Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011


unfortunately the photos i took were all a tad blurry,
so i don't recommend enlarging the video.
otherwise... enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A History of Button Collecting

Poem available in standard typesetting in the short collection A History of Button Collecting from above/ground press.

Printed and bound versions of photographed poem available upon request. Message @helenhajnoczky, @obscuralucida, or comment here for details.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

intTwitterview with G'morning Poetry

G'morning Poetry asked me a few questions via twitter...

Q1: 2D vs 3D poetry?

a nether world of two-dimensional heroes and villains. Solid, concrete, sculptural, perspectival, stereoscopic, stereographic, stereo, pop-up, vivid, realistic, rounded, concrete.

Q2: Eating a poem sounds like ____?

On top of spaghetti, All covered with cheese, I lost my poor meatball, When somebody sneezed.

Q3: Wint?

Winthrop waits, wades winterbournes waist-high, wet with wintry mix, winces when wintersweet, when winter jasmines wilt, whittles wintergreen whistles, wolfs winter melons with winter savoury, wastes when wintertide wanes.

Q4: If you could kill any poem...?

Then I would be a palimpsest.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Magyarazni: A

I made the 'A' visual poem for Magyarazni this evening, which will go with a poem about the English and Hungarian lullabies my parents would sing to me when I was little (the Hungarian ones involved dancing peppers and a vengeful monkey pooping in the eyes of a chicken, hence the bird motif. Seriously.) I like the front, but am actually kind of fond of the bleed-through on the back of the poem too. Hmm.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

derek beaulieu's Seen of the Crime

As November rolls in and the days become shorter and cooler, cafés and pubs around town are packing up their lawn furniture. This is precisely why you should grab yourself a copy of derek beaulieu’s seen of the crime post-haste. The slim volume of essays on conceptual and experimental poetics is the perfect book to read on a patio, the short chapters punctuated by people watching and sips of your favourite beverage, or to debate over a pint or two with your best poet pals. Rather than being heavy with citations or hemmed in by monomaniacal scholarly literary analysis, beaulieu’s text allows each chapter to breathe, looking at each individual poet discussed, from Goldsmith to Bisset to Bergvall, on their own terms. The lack of oppressive theme makes seen an excellent book to push against. Since the chapters are not shackled to each other, as a reader, you feel as though you are entering a discussion with beaulieu. By writing in an open, episodic way, beaulieu has created a text that invites us in. Should a certain section leave you skeptical, you need not abandon the book, but continue reading to discover what other subject matter will be covered. This open, episodic construction also make seen an ideal prompt for discussions and debates about the literature that the text covers. The book is a pleasure to read because it infuses contemporary poetry with life. In the second chapter of the book, beaulieu discusses his own obsession with bookstores and building his book collection, framing seen as an exposé of one writer’s individual tastes and inspirations. Though beaulieu discusses literature that is conceptual, impersonal, and non-expressive, this framing of seen seems to emphasize the role of the reader as thinker, critic, and creator. This is a poet’s book about poetry. Again, the episodic chapters convey how individual writers build their creative practice in response to texts they admire and writers who inspire them. seen of the crime is a wonderful example of how exciting and inspiring debating and discussing poetry can be, and is sure to leave you ready to write. In a world of closed scholarly texts debating the minutiae of worn out canonical texts, seen is a lively and varied exploration of contemporary poets and their practice. I’m a friend of derek’s, and reading seen of the crime is uncannily like sitting down for a coffee or pint with him. Every time I see him, he inevitably produces at least four or five chapbooks or books by authors I’ve never heard of, each as exciting as the last, and all readily applicable to my own writing practice. beaulieu not only loves reading and writing, but also sharing the books that energize him. Sit down with seen of the crime over a coffee or pint, and I guarantee beaulieu’s enthusiasm will leave you pumped about reading and writing. The first piece in the book may beg, Please, no more poetry, but the book leaves me thinking, Please, more books about poetry like this one.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nanton, AB

The Readymade and the Female Gaze

Duchamp is famous for taking typical objects from everyday life and changing their meaning by putting them in the gallery space. The first, and by far the most famous, was the urinal, “Fountain.” However, for most women, there is nothing everyday about a urinal. There are a number of instances where a woman might see a urinal… you could be cleaning the bathroom at work, have accidentally walked into the men’s washroom in search of the women’s washroom, have darted in to bypass a long line for the ladies’ room, or have snuck in to engage in some elicit act.* In each case, there is something forbidden about the experience of seeing the urinal. Women only see urinals when they have accidentally stumbled somewhere they are not supposed to go, when we are flouting convention, or when they are working and, I wager, meant to be invisible (this could also include any women who work at urinal factories). This is a significant facet of “Fountain,” since it means that men and women are likely to view the piece in radically different ways. After all, Duchamp could have chosen a toilet, which westerners of both genders use, but he didn’t. While men may find a urinal banal and everyday, for women the object has a certain aura of the unusual and unfamiliar, the elicit and forbidden. For women, the mechanical reproduction of urinals has not made them ubiquitous or bland, because urinals are still displayed in a space where we are forbidden to go. The urinal in the gallery then becomes a commentary on the different relationships of men and women to art. Do women, formerly excluded from the world of high-art, find art more curious, appealing, or thrilling than men do, since men are allowed to participate? Is modern art just a male pissing contest that women are supposed to be impressed by since they themselves piss differently? There are many possible interpretations, but in any case, the gendering of objects is significant when considering the implications of the readymade.

* There are also a few other conditions worth mentioning… Today, there are gender neutral bathrooms available in certain buildings and bars, though these are still relatively rare, and I’m not sure how many have urinals or not. To this list we might also add those who are passing as men and prefer to use the men’s washroom, though this may not be an appropriate assessment since these individuals may not wish to identify as women. Finally there are doohickeys designed to let women pee standing up, but as far as I can tell, these aren’t terribly popular.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Copy Cataloguing

Hey! There's my book... oh, nope, this one's by Helen Hajnozcky. Looks like a pretty good read, though.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

?! Calgary Chapbook Call for Submissions

Calgary has a great poetry scene, and ?! Press would like to celebrate it with a poetry chapbook! If you write in/about/around Calgary, or if you used to, or will be doing so in the near future, send a submission of no more than 5 pages with contact info and a short bio to by December 1, 2011. Chapbook will either be print or online, depending on how things shake out and what kind of submissions are received, and will appear by March 2012. Previously published material and simultaneous submissions are welcome, so long as it's okay with your other publisher. Interpret 'poetry' as loosely as you like. Submissions don't have to be about Calgary, so long as you've had some connection to the city in some way at some point, or the work can be about Calgary if you aren't connected to the city. Tell your friends/enemies/students/random people you meet on the C-Train, and happy poeting! :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Project! Magyarazni

I'm gearing up to start my next book, a project called 'Magyarazni,' and today I hit research pay dirt with this book of Hungarian Folk Art, as well as a few others I scooped up at the library. I'm going to be making 44 visual poems, one for each letter of the Hungarian alphabet, all of which will be based on Hungarian folk patterns used in embroidery, painting, carving, etc. Though I originally proposed to draw the poems in my funding application (oh yeah, I got funding! zomg!), I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't just embroider them, though I'll probably just stick to designing them for now and start stitching when I'm sure I can complete everything on time and within budget.

Speaking of budget, I am mulling over the issue of colour. While certain Hungarian embroidery is all red or red and black, other styles use a rainbow of bright colours. Though I originally planned on doing all black and red, I've begun to think it might make the book more visually interesting if I also did pieces in the brighter style. My one worry is that it might be more pricey to print books in full colour rather than just the black and red, and that the colour might somehow hurt my chances of publishing the finished product. And yes, it has to be formatted as a book rather than an art show because the visual poems are to be accompanied by written poems and interviews. Anyway, I'll probably just start messing around, see which designs work best, and maybe sketch them all out with a black outline and copy these sketched to do one set multi-coloured, one set black and red.

I also picked up this long canvas and some red, white, and black paint. I plan on doing one big design including the entire alphabet, maybe with a border of rovasiras. I'm not entirely sure how I'll use this piece in the book, maybe for the cover page, maybe at the end of the poetry section before the interviews, but in any case I'm pretty excited to get started.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Highway 9

i shot a hard-drive worth of stuff in alberta on trips to banff, head smashed in, and drumheller, and am finally starting to think about what to use it for. hurtin' driving songs for Highway 9 seem like a good place to start. there's no sky like alberta sky.


was thinking about repeating footage the way chords are repeated in a song. cinema and music? repetition and progression? matthew good band or matthew good?

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Black Hole

(I don't normally complain into the blog-void, and won't be making a habit of it but... this one is lit-centric. Back to your regularly scheduled poems next week.)

If you’re feeling depressed, getting caught in a torrential downpour on a bike, wearing bell-bottoms, and being forced to wait for 45 minutes in a 24h Tims in the middle of the night, sopping wet, with no book or other distraction is not exactly the best way to cheer yourself up. As I watched the rain hammer the pavement yesterday, the showers eclipsing the university across the street--the university through which I just completed my MA in English--I had nothing to do but wallow. I’ve wanted to attend this university since my first year of undergrad. I’ve been dreaming of getting a graduate degree for years. I should feel the same elation I felt when I got my acceptance letter. Instead I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut.

At first I thought this was the result of no one deeply connected to either me or the project being around. My family isn’t here, my partner is out of town, my supervisor was out of town, and all my old friends are far away. But that wasn’t it. Many classmates were around to wish me well—new friends made me dinner or bought me beer or shots of jäger. Though turning my paper in to a mail slot rather than my supervisor was a tad anticlimactic, this vacuum in my chest was more than anticlimax. Complaining via inebriated text message to an old friend, and fellow newly-minted English Master, I whined that I felt like I was having a post-degree identity crisis. He replied, “I know the feeling… like a black hole where the project used to be.”

Where once every moment could potentially have been dedicated to your research, you now have nothing urgent to complete. No one force swallowing all your intellectual energy. It’s more relaxing, but it’s also arresting. What do I do with my time? Who am I without my work? I try to keep my hand in the creative writing community, so I have that to fall back on, but for the past seven years, I’ve either been an English major, or I’ve been saving my pennies to continue being an English major. Two summers in undergrad I spent taking classes or doing research projects. During my year off last year, I still took an English grad class. For the first time in my adult life, I am not planning on any more English classes. For the first time, my work has not been a step towards something else, it has been an end.

This sterility is to some degree self-imposed. I didn’t apply for any PhD programs. I did not enjoy working alone for days on end, not speaking to anyone for days at a time when friends were busy. I found doing nothing but research lonely, and thought signing up for four years of solo research wouldn’t be a good choice for me. I was also unable to face down the poor job prospects for English PhDs, and though I know a few young doctors and even MAs who’ve secured tenure track positions, I couldn’t convince myself that I’d be as fortunate, or that I would be able to work hard enough to make myself an attractive candidate. I didn’t know if I wanted to teach, I didn’t want to have to move wherever I got a job. I didn’t want to feel lonely, but now that’s how I feel. I’m not sure if I’d be happier if I was starting a PhD. I do know it’s been in the back of my mind since my first week of undergrad, and even as I realized that it probably wasn’t right for me (at least not right now), it’s been a hard idea to shelve. About half the conversations I have with other English MAs devolve into me explaining why I don’t think I’ll do a PhD. Doth I protest too much? Maybe, maybe not.

In the end, I think the loss I’m feeling comes from expecting too much of the experience. I am now as educated as many of the writers and thinkers I’ve looked up to for years, but, as was the case with other educational experiences, it’s hard for me to note exactly how I’ve changed. I had a great year with challenging classes and I learned a lot about my specific research topic as well as a range of other genres and eras of literature, but I don’t feel like I'm all that much smarter than I used to be. I’m not confident that I am now on par with those MAs I’ve been looking up to. Though I was not naïve enough to think that this degree would somehow change my whole life, I thought the world would feel a little different at the end of grad school. It doesn’t feel that different. I worked hard for years to get into grad school, to get a grant to pay for it. Where do I direct that energy now? More importantly what new goals do I set myself? What do I hope for or look forward to now? If being an English major defined me, how do I define myself now?

English lit has been the great love of my life, and even though I ended it, it still isn’t easy to say goodbye. While I hope we’ll get back together some day, for the time-being I’ll be rebounding with library sciences. I didn’t choose an MLIS out of fear, but because while I was unsure that I wanted to be a prof, I was certain I wanted to be a librarian. So while I’ve chosen something more practical, and in many ways, better suited to me than a PhD in English, it’s impossible for me not to think about what me and English could have been. In a few years I might come back to it, but for now, I just have to wait for that black hole to close up. And, you know, whine into the internet.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cartoon Insights

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. -Ego, from Ratatouille

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Glenmore Benches

Glenmore Park in Calgary, Alberta, is more than just a tract of land through which to run a highway. Many Calgarians love this park, and there is no better evidence of this love than the benches that dot the cliff overlooking the reservoir.

Set to music by Brahms. My apologies if I have mispronounced your name or one that you recognize.

Dedicated to my mom and sister.

(Update: Ha--sorry I just figured out how to make this not autoplay. You could watch it anyway, though ;) )

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Like a Needle into Paper

"You Fit into Me" by Margaret Atwood. White thread on red construction paper.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


...was an awesome poetry day. Also, I saw this meme, which is so awesome it reinforced the awesomeness of the day :) Seal of Approval!

Friday, July 8, 2011

In Their Own Hand

I'm working on my major research project for my MA, which is partly about our assumptions about the textual lives of women living in England in the late middle ages. I printed out a couple pages of my essay, but running out of ink, my printer gave me this. Fitting since I'm writing about how history has obscured the agency of women writers. My printer is either agreeing with me, or messing with me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Prick and a Stitch

Indeed a sample is not a sample... I can't quite seem to snap a photo of this that makes the colour look right--the pink should be brighter and the paper more cream-coloured, but no combination of scanner, flash, or lighting seems to capture this. Oh well. Anyway, it's embroidery thread on a sheet of beige construction paper. Poem 'A Handkerchief' by Gertrude Stein, from Tender Buttons.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It represents like, childhood or something

Stencils and crayons. Had to use the crayons before they melt in the Montreal heat :P My mom is an elementary school sub and worked in a Calgary school once where it was so hot in June that the crayons melted. It's a fact.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pooka Press Readings

Yesterday, derek beaulieu and I were among the poets who read at the Pooka Press Pub Crawl reading, hosted by fillingStation in Calgary's Riley Park. Here are some videos of the reading... enjoy!

I, An Opera Singer... I, An Actress?

On Friday I went with my family to check out the Early Music Voices performance of Pergolesi’s comedy La Serva Padrona, "where an ambitious maid sets her sights on her master’s affections." The maid attempts to trick her master into marrying her with the help of another servant, played by a well-dressed mannequin.
Both the maid and the master sang to the mannequin, conversing and scheming with him, reporting his comments to the audience. After the piece was done and the group was preparing to sing a piece by Handel, the mannequin was picked up and moved behind a screen, though his hat poked up from behind it, reminding us of his presence for the rest of the performance.

This performance tactic immediately reminded me of George Kuchar's I, An Actress.

Both pieces develop a clear, coherent narrative despite only having one character speak, exploiting the mannequins not only for comedic effect, but also allowing the audience to actively participate in the construction of the story. The performance of La Serva Padrona also shows how fun and utterly bizarre older works of art can be.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

ACAD Grad Show

If you're in Calgary, today is your last chance to check out the ACAD Grad Show. I went a few days ago and it is definitely worth a visit. The show includes everything from jewelry to film instillation, photography to crocheted sculpture, and the wide variety of mediums and approaches makes it a really engaging and surprising experience.

I forgot to jot down the artist who made this piece. If you know the artist's name, let me know!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ink Melts

I've done so many of these coloured-in visual poems in the past week that I'm starting to lose feeling in the tip of my thumb where the pencil rests. The visual poetry for this project is almost done, though, so it's worth it... and I'm sure by tomorrow my thumb will be ok :P I now have the 26 large Alpha-Seltzer letters, the Kaleidoscope poem, and 8 pieces using the whole alphabet in the font you see above. I still want to make two more poems to go with the Kaleidoscope one, three more of these ink splatter ones, one more in this small font, and three for the medium and large fonts I used in the project. So, 35 down, 12 to go. Whew! Luckily it's gloomy and rainy in Montreal today, so it shouldn't be hard to stay indoors and work. And by work, I mean colouring. While watching tv. Ha.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Does Size Matter?

For poetry month, Christian Bök wrote a three part discussion of the Text Festival, currently underway in the UK. In his last post, Bök tell us that the curator of the Text Festival:
Tony Trehy observes that, because many practitioners of visual poetry compose their work on computers for publication online, many poets have not considered the aesthetic procedure for display of such work offline, especially when presented within the context of a gallery—and in fact, many contributors have simply submitted their work to him in the form of electronic files for output without stipulating the media for production or the scale for exhibition (as if any page, at any size, might do). I find this fact surprising, given that practitioners of visual poetry often take pride in their concerted attention to the “materiality” of language itself (but then again, such digitization of language may have caused these artists to think that such “materiality” has simply become an afterthought, taking whatever forms or media might be demanded by occasion, once the work leaves the ethereality of the Internet).
This observation caught me a little off guard because I haven’t really spent much time considering the physical size of my visual poetry. Unconsciously, however, I have been operating under a few constraints or assumptions that I think help me respond to the issues that Bök’s post raises.

At first I wondered if this inattention to the size of vispo pieces might have something to do with the relationship of visual poetry to written poetry and traditional books. I think of my own visual work as poetry, and often imagine it presented in book-form rather than in a gallery space. As a result, I assume a sort of rectangular, average book-sized presentation, ordered with one page after another. This is the case for the largest project I’ve undertaken, Tight-Lacing (I swear I’m finishing it this summer, I don’t want to talk about it, anyway…) which is produced on the computer.
An example of a poem from the project. See more online in Matrix, or in Speechless on UBU.

The visual poems are based on Victorian corset advertisements originally published in magazines and newspapers, which in their original form were fairly small. The visual work is also accompanied with written constraint-based poetry, however, which has allowed my to give several public readings of the project. For these readings we projected the poems on large power-point screens, so that the audience could take them in while I read the constraint-based poetry aloud.
Photos taken at fillingStation's 2009 Calgary Blow Out Festival, and at the 2010 August Flywheel Reading Series.

The work has also been presented in a gallery as part of the Edmonton poetry festival, and for this show the poems were printed on a 9 and 1/2X12” sheets and then framed, though I must admit I let the organizers choose the size of the presentation.
I think all three types of presentation work well for this project, the book, the screen, and the framed prints. While I hope to have the final project published in a book, I think creating the images on the computer gives them a certain malleability that makes them more dynamic. They can go from the page to the screen to the gallery without much effort, and allow me to present the work in the most engaging possible way depending on the event. Personally I spend most of my time looking at the project on my computer screen, but I really don’t intend it to be viewed that way, just as I’m sure many artists don’t intend for their work to be shown in the chaos of the studio or workshop where they made it.
Despite not intending Tight-Lacing to be viewed on a computer, some of my current work is intended for the computer screen. Lately I’ve been experimenting with making visual poetry films.

This too is a kind of response to visual poetry as it relates to written poetry and books. Cinema, like traditional writing, moves the audience through time as they experience the piece, something I find books of visual poetry, even though they are in book form, don’t necessarily do. Some visual poets are interested in stripping the characters of their meaning, and the temporality of writing seems to be stripped along with it, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. I’m interested in how stripping meaning away can become an event or an action that the audience participates in, rather than a finished product that they are presented with, hence the movies. While the material I’m filming is fairly small, then exists on my small camera screen, I intend it to be viewed full-screen on a computer, or at least the size of an embedded Vimeo movie.

I think messing with scale in this way works with the project of stripping the meaning away. I have to admit it would be thrilling to see the films on a large screen, but until I produce a substantial, coherent work I probably won’t be pursuing public screenings.

Finally, I also draw, stamp, crochet, or otherwise make visual poems. The size of the crocheted poems was based on the material I was working with—the weight of the yarn and the size of the hook.I intend to make a few more projects like this, using mediums that have been traditionally used in women’s handicrafts, and the size will be determined by what was typically employed by women… an embroidered handkerchief, an average sized cookie, etc. In a vaguely related plug, these are interests I also explore in the following stop-motion movie:
That nebulous project aside, I make most of my visual poetry on 81/2X11 paper, sometimes cut to a 81/2X81/2 square.
This finger-print piece was made on a sheet of printer paper using a pen and my pinkie finger dipped in an ink pad. The scale was therefore determined by the size of my finger.

This is a reflection of the financial constraints that I work under. While now and then I’ll treat myself to some more upscale art supplies, these can be expensive, and, like a lot of students, I don’t have a lot of spare cash.
These poems were each made on better quality 9X12" watercolour paper and drawn using watercolour pencils, but the pencils were actually a gift from my wonderful art-student sister. You can follow her and her photos on twitter.

Poetry lends itself to brokenness, in a lot of ways, which is one of the beautiful things about it (this position is sort of stolen from Audre Lorde’s essay “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Social Difference”). Even if you’re broke and worn to the bone working several jobs, you can still write a haiku on a scrap of receipt paper from the till you operate—you can still find time on your break to pen a short free-verse poem. This is the lovely thing about poetry—while it’s often considered a bourgeois art form, it’s really the most available form of artistic expression. All you need is some sort of writing implement and a surface to scribble on. This holds true for visual poetry as well. While you can make it using lots of time and expensive computer programs or materials, you can also grab a pencil, a sheet of paper, and you’re ready to go.
This piece was made from a piece of paper I already had and a sheet of Letraset I found in my parents' basement.

I’d like to think that working with readily available materials is not a mark of laziness or lack of forethought, but evidence of the democratic availability of visual poetry. So, I think size does matter when it comes to visual poetry. It can matter in terms of making an engaging presentation, or in terms of reflecting the content of the visual poem. Finally, the size of visual poetry can even be a political statement in itself—a refusal to let poverty or the pressures of work and life silence you.
This is from my ongoing project of Hungarian folk-art visual poems.