Will be reading with Wayde next Wednesday at the Queen’s Park Bandshell in New West from 6 to 8. Hope to see you there…
In conversation: thecanadaproject interviews Stephen Collis, Part 1…
RSS: What draws you to language? What turns you away?
SC: As a reader, I am definitely drawn to thick, almost opaque language—to sound and texture, which despite the thickness of the surface, can still be quite lyrical (think Lisa Robertson). As a writer I think I’m always trying to keep both the medium and the message in dialectical interplay; I’m compelled to say something “about the world,” but find the challenge and the interest in the material means of that saying—the sound and pattern of a language that often resists or at least complicates saying. As I get older (always a terrible thing to say) I find more and more I want and need that tension—that I dislike, or at least find myself disengaged by, writing that is too transparent or too impenetrable; I hunger for the messy middle, for the dialectical struggle of the in-between.
RSS: What is happening with The Barricades Project?
SC: I have been pursuing this “project” for almost twenty years; it remains a search for poetic material in the history of social struggles, and remains true to its poetics, derived from Robert Duncan: “the intention of the boundless is manifest in the agony and restoration of pages or boundaries or walls.” This means that the desire for the boundless—social revolution, an open-form poetry—must be found in the “agony” of the boundary (the historical struggle at the barricade or blockade, the desire to shut some things out and down) and the written page (one can desire as open a poetry as one wants, but there’s still the page awaiting you, if you plan to continue being a poet).
It also means that any boundary found or created produces its own “beyondery”—calls forth the possibility of its surpassing. For my life-long poem, this means that process has to take precedence over any product (be it a poem or book). Form is death; form-giving is life, the anthropologist Tim Ingold writes. So I find myself realizing that there never will be some fat tome entitled ‘The Barricades Project”—there can only be a continuation of the search and the agony, the struggle and the resistance—and the books produced along the way will be just so many way-stations, so many pauses and markers of ongoing movement. That’s a bit romantic, I know, but there it is. I have always found my books to be incomplete, small flawed gestures towards something so much larger. But that makes political sense to me too, for what people have struggled for so long is always something larger than the small moments of resistance that are engaged in in the here and now. This has to be so—otherwise all these defeats do not amount to anything. Social movements and “movements” in the work of art (I mean large aesthetic structures that are composed) are made of so many discrete moments, acts, words and people that compose something that is larger than the sum of those parts. That’s the utopian heart of what I think I’m doing.
RSS: How have the events of the past few years changed or transformed your writing, your view of your writing?
SC: I think these experiences, in the long run, have simply clarified and sharpened what was already going on in my writing. At first I found I needed to assert the primacy of direct action, grassroots struggle, and “doing” over “writing.” I recognized that, when push came to shove, poetry wasn’t the only thing I had to do—I had to stand and be counted in other ways too. Because art alone is never enough. It’s a small and obvious point that many others have been more articulate on than I am being (for instance, the Commune Editions poets); poetry doesn’t change the world; only people collectively organizing and taking action can do that—if we are lucky. But poetry has a role nevertheless, does some of the work that organizers call “capacity building.” We need ways to express and share our solidarity, and poetry is one of those ways. So I suppose I’m once again more a poet of the in-between (a dialectical thinker, when it comes down to it)—I want to write and I want to act, but one cannot replace the other.
The fact that corporations and the state care enough about poetry to bring it into a courtroom, or to busy themselves reviling a poet, has been pretty instructive. I’m still not sure what to do with that information, but it’s now a part of what poetry is to me—it’s a little darker now, a little more dangerous, a little closer to the madness of exploitation than I had thought before. All this is tangled up in Once in Blockadia, which is part documentary poetry, part meditation on the politics of and possibilities of art in the Anthropocene (a term I don’t really like but use as a convenient shorthand).
RSS: In looking at your poems, readers and reviewers often comment on…
SC: I think different readers comment on different things. For some, my work seems quite lyrical and expressive; for other readers It’s difficult and experimental. I probably get too much credit for being “an activist poet” (there are quite a few others), but I think this also means a lot of people who might otherwise have read me, don’t—the emphasis gets placed on what I do, not what I write (see above comment about doing and writing and note the irony!). The focus on the activist part of the activist-poet (please note that these aren’t terms I personally prefer or use) perhaps indicates a hunger for such figures and such boundary-crossing work, just as it also probably indicates a lack of the same (obviously).
Sometimes readers and reviewers just “get it,” and that’s wonderful. Because that “getting it” is really about me learning something about what I’m doing, and about poetry, from those readers and reviewers. And that’s a wonderful gift. As far as a reader/reviewer’s response goes, as a writer, all I’m really after is an ongoing conversation. To be read means to be in conversation. That’s all I can ask.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of thecanadaproject interviews Stephen Collis
A piece I prepared for Aislinn Hunter, for a workshop she’s doing…
for a writer starting out —
- 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”.
Delighted that new THOT-J-BAP poems will be appearing in Touch The Donkey, a poetry series published by rob mclennan.
An interview in the Touch the Donkey supplement will run the week of Sept. 22
Lovely to be mentioned in an essay by my good friend Mark Winston (author of the 2015 Governor-General award-winning Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive and my collaborator on the Honey, Hives and Poetry Project). On bees, science, and writing:
…It’s a thing of beauty, this multi-fragment queen pheromone, an elixir of elegant function, reminiscent of the elusive perfection captured in the best poetry, where snippets of language weave together into a whole much more compelling than its individual parts.
I imagine writing poetry is like that, a mental image of Renee at work in her writing laboratory, testing combinations of words together, rejecting innumerable linguistic dead ends until the etymological data tell her the poem is done.”
Update: Last year I had the pleasure of speaking with Kitty Lewis, General Manager at Brick Books, on hosting a year-long appreciation of Canadian Poetry. Today I’d like to repost the interview to look back on the project, which now has over 315 posted articles!
Kitty’s currently looking for a few more articles for this project by August 1st. This is a great opportunity for anyone to write about a poet that they admire. For more information, please visit the Brick Books website or email Kitty at Brick.email@example.com
Part 1: The Idea Behind the Project
Q: How long did you carry the seeds for this idea before you implemented it, and did you have the experience of holding a concept in your mind for a while, before introducing it to the world?
A: This project came about fairly simply. We can apply every June for the OMDC Book Fund (Ontario Media Development Corporation), a grant that provides support for marketing initiatives. Last year I had a fairly complete set of activities to propose around the celebration of our 40th anniversary but I needed one more activity.
I met with my long-time publishing friend Jen Hale to see if she could suggest something. We chatted about various possibilities but then she came up with the idea that we should try to increase the visibility of our website. Jen writes books about popular culture and blogs regularly as Nikki Stafford. She mentioned her project “The Great Buffy Rewatch” and how this directed people to her blog. Because she had written companion guides to this TV show, she knew all the experts in that field and asked them to contribute articles about each episode.
We talked about how something like this could work for Brick Books and came up with the idea of hosting a Celebration of Canadian poetry on our website. I submitted the grant application, we got the positive result in July. I worked with our website designer and he came up with the design for this project. The articles for each successive week post at the top of the page underneath the introduction to the project. Then I hired Jen to compose the invitation letter. I sent the e-mails out in October.
I presented this activity as:
The final part of an essay that came about through a recent BC Library Association Conference panel I participated in with Aislinn Hunter, Valerie Patrick, and Meghan Savage, titled “Reading for Change: how reading leads to action”:
Selected, a continuum—
Do you think reading is more influential for social change than other means?
RSS: Not really. It’s about that old labour slogan, “Bread and Roses”, and it’s about praxis: mindful action. Reading and action, like faith and action, love and action, seem to need to be in a symbiotic relationship. That being said, as a poet, I’m really ambivalent about activism. For the poet in me seems to need vast amount of inaction, brooding, alone time, balanced with dancing and walking and eating. Loving. Too much thinking makes us Hamlet like. Shakespeare had it all figured out… example: it took me five years to write children of air india, my book length sequence about the bombing of air india flight 182 and during that time I immersed myself in language, in ghost retrieval, in The Archive that is the saga of trauma and I stopped moving my body. Horrible. Now, I have to give the body its due, every day. Am reading much slower and much less, but have never been more aware of global/ecological influences, portents, the grass outside my rental in east Vancouver is already brown and shriveled where not watered.
What global issues are central to your writing experiences?
RSS: Ecology, migration/justice, violence, textures, the object in the archive, love, the body: individual and societal, economic/social. Also absence, longing, silence. All those letters, unsent. A glance on a train, seen from Platform (A), receding—
All these are for me encased in a continuing idea of perimeter, what is let in and what is kept out: from the garden of Eden to our own modern cities: these demarcations.
What is your intent or what do you want to accomplish through writing about global issues?
RSS: Really contrarian. It’s such a good question: poetry that doesn’t engage with the world, no matter how gorgeously crafted, doesn’t hold my attention for very long. Example, I had the great privilege of judging poetry prizes last year. So many of the wonderful poetry books ultimately didn’t meet my short list b/c they could have been written at any time in the last 100 years. There was literally nothing of the outside world allowed into the lovely lines and words. No sense of the urgency of now.
I don’t think of either the issues or of intent or “accomplishment” when writing. It is about staying open, doing the work of language and world building, word by word, sentence or line by line. Following cadence, listening for it. It both intentional, as in a daily practice and mindfulness, and it is non causal, non directive. It is negative capability, as Keats would say. It is about observation as witness.
How can libraries encourage reading for change? What are your libraries currently doing?
RSS: By surviving into the new global order as a free, tax supported public space. Story: the Surrey poem about a pay phone.
What are your libraries currently doing?
RSS: As the new Surrey poet Laureate, my Admiration for Surrey libraries: encourages community action: brings community into the library: café, internet, outreach program, places to sit.
What role does literary aesthetics play in politics and change?
RSS: different ways of seeing, observation as witness; form and language as a praxis: see my Narita poem. To be continued. Side-thought: about the provisional. Call Ray Hsu.
What books have personally inspired you on the topics of politics or global change?
Documents and articles: Arts of the Contact Zone, Mary Louise Pratt. Can the subaltern speak, Gayatri Spivak. A wilfulness archive, Sara Ahmed. Senator Diane Weinstein’s monumental report to the US Congress, unclassified in 2014: Senate Select Commiteee on Intelligence, Committee Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program..
“the present is a time within us” / The dart of my story stings / listening: Fetty Wap (1738), Wake Up—
For the writers, how do you choose how wide to create the picture?
RSS: The work chooses itself: the demand is to be open, pay attention to the needs of the work: image, line, rhythm, rhyme, story, pulse, cadence: what does each thing demand, when and where and why…I’m drawn to long poems: series, sequences, sets, suites, gaps, silences, margins, perimeter, what is inside/outside. So notions of macro/micro constantly emerging, have to negotiate, calibrate. The personal is the political. The margins are at the centre.
How narrow or wide is your lens, the net that you cast when writing about a topic?
RSS: Always, the two sided, slant focus, that moment of the personal, say, a man, standing in the shadow of a theatre, about to kiss his lover. Behind the lovers, a woman dances alone, with her nomad device: Fetty Wap, singing, Wake Up. Behind the wall, partition, border, those long lines of people— Compared to what, Roberta Flack—
All the senses engaged, minute focus, time stands still, moves Janus Pointed, past/future, into, and of, the vast, the epic, the disaster sci-fi world where everything happens.
Read the other parts to Reading for Change: the document as Witness:
Welcome to the final part of thecanadaproject interviews poet Jordan Scott. Scott is the 2015/2016 SFU Writer in Residence. His books include Silt (New Star 2005), blert (Coach House 2008), DECOMP (Coach House 2013) and Clearance Process (SMALL CAPS 2016). His forthcoming long poem, Night & Ox is to be published by Coach House Books in the fall of 2016. Jordan lives in Port Coquitlam, BC.
SFU Writer In Residence
RSS: Can you share a bit about your approaching to teaching as part of your residency…what I’m getting at here is, I often wonder, what it’s like for a “WIR” (writer in residence), when approached for commentary/feedback on writing, where you don’t necessarily have time to form teacher-student bonds, as you might in a classroom, over a longer period of time. As the new Surrey Poet Laureate, I’m really interested in learning about how to best serve writers in these sorts of roles.
JS: I’m coming to the end of my tenure as SFU Writer in Residence…it was an incredible experience. I agree that it’s difficult to create lasting bonds while Writer in Residence, as the consultation periods are so brief. I’m not really interested in telling people how to write or how to make a work better. I think I approached these meetings as simply a time to talk about poetry. I wanted to make sure that the person sitting across from me knew that I devoted time to only reading their work and that was listening. This for me, when friends read my work, is the greatest of gifts.
RSS: You’ve been both collaborator/agent of creation and the subject of film and audio studies. What’s that been like, that traversing the line between subject/object? What’s it like to both embody what is integral to us as poets, our “being/ness” (a stutter, the colour of one’s skin, our gender) and to mine if for material?
JS: I’m very conflicted about many of these experiences around the stutter and the poetics of the stutter. You’re right to say it’s a kind of ‘mining for material’ and this can be a very uncomfortable and disingenuous process. I’m not sure how great I’ve been at managing the complex web of art, professionalism and sincerity. I think most of the time my engagement with the stutter is a failure in the sense that it becomes part of an art project / object. I’m the object most of the time but – by extension – so are those who stutter. I have to say that most of the time there’s no art or poetry to stuttering at all. It mostly fucking sucks and I don’t want my kids to talk the way I do. I say this because I don’t want to get caught in some kind of redemptive trap of ‘overcoming obstacles’ because there’s nothing to overcome.
RSS: What’s next for Jordan Scott and have you already begun new writing?
JS: A long poem titled Night & Ox is due out with Coach House in September 2016. I also have a new chapbook, Clearance Process, published by SMALL CAPS.
Part Two of an essay that came about through a recent BC Library Association Conference panel I participated in with Aislinn Hunter, Valerie Patrick, and Meghan Savage, titled “Reading for Change: how reading leads to action”:
- Part 1: Discovery
Part Two : The Information
incantation: reading for change: the document as witness (a repetition)
- table of contents, Charles Reznikoff, Holocaust
- first lines, Narita: hymnal-acro-nym, children of air india, un/authorized exhibits and interjections (Nightwood Editions, 2013)
- extemporaneous & textual: selected fragments: Senate Select Committee on intelligence, UNCLASSIFIED: Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, foreward by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein, Findings and Conclusions, Executive Summary, Declassified Revisions, December 3, 2014.
- extemporaneous & textual: selected fragments Parole Board of Canada, Fact Sheet, Statutory Release and the Parole Board of Canada, PDF (296 Kb); “Inderjit Singh Reyat, Air india bomb-maker, gets out 30 years later, Terry Milewski, CBC News, posted: Jan 27, 2016 2:00 AM PT Last Updated: Jan 27, 2016 2:00AM
- inscription, “The Present is a time within us”: fourth season, in the year of the reign 2014” from THOT-J-BAP, a long poem
in the Archive of memory: the text as material
- Charles Reznikoff, Holocaust and Testimony;
- Robert Fisk; Samantha Powers;
- Adam Rothschild, King Leopold’s Ghost;
- M. Nourbese Philip’s Zong.
- Snow leaks/Wikipedia;
- Rebecca Schneider, Performing Remains: Art and war in the times of theatrical reenactment
- Diane Purvey/John Belshaw, Private Grief/Public Mourning: The rise of the roadside shrine in B.C
- Adonis, Chronique des Branches, epigraph, beginning, “Since John the Baptist, each of us carries our head cut on a platter, waiting for rebirth” (my translation).
- Austerlitz: W.G. Sebald ~ (finally)
- Twelve Years a Slave: Solomon Northup.
- Four Quartets: T.S. Eliot (Little Gidding): again and again.
- Documents and articles: Arts of the Contact Zone, Mary Louise Pratt. Can the subaltern speak, Gayatri Spivak. A wilfulness archive, Sara Ahmed.
The dart of my story stings: from M.NorbeSe Philip, Zong!
reading language as material,
experience, as gesture.
Cadence, a call to action.
Stillness/movement. That twenty foot table, I dream of it.
: — (his) music, (his) arrangement of gesture, (his) image.
My words, my dead—their voices, the singers/musicians.
Always we are in rehearsal.
the long slow impact–
of reading slant, non-directional
praxis: against description, against the literal, except when necessary, by any means necessary ~ about invention, imagination, witness, observation. And so, begin: Narita, hymnal-acronym
Part Three: Selected, a continuum—
Welcome to part 2 of thecanadaproject interviews poet Jordan Scott. Scott is the 2015/2016 SFU Writer in Residence. His books include Silt (New Star 2005), blert (Coach House 2008), DECOMP (Coach House 2013) and Clearance Process (SMALL CAPS 2016). His forthcoming long poem, Night & Ox is to be published by Coach House Books in the fall of 2016. Jordan lives in Port Coquitlam, BC.
Part 1: The world of your books
Poems, poetics, self, history
RSS: In looking at the poems in all three of your books, readers and reviews often comment on your use of syntax, form, shape on the page, personal connections/moments: do these sorts of things preoccupy you at the time of inscription? Your work has garnered a fair share of critical and audience attention (I’m thinking of that list of interviews on your author profile page over at the Coach website; in particular, the jacket2 article etc.). How has this attention fed/distracted your process as a writer? Curious!
JS: I’m rarely preoccupied when I’m writing anymore. I think Silt (and maybe my next book Night & Ox) is my most honest and sincere book. I mean that in the sense that I was simply unaware that to write poetry one could be preoccupied with such things as syntax, form and shape on the page. The writing of Silt was mostly intuition and instinct. I look back at the time with great fondness, and I don’t think it’s purely innocence or something like that. I think what I’m trying to say is that there was no noise – just writing, body, my family and what I didn’t know. I lost this in Blert, which I feel is too clean and precise. I don’t want that anymore. I don’t want to create something is that entirely virtuosic and exhaustive. I don’t think I ever did.
RSS: Decomp is the result of a collaboration with the poet and fellow SFU professor, Stephen Collis: whereby you and Steve did some interesting things with C. Darwin. Can you share a bit about your process when it came to writing the poems, after you’d return to the site(s) where the, er, Darwin’s book-parts had been left?
JS: After we located the books and brought them back home, Steve and I just started writing and sharing our work. We’d edit and collaborate line-by-line. Rarely did a poem that was individually written be left intact. Steve and I went line by line for a period of a couple years until we felt alright with the poems that remained. I think it was a pure collaboration in many ways: vicious, untangled, loving and unwavering.
Stay Tuned for Part 3 of thecanadaproject interviews Jordan Scott
The following multi-part essay came about through a recent BC Library Association Conference panel I participated in with Aislinn Hunter, Valerie Patrick, and Meghan Savage, titled “Reading for Change: how reading leads to action”:
Reading for change: well, that is a challenge to a poet, who sits, head in hands, contemplating tradition, particularly in literary poetics since the last century, that poetry doesn’t do anything; nor should it be directive, causal, or didactic. And so comes on, in equal measure, that contrary view, certainly in the Americas and elsewhere, about the poetry of witness but it is in tension with the former. As a poet, I’m always in correspondence between the two schools of thought. As well, I’m influenced by Irish artists with whom I collaborated on an adaptation of my book children of air india for the stage: music, singers, visuals, staging, 17 piece ensemble: reflections on the artistic practices and disciplines of these collaborators, leads me to reading the online essays of artists such as Niamh McCann, interviewed about her show, “Just Left of Copernicus”: the idea of making as a form of thinking—
So if making is a form of thinking, then reading can be a form of action-making, as well. As a poet my sense is that the cause-and-effect chain of reading and action implanted/implied in the idea of reading for change might well be tenuous, ephemeral, gestural, shadowy, impossible to pin down, non-directional, existing, perhaps forever in a state of negative capability: uncertain when that moment occurs when what I read, ingest, see, observe, transmutes into making, or writing, or marching, or loving, or protesting. And that it is vital that this tenuous, possibly very slow, very haphazard waywardness be allowed to foment, germinate, and this brings me, inevitably, to the importance of libraries, because if my idea is at least open for discussion, that reading for change, may well be the most tenuous of processes, then the necessity to re-visit, reflect, re-turn, becomes crucial. If well-funded, or at least, even funded, if accessible to every day people, that books remain on shelves, that I might revisit the same book over and over, sharing it with others, then my wayward path to action might one day come to fruition and who knows, who would ever want to reductively predict, that reading-action might connect with social change. I think this idea of mine might well pose an immense challenge for the world in which we live: the time it takes, deep slow long time, to make things, that matter…
Part Two: The Information
In conversation: thecanadaproject interviews Stephen Collis, Part 2…
On Decomp (Coach House Books, 2013)
SC: The basic idea was Jordan (Scott)’s: leave a book outside and see what happens to it; use that as a prompt for a more material ecopoetics. Our conversations refined the idea to BC ecosystems and Darwin’s Origin as our text. Once we had recovered the books we left outside for a year, the process was pretty long and laborious. We spent a few years going back and forth—often line by line, word by word, adding, amending, editing one another—to the point where for a lot of the book , neither Jordan nor I can tell “whose” writing is whose. That wasn’t always easy—we didn’t always see eye to eye—but the process was rewarding (and we’re still good friends). Full collaboration like this is a real commitment, but I love it.
The book did take shape “organically,” as we worked and re-worked the material we had; we wanted all along to keep close to what was “readable” in the recovered books—to let what an ecosystem did to the books set our a language, with a grammar and lexicon etc. etc. But luckily we also agreed that any puritanical sense of the “concept” was of no interest, and that we wanted second level reflections, self-reflections, commentary by others, etc. to be part of the project. It’s messy, but I think necessarily and productively so.
SC: I am lucky enough to 1) teach the books that I really love, and 2) to focus my teaching around key social issues. As a “scholar” I would say my primary focus is on the relationship between poetry and social movements. So this is the frame for many of my literature courses. Obviously, there’s a close relationship here between my own poetry and objectives as a poet and those that shape my teaching. How else to bring the necessary passion to the classroom?
In teaching creative writing I’ve learned to do two things: open as many doors as possible to meaningful ways of exploring the world through writing, and then to step back and try to help emerging writers come up with the best version of what they have shown they are trying to do. So it’s a matter of on the one hand opening up the possibilities of a writing turned out towards the world (a writing engaged more with otherness than self), then letting go, letting the writer feel their way towards what they are already doing, and helping them understand what that is. So teaching for me comes down to the practice of radical empathy—to demonstrate my empathy for certain ways of writing, and then to feel empathy for what the student’s interests are and try to guide them as best I can.
RSS: Collaborations in other media—what’s that been like, traversing the line between subject and object?
SC: If you mean collaborations with artists working in other media, I absolutely love this, but haven’t done nearly enough of it. Jordan and I had to figure out how we would work with photography on our own. It was the blind leading the blind, but we’re happy with the results.
Once in Blockadia includes some collaborative work, with artists Genevieve Robertson and Jay White. We did several walks together along the existing and proposed new pipeline routes in Coquitlam and Burnaby. This involved setting up beer can pinhole cameras along the route for “counter-surveillance;” some of these images are in my book—as well as Genevieve’s prints made using bitumen. They are open, collaborative artists, and it was fantastic working with them. Really, all I did was walk and talk in this collaboration, but we all three share an interest in the commons, in the enclosure of space and the erasure of other modes of inhabiting the world.
On Upcoming Projects
SC: I’m now writing a prose, non-fiction book, Almost Islands—sort of a memoir of visiting Phyllis Webb over the years. It’s about place, the Anthropocene, displacement and migration, and how to live and write on this coast in the wake of colonization and the midst of resource extraction. It’s also about the relation between poetry and the political, the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin, and the British socialist William Morris. It’s kind of crazy. I’ve drafted about two thirds of it this summer and will finish and revise next summer.
Beyond that, I don’t like to project too clearly, even though I usually have a sense of where to go. Because I change my mind, or have it changed for me by oil companies and lawyers! One thing I have my eye on is translating the presocratic Greek philosopher Empedocles. Strange, but I’m drawn to his Love and Strife (Eros and Eris) cosmology (which strikes me as fertile ground for “The Barricades Project”), and have translated one fragment already (published in TCR a few years back). I have a shelf of Greek dictionaries, translations etc. ready for me to give it some attention.
Stay tuned for part 3 of thecanadaproject interviews Stephen Collis
A few photos, out and about: July visits to the Newton Plot Community Garden with Apiary thanks to the Cedar Bark Poets and Friends of the Grove