Thursday, December 23, 2010

I treat poetry like underwear.

At least when it comes to the holidays. When I was a kid, Christmas gifts were a careful combination of fun toys and practical clothing. Underwear never held the same appeal as a guitar or a toy pony, but it was reliably there every year. So in that spirit, I've bought each of my immediate family members two gifts: the one they want, and the one I think they need. That's right. I think they need poetry. Why? Well, not because I'm trying to recruit new readers, or convert my family into poetry lovers, though that would be nice. No, this is a selfish gift: I figure if I can introduce my family members to some contemporary poetry, I might slowly have to stop fielding questions about what it is exactly that I am writing. If my well-intentioned family can actually get a sense of what I am studying, they might not think I am putting them off. It might make future holiday dinners less awkward, as I try to contextualize why I am writing poetry for a thesis, and what that has to do with dialects spoken in other parts of the world. My parents have read most of my thesis and scholarship proposals (protip: getting a non-specialist to read those applications can help avoid the jargon problem. My parents might not know a lot about literature, but they're smart people, and their questions about "what does that mean, exactly" got me thinking about how to be concise without being obscure).

The odds are low that the books I have carefully bought will actually be read, but it's the thought that counts, or buy unto others what you would have them buy unto you, or something like that.


For my dad: Priscila Uppal's Winter Sport: Poems, because I think it will appeal to the memory of all the times he drove me to early morning hockey practice and late night games.

For my mum & youngest sister: Helen Hajnoczky's Poets and Killers: A life in advertising pretty much for the reasons I outlined here.

For my middle sister: Nikki Reimer's [sic], because I think it will appeal to her perceptions of Calgary and corporate culture.

I'll report back on reactions post-Holiday.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rape Culture: why stand up when you can be silenced?

In case you needed proof that the rape culture is alive and well, check out the #MooreandMe hashtag on twitter. Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown, and a number of other tweeters, are speaking against the bully tactics being used to silence and discredit the women who accused Julian Assange of rape. A lot of misinformation has been flying around (perpetuated by news articles that have been making strange claims about rape laws in Sweden), and Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann publicized the names of the accusers through twitter. This was wrong: women who accuse men, particularly famous men, of rape are often threatened, assaulted, and harassed. Quite frankly, reporting a rape can be dangerous, especially when there is no repercussion for the men who publicize the alleged victims names. I don't know if Assange is guilty or not. I do know that these women are being victimized by the people trying to get them to drop charges by revealing their privacy and trying to scare them away.

We have to make sure that the men who casually retweet private information about these women understand that it is NOT OKAY. That perpetuating a culture of fear, a culture in which rape only matters when it doesn't interfere with a political agenda (or only matters when in happens to someone you know, or only matters if the rapist was a stranger to the victim, or if the victim has the right reaction...) is completely unacceptable. If we want a culture in which it is safe for a victim to say "I was raped" than we cannot let this kind of public harassment of accusers to continue.

Thanks Sady. Thanks for spending four days on twitter demanding a response from Michael Moore. Thanks for enduring trolls, threats, accusations, and name calling.

"to let none of us go missing without a fuss" - Margaret Christakos

Read Sady's MooreandMe Day 1, Day 2, and Day 4

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sound Experiment

Kathleen Brown posted (back in April - where have I been?) audio that she created for the creative writing gala at the university last spring. It includes clips from Suzette Mayr, Robert Majzels, Tom Wayman, Christian Bök, and the Homely Fuss: Stephanie Davis, Indra Singh, Marc Lynch, Kye Kocher, Kathleen Brown, Jane Thompson, and me.

What I Learned in Writing Skool by polarstarkricket

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

why blog?

i've been feeling like i don't have a lot to say lately. this is a problem, as i am trying to write a thesis. my internet presence has mostly dwindled down to inanities on facebook and reblogging stuff on tumblr. of course, i've grown up on the internet, so i have to constantly remind myself that no, i don't really need to post about my personal life all the time, and i really don't need to discuss every problem i have (right now, mice. well, the mice i'm okay with, the poison my building's put down to deal with the mice, not so much. it doesn't help that the mouse i keep seeing looks a lot like a particular deceased pet). this blog in particular seems to require some kind of thought or sobriety now that i know people might be reading. at least now that i see that every new post gets a number of pageviews.

every time i start to enjoy something i run into unacceptable racism, sexism, homophobia, ablism...i began to watch stephen fry's qi quiz show and had to stop because of the amount of racism played for laughs. fry gets pissy about grammar discrepancies but slurs about Indigenous Peoples are okay. fuck that. i'll just watch batman: the brave and the bold. and ponyo (over and over and over).

i've been playing fable 3. well, i'm practically done, just missing a few treasure items to reach completion. interesting how when playing the male character the rude garden gnomes hidden throughout the game become much more obviously misogynistic than when playing the female character. did the developers think that feminists will choose the female avatar every time? more POC in the game - i really like Page the revolutionary leader - but still the playable characters are both white. i mean, i get that albion is england, but if this is fantasy could we at least imagine the possibility of customizing the character's appearance? overall the game was a bit of a letdown; the story was predictable and the creepiest part came around the midpoint of the game. Fable 2 was much better, and much more flexible (i liked being able to fail relationship encounters, for instance, because it added more of a challenge. and that the dog that accompanies the hero around needed comforting in 2, but was just there in 3. plus the glitches and lag seem so much worse in 3).

really i'm working on my thesis. and i'm not just saying that in case my supervisor reads my blog. and somehow everyone in my life is getting roped into doing work for the one course i'm taking this semester. really--my partner's involved and i'm sure it's just a matter of time before some task appears that would suit my dog's expertise.

in conclusion, it's morning. ta.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Silver Car Sessions

Jake Kennedy captures the daily lives of poets. Since the days of Robert Frost, all poets have driven silver cars. It makes them particularly easy to identify (fiction writers: minivans). For some reason, Jake and his creepy friend Kevin thought i might make a good interview subject.

I showed them.

Silver Car Sessions 4 (Lacey)

Friday, October 8, 2010


It seems that there's another blog called poetactics over on wordpress. Bizarre.

It's not me, so we're clear.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Over the next few days i'll be at the Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs conference & founding convention. While i'm not sure i'll have the time to blog it in any kind of thorough manner (would that even be interesting to anyone other than me?), i will definitely do some tweeting using the #CCWWP hashtag. Tomorrow's schedule looks good; i plan on attending the Workshops in Creative Writing and the Technology and Creative writing panels.

This year, i'm working as a writer-in-the-school at a jr./sr. high school, so this conference couldn't have come at a better time. i'm excited for the chance to glean some knowledge from more experienced creative writing teachers.

That said, i skipped out on the first evening, but it looks like @kipress caught some good moments.

Tonight i was at Flywheel (for those who don't know, it's a monthly reading series in Calgary held on the first Thursday of every month at Pages bookstore on Kensington). It was a really great reading: Patrick Horner pulled off a cool multivocal text, Jen Kunlire always has great delivery, and Gary Barwin was energetic and hilarious. A fun night!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

a dizzy spell

i've been meaning to write a response to Helen's LemonHound post on spelling & misspellings. Well, less a response than some musings sparked by the idea that all English readers are snobs who enjoy catching someone else in a written error. This is an issue i feel strongly about; English speakers have been resistant to spelling reform because there is an elitism associated with mastering the treacheries of our archaic writing system (a system that has letters representing multiple sounds, sounds represented by multiple letters, and combinations of letters representing single sounds; basically, in English, there is no reliable one-to-one correspondence between the way something sounds and the way it appears). Never mind that many generalizations taught as firm rules are not always helpful particularly because regional variety in English means that the ways words are pronounced vary from place to place; what works as a rule in, say British RP might not work for Canadian or American speakers.

So why do spelling mistakes make English speakers so angry? Is it a form of elitist gate-keeping to separate "good" speakers from "bad" speakers? To help keep class divides visible, since there is a closer correlation between standard spoken English(es) and written English? To make it more difficult for adult learners to spell well? i think it's important to investigate why native speakers of standard Englishes (and i include myself in this category) get so emotionally invested in spelling: why are we angry about people who use chatspeak, haughty when an error appears in a professional publication, and upset when someone suggests perhaps a change is in order?

Errors in spelling don't really bother me. Sometimes they're funny, and that's okay (i own a version of Joseph Andrews where "gaol" is always corrected to "goal," probably because of the intervention of an American spellcheck; i imagine the editor has suffered some embarrassment over this). When errors interfere with communication, then they are problematic and need correction. But when the occasional mistake creeps into a published work? Why get upset? Why feel superior? Most of us have words we consistently misspell. Our orthography pretty much guarantees it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Skype multimedia project update

Thanks to everyone who volunteered. Everyone who skyped in did a great job of reading those 85 letter poems (which were written by Robert Majzels & Claire Huot)!

i'll let you know whenever the video gets put online. Again, thanks for the great response.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Participate in Poetry!

We are looking for volunteers to help read poetry TOMORROW.

All we need are people who have Skype who are available for 15 minutes sometime between 9 & ll pm Mountain Time (Calgary) on July 22.

What you will be reading out loud on Skype:

Excerpts from The Bible and Chairman Mao's Book of Quotations have been translated into 85 English letters aligned equidistantly, without spaces between words or punctuation, as they would be in classical Chinese and ancient Hebrew. The visual texts are displayed and read by viewers... like you. Don't worry about stuttering, repeating, this is part of the process: we want to hear it all!

The experiment will be recorded. Leave a comment here or email me - poetactics at gmail dot com - for more details

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Yes, this.

Go read the Lemon Hound Literary Bechdel Test.

i've used the Bechdel test to discuss literature, film, & television, but never thought of applying it to criticism/literary discussion before. Awesome.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Update: library adventures

There is a Coles in the mall where i do my groceries, strategically placed between the grocery store and the pet store. It has been so hard breaking the habit of stopping in to "just look" which inevitably leads to a purchase. But i haven't gone in once since i decided libraries were the way to go.

Luckily, the library is just outside this same mall. The building looks small and kind of sketchy from the outside, but inside it is SO NICE. i don't know why i expected it to be decrepit, but it's not. Lots of chairs & tables to work at. Brightly lit. A comfortably cool temperature. Wireless internet. Fuck yes! Much better than working at the university library, even if it does mean some of the actual books i need aren't immediately at hand. So, success, of a sort. i still haven't actually gotten much work done. Still, it's a start.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This Ain't The Rosedale Library in trouble

You can donate to This Ain't the Rosedale Library here.

This Ain't is a independent bookstore in Toronto. A bookstore that supports local writers. A bookstore that has a great selection of Canadian poetry. A family-run bookstore. The Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail both ran articles on the financial difficulties This Ain't is facing. The G&B mentioned the encroachment of Amazon. A fuller account of what happened is available on the This Ain't site. Small bookstores have been closing all across Canada (and the States, too). But the indies are necessary; so much local literature, especially small press lit, isn't carried by the big online bookstores. One of the things we lose, when we lose something like This Ain't, is accessibility. Once the small retailers are pushed out, the big corporations can decide whose literature we can and cannot buy.

So many bookstores have gone under with too little fuss too late. Let's not let that happen here. There's great community support for This Ain't, and owners Charlie & Jesse are accepting donations to help the store overcome it's current debt. There is a facebook group, Friends of This Ain't the Rosedale Library, where ideas on how to help support the bookstore now, and in the future, are being shared. This bookstore has a fighting chance to get back on its feet. Of course, once it's there, drop by and see why Canada's literary community is mobilizing to raise funds for this Toronto staple.

Please pass the link around:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

i write letters [TRIGGER WARNING FOR FGM]

The following in response to this: see also:

Basically, young girls are undergoing clitoral reduction surgery at Cornell University, and then have to endure examinations where their clitorises are touched by Dr. Poppas or his nurse, so that he can chart how much sensation remains after the procedure. Both the surgery, and the touching, are medically unnecessary. The only thing wrong with these clitorises is that a doctor has decided that they are too large.


Dear Antonio Gotto and David Skorton,

I am emailing you to express my concern about the way Dr. Dix Poppas has been conducting his research. An article entitled "Bad Vibrations" (which can be found online here: explains that Dr. Poppas has been touching the clitorises of young girls in order to determine the extent of sensation after clitoral reduction surgery. The surgery, which is largely cosmetic in the first place, is invasive and abhorrent. It is completely unacceptable to alter the genitals of young girls for aesthetic purposes, especially when there is no strong evidence that these girls derive any benefit from the surgery at such a young age, while their bodies are still developing.

In addition to the surgery, Dr. Poppas has been touching the clitorises and vaginas of these girls, aged 6 and older, to determine the extent of sensation remaining after the procedure. Research is the only justification for the genital stimulation in these cases, for if sensation were reduced because of clitoral mutilation, it could not be replaced. Dr. Poppas wants to chart the amount of clitoral sensation these girls experience by touching their genitals annually. How does a conscious 6-year-old feel when her privates are touched and she is asked to rate the sensation by a grown man? Shouldn't patient psychological health trump medical interest? These children do not deserve to suffer molestation from a doctor, an authority from a practice and institution they should be able to trust.

I urge you to conduct a review of Dr. Poppas' research methods and ethics. I had always thought Cornell University had rigorous standards of academic and medical integrity, and am shocked that this could be going on at your institution.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Spring resolutions

i spent a lot of time in the public library as a kid. We used to go about once a week, usually after church on sundays. When i got a bit older, my mom would let us spend p.a. days at the library, instead of sitting at home. She'd take us to the library on her lunch break, and pick us up when she'd finished work. But i haven't had a public library membership in years. Partially that's because university libraries are better stocked, but it's also due to my increasing penchant for buying books, even books that i will read once and never again. My book habit is one i can't really afford, and the accumulation has become a bit ridiculous. So my goal for the next year is to only buy books i need for school, books by people i see at readings, and books by people i know. Additionally, i will try to buy these books only from independent booksellers. i will not renew my chapters card this year, and i will not get caught in the "i have a coupon so i have to buy something" trap.

It might seem self-indulgent to make this kind of statement on my blog, but it makes me feel a greater sense of accountability because someone from the internet might judge me!

The point is, i suppose, that with online ordering it seems way more convenient to buy books than to support the library system, even if it's not financially prudent. And there are far more chapter's stores around than library branches. But i love libraries, i really do. And i'm going to make a point of doing work at the library rather than at home. For someone as entrenched in her apartment as i am, that will actually be more difficult than it sounds. But now i have committed myself by telling my plans to you, the internet. Wish me luck with this June 13th resolution.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

ryan fitzpatrick wants you!


Have you always wanted to read a sonnet about limestone? A sestina about sasquatch? Ryan is writing poems to your specification as part of his new project. He explains:

Commissioned Works by ryan fitzpatrick

My name is ryan fitzpatrick and I am a writer and poet based in Calgary. I would like you to consider commissioning a poem from me.

But first let me explain myself. About a year ago, I had two thoughts. The first is the question that every writer asks: “Why does no one care about literature?” Sometimes the answer is obvious: the writing in question is boring, pretentious, unfunny, difficult, meaningless (or too meaningful). Poetry gets the shortest end of this very short stick. At least a bad novel has a story to follow. With poetry, the language itself has to be rich and interesting and socially relevant. Maybe the problem with most poetry is that it doesn’t even know what this means.

The second thought I had was inspired by a couple friends of mine who were able to get some money together to put together an art project and the project they came up with was a community centre. I thought to myself, what a genius idea. If you want people to experience the art you’re producing, why not include them in the process of making it. That’s how, in my mind at least, Commissioned Works was born.

Commissioned Works is meant to be part study and part community outreach. What would happen if my own poetry was directed by people in the community, if the poems weren’t only directed by my interests and writing habits, but by the interests of others, especially people who don’t write?

What does this mean for you? If you agree to take part in this project, you will have several tasks. The first is to decide what kind of poem you would like to see in the world. What should it be about? It could be about anything, ranging from seemingly disparate things like NASCAR or horticulture or politics. What should the poem look like? Should it rhyme, be full of nonsense, tell a story, be written as a sonnet, etc. The possibilities are literally endless. And to be honest, it’s kind of frightening!

After you tell me what you’d like to see, I’ll go off and write a poem that I think matches your specifications. But what if you don’t like it? That’s the second step. I will bring the poem back to you and you’ll be able to give me feedback that I’ll use to make the poem better. You might be completely happy with the poem or you might want to see an entirely different poem written or you might only want some very specific changes. I will take whatever feedback you give into account to produce a final, polished version of the poem.

After I finish a second draft of the poem, that’ll be its final version, but I’ll give you another chance to express your feelings about it by filling out a feedback survey that will help give a rough statistical picture of the project as a whole.

After I finish the poem, you’ll be able to do whatever you’d like to with it. Email it to your friends and family, post it on your facebook page, or set it on fire. I would be able to take your poem, along with the poems of everyone else, to assemble into a manuscript that I could (hopefully) get published.

Sound good?


One condition: ryan will not write poems for other writers! That is cheating! But any non-writer is welcome to email ryan to discuss commissioning a poem. Pass this message along to anyone you feel might be interested, please. Ryan is a really good writer. If you don't want to take my word for it, read his book Fake Math. Then commission a poem. Or get your uncle, or grandma, or mail carrier to commission a poem. Help poetry happen!

Ryan can be reached at

Monday, May 17, 2010

Long time no blog has its second issue up! The second issue engages with Michael Boughn, Meredith Quartermain, and Jordan Scott. i have an 'outflow' response to Quartermain & Scott included in this issue, written last year when i decided that my last year of undergrad wasn't enough, I would take Influency as well. It was worth it, even if every week was a scramble to get all my reading done. It was fascinating making the connections between my 'academic' and my 'influency' readings--I'd read Charles Olson in school and then someone would mention him at the Salon. My education was made more visible to me, because it was relevant in a second context. Very excited to be asked to participate in the online articulation.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010!

Toronto's Influency Salon is now online! Woohoo!

From the website:

Our first three issues will be a kick-start triumvirate, appearing here in quick succession. Today you’re finding Issue 1 on our home page. In early May Issue 2 will appear, followed in late May by Issue 3. These three inaugural issues will set this vivid poetry salon’s commitment firmly at your wrists. Poetry matters. To us, to you, to cities, to air, to culture.

Influency Salon is an online magazine for the reception and distribution of poetry thinking— reading diverse works of poetry, conversing about them, and measuring their ways and means, forms and motives. Via page and ear, our editors listen deeply and care persistently. We figure how the work matters. We expect a conversation about poetry to be public, present, and relevant. We want to gather in the room of poetry, and talk our heads off.

Get over here, will you?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A brief message to Torontonians

It's time for another round of the Influency Poetry Salon in Toronto, facilitated by Margaret Christakos.

I mean, just look at this line-up: John Barton, Gregory Betts, Susan Holbrook, Jacob McArthur Mooney, Sachiko Murakami, Ruth Roach Pierson, Carolyn Smart, Carmine Starnino. It runs from April 7th to June 9th, on Wednesdays 7:00PM - 9:30PM.

More information and registration here. Influency is a fantastic experience, and if you can afford to take the class, do it. Where else can you find a seminar series with so many different poets talking to one another?

The Agora Review has some critical essays by Influency participants if you want to see some writing that emerged from a past Influency crowd. i had a lot of fun being Influenced. You will too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Help the First Nations University

Video Transcript at the end of the post.

Funding cuts are threatening the First Nations University of Canada. Check out their website here to find a form letter to send to Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, and to PM Stephen Harper. Here is my slightly altered version of the form letter available on the Fund First Nations University Now! Blog. Please think about taking a few minutes to send an email or a letter. It doesn't take much effort, but it sure can mean a lot.

Dear Mr. Strahl and Mr. Harper,

The recent Vancouver Olympic Games seemed to celebrate the cultures of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples. But the decision to cut funding to the First Nations University reveals a different, more troubling position: does the Government of Canada only invest in Aboriginal Peoples when the world is watching? The First Nations University should be a source of Canadian pride. Where else can students learn from such a large concentration of Aboriginal instructors? What other school can put Aboriginal culture at the centre of the educational experience? No other school in Canada has such a wealth of indigenous knowledge.

First Nations University is a unique, and important institution. I am deeply concerned at the seeming indifference the Government of Canada is displaying toward the faculty, staff, and students at First Nations University who will be casualties of your irresponsible decision to close down the only Aboriginal university in Canada. I fear that the closure of First Nations University could reflect deep-seated racial antipathy toward First Nations people.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations has shown good faith in initiating the changes required to bring the governance structures at First Nations University into conformity with those of other universities. A working group with representation from all stakeholder groups is currently developing a revised funding and governance model for First Nations University. The University of Regina has expressed its willingness to support First Nations University.

The continuation, and indeed the future success, of First Nations University should be of the utmost concern to the Canadian Government. Funding higher education, particularly at a school with no other Canadian equivalent, is essential for the economic strength of Aboriginal Peoples, and indeed, all Canadians. Please, do not let First Nations University close.

Yours sincerely,

Claire Lacey


ETA: The CBC wrote about First Nations University here


Video Transcript:


A variety of students, of different ages, genders, and ethnicities, are shown one by one, talking about First Nations University.

First Nations University of Canada is about to shut its doors. Maybe forever. And this should concern me because? Our First Nations University is the only First Nations university in Canada. Because First Nations University helps people succeed in university better than any university in Canada. Because First Nations University has over one thousand students right now, and over three thousand graduates. And First Nations University has helped over ten thousand students complete their programs.

I came to First Nations University to be a journalist. I came to First Nations University to complete my minor in Indigenous Studies. I came to First Nations University to study leadership. I came to First Nations University because I believe that every community deserves safe drinking water. I came to First Nations University to give my son a better life. What about other people? Anybody can come to First Nations University of Canada, learn about First Nations cultures, languages, histories, business. People of every colour, race, and religion. Yeah, people from every direction.

Thousands of non-Aboriginal people have studied at the First Nations University of Canada.

Universities don’t just shut down, right? It could be the first university in the history of Canada to close its doors. What will happen if it just shuts down? Students will just go to another university, right? Some will. But some won’t. I waited and planned for years so that I could come to the First Nations University, where I could learn about my culture. From Aboriginal teachers. From Elders. Where there’s no racism in the classrooms. Do First Nations Peoples have enough education already? Hardly. Only three percent of First Nations People have university degrees compared to eighteen percent of the entire population. If the education gap between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals were to close by 2017, an additional 71 billion dollars would be injected into the economy. How’s that for stimulus? And most of that money would be taxed.

So, what makes First Nations University so special? Well for one thing: it has the largest concentration of indigenous programming in the world. And the largest concentration of Aboriginal teachers, and the most Aboriginal teachers with PhDs. I don’t get it. Why does the federal government want to shut down the First Nations University of Canada? The federal government says it will stop funding First Nations University on April 1st. The Department of Indian Affairs is cutting funding to First Nations postsecondary education? Don’t they care about the future of Canada? Don’t they care that we’re the future work force? [Man holding a toddler] Especially in provinces like Saskatchewan, where over thirty percent of the kids in school are aboriginal. [Woman holding a young child] And we are the fastest growing population in Canada. If you care about the future of this country and our communities and our cities and our future maybe you should care about the First Nations University. Would you rather your tax dollars spent on education, or incarceration? Then maybe you should support the First Nations University of Canada. All you have to do is go to [man pointing to the web address on the screen] It’s right here. On your screen. I can see it, do you see it? There, you’ll find the success stories of this university. You will also find a link to a letter. Please, print out the letter and mail it to your MP. Mail it to the Prime Minister! Fax it. And call them. Tell them that First Nations University needs to be expanded, not downsized. Tell them: the First Nations University has a contribution to make to the future of Canada. And tell them now, because funding for the First Nations University ends on April 1st. That’s less than a month away. So we need you to support the First Nations University of Canada. Right now! If you don’t have a printer, email it!

Now, we need you to do one more thing. You need to send this to four friends. Four directions, four friends. Send it to four friends, four friends from the four directions. And the four colours: white, black, red and yellow. Four friends, so they can send it to four friends, and they’ll send it to their four friends, and Ottawa will have letters coming from all directions. [Couple with young girl] Don’t wait. Her future depends on it.

[On screen: GO TO: Produced by: Students at the First Nations University of Canada Music composed and produced by Thomas Roussin]

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Have i posted the Writers In Electronic Residence podcast by Margaret Christakos yet? It's a fun listen.

i recently came into possession of a Sony eReader (the 6 inch reader touch edition). Much easier to read on than my laptop, and saves me from printing out the dozens of articles i read for school. i like the annotation function--you can take notes, and the notes function as bookmarks. However, it seems weird to me that there's no easy way to jump to a chapter or a particular page number if you haven't marked it already. Additionally, i have to turn the touch-based page turning off when i'm underlining, because the reader cannot distinguish between drawing a line and turning the page. And the highlighting function doesn't work at all; the touch screen seems out of sync with the text, so if you try to highlight a line, you end up with a section highlighted three lines below, or one line above. Useless. But the handwritten notes seem to have better accuracy, so the highlighter isn't really necessary. Still, when something costs $300, it would be nice if it functioned properly in all regards.

The Sony ebook store is useless. i had a $25 gift certificate, which i used, and now i think i'll buy my texts elsewhere. Which is possible because Sony ereaders support multiple formats, including pdf and word docs. It supports jpeg, but image files cannot be resized. Text files have 4 different possible font sizes, and it doesn't renumber the pages when you alter the text size which i like because it keeps citations simple.

Overall, i'm pretty pleased with my ereader. But i expect the functionality will improve drastically with the next few generations of products.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

the Bechdel test

Over at Shakesville, there are some recommendations in this thread of books, movies, and webcomics that pass the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test, named for the author of Dykes to Watch Out For, requires that a movie (book, whatever):

1. Has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.

Some variants require that the women be named characters. You know, this is really not asking a lot. And yet, i can think of surprisingly few movies that pass this test. Books fare a bit better. Even Tamora Pierce's YA novels generally only have one prominent female character, so i'm not sure that they would all pass #2. In comics, well Birds of Prey and Detective Comics from #854 (i think this is where Batwomen takes over) pass. I would also like to amend rule 3 to "About something other than romance" because lesbian fiction might not talk about a man, but still can fall within the tired tropes of what women "should" be thinking about (securing a mate, finding love). For instance, with my version of rule #3, Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body might not pass, since the novel has a fairly narrow focus, if i recall it correctly.

Obviously, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to say that i'm only going to consume woman-friendly media. Even harder to do the same with LGBTQI-positive media. Or PWD-positive media (actually, this one might be impossible). i'm the first to admit, i enjoy comic books like Batman, or Superman, or Aquaman, despite the misogyny. One of my favourite movies, SLC Punk, definitely doesn't pass. But it's important to know the choices available, and it's important to show that there IS support for greater diversity (because the film industry loves to tell us that women WANT brainless romcoms, not films that represent their actual experiences).

Really, this shouldn't be as hard as it is. Suggestions of lit/comics/film that passes are welcome in the comments. i might go over my bookshelf and add more suggestions later.

There is also a blog (apparently coming out of hiatus soon) that determines whether or not movies pass the test.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

It's been a while

since i plugged the 95 books blog. i'm beginning to fall behind in the race to read 95 books this year. okay, it's not a race. But i'm going to win (not really)!

Poking around, i found the Writers in Electronic Residence (WIER) podcast. Here's a cool reading by Margaret Christakos. WIER connects students in elementary and high schools with writers, fostering connections between Canadian writers and young people. This gives a face to literature, an immediacy, that encourages students to participate in both reading and writing cultures. i think it's a great idea, de-mystifying the author and building entryways. It can be hard for youth to enjoy literature if they have teachers who aren't particularly interested in English (since teachers often have to teach an array of subjects, not everyone is lucky enough to have enthusiastic lit teachers). It also moves outside the canon, which can intimidate both potential readers and potential writers--it seems distant and unachievable. Poetry in particular gets a reputation as boring or outdated. What better way to combat that reputation than to get the living, breathing poets of today into classrooms? WIER can be found at

Thursday, February 25, 2010

checking in

Sorry the posting's slowed down since In(ter)ventions. Catching up on work left undone during the conference.

Some great commenting going on in the post on the second night's performances, including a response from writer Lance Olsen. i'd like to encourage everyone to take a look at what's being said, and i would like to thank everyone for their thoughtful, respectful comments thus far.

Will sit down and write out a proper post, and a response to everyone who's commented over the past few days, tomorrow.

In the meantime, i was linked to Tan Lin's Health (Plagarism/Outsource), which is available for download here. Haven't looked at it too closely yet, but it seems like a neat project.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

In(ter)ventions - the finale

The last day began with a series of manifestos. Al Filreis, Christian Bök, Kate Pullinger, and Lance Olsen each presented their manifesto for the future of writing. i was very happy that Kate brought up issues of money and power. Both she and Al commented on the insider/outsider dichotomy of writing: the established writers, the writers supported by institutions / the writers outside the institutions, the writers who don't get grants or teaching positions, the writers at the beginning of their careers. Christian Bök did his usual pot-stirring, saying that the avant-garde presumes its own failure. Everyone was invited to write a manifesto and hand it in (maybe some of those will appear online), but there was some resistance. The audience wanted conversation.

i didn't write a manifesto; i think they are counterproductive. Writers need to be flexible and dynamic, not committed to a statement of intent. Manifestos, i think, are militant and dogmatic, argumentative rather than conversational.

Then D Kimm performed. She has great stage presence, and i liked her use of electronic sound. The sentiment of "take me how I am" was cool, though not so much the idea of a lover being "possessed."

The Closing Remarks

Erin Mouré graciously allowed me to speak instead of her. i was torn: i've been saying a lot on this blog, and i don't want to be afraid to say the same things in person. But it was also the end of the conference, and it was very hard to be critical of Steven Ross Smith and the other organizers. i do think they did a good job of running the conference, even if i didn't agree with everything that happened. i did know that others had spoken to me about my blogging, and i wanted to give a brief voice to them. A conference like this has a lot of speaking at, and very little ongoing dialogue, i feel. Twitter alleviated that a little bit, but with so many panels packed in, many important discussions were lost. i brought up class, race, and gender representation. i asked if anyone else had any words, because really, there were other audience members who i know had as much to say as i did. It was a bit unsettling to get up and speak to writers older, more experienced, and many of them smarter than i am. i don't particularly enjoy the role of agitator, but someone has to do it. And really, just as well the conference ends on an unsettling note: isn't that the purpose of innovation? To unsettle and dislodge us? i hope an ongoing conversation emerges, and i invite everyone to comment on my blog, on twitter, and maybe eventually on a forum. There were some great connections made at In(ter)ventions, and i don't want those to be lost.

Fred Wah spoke after me. He said "Why bother?"

Why bother indeed.

In(ter)ventions Showtime Performance The Third

i'd never seen Fred Wah or Charles Bernstein read before tonight. Well, i've seen videos of Charles on youtube, but that's hardly the same.

Fred Wah performed a long poem, "Pop Goes the Hood," while video of urban streets and scenery played beside him. i really could have listened to Fred all night. Eventually, i hope, footage of this poem will emerge on the developing website Fred Wah Digital Archive.

Kate Pullinger (who has also been tweeting the conference) read from her book The Mistress of Nothing. i have not read the book, but as a colleague of mine noted, the romance seems somewhat predictable. An Englishwoman must go to Egypt because of tuberculosis, so she and her maid set out. The minute Kate mentioned an Egyptian manservant, i knew someone was going to sleep with him. Sure enough, Kate read the scene where the maid sleeps with the manservant. From the excerpts read, the novel has a problematic connection with race, exoticizing and othering the Muslim man. Kate also read from a digital work, Flight Paths, which is interesting from the open-source collaboration perspective, but again has the same white woman/Muslim man dynamic (it is about a man who stows away in the landing gear of an airplane, then falls onto a car parked in England as the plane extends the gear, and about the woman who finds him). The characters seem stereotypical--the bored housewife shaken out of complacency by a mysterious foreigner who falls from the sky. i don't think Kate's intentions are bad, but perhaps a deeper questioning about the ethics of race and representation in her work would be worthwhile.

How can i write about Charles Bernstein? His humour is legendary. And i did laugh so hard that i doubled over. And he was the only poet all week whose reading made me cry. Charles read poems he wrote for and about his daughter Emma Bee Bernstein. The poems alternated between tenderness, sorrow, anger, and even humour. Charles looked so strong reading, so dignified, and i was moved. Really moved. When he was done reading, i stood and clapped. Others did as well, until everyone was on their feet. It was the only way to express the appreciation and support i was feeling: appreciation for his poetry, for his wit, his innovation, his practice, for his courage; and support for tragedy, loss and mourning, for coming through mourning and continuing. Charles Bernstein. It was a real privilege to witness this reading.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In(ter)ventions Day 3 Part 3

Panel 3 - Where goes the sentence? Language in a material world
-Moderator: Stephanie Strickland; Panelists: Craig Dworkin, Maria Damon, Adeena Karasick, and Stephen Osborne
--Craig Dworkin gave a great paper about the sentence and cultural grammar. i hope the paper is published; it was dense and i need to hear or see it again before i dare write on it.
--Maria and Adeena gave a joint poetic performance on the words Shmata & Shma'ata. There was a sense of play, but also urgency, Adeena's delivery was quick, occasionally hard to follow. There was a study of etymology and of tradition. Ragman was invoked.
--Stephen Osborne claimed that Canada has no urban narrative, that writers aren't using verbs in the way he would like them to, and that narrative is dead. He launched his blog and a discussion of new media followed. The audience was invited to comment on how twitter uses the sentence. A few people made points about cell phone stories, but it seemed like a somewhat odd discussion to me. Then again, i grew up in a fairly wired environment.
--Kenny Goldsmith won the panel (from the audience) when he said that he teaches his students to do overtly what they'd otherwise do covertly: steal. He said "forget verbs, language is active today."
--J.R. Carpenter noted that in Hebrew, the word for "word" is the same as the word for "event."
--i wanted to ask the panelists to give their definition of a verb, since everyone seemed to be picking up on Osborne's verbal criticism. i was taught that a verb is a word that can be/is conjugated. Any word could be a verb if positioned as a verb in a sentence, because parts of speech are relative. Osborne seems to have a formula for how many verbs should be in a sentence, and which types of verbs count as verbs (he doesn't like "watch" "stand" or "sit" apparently), though i didn't follow him closely enough to figure out what that formula was. He was too old-school for my tastes.

In(ter)ventions Day 3 part 2

i should probably mention i'm also tweeting bits and pieces -- search for #interventions on twitter

Panel 2 - New Form(alities)
-Moderator Lance Olsen, panelists Steve Tomasula, Charles Bernstein, and Erin Mouré
--Olsen opened asking everyone to think about 1. narrative and 2. the politics of structure
--Erin Mouré changed the panel title to "Huh? Modalities," saying that forms imply an end rather than a production. She discussed collaboration, appropriation (involuntary collaboration), and translation, noting that her practices of translation cannot be categorized into "professional" "hobby" "trans(e)lation," because they are all the same practice.
--Steve Tomasula appeared to have a picture of Nausicaa as his desktop background. He discussed his project TOC which is described as "an evocative fairy tale with a steampunk heart" on the cover. i was impressed at the slick aesthetic of the novel, and by his discussion of the collaboration process.
--Charles Bernstein, who sat near the back of the audience and presented from there, discussed his collaborations with Susan Bee and Richard Tuttle. My favourite lines "battle of the dinosaur technologies--painting & poetry" "think digitally, act analogically" and "BE QUIET DUMMYHEAD."
--The Q & A session was great. Erin Mouré said "Once I knew my work was difficult, I could write in other languages." And both Erin and Steve responded to a question i asked about how technology impacts collaboration by giving examples of how tech enables cross-generational and cross-cultural communication, meaning writers have more access to other writers and artists they might not otherwise get to connect with.

The two panels this morning were definitely the best so far. They begin to explore issues of race, class, gender, language, community, and interaction that panels on previous days tended to avoid.

Interventions Day 3 part 1

There's been a lot going on; i'll divide the day so far into 2 or 3 posts. i'm skipping the afternoon sessions because i've got a lot to chew on, so i apologize to those not in attendance who are intervening vicariously through me.

Panel 1 - Betwixt & Between--collaboration & cross-disciplinary literary creation

-Jen Bervin, Fred Wah and D Kimm, moderated by Larissa Lai; Daphne Marlatt was supposed to participate, but couldn't make the conference. Larissa delivered Marlatt's paper instead.
--Jen Bervin (whose website is REALLY COOL) talked about her tactile/textile art projects. She makes beautiful things, and is currently working on a scale model of the Mississippi 250ft long, made from sequins hand sewn together. She was, i believe, the third poet to talk about Emily Dickinson; interesting that Dickinson's influence is moving deeply through the conference, while the people i expect to hear about (Black Mountain poets, for example) have largely been unmentioned.
--D Kimm rocked the conference. She says "I am the French at this conference" and proceeded to talk about her participation in the Montreal artists community as a bridge builder between French & English artists. "Being edgy is taking risks" and the "process is more interesting than the result" were two of her comments on the conference thus far, and i think she raised great points. Artist involvement in community, in performance is clearly very important to Kimm, and although i'd never heard of her before, she got me REALLY EXCITED about the possibilities of intersections between performance & text.
--Larissa Lai read Daphne Marlatt's paper; i think it was the first time i heard Charles Olson mentioned. What struck me most was Larissa reading a paper Daphne Marlatt wrote in the first person, especially since Larissa's been talking so much about the subjective "I" emerging and disappearing in her own writing. Neat to hear about the writing of Steveston and it's long influence on Marlatt's career.
--Fred Wah focused on hybridity and betweenness, talking about his collaboration with Haruko Okano, who was interested in Pidgin Japanese spoken in internment camps during WWII. Fred drew attention to ideas of mixed, of colours, of race, and of contamination.
--An audience member asked "How does the avant-garde know that it is avant-garde?" to which Jen responded "I prefer the term that came up yesterday, the 'rear guard.'"

Friday, February 19, 2010

In(ter)ventions Showtime Performance The Second

The readers were J.R. Carpenter, Erin Mouré, and Lance Olsen.

J.R. Carpenter
began with a great feminist essay about women and technology from xxxboîte. She then presented a new multimedia work that incorporated google maps and videos (that she filmed & edited) with the text. It was a great reading.

Erin Mouré always gives a fabulous performance. There was a bit of a technical snag; Mouré's earing was jangling against her mic, and a tech guy disrupted the performance to fix it. But she handled the situation with good humour, and gave an animated reading from her new book O Resplandor. i really wish her reading was longer.

The order was unfortunate. The last presentation wiped the previous ones very much from my mind, because it was so upsetting. i apologize for talking so briefly about two amazing poets, and dedicating so much space to the third.


Lance Olsen's presentation was a video collaboration based on his novel Head in Flames about the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. i won't link to Olsen's site, because he is an artist who seems to consider being offensive the same as being "cutting edge," a reactionary posture against progressive movements. The video was scenes from van Gogh's film Submission which is a fictional account of abused Muslim women. The film is graphic, sexualized, and exoticized: the woman (one actress plays all the characters) are wearing a see-through chador, except when she is writhing on the ground covered in open whip wounds. It looks like porn, with lots of intense shots focusing on the curve of the stomach and the space between the breasts. What i found most disturbing was that Olsen and his collaborator chose to erase the woman's voice, inserting Olsen reading his novel as the soundtrack. If the point of the film was originally to give voice to abused women in Islam, that point was entirely lost. Olsen's voice itself was hard to follow, becoming mostly background noise. The only line i heard clearly was something along the lines of "stop whining like a woman." Interesting choice of words, considering that women are often silenced, and that a woman telling a story of physical abuse is not whining at all. Sure, the novel was not written specifically to be juxtaposed with the film (as far as i know), but a little bit of consideration is in order here. Women are often silenced; abused women and minority women even more so (these groups are not meant to be mutually inclusive or exclusive; they overlap, but not always).

i don't know if Olsen's novel is any different, but the presentation was misogynistic and racist. It plays directly into western fantasies of what a Muslim woman is or should be. It offers womens' bodies as objects to be gazed upon, their suffering as titillation for the viewer.

The audience was given no time to respond to the video. No Q & A was scheduled for this reading. i wish one had been; i would have liked to question Olsen directly. i'm writing this in a state of tired rage. i get the impression that the video is provocative simply because it can be.

To counter all this regressive violence, i'm going to suggest heading over to Shakesville, which is progressive, feminist, and a safe space.

In(ter)ventions part III

Literary Film & Video

Presented by Ram Devineni, this presentation showcased collaborations of short film & poetry featured in the Rattapalax DVD magazine. i can't find my favourite video, 49?, which featured a Native American poet asking people on the streets of Seattle what an Indian 49 is. The video had a great streak of humour.

Also shown was a short based on Blake:

After that there were two simultaneous open paper sessions. The one I chose to sit in on began with Gary Barwin and Gregory Betts performing The Obvious Flap, a really cool sound poetry/electronic performance. It was playful, it had props, it had a great deal of punning, and it had semantic noise. What more could anyone ask for? At times, i was reminded of Ionesco's Rhinocéros (mostly because there was a dog).

Following that, Marie Smart presented a paper on cryptography and Duchamp. It was pretty neat, but i can't decipher my notes. Sorry.

Last was John Cayley and a paper called Writing Breaking Media. i think i missed what he was trying to say, perhaps because i grew up with the internet. He was "trying to demonstrate...the odd relationship between writing & its medium" by showing text rotating beneath a 3d pipe in a virtual space. The text disappears at 90 degrees, the pipe doesn't. After this revelation, there was a brief awkward Q & A, where nothing was really answered. So it goes.

In(ter)ventions part II

Taking the afternoon off to get caught up on werk. i enjoyed the panels this morning, though i do have some criticism (again) about the lack of female writers & writers of colour involved on the panels. Serious gaps in the program, wonder which of the panelists were invited, which sent proposals, and how the imbalance in representation can be addressed.

Notes from this morning (or, in which i end my literary career before it even begins):

Panel 1
-Christian Bök, Larissa Lai, and Nick Montfort on a panel moderated by Maria Damon discussed the questions "What is literature today" and "what is writing."
--i was very glad to have Larissa on the panel as a counterpoint to Nick and Christian. Nick Montfort was displaying his ppg256, an open source perl code that generates poetry. Christian was talking about his Xenotext Experiment, a poem encoded on the DNA of Deinococcus radiodurans, a bacterium that can survive the most extreme conditions imaginable. Larissa wrote a polyvocalic essay about writing, about the struggle to write from outsider and/or minority positions. The juxtaposition with the other work was fascinating, because she was the only one to address issues of class, race, and gender. Digital poetry, and genetic poetry are class issues: they require access to technology that not everyone shares. Larissa's work provided a subtext to the discussion, and I feel that the panel, while interested, avoided a discussion of ethics that would have been very beneficial.
--Not to say that i don't enjoy what Nick and Christian are doing. Nick's work in particular examines the interface between reader, writer, and computer, and i really dig the spirit of open-source creative projects. It just seemed to me that these two poets are working from a position of privilege that avoids addressing difference. The Xenotext Experiment, especially, fails to address the ideas that culture is not monolithic, that it perhaps cannot and should not be encapsulated for posterity, and makes assumptions about future & distant sentience (namely, that it will decode the poetry because it thinks in a way similar enough to current humanity to understand that what it sees is a cultural artifact, or that it will give a damn that there once was a culture that added poetry to the genetic structures of bacteria).

Panel 2
-Kenneth Goldsmith, Stephen Osborne, and Steve Tomasula, on a panel moderated by Al Filreis. Under discussion: what is reading today.
--Kenneth Goldsmith's reading was very cool. The radio/tv announcements from four American disasters: The assassination of JFK, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and the assassination of John Lennon. Historic events forever encoded in the reactions of the reporters who were on air at the time. All I could think of through the first two readings was Clone High (at the 1:00 minute mark of the video):

--Steve Tomasula made some really interesting remarks about the reading experience, and the gaze the reader brings to a work of literature. Had a picture of a contemporary artist who took the Emily Dickinson poem [I took my power in my hand] and imposed the text on blue on a woman of colour's body; wish I caught the name of the artist/piece. Notes every reading is a mis-reading.
--Stephen Osborne notes that creative writing students today are afraid of plagiarism, and so avoid imitation. Also points out the divide between reading & writing in most English departments.
--Great audience questions about power structures. Kenneth Goldsmith is trying to keep ubuweb underground and off google. i have obviously embraced the google beast, seeing as i'm on blogger and use a gmail account, and wave, and buzz, and reader, and oh god the overlords have found me i've said too much send help

Thursday, February 18, 2010


i'm at the In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge conference in Banff right now. The conference is a gathering of avant-garde writers, there will be discussion the state of contemporary literature supplemented by a number of readings. It's off to a fairly good start: an interesting introductory talk by Charles Bernstein, Erin Mouré, and Fred Wah, followed by a public reading with Nick Montfort, Larissa Lai, and Chris Funkhouser. Lai was not on the original schedule, but Daphne Marlatt couldn't make the conference at the last minute. It was nice to see Lai read, and I couldn't help but notice she was the only Person of Colour on the docket. Not a very diverse group of writers here, to my eye. Still, a lot of impressive names, and many greats who I have not had the privilege of seeing perform (Bernstein and Wah, for instance). Looks like it's going to be a good few days.

And the Banff Centre is GORGEOUS. Seriously. I feel pampered, and I'm just a guest.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Canadian Arts and the Olympic Games

Mark Leiren-Young wrote a great opinion column over at The Tyee about the 90% cuts to culture funding in BC, and how it doesn't mesh with the image of Canada the government hopes to project to the world through the Olympic games. He says:

The next time a Liberal MLA -- or anyone -- goes on a rant about the value of arts and culture, skip the stats about how the arts return $1.30 to the economy for every government dollar invested. Don't mention the fact that culture creation is genuinely green. Don't bother pointing out that pretty much every other industry in Canada has some sort or subsidy, incentive or tax break attached to it. And forget the reality that if our galleries, museums and theatres start to close, our tourism industry will be about as inviting as a Stephen Harper smile. Ask them what Canada decided to show off when millions of people tuned in from around the world to find out what our country was all about.

Unless I missed something, there were no spectacular shots of our highways, no visits to mills or mines -- and, with all due respect to our Greatest Canadian, Tommy Douglas, there wasn't any footage of someone on the Olympic stage receiving affordable health care.

The Canadian heroes chosen to share the world stage with our Olympic athletes weren't our politicians, lawyers, or civil servants and our military presence consisted of General Romeo Dallaire, who was introduced as an author. Oh, right, they also threw in an astronaut to represent non-artsy Canadians.

For the next few weeks we're not showing the world our banks, our office towers, or our tar sands -- we're pointing at inukshuks.

Beverly Hungry Wolf

i'm currently watching videos from the 2009 I'POYI Aboriginal Writers' Gathering in Calgary. i've started with the series of 5 videos featuring Beverly Hungry Wolf. Her stories about her family and her upbringing are fascinating. Here's part 1. Check out the rest on rmajzels youtube channel.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Marlatt on Women Writers

"if we are women poets, writers, speakers, we also take issue with the given, hearing the
discrepancy between what our patriarchally-loaded language bears (can bear) of our
experience and the difference from it our experience bears out - how it misrepresents,
even miscarries, and so leaves unsaid what we actually experience. can a pregnant
woman be said to be "master" of the gestation process she finds herself within - is that
her relationship to it? (see Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language, p.238.) are women
included in the statement "God appearing as man" (has God ever appeared as a
woman?) can a woman ever say she is "lady of all she surveys" or could others ever
say of her she "ladies it over them"?"
--Daphne Marlatt, "musing with mothertongue"

Monday, February 1, 2010

Belladonna chaplets

Today, i got a package in the mail with five Belladonna chapbooks. Belladonna's mission is "to promote the work of women writers who are adventurous, experimental, politically involved, multi-form, multicultural, multi-gendered, impossible to define, delicious to talk about, unpredictable, and dangerous with language." i took advantage of Belladonna's holiday sale to get something i've wanted for a long time: a hard copy of Margaret Christakos' My Girlish Feast (i already have a fantastic recording of the poem being read). The other titles are: Kalends by Mairéad Byrne, hyper glossia by Stacy Szymaszek, You But For The Body Fell Against by Nathalie Stephens and W I D E R by Angela Rawlings. The "buy four chaplets, get 1 free" sale is still on, so i strongly recommend going and taking a look at the selection. Support a press that encourages

i'm so excited that i would roll around in these chapbooks like Scrooge McDuck in a pile of money, except the chapbooks would get ruined. i will just bask in the awesome, and resist reading them until i get some work done (reward systems in place in my house: dog gets treat if well behaved, i get treat if i get a page of writing done. the dog gets his reward more regularly, which tells you everything you ever need to know about my willpower).

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bad Ideas!

What if i did hourly comic day, but with poetry? As in, I would write a poem every hour I was awake. It would probably be pretty boring, unless I was out in public for inspiration and inebriation (the two ins of literature). It would also probably mean that my homework wouldn't get done. Hmm.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pig Tales

I'm in the middle of reading Pig Tales by Marie Darrieussecq. The book is making me increasingly uncomfortable: it is the story of a woman who is turning into a pig. The conflation of woman's sexuality with meat and with animals, well it's pretty prevalent. Just watch commercials for a little while and I'm sure you'll see what I mean. The protagonist works at a perfume shop, where she gives massages and has sex with the clients (as per the directions of her boss). At one point, she gains control of her sexuality, but then loses that confidence and control again.

I'm having trouble continuing. I don't like the sex negative aspects of the book, and every time I think I understand the point the author is trying to make, there is more of the sexual objectification that I work so freakin hard to avoid in literature, television and movies. I'm not sure what to make of this feminist book which seems incredibly sex-negative, and seems to be more about disembodiment than pro-female bodies. I could be missing something. I could be misreading. But I don't like the way I feel reading this book, that's for sure.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Let's talk about sex

A lovely bit of writing from Tamora Pierce's book Squire:

Ilane leaned her chin on her hand. "I've often thought the nobility's handling of sex and marriage in their girls is the same as that of horse breeders who try to keep their mares from being mounted by the wrong stallions."

Kel sat bolt upright. "Mama!" Hearing such things in her mother's deep, lovely voice made them even more shocking. She expected this kind of phrasing from her male friends, not her mother.

"You can't say this to noblemen, of course." Ilane got up and went to the small fire that burned in front of the tent. "Tea?"

Kel automatically stood to get the cups. Before she realized she didn't know where they were, her mother had placed a small table between the chairs and was setting out all she would need. Kel sank into her chair. "Why can't this be said to men?"

"The good ones are too romantic to like it, and the bad ones don't care. My papa was the don't-care sort. I overheard him once describing me to a potential suitor. Even though I had small breasts, he said, my hips were big enough that I should foal with ease. It would be easy to find a milk nurse once I dropped a healthy son." Ilane deftly put a tiny scoop of powdered green tea in each of the large, handleless cups, then added water from the iron Yamani pot. She took up the whisk, beating Kel's tea, then her own, into a green froth. They bowed to one another Yamani-style, then sipped.

Kel sighed with gratitude: she loved freshly made green tea.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


So i've noticed i've had an increased number of page-views recently. so welcome to the people who have managed to stumble upon my little corner of the internet. please feel free to say hello in the comments, and, if you'd like to, let me know where you discovered this blog!

more fangirling over Tamora Pierce

i feel like i'm just starting to relax, and it's time for school to start up again. i've been reading a lot of Tamora Pierce lately (as i've been writing about on the 95 books blog). Sure, young adult novels don't exactly challenge the intellect, but they're damn fun reading. I'm impressed that in Protector of the Small (book 1 or 2, I can't remember) Pierce slipped in a brief gay acceptance message, without making a big deal of it. None of the main characters is gay, but it's nice to see an author acknowledge LGBTQ characters. Pierce is also one of the most female-friendly YA authors i've read (although i'm not very current in YA literature, so there may be many other female-positive books out there that i'm not aware of). It's refreshing to have my liberal values reflected in literature, when i'm noticing more and more misogyny and homophobia on tv and in movies (this has more to do with my increasing awareness, not necessarily any increase in misogyny).

Which reminds me...have i posted this link yet? Writing Gay Characters.

Monday, January 4, 2010

digital books

it's hard to read a book on my laptop. the screen hurts my eyes, and i wind up with a headache. i don't want to print out pages and pages, since it seems like a waste, so i deal with it. most of what i read on the computer are library books that i get through my university's database subscriptions, although i also have downloaded copies of books that i own but don't have with me (due to lack of space; my parents have boxes of my books in their basement, but they live far away).

i'm very tempted to save up for an e-reader, because i've heard that they're easier on the eyes. no one i know has one, so i haven't been able to test this out. my ideal ereader would need to be able to display pdfs, rtfs, and it would be nice if it could also show ms word files and html documents. i'm not sure how many ebooks i would actually buy, because i do like having the physical object to manipulate and keep and share, but i can see myself choosing to buy an ebook when i only plan to read something once, or want to get a book that would otherwise be too expensive or hard to find. i wonder how many publishers will make out-of-print books available as ebooks? that's where i could really see myself spending money.

this is all a dream, of course. ereaders are expensive, and it is still unclear which reader will dominate the market leaving other formats obsolete. it's probably unwise to invest in one right now, even if the money did magically find its way into my pockets. i like the sounds of the sony reader, but apparently the software it comes with contains rookits (the same nasty backdoor-opening virus that sony used to gather data from music cd buyers a couple years ago). kindle seems rather limited in what it can display other than ebooks purchased from amazon. the iphone/ipod touch apparently have decent applications for reading ebooks, but again, i haven't seen them in use, so i'm not sure whether the screen creates the same reading problems as a laptop, and i'm not sure how readable the text is on what is still a fairly small screen.

so for now, i'll continue reading on my laptop. at least it gets the job done.

95 books in 2010

a challenge has been put forth by my friend ryan fitzpatrick: read 95 books in 2010 and blog about them. several intrepid readers accepted. a few of us have already begun. follow our journey here.

who will read the most books? who will read the coolest books? who will wind up setting their book collection on fire? find out!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

my femin(is)m

a kneejerk response to “Are You a Feminist or a Feminine-ist?” by Karen Salmansohn at

my feminism is enraged
my feminism does not replace power with empowerment
my feminism is LBGTQI friendly
my feminism says choose your choice, even if your choice does not reflect mine
my feminism is a safe space, where women are not imaged as meat, where women are not pictured as parts, where women are not measured as bodies
my feminism wears combat boots
my feminism wears tennis shoes
my feminism wears high heels that click smartly on the sidewalk
my feminism goes barefoot when the mood strikes
my feminism plays contact sports
my feminism dances a graceful ballet
my feminism does not accept a binary world
my feminism writes angry letters to parliament, to advertisers, to television stations
my feminism imagines that most of those letters go unread and unnoticed, but she keeps writing anyways
my feminism is a slut
my feminism is a prude
my feminism lies in bed masturbating alone, except that one time it was on her living room couch
my feminism tries not to judge
my feminism feels fat and lazy
my feminism is told she is too thin, she should eat more, is told she is too fat, why doesn't she try to exercise
my feminism acknowledges her middle-class white ablist privilege
my feminism wants to unpack that privilege, is working to unpack that privilege as best she can
my feminism wants to educate
my feminism wants to fight battles, have shouting matches, dispel ignorance with violence
my feminism is a pacifist, is gentle, tries to model appropriate behaviour
my feminism is a bonerkiller, is humourless
my feminism will not laugh at rape or sexual assault played for laughs
my feminism can take a joke, believe it or not
my feminism is an equal opportunity employer
my feminism is afraid to walk home by herself at night, even when sober
my feminism believes no one should be held to a different standard to prevent victimization, but nevertheless utilizes the buddy system
my feminism knows that it is not her fault
my feminism feels guilty, has trouble looking herself in the eye sometimes
my feminism avoids talking about feminism, because talking politics is impolite
my feminism insists that the personal is political, but politics should stay out of the bedrooms of the nations
my feminism feels ignored by science and medicine
my feminism is hysteric
my feminism is feminine
my feminism is masculine
my feminism is queer
my feminism is asexual
my feminism is polyamorous
my feminism is a fetishist
my feminism is bitchy
my feminism is nice
my feminism is soft and gentle, with a floral fragrance
my feminism is unshaven
my feminism is shaved bare
my feminism is not wearing underpants
my feminism bleeds monthly
my feminism has missed a period
my feminism is irregular
my feminism has never menstruated
my feminism is quiet and reserved
my feminism waits for the opportune moment
my feminism is subtle and polite
my feminism is a small bird hitting the glass ceiling
my feminism is asked when she will have children
my feminism is a mother
my feminism is a spinster
my feminism will not get married
my feminism got married at city hall
my feminism was married in a church
my feminism was married in a blue dress, in a black suit, in white, in jeans
my feminism cannot have children
my feminism has children
my feminism refuses to be defined by her relationships
my feminism is a person in her own right
my feminism runs a business
my feminism works for minimum wage
my feminism wants it all
my feminism is told what to want by advertising in magazines
my feminism is a consumer
my feminism is tired of being treated as a niche demographic
my feminism produces her own content
my feminism is a balancing act
my feminism is unhappier than ever before, is happier than ever before, who’s to say
my feminism plays with dolls and monster trucks
my feminism is sobbing at newspapers
my feminism is the future
my feminism is aching
my feminism is
my feminism is
my feminism is
my feminism is
my feminism is for you.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Statuesque is writer Neil Gaiman's directorial debut. It's lovely.