Saturday, May 30, 2009

Anus Porcupine Eyebrow & Supernova Tadpole Editions: a new chapbook & a new chapbook series

I'm very excited to announce that my new chapbook, anus porcupine eyebrow is out from Paper Kite Press.

Actually, remarkably and generously, Dan Waber and Jennifer Hill-Kaucher not only published the book, but invited me to edit a chapbook series for their Paper Kite Press. We're calling the imprint Supernova Tadpole Editions -- I won't make the joke about it making a really big splash, but I'm hoping to publish a range of interesting writing projects and would like to, particularly, but not exclusively, explore the incorporation of visual elements (whether vispo or otherwise) with text in the series.

I already have a quite few projects percolating and/or planned, so I won't be taking submissions at least until I've worked through those projects...or alienated everyone I know with my editorial mismanagement and hamfisted style. (Can one have a duckfisted style?) It's been a long time since I was directly involved in editing a publication, so I'm quite thrilled to have the opportunity.

Here's the info about the book:

anus porcupine eyebrow
by Gary Barwin
4"x4", 24 pages, $8 (includes shipping)

And Dan & Jennifer's blurb:

A collection so good that rather than tell the author that we were no longer publishing chapbooks, we decided to create an imprint instead and asked the author to head it up.

It's available here.

Roof Floored: a Rilke Translation

A Roof Floored
a Rilke translation

the stone hopes for flight
the way a goose
wants power chords

you either treasure the shine
or sneeze in the shrine
wear mukluks on the verge

stuffed with documents and crickets
the field awards the huffing
of the beautiful and numinous
to the furthest crow

yes: we are the roof and the roof and the roof
we sit before the mirror
use night as ballast

Thursday, May 28, 2009


he appeared to me in a dream

unfortunately, it was someone else’s dream


A while ago, a hole was made in one of the walls of my house. I suppose I should have considered repairing it, but my first impulse was to hang a picture over top of the hole. One of my sons suggested that I take a photograph of the hole, frame it, and then hang it over the hole. A rather brilliant idea.

A few days ago, we were at a restaurant overlooking Burlington Bay. It was a beautiful view except that much of it was obscured by a very large TV screen broadcasting the hockey game. My son suggested that, when there wasn't a broadcast, they should broadcast a picture of the view behind the screen.

This evolved into our idea for a new specialty TV channel. It would be called MagritteTV. It would broadcast 24 hours / 7 days a week of what appeared behind the viewer's TV. (Even when the TV was off.) It would be a very local channel.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Emperor of Not Yet

"Not yet," said the Emperor,
"The ducks have not made pie."

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Synaesthetic Punch Bowl of the Head

One of those days when the verbal part of my brain is too tired but there's a bit of energy left in the visual.

A few days ago, I was talking via email to Geof Huth about puns. "Puns are," I wrote, "a kind of metaphor, a seeing double, a kind of categorical synaesthesia, an intimation of the multi-dimensionality of reality and of language systems, they are a lexiconjuring trapdoor and a semantic trampoline. And they often make a grown man groan."

I see the image above as a kind of pun, a categorical synaesthesia. A headdress of fists, the punch of antlers or rams' horns out from the head.

loaded sheep

Sunday, May 24, 2009

OBSOLETE QUESTIONS: translations from Wordsworth

Obsolete Questions
translations from Wordsworth


the bower was still
leafless oaks tower’d high above
there's no joyous, living thing, I said

Oh! grant me heaven a joyous, living thing.
Oh! grant me heaven a joyous, living thing.
Oh! grant me heaven a breeze

a breath of hail-stones
to stir my mind
to nourish and hop

this year you couldn’t put a hair between
jump and spring
there was no hair

each leaf a hart
in the shade disembower’d
Oh! grant me heaven a hair between

and air that’s never seen
all at once


the sun is the heat
of a long time
scattered far from here

a weary journeyer
the repeat or patter of hail-stones
hills eaten from the hand

I feel trouble near the roadside
the freshness of the footpath

my eyes trudge when
they look into the distance

time passes through lips
night and day through lips

night ravens dance stiff
the sky black in boots

Ella Minnow Pea

My son’s girlfriend was talking to me about a book she had read entitled Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. She was kind enough to take it out of library and lend it to me. The book is subtitled “a progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable.” It is quite marvelous, a funny blend of social commentary/dystopia with charming and inventive word play.

A summary: there’s an imaginary island off the coast of South Carolina which reveres its famous son who invented the pangram “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog.” The founders of the island have erected a monument spelling out the phrase. One day a letter falls from the monument and they ban the use of that letter. In subsequent weeks, new letters fall and those letters are banned from all communications, verbal and oral. There are severe punishments for the use of these forbidden letters. There is an underground resistance movement which forms. The entire book is told in letters and notes sent back and forth between various people and so one can observe the various circumlocutions and euphemisms that they need to employ in order to communicate without using the verboten letters. Eventually, the underground movement strikes a deal: if they can create an even shorter pangram (a phrase using all of the letters of the alphabet) than the revered and deified originator of “The Quick Brown Fox” pangram, they will have proved that the originator of the phrase isn’t party to special wisdom and he’s not been communicating via the falling letters.

This book is an allegory or fable about freedom of speech, about oligarchies and theocracies. In one way, it is simple in the way of fables – it’d be amazing to read with a bunch of Grade 8s – it is captivating and pulls off its constraints with charm and adroitness, the thrill of the virtuoso writing propelling one forward. Further, I felt like I really cared about what happened, and – through the narrative technique of the characters searching for the shortest pangram and their seeking freedom– was invested in their success.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ampersand is And & the Angel House Essay Series

Amanda Earl has posted an essay of mine (which appeared in somewhat of the same form here) on the Angel House Press site. I really like how she has integrated the images. Previous essays are by Gil McElroy on bpNichol's visual poetry, by Peter Ciccariello on one of his absorbing visual landscapes, and by rob mclennan on home. This essay series is shaping up to be an eclectic & interesting articulation of a range of artistic practice and perspectives and one that certainly bears following. Thanks, Amanda.

Blue Jay Mind Stir

Outside our bedroom window, about 2 feet from our bed, blue jays nested. The above is a video my wife took of them feeding their young.

Here also is a lovely typographical movie about spring. I particularly like how the "y" branches sprout "e" leaves.

And, as Wordsworth wrote:

Oh grant me, heaven a heart at ease
That I may never cease to find
Even in appearances such as these
Enough to nourish and stir my mind.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A post for a blog is a post in a blog it is not

Mark Truscott, a writer whose work and critical writing I always enjoy and admire posted the following lovely line on his blog:

A thing is a hole in a thing it is not.

Beautiful and mindboggling Timbitonian. It seems the perfect kind of line to create variations on:

A hole is a thing in a hole it is not.

A thought is the absence of a thought it is not.

Consciousness is the absence of a consciousness it is not.

And further afield:

The ground gallops when there is a horse.


In terms of mindblogging, this Autologlyphs website has some totally fascinating word/text explorations, from ambigrams and autologlyphs to the image above for overhead project of a mobius strip text which when projected shows the words "mobius strip" three times, though it's only written one and a half times.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

a is dreamed of by other vowels

from a periodic table of the alphabet (2003)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"from the back my cat," from a periodic table of the alphabet

from my 2003 chapbook, a periodic table of the alphabet.

I'm a bit skeptical of visual poetry that seeks to create a one-to-one correspondence between letterforms and objects, as it tends to be one dimensional*, however, sometimes it can be effective, a kind of bon mot, or in this case, a bon image or bon lettre. The above piece is a bit of children's (or childlike) vispo.

*"They said my writing was emotionally one dimensional. It hurt my feeling."

Friday, May 08, 2009

Holestein Ellipsis

Some of the cow is missing or implied.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Karasawa Hitoshi / The Homunculus at the Heart of Thought

I've always been fascinated by objects in the shape of other objects, particularly objects shaped like parts of the body -- faces, feet, eyes, etc. I've a pencil sharpener that is shaped like a nose (you put your pencil up one nostril to sharpen it.) I think it says something about our relationship with the world, with matter in general. It says something about how we see, how we conceptualize our world. Perhaps there is genetic programming that sees matter as alive, as animate, as animal. We can see in other ways, perhaps but there is part of our brain that tends towards this paradigm. We have a sensory homunculus, but also a perceptual one.

The above picture is a snap of a garbage pail in one of my parents' bathrooms. I've always had a shine for the implicit metaphor of this heart-shaped garbage pail, filled with garbage and, frankly, enjoy throwing junk into it.

The image of the man's face is from a poster advertising a retrospective exhibition of the great Japanese printmaker Karasawa Hitoshi, something I picked up when I was in Japan a few years ago. I love the birds that are wisps of hair, the surf that is face. (You might have to click on it to enlarge it to see these beautiful, intricate details.)The natural world maps onto the perceptual homunculus.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Muzzle: Uvulapalatopharyngoplasty Fiction


Vent had bought a muzzle. It was a silver shopping cart, wheeless and shrunken, stuck onto the dog’s snout, some kind of mask or codpiece for a canine hockey goalie. It was a cage from from Silence of the Lambs except that the dog’s pink tongue turning and twisting in an attempt to retrieve a treat pushed into the grille, made it look like a slug circus, wet but comic. The dog was quite gentle really, sensitive and loving to the humans around it. Quiet and observant, it followed Vent in silence around the house. Slept under his desk, lay beside the bath when he got in it, sat before him as he was on the toilet. In many ways, it shared a similar life to Vent, except Vent wouldn’t consider curling up beside his family, receiving ‘kisses’, vigourous rubs behind the ears, and shared secrets from the children. The dog only dissolved into wildness and barking when it lost its mind upon the approach of another dog. In its frenzy to greet, dominate, lick, mate with, wrestle, or escape from another dog, it tended to turn around and bite whomever (usually Vent) and whatever (usually his legs) was near. But now, the dog had dug its teeth into his legs for the last time. It would wear the muzzle whenever it left the house.

After a few times, the dog got used to the muzzle and stopped trying to push it off with its paws or by rubbing against the ground. In fact, when Vent took it down from the coat hook, the dog became excited, associating it, as it did the plastic poop & scoop bag, Vent’s boots, and the leash, with the midnight walks they went on, Vent’s wife and kids asleep, folding laundry, preparing for work, or talking on Facebook to their friends. Sleep had been difficult for Vent. A few months previously, he’d been diagnosed with a bad case of sleep apnea. According to the doctors, he hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep for years (and according to his wife, due to his snoring, either had she.) But recently, the problem had increased. He hadn’t, the doctors said, been going into REM sleep at all. The brain needed this time to reorganize the papers on its mental desk. Vent had been having moments of mini-REM sleep, half-awake hallucinations, throughout the day. Shadows became people, rustling became voices; Vent recalled entire emails that he imagined that he’d written but hadn’t. He’d slept with a CPAP machine – a mask attached to a special pump which gently pushed air into him, like a infinitely patient robot performing CPR throughout the night. And two weeks ago, he’d had a uvulapalatopharyngoplasty (the word itself a throat-choker) which was basically a Roto-rootering out of all of the soft tissue from his mouth to his lungs, anything that might have been impeding his breathing as he slept. How much of ourselves don’t we need? he wondered. What else could they have thrown over the edge of the operating table as unwanted ballast?

It was 12:30 and Vent and the dog were walking across the soccer fields by the highway, a strong wind making the April night cool. The almost full moon shone off the dog’s white fur. The dog in relation to the moon as the moon to the sun. The pale light almost a moonglow off the dog, and the muzzle glinting silver over the dark green grass. Hundreds of years ago, Vent mused, his hallucinations would have made him a visionary or a madman, dreaming while awake, seeing visions from shadows, specters in the moonlight, ghosts at midday. Hundreds of years ago, he’d not have been mildly walking through the night holding a blue plastic leash and a plastic shopping bag to pick up after his dog. When was the first time someone walked a dog on a leash, he wondered? When was the first time someone had a uvulapalatopharyngoplasty? When was the first time someone had their dog’s teeth cleaned professionally?

There were train tracks at end of the field, and on the other side of them, a remote part of the old city graveyard below the hill. The wire fence in front of the tracks was cut open and bent back to form a gate. Vent went through and crossed the tracks and into the field of gravestones, some bent forward, some back, some fallen over. An orthodontist would feel the excitation of a big job to be done here. And imagine a second set of permanent gravestones pushing up, pushing out the baby stones. Of course, everyone thought of gravestones as teeth. The empty grave like the hole left by an extracted molar, worried by the tongue until it healed. Vent could feel his throat healing, the scarring over the sensitive tissue inaccessible, his throat something like an empty grave. It’d taken about a week before he could eat regular foods, before his diet of ice cream, smoothies, and soups could expand once again to include solids.

There was a bench by a twisted tree and Vent sat down with the dog. It twitched a bit, hearing something on the wind, the muzzle lit by the canteloupe-coloured light of the streetlamp. What would it feel like to wear the muzzle? Would it feel like a football facemask or the helm of a knight? he wondered. On impulse, he undid the leather straps and fitted them over his ears, the muzzle hanging heavy from his nose and chin. The dog looked at him quizzically, wondering how this new communication fit into the idea of walk. Vent felt the raw hollowness of his throat, felt the straps pulling at his ears, adjusted the strap that attached over the middle of his head. He took the dog’s collar off and put it around his neck. He attached the leash and held it out for the dog. The dog took it in its mouth and began walking. Vent followed, bending down to keep the leash slack. They went down a winding path which led around some pine trees and past a storage shed. There was a mausoleum in grainy lichen-covered marble. The wind sighed over the trees at the top of the hill. Vent and the dog walked. The full clouds were a vivid chiaroscuro as the moon passed between them. There was the sound of a firetruck, its sirens keening, its horn braying. The dog stopped at a stone marker. It seemed very old and indicated the particular section of the graveyard. The dog lifted its leg and began to urinate, an impossibly long and steady stream dribbling down the side of the marker and forming a small pool at its base, with rivulets running out of it. Vent shifted uphill somewhat to avoid the runoff. Then Vent and the dog proceeded.

Vent had two children. A boy of sixteen and a girl of twelve. Just this morning, the girl, Leena, had had her first period and had gone running to his wife with the news. She was excited to have arrived at this important moment in her life, one that she’d been waiting for, talking to her mother about, studying and giggling through in health class. His son, Vincent, had his own world of skateboarding, friends bucking the system by wearing oversized and overbranded skateboard themed clothing. Vent had a close, if not especially talkative, relationship with his children. The same, in fact, could be said about his relations with his wife. Close but not especially communicative. Warm but a life in parallel, never quite penetrating the most profound, the most fundamental mammalian depths.

It was now about 1:30 and the dog had lead Vent through the newer parts of graveyard. The gravestones were smoother, the writing more precise. Some had chosen a more modern approach: a large cube balanced, as if for eternity, on one of its vertices, gravestones in the shape of parallelograms with stylish sans serif inscriptions, shiny black marble with grey lettering and embedded blue glass.
What if I never trade back places with the dog? Vent wondered. Would they notice? Would mine be a life of affection, emotion, and empathy? Would greetings given and received, waiting, expectation, and simple body heat seep like honey through my brain like a honeycomb?

They had left the graveyard and were walking back over the high-level bridge and past the former Governor-General’s house and the small hotel where Vent had once, as a student, attended an information session about becoming a encyclopedia salesperson. It was a tremendous opportunity for a bright and energetic person to share learning with others door to door. They were walking toward the plaza just past the gas station and the highway entrance, the plaza which contained the grocery store, the video store and the place where they bought kibble for the dog.

The dog, Vent realized, was taking the long way home.