Thursday, October 31, 2019

L'Eclisse (1962)

Monika Vitti (below left) begins L'Eclisse (1962) with intimacy issues, but comes alive when hanging with her girlfriends.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Allegory Details

For Toronto's City Librarian, free speech is more than a right, it is a geographical feature common to hilltops, where life is forever tested ("a hill to die on"); where “public library service ... democracy, and our values that make this city, this country, and our communities so strong,” dance before Hawthorn's "blazing rock." 

"There," resumed the sable form, "are all whom ye have reverenced from youth. Ye deemed them holier than yourselves, and shrank from your own sin, contrasting it with their lives of righteousness and prayerful aspirations heavenward. Yet here are they all in my worshipping assembly. This night it shall be granted you to know their secret deeds: how hoary-bearded elders of the church have whispered wanton words to the young maids of their households; how many a woman, eager for widows' weeds, has given her husband a drink at bedtime and let him sleep his last sleep in her bosom; how beardless youths have made haste to inherit their fathers' wealth; and how fair damsels—blush not, sweet ones—have dug little graves in the garden, and bidden me, the sole guest to an infant's funeral. By the sympathy of your human hearts for sin ye shall scent out all the places—whether in church, bedchamber, street, field, or forest—where crime has been committed, and shall exult to behold the whole earth one stain of guilt, one mighty blood spot. Far more than this. It shall be yours to penetrate, in every bosom, the deep mystery of sin, the fountain of all wicked arts, and which inexhaustibly supplies more evil impulses than human power—than my power at its utmost—can make manifest in deeds. And now, my children, look upon each other."

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Poetry Review

Last week Quill & Quire reviewed Resisting Canada: An Anthology of Poetry (Toronto: Signal/McClelland & Stewart, 2019). Below is the publisher's description (from editor Nyla Matuk's website): 

"Resisting Canada gathers together poets for a conversation bigger than poetic trends. The book's organizing principle is Canada -- the Canada that established residential schools; the Canada grappling with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; the Canada that has been visible in its welcome of Syrian refugees, yet the not-always-tolerant place where the children of those refugees will grow up; the Canada eager to re-establish its global leadership on the environment while struggling to acknowledge Indigenous sovereignty on resource-rich land and enabling further colonization of that land. In the face of global conflicts due to climate change, scarcity, mass migrations, and the rise of xenophobic populisms, Canada still works with a surface understanding of its democratic values--both at their noblest and most deceptive."

Aren't today's "poetic trends" attentive to the very contradictions the publisher is noting to justify the existence of its book? All the same, it's nice to see those contradictions listed. Not so nice are review paragraphs like the one below, where the "found" and the "collate[d]" are (as usual) aligned with the "impersonal," while that which is "embodied" and "firmly rooted in the present" is "vivid":

"The excerpts from Jordan Abel’s Injun collate found texts into an expansive and often impersonal view of the representation of Indigenous peoples. On the surface, Abel’s arrangements have little in common with a poem like Billy-Ray Belcourt’s “Oxford Journal,” whose second-person descriptions of moving through the world are embodied, vivid, and more firmly rooted in the present. However, at their core, both poems are built around a single subject – a self, or a loaded word like “frontier” – that carries so many stories, places, and people within it that it is at risk of rupturing."

Are there not new and "bigger" ways to speak of the work of these two PhD poets -- both alone and in comparison? And by that I mean beyond the expressive versus concretist polemic Dworkin and Goldsmith made so much of in 2011? A good place to start includes the ways poets consider or assume the page (as support). Another includes the strategies we employ to counter our ideologically saturated language. Another is a measure of the colours and textures we associate with "rupturing." 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Driving to Church, Listening to Their President on the Radio

The shell game is speeding up, with more shells added. A couple weeks ago a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and an ally (Kurds) abandoned to Turkish air strikes and artillery. Following that, escaping ISIS "detainees," a U.S. negotiated Turkish cease fire, then a (Russian?) gift to the current U.S. administration: a road map to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's whereabouts?

And now the U.S. president's Sunday morning announcement -- talking like a UFC fighter in advance of a title bout. Who among Americans feels better for his schadenfreude? Who feels worse for it?

Here is the latest in presidential pattern and recurrence:

"He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way."

 "The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified ...

"And he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying."

"He died like a dog. He died like a coward."

"And what they've done with the internet through recruiting and everything -- and that's why he died like a dog, he died like a coward. He was whimpering, screaming and crying."

"He didn't die a hero. He died a coward: crying, whimpering, screaming and bringing three kids with him to die."

"And as I said, they brought body parts back with them, et cetera, et cetera. There wasn't much left. The vest blew up, but there are still substantial pieces that they brought back."

"But he was screaming, crying and whimpering. And he was scared out of his mind."

"He was an animal. And he was a gutless animal."

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Artificial Logs

Walking to the grocery store I felt a tug. The #19 bus was approaching, so I boarded it and rode it downtown, where I joined the climate march.

The picture above is the back of a pro-climate sign. Aren't artificial logs environmentally unfriendly? I wondered. Turns out they're not entirely unfriendly.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

"If you don’t know how to pronounce the brand think of the word indigenous and change ous to ah."

At a UBC lecture last month I noticed the tag on the coat draped over the seat before me. The picture above is a twice rotated view.

Indygena is the brand name. (Is it owned and operated by whyte people?) A preliminary search revealed a $250, 000 "repayable contribution" from the Canadian Economic Development for Quebec Regions.

Following that, this:

Indygena is a Canadian company designing fashionable and functional outdoor clothing for women. Their motto is:

Original roots. Honest purpose. Modern design.

This fashion forward company is creating pieces for the modern woman who is both professional and put together in her daily life, but also busy and drawn to the wild. The clothing helps with these busy multi-functional lifestyles by being fashionable enough for daily life but technical enough to withstand the adventures that the modern Canadian woman finds herself on.

If you don’t know how to pronounce the brand think of the word indigenous and change ous to ah.

Friday, October 25, 2019

P.N.E. Hobby Show 1966

The Pacific National Exhibition (1910-) is one of Vancouver's oldest annual events. Over the years it has played host to a range of activities, from demolition derbies to livestock competitions, many of which have come and gone with little fanfare or protest. An activity I would like to see returned to the PNE would emphasize the display and appreciation of the visual arts.

The picture above came from the City of Vancouver Archives. Like many CoV Archive pictures, it is -- and is so much more than -- its title: "Hobby Show [Miss P.N.E. 1966 Judy Collier, H. Fairbank, and P.N.E. directors at sculpture demonstration by Eleanor Burchell in 1966 P.N.E. Hobby Show]"

Below is a picture of a permanent Vancouver sculpture -- North America's last operating wooden rollercoaster (1958-).

Thursday, October 24, 2019

War Pipe

The biggest impediments to the accelerated destruction of our planet are unions, environmentalists and First Nations, with unions a distant third.

When the (Trudeau) federal government purchased the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Kinder Morgan, it justified the expenditure ($4.5B) in the name of "investor confidence" -- that stability (social, infrastructural) + commodity (oil, in this case) = certainty (market trends notwithstanding).

But is this the whole story? Is there not, apropos of my previous post, a second clause?

My first thought was that the purchase was something of a war pipe, to be "given" (shared? leased?) to First Nations on whose lands (treaty or otherwise) this pipe will pass. The intent here is divide and conquer, because as we know, not all indigenous people want the same things, and this applies to pipelines.

(Nice picture, huh? The void! I wanted to credit the photographer, but the only attribution I could find was Which is hardly surprising. Not just anyone with a camera is allowed access to a weapon of mass destruction.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


In 1967 Colin Low and his collaborators made 27 films on and about Fogo Island under the National Film Board's "Challenge for Change" banner. Here is how the NFB describes "Challenge for Change":

The objective of the Challenge for Change program is to shed light on social problems through the production of films. What is Challenge for Change? What happens with children from deprived areas when they are given a free hand to make their own films? Who can be a better voice for Indigenous Peoples' needs and aspirations than an Indigenous film crew? How angry are the black people with the way society treats them? How do government representatives react to social change and the role of the Challenge for Change program? Can a film project serve as a cohesive agent and catalyst for change within a community, and at the same time serve as a means of communication with government? What is community organizing? What role can film play in participatory democracy? Does controversy lead to violence? How useful are the films from Challenge for Change going to be? This film has some of the answers.

The question Can a film project serve as a cohesive agent and catalyst for change within a community, and at the same time serve as a means of communication with government?  often appears without its second clause (and at the same time serve as a means of communication with government?) Important that this clause be there, lest we confuse it with other well-intentioned projects, from building an opera house in the Amazon basin (Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, 1982)

to bringing art and artists to Fogo Island (Zita Cobb's Shorefast Foundation, 2006-)

Monday, October 21, 2019

Election Projection

An October 20, 2019 Canadian federal election projection (above), according to Mainstreet Research.

Click here for Mainstream Research CEO Quito Maggi's statement on how his company erred (dramatically!) in predicting the 2017 Calgary Municipal election.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry

There was always a pen or a pencil and a book of blank pages. Then one day a black vinyl sketchbook Carolin gave me, inside which came figures drawn, printed or pasted, if sourced from a magazine or, like a leaf, from Nature. In my early twenties -- poems brought to life through an interest in reading them, especially new ones (like mine might be).

The magazines that published new poems were in the UVic Periodical Library, and I can still see myself walking through its doors and strolling excitedly towards them, spaced out flat on gun metal shelves. Prism International, Antigonish Review, The Fiddlehead ...

My first submissions were rejected. One from The Fiddlehead included a clipped-on note encouraging me to "Please re-sumit!" A second submission to The Fiddlehead was returned with notes on the pages! A third had notes on the pages but also a paragraph on a separate card identifying what the editor thought I was and wasn't doing.

My fourth submission to The Fiddlehead contained five poems that did not so much come to me, as ideas or feelings, but through me. These were poems that felt easy to me, too easy, but in another way felt right, as in true. Two of them ("Hitch-hiked" and "Leaving Liberia") were accepted for publication (No. 138, Winter, 1984) by the person who had read my work from the first submission, Fred Cogswell.

I never met Fred Cogswell, but last week I was notified by my publisher that our book 9x11 and other  poems like Bird, Nine, x and Eleven is one of five titles shortlisted (by judge Fred Wah) for the Royal City Literary Arts Society's 2019 Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry. Yet another of life's infinite circles returned.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Poetry Workshop

Just a quick note to apprise you of a Poetry Workshop I have devised and will be facilitating for Mobil Art School at the Sun Wah Building in Chinatown on Saturday October 19 10:00am - 1pm.

The focus of the workshop is on writing inspired by the writings of others. In this instance, writing poems from extant song lyrics.

Without getting too complicated, I have developed a method for creating "original" poems that bear no (visible) relation to their source -- very often turning injurious songs (misogynist, bullying, hateful) into more meditative, reflective poems.

Here's a link to the remarkable Mobil Art School, which I urge you to look up if you have not heard of it. (Lower Mainlanders are badly in need of an art school after ECUAD turned into an Institute, then a College, and now a University!) (Scroll down for the school's Misson Statement.)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Guess Who's Coming to Vancouver?

A 40+ year Cindy Sherman survey comes to the Vancouver Art Gallery this month. The question is, Will it include her Bus Riders (1976-2000) series, where she dressed up as NYC bus riders -- Black, white and of Colour?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

am friendly, people

feel comfortable

approaching, sharing

their lives, listened to

with interest, without

judgement, leaving

happy, returning

to a world of doubt

angry for sharing

so freely is how

I came to love them

Monday, October 7, 2019

Two Scenes of Glass and Passion

In Dr. Zhivago (1965), Zhivago says goodbye to Lara, knowing he will never see her again. As her sled departs, he races upstairs because he can't get enough of her.

In Body Heat (1981), Matty says goodnight to Ned, who walks back to his car, only to return to the doorstep where he sees Matty staring at him through a window. He tries the door -- it is locked. He moves to another window (locked), then a glass door (also locked), before throwing a chair through it.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Sixties (2009)

While searching MacLeod's for more Georges Simenon, I noticed atop one of the store's many thigh-high bookstacks a copy of Jenny Diski's The Sixties (2009). Having just finished Myra Friedman's tour of that decade (via the life of Janis Joplin), I thought it time to consult what others have to say about these years, how the English experience might differ from notable American commentators like Joan Didion, who all but owns the decade with books like The White Album (1979) and Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968).

And so it was that I purchased The Sixties (along with two Simenons), digging into it on the bus ride back to Cedar Cottage. As this was my introduction to Diski, I had no expectations. The only thing I knew of her writing is that it is loved by her readers, very few of whom have ever had the time to tell me why -- apart from the usual kite tail of superlatives.

With the book's Introduction ingested, I climbed the hill from Knight Street, reflecting on the author's insights, the best of which are rooted in a World War that could still be smelled on the walls of Coventry Cathedral when I visited there in September 1980. More unexpectedly was Diski's penchant for the long line, which brought to mind another long liner, Doris Lessing, who was roughed up by the shorter line Didion in an essay that appears in The White Album. Interesting to read that Diski was taken in by Lessing at the age of 16 -- the year before many Brits and Americans agree is the beginning of a decade that ran from 1964-1973.

Here is the concluding paragraph of Diski's "Introduction":

We really didn't see it coming, the new world of rabid individualism and the sanctity of profit. But perhaps that is only to be expected. It's possible after all that we were simply young, and now we are simply old and looking back as every generation does nostalgically to our best of times. Perhaps the Sixties are an idea that has had its day and lingers along after its time. Except, of course, the music. (9)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Poetry in Transit

It's been 23 years since poetry and Vancouver's buses started hanging out together. In the early days, poems were printed onto 11x17 sized cards and placed alongside commercial advertising above the windows inside the bus. If you squinted, you could read them from your seat.

The buses I ride on these days (mostly the #19 and #22) still have these advertising strips, and occasionally I'll see a Poetry in Transit poem. A step up from poems on buses are poems in bus shelter windows.

The picture above was taken at the northwest corner of Fraser and Knight. One can see that the window of this bus shelter is occupied by Poetry in Transit, and to a lesser extent, its sponsored poem (an excerpt from Pamela Porter's "Moon, owl, stone"). Great to see -- but to see it like this?

Is it right that a space reserved for poetry should have its poem compromised (imprisoned?) by so much additional textual information? Can't this information be made smaller and placed at the bottom of the page? And with the additional space, can't the poem be made a little bigger?

In lines 3 and 4 of Porter's pastoral, she writes:

Each day I try to be grateful
for what is around me. The apple tree

What is around Porter's poem, in this case, is enough informational bramble to fence-in that apple!