Archive for the ‘The Brouillon’ Category

The Day Sid Marty Didn’t Kill Andrew Suknaski

This Labour Day seems a critical mass of synchronicities:  yesterday, John Ashbery’s death was announced; the final two episodes of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks:  The Return were broadcast; and this morning a memorial to Canada’s (Saskatchewan’s?) Andrew Suknaski appeared. Even more, the anecdote it concerns took place at exactly the same time I was writing my first poems under the tutelage of John Newlove, “then writer-in-residence” at the Regina Public Library, who was kind enough to introduce me to Andy.

All this seems to urge a wider dissemination of Sid Marty’s article, which you can read by clicking on the portrait of Andy, below.

Suknaski big


Jerome Rothenberg on “The Symposium of the Whole”

Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred has been central and essential to my understanding of what poetry is and can be since I first started teaching from it at the turn of the millennium. I find it difficult even to discuss poetry and poetics in an informed fashion with anyone unfamiliar with it, or with those equally expansive volumes, assembling poems for the millennium, that followed.


Now, Technicians is being issued in a third edition, fifty years after the first. On this auspicious occasion, Jerome Rothenberg offers some words on the reissue and its timeliness, given the rise of ethnonationalisms, on the one hand, and the on-going extinctions of languages, their poetries, and speakers and singers, on the other. Linked is a talk on the new edition and ethnopoetics given recently at the The Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne.

Ignore at the peril to your own poetic spirit.


(Too) little has changed in a generation…

In a book of interviews and correspondence between Julia Martin and Gary Snyder, I read the following in a letter from Snyder dated 28 August 1987 (!):

…the wealth in America is at the top, and there are vast numbers of very poor people, not all of them black or brown by any means. The US is not economically top country, some of those northern European places like Sweden and West Germany are higher. Even Japan, these days. Homeless visible in the streets of every city & some of the larger towns; real rural poverty, numbers of school dropouts that are never pursued, if kids quit schools these days the schools forget them—lousy schools in any case. Most of the US has a kind of hard-bitten disorderly anti-intellectual anti-establishment funk. (136)nobodyhomesmall

Here’s hoping this thirty years of plus ça change is only an eclipse in historical time of more humane, progressive tendencies.

I’ve long said, Gary Snyder is one of the sanest sentient beings on the planet. To read more, you can order the book from the publisher by clicking on the cover…


Poems online now easily accessible

A little editorial labour at ye olde website here now makes all my poems online easily accessible, for interested parties:  here.

The Dawson College Shooting ten years on

Ten years ago I had just left Montreal’s Dawson College where I teach English on my way to pick up a book I’d ordered around the corner when I heard the shooting‘s opening salvo strafe the entrance I’d just left.

On the tenth anniversary of the shooting (I won’t probe the logic of the anniversary-as-such, here) I repost this  reminiscence and reflection that was solicited by the University of Regina’s alumni magazine Degrees and published in the Spring 2007 issue. The photograph at the post’s end is of Dawson’s Peace Garden, planted “as a living testament” to that day, its wounded, and sad, single mortality.

Asked about my experience of what I have come to call “9/13”, I always tell the same story. I’d just left by the same door the shooter was to walk through and hadn’t gotten more than ten metres when I heard what sounded like a string of firecrackers. I turned, ready to give someone a lesson about setting off fireworks in front of the school. Students scattered in every direction. One lay on his back on the street near the curb, his friend crouching over him, one hand on his stomach, her cell phone in the other, screaming for an ambulance. A tall lanky fellow all in black slouched toward the door with what to me looked like an Uzi. A police cruiser pulled up, doors flung open, cops already halfway out, guns in hand. I’d heard gunshots do sound like firecrackers, but before I knew whether I was seeing a joke or a student film project or the real thing, the shooter—and police—were already in the school.

What to do? I wasn’t so much disoriented as unoriented. What was clear was there was nothing I could do, so, as strange as it seems in retrospect, I continued the way I was going, to pick up a book I’d ordered from around the corner. Around that corner, another two police stood over another youth, cuffed, face down on the asphalt. Had a drug deal or bank job gone wrong and one of the suspects fled into Dawson? I walked on. Seeing my office mate and some friends through the window of an Indian restaurant, I went in and told them I thought there’d been a shooting at Dawson, gave them my tentative explanation, then carried on to get my book.

I went back to Dawson to see how things turned out. A crowd of students, many I recognized and some I spoke to, milled about, uncertain, bemused, shocked. Many teary-eyed, frantically tried to call friends or parents on their cell-phones, the sheer number of their calls jamming the network. There were rumours of another shooter in Place Alexis Nihon, the mall across the street. My theory seemed confirmed. I talked with teachers and administrators, trying, like everyone, to figure out what exactly was going on. Marked and unmarked police cruisers and emergency vehicles roared by. A police or news helicopter chattered overhead.

I wasn’t to get “the full story” until I got home, turned on the television and checked the internet. Not two hours after I’d heard those first shots I came home to emails and phone messages from friends and relatives as far away as Europe. Though a witness, I had, like anybody else, to access the news media to find out what had happened. At the speed of light the entire planet knew something had happened at Dawson College in Montreal, and only an on-going buzz of speculation after that.

The next day, Thursday, when what had basically happened had been determined—one student killed, twenty wounded (three who had studied with me)—I was briefly interviewed by a talk radio show in Saskatchewan. One question stands out. I was asked how I felt as I witnessed the event, “did everything start to go in slow-motion?”. No, because I wasn’t watching TV or a movie: there were no special effects, no jump-cuts, no soundtrack. I didn’t know what I was seeing. Unless one has had first-hand experience of this kind of violence, one lacks the context to even perceive the event for what it is. Though we “witness” countless hours of violence on the news, on television and cinema, the stereotypical depictions we absorb are not “the real thing”, which, surprisingly, is impressive for its underwhelming banality. One of the wounded was so distanced from the event that he stood on a balcony overlooking the scene and took half a dozen shots with this cell phone while the shooter fired back.

Seven days, to the minute, after the first shots were fired, in a widely-reported rite, the students took back their school. All their actions—the memorials inside the school, their returning when and how they did—all seemed, mostly, to express a healthy resentment toward this murderous intrusion by an absolute outsider. 9/13 was in this and every respect uncanny, “out of our ken”, outside our acquaintance and beyond our grasp. Despite the on-going police and journalistic investigation, it remains so, and should.


Photo: Shawn Apel/CBC

Looking over Don McKay’s Collected Poems

bull-calf-logo-website1The new number of The Bull Calf is on-line, with 800 words of mine glancing over Don McKay’s collected poems, Angular Unconformity.

There are, as well, notices of Phil Hall’s selected poems, Guthrie Clothing, and Jacob Wren’s novel Polyamorous Love Song, along with much else calling for attention.



Listening for the Heartbeat of Being

9780773546349McGill-Queen’s University Press has just issued a collection of criticism on the work of Robert Bringhurst, Listening for the Heartbeat of Being: The Arts of Robert Bringhurst, edited by Brent Wood of the University of Toronto and Mark Dickinson of OCAD University.

I therefore seems timely to repost a link to a short essay on Robert Bringhurst’s poetry, which can be read here.

On Translation: an Interview with Peter Dale Scott in the latest Paideuma

IMG_2743Just received my contributor’s copies of Paideuma 42 containing, among many things, an interview with Peter Dale Scott concerning his many translations—of Milosz, Vergil, Aldhelm, Bede, Alcuin, Petrarch, Dante, Baudelaire, Hoelderlin, Stefan George, Mayakovsky, Mandelstam, Li Bai, Wang Wei, Du Fu, and Su Dongpo!—conducted by James Edward Reid. I suggested we pursue the topic, supplied a number of the questions, and contributed editorially to the final version. Much thanks to Peter Dale Scott for indulging our investigation into this dimension of his poetical work, and to James Edward Reid for doing the heavy lifting!

Peter Dale Scott: Three poems

The Journal for Poetics Research has just put up three new poems from Peter Dale Scott.

10897776_10152958516978794_8032701146716979759_nThe poet shares these with these words:

As a rule I don’t bother these days about publishing my poetry in periodicals, even e-journals.But these three poems are important to me: the third, about Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, tries to capture in verse what I think was, and could again be, a more successful strategy of political protest than those we have seen recently in America.

Read them, here.

Rehoning the old stories

Robert Bringhurst’s important contribution to Turtle Island’s literary heritage, A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World, is being reissued by The Folio Society in the UK in a gorgeous, illustrated edition.KNF_S_03-blog-1200x1103

My earlier essay on his poetry can be found here.