Saturday 30 June 2012

Heap of Broken Images

Tess Taylor spends some time with The Waste Land app, and comes away feeling meh:
"Though I came to like the app better as I settled into it, I was never wholly at home. I couldn’t figure out a way, exactly, to review it as an object or text except to have recourse to a description of my own ambivalence exploring it. Its notes are excellent, its productions learned, its films finely produced, but I still felt thornily lost in the thicket of my own encounter. Was this reading or wasn’t it? Is this production and distribution of simultanaeity a significant form of newness? Is this the future of reading or merely one possible future? Is this a mirror of our own distractedness or a tool that can make our reading more accessible?"

Monday 25 June 2012

Canadian Women in the Literary Arts

I'm late getting to this, but there's a new outfit called Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA) that, among other things, has assigned itself the role of counting the gender balance in literary reviews and reviewing. The site has already been populated with a great deal of content, including a interesting interview with Michael Lista (who got a bit of a going over some weeks ago). It's too early to know if CWILA will make any sort of difference, though it did bring to mind some of my favourite critical writing by Canadian women available on the web. I'll try to update this list when I can.

Catherine Owen: "Chopped Potatoes"
Emily Landau: "Double Vision"

Sunday 24 June 2012

"Can pizza be the new baseball?"

Stuart Ross wants spoken word to get over itself.
"[S]aying what people want to hear is exactly what spoken word is. It’s all about pandering. It’s about pleasing the audience, getting the most applause. Slams are popularity contests. They are entertainment."

Sunday Poem


Claudio’s English girlfriend Stephanie
just left him for his best friend Maurizio,
he’s blasting my scooter, Stronzo
di merda! he hollers, me on the back,
over the rainy cobblestones of Trastevere
near Porta Portese, we both are grief-stricken,
Figlio di puttana! screams Claudio
into a payphone, at Maurizio’s mother!
my marriage with Inge is over so
these weeks he & I dance at discos, drink wine
at the vineria at Campo dei Fiori, do coke,
me blabbing in Italian like a Jamiroquai record
set on forty-five, we’re in his Audi
blaring Pearl Jam’s Ram, at Pyramide,
a string of puttane like Fellini’s Cabiria
in castiron light, but exactly, except
these are trannies, contraltos, sinewy boys
in crinoline, pinfores, prom dresses,
Claudio laughs, rolls my window down,
my heart pounds, blind with excitement,
with fear, a lewd hoopskirt-dolled swineboy
bitches in a savage Romano clip, his
endocrine-born paps spilling into the car,
I reach out, the breast in my hand
like a soul, a mean little story, turgid & warm,
a scar, un bon mot, a limping grackle,
la Tevere limpia, the dream where I’m a scorpion
sipping venom out of my own stinger,
a daisy, a pillar of salt, the myth of the palace
of rotting meat, a soft crystal carapace,
the last scene of Antonioni’s La Notte,
sweet sweet immaculate indigestible fruit.
From Hummingbird (2012) by John Wall Barger.

Friday 22 June 2012

The Bull Calf

Not sure how I managed to miss this. But there's a new online magazine, out of McGill University, covering Canadian fiction, poetry and criticism. Take a look.

Thursday 21 June 2012


"I don’t believe it has any impact on the writing itself. It certainly has a tremendous impact on the culture and on the industry. But does it change the way writers work, on a day-to-day basis? There’s less hope, and writing feels more futile. Is that change? Unless attempted by deranged celebrities, writing always seems hopeless and futile."
Jonathan Ball on whether the dry spell of book reviews will affect Canadian writing.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Sunday Poem


Last night, for the first time, I went down the well
my father went down with me.
It plunged deeper than the back of the little skull
whose edge lay page-thin on the while pillow
and darker than the earth's dusk seeping in
to blot the secret passwords I spoke.

"Hello," I tested with each downladdering breath,
the letters pattering like rain in the murk
and echoing off the cavernous stone. A blink,
a butterfly's tentative settle, and the slight
way back had briefly closed.

Another blink, and I was left
with the aftersound of uttered entrance,
my eyes guttering, my arms loose as rope.

With an inward cry I could not help
I watched darkness flood the praying-book.

Friday 15 June 2012


In a major essay on her work, Fraser Sutherland celebrates Mary Dalton's use of a certain crystalline mineral:
"Given the omnipresence and omnipotence of salt in the history and geography of Newfoundland, it’s hardly surprising... that it has such prominence in the work of a poet so grounded in particulars as Mary Dalton. Adjectivally, it can also characterize her poems: they are salty. They are also saucy: impudent, bold, full of life. They take the idiom Dalton shares with her fellow Newfoundlanders, tempers it with her wide study of world poetry, and turns it to her own ends."

Poseur Alert

Q: Do you write for the reader or for yourself?

A: Neither. The reader is a romantic concept. As is myself, I suspect. The quill poised; the head bowed over a small volume. Neither writer nor reader nor text is sacred to me, if I can help it; I prefer a “we” at both ends of the transfer. I hope (or pretend) that the origin & destination of my compulsion-to-not-be-silent — is collective.

Phil Hall, The Griffin Poetry Prize Questionnaire.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Monday 11 June 2012


"I found pornography in a church basement, once, shortly after admiring Borje Salming’s stitched-up eye on TV while eating seal meat straight out of a tin. I had an iron-on decal of Elton John on my t-shirt, ironed on backwards, so for a full year I thought his name was John Elton. OPEC had raised the price of oil."

Ken Babstock on when he first considered himself a poet.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Sunday Poem


real-estate baron,
in a field he is
the incarnation of field.
his cutting, racing
figure eights, feints and
about turns in tall grass
a hockey game against joy

summoned or coaxed to the scratched
back door he carries
seeds, the smell of wind and
the temperature’s date stamp
in his fur. burrs and leaping
insects latched with the barbed
malice of a computer virus

sheriff of the domestic lowlands
each half-floppy ear a catcher’s mitt
for the distinct plunk of itinerant food.
paratrooping carrots, sandwich emigrants
gravity’s scraps

desire on four legs he
animates the rooms
routinely visits the provinces
of nook and expanse
leaving warm oblongs of floor,
tumbleweeds of hair

in angled stretch, diagonal
sprawl or insistent stand
he is enormous, equine and then
enfolded, a black muff
beseeching both my hands
or a comma curled,
life’s hairy pause

the winter in his beard
is my discontent
the clicking ratchet of one hip
or glaucoma’s indicting blue fingerprint
on each eye of my animal self.
mortality’s mute
shaggy ambassador
From Origins (2012) by Darryl Whetter.

Saturday 2 June 2012

"Return to Metcalfe Street"

A new poem by Nyla Matuk.

(Photo by iKEN2010.)

On Erasure

Mary Ruefle thinks that, when it comes to poetry, erasure can reveal quite a bit:
"I use white-out, buff-out, blue-out, paper, ink, pencil, gouache, carbon, and marker; sometimes I press postage stamps onto the page and pull them off—that literally takes the text right off the page! Once, while working on an all-white erasure, I had the sense I was somehow blinding the words—blindfolding the ones I whited-out, and those that were left had to become, I don’t know, extra-sensory or something. Then I thought, no, I am bandaging the words, and the ones left were those that seeped out."
(Erasure poem from A Little White Shadow.)