Fifty images on a screen

Last night, poet Ray Hsu and I performed at 330 W Pender, an early-1900’s bank currently being restored by Heritage Vancouver. We improvised stories, in conversation with each other, which corresponded to fifty random images projected in sequence onto a large screen behind us. At several points during the performance, Ray read from his book of poems Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon, newly released by Nightwood. My favourite response from an audience member afterward: “I loved it. I had no idea what was going on.”

Throughout the night, I passed the vault door at the back of the room — twice my height, made of steel several feet thick, two wheels to open the dual-control combination lock system. A dual-control system requires that two people work simultaneously to open the vault — collaboration as security measure and the creation of a shared solution. The most frequent comment I overheard: “That door looks like a movie set.”

My thanks to writer/actor Testsuro Shigematsu for his generous input during our preparations.


Urban Dictionary versus the poet

Another collaboration with Ray Hsu for the poetics blog Lemon Hound. This post explores experimental prose writer Bhanu Kapil‘s (Humanimal, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, Incubation: A Space For Monsters) interventions into the online slang monolith Urban Dictionary. Kapil’s definitions are elliptical, impressionistic, digressive. Ray and I wrote definitions in response Kapil’s and submitted them to Urban Dictionary. Our definitions are currently under review by the editors; we await the results.

Our definitions can be read on Lemon Hound here.

Update: Architecture 3, Calling It A Day, Hard Day and Nativity have been approved  by Urban Dictionary. Lung, Lucy, Pet, Ghost and Architecture 4 have been rejected. Urban Dictionary’s slogan: “Define Your World.”

Architecture 3 — after Bhanu Kapil’s Architecture 1 and Architecture 5

Definition: A structure depending on associations made of a bird’s nerves rather than the sequences of rooms; there is one smudged purple hallway that is also a throat. A vertical knowing of the dying fall; a way to conduct design by making mistakes. The only option is to go public in the grief of a story which is part of a structure that has no floorboards, only mutterings of cold fisted birds left over from last year’s old words. Or: a way of listening to the ramblings of possible light, crossing your arms around your sequence of events. Or: but this is a rumour on the radio, also a nightmare about a cat who kept you company during a pregnancy.

Usage: “Hey, that was like SO Architecture 3!” “I know. You know?” “Yeah. Like two years ago at that party? That wasn’t as Architecture 3 as this, tho.” “Totally. I felt much more incoherent and subconsciously tired this time.” “For sho. Remember that night we jumped off the bridge into the cold water?” “Yes and it tasted so good.” “That reminds me of drinking Sprite in my uncle’s truck in a clearcut.” “Architecture 3!” “Yeah!”

Keywords: Design, rambling, sequences, story, uncles, Sprite, remembrance

Collaborations with poets

This year I’ve had the chance to collaborate with poets for the first time. Fiction writing is a solitary exercise; it’s been interesting and helpful to work on shared artistic terms.

So. Several things. Poet Ray Hsu and I will be performing at Heritage Vancouver’s fundraiser later this month. We’ll be doing “slideshow karaoke” — improvising language to accompany images. What makes a picture into a story? Ventriloquism? Event? (Ray and I collaborated earlier this year on a post for Lemon Hound.)

During the recent Vancouver Olympics Games, Elizabeth Bachinsky and I gathered several hundred erasure poems created by members of the public using Olympics news coverage and the censor’s black marker. Some poems will be in subTerrain‘s post-Olympics issue. I’ll also contribute an essay about the Olympics in Vancouver (spectacle, public space, collage). Recently, I contributed to a collaborative poetry project that’s the brainchild of Sachiko Murakami; looking forward to seeing that evolve and come to light.

Separately: an online collaborative poetry project I check into regularly is Rachel Zolf’s The Tolerance Project – A MFA. Poems are generated to explore the civility agenda intrinsic to the MFA workshop experience. Or that’s how I’d describe it. Read the Tolerance Project and decide for yourself. Especially if you did an em-fah.


My story “Swimmers” has been restored to the Joyland Vancouver website. The story is accompanied by an editorial note by Vancouver Joyland editor Kevin Chong and a link to my previous post in which I give my account of Joyland’s treatment of my work.

Kevin Chong’s statement that accompanies “Swimmers”: “Editor’s Note: This story was originally posted last spring. It was removed after a personal disagreement online. To be clear, this dispute had nothing to do with the author’s political beliefs, but had to do with the author’s manner of behaviour on a private Facebook page. It is being restored because we don’t want to be accused erroneously of censorship.”

I have made no “erroneous” claims. I continue to ask what “manner of behaviour” — or any issue of personal difference  — could be part of a legitimate editorial policy. It remains unclear why, if Facebook comments were the problem, Kevin Chong did not delete the Facebook comments and chose instead to delete my fiction.

“Swimmers” can once again be read over on Joyland Vancouver.

A cautionary tale: story vanishes from Joyland Vancouver

Last May, my short story “Swimmers” was published by the Vancouver site of the online short fiction journal Joyland. Recently, I dropped by Joyland Vancouver and was surprised to discover that my story had disappeared! So I contacted Kevin Chong, the Vancouver editor, thinking this was some kind of techno glitch. Not at all, I was told. He had an even better reason for the mysterious disappearance of my story.

Kevin and I disagreed about the ethics of horse racing in a comment stream on a single photo on his Facebook page, six months after “Swimmers” was published. Kevin wrote to me that  he “took offense” to my views and had communicated his “displeasure” with me to the head editors and co-founders of Joyland, Brian Joseph Davis and Emily Schultz. Brian and Emily have since upheld Kevin’s decision and have refused to discuss the questions this raises about Joyland’s editorial policy. Is work published based on artistic merit or on the (unspoken) precondition of political agreement? Can we not freely debate issues without fear of professional retribution?

Since I’ve published a number of short stories in print journals and anthologies, I was surprised to discover that my work could be “unpublished” as quickly as it was “published” by Joyland. This week, I’ve been even more surprised to discover that a writer has no recourse with Joyland in a situation where her political disagreement on an unrelated matter (horse racing!) could be and has been used as justification for not only taking down a story, but not putting it back up.

So the lesson I’ve learned from all this is that while all editors have their personal likes and “displeasures,” there are some in the online world who think it justifiable to make editorial decisions on these grounds and even to uphold them when queried. And in the online world of Joyland, a writer has no protection and no recourse. Buyer beware.

In case you’re wondering, “Swimmers” really isn’t about horse racing. There isn’t a limping equine in sight. But check it out for yourself! “Swimmers” is in the anthology Coming Attractions 09, edited by Mark Anthony Jarman, published by Oberon Press.

Update: “Swimmers” was restored to Joyland Vancouver due to the public awareness and discussion that resulted from this post. Resolution post here.