Photo by Brancolia
JACOB WREN is a writer and maker of eccentric performances. His books include: Unrehearsed Beauty, Families Are Formed Through Copulation and Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed. As co-artistic director of Montreal-based interdisciplinary group PME-ART he has co-created the performances: En français comme en anglais, it's easy to criticize (1998), the HOSPITALITÉ / HOSPITALITY series including Individualism Was A Mistake (2008) and The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information (2011) and Every Song I’ve Ever Written (2012). He travels internationally with alarming frequency and frequently writes about contemporary art.
RUSTY TALK WITH JACOB WREN Kathryn Mockler: What is your first memory of writing creatively or being creative?
Jacob Wren: I don’t know if I have a first memory. But I do know around age thirteen I started suffering from terrible insomnia. Some nights I didn’t sleep at all, while most nights I slept very little. And basically I just filled the endless, sleepless nights with reading and writing, for more or less ten years, until I realized that the simple cure for my insomnia was rigorous physical exercise. Still, to this day, I associate writing with the strange, hallucinatory state that comes from having barely slept for weeks on end, as a kind of unreal trance, almost like a dream. It was during those nights, lying awake, almost too tired to move, that I first trained myself to write.
KM: Why did you become an artist/writer and what keeps you going?
JW: To be honest, the only thing that has ever really interested me was art (in all its many forms.) I wish I could become interested in something else, since I feel, as a human being, at times this overemphasis on artistic interests makes me a bit narrow, as well as making my interactions with other people often rather difficult. (I mean, I do my best.)
At the same time, I find it very hard to maintain any interest in art and often don’t know exactly what keeps me going (except that I have no idea what else I could possibly do). Sometimes I remind myself a bit of this apocryphal story of a Russian who moved to New York but never learned English. Gradually, over the course of his life, he forgot how to speak Russian, yet still never learned English, so in the end he spoke no language at all. Gradually I am becoming less and less interested in art, while not really becoming interested in anything else, so in the end I’m kind of nowhere. Like a priest who has lost faith. But that makes it all sound more dire than it actually is. Still, I think it’s important that we talk about these things, since hardly anyone ever does.
I have often said that I don’t particularly relate to people who make performance, or write, or make art, but I do relate to people who make performance / writing / art who think about quitting every fifteen seconds. Those are really my people. I call us the ‘boy who cried wolf set’. Because, for me, if you really look at art today, at what it means, at who it reaches, at what is considered successful or important, it often seems like a complete waste of time. If I had any talent for it, or drive towards it, I would definitely quit art and become an activist, since the world’s problems are now so overwhelming, immediate and tragic. But, for better or worse, I can’t seem to get myself to do anything else: all I can really do is write. (Well, I also make performances, but that becomes harder and harder as the years roll on.)
KM: How would you describe your writing process? How does your blog A Radical Cut in the Texture of Reality fit into this process?
JW: I mainly feel like I don’t really have a process. I just have ideas and write them down to the best of my ability. Often I try to write every morning, but then, at other times, I am stuck for months on end and write very little. I usually do a first draft in a notebook, and then type it up as I go. Sometimes there is a little bit of re-writing as I type it into the computer, but mainly the second draft just allows me to think more about what I’m doing.
I definitely started my blog, in 2005, because I had almost completely stopped writing and was looking for a way to start again. It’s always been difficult for me to get published—I suppose what I write doesn’t quite fit anywhere (maybe it’s a little bit easier now, I’m not sure)—but at the time being able to just post what I was writing on my blog, as I went along, gave me more of a feeling that I was actually doing something. I would tell myself: just write one paragraph and post it, then at least you will have written one paragraph. It kind of made me feel like writing was possible again, after having felt it was basically impossible for many years. (Mainly due to too many rejection letters, or more precisely to the fact that I’m a little bit too sensitive to such things.) Now my blog gets about 2,000 hits a month, so that must mean someone is reading it, but I don’t really have any sense of who is reading it, why, or what they think. There are hardly any comments.
I spend so much time on the internet (mainly on Facebook and listening to music), and I know this has deeply affected how I think about art, about writing, and also how I practice it. It is difficult for me to really analyze what this change might be, it has all been so natural and intuitive, but I know there is something about the shuffle feature on iTunes, and about the seeming randomness as one clicks from one link to the next, that has been completely folded into my aesthetic.
KM: What or who influences your writing?
JW: I keep an ongoing list of favourite books: Some Favourite Books
And recently I have added a list of visual artists: List of Artists
But mainly I just want to devour everything. I want to have an overview. I want to know what is happening in art today, and everything that has ever happened in art before, and I want to use all of it while at the same time making it my own. I want to speak about the world, about the world today and about history, about ideas, thinking, philosophy, theory, and about my own subjective experiences. I want to struggle with it, admit to failure, be upset that I am not as good as the artists and authors I love but keep trying. I wish the mainstream was more open and more interesting.
KM: Can you discuss the relationship between writer and reader or audience? Who would be your ideal reader? I’m interested also in terms of your blog and its readership. Does that audience inform your work in any way?
JW: I have a sort of double life, half writing, the other half performing. When you perform the audience is right there in front of you, and all of my performance work is about trying to honestly deal with the fact that the audience is right there in front of me, about the paradox of trying to be yourself in the deeply unnatural situation of a room full of strangers watching you.
I’ve always like the Gertrude Stein quote: “I write for myself and strangers.”
When I was revising my last book, I showed it to a bunch of friends for comments, and I listened to all of their comments, and later, when the book came out, realized I had completely ignored basically all of their suggestions. I had asked for their help, and then completely ignored everything they said. (Well, I’ve always been stubborn.) And I feel this is so often the way between me and readers, I listen to every comment I get, think about it, try to take it in, fully absorb it, but never directly respond to anything anyone says. Nonetheless, I very much hope it is all in there anyway, somewhere in my head, affecting what I think, how I see what I’m doing, in some completely indirect way making the work better.
KM: What is the best piece of literary advice you’ve gotten that you actually use?
JW: As I’ve already suggested, I’m so bad with taking advice. But I really liked reading what Alain Badiou once said in an interview. He said the only rule for activism is: keep going. And I guess that’s mainly what I try to do now, keep going, which also means not making too many compromises, trying to offer up something different enough from everything else out there, trying to see the world a different way and put it into words. But, then again, I also constantly want to quit. Which is maybe why the advice is so important. Keep going.
KM: What is your favourite or funniest literary moment, if you have one?
JW: I actually can’t think of anything at the moment. Hopefully that means there are many favourite, hilarious literary moments to come. Maybe the future will be full of them.
KM: What are you reading at the moment?
JW: I just started reading The Empire Within: Postcolonial Thought and Political Activism in Sixties Montreal by Sean Mills. I believe I must be reading it because I live in Montreal. So far it’s fascinating.
KM: What projects are you working on in 2013?
JW: I am writing a new book entitled Polyamorous Love Song. Here is a short synopsis: It is a book of many different narrative through-lines. For example: 1) A mysterious group, known as The Mascot Front, who wear furry mascot costumes at all times and are fighting a revolutionary war for their right to wear furry mascot costumes at all times. 2) A movement known as the ‘New Filmmaking’ in which, instead of shooting and editing a film, one simply does all of the things that would have been in the film, but in real life. This movement has many adherents. Its founder is known only as Filmmaker A. 3) A group of ‘New Filmmakers’, calling themselves The Centre for Productive Compromise, who devise increasingly strange sexual scenarios with complete strangers. They invent a drug that allows them to intuit the cell phone number of anyone they see, allowing phone calls to be the first stage of their spontaneous, yet somehow carefully scripted, seductions. 4) A secret society that concocts a sexually transmitted virus that infects only those on the political right. They stage large-scale orgies, creating unexpected intimacies and connections between individuals who are otherwise savagely opposed to one another. 5) A radical leftist who catches this virus, forcing her to question the depth of her considerable leftist credentials. 6) A German barber in New York who, out of scorn for the stupidity of his American clients, gives them avant-garde haircuts, unintentionally achieving acclaim among the bohemian set who consider his haircuts to be strange works of art. And yet each of these stories is only the beginning.
And we are also beginning a new, ongoing internet/performance project entitled Every Song I’ve Ever Written. Here is a description:
From 1985 to 2004 Jacob Wren wrote songs. Lots and lots of songs. At the time not very many people heard them. Every Song I’ve Ever Written is a project about memory, history, things that may or may not exist, songwriting, the internet and pop culture. On the website everysongiveeverwritten.com you can listen to, and download, these songs.
In a way, because hardly anyone heard them, these songs don’t yet exist. If you are reading this, we would like you to consider recording your own version of one of these songs, changing it, making it your own, then sending it to us. We will post every version we receive.
There will also be performances and events. Solo performances will feature Jacob performing all of the songs in chronological order (it takes about five hours.) Band Nights will feature a series of local bands in different cities performing one of Jacob’s songs each. After each version, Jacob will interview the band about what it was like to cover the song, and the band will interview Jacob about what it was like to write it.
We are not doing this because we think these are the best songs ever (we hope at least a few of them are good.) We are doing this because hardly anyone heard them at the time, and we are wondering if there is some new, strange way to bring them out into the world. In doing so we hope to raise a few questions about what songs mean on the internet, about what songwriting is actually like today, and also take a sidelong glance back at the recent past.LINKS
Radical Cut in the Texture of Reality
Every Song I've Ever Written
REVENGE FANTASIES OF THE POLITICALLY DISPOSSESSED
Pedlar Press, 2010
Description from Pedlar Press:
Set in a dystopian near-future, Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed is a novel - a kind of post-capitalist soap opera - about a group of people who regularly attend ''the meetings.'' At the meetings they have agreed to talk, and only talk, about how to re-ignite the left, for fear if they were to do more, if they were to actually engage in real acts of resistance or activism, they would be arrested, imprisoned, or worse. Revenge Fantasies is a book about community. It is also a book about fear. Characters leave the meetings and we follow them out into their lives. The characters we see most frequently are the Doctor, the Writer and the Third Wheel. As the book progresses we see these characters, and others, disengage and re-engage with questions the meetings have brought into their lives. The Doctor ends up running a reality television show about political activism. The Third Wheel ends up in an unnamed Latin American country, trying to make things better but possibly making them worse. The Writer ends up in jail for writing a book that suggests it is politically emancipatory for teachers to sleep with their students. And throughout all of this the meetings continue: aimless, thoughtful, disturbing, trying to keep a feeling of hope and potential alive in what begin to look like increasingly dark times. Revenge Fantasies asks us to think about why so many of us today, even those with a genuine interest in political questions, feel so deeply powerless to change and affect the world that surrounds us, suggesting that, even within such feelings of relative powerlessness, there can still be energizing surges of emancipation and action
For many years LISA ROBERTSON has worked across disciplines and often in collaboration. With the late Stacy Doris she was the Perfume Recordist, an ongoing sound performance and writing project with work in the new I'll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women. She worked as The Office for Soft Architecture, publishing reports, essays, walks and manifestoes as well as curating and cooking as OSA. Currently she is translating the French linguists Emile Benveniste and Henri Meschonnic with Avra Spector. Her most recent book of poetry is R's Boat, from University of California Press, and Bookthug published a new book of essays, Nilling, in spring 2012. She lives in rural France, and teaches at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam.
RUSTY TALK WITH LISA ROBERTSON
Kathryn Mockler: What is your first memory of writing creatively or being creative?
Lisa Robertson: I think my earliest creative acts were acts of deception and truth bending—petty theft, rebuttal, cover-up. This led directly to writing.
KM: Could you describe your writing process? (For example, do you write every day? When? Where? How do you approach revision, etc.)
LR: Everyday I sit in an armchair and write in a notebook as I read. If somebody gives me resources I leave the armchair and travel to read in an exotic library. Writing on trains and airplanes on the way to and from these libraries is a special pleasure, because so much anticipation and repletion is involved. Talking to my friends usually shows me how to work with the material I have gathered. My dearest friends are the ones I simply obey.
KM: How would you define experimental writing?
LR: I wouldn't define experimental writing. It would cease to be experimental then.
KM: What influences your work?
LR: Unanswerable questions. Unanswerable to me that is. Right now I am trying to understand the movement a triangle sections, and I am trying to understand the humoural system of medicine. Put more simply, desire influences my work.
KM: What have you read recently that excites you?
LR: I just spent a month reading at the Warburg Institute in London, for 6-8 hours a day, six days a week. Everything excited me. I was reading about the relationships between geometry, astronomy, optics, and medicine in the ancient world, until the baroque era and Johannes Kepler's work on the elliptical orbits. I wanted to understand the dynamics of the ellipse, and I wanted to understand science as a relational query into the structure of the cosmos, rather than a recitation of the mechanics of cause and effect. Plato's Timeaus is hallucinogenic in that respect. So is Kepler's The Six-Sided Snowflake. So is medieval Arabic optics. These studies are enticing me to draw more, and that is a pleasure.
In terms of recent poetry—Erin Moure's translations of Galician poet Chus Pato, Aisha Sasha John's new work, Angela Carr, the American poet Chris Nealon, and Francis Ponge. I read Ponge as a contemporary.
KM: What is the best piece of writing advice you've heard or been given that you actually use?
LR: Writing is the good use of boredom. I try to have a boring life. I don't socialize, and I eat nine servings of vegetables a day.
KM: Your funniest or favourite literary moment, if you have one.
LR: When Jam Ismael read at KSW in 2002 she sat a tape recorder on a windowsill and played a cassette recording of New Delhi crows. Vancouver crows came to the open window to listen and respond. Every emotion cracked open at once.
KM: What are you working on now?
LR: I am simply reading and learning, and making the occasional paragraph or drawing as record and exploration.
LISA ROBERTSON'S MOST RECENT BOOK
Nilling, Bookthug, 2012
Description from the publisher:
Nilling: Prose is a sequence of 6 loosely linked prose essays about noise, pornography, the codex, melancholy, Lucretius, folds, cities and related aporias: in short, these are essays on reading.
Excerpts from Nilling:EXCERPT 1I have tried to make a sketch or a model in several dimensions of the potency of Arendt's idea of invisibility, the necessary inconspicuousness of thinking and reading, and the ambivalently joyous and knotted agency to be found there. Just beneath the surface of the phonemes, a gendered name rhythmically explodes into a founding variousness. And then the strictures of the text assert again themselves. I want to claim for this inconspicuousness a transformational agency that runs counter to the teleology of readerly intention. Syllables might call to gods who do and don't exist. That is, they appear in the text's absences and densities as a motile graphic and phonemic force that abnegates its own necessity. Overwhelmingly in my submission to reading's supple snare, I feel love.
EXCERPT 2In the facsimile Oblongus Codex, at the bottom margin on the page containing lines 1140-1159 of the fourth book of De rerum natura, I saw what at first appeared to be the photographed image of a small oval hole about the size and shape of my thumbnail, tidily cut from the vellum of the original. Bordering this ellipse, I saw a faint drawing that added a labial ornamental border around the shape. It seemed that some sort of monkish pornographic doodle had been censored. At closer examination I realized that the elliptical absence had in fact not been cut from the page by some historical censor
--it was rather a flaw inherent in the structure of the vellum; the trace of a wound perhaps. Several of these photographed images of material mise-en-abimes appeared as I leafed through the codex. In each case the page was cut from the larger skin so that the scar found its place in a margin, so as not to interfere with the scribe’s work. But here in book four, the scribe had decorated the flaw in the skin with this mildly and endearingly erotic doodle. The tiny absence was animated: a lacework.
Photo by Joy Masuhara
bill bissett born on lunaria sum 4oo yeers ago approximatelee in lunarian
time was sent 2 erth on first childrns shuttul from th at that time
trubuld planet landid in halifax moovd 2 vancouvr at 17 moovd
2 london wher i was part uv luddites alternativ rock band thn
toronto wher ium poet in residens at workman arts & recording
with pete dako wanting alwayze 2 xploor words n sounds n
image in th writing n painting showing paintings at th secret
handshake art galleree toronto most recent book novel from talonbooks
rusty talk with bill bissett
I asked bill bissett these questions about his writing process:
He responded by email over the month of September 2012: dere kathryn th first 2 qwestyuns 4 rustee talk mor as it cums in
- What is your first memory of being creative—in terms of writing creatively or making art or music?
- Why did you become a writer and artist? What writers/poets/artists were influential to you when you first started out? Who are you reading now?
- Can you describe your writing process?
- Have you ever experienced a creative block and what did you do to get out of it?
- You work in a variety of genres and mediums, and your work has been described, among other things, as defying genre. How do you see your relationship between medium and genre in your work? Does the subject dictate the genre or vice versa? Or does it develop naturally?
- What are you working on now?
th first creativ work i remembr was in grade 3 or 4 b4 going in2 th hospital 4 a coupul uv yeers was a pome i wrote abt sail boats in th watr n th feeling in my brain n heart was veree thrilling 4 me an elixr reelee thn a littul whil latr aftr mor thn a few operaysyuns i was in th oxygen tent n realizing i wud nevr b a dansr n or a figur skatr my first reel ambishyuns i cud write n paint i thot n that way feel th line mooving thru space n that way as well feeling th taktilitee uv life being physikal th enhansment from th abstraksyuns uv th skripts we wer ar all living thru i wrote my first storee thn in th oxygen tent wher i was deliting 2 drink orange crush n see th brite orange liquid cumming out uv my bodee immediatelee thru mor tubes i lovd that n that orange runway made me laff n feel veree poignant as well as my home planet lunaria was veree orange b4 all us childrn were remoovd from that troubuld planet n sent 2 erth
my first storee wch i wrote in th oxygen tent was abt a boy who didint want 2 follow rules n wantid 2 find his own way n swam out past th undrtow wch oftn was both a physikal risk n a metaphor 4 sew manee othr things in nova scotia n at great dangr he ovrcame th fors from th watr n made it 2 shore n thn vowd he wud dew it agen n agen sirtinlee if life wer as friabul as it seemd sew definitlee 2 b why not take th risk
my fathr had th storee typd out in several mor copees that was my first publishd work i feel veree warm abt him now in ths moment that he did dew that 4 me n evn tho i didint reelee start writing agen until aftr my mothr went 2 spirit evn a few yeers aftr that 16 n reelee agen full time until i got 2 vancouvr 17 my yerning 2 b always writing evr sins i was in th oxygen tent at 10or 11 has nevr left me
influenses medium genre hungree throat mor as it cums in
th subjekt 4 me is th genre n th genre is th subjekt iuv alwayze wantid 2 put books 2gethr that hold or contain diffrent genres as iuv also writtn pomes that contain difrent genres iuv oftn calld such pomes fusyun pomes my most recent work novel my first novel made me mor aware uv th medium is th genre n th genre is th medium n th medium slash subjekt is th genre mor aware thn evr how we write is can b what we ar writing abt mor thn an approach 2 mor thn creating th nuans uv it is th uv in my first novel calld novel abt 2 yeers ago brout out by talonbooks its a collagist work prob also calld post modernist in that th linear flow storee line is part uv th whol work is not th whol work th whole work inklewds th modernist storee line th serch 4 a trew love elements uv gangstr espionage n th serch n what happns evn tho veree labyrinthean also inklewds essays sum abt peopul we know in th known fakshul world introdusing ideas uv ficksyun fakt identitee dew we reelee know them can we n wch them is it a fact n pomes also like th essays hiliting theems that ar in th storee line th charaktrs mooving thru space n time n situaysyuns n thr is a hi degree uv th elements uv randomness wch th strukshur uv th work novel conveys inklewds n is conveying
my first biggest n still biggest influens is gertrude stein who showsd n shows me espeshulee in stanzas in meditaysyuns that words need not onlee 2 represent but ar in themselvs konstrukts wch fold unfold n refiliing fold in2 n out uv each othr ar in fakt puzzuls made uv each othr sew they can b on theyr own not representing bcumming n being what whats dew our grammars cum from our emosyuns n or dew our emosyuns mostlee reelee cum from our binaree based grammar thees unsolvabul qwestyuns prsist n ar oftn endlesslee interesting yes
othr huge erlee influenses allen ginsberg robert duncan denise levrtov bob cobbing diane di prima sew manee infinitlee manee d.a. levy bpNichol martina clinton maxine gadd judith copithorne influences with also sew manee n now 2day peopul othr poets i dew reedings with sew impressd with adeena karasick kai kellough sheri- d wilson ivan coyote richard van de camp david bateman naomi laufer jill mcginn toshio ushiroguchi-pigott chadwick juriansz ar names uv amayzing poets that jump 2 mind helen posno
hungree throat my nu book my second novel is mor a novel in meditaysyun 2 charaktrs alredee found each othr trying 2 let each othr farthr n furthr in wun afrayd uv intimasee from his memoreez being 2 chargd n not let go uv how hard that is getting ovr trauma his bad memoree attacks drag him away from whom he loves evn from himself in th present n ths collagist post modernist work tho not as much prhaps as novel inklewds essays pomes seeminglee unrelatid help th reedr n th work 2 reflekt on all th key issews in ths work that cum in2 wun whil reeding hungree throat
thees 2 books ar sew importnat 2 me kathryn n i wud reelee like what yu dew with what ium sending yu 2 focus on hungree throat as it is cumming out in th spring 2013 from talonbooks n th nu book ium working on now is in no way a novel sew thees 2 books ar my 2 novels se far altho th charaktrs ar diffrent peopul thees 2 books cud complement each othr th collagist form works veree well 4 me with th way uv working that can inklewd randomness qwestyuning identitee fact ficksyun 4 me thrs an interesting bredth n spekulaysyun in ths kind uv working th tropes n trajsktoreez longings changes growing n ungrowing lyrik n diffikulteez n treetment uv th konstruktiv urges what we konstrukt what is konstruktid what we can build 2gethr n what we can build n how what we build is building us othr important 2 me writrs hart crane e.e. cummings
latelee ium reeding davisadora by michael ondaatje his comeing thru slaughter is wun uv my all time favorit books
evr p.d.james nu book death comes to pemberley man about town by mark merlis have yu red anne carsons autobiography of red anothr uv my all time most adord books also among th erlier listings touchd on heer erleer in my life that is john rechy city uv night also colm toibin wrote an amayzing book i red coupul yeers ago almost that same titul as john rechy s brilyant city of night colm toibin s book titul is the story of the night camus sartre debeauvoir gide wer huge influenses on me as i was growing in my erlee teens n issac singer shirley ann grau truman capote tenessee williams william inge eugene oneil diane di prima this kind uv bird flies backwards shakespere in school th first sound poetree recording i herd was edith sitwell facade blew me away helpd start me out fr sure as did n dew all thees peopul n sew manee mor
sew hungree throat is a novel in meditaysyun th meditaysyun is abt letting go letting go uv attachment 2 traumatik memoreez n how can yu moov on or 4ward if yu ar klingnig 2 solv or whatevr bad n or haunting memoreez uv th past in wuns life how thees 2 peopul try 2 love each othr thru th dilemma they ar living n what happns
intrspersd thru ths meditayshyun discussyuns conver
saysyuns pledges collapses n regroupings ar pomes song essays its not a book uv doom but it contains sum doom n like all us writrs have n dew talk abt thru th ages how hard 2 love 2 find it n follow thru with it its politiks n sankshuaree part n parts uv th way my throat is hungree 4 breething my throat is hungree 4 eeting my throat is hungree 4 singing my throat is hungree 4 yu
wrap up qwestyuns n answrs 4 rusty talk hope evreethings great w yu Kathryn
maybe 2 wrap up heer 4 th rusty 4 now aneeway from th beginning i always wantid 2 b writing reelee in approx 7 approaches 2 writing poetree my main wuns being sound n vizual words spred all ovr th page using th space uv th page as whol blank canvas not onlee using a porsyun uv that availabul space as square or rektangul th shape n size uv th copee size n th book size th ekonomeez uv n othr considraysuns have brout th writing in2 lettr size 81/2 x 11 inches drastikalee n finding th wayze thru th availabul transmitting vehikuls n xpanding wuns repertoire 4 inspiraysyun i follow th vois es uv th work at hand or th writing godesses n gods who i sew beleev in guide me 2 write with novel whol passages wer literalee diktatid 2 me sumtimes thrs a lot uv editing as in th pome 4 hart crane in time sumtimes thrs almost no editing th tiny librarians pome in novel went thru seemd ike manee rewrites othr parts uv novel came instantlee iuv nevr xperiensd a writrs blok i cant imagine evn how painful that wud b
i just finishd proof reeding RUSH what fuckan theory a book on theory i wrote n publishd in 72 wch is now being refreshd n reissewd by book thug in toronto my second novel hungree throat will b out in spring 13 n what ium reelee working on now is my nu book mostlee dewing a lot uv lettr texting in it
yu can find a wide range uv my work in you tube n also my web site th offishul bill bissett web site www.billbissett.com
oh thr ar mor thn a few cds out uv my work chek th cv in th website th most recent cd is nothing will hurt with pete dako xtraordinaree musician n arrangr n composr n gary shenkman n ambrose pottie
cest sa i gess thats all 4 now thanks sew much 4 yr interest thees intrviews ar kinduv hard 2 dew sumtimes a prson dusint want 2 bcum 2 self conscious but they reelee help me as well thanks veree much
hungree throat veree recentlee compleetid out spring 2013 hungree throat is a novel in meditaysyun 2 peopul getting 2gethr wun afrayd uv continuing intimasee bcoz uv what has happend 2 him th othr not bewilderd n anxious is eagr 4 nu xperiences with his nu partnr th meditaysyun is partlee abt letting go how hard that is n sumtimez how seminglee eezee th struggul letting go can b owing 2 th obsessing paralyzing n shaping burdns uv our pasts th obstakuls that trauma creates 4 our presents n futurs layrs n layrs ficksyuns n realiteez wch ar peopuls throats ar hungree 4 breething 4 speeking digesting saying singing eeting tasting giving kissing sew much uv th worlds throats ar hungree not onlee 4 evreething also 4 food watr air wun uv th last stages b4 passing uv peopul with parkinsons is whn th throat no longr swallows millyuns uv peopul with sleep apnea sleep with masheens pushing air in2 theyr throats all nite long 2 prevent closure th throat chakra being well is a condishyun uv our life th throat is hungree also 4 acceptans uv what is n what has bin n what is beleevablee possibul thru song sound poetree narrativ n non narrativ analysis meditaysun words n meenings oftn dissolving hungree throat looks at all thees dynamiks 2 share greev celebrate uplift love n moov 4words play with th word growing its parts sylabuls n th mouth n throat shaping each in our times gr ow wo ing wing s
bill bissett's MOST RECENT BOOK
hungree throat by bill bissett, Talonbooks, 2013
Description from the Publisher:
Written in his non-hierarchic, phonetic orthography, bill bissett’s second novel-poem, hungree throat, recounts the relationship of two men – one bold and unafraid, the other burdened by terrible memories and unable to trust. In this uplifting “novel in meditaysyun” about love, in which we witness ten years of a shared life, we are reminded of the overlapping, sometimes conﬂicting multitude of “hungers” common to us all: all our throatsr hungree 4 breething being sing
ing eeting digesting speeking
saying food kissing watr love
air ﬁcksyun fakt memoree
th present what is nu all ovr
lapping imbuing change
th throat chakra being well
is a condishyn 4 life
Sachiko Murakami is the author of the poetry collections The Invisibility Exhibit (Talonbooks, 2008), a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and Rebuild (Talonbooks, 2011). She has been a literary worker for numerous presses, journals, and organizations, and is Poetry Editor for Insomniac Press. She is the initiator of the online collaborative poetry projects Project Rebuild and PowellStreetHenko.ca. She lives in Toronto.RUSTY TALK WITH SACHIKO MURAKAMI
Kathryn Mockler: What is your first memory of writing creatively?
Sachiko Murakami: I would write fake diary entries about what me and my friends did after school. I would write these after school alone in my room (often hiding behind a piece of furniture), as I had no friends.
KM: Why did you become a poet?
SM: Um. See: friendless and hiding behind furniture, above. Clearly I was not going to be a professional soccer player.
KM: Could you describe your writing process? (For example, do you write every day? When? Where? How do you approach revision, etc.)
SM: Step 1: Find something that hooks a thought into a line. Most often I find this happens while walking in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, reading a poem, waking in the middle of the night, etc.
Step 2: Scribble line down (usually on a smudgy receipt, as I am rather bad at keeping notebooks on hand).
Step 3: Bring line to page.
Step 4: Keep going.
Step 5: Revision is an evolutionary process. I wrestle around with the poem for a while, take a break, return, repeat. Then I bring the poem to someone else and watch as they politely break its beautiful legs. Then I begin again.
KM: Rejection or criticism can often stop writers before they start. Do you have any advice on how to deal with rejection?
SM: Stay open! Prepare yourself for the gifts criticism and rejection are going to give you: resilience, yes, but also a curiosity about your work, and better writing. Invite in editors who will politely break your poem's limbs (the key word being politely). Take a workshop. Start a writing group. Get used to criticism, and use criticism. Listen to the questions that are being asked of your poems. Take the serious questions seriously.
Rejection from publishers and literary journals is, for the most part, a numbers game. When I read for literary magazines, there would be a hundred poems submitted for every one page available.
If publication is your goal, then try your best to write publishable material. If writing is your goal, then keep writing.
KM: You used to co-host the Pivot Readings at The Press Club in Toronto. Do you have any advice or tips for new writers about performing their work in front of audience?
SM: Don't: pre-explain your poems, get drunk beforehand, or go over your allotted time.
Do: Talk to your audience. Look at them. Invite them in to your poems. Go under time. Then thank your hosts and the bar.
KM: From your perspectives as an editor and poet, how would you describe the writer/editor relationship? What should a new writer expect once his or her manuscript is accepted by a publisher?
SM: See above re: breaking of limbs, asking serious questions. As an editor, I think I develop a stronger relationship with the manuscript than with the writer.
In terms of the publishing process, a first-book author can expect to develop the quality of patience. A manuscript passes through many busy hands before it becomes a book.
KM: Can you tell us about your collaborative poetry projects? What got you interested in collaborative poetry? What has the response been?
SM: ProjectRebuild.ca began when I invited some poets into a poem about a Vancouver Special (a type of house in Vancouver). I was interested in seeing how they would interpret my invitation to renovate it as they saw fit. I then had a friend, Starkaður Barkarson, create a website in which any of the poems can be "moved into" and "renovated". There has been a tremendous response to this project—over 200 poems on the site from contributors across the world. The source poem, "Vancouver Special", resides in my second collection, Rebuild.
PowellStreetHenko.ca is an online renga commissioned by the 2012 Powell Street Festival. A renga is a collaborative Japanese form in which each stanza is written by a new person. This renga expands outwards, as you can respond to every stanza in the poem (not just the last one written, as in a traditional renga). Powell Street Festival is a Japanese-Canadian festival held in Vancouver. They asked me to create something like Project Rebuild for them, and this is what I came up with (along with Starkaður). I travelled to Vancouver this summer to launch the project at the festival, and since then the poem has slowly grown as people reflect on change ("henko"), the theme of the poem.
Why do this? I like the idea of putting writing out there that can be taken and messed around with and misinterpreted and reused and repurposed. I like the discomfort it brings. I like prying my writing from my ego's fist. I like conversations.
KM: What is your funniest or favourite literary moment that you've experienced.
SM: Jacob McArthur Mooney leaving the stage during his reading at Pivot to buy the audience cotton candy from the street vendor passing by on Dundas. No wonder he's the new host.
KM: What are you working on now?
SM: Poems about airports/the struggle to stay present. A novel about fake orphans.
SACHIKO MURAKAMI'S RECENT WORKS
Rebuild, Talonbooks, 2011
Description from the publisher:
In a city ironically famous for its natural setting, the roving subject’s gaze naturally turns upward, past the condo towers which frame the protected “view corridors” at the heart of Vancouver’s municipally- guaranteed development plan. But look for the city, and one encounters “a kind of standing wave of historical vertigo, where nothing ever stops or grounds one’s feet in free-fall.”
Murakami approaches the urban centre through its inhabitants’ greatest passion: real estate, where the drive to own is coupled with the practice of tearing down and rebuilding. Like Dubai, where the marina looks remarkably like False Creek, Vancouver has become as much a city of cranes and excavation sites as it is of ocean and landscape. Rebuild engraves itself on the absence at the city’s centre, with its vacant civic square and its bulldozed public spaces. The poems crumble in the time it takes to turn the page, words flaking from the line like the rain-damaged stucco of a leaky condominium.
The city’s “native” residential housing style now troubles the eye with its plainness, its flaunting of restraint, its ubiquity. What does it mean to inhabit and yet despise the “Vancouver Special”; to attempt to build poems in its style, when a lyric is supposed to be preciously unique, but similar, in its stanzas or “rooms,” to other lyric poems? What does it mean to wake from a dream in which one buys a presale in a condo development—and is disappointed to have awoken?
In the book’s final section, the poems turn inward, to the legacy left by Murakami’s father, who carried to his death the burden of the displaced and disinherited: the house seized by the government during WWII, having previously seized the land from its native inhabitants—a “mortgage” from which his family has never truly recovered.
The Invisibility Exhibit, Talonbooks, 2008
Description from the publisher:
These poems were written in the political and emotional wake of the “Missing Women” of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Although women had been going missing from the neighbourhood since the late 1970s, police efforts were not coordinated into a full-scale investigation until the issue was given widespread public visibility by Lori Culbert, Lindsay Kines and Kim Bolan’s 2001 “Missing Women” series in the Vancouver Sun. This media coverage, combined with the efforts of activists in political and cultural sectors, finally resulted in increased official investigative efforts, which have so far led to the arrest of Robert Pickton, on whose property the remains of twenty-seven of the sixty-eight listed women were found. In December 2007, Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder in what had become one the highest-profile criminal cases to take place in B.C.’s history; yet this is not the focus of this book.
As the title suggests, the concern of this project is an investigation of the troubled relationship between this specific marginalized neighbourhood, its “invisible” populations both past and present, and the wealthy, healthy city that surrounds it. These poems interrogate the comfortable distance from which the public consumes the sensationalist news story by turning their focus toward the normative audience, the equally invisible public. In the speaker’s examination of this subject, assumptions and delineations of community, identity and ultimately citizenship are called into question. Projects such as Lincoln Clarkes’ controversial Heroines photographic series and subsequent book (Vancouver: Anvil Press, 2002), news stories, and even the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games circulate intertextually in this manuscript, while Pickton’s trial is intentionally absent.
Irritated by complacency, troubled by determinate narrative and the relationship between struggle and the artistic representation of struggle, Murakami is a poet bewildered by her city’s indifference to the neglect of its inhabitants.
Rachel Zolf Photo by Brian Adams
Rachel Zolf’s poetic practice explores interrelated materialist questions concerning memory, history, knowledge, subjectivity, and the conceptual limits of language and meaning. She is particularly interested in how ethics founders on the shoals of the political. Her fourth book of poetry is Neighbour Procedure (Coach House, 2010). Human Resources (Coach House, 2007) won the 2008 Trillium Book Award for Poetry. Zolf recently wrote a screenplay for a film that New York artist Josiah McElheny will show at the 2012 Miami/Basel Art Fair. She is an assistant professor in English and Creative Writing at the University of Calgary.
RUSTY TALK WITH RACHEL ZOLF
Kathryn Mockler: What is your first memory of writing creatively?
Rachel Zolf: I wrote my first poem at a workshop with Di Brandt in Winnipeg in 1990 or thereabouts. Everyone else brought poetry and I brought a failed essay on John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress that stopped short at the moment Christian became a travailer. The travailer part stuck, though. The point not to get somewhere, but to keep slogging.
KM: Why did you become a writer?
RZ: My dad hit me with his foolscap when I was a kid.
KM: What influences your work the most?
RZ: My menstrual cycle.
KM: Could you describe your writing/artistic process?
RZ: I read. I think. I gather things. I make.
KM: In your recent Jacket2 article you mentioned that your work is included in a conceptual writing anthology by women but you don’t consider yourself a part of the contemporary conceptual writing movement. How would you describe your artistic or writing practice or how would you attempt to define it?
RZ: Someone called me a conceptual-materialist, which may be mutually exclusive, or not. Like Lisa Robertson, I am a feminist writer, which encompasses a fair bit, but not everything. The label never fits.
KM: You often work with pre-existing or found texts. What draws you to creating work in this way? And is it ever a problem in terms of copyright and, if so, how do you get around that?
RZ: I am a gleaner (e.g., see Agnès Varda’s film The Gleaners and I), just am. Libel law has scared me more than copyright law so far.
KM: What writers would you recommended to an aspiring writer? Or what writers were influential to you when you first started out?
RZ: I make work from what I read, and it is a different constellation for each book. I don’t want to name names here because the list is always exclusionary. But I do name a lot of names in my books.
KM: What is the funniest moment that you've experienced as a writer or in the literary world?
RZ: The poetry world is unfortunately not that funny. It could do with a dose of levity.
KM: What are you working on now?
RZ: A book of poetry that looks at ongoing colonization in Canada, and a book of essays on philosophy and poetry and the poetics of witness.
RACHEL ZOLF'S MOST RECENT BOOK
Neighbour Procedure, Coach House Books, 2010
Description from Coach House Books:
Rachel Zolf’s powerful follow-up to the Trillium Award-winning Human Resources is a virtuoso polyvocal correspondence with the daily news, ancient scripture and contemporary theory that puts the ongoing conﬂict in Israel/Palestine ﬁrmly in the crosshairs. Plucked from a mineﬁeld of competing knowledges, media and public texts, Neighbour Procedure sees Zolf assemble an arsenal of poetic procedures and words borrowed from a cast of unlikely neighbours, including Mark Twain, Dadaist Marcel Janco, blogger-poet Ron Silliman and two women at the gym. The result is a dynamic constellation where humour and horror sit poised at the threshold of ethics and politics.
Rachel Zolf and Judith Butler read "Jews in Space" (from Neighbour Procedure)
Photo by Karis Shearer
Montreal poet Erín Moure has published seventeen books of poetry plus a volume of essays, My Beloved Wager. She is also a translator from French, Spanish, Galician (galego), and Portuguese, with eleven books translated, of work by poets as diverse as Nicole Brossard, Andrés Ajens, Louise Dupré, and Fernando Pessoa. Her work has received the Governor General's Award, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the A.M. Klein Prize (twice), and was a three-time finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize. Moure holds an honorary doctorate from Brandon University. Her latest works are The Unmemntioable (House of Anansi), an investigation into subjectivity and wartime experience in western Ukraine and the South Peace region of Alberta, and Secession (Zat-So), her fourth translation of internationally acclaimed Galician poet Chus Pato.
RUSTY TALK WITH ERÍN MOURE
Kathryn Mockler: What is your first memory of writing creatively or being creative ?
Erín Moure: Biting my toe in the crib and finding out that the waving thing was intimately connected to me. Ouch!
KM: Why did you become a poet?
EM: From the time I read Mother Goose when I was 3 or 4, I thought poet was a valid career choice and no one ever really managed to talk me out of it. It interested me more than my next hotly desired direction, which came later: restaurant owner.
KM: Could you describe your writing process? (For example, do you write every day? When? Where? How do you approach revision, etc.)
EM: Hard to describe. I write most days. I write in pencil in notebooks, I move words, I collect words and bits of text from the Web and elsewhere, I translate and use automatic translators, I generate funny sentences, try to write things down before I forget them. I research a lot too: read philosophy, history, buy plane tickets and go to places: Lisbon, rural Galicia, L'viv in Ukraine. Immerse. Usually by myself so I feel utterly lost. Get really lonely. Revise a lot. Move, cadence, check, read aloud, set aside, read again, move. Read a lot of good poetry while I am working and then cut where mine falls short...no mercy, but lots of fun. I write wherever I am but favourite places are while on my bike (I have to stop to scribble), while on trains, while on the roof deck, while at my desk...but anywhere will do really. I change places so that the work can be read differently. Inhabit language and let it inhabit me. I think. Thinking is a kind of writing too.
KM: How did you get interested in translation? How do you view the role of the translator?
EM: I've told this story before...it's because my mother—Ukrainian born but fiercely always an unhyphenated Canadian, her way of coping with history—always told me there were two languages in Canada, French and English. As a tyke in Calgary, I knew we spoke "English" so I thought French was spoken on the north side of the Bow River. I thought my grandparents spoke French. Then I found out they spoke something that was not French. And I knew there were three languages in Canada.
Then I read Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. At the back there is a three page bilingual dictionary of Ape-English. So I tried to write in Ape. No English-Ape dictionary though, and no connecting words, so it was impossible. I was maybe 7.
The role of the translator? To transfer joy from one idiom to another. Somehow.
KM: What poets would you recommended to an aspiring writer? Or what poets or writers were influential to you when you first started out?
EM: Read poets in other languages as well as in English: try to read them even if you can't, look intensely at their language. Poets that helped me: Yannis Ritsos, Cesar Vallejo, Federico García Lorca, Clarice Lispector, Nicole Brossard. Early important poets to me: Phyllis Webb, Miriam Waddington, Robin Blaser, Al Purdy, Baudelaire. And Chus Pato, more recently, because, to tell the truth, I am always first starting out.
KM: How do you think the early poet in you would view the later poet? Have you become the writer that you thought you'd be when you first started out in terms of the kind of work you produce, your views, etc.
EM: I am still the early poet! I still love the surprise of exploring in language. I don't know what I've become, to tell the truth. I leave that to other people to define. I am still trying to bite my toe. Though, I guess, early on, I could have never predicted Elisa Sampedrín. Or that I would one day speak Galician.
KM: Your funniest or favourite literary moment, if you have one.
EM: Don't really have one...most things are funny, if you ask me...My favourite would be reading, just reading, always reading, and the feeling of incredible beauty and joy I get in my mouth and throat and chest when I am reading. And going to Vylkove to the Danube Delta with Chus Pato and Manolo Igrexas and swimming in water salt and fresh at the same time.
KM: What are you working on now?
EM: Am working with monologue and chorus texts that could potentially I hope be staged. Poetry but theatre too...delving deeper into that. It's in English and French at once. And is called Kapusta, which is Ukrainian for cabbage.
ERÍN MOURE'S MOST RECENT BOOK
The Unmemntioable, House of Anansi Press, 2012
Description from House of Anansi
The Unmemntioable joins letters that should not be joined. There is, in this word, an act of force. Of devastation. The unmentionable is love, of course. But in Moure's poems, love is bound to a duty: to comprehend what it was that the immigrants would not speak of. Now they are dead; their children and grandchildren know but an anecdotal pastiche of Ukrainian history. On Saskatoon Mountain in Alberta where they settled, only the chatter of the leaves remains of their presence. What was not spoken is sealed over, unmemntioable. There is no one left to contact in the Old Country. Can the unmemntioable retain its silence, yet be eased into words? Can experience still be spoken?
Photo by Clare Yow
Dr. Ray Hsu is co-founder of the Art Song Lab, an interdisciplinary platform that partners 24 writers and composers to create fusions in the genre of art song alongside performers. While completing his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he taught for two years in a US prison, where he founded the Prison Writing Workshop. The Workshop brings campus-based writers to the prison to write alongside incarcerated writers in a writers’ studio environment and mentors incarcerated writers writing towards their High-School Equivalency Diplomas. Dr. Hsu is the author of two award-winning books and writing in over fifty publications internationally. His work has been set to music and adapted for film. In addition to teaching and consulting, he has been interviewed for television, radio, and print media as UBC Expert in youth trends, popular culture, and diversity. RUSTY TALK WITH RAY HSU
Kathryn Mockler: What is your first memory of being creative or writing creatively?
Ray Hsu: In grade 2 we had to make a book. I wrapped corrugated cardboard in felt for the covers. For the plot I ripped off the storyline for Omega Race:
KM: Why did you become a poet?
RH: They seemed to be having so much more fun than novelists, or at least I thought so as an undergrad.
KM: Could you describe your writing process?
RH: I barely write at all. Or the poems write themselves, if by poems you mean taking screen capture videos of me playing Diablo 3 in which I play a barbarian named "Poem."
KM: Do you have any advice on how to help new writers prepare to read or perform their work to an audience and/or to best engage an audience?
RH: The best thing to do is to not look over everyone's heads. Folks who do that prolly heard once that they should make "eye contact," so instead they look over everyone's heads. It's even more distracting than burying one's face in the page.
Once a friend kept looking over everyone's head while I was in the audience. My friends and students were trying to nudge me awake as subtly as they could. I call this piece, "The Critic."
KM: What writers or poets would you recommended to an aspiring writers? Or what writers were influential to you when you first started out?
RH: Anne Carson. Carleton Wilson. Al Moritz. Michael Ondaatje. Carleton Wilson.
KM: Could you discuss your interest in activism, collaboration, and experimentation and how these have influenced your artistic practise?
RH: A former member of the Weather Underground once said that the difference between being an activist and being an organizer is that organizing involves a whole lot of people whereas activism does not necessarily involve a lot of people.
Collaboration, which involves at least one other person, is appealing because I bore myself. I like to organize with my audiences. Or call them participants.
KM: Your funniest literary moment.
...may be funny in a different way from this:
KM: What are you working on now?
RH: Laying siege to the idea of "Asian Canadian culture" through this here print magazine:
RAY HSU'S MOST RECENT BOOK
Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon, Harbour Publishing, 2010
Description from the publisherCold Sleep Permanent Afternoon, the follow-up to Ray Hsu’s award-winning first collection, Anthropy, is the second book in a prospective trilogy that explores the “grammar of personhood.”
Michael V. Smith
Photo by David Ellingsen
Michael V. Smith is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, performance artist and occasional clown teaching creative writing in the interdisciplinary program of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at UBC's Okanagan campus in BC's Interior. He is the author of the novels Progress (Cormorant Books 2011) and Cumberland (Cormorant Books, 2002) which was nominated for the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award.
In recent years, Smith won Vancouver's Community Hero of the Year Award and the inaugural Dayne Ogilvie Award for Emerging Gay Writers. He's also won a Western Magazine Award for Fiction, scooped two short film prize categories at Toronto's Inside Out festival, and was nominated for the Journey Prize.
His videos have played around the world, in cities such as Milan, Dublin, Turin, London, New York, Toronto, Paris, Geneva, Berlin, Glasgow, Lisbon, Beirut, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Buenos Aires, SF, LA and Bombay. Smith is an MFA grad from UBC’s Creative Writing program.
Vancouver Magazine has considered him one of its city's 25 most influential gay citizens whereas Loop Magazine named him one of Vancouver’s Most Dangerous People...
His first book of poetry is What You Can’t Have (Signature Editions, 2006), short-listed for the ReLit Prize. In 2008, he published a hybrid book of concrete poems/photographs, Body of Text (BookThug), created with David Ellingsen.
RUSTY TALK WITH MICHAEL V. SMITH
Kathryn Mockler: What keeps you going as a writer?
Michael V. Smith: I’ve always loved a puzzle. My novels have felt like long complicated puzzles that I tried to figure out. Really, every book is a mystery novel, right? You read to the end to find out the whodunnit, in whatever shape that takes. How is this book going to end? Even, how is the poem going to end? How does it work? So writing is the best way to enjoy making puzzles (long ones like novels, short ones like a poem) and still get paid. Okay, I use teaching to get paid. What keeps me going is a fine alchemy of things. There are many pleasures in creating: simple ego-stroking, the thrill of feeling like I’m discovering something, a satisfaction in accomplishment, being generous with myself, the feeling that I’m creating a conversation with someone about a collection of ideas (or characters) I’m very fond of, and the pleasure that comes from being engaged with the world. I’ve never thought of writing as a solitary act. I don’t know where that idea comes from. Writing is a very long one-sided conversation, but I’m always aware that eventually an audience will hear it, and listen, and join in.
Kathryn Mockler: What is the revision process like for you?
Michael V. Smith: With novels, after I have a first draft, I take out all the parts of the flab that aren’t plot. Just cut it all away. If there are bits of information I particularly like, or can’t do without, then I find somewhere to slip that back in. Usually, that first draft, cleaned up, is a solid skeleton. Then I do drafts that look at fixing specific things: I go through the whole manuscript, for example, and look at tying the events more closely together, so that one event is the cause of what comes next, or I do an edit to ‘psychologize’ the characters, meaning I add in some of the unwritten emotional life of the character, or flush out a bit of background, to fill out our sense of character. It’s a great way to edit for me, because it gives me focus on a particular skill. I always do other work at the same time, of course. One type of change triggers five others. But if I’m just approaching the novel as a whole, it’s overwhelming, and hard to see it clearly, so I love going in there with a tool in hand and digging around, which makes the whole process more manageable.
Kathryn Mockler: How did you deal with rejection when you first started out?
Michael V. Smith: Rejection is all part of the business, so if you aren’t rejected, you aren’t in the business. I take rejections as a good sign—I’m being a writer.
Kathryn Mockler: What are you working on now?
Michael V. Smith: I'm working on two projects: a series of tribute videos to friends and family who are ill, and a collection of essays titled Men.
MICHAEL V. SMITH'S MOST RECENT NOVEL
Progress, Cormorant Books, 2011
Since her fiancé’s death at eighteen, Helen Massey has spent her life avoiding it. Change comes when her town is only months away from being thirty feet under water. A government agency, The Power Authority, is relocating the entirety of her hometown to make way for a power dam project. What can’t be moved will be torn down. Even the cemetery is to be dug up and reinterred nearby.
While visiting her lover’s grave, Helen witnesses a man fall to his death on the power dam worksite. “He fell like a sack, straight down, with one arm waving in circles. He fell past the other workman strapped into a harness who must have been surprised to see him pass. Mocking the air. It seemed he fell without a sound.”
That same day, her brother returns unannounced after a fifteen-year absence. Robert Massey was a runaway. The construction made his homecoming a “now or never” decision, he tells his sister. “I didn’t want to have to come back in a boat to see the family home.”
When Robert discovers his parents kept the reasons for his departure a secret—too little has changed—he confesses, hoping his sister might bury the past. So begins their transformations. The siblings must negotiate their shared history, and their differences, if they are to find themselves a future. In his essay, "A Memoir of Progress," Matthew Rader offers a brief memoir about his experiences with Michael V. Smith's latest novel Progress. This essay is published by AngelHousePress.Read an excerpt of Cumberland.
For more information about Michael V. Smith go to his website.
Ivan E. Coyote
Photo by Eric Nielson
Ivan Coyote was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. An award-winning author of seven collections of short stories, one novel, three CD’s, four short films, the editor of an anthology, and a renowned performer, Ivan’s first love is live storytelling, and over the last eighteen years she has become an audience favourite at music, poetry, spoken word and writer's festivals from Anchorage to Amsterdam. The Globe and Mail called Ivan "a natural-born storyteller" and Ottawa X Press said "Coyote is to CanLit what k.d. lang is to country music: a beautifully odd fixture." Ivan’s column, Loose End has appeared monthly in Xtra West magazine for eleven years. Her first novel, Bow Grip, was awarded the Relit award for best fiction and named by the American Library Association as a Stonewall honor book in literature, and is in development to be made into a feature length film. Ivan’s new collection of short stories, Missed Her, was released in September, 2010. Ivan also recently co-edited Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme with Zena Sharman. Coyote’s latest short story collection, One In Every Crowd, a young adult collection of stories compiled for queer high school kids, was released in April 2012.RUSTY TALK WITH IVAN COYOTESara Jane Strickland: What is your first memory of being creative?
Ivan Coyote: I am not sure if I have a memory of this or not, or if I feel like I remember it because there is an old old photo of me doing this, but I have a memory of setting up pots and pans like a drum kit on the front deck of my parent's first house and playing the drums on them. I would have been about two or three.
SJS: How would you describe your writing process?
IC: Deadline driven. I set or get goals and dates, and I try to follow them. I have thousand word days. I make myself write a thousand words, good or bad, not perfect words, just out there. Out of my head and onto the page. Also I make lists of scenes or chapters or stories or ideas and then I just try to write them and cross them off.
SJS: What are you working on right now?
IC: A novel and a survival guide for tomboys. Also two live shows, both collaborations with musicians.
SJS: What is the revision process like for you?
IC: I just grin and bear it.
SJS: What influences your writing the most? IC: Life. Other books. Other writers. The sky. The weather. How much I have been to the gym lately. Music. Dance. Painting. Movies. Things I overhear on the bus. Kids I meet. People I meet. Loved ones. Loved ones dying. New ones being born. Life.
SJS: How did you deal with rejection when you first started out? IC: The first book I was a part of writing, we got asked by the publisher for a manuscript, so I have an unusual story. I didn't have to deal with a lot of rejection right out of the gate.
SJS: What keeps you going as a writer or why do you write?
IC: I write because I love it more than anything else in my life. I write because I don't know or remember how to be anything else anymore. I write to pay the bills. I write to change the world. I write because I have a deadline. I write because not writing is no longer an option for me. I write because it is the only way to navigate this life, for me.
SJS: What is the best thing about being a writer and the worst thing?
IC: The best thing? Working alone from home with no pants on. The worst thing? Working alone from home with no pants on.
IVAN COYOTE'S LATEST SHORT FICTION COLLECTION
Missed Her, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010Description from Arsenal Pulp Press:
In her passionate and humourous new collection, Ivan takes readers on an intimate journey, both literal and figurative, through the experiences of her life: from her year spent in eastern Canada,to her return to the west coast, to travels inbetween. Whether discussing the politics of being a butch with a pet lapdog, or befriending an effeminate young man at a gay camp, or revisiting a forty-year old heartbreak around her grandmother’s kitchen, Ivan traverses love, gender and identity with a wistful, perceptive eye, and a warmth that's as embracing and powerful as Ivan herself.
What happens when a woman with "dykey clothes" confronts a man with a bushy beard about the lesbian book he's reading? Is life easier for a butch or a lipstick lesbian? Is it better to be queer in Whitehorse, where you're subjected to direct questions, or in Vancouver, where PC politeness masks embarrassed confusion? Missed Her, a collection by Vancouver writer and performer Ivan E. Coyote, conveys these lifestyle collisions with thoughtful humour.... Thematically, Coyote's writing has grown in complexity and depth.
These vignettes read as though they've been freshly torn from a wanderer's notebook, where they were immediately jotted down so as not to lose the vibrancy of the experience. The result is refreshing and tearfully real---Coyote has a gift for blending the tragic and comic in a way that renders a reader gobsmacked.... The writing in Missed Her is direct yet lyrical, poetic yet unadorned, reaching simultaneously for the heart and the gut with brevity and power.
--Quill & Quire (STARRED REVIEW)
Brian Joseph Davis
Brian Joseph Davis the author of Portable Altamont, a collection that garnered praise from Spin Magazine for its “elegant, wise-ass rush of truth, hiding riotous social commentary in slanderous jokes.” Slate called his novel I, Tania, “The book of your fever dreams.” A co-founder of the literary website Joyland, his short stories have been collected recently in Ronald Reagan, My Father and included in Against Expression: An anthology of conceptual writing (Northwestern University Press). His music and art productions have been acclaimed by Wired, Pitchfork, Salon, and LA Weekly, which wrote, “Davis has an amazing head for aural experiments that are smart on paper and fascinating in execution.” He’s written for Utne, The Globe and Mail and The Believer (forthcoming). He lives in Brooklyn and rural Ontario with his wife, Emily Schultz.
Kathryn Mockler: What is your first memory of being creative (writing, art making, etc.)?
Brian Joseph Davis: I saw a documentary on special effects when I was 7 and attempted to make my Kermit the Frog doll "animatronic" with old bike parts. Without the stuffing, and full of bike brakes, I thought he he looked deflated so I filled it toothpaste. That looked messy so I then attempted to "set things" by putting it in the freezer. I forgot about it there until my mom found a gutted Kermit the Frog doll full of gears and toothpaste.
KM: How would you describe conceptual writing to someone unfamiliar with the genre?
BJD: It's an umbrella term, but I'd say it's any writing with a formal concern--writing that starts from a certain point or a set of rules, almost like a game. That could include anything from Beckett to a Saturday Night Live parody.
KM: How did you first get interested and involved with conceptual writing?
BJD: I was creating this kind of work coming out of media art, with my inspirations being all over the map: JG Ballard, Kathy Acker, artists who work with text like Fiona Banner, Jenny Holzer. Little did I know that people like Darren Wershler or Ken Goldmsith on the East Coast, or Vanessa Place on the West Coast, were codifying conceptual writing. Their hard work has made it easier.
KM: How would you describe your art/writing practice/process?
BJD: When I do this kind of work I'm really looking for a kind of database of text. A good chunk of information that hasn't been exploited beyond its original use yet.
KM: What artists/writers/poets would you recommended to someone aspiring to be an experimental or conceptual writer?
BJD: I kind of hesitate to suggest a canon because this genre is a genre of practitioners. Like cheese making you only learn by doing so I'd suggest, find an idea and do it. Start with queso fresco.
KM: What is your funniest literary moment?
BJD: I was presenting "Johnny" in LA a couple of years ago, and afterwards a woman came up to me and said, I think you used lines from a script I wrote.
KM: Your recent Tumblr project The Composites in which you create images "using law enforcement composite sketch software and descriptions of literary characters" is getting a lot of media attention. Why do you think that is?
BJD: In North America, technology and culture have been in a 10-year sprint to forensicize everyday life far beyond the need of basic law enforcement. Internationally, of course, that has been the case much longer with Europe especially having to negotiate surveillance culture for decades. I’d also say that the combination of a law enforcement media and literature is a snapshot of inner space right at a time when literature is experiencing an ontological crisis. Writing’s struggle with digitization emulsifies well, it seems, with technology’s struggle with issues of privacy and security.
KM: What are you working on now?
BJD: Thank god, nothing.
IMAGE FROM THE COMPOSITES BY BRIAN JOSEPH DAVIS
Ignatius J. Reilly, A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs. In the shadow under the green visor of the cap Ignatius J. Reilly’s supercilious blue and yellow eyes looked down upon the other people waiting under the clock at the D.H. Holmes department store, studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress. (Multiple suggestions)
Updated image: Many readers believed that Ignatious weighed significantly more than the original composite implied.
BRIAN JOSEPH DAVIS' MOST RECENT BOOK
Ronald Regan, My Father, ECW Press/Independent Publishers Group, 2010
Description from ECW
“An elegant, wise-ass rush of truth, hiding riotous social commentary in slanderous jokes…It almost feels like he’s leading a palace coup.” – Spin Magazine on Portable Altamont
“Davis’ brilliant media deconstructions are pointed and hilarious at the same time.” – Kenneth Goldsmith
“The book of your fever dreams.” – Slate on I, Tania
The elderly take to the streets at night for illegal and cathartic electric scooter racing. (Think Two-Lane Blacktop but starring Abe Vigoda and Estelle Getty.)
A copy editor suffers brain damage from West Nile virus and is suddenly filled with cannibalistic violence and award-winning minimalist poetry. (It’s a little like Awakenings, but directed by David Cronenberg.)
Mayor McCheese visits a sexually repressed British couple in the early 1970s and touches their lives forever. (Okay, try this: Pasolini’s Teorema but with Mayor McCheese.)
A Texas doctor transplants the mind of a meth-addicted convict into the body of a suburban web developer, resulting in America’s first “death-penalty case that turned into a custody case that turned into a right-to-die case.” (It’s like a hole drilled in your head and five HBO original movies poured in all at once.)
Startlingly original but anchored by vivid characters, Ronald Reagan, My Father weaves all these ideas, and more, into a bleakly hilarious vision that’s both human and uncanny – as if Raymond Carver was marooned on Mars with ten hours to live.