Monday 30 July 2007

Cheese by any other name

Here's a very funny news item about the yeoman efforts being made to recognize the dubious achievements of Scottish bard William McGonagall, justly venerated as "the world's worst poet."

It's interesting to consider that this is one area where Canadian poetry -- too often out-flanked on the international stage -- can consider itself competitive, as Zach Wells reminds us in this short essay on James McIntyre's world-class stinker "Ode On the Mammoth Cheese."

Friday 20 July 2007

Stand up and cheer

There’s been a great deal of chatter (both online and off) about CNQ’s latest number. We'd like to confirm that all the talk is dead right: the new issue, 71, is superb.

So much so, in fact, that its publication closes yet another stage in the accelerated and astonishing maturation of one of Canada's newest small presses: Biblioasis. Both as publisher and editor, Dan Wells’ horse sense (photo to the left) has become, it seems, damn near faultless. Design-wise, the magazine has never looked sharper. There are authoritative and adventurous essays by heavy-hitters Zach Wells, Shane Neilson and Alex Good. But there’s lots of new faces as well: Patricia Robertson, Matthew Fox, Asa Boxer, and Mark Callanan. All of whom contribute lively, sly, deeply considered pieces. Craig Poile has a wonderful quartet of new poems. David Balzer—who survived a brief stint as marketing manager here at Vehicule in the late 90s—pens a provocative essay (“Ugly is ugly”) on the crisis facing Canadian art criticism. And Gaspereau publisher Andrew Steeves writes a fascinating manifesto on the importance of “house type” (Simon Dardick’s eye for design comes in for some high praise).

“We don’t want boring.” That’s the gauntlet Canada Council director, Robert Sirman, threw down last year to Canadian publishers and writers. But readers also have a responsibility in ensuring that successful risk-taking thrives in this country. They can encourage such ambition the only way that counts: cold hard cash. Buy this issue.

Tuesday 17 July 2007

In Vino Veritas

"[T]here's an inverse snobbery at work in the book world. The more lavish the book launch and delicious the wine, the less literary cachet the book is likely to have."

The launches of Jeffrey Archer's books involve Krug. The Champagne at Lady Annabel Goldsmith's enchanting -- but unlikely to give Ali Smith sleepless nights -- biography of her dog Copper was spectacular.

When Madonna took over the Kensington Roof Gardens to launch her first children's story a few years back, drinks were of such deliciousness that I can't even remember the title of the book.

A slim, tortured literary novel of impeccable pedigree, on the other hand, will invariably be accompanied by tanninous purple Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon glugged from those indestructible little round wineglasses you rent from Bottoms Up.

Everyone's teeth go black and guests look like they have clown make-up round their mouths. I shouldn't be at all surprised if at the launch party for Four Quartets, T S Eliot was drinking warm gin out of a tooth mug."

We're confident that we've never served wine quite that bad at our launches, but the hilarious article from which the above is taken is worth a read.

New Canonites invade Washington

Christopher Patton, Barbara Nickel, and Elise Partridge will be reading in Bellingham at Village Books at 6pm on Thursday July 19. They will read a few poems from The New Canon, as will as from their own volumes—Fielder’s Choice (Elise, far right), Domain (Barbara), and Ox (Christopher). Maybe some newer work too. You can find out a bit more about the occasion here.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Mary Dalton at large

Prairie Fire Review of Books sent us a link to their recent review of Mary Dalton’s Red Ledger. We’ve been told that there’s another excellent notice in the June/July issue of Books in Canada (though we haven't laid eyes on it yet). Other good news is that Dalton is off to Banff in the Spring of 2008 for three weeks— she’s invited to be one of the resident faculty for the Writing Studio. In the pipeline as well is a chapbook of riddles with the excellent Newfoundland-based micro-press Running The Goat Books. And do check out the very useful CBC Word at Large page devoted to her (Dalton was their poet of the month last March).

Monday 9 July 2007

Anglo-Quebec poetry buzz.

Peter Van Toorn’s Mountain Tea (first out in 1985, and rereleased in 2004) was one of the first rescue operations under Carmine Starnino’s editorship. It brought a new generation of readers to Van Toorn’s poetry and after three years enthusiasm for the book—and its poet—has yet to flag. To whit, here's a new interview with Van Toorn (thanks to CLM).

Also, Jason Camlot and Todd Swift, co-editors of the recent Language Acts: Anglo-Québec Poetry, 1976 to the 21st Century, are currently assembling a feature on Quebec's English language poets for the international online magazine Jacket. It's slated to appear in Autumn 2007.

In the spirit of things, we’d like to direct your attention to a rather special YouTube movie created by Barbara Golden who spent a couple of weeks in Greece with Irving Layton (thanks to The Danforth Review)

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Neglected but not forgotten

The blog’s been quiet of late, but to catch you up here are some photos from Arc’s launch of its "Forgotten and Neglected" issue which occurred at Ottawa’s Manx pub on June 23rd.

Included among the issue’s 13 contributions are essays by Signal Editions poet Anita Lahey (on Dorothy Roberts) and Signal Editions Editor Carmine Starnino (on James Denoon) as well as a very special piece by Asa Boxer (last photo on the left) who wrote about his father, Montreal poet Avi Boxer (1932-1987) —a piece the editors Anita Lahey and Matthew Holmes describe as an “uncompromising analysis” which provides “a new layer on legendary 1950s Montreal, the land of Layton and Klein." Asa’s poetry debut The Mechanical Bird is forthcoming from Signal Editions in October, and as a special treat we're readying a new edition of our Virtual Chapbook which will feature something Asa discovered among his father’s effects following his death: rare and candid photos of CanLit lions in their younger days (Al Purdy, Margaret Atwood and Louis Dudek among them). Not to be missed.

In the meantime, here’s Asa reading his father's poem "Galileo's Telescope" and here's Asa reading at Zeke’s Galley on July 7, 2006 as part of the launch for Anita Lahey's Signal book Out to Dry in Cape Breton