Quote from a (most likely) lost notebook

I'm pretty sure I lost a notebook when I was on Salt Spring Island for New Year's Eve. Unless it's buried somewhere I haven't looked yet, or someone back at the cottage resort finds it.

Anyway, it's not a big deal. I use my notebook for collecting odd thoughts and sketching out ideas but all the real drafts of my poems are tucked away in the hard drive and backed up on memory sticks. There was one quote though, in this notebook, that I don't have anywhere else, and which should be shared:

"Yelling should be used to make a point, not to point at emphasis." – Greg "Ritalin" Frankson

If you've been to a poetry slam, you'll understand.

The Ol' Spoken Word Ain't Poetry Debate

Looks as though I officially will be weighing in on the "is spoken word really poetry?" debate. I posted an impassioned rebuttal to (yet another) baby boomer whining about how the poetry scene was so much more vital during the '60s in the comments section of a Geist blog. I ended with "Poetry is not dead. It's passing you by. Join us, or get out of the way," which was a tad melodramatic, but I had been drinking wine, and feeling especially fed up with whiny page poets stewing in hippie nostalgia. It seems my rant touched a chord, as the editor of the blog is starting a magazine and, he liked the comment so much, he's asked me to write a longer response for the first issue. His magazine, appropriately enough, is called Poetry is Dead.

David Day's "Just Say 'No' to Family Values"

Non-Poetry Kicks Ass

In the first poem of this collection, David Day asserts that his work is "non-poetry", an accident that happened when he was trying to understand something else, a bi-product of some other quest. These rambling reflections could be traditionally considered prose poems, I suppose, not that finding a snug category matters; what matters is that David Day, by not caring anymore, shucks aside the conventional modes of poetry and brings us writing that is candid, urgent, and charming: about the betrayal of 1960s idealism by baby boomers themselves, about the tyranny of the dewey decimal system, about how LSD battled Richard Nixon and lost, about the significance of Anglo-Saxons having far more words for drunk than Eskimos do for snow and more. It's a plea for life to be less predictable, and more true to its fantastical nature, written by Day in the most straight-forward way possible.

Jeramy Dodds' "Crabwise to the Hounds"

Are you bored of conversational poetry where the poet tries to act like the best friend you never had? Are you sick and tired of confessional poetry where the poet drones on about their personal life? If you are, good news, surrealism is back. Jeramy Dodds' "Crabwise to the Hounds", his first book-length publication, spurns both of these trends in contemporary poetry with exciting, but mixed, results.

As the title suggests, the overall tone of these poems is grim. Dodds paints scenes of dying deer, horses eaten by wolves, riders attacked by werewolves, and people chased by hounds. But I always get the sense that it is the language not the subject matter that is in the foreground, so no matter how odd or obscure the subject gets – such as Carl Linnaeus or Ho Chi Minh or the discoverer of Machu Picchu – Dodds' revelry in word play links the poems together.

It's when the grim mood is dropped and this love of word play comes to fore that Dodds is at his best. "The Epileptic Acupuncturist" (seen in the YouTube video below) where he twists together common sayings and "The Easiest Way to Empty a Seashell is to Place it on an Anthill" where he rhapsodizes about Glenn Gould's piano work are two shining moments in the book.

Dodds has been highly praised for his technical prowess with image, rhythm and metaphor. I'd agree with two out of three. Through the association of seemingly disjointed images, Dodds crafts a relentless series of mind-tingling metaphors, but the rhythm is often clunky and abrupt. His penchant for compound adjectives puts too many speed bumps in the cadence.

Dodds' work with language garnered him a nomination to the short list for the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize this year. That's high praise for a poet's first book. But is Dodds' technical handiwork enough to justify all the acclaim? I'm not sure. His poems are emotionally opaque, which can make for a rather dry and intellectual reading experience, and there are times when Dodds' metaphorical density makes it feel as through he is a miniaturist more interested in the intricacy of his own handiwork than with communicating anything to the reader.

That said, this book rewards those who stick with it and navigate through Dodds' erudite diction and intellectual word games. It will be interesting to see where Dodds goes in his next book. Will it be more accessible, more playful, or will the language become even more baroque and the meaning more cryptic? I, for one, am excited to find out.

Rapids ahead

This is what the next couple of months looks like:

September 19th: Best of Van Slam CD Release Party at the Rhizome Café (my fundraiser as being part of the Van Slam team)
September 24th: Mashed Poetics, Sean and I debut as Seven Dollar Bill doing our poetic riff on Cobain's "Something in the Way"
September 26th: Awesome Face Finds a Gun, Brendan, RC and I show off our muscles and get silly (Possum Face, our cover band, is the opener)
October 5th & 6th: Van Slam goes to Berkeley for our Battle of the Bay Win 2 bout (Zac reps Vancouver at IWPS, he will slay!)
October 14th - 25th: Seven Dollar Bill tours through Ontario and Montreal, we're almost completely booked.
October 26th: Seven Dollar Bill performs at Bellingham's Poetry Night
Novemver 9th: I defend my crown at the Vancouver Haiku head-to-head death match. Bring it on!
November 10th - 15th: CFSW, Van Slam competes at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Victoria, BC. This will be crazy.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

from the weekend G&M

from today's online Globe article on Canada's unraveling social cohesion:

"The demographic bloat of baby boomers, more pronounced in Canada than anywhere except Australia, has dragged the country from Yuppiedom to Grumpydom – from young urban professionals to grown-up mature professionals – shifting the public-policy agenda along the way from social equality, human rights and statism to crime worries, security and fiscal retrenchment.

The Canadian median age in 1967 was 26, when Pierre Trudeau was getting ready to lead the country. It is now 43. Thus, not surprisingly, for the first time since Ekos began asking Canadians 15 years ago how they self-identify, a slightly larger number label themselves small-c conservative rather than small-l liberal, reinforcing policy indicators such as declining support for pacifism and a single-payer public health-care system"

As Canadians get older, they become more crotchety and less idealistic in their politics. It's so obvious, but I'd never really thought about it before. I suppose this means Canada would be less prone to flights of political fancy or fiscal imprudence, and more pragmatic, a senior nation clutching its purse strings tight.

Interestingly, the article also mentions Canada has the highest proportion of postsecondary grads, that women generally don't like Ignatieff (except for magpieulysses  who thinks he's the bomb), and that Isaiah Berlin said: “To feel at home is to feel that people understand not only what you say, but also what you mean.”