2 Cities / 5 Poets

2 Cities 5 Poets

This Saturday at People’s Co-op!  I’m really looking forward to this, mostly because the Seattle poets, Don Mee Choi & Melanie Noel, are new to me and it is always exciting reading with, and listening to, new poets. And it’s great to share the stage with my old poet friends Rachel and Renee. Thanks to the host, Jen Currin, for inviting me and generally being an awesome and supportive poet.

And here is a fine interview with Renee Saklikar and Jen Currin in Sad Mag, where they discuss the ‘borderlands’.

Click the poster above (designed by yours truly!) to go to the facebook page for more info about the reading. Hope to see you Vancouver folk and possible Seattle folk there!


A Seattle Reading

Lots to update you on but first wanted to post about this event coming up that I am very excited about. Going to be reading in Seattle with three wonderful poet friends Rachel Rose, Jen Currin and Renée Sarojini Saklikar and an American poet, Susan Rich, whom I am looking forward to meeting. Rachel will have two amazing musicians, Jefferson Rose and Tobi Stone of The Jefferson Rose Band accompanying her reading. Thank you very much Rachel for inviting me to read at this.

Date & Time: February 2nd, at 7 p.m.
Location: The Elliot Bay Book Company, 1521 Tenth Avenue, Seattle WA.

Bios:

Rachel Rose (http://www.rachelrose.ca) has won national awards for her poetry, her fiction, and her non-fiction. She is the author of three books of poetry, Song & Spectacle, Notes on Arrival and Departure, and Giving My Body to Science. In 2011 she was commissioned to write a libretto, working with composer Leslie Uyeda, which will be performed as an opera in summer 2013.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar writes thecanadaproject, a life-long poem chronicle (http://thecanadaproject@wordpress.com) Work from thecanadaproject appears in literary journals, newspapers, and anthologies. Renée is at work on a sequence of elegies, about Canada and the bombing of Air India Flight 182.

Susan Rich (http://thealchemistskitchen.blogspot.com) is the author of three collections of poetry, The Alchemist’s Kitchen (2010) a finalist for the Foreword Prize and the Washington State Book Award, Cures Include Travel (2006), and The Cartographer’s Tongue / Poems of the World (2000) winner of the PEN USA Award for Poetry. Rich has received awards from The Times Literary Supplement of London, Peace Corps Writers and the Fulbright Foundation. Her poems appear in the Harvard Review, New England Review, and Poetry Ireland. Her fourth book, House of Sky, has recently been accepted for publication by White Pine Press.

Jen Currin has published three books of poetry: The Sleep of Four Cities (2005), Hagiography (2008), and The Inquisition Yours (2010), which was a finalist for four awards and won the Audre Lorde Poetry Award. She teaches writing at Kwantlen University, Vancouver Community College, and for The Writer’s Studio at SFU.

Raoul Fernandes lives and writes in East Vancouver, B.C. His poems have been previously published in Event, CV2, and Poetry Is Dead and The Malahat Review. In 2010 he was a finalist for the Bronwen Wallace Award. He is currently assembling his first poetry manuscript.

Jefferson Rose (www.jeffersonroseband.com) is a bass player and composer.  He has toured Europe and and regionally with groups such as The Jefferson Rose Band, Lasarose, Diego Paqué and many others.  His 2012 full-length release, “Seismic” and single, “Cruzando el Atlántico” are currently being distributed worldwide.

Tobi Stone (tobistone.com) plays saxophone, clarinet and flute and has performed with many jazz greats.  She won numerous regional awards and toured internationally with The Tiptons and Reptet.  Tobi is currently a member of several bands including The Seattle Repertory Jazz OrchestraThe Jefferson Rose Band and Thione Diop & Afro Groove.

 


Birds of Skagit River

(it’s ridiculously late to be posting this, and a bit long, but wanted it for the archive, and also for Elee, cuz she asked and we missed her there)

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Driving in to a sleepy quiet flower-print sort of town with my poet friend Adrienne.  Have lunch in a cafe. Jericho Brown wanders in and we invite him to sit with us. When I tell him where I’m staying he goes “You’re sleeping in a tent?” His laugh has enough energy to power all the flowers of this town.

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Don’t have a ticket for the “Poet’s Dinner” event so I drink a beer in a bar overlooking the water and write some  sentences.

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Sleep that night in the aforementioned tent on a beautiful waterfront lawn at Rachel Rose‘s folks place. Kind and intelligent people. First night alone in a long long while. Miss my baby and wife. A bit of a sleepless night, birdsong in the morning.

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At my volunteer shift, hand out program guides to chattery high-schoolers coming in to see the morning’s school-only events. All the poets do well at not talking down to the kids and even amp up the edginess. I introduce myself to Tony Hoagland who is bemused at the ‘squareness’ of the town.  In the following `Taking Humor Seriously` panel, he makes a good comparison of poetry to jokes while suggesting  how a funny poem can still have complexity and sadness  folded into it.

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Checked out the “Going Public with Private Feelings” panel (Carolyn Forche, Marie Howe, and Kurtis Lamkin). Each of them spoke openly and beautifully.  There was moving discussion when a young girl talked about signing her poem ‘Anonymous’ in a Chapbook anthology because she didn’t want her parents to worry about her. Because of this panel and witnessing the tendency towards more personal and narrative themes in the festival, I start rethinking my tendency to avoid writing about my life directly. More on this later.

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Bob Hicok and Lorraine Healy at Poems as “Prayer: Poems as Weapons” both shrug off the idea of poems being weapons, but approach it from a social justice perspective. Hicok reads beautifully. I remark to him how his poems aren’t prayers for personal needs, but go out toward or on behalf of others, sort of like grace before a meal. This leads to good conversation.

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Evening closes with Tony Hoagland, Patrick Lane, Carolyn Forche, and Vancouver band, The Fugitives. Hoagland goes sharp, Lane goes heavy, and Forche seems to possess the power to levitate everyone in the room. She also does a funny imitation of her friend, poet Ilya Kaminksy. The Fugitives are great and dynamic, and their energy is a much needed relief from the heavy stuff.

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Sleep better the next night. Fish jumping in the morning. A birdcall I later understand is a mourning dove. Still miss my baby like crazy. Then to see Nikki Giovanni, Tony Hoagland, and Patrick Lane at the “What Man has Made Of Man” reading. They speak of their coming into writing and how it was desperately necessary to them as young people. Also go into what it might mean to be a young writer in this time. Really lovely. Giovanni rambles off topic quite a bit but makes a good point about needing to audio/video archive these talks/readings. She said it enough at different times at the festival, I’m sure it will be on the agenda for next year.

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Poetry, Music and the Visual Arts with Lorraine Healy, Rachel Rose and Mark Schafer. Poems turned into opera, into rock, Poems in dialogue with photographs, poems as words hanging from a tree. All good ways to see the possibilities outside the book. I mention my poetry phonebooth idea to Schafer who seems excited enough about it to maybe make it real.

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Gathering of Poets! Every poet at the festival reads for a minute. I had misgivings about this one, thought it would be too rapidfire and channel-changey. But it was actually very good. I was pretty overwhelmed by the end but in a good way. Rachel and I go for a nice walk to clear our minds after, sit and write at a cafe. See someone with a birdcage backpack (with a real bird inside it).

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Rachel is sweet enough to take me as her guest to the dinner with the poets. Feel very honored and a bit weird, like a kid who sneaked backstage. Talk a bit with Simon Ortiz, Elizabeth Austen and Kurtis Lamkin.  Tasty tacos and good wine.

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Final reading has Giovanni, Hicok, and Howe throw down. Don`t think much of Giovanni`s poetry but boy can she work a room. The poems seem almost incidental to her freewheeling stand-up routine. Marie Howe is good but maybe a bit too straightforward for me. Bob Hicok owns the room in a powerful and quiet way. He is wearing a red t-shirt in front of red curtains which makes him seem to be half disappearing. But yes, easily the most powerful reading I witnessed, and I heard from a number of people that he was their best discovery at the festival. I talk with him a little after and suggest we meet up when he visits Vancouver in a couple weeks. This happens.

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Not over yet! Jericho Brown has graciously invited poets and friends to come over to the magical little bed and breakfast he wis staying in, so I go with Rachel and a few others and sit around in the living room with pretty exhausted but glowing writers. People take turns reading. I feel bad that I didn`t bring any writing with me, so I attempt to read something from memory (that loopy Saturn poem) which I have never done before. I can barely remember haiku I have written! Surprisingly, it works, and goes over well. I have this moment of feeling a little less like a fan-boy, and more like one of the writers in the room.

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Next morning a workshop with Tony Hoagland that I won`t get into now, because this has been too long a post. and Elee, I should save something to talk about over coffee. Which we should do soon, yes?

Hope all is well and thrumming in your world.


Poetic Wax

Oh boy, it feels like there hasn’t been time for even a tweet, let alone a blog entry. But I will try and catch up, though not in a very linear sort of way. The most significant poetry-related thing recently was my experience at the Skagit Poetry Festival, but I will save that blog entry for a time when I’m not at work on my dinner-break and dopey from pollen allergies.

Something easier to post for now – my first time on the radio! I was invited to Wax Poetic on Co-Op Radio to read poems and talk about stuff. It was fun and I was ridiculously nervous (but fairly good at hiding the nervousness, I think?). I was totally stumped when I was asked “What does the ocean teach us about love?” and sorta fumbled with abstract thoughts about love and my baby and ended up sounding like a big hippie. Though the question should have been “What does an elephant at the bottom of the ocean teach us about love?” to be more clearly referencing the poem. That would have been much easier to answer! Anyway, it was good experience and much thanks to RC Weslowski and Pam Bentley for making me feel at home and giving me a chance to share my poems with listeners. And thanks Pam for the thrilling ride home on your scooter.

You can listen to it/download the 30min show here. Wax Poetic airs every Wednesday at 2pm on Co-Op Radio 102.7 where there’s a new guest almost every week. Follow their blog here: http://poetryradio.blogspot.ca/


Lion/Lamb

The last time there was a big gap between posts here, I used the excuse of it being due to the Big Life Change of getting married. This time, another Big Life Change: I have a new son. There’s a lot I can say about this startling fact, but this is a blog that’s primarily writing-related so I’ll stubbornly keep it that way. If you want super adorable babyphotos you can just email me. Oh, I will say that his middle name “Ilya” is partly inspired by the wonderful young poet Ilya Kaminsky (We wanted a Russian name to represent his mother’s part-Russian heritage).

Somehow finding time to write and edit. Not as much as I want, but knowing that I have much less time, makes me a bit more focused. And sometimes the task of holding a sleeping baby in your arms is a fine time to read complicated essays on poetics and listen to podcasts. I will post links to favourites in upcoming entries.

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Meanwhile, it’s great to see a local poet I admire having his first book out soon. Daniel Zomparelli, the energy behind Poetry is Dead magazine, and vital life force in Vancouver’s poetry community will be launching his debut collection “Davie Street Translations” (Talon Books) this Sunday April 1st at the Cobalt. In the few readings by Daniel I’ve heard, the poems are powerful, playful, and unabashedly local. I’m sure that very soon after it being out, the book will seem like it was always a part of the make up of this city, or at least, the famous street that it positions itself in.

This is what poet Nikki Reimer had to say about it:

“These poems pay respectful albeit cheeky homage to a host of queer writers and queer icons in Vancouver, in the process redefining the possibilities for what it might mean to write young, queer, pop culture/literate, smart and alive on these crowded rain-sodden streets. Here glosas, palindromes, alphabet, palimpsest, concrete graffiti poems, pop music anthems and erasure abut a ragged lyricism, hell bent on obliterating every last stereotype and polymer partition.” – Nikki Reimer

Read a great interview with Daniel Zomparelli over at Rob Taylor’s blog.


The Light the Dead See

Was kindly invited to read at the recently resurrected Dead Poets Reading Series, and I was honored to be reading with some fine and more established poets who are alive at the same time as me: Christopher Levenson (reading Arthur Hugh Clough), Sonnet L’Abbé (reading Ronald Johnson), Fiona Tinwei Lam (reading Muriel Rukeyser), and Russell Thornton (reading César Vallejo).

I introduced the Arkansas poet, Frank Stanford, who was introduced to me in my early twenties, through an lj online community (hey thanks Russel Swensen).  No one had heard of Stanford at the reading (other than my wife) which made me feel good about bringing his work to the attention of a bunch of new people. Here is one of the poems I read.

Hidden Water
Frank Stanford
A girl was in a wheelchair on her porch
And wasps were swarming in the cornice

She had just washed her hair
When she took it down she combed it

She could see
Just like I could

The one star under the rafter
Quivering like a knife in the creek

She was thin
And she made me think

Of music singing to itself
Like someone putting a dulcimer in a case

And walking off with a stranger
To lie down and drink in the dark

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For those interested in looking into more about Stanford, I’d start with the well put together Wiki and this great essay by Ben Ehrenreich called “The Long Goodbye.” Most of his books are hard to find, but copies of “The Light the Dead See” and the sprawling epic “The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You” are still available here and there.

Thanks to co-organizer, Rob Taylor, for inviting me to read and for Project Space for hosting the reading.

Here’s another photo of me gesturing too wildly with my arms (it’s not my evangelical preacher routine, it just happens when I’m nervous)


Poetic Justice Reading

As much as it is weird and uncomfortable to see video of myself, (and sharing it for that matter) it keeps me learning what I need to improve in my readings. I’ve often make a point to mute any theatric gestures or whatnot – but seeing how easy it is to get bored with watching a fellow reading from a paper on a stage, I would like to try amping it up just a little. While somehow still being my usual un-amped self.

Thanks to Candice James for inviting me out to read! I felt warmly welcomed and appreciated despite the low turn out.

Thanks as well as my “New West Peeps” for coming out to see me, especially my cousin Monisha who had us over for drinks and snacks after.

Poetic Justice happens every Sunday 3-5pm in the cosy backroom of the Heritage Grill in New Westminster, with 2 or 3 featured readers plus an open mic.


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