Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gift Bag Economy


Last September I took part in Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Undercity: Writing the Suburban World symposium, where I met the students behind Misfit Lit magazine, who, some months later, asked me for a submission and, upon accepting my poems, asked if I would read at their next launch. That launch was last Wednesday night at Cafe Deux Soleils on Commercial Drive.

For my reading I prepared a selection of work that fell into the categories of something old (a long poem I wrote in 1995, about a bar at 1st and Commercial), something new (poems from my latest manuscript, 9x11), something borrowed (a translation of Henri Michaux's "Poem 39") and something "blue" (the poems I submitted to Misfit Lit, written after reading Michaux's poem).

But there was, as it turned out, an even newer poem, one that I wrote at 4:30PM that day; a suite of four poems that presented themselves while entering a succession of forward slashes (/, then //, then ///, then ////) into Google's search engine.

Here it is:

AUTOCOMPLETE

/

/b/
/
/v/
/ emoticon

*

//

//plugins chrome
//extensions
//survey.walmart.ca
/// emoticon

*

///

/// emoticon
/// summary c#
/// emoticon meaning
/// c#

*

////

//// emoticon
////.com
////facebook
////y

Like I said, the poem sequence was composed through successive entries of the forward slash into a search engine, with each entry "completing" itself in the form of a discrete poem. Why the poems end after four forward slashes is the result of a search engine that has exhausted its options. There was no longer anything to "complete".

After my reading the editors (Marlow Gunterman, Taryn Pearcy and Connor Doyle) presented me with a gift bag, inside of which were Misfit Lit stickers, a copy of the magazine, a book called 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die (2007) and a bottle of Finca's latest batch of Malbec.


The following day I rode my bike down to the Cultural Harmony Grove, a small park just east of the Burrard Street Bridge, to visit with the artist Arvo Leo, who has, for the past couple months, set himself up as a portrait painter for hire. The deal is this: you give him a bottle of wine (red), and he will paint your portrait, using some of that wine as the field behind you. Because I was just given wine for my services, I thought I would recirculate that wine through a similar economy.

Here is the wine:


Here is Arvo Leo:


And here is my portrait:

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