Archive for the ‘Travels’ category

Dusted Off

December 21, 2011

Hi kids.

I’m writing this from the common room of a hostel in Nice named after St. Exupery (the author, not the saint, though I suppose the author was named after the saint…). I have a hangover and a crepe and some coffee. I’ve been in Europe for 79 days, will remain here for 13 more, and then will come home to Toronto, to friends, to the long-suffering and effortlessly elegant Voxette.

Vox Pop has been dead for a few months now, really since I left for Dawson in the earlier half of this year. I apologize for that. Sometimes people travel and it inspires them to start a blog, seems it inspired me to stop one. I had a great time up north, did an awful lot of writing, working the Sisyphean boulder that might one day be my novel up its modest mountain. I’ve been writing poems more on our travels, the Vox Sister and I being a tag team on many a long and, occasionally, unheated train. Meanwhile, it’s cool to see Folk having its own adventures, both foreign and domestic. I’m happy for it, but kind of glad to have been able to excuse myself from the details of the proceedings.

Anyway, I’m writing to announce that it’s my plan, tentative and a tad optimistic though it is, to get back on the horse with this thing. Vox will live again in 2012. Almost definitely. I’ve got some ideas lined up for topics and interviews and would love the input of any and all collaborators. What the fuck happened to the poetry blogs? We should all be living in a world together.

I hope everyone enjoys their holidays. I’m reading in Toronto with Lista and Vermeersch for Pivot on, like, the 11th I think. Come hang out? I’m willing to talk about my trip a bit, but please know that it makes me feel self-conscious. Whenever I list off the places I’ve been, I want to come off sounding like Johnny Cash in “I’ve Been Everywhere” but end up sounding like Kip Pardue in The Rules of Attraction, except with wine instead of hard drugs, and wine instead of sex.

Dodge City. What a pity–

Jake

PS: Here’s that Kip Pardue allusion, because I’m just a humble lyricist who can’t afford to lose you to my own obscurity.

Advertisements

“I have so many opinions, I have overwhelmed my ability to document myself.”

September 20, 2011

Hi kids.

Tonight’s my last night at Chez Pierre. Quite the experience, all told. I got a ridiculous amount of work done, especially in the first half of the residency. After three years of working full time and fitting in writing where I could, I completely ODed on the opportunity offered. On the first day here, I deleted all but the first fifty pages of the great endless novel-in-progress and started fresh, and I think I have something a lot crisper and interesting now than when I started.

The town’s been really great. I tried to explain this to the crowd who came to my exit reading last week: but one of the great joys of Dawson is how they’re not TOO friendly a group of people. Unlike a lot of rural environments that host art residencies, they’re more than willing to leave you alone if that’s the vibe they get from you. Anyway, I attempted to explain this subtle skill to the people at the reading and methinks it came out something like, “Thanks, guys, for being jerks.” Not my intention.

I recommend it to pretty much anyone. Not everyone, of course, if you’re phobic of loneliness or struggle to self-schedule, it’s probably not for you. I told fellow Torontonian Sam Cheuk about a job open teaching English for the tiny little art school up here, and he got the gig. So, if you apply, he’ll be there to drink with and engage in storytelling. Worth the trip.

My story for the next several weeks starts tomorrow with a reading in Whitehorse and then a visit to my father’s hometown, Winnipeg (named after the world-famous Winnipeg Review) for the Thin Air Festival. I’m reading with a bunch of other poets there Wednesday night, and by my lonesome at U. Manitoba on Friday.

On October 3rd, my sister and I are flying to Brussels, BE, and flying out three months later. The usual routine of Eurail passes and hostel hopping shall fill the time in between. This is something we’ve been working on for a couple years, saving and scrimping and making our plans, and now we’re ready to go. I’m grateful to friends for the wellwishing, and even gratefuller to the endlessly wonderful Lady Vox for the patience and understanding it takes to be reasonably cool with all this not being around. I plan on making it up to her for a very long time once it’s over.

I understand that the blog has been dead for a long time now. I dunno, kids. Every time I sit down to raise the interest needed to update the thing, I’m hit by the Stephen Colbert quote that forms the title of this post. I need to step back for a bit, and care less about everything. Few things are worth the epiphany they hope to be mistaken for. I expect I’ll get back on the Vox Pop more in 2012. One of the good things about this glorious medium is it’s so casual you can just drop it and pick it up several months later and nobody’s going to bat an eyelash over your disappearance. It’s just what happens.

Anyway, I’m missing some good books this season, I expect. I want that new Dave McGimpsey book, really I want the whole Coach House fall list. I’ll get around to it. Good books from ECW and Vehicule and others, too.

In the interim, you may see me pop up around Alex’s Northern Poetry Review once or twice this fall. Also, I’ve started writing for a new MMA website set to launch next month called Doctor Octagon, for the like four of you who aren’t repulsed by that.

See you in 2012, survivors of the autumn.

-Jake

I Got Drunk and Went Mountain Climbing: A Photo Essay

August 10, 2011

Hi kids.

I turned 28 today. I celebrated this by taking a day-long break from the novel mines to scale the Midnight Dome. The Midnight Dome is a mountain that overlooks the Klondike at its meeting with the Yukon River.

I started my trip by watching some Breaking Bad and having some delicious Yukon Reds. You’re a lucky person if you can get these at your local liquor establishment. They’re very similar to Mill St.’s Tankhouse brand, except they’re better.

Radio stuff. Approximately 1/3rd up the mountain.

Same radio stuff, 2/3rds of the way up.

Success! Disclosure: I had the headspins when I shot this.

This bench is called the "Top of the World Bench". The "Top of the World Highway" is across the river. It ends at a town in Alaska called "Chicken". Chicken was previously called "Ptarmigan" before it was declared too hard to spell. Lol, toponymy.

Dawson and the rivers. See the mining operation at left? It's hydro-mining mostly, which is very notgood for the environment. If you bring up hydro-mining at a bar in Dawson, you will get the same murderous stare from locals that you get when you bring up the seal hunt in Newfoundland.

These young girls came a fucking long way to pick berries. Seriously, parents. This is what we call 'unnecessarily woodsy'. There's a lot of this in town.

Alaska in the distance. I can see a place that sees Russia from my house.

Straight back over the marble dome. It's a cloudy day. On a bright one, you'd get four or five more mountains in the distance. I'm thirsty.

Q: Jake, you having a good time in the Yukon? A: Does a bear shit in the woods? Note my footprint.

How lost did I get on the walk back down? So lost that I came upon this sign FROM BEHIND. End adventure.

The Thirty-Eight Books That Made My Suitcase for Dawson City

July 3, 2011

Hi everyone.

So I’ve been in Dawson for a few days now, after a 72-hour layover in Whitehorse to start my travels. It’s nice here at Chez Pierre. Lots of comfy rooms and comfy people and even a fainting couch, which is something I’ve always wanted. I’m teaching myself to bake. So far I’ve made biscuits (from scratch, and incredibly well) and cornbread (from scratch and, er, from scratch). I’m hoping to return to Toronto when my travels are through with the title of “World’s Perfect Man” sewn up for the rest of the decade.

Packing books was an immense undertaking for me. Obviously, I couldn’t take very many, and even the much-edited booklist I eventually put together cost me about $70 in heavy luggage charges first from Air Canada and then Air North. I had to throw three heavies poetry anthologies to the roommates on my way out the door because I couldn’t get my suitcase to close all the way. They were this one on early 20th Century Canadian poets and this collected Ted Hughes (said Latosik: Thanks. Um, didn’t I give you this Hughes book as a gift?)

I thought people would like to know what made the cut. I finished a lot of books in the lead-up to leaving, in an attempt to keep things reasonable. Here’s a list, divided into my standard three categories of book:

The view outside the Berton House at 45 minutes after midnight on June 2nd.

Line Breaks:Looking it over, this section is dominated by books I’ve already read but wanted the opportunity to get into again. When I’m supposed to be writing, I tend to use poetry collections as reference books, things to dip into on occasion in search of inspiration or distraction. Re-reads are good for this.
A Complete Encyclopedia of Different Types of People by Gabe Foreman
Campfire Radio Rhapsody by Robert Earl Stewart (The last book I bought before leaving Toronto, at the Mansfield launch last week.)
The Collected Poems of J.H. Prynne (I’m coming around to the realization that Prynne is the guy I’m going to spend my life obsessive over and trying to emulate. Not a bad choice, for that.)
Hole in the Wall, Selected Poems by Tom Pickard
How We All Swiftly, Selected Poems by Don Coles
Mask by Helen Guri (Needed to give this one a re-read with a little less background noise in my life)
Mirabel by Pierre Nepveu
The Mourner’s Book of Albums by Daniel Scott Tysdall
Open Letter, The Humour Issue, ed Ball & Fitzpatrick
Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the 20th Century in Poetry (This is a cool idea, a sort of subject/chronology switcheroo with the standard 20th C. Poetry anthology. Anyone else ever read this?)
Selected Poems by Earle Birney
Slant Room by Michael Eden Reynolds (Michael took me around Whitehorse a bit when I was up there. He was gracious and funny. His book is really exceptional, in particular the second of its four parts– the long lyrical elegy done right.)
Penned: Zoo Poems ed Bolster, Grubisic & Reader
The 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology ed Tim Lilburn
The Best American Poetry of 1992, ed Charles Simic (Why 1992? Because that’s the version the used bookstore had in stock.)
Undercurrents: New Voices in Canadian Poetry ed Robyn Sarah

No Line Breaks, Fictional: The theme here seems to be books I haven’t read by authors I love. Whereas fiction is what I plan on working on up here, this part of the list was kept light.
20 Grand: Great American Short Stories ed by Bantam Pathfinder Staff (This book is begging to be left behind on a park bench when I return Southside. It will get its wish.)
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Flight Paths of the Emperor by Steven Heighton
In the Skin of the Lion by Michael Ondaatje
Mao II by Don Delillo
Samuel the Seeker by Upton Sinclair
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima
The State of Constraint, New Work from the OULIPO ed by McSweeney’s Editorial Staff
Young Romantics by Daisy Hay

No Line Breaks, Not Fictional: Tends to be the major part of my reading, and it is here too, though poetry outnumbers it in titles, those slim volumes get massively outweighed by their denser cousins.
Aesthetics and Politics: Adorno, Benjamin, Bloch, Brecht & Lukacs (Amazon link not intended ironically, was all I could find.)
Aesthetics: From Classical Greece to the Present, Monroe C. Beardsley
Essentials of Home Cooking, Bonnie Stern
Europe on a Shoestring and Europe through the Backdoor (For my further adventures this year. I’m going sneak in the backdoor on shoestrings.)
Europe: A History, Norman Davies (The greatest living English-language historian. Fight me over it.)
Heart of Europe, a History of Poland, Norman Davies (I’m reading this not because I love Polish history, but because I like how this book is ordered. It’s written in reverse chronology, from Solidarity backwards to the Barbarians).
A History of Pornography by H. Montgomery Hyde (What? It’s history.)
The Critical Object (Digital Redux), by Jeanne Randolph (My predecessor at Berton House, she does philosophy-meets-pop culture exceedingly well.)
Lapham’s Quarterly, the “Sports & Games” and “The City” Issues (This periodical is the caviar of bathroom reading.)
Turco’s Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics by Lewis Turco (Only the classics for me, thanks.)

I had also loaded up a few dozen titles on my Kobo eReader, thinking that such ethereal digital things would take up less space than print and paper. And they did, but they are also kidnapped by their own devicehood, and when the device breaks, as mine did as I took off from Whitehorse on Friday, the texts become unreadable. Joke’s on you, modernity. Or I suppose modernity’s joke is on me.

Exhibit A:

That's cool. I didn't need the words in the bottom left-hand corner of every page.

Exhibit B:

In this wider-angle shot of the above, Pierre's old Remington typewriter can beseen smirking.