North of Invention, oragnized by Sarah Dowling and Charles Bernstein, brought ten Canadian poets together at Kelly Writers House for two days of lectures, discussion and poetry readings. An additional two days of programs followed at New York's Poets House. The Philadelphia portion was streamed live and will be re-envisioned via the Kelly web site at a later date. Sound files will be up at Penn Sound, too.
Lisa Robertson started things off, introduced by Julia Bloch, with a talk that served as a great frame for the debates that were to follow. She was followed by talks that ranged from formal presentations to performance work from M. Nourbese Philip, Stephen Collis, Christian Bok and Nicole Brossard (who I had last seen at the University of Maine reading with Fred Wah, who was here in Philadelphia as well). Starting with Collis's presentation, there was a running sub-debate over the claims made by contempory conceptual poets. Bok closed out the afternoon with a tremendously fun walk-through of his recent work using the structure of a virus to generate a poetic exchange. During the Q & A, Bok said that he was communicating with life "in its own language." Fortunately for his audience (and for his poem), it appears that life has adopted the Roman alphabet. Unfortunately for me, I seem to have caught the virus, and was too ill to come back for the evening readings.