Friday, November 18, 2016

Due Process

I haven't said a lot about the ongoing FUBAR of Steven Galloway's firing from UBC. I haven't said much because I'm not that invested in what is euphemistically known as the "literary community" and, frankly, because I don't know much about the case. Nobody except those involved does--for mostly very good reasons. Like the law. Near-perfect ignorance, of course, hasn't stopped a lot of other people from having strong opinions about how things have gone down. And then, a horribly misconceived letter started circulating, signed by all manner of CanLit luminaries, who, despite knowing next-to-nothing, thought that it was incumbent on them to grease the wheels of justice. Unacknowledged legislators, antennae of the race, etc. When it was pointed out by other writers that this anonymously authored letter was markedly biassed towards Galloway and threw his accusers under the bus, a number of writers, horrified that they had been blindly duped into condoning rape culture (because they are apparently not so good at reading, even though they do it for a living), scrambled to remove their names from the letter. Others, including Margaret Atwood, who is looking more and more like Signal and less and less like Noise, have dug in their heels.

One thing I do know about this matter is that Mr. Galloway's dismissal is the subject of a grievance being pursued by his union. This is what due process looks like in a unionized workplace. I know, because I'm a shop steward in my union local (Unifor 4005) and I write a LOT of grievances, for matters both minor and grave. (These days, I write more grievances than anything else, unfortunately. I could tell you some stories. Except I can't. Because it's private information and all.) It's not a perfect process and it can take a godawfully long time for the grievance procedure to resolve anything, but if/when employer and union fail to work things out on their own, the matter will go before an independent arbitrator, who will render an impartial, and binding, judgment. In my experience, arbitrators get it right far more than they get it wrong. This is because they weigh all available facts and arguments in a detached and rational manner. And they get it right far more often, I guarantee you, than dozens of self-righteous writers flailing about rhetorically.

Yesterday, I came across a rare beam of light, in the form of a Facebook post by a writer named Dorothy Palmer. She says pretty much all that needs to be said about this shitshow.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Blurble blurble

Jason Guriel on the lowly blurb. Like him, I've had reviews I've written misappropriated and manipulated by publishers to appear more praiseful than they were. Dirty pool, but you have to tip your cap, I suppose. 
On the few occasions I've been asked to furnish a pre-publication blurb, I've declined, for many of the reasons Jason touches on: a)I'm not famous enough--not nearly!--to boost your sales. b)The blurb is a seriously degraded currency and I don't wish to contribute to its further decline. c)I probably won't have sufficiently unmixed feelings about the quality of your book to blurb it with wholehearted enthusiasm. 
My own books of poetry have gone without blurbs, by my own wishes. The last two, we've gone with the full text of a poem, since what can tell a reader more about the contents of a book than a representative sample? I very nearly got one from Barry Lopez for my first book, but it arrived after the book had already been published. Best kind of blurb: from one of my literary heroes, but not out there for the public to see. For my book of essays, I pulled a Zizek and selected something never intended to be used for that purpose: a dismissive couple of sentences from an interview with George Bowering, who was apparently unimpressed with my reviewing work, but took too many pains to demonstrate how little he cared for it.

Monday, September 19, 2016


First rain in five weeks—
sumac and creeper aflame
spreading asters bloom
tire treads ripping wet asphalt.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Interview posted

Of all the things I've written in my life, I don't know if anything's received more attention than the short article I wrote for The Walrus recently on real estate and related matters. This morning, Ryerson University's radio station aired this interview with me:

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Article online

I haven't been doing a lot of freelance work of late because I'm very busy these days in my role as Chief Shop Steward in Unifor Local 4005. But the other day Carmine Starnino asked me to adapt a Facebook post about my adventures in real estate into a web piece for The Walrus. That piece is now up. I got into the specifics and details (although some were cut for length) because I think these are too often things that are not talked about, things it's almost taboo to talk about--but they're things we should be talking about. Class has become a really sticky wicket. It's very strange to be, as I am, simultaneously an artist, a seasonal grey-collar worker (who has been on EI almost every year since 2003), a labour rights activist, and a landlord. My priorities are often in conflict and are very hard to integrate. I certainly didn't cobble all these things together on purpose; it's symptomatic of how a person needs to hustle these days to get ahead--even if one is born with a lot of advantages.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Interview online

When I was in Vancouver in June, I met up with photographer and Vancouver Review founder Mark Mushet. We had a conversation and he took some portraits of me. Our talk is now up on the VR website.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Pivot podcast: Blackman, Warner and Wells

Loyal CLM readers may remember a much talked-about reading I was doing in February at the Pivot reading series. I meant to post the podcast when it went up last month, but it slipped my mind till now. Click play to hear Jeff Blackman, Pat Warner and, finally, meself.