Poetry to Open Vernon City Council, Monday April 13, 1:30 pm.

As part of the national Mayor’s Poetry Challenge, I will read a poem about steam punk at the Vernon City Hall Council Chambers on Monday, April 13, 2015, at 1 pm. Everyone is welcome!


What is the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge?

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere challenges his fellow mayors across Canada to have a local poet read a poem at the opening of their Council meetings in March or April. The challenge is a celebration of UNESCO’s World Poetry Day (March 21) and National Poetry Month in April.  The purpose is to celebrate poetry, writing, small presses and the contribution of poets and all writers to the cultural life in our communities. It also celebrates libraries, and the work of so many mayors and municipalities to promote the Arts, culture, and literacy and reading.  Click here for the FAQ.

Come and Hear about My New Steam Punk City Project. Vernon from the ground up!


Poet at Work

Schroedinger’s Box

I have started a little site to record and focus a series of explorations in technology and the path of reading in a post-book age. I hope to range widely through cultural, scientific and technological material. The site is schroedingersbox.wordpress.com, and the first post goes like this …

Book Vs. eReader: The Quantum Gist

To find a path to uncertainty, Schroedinger’s Box and Quantum theory, a little cultural background is in order. Today, devices for managing this interface, old and new. Next time, the implications for the development of Quantum Theory. Which are you going to choose? The book?


To keep your interest, this device for programming your mind comes in many colours and textures.



You can continually refresh your book identity with the illusion of newness.



The book itself is a representation of your body, but a body made into a mind object.

Book of Hours

By monks. You contemplate it. It is a mirror.


Note the Christ on the left: mind and body in one. That’s the idea.



You contemplate it. There are two ways of doing that. You can do it to something. For instance, you can think about the body of the book intently and at length, or you can just think intently and at length for spiritual reasons, without it being about the book. In the first case, you are absorbing the form of the book. You become the form, or, rather, lay down a template of bodily form in your mind, which will then fill, according to its shape.



Like this:



(The glass is the book. It is ready to receive… but don’t try putting the wrong thing in there.

Running giraffeIt won’t take. You’ll wind up having to remove it.)


This is one of the dangers of book programming. Its fit with the world is imprecise and biased towards textuality.


In comparison to a physical giraffe, the above representation (or reading) is much like the image below, to be used by children, who get to “colour it in”:



They use a physical representation of embodiment (training the body to become the book), which looks like this:


For people who have become books, it is a lifelong pursuit, as the technology of transposing the book self in the place of the world requires continual refreshing.



The book tries to make the experience enjoyable and new.


In the second case, you are meditating on the content specifically, and letting it wash over you or fill you. This is called “reading”, but it might be called “being written”, as the matter of the book is being laid down in your memory.


If you open it, you get stuff like this:


As you can see, the individual pages of the book are a series of screens, each of which represent the same materialization of spirit as the book as a whole. The example below is the same as the one above. The content is interchangeable.


It’s like fractals. To refresh your mind, here’s a definition:

fractal is a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale. Wikipedia.


Romanesco Broccoli: A Natural Fractal. Source

And then there’s the eBook. It presents itself as a book, but it’s an entirely different body. Notice in the image below how its first characteristic is not to be a body but something a body reaches out and touches.


What it touches is this:



In other words, it is touching an image of a book. It’s not just any image, however, but a particular image of the body of a book called its content, and a specific form of that content which is like an analog tape …


… which continuously unwinds past an observer, which picks up information in the unfolding time-frame dictated by the speed of revolution of the tape reels. This is an expression of Christian time, but a different form of it than seen in the book. In the book, time was represented as a continually repeated series of eternal, timeless body images, or images of incarnation. On analog tape, or the eBook, it is represented as a span of time removed from the world, and given a non-physical beginning and end, an Alpha and Omega, a Genesis and Apocalypse. This is one of the great Christian revolutions, and it is contained and promulgated in the eBook in the form of morphable, or changeable, representations of type, like this:


This is the eBook version of a human body-representation called “Treasure Island”…


The eBook image of this body contains a morphable function, which allows a varying interface. For example, the large clunky text above can be rendered smooth and, well, teeny, like this:


… and anything in-between, in three shades, and a sliding scale of brightness, to make the physical reception of the text fit varying biological characteristics or preferences of the receiving human. Nonetheless, it has replaced the fractal function of the book (a series of screens, leading from “book” down to “page” down to “paragraph” down to “sentence” down to “word” down to “earth”) with a simplified image of fractals (big text or small text), leaving the body, the “reader”, inviolate. It is, in other words, a secular reading of Christian time, which accepts as a characteristic of the universe the unrolling analog tape of the Christian story, written in the earth and not in the perceiving human body, and positing the human body as something not of the world but separate from it. (How else would it remain constant, while controlling the fractals, however simplified they may be?) Fascinating stuff. Where then, in an eReader is the human body? Well, of course, it’s right there all along:


The image above shows a variety of human bodies. You reach your finger forward (it is a kind of physical eye), right into the substance of the mind, and you use the finger to control the rate and appearance of the scroll of time. All things are representations of their age. In the case of the eReader, the content you scroll through is, understandably, given the medium, rented, not possessed, and commercial, rather than given to a body of knowledge. You won’t find an eReader in a hotel room drawer, like your heart in your opened chest.


It is not a heart. It is an interface into a collective group. A book can afford to say “I”. An eBook says “we”, a changeable term, meaning “all people who like broccoli” (for example, strange as that may be), or, more usually, “all people in the world.” “I”, on the other hand, is a scientific representation of a portable scientific point of view, which eliminates other points of view, to turn the world into a representation of its own rules — yes, the book. There are implications of this for quantum theory. More on that next time.

Two Minds

I am thrilled to announce that my book of ghazals, Two Minds, will be released, possibly in September 2015, by Frontenac House as part of their Quartet 2015. As part of the quartet, it will be linked in a dynamic sequence with Basma Kavanagh’s Niche, Zaid Shalah’s Clockwork, and Cassy Wellburn’s Changelings. Two Minds is a collection of poems written in the North American ghazal form pioneered by John Thompson, Phyllis Webb and Robert Bly. This non-rhyming variation of the classical persian and Urdu song form much beloved of Rumi and the sufic mystics coalesces out of the intersection between expressed and intuitiive logic into moments of simple clarity only achievable, perhaps, by such a dance. We haven’t settled on a cover image yet. Until I have one to show you, here’s the Green Man of Görlitz, an old companion, to hold the book in mind.greenman


Nature Morte: A History of Apples in the Okanagan Valley

I have the good fortune of being a part of Christos Dikeakos’ new photography project documenting and deconstructing the death of fruit growing as an aesthetic and cultural response to land in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. Here’s a handsome photo of windfall apples on the cover of the book:


They look rather like Empires, one of the varieties I grafted a lot of back in the 1980s, as we tried to save this industry from the death wish caused by existence in a non-agricultural nation. My role in the book was to write the text, which I call “Okanagan Delicious”. Here are Christos and I meeting at the reception.


Photo: Pauline Petit

And here I am with Kelowna Art Gallery curator Lyz  Wylie. It looks like she’s trying to rein me in, but, really, it’s her tricksterish intelligence coming through.


Photo: Pauline Petit

Here’s a tiny sample of the text:

The summers [in the Okanagan] are dry, yes, but what makes them so is not so much the sun but the seasonal weight of the air. The rain that drizzles out of heavy air in November or March, or which pours in day-long floods in June, or dumps down in five minutes of lightning-induced hail in the nearly weightless air of August, all adds up to about five centimetres a month. That’s not all the water there is, of course. Much more than that falls from the clouds, but it’s reabsorbed by the pressurized dry air long before it strikes the ground. The effect makes for sensational sunsets, with red, orange, yellow and deep purple light undulating in watery sheets against pastel blue mountains. It’s easy to watch it mesmerized for hours. The plants that thrive in these conditions of vanishing water are adapted to cold, heat and drought; they survive by water conservation, careful choice of location or season, speed of maturing, or special cell structures. The Turkish, Georgian, Armenian and Chinese fruits that were spread throughout Europe by the monastic cultures of the Middle Ages — grapes, apples, quinces, pears, cherries, peaches, apricots and plums — lack these adaptations. The vineyards of France, Switzerland and Germany, for example, aren’t planted in the heat; they grow in the fog. Apples thrive best in humid New York, England, Denmark and Germany, not here.


You can get a full introduction to the show at the Kelowna Art Gallery website, or by skipping across the street from that cultural district anchor, the Casino. Here’s a link. The beautiful, full-colour exhibition catalogue is available at the gallery, or at Art Books Canada. Here’s the link, where you can purchase your copy. This is a very beautiful work by a great  Canadian photographer, with texts by Jeff Wall, Claudia Beck, Liz Wylie and Harold Rhenisch.






Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation and You, My Readers and Friends

This post starts with a personal note and then some deep and troubling thoughts on the future of communication and culture within Canada in a time of revolutionary change.

Dear Readers,

I am writing to ask you for your support. I am not asking for money, only for our continued ability to speak with each other in the common space of our country. On July 1, 2014, new Electronic Commerce Protection Regulations in Canada will restrict the ability of writers, artists and musicians in Canada to publish and communicate with their audiences, in a variety of ways, some blunt and some subtly-nuanced. You can read the regulations by clicking here. (I warn you, they are confusing, though.) After July 1, it will remain legal for me to post here, on my other blogs, and on social media, but it will be illegal for me to communicate individually with any of you who are not my direct personal friends unless I have your express written permission, no matter where on Earth you live. The Canadian Radio and Television Commission has the right to determine if you are or are not my personal friend, by seizing my personal computers and, if they deem it necessary, by locking me out of my residence for an unspecified length of time. It’s kind of the opposite of house arrest. If you would like to receive private communications from me, or announcements of future books, readings, or events, please reply to this post or by email to <<rhenisch at telus dot net >> (Be creative with your punctuation and that will work tickety boo.) I will then contact you with a permissions email that meets full legal requirements (Nothing much: It will contain my full address and email address and an opt-out procedure, that’s all, but no need to post that here.) Until then, here are some things to consider:

• Foreign corporations and individuals are exempt from this law. I expect that within a few years a solid percentage of Canadian publishing will be replaced by American publishing, as the new law gives American firms a solid marketing advantage within Canada. Canadian publishing was a 1.8 billion dollar a year business in 2012. (It is currently in a 5-10% decline per year.) Expect that decline to accelerate. By the way, Canadian publishers (including Canadian authors, artists and musicians) will not have the right to market in an unsolicited manner to the United States or any other country, although the Americans will have that right in their dealings with us.

Be assured, I will continue to write from this place and with integrity, and will never resort to spam activities to promote my books. I wish only to be part of a conversation, and hope to continue it with you, my friends and readers, as a part of the cultural life of my community, my country and the world community.

• I think it is reasonable to assume that if Canadian publishing is increasingly American publishing, Canadian authors will increasingly write books of interest to American culture and American readers in order to be sold in Canada, which will be a minor part of their market. This was the case before the Canadian publishing revolution of the 1960s. I think it is reasonable to expect this pattern to be reborn, and Canadian culture to be profoundly transformed by it.

I support writing that is of interest to American culture, but am deeply disturbed that the cultural life of my country is at great risk of being controlled by another country. I will continue to write material that seeks ways forward from this colonialism.

• New marketing methods will arise, perhaps in the form of non-profit societies communicating with their members, or in the form of online magazines. These are allowed to continue communications of a commercial nature (any communication from a writer or artist is liable to be construed as a commercial communication, because it implies some future possible economic activity, such as the sale of a poem, someday, to someone), provided that no single member of the group receives a wage, honorarium, cup of coffee or bouquet of flowers from the organization. Should that be the case, then the groups will have to passively solicit contacts for direct email communications; membership in the organization will not constitute a legal right to receive communications from the organization. Until an alternative form of communication arises, we can expect participation at Canadian literary and artistic events to decline. Once a new form is found, however, I think we will see a new samisdat culture arise, that communicates important arts news without contravening government legislation or incurring extravagant fines and penalties. i expect it will result in a renewed, albeit transformed culture. Creating new communication lists will be slow and difficult, as artists, writers and musicians work on very small incomes and rely on open communication to take the place of large marketing budgets. We will have to learn to work very closely together.

I will continue to research and support new forms of communication as they arise, and will keep you apprised of them. This is another reason why your support, in the form of permission to continue to communicate with me, should prove beneficial to us all.

• I expect that we will see a decline in Canadian participation in non-profit societies which have any kind of a commercial presence (including volunteer art galleries, publishing societies, and so forth), as the economic and personal penalties for even one inadvertent email are so severe as to make the personal risk for community work too great, and the insurance to cover the risks are likely beyond the grasp of tiny non-profit budgets. I don’t expect non-profit work to disappear in Canada, but I expect it to radically change its shape, in order to escape $10,000,000 fines and seizures of personal and group property.

I foresee a new form of communication-only society being born, which will lead to new forms of publishing. The transition, however, will be difficult, hard work, and slow. I hope to be a part of continued change, in some small way.

• I expect to see an increasing commercialization of Canadian magazine publishing, as only magazines with large revenue streams will be able to pay for the print and media advertising required to create subscription lists. However, I expect as well innovative work-arounds, but these will take time. They will, I expect, include greater cooperation. There is irony in that. In most countries in the Western world, state support exists for publishing distribution and infrastructure. This new legislation threatens to greatly weaken the effectiveness of that support in Canada, in favour of a totally commercial model (in an environment of prohibitive mailing rates and aggressive foreign ownership and competition.) If I am right, though, the legislation will also result in informal, extra-governmental systems of support — a kind of alternative government to a government that is abdicating its responsibilities to its cultural survival. As a British Columbian, I expect interest in a cross-border alliance and the formation of a culture of Cascadia, including the entire American and Canadian Pacific Northwest, to receive greater artistic interest, despite its inherent dysfunctionality (more on that some other day).

We are in a revolution. Expect continued surprises, but expect as well continued human inventiveness and desire for connection.

• I expect a renewed interest in Facebook, or other social media sites, with, perhaps, increased functionality, to provide non-punishable information-sharing environments.

That ought to be interesting. The change is long overdue.

• I don’t expect to see a mass emigration of Canadian artists, writers and musicians, except, perhaps, those few with high enough incomes and large enough international audiences to allow them to take out foreign citizenship and leave Canada behind. What I do expect is a chill within Canadian cultural production for Canada, and a diminution of artistic production within Canada in reaction to increased barriers of entry for young artists. The ability to create art for one’s own culture on one’s own cultural terms is a birthright of most world citizens. We will have to fight to maintain it (or even regain it) as one of our own.

Please help the conversation by allowing me to contact you from time to time. Send me a note, and I’ll make that easy for you. I think you can tell from the number of times that I have contracted you personally already that you won’t be inundated with mail. I’m too respectful to violate your trust and to humble to start shouting in your ear.

• Maybe, just maybe, the country will survive.

I hope, actually, that we, the people, will somehow find a way to thrive and that in the end the experiment that was Canada will remain strong enough to continue to add something to world culture and to the preservation of the earth and human interactions with it. The planet is worth every effort.

Best wishes,