Thought Trafficking

Happy Election Day, Alberta
April 23, 2012, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Canadian politics, observations, Reading | Tags: , , , ,

On the subject of Canadian politics, a Didionesque collocation in this article on the CBC:

The bill for three nights at the Savoy last June set back taxpayers $1,995, or $665 a night. The government still had to pay for a night at the hotel she rejected, costing an additional $287.

An orange juice Ms. Oda expensed from the Savoy cost $16.

In last month’s budget, the Canadian International Development Agency suffered cuts that rang in this year at $380 million.

In other news, we had fresh rhubarb from the garden for dessert last night, and today there is snow in the forecast. I can see a blooming magnolia tree from my office window.


April, naked and otherwise.
April 13, 2012, 3:08 pm
Filed under: observations, poetry, Reading | Tags: , , ,

In keeping with my citation-heavy blog posts of late, and since April is National Poetry Month (whatever that means in the grad scheme of things), I wanted to post a few selections from Phyllis Webb’s Naked Poems, a group of poems that is hard to find outside of anthologies and special collections.

From Suite I

to establish distance
between our houses. 
It seems
I welcome you in. 
Your mouth blesses me
all over.
There is room.
From Non-Linear
I am listening for
the turn of the tide
I imagine it will sound
an appalled sigh
the sigh of Sisyphus
who was not happy
From Some Final Questions
What do you really want?
Want the apple on the bough in
the hand in the mouth seed
planted in the brain want
to think “apple”
I don’t get it. Are you talking about
process and individualtion. Or absolutes 
whole numbers that sort of thing?
But why don’t you do something?
I am trying to write a poem.
Listen. If I have known beauty
let’s say I came to it

And just because, some wisdom (?) from my father, that someone–either my mother or myself–scribbled in a cookbook after her said it a few years ago:

Nothing wrong with poetry as long as you wash your hands afterwards.

In other news, the sun is bright in the mornings and the nights are chilly. This summer I will try to re-learn Spanish, and I would love suggestions for movies or radio stations or books that I should use. Today, my first free Friday in what seems like a long time, I will try to go to Jumah in a new place, and I am full of hope and good feelings for that. Lots of simple future in my language.


there are books that describe all this
March 29, 2012, 4:34 am
Filed under: listening, Reading, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

The internet is abuzz with tributes tonight; both Earl Scruggs and Adrienne Rich have died. I like the banjo, but I have more to say about Rich, so I will add a selection to this, this, and this (among, I’m sure, many others).

I first read Adrienne Rich in an American Poetry class taught by Prof. Luke Carson. It certainly one of the best classes of my undergrad, and Prof. Carson would read each poem aloud before we talked about it. I still have the anthology used in that class, and I still find the notes very useful. Adrienne Rich was one of the first poets that I really struggled with, because as much as I liked some of her poems, others really frustrated me, in particular “Paula Becker to Clara Westhoff”: I felt, at the time, like she was completely denying the grief that Rilke had felt in composing his elegy for Becker. It was only this summer, reading a book of essays on female poets and ekphrasis, that I realized why some of her poems bothered me the way they did: her tendency is to appropriate a “male” way of speaking (and on occasion, of gazing) for “women”–it’s a strident voice, sometimes a confrontational one (I put those in quotes because, who knows, gender in writing is often a fluid thing). Which is also what I so enjoyed in certain poems, my favourite being “The Burning of Paper Instead of Children.” If you would like to hear it read, you can go here (it goes a little quickly, but you can hear a train in the background).

We are fortunate to have, to have had such people in our world, fortunate that they left us parts of their lives.

And then there’s this, this amazing thing.

Back so soon
March 27, 2012, 3:36 am
Filed under: listening, Reading, writing | Tags: ,

The silence of the desert is a visual thing, too. A product of the gaze that stares out and finds nothing to reflect it. There can be no silence up in the mountains, since their very contours roar. And for there to be silence, time itself has to attain a sort of horizontality; there has to be no echo of time in the future, but simply a sliding of geological strata one upon the other giving out nothing more than a fossil murmur.

Jean Baudrillard,  America

It was the sea’s vacancy that the ancients found most disturbing. Medieval Europeans also viewed the waters to the west as a void, but eventually they turned this emptiness into potentiality, first as a spiritual asset and later as material opportunity. When they finally ventured into the Atlantic in the fifth and sixth centuries they did so in search of a desert in the sea, coveting empty rather than inhabited islands. The initial motivation for voyaging was religious…”Landscape is the work of the mind,” writes Simon Schama; and desert is something we project on a place.

John R. Gillis, Islands of the Mind

Spring Fever
March 21, 2012, 3:10 pm
Filed under: Reading, Toronto, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

The urge to write here always strikes in the spring. The sun comes out, the grass is warm enough for sitting on, I dig out my password for this blog. Inevitable.

Lots of things have happened since last June, many of them nice, some of them difficult. I am in between readings watching the neighbourhood’s muscular black squirrels shimmy up trees.

I turned 27 a few weeks ago. I thought I would be more uncomfortable with that than I am. Time is moving faster than I expect, faster and faster every year, but the people and the experiences I gain so much more than make up for it.  In a certain sense, however, I am aware of living on borrowed time: we are already experiencing highs of 25C or more during the day, here comes summer and the trees have been caught without their leaves on. 

With daylight savings, what Joan Didion (and surely others) calls the blue nights have returned, now there is ample time to enjoy the evening, enjoy being north, or northish. In the sky these nights, Venus and Jupiter are aligned to the west, and opposite them, Mars is visible to the east (or southeast). This is visible from my city balcony, Jupiter and Venus particularly bright and huge. I can remember as a child visiting that I loved Toronto’s sunsets.

And now, since I apparently like to post poetry here, and since I don’t want to type up all of Charles Wright’s “Homage to Paul Cézanne,” here is Lisa Olstein, from her collection Radio Crackling, Radio Gone. Here is what I like: the colour blue, the idea of God as an absence we feel, an absence we need to search out, or a book we open. I like unrhymed couplets, especially the enjambments straddling the gaps. I also like reading all of this while picturing a bear and a man.

Man Feeding Bear an Ear of Corn

What we need is an allegory.

What we want is a parable.

What we remember is a face,

movement of hands like wings.

If God is an absence, what’s missing

is blue. If God is a book, its pages

are blue. Doorways appear green.

Night is a small patch in the distance

where everything swirls inviting–

a place, from this distance, you might like

to stay for a while. An arm extends

an ear to an arm extended.

If you have a hand, place it over your heart.

This necklace will not be mistaken for its chain.

One last thing before I go, from Agamben’s The Open: Man and Animal, from the chapter called “Tick”:

He then draws the sole conclusion that ‘without a living subject, time cannot exist.’ But what becomes of the tick and its world in this state of suspension that lasts eighteen years? How is it possible for a living being that consists entirely in its relationship with the environment to survive in absolute deprivation of that environment? And what sense does it make to speak of “waiting” without time and without world? (47)

Waiting loses its meaning without time. But what constitutes a living subject? The chapter on the tick confused me most, and interested me most, because it describes the way in which we can attempt to conceptualize the tick’s relationship with the world. More than that, thought, I wondered how limited our own perceptions, our own relations with the world, are. This is, of course, not a new thought. We do not know it is blue that is missing, blue that we are looking for, if we’ve never gone looking, yes, but if we find it, we can’t even be sure of really, really seeing blue. “Everything that is readable with the eyes is not everything”–Arvo Pärt.

Croyez que ce devrait être très beau
October 16, 2009, 3:05 am
Filed under: academese, living, outside, Reading | Tags: , ,


Snarfle 1

The sun peeked out at dusk, and the love I had for its reddish light falling on the blue spruce in a neighbour’s yard was overwhelming.

I agree with the following, but for different reasons than the reasons it was written for:

In the strange garden of effective existence, anything is the swan, that is, potential beauty, but nothing is the peacock that entirely spreads its fan.

-Yves Bonnefoy

(Made of reason because the reasons are my own)

Mondays are important for a number of reasons
July 13, 2009, 7:59 am
Filed under: living, music, outside, Reading | Tags:
And the first reason is that they are not Tuesdays. Bless ’em for that.
Here are some things for a good Monday:
Amazing music, and quick-streaming at that:
Something for the summer hours:
Time expanded. The day widened, pulled from both ends by the shrinking dark, as if darkness itself were a pair of hands and daylight a skein between them, a flexible membrane, and the hands that had pressed together all winter–praying, paralyszed with foreboding–now flung open wide.
-Annie Dillard, The Living

And finally, some things that you can find outside:


Jelly something?