Thursday, February 25, 2016

TtD supplement #47 : seven questions for damian lopes

Currently the Poet Laureate for the City of Barrie, damian lopes is the author of several books of poetry and a former editor at Coach House Books. His most recent publication, yasser arafat is dead, is a poetry chapbook published by Ottawa’s above/ground press. In addition to poetry, damian continues to work on his first novel.

His poems “you smiled at her,” “under toes,” “lost,” “last inning,” “agape” and “Richard Truhlar in memoriam” appear in the eighth issue of Touch the Donkey.

Q: Tell me about the poems “you smiled at her,” “under toes,” “lost,” “last inning,” “agape” and “Richard Truhlar in memoriam.”

A: having ignored your question for months, i’m surprised that the poems relate to loss or potential loss. but on reflection, i’ve been writing about that for a while.

with my first book, i began working on book-length projects rather than individual poems. it stems in part from a fascination with narrative combined with the relation between form & content. to me, a collection should make sense, be cohesive before it is fixed & bound.

so these are from a collection of new & old poems, some dating back twenty years, that have never been published in book form, currently entitled away home. it’s gone through many iterations already as i intend to give the book a form the poems weren’t part of to start with.

Q: What was it that made you want to help shape a collection from work spanning such a long period? Were these older poems temporarily-abandoned, or did they simply not fit into the projects you’d been working on at the time they were composed?

A: i didn’t start out writing books, but poems. some of my early work developed into my first two books. many other poems, published in magazines, journals & small press, weren’t part of those or later projects.

technology plays a part too, & has been an interest. my first poem was published in 1990, the same year i started playing with computers again. but i’ve composed very little poetry on screen: i prefer my notebook to my ipad for composition. my last book was written by hand or on a manual travelling typewriter, then edited on screen.

i think it was new software that convinced me to try & organize my published but uncollected poems, & to sift through work that made it out of the notebooks but remained unpublished. some were about language, some about people, especially my father, while others straddled the two. i struggled to divide them into two separate works before conceding.

i still struggle to get myself out of the way, not to impose a form but tease out the best one there. form & content: interweaving two sets of poems results in a different reading. each poem is an arrangement of words, each book an arrangement of poems. book as poem.

Q: After three trade collections (and current works-in-progress), how do you feel your work has developed? Where do you see your work headed?

A: the plagal cadence
of progress a semi
tone sufficient to
colour the question
not development
but the interstitial
carved moments not
monumental but
mundane goals to
an eye

Q: Your current poetry work-in-progress includes poems going back twenty years. You’ve also been working on a novel for nearly as long. Do the two projects interact in any way?

A: mainly no. the novel spans four decades & continents, ending in toronto in 1973. it’s my grandparents’ & parents’ generation. the poetry is set more recently & can be more personal. but of course there are overlaps, like family, parenthood, emigration… on many levels, all my work – visual, poetry, prose – interacts. poetry & fiction each have their advantages & restraints. ‘the tale is like the telling’ says a goan proverb.

Q: After quite a long stretch of relative silence, how easy or difficult is it to re-emerge? In 2015, for example, you were named the second Poet Laureate of the City of Barrie. How did that come about, and how has it been? Just what is expected of you?

A: fits & starts. in both writing & the business of literature: the reasons are myriad, in flux & mostly mundane. the writing has been more consistent than the business. that’s more where i’m re-engaging in fits & starts. simply, i struggle for the time & head space to write & edit, let alone the significant clerical work of making & tracking submissions. now my work is unfamiliar to editors, so it feels like starting out again without the vigour & confidence of youth. rejection is part of the game & it hasn’t gotten easier.

so, my novel, The Mango Stone, has been a retreat from the business. it’s too difficult to excerpt, i tell myself though in fact five appeared years ago. for several drafts now, i’ve had the good fortune to work with an astute publisher towards a contract. though its not the publication i’m after so much as telling this story the best i can.

both the city of Barrie & its burgeoning arts community have been growing like teenagers. maturing in surprising ways, but still gangly, awkward & shy now & then. our small town heritage still resists the changes of growth. the arts community here is diverse & supportive. the literary community is relatively small, but nurturing & determined. so while i have not been publishing on paper, i have been performing & engaged locally with some regularity.

as Laureate i am working to develop an annual anthology of poetry by students. a decade ago the city chose to invest in our local arts community, to grow it from within. & it’s working. likewise, to promote poetry in our young city, we need to expose our youth to the true depth & breadth of poetry today, & to point out the poetry all around them. our teachers need support because their training is usually too narrow & their time too limited. so i’m starting with one high school & hope to make it an annual thing.

Q: What has the response been to your laureateship so far? I know you’ve produced a small publication as part of an official event, for example.

A: congratulations, invitations, bemusement, wonderment, disinterest, disdain & at least one good sputtering guffaw from jw that we witnessed together. partway into my term as Barrie’s second laureate, most here are surprised we have a laureate, but they are likewise surprised to learn of our parliamentary laureate. we are talking poetry here. most would likely agree that poetry is as relevant to them as higher mathematics. i’d say they’re right. the study of the intense use of language that we call poetry is not that different from the higher maths that result in the computers we call smartphones. both are esoteric but profoundly influential. perhaps essential for life today. so if i’ve found the response somewhat muted, it’s helped me realize that poetry must engage our youth, & continue the natural language play of childhood. poets need to support teachers in fostering the literary arts in schools. the laureateship makes it easier to open those doors.

Q: Finally, who do you read to reenergize your own work? What particular works can’t you help but return to?

A: Nelson Ball’s poetry & Alice Munro’s stories remind & inspire me.

Monday, February 15, 2016

TtD supplement #46 : seven questions for Pete Smith

Pete Smith, born & raised in Coventry, emigrated to Canada in 1974. After a long detour returned to poetry in the late 1990s. Has published poetry with Wild Honey Press, Poetical Histories, above/ground press, W, Great Works & Oystercatcher among others; reviews & essays in Agenda, The Gig, The Paper, The Capilano Review, Crayon & elsewhere. He has given readings at the Kootenay School of Writing & at the final CCCP in 2006. His first full-length collection, Bindings with Discords, was published by Shearsman in February 2015, and a brand-new chapbook, A NEW LOVE OVER AN ACHING STONE, “a double-cento out of Yehuda. Amichai & Mahmoud Darwish,” is out very soon with above/ground press.

His poems “ANTHROPOCENTRIC POETICS 101,” “RESTRINGING THE SIX-STRING,” “CHARLIE, PROPER” and “UNDER THE INFLUENCE” appear in the eighth issue of Touch the Donkey.


A: They are all what I might call Public Poems, in that they were written in public places & they are quite casual & approachable. The “public” space impacts them in different ways, but the common factor is the way that distractions help me focus my attention, as if I sometimes need something to pitch against, affirming by opposition. Anthrop is from far back, but seems now to connect to “public” by razzing two highly public figures who introduced Bad Wrongs, Cartesian duality & the unimaginative, mechanical applications of Behaviourism. Six & Charlie picked up energy & details from the times & places of writing: the first is cited in the poem; the second written in Far Out Coffee shop on Dundas in the Hastings-Sunrise part of Vancouver where Freya had plugged her Stones iPod into the sound system to avoid hearing stuff she didn’t like during the busy spell. Influence tagged along because of similarity of tone & the connections to varying-degrees-of-public figures in the poetry communities.

Q: You describe “Public Poems” as though they are but one thread of the poems you’ve been working on. Is this how you work, through a loose connection of groupings? And how many other groupings make up your arsenal?

A: I write longhand into a pocket-sized notebook & raid the drafts from time to time for family resemblances so, yes, groupings that way but for predetermined sequences I'll have a particular notebook just for that work. One practical reason for the number of erasure projects is that I can do a bit in the days’ margins, walk away & the “inspirationWinking face” is still there in the source text when I get back to it.

Another grouping I’ve done always Nate Dorward referred to as poems-as-lit-criticism, or words to that effect, but Phil Hall does that so well I can leave them scattered around the cutting-room floor for now.

Similar to “Public Poems” in some respects are what I might term “occasioned poems,” some of those even commissioned, eg, friends renewed wedding vows at their 40th anniversary, didn’t ask for a poem for the event but at the last minute I found myself being tickled by the question “how do you write an epithalamion for the long-married?” & took off from there. So, self-commissioned is more accurate I guess.

Coming at the practice from both Cage’s mesostics & Clare’s claim to have “found the poems in the fields & merely written them down” has been a long-term use of ‘erasure,’ or ‘writing through’: source texts include Clare’s ‘Journey Out of Essex,’ WS’s 154 sonnets (done before Jen Bervin’s versions & at one time up at Alterran Poetry Assemblage #6), Sharon Thesen’s selection ‘News & Smoke’ (creating ‘The World in Her Mouth’ by taking one line from each poem in sequence), George Gissing’s novel The Odd Women (as ‘Odden: I Sing’ from Oystercatcher Press) etc, most recently ‘Winterized: The Musical’ out of Peter Culley’s ‘Winterreise’ section of his book The Climax Forest.

I guess a combination of trusting language to know more than I do – well, it’s been around a lot longer than I have – and liking a variety of constraints feeds that practice. At times it’s probably vicarious self-expression but my objective is more for discovery of universal &/or personal “truths” through others' voices & mirror-echoes of shed selves along the route. I’ve also used translations & small read-throughs of “classic” English poems as parts of otherwise standard lyric poems.

Non-verbal texts are also sources, eg a John Adams’ music cycle, photographs of Fred Douglas & Ralph Eugene Meatyard, works in all the arts by Kiyooka etc etc

A longish work-in-progress is ‘A Shadow of his Former Shadow’ which attempts to discover who my extremely private father was works through straight & deliberately distorted memories, through erasures of works important to him, eg, Schubert’s “Winterreise” cycle, Marcus Aurelius (given to me as I left home at age 18 with a “here, son, it’s as good a guide to life as any”).

Trying all in all to be a good servant of the poem, as attentive as possible to word & world, knowing through the late John Riley:
that love/ is never fulfilled/ but the ways/ of approaching/ endless
Q: I’ve long been curious about how a British poet ends up in Kamloops, nestled in the interior of British Columbia, a city you emigrated to in 1974. What originally brought you to Canada?

A: Work & economics. BC Gov were recruiting Psych Nurses in the UK. I’d recently found a stash of copies of Beautiful BC magazine & had a west coast literature-induced fantasy lurking somewhere inside (sorry, Canada). The big institutions in Vancouver coupled with its weather pattern (I’d lived my last 5 years in England on the south-west coast & knew rain intimately) included that location out, but Mr Recruiter started talking about Kamloops’ four distinct seasons, & the villa system & small scale (by that era’s standards) of the institution were very appealing.

That I have remained is the greater mystery. In the place & the work.

I’ve avoided academia because of an allergy, so to speak, to over-directed learning. I’ve no doubt misrepresented to myself the way higher learning works, but here I am anyway – with a weird troup of chosen tutors working away in adhd shifts of attention & interest (“a broken-field runner” to steal Paul Metcalf’s tag on Douglas Woolf).

I didn’t step into full-time poethood, have great admiration for those who have, out of cowardice, no doubt, & a hard-to-explain sense that I had to earn the right to write (not by earning a living at any job, but by continuing with that most marginalized group of people – the intellectually disabled: believing that the work of entering into a poem, grasping to some extent its otherness & bringing that over into words touches & is touched by trying to understand the world & needs of non-verbal or barely verbal people in order to interpret an essence of the world to them & to help explain them to their immediate circle of people).

Damn! This was going to be the short answer!

Q: There’s an inference that dismisses the possibility of interacting with other writers, but you seem deeply connected to a variety of British poets, as well as poets currently and formerly around Vancouver and the Kootenay School of Writing. For someone who appears to be writing off the grid, you exist within a rather intricate array of writers. Were you engaged with British poets before you arrived in Canada? And how did you end up meeting so many Canadian poets from your home-base of Kamloops?

A: Shyness, at times pathological, has made interactions difficult from my side. Geography increases the difficulty no doubt.

In Britain, no direct engagement beyond being a consumer of mags which provided different sets of outlook: Stand – toward Europe largely; Agenda – Poundian modernisms; Grosseteste Review – openings toward USA, combo of projective & objective ‘schools’ filtered through a very English light.

Attended readings at the then Cariboo College where I heard but didn't ‘meet’ Birney, Newlove, Bowering et al. (A long parenthesis, 10 to 15 years, takes me into a North American cult/church community where I become an elder & preach regularly – until finally reading my way out of that wilderness – picking up while there some useful self-discipline for essay writing & a preachiness in my poems that I have to guard against).

Real connections began on three fronts in the 1990s: firstly, through the Internet & an email I sent to Nate Dorward I connected up with British & Irish poets I felt at home with & led to the publication of the first Wild Honey Press chapbook; through Nate again I learned of a reading at the ksw whose venue I failed to find then but, thanks to Rob Manery, found it for the next time; the Kamloops Poets Factory where Warren Fulton’s energies created a local scene & we brought in some good writers to read & conduct workshops (my contributions were all through the ksw connection: Mike Barnholden, Aaron Vidaver, Ted Byrne on one occasion; Lissa Wolsak & Lisa Robertson on Easter Sunday, 2000 – Lisa read from The Men). Not so many personal meetings really, lots of recruits I bring in from my reading, not in order to name-drop, but to share my experience in a particular text-world. Exploration & celebration.

Q: That’s actually how we first met as well, through Warren Fulton hosting a reading of mine in Kamloops. How have these engagements over the years influenced the ways (ie – the whats and hows) in which you write?

A: I remember that, with Anne Stone I recall. The reading (books) & the readings (of poets’ live readings) have been for the pleasures firstly & also for learning about content & techniques – what subjects have been tackled, how the poet approaches or recoils from world, self, language’s lines & nets. I guess hearing the poets read helped me unhitch my line & cadence from the deep-rooted plodding pentameter British poets claim as the rhythm of walking thinking & poeming. (Used well, ie with irregular variations & shifts in tempo, the iambic pentameter can still be a good experience and walking is still a great aid to writing, listening to highly jagged music is good too if the need is to shake everything up.)

I sometimes forget how many workshops I’ve attended & need to credit that as an ongoing aid to renewal. For their impacts my memory lands on workshops by Harold Rhenisch (in Kamloops) & Alice Notley & an anti-workshop by Denise Riley (both at ksw). I hope to find my notes from the Rhenisch event, but recall it being useful at the architectural level, Notley for the archaeology of self/ves, Riley for the singing/thinking/self-reflexive & societally-probing levels. The few years when I was attending readings & workshops at ksw were very stimulating: there was no pressure to align aesthetically, but it was really affirming to be “in class” with Lisa R, Sharon T, the Quartermains etc. – an open field still open. Recently I had the ‘honour’ (is I think the right word) of watching a local poet, Paul Liddy (whose work I had hoped to put out in a collection but my awful habit of procrastination, along with pension-income limitations, has stymied: hopefully it will find the publisher it deserves) take a whole swath of finished discrete lyrics & transform them into a more difficult read but a more profound experience. It seems he is muttering “I’m not aiming for ‘applause-gatherers’. I want the reader to experience something of what I went through” – reference is to surgery & subsequent treatment for brain cancer: even without that he’s the genuine “poet maudit” imho. He’s been to Banff a time of two & says he feels he was basically written off as a Bukowski disciple, at a time he’d never read Buk (though Dostoevsky is firmly in his canon).

Yes, watching that reconstruction project happen (“It’s fine”, he reassured me as I got agitated by the loss of these lyrics I’d really enjoyed, “I know what I’m doing” – and he did) was a liberating experience &, along with a recent chat with Donato Mancini, has got me working more boldly on the revision stage.

That was a privileged engagement.

End or it never will.

Q: After a variety of collections large and small over the past two decades or so, how do you feel your work has developed? What do you feel as though you might be working towards?

A: The thought of “development” suggests to me some kind of linear path which I don’t recognize. A series of loosely connected circles floating without apparent grounding might be more apt. Much of the writing has been an engagement with other artists in word, image &/or music. I expect to continue that practice as I come across works that touch the on-button. I also have tried to stay open to the daily gifts that come along if eyes, ears, mind, heart are in a state of readiness: I like to think of occasioned as opposed to occasional verse; epiphanies are considered off-the-map, but what are you supposed to do in the face of one, “Nah, can’t write about that it’s too exciting. Besides everyone has felt that.” Sure, but many of us have short memories, & to trigger good memories in our present world seems to me a pretty kind & literally vital endeavour. So, I have a bunch of things slotted under a title “Such as Any Day Might Bring.” Epics are for more grandiose &/or disciplined souls.

What I think I'm up to in poetry has often enough been interrupted by what I see I've actually been up to that I don't claim any overriding poetics other, perhaps, than "despite". The actual world is a good foundation (thinking here of Flaubert & de Maupassant's walks through Paris streets, with the older writer setting the assignment to write about a person they passed by so that he would recognize the person encountered); but an imaginable world cries out to be born.

I recently read a little bit about Douglas Blazek’s long-term project of rewriting a body of work over a number of years (35 years between publications if I grasped it properly) as a process of ripening the poems. That is interesting to me & may lead me to excavate something from a heap of early writing – that would qualify as more of a rescue mission than an organic ripening, but compost is compost.

There is a wealth of lived experience that I haven’t consciously worked with in poetry (preferring to let images, memories surface during the writing & carry a resonance, sort of like the ringing harmonics on the 5th, 7th & 12th frets of the guitar, that let me, at least, know something authentic is afoot). I think I’ll go into prose in a more focussed way – focus, well scattered will have to do & we are firmly in the Age of Fragments. So, stay tuned!

Q: Finally, who do you read to reenergize your own work? What particular works can’t you help but return to?

A: Ha - that should be easy, but...

I’ll start with a quote I just found in a writing by Anna Mendelssohn (who also published as Grace Lake) who was a member of Britain’s Angry Brigade back in the tumultuous 1960s.
“I followed a few writers for a time in the local literary news

It’s like watching a kid take to the hills, or a colt stagger to its feet.”
I was about to start a list of names, but the “re energize” & “return to” are your key words. That shrinks the list considerably. I find myself going to particular poems more than to whole oeuvres.

David Rosenberg’s translations of Second Isaiah, Song of Songs & the great “justice” & righteousness verses in Joel & Amos. Wyatt, Marlowe, Will Shake. Hopkins - certain poems & the journals. Basil Bunting. David Jones - paintings, drawings, writings. (Hello I’m listing anyway! So be it.) Thom Gunn - the last few books & his essay/review collections. Kenneth Cox - his boringly titled Collected Studies in the Use of English & through that R.C. Hutchinson’s novels the unfinished Rising & Testament for its remarkable narrator Alexei Otraveskov. John Berger. Alan Garner’s Stone Book Quartet. R.F. Langley - poems & journals.

I’ve been rereading with constant pleasure my scattering of Guy Birchard’s books (published in England, Ireland & USA - the ones I have - does CanLit know him?); returning frequently to Phil Hall after hearing a reading on-line when it all came together (recent ‘discovery’ to me, so where have I been in relation to CanLit? – splashing around in the mid-Atlantic I guess). I arrived here in 1974 & took John Newlove & Phyllis Webb for my first guides & they remain such. Roy Kiyooka – who I coin as the Whole Soul Catalogue - paintings, letters, poems. The tapestry in Canada is too rich & I arrived too late. Not enough lifetimes.

Paul Metcalf & Guy Davenport must be mentioned. Metcalf from Genoa: A Telling of Wonders onwards was a writer of wonders & his use of primary sources along with his technique of juxtaposition – “To originate is carefully, patiently, and understandingly to combine” (Poe) is a motto he cites in interview - interests me in his way of presenting materials without the mediation, in several of his books, of a narrator to allow a reader to identify with and a pre-scribed set of emotional responses. Juxtaposition allows the described events to speak in a manner an Internet news item should call ‘raw’. Davenport & the recently deceased English ex-pat to Texas, Christopher Middleton, for their boundless curiosity.

There are several writers I’d add to the list of the return-to question: C.D. Wright, Lisa Robertson, Lissa Wolsak (for poetry that breathes the same air as prayer), Basil Bunting, John Thompson’s Stilt-Jack, 1001 Arabian Nights (my adventure & erotic fountainhead from adolescence onwards).

I find music (early polyphony to Baroque & contemporary, free jazz etc) & visual arts along with long walks to be the best battery chargers. Attempting translation is also a good surge.

Let's close it all off with a phrase from Middleton re a foundation for a way: “Apostrophe, the invocation of a spirit, though now archaic, is still fundamental to the lyric in one form or another.

Thanks, rob, for the chance to wander around here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

TtD supplement #45 : seven questions for Billy Mavreas

Billy Mavreas is an artist and writer born, raised and living in Montreal, Quebec. He has participated in many overlapping scenes, drawing posters first for the punk rock music scene in the late 1980s and then for spoken-word events though out the mid-nineties. International mail-art, asemic writing, local comics, zines and chapbooks all contributed to the push and pull of his art practice.

He is the author of three graphic novels, one book of posters as well as the producer of several chapbooks that move between visual poetry, drawing, collage and comics.

Along with his artist wife, Emilie O’Brien, he operates Monastiraki, a gallery and curiosity shop in the Mile-End neighbourhood.

He has four visual poems, “From A Scholarship Of Insects,” in the eighth issue of Touch the Donkey.

Q: Tell me about the four poems that make up “From A Scholarship Of Insects.”

A: The four pieces that make up “From A Scholarship Of Insects” act together in concert, they elaborate upon an unfinished poem that we will never read. Instead of presenting that unfinished source poem, I elected to present four divergent trends emanating from it.  I approached each page as a separate tone, a certain gesture or chirping or trace that perhaps an insect of sorts would chance to leave on a page. I considered the hypothetical naming of a group of insects as a scholarship, intending to illustrate rather different academic approaches to their fields of study. We then have subtle muted precision, bold point form, polyphonic chorus as well as straight up English text outlining options, to anchor any wanderings. Each visual treatment is lifted from that text and manipulated until the desired effect is reached.

Q: How do these pieces relate to the previous work you’ve done with visual poetry?

A: Most of my recent work in visual poetry starts with a source text, usually a diagram or even a photograph. This source material then gets extensive editorial treatment as I lose track of what it originally looked like or referred to. The process is essentially radical collage. I manipulate the source and apply layers of cut and paste, veering into directions unheralded.

In this case the source text was my own and it was text in the proper sense. Though there was considerable manipulations involved, I also left some text intact in order to position the visual pieces, to situate them in the eyes of the reader, with their source. One can with some scrutiny see how the pieces visually relate to the text provided in the last piece.

Q: I’m curious as to the intersection between your poetry work and your graphic novels. One so rarely sees anyone producing visual poems also producing graphic novels. Do your two forms intersect at any point, or relate to each other at all? Are they unrelated threads, or part of a larger exploration?

A: I’m curious about that too! I’ve made many formalist explorations within comics which work very well with experiments in typography, lettering and script. Also, my drawing style borrows a lot from the gestural strokes of handwriting and my poetry often evokes the details found in hidden corners of graphic work, the corners that are not the main attraction. They both deal with the themes that I explore in general, themes of communication, mystery, invisible worlds and accretion. I tend towards polyvalence in my art, making installation, conceptual work, sound works, sculpture, painting as well as poetry and comics. Every tendency informs every other. I’d like to think it’s all building towards something huge and awesome but we’ll see. It may just all end up as a strange collection of trajectories, oddball folk art museum of the soul.

Many artists I’ve seen who explore visual poetry and comics tend to stay closer to the realm of abstract or experimental comics. In my case my comics have been experimental and I still make abstract comic work but I’ve been tending towards more direct narrative, straight up comic work so to speak, which is a great challenge, whereas my poetry tends way more towards abstraction, conceptual writing and visual poetics. My poetry that isn’t visual is usually rock lyrics, bumper stickers, band names and other stuff that remains more or less private, unpublished or juvenile.

Q: Has the movement “towards more direct narrative, straight up comic work” influenced, in any way, your poetry heading further “towards abstraction, conceptual writing and visual poetics”?

A: I don’t think so. My many tendencies co-exist. As I get on in experience I feel the pressure to give my college best to forms I love. I want to be able to make decent comics that kids can enjoy, that anyone can enjoy really. Some of the power of comics lies in its potential accessibility. As I feel I’ve made some decent experimental comics, I also want the same satisfaction with accessible comics. I’m almost there. I’ll need to simplify things a tad. Work harder at it, too. The same drive would have me want to write at least one decent science fiction short story or fantasy novel. I feel I must honour my early loves.

I also love working in forms that are meant for tiny audiences of like minded people. I want to indulge my love for arcana but I can also appreciate my desire to be straightforward with text as well. In the last year I’ve worked at clear prose writing, anecdotal stuff, quotidian stuff. It’s been very liberating. I’ll end my years writing sonnets or something, who knows.

Q: So your explorations into poetry move beyond concrete and visual, and into text? For poetry: who have your models and influences been so far? What writers and artists have shaped the way you think about the form?

A: I studied literature but that was 30 odd years ago and the usual cast of characters left an impression, the canonical bigwigs we studied from 1989 to 1991. My personal reading though remained in genre fiction so I have always skirted between high and low cultures, as they are described.

My biggest influences in visual and concrete poetry are not individuals but books and not specific books at that. I collect obscure volumes usually dated 1972 that are comprised of text, cut-ups, collage, poetry of all types. A beat up anthology of international concrete poetry I found in a second hand bookshop when I was 16 started this fascination. I want to emulate the aesthetic I find in these books. Another influence is the high contrast black and white xerography and rubber stamping I encountered upon entering the world of industrial culture / mail-art / fanzines in the late 1980s. An early correspondence with jwcurry informed much of what I later did. The alien documents from such mail-artists as Serge Segay and J. Lehmus among many others intrigued me. At the time I was doing a lot of psychedelic lettering and symbol / logo design. A strong machine aesthetic came and informed my hippie sensibility. My experiments with photocopy machines at the time also yielded happy accidents. There’s no looking back, though I still draw by hand I love the results that copy machines give. Nowadays I use digital tech to replicate that effect.

Of course, hooking up with people like Tim Gaze and Derek Beaulieu, who have both been great supporters of mine, has served to strengthen the idea that I should continue doing what I am doing.

Q: How do you feel your poetry has developed over the years? What do you feel your writing might be working towards?

A: My poetry has moved from stand alone poems (whether text or visual) to suites and longer movements of pieces. I like the idea of a series of works pivoting around a central theme or starting point. I hope to address my concerns and desires vis a vis visual poetry with a book length project or two. I need to actualize my book fetish by adding another odd pamphlet into the pile.

I also feel more confident in presenting some of my visual poetry as poetry and not as graphics or visual art. Of course I am ever thankful that my experience in visual art informs me and forces me to maintain certain graphic standards.

My writing will always bend towards a project orientated practice culminating in either a chapbook or a dozen chapbooks or a proper published thing. I enjoy small projects, small suites, etc. but would probably toss it all out if I was able to find the discipline to work on a fantasy trilogy. No joke. Until then though I will continue to divide my time between comics and poetics but there’s no saying that all my tendencies won’t end up between the covers of one book. That would be the dream of dreams.

Q: Finally, who do you read to reenergize your own work? What particular works can’t you help but return to?

A: There isn’t any one author that I return to time and again except for non fiction authors and genre fiction authors and that’s usually by accident or obligation.

I read mostly in non-fiction, usually studies of mythology, science, spirituality, art history. That stuff is interspersed with forays into SF&F short stories and YA or kids books. I’m always bringing in new books I find and pouring over them. Collections of logotypes, vintage graphic design manuals, old grammars, random scraps and ephemera keep my interest the most. There are many books I revisit and many more I want to read. I’m terribly ignorant of contemporary poetry itself except the work of people I trade with and even then I often fetishize the object and study the form rather than the content. That’s my big admission of the day.

The stuff I do reread is inane humour comics.