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Prairies Lit Wish List

By Ariel Gordon
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tagged: #givecdn
Being the list of books this Prairies-based poet might want for Xmas. Being also a list of books I missed when they first came out.
Workbook

Workbook

Memos & Dispatches On Writing
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Excerpt

I am not bored at the moment, though it might be better if I were. Boredom might mean I was lagging and loafing my way slowly toward a fresh jag of creative work, creative excitement—a poem, a story, the opening lines of a novel, lines that might lead anywhere, into the expectant offing, off the edge of the storyboard into a sandbox as vast as the Sahara. (I chose writing because I saw no reason that adults should ever cease to play.) Instead I‘m expending another day as a compliant, efficient functionary—earnest secretary to my own little career. (If you’ll excuse me, another email just blipped into view. I’m going to have to click and skim over, so I can glean that small, fleeting fix of satisfaction that comes from purging the inbox. A sense of accomplishment!—the ensuing narcotic calm!—that deeply licit, Lutheran drug our time–ridden culture starts pushing on us in kindergarten, or even sooner.)

______

 

I’m afraid that boredom, at least of a certain kind, may be disappearing from the world. And this potential truancy has me worried, partly for the sake of my daughter and her generation, but also—how unsurprising—for myself. Myself and other writers. I mean, the minute I get bored now I check my email. There’s often something new there—maybe something rewarding, a note from a friend, some news from my publisher. And if there’s nothing there, there’s the internet. For almost all of my writer friends it’s the same: like me, they constantly, casually lateralize into the digital realm. Some of them also have cable TV (I don’t), so if email, YouTube and other web excursions fail to gratify, they can surf a tsunami of channels. Or else play video games. Whatever. The issue here is screen media. The issue is that staring into space—in that musing, semi–bored state that can precede or help produce creative activity—is impossible when you keep interposing a screen between your seeing mind and the space beyond. The idea is to stare at nothing—to let nothingness permeate your field of vision, so the externally unstimulated mind revs down, begins to brood and muse and dream.

What a live screen presents is the opposite of nothing. The info and interactivity it proffers can be vital, instructive, entertaining, usefully subversive and other good things, but they also keep the mind in a state of hyperstimulation. All the neurological and anecdotal evidence backs up this claim.

The twenty–first century brain may be verging on the neural equivalent of adrenal collapse.

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Just as an hour of boredom—of being at loose ends and staring into space—can serve as precursor to a child’s next spate of creative work/play ("work, " I write, because a young child’s profession is to play), so an adult’s month of brooding can open into a year of purposeful creativity.

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Boredom is the laboratory where new enthusiasms ready themselves, beakers and test tubes bubbling quietly over Bunsen flames no larger than pilot lights, spectral figures in lab coats moving among them, speaking in hushed voices. Not one of these figures has the bored dreamer’s own face—the face the dreamer wears during the day.

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Why it's on the list ...
Steven Heighton declared at the age of 28 that he was going to make his living from his writing. And he's done it, writing/publishing poetry and fiction and non-fiction. (Yes, I hate him for that too...) So while I usually find writerly tips & tricks overly proscriptive, I've curious to see how he writes the writing life in particular.
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The Matter With Morris
Why it's on the list ...
I have had a handful of lit-crushes over my long/short career. Timothy Findlay, for his insider/outsider stories, for how gentlemanly he was, for how brave he was. Robert Kroetsch, for his vulgar sharpness, for his willingness to say anything, for believing so firmly in play. And David Bergen, whose A Year of Lesser was dark and flawed and sexy. The Matter With Morris comes in between Bergen's amoral The Time in Between and his lowfi The Age of Hope, so I'm hoping it will help me bridge the two extremes.
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A Book of Great Worth

A Book of Great Worth

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : jewish
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Why it's on the list ...
Dave Margoshes is a trickster figure. He'll say ANYTHING. I reviewed a few of his poetry titles last year and I hafta say, I was sort of shocked at how tender the poems were, how wonderfully his poetry treated women. So I'm greatly looking forward to this one...it feels like the book he's been meant to write his whole career.
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Hummingbird
Why it's on the list ...
John Wall Barger is my Palimpsest Press-mate. Which means that I'm duty-bound to read his books. But it's been, what, six months since this came out? (Palimpsest has a 3 for 2 sale right now, so I went Peepshow-Hummingbird-Hard Ass...)
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Peepshow with Views of the Interior, A
Why it's on the list ...
This book, like Shawna Lemay's Calm Things, was one of the reasons I originally submitted to Palimpsest. Except, unlike Calm Things, I've never ACTUALLY read this book. (But that's changing! I just ordered it!)
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Bedtime Stories for the Edge of the World
Why it's on the list ...
Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan are the smartest women I don't-really-know. Since 1989, they've collaborated on performances, films, videos, publications and public art projects...and now, short fiction. I can't always make it out to the shows they curate at the WAG, but I CAN pick up this book.
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