Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What the Tweeters Are Tweeting



Not sure what evidence the tweeter has that Peter Culley doesn't have a "way bigger readership." Friends at the Amazon warehouse? Access to library databases? Or is it simply a case of connoisseurial omnipotence? I have attended readings by Pete in New York and San Francisco -- places that likely mean something to the tweeter -- and was impressed by the turnouts.

Pete deserves better than this. If people think so much of someone's work, tell us more about it, not less.


Not sure what evidence the tweeter has that 18th century German poet Friedrich Hölderlin is better known outside his native Germany -- or Europe, for that matter. But in the context of the New York Times book review to which the tweeter is reacting, where the measure of what is "known" is relative to key works by Defoe, Hawthorne, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Maddox Ford, Beckett etc., I think it is reasonable to say (though pointless to say so) that Hölderlin and his works are "lesser known."

Monday, January 15, 2018


A small room behind a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

The sun is low and has turned the white wall opposite an orange gold. What puzzles me is the shadow. There is nothing in the sun's way to cast a shadow, nor can I make out what that nothing is.

Am I dreaming? Am I dreaming the shadow? The sunlight, too?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thomas Kakinuma



The story of ceramics in British Columbia art is a furtive history that includes artists who received their training in the medium (Glenn Lewis was a student of Bernard Leach), who shared their lessons with others (Gathie Falk was a protégé of Lewis), only to move in multiple artistic directions. Some ceramicists, like Wayne Ngan and Charmian Johnson, held the course and continue to produce intelligent bowls and vases, while others, like Japanese-born Thomas Kakinuma (1908-1982), are returned to us by thoughtful curators.

The poignancy of Kakinuma’s small figurative sculptures, which he was known for amongst collectors keen to accent their stark mid-century furniture, appears more so when viewed in relation to the artist’s own story. At 29, Kakinuma immigrated to Vancouver en route to Paris, where he hoped to study art. But World War II intervened. After studying drawing and painting in Toronto, New York, then Toronto again to study ceramics, Kakinuma returned to Vancouver, where he taught at UBC’sPottery Hut.

It was in 1950s Vancouver that Kakinuma developed his reputation as a maker of animals. “The birds are quick to produce and easy to sell,” he said of his figurines, “but I would really like to work on a one-man show, rather than making small items for stores.” Indeed, for Kakinuma the goal was to make large abstract sculpture. Although he realized his ambitions through participation in important exhibitions, and awards that allowed him to study in Japan and Mexico, it has taken this long for us to hear from him again.

Friday, January 12, 2018

"On Writing"



A few months ago I was invited by Bush Gallery to contribute to a guest edited issue of C Magazine. The magazine has a number of regular features, and I was asked to write something "experimental" for its "On Writing" column. Honoured, I said yes.

The magazine arrived a couple days ago, and I have been flipping through it.

Two of the more active members of Bush Gallery -- Peter Morin and Tania Willard -- took an interesting approach to another of the magazine's regular sections -- "Book Reviews" -- to apply the Bush Gallery concept of Storymancy to texts by authors such as Sherman Alexie, Shirley Bear and Eden Robinson. A nice piece of writing!

Thursday, January 11, 2018


A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

Last night I took By the Waters of Manhattan: Selected Verse (1962) by Charles Reznikoff to bed with me and read a couple of short pieces about a work crew boarding an over-crowded ferry and a young worker who gets her hair caught in the gears of a factory sewing machine before drifting off.

When I awoke I turned on the radio and listened to our mayor, Gregor Robertson, field questions on CKNW's "Jon McComb Show" about his decision to not seek a fourth term.

McComb: "Do you think that the housing crises has, in effect, left you unelectable as mayor?"

Robertson: "Oh no, not at all. Quite the opposite. I feel it's kinda going against my competitive nature to not run again. I've been elected three times with those consistent priorities of focusing on affordable housing and rental housing in particular. Those of us who are lucky enough to own a place and bought into the market years ago, we're doing fine, and we've had a huge windfall from the increase and made a lot of wealth.

McComb (sarcastically): Well good for you!

Robertson: Yeah, and that is something to be thankful for, but for half of the city here in Vancouver -- rent -- they don't own a place, and that's gotten way tougher. The values of real estate end up impacting rents, so we're seeing the pressure on half the city having trouble with affordability and that's where city hall has to focus on the affordable side of the spectrum, and rental housing, and making sure-- You know, I think that's been a top priority for me, and I expect and hope that the next mayor of Vancouver continues to do everything that city hall can do on housing and transit -- getting the Broadway subway built is still something I am hopeful I can deliver with mayors across the region in the year before this term is up -- so I've still got this year to deliver a whole bunch of the big commitments that I've been committed to.

McComb: But your heart is not in it though.

Robertson: Yeah, that's where I ended up over the holidays with my family and friends for a lot more time than I've had with them for many years and it really hammered home for me personally that I am ready for change.

Perplexed, I return to the imagistic poems of Reznikoff, and this short piece in particular, "Building Boom", which brings to mind the pictures of Ian Wallace, Jeff Wall, Roy Arden and Stan Douglas, not to mention Westbank's "Fight for Beauty" campaign:

The avenue of willows leads nowhere:
it begins at the blank wall of the new apartment house
and ends in the middle of a lot for sale.
Paper and cans are thrown about the trees.
The disorder does not touch the flower branches;
but the trees have become small among the new house,
and will be cut down --
their beauty cannot save them.