Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Open Book Toronto Blog: My 2010 Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Predictions!

"Oscar predictions are familiar fare, and while predictions regarding literary prizes are similarly ubiquitous, they are often kept strictly between friends. This year I've decided to put my Griffin Prize shortlist predictions out there for everyone to see, and I'm calling on the readers of Open Book Toronto to share their own predictions..."

Click here to see my picks!

Monday, 15 March 2010

"I Am Happy to Live in an Age of Plenty" in The Walrus

My poem "I Am Happy to Live in an Age of Plenty," is in the April issue of The Walrus. The poem is from my new book, but you can read it online here.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Autistic art?

Back in November on this blog, I wrote:
"I dislike fundamentalisms of any kind, and that includes both critical and aesthetic ones. In poetics, at both the conservative and radical ends of the spectrum, you have those modes that fetishize their own kind of formalism to the detriment of (or even to the exclusion of) concerns about content. At either extreme these formalist fundamentalisms (say a revived take on the radical poetics of Oulipo or an orthodox approach to classicist meter and rhyme) you will find a kind of literary autism; the poems are toying with their physical minutiae, but they are disinterested in actually communicating much of anything."
In the current issue of the Christian commentary magazine Image, Australian poet Les Murray, who himself has Asperger's and a son with autism, says something very similar:
"A lot of modern art is very autistic. There is this arbitrary law that you're not supposed to be sentimental or have any feelings. What the bloody hell is that but autism, pretending to be some kind of automaton? I came across a wonderful phrase recently. Some fellow writing against the Conservative Party of Canada, parodying their attitudes, described the conservative image of Harvard as 'the great ice-palace of the modern elite'—where it's all intellect and no feelings allowed."
You can read the entire conversion between Les Murray and J. Mark Smith, who teaches English at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, on the Poetry Daily website.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Win a free copy of my new book!

From Open Book Toronto:

March Book Giveaway: Paul Vermeersch's The Reinvention of the Human Hand

We're thrilled to announce that Paul Vermeersch is Open Book's March Writer in Residence. Visit his WIR page to read his blog, his Reading Recommendations and his Ten Questions with Open Book. Send an email to with the title of one of Paul's Reading Recommendations, and your name will be entered in a draw for a copy of his latest book, The Reinvention of the Human Hand (McClelland & Stewart, 2010). The contest closes on March 31st.

You can send your questions and comments for Paul to or post them onto his page.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Following yesterday's unpleasant news about our Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, I felt this needed to be done.

Certainly, gay and lesbian Canadians have made a considerable contribution to our national identity through our literature. I propose we assemble a reading list for Mr. Kenney, one comprising the very best of Canada's queer literature, great books by queer authors and books on queer themes....

Now, I'm calling on Canadian publishers from sea to shining sea to send Jason Kenney a "review copy" of all the books you've published by queer Canadian authors. You can find his address by clicking here.

Send him books by Ivan E. Coyote and Camilla Gibb, and books by Wayson Choy, Michael V. Smith, and Sina Queryas. Give him Billeh Nickerson, John Barton, Jen Currin, and Betsy Warland to read. Recommend something by Marnie Woodrow, Darren Greer, and Sky Gilbert! Of course there must something by Sky Gilbert!

To read the rest, please visit my Open Book Toronto Writer-in-Residence page.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


I won't be cross-posting every blog entry I write for the Open Book Toronto site here, but I will keep a few of them posted here as a reminder. I hope you like the one I wrote today.


Three years ago I was invited to participate in the Berlin Poetry Festival. I have many fond memories of that trip and still consider it one of the highlights of my writing life. It's a powerful thing to travel internationally in order to share your work with people -- with readers and writers -- from around the world. The invitation was an honour. The experience was unforgettable.

Today in China there is another poet who has been invited to a literary festival in Germany. His name is Liao Yiwu. Unfortunately, he will not be able to attend his conference in Cologne. The Chinese government, which has been cracking down lately on people they consider dissidents, will not allow Liao Yiwu to leave the country.

For those of us in Canada, similar restrictions would be unthinkable....

To read the rest, please visit my Open Book Toronto Writer-in-Residence page.