Listen to the subtle melodies of assonance, the call and response of slant rhyme feeding the reader through to the turn. Notice the repetition of single syllable words, an insistent rhythm. Owen uses sound like a lure, seduces the reader with music.
The poems of Somatic are inspired by the life and work of Austrian painter Egon Schiele. Published twenty years ago, this was Owen’s first book (the author gifted me a copy at a reading we did together) and the verse is grounded in the themes she continues to explore: art, love, death, desire, and the nature of the muse.
An interesting polyphony develops as the poems accrue. Subtle shifts in voice help the poems differentiate themselves, but have the effect on this reader of too much too soon. I wanted to dwell for longer with some sounds, rhythms, rather than following “their fine disturbances.” (42) Maybe it’s just the collection is short and no dominant voice develops fully. Still, if there is a through line, it is of distance, the poet-observer, Owen conscious of the humanity of the artist and of his subjects, the viewer and viewed, “the white brushed so lightly / around the brown / was done to suggest spirit, / the body’s other skin.” (34)
Owen’s interpretation of Schiele urges a drawing close of the dark, sexual, and for whatever reason ‘forbidden’ by society: “to take the darkness and draw / it ever deeper.” (41) The sexuality in the poems reflects Schiele's art, the times, and the character, but it also points to empowerment through sexual liberation and the freedom of living outside societal norms. Schiele paid a steep price when he was jailed for public immorality. He was never the same after:
With twenty-four days, your self-portraits
changed, the eyes no longer flaunted
a haughty pose of youth but become pools,
disturbed by stones so huge that ripples
bellied out over the surface, blind and unceasing.
“Prison, Neulengbach, 1912” (46)
There’s that music again, delivering the tragedy of Schiele’s life and the intense beauty of his art in equal measure. The narrative is black but the buoyancy of the language ensures accessibility to darkness. Somatic stands as a testament to the dangers of the rebel life and of non-conformity, and at the same time, prophets the necessity of following one’s truth, whatever the consequence.
This month's reading features special and exciting readings by local authors ryan fitzpatrick, Deanna Fong and Geoffrey Nilson. And Ashley-Elizabeth Best is joining us all the way from Ontario to launch her much anticipated debut book of poetry.
Please join us at The Lido, 518 East Broadway, Vancouver, BC. Doors at 6 p.m. Readings at 6:30 p.m.
Admission is, of course, FREE. And we'll catch the last hour of Happy Hour at The Lido.
This event takes place on unceded Musqueam, Sḵwxwú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh land.
Poetry in the Park is back again for another great season of spoken words. Come check us out every Wednesday in July and August at the Bandshell in beautiful Queen’s Park!
Summer 2016 Lineup:Dates Features
July 6 Jordan Abel, Joanne Arnott & Ray Hsu
July 13 Candice James & Geoffrey Nilson
July 20 Elizabeth Bachinsky & Erin Kirsh
July 27 Cecily Nicholson, Manolis & Kevin Spenst
August 3 Jónína Kirton & RC Weslowski
August 10 Kyle McKillop & Timothy Shay
August 17 Susan McCaslin & Rob Taylor
August 24 Raoul Fernandes & Johnny MacRae
August 31 Wayde Compton & Renee Saklikar
im excited to be a part of this wonderful local event series in New Westminster.
Excited to announce that my chapbook, We Have To Watch, has been selected for presentation as part of the 30th Annual Two Days of Canada Conference on "The Concept of Vancouver" that will take place on 13-14 October 2016 at The Centre for Canadian Studies at Brock University.
There will plenary presentations by Rita Wong, Richard Cavell, Michael Turner, Lisa Robertson, and Roy Miki — and a special keynote public address by George Bowering, Canada's first Poet Laureate and two-time Governor-General's Literary Award winner. The conference will involve a rich melange of artists, activists, and academics. There will be papers, discussion forums, music performances, poetry readings, visual art, and public lectures.
The 30th annual "Two Days of Canada" conference at Brock University, the oldest Canadian Studies conference of its kind in Canada, invites scholars, artists, writers, and activists to broadly think through the conceptualizations of the histories, presents, and futures of the city. Papers and panels will consider the conceptualization of the arts, literatures, and politics of Vancouver, and the interconnections these concepts have with other scales of engagement, including the national and planetary issues in which Vancouver participates.
More Info and To Buy Issues Go to the Qwerty Website
This weekend my videopoem, Headache Summer, will be shown as part of the 2015 Visible Verse Festival. Details below>>>
An evening of videopoems* curated and hosted by Ray Hsu.
*videopoem = video art + poetry + creative ingenuity
Presented by The Cinematheque since 2000, Visible Verse is one of the longest-running video poetry festivals in the world. Video poetry is a hybrid creative form bringing together verse and moving images. Visible Verse selects its annual program from hundreds of submissions received from local, national, and international artists.
On the occasion of the 2015 festival, The Cinematheque says a fond farewell and expresses its great gratitude to Heather Haley, founder of Visible Verse and its curator and host from 2000 to 2014. We welcome Vancouver poet Ray Hsu into his new role as Visible Verse’s artistic director.
Admission is $11; attendees must have a Cinematheque membership which can be purchased for $3.
Advance tickets can be purchased online:
I had a wonderful experience last weekend exhibiting my text based artwork for the 2015 New West Cultural Crawl. My piece was part of
Cut #2: On the Road (2015), is from a sequence of found-text poems sampled from canonical works of literature, formed through procedural constraints in the lineage of Oulipo poetics. Each poem is created from the text of one randomly selected book page. The text may be quoted, cut, mixed, or re-arranged in any way. Each poem explores the social and political legacies of literary canon, acting as a conversation in mutual language between the original writer and the poet. The juxtaposition of the cutout book page and the re-ordered text comments on the translation of language by a reader in the subjective creation of meaning and the destruction of the physical work is a literal dismantling of literary canon.
Thank you to Sixth Street Popup & Gallery for putting on the show and for showcasing the great breadth of local New Westminster art. a small group show at Sixth Street Popup & Gallery in New Westminster, BC.