Saturday, May 30, 2009

West Beach Goes Crazy

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Friday, May 29, 2009


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The Peoples Republic of Poetry unveiled a sonnet in Victoria Park, Cobourg, Ontario, yesterday afternoon. The sonnet, designed by poet Wally Keeler, was required to meet the strict zoning regulations of a Shakespearian sonnet configuration. Rhyme Scheme Investigators from the Creative Intelligence Anarchy last month issued a certificate of authenticity affirming that Poet Keeler’s structure meets all of the technical requirements of a sonnet, thereby giving the project the green light.

The sonnet is located along the ‘boardwalk’ delineating parkland from beach sand. It is a choice placement in what many regard as the finest park/beach on the shores of Lake Ontario.

The sonnet has been electronically solar-sensitized to present its face to direct sunlight in the same manner as gluttonous flowers follow the sun with their colourful petal wide-ons. Sunlight absorbed into the black dots generates the energy to rotate the sonnet’s face towards the sun. Little energy is expended to rotate the sonnet, so the surplus is stored and the sonnet feeds from this on overcast days.

Constructed of the finest luminescent faux-ivory, direct sunlight splashes off the sonnet with resplendent radiance regardless of time of day.

“This sonnet was inspired by my first visit to Casino Couplet in Mesopoetamia. I was hot. I had thrown a 7-run roll before Lady Luck turned her back on me. Later that night, the idea for this sonnet came to me by chance,” explained Poet Keeler as he unveiled his sonnet, which has been aptly named, Sonnet By Chance.

“Rhyme scheme investigators have become inured to my application of the sonnet configuration to various objects, rather than words” the poet added.

The rhyme scheme is reflected in the number of black dots per die. Stacked one on top of the other the 14-die conform to the abab cdcd efef gg rhyme scheme, however this sonnet has other attractive features aside from three quatrains and a rhyming couplet.

The ascending numbers as the sonnet is ‘read’ from top to bottom is reflective of the narrative development of a sonnet. The Italian Sonnet which preceded the Shakespearian or English sonnet by several centuries consists of two parts (octave and sestet); the narrative of the octave leads to the volta or ‘turn’ of thought in the sestet.

In the case of Sonnet By Chance, the volta or ‘turn’ resides in the rhyming couplet in which the six dots in the die are turned vertically.

Cleverly, the reverse side of this sonnet reflects the same rhyme scheme in descending order. The left side of the sonnet consists entirely of dice bearing two and three dots and producing a zig-zag effect, whereas the right side consists of four and five and presents a more solid block face.

The first Sonnet By Chance was erected in Heroes Square in Budapest, Hungary in 2006. The documentation of its construction is lovingly maintained in the archives of the Artpool Art Research Centre which also maintains the Homage Sonnet to Marcel Duchamp. Sonnet By Chance was considerably scaled down for the Cobourg erection.

“I’ve always preferred sonnet erections that are strong, sturdy and exceedingly poetent,” said Kathryn McGlynn, a life-long friend of Poet Keeler. “His rhyming couplets are renowned for their rich fecundity.”

“I’ve seen many sonnets in my life, in poetry collections, in specialized anthologies. Poet Keeler is the only one I know to step outside the confines of language to manifest sonnets in 3D, and to apply poetic rhyme schemantras as a principle of design to assorted objects and materials.” said Cobourg poet/photographer Ted Amsden. “It is an extraordinary application of simile – this is like that.”

Poet Keeler has been exploring variations of poetic configurations (haiku, limerick, sonnet) and applying them to assorted objects and data. Some of his sonnets are configured statistics and became part of a series he called Sonnets From The Computerese, a minor take on the title of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets From The Portugese.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A First Look at Happy Town

Port Hope is clearly recognizable in this upcoming ABC network program slated for fall release



The 16th Annual Student Exhibition (May 15 – June 20) is currently making a fine display of itself at the Art Gallery of Northumberland (AGN) in Victoria Hall. The art is created by students from grades 9 through 12 from schools throughout Northumberland County.

This is seed bed art, by students flexing their imaginations as well as stretching their techniques and media. Exhibitions such as this present a wide variety of art, from the well executed tried and true, to recklessly manifested originality.

Dorette Carter, Curator/Director of the AGN wrote “For many of the participating students this will be their only exhibition in a public art gallery, for others it will be the first of many exhibitions in their careers. We as consumers of their art must acknowledge the skill, vision and interpretation of these emerging artists. Art plays an important role in all of our lives, and it is reassuring to know that there is a generation of young artists that will enter into the public discourse that is the world of art and what it does for society.”

The exhibit contains two works from each grade representing the nine participating schools. This sets up a wide variety of media forms – there is no doubt that there will be something that will enrich the casual onlooker.

The most outstanding piece is that of Kate Hunter, a grade 11 student at CDCI West. The piece was given a place of honour that further set off the brilliance of the piece. Called Pinned, the painting consists of acrylic paint of canvas. Ms Hunter writes, “This girl feels like she will be the next one pinned and examined by people. She is afraid of being a specimen.”

Aside from the well-balanced execution and detail of the painting, Ms Hunter’s creative cleverness extended to placing a small pearl tipped pin into each insect, in the same manner as they are mounted and displayed in a museum. The button in the upper left is sewn to the canvas, and the key, which is not painted, but an actual object, is fastened with a fine strand of wire. The attention to consistent detail is illuminated by the fact that Ms Hunter has painted the shadow of the key directly onto the canvas. It would have been incredibly rich if the people who mounted the painting on the wall, adjusted the lighting to conform to the painted shadow; unfortunately, it displays a double shadow, the painted one and the real one from lighting.

Sara Michelle Ouellet and Myriah Thomson, both grade 11 students of Clarington Central Secondary School, were given a bare bones assignment by their teacher; to construct art from hand-scripted words.

Ms Ouellet produced Dazed and Amazed, using pen and ink. She said this artwork “was inspired by the 60’s mod scene. It has a very modern look to it and has a lot of contrast. It displays emotion as well as a fusion statement.”

Ms Ouellet displays an incredibly detailed piece with a perfect balance of busyness and white space. The work is delicate yet robust, powerful whether viewed several feet back or up-close. The line drawing is created by hand-scripting multiple synonyms of the words ‘dazed’ and ‘amazed’

Myriah Thomson’s piece, Bright Eyes, took off from the same platform to produce an outstandingly striking image. She writes, “Using a micrograph technique the focal point is the little girl’s eyes, as she expressed child-like shock.” Again, this artist has incredible control of proportions. The image, composed of hand-scripted words, displays a talent that high-end book publishers would love to have in their stable.

Lili Vahamaki, a grade 12 student from Port Hope High School, produced a mixed media piece called Crow. The title comes from a small silhouette of a crow, yet the painting consists largely of portraiture, a young woman?man? with sharp-edged hair and softly textured skin. The mixed media comes into play with fabric around the neck of the protagonist. A wooden twig is gingerly placed into the painting – the crow balances on its tip.

Laura Alessandrini, grade 9 from Trinity College School, created paint on paper called ‘Back Lane, Port Hope’ that displays a talent beyond her years. The painting is conventional in many regards, it’s execution displays a talent of perception, a gift for proportion, colour and ambience. It will be interesting to see if her development transcends this early skill and explores more creative explorations of media.

Adam Bachmaier, grade 12, Port Hope High School, went all male with his creation and constructed an 18-wheeler transport truck out of wood, (painted) some metal. The piece is called ‘Fueling Our Country’ and adds a bit of caustic satire by constructing the exhaust fumes out of Canadian cash.

The applied paint does not conceal the woodness of the piece. It is uncertain if this was deliberate, or the piece was done in haste and a second or third application of paint was declined.

Brandon Clark is another grade 12 student from Port Hope High School displaying acrylic on canvas in ‘Cyclist City.’ The streetscape is barren of all vehicular traffic, including bicycles. The image is geometrically standard fare, disappearing in the centre of the image. There is an ambiance of empty heat in this image, however, I have been a cyclist in the downtown of Toronto for almost 40 years, and the absence of ‘grit’ in Clark’s painting diminishes the feel of the piece.

There is always room for creative whimsy in a group art exhibition and Serena Leszczynski, of Clarington Central Secondary School, provides it with ‘Monster Birdhouse’. She says, “This is a piece inspired by Tim Burton [movie director]. I love his work and how he creates works of evil-looking but friendly monsters.”

Emma Potts, a grade 9 student at Cobourg District Collegiate, east, produced a mixed media piece called, ‘Anger Is An Energy’. She says, “Punk isn’t dead – as long as there are frustrated teenagers, there’s punk. You can’t get rid of it that easily.” It would be interesting to know her response to that assertion 20 years hence. This is a playful and insolent production, with t-shirts declaring that they hate Dark Side of the Moon. There is considerable text (in broken portions) which suggest a number of inside jokes that only a select few will be aware of, and the unsuspecting public views as randomness.

Max Rabkin, grade 10 from Trinity College School, displays a collage/drawing called, ‘In The Spirit of Gris’. A very well-balanced and proportioned piece, the collage contains a single page from a phone book, which starts with the name of ‘Mockett' and ends with ‘Mohammad’. I wonder of this was a deliberate choice?

Quinn Keiffer, grade 11, CDCI West, ‘Fortune Favours The Bold’ says, “In my drawing, I incorporated the Scottish coat of arms because that is where I am from and the Bahamas coat of arms because that is where I would like to travel to. The plants and animals I have chosen all have unique physical characteristics. I wanted to emphasize them by using bold colours.”

Melissa McKinnon, grade 12, East Northumberland Secondary School, produced a wonderful ‘Figure Drawing’. She writes, “Capturing movement effectively with the addition of different medias is fun and a passion of mine. The overall finished product captures one’s attention and is quite effective in portraying my emotions as well as the subject’s.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

No wonder Northumberland Today readership is declining

The professional petulance of the editorialistas of Northumberland Today continues;

Last week, Northumberland Today published an 313-word editorial with which I whole-heartedly agreed. Click here to read it: A freak of nature , Point of view , May 13, 2009. The editorial ended with this sentence: "A word of caution to the politicians who so hated the term 'frink' applied to the rink/fountain project: go with 'water feature', it becomes a 'freak'."

I sent a 53-word letter-to-the-editor (below) to offer a better description of the frinkenstein monstrosity. Below is the letter in its entirety that Northumberland Today decided should not grace its mediocre pages. No wonder the readership of Northumberland Today continues to decline.

"The Viewpoint, A Freak of Nature, May 13 asserted that politicians hated the term “frink” to describe the rink/fountain project. The author of The Viewpoint failed to step beyond their mediocrity, thinking of themself as a clever wit by calling it a “freak”. It is more appropoetic to call it a freakenstein monster."

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Northumberland Today continues to be a dumpster for bloated mediocrity.

I was bored from Grahame Woods’ column, “Those were the days” (May 12) about his early macho motoring days which evolved into a lifetime of guzzling gas and contaminating my breathing space. There wasn’t the slightest remorse for his collaboration in the auto-culture that paved over paradise and put up parking lots, that supported suburbs that swallowed farmland, that financed Middle East dictatorships.

The column displayed continued pride in the I-was-cool-before-anyone-else syndrome. This dime-a-dozey tale is typically 20th century Americaca.

This is my far-more-cool-before-anyone-else tale.

I never possessed a car nor desired such. Back in the day in Cobourg, I watched puffed up cool dudes drive their egos back and forth between the then Dairy Queen at University/William, and the east collegiate, cruisin’ for babes.

So there I was, a young man from the lower working class, with a CCM no-speed bike. Babes? How could I impress babes? Poetry. Great gushing gobs of it.

“I want to translate pain into a prayer; if it is answered, the miracle will be your laughter.”

It brought Dr Alec Lucas, head of English Dept, McGill University, to Cobourg to discuss a book of my poetry. Then Louis Dudek, (one of the Montreal poets of the 60s that included Irving Layton, A.J.M. Smith, et al) jumped in to collaborate.

Dr Lucas wrote; “Gusto and intensity do not of course make art, but when they are combined, as in his poetry, with an unusual gift for creating images the results are striking. There is nothing here of a fear of words.”

Poetry was a babe magnet. It wasn’t the book; it was the lyrics and images that stroked their sensitivities.

“I use question marks as much as I can when I write of love because they are the shape of sleeping women who want to keep secrets.”

I didn’t need to display purchased items to turn heads. I had natural fair trade talent. I could take breath away without spewing carbon monoxide. My office and studio was inside my head. I was verbilicious.

“If a poet were the premier of something, what might that something be? Would it be a nation of obedient poetry lovers? Would the national militia consist of mighty tulips armed with colour and sunshine? Would the national anthem be a long joyful sigh after love? Would the Union of Pollen Producers go on strike demanding higher rates of sunlight and more elaborate fringe benefits such as lighter showers and heavier dew?”

A pretentious convertible as an ego extension wasn’t me. My stanzas went from zero to hero in nano-seconds. Jocks could flex their biceps. My stanza operating procedure was to flex my imagination and waste pulp frictioneers with 45 calibre metaphors and surface-to-sentence similes. Other guys pressed pedal to metal; I pressed pen to paper.

“Put your poem in its upright position. Close your eyes and imagine a nation made entirely of imagination. Units of verse of the unitverse, the poetariet of the Peoples Republic of Poetry, came charging at the drop of a poem, singing the Battle Hymn of the Poetic. En garde."

Pontiacs are mediocrity personified, but Poetry is Poetency! There ain`t a vehicle manufacturer that can beat that.

“She was the fire I always wanted to play with.”

Those were my days, and I still have them in rich abundance.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


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The following image comes from an exhibition I attended at the New York Public Library. The show was entitled: CENSORSHIP, 500 Years of Conflict. The show was June 1 -- October 15, 1984. A very appropoetic year.