17 February 2007

with regards to poetry: an attempt to save face.

Resumé by Dorothy Parker

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

and some poetry.

So, I've been challenged by this gentleman, my stilt-walking teacher of years ago, to read 100 poems and see if they won't force me to retract some flip comment I made a blog ago about not liking poetry. In a nutshell, for the ones I do like, I give $1 to my favourite charity, for the ones I don't, he'll cough it up for the same. A philanthropic endeavour, to be sure!
Pondering it further though, I have to say I'm going to have to minimize the project. Any review I could give of the poems I have been sent so far would have me outed for an Absolute Wanker, given that I have Plath, Pound, Roald Dahl, Ginsberg sitting in my inbox to name but a few. All of whom I have read (and enjoyed) much prose by, so WHO ON EARTH would I be to decry their poetry!?!
I will, for those who have not read his comment in the initial posting, re-iterate what dear "clicclic" (072666) wrote, who has known me forever, and has put it both charmingly and accurately: "...I always thought of you more as someone who simply hates bad poets (which are epidemic!) rather than one who dislikes poetry. it seems in the 21st century that artists and poets have been largely trained by artists and poets; the new breed have learned how to 'affect' art and affect poetry just enough to get noticed (it looks & smells like a poem, therefore...). Previously it was people of very diverse backgrounds coming to the table and using common tools/mediums to unify and describe their experiences; suddenly one can understand the positions of both the WW II Field Marshall and the decadent Aesthete."

It's true. I'm going to add to it though. Us art sorts are a self-absorbed lot. I'm no exception. I wouldn't be able to do what I do without a bit of critical selectivity as to what touches me (ahem) and what leaves me cold. Lots of poetry leaves me cold. It's not bad because it does so. But to pledge allegiance to it all Just-because-it's-poetry-and-i'm-an-arty-sort-so-really-I-should-love-it seems just as silly.

Ok, enough. Here is the link to Robert's blog on the subject, since he is doing much research in coming up with these samples of the fairest art our language has to offer:http://bobsyblog.blogspot.com/
Funny bloggy world. How odd to read an acquaintance's account of my "communicativeness" (such a kind word for it), and I'm beginning to think I should be paying Darren O'Donnell royalties for all the traffic that seems to unwittingly end up in my small corner of blog world due to that infamous debate of so long ago.


The first poem. From what I understand, these poems will appear on Robert's blog, I am long-winded enough without posting them here. You can click on the title for the link, though.

Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath.

Surprisingly, I wasn't that fond of this one. i Adore Sylvia Plath, that is no secret, I named a series of paintings after her oven, but I found this poem was too wordy. (shrug) SUBJECTIVE, remember. I'm NOT saying it's bad. I'm just saying, on the whole *I* didn't like it. There were a couple of stanzas that Struck me (the way I imagine the whole thing should, for me to quake in my boots and announce "I've just been poetically struck!", but it was only a few stanzas that did it.
I've just read it again to be sure. I just think it could have been alot shorter, and blown my mind with the gems, instead of nestling them in unnecessary wordy details.

Prose is for details.

The second poem: The River Merchant's Wife: a Letter by Ezra Pound.

(sigh) Now I have a feeling this is going to turn my blog into some sort of constant public apology, but this poem didn't appeal to me either. Again, I think it is well-written, for that I'll happily set my $1 aside, but I wasn't really drawn in by it. Sorry.

JUST TO BE ASOLUTELY SURE IT'S CLEAR: MY OPINION OF THESE POEMS IS NOT, AND NEVER WILL BE, A STATEMENT OF THEIR QUALITY. I am not a poet or an expert on poetry, and I am in NO position to evaluate or judge critically. I am, however, as close as it gets to an expert on myself, and I seem these days to have some sort of grasp on what I like and don't like, which I'm assuming is what this is about, if I understand correctly.

Lest you think I'm utterly apathetic to the english language, see quote cited two posts down from Lullabyes for little criminals, one of the books I'm reading right now.
Now That threw me across the room (or the laundromat, rather) this morning.

gravely disturbed.

i'd like to say that i'm still rather traumatized from my viewing of Notes of a Scandal and it's four days later. At first I was disappointed that the film didn't have Patrick Marber's caustic wit and stripped dialogue from Closer, and I was trying to figure out why the producers bothered getting him to write this screenplay, if he wasn't going to write in his own style. Closer was DIALOGUE according to its strictest definition, while ...Scandal was characters talking for the sake of the audience, your run-of-the-mill "and then she said this so (the audience) would know about this" kind of deal.
As i've been thinking about it though, I realized that even without his trademark writing style, he's a master at re-creating this hollowed-out horror of what it's like to be a human being alone with one's own thoughts and misunderstandings, even when one is surrounded by others. Which is, of course, exactly what the film seems to be about.
That said, I get it, and I would like the film to go away now.

lullabyes for little criminals

If you want to get a child to love you, then you should just go and hide in the closet for three or four hours. They get down on their knees and pray for you to return. That child will turn you into God. Lonely children probably wrote the Bible.

--Heather O'Neill

14 February 2007

of peripateticizing, popcorn, and theatre for the end of the world

This is a sub-headed post. Bear with me. It's been a Very Full Day.

So. Feeling lamentable about it, I left my beloved Dervish lurking in my hallway this morning, given the unsympathetic state of the roads, and set out toward the busstop on foot. I only felt a momentary lurch of horror at the pile of people waiting there before deciding I would at least walk to the next stop, given the absence of any sign of a streetcar.
And then, dear reader(s), I was at Dovercourt. (I live in the very west of the west end of town)
Given that Coco lives in proximity to where I was, I gave her a ring, and asked if she wouldn't like to accompany me, as I decided "why stop now?" was the developing order of the day. She, being suitably extravagant by nature, especially on overly snowy mornings, decided a bit of brekkie was in order before we continued our pilgrimage. And so it was. We then continued onwards, stopping in several glorious stores (including the Paper Place AND Type, OH TYPE) to warm our toes during the trek.

We did make one solid significant decision on our chatty meandering: that letters of introduction should be...erm...re-introduced into the societal norm. You know, those clever things that once allowed new citizens entry to a work post, a new circle of friends, introduction to otherwise strangers by an indirect acquaintance.
We decided, however, that this practise should be extended to relationships. When one is on the cusp of exiting a relationship, one should be able to procur a letter of introduction from the break-upee for bringing to the next relationship. The same of course for those beginning a relationship. (Of any sort, really.) This would give both parties in the next chapter some idea of what they should and can expect from the corresponding suitor.
It seems to me it would make the practise of suiting (sic), breaking-up, and moving on easier, more respectable, and force people to uphold their good character once the initial excitement has waned.

Arriving at work, we decided it was lunchtime. And soon after that we decided it was movie-time (lest you think this happens regularly in my work-life, it DOES NOT, but it was V-day, afterall), and we went to see Notes of a Scandal (perfectly suited to the day, if in name only)
I was Extremely Excited because the screenplay is written by one Patrick Marber, who was the mastermind of stripped-bare genius writing in the film Closer (based on his play of the same name) Not since Mike Leigh's Naked(an all-time favourite) had I seen dialogue SO accurate, so simple, so clear, and so intense, and was looking forward to more of the same.
It seems he was adapting someone else's book, so the minimalism I had anticipated writing-wise was not to be had, but Intensity, YIKES. For those of you who don't know, I apologize in advance for giving some of the plot away, but it is, in a nutshell, about an intensely lonely woman who thinks she has discovered a lover in one of her work colleagues, and spends the whole film fabricating their relationship inside her head, whilst basically blackmailing said woman with a secret that could lose her her job. And the object of her affections, who sees this woman's solitary life, has No idea how her own sympathies and kindness are being misconstrued, and is led through this bizarre series of manipulative relations with the woman to keep this one mistake of hers a secret. The key to it being so intense is that there is no taking sides with either character, they are both intensely human, they are both doing their best, and they are both causing each other immeasurable pain and/or difficulty.

Anyhow. The film had the solitary ponderer in me want to call everyone I know and double-check with them that everything is in order despite my occasionally overabundant enthusiasms. And conversely, to give every person i am indifferent to and/or not excited about in my life Whatfor.

Of course, I will probably do neither. I haven't the testicular fortitude for the latter, nor the inclination towards disappointment with the former.
But I ponder it, I do.

Ended the evening at the opening for Mammalian Diving Reflex's "Diplomatic Immunities: The End", which is, as indicated, the last of this project, erm...I think. It was great and I recommend it, it's playing at Buddies 'til 25th February.
I feel like, given my thoughts on their last show (one blog removed from this), I should take a moment to string a few well-intentioned ones here. There were things I liked better about it than Suicide Site Guide to the City It had the usual Mammalian "audience participation factor" which is insightful and definitely thought provoking.
But. For those in the audience familiar with the shows (which was alot of the house tonight, I think), the strategy tends to result in a pre-theatre introspection for attendees, (that is, how daring do i feel today, am i up for being asked personal questions by the performers or would I rather hover in the back and just observe, and if so, will I be allowed to, or dragged into a spotlight to talk about my thoughts on anarchy, God, and/or my covert sexual preferences) It was kind of a relief to have Darren share the question periods with all the performers, who are less confrontational in demeanour, without being any less pointed. The video footage of all the strangers/street people they interviewed was AMAZING, Especially the kids, who were asked their thoughts on the end of the world, the best way to die, and what music they wanted to hear, (possibilities included We will rock you, We are the champions, and a couple of other gems I can't for the life of me think of right now.)
Anyhow. I'm no reviewer, but I do say "Go see it". Perhaps not on a day when you are feeling particularly jovial, as was I, since the subject matter is weighty, and there isn't much in the way of optimism. But it's thoughtful. And thoughtful is good.

And so, to bed, and a happy V day and anti-V-day to all!

13 February 2007

the Absolute, Utterly, Very Best thing about snow

is having a bay window in which to perch and watch it fall. Honest to Gods GLEE. Double Plus Glee, even.

12 February 2007

poetically challenged!

I received a phone call this evening from the gentleman who taught me to walk on stilts some years ago (of course I did. oh funny bloggy life.), saying that he has been successfully wasting his valuable time reading this blog for a bit now (well, thank Gods someone else is wasting their time, tho' I imagine it's nowhere near as much time as I have been wasting writing it.)
ANYHOW. He was re-directed the other day to my old blog of 2005, where I stated at some point my general dislike for poetry, (excepting, of course, some remarkable and life changing authors (ee cummings, Stephen Crane, Lewis Carroll, etc.).)
So why did he call, dear readers?
To propose a CHALLENGE.
He is going to send me 100 poems over the next while.
I am to read them.
For each one I like I am to donate $1 to my favourite charity, and for each one I dislike, he will donate $1 to my favourite charity.
Goodness. I'm not sure I even have a favourite charity.
I'm not very charitable.
(Except when I'm far too charitable, but that's a different issue altogether)
Small furry animals are of course the first things that pop to mind, but I think Volcano Theatre would well win out as the most apt choice, if for no other reason than their staging of Varieté so many years ago, which made me LOSE MY MIND. (Varieté being "a vaudeville show inspired by the music of Argentinian/German composer, Mauricio Kagel, featuring dance, acrobatics, contortion, burlesque, clowning, magic and the text of Griffin Award winning poet Heather McHugh. Conducted by Robin Engleman.")

So. We shall see how this unfurls.

For the moment, though, I feel a short explanation of my antagonism to the poetic medium is in order.
How is it possible that an artsy minion such as myself, who works at a literary journal and a poetry-publishing indie press, dislikes poetry?
sigh. well, i don't strictly speaking. I am an ardent fan of all things written, and poetry has its place there.
BUT. I have the same misgivings about poetry that I have for contemporary art; why, for the most part, I prefer (ahem) naked italian angels on ceilings, and creepy etchings of spanish wars and monsters (Dear Goya) to nails stuck in the wall with titles like the state of my soul and such.
I just feel like so much poetry (and so much contemporary art) doesn't allow their audience in. So many poets (and artists) get cheeky, thinking they can outwit their readers with their clever ambiguity. (NOT ALL, mind you, NOT ALL, and I hope you will understand I am NOT advocating the composition or publication of literary pablum)
I read poems from here and there that do throw me across the proverbial room, but I respect people who use language to clarify themselves, rather than hide themselves.
Unless they are playing about, which is rampantly obvious, and rampantly enjoyable to read as well.
Art, in my small mind, should be beautiful or useful, but not baffling. Unless baffling, to the individual experiencing it, is useful. In which case I am fully in favour of that too.

11 February 2007

of shearing, archivism, and artsy nonsense.

I will attempt not to beleaguer my reader(s) over the next couple of months with tedious details of my book(let)-making process/fixation. If my last blog was any indication, it really did get taxing, re-reading this constant running tally of my navel-gazing progress.
But I will assail you with sundry discoveries along the way. That is, of course, the nature of blogs, chock-full of unimportant but (to me, anyhow) highly amusing drivel.

My next little book(let) begins with a haircut, and so I spent some of today searching for the photographic record of my historic shearing of almost a year(!) ago. Ah photos. Besides a feverish and only slightly regretful nostalgia for my old locks, I also found a few other photographic gems of times-gone-by sundry art ventures. (click on photos to see them full-size)

Reference photo (2006) taken by my fellow dreaded friend Shan, just before my shearing, for her slide viewer/book project Four Failed Proposals for a World that Won't Hurt

Mid-way through shearing (2006); "Possible use for severed dreadlock #12: an inpermiable disguise."

Film still from a fire movie (2002) shot on Toronto Island, where I came prepared with all manner of fire toys imaginable, two bottles of kerosene, and NO MATCHES. So Very Clever. (in the end, a stranger named Leo doing an artist residency at Gibraltar Point saved us with fire and an impromptu bottle of wine, bless him)

Photo project (2003? 2004?) involving many suitcases, old carbon copies, white face paint and lingerie. (Note dreadlocks from 1998,(the second incarnation), in baggie on bottom right. Sigh.)

Pillowman production still (1999), banana (ahem) cocked and ready.

And this, although not an "art" project perse, was taken only a few weeks ago, inside one of the opulent water closets at the Royal York Hotel. Graffitti. In the Royal York. It seems someone was tucked away in the loo, doing the math to figure out someone else's age. Or their own. This, my dears, is how the other half lives.

excerpted from Harper's Weekly

...Japanese Health Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa apologized for calling women "birth-giving machines," hospital staff in Yekaterinburg, Russia, were gagging crying babies, and in Cambodia a Briton named Bowel Anpaul was arrested on charges of pedophilia. Rubber genitals were stolen from the set of the new "Hannibal" movie, an Argentine soccer fan who asked for a tattoo of his team's logo received instead a tattoo of a large penis, and a Chinese man whose genitals were eaten by a dog when he was a child was said to be happy with a new penis built from his chest muscles and hip bones....

ah, news.

and at 3.30am

with dinner and dessert finished, wine bottle empty, teapot drained, knitting tucked away, and Coco heading off into the evening, i thought, Yes. Friends. The Most Lovely Invention EVER.
And then I found myself wondering, most selfishly, what would happen if Montreal went the same way as New Orleans, come June. (sigh)

(unwitting) courtesy of Stephen Crane, late at night.

if there is a witness to my little life
to my tiny throes and struggles
he sees a fool;
and it is not fine for gods to menace fools.

--The Black Riders