Archive for February, 2006
when my brother and i were wee, my dad used to print math questions on the ol’ (well, new then) office dot matrix. we’d busy ourselves with lengthy addition/subtraction, or with learning multiplication/division. i have a hunch this youthful play heavily informed my relationship with numbers…
during my teens, i developed an esoteric, even superstitious, relationship with numbers. i followed number patterns closely, checking their significance as omens or signs for what was happening around me. i used to watch the “rule of three” unfold around similar events. in winter 1995 close to my high-school rural home, three old barns (100+ years) collapsed due to the weight of the snow. the same winter but in 1996, three more old barns collapsed. it was bizarre to see these legendary, gargantuan structures in the middle of nowhere all bite the dust in the same winter season. rule of three. rule of three. what are the odds?
also in high school, i created a basic number pattern game i used to doodle ad nauseum. i’d use a name, word, or short sentence and count the number of times a letter occurred linearly to that point, switching to count numbers once i got to the end of the line. i didn’t have any particular goal or deciding “win” factor for the game; i think it was more a brain-exercise.
A N G E L A R A W L I N G S
1 1 1 1 1 2 1 3 1 2 1 2 2 1
9 9 9 9 9 4 9 1 10 4 10 4 4 10
and yes, i have played yahtzee by myself. let us not speak of it further. if i had five dice in my home today, i’d probably play solitary yahtzee to stave off cabin fever in the depths of february’s bowels.
i had (have) a penchant for number mnemonics as well. phone number memorization’s a big one for me… 248-2517… 2×4=8, 2+5×1=7… at work, i’ve been using mnemonics to keep track of isbns. the thrilling thing (back to that ol’ superstition) occurs in the coincidental (maaaaaybe?) relevance of each isbn to its book. an example: frogments‘ final numbers: 1-55128-112-0… 2 authors collaborate to make a big pond splash (0). i dunno; to me, it just felt like the exhaustive translation/riff quality of the book seeped directly into the isbn; i loved such synchronicity.
today, i had a peek at wide slumber‘s isbn (ends in 69-0). it may be a tad grade-eight of me, but a sexual reference in the isbn — w00t! it so meshes with the content. couldn’t have been a better number. and the 0: egg, mouth wide open, eye wide open, and the entrance to the book (as figure one).
that isbn had immediate numberish significance for me, which lead to this numerical pondering. come to think of it, i’ve never discussed these number fixations en masse. maybe they’re better left as an unspoken quirk in my personality… or maybe you experience a similar quirk? do share… the comments link is just a click away…
“when i grow up, i want to be a principal or a caterpillar.” – ralph wiggum, the simpsons
exciting find of the evening: canoe and kayak around harbourfront and the toronto islands! on a slightly related note, i’m thinking of a bonfire reading somewhere on the toronto islands this summer… who’s with me?
photos taken by dad, lake superior 2004; conor and i kayak.
Gregory’s reviewed The Four Horsemen Project, a work-in-progress multimedia dance and sound poetry performance recently staged in Toronto by Volcano Theatre (direction: Ross Manson, choreography: Kate Alton). It was a pleasurable viewing experience; very funny at times, and quite touching (even sentimental!) at others (largely fuelled by the oversized film excerpts of original Horsemen performance and interview). The workshop raised several questions for me; here’s what I’ve shared with the creators…
- Four Horsemen: four sound poets, 1970s, male. The Four Horsemen Project: four dancers, dressed in 70s garb, three female and one male, film projections of original Four Horsemen performance and interviews. Given the visual aids, 70s fashion, and same number of performers, my audience impulse is to suss out if you’ve intentionally assigned each dancer to represent an original Horseman. Naoko Murakoshi’s foregrounded presence throughout the performance, not to mention her cheerleading costume featuring a giant ‘H’, immediately paralleled her with bpNichol. The character-connections between other poet/dancer couplings weren’t as overt (Graham McKelvie as Steve McCaffery, maybe?). Is it your intention to assign character to each dancer? If so, are there strategies to strengthen these connections, perhaps through interpersonal dynamics onstage, or cued by film appearance / dancer solo? If not, are you aware audience members may draw such inferences? How is your production already formatted to create such possible readings and, if unwanted, is there room to lessen these associations?
- Is your intention to invoke the spirit of or to re-envision, re-situate the Horsemen’s work? To provide a caricature of or tribute to them? I found glimmers of all options in the performance, but felt the piece lacked a clear raison d’etre. The majority of the performance felt like a “cover band,” though there were truly inspired moments that gracefully paired your chosen multimedia in a fresh, unexpected way (Naoko’s initial drum/wheel and the complementary animation).
- Horsemen performances seemed to celebrate, at times, spontaneity with its surprising moments of ekstasis and epiphany, synchronicity and discord. In contrast, I found Volcano’s project felt heavily staged and rehearsed, right down to the comic glance to the audience or to a fellow performer (“did you fuck up? did they catch that?”). “Staged” is a choice, as “spontaneity” is. Have you played with performance strategies that investigate Horsemen poetics? Spontaneity is my example… How to infuse the performance with spontaneity even when the piece is necessarily heavily rehearsed? How to choreograph spontaneity into a piece (that is still safe, and that isn’t straight-up contact improv unless that’s wanted)? How can lighting or animation act spontaneously within performance? How can lighting or animation behave as a spontaneous dance partner?
- As an audience member, I’m curious to know: Why The Four Horsemen Project? Why now? Why do you feel it’s important to bring this to an audience now and in this format? What is the relevancy, the message, the intention of sharing Horsemen material in a multimedia environment?
- Why have you chosen to perform this work in a traditional performance venue? Is this where your resources exist? I felt like I was at a live arts gallery and, essentially, I was. Have you considered staging this work in a non-traditional and publicly accessible venue?
my parents are avid photographers. “the only shooting on our property,” they repeated during my formative years, “is done with a camera.” mom’s chasing photography as a profession these days, and often snaps nature photos near her home on the north shore of lake huron. mom recently snail-mailed two photos down, both of lake huron in the spring.
photography’s a hobby for my dad, and he often e-mails shots taken from his lake superior perch. with his photos, he includes science or geography lessons. i get so nostalgic for northern ontario! dad’s winter photos the last few years have focused on ice formations on the bay, and he’s caught some unusual ice activity. last night, he snapped an ice bridge (first picture here).
last fall, i removed the table of contents from Wide slumber. the TOC initially functioned as a guideline for me; it ensured equal page quantity per section, chronology, and balanced parallel of sleep/dream state to lepidopteral stage. after illuminating discussion with mark and considering the poem as a book object, i realized the TOC had served its function.
at the time, its continued inclusion was overly prescriptive, directive… almost a map of how to approach the text. i liken the choice to remove it to making clothes… you need the mannequin to form the dress, but once the dress is ready, the wearer needs to take it off the mannequin to see it swish around his body, feel how the dress affects his gait, his posture, his sensibilities. like that, the TOC removed from the text gives the reader a chance to feel the swish of the text in her, to make her own sense. as the first structure the reader encounters, this particular TOC was one hell of a formidable structure: linear, chronological, not particularly wearable… a strict skeleton for poem’s body. out went the mannequin.
although the removal was necessary and ultimately a good thing, something still bothered me about the TOC’s excision. the sleep/moth state/stage parallel was no longer overt. i thought and thought and hemmed and hawed.
i talked with bill; i spoke with conor: what to do? and then it dawned on me: a graphic representation of how the cycles correspond with one another, of how the cycles guide or influence the text’s structure.
i consulted matt ceolin, who created Wide slumber‘s brilliant photos. we attended high school together, where we forged a sibling-style kinship born of fresh spring water and maple syrup overdose. he’s into book design and binding currently, and he has a habit of drawing fantastic sketches of art-projects-in-progress in his handmade journals. so i asked matt what he thought of drawing and photographing a poet’s notebook, where the parallel sketch is offered in graphic form.
we had a chance moment of symbiosis over 500km; i sent him an awkward photoshop depiction of the sleep/lepid cycles and how they needed to occur, and he sent a sketch he’d previously done. eerily in sync! we had a giggle over the similarities, and then discussed strategy for the final creation. and, as you can see from the photo, it’s like lightning in sand. bam. fulgurite.
i often write out my obsessions. i’ll collect quotes, songs, films, memories, texts, movements that fit my quirky foci. when i was obsessed with repetition and studying, i created Logyology and collected as many words ending in -logy as i could find. Wide slumber for lepidopterists came, partly, from my obsession with sleep and dreams.
“and now i’m in the eye of the storm. it’s calm and i’m happy, but i wonder: am i the boat or the sea? maybe both.” – jorane
i’ve had an obsession with sailing for over ten years. i’m on a constant hunt for sailing songs. a handful of my favourites? Mistral Wind by Heart, Sailing by Stina Nordenstam, and The Anchor Song by Bjork. sailing’s been a popular subject for my writing, too.
- seven years ago, i wrote a short sailing-inspired story called “Belles,” named after The Rachels’ excellent album The Sea and the Bells (featuring a few tracks where the bass strings warp and warble the sound of a ship hull), an album named after Pablo Neruda’s The Sea and the Bells.
- five years ago, i wrote a poem called “Waiting for the Maritimes Museum on a Sailboat“. i particularly liked how awkward the title’s grammar was, so it stuck. dreams also seep into this text. it’s a fair distance from where i’m currently writing, but fun to pull old bits out of the drawer… “what, this old thing?”
- in the last four years, sailing even crept into Wide slumber. my own dreams frequently include water sequences, so it’d be odd to have a section about REM sleep and not include a water sequence. there’s the autobiography for ya.
- i’ll likely create a long sailing piece someday soon… one of those inevitabilities. but first: we dance!
what are your obsessions? do they seep into your work, too?
Exciting snail mail…
- gustave morin sent a copy of “tryst,” a love poem comprised of the most popular words in English (“… she too was the it of my in…”). I requested “tryst” after hearing it read at the mercury launch; quite pleased to have a copy of this excellent poem.
- precious city press sent three delectable items. The first two are identically-bound red vellum-covered chapbooks. My Alberta Beef excerpts poems from Jill Hartman‘s St. Ampede & The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth work-in-progress, while Ice Cream excerpts a chapter from Paul Kennett‘s Winnipeg-based One Great City novel. The third item’s a short, sweet haiku by Jill and Paul’s cat, Hunter. He must’ve used a very small typewriter…
- Adam Seelig sent NOT( )ING, an airy, simple chapbook meditating of word similarity and consonant slippage.
- West Coast Line‘s Vol. 39, No. 1: It’s always a pleasure to read more from Natalie Simpson’s poetry manuscript Chump, and WCL‘s generously printed ten pages of material in the new issue. New to me: Mani Rao’s cuntree, a wry long poem/essay hybrid with the attitude of Carole Maso’s “Rupture, Verge, and Precipice” and hints of Caroline Bergvall’s typographic play in “RUSH (a long way from H).”
- Open Letter‘s Twelfth Series, No. 7: Kenneth Goldsmith and Conceptual Poetics. The issue’s guest-edited by Lori Emerson and Barbara Cole. Had a chance to meet Barbara and Lori last weekend when we visited Buffalo, and I’m greatly looking forward to the chance to have long conversations with both when they visit Toronto on February 21st for the issue’s launch.
- Muthu Padmakumara sent her new book: a beautifully bound hardcover collection of short lyric verse and full-colour photographs, created as a tribute to Rajiv Gandhi. The envelope, travelling from Sri Lanka, was almost completely shredded by the time I received it.
Toronto Public Library’s teen magazine for writing and art — Young Voices — offers youth workshops for poets, artists, and prose writers this March! I’ll offer a free-to-teens poetry workshop on Thursday, March 2nd, 6-8pm @ the Toronto Reference Library.
If you know any young writers or artists who’d be interested in meeting peers and chatting about all things literary, please point them to this PDF or this webpage. The flyer also includes information about submitting work to Young Voices, for teens seeking possible publication.