Friday, February 25, 2011

Telling the Truth

All too often, reading contemporary poetry, what I feel is, So many dishonest lines! Lines that sound beautiful but that aren’t meant. If you aren’t really paying attention, you can be seduced by them. But if you’re listening closely, they don’t ring true. They have the sound of trying too hard, or of trying to put something over. They sound as though they are listening to themselves, admiringly, rather than speaking from a real place inside the poet. The words may be gorgeous, they may be clever, they may have dazzle or flash, but they aren’t speaking in a real voice.

Robyn Sarah again on telling the truth in poetry. What she says about poetry is equally true in fiction. I wonder if she would agree with my contention that what she calls writers listening to themselves, admiringly, rather than speaking from a real place may be the result of the 'academization' of writing ie. more writing coming out of university creative writing programs. And bonus; she quotes Joseph Epstein, one of my favourite writers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Walking the public/private fine line

For writers who use language as an artistic medium, a tension goes with this dichotomy: the process of creation is intensely private, yet the creation will not be complete, will not have fulfilled its purpose, without an audience. Thinking too much about “audience” during the creative process can inhibit the process and distort the creation, but thinking too little about it can do the same. Soon enough one needs to ask, “Who am I writing this for?”, because it is the sense of audience that gives writing its voice. Voice, style, tone, are how a piece of writing treats its reader.

Robyn Sarah on the writer's challenge to find the perfect public/private balance.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jewgrass and Canlit

Not your Bubbie's klezmer says Bev Akerman over at Rover riffing on the recent Shabbat Shira sold-out shindig at our shul. But anyone who knows a little about klezmer knows that it's taken many forms over the last few decades, particularly in the US, ranging from groups like Boston's The Klezmer Conservatory to New York's Klezmatics, not to mention John Zorn's Klezmer-inspired Jazz-infused musical experiments. Being an island of Jews in a lake of Quebecois in an sea of Anglos has made the Montreal Jewish community uniquely conservative in character and consequently late to catch a ride on the upcoming cultural waves. But I'm proud to say that our little shtibel (the only Reconstructionist synagogue in a city of eighty or so Orthodox minyans) is trying to do its part to open a few doors and windows a crack, let some cultural fresh air in to the stagnant atmosphere. A culture is vibrant when artists (be they writers, painters, sculptors, actors, musicians, poets, whomever) feel they have the license to combine their own personal traditions with a myriad of other influences. Today is the 102nd anniversary of the birth of A.M. Klein, a Montreal Jewish writer and one of Canada's greatest poets. A writer who left his mark by combining Hebrew liturgy, Yiddish idiom, a mastery of English literary forms, a fluency in French and profound sensibility for Quebecois culture. So you ask, Jewish bluegrass from Montreal? I say you're darn tootin! And mazel tov to Bev on her new collection of short fiction. Strength to strength!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chava Rosenfarb (1923-2011)

A remembrance of the late great Yiddish writer Chava Rosenfarb in the Rover.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Writer's Life

I thought back to my days in Miss Jeffries’ Grade 10 creative writing class, where my thoughts went along the lines of: How can I entertain myself? (and as a secondary notion, How can I totally gross out anyone who reads this, particularly Courtney Smith, with her neon green scrunchie, whom I sort of like? — what can I say: I was 15, and not the suave Lothario I am today). I had to rekindle the joy I’d felt when the page just opened up, I fell in, and there were no limitations or worries about target demos, what editors will think, the booksellers, the whole apparatus I’d no knowledge of when I’d first said to myself: Hey, it would be pretty cool to write all day long.

Craig Davidson
tells it like it is for most writers.