beyond the pale

Eleanor Ty and Chrystl Verdun’s Asian Canadian Writing Beyond Autoethnography is out! There are pieces by Smaro Kamboureli, Paul Lai, Kristina Kyser, Pilar Cuder-Dominguez, Joanne Saul, Christine Kim, Ming Tiampo, Tara Lee, Eva Karpinski, Mariam Pirbhai, Christine Lorre writing on the work of Shani Mootoo, Fred Wah, Hiromi Goto, Suniti Namjoshi, Ying Chen, Ken Lum, Paul Wong, and Laiwan. If you are at all interested, I also have a piece in it, thinking about the problem of how the racialized subject can write her or himself, and what kinds of public selves get produced in this apparently self-liberating act.

Falling into Fall

Back in town. Went to see The Tempest at Bard on the Beach last night, in preparation for teaching it later this term. Enjoyable and fraught. Or enjoyable because fraught? Race issues neatly skirted through calculated casting. I’ve been watching the remakes and retakes too– a hilarious version from the 80s featuring John Cassavetes and Molly Ringwald and of course, Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books. Derek Jarman made one too, which perhaps I’ll watch later tonight.

Working with the Play Chthonics committee to get the new season lined up.

Don’t forget to attend the 20th anniversary JC Redress conference if you’re in town.

Don’t forget here

In Toronto now, and have had the good fortune to attend The Movement Project’s production “How We Forgot Here” which sends audience members on an interactive theatre journey on Ojibway Air. Who counts as a legitimate migrant to Toronto and why? Where is home? The piece was really moving for the ways in which it deals with the relationship between (im)migrants and indigenous peoples, and the violence and grief of two kinds of displacement.

One of the contributors to that project, Gein Wong, is also a member of Little Pear Garden. She has just showed me the script for the theatre incarnation of Salt Fish Girl. Pretty excited..

Note from Jane Bouey of People’s Co-op Books today, saying that the Globe and Mail is suspending its “Books” section. This, after the Harper budget cuts to the arts. How can a country get its priorities so wrong?


Just back from the ISEA conference in Singapore and a side trip to Thailand. What bliss to step from the hamster wheel to the wheel of Enlightenment. Or at least the freewheel of capital. Our panel, “Mediated Hauntings,” was fun. I realize how much I miss working with old colleagues whose thinking has so much influenced my own. Alice Jim was the only person I haven’t worked with before—she gave a great paper on Second Life and True False Creeks, which is a project on False Creek, Vancouver and False Creek, Dubai that Henry Tsang and Glen Lowry are working on. What happens when the virtual “prints out” in real geography?

Drank Singapore slings at Raffles Hotel, ate fish head curry in Chinatown, rambled through the Indian and Muslim quarters on the last day. Caught a lot of papers on electronic art—one on cyberfeminism that I particularly liked. Went to a handful of exhibitions and openings including a sound performance by Spektr! and Experimenta Play, an exhibition of new electronic art. Loved the shy photograph, in which the subjects run away if you approach too closely.

We went to Koh Samui for an island holiday afterwards. After all those conversations with David and Diyan about the cultural possibilities of SE Asia, I chose the beach. Needed the beach. And did not much for days but lie on the beach, swim, eat rambutan and mangosteen, and stare at the sky! And try not to get too dragged down by the infrastructural horrors of contemporary western tourism. On the last day we went kayaking and snorkelling in An Thong National Park. We were delayed somewhat by a rather spectacular fire caused when a truck careened into the local 7-11.

Later this week, I’m off to Toronto, where Little Pear Garden is working on a dance/opera production of Salt Fish Girl.

almost relaxed

Enjoyed listening to Michael Franti tonight, while sitting on the beach outside the Vancouver Folk Festival. I was too late/disorganized/cheap to buy a ticket, but it was nice to watch the water and listen to songs about peace, love and revolution. Sometimes I do wish the 60s back.

There’s a mother spider nursing two huge eggs outside my office window. I wonder if they will eat her when they hatch, like the baby spiders Rachel remembers in Bladerunner.

Gearing up for The International Symposium on Electronic Arts in Singapore. I fly across the Pacific Pond later this week. In August, off to Toronto to play consultant during the workshop of a Salt Fish Girl opera!

what works

After all these years of trying to teach myself to complicate and nuance, I’m in a position of really learning to clarify and simplify for the purposes of first year teaching. One of the things I want my students to learn is that language is not transparent. But how do you teach that without exercising the assumption of transparent language?

I’m mulling form these days, after having witnessed Mark Nowak’s extraordinary poetry work with American and South African Autoworkers, and Walter Lew’s movie-telling exercises with his students. Both are about a kind of subversion and both have a kind of beauty, or strength, though not in the sense that I expect any of my own students to get. (Why don’t I? May they would get it.) Or my own performance/paper at Tracing the Lines, with Rita, in which had seven others help us perform a piece that engaged various kinds of texts functioning at various levels of consciousness about their textuality, and at the same time attempting to do work that is social and political. I’m not sure that it “worked” or that it was “strong” but it drew people together in a way that seemed to me to be step in the right direction—away from authority, towards community and recognitions of kinship in difference (between natives and settlers, between humans and the elements).

If I had my way, everyone who came out of my classes, or for that matter, any one with the good fortune of a Western education would write, read and share poetry. Its quality wouldn’t matter nearly as much as the engagement with text and with other readers and writers. What could an education be that wasn’t about producing elites? What would its poetry sound like?

Thanks, Myron, for the quality banner!

New Site, New Projects

If you’re here, then you’ve discovered my new website, courtesy of It’s been an intensely busy few weeks, between David Khang’s How to Feed a Piano at Centre A, and Tracing the Lines: A Symposium on Contemporary Poetics and Cultural Politics in Honour of Roy Miki.

A few cool ideas/instances to emerge out of these discussions: Edouard Glissant’s idea of a poetics of relation (eloquently taken up by Rinaldo Walcott on the panel for How to Feed a Piano), the notion that to become animal is to be elevated from the location of the human (Candice Hopkin’s idea), that to practice many languages produces a different kind of freedom in bodily, social and intellectual life (from Marwan Hassan’s talk at Tracing the Lines).

Had a particularly good time working with Rita Wong and Dorothy Christian on our evolving water project. With an eye towards deepening our collaborative and coalition building practice we involved seven other people in our performance/paper: Roy Miki, Denise Nadeau, Phinder Dulai, Candice Hopkins, Monika Kin Gagnon, David Chariandy, Cecily Nichols. The piece was a scripted performance of original text and quotation, all of which resonated around the ideas of water, community, indigenous/settler coalition, sound and time.

Now—thinking about other kinds of collaboration that might be possible through my upcoming stint as Peter Wall Early Career Scholar. And trying to sort out content for my section of English 110, which I’m thinking of framing around the notion of alternate realities. And preparing to move house again…

Collaboration Issue of the Cap Review

Poetry, Video, Music — The Capilano Review launches its Collaboration issue.

The Capilano Review announces the launch of the Collaborations Issue 3.4. Join us at the Western Front on March 28 at 7:30pm. Hear poets Ted Byrne, Larissa Lai and Rita Wong; see and hear an excerpt from the recording of Hadley+Maxwell and Stefan Smulovitz’s “(The Rest Is Missing)” with Turning Point Ensemble; and hear live performances of song room pieces “unselected works” by Viviane Houle, Stefan Smulovitz, Andrew Klobucar; “Occupying Army” by Vanessa Richards, John Korsrud, Chris Derksen; and more.

This issue of TCR represents a cross-disciplinary foray into video, poetry, and music – both composition and performance. Hadley+Maxwell’s video made in collaboration with composer Stefan Smulovitz and the Turning Point Ensemble is featured as a series of still shots. Collaboration is at the heart of the issue which opens with an extended interview with Tom Cone, Vancouver playwright, librettist, lecturer, impresario, curator and promoter of cultural hybrids, and nurturer of the avant-garde. Tom is co-founder of experimental arts projects such as song room – a salon for new song collaborations – and a co-producer for CABINET, Interdisciplinary Collaborations. The issue provides a selection from song room: the first six song room programs and a sample of texts plus a CD of selected archival-quality recordings. Finally, the issue includes poems that explore a variety of collaborative relationships.

Tickets: $5

March 28, 7:30pmWestern Front303 8th Avenue EastVancouver, BC V5T 1S1(604) 876-9343

Inquiries:The Capilano

Shiny bits

The big news of the weekend is that I’ve been selected as a Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies Early Career Scholar. Yeesh, what a mouthful! But the cool thing is getting to work with young profs in other disciplines. The Peter Wall Institute focuses on interdisciplinarity. There will be retreats, talks, gatherings, and I’m hoping lots of cross-fertilization. I’ll know two other people going in– Eric Lagally from the Michael Smith Labs (with whom I’m hoping to develop a course on the science and writing of science-writing), and Jennifer Chun, from Sociology, who works on women and labour, and has become a friend over the course of the past year.

Also, I just got a note from Meredith Quartermain, that Nomados Press will publish my experimental prose poem “Eggs In the Basement” later this year. I’m excited about that. The poem began as a writing exercise done on virtual retreat with Monika Gagnon a few summers ago. I generated a pool of language through an automatic writing exercise, and then recycled it in two permutations of nouns and verbs, reusing them in the order in which they appeared in the exercise until they were all used up. Strangely, it ends up telling the story of Moses and Monotheism! Just in time for the Second Gulf War.

And, the Rachel poems are coming to life again in a class Alessandra Capperdoni is teaching at SFU. Mike Barnholden at LINE Books is reproducing the original chapbook in a very limited edition.

Garry Gottfriedson and Souvankham Thammavongsa gave a great reading last Tuesday for Play Chthonics. There was a very interesting contrast in approach between the two of them– one articulate and verbose, the other minimalist and reserved. Both extraordinary presences.

Backlogged on papers, blurbs, accounting and grading though. Rita says it gets easier.

Reading Break

“Reading Break” seems such a relaxing concept. I wonder if there ever was a time in the history of the academy when people holed up in a leisurely way to catch up on interesting developments in their fields. I did take a brief break to go to Saltspring Island last weekend. On Friday and Saturday, I did not touch a book. Well, ok, may be I touched one, but I didn’t read it. Otherwise– the rollercoaster. Read the backlog of poetry submissions for Canadian Literature, worked on talks for the upcoming conference Complicated Entanglements, and an invited lecture at Idaho State University in Pocatello. Finished a short essay for the 20th anniversary edition of XCP, about reimaginng the notion of the “cross-cultural” in the new political and economic configuration. Now I have to make sure both courses are on track and select poems for an upcoming issue of Canadian Literature themed “Women in Diaspora.” Missed pirate girls Jill Hartman, Cara Hedley and Brea Burton at KSW on Wednesday, rats. Jason Christie and Ken Howe read for Play Chthonics this Tuesday, 7:30 at Thea’s Lounge. Don’t forget to come.