Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

NEW Issues of OEI Reviewed

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I received issues 28, 29, 30, 31, and 32 of OEI today, a genuine smörgåsbord of contemporary Scandinavian writing. OEI is one of the world's leading experimental magazines, and these two volumes (a triple issue, and a double issue) represent a diverse summary of writing activity now.

28-29-30 begins with some text-photographs by Karl-Johan Stigmark that present language strips in an environment, unfolded like fortune cookie messages. There is something elegant and beautiful about the metaphors the texts become in the visual field. Many of the images feature wires, electricity, and power as themes. Next up is Kristian Carlsson's sequence of graphical punctuation poems. These begin simply, with spare editorial markers on a page and gradually accumulate size, scope, and intensity. It is a lovely study that transcends language.

More visual work by Steve Ausbury (very reminiscent of Judith Copithorne's handwriting poems), and Pekka Sassi (a deletion text where an entire multi-page poem has been replaced by Xs. Censorship?), and Dan Froeberg, and Tom Malmquist, and so on. The issue is vibrant, visually stunning, and exceptionally well executed. There is not a magazine this diverse and original in North America that I've seen, and it makes the garage-band aesthetics of most of our concrete and visual magazines look like, well, garage band aesthetics.

The index for the issue appears on page 89, and lists 88 different authors. Some familiar names from Canadian and Canadian-friendly scenes include: Charles Bernstein, Christian Bok, David Antin, Steve McCaffery, Caroline Bergvall, and Jesper Olsson. Christian's contributions include the text and scores for "Mushroom Clouds" and "Synth Loops" for the Cyborg Opera (click for audio). I did an interview with Christian about the Cyborg Opera a few years ago (published in Open Letter), but never actually saw the text. He's also published some text versions here.

While his performed versions of such twisters as "hillbilly billabong / boom bang boomerang / you bring / a dang kangaroo to a gangbang" are audio treats, the syntactic and syllabic precision of the texts are feats of their own. At the least, they confirm the strength of the piece. Why haven't these appeared on CD or in a book somewhere? Christian's sideprojects are accumulating serious weight, but have also already garnered as much attention as musical singals used to get back in the radio days.

Did I mention that 28-29-30 comes with a double audio CD featuring sound poetry by Swedes, Americans, Canadians, Norwegians and more? No? Well, Kenneth Goldsmith's version of the Swedish National anthem alone makes the CD worth the whole set. The phonebook-sized issue includes most of the scores from the CD.

Issue 31-32 features essays and writings by Georges Perec, Craig Dworkin, Johanna Drucker, Maurice Blanchot, Michel de Certeau, Caroline Bergvall, more great work by Kristian Carlsson, and healthy selections from 45 other writers. At nearly 400 full letter-sized pages, it contains more worthy worlds than most anthologies. When I get home, I may scan in one or two of the great visual poems, such as by Leif Erikson, for examples.

The photo included, by Christine Ödlund, is not from the magazine, but a rough representation of the kinds of text/visual work happening in Sweden.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Gregory Betts

Gregory Betts is an experimental poet, editor, essayist and teacher. He is the author of If Language (BookThug, 2005), Haikube (BookThug, 2006) and The Others Raisd in Me (Pedlar Press, 2009). He has edited editions of poetry by W.W. E. Ross, Raymond Knister and Lawren Harris. His latest book is The Wrong World: Selected Stories and Essays of Bertram Brooker (University of Ottawa Press 2009).

Go to Gregory Betts’s Author Page