V A N C O U V E R __ R E P O R T
AN IMMEDIATE FACT IS GEOGRAPHY. Flying into Vancouver, the penultimate portion of the flight presents a continous dense fact of snow-capped ranges, markers that one is leaving a land-locked world to for a coastal one. Then, first at the airport, taking the bus into the city, the presence of water, the ring of ridges; here there is its history, a travel, landed as floating in the midst of it...
Not mere travel details when one thinks that the fact of geography here is not inconsequential. Transgeographies: the geographies of Canada, the U.S. geographies, and the world as geography, folding into Vancouver with those arrivals from the U.K., New Zealand, Toronto, New York, Buffalo, San Francisco, the U.S. and Canadian midwest, poetries from distant geographic corners.
That Canada itself is a geography: some consciousness of an east-west Canadian difference; there is central Canada; and there is Canada as geographically coterminous with the U.S. and, strikingly, this event not only occurs in Canada but is _Canadian_ (per the conference's force and the position of Blaser's citizenship)--a fact that those of us from other countries not only respect but encounter as an opportunity to meet, see, hear these geographically dispersed Canadians, at least for the moment, in a single location.
That the sun seems to respond to the event (the weather resplendent for almost all of the conference) making this even warmer and brighter then.
A consciousness, of course, of previous legendary gatherings: the 1963 Vancouver Poetry Festival, the 1965 Vancouver lectures by Jack Spicer--resonant with "The Recovery of the Public World" in ways more eminent than geography. For some, a return; for others, the resonance of return. (Ironically, on the flight over, a rather young television art critic was reviewing a Picasso exhibition in Avignon and stated that it has been the first time _in ages_ this exhibit has been shown, the last time was twenty-five years ago! I shuddered, I had been at the original exhibition! Others also had their theres.)
At this point also, another meaning of "Canada." There are many of us in our early to mid-forties. We had a war in the U.S. which influenced a consciousness of what was written--Duncan, Levertov, Blaser--many. For those from the U.S., Canada was distinctly an alternative geographic position to the domestic devastation of that war. The U.S. culture split over it--and Canada had conscience...
I am lucky with my hotel for the first night (though I will have
three hotels over four nights) and check in, exhilirated by the
presence of the sea in the air, western light flooding the huge
windows in my room in the Sylvia, and the steep ascent of mountains
behind scattered towers of residential highrises. Just a moment
to scatter things across the room's beds then on my way. To wander
perhaps, to place. However, the minute I enter the lobby I encounter
Pierre Joris, Nathaniel Tarn, Tony Lopez, and Brian DeBeck (already
an international gathering)--and my conference begins. Brian is
kind enough to give us a whirlwind Vancouver tour by car, the
city, _ park, and drops us off at a budget Salmon diner next to
the upstairs _ Gallery where after dinner we are treated to an
extraordinary reception and Kootenay School preconference reading
by Karen Mac Cormack and Steve McCaffery, the small gallery packed
with an attentive audience. There that I see Joel and it's incredible--we
are all so far from home and so at home--and we almost manage
no more than gesticulations across venues, voices, vistas.
WALKING DOWN THE SEAWALL PROMENADE, public space, along a passive but glittering English Bay, past sequoia logs, huffing joggers and early swimmers to take the small ferry from the West End to Granville Island, it was not difficult to be absorbed by the natural exhiliration of the setting, an exhiliration that leads pleasurably into the sense of this as making--a sense maintained almost continously from opening words to the last event I attended.
The conference itself, held in the theatre at the Emily Carr
Institute of Art and Design, is a blazing stream of events, ideas,
thoughts, books, images, minds, eyes, the ear, the voice--presided
over by Blaser's everpresent company. Kevin Killian, in his reflections
on this event, has recounted well the excitement, the sequence
of events. To me, themes or resonances, were stronger than individual
presentations or readings, and though every piece should be mentioned,
there _were_ individual contributions that I found especially
meshing with these wheels that moved this talk forward.
COMPANIONS: SELF, OTHER, COMMUNITY its poet always posthumous
to the act of the poem and who--with Clayton Eshleman's weaving
metaphor of creative genesis and here my sense of it--in translation
as apprenticeship to poetry. Peter Gizzi on his remarkable investigations
and also Michael Mcclure, as thoughtful poet-philosopher. "Where
there is no self there can be no other" and talking inside
and oustide the poem--who commented that Robin had read one of
his poems better than he ever had--outside, again, as close to
it. Kristin Prevallet showed an enthusiastic audience slides of
Duncan and Spicer at Helen Adam's. Nathaniel Tarn spoke also,
writing of voice as the carrier of vocal link between world of
living and the world of the past.
FESTIVAL OPENING an opening address by Charles Bernstein. Of
course it could not be done more aptly. Bernstein's humor gave
the flourish such an evening deserved. And can there be a more
fitting chain of lightening bolt turns of phrase, the speech hammering
itself from the material of its vocalization. The words apt as
well, Bernstein standing in a center of present poetics--who also
early on took an important course from Blaser. Readings by Bernstein,
Norma Cole, Daphne Marlatt, and Michael Palmer. And an enervating
performance by Catriona Strang And Francois Houle. MICHAEL ONDAATJE
INTRODUCES ROBIN BLASER who was, undisputable, master of these
events, with care for the crowd, his dramatic, full, and strong
voice moving towards its "Recovery of the Public World".
Is it so soon? Or when do I become dislodged? All the while,
the 'ground' is shifting. And as a summit to some--to other perhaps
the increment. I believe it is this morning that I must move for
the first time. Will stay one night in a window outside a courtyard
somehow compressed. The books are there. It's matter of TRANSLATION
AND POETRY with Piere Joris, Pasquale Verdicchio, and others.
Then later, HETEROLOGIES, CHAIRED BY SUSAN HOWE bringing forward
this language, here best defined and set in quotes--perhaps moreso
than any other presentation. There are files & notes, the
other panel leader, Nathaniel Mackey. Michele Leggott (who returned
home to discover she had won a prestigious award.) Leslie Scalapino's
word sounds, medium applied in the opposite direction, and it's
all placed in here, "travelling in company with the messenger"
observing that "a silent point is not a vantage point"
and it is true to even to the sounds in the auditorium, the point
is of vantage approached in this. As again, in form after form,
as fabric of the writing.
THE EXHIBITION (SCOTT GALLERY). In Search Of Orpheus: Some Bay
Area Poets & Painters. Selection of works by Blaser, Jess,
Fran Herndon and others curated by Scott Watson and Greg Bellerby.
Where some of these images might only this once be viewed!
THE BANQUET: A FEAST OF COMPANIONS HELD AT VANCOUVER'S HERITAGE
HALL. Standing outside occasionally to talk. Tributes and stand
up accolades breaking bread with reflections and messages read
from around the world. It goes long into the night, the form of
tribute almost Roman, spinning into the glossy fabric of night's
I think I've moved again. Where's the third place? It is at very
least expensive. But has something more to offer, though I must
wait all morning to get inside the room. It has a window and at
the foot of the street is the triangular park. Beyond that the
bay. Again the promenade and again courses travelling there. Open
to the world, as the books in the room are open. The window's
slightly ajar allowing cappucino traffic and salt licks from the
bay. Like being at the beach but with words.
POETICS: THEORY & PRACTICE. Chaired by Charles Bernstein and
Miriam Nichols Rachel Blau Duplessis, Alan Golding, Steve Mccaffery,
Tom Marshall, Miriam Nichols. DuPlessis "a poetics of positionality
instead of personality" and poetics of segmentivity, in auditory
fashion, as I hear Rachel write, being numerUS; being curiUS (this
is "us" as in "we": a U.S. ajar).
READING AT FREDDY WOOD THEATRE, UBC. Hosted By George Bowering
and _West Coast Line_. Readers: Dodie Bellamy, Peter Culley, Michael
Davidson, Rachel Blau Duplessis, Clayton Eshleman, Robert Hogg,
Susan Howe, Pierre Joris, Kevin Killian, Joanne Kyger, Steve Mccaffery,
Michael Mcclure, Karen Mac Cormack, Nathaniel Mackey, DS Marriott,
Peter Middleton, Jerome Rothenberg, George Stanley, David Levi
Strauss, Nathaniel Tarn, Anne Waldman ... This is a reading.
Sunday clatters its quiet veil in rain. The kind that had not
been seen around here for some time. Like a Seattle I can envision
from years back, the pages have accumulated and it's partly that
there's _so much_, and also that the grey says something. Also
that the _logistics_--the cab rides to UBC or Heritage Hall--exasperate.
Here there's a loop and many are part of this--extending back
and following numerUS circuits. The airport bus comes and back
into it, the Transcanadian crossing and lucky enough to have Charles
on the plane on the way back to Toronto.
What's left of course is the reading. There is the forthcoming
edited book, I'm not sure of its title or who will publish it
but it is to be edited by Charles Watts and Ted Byrne. For now
this conference has marked a path of writings: _Sulfur_ 37, _West
Coast Line_ 17, and _The Capilano Review_ (Series 2) No. 17/18
are the points of this constellation. And of course, strangely
almost, I did track down, the piece in _Reflections on Cultural
Policy_ (not sure how this compares with what came out in _Sulfur_.
But if its act of companionship could not be more different. As
it breaking bread...and the table around which you gather. Its
impetus in tuned circles of overlapping interests. Thus how we
leave the private for the public of the gathering itself. The
pages)--and of course _The Holy Forest_, the _Collected Books_,
and in _Caterpillar_. So that it's a small universe of reading.
With panos, now added, the bread of _The Human Condition_ on the
shelf and in our voices as we speak.