Flash Fiction (2) – A Poetry Book & Podcast

As 2013 draws to a close, I’m pleased to announce my participation in the Yellow Bird Project’s “Selected Poems by Indie Rock Stars.”

While I’d hardly call myself a “star,” much less self-identify as an “indie rocker,” the inclusion of a mysterious piece I wrote called “Flash Fiction (2)” is tons of fun. You can sign up to receive a poem a week leading up to the release of the poetry book in January. And if you scroll down and look through the “A Taster” section, you can both read AND listen to my reading of the piece. Anyhow, I’ll keep this short and sweet. It’s an honour to be included.

Here’s a very weird illustrated portrait of moi taken from the book:

Screen shot 2013-12-21 at 12.34.20 PM

I hope everyone out there has a great holidays and happy new year. All my love to you, Natalia.

Quit Gawking!

Since I apparently am done with poetry, writing — and therefore poets and writers, including, but not limited to, myself and all my friends — books and reading, I thought I would provide some personal background on the topic:

Towards the end of a blog entry about writing, I mentioned my zine called Quit Gawking. Back in September, Amanda (not the same Amanda…let’s call her New Amanda) randomly asked me if I’d once had a zine. It was so out of context that I was hesitant to admit to it. Anyway, apparently she had submitted a poem that we had printed! Now this is a pretty small world occurrence, since in total we probably only printed like four poems by people we didn’t know (almost everything else came from our friends). Now what are the chances of our paths crossing over a decade later?

As if an omen of what I was to face with critics and The Dears, Quit Gawking got this review from Broken Pencil (the Canadian zine directory):

“Quit Gawking: zine / issue 4, 20 pages / no known publisher / main creators: Natalia Yanchak and Heather / free

Submissions for this are welcome. Send them stuff, poetry, artwork, fiction, opinion, questions for Marijuana Mickey, nifty images and the like. Send this stuff so the next issue will be fuller, since this one left us feeling we hadn’t even started gawking when they up and finished. There was a good story, lots of white space and cool images, but not enough heft, except for the text page that overlapped itself and looked cool and would have been great if it weren’t visually painful to actually try to read.”

So classic. Basically we busted out of the traditional overstuffed, cut-and-paste zine trend that was the style at the time, and got bashed. Sorry, everybody: we used a computer for our layout instead of a glue stick and crayons. The lesson, that I realise now, but that began so long ago? Normal is boring because it’s what everyone else is doing, but it’s also what everyone else takes to easily. So the less normal you do things, the more time it will take for people to like you. Anyway, my zine (co-founded with BFF, Heather) had a printing of I think 200 which we would photocopy and hand assemble in the conference room at my dad’s office on Sundays. We even bought one of those long-armed staplers to bind the folded legal-size pages. I think we made 8 issues, and I took it pretty seriously. I hand delivered copies to a few shops in Toronto, made stickers, and filled mail orders (free with stamp). I even networked with other zines, (my fave was .tiff, about the slacker’s casual love of computers, technology and art. Also, .tiff was borne of my old stomping ground, Roncesvalles Village.

In 1994, my friend Carly and I went to one of the first CanZine festivals, held at the perpetually seamy Spadina Hotel. There were bands and tables with the A-list of zines upstairs and like five tables downstairs where I guess the B-list zinesters were. It was kind of pathetic and boring, actually. Our only entertainment was provided by Gavin and Shane who were at the next table.

And so that is the story of my zine, and the beginning of the end of, well, many things. Back then, writing, drawing and making music were my artistic outlets. I have a lot of embarrassing, high school poetry, prose, comics and demos archived in our basement, and I would encourage every teenager to start working on their personal collection of self-conscious musings immediately. The creation of art, music and poetry should be free and unfettered. Just not everybody should be allowed to do it for a living.

Poetry is Dead

Why does poetry still exist? I mean, really, it’s an archaic art form that had it’s revival during the heyday of the Poetry Slam a few years ago, and now should just go away. Like Netscape…not because they are useless or redundant, no: far from it. Literature would not exist without poetry, and the Internet would be reserved for those who knew how to decode HTML without Netscape. For whatever reason, their time is just done.

Seriously. Think about it: when was the last time you read a relevant and new poem? Poetry has metamophosised into a new creature: lyrics, rhymes, spam poetry…we just don’t do poetry like they used to. And anyone who calls themselves a “poet” is either 76 years old, or completely delusional. It would be like:

“So what do you do for a living?”
“I’m a telegraph operator.”
“But nobody uses the telegraph anymore.”
“Yeah, but that’s what I do.”
“Who cares?”
“I’m not sure.”

All the other avenues of art have evolved, why hasn’t poetry?

Now this thread is entirely inspired by listening to the CBC. The other day, they just had someone reading some contemporary, racially-charged poetry over the air. I was like: “How does this speak to anyone?” And DO NOT even get me started on the topic of spoken word. I can not and will not, deal.

I majored in creative writing at uni, and the idea today of being assigned the task of writing poetry is maddening. I would protest. Actually, I would not take that course to begin with. I do encourage, however, the study of poetry. There is much to be learned about our language and English culture through all art. Which brings me to the next idea: How can classical music, written hundereds of years ago, be interpreted properly? How can a player today possibly know how to play a composition when their existence was not informed by the appropriate culture? It’s like giving a Neanderthal a PS3 controller and expecting that he would know exactly what to do with it. Why do we try and force intuition? Is it merely in the name of preservation and tradition? Or is it rooted in something far deeper than that?

Please, I invite my readers to prove me wrong. I figure, since nobody is allowed to buy books anymore, that most youngsters don’t even know what poetry is anyway…