Category Archives: reviews

Emerging Arts Critics programme

Hi everyone,

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on something that’s become a significant part of my life this fall: for the past few months, I’ve been a part of the 2018/2019 iteration of the Emerging Arts Critics programme, which is co-administered by the National Ballet of Canada, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Canadian Opera Company. The programme brings together eight emerging writers, sends us to the season’s performances of dance, opera, and classical music from each participating company, and throws us into writing reviews of one performance from each genre.

If you’ve talked with me over the past few months, you’ve probably heard that I’m having a blast with the programme. Aside from getting the chance to work with professional reviewers/mentors in various settings (workshops, one-on-one editing, etc.), I’ve also realized the incredible value of getting to talk about art with seven engaged and intelligent peers as that art is happening. Of course, the performances themselves have been fantastic, too.

Partly, I thought to write about the programme now because my contribution to its dance aspect, a review of the National Ballet of Canada’s The Dream and Being and Nothingness, was just published on The Dance Current‘s website last week (along with reviews by several of my EAC peers, which you can find here). In addition, my review of the Canadian Opera Company’s debut of Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian is set to appear in the upcoming print issue of Opera Canada, which I’ve been told will be released later this month.

Working on these pieces has taught me a great deal–not only about how to review two unique and (to me) unfamiliar performance genres (for which I’m incredibly thankful to the editors of both publications), but also about how to write about and across the arts in general. To me, critical writing is simply the best way to think, feel, and learn through a work of art, and discovering that this is the case as much with dance and opera as it is with other forms has been inspirational. With these experiences in my back pocket (along with my anticipation of reviewing the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this coming spring), I’m even more confident about the future contributions I can make to the arts through critical writing.

As always, happy reading–but also viewing, listening, and thinking!

 

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Review of Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s “Rubber Coated Steel” on Peripheral Review

Hi all,

I have a short update, only tangentially related to my poetry and other writing on literature but (hopefully!) of interest to some of the same audiences. I’m very happy to announce that my review of Lawrence Abu Hamdan‘s short film, “Rubber Coated Steel,” just went up on the Peripheral Review website earlier this week–and it looks great! Alongside the text itself, the publication also features an excellent still (courtesy of the Images Festival, where I saw the film, for the second time, in Toronto) which really captures what the film’s about…so I’ve included it here, too. If you’re interested, you can check out the full review, titled “Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Many Silences,” here.

Abu Hamdan’s film recounts the trial of Israeli border police officer Ben Deri, caught on camera shooting four unarmed Palestinian protesters on Nakba Day (May 15), 2014. Rather than restaging the trial or representing it through standard documentary film making, the film only shows us the text of the court transcript (which is presented as a series of subtitles) and some pieces of visual evidence, which take the place of targets in an underground shooting range. I knew I wanted to write about the film since I first saw it at the Beirut Art Centre in Lebanon last summer, especially since its themes of silence, noise, and erasure (as in the parts of the court transcript that are struck out, having been removed from the official record) intersect substantially with my doctoral research. In short, I couldn’t be happier that my thoughts made their way to Peripheral Review, and I’m very thankful to Lauren Lavery for her enthusiasm and support. Between this review and my Instagram residency last month, I’ve had a great time with the publication.

Like many art films, it might be difficult to catch a viewing of “Rubber Coated Steel,” although you can always check out the trailer while you’re waiting for it to be screened again in Toronto (or wherever else you happen to be!). I hope I did a fair job illustrating the film’s content in my review; even if you haven’t seen it, though, I think I’ve managed to articulate a few ideas worth wrapping your head around.

Happy reading!

 

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Reading at The Secret Handshake this Sunday, Danny Jacobs’s review of Players, and an upcoming interview with Michael Prior

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since my last update! Over the last few months I’ve spent time in London (the real one), Beirut, New York City, and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and I have certainly brought back some stories. At Cornell I had the opportunity to talk extensively with Canadian poetry hotshot (and unbelievably kind human) Michael Prior, and if all goes well my interview with him will be published very soon over at The Rusty Toque‘s Rusty Talks section. (UPDATE: the interview is now online, and you can read it here!) I can say honestly that I learned a great deal talking with Michael, so I hope at least a fraction of his wisdom and insight comes through in the written piece.

Another excellent learning experience came in the form of Danny Jacobs’s review of Players, which appeared online last month in Hamilton Arts & Letters. The review, titled “Praying to Articulate” (an unacknowledged quotation from the book), is just about everything I could have hoped for: Jacobs is curious, thorough, and generous, yet also critical in ways that define the book’s place in the wider literary landscape quite sharply. My thanks to Jacobs.

All of this is in the past, however. Coming up, I’ll be reading at The Secret Handshake art gallery in Kensington Market this Sunday, August 28. The show is at 170a Baldwin Street (second floor), with doors opening at 1:30 and readings (by me, Judith Chandler, and Robert Priest) at 2:00. Back in the day, The Secret Handshake was one of the first reading series I had the opportunity to perform at (thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of David Bateman), and I distinctly remember my experience there being one of the first things that pushed me towards preparing the manuscript for Players. Needless to say, I’m pretty much overjoyed to return there (this time with continuing thanks to David as well as to bill bissett) with a bound collection in hand. Here’s a poster for the event; I hope to see you there!

 

Secret Handshake poster

 

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Microlit review of Zane Koss’s Warehouse Zone at The Town Crier

Hi everyone,

I’ve already shared this on social media, but I wanted say a few more words about the “microlit” review of Zane Koss’s Warehouse Zone I wrote for The Town Crier (The Puritan‘s “bloggy appendage), which was published last Wednesday. The review is part of (the first part of, in fact) an ongoing series of microlit reviews the blog introduced last week; rather than try to define the term “microliterature” or the mission of the series myself, I’ll refer you to this introductory post written by The Town Crier’s editor, Jason Freure, which does a really excellent job of framing the extended project. It’s probably needless to say that I’m 100% behind it.

If you haven’t read it already, I hope you do take a look at my review of Warehouse Zone, which is really an amazing work of post-conceptual writing. I also hope the review might lead a few more people to read the complete chapbook, however difficult that may be; the project was printed in a very limited run last summer by Publication Studio Guelph and has not been widely advertised since. I’ve been told that the book will be available at the brand-new Publication Studio webstore very soon, so you should definitely be on the lookout for it. And if you’re really anxious, you should be able to get a copy sent to you (for only $5, + shipping and handling) by emailing PS directly, as noted on the book’s listing here.

Aside from the opportunity to review Warehouse Zone specifically, I’m also super-proud of the strong showing Guelph is making in the microlit scene, at least as far a The Town Crier defines it. It so happens that the blog’s second microlit review was written by my friend Jeremy Luke Hill at Guelph’s Vocamus Press on the fantastic Fenylalanine Publishing, who I released a chapbook with earlier this year. It’s also worth pointing out that Zane Koss is a founding member of the &, collective, a really excellent bunch of young poets I’ve been working with since September and will be releasing a chapbook with very, very soon (so stay tuned for that).

As usual, it won’t be long before I have more news. Until then, keep reading microlit!

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Players review in Northumberland Today

Hi all,

If you’ve got a second, I want to draw your attention to an excellent review of Players in Northumberland Today, written by Wally Keeler. There isn’t much I could say to supplement Keeler’s insights, but I do want to thank him (and the other folks working behind the scenes in Coburg’s poetry community) for his insights, and especially for touching on some of the aspects of Players I’m most proud of. To my eyes, at least (and I really have no idea how meaningful that is), the piece was incredibly illuminating.

If Keeler’s review whets your appetite for more from Players, make sure you catch me at one of my upcoming readings in Toronto (May 31) or Coburg (June 2)!

Happy reading!

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Review of Andy McGuire’s Country Club in The Puritan

Hi all,

I’ll be getting back to you soon with updates about some readings I’m doing around the end of this month (or you can find details here, if you’re anxious), but I wanted to check in to give a shout out to Andy McGuire and his book, Country Club, which I’ve just reviewed over at The Puritan. McGuire’s poetry is fun, fascinating, and weirdly disturbing, from its finest textual details to the broadest questions it raises about aesthetic labour and politics; I tried to bring out some of these qualities in my review. The Puritan also a fantastic publication (an excellent model, I think, of how to publish literature and criticism on the internet), and I’m extremely happy to see my name within their pages. You can read my contribution to issue 33 here.

Until next time, happy reading!

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Critical prose and critical poetry in Hamilton Arts & Letters

I promised more updates, and here they are! These ones are especially Hamilton-themed.

First up, two pieces of critical writing I’ve worked on are included in the just-released special insert for Hamilton Arts & Letters issue eight.2. The first is a (somewhat) conventional prose review of Shane Neilson’s The Manifesto of Fervourism, which you can link to here. The manifesto itself is a pretty rousing read (UPDATE: you can read it in the online edition of Ryga 8!), though I’d like to think I have an intriguing take on it, as well. The second piece is still critical, but otherwise completely different: a poetic review of Phil Hall’s Guthrie Clothing (a selected collage of works spanning Hall’s career), written with Shane Neilson in the style of Phil Hall (link here). I’d really recommend taking a look at this one, if only to see how brashly Shane and I have attempted (and perhaps spectacularly failed) to orchestrate the delicate fusion required of the genre of the poetic essay (which Hall himself has spent a fair chunk of time perfecting). Needless to say, my writing for this issue also represents the culmination of my improbable mind meld with Neilson.

While Hamilton Arts & Letters exists more broadly on the world wide web, my second update pertains to something that’s actually (i.e. physically) happening in Hamilton. Specifically, tomorrow (Friday April 22nd) at 12pm I’ll be reading poetry with John Terpstra to open this month’s edition of the Hamilton Central Library’s lunch hour concerts, featuring the Caskey School of Music. If you’re in the Hamilton area and have some free time around lunch, come check it out!

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Review of Daniel Scott Tysdal’s Fauxccasional Poems at The Town Crier

Hi everyone!

A short update: a review/essay (excuse my affirmation of hybrid forms–it’s a tic) I’ve been working on for the past little while, and thinking about much longer, has just been posted at The Puritan‘s fabulous literary blog, The Town Crier. “Excursions in the Art of Lying” is a review of Daniel Scott Tysdal’s new book Fauxccasional Poems, as well as (and in some ways more importantly) some of the performance and video material he’s constructed around it over the last few months. I won’t give too much away, but I do claim at one point that “Tysdal’s poems are not poetry.” If you think that statement begs for context, check out the full review!

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Brick Books Celebration of Canadian Poetry piece on Conceptual Writing and Rachel Zolf posted today

Howdy folks,

Anyone interested in conceptual writing or the work of Rachel Zolf (and especially her new book, Janey’s Arcadia) might be interested in reading my contribution to Brick Books’ Celebration of Canadian Poetry, which was posted online earlier today. The piece is several months in the making: a while back, Brick Books’ wonderful general manager Kitty Lewis asked if I would be interested in writing about Canadian conceptual writing for the series; having just familiarized myself with Zolf’s body of work, I took up the offer gleefully. At the same time, I really felt that I couldn’t do justice to conceptual writing and its circle of practitioners and techniques without addressing the controversy raised around the genre earlier this year. I’ve heard a lot of strong positions (both offensive and defensive) on conceptual writing articulated over the past few months, both in my local environment and on a larger scale; ultimately, I hope that my small contribution to the discourse might begin to do justice to the political and ethical stakes of poetry (conceptual or otherwise) without drawing the conclusion of outright condemnation. In any case, you can read my piece for yourself here.

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“Worst Case Ontario: An Unapologetic Poetry Tour” in Broken Pencil (online)

Hi all,

If you’ve found your way to my blog, you might have heard of the Worst Case Ontario poetry tour currently rampaging through Ontario, Montreal, and the Northeastern United States. The tour includes five unique and incredible “Ontario-ish” (according to their chapbook) poets, some of whom I know and adore, so they’re definitely worth checking out either during the next six days of the tour or afterwards.

Personally, I feel the tour is not only an excellent model of how emerging writers can get their voices out, but also an exciting and interesting moment in the Toronto and Ontario poetry scenes. There’s a lot here that’s worth being mulled over and discussed, and it’s largely in the hopes of helping begin that discussion that I’ve written an article about the tour, “Worst Case Ontario: An Unapologetic Poetry Tour,” for Broken Pencil Magazine’s online edition. Check it out here.

Many thanks to the Worst Case Five for allowing me to chat with them, and I wish them the best of luck on their travels!

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