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SHAUN SMITH'S SUNDAY SUNDRIES

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FEAR OF FLYING

I gave a public performance the other night. It was supposed to be a reading from my recent novel, “The Outside World,” but I thought I’d sneak in a few poems from my “Invisible Dogs” as well. I made a joke about the poems, giving audience members permission to hide beneath their seats if they had come solely for the fiction, if poetry made their teeth grind or sent sickly shivers up and down their spines. Why was I dissing poetry? Why didn’t I just announce that they were in for a real treat?

FAME

FAME

Patrick Friesen is a true lyric poet, open and honest, singing more often than talking. His poems are almost bodiless, his words slowly turning into rivers. In “Earth’s Crude Gravities,” language pours from the page with such shapeliness and depth that I often find myself reading a poem again and again until it sweeps all sense of being grounded out from under me.

Why isn’t a new Patrick Friesen book a major event? I didn’t even know “Earth’s Crude Gravities” existed until it tipped off the shelf in a secondhand bookstore and I caught it between my fingers.

VOICE

Maureen McLane’s book, “My Poets,” goes beyond poetics and criticism into a kind of channeling of the poets themselves: her versions of their work, her obsessions with their obsessions. She not only enters the spirit of poets ranging from H.D. to Louise Gluck, but gets inside their larynxes as well.

POETICS OF PLACE

I’ve been thinking about the poetics of place: Tim Lilburn’s Moosewood Sandhills; Don Domanski’s wilderness of a cosmos; Karen Solie’s truck stops and motels; Tim Bowling’s fishing boats. It’s not just splashing about in details, I tell my students, but precision (like piercing an atom with an invisible pin) and ruthlessness. You have to make sure that nostalgia doesn’t clot the muse’s arteries.

What vehicle do we choose to take us in and out of landscape? Regret? Jubilation? Fear? Misunderstanding? Is there really such a thing as purely being here? The minute that the second hand notices that it’s being observed, it tears a hole in time, the future leaking out. You have to focus on what the “now” is doing to the “then” and how this creates a much more complex “when.”

Welcome to National Poetry Month

I always feel a bit uncomfortable when Poetry Month commences. It’s like I’ve had a secret for the last eleven months, no one really interested in how I’ve spent my days, successfully managing to pass myself off as an ordinary guy. But then the first of April, a month dedicated to outing poets and poetry, pops up like those first splashes of colour in my garden – pink crocuses, purple grape hyacinths, blue forget-me-nots – and people start to ask questions, to poke around in the dirt.

If Not DRM, What Then? (Part III)

Just a last few words and thoughts on DRM.

DRM Can Work

One hallmark of the anti-DRM argument is that DRM doesn't and cannot work. Doctorow lays out the reasons in the first part of his talk to the Microsoft Research Group in 2004, the section unambiguously titled, "DRM systems don't work." While it's true they don't currently operate in a way that cannot be defeated, this doesn't mean they can't work. The arguments in this section are compelling, but I would argue that with the right technology combined with robust laws, it can be done.

If Not DRM, What Then? (Part II)

A few people, some of them writers, have written to me, wondering about the fuss surrounding DRM. They very much want their work protected from copying, and didn’t realize a kind of hysteria exists concerning DRM, much of it fuelled by Cory Doctorow, who began a crusade a decade ago when he addressed Microsoft regarding their DRM-strategies. You can read his presentation here.
 
While there are many flaws in Doctorow’s arguments (most notably his attempt to apply historical copyright battles to the present day situation – because in the past copy protection was about inferior copies (e.g., player-piano scrolls vs.

If not DRM, what then? (Part I)

Over the next few days, I’m going to discuss DRM – Digital Rights Management – a way of “locking” a digital product, such as an ebook, to control its distribution. This has become a controversial topic for many reasons, with a general perception that writers are, or should be, dead set against it.
 
Many cultural commentators would have you believe that DRM is loathed by all but ebook distributors and hardware manufacturers like Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble, because it ties the consumer to a platform. While this is somewhat true, it’s of less concern if you choose a platform with client software for all major devices, such as Kindle or Kobo.

Cormac McCarthy: "The ugly fact is books are made out of books"

Before the publication and Oprahfication of The Road, and the Oscar success of No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy was a critically-loved but relatively obscure novelist, unknown outside hardcore literary circles. He was also a recluse, having granted only one public interview, for the New York Times, in 1992. His first novel, The Orchard Keeper, he sent to Random House in 1965 (he says it was the only press he'd heard of), where it was read by editor Albert Erskine, William Faulkner's last editor.
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