Saturday, October 22, 2016

fwd: Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Project: Call for Poets?

Toronto poet, editor, fiction writer and critic Priscila Uppal [see her 'on writing' piece here] recently sent out this call:


I am applying to the Canada Council's New Chapter one-time funding opportunity for something I call ANOTHER DYSFUNCTIONAL CANCER POEM PROJECT. (I spoke to the CC officer yesterday who was very encouraging of the application.) The project has several different platforms; all with the goal of bringing poetry to those affected by cancer across the country (either working professionally as doctors, nurses, social oncologists, medical students, naturopaths...; or personally, as patients, survivors, caregivers, supporters...).

I propose to travel to the cities where our medical universities are located across the country and to conduct poetry workshops with both cancer care professionals/ medical students, as well as those personally affected by cancer care. These workshops would culminate in public readings as well as the production of broadsheets/chapbooks to be exhibited/distributed to various venues where cancer care is offered. While I will be participating in the workshops and readings and writing poetry of my own, I am applying for funding to involve other established or emerging writers as well (all writers would be paid according to Canada Council rates for workshop/reading fees, as well as for some travel or accommodation for those inside the particular province to travel to the city of the medical school).

IF YOU ARE A WRITER INTERESTED IN LEADING A WORKSHOP OR PARTICIPATING IN A READING please send me a short letter of support/intent that I can attach to my application  (send to by OCT 27th--it doesn't have to be long, just address it to Canada Council New Chapter and say if you want to be involved in a workshop and/or reading and maybe a few lines about why--importance of project or your relationship to the material)  You don't have to be a medical professional or someone who has experienced cancer. We all know and love someone who has been affected by cancer--you just need to be willing to promote the writing of cancer-experience related poems for others or for yourself. (And as stated above, you will be paid according to CC rates.)

The project also proposes that in addition to the broadsheets and chapbooks that will be produced during the period of workshops and readings, select poems will also be featured on a website devoted to the project and others eventually published as a print book anthology with an established literary Canadian publisher. Of course, copyright rests with each poet, so participation in a workshop or reading does not mean you have already committed to publication--I just want to let you know that book publication will be proposed as the final step in the project's dissemination.

The core belief of this project is that the imagination can be a very powerful tool in the experience of illness. Creative health needs to be nurtured and strengthened alongside physical and mental health. If you join me in this core belief, please let me know! Many thanks,

Priscila Uppal

Friday, October 21, 2016

On Writing #110 : Waubgeshig Rice

On Writing
Waubgeshig Rice

I started writing partly out of boredom. I grew up in the bush on the reserve; our family home was relatively isolated from neighbouring family and friends, compared to the town across the water. There was a lot of alone time in my small room in our small house.

By my teen years, I started writing creatively about some of the things happening around me to pass the time. Fiction was a new plaything I learned about in high school. So I fictionalized my and my friends’ regular activities like fishing, bike riding, and bush parties just for fun.

And that was as far as I thought it would go. I saw writing simply as a creative outlet, like playing guitar or sketching. I never knew it could be a valid artistic path or viable career option because I didn’t know of any Indigenous authors.

We didn’t learn about them in high school, and I never saw them in the books pages of the major national newspapers and magazines. But they were there, laying a strong foundation of Indigenous literature for the rest of us. We just couldn’t count on the mainstream Canadian literary scene to expose us to them.

Fortunately, one of my aunts took note of my newfound hobby, and the good marks I was getting in English class. She was also one of my first teachers in elementary school on the rez. So she started giving me books by authors like Thomas King, Louise Erdrich, and Richard Wagamese. In their books, I read about experiences similar to mine as an Indigenous person on this land now called North America.

That inspired me to write even more, in the spirit of speaking our truths and sharing our unique experiences. That led me on a proverbial journey of self-discovery that has been fun, enlightening, and rewarding. Today, I write to bond with Indigenous readers and to help non-Indigenous people understand how we exist on our lands and in the society created on top of us.

The irony of writing predominantly in the language of that settling society to advocate for Indigenous culture isn’t lost on me. But if the authorities had their way, I wouldn’t know anything at all about being Anishinaabe. Brutal measures like residential schools and the Indian Act were supposed to erase that culture.

Fortunately, that erasure failed, and I see what I do as using the tool of the colonizer to bolster and enhance what’s left. I also see it as a small part of wider healing and celebration of Indigenous identity. It’s a responsibility that I take very seriously, and it’s an honour and a privilege to write in this spirit.

Waubgeshig Rice is an Ottawa-based author and journalist originally from Wasauksing First Nation. His short story collection Midnight Sweatlodge (2011) and novel Legacy (2014) were published by Theytus Books. He’s currently working on another novel and more short stories. When he’s not writing fiction, he works as a video and web journalist for CBC Ottawa.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Recent Reads: "from Lamentations" by Robert Hogg

from Lamentations by Robert Hogg
2nd Edition. Published by above/ground press, 2016.

As its title suggests, from Lamentations is a sampler of poems from an as-yet-unreleased body of work about memory. That this is the compilation’s expanded, second edition implies considerable gestation time. But even without knowing that, the sporadic growth of this manuscript can be measured by dates that accompany each poem, marking when their finished drafts occurred. As a result, Robert Hogg explores the past in layers, writing about his childhood and formative years in the 1950s and 1960s via perspectives he held on dates ranging from the early '90s up until January of this year.

Hogg pokes and prods these breadcrumbs of autobiography for gleanings beyond his own experience. “Roy Rogers – a jazz elegy” and “Summer of sixty-three” deal in fractured, stream-of-conscious details that transpose the youthful significance of its subjects to disquieting uncertainty. He slows his boyhood’s galloping adoration for Hollywood cowboy Roy Rogers to examine the simple “good against evil” doctrine of America’s wild west:

the colorful black and white dazzle of your perfect horsemanship riding
full speed the reins wrapped around the horn those mother of pearl six guns
twirling round your index fingers and firing so perfectly the outlaws seemed
to fall and die but not really it was just like the make-believe we also played
Jesus Roy did you know all that when you practiced your squint in the mirror and 
yodelled all those songs on the radio nights we were too young to know any better and
thought it was real romance?

Later, in "Summer of sixty-three", he steadies a romanticized image of his “bohemian goodfornothing but love and lovemaking friends” upon the dulling of years passed:

West Pender
Coal Harbour

place itself
nervous and precarious as this pad
perched on its stilts above a steep ravine

and below near the shoreline the rail yard
abyss we all knew
time was or would be

Tight, conservative stanzas like the above excerpt follow wooly, run-on yarns  sometimes within the same poem  as though the writer is torn between rose-tinted nostalgia and the dislocation of trying to categorize certain memories, decades on. Yet these poems aren’t so much conflicted by age as they are counterbalanced, the wild and restrained Robert Hogg appearing on page in roughly equal measure. The tone’s just right  good natured but deeply felt.

With “Ahead (in memoriam, Bob Creeley” and “Synapse, Mid-Morning, January”, the chapbook takes on true existential colours; the former poem aiding a good friend in traveling the mysteries of afterlife and the latter finding Hogg at present day, kindling a wood stove. There’s no sentiment in this last poem, just small observations on the present moment. And given so much space to interpret, I wonder if "Synapse, Mid-Morning, January" provides such a contrast from the bulk of from Lamentations because it signals the sort of insight one's left with after seventy-odd years on Earth. There's no ego; just a new memory, cut at the root.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On Writing #109 : Elaine Woo

The Crux
Elaine Woo

In our every thought and act, whether settling an argument or figuring out how to build a planter box, creativity flows.  The creative force gurgles and seeps through the vast living network of connections we call the individual's life.  I foster my writing by actively plumbing the depths at which I am connected to the anticipated, lived through, or remembered.

Elaine Woo navigates the vast reservoir of life with her writing. Another work of poetry as well as a rock opera are underway.

Monday, October 03, 2016

On Writing #108 : David B. Goldstein

On Writing
David B. Goldstein

            We had found the house on one of those vacation rental sites that predated VRBO and Airbnb. A little less slick, a little more like roulette. It was an old medieval home, tucked up in the hills of Sintra, Portugal, the centuries-old summer roost of Portuguese kings escaping the sweltering Lisbon heat.
            Our original notion in renting the house had been to create a DIY artist colony. But one by one, artist friends dropped out over financial or family or job pressures. By the time we arrived, although art was somewhere in the back of my mind, I had a new plan: I was preoccupied with a scholarly essay I had to write about Ovid’s influence on Edmund Spenser. I was excited about the essay—for the first time, another professor had asked me to contribute to a collection of essays she was editing. But the deadline had just passed, and I was frantic to finish it. I was focused. I was committed to figuring out what I wanted to say. I would add some flash of brilliance to a timeworn subject, and modestly too!
            Try as I might, I couldn’t break through my writer’s block. I took long walks on the cobblestone streets and hiked up the paths of the hills above the town. With its towering eucalyptus trees, the forest—which one entered through a giant stone turnstile, to keep out livestock and wild boars—felt medieval, as if I might run across one of Spenser’s knights or perhaps an orc on one of my strolls. A ruined 9th-century Moorish castle sat on its haunches at the top of the hill, thinking lonely thoughts.
            We had been informed that the antiques dealer who owned the home had put away the breakables so that we wouldn’t be nervous about navigating the house’s narrow hallways and small rooms. It turned out that by “breakables” he meant, exclusively, crystal. He left all the porcelain figurines, the glass baubles, the bronze keys, the delicately painted plates, the plush chairs, the squat elegant side tables, the wooden dolls upon dolls upon dolls, scattered over almost every inch of available wall, floor, and table surface area. The house was a wonderland of antiques. You could barely move in it.
            The rooms were so tiny and weird that the first time we went through the house, counting all the beds where our family and friends would sleep, we realized that we must have missed an entire room, because we were one bed short. And indeed there it was, at the top of the tiny narrow staircase to the attic-like third floor, behind a mirror that looked like a wall but was actually a door. Beyond that door was a small double bed facing another mirror, fronted by a lamp fashioned from a wooden doll. When you turned her on, she seemed to be in flames. During the month we stayed there, no one ever felt like sleeping in that room.       
            At night I wandered through the house, stopping at each doll, each porcelain animal, each framed map, hoping for inspiration. Everywhere, instead of hearing Spenser and Ovid conversing about influence, I heard each little object hunching and whispering to itself. The history of the house, the town, the forest was so palpable and ever-present that I couldn’t think my own thoughts. I set myself another deadline. By the end of the week, if I hadn’t broken through on the essay, I would give up. Friday came. We had a lovely dinner at one of the hundred amazing seafood restaurants. There were tiny grilled squid jeweled with lemon juice. A chocolate mousse apparently made of air. At midnight that night I got up and wandered around the house. The dolls were talking. I sat down in front of one of them and started writing what I heard. I did that for the rest of the month, going from doll to doll, map to map, listening and translating. To this day I haven’t finished the Spenser essay.
            We often think of writing as going inside ourselves for inspiration, or as expressing our innermost thoughts and feelings. It’s never been like that for me. At its root, I find my poetry to be an art of listening. An art of returning to what is lost in and by the world, and prying it out from silence. An art of finding out not what I want to say, but what someone or something else in the world must say, and maybe is already saying, in language I can’t yet hear.

David B. Goldstein’s second poetry collection, Lost Originals, is just out from BookThug. It features silent dolls and other antiques from Sintra, Portugal, as well as a host of other speaking objects. Goldstein is also a literary critic, whose book Eating and Ethics in Shakespeare's England (Cambridge, 2013) won the Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award. He lives with his family in Toronto, where he is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at York University.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

We Who Are About To Die : Diana Magallón

Diana Magallón is an experimental artist:
Author of Bravísima Reseña (in collaboration with John M. Bennett), Phellipa in Wolf (in collaboration with Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, De l’oiseau et de l’ogre, largoscabellosflotantes (in collaboration with Jeff Crouch), Fábulas furtivas and Fábulas furtivas II
Where are you now?

-          Halfway.
What are you reading?

-          I’m enjoying Max Ernst - Iliazd book Maximiliana ou l’exercice illégal de l’astronomie: hommage à Dorothea, Tanning, an illustrated book of visual poetry.  And reading  “Introduction à la lecture de Kafka : Suivie de L'Epée, Dans notre synagogue, L'invité des morts, Lampes neuves (textes et commentaires)”
What have you discovered lately?

-          The amazing outsider and visionary artist Madge Gills who always made her works against all odds. Her art so unique and timeless, especially those pieces made on fabrics, all this has been an awesome discovery for me.

Where do you write?

-          For take notes and sketches paper or a tablet are enough then I finish the works in my studio.
What are you working on?

-          On a series of asemic geometry about the live under the water, life in salad and sweet water.

Have you anything forthcoming?

-           I have plans for a plein air collection that will be made in electronic media then will be materialized in tabloid format.

What would you rather be doing?

-          I should be inspiring the poet.

2 poems:

Sugar grains
fas°¯°·.t·° .·°°°dis°¯°·.·° .·°°°olve
qui•• ••te°¯°·.·° .·°°°cubes
•..ו does•• trick÷•
`•.,¸¸,.•´¯ sugar  is smaller than salt ¸¸.•´¯`•¸¸.•.
••.•´¯`•.•• ••.•´¯`•.•••.¯•`••´•.• ••´.•¯•`.•••
×..• d•soe• tric÷k•¯.°··° .°·°u°bces`
,.¸••,¸´.¯ sgaur  is smlaler than slat ¸•´¸¸•¯.¸•.`.

Altius , Citius , Fortius
The gods are eating grapes
Altius , Citius, Fortress
Altius , citrus , Fortius
After the hope sits an "it is possible"

Citius Altius to from stands a glimpse of Fortius
Who can  not endure Such Difficulties .
A second man , Citius, who have equipped himself With
one but only one obstacle , Unlucky Circumstances .
They all are heroes.
Thoughtlessly , Altius , the gatekeeper ,
he can not suffer
and Becomes childish , I still mumbles: I can’t hear a word!.
Altius , Citius, Forty
In a moment of madness , Citius,
Which breaks inextinguishably
Entire out of his senses , diminishing

Friday, September 23, 2016

On Writing #107 : Gina Myers

Is there room in the room that you room in?
Gina Myers

In the opening sonnet from Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets, Berrigan asks, “Is there room in the room that you room in?” In poetry, we measure things by stanzas—stanza being Italian for room—so I can’t help but wonder if Berrigan is asking if there is room for us inside your poem. Of course, there is a chance that Berrigan didn’t write this line himself as The Sonnets challenged notions of authorship and first introduced, at least to me, the idea of community as a way of process. One thing that I love about Berrigan’s work is this inclusivity--the space created for other voices, the welcoming of other people, and the creative potential of conversation and friendship.

The New York School poets have been essential to me and my own understanding of what poetry is and what it can be. Bernadette Mayer’s writing experiments remind me that the material of poetry is everywhere, whether it’s a snippet of overheard conversation on a street corner or language snatched from a dream or a Facebook ad. CA Conrad has said, “All the globe becomes a poem.” I find these ideas incredibly generous and permissive. There is a freedom that comes with opening one’s self up to the idea that poetry is everywhere if we’re willing to listen for it.

In an interview, Eileen Myles defines what it means to be a New York School poet: “As an aesthetic it means putting yourself in the middle of a place and being excited and stunned by it, and trying to make sense of it in your work.” This, putting one’s self somewhere and being excited to be there despite all that being there involves--the joyful as well as the heartbreaking and ugly--and trying to make sense of it, is what poetry is for me. And I am happy to be here. And I’m happy you’re here too.

Gina Myers is the author of two full-length poetry collections, A Model Year (Coconut Books, 2009) and Hold It Down (Coconut Books, 2013), as well as numerous chapbooks. Originally from Saginaw, Michigan, she now lives in Philadelphia where she works in higher ed communications.