Archive for the ‘Interviews’ category

Even This Becomes A List, You’ll See

January 26, 2012

Hi kids.

Thanks to everyone who employed various methods of bring Spring poetry catalogues to my attention. I’ll wait a little longer until some more come in, then set out in search of stragglers and people who have better things to do than read blogs.

Wanted to gesture at a couple me-things though first. Alex Boyd has updated his Northern Poetry Review site recently, it includes a number of new reviews, including the new Stephanie Bolster. That book is the very next thing on my to-be-read pile. I kick in a review of the new collection of essays on the topic of Love-him-or-hate-him Canadian poet Richard Outram. It’s a good book, and if you’re a fan of Outram’s, you should read it. I can’t really say the same if you’re less than an avowed fan, though. The books not made with you in mind. Not that it has to be, if you’re picking up 150 pages with the gent’s face on the cover, you should probably have more than a passing admiration for the work.

That was probably my problem. It took me eight months, several addresses, and two missed deadlines to read that thing. Not proud to admit it, especially as I trucked it all the way to the Yukon and then strapped it to my person as I backpacked through 15 pseudo-autonomous post-Schulmann European countries. (Sidenote: Well done, Croatia. No need to be scurred. You’re doing the right thing in the long term, my beauty.) I say all that while still recommending the read to the very limited audience for which it was created. Well, I say it more detail and hopefully more clarity in the second half of the review. You can decide for yourself my clicking on this sentence.

One thing I didn’t really mention in that review is that my favourite essay in the collection was actually Jeffrey Donaldson’s far-left field reading of Outram’s work via the lense of Tibetan prayer circles and other things that loop. It’s the kind of article these kind of books really support. Incendiarily self-confident moon shots. I don’t know if the author quite convinced me of anything, but surely he moved the most intellectual material around in his attempt, and I’m always pleased by such efforts.

Also I should mention this interview I did with good old Chad Pelley over at the stout and noble if–to my ear–still unfortunately-titled Atlantic lit blog Salty Ink. One expects a fisherman in a sou’wester holding a quill. Also, one expects the quill to not write well, as there is some salt in its ink. But no matter, I’m just goofing around. One of the things that happens in the interview is Chad asks is for a list of favourite Canadian books of the last year. I interpreted that, as I know my place, to mean I favourite Canadian poetry books. I only gave him one favourite, Ken Babstock’s Methodist Hatchet. I’m willing to allow that that’s a somewhat obvious and uninteresting choice of a canonically-accepted author if you’re all willing to allow that the book, for all the stoic-faced acceptance that it’s well-written and “good” in the global sense, remains horrendously under-read in critical discourse. The inability Canadian poetry has shown to look it in the eye and treat it like a book and not like a publishing event is the kind of thing that should have everyone who wants to write poetry and is under 40 eying job postings overseas. Though it might be too late, as we’re already exporting our cancers. This negative review from Another Chicago Magazine uses pullquotes from three glowing, if overwhelmed, domestic reviews before ever getting around to the text itself. Oops. It’s just a book, dudes. Fucking read the thing.

Anyway, the review with Chad promises notes on the above plus at least two incidents that I remember where I use the word “poop” in a sentence. So click here if you’re really into poop.

Though I haven’t done a “best of” list or anything for 2011 (God knows there’s plenty out there, and I apologize for whatever role I’ve historically played in exacerbating this trend towards quantified criticism on the blog circuit) I’ll say this about the year that recently ended. It’ll be remembered in the long-run by the poetry cult as one that produced a very unusual number of truly awesome first books by new female poets. That’s the takeway, despite how much I loved the new Babstock and how there were plenty of good titles produced by penis-wielding poets, too. There’s been an endless parade of top-flight females debuts, though: fun, dour, unflinching, playful, whatever. Look at it all. Look at this one. And this. There’s been so many. Like this one. Truly a banner crop. Oodles. And I’m sure my months of absence have left me missing many. This is what 2011 will mean to us when it’s 2021. New female poets that played so very, very, well.

Trotter Interview Now Up at The Walrus

July 5, 2011

Hi kids.

My interview with Joshua Trotter, author of All This Could Be Yours, is up presently on The Walrus site. The interview took forever to do. Seriously. Between my work and his work and Folk coming out the possibility of the world ending for a bit there, it was a long haul.

Normally I’d tease a bit of the interview here before providing the link, but whereas The Walrus’s blog just makes things look so pretty and professional and this page looks like a Transformer fingerpainted it, I’ll forgo the tease and tell you to just click right here for the interview.

Assorted Early Folk Updatery

March 11, 2011

Hi kids.

I’ve made a page to keep track of the various readings and whatnots going on in support of the new book. I have a copy of said book on my desk now. It’s pretty. The on-sale date is March 29th.

Also, in other recent Me news, you can read my incoherent, Sheen-esque interview with Jeff Latosik (about Folk, and, er, some other stuff) here. And I’ve answered some questions for west-coaster Kevin Spenst over here. Go me. More to come in the near future, I’m sure.

Maintain, Japan, maintain.


Interview with Adam Seelig up at The Walrus Blog

February 18, 2011

Hi everyone.

Lots of love goes out to the various bloggers, editors, and webpeople who wrote in with suggestions and offers of new homes for my Critical Interviews series. I was a little overwhelmed by the response (free content, for arts blogs, who knew that’d be a hit??) and it took me a few days to filter through the options.

I’ve taken Matt McKinnon at The Walrus’s blog up on his offer to host the series. Matt runs the electronic side of a magazine that has the audacity to put a poem up along side, say, a think piece on the psychogeography of Vancouver. These are good people. They are taking poetry out on play dates.

So, the first interview in the series is now up in the gorgeous e-environment that The Walrus provides. It is with Toronto/Vancouver playwright and poet Adam Seelig, author of the new long poem/novel/typographic experiment, Every Day in the Morning (slow). Adam’s a good guy, and was willing to live with the epic waits that sometimes took place between my questions. Here’s the interview. Hope you like it.


Looking for a New Home

February 10, 2011

Hey all.

I’m looking for a new home for the “Critical Interview Series” I had been doing last year over at The Torontoist. Here’s an example. And here’s another. And another. There’s been a change in the editorship at The Torontoist and, while I imagine the new editors are great and everything, it seems like the right time to look for another venue. I don’t want to series to be hemmed in by Toronto-ism, anyway. I want to be able to talk to poets from across the country and beyond. So, I’m crowdsourcing for potential new homes. Here’s what I’m looking for:

1. Has to be an online market or blog. Can’t be print. Can be the online home of a print publication, though.
2. Has to be free to access.
3. Has to have some, however slight, outreach to the world beyond poetry. Even something as slight as posting the odd art or pop-culture story.
4. Has to be open to freelance contributors who might go away for months at a time, only to pop up with multiple interviews to post.
5 Has to be profanity-positive.
6. Has to be willing to post interviews within a reasonable length of time after receiving the submission and doing any editing process they might want to do. This may rule out markets that update on a quarterly or bi-annual schedule.
7. Doesn’t have to pay. The original home for this project paid very little, and really I’d prefer the freedom of not getting paid to the goofily underfunded sense of “professionalism” that comes with making, say, one dollar an hour.

Of course, I understand that Vox Pop fulfills all seven of these criteria but, I dunno. Asking an author to interview for ____ sounds better than asking them to interview for “my blog”. Interested parties should know I have an interview ready to go already, and hope to do several more to coincide with the upcoming Spring poetry season.

I can be emailed from the address found at this blog’s Contact Page, or found on “The Facebook” at /jmmooney or on “The Twitter” at @VoxPopulist. Or via the comment stream below. Or maybe we know each other, and we could just chat.


Jon Paul Fiorentino Interview @ The Torontoist

October 21, 2010

It’s been a long time since the last in my critical interview series at The Torontoist (sarcastic thanks to new book for its help in freeing up my time). However, this streak came to an end today as my piece with Montreal poet, humourist, and novelist Jon Paul Fiorentino hit the net like a banana cream pie to the face of a public official. His book is called Indexical Elegies, is good, and is available from Coach House. A brief snippet is posted below, but really you should just quit your job and devote as much time as you can to reading the whole article.


Jacob McArthur Mooney: I wanted to start us off with a story. A 100% true one, too. It’s set a few months back, while I was waiting in line at the Toronto Greyhound station for a bus to Waterloo. To my surprise and excitement, the young lady behind me was enjoying Stripmalling, your comic novel featuring Evan Munday’s illustrations. I mentioned that I had recently seen you read from Stripmalling, and that I thought you had a new book coming out this fall, called Indexical Elegies.

Anyway, the woman’s reaction was a bit of a smile and then the response, “I can’t imagine this author being into either elegies, or indexing things.” I was too charmed by the answer to press for details. Obviously, Elegies and Stripmalling are wildly different books, tuned to completely different keys. But what, would you guess, did my busmate mean by that? In what ways is this book a unique creation in the context of its author?

Jon Paul Fiorentino: First of all, are you entirely sure she was enjoying Stripmalling? That seems odd. I think your busmate’s response makes perfect sense from a certain point of view. I have written two comedy books (Asthmatica and Stripmalling) and those are the books of mine people are most aware of. I have, however, been writing and publishing poetry since 1998. If you ever see your charming busmate again, please tell her I have range!

I like this idea of being able to write in more than one key. I suppose Indexical Elegies is written in a minor key. It’s a book about loss and the anxiety of loss. It documents and presents an archive of four years of attempting to come to terms with losing my friend and mentor, Robert Allen. Archive theory and indexicality played a large role in the composition the book—for a long time, the poems I had composed for Robert were too raw and lacked a sort of artful disconnect. Putting a theory into practice made these poems work, at least for me.

October: Like April, except unpleasantly chilled.

October 19, 2010

This is a what-I’m-up-to-lately kind of post. I’m up to a lot. I am vibrant and fun.

I’m having the kind of week where, if I didn’t have a full time job to go to, I’d still be too busy. I’m booklaunch-hopping tonight after my class at Of Sparrows to my friend Dominico Capilongo‘s launch for Quattro at Supermarket (7pm), then down Augusta Avenue to the Mansfield Press launch, featuring new collections from Peter Norman (interviewed here back in the summer) and Leigh Nash. Wednesday I don’t have the benefit of clustered geography, so I’m going to George Murray’s launch in the East end and forsaking the Tao Lin reading closer to home at Type Books.

And, quite excitingly, the IFOA starts this week. Lots of awesome stuff happening that I probably won’t get to. If you’d like to see me wear a suit (Fair warning: You do, I look incredible), you can come on Friday to cheer me on as I attempt to get through a night in close proximity to my seventeen-year-old self’s #1 hero, Mr. John Waters. Waters is coming to town to promote his memoir. If I concentrate, I might get through the whole night without trying to kiss him right on his beautiful mustache. G&M film reviewer, and Bridgewater, NS native, Richard Crouse, is interviewing Waters as well. That’s what we used to call a Lunenburg County John Waters Sandwich.

I’m hosting next week too, on Thursday. It’s a omnibus reading at the Studio Theatre featuring Eleanor Catton, Adam Gopnik, Adam Lewis Schroeder, and M.T. Kelly.

This stuff is all free to those who can prove they go to school somewhere in Toronto, incidentally. And cheap for those who can’t.

Peter Norman Interview @ The Torontoist

August 17, 2010

My interview with newly-relocated-to-Toronto poet Peter Norman is now up at the Books.Torontoist website, as part of our continuing “Critical Interview” series. Peter’s book is called At the Gates of the Theme Park, is from Mansfield Press, and is really great. I feel like this has been a somewhat muted year for Canadian poetry so far (there just haven’t been that many books that I L-O-V-E-D), but it’s been given a regular series of awakenings by a bumper crop of excellent first collections. There. That’s my unofficial, non-voting, Lampert Award ballot for next year. Right there at the end of that sentence. Anyway, the interview is long, and goes into lots of cool, unexpected places. Here’s a taste, but here’s the whole meal.


JMM: I wonder where your musical decisions come from at the “writing stage.” Do you think certain ideas have essential music that the poem’s then tasked with finding out? Does sound ever lead sense, or is it always about adorning the idea (the trellis) with as interesting a musical score as you can make for it? To me, it seems like a worryingly secondary role for sound to play, that of the sugar to sense’s medicine. Is it always like you’ve described, the sound weaving around the structure?

PN: Yeah, maybe I should take back the trellis analogy. Like you, I’d find it worrisome to cast sound as the plant that has to yield when it strikes the sterner wood. So here’s another analogy. On those occasions when an idea prompts a poem, the idea is not a trellis, it’s a springboard. It helps the gymnast off the ground, but the good stuff comes afterward—the flips and contortions, the actual athletics. This is not a metaphor of staggering originality (neither was the trellis), but it is a better fit.

I’m happy to let sound lead sense—or, more accurately, lead me to sense—but I do want to reach sense in the end. Not sure why. I enjoy lots of poetry that dumps meaning in favour of pure music, but I do want my own stuff to make “sense,” at least at the grammatical level. Recognizing, of course, that ideas like “sense” and “grammar” are slippery.

Do certain ideas have an essential music? Probably not. A poet grappling with a subject seeks out her music for it, the music that embodies her approach to it. Poets make music about the world; I doubt they uncover a music already there.

But I may have missed your point: you’re asking about ideas, not the exterior world. An idea comes from a mind, and the mind probably knows the most suitable music with which to express its idea. The best poems embody their content so thoroughly that the idea becomes inextricable from its wording. The medium perfects the message. If a message won’t benefit from the medium of poetry, it should be stated artlessly and sent right away. When you have to call 911, don’t bother crafting a poem of it.

Read the rest right here.

Antony Di Nardo Interview @ The Torontoist

July 24, 2010

My interview with globetrotting Canadian poet Antony Di Nardo is now up at The Torontoist Books Page. It’s been a few weeks since the last in the Critical Interview Series posted, so it’s good to get back on that horse. Di Nardo’s book, Alien, Correspondent (one of two he published this past Spring, strangely enough) has been one of the great surprises of my reading year. It’s a sort of long-lead travelogue derived from the poet’s many years spent living in Beirut. I don’t usually use this space to explicitly tell people what to read but, just this once: You should read this book. I really can’t think of a reader of Canadian poetry who wouldn’t find something to love here. It’s politically and culturally complex, but quite personal. The lines are beautifully assembled, despite the appearance of a certain rambling anecdotal casualness. You can read the interview here. It’s a long one, so settle in, kids. Here’s a snippet to convince you:


JMM: That paradox is an interesting one, of being a kind of assertive bystander. Is empathy a passive or aggressive action, to you? Alternatively, if it’s a passive action, is it corrupted by the somewhat aggressive (or, at least, public) act of publishing? You seem very aware of the politics involved in aestheticizing some of the things you take as subjects. Has that reverence ever steered you near the idea of just not sharing the results of your labour (as let down as that would leave me, as a fan of the book)?

AD: Empathy is an act of the imagination. We can only ever imagine how someone else feels or what a person feels, albeit usually founded, I would hope, on the powerful evidence of some shared human experience. It gives us moral compass, an ethical identity. As such, I believe that empathy itself is exercised in the active voice, an aggressive action as you put it, though aggressive for me carries with it connotations I would not normally associate with empathy. But I think I know what you’re suggesting: the implication that if one acts on feelings of empathy then it becomes an assertion, a public statement, and, unavoidably, is meant to be in your face, so to speak. In some cases, the poem is definitely such an assertion, though I wouldn’t go so far as calling its publication an aggressive act.

Like empathy, the poem, as we know, is an act of the imagination, and, by virtue of being public, a political reality. However, I think you’ll agree that my poems are not politically charged in the traditional sense. In fact, as much as possible, I make a conscious effort to avoid regional politics or taking sides in the conflicts that have shaped this corner of the world. But I am, after all, the “assertive bystander,” and so I cannot completely deny my presence in the poems and therefore the politicization of both my aesthetic and its subject matter. I bear the bias of my presence wherever I find myself—be it in Toronto, Beirut, or in a poem.

More Provocations for People

July 10, 2010

Just back from Margaret Christakos’s book-length reading at The Scream Literary Festival. Was good times. I was in charge of the videotaping. I am shite at videotaping.

I’ve experienced a touch of disappointment these past few weeks (some of it said by friends, some of it just thought of by me) about the flippancy of this year’s Scream programme’s assumption of “provocation” as the work of, primarily, the literary avant garde. This has been an unsaid thing, mostly, but the programming speaks for itself. I suppose if the point is to provoke language, it’s a good assumption to start with. But surely language is just one of many perfectly provocable things, isn’t it? Aren’t ideas provocable? Isn’t class provocable? I’m thinking of late about Canadian poetry’s greatest political radical, the great Agent Provacateur of Canlit, Mr. Milton Acorn. Would Milty’s sonnets and troubadouring have a place in the hoot-calls and polysyllabic sprees of the Scream 2010 programme, if he was alive enough to participate? Who knows.

In this excellent conversation over at The Afterword, Scream performers Damian Rogers and Michael Lista take turns touching on the nagging pull of whateverism that’s been haunting my appreciation of this year’s version of the festival. Well, they do so in different words. I read into it a bit. Read on, but here’s the whole thing, if you’ prefer.

First Michael sayeth:

But I wonder: what are your thoughts about a poet’s responsibility to “welcome” readers into the privacy of her vision? I’m thinking about this question specifically in the context of this year’s Scream Festival, the theme of which is Agents Provocateur. The curatorial narrative is framed this year around a sort of nebulous idea of the avant-garde, and hinges itself on the argument that great, progressive works of literature need to be antagonistic. I think many, but not all, great books are: they’re antagonistic to prosodic modes, or social conventions, etc., sure. And it’s only recently, within the last hundred years or so, that we’ve taken for granted the assumption that poetry, for it to be innovative and great, must be antagonistic to the reader. And not only that: for one to strike out on one’s own one must be antagonistic to the reader in one’s own way (“all unhappy families…”). But none of this is a pre-requisite for excellence I don’t think. Shakespeare is the most obvious counter-example: his style is a perfection—not rejection—of the five-act blank verse plays of Kyd and Marlowe, and the last thing he did was antagonize his audience; his livelihood depended on delighting them. What do you think? Is the best way to ring in the new in our readers by provocation or invitation? And what poets and poems have you been reading lately that to your mind are the most innovative and influential?

and then Damian sayeth:

So having said that, what’s my hesitation in declaring my allegiance to the advanced guard? After all, I want to make art that is new, that speaks to the future, and that challenges the reader to awaken to her own experience in a meaningful way. I am dazzled by innovation and complexity. I wasn’t born to follow.

It’s a matter of definition, I suppose. In grad school, I studied with a poet who claimed that what is generally classified as the avant-garde in North American poetry could more accurately be described as a rear-guard movement, because its proponents essentially follow a century-old form of radicalism within the comfort of the academy. I’m not sure I buy that stance either—Marxists are still rightly considered radical (even within supposedly Communist countries for that matter), and a quote-unquote neo-Dadaist could reasonably argue that language has only been further corrupted since World War I and so the responsible artist must continue to tear things down to the ground if we are ever to learn how to speak again with integrity. Plus, a hundred years isn’t a very long time. I support poets who feel that’s the battle they are here to fight. I think I just resist the boundaries of labels and the rigidity of camps. Plus I don’t want to be conscripted into anyone’s army. (Not that anyone has exactly been knocking on my door with a clipboard.)