Archive for the ‘What Jake Did’ category

We’re done here.

May 1, 2012

Hi all.

Thanks for reading this space. As many of you had guessed, Vox Pop is done. Today’s piece in the National Post’s Afterword book section talks a bit about why. I blame myself. And you, too.

Don’t be unhappy though. I’m definitely not unhappy. This is a clean break. You’ll hear from me via a handful of announcements due to tinkle over the wires in the coming month or so, and from those there will be more projects, more trouble to get into, all the normal stuff.

I shall see you on the real Earth.


“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.


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.

I Went Away Nowhere

May 17, 2011

Hi all.

I took some time off. Quite a bit of time, actually. I wasn’t vacationing. I was reading (in public, aloud) and reading (in private, quietly) and going to baseball games and visiting family and trying to be as good a subject I can manage as friend/family/co-worker/associate/boyfriend/neighbour. It went okay.

So what have I missed? A lot, right? Some good books out there now. If I had to throw my megaphone behind just one new 2011 title, I’d offer Linda Besner’s “The Id Kid“. I read with Linda in Toronto at the beginning of the month, liked her book enough to pick up a copy, then took it home and came to like it a lot more. She does a breathless list of things very well in this book. It’s playful, formally adventurous, and carries a variety of interests. I liked it good. You should buy a copy and read it for yourself.

I’m still pretty busy. I quit my job in a month. Then the Yukon for three months. Then a quick sojourn to Winnipeg to read at Thin Air this year, then the Vox Sister and I are running away to Europe in October. Fuck you all, I’ll see you in 2012. I suspect blogging activity to increase over the summer, and then drop low again during the fall. And by blogging, I mean actual blogging, not just this silly drop-in updating garbage. I’ll use adverbs and everything.

I’ve been piecing together what I want to work on while at the Berton House. I’ve got a novel I could fiddle with, and a handful of poems. But really, all I want to do is read. Read for like 10-14 hours a day. Read all the books. Read everything I’m 1,500 pages away from understanding well enough to carry on: aesthetics, economics, European history, Marxist literary criticism, recent Canadian short fiction, the history of The Worlds Fairs, the history of baseball, the history of Russian philosophy. I have a list of thirty or so things I’d like to know 400% more about, and that’s what I really want to do. Read and read some more. As I mentioned online last month: All I want to do is read books until I puke.

And if I could sneak some poems out, or rewrite the novel, while doing that: balls. Bonus balls. But mostly I just want to read. These retreats are supposed to be about “making time” for your art. I can always make time to write. But I can’t always make time to read.

Speaking of reading: I’ve got a handful more of those before leaving the city at the end of June. I’m at NYU with Thran this Friday, then I’m in Burlington on the afternoon on June 5th with Anne Simpson and in Hamilton that evening for Lit Live. Then, I’m road-tripping to Niagara with local short story mavens Carolyn Black and Rebecca Rosenblum for the Niagara Literary Festival on June 12th. Rocknroll. I’ll send details on those last few when I know them.

A number of you have mentioned the Globe review from Saturday. I like that. It’s good to be noticed in the newspaper read by, say, that English teacher I had who once told me I had no knack for writing and should probably be an engineer. What’s up, Mr. D? Say hi to Hebbville for me.

There’s been a few notices for Folk of late, actually. The Quill and Quire had a very generous evaluation in their May issue. When that goes online, I’ll show it. Here’s one from the Halifax’s Chronicle Herald (you may need a login to read it) and quick hitters from The National Post and the New Brunswick paper, the Telegraph. Mark Sampson writes a nice one for his blog here, and I’ll add a link to this blog review that liked it a lot less, though her points are fair and the review is well-assembled. I’d be willing to call her opion of the book “mixed”, right up until that last paragraph. Ouch.

Be cool, internet.


Robson this Thursday

April 19, 2011

Hi, Vancouver.

We don’t really know each other. And I understand that there’s a real embarrassment of awesome literary things happening on Thursday, but I’d like you to consider the below among your many options. The photo links to the fb invite. This links to the event webpage.

Two Quick Hitters: CNQ,

April 6, 2011

Hello boys and girls.

I got my contributor’s copy of the new CNQ today. Hot shit, that’s a beautiful-looking magazine. You should get a copy from your local salesperson. Here’s the link with the names of contributors more famous and worthy than my own. My contribution, for the record, consists of three poems from Folk. One is about RADAR, one is about naming conventions, and one is about geography. I hope you like them.

Also, I just saw a link to George Murray’s new science project, This could be something. The introduction is incredibly ambitious and very passionate: “I’m sick of borders. I’m sick of silos. Bunkers, too. Don’t even get me started on garrisons. I’m sick of the various poetries and poets I read and admire fighting and carping about each other instead of collaborating constructively (however that is interpreted between artists) to generate new poetic possibilities. I’m sick of judgments and systems of criticism that involve aesthetic preference over intellectual accomplishment, that reward attendance and loyalty over risk and depth, that spend more time tromping on the art and experiments of others than perfecting their own. I’m sick of lack of space for difference, or at least for difference within the same pages.”

If you’re against that sentiment, you’re against motherhood. But, you’re probably also not reading this blog, at least not with my permission. It’s an idea born of innumerable late-night barroom tirades, and I’ve heard it attached to more than a couple start-up literary projects in my short time involved with the community. The problem has historically been that everyone has slightly different definitions for what all those above words mean (and that’s a good thing, for what it’s worth, both for poetry and for poets). However, if anyone has the plural focus, and the wide net of friends, to pull it off, it’d be George. Should be worth watching, I wish the dude well.


Art Bar Recorded

April 1, 2011

Hi all.

The people at the Art Bar reading series have taken to committing their presenters to podcasts. Here’s my set from my reading there on the 22nd of March. It was fun. I read mostly from the second half of Folk, with an opening salvo of the book’s prologue poem, and a sonnet about Muhammed Ali as an intermission.

I can’t listen to the whole thing, but it sounds like quality audio. After a couple minutes, I can’t deal with how much my voice sounds like that of a giant, anthropomorphic Gummi Bear.

Speaking of readings, a big full-throated whoop to everyone who participated in the Harbourfront poetry open stage this week, and especially to Mr. Gary Barwin of Hamilton, and Mr. David Groulx of Ottawa, who were the co-winners.

Baseball season starts today. Nothing more can hurt us.


PS: People are asking if I’m “doing anything” for National Poetry Month this year. I’m not, really. Secularism…. The one thing I’m up to is a short project with the boys at Afterword, which I’ll have more on when it gets announced in a couple days. Or maybe today. I don’t know.

Folk Comes Out Today

March 28, 2011

Or rather, today is the official in-stores day. I understand some stores have been ignoring the “Do Not Open Until March 29th” sticker. I’m in favour of that. I’ve been selling my own copies for, like, two weeks now.

At midnight tonight, when Folk officially comes of age, it and I are running off to the border to get married. We are tired and bored with you people. Probably, we’ll make it back to town in time for the launch.

Edit: The unabashed poetry cynic in me wants to change the plural “stores” in that first sentence to just “store”. But I’m going to sleep on it first and see how I feel about it in the morning

This Update Post is 100% Read

March 21, 2011

Hi everyone.

I’m concerned the blog is going to grind down, over the next few months, into a boring list of personal updates. This is something of the natural grain of a personal blog when one is putting a book out. I went here. I did this. Here’s some things people said. I hope to try and avoid this as much as possible. Or, at least, be aware of it. Or, at least, tell some jokes whilst doing it.

To that end, here’s a boring list of personal updates.

1. I got my contributor’s copy of Poetry is Dead today. It’s their “Form” issue and my contribution was an essay called “Hunters and Taxonomists”. The essay considers the 10th anniversary of Strand & Boland’s “The Making of a Poem”, and specifically looks at that book’s brief but effective distillation of the sonnet in light of two more recent experiments. Namely, these experiments are Jan Bervin’s book of Shakespearian erasure pieces, “Nets” and Gregory Betts’s plunderverse approach to the final Shakespearian sonnet in “The Others Rais’d in Me”. Find the magazine, read the essay, tell me what you think. Specifically, tell me what you think if you’ve also since read Don Paterson’s new book of reactions to the bard’s sonnets that I mentioned here a few weeks back.

2. Tomorrow at 2pm, CKLN is airing an episode of In Other Words they’re calling their “Writers & Music” episode. I was one of a handful of authors who took Jennifer Lovegrove up on her request to name a piece of music that has inspired, impacted, or otherwise accompanied their writing. The obvious choice for me would be to use Desolation Row by Bob Dylan, images from which inspired most of the poems in the first half of Folk. But, not wanting to get CKLN in more licensing hot water by ordering the playing of hits, I went back another book and picked Tim Baker (of Hey Rosetta!)’s love song to St. John’s, Epitaph. It’s got Canlit right there in its chorus. Listen to the song below, and to the radio program at 2pm EST at

3. I’m reading at Art Bar tomorrow (Tuesday) night with Pamela Porter and Jeffery Donaldson. Come on out, Toronto. I’ll have fresh Folks for sale.

4. I’m reading at Pilot on Sunday night with a ton of people, including Richard Van Camp, Susan Briscoe, and Vox Pop favourite Antony Di Nardo. Come on out, Montreal. It’d be good to meet you. I wanted to affix to this point the photo that’s out there somewhere of my four-year-old self, posing in my Tim Raines jersey next to Youppi himself, smiling toothily. Alas, I can’t find it. C’est terrible.

5. I’ve had physical copies of the new book for about a week now, and have just started getting them in the hands of friends. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, then, to see some (very tiny) review notices around, like this one from the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal and this one here at Salty Ink. Atlantic Canada. Represent.

6. I have a Kobo. Did we all know this? I’m not sold on the thing yet. Its great failure is the presentation of lineated poetry. Its great success, however, is in allowing me the joy of wildly recalibrating what I consider to be “on the go” reading. This is no longer a thing only open to sub-200 page novellas and poetry collections. Big books are welcome, too. To wit, I’ve finally, after multiple attempts, managed to finish de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. While the electrogadgetry of the Kobo precluded me from forcefully shutting the two-volume monstrosity with the gusto of a victorious hunter, I do enjoy looking at my virtual bookshelf and seeing the little “100% read” notice under Alexis’s title. I want that beacon for printed books, too. I suspect all the blowhards of my past and present would be embarrassed if their shelves displayed, in eye-friendly greyscale, proof that their prized hardcovers had never actually been opened, let alone finished. My next big reading project is Norman Davies’s Europe: A History. 6% read. And counting.

And fucking counting.


PS-What’s the story on new (Spring) collections? Anyone getting their hands on anything yet? I got two Brick titles in the mail today (thanks, Kitty!) but haven’t gotten around to opening them yet. I suspect most of you with copies of your own at this date have them because you have review assignments, so maybe you’re going to keep it to yourself. Backchannel me, though, if you have a lead on something you feel I should be reading.

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.