Saturday, November 15, 2008

Marianopolis Meets Provocations with Matthew Firth

Reading from Can You Take Me There, Now? Photographed by Owen Egan

“[…]these stimulating short stories are meant to give just a taste of what writers can do.”

Offensive? Yes. Provocative? Definitely. Boring? Not even close. Matthew Firth joined students of Marianopolis on Tuesday, the 11th, to read from his new book “Suburban Pornography”, causing a stir in the Canadian literature scene at the same time.

Firth was brought by the Marianopolis English Department and introduced to students by our very own Zsolt Alapi. The Ontario native, now residing in Ottawa, is not your typical Canadian literary writer, as is pointed out through the very catchy title of his new works. He’s been hailed as Canada’s Bukowski thanks to his extremely provocative and edgy style of writing. Alapi even generously described Firth as, “totally uncompromising [...] doesn’t try to cater to the academy.”

Along with “Suburban Pornography,” Firth read from his older works titled “Fresh Meat” and “Can You Take Me There, Now?” The three stories, one from each collection, were centered on a man and his sexual upheavals and adventures. One student politely asked Firth if that man was perhaps him, and for all you scandalous dreamers out there, you can be sure that one of the stories –involving a dark alleyway– did in fact revolve around Firth’s own personal experience.

Firth is especially known for the publishing of chapbooks through Black Bile Press, founded by himself. Many of these stimulating short stories are meant to give just a taste of what writers can do. Writers published include other underground and unconventional writers such as Mark SaFranko and our very own Zsolt Alapi. Matthew Firth is also Editor-in-Chief of Front&Centre. The small literary journal seeks to create an antidote to all middling, mainstream literary journals. According to Firth, F&C attracts writers looking for an outlet who are open to their type of writing. Within its pages, you’re sure to find riveting short stories and bold book reviews, with contributor Tony O’Neil, whom many of you might remember as one of last semester’s guest readers. Firth explains this journal’s purpose as meant to, “kick against the literary pricks, so to speak” and the writing as, “tak[ing] chances, can be offensive and abrasive, but [...] also well-crafted and serious.”In continuing the well-known underground literary journal, Firth hopes to “provide a forum for bold writer to express themselves and to see their work in print and to challenge readers, to expose them to salty writing.” You can catch the latest issue of Front&Centre (#20), due out this week.

Suprisingly, Firth admits yet to receive any harsh criticism due to his “out-there” style of writing. However, just because he hasn’t received it doesn’t mean he was a problem dishing some criticism out-there himself. Firth expressed his yearning for a more diverse national writing scene in which more stories could be told. Wishing there was more variety and life to Canadian literature, Firth describes the national writing scene as being “bloody boring and middle class, dull and insipid.” In a sense, Firth hopes to make, at least, a small change to this mundane cycle of workshop writers so as to give Canada a taste of something different and edgy.

As for all you aspiring writers out there, Firth –who’s been at this for 16 years or so– gives a little piece of advice. One, make sure you’re sending your work to the appropriate publications, which means researching the magazines and journals to see if your work matches what the magazine/journal is looking for. Two, develop a thick skin because instant success never happens overnight. Get used to being rejected and learn from it. Finally, learn to work hard, to listen to criticism but also to “stick to your guns and write the way you want to write.”

As for any upcoming works, Firth explains that he has “no master plan, I work it, push it, and see where it takes me.”

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