HI! It’s been a while, and I need to update some of the pages and doings on here, but for now I have few things I should mention:
I’m in this anthology! Come on out to the launch: “It’s The PAC’N HEAT Launch Party! Come celebrate with us at See-Scape on Thursday Nov. 10th from 7 PM to 10 PM! Check out the video games! Drink some drinks! Buy some books!” https://www.facebook.com/events/514551702083634/
2. I’m teaching an Uncreative Writing Workshop at Naked Heart Festival (Saturday, November 12th at 10:30am):
JACQUELINE VALENCIA is a poet and film/literary critic. She has written for The Rusty Toque, Lemon Hound, Next Projection, subTerrain magazine, and The Barnstormer, among others. Her chapbook Maybe was selected for the 2012 Arte Factum exhibit by Poetry Is Dead Magazine.
THERE IS NO ESCAPE OUT OF TIME is an ethereal cinema of a mind, jumping through wormholes in a poet’s past, present, and future, even in space.
MICHAEL MURRAY works as a creative writer, commentator, blogger, and “journalist.” He has written for The Globe and Mail, the National Post, Hazlitt magazine, CBC Radio, the Ottawa Citizen, TheToast, as well as scores of other prestigous publications that pay extraordinary amounts of money and fly him around in helicopters.
A VAN FULL OF GIRLS is a collection of short, dizzy, funny things. It’s zippy and unpredictable, like a mongoose, but it’s dead sexy.
Poet, novelist, and playwright STAN ROGAL’s work has appeared in magazines and anthologies in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. His poetry collection Love’s Not the Way To (Bookland, 2013) was shortlisted for a ReLit Award.
DOG THE MOON is a compelling novel that offers a new look at the traditional Canadian tale of a city boy in the “wilderness,” taking aim at our literary mythology with sharp, satirical darts.
“Dina and Daniel head to Toronto, a.k.a. Hotline Bling central, and Jacqueline Valencia is there to talk with them about Toronto Poetry Talks, her upcoming poetry collection, There is No Escape Out of Time, diversity and race in poetry, teens, chocolate and Instagram. D & D give an update from their trip to Montreal’s strip clubs, karaoke bars and mozzarella stick establishments and even create a new strip club. And we all shout out The BreakBeat Poets and come up with whole new categories of literary awards.”
From the event site: “Harriet’s Legacies: Race, Historical Memory and Futures in Canada Organized by Ronald Cummings, Natalee Caple, Gregory Betts, Kevin Gosine, and Tamari Kitossa This important conference will highlight the historical presence of Black Canadians in Canada. The title refers to the crucial role that St. Catharines played in the Underground Railroad and the abolition of slavery. Harriet Tubman, who is recognized by UNESCO, as a freedom seeker, abolitionist and ‘conductor’ was the city’s most renowned participant in the Underground Railroad. Tubman and the Black citizens who helped to build St. Catharines are soon to be recognized by the opening of a new elementary school in downtown St. Catharines. The timing of the conference will help to connect the university and the broader community around shared goals of unity in diversity, the recovery and memorialization of Black history in Ontario and the promotion of general knowledge around the multiple accomplishments of Black Canadians”
I’ll be on a panel tomorrow, October 22nd:
2:00-3:15 Panel 3: Creative Writing / Writing Through Race and Building
Chair: Natalee Caple
When I was a kid it has been my dream to write books that you could look up at the library or bookstore. You could see the name of the book and the author on the spine as you’d scan the rows of shelves. It’s a dream come true and if anything, I’m very happy and grateful to have this opportunity.
Some other big news is that I’ve been hired by theRusty Toque as one of their Senior Literary Editors. I’m honoured to be a part of this magazine and to work with Kathryn Mockler to boot. Their openness to all forms of art, poetry, and literature has been far reaching and I hope to contribute as best I can to it.
I’m still plugging away at my novel. I don’t say much on it since it’s taken all sorts of turns to the form it is now. There’s no stresses on it, just a lot of sorting out of arcs, research, and ideas that need fleshing out.
This fall The Power Plant in Toronto is opening an exhibition featuring the work of Dora García.García‘s work is heavily influenced by literary references and the exhibition investigates and stages the work of James Joyce through annotated books, performance and video.
I’ve been asked by The Power Plant to give an hour talk on my perspective of the exhibit for their Sunday Scene on November 8th at 2pm.
First of all, it blows my mind that we’ll have Dora García’s work here in Toronto, but on top of that I get to speak on it!
On the film critic front, I’ve been accredited again this year for The Toronto International Film Festival! I’ll be a reporter on the scene doing reviews and interviews for Next Projection. Always a high energy time and I’m over the moon about it. It’s work, but it’s fun.
More details on everything as this year has been a bit overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fired up though! This with planning the Toronto Poetry Talks (and many thanks to all who have come to help at the monthly meetings!), it’s all go go go. Staying the course and working at it.
UNDEFINED is a night with unfixed limits in art: language, music, and visual. Bringing the conceptual and experimental in poetry, film, performance, art, and music that fits nowhere and everywhere.
**PWYC sugg. donation $5 (but no one will be denied entrance if they can’t!) – a bucket/basket to be passed around at brief intermission
This year, we are proud to feature:
* CHERYL DUVALL: Cheryl Duvall is a multi-faceted musician and pianist. She is active as a soloist, collaborative pianist, teacher and adjudicator and has toured and performed throughout Canada, Italy, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, England, Argentina and the U.S. She is especially passionate about contemporary music, which has led her along with friend and violinist Ilana Waniuk, to co-found the Thin Edge New Music Collective, now in their fourth season. Thin Edge completed a Canadian tour in winter 2013, was guest artists in residence at the SoundSCAPE Festival of New Music in Maccagno, Italy in 2013 and at Le Pantographe in Moutier, Switzerland in 2014 and has undertaken a Canadian tour with Montreal’s Ensemble Paramirabo throughout 2015. To date, they are responsible for the commissioning and premieres of 27 new works in the past 3 years with plans for 13 new works throughout their fourth concert season. Cheryl is also a member of the experimental project, Bespoken, a mixed ensemble of musicians of different genres, who released the album, Aigre Douce – music of Nick Storring and Daniel Brandes, in November 2013 under Divorce Records’ Heavy Fog label. An experienced choral accompanist, Ms. Duvall is the pianist for the Toronto based Bell Arte Singers and the internationally renowned Oakville Children’s Choir, to which she has toured and competed internationally with gold standings as well as recorded an album of Canadian choral repertoire. She was the music director for Essential Opera’s 3 Premieres project and has also collaborated with FAWN New Opera for their premiere of Adam Scime’s L’Homme et le ciel, with both of these productions having second presentations at Kitchener-Waterloo’s bi-annual Open Ears Festival in 2014. Cheryl has attended the Casalmaggiore Music Festival in Italy, the Palazzo Ricci masterclass series, the Toronto Summer Music Festival, the World Piano Pedagogy Conference and held two artistic residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts. In 2009, she was awarded a SSHRC grant for her pedagogical research on how to incorporate aspects of the Alexander Technique into lessons with beginner piano students. Besides performing, she maintains a full private piano studio and adjudicates piano competitions across Canada. Ms. Duvall completed an Honours Bachelor of Music, majoring in Piano Performance and Theory and a Diploma of Chamber Music from Wilfrid Laurier University as well as a Master’s of Piano Performance and Pedagogy at the University of Toronto. Her main teachers and influences include Guy Few, Chris Foley, Midori Koga, Carmen Piazzinni, Nina Tichman, Henri-Paul Sicsic, and Anya Alexeyev.
*GARY BARWIN: Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, and melted media artist, and the author of 18 books of poetry and fiction as well as books for kids. His most recent collections are Moon Baboon Canoe (poetry, Mansfield Press, 2014) and The Wild and Unfathomable Always (Xexoxial Editions, 2014). Forthcoming books include Yiddish for Pirates (novel, Random House Canada, 2016), I, Dr Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457 (fiction, Anvil 2015) and Sonosyntactics: Selected and New Poetry of Paul Dutton (WLUP, 2015).
He is 2014-2015 Writer-in-Residence at Western University and he received a PhD (music composition) from SUNY at Buffalo. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario and at garybarwin.com. Once, he was Governor of Louisiana, but it’s best that we don’t talk about it.
*RIK MACLEAN: Inspired by stars and chemistry and chocolate, Rik MacLean has been making music under various guises for almost twenty years now, and he is very excited to be performing at Undefined in his latest incarnation as RikM.
*JENNIFER CHIN: Jennifer Chin is a multi disciplinary visual artist based in Toronto, ON. Canada.
Her art practice is informed by the physical properties of materials and their potential metaphoric implications. Through these examinations, she explores ideas of excess, tension, containment, consumption, and luxury in human desire and relationships.
*HELEN MELBOURNE: Writing, reading, research and visual art are a compulsion, a necessity of life for me, like breathing, like eating.
Writing for most of my life, I have rarely tried to publish any of my work. My first rejection slip was from the Canadian Forum. The editor wrote me a brief note stating that I “wrote like a teenager”. In reading the note years later I realized that the note was meant to be caustic criticism of an adult writer. I was fifteen at the time.
My life has had so many twists and turns and unexpected zig-zags and rollercoasters I cannot yet name my journey beyond these: Poet, Painter, Planner, Person, Misfit. I survive by exploring new directions, and opening locked doors.
* ANDIE WOLF: Born in Toronto, Andie Wolf grew up with a freedom to explore the outdoors, and quickly became enchanted with the natural world and its inhabitants around her. She began photographing, drawing, and collecting anything and everything to do with animals. Like many creative children, Wolf was also drawn to the scary and exciting world of monsters and the magical. At a very early age she stumbled upon the work of Edward Gorey, and was immediately entranced by the depth of his ink work and macabre story lines. Wolf continued to seek out books and art works which depicted the darker sides of childhood.
Both of these themes are strong forces within the work Wolf creates. Her love of animals permeates through her illustrations and paintings, often being the central focus of a piece, and at times with an underlying darkness. At the same time, Wolf manages to capture her subject matter with a delightful mixture of realism and whimsy.
While her studies and degree were acquired in Still Photography Studies at Ryerson University, Wolf’s love for painting and illustration has always been her driving force, and one she has returned to after years in other fields. She’s experimented with all forms of visual art, including charcoal and ink, watercolour and acrylic, as well as mixed media and clothing design. Her experience and training as a photographer has honed her natural and keen eye for composition, beauty, and detail.
******AND A FEW MORE SURPRISES TO BE ANNOUNCED*****
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.