Saturday 30 May 2009

Wovon Man Nicht Sprechen Kann

Jason Guriel's piece in Poetry defending negative reviews prompts a long, thoughtful post by American poet Alfred Corn

"A negative review at least makes known the book’s existence. Readers may be prompted to read a book despite sharp critiques. But if they don’t know it exists, they won't look for it, won't read it, and can't arrive at any opinion about it, positive or negative. Book review editors have more influence on the fate of books than any single reviewer. Letters to the editor expressing dissatisfaction about negative assessments of books are very common. I don’t ever recall seeing a letter to an editor criticizing him or her for failing to assign a book."

Must Reads

Zach Wells profiles Scottish poet Jen Hadfield. I'm going to try to get a hold of her books when I'm in the UK next week.

Another Scottish poet I would highly recommend is Mick Imlah. Tragically, Imlah passed away earlier this year, but his last book, The Lost Leader -- published just before he died -- is stunning. It's also up for this year's Griffin International prize.

Friday 29 May 2009

Thursday 28 May 2009

Show and Tell

Patrick Warner and I both launched our books of poetry in St. John's on Tuesday at The Ship Inn (Me: This Way Out, He: Mole). It was an awesome night, with many of the city's literary mainstays in attendance and much debauchery. How much? Too much, apparently. I woke the next morning to the discovery that Lisa Moore autographed my arm. I have no memory of this. But I have a photo! Man, I love St John's.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Q&A with Andrew Hood at National Post

Last month it was all poetry, this month the National Post has gone ahead and 'asked some of Canada's top short fiction writers – both emerging and established – to opine on the form.' Andrew Hood is first to take questions:

Q: Is there a quintessential short story, and if so, what is it?

A: Probably not (says Hood). Short stories get up to so much, so that a quintessential story by, say, Willa Cather, has no bearing on a quintessential Borges yarn. So Borges kicked this one door down in me, and then Munro booted down another, and Amy Hempel found her way in through an open window, and Flannery O’Connor pretty much burnt my whole house down.

The full interview is here.

Saturday 23 May 2009

"The topics here are money, fame and lettuce"

For all you writers who dream of pulling up stakes and moving to a new career.

Thursday 21 May 2009

The Pen is Empty

This is how I felt after reading this. Good for Mary though.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Blaser and Dudek

On May 14, in Ottawa, I picked up a copy of the Globe and Mail to read on my return trip to Montreal following a book launching. I was saddened to read that poet and teacher Robin Blaser—part of the San Francisco Renaissance of the 40s and 50s—had passed away a week earlier at age 83.

Sandra Martin's fine obituary quotes Stan Persky: "What Blaser did was to enlarge the world by showing us things both marvellous and horrific that we would never have thought to pay attention to without his finger pointing at them." Blaser's The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser was the Canadian winner of the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize. (Hear Blaser read at University of California, Berkeley.)

Blaser edited and introduced Infinite Worlds: The Poetry of Louis Dudek for us in 1988. He was generous to a fault. In the intro he called Dudek "Canada's most important--that is to say, consequential--modern voice." Robin Blaser will be missed.

Friday 1 May 2009

Hot Art

I'm a little late linking to this, but about week ago The National Post published a transcript of the panel they convened on Canadian book design (hattip: CanCult).

I've just had a chance to read it now, and it's quite fascinating. I was especially impressed by all the thoughtful justifications given for the various methods (which designers read the book, which don't, and why). Too many interesting moments to point to, but, from my experience, Angel Guerra was on the mark about the promotional power of a good image: "it’s pretty clear that if you’re going to a sales conference or to sell to booksellers, mainly they’re not going to even read the manuscripts themselves, so the image is really important for books." And of course, a good cover is a godsend to friends who hate your book but very much like you: it gives them something else to talk about.

At Vehicule, we feel very fortunate to have a phenom like David Drummond working for us (here's a little feature on all the prep that went into the cover for Geoffrey Cook's poetry debut Postscript).

Above is a sneak peek at the terrific covers David has designed for our Fall 2009 poetry list: left to right, Harry Thurston (Animals of My Own Kind: New and Selected Poems) and Richard Greene (Boxing the Compass).

UPDATE: You can read the back story behind each of the two covers on David's blog.