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Mar. 23rd, 2009 | 01:33 pm

I've got a hankering for Emerald green. Looking at lit events in Ireland is exacerbating it. I'll add Listowel Writers Week to my watch list. I can't know if I want to attend yet because they don't release their schedule until April.

At least Montreal's Blue Metropolis has their schedule up. So does Ottawa's writers fest. I wish the two did not overlap by half.

To be sexist, a yah that female are top candidates for poet laureate in Britain, Carol Ann Duffy and Ruth Padel.

I like the new Amazon side-by-side charts of "The most helpful favorable review" beside "The most helpful critical review" All the Fun's In How You Say a Thing. Part of the problem with online is that there's no grapevine to link the millions of people who use Amazon to weigh the source to know the value of who says what. People falsify names and the reviews stand alone. You can read more words of reviews than of what is being talked about.

"Because a metrical poem modulates individual phrases against the scaffolding of a rhythm and line-length that is mutually expected by both poet and reader, the poet can indicate, even on the page, the exact timber, tempo, and other physical characteristics the reading-aloud process should take at each point in the poem.

General readers of free verse have now learned to read poetry with their left brains—the way they read prose—privileging ideas, images, and rhetorical shape over line, rhythm, and physical vibrancy...They were reading not musically, but discursively. And this was a completely understandable way for earnest, educated general readers of the current day, trained as they have been by a century of free verse poetry and poetics, to approach an unknown book of poetry."
- Annie Finch at Poetry Foundation

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Tree: McMaster and Blades

Mar. 11th, 2009 | 12:00 pm

Susan McMaster
Susan McMaster was the first poet to launch the new section of the Tree reading series where 10 minutes goes to someone to do a mini-craft talk. She did a poetic overview, a retrospective of her voice and focus as it developed and changes. She said that as she goes on her sense of poetics gets briefer and simpler. It has always been truth-oriented. She gave examples with each phase.

She characterized her earlier work as a tangled venting, self-absorbed and harder to enter. She still values it because it speaks to some people who are a comparable place. At a later phase she moved to expressions that aimed to be accessible with a language that would admit as many as who would be willing to enter. The wider world entered the content of the poem. The most recent works try to engage with those necessary, difficult things. Subjects connect her life to other lives to sort out sense of truths.

Joe Blades
Joe Blades was the feature reader at Tree. On March 10th he read from some older material as well as current writings from his newest of 30 books and chapbooks to see print, from The Book that Doesn't Close. The Serbian translation of his book title caused a eureka and an upcoming spinoff poem series on prisons.

From older works was a poem called I am Tree, in light of the name of the series about pollution and the state of trees that can't move, just stay themselves, solid, self-assured, and state of labels. We call carbon dioxide poison because we expel it but for trees, it is life. If humans get cancer from sun and can't adapt to less Oxygen, maybe we should live underground and learn to breathe what most of the air is. Interesting spins.

from the Book That Doesn't Close is a dual text in the sense that one text runs along the top of the page and cullings from notebooks run under that ribbon of text, sometimes chiming, sometimes jangling. It's something of a meta book of poetry, journaling life as a poet, a poet thinking about poetry, poems, critics and other poets. For examples, nothing exists entirely alone; everything relates to poetry "must not be deluded into thinking poetry is their true mind" or critic tears off arm of writer. immediately replaced by another critic with arm of a corpse. [Italics rather than quotes where I may have mistranscribed and have no line breaks]

Interesting to see how page converts to air. I've seen notations for privacy of Mr. R________ and not knowing how that would be put to voice. Joe Blades did the long underscore with a pinch of finger drawn arms length in sudden silence from phrase so anyone listening without eyes would have to look up and see the text's analogous gesture.

Interesting mention that while in Serbia Blades found out that the practice for poetry reading is not so passive as here. One reads for 5 minutes and discussion runs for 50 after. People then can dialogue about the subjects interactionally as the norm. Nice, that.

Tree's new format with time-limits of 4 minutes per open mic and a limited set of 4 or 5 readers and more but shorter breaks gives a more digestible flow to the evening. Not everyone can digest 1 or 3 hours of poetry at a sitting and now when your brain fills, you don't have to go to your happy place and stay seated, nor disrupt to leave early.

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March is Small Press Month

Mar. 2nd, 2009 | 04:08 pm

Jilly points out that March is Small Press Month, for the 13th year apparently. What better time than for the government to announce cutting funding to all magazines that have less than 5000 subscribers. A coalition to talk back at that notion is forming.

History repeats peats peats, bogs, burns, settles, grows, repeats. We run around in circles insisting small scale is valuable too.

Endings are beginnings
seems fatal until the life-cough.

How to define Small Press? It can be small print runs, online only, ephemera only, smaller scale publishing and are often one person operations, or very few. It is many niche markets, small runs, coming from people who do a one- or few-sheet run to regular small ephemera pages or series of chapbooks, to videos or periodical blogzines to indie or smaller-scale publishers of spine-books like the Literary Press Group may represent to start-up "online magazines" of sites with a juried choice of who to put in the spotlight...there are huge numbers of people involved.

In Canada there's a huge but dispersed small press set, regardless of where you draw a cut off point for scale of disseminating words and ideas short of Random House and McClelland & Stewart. Sales garnered are not in the thousands or millions of copies. Lines vary. Small and steady.

Some to spread ideas widely, organically and for a living and some priding on counterculture and being under the mainstream radar and being personal-scale distribution. It's quite a mix. Poets & Writers magazine have an accessible searchable database of small press listings.

An incomplete list of groups and people in the small press literary sandbox who have web presence:

above/ground press
Angelhouse Press
Aeolus House
Aliquando Press
Allan Weiss
Anik Press
Art by Ruth

Barbarian Press
Big Pond Rumours
Buschek Books
Believe Your Own Press
Beyond Blacklight
Bigge Ink
Boheme Press
Breller Books
Brick Books
broken pencil
Brooks Books Haiku
Broken Jaw Press</span>

Chicoine Enterprise
Chaudiere Books
Coach House Books
Cormorant Books
Dusty Owl
ECW Press
The Emergency Response Unit
Exile Editions
Frog Hollow Press
General Store Publishing House
Gesture Press
The Grunge Papers

Insomniac Press
learn/yeats & co
Leaf Press
Life Rattle
Misunderstandings Magazine
Mansfield Press
The Mercury Press
The New Quarterly

Playwrights Canada Press
The Puritan
The Ottawa Arts Review
Proper Tales Press
The Porcupine’s Quill

Room 302 Books
Running The Goat Press
serif of nottingham editions
The Shore Magazine
Twoffish Press
Underwhich Editions
White Wall Review
Wolsak and Wynn

Canzine with 150 booths of art-pieces to glossy to photocopied scribbles. Dozens of zines and small publishers at anarchist book fair in Montreal... to a couple dozen small press publishers were at meet the presses. The AWP's bookfair, which will be in Colorado in 2010, always has loads of tables of people who publish, and sometimes even for cash rather than the swap economy. A couple dozen listed at the Toronto Small press fair. The best of the 300 at Expozine will be at the Awards for it in Montreal, March 3.

There's constant creativity.

Jessie Carty of Folded Word Press made a trailer for small press month to promote some little guys. She says,

Please spread the word, and this video and any links to spread the awareness for all the hard work that small presses provide to their authors and the literary world by providing a variety of voices to be published.

U.S. Small Press month events include these people linked from the video:

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Reading List

Feb. 16th, 2009 | 10:36 am

I'm done almost none of the following but in the midst of...

B a f t e r C, vol. 4, No. 1 has a raft of writing by people I always like to see more of, such as Joseph Massey and Gregory Betts and I like the nonsensicalness of Chuck Stebelton's piece in there.

The Debaucher by Jason Camlot (Insomniac Press, 2008) is easily the book of poetry I've most enjoyed reading in the last couple years. Sheer pleasure of words and stories and yet meaty as well. He's enjoying himself writing.

Panoply: poems on diversity, vol. 1, issue 1, a Jer's Vision Publication has hit the bookstores. Anita Dolman is editing the annual chapbook. Although I've seen Domenico Capilongo's book from Wolsak and Wynn I Thought Elvis was Italian (2008) I only went so far as the cover. A poem of his in this issue about observing an immigrant navigating the subway impressed me with its gentleness and keen observing eye.

Guerilla 18 is out too. I'm not fond of the huge page, heavy paper stock format, but the story in this issue by Lainie Towell about being taken for a ride by a man who married her for immigration papers is compelling and uplifting.

Antigonish Review 155 has a Donald McGrath poem on long johns I rather like, with a child negotiating its frozen width like a huge dried cod thru the doorframe.

Gillian Wigmore's Soft Geography (Harbour Publishing, 2007) has finally got to my hands. The scenes of vet calls are striking with the brutality of illness and death that kids deal put against their age and legal status of not mature enough to vote, drive, have sex, marry, or drink.

Titles of Poems I Will Never Write by Diane Tucker is a fun chapbook of just what it sounds like. What you would you write in the space under "The Camera I forgot now remembers nothing"? or "My Brief but Illustrious Career as a Smoker"?

Judge Sewall's Apology of his biography from the 1600s being a key points in American and world history. His crossing the ocean to speak to James II but while he was in transit there was a change of King and William of Orange was en route to his town to declare the new government. Strange that he should see the same sights as a tourist then as we did, that he would meal journal the trip and go bowling while at the same time at home there are native-settler wars and infant mortality at half of births. So same and so different.

echolocation by mani rao (Chameleon Press, 2003) caught me by the unusual binding and cover (chicago screws, metallic paper, and uncut pages) but the lines held me. They are terribly earnest but dense and tight sound bites that sometimes feels like a ghazal in leaps. "The petitions they might send to Koffi Annan. [...] Children who take magnets out of their pockets and rally the universe into a new polarity" (p. 28) "( p. 15) "A bird's eye: thinning rivers, half-eaten mountains, bending lakes, mild agitations of sea fur."

Down the Unmarked Roads by Joan Finnigan (General Store Publishing House, 1997) are engaging stories of vivid local history by a good story teller.

Uncracked stack:

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Dodge Poetry Festival

Feb. 16th, 2009 | 10:13 am

cancelled due to losses in stock market 140,000 attendees are large scale but ratio of cost to expenses tipped it into the red. crap. crap.

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Fw: Novel event Feb 19

Feb. 12th, 2009 | 06:06 pm

Ottawa Writers' Festival Series: Uppal

I'll be reading from my new novel, To Whom It May
Concern (Doubleday Canada), which is set in Ottawa. (For your interest, I've
attached a sheet of current review highlights of the book.) I will be reading
with Chris Cleave who has been flown in from the U.K.

Here are the details:

Thursday February 19th at 7 PM
OTTAWA Writers Festival Reading Series
Priscila Uppal and Chris Cleave

Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities
314 Saint Patrick Street (at the corner of Cumberland)

The event is FREE. Please feel free to bring friends!
It's a great place to buy a copy of the book for yourself or as a gift and have
it signed!

Best wishes,
Priscila Uppal

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personal note

Feb. 12th, 2009 | 06:05 pm

Ok so, my Wordpress journal was fine at 1 pm and at 6 pm has no entries, although the database of the comments are intact. Interesting. The backup was one entry ago but still, technology is made of choreographed gnats, isn't it.

The MySql table of posts crashed. It's back due to the wondrous hub.

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dash a quick note

Jan. 28th, 2009 | 03:39 pm

start a letter

a letter in
I'm fudged, no.
that's ambigui

starting a cor

dance a pho-
neme along
into a thought

perish me I've
lost my
place among pen's -

OSI prompt 48, if I had time and sent along to the next person in the list for the perennial postcard project.

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Memories prompt memories

Jan. 22nd, 2009 | 07:01 pm

rob's latest house: a (tiny) memoir reminds me there was a record player. It's funny I'd forgotten about records existing until recently. and huh, neat stories. And Pooh's person had a name. Never thought of that.

The record player was and is off limits. Although I snuck a finger at the fabric of the speaker when I was small, but got caught and chided. I was never allowed to touch mom's record player. It was rarely out from under its bit of spare orange and avocado 70s fabric with ragged edge. Everything in the house was and is covered in remnant fabrics or cut plastic bag with elastic to keep out dust. Silks flowers, picture frames, vases, lamp shades, CD player, dishes, packets of pens, stacks of books. I expect if dad naps too long, one dad he'll be popped under a plastic.

I had one record Sally Go Round the Sun record my uncle gave mom for me of children's chants. when I was past the age of them. I remember Charlie Pride and how I wasn't to move or make sound while it played. Like cakes in the oven, somehow as I understood at the time the music would fall. I wasn't sure of the mechanism by which I would harm the record. It started flatter than a pancake.

Any bounce she was sure would make the needle bounce.

When it didn't play, I'd sing "The Snakes Crawl at Night" which my mom found regrettable but unshushable. I liked a song about snakes. Not until high school did I understand the snake was an expression and it was about murder 1.

I got 45s at one point. My Name is Luka. And Karma Chameleon. I went into a record store. I'd never been in there before. I bought them with my own money. My mom disapproved of the expenditure since all money should be for university but she didn't oppose beyond her first objection.

Was it one trip? My guesstimate was '85 from the access of the Entertainment Tonight and MuchMusic spots in them but Vega's song was in '87 and Boy George's in '83. Or did I learn of Boy George's song only later?

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Accessing Worlds of Poetry

Jan. 21st, 2009 | 04:04 pm

Can't make nothing out of nothing but no one has nothing.

We all have something. The argument of possibility is not constrained by economics or talent. The only limit is effort and desire.

In flat democracy, access is everything. Birth doesn't matter. All skill is a matter of hours. Nothing is kept for for a sacred select few. All doors are only closed temporarily as an illusion.

If you can speak English, you can teach it.

If you can vote, you can make a life of politics.

If you can make a sound, you can make music.

If you can move, you can learn to dance.

If you can make words or symbols you can make poetry.

I think I'm having an inner backlash against shining hope. Some kneejerk response. It'll go away in a minute. Ok, give me two.

Why does this remind me of faith healing?

Oh hun' you just ain't praying with enough belief. Try again. Do it just right and god, whose quite accommodating, just a little picky is all, will hear and in a blaze of lightning fix everything.

Is the alternative validation boards that make arbitrary hoops to cut down on the number of people "committed enough" to simplify the process?

Ignorance and will being king alarms me. "Everything goes" is limp and vacous as a rubber chicken.

Standards are not an evil thing.

Being Not As Good in absolute or relative terms is not a moral thing. It isn't a taboo. Knowing where you are at at the start of path, whether proud or humble of that, is profitable to know.

Claiming to be tapped into some divine strand of Inspiration that flattens out distinctions and makes all equal is quaint.

I think I've heard from enough of the contingent of writers who look eye flutteringly and say they don't have time to read, who are easily impressed and don't engage with contemporaries or any historical work. Words are for communication, aren't they?

My dad once remarked that some of the best conversations he has are when no one else is around but communication in a vacuum is odd, or so I'm told. It doesn't get funny looks in this neighbourhood with all the homeless people and the new hearing aid sized phones but as normal practice, how can one write something which isn't tiresome or trite or self-absorbed when alone? One isn't necessarily responding with poetry to poetry. Ekphrastics to painting, photos, news stories, or doing responses to conversations or songs or some other mode is possible. But various poetries are a dialect. Writing in isolation one can diverge off into an idiolect that one you can understand. Or else you write conversation dialect and name it poetry.

Good communication requires opinions based on observation and thought, bringing experience to bear to bridge experiences and audience. If there is no rigour, there can be luck or indulgent audience who takes communication as phatic placeholder of relationship until there are ideas for transference. There is cooperative engagement in process.

As much as humanity has learned has to be parsed out skull by skull and within generations can be lost.

Creation begins for each person at birth. The universe only exists for that person for what has reached that person. It can take decades to absorb before one can stand on the shoulders of anything that has gone before. All else is exercise to ready for that. One may take that seriously or not. One can only understand or be understood by someone with comparable knowledge to grasp the same things. In this way we are somewhat lockstepped in our level or ignorance.

Actually knowing something, having studied in depth is fairly rare and hard to find out in Canadian culture where one doesn't like to mention one's credibility lest it be seen as uppity.

Modesty is a virtue, except excess of virtue becomes a vice. Being modest is fine except when it blocks communication. Modesty when it is shame of knowledge and not educating understanding that could happen could be construed as just being unnecessarily withholding and being difficult.

Maybe that's pat of the reason why I find Christian Bok so refreshing. As he said in Open Letter at Wells,

CB: I would like to think though, that unlike many poets my age or younger, I’m operating from a position of relative, historic strength. I have a doctorate in poetry. I’ve dedicated 25 years of my life to its study, and now I have a black belt in the subject. I have already demonstrated a thorough immersion in the history of writing, including the history of traditions outside my areas of interest.

There is an enormous amount of knowledge and worlds of perceptions, in part due to the balooning world population.

Ron Sillimen reiterated this paradox he mentioned a few years ago about how big of pond poetry has become

I don’t think anybody yet has figured out how to handle the evolving revolution in poetry’s relationship to its audience. We have way more than ten thousand publishing poets in the English language, which is maybe ten times what it was when I was in my early 20s & close to 100 times what it was when the New Americans were making their way in the 1950s.

In another decade, we will easily have more than 20,000 publishing poets. Does anybody think that the actual reading audience for poetry has grown proportionately? (The only way to answer yes to that is if you think nobody reads poetry – or at least reads it seriously – but poets.) This is a far more profound change than, say, the collapse of trade publishing, the death of bookstores that won’t carry your chapbook, or the fact that we are producing close to a thousand new poets every year when the number of jobs for poets expands by about 50.

What is meaningful or useful to know? Who we access is who resonates. We attach by patterns of knowledge and language rather than patterns of geography or class or gender. We learn by networks of who we have come across and organically through who those people know.

We are constrained by access, but perhaps more by energies of lifetime.

Who has the puzzle pieces of knowledge of what I need to know but don't know I need to know until I happen upon it?

Or like Ernest Bramah said “One learns to itch where one can scratch.”

One can make do with hand-me-downs of what others say is the best poetry.

It may be a serviceable fit. The color, cut, weave, size may rarely all suit perfectly.

When one tailors one's own, one is still limited by materials at hand, by one's own hand's skill. Does perfect occur?

Constantly. Fleetingly. As self changes and what does work wears thin and needs replacement with the other (im)perfect variant options that serve.

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