Archive for July, 2005


TPL workshop

July 20, 2005

mark truscott and i recently “judged” the Young Voices poetry contest for the Toronto Public Library. tomorrow, i’ll meet the selected writers from the 12-14 age group at the Toronto Reference Library, and we’ll delve into a series of exercises that expand ideas of what a poem can be.

i’ve run this workshop with classes of twenty or more, and am quite looking forward to the discussion a small group will likely net. the workshop will start off with some free writing (always good to get the creative juices flowing, and to ease out the self-censor), and the a game of collaborative writing to gear up workshoppers to play together.

after this, we’ll identify places we encounter writing everyday and specific forms (essay, resume, menu, signs, ads, etc.) and we’ll also identify traditional forms of poetry (haiku, sonnet, ghazal, quatrain, etc.). then i’ll ask if some of our everyday writing forms could also be used to create poetry. this starts us down the path of considering non-traditional forms for poetry.

next, we’ll survey our surroundings to locate found poetry, and we’ll discuss traditional and non-traditional poetic content. we’ll then work together to create cut-up poetry as a way of further exploring non-traditional content.

time permitting, we may also have a go at cancelled texts, or we may try combining our non-traditional forms with our non-traditional content. we’ll definitely have some leftover time for students to experiment with whatever they like, work on their own, work together, and even share their creations with the group. lots of action, lots of interaction, scissors, markers, destruction of newspapers and magazines, and hopefully some solid discussion around what a poem IS and what a poem can be.



July 19, 2005

i’m interviewing bissett tomorrow for the doc. anyone have any wild and crazy questions to recommend i ask?


first caterpillar

July 19, 2005

mrs. anderson was my grade two teacher at milford elementary, and she had just the answer to our class’ obsession with the tent caterpillar nests taking over the playground trees: a caterpillar race! during the day’s final recess, my classmates and i eagerly selected our choice for fastest crawly from a nest. reconvening in the classroom, we had a short lesson about insects and then it was off to the races.

all caterpillars were placed at the start line, and then they were off! mine weaved and wobbled its way to the finish line, and i was tremendously pleased when it won me a hershey’s bar for being the fastest bug. even josh, the cute boy in my class, came over to congratulate me on choosing an excellent caterpillar.

i was so happy with my caterpillar that i wanted to take it home, introduce it to my family, and give it a good life in the neighbouring forest near my house where much statelier trees and surely tastier foliage would keep it happy to the end of its instars. i tenderly wrapped my caterpillar in a tissue, placed it an empty binder pocket where it had lots of wiggle room, and then put my binder in my book bag. on the bus ride home, someone inquired about the win, and i was excited to show my bug to my friends. i opened my binder, checked in the pocket… and discovered a very squished caterpillar in the tissue folds.

i still get tears in my eyes, recalling this story; it’s my first memory 0f a caterpillar.


…as language in June.

July 17, 2005

chicagoan poetry enthusiast charlie rossiter recently attended the scream literary festival and interviewed jordan scott for the online radio station, poetry world radio. the interview includes polished, meditative readings from scott’s current work-in-progress, blert. jordan also read these excerpts during his scream reading. listening to these poems again, i’m struck by jordan’s careful enunciation of his rich, textured vocabulary. this work behaves much differently on the page than it does onstage for me; the words truly lose sense through a slow performance, instead emphasizing both the fluidity and collisions within and between words.


fringe fest

July 17, 2005

thanks to everyone who attended On the Money, the fringe show i produced. i’m pleased to announce that our show has been selected as Patron’s Pick for our venue. this means we’ve had another show added for tonight.

@ Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse
79A St. George St.
Air-conditioned venue

Sunday @ 9:15pm

snag tickets here:



July 17, 2005

so, mark‘s recent post about the scream mainstage included a question regarding the audience’s reaction to Emily Schultz’s onstage mention of the 80s prog rock tune Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes. the majority of the audience who vocally acknowledged the reference tittered, which suggested to me they recognized the song and thought it was silly. a few of us, though, clapped or exclaimed, “yeah!” with some enthusiasm. i was one of the latter.

i’ve been mercilessly teased over my yes, jethro tull, and heart fetish over the last ten years by friends whose parents were not progressive rockers. it was standard for music to blare in the family vehicle whenever we’d travel together, and all were encouraged to sing along at full volume. my parents were quite into early 70s heart (think dog and butterfly, barracuda, and crazy on you), and i developed a penchant for the stuff as well (though my heart fanaticism ground to a halt upon the release of all i wanna do is make love to you; i have some taste). i even misguidedly sang heart’s alone for the grade eleven christmas pageant (charity ferguson on piano). but i digress…

jethro tull was the first band i ever saw live. i was 8. i fell asleep right after my dad scolded the row behind us for swearing and other lascivious behaviour, but i woke up during the encore where ian anderson wheeled himself onstage and leapt out of the wheelchair with surprising agility for a person so far into a musical set. i’ve carried a secret flame for their 43-minute epic thick as a brick, which has one of the prettiest guitar riffs around the 27-minute mark i’ve ever heard. in 2002, peter mcphee and i shared a fantastic august evening at molson amphitheatre, watching the tull rock out yet again.

but back to yes… their 70s prog-rock music was a long-time friend of mine growing up. fragile is still one of the more cohesive albums i’ve ever encountered. i loved owner of a lonely heart when i was six or seven, and especially loved seeing my dad play the steering wheel like a drum as he rocked out, bobbing his head to the music and harmonizing with the lead’s clear tenor. owner of a lonely heart had teeth. i didn’t listen to the lyrics, nor can i say i rightly know what their message is now. most 80s pop music is like that for me, though; i can sing along perfectly to any radio tune, but i have it memorized mostly as nonsense syllables. it wasn’t until the late 80s, when i was gifted my first tape (george michael’s faith) that i became aware (and embarrassed by) the sexual content in the pop lyrics i was so joyously vocalizing nonsensically during long car rides.

anyway, all this is just to answer mark’s question: yeah, some folks consider this stuff cheez whiz, but for me there’s an innocence and earnestness that reminds me of my childhood, of the good times on long car rides, and of my dad’s unbridled passion for rock. prog rock. yes! and i’m not afraid to let out a good w00t of recognition and approval when emily schultz mentions it onstage.


putting words in my mouth

July 15, 2005

so i’ve avoided blogging about the poetry documentary series i host (to air this fall on booktv and bravo). it’s fascinating to be part of the doc-making process, and a pleasure to spend time with a diverse group of poets chatting about craft. it’s challenging, at times, to be part of the production team. a recent challenge has surfaced around voiceover work, as we negotiate the delicate balance of creating bridging, explanatory information with sentences i’d realistically say. it’s important to me that I feel comfortable with what I’m requested to say, especially when it refers to the emotional behaviours and creative processes of my colleagues.

one line in particular from today’s work has had me particularly querulous:

“Each detail, every nuance involved in creating his poetry is vitally important to [insert name of poet].”

i find this line vague and not something I would say as, to, or about a fellow poet. generally, poetry as a medium lends itself to writers who have a heightened sensitivity to and are curious about the details of language. this generalized, non-specific statement immediately raises questions for me such as, “To what details and nuances am I referring in the author’s poetry creation? Word choice, punctuation place? Material aspects of language such as aural and visual? Book production aspects such as font (face, weight, size), binding, tip-ins, cover design, size, paper type?” whatever the “detail… nuance,” i’d find it useful to include a brief nod to what is specifically meant so that the sentence is anchored as a tangible statement. otherwise, that sentence reads like it could refer to any number of poets working in any number of styles.

not to mention the production’s desire that i say “vitally important.” (don’t get me started.) i would, personally, find it extremely bold of a colleague to assert that something was vitally important to my own practice; don’t know that i feel all too comfortable making grandiose statements on what another person feels is important.


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