Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last night Lisa and I drove to the Sylvia Hotel for the launch of Robin Blaser (New Star Press), a book of essays (two) by Blaser associates Brian Fawcett and Stan Persky.

Publisher Rolf Mauer kicked things off the way publishers seem programmed to do, and that is anecdotally: how it was not until he heard Blaser read that Blaser's writing made sense to him. We were also told that the first thing to come out of New Star’s first fax machine was a Blaser poem, though Mauer could not remember the title.

When it was Fawcett’s turn to speak, the co-author (and defender of Blaser’s pederasty) demurred, leaving the evening to Persky, who, in Persky fashion, complained about our shitty world before attempting to revive it with three Blaser poems, the titles of which I can’t remember, either.

Thirteen years ago, after a talk I gave to residents of the MacLean Hunter Arts Journalism Program at Banff, I was asked by two Montreal literary journalists (when there was such a thing): What’s the big deal with Robin Blaser?

I did not have an answer. In fact, I have often asked myself the same question. But because my talk concerned Vancouver poetry (based on a section from my book Kingsway that had titles derived from the lines of others), I did my best.

Rather than speak on the written influence of San Francisco Renaissance poets Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer and Robin Blaser on a generation of Vancouver poets, I talked about Blaser as a purveyor, a taste-making mystic at a time of mystics (Al Neil, bill bissett, Judith Copithorne), how Blaser was known to go into people’s homes and redesign their dining rooms, like he did at Angela and George Bowering’s, selecting a floral drapery pattern identical to the wallpaper surrounding it. Yes, yes, yes, said the journalists, but what about the writing? What’s the attraction?

During his introduction, Mauer told us how hearing Blaser read reoriented his approach to the work, insofar as the experience of a Blaser poem is not to find one’s way through it but to lose oneself. A rather disingenuous explanation, especially when the arrangement of elements, at least to my mind, incite neither pleasure nor pain.

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