Tuesday 29 January 2013


"I was trained in what Ricoeur called 'the hermeneutics of suspicion'—Marx, Nietzsche, Freud: these giants never tire of reminding us that we don’t know ourselves. The only thing we can be certain of is that much of what we believe will turn out to be wrong (and we can’t even be sure of what we believe: as Wittgenstein said, 'Perhaps you believe you believe it!')."
Michael Robbins explains his dislike of certainty.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Sunday Poem

The less there is of you the more of me.
The doctors refer to me as he.
He is not you, they say to her.
She takes a shaky breath. She runs around
and I run with her underground.

I play my hostess like a violin,
my minimalist concerto for torso and limbs.
That’s you in the loo, your woodwind guts,
the cymbal splash of watery vomit,
the kettledrum of bowels in the bowl.

I am the heart of these stick figures,
don’t bother asking where I come from.
Look to the weak strain in your code.
Look to notions of perfection,
to where you fall short in execution.

My hostess dreams of becoming an actress,
dreams of the lead in Les Mis.
She gives me such a deep and hungry kiss;
she’ll end up in the hospital next to the hospice,
where I may have to tighten my belt.

She imagines a memorial mass in Maine:
the mourners arrive by private plane
and are ferried to the church in limousines.
I play the mourners like a violin,
my catgut bow weeping and wailing.

I spend most of my time not dying.
They spend most of their time trying.
Those last two I plucked from Fred Seidel.
I could go on, in fact, I think I will,
my passion for girl flesh is inexhaustible.

Tuesdays we meet with her group—
the Boa-restrictors, my own little cult.
One has a ribcage like a catcher’s mitt
One takes pills to make her shit.
One shaves lanugo off her limbs.

Clouds cluster and turn the sky purple.
Little children splash about in puddles.
A Pomeranian takes on a Bichon Frise.
My little pets are down on their knees.
The less there is of you the more of me.

I spend most of my time not dying.
They spend most of their time trying.
I am the Caesar of their seizures. They are the kill.
I’m at the heart of these stick figures’ hearts.
I could go on. I could stop. I will.
From Perfection (2012) by Patrick Warner.

Saturday 26 January 2013

Daryl Hine Remembered

The Malahat Review has dedicated its Winter 2012 issue to Daryl Hine, who passed away last summer. Hine's editor, Evan Jones, remembers the man:
Reluctant, withdrawn, grumpy, frustrated, and even frustrating, yes, at first. But as the years passed we became friends. His caregiver, Will Finley, told me Daryl would wait by the phone for me to call. Will teased Daryl about it. Phone calls were the basis of our overseas friendship. We would work on a manuscript, chat about the news or some recent review in the TLS—and we would gossip about poets. Daryl had stories about Auden and Bishop, Dudek, Layton, and Purdy. He had known Anne Wilkinson briefly and even met Dylan Thomas once in B.C. in the fifties. (Thomas offered him a “ciggy,” the butt of which Daryl kept with him for years.)


"I do think that a weird thing about being a writer is that you have to learn and evolve in public. It’s like a romantic relationship. You don’t make yourself perfect and then enter in it. You fuck up in it, and you get better at being it by fucking up in it."

Sheila Heti on what women need to overcome before they're accurately represented in the review pages of literary magazines.

What Are The Benefits Of Pigheadedness?

Jason Guriel points them out:
Pigheadedness, at its most productive, can result in a kind of head-clearing loyalty to one’s gut reactions—and an allegedly self-destructive compulsion to air those reactions publicly. I say “allegedly” because I really do think that expressing an honest opinion about, say, the Griffin Poetry Prize ceremony or Dennis Lee can only be good for one’s health in the long term. What I mean is that the short-term negative effects of pigheadedness are outweighed by the lasting benefits of honesty. Pigheadedness makes far more enemies than allies—but they tend to be the right enemies, the right allies.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Sunday Poem

Me and my seasons.
Me and my navel-gazing mornings,
my wrapped-within nights,
the self-decoding afternoons— 
honesty returning to the precipice
to perch with perfectly curled feet,
cilices on the bow of my lips, before I look
back into the curving abyss— 
these afternoons
when I want so badly to see,
and self pity's diamond-tipped drill 
bores into the salt mine of fear.
And I'm just charming enough
to draw you near and drain you
like Lake Peigneur. 
So when we're watching TV
and I'm a great lachrymose wreck,
torturing myself with tableaus
of my final moments, 
the long-awaited proof
that I actually have a skeleton—
it's rising in me, like veins of salt,
tablets carved with the story of my hunger— 
I cry for uncertainty:
a pre-emptive, speculative cry,
because I'm not even sick 
in the classical sense.
For now, it's nil by mouth after midnight,
and my organs make ghosts
on a monitor, and they make a little 
paper film strip—
a storyboard of blooming rosettes
or cells, or ulcerated tracts of gut;
bags filled with salt-candy deposits, 
some horror reaching a tentacle
up from the groin into me
and wrapping around organ and bone
like plantar roots and heart worm. 
And when they leave me alone
to wipe the cold medium off my gut,
I try to interpret the images
frozen on the screen. 
All I come up with is this.
From Campfire Radio Rhapsody (2011) by Robert Earl Stewart

Sunday 6 January 2013

Methodist Hatchet Man

Nigel Beale's review of Ken Babstock's Methodist Hatchet—Babstock's poetry, Beale writes, is "nothing that sticking a microphone in front of some stoned sophomore wouldn’t produce"—has kicked up some dust. Amanda Earl defends the book for "the pure beauty of its sound" and for Babstock's ability to "tap into areas of the subconscious which refuse obvious superficial explanation." Brian Palmu mounts a more robust defense:
I didn’t get many of the winks and tricks in Methodist Hatchet. And I’m fine with that. But the book is like a fine buffet. I don’t worry about the exotic dishes left over when my stomach’s pleasantly full from the first class palette of appetizers, entrees, desserts and aperitifs.
(Photo by Max Middle.) 

Friday 4 January 2013

Rebel, Misspell, Repeat

Jason Guriel rolls his eyes at the “relentlessly quirky” e.e.cummings:
Cummings’s poems themselves were only superficially new. Beneath the tattoo-thin signifiers of edginess—those lowercase i’s, those words run together—flutters the heart of a romantic. (Is there a correlation between typographically arresting poetry and emotional arrestedness?) He fancies himself an individual among masses, finds the church ladies have “furnished souls,” opposes war. He’s far more self-righteous, this romantic, than any soldier or gossip—and far deadlier: he’s a teenager armed with a journal.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Portrait In A Convex Mirror

Turns out that John Ashbery's readings, as public events, are as eccentric and entertaining as his poetry:
"When Ashbery finished, his way had to be cleared once again. While Ashbery’s friend pushed his wheelchair, a photographer wearing multiple complex cameras duckwalked backwards, snapping pictures as if the poet were a runway model. It took me at least five minutes to round the corner to the exit, where the photographer stood cursing at Ashbery’s companion. 'I’m a fucking professional, I cleared it with his publicist, and he takes a swing at me?' Ashbery’s diminutive friend, who looked and dressed remarkably like Curly of The Three Stooges, simply stared at the photographer, who was a foot taller than he was. The friend’s crewcut head and flat eyes radiated menace as he pushed the elevator button to take Ashbery to the reception upstairs. The photographer stormed out onto the street."