Thursday, July 24, 2014

A dollar for sunshine, a desert for free

I've noticed a strange phenomena that Blogger can statistically back up: July is awful. For whatever reason, I find the midsummer month almost unbearable to work with. Inspiration tends to falter and good ideas hit brick. I'm mired in a transitional life-phase or humidity drains me, or both. In the absence of either (for the moment), I've maintained a halfway decent work ethic this July. Just none of it is happening quite yet. So amid this drought I'll share some oases and acquisitions.

In the Annex's window-shopping paradise, BMV Books is a hub for U of T students and readers who prefer recent titles half-priced.
Photo credit: stylenorth dot ca
I was lucky to find John Newlove's Moving In Alone (Oolichan Books; 1977) for $4.99. The spine was slightly cut so I did some leg-work down to Balfour Books on College but ended up walking an imperfect square when no one else had it. I'm sort of enamored with the condition now; it suits Newlove well.
The Write Bookshop in downtown St Catharines is a bit of a gold mine, even by Toronto standards. With two storeys of books either organized in sections or crumbling in crevasses, the place offers a ton of hard-to-find poetry. (Just be sure to ask staff where to find it, as there's a small, accidental station of it on the first floor that, for a few visits, convinced me I needn't look upstairs. Big mistake.)
The semi-obscured Write Bookshop
While there I found a series of CBC Radio talks by Eli Mandel called Criticism: The Silent Speaking Words (CBC Publications) and P.K. Page's Cry Ararat! (McClelland & Stewart Ltd).
Hardcover!
(not hardcover)
Finally, back in Toronto this week, I decided to take my first stroll down bpNichol Lane. 

Obligatory concrete poetry shot
bpNichol has a light that never goes out
While there, I stopped in to buy Daniel Jones' The Brave Never Write Poetry directly from Coach House Books. It was uncomfortable. After a promising start, being led by an enthusiastic bookbinder toward the stairs, I was expecting some sort of bookstore. But there was no bookstore and the staff upstairs were embroiled in private conversation, eating lunch. One woman kindly told me not to worry about my intrusion and said people wander in under false pretenses all of the time. (Probably because your website says to "drop by".) Regardless, it was great to see pages and jackets printing into piles and walk up those creaky steps. After some awkward rooting, they even found a copy for me to buy... I  really hope they worked there.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Curious things for July 2014...



1) In light of the fact that we should celebrate Canada Day throughout July, if not year-round, I point to Mark Medley’s article "Read like a maple leaf" for National Post, wherein a variety of Canadian writers reintroduce their favourites in a bid to spice up our nation’s literary reputation. Collaborators include Fernie, BC’s Angie Abdou, Montreal’s Kathleen Winter, and Calgary’s Chris Turner. Consider a few of these picks for your summer reading list.

2) One of my first great finds as a transplant in the ever-expanding Greater Toronto Area has been Echolocation, a print journal and online magazine produced by graduate students at the University of Toronto. Of recent note is a review of Suzannah Showler’s Failure to Thrive developed through conversation between editors Liz Harmer and Michael Prior. Admittedly I was drawn more to the reviewers and format than any verdict on Showler’s new book, although excerpts of her work managed to pique my interest as well. Harmer and Prior touch on a number of issues related to the text, such as the power of metaphor (as underlined by Jason Guriel in this panel discussion), the range of the “millennial voice” and the perils of workshopping the personality out of one’s work. A fantastic read.

(Also of note: Echolocation also hosts readings, including this one on July 11th!)

3) Although initially baffled, I’ve been enjoying the inventive unveiling of Touch the Donkey, a new poetry journal from rob mclennan. Arriving on the scene with little context, issue one has been garnering a noteworthy shadow thanks to a supplementary Touch the Donkey blog (featuring interviews with authors about their contributions) as well as a proper backstory/master plan written by the publisher himself for Open Books Ontario. (I know above/ground subscribers have snagged their copies, in case you need another incentive...)

4) Speaking of above/ground press, Noah Eli Gordon’s Fifteen Problems and Eric Schmaltz’s MITSUMI ELEC. CO. LTD.: keyboard poems have been reviewed at Ottawa Poetry Newsletter. For the latter chapbook, I’d also like to draw attention to Gary Barwin’s excellent Jacket2 piece "Inking outside the fox", which looks at the relationship between Schmaltz's work and Paul Dutton's The Plastic Typewriter. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rogue Poem: "New Pripyat, Ontario"



New Pripyat, Ontario

It takes an ocean in any direction.
Understand our ancestors died
before they could devour us.

The cold is still. Beams
split the mile-wide mushroom cap
where antennas huddled / two days
in a Colorado low.

Escher’s hedges
seizing with chickadees,
Monet’s vial seeps
snow-blind down creek;

as imports assimilate / quietly
retire at the ribbon-cut,
grass doughnuts ebb native
beneath evergreens.

I peek the sidewalk antipodes
for North Korea / between cracks
whether they’re scratching
however remote.


Winter, 2013.