I Am a City Still But Soon I Shan't Be

"Hailed by the Call as I stepped across
Venables at Clark following a transverse line
like all the other commodities circulating aimlessly
I drifted along corrugated steel walls
sun burning every body every building every form
cash exploding from crowns of distant towers
occupied by the rentiers in this haemopolis of
arteries and conduits branching out centrifugally."


At some point in the last decade, the "unreal cities" of Modernity became post-Real. Roger Farr's I Am a City Still But Soon I Shan't Be metabolizes the modernist long poem in order to provide a psychogeographical I-witness account of this transformation.

In nine Cantos, or spheres of hell, Farr moves impossibly between major and minor cities, crossing and re-crossing zones, edging boundaries, charting dreamscapes, always drifting, without ever becoming a flaneur.

Vancouver stars in "pre-conceptual" found footage from 1973, which is actually a dream of the future. New York is an "elegant incubator" for the new avant-gardes, who are preparing for another civil war. Berlin is a nightclub, or a mall, that "kettles" its negations. Nanaimo is a necropolis seen through a lens held by the hand of a dead poet. Meanwhile a statue of Artemis explodes from the streets in Siracusa, setting off a riot during the 2010 Olympics. Urban streams, flows of capital, and other bodily fluids run the course of the tour. But there is no outside to Room 514 in the Patricia Hotel.

In her review in CANADIAN LITERATURE of Farr's last book, the Livesay-nominated IKMQ (New Star, 2012), Melissa Dalgleish observes that "Farr's I is particularly complex." Readers of I Am a City Still But Soon I Shan't Be might come to recognize such lyric complexity as a shared condition of life in the "post-human cities" from which we chart our lines of flight.

Shot Rock

When the smell of October's raked leaves gives way to that of morning frost, a mature Winnipeg man's fancy turns to thoughts of curling.

But this fall Blackie Timmerman has been hogging stones off the ice. His wife of twenty years Deirdre has left him; his precocious son Tino has moved out of the house and into political radicality, mentored by a relentlessly principled Michael MacGiligary, scion of the Winnipeg establishment. The two share a devotion to curling and revolutionary socialism, as well as a friendship whose closeness and secretiveness alarm Blackie on every level.

And now, his north-end Jewish curling rink, the Queen Victoria, Winnipeg's friendliest club, and most dilapidated, is going to be sold and the club disbanded come spring — if the Executive, led by Max Foxman and his clique of nouveaux riches, gets their way.

The 1970s will be cruel to Blackie, who had expected they would be the gravy on the veal cutlet of an honest modest life. Spurred on by Michael, the only non-Jewish curler at the Queen Victoria, and Tino, both of whom are impatient to make a big political histoire — combatting injustice and alienation — Blackie and his curling team, Suddy and Duddy, Oz, and their kibitzer Chickie, decide to take on Max Foxman and the South Enders to deliver the club from the fate of becoming a supermarket, and their having to curl on alien ice in the South End.

It's class war on and off the rink, where all is fair, even Duddy's attempt to seduce Max Foxman's wife Sophie, the girl Max Foxman had stolen from Blackie while our hero was part of the Canadian army invading Sicily in WWII. When not distracted by the nostalgia of lost love and gallantry, Blackie believes that curling finesse and canvassing can swing enough club members to vote down Max Foxman, so that for once the North End guys will sit shot rock.

Writing and Reading

In the course of a writing life that has spanned more than five decades and encompasses almost eighty books of fiction, poetry, history, and criticism he's written and another thirty that he's played an editorial role in, George Bowering has learned a thing or two about the craft.

Writing and Reading features thirty recent essays, ranging from a single paragraph to 12,000 words, spanning the range of the author's curiosity, which includes collecting, difficulty, film, painting, photography, music, and Vancouver's poets from Apollinaire and Blaise Cendrars to the present day. Bowering writes perceptively about his encounters with texts, and writers, including David Bromige, Judith Fitzgerald, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Kroetsch, Michael Ondaatje, Joe Rosenblatt, and every book he read in 1967, Canada's centennial year.

Running through Writing and Reading is the theme of reading — and paying attention — and its centrality to any writing practice.