Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

pvermeersch's blog

A Parting Thought from Our March Writer-In-Residence: Toronto Is a Vibrant Literary City. Become a Part of It!

Dear Toronto Book Lovers,

It's been a pleasure blogging for you all here at Open Book Toronto. Thanks to OBT, I've had the chance to be political, nostalgic, optimistic and perhaps even (time will tell) prophetic. But whatever I have written here, I have written it because for one reason or another it seemed important to me to share it with you, and before I turn over the residency to April's writer-in-residence Edward Carson, there is one more thing I would like to address.

Better than the Oscars: My 2010 Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Predictions!

A few weeks ago the the world turned its attention to Hollywood to watch the 82nd annual Academy Awards, and, as is customary, most of the people watching probably made predictions about the winners in advance. Friends circulated ballots at Oscar parties. The news media and the blogosphere weighed in. Speculation ran high. All that's old news, of course, but something far more momentous is just around the corner, and I want to bring it to your attention. The Griffin Poetry Prize will be announcing its shortlist on April 6th, and that's far more exciting to me than any old Oscar.

Remembering My Poetic and Not-So Poetic Day Jobs (Part Two)

In my last installment, I told you of my adventures as a warehouse worker, cook, merry-go-round operator, and map folder. Yes, map folder. The purpose of this exercise is to determine, with the aid of hindsight, how my previous occupations have influenced my writing. I suggested it’s possible that my first job may have nudged me toward a desire for unconventional employment; being a cook inspired a poem in my first book; operating a merry-go-round taught me that there is a certain lyricism to be found in everyday business; and folding maps for three years taught me that what I learned operating a merry-go-round is not necessarily applicable in every situation.

After the map-folding job, I started working in the book trade, both in publishing and bookselling. Surely, this must have had an effect on my writing, but how?

Remembering My Poetic and Not-So Poetic Day Jobs (Part One)

Poet Sina Queyras, whose latest book Expressway was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award, has been talking to poets about their day jobs over at Harriet, the official blog of the Poetry Foundation. Specifically, she's talking with poets who don't have academic or teaching jobs. Since I teach at Sheridan College, I wouldn't qualify for Queyras' investigation, but it has given me the idea of looking back on my other day jobs and seeing how they may have affected my writing.

POETIC OPTIMISMS

As a species, humanity has made poetry for as long as we've had language. It's one of our most ancient, and innate, forms of creative expression. And for almost as long as we have had poetry, we have had those naysayers who predict its doom. Local poet Jacob McArthur Mooney, for one, has had enough of the nattering nabobs of negativism. He believes we have beaten the inevitability of the death of poetry to death just a little bit, and now he's doing something about it.

SIDELINES: CAREY TOANE AND ELISABETH DE MARIAFFI GET SET TO LAUNCH TORONTO POETRY VENDORS

I've already mentioned how poets are often naturally attracted to alternative methods of publishing and distribution -- things like boutique printing and small press publishing -- and this is certainly true for local poets Elisabeth de Mariaffi and Carey Toane. This spring, they will be launching a new project called Toronto Poetry Vendors, a small, inexpensive broadside press that will distribute its wares using refurbished vending machines. I first became aware of TPV when they asked me to submit a poem for the project. It seems like a fun new way to put poems in the hands of readers, so I was eager to get on board.

SIDELINES: POET CHRIS BANKS ON BECOMING A FLEDGLING PRINTER

Writing poetry is a labour of love, and sometimes that love finds expression beyond the act of writing. Many poets are naturally attracted to small press and micro press activities. They make chapbooks and pamphlets. They seek out alternative methods of distribution. Some of them, like award-winning poet Chris Banks, take it to a higher level. The decision to purchase and operate a printing press can be a major commitment and a lot of work, as Chris has found out. It can also be rewarding and a whole lot of fun. This spring, Chris will be printing a broadside of one of my poems, and I’m eagerly awaiting the result. I recently asked Chris about the steps he took to get his River Rock Press imprint off the ground.

KEEPING GREAT CANADIAN POETS IN PRINT: THREE BOOKS FROM THE PORCUPINE'S QUILL

One of the themes I've been dealing with as writer in residence for Open Book Toronto is the danger of losing our cultural inheritance because of a tendency toward cultural amnesia. In Canadian letters, our chief safeguard against this tendency has been the New Canadian Library. Established in 1958 by Jack McClelland and Malcolm Ross, it is the aim of the NCL to keep in print the very best of Canadian literature. Or, rather, the best of Canadian prose fiction, since the vast majority of the works that constitute the NCL are novels.

NEW ANTHOLOGIES BRING THE HISTORY OF CANADIAN POETRY INTO FOCUS (PART TWO)

In my last post, I wrote about our tendency in this country to abandon (or even scorn) our cultural history. It's a sin that becomes even more unforgivable when the history forgotten is still within people's living memory. For instance, I have noticed that members of my generation, even those of us predisposed to talk about poetry, generally don't discuss Canadian poetry before 1960. To clarify, we will talk about a lot of poetry written prior to 1960, just not the stuff that was written in Canada.

NEW ANTHOLOGIES BRING THE HISTORY OF CANADIAN POETRY INTO FOCUS (PART ONE)

We are frequently accused of being a throw-away society, and not without reason. We often praise the new simply for being new, and in the same breath we deride the breakthroughs of the past for being quaint, rustic, or obsolete. Such are the capricious judgments of fashion. Even poetry, which is often meant to speak to the ages, cannot always escape the fate of our fickle moods.

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