Vancouver reading, April recap: Optimisms, McLennan, Swift, and more

Thanks to all who came out for the reading at Emily Carr in Vancouver last week. Someone, I think Pauline Butling, brought up the book trailer for Expressway over dinner and I thought I would share it again here. Evan, the Coach House publicist, did a great job.

The text he cut in over the course of the video is mostly from the final section of Expressway, which is a revision of Blake’s Proverbs of Hell, but some lines are cut from the poems themselves as well. I wanted them all to be made into bumper stickers, but I had to choose one…

The poems seem more relevant than ever this week. I read my google-sculpted poem, “Crash” for the first time and it felt good to do. I’ll do it again. Relevant. Very relevant. It was great to try new things, and even a new reading from Lemon Hound, now a few years old. There are always new ways to read one’s own work: new combinations, and I’ll admit I read the poems themselves very differently. I leave out words, many words, and whole parts of the poem and occasionally I’ll repeat lines, or circle around. It really depends on what I want from the reading…

I have been feeling a little funky about Expressway, a bit shrill, forgetting that there is joy in dismantling, in retracting, and taking less…and rediscovering. Rita Wong sent along this link, a happy tale of uncovering and restoring a river in Soeul: well worth watching. And we need stories like that to be the daily news headlines….more like this…not washing off baby ducks and lamenting the death of clam beds because, what? It’s better for capitalism that you drive your kid to dance class? That we live so far from work we have to drive?

Dismantle. We have seen an unprecedented dismantling of all kinds of social services, educational organizations, ways of operating in the world, news organizations, manufacturing all gone to China, and yet we can’t imagine dismantling oil based infrastructures? How crazy is that?


I want to thank Margaret Christakos for the new site and for being one of the poets featured on the first issue. It’s amazing, and this essay on Expressway by Jacqueline Larson is also amazing. Please take a look at NourbeSe M. Philip’s Zong! if you haven’t. There is also an essay on Zong! by yours truly, and you can hear NourbeSe read, and read student feedback on her work.


As for the poet laureate thing, I am growing into my half-laureate status and would prefer to be addressed as “Your Halfness” henceforth. As promised I will offer an outline of my agenda which I doubt will look much different than my existing agenda, but I will nonetheless place it here for your perusal.

Other April events? First of all, congrats to Rob McLennan who did an amazing job over at the G&M blog all April. He would have been a great choice for Poet Laureate, and in fact I was advocating for him before it seemed clear that I had more votes for some reason–then it was a matter of getting the Laureate on a Canadian. In any case, McLennan managed to get a lot of people up on the G&M book blog and that’s hard to do. He has posted a master list on his blog, right here.

The other excellent effort came from Jacob McArthur Mooney over at the Torontoist. His Optimisms Project ran all month and included newbies and some established poets as well. Here’s that master list.


The embattled Todd Swift, attempting to secure a place for himself in his adopted land across the pond, sketches out the Young British Poets over at The Best American Poetry blog. I would seriously not want to be a poet in that country:

Charles Bernstein and John Ashbery are coterie poets here, read by few and feared by most who do read them – let alone Hart Crane or William Carlos Williams. Few American (or Canadian) poets are published in the UK. There is a sense of isolation, even xenophobia, in some poetry quarters – and why not? The popular Tory party wants to pull out of membership in Europe. This is a kingdom united, more often than not, in the idea of its superior difference.

Or at least I would not want to be a poet that cared for an audience.


Harriet was, to quote Emily Warn for the second time this week, a bit of a status update blog this month. Hard to follow. I did half the posts I wanted to, but it’s been a busy and distracting month, so apologies to those half dozen interviewees in progress….they will arrive some time in the coming weeks. Meanwhile there are some 33 posts over at Harriet from me. Here’s that master list.

And in May? You’ll hear about or from Suzanne Buffam, James Langer, Kate Durbin, H.L. Hix, Kevin McPherson Eckhoff, Jen Currin, Rae Armantrout, Anne Carson, Dorothea Lasky, and more.

And thanks, thanks to Helen Hajnoczky and Nikki Reimer for ongoing excellence in posts, and to Ray and Alex for occasional posts. The new voices are smart and essential and point the way to a whole new generation of poets. You’ll notice that Helen, Nikki and Ray all have new books this spring.

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