Thursday, May 5, 2022

Gary Barwin and derek beaulieu : BE YOUR OWN PIRATE




derek beaulieu’s website,, has a link, in addition to the usual pages present in most writer’s pages, (“About,” “Events,” “Work,” “Publishing,”) to a “Steal My Work” page.

Here’s what it says on the page:

I post free downloadable PDFs of  many of my publications, including most of my full-length books. I believe that today’s reader seeks writing in different forms and that reading has taken on different shapes. By releasing books as PDFs in to the collective commons, writing can better engage with new, liquid, forms of reading and collaboration.


I believe that releasing my writing online for free encourages new and unexpected ways of people engaging and responding with the writing; it will encourage experimentation and reaction. I encourage authors to scan your publications & release them online as a free PDFs.

So here you go, I’m giving it all away.




And then there is a staggering archive of all of Beaulieu’s writing.

Indeed, throughout his writing and publishing career, Beaulieu has pursued the radical implications of community, the gift economy and the anti-commodifying, anti-capitalist implications of conceptual writing and other experimental movements. Many of his works engage with others’ works. He’s done erasures of Andy Warhol (a: A Novel), transformations of original works by Paul Auster (Local Colour),  and Edwin A. Abbott (Flatland: a romance of many dimensions.), among others.

And in keeping with this approach, all of his work is available as free PDFs. Anyone can download a copy and share it or make something new from it. Imagine Coleridge or Byron, Tolstoy or Karl Ove Knausgaard allowing a contemporary to “steal” their work and make something out of it? War and War and Peace. The Lime of the Ancient Marinade. My Struggle without Nouns.  

In fact, as Beaulieu explains in the video interview, he not only encourages people to “engag[e] and respond” but he has invited specific other writers, artists and publishers to do exactly that. In our interview he speaks about a series of works, each derived from the one before.

The crumbling black and white Letraset of Fragmentum becomes the complimentary dayglow-coloured pages of Aperture which in turn become Lens Flare, vibrant pop-art collages combining Rhys Farrell’s artwork with the pages of Aperture. Beaulieu ceded control of the original work of Fragmentum to the publishers of Aperture (Anthony Etherin and Clara Daneri) and then to the artist Rhys Farrell for Lens Flare.

The results are not only beautiful studies of mark-making, communication systems, the brilliant interplay of colour, page, letter, and a thoughtful engagement with technologies of the language and its publication, but a deep exploration of creativity, ownership, community, transformation, collaboration, generosity, individual genius and the notion of self.

In the following video interview, derek beaulieu and I have an extended, wide-ranging discussion about these works and, more broadly, his ethos of writing and publishing.

--Gary Barwin






Derek Beaulieu [image credit: Sal Nunchakov] is the author/editor of over twenty-five collections of poetry, prose, and criticism. His most recent volume of fiction, a, A Novel, was published by France’s Jean Boîte Editions, his most recent volume of poetry, Surface Tension, is forthcoming from Coach House Books. Beaulieu has exhibited his visual work across Canada, the United States, and Europe and has won multiple local and national awards for his teaching and dedication to students. Derek Beaulieu is the Director of Literary Arts at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and Banff’s 2022-2024 Poet Laureate. He can be found online at

Gary Barwin is a writer, performer and multimedia artist and the author of 27 books including Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy which won the Canadian Jewish Literary Award and Bird Arsonist (with Tom Prime),The Fabulous Op (with Gregory Betts) and forthcoming, Portal (visual poems.) His national bestselling novel Yiddish for Pirates won the Leacock Medal for Humour and the Canadian Jewish Literary Award, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was long listed for Canada Reads. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario and at





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