Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Archive for April, 2011

April 30th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

Definition of a ‘good’ poem

Mark Strand writes in his introductory essay ‘On becoming a Poet’ in The Making of a Poem:

"There is something about it (Archibald MacLeish’s "You, Andrew Marvell)  that moves me in ways that I don’t quite understand, as it were communicating more than what it actually says. This is often the case with good poems – they have a lyric identity that goes beyond whatever their subject happens to be. They have a voice, and the formation of that voice, the gathering up of imagined sound into utterance, may be the true occasion for their existence. A poem may be the residue of an inner urgency, one through which the self wishes to register itself, write itself into being, and, finally, to charm another self, the reader, into belief. If may also be something equally elusive – the ghost within every experience that wishes it could be seen or felt, acknowledged as a kind of meaning."

In short, it seems to me, a need to grasp, capture, prove, commemorate and convey something of the strange fact that once we didn’t exist, now we exist, and in future, we will not exist.

April 29th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with Margaret Lock on Locks’ Press


Locks’ Press, according to the  Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild’s Ottawa Chapter website, "was founded in 1979. Since then it has printed eleven books, fifteen pamphlets, and twenty-four broadsides. The editions are small, 30 to 80 copies. The press prints mainly illustrated editions of unusual but enduring texts, ranging from classical Greece to the early twentieth century.

Fred is the editor and has provided translations for about a third of the titles (from Greek, Latin, Middle English, Provençal, and German). Margaret does the woodcut illustrations, design, typesetting, printing and binding.

The character of the press is conservative and scholarly. Most texts are presented in their original spelling and punctuation. Many of the texts have an underlying serious moral. The presentation is enlivened by the illustrations.


Simple, strong, sometimes slightly comic, the woodcuts encourage the reader to reconsider the text, and remember its message."

I spoke recently with Margaret about her press, its history, her approach to illustration, her work philosophy, and what she looks for in fine press books. Please listen to our conversation here:


April 25th, 2011 • Posted in On Collecting

Boots of Austin

It was

 Austin, Texas 228

doors knobs

Austin, Texas 226

in Le Mans

Austin, Texas 224

1950s American

Austin, Texas 221


Austin, Texas 217

and walls in Havana;

Austin, Texas 212

here in

Austin, Texas 207

Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas 203


 Austin, Texas 202


Austin, Texas 198


 Austin, Texas 197


 Austin, Texas 181

Allens Boots, where

 Austin, Texas 176

they also happen to sell

 Austin, Texas 240


April 24th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books



…a ‘Texas size’ one…consumed, quickly, in its entirety, with an extra shot of tequila, at an establishment found, if memory serves correct, along the River Walk in San Antonio.

April 23rd, 2011 • Posted in Nigel Beale Bookstore Photos

There’s still hope for Austin, Texas


Then again, they have bottles that grow on trees here


fire hydrants that wear jewelry


and people who wear these kinds of boots

 Austin, Texas 205

All of which to say, this is one fun, funky, weird town.

April 18th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

David Foster Wallace bugs the crap out of us…

This from Geoff Dyer on his allergy to DFW:

I guess it’s a question of tone. I react against the variously contrived sloppinesses of all those “sort ofs” and “kind ofs” in tandem with, sometimes followed by, the magisterial flamboyant (“Existentiovoyeuristic conundra notwithstanding”). Or the grunge affectation of the double “though” in: “There are big differences between Agassi’s and Joyce’s games, though. Though Joyce…” It’s not that I dislike the extravagance, the excess, the beanie-baroque, the phat loquacity. They just bug the crap out of me. As do the obsessive parenthesising, insistent italicising, footnote-generating footnotes and typographical gimmickry that reaches a kind of apotheosis of unreadability in “Host,” from Consider the Lobster.

Must be contagious.

April 17th, 2011 • Posted in On Politics

R.I.P. Allan Blakeney

Allan Blakeney (September 7, 1925 – April 16, 2011)


April 17th, 2011 • Posted in On The Book

Carl Dair on the book designer’s main objective

"It is essential that the designer be diverted neither by the play of texture for its own sake nor by the cold considerations of legibility alone; his task is to achieve both without the sacrifice of either. Texture is a matter of the spatial relation between words and between lines of type; legibility is a matter of the size of type in relation to the length of the line, the legibility of the type itself, and its proportion in relation to the page. The one axiom that should always apply is that the norm of legibility should be what can be read, not by a person wiht 20/20 vision, but by a person at the threshold of needing optical assistance…


…While these detials of refinement are important in a book, the main objective should be to invest the book with a personality. The skilled designer will do this unobtrusively but effectively. No two literary works are alike; the subject matter, the author’s literary style, his philosophical approach make each book different from every other book. The fine book will reflect this difference. Those who argue that the designers hand should not be apparent in the book overlook the fact that if a book is to have any personality, the designer’s hand is bound to be evident. The very people who so argue are often designers whose good sense of typography shows through so much that the bibliophile can identify their work as once.

Personality can be achieved by the use of exotic types or luxurious paper, and some texts call for this. But the skilled designer can take a workaday type and a standard paper and, through the sheer artistry of weaving the texture of his type and placing it within the space of a page, can create a book which gives the reader a sense of aesthetic pleasure before he starts to read."

from Design with Type, by Carl Dair (2nd edition, U of T Press, 1967). The first Canadian book to be a recipient of one of the Book of the Year awards presented annually by the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

April 17th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

The Purpose of Poetry…

April 17th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

Abuse of the word ‘fuck’

If there’s one thing I fucking hate its the gratuitous use of swear words to get attention. A blazing, red-letter example of this can be found in the Winter 2011 edition of ARC magazine.  Chris Jennings’s use of the word ‘fuck’ to express his sentiments about an innocent poetic form in his essay ‘On the Sonnet’ is not only inappropriate, it’s also, ultimately vacuous.

I’ll leave intelligent engagement with Jennings’s misgivings to others more qualified. Here, all I’d like to say is that: you don’t fuck a poetic type, any more than you fuck a genre, or species, or an asparagus for that matter. You don’t fuck the sonata, or the polonaise.  What you ‘fuck’ or condemn, is a poorly written sonnet, a plodding polonaise, a chicken-shit book review.

Let’s say you’re in the mood for steak. You go to Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Here you can depend on being served a delicious cut every time. You’re not always going to feel like steak. So it wouldn’t be terribly smart to go to Ruth’s Chris every time you felt the urge to dine out. That would be fucking stupid. Similarly, if every restaurant in town for some reason started serving asparagus, and only asparagus, with every dish, it’s hardly the fucking asparagus’s fault that people get tired of eating the thing all the time, now is it?

A chicken-shit book review?

Not only does Jennings fuck up his ARC essay, he also, in the same issue, writes a chicken-shit review of Michael Lista’s Bloom, complete with backhanded slights, groundless objections and tiresome, opportunistic word play. Thankfully, however, he doesn’t resort to using the F word.