20 February 2007

Convincing Americans & Military Wurst

Yesterday I had tea/coffee with Jim Smith for the first time in a couple of years. Time before that had probably been five years earlier, or more. Jim was once a poetry hero of mine (as well as a good friend): I still think he wrote the best political poetry this country has ever seen. His books include One Hundred Most Frightening Things, Leonel/Roque, Convincing Americans (published by my Proper Tales Press), and Translating Sleep.

But shortly after he turned 40, Jim quit writing, vanished from the lit scene, and enrolled in law school. Now he's a lawyer for the province and doing pretty well for himself. Me, I followed the literary trail and I'm still trying to figure out how to make a living at it.

It was great to see Jim, and I hold out hopes that he's secretly still writing, or that he'll write again someday. I did manage to squeeze a poem out of him for the 40th-anniversary issue of This Magazine, and also for my anthology of love poems for GWB.

A little later, on Yonge Street, I saw Steve Venright across the road and called out his name. He was between shifts at the restaurant he serves at, so we managed to fit in a visit at, of all places, the fucking Hard Rock Cafe. When I ordered my beer, the server asked if I'd like it in a "souvenir mug you can take home with you." I declined. Steve and I talked about 9/11 conspiracies and David McFadden, the two perhaps related.

Over the past couple of days I've been absorbed in Javier Cercas's novel Soldiers of Salamis. It's a hugely award-winning novel of the Spanish Civil War, and the translation, by my friend Anne McLean, has also won some awards. I'd tried digging into this book a couple of times before, but it never took; this time it was like a whirlpool. I'm two-thirds of the way through, and there've been moments in it that have practically winded me. I sense that the last third is going to hold some incredible revelations. Something of it reminds me of Gunnar Kopperud's novel A Time of Light: perhaps it's the complex focus on the "evil" protagonist during wartime.

To wind down, I picked up season 2 of 24. Dana and I have our work cut out for us.

Over and out.


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