Monday, October 5, 2009

Among those at my book launch Friday was University of British Columbia Green College Writer-In-Resident Oana Avasilichioaei. I first came upon Oana’s work five years ago, in an anthology of emerging and established women writers called Portfolio Milieu (Sumach Press), edited by Morgan Chojnakci, Christine Leclerc, Arleen Pare and Ingrid Rose.

Oana’s contribution was a poem sequence set at Vancouver’s Hastings Park, a work I was excited by not only for its focus on place (Lisa Robertson once wrote through there) but for its inventive sense of time. After a little digging, I found Oana’s email and told her how much I enjoyed the sequence and asked if it was part of a larger work.

She replied that it was, but not yet.

Last year, feria: a poempark was published.

feria, along with Lee Henderson’s The Man Game (2008), are two books that consider Vancouver from both the present and the past. While Lee’s book (a novel) has a more defined, episodic structure, feria, which Oana describes as a “palimpsest,” is just that: an overlapping work that, while reading it, reminds me of the fog that was once so common to this city -- until they closed the beehive burners and built tourists traps like Granville Island.

During a recent round of emails Oana apprised me of a growing online discussion concerning “conceptual writing.” Because I know something of the conceptual art practices of the 1960s and 70s, I Googled “conceptual writing” and what should come up but “Kenneth Goldsmith – Paragraphs on Conceptual Writing,” a direct reference to Sol LeWitt’s “Sentences on Conceptual Art”, first published in England’s Art-Language, May 1969.

However, whereas LeWitt’s list was written with serious intent -- so much so that John Baldessari punished it by singing it into an artwork (LeWitt’s last sentence reads: “These sentences comment on art, but are not art”) -- Goldsmith, who has a fine sense of humour, has comped the tone while, like Baldessari, made art of the content, as writing. His last line, like many of the beautiful contradictions running through his (and LeWitt’s) texts, manages to be tautological, connoisseurial and farcical – “Conceptual writing is good only when the idea is good.”

I will run this by Oana, when I see her tomorrow for drinks.

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