Sunday, July 23, 2017

Gary Barwin and Stuart Ross perform Sound Poetry.

Stuart Ross and I performed our sound poetry reunion after 26 years at the great Zula Present Something Else Festival last month. Below is an excerpt. Thanks to Taien Ng-Chan for the recording. Our last performance in 1991 is below.







Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Discovered Review of I, Dr. Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457

cover idea for Greenblatt (which was mislabelled as poems)

For Barwin, the ordinary and the extraordinary are never far apart—and that’s very good indeed.

Somehow I missed this entire review of I, Dr. Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457 (Anvil Press) when it originally came out in Canadian Literature. Thanks, Joel Deshaye!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Sunshine Kvetches: My Leacock Medal for Humour Speech.




I was so delighted that Yiddish for Pirates won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. I was shortlisted with Amy Jones and Drew Hayden Taylor, both fantastic writers, and it was really fun (maybe, in retrospect, more for me than for them...) to get to spend the weekend with them. We were driven around in a 1911 Model T Ford so we could wave at the good people of Orillia, Ontario. We were treated extremely well and the entire event had a lovely small town feel. Many former Leacock winners were present -- all extraordinarily warm people. We toured the Leacock House, saw the Leacock collection at the beautiful new local library, went to a garden party and had the gala by the lake at the YMCA camp/conference centre.



As part of winning the Leacock Medal, I was asked to give a 15-minute speech and so, in addition to thanking people, I said some things about humour and made a bunch of terrible jokes. I called the speech, Sunshine Kvetches of a Little Parrot (borrowing the title from a quip made by my friend Stuart Ross.)

The Leacock Associates posted the speech here. Next week, I'm going into Penguin Random House to record it as it will be a "bonus feature" for the Canadian version of the audiobook that they are doing, so it'll be really fun to get to record something on the audiobook. I'm very glad about the actor that they chose (I got to be in on the decision, too) and more details about that later, but part of me wanted to get to record the audiobook as I've had such a great time hamming it up in readings.




Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Nonhuman animals and nearhuman nonanimals



Just received this intriguing anthology which I'm very happy to appear in along some fascinating nonnonhuman writers including one of my favourite writers, Gabriel Gudding, and e
edited by A. Marie Houser for Faunary Press. My piece, "The Sky Above Chairs" is from my book, I, Dr. Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457 (Anvil Press.)


The anthology is a fiction anthology, but I wrote a little statement about my piece which didn't end up in the anthology and so I thought I'd share it here.

Chair. Coffeemaker. Car. Horse. Deer. Swallow.

I think about how our modern notion of what is 'other' blurs inanimate objects with animals and vice versa. For much of culture, outside the hospitable firecircle of the human, the light fades quickly, only a few animals allowed as pets or as marvellous outliers of the non-human to sit by us.  (And this not to mention, the humans we leave out in the cold,
which is another discussion.)

I have the idea that much of modern culture places animals into the same category as robots or other automatons-- task-accomplishing machines with only the illusion of agency and/or emotion.

Since the animal is commodified in the way of the inanimate, it is easy to place it in the same category as these other emotion-simulation machines.

But, further, we even look on our other non-objects with such love, intimacy, and affection. They may as well as living beings that we love. Our emotional connection, our heartaching being-longing for our shoes, toasters, chairs, designer table is often so palpable and powerful, that the categories between animate and in-animate often begin to blur.

And though our toaster doesn't have agency, we may feel that we love it like a non-human living thing. In the past, we gave names to swords that they loved. Names to ships. Now we feel some of our objects pass into our emotionally intimate world. How different is a deer leaping over the fence into the garden than a sullen, left-slouching shed, a silent chair,
innocent and blinkless, forlorn, discovered in early morning in the shadow by the hedge?

This is the capitalist non-human spirit world. We are like consumer shamans, surrounded by the non-human ghosts of things we may love and own.

Chair. Coffeemaker. Car. Horse. Deer. Swallow.

They are more than arbitrary linguistic categories. We are able to colonize the animals and objects of the world with our tenderness, our hunger, our desire.