Season II of The Negative Review

October 2021: A guest post by John Nyman on exploring whiteness in Canadian poetry. 

November 2021: A guest post by Carl Watts on modes of reviewing in Canadian poetry. 

December 2021: Shane Neilson reviews a wokester’s book as the wokester would have, had he not gone respectable for the year his book was out. 

January 2022: Part 1 of a long essay on Rob Winger’s selection by Dionne Brand

February 2022: Part II of that long essay. (Total of both pieces, about 10,000 words) 

March 2022: An essay on Best Canadian Poetry 2021

April 2022: A review of Bardia Sinaee’s Intruder, as ruined by Kevin Connolly. 

May 2022: A review of rob mclennan’s Book of Smaller in his own style, as well as a parody of the 2022 Griffin jury deliberations

June-July 2022: Runaway Griffin Jury

What’s next? I play my cards close to my chest, this being the internet and all. Lots of fun though.

Subscription is $10/mo or $100 / year; each previous month’s content is scrubbed when a new month is uploaded. Sign up here, only paying subscribers can read.

Tour for YOU MAY NOT TAKE (with Jim Johnstone & the superlative Infinity Mirror)

Dates past:

London at TAP Creativity March 24 2022

Toronto at Knife:Fork:Book March 27 2022

FORTHCOMING:

Kingston April 13 2022 7 PM Novel Idea POSTPONED FOR SUMMER

Montreal April 19 2022 6:30 PM LE RESERVOIR, 2nd Floor 9 Av. Duluty E.

Fredericton April 20 2022 6:30 PM Gallery on Queen

Petitcodiac Public Library April 21 2022 time 12 noon

Moncton Attic Owl Series April 21 2022 C’est La Vie Cafe 6 PM

Halifax Eve of Poetry Series April 22 2022 Halifax Public Library 7:30 PM

Two new chapbooks!

In December, my friend Jim Johnstone published For the Living, a chapbook concerning . . . living persons! You can order it here.

In October, my friends at swallow::tale press published Revolutionary Doctrine of the True Faith. It’s WILD! And beautifully produced by Feyxuan who really knocks things out of the park, design-wise. Think of them when you’re book-ing! Order it here or if in Canada write me direct. Oh, and the chapbook was reviewed already at the mighty Wordgathering! My gratitude to Diane Wiener!

Upcoming events Spring 2022!

Hi there! I have a few unique book promotional things to tell you about for You May Not Take the Sad and Angry Consolations, my newest baby due out from Goose Lane Editions in like a month or so!!!

1. Cross-Pollinations, League of Canadian Poets, reading w/ S.K. Hughes: Feb 23 2022, 6 pm ET, register here.

In this event, I’m doing something I don’t think has been done before. S.K. Hughes reads poems that are structured around their developmental stage of medical training, and I’m reading from an unpublished lyric essay that critiques the use of poetry in medical spaces from the perspective of practitioner and disabled bodymind, also from the perspective of developmental stage. It’ll be weird! What I’m reading is more poetry than essay. Do register on the link provided below! There’s lots here for both poets and medical types. And if you haven’t already, and might be so inclined, please do consider preordering You May Not Take.

I’m anticipating this event very much, for I’ve never been able to critique medicine to its face with poetry before, using twenty five years of a poetry practice to inform this argument: hey, medicine, you’ve got it all wrong. But it’s okay. Just let poetry be itself and everything will be okay.

2. “Articulating the Body: Ekphrasis in the Maude Abbott Medical Museum” is a McGill-based in-person event I’m running in conjunction with the Poetry Matters team. March 10 2022, 5-7 pm. Sign up here. Tell all your friends in Montreal!

3. March 24 2022, 8-10 pm EST. I’m participating at AWP as part of the “Rad Reading Series” thanks to Swallow::tale, Newfound, and ANMLY. Sign up using code on the sheet. My first big boy pants AWP reading, yay!

4. EAST COAST TOUR in late April! Details tba. IN PERSON

Unfit Criticism 4: The Negative Review

In August of 2020, Shane Neilson created The Negative Review on the e-newsletter program Substack. Acquiring more subscribers than he ever dreamed of for an esoteric site devoted to critical prose about Canadian poetry, Neilson delivered a detailed piece each month. He questioned “scandal” as currently constructed in CanLit, pushed back against shame politics, wondered why so many mediocre white Canadian male poets were releasing Selected volumes at a time of diversity in Canadian literature, and even dared to write a negative review about Dionne Brand.

The Negative Review (ShanCor Enterprises, 2021) covers/mentions the following writers: 

Alden Nowlan, Northrop Frye, Sherrie Malisch, D.G. Jones, Margaret Atwood, John Moss, Russell Brown, Frank Davey, Barry Cameron, Michael Dixon, Smaro Kamboureli, Paul Barrett, Robert Lecker, Terry Eagleton, James Doyle, Sabine Milz, Sam Weselowski, Douglas Murray, William Giraldi, Lucy Alford, Matthew Zapruder, Rita Felski, Michael Lista, M. Travis Lane, Zachariah Wells, Jason Guriel, Carmine Starnino, James Pollack, Robyn Sarah, Dane Swan, A.F. Moritz, Jody Chan, Ali Blythe, John Elizabeth Stinzi, Manahil Bandukwala, Dennis M. Lewis, Eric Miller, Laura Moss, Karina Vernon, Aislinn Clare McDougall, Sarah Dowling, Gwen Benaway, Cassandra Blanchard, Nick Bradley, Nyla Matuk, Andrew Dubois, Marc di Saverio, Paul Vermeersch, Jay MillAR, Carmine Starnino, Dionne Brand, Canisa Lubrin.

The Negative Review contains the following essays:

  1. Return of Thematic
  2. We Shall Know You By Your Reviews: The Woke White Male and Alden Nowlan’s Collected Poems
  3. Spoiled Identity and the Frozen Now
  4. Crito Revolta: On Marc di Saverio’s Crito di Volta (Toronto: Guernica, 2020)
  5. The Missing Vision in the Visionary: Shared Universe: New and Selected Poems 1995 – 2020 (Toronto: ECW Press, 2020) As Some Generic DystopiaTM.
  6. He Doesn’t Look Like a Poet: On Jay MillAr’s I Could Have Pretended to Be Better Than You (Vancouver: Anvil, 2019)
  7. Like My Dad, Rapping: A Review of Carmine Starnino’s Leviathan (Kentville: Gaspereau, 2020)
  8. Dionne Brand is the Most Powerful Poet in Canada and No Negative Reviews are Permitted, This Message will Self-Destruct in Five Seconds Beep: A Review-Essay on Doomscrolling in Dionne Brand’s The Blue Clerk (McClelland and Stewart, 2019)
  9. The Rebranding: Canisia Lubrin’s The DyzgraphXst (McClelland and Stewart, 2020)
  10. Why Woke CanLit Twitter Matchmade Me and Holy Wild (Toronto: Bookhug, 2018). 
  11. The Protest is This Way: The Problem with Watch Your Head: Writers and Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis (Toronto: Coach House, 2020.)
  12. The Neilson Ratings: A Big Lie Whites Tell Themselves So That They Can Hoard Social Capital Instead of Awards

If you’re interested in purchasing copies (only serious queries), then use the message function on this site. $500 per book, $1250 for all 4 in the series. If you are a Canadian university library, I’m afraid only one university per province will be allocated a copy (with one exception). I hope it was you!

Unfit Criticism 3: Marginal

The third in a unique series of critical texts by Shane Neilson, Marginal includes material intended for Margin of Interest (PQL, 2019), the author’s book of literary criticism on the English language poetry of the Maritimes. The work collected in Marginal is not secondary or inferior to the earlier PQL text, as Neilson intended the original to be a two-volume project. Marginal is a realization of that vision.

Marginal covers/mentions the following writers and makers: M. Travis Lane, Wayne Clifford, Peter Sanger, Milton Acorn, Alden Nowlan, J.J. Steinfeld, David Helwig, Anne Compton, George Elliott Clarke, EJ Pratt, John Steffler, John Thompson, bp Nichol, Hermenegilde Chiasson, and David Brewer.

Marginal contains:

  1. Introduction
  2. How Not to Represent a Region: Coastlines and Overfishing
  3. The Backwards Sobriquet: A Review of New Brunswick at the Crossroads: Literary Ferment And Social Change in the East
  4. Regionalisms 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and Beyond: Reading Maritime Poetry Anthologies Backward
  5. Foosty Boost: The First Two Books of Anne Compton
  6. Dr. Acorn, or: how I joined the Canadian Liberation Movement and learned to love the stern nurse fusion bomb sun
  7. We Shall Know You By Your Reviews: The Woke White Male & Alden Nowlan’s Collected Poems
  8. Heroes & Legends: Finding John Thompson with Peter Sanger
  9. Visiting Lane
  10. Visiting Wayne Clifford
  11. Crossing the Campus: Introduction to M. Travis Lane’s Heart on Fist
  12. Clifford the Not-Sonneteer
  13. A shared text is an act of friendship
  14. Math, Satire, and Sense: David Helwig’s Seawrack
  15. In Some More Distant Key: An Interview With David Helwig
  16. Time-Grammar and Second-Order Witnessing: On J. J. Steinfeld’s Identity Dreams and Memory Sounds
  17. Return to Scoudouc: A Review of Hermenegilde Chiasson’s To Live and Die in Scoudouc. Translated by Jo-Anne Elder
  18. Rabbittown Press, David Brewer, Prop.
  19. Obituary
  20. Angelic Salutation
  21. Idiosyncratic Notes on the Essays
  22. Acknowledgements

Endnotes

If you’re interested in purchasing copies (only serious queries), then use the message function on this site. $500 per book, $1250 for all 4 in the series. If you are a Canadian university library, I’m afraid only one university per province will be allocated a copy (with one exception). I hope it was you!

Unfit Criticism 2: Personal Investments

The second in a unique series of critical texts by Shane Neilson, Personal Investments centres the author’s method of “bioreviewing.” Using this lens, Neilson brings books by writers into relation with his own subjectivity, offering unusual aesthetic commentary intermixed with his own experience. Later, Neilson focuses more squarely on prose, collecting together substantial essays on (mostly Canadian) novels and nonfiction.

Personal Investments covers the following writers: Jonathan Franzen, Marc di Saverio, Rimbaud, Christian Bok, Kenneth J. Harvey, Doug Glover, Peter Behrens, Darren Bifford, Czeslaw Milosz, Ian Dowbiggin, David Shields, Fanny Howe, Chris Gudgeon, Casey Plett, Michael Winter, David Adams Richards, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Terry Eagleton, Sam Harris, John Terpstra, Art Seamans, EJ Pratt, Alison Pick, Joshua Shenck, David Healey, Dawn Raffel, Steven Henighan, Stan Rogal, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jim Johnstone.

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction
2. Part One: Adventures in Bioreviewing
3. Time and Fever
4. Freedom
5. Language On Holiday
6. The Festival of No More Words
7. Explosions: A Review of Douglas Glover’s The Life and Times of Captain N
8. Finnegan’s Wake in the Porridge Universe: A Review of Peter Behrens’ The O’Briens
9. Borrowing Magic: A Review of Darren Bifford’s Wedding in Fire Country
10. Review of Ian Dowbiggin’s The Quest For Mental Health: A Tale of Science, Medicine, Scandal, Sorrow, and Mass Society
11. David Shields and the Laziness Inherent
12. Coda: This is What I Wanted To Sign Off With
13. The Poetics of Plot: A Review of Chris Gudgeon’s Song of Kosovo
14. Zero Chronology: Notes on the Use of Time in Casey Plett’s Little Fish
15. Review of Michael Winter’s Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead
16. Review of Alison Pick’s Far to Go
17. But Transcendence: A Review of Running the Whale’s Back: Stories of Faith and Doubt From Atlantic Canada
18. Review of David Adams Richards’s God Is: My Search for Faith in a Secular World and John Terpstra’s Skin Boat: Acts of Faith and Other Navigations
19. How bad is this book? Let me count the ways. A review of Art Seamans’ The Dead One Touched Me From The Past: A Walk With Writers Through The Centuries
20. It’s Not All About the Brain: A Review of Joshua Shenck’s Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression
Challenged a President and Fuelled his Greatness

21. Healey and Goliath: A Review of David Healey’s The Creation of Psychopharmacology
22. The Parodox I’m Really Pulling For: A Review of Dawn Raffel’s The Strange Case of Dr. Martin Couney
23. When Words Are An Anticlimax: A Review of Steven Henighan’s When Words Deny the World
24. Nice try, Doestoevsky: A Review of Stan Rogal’s bafflegab
25. The Story of Thee Hellbox Press: An Interview with Hugh Barclay and Faye Batchelor
26. Poetic Composition and the Implications of Scientific Theory: Jim Johnstone and Shane Neilson in
Conversation
27. Idiosyncratic Notes on the Essays
28. Acknowledgements
29. Endnotes

If you’re interested in purchasing copies (only serious queries), then use the message function on this site. $500 per book, $1250 for all 4 in the series. If you are a Canadian university library, I’m afraid only one university per province will be allocated a copy (with one exception). I hope it was you!

Unfit Criticism 1: Retractable Devil Horns

The first in a unique series of critical texts by Shane Neilson, Retractable Devil Horns is an irreverently passionate account of Canadian poetry over the past twenty years. Following Judith Butler’s advice to “cherish the longer forms,” Neilson collects his more substantial ‘difficult’ pieces, many of which he deliberately suppressed for book publication due to the prevailing ideological climate in the humanities. In the first half of this text, Neilson reaches out to screaming Canadian poetry personalities, down-dresses many of the country’s big names, and attacks performativity; in the second, he thinks through books by talents like Carmine Starnino, Phil Hall, and Sharon McCartney in a more reflective (but no less engaged) manner. 

Poets reviewed and mentioned in the series:

Jacob! McArthur! MOOOOONEY! Rafi Aaron. R.M. Vaughan. Lynn Crosbie. Paul Vermeersch. George Murray. Al Purdy. David Solway. Carmine Starnino. Peter Sanger. Phil Hall. Esta Spalding. Sharon McCartney. Marc di Saverio. George Walker. Luke Hathaway. Jim Johnstone.

Table of Contents 

  1. Poisonous Frame: A Review of Laura Ward’s Bad Press: The Worst Critical Reviews Ever! (B.E.S. Publishing, 2002)
  2. Public Hanging: the Death of the Book Review
  3. Harbourfront Pigs and Lipstick
  4. Rules of Thumb for An Aspiring Critic
  5. Pretending to be Great: Review of Rafi Aaron’s Surviving the Censor: The Unspoken Words of Osip Mandelstam (Niagara Falls: Seraphim Editions, 2006)
  6. High School Confessional
  7. Lyric, get thee to a nursing home, they’re showing cartoons in the dining room
  8. Measured Advice from a Shrieking Personality
  9. Reaching for Al Purdy: A Review of Beyond Remembering (Madeira Park: Harbour, 2000) and Yours, Al: The Collected Letters of Al Purdy (Madeira Park: Harbour, 2004)
  10. Solway the Sad Balladeer: an Open Letter to the (Unofficial) Laureate of ‘This Sucks’
  11. Critics at Large: A Review of Carmine Starnino’s A Lover’s Quarrel: Essays and Reviews (Erin: PQL, 2004) and Peter Sanger’s White Salt Mountain (Kentville: Gaspereau, 2005)
  12. The Invisible Man Is In Your Caesura: Phil Hall Collaborative Collage w/ John Nyman
  13. Introduction to The Pre-Poem Moment
  14. My First Review: Esta Spalding’s Lost August: Poems (House of Anansi Press, 1999)
  15. Eventual Development: The Poetry of Carmine Starnino
  16. McCartney Sings the Blues
  17. Recovering the Stars: A Review of Marc di Saverio’s Sanatorium Songs (Toronto: Cactus Press, 2010)
  18. Beauty and Representing Mental Illness: A Review of Blackhood #1 (Comics are the Enemy Publications, 2017)
  19. Interpreting the Interpreter of Dreams and Culture: Introduction to Sing to Me in the Cut (Victoria: Frog Hollow Press, 2015)
  20. True Words in the Word Cloud: An Experiment in Collaborative Criticism
  21. Idiosyncratic Notes on the Essays
  22. Acknowledgements
  23. Endnotes

The ethos behind the series is a tale told in the introduction. I won’t tell the tale out of school.

If you’re interested in purchasing copies (only serious queries), then use the message function on this site. $500 per book, $1250 for all 4 in the series. If you are a Canadian university library, I’m afraid only one university per province will be allocated a copy (with one exception). I hope it was you!

The Unfit Criticism Series is Ready for Order!

Unfit 1: Retractable Devil Horns, top Left; Unfit 2, Personal Investments, top Right; Marginal, bottom left; The Negative Review, bottom right.

In the next four days, I will describe each book starting in sequence, focusing on a book a day. First up is Retractable Devil Horns. Tomorrow! But for those who can’t wait, the pricing is: $500 per individual title (S&H included), $1250 for the set (S&H included).