Year in Review: 2012


My second book of poems, The Least Important Man was published in the spring, and the good folks at Biblioasis have been amazing. The launch at the Dora Keogh was a great turnout, and they helped organize getting me out of town for a few readings, most memorably Words Worth Books in Waterloo, with Al Moritz who very graciously offered me a lift home. Our conversation about poetry and life was so interesting we missed an exit somewhere and didn’t immediately notice we were sailing past empty fields in the wrong direction.walking

I did a handful of readings in Toronto to support the book, and stumbled into remarkably warm nights at Livewords and Pivot, and finally made it to one of the informal poetry weekends organized by Ross Leckie at the University of New Brunswick, and despite rain, rain and rain it was an excellent group of appreciative, down-to-earth and talented folks. A final note on my book: it has seen two reviews, so I do have my fingers crossed for another review, and particularly one that will have the space to discuss some of the themes and ideas.

Favourite novels of the year: I admired The Grapes of Wrath for its honest, emotional intelligence (and wrote something about it for the National Post), and The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch and The Sportswriter (Richard Ford) had utterly convincing narrators who couldn’t help but leave an impression. I waited too long to read Of Human Bondage (Somerset Maugham) which was remarkable, and flawless. I also really enjoyed Magnified World by Grace O’Connell for being an engaging read and unabashedly about Toronto, which is the sort of thing we need to see if Toronto will ever be perceived the way we think of a city like London. I dedicated the summer to reading novelists I’d never picked up (which I’d recommend, as a fairly satisfying thing to do) though I still have a long list of authors I’d like to read. Oh, and The Assistant (Bernard Malamud) was a careful, quiet and beautifully written book I discovered on a useful list of great novels compiled by Time magazine.

Favourite genre books: The Big Sleep (Chandler) and Red Harvest (Hammett) are both absurdly enjoyable. Later in the year I moved on to Neuromancer (Gibson) who borrows the same basic idea of the hard-boiled detective, but like someone putting utterly different baubles on a Christmas tree, writes the narration as though it comes from a techno-junkie poet from the future. I didn’t enjoy the Gibson novel as much, mainly because I think the description sometimes gets away from him and leaves the reader nowhere in particular. It’s an exercise in style, unless the reader steps back to consider the overall setting and the idea that eventually our creations might come to seem more real to us than anything else. Personally, the day people prefer a hologram to a tree is the day I need to check out of this world. When Twitter suggests we make our profiles beautiful I want to say no, Twitter, beautiful is when you turn off your computer and step outside. The Forever War is highly recommended, for being an engaging read loaded with interesting ideas.

Non-fiction: Intolerable, by my friend and colleague Kamal Al-Solaylee is an important and well-written memoir. Pulphead (essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan) is an enjoyable, articulate voice to spend some time around, and The Boy in the Moon (Ian Brown) has something essential and very human to communicate. And while A Journal of the Plague Year is technically fiction (Defoe was five when the plague hit) it certainly reads like a memoir and it’s morbidly fascinating, disturbing and heartbreaking. The simple idea that people came home to kiss their children and pass along the plague is something that will likely haunt me forever.

Poetry books: I bought many and have completely finished few. I’m not entirely sure what’s happening with me at the moment, but lately my interest has been elsewhere in terms of my reading. My daughter brings a smile to my face every day, but I’m perhaps too tired to frequently sit down and try and make associative leaps in my reading. My One Question Interview with Chris Banks about Winter Cranes certainly suggests how much I appreciated his book, and I read First Comes Love by Pino Coluccio cover to cover, finding poems that reminded me of Larkin. Finishing Groundwork (Amanda Jernigan) and Spinning Side Kick (Anita Lahey) I thought they were underrated poets, much like Coluccio. Other than that, I dipped into poetry books here, and there. A concentrated effort to read more poetry in 2013 might change things. I suspect it will be quite a while before I have enough poems for another book, and I’m attempting to write a novel these days.

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