Tuesday, 15 May 2018

CanLit

The sphere of influence of Canadian literature operates around me by virtue of my place of residence and my education. Not always does a Canadian writer give off Canadian vibes, whatever those vibes might be. Canada, like many nations, comprises regional cultures and political entities, and to say one regional entity constitutes Canadianness means ignoring the uniqueness of other regional cultures. I know some Canadians resent having to read about rural life in the prairies, or pioneer life in Ontario, or urban life in Quebec, or coastal life in Newfoundland. In any event, these cliches dissolve upon close inspection. Nowadays, Margaret Atwood is the most famous Canadian writer, but not everyone knows she's Canadian: she signifies as a science fiction writer and social activist. Nevertheless, her entire corpus reflects an awareness and critique of the cliches of Canadian literature (pioneer life in Canada, urban life in Ontario).

One way to look at Canada is as a northern place whose political identity cemented itself after the humanist revolutions of Europe and, especially, the republican experiment of the United States of America. Technological innovation permitted an influx of nationalities onto its shores from all over the world; indeed, the young Canada encouraged immigration to cement its existence as a state, at first within the model of the nineteenth-century nationalism and later in the looser notion of a community of persons agreeing to identify as a group so as to participate in the globalized world.

The cultural traits of this country derive from the co-occurrrence of multiple cultures arriving within a politically designated boundary and commingling. First were the numerous indigenous peoples, whose societies were not monolithic and thus not easily roped into one category, though many Canadians have tried. Next were French merchants and farmers, and then the nations under the umbrella of the United Kingdom, itself comprising English, Scottish, and Irish peoples. Not to be underestimated is the role of American immigrants, whether the imperial loyaltists during the American war of independence or the escaped slaves and their descendents before, during and after the American war between North and South. Twentieth and twenty-first century waves of immigration have altered this nineteenth-century compendium of cultures even further.

Canadian literature reflects the country's multicultural and multilingual history and sociology.  I define the literature of Canada as writings with a bent towards the art and craft of writing, rather than writing deployed primarily for the purpose of other disciplines--commerce, government, marketing, law, and scientific and technological innovation, as well as overlaps among these disciplines.


Below are some key sources of information useful to those seeking to learn more about Canadian literature and its writers.

CanLit Guides, maintained by the scholarly journal Canadian Literature
The Canadian Encyclopedia
Magazines Canada  
The 150 Bestselling Books by Canadian Authors
Canadian bookseller Chapters Indigo's list of Canadian books 
CBC Books 

Here are twelve Canadian writers, a list reflecting, understandably, I hope, my own reading habits and experiences.

Margaret Atwood
Alice Munro
Michael Ondaatje
Lawrence Hill
Rohinton Mistry
Lucy Maud Montgomery
Robert Sawyer
Miriam Toews
Emma Donaghue
Thomas King
Leonard Cohen
Robert Munsch

Monday, 16 April 2018

Light and Shadows Series: Translucent Sculpture to Opaque Sculpture: Part One

My challenges with this project expanded geometrically the more I thought about it. I did not want to alter the appearance of someone else's sculpture for the sake of moral creative rights (the rights of a creator over the use and re-representation of it). I recently attended a talk on Canadian copyright laws, and I am not in the mood to transgress a creator's copyright or patent (as the case may be).

As a result, I faced the prospect of creating a translucent sculpture myself. I have not, however, ever created a sculpture, translucent or otherwise, beyond, I suppose, the occasional papier-mache piece, such as my pencil holder and, years ago, a papier-mache pinata shaped like the Death Star for my then young-son's birthday party.

I decided not to get cutesy with the definition of sculpture, such as considering a poem or short story to be a word sculpture. A sculpture is a work of art in three physical dimensions, I told myself firmly.


Not being someone who steers away from a Quixotic battle (e.g., PhD in English literature), I did some research into translucent or transparent media suitable for sculpture. Using the internet, of course, I came up with the following possibilities:

tape
glass
wire
clear (translucent) resin
balloons


I had a balloon animal phase when my son was younger (the same time I was making Death Star pinatas), so that medium at least I can say I have experience with. The resin method has the best transferability from translucent to opaque, however, since I can use the same mold to make two different pieces, one translucent and one opaque.  Glass can be painted over, as I suppose, can balloons.

I have some decisions make. Stay tuned for Part Two.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Shadows and Light: Positive connotations to negative connotations

My Shadows and Light project leads to a medium much more familiar to me: words.

 The Diction Switch up stage, the third in the series, involves changing a section of writing so that words with positive connotations are replaced with synonyms with negative or "tragic" connotations.

A connotation is a meaning of a word that implies or suggests an attitude or moral stance, as opposed to the denotation of a word, which is more like a dictionary definition. For example, a woman can be a lady, a broad, a dame, a dyke, a wife, a harlot, a female, a mother. Although these terms have a similar referent (a female human) at their cores, some of these words have positive associations, while others have negative associations, while others have neutral or mixed (both, either/or) connotations depending on the context and on the speaker or audience. The exercise asks not to substitute entirely new denotations of a word but instead to switch to a word with the same general denotation but with negative connotations.

I am choosing two origin texts: one is someone else's writing, and the other is mine. For the exericse to work, the words in the original must already lean towards having positive denotations and connotations, or else the switch will not be noticeable. Finding phrases with positively denotated words is not that hard when it comes to someone else's writing: some many good poets write about more or less happy topics. The hard part is my own writing, since I am not prone to avoiding ideas and words with negative connotations.

 I. Poem by Another Writer

Original: "Upon Julia's Clothes" by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

When as in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then (me thinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes, and see
That brave vibration each way free,
O how that glittering taketh me!

My notes:

I aspired to keep the basic sense but also the meter and rhyme scheme--iambic tetrameter in rhyming triplets--but I decided to allow myself to deviate as I desired from the language and culture of a seventeenth century Devonshire vicar, such as Herrick was.

Revision: Julia in Shadows

When in burlap my Julia flees,
Then (I brood) how achingly speeds
The transformation of her guise.

Later, when I wince at the futility
of her swings at fate, the memory
of her glares steals peace from me.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Major Light, Minor Shadows: Changing a Song from Comedy to Tragedy, Part Two

I did my transposition from comedy (major) to tragedy (minor), as discussed in my January post.

Here is my original "Walk on By."

My playing is yikes!, I know. 

Below is my transposition from the original G major key to the G natural minor key. The transposition to a natural minor lowers the third, sixth and seventh degrees one half-tone.

That is, where once there was  E, B and F# is now Eb, Bb, and F.

The A section

G A B   A B   A B   G C C B  B    B   A G A  G A G A F# C C B becomes

G A Bb A Bb A Bb G C C Bb Bb Bb A G A  G A G A F   C  C Bb

And the B section

E  E   D E    D B   B   B   A A A A G B   D E   E  E    F# D B   B   B   A A A B  A D  becomes

Eb Eb D Eb D Bb Bb Bb A A A A G Bb D Eb Eb Eb F   D Bb Bb Bb A A A Bb A D

The accordion playing me does not do left hand chords well.  On accordions, chords are built into single buttons.

Writing everything down helps me.


D  D  C                                              G  D   D
B  A  G                                              E   B  A
G  F# E for Major Key A section      C  G  F# for Major Key B section    leads to

D    D  C                                              G    D     D
Bb  A  G                                              Eb   Bb   A
G    F  Eb  for Minor Key A section   C     G     F    for Minor Key B section

Below is my playing of the tragic version of "Walk on By"

Edmonton: Unbound book launch

Edmonton: Unbound is a new book published by my writer's group, the Edmonton Writers Group. Our launch was on Sunday, January 8, at Edmonton Public Library's Enterprise Square branch, the temporary home of the main downtown branch while the downtown library is under renovation.

All the stories are set in Edmonton. Not surprisingly, The Talus Dome inspired two of the stories.

As was the case for EWG's previous book, Between the Shelves, all proceeds go to Edmonton Public Library.

The book is for sale at Amazon. Getting in touch with Edmonton Writers Group (or with me, for that matter) can also get you a copy.


Brad OH Inc has posted interviews with the authors. I am among one of those authors. My contribution to the anthology is called "The Lot."