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Essays & Fragments
Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy on Indigenous Literatures: The Politics of the Invitation

Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy on Indigenous Literatures: The Politics of the Invitation

It may be argued that the field of literature, as an art, is marginalized in Canada in terms of disciplinary focus and financial support in comparison to say economics, politics, or science. The same may be said for literature as a cultural process, artifact, and product—the funding of literature and priority in funding literature is...

Raymond de Borja on Sincerity

My interest in thinking about sincerity is prompted by the sentence “I am writing the truth” and the possibilities that abound given I, am, writing, and truth. But also irony, the ease with which we have become ironic – how after our awareness of the spectacle our response has been mostly through some form of...
Geneviève Robichaud on Lucy Ives: Orange Roses

Geneviève Robichaud on Lucy Ives: Orange Roses

In Orange Roses (Ahsahta Press, 2013) there are surfaces and there are hidden stories, but the question seems to be: how can one excavate the surface and disclose something “natural” about the moment when language can only surmise an approximation of that moment? The epigraph by George Oppen corroborates this idea quite well: “approached the...
Elisa Gabbert on Mary Karr, Julia Cohen, and Tori Amos: Against Against Decoration

Elisa Gabbert on Mary Karr, Julia Cohen, and Tori Amos: Against Against Decoration

In an essay called “Against Decoration,” Mary Karr makes a case for using “decoration” in poetry – figurative language, sonic beauty – only in service of a greater purpose, what she takes to be the “primary purpose” of poetry: “to stir emotion.” “Delight in dense idiom or syntax,” she writes, is a secondary purpose (50)....
Zachariah Wells: Nailing Down the Hard Parts

Zachariah Wells: Nailing Down the Hard Parts

Pino Coluccio First Comes Love Suzanne Buffam Past Imperfect CANADIAN POETRY LOVES A GOOD debutante ball. Since the 1930s, we have heralded the arrival of new generations of poets in anthologies which are the textual equivalent of coming out parties: momentous to the participants and their families, but of very little long-term interest to serious...
Emily Dickinson & Jen Bervin: Gorgeous Somethings

Emily Dickinson & Jen Bervin: Gorgeous Somethings

Far, far outside of MFA circles there is a poet whose poetic practice has breached the confines of the blank page to be etched on every available surface. The Far Outside poet famously left her poems–largely unread by hungry eyes of the 19th Century, other than a lucky editor of a literary magazine–tied in little...
Eliot D'Silva on Geoffrey G. O'Brien's People on Sunday

Eliot D’Silva on Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s People on Sunday

People on Sunday, Geoffrey G. O’Brien. Wave Books, 2013. By Eliot D’Silva This is the problem staged in “Hesiod”, a poem towards the middle of Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s People on Sunday, the latest of his four collections. The book is written out of that negative space – also a span of time – across which...
Alan Reed on Michèle Bernstein & Everyone Agrees: La Nuit + After the Night

Alan Reed on Michèle Bernstein & Everyone Agrees: La Nuit + After the Night

All the King’s Horses, Michèle Bernstein. Trans. John Kelsey. Semiotext(e), 2008. The Night, Michèle Bernstein. Trans. Clodagh Kinsella, Ed. by Everyone Agrees. Book Works, 2013. After the Night, Everyone Agrees. Book Works, 2013. By Alan Reed   1. All the King’s Horses and The Night Michèle Bernstein is one of the founding members of the Situationist...
Elisa Gabbert on Karen Green’s Bough Down

Elisa Gabbert on Karen Green’s Bough Down

Bough Down, Karen Green. Siglio, 2013. by Elisa Gabbert In comedy, a “callback” is a joke that makes reference to an earlier joke, to “build audience rapport.” In Bough Down, a hybrid collection you might call prose poetry, lyric essay, or memoir in verse, writer/artist Karen Green employs a constant calling back not for comic effect,...

Benjamin Landry on Marianne Boruch’s The Book of Hours

The Book of Hours, Marianne Boruch. Copper Canyon, 2011 by Benjamin Landry The Book of Hours is a deeply metaphysical arrangement, the primary concern of which is the interrogation of the act of creation. In it, Boruch is god-stung and bitter, in the most productive ways, with alternating lyrical control and wildness, a lineage that...

Shane Neilson on Heighton & Sanger: Stalin’s Canival + Fireship: Early Poems 1964-1991

Stalin’s Carnival, Steven Heighton. Palimpsest Press, 2013. Fireship: Early Poems 1964 – 1991. Peter Sanger. Gaspereau Press, 2013. by  Shane Neilson The re-issue of a debut book of poetry is an uncommon event. Economics and the relative low interest in republished poetry are a factor, but perhaps the biggest factor is the relative weakness of debuts...

Chris Gilmore on Alice Munro’s Prue

“Prue.” The Moons of Jupiter,  Alice Munro. Penguin, 2006. Essay By Chris Gilmore Prue: “Somebody Who Doesn’t Take Herself Too Seriously”  In “Prue,” the title character is described as “somebody who doesn’t take herself too seriously” (Munro 130). In moderation, humility is an admirable trait; however, Prue’s humility is so pervasive that it becomes a generalized sense of...

Aimee Wall on Vickie Gendreau’s Testament

Testament, Vickie Gendreau. Le Quartanier, 2012. Essay by Aimee Wall JEAN SHORT PARTY.DOC We are enfants terribles. We are fils absents. We are du même nom de famille plate. We are histoire plate. We are même pas dignes de mention. We are quand même dans ta playlist. We are pas loin de plein d’autres noms...
Toby Altman: Paragraphs on Lyric Poetry

Toby Altman: Paragraphs on Lyric Poetry

I will refer to the kind of writing in which I am involved as lyric poetry. In lyric poetry the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an author uses a lyric form of writing, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution...

Stephen Collis: Towards a Dialectical Poetry

Towards a Dialectical Poetry[1] 1. The Problem of Names In trying to make some distinctions within radical poetries, I want to begin with the problem of names—what we mean when we call poetry “innovative,” “avant-garde,” or “experimental.” INNOVATIVE. Perhaps currently the most common word to designate the poetry lying outside the supposed “mainstream,” “innovative” as...
On Reading & Reviewing: Anita Lahey

On Reading & Reviewing: Anita Lahey

When I was editing poetry reviews for Arc Poetry Magazine, I had my radar tuned for pieces that were mean-spirited, careless or just plain blind. These sins, however, were rare, and when caught (usually) easily addressed. What troubled me more was reticence, reserve—any smokescreen cloaking the reviewer’s true feelings. I believe a review should offer...
Misreadings: Jonathan Ball on Yann Martel

Misreadings: Jonathan Ball on Yann Martel

Life of Pi, Yann Martel. Vintage Canada, 2002.  by Jonathan Ball Misreadings imagines alternative (or détourned) versions of literary and film works, and subjects these nonexistent imaginings to analysis. Let’s imagine that Yann Martel’s much-admired and much-maligned novel Life of Pi is, in secret fact, a horror novel. The most obvious horror-story aspect of Martel’s novel...
Geneviève Robichaud: Self-Translation in Two Movements

Geneviève Robichaud: Self-Translation in Two Movements

Click on the image below to view the slideshow. [Self-Translation in Two Movements Excerpt] I am not a theoretician of the bilingual text. Not yet anyway. I have merely, like other writers who find themselves in the bind of a “dual linguistic identity,” sought, on one hand, to channel the otherness of the self in...

Caitlin Scarano: With the Head of a Bear

“As if anger could be a kind of vocation for some women. It is a chilling thought.”  –Anne Carson  “When what we understand about what we are changes, whole parts of us fall mute.” –Frank Bidart I think that I’ve learned: everything deserves gentleness. These days, I tell more people about what happened. When I...

John C. Goodman: Beyond Narrative

by John C. Goodman “I declare,” she sobbed, “I never was so cut up since your mama and my papa not Doyce and Clennam for this once but give the precious little thing a cup of tea and make her put it to her lips at least pray Arthur do, not even Mr F.’s last...
Kathryn Mockler: On Printing Out the Internet

Kathryn Mockler: On Printing Out the Internet

by Kathryn Mockler  “…capitalism has a knack for devouring and absorbing everything in its path—including any critique of capitalism.” (from Notes on Conceptualisms) When I taught an experimental writing course to undergraduates this past winter my students and I were most surprised to discover, through some of the class exercises, the extent to which we...

Brushing the Silence: The Politics of Urban Articulation in Nicole Brossard’s Notebook of Roses and Civilization

By Hannah Weber The space of the city: a moving, speaking mass, dense and ever-proliferating, systematically or organically without end. Ostensibly, by virtue of its concentration of diverse peoples, the urban space allows all; digital and physical worlds casually interlock, creating an opening for speech where it didn’t before exist. In Notebook of Roses and...
Tourism and the Lyric Self in Stephanie Bolster’s “Beyond Saint Petersburg”

Tourism and the Lyric Self in Stephanie Bolster’s “Beyond Saint Petersburg”

 “When In A Slur I Understand”:  Tourism and the Lyric Self in Stephanie Bolster’s “Beyond Saint Petersburg”  by Adam Sol This essay is part of a larger project about the self in contemporary poetry.  In particular I’m interested in how the generation of poets born from the early 1960s through the early 1970s, deal with “confession”...
Misreadings: Jonathan Ball on Shirley Jackson

Misreadings: Jonathan Ball on Shirley Jackson

Misreadings: Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House by Jonathan Ball Misreadings imagines alternative (or détourned) versions of literary and film works, and subjects these nonexistent imaginings to analysis. Let’s imagine that Shirley Jackson’s horror classic The Haunting of Hill House is a metafiction, that it tips its hand in its first paragraph, and that...
Colin Fulton: Empty & Hungry

Colin Fulton: Empty & Hungry

Twin Conscience On June 11, 1981, Issei Sagawa, a 32-year-old student studying Comparative Literature at the Sorbonne Academy in Paris, invited a fellow student, Renée Hartevelt, over to dinner at his apartment under the pretense of translating some German Romantic poetry for a class they were taking. Upon her arrival, after convincing her to begin...
Concetta Principe on Red Doc

Concetta Principe on Red Doc

How are we to read Red Doc as a sequel to Autobiography of Red? – Concetta Principe May 9, 2013 In an essay on Autobiography of Red, in Open Letter last fall, I read Carson’s revision of Stesichorus’ story of the beast, Geryon, through a psychoanalytic approach, with an emphasis on Lacan’s symbolic register. The...
Mud Is Mud: Ongoing Notes Toward An Essay On The Art Of Fiction

Mud Is Mud: Ongoing Notes Toward An Essay On The Art Of Fiction

Clarity is not accessibility. Accessibility is not simplistic. Brevity isn’t minimalism. Oblique is often too much distance. Less is not always more. Excess is not experimental. One room needs to be in relation to the next. Quantity is not quality. Distillation takes time. Ideas in abundance are not enough. Murky is not mysterious. Language isn’t...
Aisha Sasha John: What to do about it

Aisha Sasha John: What to do about it

On how to proceed How to proceed is about going. The the the first step of proceeding is beginning. How to proceed is to begin, and how to begin is to direct your attention to the object in question. My dance teacher says the first thing one does when doing improvised dance based on a...
No Archive is Neutral: Basements and Attics, Closets and Cyberspace: Explorations in Canadian Women's Archives

No Archive is Neutral: Basements and Attics, Closets and Cyberspace: Explorations in Canadian Women’s Archives

From “Introduction: No Archive is Neutral,” Basements and Attics, Closets and Cyberspace: Explorations in Canadian Women’s Archives (edited by Linda M. Morra and Jessica Schagerl). You can read one of the chapters, by Daphne Marlatt, that we posted earlier this week.  Buy the book. It’s really great.             Basements and Attics, Closets and Cyberspace is,...
Rob Winger on Al Purdy

Rob Winger on Al Purdy

The People’s Poet: Al Purdy as Organic Intellectual In recent years, I’ve been looking for a contemporary figure who might qualify as what Antonio Gramsci once hopefully envisioned as an “organic” intellectual: a grassroots leader rising up from the exploited masses to lead a proletariat revolution against the ruling bourgeoisie.  But does – and could...
Daphne Marlatt: Of Mini-Ships and Archives

Daphne Marlatt: Of Mini-Ships and Archives

To think about women’s archives is to think about how recently (say, in the last century and a half) women’s lives in the Western world have moved from the private and domestic sphere to the public cultural-political one, becoming “collectable.” This transit from private to public is embedded in the origin (or at least as...
Margaret Christakos: Slay it Again, Anne

Margaret Christakos: Slay it Again, Anne

Anne Carson’s new “re/verse-novel” re-spins time, grief, thinking, psychoanalysis and the poem by Margaret Christakos Spin One: Time Anne Carson is a writer whose compulsion to understand time is bottomless. One of the few poets in North America obsessed with the ancients, Carson delivered in 2006 her intimate, profoundly contemporized translations of Euripedes under the...
Carmine Starnino: Steampunk Zone

Carmine Starnino: Steampunk Zone

In our mashup-mad era, we yearn for unpigeonholeability. We don’t want to be different. We want to be weird. We want to be total category-killers. As a result, it’s hard to find a poet – free-versifier and formalist alike – who doesn’t believe at heart that he or she is far too heterodox to be...
Abstract/Concrete #3 - Natalie Czech

Abstract/Concrete #3 – Natalie Czech

I’ve written in several places about erasure texts (most recently in the latest issue of Evening will come) as typified by Jen Bervin’s nets. Berlin’s Natalie Czech creates uncanny limit-case poems that point to the end of erasure texts, each piece a seemingly impossible conjuring of texts within texts. Czech’s Je n’ai rien à dire....
How Some Folks Would Do: Satire in CanLit

How Some Folks Would Do: Satire in CanLit

Classical satire has two distinct streams. The first, following Horace, is gentle and urbane, with a soft, self-effacing mien. The second, derived from Juvenal, is nasty, vicious, and angry. Both take aim at what they see as the foibles and failings of society, but they employ very different tonal registers to do so. As Roger...
Lisa Robertson & Catriona Strang

Lisa Robertson & Catriona Strang

Here, we find an archival gem that illuminates the pinnacle of an exceptional moment for women’s writing in Canada, in Vancouver in particular. Here, in the thrum of the Giantess (a chapbook series I am trying hard to bring to you) at the birth of Debbie, of Debbie: An Epic, in a moment of Raddle...
Vanessa Place: The Allegory and the Archive

Vanessa Place: The Allegory and the Archive

The Allegory and the Archive/ Vanessa Place But I must constantly repeat that I say all this in connection with repetition. Kierkegaard Je ne suis point la justice. PlaceWith luck, I ended yesterday on guilt and shame; now that you are in a proper frame of mind, we will consider—thankfully more briefly—allegory and the archive,...
Donna Haraway: from "A Cyborg Manifesto"

Donna Haraway: from “A Cyborg Manifesto”

Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp.149-181. AN IRONIC DREAM OF A COMMON LANGUAGE FOR WOMEN IN THE INTEGRATED CIRCUIT This chapter is an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism,...

Abstract/Concrete #2 — Cecilie Bjørgås Jordheim

by derek beaulieu I first encountered Cecilie Bjørgås Jordheim in Oslo in 2010 after brief discussions online. She had been in the audience for a series of talks by Kenneth Goldsmith the year before and their correspondence lead to Cecilie and I deciding that her work would be featured as part of the Visual Poetry...

Essays & Fragments: Tanis MacDonald on Anne Carson and the daughter’s elegy

Reading: Tanis MacDonald. “The pilgrim and the riddle: Father-daughter kinship in Anne Carson’s “The Anthropology of Water.” Canadian Literature 176 (Spring 2003): 67-81. “When is a pilgrim like a photograph? When the blend of acids and sentiment is just right.” (Anne Carson, “The Anthropology of Water” 170) One of the earmarks of a wonderful essay...
Sol Lewitt: Sentences on Conceptual Art

Sol Lewitt: Sentences on Conceptual Art

Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach. Rational judgements repeat rational judgements. Irrational judgements lead to new experience. Formal art is essentially rational. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically. If the artist changes his mind midway through the execution of the piece he compromises the...
Stephen Collis: Letter From Rome

Stephen Collis: Letter From Rome

Gentle, Juliana Spahr

Gentle, Juliana Spahr

Nature, what is nature? What is eco? What is eco-poetics? What is nature-eco-poetics? How does feminism fit into nature eco poetics? What would a Vendana Shiva/Donna Haraway hybrid look like? Tim Lilburn and Juliana Spahr? I can’t help but wonder what, how, nature, or what we think of nature differs east, west, developed, undeveloped, with...
Shawna Lemay: Things That Run Through My Head When Writing An Ekphrastic Poem

Shawna Lemay: Things That Run Through My Head When Writing An Ekphrastic Poem

THINGS THAT RUN THROUGH MY HEAD WHEN WRITING AN EKPHRASTIC POEM My approach is in spirals, I walk around in my mind, around the painting. I try to see the supports, the stretcher and the nails, the frame might be important. It might not be. The tooth of the canvas is of particular interest of...
Abstract / Concrete #1: Judith Copithorne (By derek beaulieu)

Abstract / Concrete #1: Judith Copithorne (By derek beaulieu)

RUNES Discussion of concrete poetry tends to centre on male figures—personalities and practices which dominate the discourse. This domination suggests that there isn’t a preponderance of women in concrete poetry and that women the poets who are working in this subgenre must be minor or merely occasional. This is not the case. Building on my...
Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Defence of Poetry

Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Defence of Poetry

It doesn’t feel old, not at all, but it did feel male. Very male. Exclusively so. And so I’ve done a little intervention here. I’m not convinced it’s effective. Or even interesting…but I couldn’t resist myself either so I offer it here. It’s worth rereading in any case, right? If Twitter is any indication it...
Chris Kraus: On The Matter of Grad School

Chris Kraus: On The Matter of Grad School

Throughout my 20s I lived in New York and never once thought about applying to grad school. Grad school, at the time, seemed to be for people who were not really intending to become artists. I knew all the artists. I even studied with some. But the tuition–sometimes cash money, more often intangible–never passed through...

Ange Mlinko: Discipline

For several years after I had my second child, I stopped looking in mirrors. What I found in my reflection could not easily be remedied. When I visited my two younger sisters, once or twice a year, I was unprepared for their altered contours: burgeoning bellies and hips and upper arms. It was inescapable. We...
Lisa Robertson: Time in the Codex

Lisa Robertson: Time in the Codex

LISA ROBERTSON lives in the Vienne region of France. Her most recent books of poetry are Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip, which was selected by the New York Times as one of the 100 best books of 2010, and R’s Boat, shortlisted for The Believer’s 2011 Poetry award. This essay is from Nilling, BookThug, 2012....

Essays & Fragments: Clarice Lispector

Here is what Clarice Lispector has to say about understanding and intelligibility: “The desirable thing is to be intelligent and to not understand. It is a strange blessing, like experiencing madness without being insane. Everything I do not know forms the greater part of me: This is my largesse. And with this I understand everything....

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