Tag Archives: Books On The Radio

Wish List-Books for Xmas-Laytons for my birthday . . .

. . . and a pot of chicken soup. I start battling the flu the moment the clocks turn back. Every godamn winter; I wish I could make like a snowbird and fly south, to an abode in the desert. I’ll put it on the list.

My buddy Sean Cranbury of Books on the Radio invited me to contribute to his delightful Advent Book Blog. Despite the aforementioned bug and a dearth of time for fiction, here is my recommendation.

I’ve long been a fan of Dennis E. Bolen’s uncanny dialogue and unadulterated prose, the economy of which adapts well to the short story genre and his new collection, Anticipated Results. Though Bolen skillfully renders male Boomer ennui entertaining, not every tale wags in Loser Ville. As affecting as his unflinching portrayals of disaffected, middle-aged lost boys may be, I was moved by other premises: the emotional intensity of a child fleeing a bizarre outburst of patriarchal rage, the twisted, lustful hilarity of Kitty, the genuine poignancy of Lena, an account of driving with offspring as fraught with a father’s palpable longing, regret and resignation as his daughter’s intractable anxiety, seething and clumsily concealed reproach. The result? A thoroughly engaging read. Check out the book trailer, which we just screened at Visible Verse Festival.

Another friend, Max Layton, son of Irving Layton, has asked me to participate in a nation wide Layton centenary celebration in March. I said I’d be happy to and have started planning an event here on the island. It will provide an opportunity to celebrate my birthday as well. If it’s half as wild as 2011’s, we’re in store for a memorable occasion.

And oh, other books I’d happily recommend; and also sharks by Jessica Westhead, Jenn Farrell’s The Devil You Know, Michael Crummy’s The Wreckage and The Spoken Word Workbook, edited by Sheri-D Wilson, with “inspiration from poets who teach, 27 of the most influential Poets, Griots & Bards working in jazz, hip hop, dub, slam, storytelling and sound from across North America,” moi included.

(G)literati and Fighting the Good Fight

Author Kevin Chong

Where’s the poem? Swamped this week screening submissions for Visible Verse Festival 2011 and up to my eyeballs in experimental film, which happens every year. Without being semantical, I have to say poetic is not the same as visible verse, or a video poem or a cine-poem, or whichever term you prefer. I think I just got semantical.

Still laughing and sharing photos from Kevin Chong’s book launch of new novel Beauty and Pity at Vancouver’s infamous Penthouse nightclub, the first and likely the last time I’ll ever set my ass down in there. I was surprised; the interior does not reflect the fading building facade. Neither did the carpet reek of stale beer, wall of framed 8×10 black and white celebrity headshots only one of its charms. Anyway, I’ve spent enough time in strip clubs. Bartending was the only job I could find in New York City when I resided, or rather survived a year there in the 80s. Man, it was a tough town, nothing like it is now, inhabitable. A friend of a friend got me a job at the Baby Doll, a topless bar on White Street, just down from the Mudd Club, where we used to convene after our shifts ended at 2 AM, or at the sushi bar imbibing hot sake, which goes down well in the company of bitterly cold Manhattanites. Club management kept trying to get me to strip too. I was quite miserable after my band broke up and told them, “No thanks, I don’t miss the stage that much.” I only had to watch the dancers—what was left of them—flaunt it, appalled by the Wall Street fat cat CEOs and bankers turned on by such pathetic junkies. No way I was going to wind up down there.

But back to Vancouver. I love book launches that are beyond readings. Kevin commissioned a book trailer, directed and produced by mutual friends Pam Bentley and Tara Flynn and it was hilarious. The book jacket states “Malcolm Kwan is a slacker twenty-something Asian-Canadian who is about to embark on a modeling career.” Kevin had Owen Kwong, a real male model, portray him. Later during the reading, host Charles Demers applied makeup to Kevin’s face, and not expertly, bestowing him with a magnificent unibrow. Kevin admirably kept reciting throughout the lipstick and purple wig application. What an event! And so glamorous. I’m enjoying the book immensely, can recommend it.

Attended a Continue reading

Sage sisters, memories (of Sage Hill Writing Experience)

Before they’re gone forever, and though I’m barely scratching the surface, here are a few other robust memories from my ten-day tenure at Sage Hill Writing Experience.

July 19, 2010

I can’t believe I’m here! I couldn’t sleep the last few nights, in anticipation but I made it after an uneventful flight, the best kind. I’ve been exploring, getting my bearings, settling in.

“Be fearless, be in the moment, remember why you’re there, be open to the path ahead. Open yourself up like the big Saskatchewan sky then strike like lightning.” My pal Sean Cranbury of Books On The Radio‘s words on getting the most out of this retreat, good advice I shall endeavor to use.

July 21, 2010

I met my instructor, award winning author Terry Jordan. Nice guy, adorable 9-year old daughter C in tow. What is she going to do? I’d be bored here if I was a kid. Terry’s a musician. Damn! I would have brought my bundle of busking songs with me if I’d known. I should always assume there will be hootenannies and opportunities to sing at these things. I’ve been reading Terry’s novel, Beneath That Starry Place, mightily impressed with his well-drawn characters and landscapes. He possesses a powerful ability to create ambiance, often sinister. I will have to get him to sign it for me. Terry’s a playwright too. I would like to talk to him about that. I’m seriously considering writing and producing a Continue reading

Mourning, messages

Sun instead of rain. Bonus. Writing quite a lot, most of which can’t be posted, about events personal and searingly painful. Too much grit, not enough lyric. A death in the family works to put matters of the heart into perspective though. I can say I’m fortunate to have compassionate, intelligent friends in my corner.

I’m so sad, weary, jaded. I wonder if anything appalls me anymore. I was more bemused by the antics—or tactics—because the Black Bloc is not an organization, Black Bloc is a tactic—at the G-20 summit in fair Toronto over the weekend. It seems their message becomes more obscured with each year of their annual bash-in, one reason I’m sure most people chose to watch the World Cup on Saturday instead. It’s all so predictable, tedious. This, a few days after a discussion of anarchy with Sean Cranbury of Books on the Radio as it pertained to punk rock and the Internet. I suppose that is their message. Anarchy. I understand that anarchy does not equate with violent disorder, that the anarchists have gotten a bad rap, but I don’t believe their utopian vision is feasible. Not in this world.

I have always been suspect of mixing art and politics and none of my comrades in punk rock were card-carrying anarchists. I suppose Gerry Useless of the Subhumans was the most radicalized among us and perhaps the only, at least to that degree. Zealotry is zealotry, something my Zellots band mate Conny Nowe and I were aware of as we chose a resonant name. Zealotry is dangerous, futile, often resulting in death. To me, being an artist is a political statement.

The information highway may be swamped with billboards these days but its essence is the same. Everybody and his dog has a blog. What could be more populist? Which is more democracy than chaos. I detest capitalism, abhor the yawning chasm between the rich and the poor—don’t get me started! —but until something better comes along, will not ascribe to anarchy, nor tolerate the chaos anarchists create. Take your Molotovs and your machetes and shove ‘em.


I find a message
via vanity plate,
a gearshift in the gutter,
an egg,
turquoise and high in a nest.
I make it my own.
Not in my house!
It holds its value.
The toaster,
the red couch,
leftover lasagne,
my first stainless steel appliance,
the inherent drama
four walls.

And now I mourn.

The last Real Vancouver Writers Series reading/Doin’ the Cultural Olympiad our way

Old school. Punk rock. DIY.

Still harbour a bit of a bad attitude and though I’ve watched a little hockey, have largely dodged the Spring Olympics. Oh, I’m sure there is a ton of fun to be had downtown Vancouver but it’s the type of fun that was vitally important to me as a teenager when the rodeo came to Cloverdale every long Victoria Day weekend. My sisters and I practically lived at the midway, chasing boys, drinking bootlegged beer behind the barns and throwing up, rides or no rides, or games in this case.

At the invitation of the smart, discerning and affable Sean Cranbury of Books On The Radio, I did very happily venture down to the city Feb. 17 to read at an exciting new series called Real Vancouver Writers housed at W2, an exciting new arts and media centre across from the refurbished Woodward’s Building which happens to be a few doors up from our punk rock stomping grounds at the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret. I was ten, I joked. Very appropriately, one of the artists featured in the W2 gallery was Bev Davies with a series of her quintessential DOA shots.

What a fabulous event! I haven’t felt such enthusiasm at a reading since the 90s and the Edgewise, I swear. Talented poet, lovely person Elizabeth Bachinsky graciously hosted the standing room only evening and I had the privilege of seeing all my cool FB peeps/literati in the flesh- Continue reading

Moving about during the holidaze

Off to Grandma’s house in a freezing drownpour! Need to stop off and buy some flowers. Went to a lovely party last night. Our friend Fitch always hosts the liveliest assortment of islanders. The Black Morris Dancers showed up and spiced things up with their shenanigans. Bob Doucet invited me to join. I am not too inclined to prance around in blackface and feathers, had to decline his kind offer. I do want to participate in one of his kitchen junkets-don’t get to sing enough-so I will make an attempt to go next time.

Sean Cranberry of Books On The Radio kindly invited me to participate in his Advent Book Blog on Books On The Radio for December. Here’s what I sent: I heard Keath Fraser read from The Voice Gallery this summer at the Write On Bowen (Island) Festival, a book about his journey with laryngeal dystonia, a misfiring of the vocal cords caused by faulty transmitters in the brain. His story resonated with me on several levels, as a language artist, singer, traveler and mother of an autistic child. So, I bought a copy; a fascinating read indeed. Check it out. The Voice Gallery-Travels with a Glass Throat Thomas Allen Publishers-ISBN: 0-88762-101-5

Yesterday we tried to shoot some video after rising to a rainless morning and some promising light. We need to re-shoot some of the shots from the AURAL Heather How To Remain video. I corralled the dogs, dug out some ladders and props, applied makeup. We had to conduct a search to find the charger for the camera. I have designated a cupboard in the family room for such gear but it still seems to wind up spread throughout the house or in Josef’s office. Fortunately I found it though I wasn’t sure what the thing looked like, charged the camera while I ironed a black sheet to use as a backdrop. By then time was running out. We had about fours shots to get, we started with the most important one of me lying on the ground. “She could retire to her body.” Josef’s back is screwed and he had a difficult, painful time trying to hold the camera steady enough for the directly-above shot. “The things we do for art!” he moaned. Turns out the main problem was composition. I could not get my hair to look the way I wanted and turns out it was night impossible to lie on the cold ground, be the subject as well as director, grip, stylist, makeup artist. Of course we ran out of light by 4 pm and though the lighting looked better than I thought it would, the damn hair was all wrong. I’m just going to have to get help next time or try to rescue the shot we already did. Urf. DIY ain’t easy!