VanCulture: Meet the 2016 Vancouver Book Award Finalists Series

Great interview by VanCulture with Wayde and I around The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Around Them, as part of their “Meet the 2016 Vancouver Book Award Finalists” series:

the-revolving-cityQ. Can you tell us a bit more about the process of inviting the poets to write reflections on their poems, and why you decided to include these reflections?

A. Wayde and I, along with our wonderful managing editor Monica Miller, would meet and reflect on the work of the poets and in our discussions. We were reminded that poets don’t often get an opportunity to talk about “the story behind the poem” and indeed, sometimes, we poets, actively resist doing so! We wanted, I think, to take a look at the process behind the writing and we thought that doing so would offer readers a rare opportunity to “see inside the poet’s mind”: the reflections are intimate and you almost feel as if you are reading a letter the poet’s written, just for two…”

Also featuring Lorimer Shenher’s That Lonely Section of Hell and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Karen Duffek and Tania Willard’s Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Unceded Territories.

Read the full interview

Ontario Poet Chris Turnbull creates visual art with THOT-J-BAP

Ontario poet and visual artist, Chris Turnbull, inscribes language into and on to objects, into the world around outside her rural home.

Here, a few photographs and comment-fragments about her process with poems from THOT-J-BAP: 

to discover and discover and think…COOL…text…
–laid out on a couple of boards in the garage…
–ended up transcribing via handwriting onto the inner portion of piece of birch bark.

Chris invited me to read the entire Nous-Zot chapbook into an audio file, which Chris says “over time it will ‘replace’ the birch bark pieces, because they’ll erode and the text will change or the birch will drift in the cube.

Eventually, there’ll just be birch bark again, but your voice will be there in the qr-code format.”

Chris Turnbull’s work with THOT-J-BAP will be installed at the end of September 2016 at

For more information about the Elements festival, please visit: 

More about the poetic and visual arts practice of Canadian poet Christ Turnbull:

Sept 26: Your Story, Your Legacy – Teen and Seniors Write Surrey


As Surrey’s Poet Laureate, I’ll be working with teens (13-18) and seniors (65+) through writing prompts to create a legacy for Surrey. Completed works will be published in a Surrey Legacy Project anthology.

Library: Cloverdale Library
Location: Cloverdale Library Meeting Room
Date: 26/09/2016
Time: 1:00 PM – 3:30 PM

Register in person at the library, by telephone at 604-598-7327 or by email at  Can’t make it? There will be another event on October 6 at PICS Senior Housing (12075-75A Avenue) from 4:30 – 6:30 PM.

Click here for more info


thecanadaproject interviews Stephen Collis, Part 4

As a poet, I’m indebted to Stephen’s work on not only the long poem form, but in particular, the life-long poem. Here are a few notes from my conversation in this fourth and final instalment of thecanadaproject interviews Stephen Collis:

About life-long poems and The Barricades Project

SC: “Well, in a way, the journal is the poem: I’m always writing, doing docu-poetry/poetics by entering things into my journal, including words and sketches. I’m now onto Journal #89: yeah, I keep track of these, they are usually black, with bound hard covers: I’ve over 25 years of journal writing, a daily practice, and the last 50 of my 7 journals are this art book type, unlined black.”

And it is in our discussion of these journals that S.C. speaks of the life-long poems as a kind of movement toward… the “horizon”.

Stephen Collis End of july 2016SC:  “I guess … The Barricades Project is the horizon I write towards, and this is what a life-long poem is for me—you never get there, but it provides direction and impetus to your work. Again like a Venn diagram, there are poems and books that will overlap substantially with The Barricades Project, but it will also always remain substantially outside of any of the poems and books I actually publish. Anarchive, The Commons, To the Barricades—these all feel like The Barricades Project (See Part 1 of this interview). But so do parts of On the Material and Once in Blockadia. [It’s] about forms not about product, about in-forming, occupying journals, it is the process of living-writing the unbound life and the bound; [and it’s also about] exceeding boundaries into ‘the beyondery’ –”

Steve goes on to say “life-long poems hover outside poetry” and I add, …are perhaps intricately engaged with questions of inside/outside…in speaking about these things we speak about long poems such as Dante’s Divine Comedy, with its defined structure and form, and we speak about how the long poem often negotiates, contemplates, mediates notions of scale, of size, the “epic” or “the saga”…quite often made with elaborate structures (Milton’s Paradise Lost, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales) and boundaries, with limits. One example Steve laughingly recalls is William Morris’ The Earthly Paradise, which Steve describes as “ horrible “ (which makes me immediately want to read it, devour it): it’s about 40,000 lines in verse of rhymed end-stopped couplets…

(in my notebook, I write: The Rape of the Lock! Ugh.)

Going deeper: poets, fragments, and the life-long project

Steve and I speak about the influence/presence of the Romantic in this idea/ideal: that to be an artist is to live in opposition, to engage in social change…we share a laugh when I interject, “and then you met ‘CanLit’” and Steve responds, with a Bob Dylan quote, “to live outside the law, you have to be honest” and speaks about his work and reading of both Robert Duncan and Phyllis Webb, both of whom he describes as “anarchists…they wrote of an alternative/alternate world”…

Stephen Collis End of july 2016 007I’m surprised by Steve’s take on Robert Duncan and he reminds me of Duncan’s work: e.g. The Passages poem, fragments of which reoccur throughout Duncan’s oeuvre and Steve mentions a 1940’s essay Duncan wrote for The Nation, “The Homosexual in Society,” and how Duncan at that time outed himself as a gay man.

Steve also cites Phyllis Webb’s Kropotkin Poems, “it’s epic” and written by a woman and he sees it as a model for his idea of the life-long poem and the long poem and their inter-relationship with place/space…also with incompleteness which leads back to walking and of course to Wordsworth (The Prelude, being the only part of his projected “Recluse” that Wordsworth completed.)

Steve adds in a later note to me: “the Kropotkin Poems never were written – just fragments, some of which she published. It’s the idea of them, the intent and ambition, that draws me. Their “openness” in being incomplete, and the struggle Webb went through in (not) writing them. How do you write the anarchist epic? By not writing it, Webb’s experience seems to say.”

The horizon we write toward is the life-long poem, is the Barricades Project, writing toward, that is the life-long poem.”

We discuss the voice of the barricades, “problematic yet necessary” and Steve speaks about what I call the urgency of now, how will we live together…S.C. speaks with respect for other poets such as Cecily Nicholson, Jordan Abel,  in how these poets “track the we” and his own passion for writing toward an inclusive we, that trans-movement between self and other. 

My biggest desire is to be in conversation about a shared space, to be engaged.”

We end our afternoon exchanging ideas about how to make poetry out of the public sphere, out of the political and we discuss the documentary as a strategy of research, how to report and make voice, how to transfer, evoke emotion, how to compress, probe, excavate, remove, redact, destroy, subvert, and yes, how to make new, this language.

Stephen Collis’ latest book is forthcoming from Talon Books: Once in Blockadia. For more information about the book, visit Talon Books’ website.

Read the rest of the interview below:

Vancouver Book Award Nominee: The Revolving City


Delighted that The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them which I co-edited with Wayde Compton is on the shortlist for the 2016 Vancouver Book Award, so honoured to be in the company of the other two nominees: Larimer Shenher’s That Lonely Section of Hell, and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Karen Duffek and Tania Willard for Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Unceded Territories.

Click here for more details




From thecanadaproject: For a writer starting out —

A piece I prepared for Aislinn Hunter, for a workshop she’s doing…

for a writer starting out —

Renee Saklikar
how to live a beautiful life: don’t give advice
  • Do the work: seriously: Nancy Lee says that choosing to be a non-civilian and becoming a writer means saying No to things you, yes, LOVE TO DO. Yeah, like that.
  • Do the work: establish a practice by any means necessary (crib from Malcom X): try and write every day, even if only for 15 minutes. (note: I don’t do this! But I absolutely did it the first five years of outing myself as a writer and until I had my first book published).
  • Practice by reading as a writer: mimesis is your friend: copy text you love and can’t live without, by hand, into your note book. Study syntax, the sequence of language parts in a phrase or piece of narrative.
  • Practice by reading a lot, devour and go deep (again, I don’t do this nearly enough now, but I absolutely did it in the years leading up to my first book).
  • Build and sustain community by: showing up to other writers’ events and buy their books. Showing up to book launches and not buying books is tacky.
  • Seek out and find literary events: conferences, readings, writing groups, even if it means going to events where you know no one and no one speaks to you. This happened a lot. I went anyway.
  • If in writing workshops, don’t be that woman who nitpicks about grammar or spelling. The purpose of the workshop is to help your colleagues feel excited about their revision process: be generous (Wayde Compton).
  • In whatever form it works for you, pray: seriously: find help from muses and court them/Her. Don’t grovel. Sashay.
  • When other writers ask for advice on their writing, always try and find time to say yes. If you do not have time, find some other way to support the requests of your writing colleagues. Betsy Warland and Rachel Rose taught me that–
  • Commit to at least five years of extreme writing and reading, go deep. E.g. find a writer or, allow writers and their books to find you and then devour everything ever written by them. Ask questions. Even if they are dead, write to the authors you adore. Especially if they are dead, write to them. Yes, commune with the spirit world.
  • Nurture obsessions, strangeness, and write about your own writing.
    I’ve learned more from writing about my own writing, doing written
    diagnostics on what is working/not working in a piece, than almost anything else…
  • Don’t give advice about writing unless asked! The New Yorker did a
    cartoon series this year on how to live a beautiful life and the top “suggestion”
    was “don’t give advice”.


Sep 21: CapU Truth and Reconciliation Week – Writers’ Feast Potluck

As part of CapU’s 4th annual week of events around Truth and Reconciliation, I’ll be part of an evening of readings and performances, with:

  • David Geary, an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who teaches at CapU’s School of Motion Picture Arts
  • Darrel Guss & Will George of the Tsleil Waututh Nation
  • Natalie Knight, from Alliance Against Displacement and the editorial collective of the Volcano
  • Renae Morriseau, of Saulteaux and Cree descent, an actor, writer, director, and musician with M’Girl
  • Yvonne Wallace, Ucwalmicw from the Lil’wat First Nation and the author of Smothered Sweetly, The Last Dance, and Transformation

Meals will be at 5pm, readings at 6pm. Event will be at the Kexwusm-ayakn First Nations Student Centre Library 196 at Capilano University.

Click here for more info