amanda Leduc. I sat in the front of the store and wrote a story. I solicited ideas from customers and the other writers. Some of the content came by asking people to pick a book off the shelf and turn to page 106 and choose the 7th line. For example, there's a line from Lynn Crosbie's new book, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

Here's the story, unedited.

Late one June night, Avigdor broke into a bookstore in the city of Hamilton. He was a standard issue burglar. Dark clothes, black balaclava (“I always confuse that word with baklava, that pastry-thing my nona used to make,” the lanky youth  said) dirty hockey bag, and a backpack full of an assortment of tools of the trade. A mismatched set of screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, and dulled kitchen knives.

Curly headed Avigdor, former chess champion of Prince Vydor Middle School, once caught futilely attempting to cheat during the city championship in Grade Six with a dog-eared book of chess moves hidden beneath his shirt, and so spent the rest of middle school disgraced, alone in his basement, reading Dune approached the bookstore, UPic Book on Locke with acquisitive glee, UPic. This night, he would break into the store in order to steal another chess book, aspiring to regain his former glory and status with his pimply peers, all knights of the black and white squares.

There was a rickety fence surrounding the small yard at the back of UPic Books. Avigdor climbed up on a recycling bin, scrampled up the fence and fell onto the damp grass. Something oozed beneath his shoulder. A frog. “Damn. An ex-frog.” He scraped the frog guts from his shirt and threw the slurry over the fence.

A small window at the back of the store. “I can jimmy that window with my butter knife,” Avigdor said imagining muttering to himself with classic muhahaha while rubbing his evil fingers together. Avigdor standing on a cardboard box, rooting around his hockey bag, searching for the knife. Avigdor unbalanced as his fingers found the handle. Avigdor losing his balance and falling against the shattering glass. “God Bobby Fisher Kasparoving Bishoping Damn,” he said, wiping the blood tasselling from his forehead.

But he was able to reach in and open the little window and pull himself inside. It was dark inside. He was in a womb of cardboard boxes, publishers’ flyers, and old coffee cups. The mysterious and invigorating smell of bookstore. And bookstore owner. The storage cupboard at UPic.

A light under the door. The locked door. Now the return of the butter knife, Avigdor thought. The triumph of the butter knife. The victory of burglar. But the hockey bag was on the outside. And he was not.

What now? Avigdor butted his frog-splattered shoulder against the door but it did not budge. He leaned back and kicked. He ran at the door from within the limited boxy storage cupboard world..

Shards of bright multicoloured light and the sound of ripping fly leaves. Avigdor was free, released into a realm of endless spines and French flaps. Of sycophantic blurbs and the antigravitational pull of narrative. Of the possibility of obscure and well annotated opening gambits as played in the classic games of Casablanca.

“So your arm’s broke, you skinny? I coulda guessed.” There was an ancient man, his skin fissured and folded as old tree, but made of shoe.” The man’s arm was in a sling. “A whistling accident,” he said. “So there was this girl. She needed a whistle and I had just the lips. So these days they’re an old ship’s knot, but what, a man’s still gotta live. I whistled, put my shoulder out and fell over. Crack.”
“W-w-what are…what are you…what are you doing here?”  Avigdor asked looking up from the floor.
“Natural, I think. Looking for a book.”
“What? Why?”
“It’s a bookstore. It’s what one does here. What were you looking for? A portal to Mars?”
“But I know you?” Avigdor said like an idiot
“You do,” the old man said. “And if you tell, ‘I kill you.”
“But grandpa…”
“I  kill you, I said. They don’t know I’m gone.”
“You admit you're too lazy to care that one of the witnesses for the case has disappeared?”
“Caring. All that jumping up and down and pumping blood to the pastel-coloured parts of you. Ach. Who needs it? I’d rather take a snooze in sunlight-coloured hooch.”

The phone rang raising a nimbus of dust from its ancient pre-cellular receiver. Without thinking, Avigdor lifted the receiver. The mouthpiece was caked in Paleolithic lipstick, discarded insect carapaces and spit. Avigdor gave the mouthpiece a quick theoretically antibacterial swipe with his sleeve and answered it.
“Hello?” he said. “Hello?”
“There’s a book I need. It’s blue. It was on the radio. It was written by rain.”

Friday, May 01, 2015

The Fish Species of Hamilton, Ontario Find their Names in Steam

Photo of Cootes' Paradise by Doug Worrall

The Fish Species of Hamilton, Ontario find their names in Steam
after "SAUNA 89" (from Erin Moure’s Kapusta)

and if mooneye were to leave spotfin shiner for brassy
      minnow’s faults

quillback would not defend the spottail shiner’s lameness,
      walking halt

and from northern hognose sucker’s trust, stonecat would elide

mudminnow would not do rainbow smelt wrong and speak of burbot

and (banded killifish) brook silverside’d not look at mottle
      sculpin’s bluegills who say least darker do
es not merit logperch

your blackside darter was sweet and is no more

least darter will not speak of pumpkinseed

nor will brown bullhead walk again where grass pickerel once walked

brook stickleback will not let tadpole madtom’s green sunfish
       evoke trout-perch’s rosyface shiner

mimic shiner’s finescale dace will not be named by creek chub,
      lest american brook lamprey profane

alewife will not name gizzard shad

common carp will not speak (too much profane)

striped shiner gone, emerald shiner could not love northern
      redbelly dace more than freshwater drum

and if logperch love johnny darter not at all, walleye love white
      crapple even less

but oh iowa darter’s blackside darter

channel catfish will not touch white bass’s sand shiner

bowfin will not (shh: trout) brown trout lake trout

In this poem, I took Erin Moure's "Sauna 89" from her new book, Kapusta and replaced each noun (and pronoun) with the name of a fish species found in Hamilton, Ontario. The list is courtesy of the Hamilton Naturalists' Club and their Natural Areas Inventory.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Creating a Treasure Map: Trying to draw the two-dimensional roadkill of a sorcerer’s dreams

I've been trying to make a treasure map for Yiddish for Pirates, my pirate novel. I wanted it to have the right admixture of mystery--arcane Kabbalistic symbols, Hebrew letters, sea monsters--old fashionedness, and wonder. And a kind of submerged piratical humour. I'd like it to have some cryptic clues, jokes, or red herrings (or at least flamingo-coloured smoked salmon.) Also, it should riff off the Treasure Island map that Robert Louis Stevenson created for his novel because my novel borrows many elements of the descriptions of that map and the search for the treasure from that classic tale.

I haven't yet been successful. 

Above is Stevenson's map, stripped of all the place names and with a newly made compass rose. I had planned to add all the elements above, but I'm thinking that even with these it won't be as interesting as the map suggested in the text. I'm wondering, if I should actually try to represent the map that I describe. Now that I try, I'm feeling that describing something but not showing it creates more mystery and wonder. The suggestion is more powerful than the realization. Perhaps a countermap is less powerful than the described "counterfactual imaginary."  Like making a movie out of a book in some cases.

But maps in books are always beguiling. I remember as a child discovering the map in front of The Hobbit. The clear line of the mapmakers/ hand. The contrasting red elements. The drawing of the pointing finger. The unintelligible but powerfully communicative script. I'd return to the map during readings of the book, realizing what it was about, using a key to decode the runic. The map which strongly evoked the world and sensibility of the novel.

Below are the bits where my imaginary map is described. There are also images which I hoped to plunder or be inspired by for elements of my map.

There was much we recognized. The broadside islands of Hispaniola and Cuba with their fussy ongepatshket shores. And below, the pokey little skiff of Jamaica rowing up from the south. And above, the pebble-scatterings of the Bermudas, like stepping stones to nowhere. 
The map was the two-dimensional roadkill of a sorcerer’s dreams, a brainbox of arcana pressed into two-dimensions against the vellum. Archipelagos of eyes, cluttered across the Caribbean, their preternatural gaze drawn as radiant points of a compass rose beaming across the sea. An undulating dolphin-dance of Hebrew script twisted between inky waves. And curious sigils, perhaps from Solomon’s time, marks of demons, angels, cartographers, or whorehouses flocking like alchemical birds on both land and deep.

It was more-or-less apple-shaped, about three leagues across, and had a shaynah fine natural harbour where we could drop anchor. There were, as Moishe had remembered, two enticingly zaftig hills, like the twin knaidlach of a rotund tuches, which dominated the island. They were farprishte-poxed by three marks in red ink: one on the north part of the island, two in the southwest.  Moishe explained that they were Hebrew letters.  Hay. Vav. Hay. In a valley in the centre of this triangle was a small, neat letter Yod written in the same red ink . Buried beneath it: the books. Once we had found the island, and located the valley, we would know where to go.  The tree must be the Yod. 


for Geoeof Huthth

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Authors for Indies: May 2nd at Epic Books.

On May 2, for Authors for Indies Day (note: that's not Authors in Undies Day, I'll report on that another time…)  I'll be at Epic Books in Hamilton between 2 and 4 where I'll be writing a story...live. I will solicit the brilliant ideas of customers/passersby and together we will create, well, whatever it is that we'll create. A story. A narrative. A tale. A poem. An epic. 
There will be a monitor in the window so that the happy denizens of Locke St. in Hamilton can see the story, and indeed, be so captivated by its beguiling narrative and so invigorated by the power of literature, creativity, bookstores, and independent thinking, that they'll bring their strollers, lattes, children, golden retrievers and imaginative selves right into the bookstore feeling radiant with ideas and suggestions and participate in writing with me. And if not, I'll just write about that time when I was a teenager when I got my braces caught in my girlfriend's sweater while we were on a roller coaster. For the entire ride.
I also plan on posting the story-in-progress here on this blog.
Oh. And you want to know more about the Authors for Indies event?
To quote the blog Epic Books: Authors for Indies is
a new initiative that’s taking place Canada wide where authors will be volunteering to help sell books for the day. This is a huge event with over 100 bookstores and 500 authors signed up! Epic Books is one of those bookstores and as of this moment we have 6 amazing authors that will be joining us. There will also be goodies, giveaways and so much fun to be had.  We love a good party and that’s what this is going to be, a whole day filled with book love and we really hope you can join us. See more here
The schedule at Epic Books is below. The full national schedule is here. Epic Books is at226 Locke St. South, in Hamilton, Ontario. 
Epic Books Author schedules for Saturday, May 2:
11 – 1: Sally Cooper
11 – 1: Gisela Sherman
1 – 3: Sylvia McNicoll
1 – 3: Ariel Gordon 
2 – 4: Gary Barwin
3 – 5: Amanda Leduc

The Science of Poetry, the Poetry of Science

InterNaPwoWriMo: Autopsymbolic Autopsychology

Tuesday, April 14, 2015



What's there? Cloud. Fly. My square eye. Something something something. My dog. Warm, yes. Your round eyes. And soft as a cloud. but out of the about five things that I know for certain, you're only half. I walk far away from you. You don't get smaller, except to my eye. I move my face in close. Now everything is you but there are no trees or clouds. I wish you were something certain. Spelling for example. Something lookupable. What changes?