The I.V. Lounge on Dundas Street (seen here in a manipulated image created by Steve Venright for the cover the anthology The I.V. Lounge Reader) is closing its doors for good starting tomorrow. As many people know, this is the place where I started, with the help of Peter Darbyshire, the I.V. Lounge Reading Series in 1998. I ran the series for five years, and Alex Boyd has been running the series since 2003. Now, the reading series is kaput, though I guess we can be proud of a strong ten-year run.
Alex has written a farewell message on his blog, but he also lets us know that there's still one more celebration to be had at the I.V. Lounge:
...there’s one more opportunity to have a drink at the I.V. Lounge, say thanks to Kevin and chill out there, and that will be Sunday night, Aug 24 anytime after 3pm. After that, the bar is closed. It also happens to be Kevin’s birthday, so feel free to wish him a happy one, aside from wishing him luck. I suspect I’ll be there sometime after 8pm, and hope to see a few of you.
For a few memories of the old days when I ran the series, Google Books has some pages from the The I.V. Lounge Reader available to view online. The selection includes my introduction to the anthology, poems by David McGimspey, George Bowering, Jennifer LoveGrove, and A.F. Moritz, and fiction by Derek McCormack, Tamas Dobozy, and an otherwise unpublished short story by Andrew Pyper in which he coins the word "sockfarty" which is probably one of my all time favourite Canadian neologisms. You can read it all by clicking here.
This is bizarre. Brantford, Ontario, Poet Laureate John B. Lee is among those targeted by an email phishing scam that seeks to exploit the fragile egos of poets, asking them to fork over a "handling fee" of 1,555 Euros to process their nomination for the newly international Pulitzer Prize.
In fact, the Pulitzer Prize is still only open to American citizens, so Canadians needn't worry themselves about it. Lee admits he had "a sliver of hope," but quickly realized the email was bogus. So far, it doesn't seem this scam has been successful, as no one has handed over the fee. The phishing here is laughably obvious. The Pulitzer Prize wouldn't ask nominees for money, let alone in Euros. As crime goes, this one belongs in the Stupid Criminal Files.
This story was reported by the Brantford Expositor. Read about it here.
I took this picture of Stuart Ross (left) and Jason Camlot (with Stuart's camera) during a trip to Buffalo back in May. You can see my reflection in the window, and you can also see a strange little doll that could be one of the lost boys from Peter Pan. Stuart and Jason were there to promote their new books, Camlot's The Debaucher and Ross's Dead Cars in Managua, and I was just tagging along for support.
Anyway, that same Stuart Ross has been interviewed by Evie Christie for Mondo, a volunteer-run, Toronto-based, arts, culture, and humour webzine. Here's a timbit of their interview:
Evie:At the Punchy/Insomniac launch in Toronto, the crowd was vocal and enthusiastic during your reading. Afterwards I heard many people talking about the artwork - the cover as well as the photographs of the cars inside. How did you decide on your cover art, and can you give some of the back story about the cars?
Stuart: I think the crowd was also vocal because I had been threatened with a defamation suit by a couple of other poets who were there in the audience, and this was a show of support for me. I can’t believe these two had the gall to show up at my launch after they’d sent a lawyer after me to shut me up. And then this other lousy poet was there, too, who had equated me publicly with Holocaust deniers because I was, to quote his mangled miscommand of the English language, “wrapping myself around the flag of freedom of expression.” Well, sorry, chump, but it was an issue of freedom of expression. And given that most of my great uncles and aunts and cousins died in concentration camps, I took offense. And it’s just now occurred to me that this guy shares the same name as the moronic Nazi colonel in Hogan’s Heroes....
As far as I'm concerned, Selima Hill has not been allotted the full measure of public acclaim that she deserves. Perhaps she has been taken for granted -- the hard-working poet who can always be relied upon to produce engaging work, she needn't be distracted with too much praise! Or perhaps because her poetry is so inwardly potent, so complex in its evocative power and yet so crystalline, so seemingly simple in its execution, that some critics and academics have neglected to tout the excellence of her work because it doesn't flatter their own.
Readers in Canada have another reason for not knowing much about Hill's poetry. Her books are published by the marvellous Bloodaxe Books, one of the English-speaking world's best poetry publishers, but Bloodaxe books do not have a Canadian distributor (though they can be found on Amazon.ca), so they are seldom found by Canadian poetry readers who enjoy browsing in their local independent bookseller's shop.
This year, in a bold publishing move, Bloodaxe has brought out two books by Hill at the same time. One is her piercing new collection The Hat, and the other is the generous career retrospective Gloria: Selected Poems. Taken together, it is clear that a unique poetic talent has been producing a unified and dizzingly animated body of work for decades. Her early work is not eclipsed by her later work, and her later work does not suffer from creative exhaustion. Here is a sample from Gloria, a poem reprinted from her second collection My Darling Camel (1988):
Visiting the Zoo The tall giraffes can never sit. Their names are Valerie and Gwendoline. I am their tall reticulated son. This is our sand and hay. Follow our gold strip to holy Tassili, blonde swallow-tails, hares, a little milk.
You are a good girl. He will never know you are in love with someone else, not him.
Perhaps, now that readers have the opportunity to not only read her latest work, but also to catch up on the best of her output to date, she may finally come into the attention she very richly deserves. To help her along, I've gathered together a few resources from the internet for those who are interested in knowing more about this remarkable poet and her work.
Here is a review of both Gloria and The Hat from The Guardian by Fiona Sampson:
If Gloria's generous 330-odd pages demonstrate how substantial Hill's body of work is, The Hat shows this brilliant lyricist of human darkness writing more acutely than ever. So original that it has sometimes scared off critical scrutineers, her work must now, surely, be acknowledged as being of central importance in British poetry - not only for the courage of its subject matter but also for the lucid compression of its poetics.
Here is an interview with Selima Hill, conducted by Bucharest University professor Lidia Vianu:
SELIMA HILL: I was born in 1945. When I was a baby I was burnt in a fire. I was rescued from my burning cot by a farmer who saw the flames. I spent six months (maybe a year, I’m not sure) in hospital. Of course, I nearly died. An of course my mother felt guilty... I was born into a family of painters. My grandparents and my parents were painters. (My ex-husband and my son are also painters. My daughter is a photographer. My youngest son is a writer.) My father was sixty when I was born. I was sent to boarding school, and then University, where I read philosophy. I then had a breakdown and spent another year in hospital (Psychiatric hospital). There is no connection between John Fowles and myself (except that I used to live in his flat – one big room overlooking the sea). I now live with my various animals in a house with a small orchard near the beach – and also near my seven grandchildren and my ex-husband and his new wife and my children and their husbands and horses...
The British Council offers sound recordings of five Selima Hill poems here.
The poems included are "Being a Wife", "My Sister's Poodle is Accused of Eating the Housekeeping Monkey", "The World's Entire Wasp Population", "Why I Left You", and "Your Girlfriend's Thigh."
And here is a video of Selima Hill reading her poem "Cow." Enjoy:
A high school student named Sarah Davis (aka hamstergirl7) made a video for my poem "The Days Dogs Die" as an assignment for her English class. She has posted it on YouTube, and (with her permission) I'd like to share it with you. Thanks, Sarah.
Good news! The excellent documentary series Visions & Voices is now available online in streaming video thanks to www.learner.org My first experience with this series was the marvellously engaging documentary about Robert Lowell that I borrowed from a friend who owned a copy on VHS. You can watch a sample clip of Lowell reading his spectacular poem "My Last Afternoon with Uncle Devereux Winslow" here.
Aside from Lowell, the series also includes documentaries about Elizabeth Bishop, Hart Crane, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman, and William Carlos Williams. I've already watched a few of these, and I'm looking forward to watching the rest.
Here's how the website describes the series:
A video instructional series on American poetry for college and high school classrooms and adult learners; 13 one-hour video programs and coordinated books; also available on CD-ROM.
The lives and works of 13 renowned American poets are interpreted through dramatic readings, archival photographs, dance, performances, and interviews in this inspiring series. Illustrative poems in each program are accompanied by insights into their historical and cultural connections. The series covers the terminology of poetry and the larger role of poets in American and world literature studies. Poets include Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Elizabeth Bishop.
To watch the streaming video-on-demand, you have to register with the site, but it only takes a few seconds to do that. To get started, just visit this website, and soon you'll be enjoying the programs.
If you prefer to buy the series on DVD, you can do that here.
Canadian literary icon Stuart Ross has decided to read all the poetry books he owns. This might be a first in the history of owning a lot of poetry books, and I might even be inspired to follow suit one day. Stuart will go one step further by blogging about his experiences reading all these books. Here is how Ross explains his new project:
I've got about 1,200 single-author poetry books, not including chapbooks. What I'm going to do here is go through them all and read them, one each day or so, and write about them. Thereby learning how to write about poetry books. And thereby deciding which ones to get rid of, because I'm drowning in books. Oh, also I'll presumably find hundreds of great poems I haven't read before, because I've only read a fraction of the collection.
Tomorrow, I'll read an author whose last name starts with A. On Saturday one whose last name starts with B. And so on. I'll keep cycling through the alphabet, until I've read and written about all my goddamn poetry books.
Or maybe I'll give up after Day 4. We'll soon find out.