Starnino vs. Ball (well, not really)

I’ve become aware of an odd impression people seem to have, the impression that Carmine Starnino and I are opposed wills. To be sure, I disagree with Starnino about many things. Most of those things involve modern poetry. Anyway, in part because of an interview and a review that mimics Starnino’s rhetorical bombast, people seem to think that I have it out for Starnino, and that I disagree with him on everything.

In fact, I agree with most of what Starnino writes — except for his views on the so-called “avant-garde” (I have come to prefer the term “post-avant” from Gregory Betts’s wonderful Avant-Garde Canadian Literature: The Early Manifestations). Anyway, what gets me thinking about Starnino today is the recent online publication of his essay “Steampunk Zone” by Lemon Hound, which includes mention of myself and Clockfire. This online reprint completes a little “arc” of sorts of pieces by Starnino and myself that (in my view) can be fruitfully read together to delineate where I stand from where Starnino seems to stand. I think careful readers will find that we stand closer than one might expect, although with important moments where we jet in opposite directions.

So, without further ado, here’s a reading list for you:

* Maisonneuve publishes Carmine Starnino’s essay on bpNichol, “Captain Poetry” — This essay reviews BookThug’s republication of The Captain Poetry Poems Complete by bpNichol

* My talk with Maurice Mierau, also in Maisonneuve, responding to Starnino’s essay on Nichol

* Lemon Hound reprints Carmine Starnino’s essay “Steampunk Zone” — This essay also appears as the introduction to The Best Canadian Poetry (in English) 2012, edited by Carmine Starnino, which includes my poem “Salvador Dali Lama” (reprinted from Branch) … I was very impressed, when Starnino was compiling this “Best of,” that he contacted me to ask what publications he should read to make sure he didn’t overlook the “best” experimental writing. I haven’t had time to read through the collection yet, but I did notice that a longlist at the back includes work by derek beaulieu, Louis Cabri, and Rachel Zolf — although he doesn’t actually include them in the shortlist/collection, this is still an acknowledgment that would likely surprise many.

* Those two essays by Starnino are included in his latest collection of prose, Lazy Bastardism. Maurice Mierau, my co-reviewer in the above interview, asked me to review the collection for The Winnipeg Review, and so my review of Lazy Bastardism is also online.

Judging from the limited response my review has received, only Maurice Mierau, Sina Queyras, and Carmine Starnino himself seem to have actually gleaned that it is a rather generous review. Starnino sent me a nice note about it — what I always say about Starnino, who I’ve never met, is that although I disagree with him often and in public, I get along with him in private/online insofar as we are acquainted, in large part because I never get the impression that he is about to cry over a criticism. I have never taken criticism personally (although, to be fair, I have been lucky with reviews for the most part), and so I appreciate that quality in others, especially since hurt feelings are too often flown like flags in Canadian literature.

I was in Calgary recently having supper with my friend derek beaulieu and he noted that although he is hardly a fan of Starnino’s in any way, he appreciates (in a general way) the Starnino project of boldly saying what you think about that poetry stuff. beaulieu noted that the trend among experimentally-minded reviewers/authors is to quote, quote, quote, and so we find out what Derrida thinks but not what they think. You can’t accuse Starnino of saying what somebody else thinks, no matter what you might think of his opinion, that’s for sure.

Anyway, a reading list of sorts for the five people who actually care what Starnino thinks of Ball and vice versa.

Subscribe to my newsletter for a free eBook, 5 Steps to Create and Maintain Your Writing Schedule, occasional updates, and the secrets of life and death and time!