Friday, September 4, 2015

Strange Grey Day This (1965)

The Letters: Michael Morris and Concrete Poetry book contains mention of bill bissett, in addition to showing some reproductions of his poems.

The video above is the first part of Maurice Embra's 1965 NFB documentary on bill, entitled Strange Grey Day This.

Click here for Geoffrey Farmer's 2011 interview with bill for Millions. It opens with reference to Embra's film.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Letters: Michael Morris and Concrete Poetry (2015)

On Monday I visited the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, where Technical and Design Services Manager Owen Sopotiuk previewed for a group of us the twenty short films in Maria Eichhorn’s Film Lexicon of Sexual Practices (1999/2005/2008/2014/2015).

Eichhorn is strict that visitors see her films in film form only. Her piece involves viewers selecting a film (from a list of titles that include Japanese Bondage, 2015) then asking that it be projected for them.

While waiting for Owen to set up the projector, I saw the first copies of the Letters: Michael Morris and Concrete Poetry catalogue that I contributed to, and whose exhibition I co-curated (with Scott Watson) at the Belkin in 2012.

Most of the essays in the Letters book focus on Michael and his work, both as an artist and as a curator. For my part I tried to provide a context for what was going on in Vancouver prior to Michael’s arrival, and concluded with where some of today's poets are shopping.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The New Poetry (1962)

One of the first poetry anthologies I purchased was The New Poetry, a collection of British and American poems selected and introduced by A. Alvarez. First published in 1962, it was sixteen years before my sixteen-year-old self found this book at what is now one of Vancouver’s oldest bookstores to deal exclusively in new books (but, sadly, not much else).

Although I have kept The New Poetry with me throughout my many moves, and recognize within its Jackson Pollock cover some well-made poems, I cannot say I was changed much by its speed and shape, nor the sentiments its poems express. Oddly enough, the very “gentility” Alvarez despairs in his introduction infects the poems in The New Poetry -- a gentility of content, but also one of form.

That said, Alvarez’s introduction serves as survey of what was going on in modern British and American Poetry at the time -- at least what was perceived to be going if you were living in Britain (Eliot and Pound at the old end, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath at the new end). What is missing, of course, is reference to Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry: 1945-1960 (1960), an anthology that was hugely influential to a generation of Vancouver poets, largely due to the scholarship and teaching of UBC English professor Warren Tallman, who introduced the increasingly proprioceptive, composition-by-field poems of Denise Levertov, Charles Olson and Jack Spicer to local student-writers like George Bowering, Daphne Marlatt, Gladys Hindmarch and Fred Wah.

What I like best about Alvarez’s introduction is his own poetic contribution: a poem he composed using lines lifted from the poems in Robert Conquest’s New Lines (1956) anthology. Yet Alvarez does not give us his “synthetic” poem to demonstrate his skills as a collagist (a compositional method used by some of Vancouver’s intermedial artists of the early-1960s, such as bill bissett, Judith Copithorne, Gerry Gilbert, RoyKiyooka, Michael Morris and Al Neil), but to make nonsense of what he sees as a sameness in the poems of Kingsley Amis, Elizabeth Jennings, Thom Gunn and Philip Larkin. Leave it to Leavis-influenced scholars like Alvarez to cheapen what was then a (re-)emergent and refreshing literary method by employing collage not as a formal methodology reflective of the times, but as an incongruous vehicle for connoisseurial critique.

Here is Alvarez’s poem (and his punctuation):

Picture of lover or friend who is not either
Like you or me who, to sustain our pose,
Need wine and conversation, colour and light;
In short, a past that no one now can share,
No matter whose your future; calm and dry,
In sex I do not dither more than either,
Nor should I swell to halloo the names
Of feelings that no one needs to remember:
The same few dismal properties, the same
Oppressive air of justified unease
Of our imaginations and our beds.
It seems the poet made a bad mistake.

Monday, August 31, 2015

"Rain" (1966)

Every now and then a song gets stuck in my head and I pick up my guitar in an effort to learn more about it.

The latest song to stick with me is the Beatles' "Rain", a fairly simple I-IV-V progression made more complex through alternating accents, time signatures, and, as a recorded object, tape loops and delays.

Prior to that, the last song to stick with me occured in late July, when the skies were clear and my garden was in need of weeding; a song that the authors of "Rain" sing back-up on: the Rolling Stones' "Dandelion" (1967).

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Refeatured Landscapes

A relatively calm morning after yesterday's wind and rain. Lots of images online, but the one that struck me belonged to 2006, when high winds levelled much of Prospect Point.

The image above is from 2006 and belongs to CTVglobemedia; the image below is a picture Kevin Schmidt made of (and with) his trompe l'oeil painting, entitled Prospect Point (2007).

As an added bonus, here is K. Gill's March 30, 2014 Moleskine entry:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Storming Over Vancouver

Lots of rain in the forecast -- and now a wind warning!