Monday, April 30, 2012


for Marina Roy

no mark is so anonymous as to obscure what lies behind it

in science the symbol x is a variable, an "unknown value to find"

the X on my keyboard hides that x, while its capitalization, with help

from my SHIFT function, was the choice of X. J. Kennedy, the poet

an obliteration of his first name, Charles, to distinguish himself

from Boston's Joseph P. Kennedy, unlike the S in Harry S. Truman

who became president where Joseph P. failed, the S standing not

for variability -- the names of his maternal and paternal grandfathers --

but for what mattered most to Joseph P., and that is patriarchy

Sunday, April 29, 2012


an age for which memories require internet assistance

who has not begun such a journey with song?

Billboard's spreadsheet streetscape, the number one slot

a shop -- "The Morning After" next door to Diana Ross

pleading for someone to "Touch Me in the Morning"

of my birthday, the Stories' interracial love affair

Marvin Gaye's contracted pronoun --

to remember what I remembered then: the boardwalk

"Delta Dawn", a hatch of salmon, "Half-Breed" as I entered

Grade Six, "Angie", Tsimshian women dressed in white

smoking, laughing, marching from the plant

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012


I know how old I was but it is the year I keep thinking about

the last Sunday in August, barely my age, the tracks curving north

through a heat ripple, a portal

impossible to enter, we agreed

-- or exit, someone added

the thought had not occurred to us

someone's cousin, a visitor to our world

as if the world was something to depart from, was how I heard her

this kid, too young to say such a thing, younger than me in '71

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I did not know enough about you yet

other than how you appeared that day

your kind, a bird, not a crow or a robin or a gull

but a thing with wings standing deep in a tree

staring back at me, not a starling or a chickadee

but a bird, one of all the birds in the world that day

the song that I gave you to sing was my way

of saying to myself that what I was seeing was real

that you were here for a reason, to teach me something

that I was real and you were a bird

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

On the table lies a postcard of the entrance to Stanley Park. From the look of the cars I would say that the photo (by Rolly Ford) was taken in the early 1970s.

I like the composition: a big "S" where the road goes; a dark blue (tinted?) Lost Lagoon to the west and the Rowing Club to the east. Above a band of trees (the leaves on the deciduous trees are turning), a snowless Grouse Mountain, followed by a light blue (October?) sky.

Not sure who to send this to, if anyone. I started to write something on the back -- how the bottom-right-hand corner is now taken up with a Rodney Graham sculpture -- so that will have bearing on who gets it. Thought about sending it to artists Hadley + Maxwell, as a reminder of the city they no longer live in, but that city is gone too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One Monday, while cutting through Yaletown on foot, I witnessed an odd convergence -- coming down one side of the block was a mother and a toddler, the latter waving a small Vancouver Canucks flag, while coming down the other side was a man and his Great Dane.

The man and his dog arrived at the corner first, where the dog went into b.m. mode and produced, in short order, a rather large pile. No sooner had the dog stepped away when the toddler raced ahead and planted the flag atop the pile. Pleased, the toddler turned to the mother for affirmation, and the mother froze.

So did everyone else at the corner

Hey, someone said to the man, you gonna pick that up? To which the man replied, No way, I hate the Canucks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

For those who have accused me of picking on MASS MoCA (see previous postings), let me say that my problem lies less with the museum than the motivation behind its upcoming "Oh, Canada" exhibition, an exhibition that, at least to my mind, lacks a curatorial rationale deserving of the artists involved.

But for those still unsatisfied, for those who need me to remain an antagonist of this institution (for whatever reason), let me enter into evidence (compliments of the New York Times) a past instance of artist-MASS MoCA relations:


Published: January 28, 2010

A federal appeals court has decided that a lower court erred in 2007 when it ruled in favor of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in a bitter dispute between the museum and the artist Christoph Büchel over an immense, unfinished installation.

The United States Court of Appeals in Boston ruled on Wednesday that a federal district judge should have found that the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 — part of the Copyright Act that protects artists against having their names associated with works “in the event of a distortion, mutilation or other modification of the work” — applies to unfinished works like Mr. Büchel’s.

“Moral rights protect the personality and creative energy that an artist contributes to his or her work,” the ruling by the three-judge panel found. “That convergence between artist and artwork does not await the final brushstroke or the placement of the last element in a complex installation.”

The appeals panel found that the district judge improperly granted the museum summary judgment in parts of the case and that there were “material disputes of fact” that should be decided by a jury about whether the museum distorted Mr. Büchel’s installation by showing it to several people after making changes in it without his approval.

Mr. Büchel has become well known for creating elaborate, politically provocative environments. His conception for the work in Massachusetts, to be called “Training Ground for Democracy,” was that it would mimic and mock the kind of training that is used by the United States military to help soldiers adapt to unfamiliar cultures.

But after work began on the installation in 2006, in a building the size of a football field at the museum’s complex in North Adams, Mass., relations between the artist and the museum degenerated into an angry standoff. Mr. Büchel contended that the museum badly mishandled the project, made decisions about constructing and arranging the work without his approval and did not follow his instructions. The museum argued that he was difficult to work with almost from the start, was absent for a long period of the project’s installation and made many demands and changes to the project as it was being built, causing an initial budget to more than double.

The court of appeals, in its ruling, said that evidence it reviewed “would permit a jury to find that the museum forged ahead with the installation in the first half of 2007 knowing that the continuing construction in Büchel’s absence would frustrate — and likely contradict — Büchel’s artistic vision.”

In 2007 the museum sued Mr. Büchel, and the district court’s decision gave the museum the right to display the unfinished work, but the museum — which was condemned by many art critics for the way it conducted itself in the long-running dispute — decided instead to dismantle it. In its ruling, the court of appeals rejected Mr. Büchel’s claim that merely showing the work in its incomplete state would have constituted a violation of his rights under the artists’ rights act.

Sergio Sarmiento, the associate director of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, which helped represent Mr. Büchel in his appeal, said he was “very, very happy with the decision.”

The museum, in a statement, said: “While we had obviously hoped that this dispute had finally been resolved, should Mr. Büchel decide to proceed further with this case, we are confident that we exercised appropriate curatorial care and diligence in our handling of the work in progress.”

Asked whether Mr. Büchel would pursue the case further, Mr. Sarmiento said, “Our plan is to litigate this to the fullest extent possible.”

Friday, April 13, 2012


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

U.S. BIRTH GRAPH, 1946-1962 (revised)

behind a decommissioned half-track

on the kitchen table, the radio blaring

in the middle of a raspberry u-pick

while waiting at a railway crossing

ten minutes into a twenty-minute nap

inspired by a new and improved design

at a time of global economic certainty

with no thought given to the neighbours

despite recent gains in public awareness

beside the window, the television blaring

under the influence of Lysol Disinfectant

between a glass of wine and a box of novels

eight days before the next menstrual cycle

immediately following the six o’clock news

against all odds – and a latticework fence

where demand for reconciliation appears low

towards the advancement of colored people

below a yellowing photo of John Bell Hood

beyond what passes for stasis and change


Last week I asked a poet I know to critique my poem "U.S. Birth Graph, 1946-1964" (posted on Saturday). She had a number of comments, most of them focused on my use of personal pronouns, how they created confusion. While I am interested in confusion, I decided to rewrite the poem without these pronouns, using the same constraint as in the previous version.

Readers will note that the revised poem uses both Canadian and U.S. spellings, as well as the Canadian "railway" over the U.S. "railroad". My use of the Canadian spelling of "neighbourhood" comes from a Canadian education; my use of the U.S. spelling of "colored" is based on its referent: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization that continues to this day.

I am still not happy with this poem (particularly the last line) and will likely make further changes. If any should come to mind, please let me know.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

U.S. BIRTH GRAPH, 1946-1964

behind a decommissioned half-track

on the kitchen table, the radio blaring

in the middle of a raspberry u-pick

while waiting at a railway crossing

twenty minutes into a five mile hike

at the wedding of his younger brother

at the completion of her baccalaureate

beside the window, with no one watching

under the influence of Burson-Marsteller

with his mother coming up the front steps

with her father in the back pruning a fig

between a bowl of chips and a box of novels

eight days before the next menstrual cycle

immediately following the six o’clock news

against all odds – and a latticework fence

with her on her knees and him on assignment

below a yellowing photo of Joseph Kennedy

towards the advancement of colored people

behind the times and besides the changes


The above poem began as a horizontal bar graph of live births recorded in the United States between 1946-1964, what is known as the Baby Boom.

For my part I have taken these numbers and, using a 1:100,000 ratio, replaced them with characters and the spaces in-between words. For example, if there were 4.3 million live births in 1957, then I have given myself 43 spaces to come up with a line (“with his mother coming up the front steps").

As for the content of the poem, you might have guessed that each line is an instance where conception could have taken place, and that the sequence could be described as a narrative.

A problem I had in composing this poem concerned the representation of fractions, as eight of the years/lines are in the tens of thousands. Because I am not interested in creating 1/10th of a letter (see Donato Mancini for that) I applied the fraction to the spacing of the fractioned line, something that will require a designer. As for the dash, while it requires two hyphens to make, it appears here as a single uninterrupted mark.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012


coffee is no longer where it comes from, but how

when the ends are increasingly assumed

ethics you can taste, politics on the tip of your tongue

the roof of the mouth is still a roof like ketchup was a vegetable

food and shelter -- the irreducible minimum – and from this seed

a stadium, the welfare state, with its own lip services paid for

by Postwar Economic Growth, the team that keeps on winning

the United States the Globetrotters, the Generals Everyone Else

not a cosmos but a line ascending, the straighter the better

like those Apollo rockets and their ferocious lift-offs

not The Economy we were watching but a rehearsal

of that which has become a tendency to associate rockets

with economies, not the opposite of bombs dropped

concurrently on Hanoi, Nam Dinh and Viet Tri

but the appearance of an opposite

because what was sent to the moon

and what fell on North Vietnam

was the coffee mom bought at the supermarket

the loss-leader bananas that lured her there

coffee still comes from the same places

but it is the treatment of its pickers

that gives it its taste