Tag Archives: art

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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Peripheral Review Instagram residency, June 26 – July 1

Hi all,

I’d like to take a moment to announce something I’m pretty excited about this week: Lauren Lavery (artist, art critic, editor, &, collective poet, exemplary human) has been kind enough to invite me to do an Instagram residency with Peripheral Review, which means I’ll be stocking the publication’s Instagram feed with whatever I desire for the next six days. I feel especially honoured to be invited, since Peripheral Review‘s network runs mostly through the visual arts, and most of the folks who have done the residency are legit artists. So, I’ve chosen to take the invitation as a kind of provocation, to see how and how well the work I’ve done with visual and experimental poetry fits in the art world. I’ll be bringing my best (including new works in progress, some old projects, and other relevant things I stumble across during the week), so you should definitely give the Peripheral Review Instagram a follow and stay tuned for more of my posts!



I should point out that Peripheral Review itself is a pretty awesome endeavour, existing mostly online but also in a (beautiful) print anthology that recently made its way to the Vancouver Photo Book Fair. The publication includes reviews of art exhibitions and other art events with a special focus on creative approaches to criticism; they even encourage ‘reviewers’ to respond to artwork with their own artwork, including poetry, sound, and visual forms. It’s a great place to check out if you’re looking for some innovative and in-depth engagements with the Canadian art scene.


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Four poems in Sewer Lid’s inaugural issue

Hello all,

I have exciting news from last night! The inaugural issue of Sewer Lid, a new magazine of urban art and literature, has just been released online. The issue includes four of my poems (all of which will also be included in my debut collection, Players): “Three Night Buses,” “Connections,” “Words for Rain,” and “Exit.” Fittingly, all four poems are Toronto-related, although their specific topics include everything from the TTC to found fragments of craigslist missed connections (yes, I know the conceit is a cliché, but you’ve gotta do it!) to my improbable love of the Scarberian suburbia. You can read all of these pieces here, but I’d definitely recommend checking out the entirety of issue 1.

I am especially honoured and proud to be part of Sewer Lid, because it feels like an endeavour that has really grown out of my own community. Issue 1 contains work by many writers I know personally (some of them over many years) and whose work I know is great: among them are Danica Fogarty, Jack Hostrawser, Trevor Abes, Joshua P’ng, and Rasiqra Revulva. I’ve yet to take a good look through the issue’s inclusions, but I’m sure I’ll discover a few more gems, too. Perhaps most importantly, I’m proud to be included in a project spearheaded by Ekraz Singh, who is not only an indomitable editor but also an amazing and surprising poet.

In any case, I hope you’ll catch some of my enthusiasm and take a read through Sewer Lid 1!

sewer lid 1


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O Our Ism erasures/artist’s book now available on the Publications page!

Hi everyone,

Presenting some of my work at the fabulous Facilitate event Seeing Poetry last week inspired me to make one of my major visual poetic projects more readily available online. Different forms of O Our Ism have accompanied me through much of my development as a writer: after completing the first few entries of the project for a class assignment in third year (specifically, in my poetry class with the wonderful David Goldstein), I went on to print further spreads as glossy, broadsheet-style posters, many of which are now in the hands or on the walls of poetically-minded friends and acquaintances. Finally, last summer, I compiled the pages into an artist’s book designed to mimic the source material in size and layout (although, admittedly, not thickness). Over the past few years I have brought versions of the project to countless readings and assembled parts of it into wall displays for exhibitions such as the T E X T ual A R T ivity show in Coburg, Ontario this spring.

For reference, I’ve included below a brief note that accompanied O Our Ism on the walls of The Academy of the Impossible during the latter’s brief stay at 231 Wallace Avenue in Toronto. You can access my complete pdf e-book of the project here, or by finding it near the top of the Publications page. Of course, you can also get in touch with me to look at (or potentially own) a physical copy of the book–it’s quite striking in person!

A note on the work:

O Our Ism is a series of erasures developed out of two-page spreads from the book Photojournalism, edited by Nick Yapp and Amanda Hopkinson and published by Könemann (2006) using photographs from Getty Images. The book’s original captions, which provide the textual source for the erasures, appear in English, French and German. O Our Ism is a realistically endless project, as its source material will only be exhausted once its nearly 400 spreads are rendered into poems.





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A few more photos from T E X T ual A R T ivity

Hi all,

This post is several weeks delayed, but since the T E X T ual A R T ivity exhibition in Coburg, Ontario had already been over for some time when I received the prompt to write it, I figured some final documentation of my role in the exhibition wouldn’t be urgent.

I’ve already spoken in detail about T E X T ual A R T ivity and the amazing people who run it in a previous post. Since my first visit to the show, however, I’ve gotten word of some significant changes to the presentation of some of my pieces that I think is worth sharing. Based on suggestions from attendees of the exhibition last month, James Pickersgill took the initiative to reframe two pieces I’d printed on translucent paper, “Space” and “Spring Mattress,” and hang them as a window display viewable from either inside or outside The Human Bean cafe, where the exhibition was held. Some photographs are included below. (You can also see/read “Space” at high resolution at Angel House Press’s National Poetry Month 2015 blog here.)

In short, I think James’s is a spectacular presentation that amplifies the themes and energy of the pieces, while also taking their execution much farther than I had imagined. On this latter point, I’ve found that my experience submitting these artworks to the show (and witnessing the creative efforts of Poetry in Coburg Spaces and especially James, who deserves at least co-authorship for the “poems” displayed here) has exemplified the strength of collaboration in poetic and artistic work. It’s worth noting, too, that such collaborative efforts are especially important in genres (or perhaps they’re more like dispersed social experiments) like concrete poetry that demand critical attention from a multiplicity of contexts including semantic language and poetics, visual aesthetics, and institutional presentation. At the same time, collaborations like these are by no means hampered by separations in space, time, and creative vision (at least not by necessity). In fact, what I’ve seen this past month suggests that such separations may in fact bolster the motivation for and results of artistic collaboration.


“Space” and “Spring Mattress” in the front window of The Human Bean:

John's 2 pieces installed in the front window of The Human Bean - from outside c


“Space” from inside and outside:

Space - John's piece installed in the front window - close-up from inside The Human Bean (2)

Space - John's piece installed in the front window of The Human Bean - from outside b


“Spring Mattress” from inside and outside:

Spring Mattress - John's piece installed in the front window - close-up from inside The Human Bean

Spring Mattress - John's piece installed in the front window of The Human Bean - from outside

(photos courtesy of James Pickersgill)

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Visual poetry on display at T E X T ual A R T ivity in Coburg, Ontario

Hi all,

I am well overdue for this update: after visiting The Human Bean coffee house in Coburg, Ontario this past Thursday, I knew I had to post about the T E X T ual A R T ivity exhibition that has occupied the walls there since the beginning of the month. The annual celebration of visual poetry, put on by Poetry in Coburg Spaces (piCs), features a variety of my own contributions, including the visual poems (perhaps something like “textual constructions” would be a better term) “my african violet, from above” and “my boat lily, from above” (both of which were published in Rampike), pages from my O Our Ism artist’s book/series of erasures, and text art made with translucent vellum paper. Along with many other excellent visual poets and artists, this year’s exhibition also includes work by bill bissett and Robert Zend, who are discussed at length in Wally Keeler’s article on the exhibition.

I don’t imagine many of my readers find themselves in Coburg too often, but if you are passing by, I would highly recommend stopping to see some great art in a great coffee house! The exhibition will be up until the end of April.

Leaving aside the exhibition itself, I also had a great time last Thursday at the opening / reception, which was also this month’s edition of the monthly reading series and open mic “lay your WORD down!” (information on the event and some notes on the exhibition are available on the facebook past event page here). It was wonderful hearing some of the work Coburg’s poets had to present, and I have to say they made up one of the most welcoming and receptive audiences I’ve ever met for my own open mic performance (let alone my visual poetry!). It was also great to meet James Pickersgill, Wally Keeler, and Coburg’s Poet Laureate Ted Amsden, all of whom deserve my extended thanks for their hard work at setting up the exhibition.

TEXTual ARTivity(photo by Amanda Boulos)

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Reading at Chrysalis / Go Ahead Eagles launch Saturday, April 19

Howdy everyone,

So far this month I’ve spent most of my time plugging away at the last of my coursework for the term (in preparation, of course, for a hurricane of Toronto arts activity this summer). Luckily, though, I’ll be able to venture out of my hovel to perform as a feature reader at a wonderful event this Saturday: the twin launch of the new issue of Chrysalis poetry zine and the first issue of Go Ahead Eagles artzine! The event will take place Saturday, April 19 at Betty’s (240 King Street East) in Toronto; cover is $10, which includes a copy of both zines. You can check out the Facebook event page here.

Although my work is not featured in the new issue of Chrysalis, I have appeared in its hand-crafted pages before and have only great things to say about the publication. It just so happens that Go Ahead Eagles (which also looks spectacular) does feature a little bit of writing by yours truly, despite its being “a zine for art and art only.” More details on that when you come out to the launch!

Of course, I’ll also be bringing along O Our Ism broadsides and Desk Index and Room zines for sale at very reasonable prices (which, in the case of the latter two, may be as low as free). There may also be the surprise appearance of a new manifesto pamphlet I’m hoping to start peppering some local arts enclaves with in the near future.

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New broadside-posters available at upcoming readings!

Hi all,

It’s now the day after my spectacular feature at Rochdale Rhymes and Readings with Lisa Young and Ian Hanna (if you missed it, it was a lot of fun and a wonderful night all around) and just a few days before my next feature at The Secret Handshake Gallery this Sunday, and I’d like to take the chance to post about my newest art/printing/publishing project!

Last night at the Regal Beagle (with a just-printed package from Staples and a borrowed pen), I debuted a set of (so far) 8 broadsides from a series of erasures tentatively titled O Our Ism. The broadsides are scanned and reprinted spreads from a large book of photographs spanning the 150-year history of photojournalism, whose captions I have selectively whited out to construct erasure poems on the images’ margins. The result is a series of rather poster-like (they’re printed on glossy paper) sheets featuring huge prints of historic photographs dwarfing narrow columns of my own minimalistic, visual found poetry.

Following a very successful showing-off last night, I’ll now be signing and selling copies of the broadsides at my upcoming readings for $4 each (or 2 for $7, or 3 for $10). If you’re interested, come out and take a look! (Oh, and stay for the live readings, too.)

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Parkdale Street Writers zine launch

Hey all!

Parkdale Street Writers, a Parkdale-based youth writing group I’ve been involved with for several years, is holding their year-end party and zine launch TOMORROW (July 1) at 7:00 the Gladstone Hotel! The zine, called Underground Inspirations, includes work by a wide range of young writers involved with the group including two of my poems– “Glen Avon,” which is set in Parkdale, and “Reserve,” a verse paragraph I wrote for my poetry class this year. I also contributed some artwork and photography (including the cover image) and helped copy-edit the publication.

In addition to all of that, I’ll also be reading briefly at the launch alongside a huge array of the group’s performers. Based on last year’s party, this will be no ordinary poetry reading; the lineup includes hip-hop artists, musicians of other kinds and some extremely enthusiastic performers. PSW parties are also known for offering mounds of free food, and I think copies of the zine will be given away as well. All in all it should be a great time for anyone who’s free this Canada day.

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