Tag Archives: poetry

Feature reading at Shab-e She’r on September 25th

Hello everyone,

I hope you’ve been having a great summer! Not too long ago, Bänoo Zan (incomparable poet, superstar organizer, and…well, if you’ve spent any time in the Toronto poetry scene, you know her already!) asked me if I’d like to feature at her monthly poetry night, Shab-e She’r, which happens to be one of my favourite open mics in the city. Fast-forward a few weeks, and the announcements have been made, the tweets have been retweeted, and the facebook event is live–in other words, it’s happening! I couldn’t be more delighted to be featuring alongside Jennifer Alicia at the event, and I really hope you’ll join me there.

Aside from the general quality of the work that graces Shab-e She’r’s stage, I find that the event’s diversity of styles and voices makes it an excellent window into the landscape of contemporary poetry. If you’d like to come listen (or even read a piece on the open mic!), you can catch it on Tuesday, September 25th–6:30pm for open mic sign-up, and 7:00pm for the show. The event costs $5, and you can check out the facebook event for more details. Also, note that the September reading will be held at the Tranzac Club (292 Brunswick Ave.), not the Church of St. Stephen in the Fields (which is a bit of a shame, since I love the church’s architecture and acoustics, but ultimately I think both are great venues).

Shab-e She’r prides itself on being “the most diverse poetry and open mic series in Toronto,” and while I suspect that folks like me don’t contribute very much to that boast, I’m hoping to reflect on the theme by sharing some work that tries to situate my ethnic and cultural identity. It’s tricky business, of course, so I’ll probably let the poems do most of the talking. But I have received some really encouraging feedback on recent work I’ve embarked on in this vein, so I couldn’t be more excited for the chance to present it to Shab-e She’r’s audience.

In any case, I’ll see you next month!

 

 

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“Sunlight” in The Malahat Review 203 (summer 2018)

Hi all,

The new issue of The Malahat Review showed up in my mailbox just yesterday, and I’m excited to announce that one of my poems, “Sunlight,” is nestled within its pages! I’d like to extend my thanks to the journal’s editors for selecting my piece, and for the care they’ve taken in publishing it.

Although it’s not absolutely explicit in the journal (nor should it be, now that I see the poem in its published context), “Sunlight” is one of many poems that have emerged from my thinking about and caring for the houseplants that have accompanied me through the last several years. I do think, however, that there might be a fair bit more to take from the poem, so I hope that you find your own truth (or opinion) within it if you get the chance to pick up an issue.

In any case, and as always, happy reading!

 

 

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The fourth J: reading at knife | fork | book this Friday

Hi all,

Although there’s been quite a bit going on over at my Instagram, it’s been a while since my last blog post. Nonetheless, I wanted to take a second to say how excited I am to be reading for a second time at knife | fork | book, which has pretty quickly become my favourite poetry venue in Toronto. While my last reading there coincided with the launch of my Anstruther Press Manifesto Series chapbook, this one is owed mostly to an accident of birth: Kirby (k | f | b’s lovely proprietor) had the wonderfully weird idea of booking a sausage party (his words) with four J-named individuals, and I happened to fit the bill. (Although, as James Lindsay pointed out on Twitter, the quartet of himself, Jimmy McInnes, Jim Johnstone, and me is more precisely three Jameses and a John, so perhaps my being there wasn’t predestined after all?)

In any case, I have a great deal of respect for each of my co-readers and the various dimensions of their poetic work, and I’d highly recommend coming out to see them. For my part, I’ll be seizing the opportunity to present a mix of old favourites and new, unpublished poems that I hope will make for a good show overall. And besides all that, knife | fork | book is just about the coziest place you could find yourself in the early hours of a summer Friday night; just remember you’ll be asked to take off your shoes!

The show takes place this Friday, June 15th, with doors opening at 6:30 and poetry beginning at 7:00 (sharp!). Knife | fork | book is located at 244 Augusta Ave. (second floor) in Kensington Market. See you there!

 

 

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Slogan, Substance, Dream: keywords for a responsible poetry at the Anstruther Press Spring Launch

Hi everyone,

It’s been a long winter. I don’t think I’m quite ready to pull myself out of hibernation on my own, but it looks like the forces of the spring launch season are beckoning me into the limelight: this Friday, I’ll be reading from my new manifesto chapbook, Slogan, Substance, Dream: keywords for a responsible poetry, at the Anstruther Press Spring Launch at Jeff Kirby’s much-beloved Kensington Market bookstore, knife fork book. I’ll be launching alongside the venerable authors listed on the poster below, and though I only have a few minutes, I’m looking forward to offering some of my thoughts on the new chapbook and reading from a section or two. Doors open at 6:30pm this Friday, March 9th at knife fork book at Kensington’s Dark Side Studio (244 Augusta Avenue), and the poetry begins at 7:00; check it out on knife fork book’s blog or facebook.

If you’re planning to come, it’s best to keep two things in mind: (1) bring cozy socks, since the shop/studio is a shoeless space; (2) kfb events, at least as far as I understand, start ON TIME!

 

 

Slogan, Substance, Dream is something a little special; rather than a book of poetry or creative fiction, it’s a concise prose manifesto written for Anstruther’s Manifesto Series. The series is edited by Shane Neilson, and Jim Johnstone and Erica Smith also contributed immensely to the chapbook’s execution; I owe them all great thanks for helping me get it out into the world.

Shane first asked me if I’d be interested in writing a manifesto at least two years ago (perhaps even longer), and although I’ve been committed to the project since then, my thoughts and beliefs about poetry and my role in it have transformed many times since I began writing. Several people who have read the final version of Slogan, Substance, Dream have told me that it is very much a poetic text–full-blown poetry, even!–but even as I take their evaluation seriously, I can’t stress enough that it isn’t the case for me. Even at its most abstract and imagistic, the manifesto is my best attempt at honestly expressing what I believe my and others’ poetry should strive for.

The manifesto (like much of my PhD research, which, though distinct, has greatly inspired it) is about responsibility, and part of the process of writing it has involved grappling with the question of whether expressing my “should” (or, indeed, writing anything called a “manifesto”) could ever be a responsible act. In truth, I’m still not sure it is. However, my work on the project has led me to the conclusion that, in order to present myself as a writer at all, I can’t help but strike a balance between acceptance and assessment, absorption and imposition, listening and speaking out. In other words, to respond ethically to the world in an act of creative expression, I also have to be confident enough to expose the person I really am and the thoughts I really think. And if this means that, ostensibly, I sometimes pursue the fantasy of imposing my beliefs on others, I only hope they realize that I’m just one person, that the power I have over them is only that of one person in a world of very many, and that I have no interest in presenting myself as anything else.

One of the ways of summarizing the argument of Slogan, Substance, Dream would be to say that this is all a manifesto–or perhaps any piece of writing–can or should do. With that in mind, there’s nothing left for me but to leave it to its work.

 

 

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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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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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Tree Reading Series in Ottawa next week, and “Min” in oratorealis

Hi everyone,

To begin, I’m very excited about the fact that I’ll be a featured reader (alongside Shoshanna Wingate) at next Tuesday’s edition of Tree Reading Series in Ottawa. In all honesty, there’s not much I can say about the series (since I’ve never been before!), but I do know it has a long tradition and an important place in Ottawa’s literary scene, both of which I’m happy to have a role in. It’s also a little flattering (though also intimidating!) to be described as a conceptual poet “known for fresh takes” (as Tree’s website points out)–I hope I don’t disappoint! In any case, I should thank Pearl Pirie and Nina Jane Drystek (who I met, by happenstance, at an art opening during my visit to Ottawa last February) for helping set up the reading. If you’re in Ottawa, it’s taking place on Tuesday, May 23, 6:45pm at Black Squirrel Books (and here’s the event’s facebook page).

Recently, I also got to see the text of my poem, “Min,” in this spring’s issue of oratorealis, a new-ish West coast literary journal with the provocative mission of publishing spoken word and experimental poetry. My piece definitely falls into the latter, since (as I’ve admitted to folks who have seen it) I have no idea how exactly it would be performed orally. The piece itself is a kind of textual medley, comprising poetic summaries of the verses of Cab Calloway’s big band jazz classic “Minnie the Moocher” as well as redacted transcriptions of the original verses, which reduce them to something resembling the song’s famous call-and-response scat choruses. As long as I’m on the topic, I might as well add that my process for writing the piece involved downloading every version and cover of the song I could find, then listening to them on loop until the lyrics (and their multiple musical renditions) were etched in my head. It’s a very, very good song.

Anyway, I think that’s all for now. Happy reading!

 

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