Tuesday, December 29, 2009
We leave from a single place; arrive from the distance at the same place. We wander the compass: our paths cross yet we move on. The horizon surrounds us, our single winking eye.
Small star. Asshole. Firework burst. Cobweb scaffold, the spider gone. Footnote from a distant constellation which may exist no longer. Doleful snowflake: matchless star in a storm of a single flurry.
Six-pointed: first position three-toed ballet. A W and its pond other. A bedful of Xs, their bodies crossed. Five-pointed: endless knot, pentacle, little headless man, leaf spine.
A tiger in dreams. A railway car. Things and their inner shape. Matter and the beams of its being. A marking of more than one way of seeing the spot.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
We got my son a cell phone for Channukah. It's a nice one with a little keyboard for texting. He was appropriately grateful but explained that he'd have been happy with a phone without a screen. "Actually, I'd have been perfectly happy with a rotary dial cell phone." When I told my daughter this, she quipped that "That'd take a long time to text with a rotary dial." (The above image is what such a thing might look like. If I were better with Photoshop, I'd have loved to have Steampunked the phone a bit more.)
Perhaps he'd have been happy with one of those cell phones with a cord that attaches to the wall. Or one of those phones with beaks and wings.
For me, the archetype of the phone is still the classic rotary dial. However, I remember playing Pictionary with my wife's late grandfather. He was drawing something that we couldn't quite identify. It was one of those very old phones with the hand crank that had a cuplike receiver that you had to hold to your ear. That was his archetype of the phone. My children will have a very different visual image. And their children? A wireless cochlea implant?
When we visited Cape Canaveral when my kids were very little, I recall explaining to my son that the Saturn V rocket was one of those 'old fashioned spaceships' and being boggled that I could actually say such a thing--me, who remembers being called in from playing on the street of the little Irish village where I grew up to witness the moon landing on Michael Wallace's little black and white TV set. "This is important, boys," his mother said. "You'll remember this." And I did, though at the time, I didn't know that it was being filmed in Sudbury.
Two typical White Male Canadian poet/critics enact their place of privilege and demonstrate some key moves from the master discourse.
Last night, I finally got around to watching the “Cage Match of Canadian Poetry.”, a discussion between Christian Bok and Carmine Starnino. As always, Christian Bok was articulate and amusing, creating beguiling paradigms vividly expressed. His language was rich and highly charged with a wide array of colourful imagery. In many ways, Christian’s argument was exemplified by the rhetorical devices of his delivery and the imagery of his argument. (At one point, he was advocating the greater recognition of the poetry of the various language contexts of our time. It made me think of his various comments or quips concerning online porn, microwaveability, and ‘the software of reality.’) Over the past decade or so, Christian has practiced to be a master rhetorician. And he was certainly that in the Cage Match.
Regardless of my position on the argument, I found Carmine to be unclear, halting, and for the most part, unengaging. He brought forward few interesting – or even clear – arguments.(footnote 1) Carmine, too, has practiced, as evidenced by his outspoken critical writing, to be a vivid rhetorician. He didn’t demonstrate it here. (I was particularly disheartened by his comments about the role of women and minorities in contemporary poetry. Frankly, I forgot which decade I was in.)
But really, how these guys did performed isn’t what I want to discuss. I want to address, the, what I take to be, false duality of the argument.
Christian’s view is that poetry should be an experimental, exploratory art, taking risks, trying out aesthetic hypotheses, opening up new avenues of discourse and discovery the way science advances. Poetry is research.
Carmine assertion is that poetry can also stay close to the tradition, ‘re-relevanting’ past discourses by relating them to a current situation. (footnote 2). There is a place for the comfort food of poetry. Well executed, insightful, writing which draws connections between past views and the contemporary world. So, for example we don’t always want to experience ‘inventive’ food. Sometimes we want Mac and Cheese, though I like (for example) how my wife has modified the usual recipe and uses interesting cheeses in addition to the usual, making the cheddar cheesiness of the traditional Mac and Cheese more vivid to me.
I don’t know why we can’t have both approaches as part of a vital and active poetry world. Sometimes poetry is research, exploration of the hadronic structure of a conceptual alphabet of supernovae. Sometimes it is renovation, rejuvenation, development, and refinement. I like my Blues atonal and with a seventeen and a half bar form. But I also like good ol’ 12 bar blues with just the three chords, well executed, sometimes with old words, sometimes with new words that talk about sex, lost love, and microwaveability.
Christian argues that most poetry isn’t ambitious enough (by this he means, mostly exploratory enough.) He creates an opposition between the artisanal vs the artistic. Much poetry is hobby pots, when it could be missions to other planet or a breaking open of particles we didn’t even know existed. Exploration is good. The new for the sake of the new is good, too. Pure research. Invention, discovery, and delight. Opening up of the hood. But there something to be said for refinement and elaboration. It doesn’t mean subsiding into the Rococo or the mannered. I wouldn’t want to preclude the opportunity for a brilliant syncreticism, a truly insightful summation of a tradition. Heck, half of Shakespeare is this.
They are many ways ‘forward’. Sometimes the way forward is to the side. And sometimes, we don't know which direction is forward. Or sideways. And we can't tell a quantum leap from an autumn leaf, a quivering lip from a quarking letch.
I believe in multifunctionality. In multiplicity and biodiversity. In the world and in aesthetics.
1: I take Carmine’s point that sometimes the ‘hook’ of Eunoia is all anyone says about that book. They talk about the constraint and not about the jokes, the narratives, the joy of sound, the imagery, etc. It’s like talking only about how a sonnet fulfills its form without speaking of what else it does.
2: I can’t see how Carmine can say that he reads 16th century work in the same way as 21st century work, without a historical or social context. Not to say that 16th century isn’t vital, alive, and aesthetically fruitful to read, it’s just that one needs to understand how a 21st North American heterosexual white man (or someone else with different experiences/background) might have different (perhaps unconscious) paradigms than a 16th century Elizabethan educated aristocrat. (My forebears didn’t speak English and lived in a shtetl in Lithuania. Elizabethan sonnets would have been entirely foreign and exotic to my ancestors. Likewise, they are not my indigenous culture. I learned of them through education, just as I learned about Medieval settings of the Catholic mass or the stunningly beautiful music of the West African kora. How can I not contextualize them within history and relativize their aesthetics within a particular cultural reality?)
Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Nico Vassilakis and Geof Huth have been creating great images via the iPhone application TypeDrawing. Since I just was given an iPhone for Channukah, I couldn't resist trying out some of my own. I had some vague notion, when I got the phone, that there would be a constant incoming stream of vital communications, inspiring, important, and causing both me and the phone to vibrate incessantly. However, this didn't happen. I found myself checking to see if my settings were correct, if something was amiss. Somehow, though, pressing matters of intergalactic safety and global aesthetic emergencies haven't made it into my inbox, at least, not any more quickly that they make it onto my computer.
However, there's something remarkably pleasant about rolling over from sleep, reaching for the phone and creating these little images. The software feels more like playing an instrument: it suggests things by its design and it seems to call for certain idiomatic moves. But that's just a beginner speaking.
I just bought a Bela Fleck album, Throw Down Your Heart, recordings he made with fantastic African musicians. The album is a wonder. And Bela Fleck doesn't just play what you'd expect any old banjo player to play when they first got their banjo. So that's what I strive for. Pick me up and drop me down by a fireside in Zimbabwe. Give me a little while and my thumbs'll go as virtuoso crazy as any mbira player's, tapping out mesmerizing, lilting beauty while the night insects sing.
My son and daughter made me a beautiful vispo tie for Channukah. I'll post images soon (as soon as it arrives from Zazzle.) One of the elements of the image was a heart that was an ampersand, which I thought was lovely, both visually and symbolically. The above images are based on that image.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Michael Jacobson's great The New Post-Literate: a gallery of asemic writing has just posted a number of my asemic pieces, including one based on a section of Christian Bök's Eunoia made into a kind of rosetta stone kind of object, though I've messed with the vowels and made bouma shapes of the words. The blog features much intriguing and beautiful work. I mean, in addition to my contributions.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
There is a large rat in our house. It moves between each member of the family.
“I think it is happiness,” my son says.
It gnaws at our feet. It crawls under the sheets of our beds as we sleep. It sits at the table while we eat. It doesn’t say, “Pass the bread,” but climbs up the table cloth and chews at the food, its tail curling into the salad.
“Is it grandpa?” my daughter asks.
“No,” we say. “It is a rat.”
“Let’s give it a name.”
“No,” we say. “It is a rat.”
“Then we must kill it,” our youngest says. “I will drown it in the bath, and fill its mouth with Lego. I have a box from my rock collection. I will make a coffin and decorate it with glitter and macaroni. We can bury it in the garden beside Scott the Bunny.”
Instead, my wife and I dig a hole in the middle of the living room. We gather blankets and pillows. The family climbs in and we cover ourselves up. “Who will remember us?” we say.
“My teacher,” our youngest says. “My soccer coach, Grandma, and, of course, the rat,” he says.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
I recently came across the fantastic blog, Music for Maniacs, which writes about and links to many fantastic and unusual recordings of music. Today's post is "The Thing with the Three Leg Torso" which is about the band, Three Leg Torso and its collaboration with David Greenberger. Greenberger, who runs Duplex Planet, bases his texts on interviews with the residents of nursing homes. It's really fantastic stuff. The music of 3 Leg Torso perfectly complements the texts. Here are two pieces from the collaboration.
Miss Dog Miss Me
Here's the beginning of some kind of a poem of mine, speaking of three legged torsos, which borrows a title from my friend, the poet, Slim Volumes.
THREE LEGGED DOG
I aim with a gun
I miss myself
I aim with a mirror
I miss myself
I am with a dog
The dog is three-legged because
it has three legs
where is the other leg?
on another dog
a dog with one leg
it is a one-legged dog
this poem is being
listened to by a robot
it thinks it’s a violin
a violin with an indeterminate
number of legs
I take an iron to a mountain
and flatten it out
now the mountain stretches for miles
the violins run free along its once steep sides
it is a one-sided mountain
a Möbius strip unwound
a mirror in the shape of a Möbius strip:
reflections only of reflections themselves
Monday, November 30, 2009
Coke announced that it is going to start making Coke bottles out of 30% plant based materials (derived from sugar cane and molasses). Scientists have developed bacteria that create plastic.
What is nature? The coke bottle is moving towards being as 'natural' as genetically modified nature (salmon, tomatoes, cows, wheat.)
Soon there won't be a difference between nature and the manufactured world. Or, at least, we won't be able to find examples of the difference. The Pacific? Half plastic. Breast milk? Full of dioxins. Forests in Borneo? Greenland? Subject to climate change and the atmospheric chemical stew. Teenagers? Full of growth hormones. (That must be why I am so short compared to my students.)
We have manufactured language. Can we use it to 'see' nature? Does language automatically mean GM ('grammatically modified') nature?
Can we stop global language from warming? Can we find structures that remember or preserve 'nature'? That help us understand how nature changes as humans change? Is humanity's relation with 'nature' the ultimate grammar?
I went outside and listened to a rock. I learned about fashion.
My radio has antlers.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
A song based on the beautiful psalms of Donald Rumsfeld.
Yodeling in Africa: the beautiful songs of the Baka people.
time, love, or history is
on the back
the sky tongue of space
lining the brain of an owl
what is liminal
between dusk and twilight
the feathers of a goat
the chrome shine of a tree
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Fantastic video of a great Tom Waits song ("come down from the cross, we need the wood") from his masterful Mule Variations. In the video, text animates all over a body. The video, by Anders Lövgren, makes the song a drama of written text and the "forces inside" the words--the letters--as they relate to the body. Our minds and bodies are crawling with words in some kind of lexical formication. Our bodies are pages for memory, for textuality, and, as Harryette Mullen, says, "we are licked all over by the English tongue," which, to me, sounds like she's not talking about a lover, but that big dog, that overenthusiastic galoot of a language that is English.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Troy Lloyd sent me an astounding package of his work quite a few months ago. I was mesmerized and overwhelmed into total inaction (I'd hoped to document it in photos and scans) the package was so marvellous. Here are two images culled from this wondrous Lloydarama. And: hey, Troy, could I use some of the images for a chapbook I'm creating?
Friday, November 13, 2009
A hidden comma curled like a seahorse in the mind. Wraithlike periods, ghostly ellipses, the semi-colons albino and invisible. These are the spectres of phantom punctuation, the incorporeal spirits of the mouth, gathering the breathlessness of thought, run-on and indivisible, as if between the cupped and narrow hands of paradise.
If the written word is weather fallen from the troposphere of speech, punctuation, rising from the apostrosphere, is the seasons, giving shape to the spoken year with its ecliptic and paradoxes, its long summer dashes, its bitter winter of exclamations. Grammar the pre-emptive counsel of language before the chaos of the mouth.
I have been carefully examining past works of Canadian poetry and I have uncovered something quite startling. After a close reading of the text and an investigation of other facts that have recently come to light, I have discovered that my book, Raising Eyebrows is in fact a forgery. It wasn't written by me at all. It is in fact a copy. I am still working to discover the source of the original.
I am in the process of returning my royalty cheques to Coach House Books. I hope I don't have to give up the condo.
Monday, November 09, 2009
a baboon rents a canoe
then smashes into the moon
fragments of moon, baboon, canoe
and as you breathe your lungs fill with
moon, baboon, canoe
moon, baboon, canoe inside
as you breathe
people that I love, you say
people about whom I care
moon, baboon, canoe
moon, shoelace, canoe
Saturday, November 07, 2009
I make boats run through the sea. I make boats run through the sea. I make it rain. I boil the trees and the giraffes loud as knives. I raise babies pink between the slats of cribs. I make it rain. I boil the trees and the giraffes loud as knives. I raise babies pink between the slats of cribs. I make boats run through the sea. I make the boll weevils cry. I make it rain. I boil the trees and the giraffes loud as knives. I raise babies pink between the slats of cribs. I make it rain. I boil the trees and the giraffes loud as knives. I raise babies pink between the slats of cribs. I make boats run through the sea. I make the boll weevils cry. I make it rain. I boil the trees and the giraffes loud as knives. I raise babies pink between the slats of cribs. I make the boll weevils cry. I make the boll weevils cry. I make the boll weevils cry. I make the boll weevils cry. I make a difference. I’m a big stupid baby stuck between ground and sky.
“You’re a know nothing” sky says to me. “Sky’s right,” ground says, but what do parents know? I take off my hat in the river, set my hair on fire.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
A recent post on Steven Fama's very excellent blog the glade of theoric ornithic hermetica discusses two 'translations' of Robert Creeley's iconic I KNOW A MAN one by Rachel Loden and the other by Douglas Rothschild. They are both translations or altered versions, using the Creeley original as a meme both in terms of structure as as well as a cultural artefact. The comments stream, with posts by both authors, are very interesting too. In responding to the post, I made up a quick version of the Creeley original, clearly riffing off both Rothschild's and Loden's versions.
I KNOW A MEANING
words, I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking,—words, I
sd, which was not his
name, meaning sur-
rounds us, what
can we do about
it, or else, shall we &
why not, just say something,
words, he sd, for
look out where yr going.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Because it is autumn and regret for the past causes the trees to recolour the leaves and then give up on them, and everything seems further away, I have decided to create "Daylight Saving Distance." I propose that in keeping with the season, we change the distance of things and make everything a meter closer to us, that is, until things return to their previous green closeness in spring. I think this will be good for us emotionally, but also I consider how beneficial DSD will be for trade and the economy.
Remember: Fall closer. Spring further.
Keep your friends close. Your regrets closer.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
There's a nice--if brief--discussion about jwcurry and Curved H&Z by Greg Betts in a piece about McMaster University's small press archive. This collection is particularly exciting, being that it is Hamilton, where I live, and gathers many fantastic pieces of writing and publishing by jwcurry.
Joyland which is a really excellent online fiction periodical features three short-short stories by me on their Toronto part of their site, edited by Emily Schultz
The Hamilton Film Festival runs from Nov 4-8 at the Staircase Theatre in Hamilton. On Thursday, Nov 5th at 9pm, the two films (Opus One and Opus Two) that Bob Ezergailis created with my music, are on the SHORTS PROGRAM 4, EXPERIMENTAL / ANIMATION / WTF? program. We'll be there for a Q & A which will hopefully be more than "WTF?" My music is a stew of source material derived from musics from around the world, highway traffic sounds, cars starting up in rhythm, Hebrew Cantillation, and electronic sounds.
Monday, October 26, 2009
I wake and switch on the bedside light
there’s a glacier in my bed
it turns and presses its cold mouth on mine
ice, it says
snow, it says
the frigid slurry and recession
the mile-thick compression
the scraping out of lakes and the flattening of mountains
I have been waiting for you, it says
Saturday, October 24, 2009
for Craig Conley
The three sad eyes of the ellipses. Something is lost...Three islands. Small songs in a sea that prefers to forget the land...The mouth opens and begins to speak; there is nothing that can be said...One world followed by another and then another. Tiny black specks at the end of the galaxy...A three frame animation where nothing appears to happen, though perhaps down on the minuscule surface, there are different kinds of silences, memories, things forgotten or left. The trailing off, the continuing on...Small black stones in the river of speech...Three tunnels waiting for the three trains of past, present, and somewhere in between...Dots lost and drifting from i’s, j’s, or umlauts, floating between words in the cloudbound grammar above the teleological cities of the sentence...Notes from a song with neither pitch nor rhythm. The dark matter music between things...Three brother molecules in a subatomic folktale, though it is unclear which is the youngest, most foolish, most likely to wed the princess...An echo of the full stop at the end of the sentence. Things end, but their ripples mark the page with their tiny fingerprints. Here I am, though what I was is forgotten, disappeared, or unclear. I grip the cliff of the page, holding on until you get here ready to imagine what I might have been.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I throw night
for a dog to catch.
I give a little dog
everything it needs.
It runs away.
The horizon is shaped like a bone.
O dog, I say
On the other side of the horizon
I watch the sun set.
On the other side of the horizon is me.
The horizon is shaped like a bone.