Occam’s Razor 2016

Celebrated the launch of Occam’s Razor with its faithful dedicated brilliant editorial staff this evening. Wow they done good. So proud of them.

I’m faculty advisor, which in some situations might mean doing lots, but here’s mostly meant saying, “you, go be you; oh and keep a style sheet.”

Soon, a link to the online issue, in all its glory. For now, a TOC to titillate or intimidate you – maybe both – and brief remarks I made at a podium.

Check these Western moves out.

  • The Beneficence of Gayface
  • Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment Screening
  • The Historical Biogeography of Phototropic Consortium
  • Perspectivalism and Blaming
  • Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Cause to Treatment
  • Deterministic Chaos: Applications in Cardiac Electrophysiology

And what I thought to say, or close to it.

Ockham’s Razor. Called a razor because it shaves away the excess, the unnecessary. Named for William of Ockham, a medieval Scholastic theologian whose shapeliness of mind may still be of help to us.

An early form of his razor goes like this. “Plurality must never be posited without necessity.” Got that?

Or – other things being equal, the simpler explanation is the better one.

Or – don’t add entities to your story of what happened you don’t have to.

For instance, when your iPhone stops working for no reason you know, you could blame leprechauns for it, but you don’t, because that would be extra.

In other words – cut through bullshit, your own or another’s, as best you can, in every way you can.

The world is complex enough; don’t add needless complications.

The more complications you cut through, the more the magnificent complexity of the life we share here together steps out.

And these guys get that. Their work shines forth their understanding of it. Look at this cover, at the edge of this cloudbank here. It’s complex. Puffs and crannies. And you know that if you zoomed up to it, it would be just as complex, six inches from your face. Wisps and droplets.

The only way that works – the only way complexity can resound like that – is when everything unnecessary has been let fall away. Look at this design. Clouds and empty space and a pebble moon. Complexity meets simplicity, and right at that edge, there’s life, and light.

Anyway, heeding Ockham’s principle, I’m going to be brief.

Does this journal matter? Is it more than just a needless complication?

I think it is. I think it does. Students at Western are doing some phenomenal work in their classes, their research, their independent projects. And all too often it gets handed in, graded, filed away, forgotten. No one in their class sees it – let alone other students in their department, other departments, other colleges.

I think of Occam’s Razor as the geekiest coffee shop on earth. It’s the place where the papers and projects that otherwise might not meet come together, share the same space, relax a little, caffeinate a little, share their intelligence with each other. Calculus chills with social science methodology. Cultural studies flirts with chaos theory.

Geeky coffee shop, or, the university, remembering why it came to be. There are no grades in these pages, no student learning outcomes, no bureaucracy of any sort. This is inquiry not institution. Curious, restless, meticulous.

I’m honoured and grateful to have been a small part of it.

Inanna, a chapbook

Some nice news! A swatch of poems from Dumuzi will be published as a chapbook by Little Red Leaves. I’ve loved their books (fabric covers, hand sewn, venturesome poems) since I first came across them. Sew colour me thrilled. (Sorry, terrible.)

Title to come but I’m thinking simply Inanna Sent. The poems are a graphic novella, collaged out of junk mail, that tells the story of Inanna’s trip to the underworld. Thought I’d post a few panels, final versions. Here’s the first –

Panel 1

The strata are the linings of security envelopes. Inanna and her sidekick, the scancodes you see on autosorted mail. Her jaunty cap, the Bank of America logo, while he sports the NBC paycock (Pound’s spelling). The speaker is one of the galla, demons of the underworld; to them’s given the work of narration. They’re all blown up out of these:

scan code

If you get your pareidolia on, that can look like a postmodern Roman frieze, gods, monsters, epic struggle. Next panel.

Panel 2
As Inanna gets deeper in, her logo-feather-flame hat dirties and darkens. Small serendipities: with each new panel, I lifted the logo from the last with a letter opener and taped it down on the new one. Each move brought more scuffing, each layer of tape more obscuration and road dust. One more.

Panel 3
Scancodes and photocopy noise. Have written some more about Inanna, what and why she means to me, the space I was in (an intense one) making these poems, here and here and here and here. And a bit at the end here. If curious. (Old images there, the script far less open, but in the spirit of blog, I’m going to leave as was.)

Oh and the grainy oblique smudges above “Her sad eyes”? Bits of pinewood, my writing desk, pulled up by scotch tape I’d stuck there momently while I spotted a paperscrap just right. The meaning of the whole is, make peace with your accidents. (Not in a hey-do-this sort of way. In a note-to-self sort of way.)

Tried to explain the desk splinters to Stephen Burt when he asked me about my work. Talk about happy accident! But, he seemed not so impressed. Oh well.

If you’ve made it this far, thoughts on the title? I sent it out as Junk Inanna Down. That now feels like a hostile mouthful. Do you think so too? What about Inanna Sent? Too mild? Comment away …

The Making of a Book

In the spirit of reuse – the description for my summer course.

ENG 459: Editing and Publishing: The Making of a Book

Making a book takes work—and it’s not done when the writing’s done. Still to come, the queries, the subs, the pitches, the proposals. The rejection slips. The acceptance letter! Revisions. Cover art, layout, permissions. Galleys, copyediting, proofs and proofreading. Marketing. ARCs. The launch party. The book tour. Would you believe it’s actually kind of fun? (It’s your book.) (Whether you’re author or editor or designer or marketing intern—it’s yours.) (Also at key points there are wine and cheese.)

This course is designed with two sorts of student in mind. One, those who’d like, when the time is right, to see their own work in book form—knowing that books can take a gazillion forms, from mass market paperbacks to e-books to small–press run poetry volumes to one-of-a-kind artist’s books writ in oxblood on paper made of pond algae. (Wondering why the hyphen between “small” and “press” looks too long? It’s an en-dash. Wonder why it’s there? Take this course, you’ll find out.) Other, students interested in careers in the publishing industry. And here, while the book will be our focus, it won’t be our bound; knowledge you gain, skills you develop (e.g., copyediting, proofreading), will be useful in careers across the publishing industry.

Expect lots of hands-on exercises; in-class work on your peers’ drafts; student presentations on how books come to be; student-designed lessons on grammar and punctuation; and a final research project in which you explore a possible path for yourself, as author, editor, agent, designer, or TK, in editing and publishing. Likely texts: Suzanne Gilad, Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies. Sarah Parsons Zackheim and Adrian Zackheim, Getting Your Book Published for Dummies.

Now I’ve got to design the damn thing.

Aasemic writing

Asemic writing is writing you can’t read. Semic writing is writing you can. (A back formation, there’s no such word.) I am at play, finessing the difference, with aasemic writing.

A joy of asemic writing is that it draws all the promise of meaning-making, all the whole multifoliate interpretive apparatus, into activity, w/o resolution or conclusion. It’s Steinian indeterminacy, in not the syntax but the graphemes. It’s the made mark as blastocyst, as stem cell, as potential to become. Is it a Deleuzian plateau? Maybe, still sweating that concept out.

So the aasemic script I’ve been playing with is neither indeterminate nor determinate. (GOD you can take this non-dualist thing too far, mm? how’s this not just centrist squish?) It starts with a journal page transcribed in a projective hand – descender a plunge, cross-stroke a jailbreak. Then I wave or shiver it over the photocopier light bar as it slides under, gathering data in.

All this is lead in to say, The New Post-Literate has posted a few, and that makes me happy, cuz they’re the first bits of Overject to be published, other than here, which don’t count. Here’s the link.

And here are a few other recent offerings there I think especially cool.

The home page of The New Post-Literate where it’s all to be found.

A lot of my trouble w/ academic parlance comes from trying to translate Buddhist vocabulary and values to a non-Buddhist circumstance. Most of the rest of it comes from being a lazy and a lousy Buddhist. (The latter’s 90%.)

Feste to Viola, Twelfth Night, “I am [a] corrupter of words.” After they’ve just rung their changes on live, stand, lie. I compared the move on lie to a triple-axle – Viola to Feste, “yo watch this move” – and one of my students found a sextuple axle in it, bam. Post-structuralism, its insights, e.g., words’re banana peels, dates back at least to Shakespeare, if not to Jesus? “On this rock I build my church,” that’s a pun, Jesus is making a funny, I told them, explaining the finger joints of a dactyl, by way pterodactyl. Petros (Peter), petra (rock). Long live the rhizome. Weed shoot that cracks the rock.

One more for Elise Partridge

Hello friends. A three-way conversation between Barbara Nickel, Stephanie Bolster, and myself on the life and work of our loved friend Elise Partridge has now gone live at the Winnipeg Review. It’s to be found here.

And, if you’re curious, I wrote a bit about the challenge and wonderment of the conversation itself here. You can read some more about Elise herself here. And Barb’s wonderful blog is here. Steph doesn’t have a blog but here’s her publisher’s page here. Enjoy, please, do.

I hope Elise’s spirit won’t mind me appending this.

I was invited to a celebration of Rosh Hashanah tonight and we were asked as part of our lovely evening to express an intention for the year to come. Mine was, to be more patient with others and myself. What’s this have to do with Elise? She wasn’t especially patient with herself or others. In fact I loved her impatience, it was was wise, it was holy! At least when she was skewering someone’s pretensions it was, very.

But my impatience is most often crap. (And that, that’s impatience with impatience. Yeah baby gotcha.) And I’ve just now started sitting zazen again, after years off the cushion, and I’m feeling what a difference it makes to be okay with not getting it exactly right all the time. And a little bit more patient with me, I’m a little more so with some other, too. Does seem to go that way.

Came as this a few ago

TD 90V - imageKshanti paramita = the perfection of patience, or patience beyond patience. Patience so sunk in itself you might not recognize it as patience. That was Elise, too. Barb, Steph, tell me, wasn’t it?

Occam’s Razor

The student journal for which I serve as faculty advisor is, a bit belatedly, hanging out among the electrons. Occam’s Razor, we got Burroughs’s cutups, Harry Smith’s psychedelic animations, Coriolanus, social media in China, diatoms in your gas tank.

These guys done a great job in, oh let me tell you, some trying conditions. Or I’ll skip the tell you and you’ll trust me. For reals though check it out. Asses are kicked in it.

Dumuzi at an end

I finished Dumuzi this morning. There are tweaks to come, but he’s ready to start going out, muddy face sheepish grin and all.

The first poem in the book is

At Leaf

A son of my
first mind, was
at leaf, wind on
raw skin, fist
of one thirst
snowmelt where
hemlocks over-
hanging shiver
round of what
no one had
made, made
of what no

The title poem is


Let no state be
enemy. Wet, dry, agon.
Work an inmost first
flower mutedly.

Wind blows light about
the life (hemlocks) from
which art is not apart

nor of a part. What a
rock thought to do
was rain and it

Deer come
out of th

The oldest lines date back to Nov. 1999. A conversation I mis-overheard on the M.V. Quinsam, a ferry plying the route from Gabriola, an island pinched between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland, where I lived in a summer cottage in the off-season

—they thought they had it all but they didn’t
—oh, once you have that you don’t get rid of it
—Monday she goes, an ontologist,
                     that’s the specialist

The newest lines date back to last night. An uptight but not incorrect galla reminds Inanna of the terms of her release from the underworld.There's gots The last poem in the book is elegy.


And the image atop is Tammuz by Ardon Mordecai. Sent me years ago by fellow poet and University of Utah alum Timothy O’Keefe. Thank you Tim. I aspire to it as a cover.

And now it’s time to start catching up on what seem years, though are just days, of dishes, laundry, bills. Oh and I believe I have two new courses to teach starting Tuesday. (Really I’m about to start compiling a list of contest deadlines and open reading periods . . . ) Thanks, all, for the kindness of your words, those who have sent some, or of your attending upon these words, which somehow I have felt you doing, I have, and it sustains me, it does.