a collection of interesting and not-so-interesting things. including information on current & upcoming projects.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


1. I was wrong about when my Patrick Friesen interview would be published. Not the current issue of CV2 (though the current issue is well worth checking out) but an upcoming one. Not 100% sure when it will appear. But you subscribe to CV2 anyway, right? So it doesn't matter.

2. The current issue of Prairie Fire is a fine one, heartily recommended. Good work from (among others) Lindsey Wiebe, Armin Wiebe, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Maurice Mierau, George Amabile, and Chandra Mayor. A special congratulations to Lindsey whose first PF publication this is, with more to come in the future I'm sure.

I am heading off soon to interview painter Ivan Eyre. Wish me luck.

Friday, April 22, 2005

PROST - Emerging - (song download)

On a trip down memory lane, I've been listening to my old music. Including my only real studio recording, which I present to you HERE. It's called "Emerging" and it's by my last band, PROST. I've included the lyrics below.

PROST was:

Jonathan Ball : Vocals
Dean Gamvrelis : Bass
Adam Rossi : Guitars
Jeff Roy : Guitars
Alex Sotiriadis : Drums


All snakes, at some time, shed their skin.
Even I.

When I reach the mainline,
I will take back all my words of wisdom.
When I read the headlines,
I will regret all the money given.
When I breathe in once again,
I will taste and savour.
When I move in for the kill,
I will trust my instincts.

If I ever break I
Want you to pick up and keep the pieces,
So if I should ever die
You will still have something to remember me by.
I bite in, the poison from the past
When I move in for the kill,
I will trust your instincts to fail.

All snakes, at some time, shed their skin.
Even I.

I, who will not trade any of my dreams
for their realization.

Monday, April 18, 2005

My Thesis is Online

My Master's thesis is online for those interested parties. It's at http://hdl.handle.net/1993/112.

The abstract:

The Sandman is a feature-length screenplay adaptation of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s short story “Der Sandmann.” The screenplay re-imagines the story as a contemporary horror film with surrealist underpinnings. The script draws heavily on the gothic tradition. It also draws on the German Romantic tradition out of which Hoffmann writes. The theoretical structure of the screenplay owes a great deal to Sigmund Freud’s ideas about the “uncanny” and concerning the Oedipus complex, the repetition-compulsion, and the death-drive. I do not hold slavishly to these theories so much as use them as points of departure. The story: the young Nathan discovers one day that the Sandman is not a fairytale but a very real creature seemingly bent on his destruction. After abusing Nathan and causing the death of his Father, the Sandman disappears, only to return as Nathan moves away from home to begin his studies at university. Nathan, already haunted by the events of his childhood, spirals further and further into madness. The screenplay is followed by two informal essays concerning the approach taken to the construction of the text.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

When I Am Hell

I just finished editing my book-length poetry collection, When I Am Hell (& other poems). The manuscript clocks in at 120 pages. A respectable length for a poetry book. This book began life as a much different beast called emptying and I think it is much better in the current, more brutal version.

I cut 14 poems today after editing the whole thing so hopefully it is lean enough. I'm pretty happy with it except for the fact that it is a collection of poems. I have a preference for long poems and concept-heavy collections. But I think I managed to give the work as a whole enough cohesion. I like these poems a lot and so I'd like to see them go out into the world, and this seems like the best way to do it. I wanted there to be some cohesion across the book but I didn't want to impose a concept onto poems that weren't written to fit any concept (this is a series of stand-alone works). So I just tried to pick poems that worked well together and were among my best. Some of my favourites hit the cutting room floor, others are being reserved for future collections. Other favourites of mine just aren't good enough to publish, even though I have some affinity for them. I also would have liked to have more experimental work, but almost all of my experimental work consists of poetic series. At first I was toying with making this book a series of series but I want to do something with these stand-alone poems. So I compromised by including a few pieces and centring the book around the semi-experimental series When I Am Hell.

Next week I'll set about the task of excerpting work to submit to Turnstone Press for consideration. I want to give Turnstone the first chance to consider the book since it's my favourite small press and I think that my work would sit well alongside some of its catalogue. I'll also start earmarking poems from the collection for submission to magazines. A few have been published already but I don't see why I shouldn't publish other ones if anyone's interested.

Next I am writing a collection of short stories over the summer entitled Metamorphoses. After that I will be writing a novel (while I do my PhD classes, Fall-Spring) called Hell Hath Fury. This is the novel previously known as Narcissus. I am also going to be co-writing a screenplay called Guinness and co-creating a short film called Opening Band which I will direct this summer. Work on the Spoony B film continues to progress slowly, as does work on my experimental short films. I have to earn a living too, you know.

Monday, April 11, 2005


I went to see Queens of the Stone Age and brought along Jon Paul Fiorentino's new book of comedic short fiction, Asthmatica, for the ride. Couldn't find my friends and ended up reading the book during intermissions, waiting for bands. A great book, very funny. Fiorentino's writing is very much worth checking out. I have all of his books since hover which I suppose is all of them, although David Arnason (another outstanding writer that everyone should read) is currently holding my copy of Transcona Fragments for ransom. I lent it to him with the suggestion that he include Fiorentino's work in his book The Imagined City: A Literary History of Winnipeg. Arnason hadn't read Fiorentino and apparently he ended up liking the book I gave him and says he has included it somehow. That Arnason book may be out any day, legal issues are holding it up (a lot of clearances) but things should be worked out soon.

Queens was of course fantastic. The Mars Volta and QOTSA are my two favourite bands in the world at present. Outstanding, consistently brilliant work. Smart songs that rock hard as Hell. The band played a good selection from its 4-album catalogue, including some of my classic faves. Josh Homme was apparently sick with the flu and hopped up on Codeine-filled cough syrup. He seemed high as a kite but still managed to be a technical marvel, though his voice wasn't as up to the task as his guitar playing, and he had a few lame improvisations here and there. However, by and large, the band did a lot of improvisation and a lot of altered versions of songs, that overall were great improvements on already great songs. I love it when I go to see a band and they surprise me with great variations on songs that I already know note-by-note. It adds a little extra to the experience and confirms for me the importance of live music over recorded simulations of music. To top things off, just when I thought I wasn't going to get to hear it, Queens closed out their encore with my favourite Queens song yet, "Someone's in the Wolf."

The opening band was called Throw Rag. They were pretty good, wasn't a big fan of their sound but they put on a great show, had a half-naked man playing a washboard and a trumpet who hauled small children out of the crowd to play the washboard during a few songs that he sang while convulsing on the floor of the stage.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Upcoming Publications

1: An interview I did with poet Patrick Friesen will be included in the next issue of CV2, Vol. 27, No. 2.

2: Some of my poetry will be published in the inaugural issue of Flatlands, a new publication coming out of Brandon. This issue should be online sometime in May.

3: In June, I will launch two chapbooks from my new chapbook publisher, The Martian Press. These books are Film/making, a series of poems by Jonathan Ball (me) & The Martian Press Review 01, an anthology of poetry and prose by various people who are not me, including Rehman Abdulrehman, David Annandale, Gloe Cormie, Nathan Dueck, Ariel Gordon, Ken Kowal, Maurice Mierau, Mark Sampson, and Kevin Spenst.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Current Reads

I am currently reading:

Self by Yann Martel (fiction)
The Object Stares Back by James Elkins (theory)
Country Music by Dennis Cooley (poetry)
Making Light of Tragedy by Jessica Grant (short stories)
A Dame to Kill For and That Yellow Bastard by Frank Miller (graphic novels)

I recently read these books and will post some informal mini-reviews shortly:

From a Buick 8 by Stephen King (fiction)
Kill-site by Tim Lilburn (poetry)
Mercy by Alissa York (fiction)
Yellow Pages by Nicole Markotic (fiction)

I am trying to read a lot of books by Albertan writers before I move to Calgary. If you know of good books or authors, drop me a line.

Recent Reads

Been reading a lot and thought I'd talk a little about my most recent reads, some mini-reviews, as it were. The books discussed in this post are:

33 lines, a stolen phrase & a short apology by rob mclennan
A Painted Elephant by Jill Hartman
The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios by Yann Martel
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

all of which i liked, so no real bad reviews here.

33 lines, a stolen phrase & a short apology by rob mclennan

This is a chapbook published by mclennan's own above/ground press. mclennan has a great talent for combining clear, minimalist writing with the kind of exuberant, post-whatever excess that typifies so much of Canada's "experimental" poetry. Maybe I just like this book because it's the kind of writing I've been trying to do recently. mclennan resists the urge to use complicated language for its own sake, a failing of much of the experimental work I see, while at the same time doing something interesting with the lyric instead of the same old same old. Lots of good jokes, which have been making their way into poetry more and more in this country over recent years. Simple, deft, use of language, recalling William Carlos Williams, especially in a few pieces, like "the line that mentions another prairie":

the wrong end
of a too short road. her

red red car.

Just a wonderful little book, packed full of great language, one of the best chapbooks I've read for a long long time.

A Painted Elephant by Jill Hartman

A Painted Elephant is another beast, one of those experimental works that revel in complex language. I stated above that this is often to the detriment of the actual poems, but of course this is not always the case. Many fine poets, most obviously Fiorentino, can pull off these language gymnastics. Hartman too, does a fine job with the book. A very funny, very smart work. A long poem about a lonely Indian elephant in the Calgary Zoo who escapes nightly to pursue a doomed romance with a wooden statue of the Maytag Man on 9th Avenue, the text is fun, fanciful, and smart. The language is exquisite, making good use of the kind of words you just want to roll around your tongue for fun in you leisure hours.

My only real complaint about this book is that it contains a narrative but doesn't seem particularly interested in narrative itself. I find this to be a common failing of much CanLit these days, where writers are so hung up on language and their theories that they fail to pay the attention to narrative structure that they should. Pacing is perhaps the first thing to go when a writer gets hung up on playing with words. Hartman's narrative is obscured by the wordplay and the poems don't really contain any dramatic tension. This would be less troublesome if Hartman didn't include chapter title pages which gloss over the action which each chapter claims to contain. Why is she paying all this lip service to narrative when she's obviously more interested in wordplay, which often must be sacrificed to narrative?

It's a fractured narrative, true, but a bit too fractured to really still maintain any narrative thrust. However, this is a mild complaint in the face of such a fun and clever text. I read this book twice through before moving on to my next book and I would recommend it to anyone who wants intelligence without pretension and who is interested in the possibilities of language. A truly imaginative work executed with real skill.

The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios by Yann Martel
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Yann Martel is one of those writers that I was sick of before even picking up his book. I just find it hard to be as enthusiastic as the masses. Usually when I hear about a writer or any artist as much as I heard about Martel, it turns out that it's really a con artist being discussed who has duped the nation into think s/he's the new big thing. So I didn't read anything by Martel until recently. Here is a writer who really deserves the hype. Outstanding work. Both these books are fantastic and stunningly creative. Martel has a great knack for combining thought-provoking, stylish prose with solid characters and bizarre and intriguing plots. Wonderful stuff.

The Facts... is a collection of four short stories, the first of which is a small novella from which the book gets its title. That story is a deeply moving story about two friends writing a story in an attempt to come to terms with the slowly deteriorating health of one character, who is dying of AIDS. Martel has a real power to be touching without being saccharine. The other three stories are excellent, surprising, moving, and cultured works. Manners of Dying is my favourite, a series of letters from a prison warden to a woman relating the execution of her son. Each letter is a modified version of the previous letter. It's a simple tactic used to great effect. The final story in the book, which tells the story of a character listening to the memories of his grandmother which are used to create a homemade mirror through the use of a mirror machine, is the weak point in the book, a bit too sentimental and obvious a metaphor. Still, the story has much to recommend it, in particular its interesting construction, where Martel puts the column to good use. One "okay" story in a series of four might be more damaging were the other three not so powerful. Also, the mirror story is only really poor in comparison to the other works, and more than holds its own against the works of most authors.

Life of Pi is as good as you've heard it is. A perfect story which works on many levels, though the narrator's claim that the story will convince the hearer of the existence of God is true overstatement. Martel seems to forget partway through the book that this was its intention. That said, the book contains flawless prose and boundless imagination. I'm sure everyone knows by now that it is the story of a young boy (Pi Patel) who finds himself shipwrecked on a raft with a live tiger. Pi's struggle to survive is gripping and Martel's prose manages to be both gritty and magical at once. Martel is a huge talent, the kind of writer that makes me angry and jealous. A virtuoso.

Friday, April 01, 2005

stupid computers

for the second time in 4 months, my computer is in the shop. this is the first time for the new computer, not 3 months old. the hard drive is being replaced, it broke for no apparent reason. which means that i have (probably, not 100% sure yet) lost all of my data. sigh.

luckily, i back things up like a mad beast. i'll lose some writing but not too much, hopefully. i don't think i'll lose anything that isn't printed out.

the delay caused by this problem should not affect the Martian Press schedule. both books will still be released on June 6 at McNally-Robinson. possible second launch may be arranged. watch this spot for a sample from Film/making, one of the two Martian Press chapbooks scheduled for release on June 6.