Some random thoughts after Avant-Canada 2014.

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http://animalnewyork.com/2014/future-shock/

We use the term Conceptual Writing in the broadest sense, so that it intersects other terms such as: allegory, appropriation, piracy, flarf, identity theft, sampling, constraint and others. Conceptual Writing, in fact, might be best defined not by the strategies used but by the expectations of the readership or thinkership.” – Place, Vanessa, and Robert Fitterman. Notes on Conceptualisms. Brooklyn, NY: Ugly Duckling Presse ;, 2009. Foreword..

I should really entitle this “After Avant-Canada 2014 and finally watching Jorodowsky’s Dune.” I’m a little discombobulated after watching the film. The overall theme of it being of opening the mind, but most of all, an artist’s passion for bringing their vision to fruition. Therefore, if I am set apart like puzzle pieces at the moment, like puzzle pieces this piece will be. This is also my blog and thus I can write in whatever form I want within whatever structures I chose. I am free to say anything, even if it comes across as nothing. It is the concept that matters and the lack of delineation that defines me as whatever it is that I am in what I do. Honestly, I don’t know what I do, but more on that later.

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My starting point is taken from Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman’s book, Notes on Conceptualisms. The book, blue and pocket-sized, reads like a manifesto manufactured from a conversation which metamorphosed stream of consciousness.  It’s a manifesto of nothing and everything in what is popularly termed as “avant-garde” writing.

Ideas stem from various seeds labelled archetypes, experience, DNA, nature, nurture, and all the things that make up a sentient being. The seeds are dominoes set up to fall forward, eventually gaining momentum in their falls until the last domino releases an energy spark in its culmination, setting a toy rocket free in the end. The toy rocket is the idea in its full form. The idea/toy rocket also goes through a similar sequence of events that are less theoretical and are more material based. The reason for this is that the person who has the idea must realize it in order to give justice to the idea’s formation. The seed must flower to pollinate in other minds.This last part, the materialization of the idea, is not as important as the processes by which the idea is first formed and is not as imperative as the idea itself. The idea is all.

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Last month, I was invited by Gregory Betts to chair the panel entitled, “The Thinkership of Conceptual Literature.” I immediately (albeit very enthusiastically) accepted. Those on the panel:

Christian Bök (Calgary)—“To Ward Off a Diabolical Poetry.”
Darren Wershler (Concordia)—“Everyday Conceptualism.”
Derek Beaulieu (Alberta College of Art and Design)—“Words to be looked at but not read / Music to be heard but not listened to.”
Helen Hajnozky (Independent Poet)—“Lyric Conceptual Writing: A Study of Contemporary Canadian Women Poets.”
Natalie Simpson (Independent Poet)—“ TAKE WHAT YOU CAN AND LEAVE THE REST: Women Writers and Conceptualism.”

I introduced them as a coterie of scientists, thinkers, poets, writers, and artists. I would say that all of the panels and attendees could be defined as such. To me, it was an important event in a critical time where many seek out definition where there might not be one to be found yet. At least, I don’t believe it’s something available to us or are we given that power to label it at this conjecture. Definition is valuable mostly for the purpose of constraint. Nevertheless, in order speak about the experimental we must give it a name.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was a kid, and conceptualism didn’t really enter the fray in my writing until I was in my thirties. However, conceptualism and the avant-garde has always been a big influence. My appropriation, remixing, and re-writing projects were influenced by the bellicose writing movements of my time. Uncreative writing and conceptual writing is nothing new. In fact, the quality that drives me to these movements isn’t their rebellious textures, but its their nature, that which is closest the “idea;” the word “idea,” the thought “idea,” “idea,” fascinates me.

The conceptual writer writes out of the formation of a concept. A conference like Avant-Canada is a world plenteous of idea manufacturers whose experiments and alternative perspectives are birthed in the universe of ideas. We’re like Dr. Frankenstein’s creating gallimaufries of monsters because we can. We live in a world of “we can.” The internet and social media has given us that freedom and we must frequently stop and ask ourselves, “What are we doing here?”

Taking the analogy of the dominoes, are we the person setting up the dominoes? Are we the dominoes? Are we the spark, or are we the rocket? Looking beyond that, are we gear or cod in that machinery, or, when it is set in motion, are we even part of it at all?

These are all thoughts and questions that come to my mind after a conference like this. As I was watching Jorodowsky elucidate his vision for Dune, his passion for the project was so palpable that it became all encompassing. For a few moments, he becomes so expressive that his eyes take over the screen and I wondered if Herbert’s Dune was even a part of that vision, or if the vision itself was bigger than the director himself (I believe it was, considering the amount of everything the director had envisioned for it). In various parts of the film, his Dune is termed as “ahead of its time.”

If you look back at the films, books, and art of the seventies and eighties, a lot of what was predicted aesthetically and artistically, never came to be. There are no polygon hats at art shows, flying cars, teleportation devices…ok, I could go on. Also, these things might exist, but they’re not in the form that we predicted them to be. This has led to a surge of retro-futuristic art (8 bit, and Killian Eng comes to mind), music (Lazerhawk, and Drive soundtrack), and in a small way film (Beyond The Black Rainbow – but also this viewed from that film’s aesthetics and soundtrack, of which similar can be seen in Under The Skin, as well.). I believe popular culture aims to recapture the aesthetics of seventies and eighties futurism because it is still trying to catch up with the overwhelming amount of quick technological growth it has put itself through. In many ways, conceptual writing is trying to catch up with the amount of growth or overwhelming output its manufactured with the ease because of technology. We find ourselves trying to argue against or in favour of conceptual writing’s existence because we can’t stop to define it. The assembly line or idea factory is just too fast. When we attempt to define it, we stagnate, the assembly line slows down. Don’t let it slow down! It’s not in our natures! Like Frankenstein’s monster there are so many components we don’t know what to do next.

“Conceptual Writing, in fact, might be best defined not by the strategies used but by the expectations of the readership or thinkership.” 

While a person appreciates art, the art piece is taken from the artist and becomes an entirely new piece in the viewer’s mind.  The reader owns the text after it is written and it becomes a new piece in the reader’s mind. By viewing, appreciating, and listening, we are stealing. Never mind that the artist has gifted us their materialization of an idea, we are stealing for a universal comprehension through interpretation. Retro futurism, a taking of old ideas and making them new for now, is a symptom of schema created for the modern thinker’s survival. We own ideas, but no idea is original. Yet, the process by which the idea is formed is unique to its owner. Beyond that, it’s interpretation and reformation.

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I met many women on this trip to St. Catharines. Within in the conceptual writing movement, within poetry, there’s a very powerful undercurrent of female poets with activist voices. I mean, by being anything female these days, we are speaking out against thousands of years of ingrained oppression. It was a heavy week of being reminded we are women writers within Can-Lit. So it was healing and rejuvenating to converse and exchange thoughts with these women.

“Radical mimesis is original sin.” – Place, Vanessa, and Robert Fitterman. Notes on Conceptualisms. Brooklyn, NY: Ugly Duckling Presse ;, 2009. 20.

I experiment with words. I remix, remodel, rewrite, and reform what already exists. My basis point has always been from a lyrical point, a creative view because this my nature. However, even when I assemble a work in an “uncreative” place in my mind, the end result reads as an innovation for myself. The only way I can classify that work as is from a poetic mind, thus the label “poet.” But even that label carries connotations with it that do not define most of my work. It’s kind of like I’ve rode with my processes and didn’t stop to think, “What am I doing?”

After watching Jorodowsky’s visions I can only assume that he didn’t care what he was doing. He tried to do it, failed to make it so, but in the end, the world of film ended up making many versions of his idea. His creation. His monster. His concept. His idea.

What did he do? He watched the dominoes fall.

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P.S. I will always regret not being able to dance with Fraggles on the last day of the conference.

Also, no one told me Magma was going to be in Dune.

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You can find more structured thoughts over at EDITING MODERNISM- http://editingmodernism.ca/community/

All the processes and thoughts afterward give great pause for the experiences there. I particularily enjoyed: “EVERYTHINGS TOO FUCKD UP TODAY” & THE REVOLUTION CANNOT WAIT: A BRIEF REFLECTION ON THE POLITICAL AT AVANT-CANADA by Eric Schmaltz

Second verse, same as the first: a long run on The Ramones

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http://www.spin.com/articles/read-ramones-snarky-1975-one-sheet/ The Ramones / Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns

“Now I wanna run away from home now I wanna be all alone now”

I was playing with my toys in my parents’ living room when I learned that John Lennon had been shot. In 1994, I was putting away records at Radio Erindale with friends when Metal Mike ran in and said, “Cobain’s gone, man.” I believe it was my husband who had texted me to say Lou Reed had passed.

It’s weird the way we find out these things these days. On my way home from a pal’s dinner, I checked my phone and news trickled in my little device that Tommy Ramone had died. It wasn’t shocking. Everyone dies. When Joey Ramone died I was in stresses of being a new mom. It was another rock and roll heartache. There are bigger things in this universe to mourn and to be angry about. Tommy Ramone’s passing is a reminder that all things go and all things remain in some way.

I bought Rocket To Russia after having a huge argument with my then girlfriend about the importance of The Ramones. We agreed on The Clash and Black Flag, but for some reason, she couldn’t stand The Ramones. I was ok with her dislike, but I couldn’t listen to them without her saying something about it. It was aggravating. She found them to be too “happy.” Anyways, I skipped class the day we argued and went record shopping with the full intent of acquiring and listening to enough Ramones to make my ears bleed.

Too happy? Bullshit.

“Lobotomy, lobotomy, lobotomy, lobotomy!
DDT did a job on me
Now I am a real sickie
Guess I’ll have to break the news
That I got no mind to lose
All the girls are in love with me
I’m a teenage lobotomy”

Everywhere The Ramones went turned to punk. Their first UK tour practically legitimized punk across the spectrum and it was soon after they played Toronto, that promoters went wild promoting local punk acts here.

I have no idea where I first heard them, most likely on the radio, but as far as my subconscious goes, it feels like I was born being into the band. The quick spitfire of each of their songs: furious drums that don’t quit even long after the song is done; the skilled angry staccato of the guitar; humming drone of the bass; and Joey…oh Joey. I’ve been secretly in love with Joey since Rock n Roll High School.

All those gangly limbs, bad lip synching, striped shirt, tall obscured face, and nerdy exterior…I have a thing for it. And that voice. Joey’s voice didn’t give a fuck and neither did he. The Ramones were the most unpretentious and geekiest anti-social image to arrive on any scene and because of that they connected with some of the most disenfranchised of the kids.

I have a Ramones song for almost every memorable angry occasion in my life. Today I was running though. I’ve taken to not using music to run lately, but today it felt necessary to bring The Ramones with me. The first few kilometres were I Wanna Be Sedated (I loop songs over and over when I get a good pace, or it’s my OCD, whatever). Road To Ruin is my brain dump album. I’m crazy and my anxiety of late has been on full tilt. Gimme anything to get rid of that uncontrolled feeling.

Then I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement. Hey daddy-o I don’t want to go to the hole. The dark place that I keep running from. Their debut album is so unapologetically raw, bass driven, and full of animalistic young energy. Plus Judy is a Punk has my name in it. “Perhaps they’ll die, oh yeah!”

(plus Havana Affair is a great song when you’re running through frou-frou Yorkville)

The Tom Waits cover I Don’t Wanna Grow Up is practically my anthem at 41. Although sung with an almost happier light by Waits (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!), in the hands of The Ramones it becomes a song of lifetime defiance and sticking it to the man.

I’m Affected has that classic eighties feel combined with a CBGBs punk that was more modernly relatable to my Talking Heads and Blondie loving peers. Don’t get me wrong, I love those two bands too (particularly The Talking Heads), but having fallen for The Ramones via their short hard driving bursts of songs, Phil Spector’s production of End of The Century brought out their excellent musicianship to the forefront. And Joey is so angry on here.

I could go on. I ended off my run with my go-to album which is, as you guessed it, Rocket to Russia.1, 2, 3, 4 You better know what you want… I can’t give you anything.”

I can’t give anyone anything. How I feel that. You know how little I got. It’s true.

With Tommy Ramone going to that great gig in the sky, it gives one a moment to pause, especially if you’re getting up there yourself. Who knew we’d be aging punk rockers, aging grungers, aging anything. I thought I’d never see 30, let alone, 40, but here I am. Yet The Ramones are still there playing on my long runs, or when I’m angry, or if I feel like the only one in a crowded room. While the world mills about dancing and dinner making, I’ll be bop-bopping hopefully until I take my last breath.

Anyways, I’m on a bit of an adrenaline rush, a sweaty mess that needs a shower, and a bit melancholy in turn. I just wanted to write some thoughts down as I reminisce and subject my kids to more Ramones for the rest of the day.

Can I bring my Ramones shirt to the big gig?

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RIP Tommy: Not Fade Away by Michael Robbins http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/246998

About that gig in the sky:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/07/12/tommy_ramone_died_they_might_be_giants_john_flansburgh_pays_tribute_to_longest.html

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On the power of erotica and literal masturbation…

I have reviews in the queue to write and movies to finish watching, but it’s Saturday. I’m lazy and procrastinating and it’s what you do on day with nothing that’s pressing on you to get done. I also blame this book for my dreamy state:

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Tamara Faith Berger’s Little Cat

It’s two of her previously published works, Lie With Me (1999), The Way of The Whore (2001) put into one volume. When I read Berger’s Maidenhead, I felt so spent after I finished it. I was physically drained from being incredibly tense all over. I was stuck between the need for physical pleasure and relief. Although titillating and exciting, Berger’s prose provoked a higher sense of expectation rather than arousal per se. I had sore shoulders from keeping my back straight at attention for the next page. It’s hard work staying like that and not realizing how physically involved I was with the book until I had put it down.

I was so tense and my back so done that I could barely review it. I didn’t want to digest it. I wanted to keep it in my stomach.

Then I wanted more.

My eyes bugged out and I lunged at the book when I spotted Little Cat in the bookstore. Sure enough, I find myself in that same erect position, flipping pages, and wondering, “How the fuck do you describe it so well?”

When I mean “it,” I mean the mundane biological and mixed emotional reactions of fucking and not giving a damn. There’s a unique perspective with individual women as there is with men. Everyone has their preferences, but I guess beyond my relating to the visceral needs of the characters in here, I admire Berger’s raw honesty in her approach to writing them.

“….my body is filled to the ends with these kinds of murmurs:

I need your cock to touch my cunt.

I need us naked for only one second.

I need us forever to be here forever.

 

I have always had to feel myself like I’ve never felt myself before.” –  Berger, Tamara Faith, and Tamara Faith Berger. “Lie With Me.” Little Cat. Rev. 2nd ed. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2013. . Print.

It’s a beautiful rendering of the sensual and all-consuming wanting lists that come to mind with sexual urge/need. It’s basic above, but further along when our protagonist gets what she thinks she wants, there’s a continual woman’s sexual monologue and third party descriptor that pushes buttons, like a perineum word massage.

I’m in love with Berger’s writing. Much like the protagonist pleads for the reader to understand her needs and why she does what she does, I want to know because I want to know if she knows what I also want to know. Weird sentence, but that’s the tangent I get into in my head as I read Little Cat.

I’d write a review, but I’m barely finished the first half of the book. What prompts me to blog about it though is my delight at reading Berger’s words and the connection that I find so compelling in erotica. I don’t have much of a collection. Pitiful, really.

IMG_20140614_082853 (1)I’m a disorganized book lover and my shelves have their own weird system. I’ve somehow mixed my more erotic forms of literature with feminist texts, Freaky Fountain Press books, William S. Burroughs, Samuel R. Delany, poetry, and the Bible. The Bible can be pretty porn-y, no? Sometimes Joyce’s Ulysses finds itself up there too.

I read a lot of online erotica. I would love to read and collect more paper erotica, but I have specific things I look for and with time and age, I find there are different specifics I’d like. Life is short. Can’t waste time on duds, you know.

I think I love female erotica because it speaks to something that is rarely acknowledged: masturbation is a tool of self-empowerment. I know, as a woman, it is for me because it is my head that’s in charge of the scenario, the tools to get me there, and I do what I need. The best partners figure that out, and even then the best partners are the ones you can adapt to that or have their own ways that are natural to them to give you that pleasure.

Yet most people’s first awakening is the first touch they give themselves or the first orgasm they experience. I’ve yet to encounter anyone that has forgotten their first time coming. Most, I would think, remember it and spend most of their lives trying to recreate that first extraordinary release of tension. After that, it’s old hat and everyone creates their masturbation rituals and sexual rituals.

Porn, at its base, is ingenuous. Nothing gets hidden (except maybe in the type of porn you read or watch: fake boobs, nipped bodies, hairless encounters). At its core, there’s a universal high that is to be achieved in the making, watching, or consumption of it. For me, it’s worldly constraint that reminds us that we’re all just animals and not alone. There’s no social passive aggressiveness, no algorithms I have to navigate, there’s no angst in getting there (unless, of course, it’s a hate fuck, and that’s more for relief making the hate fuck more of a mutual masturbation session). Thus, it’s me in charge of my own pleasure.

Reading erotica doesn’t necessarily make me want to self-pleasure, but it essentially gives me the power to say, “It’s ok, other people think about this stuff too.” It’s what a good book does. You can read about dragons, spaceships, farms, tales of high adventure, stories of death and triumph, and they’re all escapes. A writer writes for all sorts of reasons, but these are dreams brought to paper. Erotica are wet fantasies brought to paper.

In BDSM erotica, a reader is given the power to dominate and submit. For women, it’s such a liberating world to play in. Growing up in a background of catholic guilt and shame for everything, part of that BDSM mental play is the guilt and the shame. It can be good and it can be bad, but reading erotica gives you the agency to manipulate it how you want and what place you want it in. Reading a good passage, entrusts the female reader to go there, where she has always been forbidden, or shamed into going. I was starved into submission by being denied what I want through guilt. Upon reading a good book, I am given a unique power with a different kind of actual submission. It feeds a starved brain and makes for a happier individual.

I don’t know. I see a tendency for people to get addicted to porn because it’s the dishonest porn. The porn that dictates what you want. It’s the kind that I saw when I saw my first ever porn magazine.

When I was a kid, I was at a friend’s house and we were playing hide and seek. I hid between the bookshelves and the bed in her big brother’s room. Underneath the bed there was a big red glossy paper. I pulled it out and saw something I’d never seen before. There were naked bodies on top of one another, tied up women smiling at me, men and women with contorted faces like they were in pain. It was a spread out of an orgy someone had taken out of a magazine. Plump rumps and hairy everything was staring back at me, creamed in many areas. It was both gross and fascinating to see, but I quickly put it back feeling a shame that felt familiar and gutting.

Many, many, many years later after sifting through different and confusing versions of porn, I realized that much of what is commercially available, isn’t targeted to me, nor is it honestly targeted. It’s a frustrating world to wade through and it’s diminishing and disturbing that it takes such a long time for some of us women to realize what we individually want. I’m sure making porn was at one point, but somehow commercial porn evolved into something that dictates rather than provides. Maybe people who heavily watch that sort of commercial porn tend to not find what they sexually need in real life? I’m just making assumptions here, but I find that what fulfills me and fulfills many is porn capacitates its viewer/reader with the means to explore and re-examine what it is they really want to sexually satisfy them.

This is why I enjoyed Matthew Pollack’s Run Run It’s Him. There’s a hint to that need for the search of that agency because the individual has a hard time finding what he wants in real life.

Recently on a tour of the Queer Outlaw Cinema exhibit at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, I was thinking about Bruce LaBruce’s work, which is featured in it. LaBruce’s films do explore the sensual body as a political and radical being. You can change the world with how you use your body and you can change the world with how you react with it. Erotica is one of those tools of activism for it gives people the liberty to be in command of their sexual agency.

When the “MRA” (“men’s rights” people) came in after the female targeted tragedy in Santa Barbara this year and said, “More people will die unless you give men sexual options,” I balked. I’m sorry, but women are not in charge of your pleasure. You, everyone should be in charge of their pleasure and if you want it to be with someone else, it must be mutual and consensual for it to be an option. Men have options. Men have porn, magazines, literature, and everything that involves sex targeted to them. All you need to do is go to your nearest television show or convenience store magazine display. Even the magazines aimed at women are heavily or subtly charged with options for how to please men, ie. Cosmopolitan.

This is why books that cerebrally acknowledge a woman’s wants and give her a plethora of options don’t get ignored. We might read them in little corners, the back of the bus, or full out on our commutes, but there is a universal want for honesty in our porn. Maybe men should ask for that too because I’m sure there’s so much more to explore on the matter. You can do on your own, like we women have to as well.

But I digress. With the popularity of the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto and the new female targeted sex shops trend around the world, I’m just glad that there exists a marriage between the written word and the female experience between the sheets.

Claim your experience. Accept your wants. Explore more. Most of all, play well and with consideration, knowing everyone is still searching through their kinks too.

 

 

 

Some thoughts of handwriting Ulysses and now published at no press!

 

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A dashing James Joyce.

On Getting Inside James Joyce’s Head.

James Joyce is a maddening writer to read. If you were to ask me why I love reading him though, part of that love is in the aggravation he causes with his writing.

Typing A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man was one thing, writing Ulysses by hand is quite the other. In A Portrait, I had the pleasure of not having read it, thus being exposed to the work was like being presented with an interesting set of data. The experiment was what that set of data, how it was arranged and collated, would affect me. The early chapters made my creative work suffer. The infantilism and repetitive structure of it at the beginning, handicapped my writing. I couldn’t come up with proper sentences for a while. After young Stephen Dedalus finds the poetic language within himself, I found my own writing took off as well.

When copying from a book to a page (whether that be on a computer or on a piece of paper), I digest the work in a sort of peripheral type of reading. I’m reading the words as visual objects while transferring them over to a new environment. I know the controls: pen, paper, and a somewhat quiet environment. While writing/typing it, I notice little ticks or weird punctuations in the work because I’m focusing on transcribing what’s right before me. Half of my brain is on that, while the other is reading the words and doing what our brains have been trained to do while reading: visualizing the scenes. A Portrait was interesting because in its newness to me, I was absorbed into the pages.

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On my fairytale wishlist forever: A first edition copy of Ulysses.

I’ve re-read Ulysses several times because there are always new things I’ve found upon the re-read. And I’m known to get a little obsessive with my interests. Ulysses happens to feed something in my head. The first time I read it was back in a third year course on modernism. I was in the middle of mid-term exams and suffering a long bout of insomnia. I had just finished a long exam on Nietszche and Hegel for a philosophy course and headed home on the eastbound train from Islington station. My commute from UofT Erindale College was about two hours (bus and subway to Jane station, then up to Weston Rd. and Eglinton. Torontonians will know this intersection as the giant Monster Donuts stop). I spent that commute reading my course work and I was at Episode 9: Scylla and Charybdis in Ulysses when I fell asleep. I dreamed. In the dream, Stephen Dedalus was watching the sea from a hill with books from the library tucked under his arm. His head was full of every single insight he had gathered in his conversations of the day and the sun shone blindingly in his face. It was still image, but what I remember most was the churn of the water and the tumultuous thoughts coming in and out of Stephen’s head.

When I woke up I was at Christie station, many stops away from where I supposed to get off, but I didn’t get up in a fright. I kind of floated in a euphoric state, on the cusp of an eventual epiphany. And it happened when I hit my head on the window sill of the train. It was like a rush of everything I’d read my whole life was in that book in my lap. The best I can come up with to describe that event would be as if you could smell a rainstorm approaching, hear the thunder and see the lighting for years and then suddenly the sky opens up and it’s raining every truth all around you. I felt truth all around me in that subway car for only a few seconds before it left me as quick as it came. Ever since then, Ulysses has had a special place in my heart and mind. I don’t know whether it’s because I want to relive the epiphany or if its a weird addictive curse born out of a compulsion for a spiritual high again, but either way, Ulysses upon the re-read has never failed to deliver to me many insights on writing, reading, and some pretty wacky perspectives of life. And hell, is Joyce ever wacky. Horny for spirituality and physicality, Joyce masturbates and orgasms his way through an ordinary day in an ordinary life.

I started handwriting Ulysses on December 9, 2013. Today I’m in the first half of Episode 9 and on the second green moleskine journal. The journals I’ve used have taken a beating because I’m a heavy handed writer. When I flip a page, I can feel my pen marks as if I had dug them into the page instead of just writing them. I’ve exhausted four pens in the process, and that’s not counting the ones I’ve lost as well. I began with a few constraints (writing down where I was writing it, or indenting the cited poems/songs), but I’ve decided to just stick with a random flow on each writing session.

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my heavy handed writing

I’ve found Joyce to be a difficult writer to transcribe. Ulysses is basically pulled together by the inner thoughts of people, some of them very random. Joyce tries to capture a reality that storytellers fail so often at capturing: the humdrum. If Leopold Bloom is thinking about the skirts of his mistress, he will go into detail about the smell and feel of the skirts, the colour of her hair against the light, the scent of her sex, while still making a point to list the errands he has to get to during the day. If it occurs to Mr. Bloom it will get recorded and archived. Beyond the incredibly entertaining conflicts that happen to Leopold or to Stephen, beyond the philosophical psychedelia that is the meat of the book, what glues it all together is this frustratingly mundane minutiae. It’s boring to read and frustrating to write, especially if you have a short attention span like me. Yet life in general is made up of mostly frustrating and mundane stuff. Life can be distracting in its grandness, it can be in the focus of its banality, and vice a versa.

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Two moleskines and a Joyce.

I was recently discussing this with Tony Burgess at a poetry night we did. He asked about Ulysses and I had had particularly trying session with the page I was writing that day. I said, “I yell at the book sometimes. Fuck off, James! Again with the murmuring and the sighing! Today I wanted to throw you across the room.” That day Mr. Bloom was observing the people around him eating and he was thinking of eating and what others thought of him eating. It was such insular blabber, but it’s what we do every day in our heads. This is the brilliance of what Joyce set out to do. The day in the life of Leopold Bloom is the day in the life of you and me, or rather what he perceived to be the every day person. Upon the reading his approach read with an eerie accuracy.

Many scholars have picked Ulysses apart and will probably continue to for hundreds of years to come. I’m not bringing anything new to the table, I think, but it is in my reading and in my transcribing that I’m finding myself attuned to the unique perspective in the minuscule parts of my day. I know now that I handwrite my “f” in two different ways. My handwriting is also a mixture of cursive and printing. I write sloppier towards the end of the page and neater when it’s in the middle.

This “uncreative writing” project has made me a transcribing machine. I am but a means for those words to end up on a different format. Are they read? That’s not the point. Neither is it the point for me to know more about Joyce through handwriting his work. No. Getting Inside James Joyce’s Head is just a title. For me, this endeavour has me learning that writing is copying what is in your head to make it material in the real world.

Manifesting the prosaic, (whether it be lists, errands, important dates on a calendar, etc.), by common means is an extraordinary endeavour. It is just one of many ways one can be intimate with a novel or a piece of art. People copy paintings and trace drawings to learn how to draw and paint. Writers sometimes retype work (the quotations in an essay are integral part to that essay’s defense). Hunter S Thompson retyped The Great Gatsby just to get the feeling of typing a great novel. Replication of thought and ideas is what Joyce did and it’s what many authors already do. My work with James Joyce’s work is mundane, ordinary, and perplexing to me, but it’s my work. I have infused Ulysses with my own thoughts in the margins and have been physical with its words through a pen that I hold and maneuver. I often think about monks transcribing important literature before the printing press. I am a printing press.

The concept of person as machine is an important one to note today. The objects we utilize (computers, televisions, phones, lights, dishwashers, trains, buses, etc.), were once dreams in somebody’s head and those dreams now conveniently help move the world. If we didn’t have the machines, we’d be spending most of our days in desperate pursuit of the next meal and busy transporting ourselves with our own two feet. Now with all this convenience, the machines have made it possible for us to explore. The machines themselves, ones we built with our brains and hands, are exploring too. 

It’s time to explore past the line of traditional and try new things and new methods of doing those things. I’m constantly reading books (not just Joyce), and usually have two or three on the go. I also find that the best books, inspire new ways of reading (having read a book backward online and remixed another).

Handwriting Ulysses may be the dumbest thing I’ve done, but Joyce was an idiot to write all the thoughts of Leopold Bloom and call it a novel. I really don’t know what I’m doing and I’m not keen on labelling it anything more than uncreative writing at the moment. It’s art in its performance. It’s a concept in my explanation of it. It’s writing in my execution of it. It will be a feat in its completion. It will most likely take me two years to finish.

 

******************

I am very excited and happy to announce that Derek Beaulieu’s no press has published four pages of my work. ULYSSES by Jacqueline Valencia is now available for purchase. Details at the link:

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photo courtesy of no press.

http://derekbeaulieu.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/new-from-no-press-ulysses-by-jacqueline-valencia/

 

Beyoncé’s poem

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Mark Wilson / Getty Images

(UPDATE: This poem was written by Oriah Mountain Dreamer: http://www.oriahmountaindreamer.com/ Which makes this whole thing pretty cool that Beyoncé rewrote the poem word for word to post on instagram. Either way it makes for an interesting rewrite of a rewrite and a condensation afterwards.) You can see where she gives credit in the third post of the poem: http://instagram.com/beyonce

Some friends posted the buzzfeed article of Beyoncé posting a poem on her instagram. I thought it would be neat to condense it a bit into the words that interested me and came up with this:

 

Beyoncé Wants to Know

It doesn’t interest me

what you for
I want to know
what you for
and if you
of your.

*

It doesn’t interest me
how you.
I want to know
if you
for
for your
for.

*
It doesn’t interest me
what
your…

*
I want to know
if you
of your
if you
or
of
I want to know
if you
or
or
or

*
I want to know
if you
or your
if you
and
of your and
to be
to be

*
It doesn’t interest me
if you
I want to know if you
to be to
If you
of
and your
If you
and
I want to know if you.
*
And if you your
I want to know
if you
yours
and
and
“Yes.”

*
It doesn’t interest me
you
or  you.

*
I want to know if you
of and
and
and
It doesn’t interest me
you
or you.

*
I want to know if you
of
and.

*
It doesn’t interest me
or or
you.

*
I want to know
you

*
I want to know
if you

and if you

you.

*************************

Source credit: http://www.beyonce.com/

 

Here is the handwritten version done after I typed the above:

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The Cosmic Lawnmower: On my love for pre-1975 Genesis

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In the afterglow of seeing the Genesis cover band, The Musical Box, I find myself full of heart. Therefore, in lieu of lambasting my social media channels with all things Genesis, I think I’ll write down my thoughts here. I’m on two hours of sleep (had to send off my son on an overnight school trip to Quebec and had been up for a friend’s party after the concert), so pardon if this all comes out as gibberish. I will do my best.

When I was about seven years old, my parents bought me a little blue and white transistor radio. It kind of looked like this:

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I used to carry that thing everywhere and my last memories of it were when I was 9/10 and lived in Windsor (this was at a particularly hard time in my life. I wouldn’t say I had a bad childhood, but a trauma(s) back then tainted all things dark for me in that time period). I was in the school playground at St. Alphonsus, and the song, “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway,” came up. It was memorable enough that, although I didn’t know who sang it at the time, I kept remembering it.  Later on, while in the library I remember looking up “On Broadway,” and thinking that it wasn’t the same song I had heard on the radio.

Fast forward to about grade eight and I had become a fan of Peter Gabriel‘s music. I had bought his first two albums on tape with my allowance after hearing, “Games Without Frontiers.”  I didn’t have access to a computer then and the internet wasn’t what it is today. If you needed information on bands, you either needed to talk to people who knew things about music or research in the library or magazines. My parents got me these two books for my birthday the year Gabriel’s album, “So,” came out.

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That’s when I learned that Gabriel was in Genesis. I gobbled up all that information and was enthralled by the theatrics, the musicianship, and the spectacle of pre-1975 Genesis. It also left me with a bit of sadness since I was too young to have seen them live back in the day. It was when I was watching the New Music around then that I learned that Genesis had come to Toronto and performed The Lamb Lies Down Broadway. Wait. What? Broadway?

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That’s when it clicked. I sought out all things Genesis on tape and found The Lamb. The biggest wave of nostalgia, the missing transistor radio of my past, hit me like a brick and I remembered good things out of the bad in my past. Before I knew it, I had memorized all the words (all twenty minutes) to Supper’s Ready and had become a Genesis mega-fan. By then I had already started a tiny correspondence habit (no it wasn’t tiny) with Peter Gabriel’s secretary at Real World Studios. Gabriel didn’t have a fan group or anything set up, so his very awesome secretary, Penny (and afterwards, Tina), used to send me copies of the Gabriel newsletter the Gabbler Ratchet and song lyrics. They became my only pen pals in a time before the internet. I lost touch with them as I got older and distracted with new things in my life. I also went through a whole The Police phase during that too.

Music had always been more of an escape for me than movies were back then. My social life consisted of school, my walkman, books (during my two hour commutes to the UofT campus in Mississauga or home), and movies (while skipping classes at the downtown St. George campus). I’d make up stories from pre-1975 Genesis songs before ever seeing concert footage. Then youtube came along and changed all that. I watched footage after footage and even the band’s television performances which were full of the same drama as their legendary concerts.

I can pinpoint a few things that made me a fan. The sets spoke to an internal seventies nostalgia that is reminiscent of a lost love in my past: my childhood (memories between the ages of 4 and 8 years old). The seventies for me were of puffy brown and yellow snow jackets, big Cougar boots, and long hair. They were a time when my dad sported a huge afro, my mom had colourful flower blouses, red elevator shoes, and our home was decorated with orange leather furniture. We had a black and white television in my parent’s room where we would pile on the bed on Sundays while my dad watched sports and sneaked the channel to cartoons when he’d fall asleep. He’d scold me and say, “My eyes are closed, but I’m still watching!” I’d laugh and try to pry his eyelids open.

I used to own a tulip hat (much like Gabriel sports in The Lawnmower skit he does before singing, “I Know What I Like“), and wear that thing to pretend I was a flower in garden. I had skirts that would twirl up if I spun around. I had plastic pretend food that I’d pretend to make on my Easy Bake stove/oven combo.

Tony Banks‘s distinctive sound (Korgs, Wurli reverbs, Mellotron, etc.) spoke of the imagination of the times and the promise of something beyond the things that would spark the stories that I used to make up as a kid. Mike Rutherford‘s and Steve Hackett‘s complex guitar solos were like audio math magic. Phil Collins‘s drums were always easy to pick out, but back in pre-1975 Genesis he had brilliance born out of angst; you can’t find stuff like that in his solo and post-Gabriel Genesis work. And Peter Gabriel…the vocals and his lyrics came from rich school boy existential catharsis: it’s a romantic ethos that’s both intriguing and inspiring. Imagine putting Lindsay Anderson’s If… to music, and then you’ve got a young Gabriel voice. Some may call it angelic, but I call it cosmic. As the albums got bigger and the lyrics more obscured, the songs were refined and stand as a classic example of progressive rock run amok. Think of King Crimson on acid with a dose of political commentary and sex. Yes, even more than what Crimson already are; that’s pre-1975 Genesis. They were as subversive as their sets were elaborate. Gabriel’s costumes elicited feelings of dread and arousal for all.

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Artwork from the inside of the Lamb Lies Down On Broadway album cover

So it was with great fascination and jealousy that I heard some friends comment one day that they had seen The Musical Box live at the Danforth Music Hall last year. We got into a nice discussion of favourite Genesis songs and what pieces they performed that night. Then out of the blue, one of them remembered that they had a second date in January at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre. As soon as I got home that night, I grabbed a ticket. Having not taken Mississauga transit since the nineties, I didn’t know how I was going to get there and get back home, I just knew that I was going.

Last night I did! I found my seat between two older couples. The whole venue was full of a different demographic for me. At forty, I was surrounded by hardcore older Genesis fans, people who had actually seen them in concert when I hadn’t heard of them yet. Before the concert started I gulped down my stranger anxiety and turned to my seat mates.

“I apologize now if I scream or cry tonight. It’s been an impossible lifetime dream for me to see Genesis live.”

A lady in her sixties beside me, hoisted up her beer, and said, “Well darling, this is the next best thing. You’re going to love it.”

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As the venue darkened, the organ slowly marched into our ears, and a Gabrielesque silhoutte with batwings and glowing yellow eyes appeared. I was transported to 1973, the year I was born, when Gabriel stepped on stage and performed “Watcher of the Skies.”

(There’s more in the set above. Sit back and enjoy that.)

I thought I had travelled through time and there were goosebumps on my arms. This Montreal ensemble had made an impossible fantasy/dream come true. I wished throughout that they’d perform all of the pre-1975 Genesis (they were SO ACCURATE), especially Supper’s Ready (and guess what, they performed that too, all twenty minutes of it!). I sang along. I know every trill, every guitar pick, every chord of their songs in my head. It’s part of the bank of popular useless information, only its the kind that is useful to me. It grounds me when I need a friend. It tells me that things were good even when they felt so bad. It’s the part of my brain pre-1975 Genesis dwells in and it will never leave because I never want it too.

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Denis Gagné as Peter Gabriel performing The Flower in Supper’s Ready.

I feel somewhat similarly about other bands, but it’s never been quite the same as pre-1975 Genesis. I used to make mixed tapes of their music for all my friends regardless of their tastes because I loved the band so much and I wanted to know more people that did too. Last night, as I was singing along, others were too, they even knew the Gabriel chatter in between guitar and set changes. It made my year and the  year just started. It would be interesting to see what album they bring back to life the next time they come back. I definitely want to catch The Musical Box again.

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Genesis-1
Steve Hackett, Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Phil Collins, and Mike Rutherford.

Now if only there were a Magma cover band….

*********************

Note: I have seen Gabriel live two times. Very memorable and awesome experiences. Highly recommended.

Gabbler Ratchet Prog Rock Archives: http://www.progarchives.com/Collaborators.asp?id=12103

On day 39 of hand writing James Joyce’s Ulysses

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Ulysses is a gigantic book. No, really it’s huge. It’s going to take me two years to write out this monster.

It takes me two times longer to write it out by hand than typing out A Portrait of the Artist. I’m not even concerned about its legibility either. If I was then add several minutes more to that tally.

Hand written text is more tactile and it feels like I’m sculpting a facsimile of a text, not just writing it. I’m more aware of how I write my letters, and as its always been with me, my handwriting style isn’t always consistent. I also had a page that was entirely cursive and another where the text was all in capital letters. I don’t really think about it. Changing things up helps with the monotony of it. I would like to do more artwork, ie. visual poetry, with it, but time constraints have me sticking to plain text most days.

I’ve also made a few marginal notes for some entries. Sometimes if I’m not at home, I like to jot down where I’m copying and what circumstances I’m writing it in. I copied once on the subway. I particularly liked that. There’s something about people milling about in their commute, feeling the trundle of the train underneath me and there I am with my huge book just copying stuff out. My handwriting is also very heavy handed, I still press hard on the page as I write. It’s a sensory thing and control of the pen thing. It makes for a nice shadow filigree on the next page or when I’m turning the pages. It feels more like sensory artwork that way.

The intro (Telemachus, Nestor, and Proteus) has never been that big with me. I’d usually scan it because my biggest interest lies in Calypso where in the first few lines where Leopold Bloom is introduced:

“Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”

I’m not at that part yet, but when I first read that line in university, my brain sort of exploded with how visually exciting the image was and how consanguineous those lines were to my Colombian head. My ancestral kitchen utilized the entirety of a beast. It was economical and made for the most interesting edible science. Here, Joyce describes the carnage as if it were the bud of a rose or the description of a ballet. This was way before the modern day foodie appropriated such collages to make high-culture cuisine. You’re basically eating my grandmother’s “made on a dime” food. Combine all those thoughts and it’s all made level.

So I’m stuck with Stephen Dedalus, Buck Mulligan, and Mr. Deasy for a while. Dedalus’ struggles with ethics and the people around him is beautiful though and as I wrote this I just about laughed at how wonderful it was:

“His eyes open wide in vision stared sternly across the sunbeam in which he halted.

— A merchant, Stephen said, is one who buys cheap and sells dear, jew or gentile, is he not?

— They sinned against the light, Mr Deasy said gravely. And you can see the darkness in their eyes. And that is why they are wanderers on the earth to this day.

On the steps of the Paris Stock Exchange the goldskinned men quoting prices on their gemmed fingers. Gabbles of geese. They swarmed loud, uncouth about the temple, their heads thickplotting under maladroit silk hats. Not theirs: these clothes, this speech, these gestures. Their full slow eyes belied the words, the gestures eager and unoffending, but knew the rancours massed about them and knew their zeal was vain. Vain patience to heap and hoard. Time surely would scatter all. A hoard heaped by the roadside: plundered and passing on. Their eyes knew the years of wandering and, patient, knew the dishonours of their flesh.

— Who has not? Stephen said.

— What do you mean? Mr Deasy asked.

He came forward a pace and stood by the table. His underjaw fell sideways open uncertainly. Is this old wisdom? He waits to hear from me.

— History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

From the playfield the boys raised a shout. A whirring whistle: goal. What if that nightmare gave you a back kick?

— The ways of the Creator are not our ways, Mr Deasy said. All history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God.

Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying:

— That is God.

Hooray! Ay! Whrrwhee!

— What? Mr Deasy asked.

— A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders.

Mr Deasy looked down and held for a while the wings of his nose tweaked between his fingers. Looking up again he set them free.”

http://gettinginsidejamesjoyceshead.blogspot.ca/2014/01/ulysses-by-joyce-and-valencia-day-32.html

Of course, I’m still dealing with Joyce’s free massacring of grammar and syntax. It’s gorgeous and liberating to read what he does with language and allowing himself to write the word “snotgreen” when he describes the sea or a piece of clothing. The language is precise and a mixture of the internal and external. There’s order and rhythm in the surreal and beyond that, let’s murmur more and sing of our mother’s wetted ashes. Thalatta! Thalatta!

I’ve received upset/hate mail over this endeavour and I never did when I was retyping A Portrait. It’s very interesting to get emails from people telling me to do something better with my time: “Why don’t you rework Ulysses or any novel into a new novel. Why don’t you do that? Why don’t you do something more productive? You evangelize uncreative writing like it’s the only thing one should do these days”….et cetera et cetera et. ce. tera.

All they really had to do was go to my online CV here or any other tab on my site and find that uncreative writing isn’t the only thing I do. In many ways, uncreative writing has been a springboard for everything else that I do, whether those things be conceptual, lyrical, or artistic. In my mind’s eye, it’s all the same thing. Writing is experimenting with expression and somehow that expression dwells in the ever evolving sentient domain of language.

And as I finish up some verses to a collection of poetry I find that the little ghost Joyce is once again running in and out of my own text as if to say, “Two can play at that game.”

Although it’s not entirely a great thing because there’s only so much murmuring I can take.

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James Joyce and his daughter Lucia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucia_Joyce

Some of my favourite reads of 2013.

I rarely let anyone lend me books. Every book I’ve ever borrowed has either been damaged by one of my kids or I’ve been careless and devoured it in creases and dog ears. I try to be nice to books, since they’re so wonderful to me, but books are a place where I escape to, in much the same way as I do with movies. They inhabit my headspace and everything physical I do becomes an extension of the book’s world. I live in the books I read, hence it’s very hard to select a few reads as my top favourite. I’ve decided to select a few from a pile that I read this year to recommend to you.

This year I chose the worlds carefully, mostly because I found myself with no time to dedicate to “just books.” Luckily some of these were up for review and at least one was read because I had an interview to prepare for. My picks were culled from a need for pleasure than anything to do with what people would enjoy or not enjoy (although I do have a vivid memory of being very angry with a certain unnamed book this year). Through my activities and work, I reconnected with reading as a writer and being a writer as a reader.

Without further ado, here are some of my picks from 2013.

1.

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PostApoc by Liz Worth

I am tired of dystopian scenarios, but there’s something about them keeps pulling me back. In PostApoc, dystopia isn’t an end result, it’s a reality that has slowly been building up in the now.

Ang is a Torontonian teenager who explores her inner world by ambling through life. She isn’t coming of age. She isn’t looking for love. She might be looking for a connection, but at the core what she really needs is a reason for it all. The world is literally falling apart around her: people are disappearing, friends are decaying, the moon quietly falls into the ocean, and ghosts become wails in the night.

Worth experiments with stream of consciousness and surreal imagery to anchor her readers through the poetic medium she so deftly employs in her narrative. Much of Toronto is transformed into a fantastical Goreyesque dream world where anything ghastly that can happen does. The end of the world is not as frightening as it is palpably sad. I couldn’t help but think of my own children left alone with only their instincts to guide them. My heart raced as Ang traversed the despairing pages wishing I could comfort her in a motherly embrace.

PostApoc is a new way of looking at tomorrow. We can only hope that no one is left.

2.

 9780385677806Drunk Mom: A Memoir by Jowita Bydlowska

“I’m exactly like the baby. Pounding his heels against the mattress when distressed. Give it to me. Give it to me right now…Now. Now. There is no waiting, no biding time. The wanting is enormous; it swallows him whole in lung-emptying breaths.

I get it. I get the screaming baby.

Because my wanting is just as powerful.”

Oh man, I get it. Reading that while going through bouts of depression, I felt it. I felt it hard and I still do. There’s something about Bydlowksa’s prose and the images that she evokes that makes her condition universal and relatable to anyone who’s struggling with issues.

Drunk Mom is the raw account of Jowita Bydlowska’s wrangling with alcoholism as a mother. After witnessing my twitter feed go off the charts with people condemning or praising Bydlowska for this book, I had to see what all the fuss was about. I’m so glad I did.

It’s a refreshing release from the self-conscious writing I’m used to in mother confessional blogs. Women are people. Mothers are people. We all have our flaws and make our mistakes. Maybe it’s social media that makes it acceptable to be so blatantly honest online and in print, however, has literature hit a new low because of it? Hell no! As writers, we need change; as readers we need to read new things and new perspectives. Mothers never get to give new perspectives because what is expected of us blindingly shadows who we really are.

With each misstep the author takes the more human she is, and with each step she makes towards sobriety, the more fragile her existence becomes. I’d love every new mother to read this account. It’s not all about alcoholism, but a unique depiction of motherhood. Does this make Bydlowska a tendentious writer? Does it really matter that much? Isn’t it time we cast off the apron strings and stop replacing them with the unrealistic superhero cape?

I put my foot down and say, YES.

3.

KateCayley_coverWhen This World Comes To An End by Kate Cayley

I was browsing the poetry section in the bookstore one day and came across this collection of poems. I’ve always been curious about how this section in the bookstore is divided up. There are “Poetry” books and “Canadian poetry.” How do you discover or explore new poetry if all you get is the spine or the cover of the book to go by? This one has a picture of a horse diving into water in a supposed outdoor carnival trick. In my head, that horse made it quirky so I bought it. I love quirk.

“The slender scaffold bridges out

over the lake, the horse

halfway through a tense and sunlit dive, 

its freakish grace transfiguring 

the crowd, a trickle of the mildly curious.

Close your eyes.” -The White Horse Divers, Lake Ontario, 1908

See, that’s not quirky. That’s a poet’s view of a horse diving into the water as a carnival trick. That’s beautiful. Each of Cayley’s poems are like stories pulled out of a photograph or a situation. I found out that the poet is a playwright, and I can imagine setting and tone through the first few lines of the poems. I found myself letting go, watching the images pass by as I read the lines. Her codas don’t reach for more nor do they leave you hanging; she lets you run through the structure of her verses as if they were pictures strung together on a mantlepiece.

This was the first book I’d ever read entirely on the subway in one day. As more passengers got on the train, her writing affected me so much that I was making stories out of the minutiae around me. A spider I named Aldous, kept staring at me daring to meet it’s gaze, but Cayley’s book pulled me in that he got bored and left. I missed my final destination.

4.

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Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland -I read Girlfriend in a Coma, Microserfs (my favourite so far), and this in preparation of my interview with Coupland this past Fall for 49thShelf.

This book might have offended me a few times, but it was its offense that made me keep reading. Have you ever read something and said, “How dare they?” and it just made you want to find out where the author was taking you?

Raymond Gunt is a first rate scumbag. Bad things happen to Raymond, but he’s also an inconsiderate instigator. As a photographer he’s sent to an island to film a Survivor-type reality show and recruits his exact opposite, a charming homeless man named Neal. There are nuclear effects and filthy sexual shenanigans which lead our anti-hero from catastrophe to catastrophe to head shaking embarrassment. It’s hilarious.

Coupland is a master at quick dialogue. Much of this book reads like an extended British comedic sitcom where the characters know exactly what to say and when to say it. Punchlines are the realm of Raymond, but Neal is like every character in The Young Ones, full of the real chill pill that makes one sit back and say, “What hell am I getting so worked up about?”

Worst. Person. Ever. is an experience that made me stifle a giggle even when no one could possibly read what I was laughing at. Why was I laughing? Why wasn’t I outraged? Parsing that afterwards was the most fun I’ve had in the afterglow of reading.

Coupland keeps up with the times and isn’t afraid of trying something different. Try it, maybe you’ll like it.

5.

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Knife Throwing Through Self-Hypnosis by Robin Richardson

I want to stroll through New York City when I re-read this book of poetry again. Robin Richardson is my new Jack Kerouac/Charles Bukowski pastiche artist.

“Bye , Baby Bunting,

father’s gone a-wheeling

through the Western 

dives; bronze pocket-

watch to crown a stack 

of poker chips. He listens

to the breathing of each

bluffer. Even masters 

have a tell.” – Mother Buzzard

Richardson’s words encapsulate moments and posits them as a David Lynch-like  confessions. You know there’s something beyond the metaphors, beyond the non-sequitosr, but you don’t reach out for the otherness; your forced to stay within the phrasing. Ghosts, graves, waffles, and film dwell in fluid verses and her timing keeps a steady rhythm reminiscent of a beatnik drawl. This book is wonderful to take with you during a rainy night or a relentlessly sunny day.

P.S. And also look at that cover. How could you not buy a book with that cover?

***********************************

Those are the few on the top of my head. Of note, here are some reviews I put up for books that I’ve read this year that made an impression on me, but are not from this year.

1. Walden by Henry David Thoreau: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/590648487

2. Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde edited by Bill Nichols:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/637315274

3. Of Lamb by Matthea Harvey:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/246484437

4. Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze by Thomas Allen Nelson: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/612154574

5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/500137812

*************************************