Category Archives: Toronto

The Toronto Zine Off and Epistolary Shapes

Hey all,

I had to post a little bit about the fabulous first (with hopefully more to come) Toronto Zine Off, which I attended last night at The Steady (a well loved venue that will unfortunately be closing at the end of the month–it will be missed!). Organized, in part, by friend and fellow poet JM Francheteau on the model of his Ottawa zine offs, the event was intended as a deadline to create a new zine to trade with fellow zine makers. In short, I took up the challenge, had a blast, and came home with a bunch of zines to thumb through! I’d say the night was quite a success, and I’m looking forward to follow-ups being announced on the new Toronto Zine Off facebook group.

 

Here’s my and Miles Forrester’s zine, Epistolary Shapes, next to some promo copies of Carousel generously provided by Mark Laliberte:

 

And here’s JM’s photo of all the zines he collected last night (my haul was pretty much the same):

 

Epistolary Shapes came out of a collaborative project Miles and I started this past summer, before he moved out to Montreal to study at Concordia. The two of us wrote short poems by responding to each other line by line, ensuring each line fit a pre-established length constraint. Although we had always had the intention of transforming the resulting source texts into visual pieces, it took the zine off to finally push us into realizing our vision: after a marathon bout of editing and visualization (all of the final products were put together over about 24 hours), we came up with eight visual poems for the zine. Here are two:

 

Overall, the past few days have been a pretty exciting way to jump back into zine culture. It’s been a while since I did anything more than gawk at all the tables at Canzine (which I’m not even sure I’ll get to do this year, with IFOA events looming large on my schedule), but last night really reminded me that it’s zine people who make zines such a valuable part of culture. I met and chatted with a lot of fine folks last night, from old friends to new, and I hope to see more of them soon!

 

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Reading at the International Festival of Authors October 21

Hi all,

I’m still pretty hyped from my reading at The Sophisticated Boom Boom last week, but it’s about time now to push forward and look ahead to my next performance, which will in fact be quite different. As a very welcome follow-up to my reading at the International Festival of Authors Poetry NOW competition earlier this year, I’ve been invited to participate in the festival’s main programming next month! I’ll be featured as part of the “Poetic New Worlds” event on Saturday, October 21st alongside an all-star cast of poets, including fellow Poetry NOW performers Dane Swan, Amanda Earl, and David Goldstein, as well as the contest’s winner, Stuart Ross. Honestly, though, there are just too many amazing and deeply respected poets on the program to list…you’ll just have to come out and see them! The event takes place at 4pm on Saturday, October 21st, in Harbourfront Centre’s Studio Theatre (235 Queens Quay West). Tickets are $18 or $15 for IFOA sponsors, and can be purchased here, but admission is free for students and youth! This year’s entire IFOA festival takes place between October 19 and October 29.

I’ve said this before, but being invited to perform on the IFOA stage is a huge honour. It should be obvious that this is a BIG festival with BIG names, and among other things it’ll probably have the biggest audience I’ve ever performed for. In addition, I’ll easily be the least experienced poet on stage at “Poetic New Worlds.” Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to helping put on a great show, and to getting a chance to share my approach to poetry with a new set of engaged listeners and readers.

 

 

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Reading at the Sophisticated Boom Boom Wednesday night

Howdy all,

I’ve been bustling around these past few weeks preparing for another school year of full-time dissertating and part-time pseudo-academic labour, but luckily I’m not too busy to read at The Sophisticated Boom Boom‘s 43rd edition this coming Wednesday! By my reckoning, the Boom Boom is a pretty much irreplaceable part of Toronto’s literary scene: a little off the beaten trail of mainstream series, Nick McKinlay and EA Douglas have managed to attract a community of dedicated, envelope-pushing, and mostly emerging poets and weirdos to populate one of the city’s more vibrant open mics. And on top of all that, it’s a late (like, late late) show at the dank back room of The Ossington in the heart of one of the city’s artsiest districts. What’s not to love? Although the series has been on hiatus for the summer months, I’m looking forward to a great crowd for their return show. If you’re thinking of swinging by, it’s 9pm this Wednesday, September 13 at The Ossington (61 Ossington Ave.), and you can check out the facebook event page here.

Along with the aforementioned open mic, I’ll be featuring alongside Inez Genereux. If Inez’s bio on the event’s facebook page is any indication (although there are also other indications), our performances and personas may end up gravitating towards opposite poles of what you might expect from poetry at the Boom Boom. But as far as I’m concerned, that’ll only make the evening more delicious. And besides, since I’ve been psyching myself up to read some very new work this Wednesday (I didn’t think another set from Players would be up to snuff for the Boom Boom audience), who knows what kind of vibe we’ll end up with? The point, of course, is to come find out.

 

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Reading at The Art Bar on August 1

Hi all!

Things have been pretty quiet this month since the amazing time I had doing my Peripheral Review Instagram Residency. (And by quiet, I mean I’ve been writing lots and trying not to talk so much.) I do have one announcement: On Tuesday, August 1, I’ll be reading at the recent reboot of Toronto’s much beloved, longest running weekly poetry reading series, The Art Bar!

I’ve spoken about The Art Bar a few times before…I’ve attended the series for many years and through various venues, and I pretty much cut my teeth on their open mic. I’ve also been featured at the series a few times already (maybe three, by now?) and always had a blast; I find the series tends to attract a mix of die-hard regulars, well established members of Canada’s poetry community (two of which, Pier Giorgio Di Cicco and Mike Burrs, I’ll be reading with two Tuesdays from now), and curious newbies. This time around, I owe some heartfelt thanks to friend, mentor, and dedicated literary organizer Rob Welch for setting everything up.

If you’re interested in checking out the scene and/or seeing me read, I’d love to see you at the show! Also, you can now (apparently) win $20 at the open mic, if you sign up a few days in advance and best the competition on some relatively unorthodox scoring metrics (which you can find more details about here)…so, I guess that’s cool? Anyway, the reading takes place Tuesday, August 1 at the Free Times Cafe (320 College Street), starting at 8pm, with a cover charge of $5. You can also take a look at the event’s facebook page for more info. Hope to see you there!

 

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“for my african violet” in Carousel 38 and “Conscientious Conceptualism” post at The Town Crier

Hi all,

With National Poetry Month (a.k.a. April) on its way out, I wanted to retroactively ‘announce’ two publications that haven’t yet made their way onto the blog.

First, another of my houseplants poems, “for my african violet,” was published in this month’s new issue of Carousel (which has been kicking around for a few weeks now). I’ve raved about Carousel and its publisher, Mark Laliberte, before, but I did want to add that both are also involved with the LitBang! Small Press Pop Up Store, which has been featuring a variety of magazines, books, and book-like ephemera all month long at Queen and Ossington in Toronto. If you haven’t made it over to the pop up yet, you’ve got one more weekend to check it out. (Do it now!)

Second, I’ve had the pleasure over the last month or so of writing a contribution to Andy Verboom’s guest editing stint at The Puritan‘s bloggy appendage, The Town Crier, which has taken the form of a series of posts on “Conscientious Conceptualism and Poetic Practice.” I knew as soon as I saw Andy’s call for submissions that the series would hit close to home, and that it was an opportunity for me to seriously think through (or, more accurately, begin to think through) some parts of my poetic practice and social presence in the literary scene that have troubled me for some time. What I didn’t know was that Andy would turn out to be an incredibly thoughtful, dedicated, and hard-working editor, and that his efforts with the series would give me no end of things to think about, both in print and in camera. Mostly, then, I wanted to thank him for his extraordinary attention and expertise. Otherwise, I’m still waiting to see what kinds of effects (if any) the post and the month of posts will have on my thinking and writing…. As with many projects of this kind, most of what I take away will likely be the lessons I’ve taught myself over the course of researching and articulating my ideas. Still, my ears remain open to any responses, positive or negative, public or private, that anyone might be interested in sharing with me. If you’d like, you can read what I’ve written on the topic of whiteness and conceptualism here.

That’s all for now, although I’m sure I’ll be back here before long with more news. Until then, happy reading!

 

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Gerald Lampert Award shortlist / IFOA Poetry NOW recap

Hi all,

Most of what I have to say has already made its social media rounds, but I think it’s important to step back and reflect on the last few weeks. They’ve been a little overwhelming–full of new connections as well as the re-emergence of unanswerable-as-ever questions.

First, I want to thank the League of Canadian Poets for continuing to sponsor and promote the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for a first book of poetry published by a Canadian, for which Players has been shortlisted this year. There’s probably little to say outside the many congratulations and thanks that have already been offered, although I do want to express my deep appreciation and respect for those who administer the LCP and its awards, those who have served as jurors (both this year and in past years), those who read and spread the news of this year’s shortlist, those who were shortlisted, and those who weren’t–basically, everyone whose contributions of attention, expression, and acknowledgement help support a community of which the 2017 LCP awards shortlists are only one of many centres. I’ve been telling friends outside the poetry community that awards like these are really about creating dialogue and (where necessary) solidarity in the artistic and literary landscape; I just hope I’m not alone in thinking that.

Second, I wanted to drive home what a great time I had at the International Festival of Authors‘ Poetry NOW reading at the end of last month. Aside from making new friends and acquaintances (and reconnecting with some old ones) among the poets and patrons I had the opportunity of spending time with at the event, I was also privileged enough to have a front row seat for some of the best readings/performances I’ve ever heard/seen. Pretty much everyone was good, even though the group represented a massive variety of styles that leaves me no less confused about the performance genre of ‘page poetry’ reading than I was a few weeks ago. Still, I came away with the feeling that I’d learned a lot. Stuart Ross’s victory was very well-earned–Ross has definitely perfected a unique style of performance well-suited to his writing, which may be just the thing that makes a reading memorable–although I was also delighted to see that the IFOA invited a generous helping of the evening’s performers back to give readings at this year’s festival in October. Of course, I’m also excited to say that I was one of the poets invited, which means, I guess, that we’ll be having this conversation all over again in the fall. See you then!

(Finally, I couldn’t help but finish this post off by poaching another of the IFOA’s super-sleek promo photos for Poetry NOW. Congratulations again to all the readers!)

 

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Poetry in Motion on All Lit Up / 5 Questions with… on IFOA blog

Howdy everyone,

Two big pieces of news this week. First (and just in time to get in on the hype for my performance at Battle of the Bards next Wednesday), All Lit Up has generously featured me and my book, Players, on the newest contribution to their Poetry in Motion blog series. The post includes a pretty sweet write-up and a poem from the book, “Love Song for Kazoo,” but the main event is a pair of videos of me reading two other short poems: “Lush,” and the ever-popular “for MF DOOM.” You should watch them, right now, here. Though I’ve performed both poems at readings a bunch of times, these videos were shot especially for All Lit Up (with many thanks owed to Amanda Boulos for help with the filming, and for letting me stand and yell in front of her artwork).

A quick word about performing ‘page poetry,’ and the film medium…. The whole idea of performing poetry that isn’t specifically written for performance is both something I’m seriously interested in and something I’m largely baffled by. For their part, All Lit Up’s Poetry in Motion features do a great job of showcasing the huge variety of approaches people take to the genre (that is, the ‘poetry reading’ as a performance genre), especially because combining it with the film medium only seems to exacerbate the variance: if you look through the archives, you’ll notice that Poetry in Motion videos range from recorded live readings to staged, for-the-camera performances to produced and edited video poems (an established sub-genre in its own right). In my videos, I tried to mix together some (very) basic theatrical principles, something of the emotional vibe of spoken word, and some of the from-the-book authenticity and intellectualism of lecture-style readings. But I’m still really curious about how this kind of presentation comes across. Is it entertaining? Engaging? Convincing? Is it any better or worse than reading the book? I’ve always felt that public readings are somewhere in between a unique experience of the art form and a largely artificial gimmick for organizing the literary community; perhaps that in-betweenness isn’t going anywhere, but I’m still always wondering whether it can or should be pushed in certain directions.

In any case, all of this only leads me closer to the aforementioned Poetry NOW: Battle of the Bards, which I and 19 other poets will be performing  nexatt Wednesday at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. As part of the build-up, IFOA has just posted a “5 Questions with…” interview with me and three other contestants–Julie Cameron Gray, David Goldstein, and Lisa Richter–on their blog. You can check it out here. It’s a pretty interesting smattering of poets’ opinions about poetry, and the format (each of us answered the same five questions, without knowledge of each other’s answers) gives it a kind of rapid-fire effect. Also, it continues to amaze me that David Goldstein was one of my professors (and a great one at that!) during my undergraduate creative writing days at York; some of the poems in Players were even first written for his third-year poetry workshop. Seeing our names together makes me feel (accurately) like a total fraud. But there we are (see below).

Finally, here’s a ballin’ promo pic from IFOA’s Instagram to cap things off. As always, happy reading!

 

 

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CFRU 93.3 Guelph interview with &, collective, and Battle of the Bards March 29!

Hi all,

Although this winter has been fairly sleepy, I’m looking forward to a miniature flurry of updates to post about in these last few weeks of March. One of these updates’ subjects, in fact, has already happened: last Sunday I had the pleasure of joining Lauren Lavery on her International Art English talk show on CFRU 93.3 (Guelph campus and community radio) alongside two other friends and &, collective (website to be updated soon, I hope!) poets, Mike Chaulk and Sierra Paquette-Struger. The four of us had a pretty rewarding conversation about the collective’s current and past projects, making books at Publication Studio, the poetry scenes in some Southern Ontarian cities, and wood ducks. We even read a few of our poems on air. If you’re interested in sampling the interview, you can find the archived recording here.

Next up, I wanted to take a second to announce that I’ll be participating in the International Festival of Authors’ 2017 Poetry NOW Battle of the Bards competition! Even though my participation in this was based on a random draw (so don’t get too jealous), I’m pretty damn excited to be taking part. The competition features short readings by 20 poets, with the winner receiving an invitation to read at the International Festival of Authors this fall and an ad for their book in NOW Magazine. But who cares about winning, right? In any case, this year’s lineup includes some folks I’m very excited to read with, and others who are sure to offer up some stiff competition…I’m just hoping to put on a good show. The event takes place at Harbourfront Centre’s Brigantine Room, 7:30pm on Wednesday, March 29. Admission is $10 (but free for students!).

Happy listening!

 

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“for my boston fern” in Hart House Review Winter Supplement, launching Friday!

Hi all. Happy New Year!

I know we’re already a few weeks in, but with the sleepier parts of January now long past, I’m happy to announce that one of my poems, “for my boston fern” (one of many with that title, as you might have noticed by now), will be appearing in this year’s Hart House Review Winter Supplement! A launch party for the supplement will be taking place this Friday, January 20 in the Debates Room of University of Toronto’s Hart House…Even though I won’t be able to make it, I really think you should check it out; the last time I was at one of the Winter Supplement launches, the combination of venue + fancy cheese made it one of the classiest poetry readings I’ve ever attended. Also, the fantastic and charismatic poet/musician Rasiqra Revulva will be performing, so you’d be a fool to miss it (personally, since I’m missing it, I’ll be wearing my fool hat proudly). Here’s the facebook event.

Aside from the aforementioned Rasiqra Revulva, I’ll also be sharing space in the Winter Supplement pages with (unstoppable CanLiterary force) David Huebert, as well as many others whose work I’m super-excited to read. One of my favourite things about HHR’s Winter Supplement is that it also centres its design on the work of a visual artist (this year it’s Dahae Song), which tends to produce a pretty unique reading experience. In any case, I hope you enjoy it.

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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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