Canadian poetry

Coda

Listening and self-care in Shazia Hafiz Ramji's 'Port of Being' (2018)

Crop of cover of Port of Being
Source: Invisible Publishing

In A Voice and Nothing More (2006)Mladen Dolar describes listening as a submissive act: “Listening entails obeying; there is a strong etymological link between the two in many languages.” Dolar continues further, fortifying this etymological link and states that “the moment one listens one has already started to obey, in an embryonic way one always listens to one’s master’s voice, no matter how much one opposes it afterward.” Dolar’s comments may benefit from distinguishing between two modes of sonic stimulation to characterize hearing (as passive, as what he describes in this passage) and listening (as active, as an intent to bring the world's sounds inside). That being said, Dolar has framed the act of listening here as a loss of agency since, as he suggests, we often cannot select what it is that we hear or overhear.

In A Voice and Nothing More (2006)Mladen Dolar describes listening as a submissive act: “Listening entails obeying; there is a strong etymological link between the two in many languages.”[1] Dolar continues further, fortifying this etymological link and states that “the moment one listens one has already started to obey, in an embryonic way one always listens to one’s master’s voice, no matter how much one opposes it afterward.”[2] Dolar’s comments may ben

Conditions of silence

Recovering Gerry Shikatani's 'Sans Titre'

Source: Japanese Canadian Artists Directory

It’s October 24, 1981. You’re on route to Studio Gallery Nine, located beneath Toronto’s Don Valley Parkway, just north of Queen Street East at 9 Davies Avenue. You’re travelling this route to attend an event hosted by the Kontakte Writers In Performance series. Japanese Canadian poet and cultural critic, Gerry Shikatani, is on the bill.

Imaging the voice

Notating poetic vocalization

Back cover image for 'Open Letter' (Sixth Series, no. 1: Spring 1985)

In the mid-1980s, Open Letter — Canada’s defunct and dearly missed journal of theory and poetics — dedicated five issues of the journal to notation for poetry and language. Each installment of this series contains a range of texts that intersect with the idea of notation to explore topics including reading, rhythm, composition, documentation, and performance. 

“Notation is a set

of instructions for

reading (in) the

future” (Robert Kroetsch)

 

'Schizophonophilia'

Wayde Compton and Jason de Couto, The Contact Zone Crew

Image of The Contact Zone Crew
Credit: Wayde Compton.

In their poetic experiments with electroacoustic technologies, Wayde Compton and Jason de Couto — known as The Contact Zone Crew — advance what Compton has called schizophonophilia: “the love of audio interplay, the pleasure of critical disruptions to natural audition, the counter-hegemonic affirmation that can be achieved through acoustic intervention.”[1] As an audio poetry project, Compton and de Couto realize schizophonophilia by using sampling and mixing as the core of their poetics. They work with sounds from instrumental hip hop, jazz, black spirituals, Japanese music, sound effects, and custom made dub plates (containing recorded readings by Compton. For Compton, the concept of schizophonophilia departs from the thinking of Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer’s similar term “schizophonia.” In "The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World," “schizophonia” describes “the split between an original sound and its electroacoustic reproduction” and is characterized as an “aberrational effect of the twentieth century.” The condition of schizophonia, for Schafer, arises in part from the increasing availability of audio recording technologies, which make it more possible for sound to travel away from its time and place of origin.

In their poetic experiments with electroacoustic technologies, Wayde Compton and Jason de Couto — known as The Contact Zone Crew — advance what Compton has called schizophonophilia: “the love of audio interplay, the pleasure of critical disruptions to natural audition, the counter-hegemonic affirmation that can be achieved through acoustic intervention.”[1] As an audio poetry project, Compton and de Couto realize schizophonophilia by using sampling and mixing as the core of their poetics.

'Voices of continuance'

Words, speech, and memory in Jeannette Armstrong’s 'Breath Tracks' (1991)

Jeanette Armstrong’s poem collection Breath Tracks (1991) sews the sinew and muscle of the writing hand to the lips and lungs of the speaking mouth. The title of the book gestures toward the entanglement of writing and speaking in the body: tracks, the trace of language upon the page that is left by movements of the hand, and breath, that which comes before, during, and after the act of vocalization — a trace of the body in itself. In its positioning of these enmeshed mechanisms, Breath Tracks is a book about the mouth on the page or, to borrow the words that Armstrong imparts to Kim Anderson, these poems articulate “how sound and body gesture to create an art form.”[1]  

Word-Sound-Systems

Further notes on Kaie Kellough’s vibratory poetics

Blurry image of Kaie Kellough
Photo taken at Artists Against Apartheid concert by Mariel Rosenbluth.

The release of his most recent book of poetry, Magnetic Equator (2019), prompts my return to the spoken word and sound poetries of Montreal-based novelist, poet, and performer Kaie Kellough. When given the chance, I’ve thought publicly about Kellough’s work in other forums: a mini review of his performances here and a conversation we had about sound, technology, and ancestry here. Having just recently heard Kellough’s voice fill the atrium of the Art Gallery of Ontario at the launch for his latest collection, I was delivered back to the flows of joy and curiosity that I find his poetry and performances well within me.  Kellough has a tendency to imagine the world as a conduit for vibratory pulses: “the rain forest is a mixing board with infinite inputs and outputs,” he writes in Magnetic Equator. His poetry is often located on paper, but it is written for sounding.

The release of his most recent book of poetry, Magnetic Equator (2019), prompts my return to the spoken word and sound poetries of Montreal-based novelist, poet, and performer Kaie Kellough. When given the chance, I’ve thought publicly about Kellough’s work in other forums: a mini review of his performances here and a conversation we had about sound, technology, and ancestry here. Having just recently heard Kellough’s voice fill the atrium of the Art Gallery of Ontario at the launch for his latest collection, I was delivered back to the flows of joy and curiosity that I find his poetry and performances well within me.

Language detained by saying

A note on Jordan Scott's 'Clearance Process' (2016)

In 2013, as part of the North of Invention conference (organized by Sarah Dowling and Charles Bernstein), poet Jordan Scott gave a presentation entitled “The State of Talk: Notes towards Speech Dysfluencies and State Interrogation Procedures and Techniques.” To much acclaim, Scott discusses the “lateral step” that he takes from his book Blert (2008) to consider “expanded

Fighting back

Lillian Allen's poetry of speech, song, and social justice

In 1984, following a tremendously successful year of touring and performing for large audiences across Canada in support of an album entitled De Dub Poets (1983), Lillian Allen, Clifton Joseph, and Devin Haughton sought membership with The League of Canadian Poets. The League is a Canadian literary organization whose mission it is “to nurture the advancement of poetry in Canada” and to promote “the interests of poets.”[1] As Allen recounts in Toronto-based This magazine, their membership applications were denied at a meeting in Regina, Saskatchewan that same year because the League did not recognize them as poets. Instead, they were distinguished as performers. “Are we all supposed to get up and do that?” one League member reportedly quipped.[2] In her poem on the Regina Affair, Allen refers to the League’s decision as an effort to maintain the Board’s firm grasp on literary power and what it meant to be a poet in Canada at that time.[3]

Wonky structures

On Alice Burdick's 'Book of Short Sentences'

Photo by Zane Murdoch.

Maybe Alice Burdick was beginning to get very tired. I don’t know. But the next to last poem in Book of Short Sentences is unlike anything else she’s ever published. The poem, “Don’t Forget,” is direct, uninhibited, and visceral. Burdick’s voice is emboldened by a sense of emergency (social, political, and ecological) that she feels in her body’s hotheaded cells.

There is no private life which has not been determined by a wider public life. — George Eliot[1]

CTRL + F

Jordan Abel's 'Injun'

Nisga’a poet Jordan Abel’s 2016 book of poetry, Injun, is a rhetorical analysis of “pulp propaganda” and a decolonizing application of the Tzara-Gysin “cut up.”[1] Put another way, the book ostensibly asks: what if we sent Bernays rafting on the Nass River of Northern British Columbia to toss his Freudian guts out? “It will come to him as his own idea” — as in a dream.[2] 

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