Tuesday 30 September 2014

Deadly Serious

Two weeks ago, a terminally ill Clive James published a poem in The New Yorker called "Japanese Maple." The devastating valedictory, which confronts his impending death, quickly went viral. Here are a sampling of the responses.

George Szirtes:
It is of a piece with the other productions of Clive James, intelligent, witty, skilful, highly crafted and, under the lightness, serious: deadly serious in fact.
Katy Waldman
What gives “Japanese Maple” so much of its throat-catching grace are its gentleness, resignation, and images that somehow achieve the emotional resonance of hard-earned wisdom.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Sunday Poem

That picture’s somewhere still: First Communion, 13 girls
in lace and satin 'Like a Virgin' frocks,
legs crossed man-style under frills, floral hairpieces
             hanging flaccid over ears. Marrying God. 
An over-lit confessional, gilded chairs, Father Antony’s
embroidered bib, pew-fulls of frog-eyed
parents who’d endured years waiting for our
             exorcisms. This was just before my faith fell.
I stumbled toward Hari Krishnas at the Eaton Centre
causeway and paid $20 for a tome
they would have given away; tried to find in mock-leather
            what they found there, but it hid—
or snapped up free papers about 'the 18,000 realms,'
and visited living room churches north on Bathurst
with congregations of passive mutes; or let the Bahai
            indoctrinate me on Bloor, one afternoon, 
where they fed me channah in a muralized Olive Garden
basement. I left with a cassette
and a mental image of a saviour cresting a hill
            with a hankering for garlic bread. 
My high school and university were poverty and violence. A quadriplegic
classmate lived in a Winnebago. Her mother’s ex
cowered in a laundry hamper with a gun and shot her dead
            one Sunday after Mass. That’s all I know.
From ^^^^^^ [Sharps] (Icehouse, 2014) by Stevie Howell

Monday 15 September 2014

Facebook Comment of the Day

"I had my wise-cracks all lined up and ready to go when I noticed the list contained at least three poets I know and like a lot (Gillis, Yeh, Hadfield), at which point I suspected I’d got too old to sustain my previous levels of indignation over these little jamborees. Others on the list are less good than those I’ve just mentioned, and I think Batchelor, Levison, Gamble, Sam Riviere and Oli Hazzard would have adorned any list. Really though, I was hoping someone could have seen my first two books as false starts and let me in on the basis of a collection published in 2006. If anyone’s in the mood for a Past-It Generation Promotion of poets who spend ages thumbing cluelessly through their books for the poem they want to read and would rather slip away to watch Newsnight after the reading than go down the pub, you know where to find me."

David Wheatley reacts to the Poetry Book Society list of Next Generation poets.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Sunday Poem

When there should be snow there is rain, rain, rain,
then ice, then rain. The radio host asks 
call-in listeners if they think this a sign
of climate change. Old timers hit speed dial,

side-step the point, eager to talk storms,
lives marked by weather, recall jumping out 
of windows when the doors were blocked with snow,
the hospitals filled up with broken backs— 
What does it mean? The questions gather. Oh,

I have another story, a good one.
This storm flooded the town then froze it in

its shell; each home a snow globe of its own.
That one felled trees older than most houses; 
rain pummeled us for days until the roads
gave way, just buckled, the ground beneath us 
heaved and upended, water everywhere
devouring the road as if it were a sandcastle; 
took bridges too, whole towns unglued, adrift,
now islands of their own. Weather serves up

memory better than any book.
Who likes to think about means and ends,

how things change so slowly until they snap?
We fear our maps outdated, pencil sketches 
on onion skin. Our stories, though,
tell us who we are.
From Radio Weather (Signal Edition, 2014) by Shoshanna Wingate 

Thursday 11 September 2014

The Rise of Rhizomatism

Darryl Whetter fires a blistering broadside against English departments and their "colonial ownership" of creative writing:
I have taught writing for more than a decade at four Canadian universities and am worried that—with English professors predominantly calling the shots—few Canadian programs teach or even entertain core writerly skills such as social-emotional intelligence; revealing, engaged and accurate dialogue; dramatic tension; comedy; and, most notably, plot. The current practices of our writing programs and funding agencies generally ask writers to be scholars who simply drop the footnotes, while graduate creative writing education in the United States, the United Kingdom and equally post-colonial Australia values the unique fusion of personal and cultural truth available to the creative writer and his or her reader.
And more:
One can hear the trendy phrase “rhizomatic poetics”—a term, popularized by Deleuzians, that signifies the connection between two points without the burden of beginnings or endings—in any Canadian university English department (including those that offer creative writing); one rarely hears the word “empathy” or, in the context of empathy, the excitement that attends to rhizomatism. We adore the fragmentary but disparage feelings. In Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, Daniel Goleman rightly called social-emotional intelligence “a meta-ability, determining how well we can use whatever other skills we have, including raw intellect.” In a land of methodology, thesis defences, bibliographies and Kenneth Goldsmith’s institutionally celebrated “uncreative writing,” the crucial meta-­ability of emotional intelligence fostered by literature is not meeting its maximum audience. Who would decree that engineers should never actually build a bridge? Canadian English professors.

Monday 8 September 2014

Outcast Perspective

Kerri Cull asks Shoshanna Wingate about the peripatetic nature of her childhood and its influence on her first book, Radio Weather:
“This wandering lifestyle meant I didn’t have a static set of images or experiences to draw from. I didn’t even have a consistent personality. I had chaos. Fractured memories. Home was not a place—it was a yearning.” This outcast perspective shows in Shoshanna’s poetry. The dual sides to every story, the different ways one can look at the world and truth. “I wanted to write poetry that rested between certainties, as life did, without resorting to literary games or tricks. Memory is elastic, so why pretend it’s neat and tidy?”

Sunday 7 September 2014

The Scarborough, Toronto Launch

Carmine Starnino, Michael Lista
Michael Lista
Carmine Starnino
Michael Lista

Matthew Tierney and (with his back to us) Peter Norman

Carmine Starnino and Nyla Matuk
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Carmine Starnino, Michael Lista, Jeff Latosik, Jason Guriel and Stevie Howell

Poseur Alert

"blah blah. How can these mildly radicalized reader's digest poets believe in the worth of their opinions? Anemic mimicry rules the day... or is this irony? A challenge? These generalist market-place "art" statements that fail to grapple with the parameters of a vibrant dissenting avant-garde, the reduction of poetic causality to entertaining an unnamed intelligent "her," condemning cliche (yet expressing it) and extolling precision (procedural narrowing? One-dimensional administrative gab?), while thinly echoing Ginsberg's oft repeated Howl opener, - he should have taken his own prescription and held back. There is little difference between a mass produced t-shirt, a mass produced collared shirt, and the critical wallop of Guriel's feint advice. Soft academe, darlings."
A member of that "vibrant dissenting avant-garde" whose courage of his/her convictions is so strong they bravely neglected to sign a name to their comment.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Herds of Rebels

Jason Guriel offers some tips to avoid being a crappy poet. Here's one I liked:
Don't try too hard to be innovative; you'll only sound dated. Certainly don't be arrogant enough to regard yourself as 'avant-garde'; you're not, and anyway, you wouldn't wear a mass-produced tee that says, 'rebel,' would you?

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