Wednesday, December 12, 2018

GNK 321

3: the number of writers it took to write a three paragraph review of ...

2: the number of curators it took to curate ...

1: a single artist who, with little more than a pencil and a stool, wrote on the gallery wall "the names of everyone [he] ever met."

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Maxwell Bates (1906-1980)

Last Saturday afternoon I visited the nineteenth century -- also known as Uno Langman's Xmas open house. Before that I stopped at Heffel, where I saw Myfanwy Pavelic's Portrait of Maxwell Bennett Bates (1979) and, on the wall opposite, Bates's Forest Spirits (n.d.).

Monday, December 10, 2018



a house that has seen enough
money pass through it to shorten
a lifetime

I know you’re in there
the hallway light’s infiltration
of what you assumed

to be a dark room, your silhouette
held in the drapes, a billboard
advertising fear

disguised as
curiosity, now guilt as you
return to your computer

and me to mine
noting those who stop
before your spiked iron fence

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A Biography of Joseph Conrad

On Page 38 of her critical biography The Dawn Watchers: Joseph Conrad in a Global World (2017), Maya Jasanoff writes: "A spider in the worldwide web of somewhere, London caught the world in lines of news."

The year is 1878, and Conrad, who is 20, has just arrived from Marseilles, where he worked as a sailor after leaving his native Poland three years before. One of the greatest writers of English literature -- and he has yet to learn the language!

(The image atop this post is also from 1878.)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Words of the Years

Oxford Dictionary's 2018 "Word of the Year" is toxic. (Not its "Word of the Year" promotion, but the word itself.) Like many, I nodded when I heard it.

As for words in the offing, I am seeing the word trauma pop up more and more, most recently in Dodie Bellamy's "Leaky Boundaries" article for Artforum.

Is "trauma" the great intersectional unifier? Byung-Chul Han seems to think so. As our "achievement culture" can't-go-on-will-go-on, as our "auto-aggression" takes it toll, collective -- and competing -- trauma is inevitable.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Civilian Assembly Centre

Seventy-seven years ago today, over a two hour period, the Imperial Japanese Army sent bombs, bullets and torpedoes into the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. After that, the United States and Canada responded with a long, tortuous corralling of its ethnic Japanese population, stripping them of their possessions, their homes, separating family members and relocating them to interior towns like Greenwood, B.C. (below). While on the other side of the Pacific, the Imperial Army invaded the Shanghai International Settlement, taking my father and his parents prisoner and interning them at a civilian assembly centre similar to the one J. G. Ballard and his family were sent to at Lunghua (above).

Thursday, December 6, 2018


"[T]he stories that have always been here" would have something to say about more recent stories of land speculators and private developers whose intention is never to learn from the land but to impose upon it their will, collect those whose vision includes ambiguity, the symbolic, the critical, and absorb them, make headstones of their objects and gestures. The proposal to turn Oakridge into Fort Wealth is the latest manifestation. By concentrating all available pronouns into a subservient "we", the story of that absorption is but six letters short -- s-t-b-a-n-k -- of completion.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

"a watersmooth-silver//stallion"

In Design as Art (London: Penguin, 1966), Bruno Munari writes: "A poem only communicates if read slowly: only then does it have time to create a state of mind in which the images can form and be transformed." (68) Yet in e.e. cummings's "Buffalo Bill's" (1920), line 6 is designed to be read quickly:

and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat

Not simply the images in the poem, because these have already been established in the form of our hero (Buffalo Bill) and what he's riding in on ("a watersmooth-silver//stallion"), but their accelerant: the action taken towards Munari's "transformation." This is cummings's debt to the Italian Futurists (1909-1944): the speed -- and the violence -- in which that action takes place. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Wild Kingdom

I am so sensitive.

How sensitive are you?

I am so sensitive that even the breath you take to ask me about the extent of my sensitivity is enough to suck me dry.

Monday, December 3, 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 cry I keep hearing -- it is no longer coming from outside my window but from within this room, from the closet to the right of my table so shallow I cannot hang my shirts and coats with their shoulders front to back, but side to side, a cry

that will soon enough come from inside me, and then what? new forms? these same words but as rungs that poem of those who, like the limbless crying out from battlefields, homebound, unable to rise from their beds, the war

inside us, raging, us against us? It is ... futile? ironic? shitty? given the historic emphasis on hard work, achievement, how important it is to set goals, how if we work hard enough we will achieve them -- over a ground that continues to shift, that never kept still, never neutral, always a battlefield, a script

whose final act is hidden? never written? To write like this, to write through this, to read back on that writing and revise? These are the thoughts I awake to, lucky enough to get out of bed with -- until one day the weight of them ...

Saturday, December 1, 2018


A fews weeks ago a mirthless friend from Saskatoon who loves Leonard Cohen sent me a Winnipeg Free Press review of Cohen's posthumous poetry book The Flame and asked if I had read it. 

Knowing he wasn't referring to the review, I read the review anyway and noticed that the second poetry book mentioned was my own.

I replied to my friend that I had not yet read the Cohen book, but that the second book "looked interesting." Two weeks later I received in the mail the third book mentioned, with a post-it note saying, "You were right!"