Trains of Winnipeg  |  Project Press + Critical Response




An integral part of the Trains of Winnipeg project has been watching how its various parts intersected with the wider world. Its travels back and forth between the worlds of cinema, media arts, contemporary art, literature, music, web culture, and the broader culture is reflected and recorded in the writings of arts journalists, academics and writers. In a way, these responses have become part of the project, as Trains of Winnipeg itself is a response to many other sources.

Clive Holden's pictorial essay Mind the Gap – An Artist’s Response to Completing a Film/Video Cycle was first published in Poolside 2004 (.pdf, 2.7 B – after downloading, turn to page 18 as numbered in the booklet). Poolside is an annual publication of the Video Pool Media Arts Centre – the Trains of Winnipeg project was partly made possible by the crucial assistance of the staffs (and fellow artist members) of both Video Pool and the Winnipeg Film Group).

Most known critical responses to the project, both positive and negative, are included on this web page (in reverse order to when they were published, more-or-less). Below are Trains of Winnipeg CD, film, book and project reviews, press, and writings from Canada, the U.S.A., Australia, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Spain and Greece, written between 2001 and 2007.

And more recently, the Trains of Winnipeg film cycle was written about in detail by Scott MacDonald in Adventures in Perception (2009, University of California Press), and by Larissa Fan in Place (ed. Cecilia Araneda, 2009, Winnipeg Film Group; Larissa's essay is also about the U Suite project).



[Rob Howason, Globe & Mail, Vancouver, May 26, 2006]



When writer-filmmaker Clive Holden was growing up in Victoria, he witnessed a girl shot by a sniper on a quiet suburban street. His first thought, as he watched the 13-year-old collapse on the gravel shoulder, was, "Why doesn't this feel more unusual?"

Twenty years later, in a short film about the incident, he theorized that his indifference was due to the massive amount of TV violence he had absorbed during childhood. Holden named his 12 minute treatise 18,000 Dead in Gordon Head, a reference to the infamous estimate of how many killings the average TV-raised kid witnesses before the age of 16. The brooding piece joins other experimental works done by the artist since 2001 in Trains of Winnipeg: 14 Film Poems. The compilation makes its first Terminal City whistle stop this week at Pacific Cinematheque.

Holden, who now lives in Toronto, weaves his little urban dystopias from found footage, home video and hand-painted celluloid. Shaky cameras record grainy footage that would make for an uncomfortable 89 minutes were it not for his strong lyrical touch with voice-overs and subtitles.

For example, Hitler! (Revisited) is a poignant study of the filmmaker's relationship with his schizophrenic brother, whose limited lexicon consists of these words: Hitler, hamburger, Yoko Ono and gift. We never hear the mental patient. The piece consists mainly of repeated shots of him leaning forward in slow motion as if about to tumble through space. But Holden describes his sibling's institutionalized life with such compassion, confessing his own fears of visiting him at Riverview Hospital, that the net effect is hypnotic -- as are most of the weighty cars on this impressive freight.



[Jason Anderson, Eye Weekly, Toronto, December 29, 2005]

Top 10 Films of 2005 – Number 7: Trains of Winnipeg



[Stephen Cole, CBC.ca Arts News, January, 2006]


14 short films about Clive Holden

Clive Holden knew he’d figured out how to shoot his short film Trains of Winnipeg when a conductor climbed off a train and shooed him from the tracks.

“I lived in Winnipeg for the last eight years,” says the 45-year-old filmmaker, who recently moved to Toronto. “But that doesn’t mean I know trains. Everyone [in Winnipeg] said, ‘Oh, I had an uncle who worked on CP or CN.’ Winnipeg is a train city. But when I walked onto the yards, I realized trains are a wide-angle subject. I didn’t have the right camera.

“I had to find the sweet spots to capture what I wanted. I walked tracks. I wandered inside trains. I learned where to shoot. One time, I got too close and the driver got down and asked what I was doing. We had a good conversation. He understood. I knew I was finally close enough to make my film.”

The 17-minute short ended up taking two years to make, and illustrates Holden’s commitment to art. Last year, Holden released Trains of Winnipeg — 14 Film Poems, a collection of shorts that reflect various facets and stages of his own life. The 89-minute compilation enjoyed a lavishly praised run in art-house theatres internationally and has just been released on DVD.

All told, the 14 short films go back 40 years. The three-minute short Nanaimo Station is a looping collage of 8-mm footage from 1960 of Holden’s first steps as a child; the images are accompanied by a stately reminiscence of his Irish family’s idyllic early days in Nanaimo, B.C. Holden shot 18,000 Dead in Gordon Head (13 minutes), the story of a girl killed in a small B.C. town, on Super-8 film in 1982; it wasn’t until two decades later that he re-examined the footage to find the story. The 13-minute Hitler! (revisited) is Holden’s third attempt to tell the story of his brother Niall, a long-time mental patient.

Like Jonathan Caouette, the director of Tarnation, Holden returns to archival family footage to solve old mysteries and find the “sweet spots” in a story. Holden explains his appreciation of good storytelling by elaborating on his enthusiasm for American writer Raymond Carver. “I love it when he gets that sub-atomic flow of language pitched right,” Holden says. “When you encounter it on the page, your eyes just flow through it. But it takes years to develop what some call the gift of the gab.” In the following interview, Holden describes how he developed his own gift for what he calls “film poetry.”

Q: Trains of Winnipeg is such a singular, striking work. My first response was, “Wow, what apprenticeship might explain such an arresting collection?”

A: I grew up a few blocks from [the University of Victoria]. As a teenager, I hung out at the UVic library, where I discovered [Montreal poet] Louis Dudek. They had a cassette of him that made a big impression on me — a poet’s voice! Eventually, I took writing at UVic and discovered John Berger and Raymond Carver. I loved their language and the ideas below the surface of their work. I remember reading some paragraphs of Berger and being too excited to continue. I’d stop and let the words sink in.

Q: Were you interested in film?

A: I wanted to be a screenwriter. I moved to Montreal and studied at Concordia, where I was influenced by Bruce Bailey and [Toronto filmmaker] Phil Hoffman. But the big thing that happened to me at Concordia was picking up a camera. Something happened when I pulled the trigger of a camera. I wanted to be a filmmaker. But first I wrote. I spent the ’80s in small rooms, writing. I wrote pilots for a Montreal man who had ideas for films. I turned them into scripts. He gave me money. I don’t know what happened to the pilots. I moved from room to room, writing for 18 hours a day sometimes.

Q: Where were these “rooms”?

A: Montreal, at first, but then I moved to Whitehorse for a year, and to Watson Lake, a town of 800 people 500 miles south of Whitehorse.

Q: How did you support yourself?

A: I drove a Greyhound bus.

Q: Did seeing the world through a bus window influence your work?

A: I think a pre-existing Western Canadian trait of craving wide open spaces — and definitely a fascination with visual movement — has led me to driving, quite a bit of roaming, and to filmmaking as well.

Q: One of the films in the collection, Unbreakable Bones, features footage of plane travel through mountains.

A: At the time, I was living in Winnipeg and visiting my parents on the [west] coast every few months. When I flew through the mountains, I shot film. When I watched the footage, I found the poem. When I write and it’s going well, I hit a phrase or idea and relax, because I know I have a poem — it’s there somewhere. Sometimes, I see film and feel the same thing. What excites me about working in different disciplines is that you pick up energy and ideas crossing from one to the other.

Q: For me, the most riveting film in your collection is Hitler! (revisited), the story of your brother Niall.

A: Most of Hitler! I shot visiting my brother at the Riverview Mental Hospital in Victoria. I’ve never seen anyone stare so openly into a camera as Niall did that day.

Q: There are parts of Niall’s story that seem incredible.

A: Niall is a schizophrenic who suffered a stroke that restricts him to nine words, one of which is “Hitler.” He can also sing Beatles songs. Once, he heard a German-speaking person and asked, “Are you a Nazi?” Then he and this woman had a conversation for 20 minutes about the war — out of nowhere! Then he closed down again. It was astonishing. Actually, the Hitler! in Trains of Winnipeg is a remix of a film I made in 1996. Later, I deconstructed the film with another filmmaker, Sol Nagler.

Q: Deconstructed?

A: We rethought it, remade it, stripped it to individual shots. I literally stepped on footage. We played and handled it. Sol’s family is Jewish, from the Warsaw ghetto. He had questions. As we worked, we talked about Niall, Hitler, Germany, mental illness. I’m big on process and hands-on filmmaking. I believe that the physical labour of working on material brings the subconscious to play.

Q: I wonder if we’re on the verge of an era where artists can transform their own life experiences into films that everyone can see.

A: Trains of Winnipeg cost $60,000, and almost all the money went into film stock. Soon, we’ll be in the era of high-definition DVD. Everything will be digital — cheap! Kids in schools now learn to edit digitally, learn to make film like we learned to write stories. It’s thrilling to consider what they might do.



[Lil Richard, Discorder Magazine, August 18, 2001:]

awe-inspring. I give it an A

As you might have guessed from the title and co-conspirators (Jason and John of The Weakerthans), this is a CD about personal histories, regionalism and a sense of belonging. And trains. The CD is thirteen tracks (plus two bonus) of Clive Holden reciting his own poetry while Jason, Christine, and John set it all to music. Listening to this is awe-inspiring. The music on this album ranges from distorted guitar and drums, to sparse and melodic piano, to eerie tape loop compositions, all of which capture perfectly the mood of the different poems. The poems themselves are captivating in their storytelling delivery, and are all threaded together with themes of trains, death and setting. Together they are glitter and gold. Comparatively, this is somewhat reminiscent of Godspeed You Black Emperor when they put samples of people telling stories over top of their brooding music, only the words and music of Trains of Winnipeg are more symbiotic, and haunt you on a much more personal level. I give it an A. As an aside, this CD is also just part of a larger and quite impressive multimedia project that can be seen at www.trainsofwinnipeg.com.



[Paul Matwychuk, Vue Weekly, Edmonton, 2006]


Poet/filmmaker Clive Holden engineers a triumph with Trains of Winnipeg

Clive Holden’s Trains of Winnipeg is the kind of film that’s easy to make fun of if you haven’t seen it, but impossible to speak of with anything less than admiration if you have. It’s a collection of 14 “film poems”: most of them consist of Holden reading his poetry to the accompaniment of scratchy images on Super 8 film (some of which are portions of actual home movies, while others are simply shot to look that way) and a sparse musical score written and performed by Christine Fellows and the Weakerthans’ Jason Tait and John K. Samson.

It sounds pretty deadly, especially the segment that concludes the film and gives it its title—you don’t even hear Holden’s voice in this one; all you get are 17 minutes of trains pulling in and out of railway yards, interspersed with shots of pistons pumping and wheels trying to find traction as they start on down the track. And yet it’s absolutely sublime.

Still, Holden was probably pretty smart to wait and save that train yard section for the film’s caboose slot. By that time, he’s softened you up with a series of poems that are by turns smart, funny, angry, sad and playfully abstract—poems that, like all the best poems, are at once deeply personal but which touch on universal emotions—so that by the time the “Trains of Winnipeg” segment rolls around, you’re completely immersed in his worldview and his cinematic style. You’re not staring blankly at a bunch of abstract images of trains wondering why the hell the filmmaker ever thought this would be interesting to watch; you’re attuned the way Holden is to the music of industry, the way the sound of a freight car door sliding open seems so full of strength and possibility, the way, if you listen closely enough, that the heavy clang of all that metal striking against metal has its own hidden sense of order, like the syllables of a poem written in a foreign language.

Holden’s poems deserve attentive ears as well. They’re always relatable, always rooted in the real world: in “18,000 Dead in Gordon Head,” Holden uses the sniper death of a 13-year-old Winnipeg girl as a launching-off point for exploring the casual prevalence of death in the modern world, and for his own capacity for violence; in “Unbreakable Bones,” he recalls his parents coming down with colds during a visit to his home, a trivial incident that nevertheless reminds him of his dread of their inevitable death; and in “Hitler! (Revisited),” he talks about his difficult relationship with his schizophrenic brother Niall, who has spent most of his life in a mental hospital and who, as the result of a stroke, is limited to a vocabulary of about nine words.

But the poems aren't all gloomy; “Nanaimo Station” is Holden’s joyful celebration of his birthplace, while “F-Movie” is a playful bit of abstract poetry that’s sort of like what might have happened if bp nichol had been hired to make a segment for Sesame Street. Holden’s film images manage to be evocative without distracting you from concentrating on the text: I especially like the shots of the family of dolls silently watching a toy car melt into flames that accompany “Burning Down the Suburbs” and the hypnotic, rhythmic images of walking legs, one in each corner of the screen, that go with “Love in the White City.” Like his poems, Holden’s film images have texture, and he’s in love with the dirt and grain of old film stock. I felt a little guilty watching this film on DVD since Holden is so patently fond of the way images look when they’re projected onto a screen—often he’ll take his footage, show it on a screen and then film it again.

Don’t let the “experimental” label scare you off; Trains of Winnipeg may not be a conventional movie going experience, but it’s surprisingly accessible and engrossing. All aboard!



[Jason Anderson, Eye Weekly, Toronto, March 3, 2005]

****1/2 (4.5 out of 5)


In the months since it opened, Atom Egoyan and Hussain Amarshi's Camera media bar near Queen and Ossington has attracted no shortage of photo spreads for its chic design. Now they face a trickier task than impressing the style mavens: establishing a consistent sensibility for the programming.

While some Camera selections have been appropriate to the vanguard nature of the space -- and its one major limitation, the lack of a 35mm projector -- others could have just as easily appeared at the Carlton or a rep theatre. Of course, those places tend to discourage viewers from slugging back vino, so Camera wins points there. But due to its unusual combination of functions (cinema, bar, gallery) and Egoyan's rep as both auteur and cinephile, Camera can also afford to be more adventurous than other venues and show work that defies the conventions not just of multiplex fare but the middlebrow titles that dominate the art-house circuit.

Opening this weekend for a seven-night run, Clive Holden's Trains of Winnipeg (****1/2) is exactly the sort of movie that belongs at Camera -- idiosyncratic, independent and supremely inventive. Holden's first feature-length work, it's part of a multidisciplinary project that has already yielded a book of poems, a spoken-word disc and a website, all with the same prosaic yet oddly endearing title. (Could anything be more Canadian?) Consisting of 14 "film poems," Trains of Winnipeg juxtaposes the poet and filmmaker's ruminations on landscape and memory with a wide array of visual strategies, including home movies, travel films and found footage, which are then goosed up with hand-processing effects and digital treatments. The richly detailed sound design incorporates eerie, loop-based music by Christine Fellows and the Weakerthans' Jason Tait and John K. Samson (Winnipeggers all).

As much as I love Holden's movie -- it's one of the finest non-narrative movies ever made in this country -- I can understand if you cringe at the phrase "film poems." I did too. I imagined a slow-motion shot of geese in flight and a wispy-voiced narrator murmuring about the ineffable sadness of a beach at twilight -- in other words, something too pretentious to work in either medium, let alone both at once. There's also the larger question of whether film and poetry really belong together. If the best poetry consists of words arranged to create the purest, most indelible form of linguistic expression, then film strives to speak entirely through images. The ultimate ambition of each form is to negate any need for the other.

Yet the film poem has existed for nearly as long as cinema. Sometimes cited as the first American avant-garde film, Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand's Manhatta (1921) used intertitles by Walt Whitman. Man Ray's L'Etoile de Mer (1928) is taken from a poem by Robert Desnos. The surrealists' flagrantly poetic school of filmmaking eventually yielded such works as Jean Cocteau's Blood of a Poet (1930) and Jean Vigo's marginally more narrative-based L'Atalante (1934). The exquisite collaborations between director Marcel Carné and poet Jacques Prévert in the '30s and '40s (most famously Children of Paradise) also bear traces of the French film-poem ideal. With Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), Maya Deren fused her interests in poetry, dance and cinema to establish a new mode of expression. The aphorism-filled essay films of Agnès Varda and Chris Marker established another, as did the wild and wordy fantasias of Derek Jarman. In Canada, the precise, haiku-like short films of Philip Hoffman have greatly influenced the experimental film scene.

Holden deploys many of these approaches in Trains of Winnipeg as he explores and subverts relationships between word and image. In the opening piece, "Love in the White City," Holden's wry examination of urban dread is accompanied by the sight of his legs walking in the four corners of the screen -- the repetitiveness of the image and the looping, crackly music enhance the effects of the poem's subtler rhythmic structure and sense of futile motion. In "Burning Down the Suburbs," a family of miniature figures watch a model car in flames, dramatizing a scene that is not described in the poem but still complements the ones that are. The grainy, distorted home-movie fragments in "Nanaimo Station" seem as degraded as the narrator's falsely idyllic memories of his family in a time when "the food was like magazines and the cars were all big." In "Hitler! (revisited)," a tribute to Holden's schizophrenic brother Niall, onscreen text replaces the voiceover, a stylistic tack that emphasizes the interiority of Niall's existence. In the title piece, the words disappear altogether, replaced by the amped-up visual poetry of the trains.

By the time the wheels stop moving, Holden has provided ample proof of the film poem's ability to engage and enlighten. Wry, wise and damn near sublime, Trains of Winnipeg makes you wish there were more movies just like it. Alas, the challenges of cine-poetry remain daunting, as they probably should -- when this stuff goes wrong, it can go eye-bleedingly, teeth-grindingly wrong. Even so, I hope Camera's run of Holden's mesmerizing work will inspire others to forego familiar tactics and try dreaming in verse.


[Mari Sasano, See Magazine, Edmonton, February 9, 2006]


****1/2 (4.5 out of 5)

You can still see faint traces of Winnipeg’s boomtown days downtown in the Exchange District, where a concentration of old banks alludes to the city’s importance in Canada’s economy during the age of rail. As we know, highways and air travel changed all that, but the silver lining to this cloud is that Winnipeg’s relative lack of downtown real estate activity in the ’70s and ’80s has preserved many of the buildings there. It’s now a National Historic site, as well as a favourite Hollywood North location for films set at the turn of the century.

Former Winnipegger Clive Holden devotes a full 17 minutes to those trains in Trains of Winnipeg, which forms one chapter in a cycle of 14 beautiful short films that share the rhythm and movement of rail travel. Even the soundtrack (by Weakerthans’ John K. Samson and Jason Tait, singer/songwriter Christine Fellows and cellist Emily Goodden) is evocative of droning motors and the repetitive clicks and strums of passing over railway ties.

The film was shot in various formats over several years–for instance, one segment, "18,000 dead in Gordon Head," was originally filmed while he was a teenager, another is a version of his 1994 portrait of his brother Niall, who is schizophrenic and living in a psychiatric institution. Holden revels in the grain of the image, possibly intentionally dirtying the film to include specks and hairs, scratching and painting. He also resorts to superimpositions and looping of key moments and has a knack for producing lurid colours through hand-processing and other techniques.

Accompanying his lovely pictures is the director’s own voiceover, reciting anecdotes about his Irish parents and events his childhood, as well as poetry that deals with the themes of love and violence. Perhaps it’s the initial immigration of Holden’s family that spurs on the larger theme of movement and travel that is contained in his memory. His voice, calm and detached, acts as a kind of travelogue to his films, a guide to understanding them.

And though it’s been classified as an "experimental" film, Trains of Winnipeg is an art piece can be understood with neither artist commentary nor a great deal of theory. Holden has provided many entries into the Trains of Winnipeg–it’s extremely watchable in its entirety without being superficial.



[Peter Goddard, Visual Arts Critic, Toronto Star, March 4, 2005]


According to Winnipeg multimedia threat Clive Holden, Trains of Winnipeg got its start while he was sitting on a bench near where Assiniboine River meets the Red River, listening to passing traffic on the railway.

Fans of old-fashioned dramatic narrative should enjoy the moment. This is about as beginning-middle-and-end as its gets within the 14-part visual tone poem screening tonight at 9 p.m. at the Camera Bar & Cinema as a warmup to The Images Festival (although the festival itself doesn't officially begin until April 7.)

Trains of Winnipeg was shown at last year's Images fest, in fact. But the organizers now feel proprietary enough about the 89-minute autobiographical DVD to look for a wider audience by keeping at the Camera through next Thursday.

With its wonderfully slithery, illusive imagery, its ambient soundtrack that's Brian Eno one second, white noise the next, and Holden's take-no-prisoners poetic narrative, Trains isn't likely to show up at your local multiplex anytime soon.

Besides, Holden has become something of an art star over the past four years since the project began. The film-cycle itself has been making the rounds of alternative film events like the Rotterdam Film Festival.

And the filmmaker — who also has published poetry and fiction and a CD with Christine Fellows — has attracted different audiences for his 2001 Trains audio poem-plus-music CD (Cyclops Press) and the 2002 Trains poetry collection (on DC Books). And one shouldn't forget the Trains website, trainsofwinnipeg.com, which reportedly gets about 150,000 hits annually and boasts almost as many links as Google.

Anyone needing a further reference point might look to Toronto videomaker Mike Hoolboom's Imitations of Life (2003) cycle, although Holden is less bound up than Hoolboom in his own narrative and more directed to events around him.

At the very heart of the suite of shorts is the section called "18,000 Dead in Gordon Head," concerning the 1982 sniper death of a 13-year-old girl in Gordon Head, an old Winnipeg suburb. It's the collection's most powerful moment visually and poetically.

(The figure 18,000 refers to the number of death scenes the average North American media consumer sees on TV or in film by the age of 16.)

Visiting a friend at the time, Holden happened to be looking the girls' way when he "heard a crack," he says in the voiceover narrative. Shocked, he watched the girl collapse, wondering why she didn't put out her hands to break her fall.

As a poet, Holden likes to build his effects, often repeating words or entire phrases, playing with the rhythm. But with "18,000 dead" his choice of words is as spare as a great crime reporter's.

Using mostly found footage of the area — although at one point he shot a scene lying on his side, getting her vantage point — he forces the viewer to flutter in and out of the social landscape. He's terrific at delineating aspects of class, social structure and money with a single image or word.)

The result is one of the most memorable moments in recent Canadian filmmaking.

Holden's visual range — his material sources range from 8 mm home flicks to digital video — is as broad as the country he covers.

It's all about reflected light when he's on the water off the British Columbia coast. It's about enormous vertical chunks of rusted steel framed against horizontal strands of railway track. But his voice is never out of your ear. Trains keeps going this way and that, but it always comes back to him.

Trains of Winnipeg screens at Camera Bar & Cinema, 1028 Queen St. W, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. until March 10.



[Alison Gillmour, Winnipeg Free Press, October 21, 2004]


Experimental work resonates on emotional level

**** (four out of five)

A lot of experimental films are concerned only with themselves. Exploring the formal and technical frontiers of their medium, they are often admirable but rarely affecting.

Clive Holden's multimedia masterwork Trains of Winnipeg – which opens tonight and screens until October 23 at Cinematheque as part of the Send + Receive Festival – has loads of experimental style.

Holden plays with four-part screens, hand-treated film, cool abstraction, found footage and re-edited home movies. He dabbles in rudimentary animation (moulded Plasticine figures mourn their roasted SUV in Burning Down the Suburbs) and creates kinetic concrete poetry in F-movie, which looks like a hallucinogenic segment of Sesame Street.

But through all these formal explorations, the local writer/filmmaker conveys a sense of lived experience, using thematic links to build to a shattering emotional effect.

Holden has constructed a 90-minute experimental feature from 14 related short works – he calls them "film poems" – created in a range of film and video formats: Super 8, 16 and 35 mm, worked-over VHS tape, and new digital technology, including one piece done with a Pentax pocket camera.

Trains of Winnipeg comes out of a three-year multimedia project that includes a book and an audio CD. The cinematic component combines poetry – spoken in Holden's uninflected but somehow expressive voice – with visual images, as well as music and sound design from John K. Samson and Jason Tait of The Weakerthans and composers Christine Fellows and Emily Goodden.

Sometimes the words recede, sometimes the images. Always they're held together in an elastic but inevitable relationship by Holden's impeccable sense of rhythm.

Some of the works have been screened as stand-alones, including the unsettling 18,000 Dead in Gordon Head, and the angry Neighbours Walk Softly, in which Holden indicts "the war against the weak."

Hitler! (revisited) is an extension of Holden's 1994 portrait of his brother Niall, who has been institutionalized with severe schizophrenia and brain damage from a stroke for over 20 years. It's a moving investigation of the complexity of the mind and the mysteries of identity and kinship.

Though these cinematic poems aren't autobiographical in the conventional sense, they gradually build up a sense of place and personal history – from the equivocal gifts of a middle-class suburban childhood in British Columbia, to the self-destructiveness of adolescence, to issues of age and loss, and finally to a sense of home in the "white city" of Winnipeg.

With Trains of Winnipeg, Holden and his collaborators combine esthetic innovation with the old-fashioned heft of moral and emotional weight. The result is an experimental epic.



[Stephen Cole, Globe & Mail, Toronto, March 4, 2005]


***1/2 (3.5 out of 4)

Written and directed by Clive Holden. Music by John K. Samson, Jason Tait and Christine Fellows

Poet-filmmaker Clive Holden was born to Irish parents in Victoria and now lives in Winnipeg. Those reckless thousand-mile leaps appear to haunt him. As does the life of his brother, Niall, a schizophrenic who suffered a stroke and so has been reduced to a half-dozen frayed words.

Trains of Winnipeg -- 14 Film Poems, which begins a week-long stay with the filmmaker in attendance this evening at the Camera Bar on Queen West, is Holden's deeply felt, ultimately joyous attempt to explore and hold forever the mysteries of his past life.

Holden is a shrewd, melancholic observer. In one piece he speaks of a party in Victoria where his parents' guests pretended interest in his life. "Like market surveyors," he reports, "they asked polite questions about what I liked and what my plans were for the future." Like American poet Richard Hugo, Holden's primary subjects are displacement and loss. Also like Hugo, his written voice is alive with a compassion and clowning wit that lend his work an admirable, almost heroic resolve.

Still, on evidence, Holden is a better filmmaker than writer. At the very least we can say that his cinematic style, which displays a soothing pleasure in movement and an obvious excitement in the rough handling of sound and colour, gives his narratives a hypnotic quality they would not otherwise achieve on the written page.

Hitler! (revisited), a prose investigation into his brother's stunted life, is told in a spare text -- no narration for once. The language and verbal imagery is purposely controlled to allow the film's visuals and music greater life. We see 16-mm home-movie close-ups of Niall's face moving at a cloud's speed across the screen. Every grimace and half-smile is coloured and distorted with chemicals. Frequently, Niall's image is interrupted by rivers of flowing detritus -- naked film passing through a projector. The soundtrack, so stately and musical elsewhere, is the white noise of unattended machinery.

Although Holden's work could fairly be considered an art movie, Trains of Winnipeg has been assembled with a performer's understanding of an audience's needs. The music, by John K. Samson, Jason Tait and Christine Fellows, is frequently lovely. And the filmmaker often chooses poems with repeated choruses, making it easier for us to "get" the film poems' first viewing.

The 14 films also come in a variety of lengths and moods and are all marked by a singular grace and imagination.

Don't be put off by the experimental-film tag. Clive Holden's home movies are more entertaining and accessible than most Keanu Reeves films.



[Jason Buchanan, The New York Times, February, 2007]

Director Clive Holden uses various film gauges, a combination of digital formats, tortured cello strings, and natural sounds to craft a feature-length film cycle that poetically straddles the borders between visual art, literature, music, and cinema. Connected though the overarching metaphor of an extended railway journey, Trains of Winnipeg also bridges the gap between the analogue and digital ages in which similar outward appearances betray a sizable shift in technology. The Trains of Winnipeg is the result of a four-year art project that has also produced a book, an audio CD, and a website designed to explore the spaces between a variety of different artistic sub-cultures. A hybrid of multiple styles, materials, and artistic intentions, Holden's film attempts to transport viewers though a unique 21st Century landscape by presenting them with a wide array of contrasting visions that truly could not have existed together at any other point in time.



[CHUCK GRAHAM, Tucson Citizen, April 15, 2005]

Graham's Grade: A

Trains of Winnipeg will change the way you watch all movies

Listening to Canadian filmmaker Clive Holden talk about the power of poetry you start thinking about the power of atomic energy. It's in everything, but releasing it isn't easy. For the Arizona International Film Festival, Holden is bringing "Trains of Winnipeg - 14 Film Poems" that releases poetic power from unexpected places. The 89-minute film is a series of 14 unrelated film poems with different titles. Only one is titled "Trains of Winnipeg." It focuses on a string of grain cars rolling through an industrial setting. Feelings of rust and loneliness fill the screen. A compulsion for purposeful work fights the inertia.

"One objective I had with the film was to make poetry instead of writing poetry," said Holden, on his cell phone from across the border. "There are other forms for a poem besides writing. It doesn't matter whether you call them sound poems, tone poems such as in classical music, architectural forms as poems, video poems or film poems. The term 'film poem' isn't a substitute for the term 'experimental film.' "

While people have been writing poems for thousands of years, the ability to add recorded sound and manipulate moving images is relatively new. Although poetry that employs music, speech and human movement all at once is called theater, we don't have a word yet for the poetic effect Holden is after. "Film poem" sort of is it, but the emotional impact of "Trains of Winnipeg" needs something greater.

Because each of Holden's film poems feels a bit like a music video, that comparison is inevitable. But the depth of feeling in Holden's work is so much greater than anything on MTV. The hip-hop world of rap is another comparison where words, music and images are combined - but once again the result doesn't compare.

Those pop culture forms are all about selling something, pushing on emotional buttons of the lowest common denominator. Holden the idealistic artist wants to unleash the full power of poetry in the life around us. It's about re-focusing our own powers of observation to unleash the poetry Holden knows is locked up inside.

Watching "Trains of Winnipeg" will change the way you watch all movies. These 14 film poems aren't button-pushers so much as they are brain stimulators, massaging parts of the imagination you didn't know existed. Holden might begin with some strips of film, perhaps nothing more than home movies of kids playing in the back yard, and start messing with them.

By chopping up the natural narrative flow, repeating some frames over and over, flashing bright lights through others, adding splashes of random color, moving in and out of focus, blinking on and off, the emotional response of the audience changes. What was once a simple scene now fills with psychological undertones, ordinary relationships morph into something else. The darkness of the movie theater becomes a black frame around Holden's picture of art that never stops moving.

Basically, Holden wants us to watch cinema with the same intensity we look at paintings in art galleries. Instead of telling a story, like an ordinary movie does, Holden's art offers a poetic experience to be absorbed. Each person will absorb it a little differently.

"Screening this film all over the world has been such a learning experience for me," said Holden.

"People have a thirst for narrative, and will create narrative out of raw material," said Holden, sounding a bit amazed by this worldwide compulsion. "While I think of this film as being a series of separate poems, they often didn't."

Because the filmmaker reads his poems as a kind of voice-over narration to the sounds and images on the screen, a common audience response is that the 14 poems represent a chronology of events in the narrator's life. Holden calls this "a drive to personalize experience."

The filmmaker has come to see this "drive" as a part of the creative experience at each screening, making each screening unique. You could also discover uniqueness watching "Trains of Winnipeg" over and over, seeing a different movie each time, finding new truths lurking beneath more obvious ones.

This is not, however, the same thing as watching "Star Wars" 104 times. Not all compulsion leads to art.



[Jason Anderson, Village Voice, December 27, 2004]

Best Undistributed Film of 2004.



[Wendy Banks, NOW Magazine, Toronto, March 3, 2005]

NNNN (4 out of 5) + Critics Pick


Trains Of Winnipeg puts poems into a film form that meditates on memory.

This is essentially a book of poems in film form, an idea that seems so simple and intuitive, you wonder why everyone isn't doing it. Then you realize the scope of the deliberate, intricate work involved.

Holden sets 14 poems about place and displacement, memory and movement to prettily distorted images of figures and landscapes that stutter like a stuck memory. It's all accompanied by gorgeous, evocative sound design that teeters between sound effect and melody by Weakerthans John K. Samson and Jason Tait.

As his musings swing from love in Winnipeg to childhood in Nanaimo and violence in the suburbs, Holden achieves the kind of immersive subjectivity that is, if not universal, at least national. (March 4 to 10 at Camera)



[Scott MacDonald, author of the Critical Cinema series, Arizona Film Festival, April 10, 2005]

Trains of Winnipeg -14 Film Poems is a landmark of independent cinema and a considerable poetic accomplishment. Holden’s poems are presented vocally and textually in combination with visuals of considerable variety and dexterity, organized so as to complement and expand the implications of the poems. By the end of the film’s 88 minutes, viewers have experienced a lifetime of resonant personal experiences and emotions. Trains of Winnipeg is that rare experimental film that can command the 35mm screen and communicate with general audiences.



[Geoffrey Macnab, Rotterdam Festival Daily Tiger, January 29, 2005]

Director Clive Holden talks about Trains Of Winnipeg

Trains Of Winnipeg started life as a multi-media project in 2001. First in the form of a book and audio-CD, followed by the experimental feature screening in Rotterdam, consisting of 14 ‘film poems.’

Winnipeg-based director Clive Holden is a polymath: poet, web-designer and publisher, as well as a filmmaker. All his various talents feed into Trains Of Winnipeg, which includes found footage, home movies and sequences shot on both film and video.

‘Straddling the worlds of cinema, video art, music and literature, the 14 linked works employ a wide variety of non-linear digital and filmic formal experiments to depict suburban and urban dystopias,’ Holden has written. Speaking in Rotterdam this week, the director explained that the 14 mini-movies each presented a different challenge. ‘They’re all unified but they all have their individual goals to try to achieve.’

Throughout, unifying the various images, we hear the deadpan voice of the artist as he recites his poems. Though he touches on what seems like painfully personal material, for instance his relationship with his severely schizophrenic brother or a murder he witnessed of a teenage girl in 1982, his narration doesn’t betray emotion. ‘The most unifying thing for a lot of the audience is the assumption that it is purely autobiographical. Therefore, they create a semi-fictional character called Clive Holden and they follow that character through the piece,’ Holden says, but adds he never intended the project to be ‘intensely personal’ or self-revelatory. ‘I think of the autobiographical content as raw material… for me, I’m outside of the process.’

The first episode in the series, Love in the white city, began as a commission from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. ‘They phoned me up one day and wanted me to write about love in Winnipeg.’ The film, shot with a tiny camera, shows Holden crossing the empty, snowbound city. As in Mike Figgis’s Timecode, the screen is split into four.

With Trains, Holden is seeking to ‘renew the discussion’ about the relationship between ‘dramatic narrative and less linear work, prose fiction and poetry.’ As he points out, more and more fine artists are beginning to work in film. Winnipeg is a sympathetic place for artists. ‘The artistic community is very strong, supportive and collaborative,’ Holden (who has lived in the city for eight years) says. He works as a web designer at an arts centre, but his employers give him plenty of time to devote to his own projects – and to come to festivals like Rotterdam.



[Chris Gehman, POV Magazine, Winter 2004/05]

For the past several years, Winnipeg has been home to writer and filmmaker Clive Holden, the proprietor of Cyclops Press, and an intense observer of the urban emotional landscape. Holden's ambitious film cycle Trains of Winnipeg – 14 Film Poems premiered at Toronto's Images Festival this past spring, and has since played Victoria's Antimatter Festival, Winnipeg's own Send and Receive, the venerable Flaherty Seminar, and several prestigious venues in Spain. It's an auspicious debut for a hybrid work that could have had a hard time finding venues. Holden calls Trains a "multimedia art project" that exists independently as a book of poems and a CD. One of his purposes was to create a work that would "straddle the balkanized worlds of cinema, visual art, music and literature."

As the subtitle implies, Trains of Winnipeg comprises 14 distinct sections, most of them composed of spoken texts, music and images, interspersed with occasional short, wordless vignettes. The picture track was edited digitally and completed in 35mm, but the source material is disparate, ranging from 8mm home movies to 16mm film and digital video. Each "film poem" reflects on an aspect of Holden's unfolding experience, drawing on his relationship with his aging parents, his early life in suburban Victoria, moving around the country, witnessing a murder, trying to come to terms with the institutionalization of his schizophrenic brother,. Even when its subject matter is grim, or its tone critical, Holden's is a warm voice, lending the film an emotional accessibility uncommon in experimental film.

Recently, a number of experimental filmmakers have created feature-length works from a number of short, independent segments – Mike Hoolboom's recent Imitations of Life (2003) and Gustav Deutsch's Film Ist series (ongoing) come to mind – but Holden's cycle is unique in character and tone, and feels wholly unified by his generous, forthright poetic voice. With its emphasis on the social landscape, Trains of Winnipeg may relate more specifically to that strong Canadian tradition of films which plumb the mysterious character of particular places, among them Jack Chambers' Hart of London (1970), Joyce Wieland's Reason Over Passion (1968-69), Rick Hancox's Moose Jaw (There's a Future in Our Past) (1992) and David Rimmer's Local Knowledge (1992).

Many of the sections work within a single visual motif, much as a poet will employ a restrictive structure or rhyme scheme. In the opening piece, "Love in the White City," for example, the poem's mordent litany on love's poor chances in Winnipeg is echoed by the downcast gaze of the camera. The screen is divided into four quadrants, each tracking the shadow of filmmaker and camera as they traverse the streets and sidewalks of the "White City." In "The Jew and the Irishman," a huge moon floats at centre screen, superimposed on floor plans for suburban homes, while Holden recalls his father's courageous rebuke to a party guest's crass ethnic joke. The film's darkest passage is "18,000 Dead in Gordon Head," which has already been seen at many international festivals as a separate short film. Here, Holden talks about witnessing the arbitrary murder of a teenage girl by a suburban sniper, and his subsequent inability to really feel anything about this death. Perhaps, he suggests, the steady diet of simulated violence and death provided by the mass media have normalized murder, muting his – and our – capacity to respond to the real thing.

Winnipeg is the site of one of the world's biggest train yards, acres and acres of track occupying enormous expanses towards the city's northern and eastern edges, and creating a distinct division in the city's social landscape. It was these train yards that suggested the project's title. In the final reel of the film, after engaging us with his verbal eloquence, Holden confidently dispenses with words altogether, creating a lengthy, rhythmic montage of trains in motion in the yards and on the prairies. Trains of Winnipeg is a fine and unusual film, which not only deserves to be seen by an audience wider than provided by our alternative film venues – many films deserve more viewers than they get – but has a real potential to be embraced by members of that broader audience.

Trains of Winnipeg is distributed by the Winnipeg Film Group (winnipegfilmgroup.com). Extensive information and audio and video clips from the project's various incarnations are available online at trainsofwinnipeg.com.



[Jonathan Ball, Uptown Magazine, October 14, 2004]


Rating: "A"

A collection of 14 related short films, Trains of Winnipeg is a feature-length experimental movie that reinterprets work from other sections of Clive Holden's Trains of Winnipeg project. Instead of a series of interrelated short narratives, the movie consists of a series of 'film poems'.

Sometimes these film poems are akin to music videos for tracks from the Trains of Winnipeg album; other times the films add visuals and music to words previously published in the Trains of Winnipeg book. One film, Hitler! (Revisited), uses an old Holden film from outside the project as the basis for a new work that finds a place in the Trains canon.

The final short, Trains of Winnipeg, is a separate work, and the only film devoid of Holden's voice-over poetry. (A poem of the same name in the book is set to music in the album.) This film consists entirely of footage of trains and machinery set to music and the sounds of the rail yard. Through careful editing, repetition and sound design, Holden builds what would otherwise seem like little more than stock footage into a symphonic coda that feels like a fitting end to such an epic project.

The book, CD, and 13 films find Holden exploring his own thoughts about trains, migration, movement and notions of selfhood - all of which are affected by geography and relationships with other people. In the final short, Holden's voice is absent and viewers must engage in a meditation on what personal meaning the Trains of Winnipeg project might have.

As a whole, the films are excellent. Holden combines various video and film formats to great visual effect, and the music and sound design is outstanding. Holden's voice, which narrates or reads poetry over 13 of the 14 films, maintains a consistent tone that prevents the poetic segments from moving too far into the foreground but without being so emotionless as to relegate the words to the status of soundtrack. Holden's cadence is slow and thoughtful without seeming detached, expressing melancholy without weighing down the film with a depressive drone.

The greatest strengths of the films are their rhythms. Taking the sounds of trains as his starting point, Holden edits the works to complement the poetry and music by looping and slowing segments to allow for reviewing and meditation. Though the films employ editing techniques commonly associated with experimental video and film art, the music and the poetry - and ultimately the films themselves - are much more accessible than might be expected.

Trains of Winnipeg is a perfect example of art that manages to be complex and cerebral without becoming pretentious, opaque and ultimately boring.

Too many experimental filmmakers sacrifice visceral appeal in favour of stuffy, overly academic notions. Such films have more in common with logic puzzles than personal, meaningful art. In an age where ambition is held up to ridicule in favour of postmodern posturing, it's refreshing to see an artist who isn't afraid to attempt art-making on an epic scale.


"Part of what's interesting about riding a train," says Clive Holden, "is that as you're travelling along there's no other element of the highway outside of the window, there are no other vehicles, you're not seeing cars and trucks driving along beside you in the other lane. It's just the countryside.

"The other element of that is, as you pass through a town or a city... you see the ragged backs of all these buildings. It's like getting a peak under a rug and seeing all the things that are officially swept under the rug."

Holden has a lot of ideas about trains. He's even got his own website, trainsofwinnipeg.com, He's also got a book, an album, and a movie, all called Trains of Winnipeg and all centring around the metaphor of the Canadian railyard giants as symbols of power, possibility, and self-exploration.

"I think that (trains) are a found metaphor that is understandable on a basic level by most people. I think it has to do with strength and grace on a large scale, and maybe also human potential.

"The train is a symbol of our own possibilities; we see this giant thing, moving so gracefully. And of course the sound - the sound is just filled with an incredible variety of wonderful rhythms. Sp they're these giant kinetic sculptures accompanied by a kind of music symphony."

Music is an important part of Holden's project. The poet teamed up with musicians Christine Fellows, Emily Goodden, Steve Bates and Weakerthans John K. Samson and Jason Tait to create music for both the CD and movie, both of which adapt work from Holden's book. This multidisciplinary approach - combining video, film and sound art with written and performed poetry - was something Holden felt was necessary to explore the project's full potential.

"I think that a lot of the most interesting art is found in the gaps between media and genres. You can only go so far specializing on one media or genre, though that's very worthwhile... but I often have concepts that I want to (develop) combining formal exploration with political ideas.

"It's traditionally something you're not supposed to do, but I like doing things I'm not supposed to do to see if I can get something (that's creative) out of the tension. If you're paying attention and you bring things together to create tension, that moment of tension can be a really interesting place to explore."

Though the movie Trains of Winnipeg may seem like the final instalment of the project, the finishing touches will be found on Holden's website, where he will be contemplating the project as a whole while travelling to film festivals and unwinding from involvement with the ambitious undertaking.

"I think of the website as being the hub of the project, what pulls it all together. I'm trying to document (online) my observations about the project now, at the end of four years... I'm trying to step back and get a bird's eye view of the whole thing."



[GertJan Zuilhof, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Jan. 2005]

A visually opulent, almost hypnotic film, for which the word poetic really is justified for a change. This hybrid film is made up of fourteen film poems, each of which has the character of an individual short film, but in tone and approach they are all clearly related. Without a doubt, the film fits into the tradition of the experimental film, but it also has an epic quality rare within this genre. Within this tangible unity, the film uses a variety of kinds of images such as home movies, found footage and images processed during development, but also material from more recent visual developments in video and Internet art. The film comprises monumental, calmly recited poems. Poems that have their own autonomy within the film and hence are not literally illustrated by the images. Alongside images and text, music plays an important role. This role is so important that you could rightly call it a musical film. The film stops to look at landscapes and places that have a meaning to the director without any sign of autobiography or nostalgia. The mood and often mysterious and intriguing images unmistakably have a universal element. The film is part of an extensive multimedia project for which a CD, a book and a website have also been released.



[Chris Kennedy, FilmCan, Issue 3, June 2005]

Clive Holden's Trains of Winnipeg – Fourteen Film Poems is one of the most notable feature length experimental films of the last few years. With a lush and lucid approach, Holden takes up the mantle of cine-poet, drawing from the transcendental traditions of both film and poetry that place identity within the landscape of experience and vision. By focusing on the railway as a carrier of this transient identity, Holden expands on a common theme for Canadian experimental film, updating nationally focused work like Joyce Wieland's Reason Over Passion in his own personal way.

From the very beginning of the film, Holden lays claim to the primacy of his personal vision as a guide to his reminiscences and observations. In the first film poem, Love in the White City, the screen is divided up into four frames with each frame containing an image of Holden's shadow as he walks around his neighbourhood, cradling the small video camera in his arms. It is a classic annunciation of presence within artisanal filmmaking, but Holden recreates it anew, particularly because vision is tied so closely with voice in this film.

It is often his words that provide the main propulsion for Trains of Winnipeg. The film is a culmination of a multimedia project that included a book of poetry and a CD of readings, so it is natural that the film would absorb so many of his words. At times the poetry overwhelms the richly saturated imagery, but in poems like 18,000 Dead in Gordon Head, where he ruminates on the death of a girl, and in the closing pieces that reflect on his aging parents and their choice of a final living space, Holden's words reveal his attention to the fleetingness of vision and place.

It is as a viewing experience, where the poetry of Trains of Winnipeg really shines. Holden uses a rich, high contrast color palette, partly achieved by using a low-end consumer digital video camera and then blowing it up to 35mm. His visual choices are strong and lyrical, while his editing draws upon a well-hewn sense of rhythm and meter. Because his themes are familiar terrain within a Canadian lexicon, he respectfully borrows certain approaches from filmmakers like David Rimmer and Joyce Wieland, even while investing his images with narrative presence. It is as if he uses the tropes of structural film as hangers on which to overlay his emotions and words.

As a meditation on the Canadian experience, Holden reveals that migration is as important as immigration in a national identity. Each film speaks of specific places (Active Pass, Nanaimo Station, Bus north to Thompson with Les at the wheel) , but also the act of passing through. Holden, who carries with him a particularly Canadian sense of vision, speaks often about the attempts to identify with others on the road and see through their eyes. There's a stunning moment in 18,000 Dead in Gordon Head where he lies on his side with the camera, attempting to empathize with a young girl who bled to death on that very spot. With humility, he recognizes that in the end, "it's just hard concrete".

After all his travelling and experience, Holden's parents become the prime model for his experience of identity. They were Irish immigrants who moved through London to Canada in the fifties, living throughout Western Canada before finally retiring in Victoria. Holden's brother, a schizophrenic, was fractured by the migration and seems attached to the old world of Europe, while Holden absorbed the constant moving into a wanderlust that still seems placed in a firm sense of a regional home. It is fitting that his final text imagines Holden keeping his parents close by creating a pair of wings for them. They are only more near when given the freedom to fly.

The film ends with a long visual meditation in the rail yards of Winnipeg, placed to a soundtrack by Emily Goodden. The poems have moved back and forth across Western Canada, but have seldom lingered in Winnipeg. Instead, Winnipeg serves as the hub through which the trains and memories pass. Like Holden himself in the roll of narrator, this hub serves as a conduit of experience, where a fluid identity can have a momentary rest in a personalized place, resonating through words and images before moving on again.



[Images Festival, April, 2004]

From the prairies comes Clive Holden's experimental feature, TRAINS OF WINNIPEG - 14 FILM POEMS. Holden explores his feelings of transience, loss and longing for a place to call home through a series of short films and spoken texts, scored by two members of The Weakerthans and composer Christine Fellows. He presents us with images of neighbourhoods and locations that are inherently Canadian, but his rhythmic and abstract approach shifts our focus, requiring us to re-examine what we thought was familiar. TRAINS OF WINNIPEG takes the form of an episodic journey shrouded in mystery that accumulates emotional impact with locomotive force.

This debut feature, Saturday, April 17 at 5 pm, heralds the appearance of a remarkable new filmmaking talent.



[Steve Faguy, The Link – Concordia University, Montreal]

Childish repetitive nonsense finds a home in Trains of Winnipeg

Don't you hate poets who think they're artistic because their poems are repetitive? Don't you hate poets who think they're artistic because their poems are repetitive? Don't you hate poets who think they're artistic because their poems are repetitive?

The agony of reading the above paragraph will be multiplied ten-fold for anyone reading Clive Holden's book Trains of Winnipeg.

The collection of poems on everything from public transit to his parents seems lost in its focus, perhaps because it never had one to begin with.

The book's back cover would have us believe that Holden pays "attention to the importance of the image," but the poems themselves are anything but. Most simply spew random facts without any description, leaving the reader disconnected from any image Holden tries to put forward.

Poems like "Manitoba manifesto" exemplify this annoying repetition and lack of clarity, with verses like "the cage door is open now... but we're afraid of the change. the cage door is open now... but we're afraid of the change. the cage door is open now... but we're afraid of the change. the cage door is open now... but we're afraid of the change."

Thank you, but we got the point the first time.

Despite this, the book has a few gems inside. "Love in the white city" is an eyebrow-raiser, with verses like "love in the white city . is unlikely/ the mud is too deep/ and the snow tastes of dogs," while others show interesting ways of describing sexual situations using non-sexual words.

But while some of the poems in this book are worth reading, it's hard to shake that feeling that there's a half hour that could have been better spent watching The Simpsons.

Even for a public transit buff such as myself, the poems are disappointing at best.



[James Digiovanna, Tucson Weekly, April 14, 2005]

Even more experimental was Trains of Winnipeg - 14 Film Poems, by Clive Holden, a series of 14 short films, many of them recitations of poems over stunning imagery. Holden is a master of the captivating visual, and a surprisingly good poet, though he really should have gotten someone else to read the poems, as his voice is increasingly unpleasant. Nonetheless, if you focus on sight and not sound, this is the kind of film that is so appealing it could, if given the chance, really expand the audience for non-narrative film.



[Helen Westerik, www.filmgoddess.net, Feb. 8, 2005]

after seeing Trains of Winnipeg at the Rotterdam Film Festival 2005:

When you go to festivals, you try to see the films you can’t see in your local art cinema. Sometimes that means that you walk out after 10 minutes, knowing the film was not meant for you. This was the risk I took when seeing Trains of Winnipeg . Half expecting to be bored by a self-indulgent work of art, I chose a seat next to the exit, just in case. Finding that there was absolutely no need for that, I sat intrigued and mesmerized by this film. I considered watching it again.

Trains of Winnipeg consists of 14 individual but mutually congruent film poems that cover topics from politics (Neighbours Walk Softly , an anti-war poem) to very personal (Hitler, revisited, which explores the relationship with his schizophrenic brother and family in general). Although the filmmaker draws some of the poems from his own experience, sometimes even very personal and very painful ones, the abstract way of presenting it and the unemotional voice-over lifts it to a higher plan. The boundaries between the political, the personal and, by lack of a better word, the meta-personal, blur.

Holden paints 14 different pictures, or writes 14 different poems with film, video, and found footage. He uses loops, split screens, fragmentation to go with the beautiful soundtrack and the poems that he recites. The rhythm that he creates using sound and visuals, makes you want to embark on the journey with him, much like the rhythm of a train is half the joy of your trip. In coarse-grained images of legs, trains, sideways, mountains and condos, Holden meditates on life, love, death, longing and the feeling of displacement.

The Trains of Winnipeg film is part, or maybe, the conclusion of a larger project, including a website, a CD with the soundtrack and a book with the poetry. Holden has worked on the project since 2001. The time he took to finish the project definitely pays off in balance and aesthetics. This amazing work of art should be seen by everyone interested in visual culture.



[Adam McDowell, National Post, Toronto, March 05, 2005]

It might have one of the least promising titles you're likely to come across, but Trains of Winnipeg: 14 Film Poems has been hailed as the Ben-Hur of experimental cinema.

On the heels of successful runs at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and Berlin's transmediale, director Clive Holden's epic is rolling into Toronto for a week-long screening. The film strings 14 shorts together through tone and metaphor to tell a story of travel and distance.

Holden says it's time people approached experimental film with an open mind.

"I would like people to approach avant-garde cinema in the same way they approach music. There are popular audiences for surprisingly esoteric types of music," he adds, citing contemporary jazz as an example.

Trains of Winnipeg is not just a film. Since 2001, Holden and a large team of collaborators have been exploring the themes of travel and boundaries in a book of poems, a Web site and a CD of poetry and music.

Holden admits the name of his project is potentially misleading -- most of it has only metaphorical links with trains or Winnipeg.

"Will a train buff be disappointed by parts of Trains of Winnipeg? Absolutely," he says.



[George Godwin, Cinema Scope Magazine, Fall, 2004]

One of the most impressive recent releases [is] Clive Holden's experimental feature, Trains of Winnipeg (2004).  Subtitled "14 Film Poems," this haunting assembly of short ruminations on death, love, loss, and some kind of redemption, makes use of hand-processing, an attention to the physical surface of the film, a combination of Super 8, 16mm, old home movies, and new footage made to look old and degraded. Holden's cyclical, repeating images and evocative soundtracks support readings of his poetry. Initially, Holden's flat, inexpressive voice is alienating, but the film gradually accumulates a visceral power and emotional force (18,000 Dead in Gordon Head is genuinely chilling in its description of the poet's affectless response to a murder). In fact, it gathers such force that when we get to the final textless segment, our minds fill the space provided with our own thoughts and emotions, waking us to feeling to which Holden has unexpectedly led us.



[Jane McCullough, Fast Forward Weekly, Calgary, September 29, 2005]

Featuring 14 short films that collaborate with the poems that inspired them, this is an excellent chance to experience interesting visuals together with one of Canada’s unique voices. From the painterly image to the abstract turn of phrase, from stream of consciousness to sense of humour, Trains of Winnipeg is reverential in its references to Guy Maddin, Sergei Eisenstein and Georges Méliès without resorting to the contrived. With a glorious original score from John K. Samson and Jason Tait (Weakerthans), and Christine Fellows, this work is both patriotic and self-deprecating, like so many Canadians of a certain generation. Unlike going to see a random program of short films, you should prepare yourself for repetition and unity in voice and style – that of the director and poet, Clive Holden.



[Rob Nay, The Uniter, October 14, 2004]

Trains of Winnipeg eschews artistic barriers, forming a riveting, wide expanse of work. Writer and filmmaker Clive Holden will be unveiling the latest addition, a series of film poems, to his multidisciplinary project as part of Send + Receive - a Festival of Sound.

The film poems add another layer to a richly textured work that includes a CD of music and spoken poetry released in 2001, a book published in 2002, and a website launched in 2001. For Trains of Winnipeg, Holden had a transparent intention to explore varied forms, challenging the divisions that sometimes solidify between artistic genres.

"You end up with gaps between these (art) worlds and in the gaps are a lot of the most interesting things because that's where things are least explored, outside of these walls and fences that are built," says Holden. "So I thought that if I designed a project that by definition had several feet in different worlds, then part of the result of the project would be seeing things in these spaces."

The film poems present a multitude of perspectives, fusing musical, visual and lyrical narratives into an absorbing whole. On Trains of Winnipeg, artists including Christine Fellows and The Weakerthans' Jason Tait provide the musical backdrop to Holden's images and words.

In creating the short films, Holden made use of a variety of visual formats such as 35mm, 16mm, Super 8, and video to fashion a collection of experimental images.

He lists two primary reasons for the range of forms. The first is "an interest in using all these different textures and colour palettes to create different effects throughout the piece," he says. "The other other main purpose is that I wanted to say something about this particular time in history when we're moving from film to digital, from analog media to digital media, from celluloid to video. A lot of the most interesting work is coming out of both worlds at once."

Although Trains of Winnipeg received its premiere earlier this year in Toronto and has toured other festivals since then, Holden looks forward to the film's Winnipeg debut at Send + Receive, an event he holds in high regard.

"I'm just a big follower of the festival. I've gone to every one and I think it's one of the best media arts festivals in the world for my money. It's an incredibly exciting event," says Holden.

Trains of Winnipeg will make its Winnipeg premiere at Cinematheque as part of Send + Receive on Thursday, October 21st.



[Lindsay Gibb, Take One Magazine, June - September 2004 issue]

One longer-form film [at Images Festival 2004] that did manage to maintain interest throughout was a compilation of 14 short films brought together to make a trance-inducing whole. Clive Holden's TRAINS OF WINNIPEG is a package of art forms that complement each other in captivating ways. Using poems, music and films to wrench a range of feelings from his audience––beginning with cynicism, moving to nostalgia, adding on discomfort and ending with yearning––TRAINS OF WINNIPEG runs the gamut of human emotions.



[Jason Anderson, Eye Weekly, April 15, 2004]

damn near sublime

TRAINS OF WINNIPEG: Clive Holden's collection of 14 film poems is wry, wise and damn near sublime. A world premiere, TRAINS OF WINNIPEG juxtaposes the poet and filmmaker's ruminations on landscape and memory with a wide array of visual strategies (home movies, found footage, hand-processed film) and eerie music by Christine Fellows and the Weakerthans' John K. Samson and Jason Tait. With its great formal ingenuity and profound emotional richness, this rates as one of the finest experimental features ever made in Canada.



[Dylan Ferguson, The Manitoban – U. of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Oct., 2004]

All aboard the Holden express

Experimental films run short on cinematic steam

Experimental film is a difficult genre to dabble in, even if your conductor is a veteran of fringe artistic ventures like city-based artist Clive Holden. Trains of Winnipeg, Holden’s latest genre-bending work, is an ambitious forward dive into the world of artistic cinema. A feature-length movie composed of 14 short “film poems,” the poetry is sharp, the overall feel is immersive and haunting, but the value of his cinema is questionable.

Few can question Clive Holden’s talent as a poet, and although it’s dry and unenthusiastic, his free-verse shows inspiration and austere meditation as it leaps back and forth between themes like humanity, small-town charm, psychology and social issues through effortless stream-of-consciousness gymnastics. Never one to confine his talent to a clearly defined genre, Holden reads his poetry aloud as a voice-over to experimental short films that are mostly altered stock of urban shots that pulsate and glow and loop, presumably to imitate the mindset of the poems’ author. Occasionally, the mood this creates is intoxicating and allows us to better consume his musing verse, most notably in the harrowing fifth vignette, 18,000 Dead in Gordon Head. It also works with both Love in the White City and Neighbour Walk Softly, which, with the help of a throbbing, electrically humming musical score, build a surreal visual atmosphere that forsakes reality to delve you into the shadowy areas of your inner mind.

Even though the poetry is necessary, my sneaking suspicion that the imagery would be more effective without Holden’s soft, laconic voice was confirmed by the most powerful work here, Hitler! (revisited): a previously released piece that is absolutely haunting and chilling, in no small part because all the words were written. The final film, Trains of Winnipeg, is pure visual poetry and absorbing in a simple, relaxed way.

Though the organization is strong, and the sensation created at film’s end is palpable, too few of the shorts were actually engaging. In fact, only three awed me, and too many (the miniaturized Death in the Suburbs, the flippant F-movie, the not-for-epileptics Condo) were either poorly-conceived or just too simple or gimmicky to be memorable. The problem is that Holden has little real cinematic talent and deprived of his cheap photographic effects he would have nothing to work with — and I think he knows it. That would certainly explain the saturation of strobe effects, superimposition, red and green dyed film stock, and the endless looping of every shot. In theory, I suppose, Holden is trying to channel the European masters of experimentalism, but in practice his cinematic ability is too limited, and only the inspiration that shines through his poetry wards off the boredom he courts with his simplistic visuals.

The thing about experimental film is that it is inherently less entertaining than narrative film out of a lack of obvious structure. A story provides easily recognizable interest upon which you can hang such wonderful frills as character, mood, style and themes. Experimental film lacks this solid spine and therefore must be absolutely enthralling or thought-provoking — which is a very hard thing to do — in order to maintain interest. Holden strains as an artist, but his ability is limited to creating a world of sensation without substance. And I understand that this may be part of the point, but it is nevertheless unfulfilling. If a traditional narrative film is a full-bodied meal, Trains feels like a bag of potato chips: momentarily enjoyable to consume but ultimately unsatisfying.

As an artistic venture, Trains of Winnipeg is likable, mostly because it is raw, personal and original. By the end, there is an established, unique style, and we have a definite feel for the author’s mind, and often you cannot ask for more than that in an artistic work. Its failure is only on a cinematic level. Though it never derails and does gain some momentum as it chugs along its pathos-laden path, Trains is fuel ed by coals of a literary grade but ultimately runs out of steam just short of its destination: Cinema.



[Winnipeg Cinematheque, September, 2004]

The premiere of film-maker and poet Clive Holden's epic new film [Trains of Winnipeg] is a cause for celebration. He has created a stunningly imaginative new experimental work, rich in imagery and a sense of wonder using a collage of film stocks and video formats from 1950's 8mm to super 8, 16mm, 35mm, and VHS found footage - to the latest in digital technology. The film has already played to great acclaim in Spain and the United States and now returns home.

Straddling the borders between the worlds of cinema, visual art, and literature, the fourteen films include a variety of filmic and digital experiments, essays exploring the politics of form and form of personal politics as well as audiovisual poems celebrating the raw joy of moving pictures, sound, colour and light.

Featuring a beautiful ambient score by two members of The Weakerthans - John K. Samson and Jason Tait, Christine Fellows, Steve Bates and Emily Goodden.



[Frank Moens, www.kutsite.com, Brussels]

In deze experimentele film worden 14 gedichten van Amerikaanse schrijvers voorgelezen op, meestal korrelige, beelden, vaak eerder visuals. Als je de gedichten goed vindt, dienen de beelden ter ondersteuning, het verbaast dan ook niet echt als je weet dat deze film deel uitmaakt van een multimedia project waar ook de CD, het boek en de website een deel van uitmaken.



[Jesse Wente, CBC Radio Metro Morning, Toronto, March 4, 2005]:

For folks looking for something a little more cutting edge, there's a screening at Camera - the new cinema and bar on Queen West.

March 4th and 5th you can see a very interesting experimental film called Trains of Winnipeg - 14 Film Poems, directed by Clive Holden.

As you might imagine from the title, its a collection of 14 short films, which mix methods and styles - each is a poem - both verbal and visual, using old home movies, manipulated stock, and new footage, with split screens, and overlaying images, along with music into a rhythmic experience.

You'll like some of the films better than others, but taken as a whole, the film explores themes of home and longing - often the films involve moving - walking, riding a bike, driving - giving it a transient atmosphere.

This is the type of movie that you'll pretty much never get to see, unless you head to the Camera cinema (1028 Queen St. W.) March 4th and 5th. At tonight's screening, artist Clive holden will be there to discuss Trains of Winnipeg.



[LIFT Newsletter, April, 2004]

2004 IMAGES HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE: prairie wunderkind Clive Holden premiering the hauntingly exquisite Trains Of Winnipeg.



[Jon Paul Fiorentino, Matrix Magazine, Spring, 2002]

Clive Holden's Trains of Winnipeg is a CD of poems and music featuring gorgeous, retro cover art, music by Christine Fellows, members of Winnipeg's The Weakerthans and Holden's hauntingly powerful lyric voice. The poems range from the nostalgic "Nanaimo Station" in which the poetic voice romanticizes the town of his birth and anticipates the future: "I was born in Nanaimo, two blocks from the station." The station serves as a symbol of departure toward the primary subject matter that makes up "Trains of Winnipeg": the poetic voice is the train finally settling into home after a restless wanderlust.

In "Transcona" Holden achieves simple, effective imagery: "Transcona is where the trains go to settle and clean in the middle of our country / . . . I sat in a ditch by a field of chalk yellow." Here, Holden manages to capture the beauty of a region without succumbing to the trappings of regionalism. The poetic voice makes the region accessible and as universal as words will allow. The most stunning track/poem on this CD is "Condo" which contains the line: "My parents' condo is where they've moved to die." Here we find a startling truth delivered in a chilling, terse manner. Another chilling track/poem is "18,000 Dead in Gordon Head" in which the poetic voice recounts the various voyeuristic encounters he has had with death. These encounters grow out of a formative encounter with a thirteen year old gunshot victim in the small town of Gordon Head. This poem contains the most morbid subject matter of this collection and this is amplified by the poetic voice's desire to record it all, not only through poetry but also on film. This is prose poetry at its finest.

The poems that make up Trains of Winnipeg are enhanced by the resonant musical contributions by Christine Fellows, John K. Samson and Jason Tait. As well, Holden's delivery of the poems is seamless; his is a voice that calms even as it disturbs. However, these poems stand on their own–not simply as song lyrics but as lyric or narrative verse. This is literature: an economy of language, an attention to the importance of the image, and a sophisticated application of rhetoric make Trains of Winnipeg an outstanding and unique poetic debut. It is stunning to hear a spoken word CD of such quality; it is equally frustrating to have to wait for the full length book that is to follow. Thankfully, Trains of Winnipeg has grown from a spoken word CD into a multimedia art project. The entire text of the Trains of Winnipeg CD is available at www.trainsofwinnipeg.com or www.cyclopspress.com along with an impressive book-length manuscript and experimental films (the film that accompanies "18,000 Dead in Gordon Head" should not be missed).



[Sean Michaels, TangMonkey, Montreal]

The Best Music of 2001: #1. Clive Holden - Trains of Winnipeg.

I love this album. A strange collaboration between the Winnipeg poet Clive Holden and two members of folk-punk outfit the Weakerthans, Trains of Winnipeg evokes wonder, sadness, rest and regret through a series of poems read to music. Holden's voice bends with the music, but also maintains the integrity of the words: he is not singing, but his delivery dances with the melody, the one enriching the other. Holden tells stories or paints pictures. The musicians erect Mogwai-esque guitar landscapes, rumbling train soundtracks or creepy, ambient noise to match each piece. Even if you don't normally enjoy spoken word, this album is a masterpiece - like an older brother to Gord Downie's Coke Machine Glow - and it was my favourite album of 2001.



[Joey Sweeney, Philadelphia Weekly]

Top 5 of the Moment

Clive Holden is a poet from British Columbia, and on Trains of Winnipeg , he's backed up by some of Canada's great post-emo hopes: singer/songwriter Christine Fellows and two members of The Weakerthans. With a musical backing that splits the difference between that sort of Godspeed You Black Emperor pensiveness and a more propulsive indie inspiration, Holden's poems are laid out in a great old fogy/young man voice that'll go down especially well with fans of the blowing plastic bag scene in American Beauty. Trains of Winnipeg is that kind of party.



[David Rozniatowski, Prairie Fire Review of Books]

Although a complete literary entity in itself, Trains of Winnipeg is actually just one component of a multi-media two year art project of the same name, undertaken by Clive Holden and "several comrades." In addition to the poems, the project includes a website, a collection of experimental film poems and art videos, and a CD. The project was to continue as an ongoing work in progress throughout 2003.

If the poems are representative of the work as a whole, the complete Trains of Winnipeg project must be an experience of impressive emotional intensity. Trains are a central but not pervasive image in the collection of poems, although the train association can be read into several of the works where it is not so immediately obvious. Many of life's situations and emotions--movement, separation, relocation, restlessness, anticipation, apprehension--can be expressed in the metaphor of a train journey. Even when the train motif is not in evidence, Holden's profuse and rapidly shifting imagery evokes the experience of looking out of the window of a fast moving train -each changing scene is a quickly glimpsed moment in time, framed briefly in the window of experience to invite immediate reaction and comment, or to be photographed and stored in the archive of memory for future consideration.

The Trains of Winnipeg collection of poems is even a multi-media experience in itself, encompassing poems, prose passages (which, however, have a marked poetic diction of their own), concrete poems which transmute the printed word into a medium for the construction of visual art, and stills from film footage. The last mentioned items are probably the least successful, because even although they are directly related to two printed works, the prose poem, "18,000 dead in gordon head" (a found film) and the poem, "neighbours walk softly," the out-of-context and out-of-focus visuals do little to enhance the literary work, simply because they are stills. The pictorial element would be much more effective seen as moving images in juxtaposition with the dynamism of the texts.

The poems are wonderfully clever and inventive, while maintaining a sensitivity of feeling that prevents them from turning into mere virtuoso word play. "rhyming method" (26) is a skillfully wrought meditation on themes of reproduction, existence, and what makes each of us a unique individual. It really has to be read aloud to appreciate the consonance and assonance of all the words beginning with "r" followed by different vowels and vowel sounds, even including examples from Italian and Latin--"ottava and terza rima" and "procreate ad rem."

Similarly, hands of "henry moore" (35) plays on words beginning with "m," and toys with the name, "Moore" in much the same way that Alexander Pope played with the name, Hannah More, almost three hundred years ago. The quasi-mantric chant at the beginning of each stanza, "moore/mammal/mammalian," where the omission of the letter "l" in the second word would yield the word "mamma," provides a perfect segue into a brief but fond allusion to Moore's ineffably beautiful mother and child sculptures, and passes on to make an oblique but certainly identifiable reference to a great tragedy of maternal love in the lines, "i want the sun . . . i want the sun," the terrifying words of Oswald in the shattering final scene of Ibsen's Ghosts , when Mrs. Alving realizes that her son has gone mad.

The tone of the poems is sombre and pessimistic. There is plenty of jeu d'esprit , but little that is humorous in the sense of evoking laughter. "manitoba manifesto:" is a superbly crafted poem, with its repeated phrases giving a clickety-click rhythm to the metre that suggests the sound of a train rolling along the tracks, but its dark mood threatens and throbs in phrases like "we're dying here, there's not enough food and YOU don't care" and "i'm tired, nobody loves me and i want to go home." The poem "trains of winnipeg" (from which the collection takes its name) is a tough yet tender ballad that implicitly reminds us that trains carry freight as well as passengers, and that we are simultaneously passengers in the train of life experience, and trains ourselves, pulling our accumulated knowledge and experience behind us. The Trains of Winnipeg collection takes us on a journey on which the landscape is occasionally austere and forbidding, and sometimes we go through dark tunnels, but what we gain from the experience makes the journey unquestionably worthwhile.



[Indieville, Toronto]

This is a collaborative album between spoken word artist/poet Clive Holden, Jason Tait (the Weakerthans' percussionist), John K. Samson (the Weakerthans' guitarist), and Christine Fellows. Many of the pieces are serene and calm, far from the signature Weakerthans sound. Other pieces are dark and comprised of spoken word elements against a sound effect-based backing. The poetry itself is often sad and spooky. Holden speaks of many things: death, his own birthplace, the wind, and lots more. Some parts of this album are just overwhelming, some parts are shocking, and some parts are lighter and more like ballads. A large element of the greatness of this release is the excellent quality of Holden's actual poetry. The words and his voice merge perfectly, his speeches are detached and awkward, yet also seem to fit perfectly. Even when they are used in conjunction with the song-like parts if this album, they seem to work perfectly, without any conflict between the voice and the instruments. Of course, it takes a bit of time to get used to this type of stuff at first, but after you've gotten used to it, this can be a real pleasure to listen to. Recommended.



[Gimli Film Festival 2003]

Neighbours Walk Softly (Canada, 4 minutes. Director: Clive Holden ) is a visually stunning piece of protest poetry from Wolesly-area wordsmith Clive Holden . Featuring music by Jason Tait.



[Melbourne International Film Festival 2003]

18,000 Dead in Gordon Head, director: Clive Holden, country: Canada, fact: the average American youth has experienced 18,000 television murders by the age of 16. Using a relentless draining array of repeating imagery as backdrop, Holden recounts, in macho beat mode, his disturbing encounters with dead bodies on the streets of suburbia



[CV2 Magazine]

An interview with Clive Holden (excerpt).

CV2: You are obviously a writer who works in diverse forms—including fiction, poetry, film and music—as well as the primary artistic force behind Cyclops Press which seems to mirror these interests in its range of publishing projects. What, for you, is the creative vision behind your multimedia approach to poetry? When combining music and poetry, what do you hope to achieve, first in your personal work as a poet, and then as a publisher who has brought together other poets and musicians to create spoken word recordings to music?

Clive Holden: My approach to poetry is that a poem can be formed out of almost any raw materials: words on a page, speech, songs, sounds, silences, photographs, moving images, buildings, found objects, world events, etc. If a poet points to a man and says, "He's a poem," then he becomes a poem in that moment. It's the framing by a poet that transforms the subject into a poem.

To paraphrase Jorge Luis Borges: "I know exactly what a poem is, until the moment someone asks me to define a poem." I've participated in three film festivals that specialize in the "film poem," and as you can imagine there was a fair bit of debate as to what this phrase meant. I've always thought that it was simply a good replacement for the phrase "experimental film." You could argue that they each use non linear structures, metaphor and symbolism, they're usually shorter works, and they blur the line between concepts in prose such as "fiction" and non-fiction," they're sometimes lyrical, or confessional, or conceptual, they're as hard to define, as poetry itself.

I do "write" poems in the traditional sense of the word, with both formal and sometimes avant garde strategies, but in practice I think of all the art I make as poetry. I'm talking about the process of art making here, which is what interests me as an artist, and not so much about where the art will be shelved or exhibited, which is for other people to decide.

Whether I'm making a film, a sound work, or seeing if I can write a really good sonnet, or country and western song, it's all the same process for me. If I write a poem with a set meter, it focuses my creative energy into that frame (and I have the added, crucial, challenge of trying to somehow make it new). This process has a "so old it's new" quality for me.

Or, I might decide with a new film that I'm only going to use footage shot in a particular neighbourhood, within a 24-hour period, all from a low angle, with straight cuts only, no shots lasting less than three seconds, with a different white dog in every shot. I'll make the best film I can within those parameters, and it's largely the same effect, the frame creates the focus. I might even make a series of films with these same parameters.

As for Cyclops Press, the original vision for it was to become a publisher of many, many forms of art making, from finely made books of lyrical poetry, to spoken word or sound art on CD, and eventually to film poems on DVD, and on the web, and whatever comes next. I don't know where it's going to go. The whole thing's an experiment from top to bottom.

As for my combining music and poetry, this is a very traditional activity, pre-dating books, of course, so on the one hand I'm just doing what comes naturally for a poet. But in this case, I was also craving artistic collaboration when I made my CD. I'd been working alone in a room for years, so it was thrilling for me to work with other artists, and especially with such talented ones.

CV2: How did you become interested in working with poetry and music? The music of jazz has had a long relationship with spoken text as verse, as well as the voice as an improvisational instrument. Has this kind of innovation had an influence upon your work? Who have been some of your influences in this work? By mentors I mean artists, types of music, technology?

Clive Holden: I actually first became interested in working with spoken word, and by extension combining it with music and sound, when I was studying James Joyce and his many successors, and realized that it would be ideal if these works could be heard. Reading many of the works in this tradition requires an "extra literacy," often even more so than poetry. However, in oral performance, either live or recorded, I think these works would make more sense to more people. Take Finnegan's Wake , for example, the reason it's so hard to read for most linguistic mortals is because the work's partly meant to be experienced as sound, or spoken music. When we read, we tend to insist on understanding the meaning of each word, but words are also sound. Effectively listening to Finnegan's Wake might be compared to the experience of hearing an opera, or any song, performed in a language we don't understand. Ideally, we'd change our expectations to suit the situation, and allow ourselves to enjoy the music. 



[Ian Ferrier, About.com, Montreal/Canada column, September 7, 2001]

a really beautiful CD

This September also marks the launch of Trains of Winnipeg, a really fine poetry/music CD from Clive Holden, a poet/filmmaker and publisher currently living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Clive is the founder of Cyclops Press, which along with Wired on Words is one of the two labels in Canada that regularly publish poetry and literature in performance.
     Trains of Winnipeg is a really beautiful CD, with variety, pace, excellent balance between words and music and topflight musicianship. The title track is a lovely mix of words, music and field recordings, and there are nice touches like just a dash of cymbal keeping time and suddenly the creak and moan of wheels on metal rails as the engineer hits the brakes. Another fine cut is “18,000 Dead in Gordon Head,” a haunting poem that centers on Holden’s witnessing a young girl shot by a sniper in a suburb on Vancouver Island. Well done, Clive! and you can hear it in Real Audio and MP3 at www.trainsofwinnipeg.com.



[Lewk Schmewk, www.theweakerthans.com, August, 2001:]

THE SINGLE best spoken word album I have ever heard

When I heard the CD for the first time, I was BLOWN away. This is THE SINGLE best spoken word album I have ever heard. It’s been a while since an album so blew me out of the water and I am VERY glad it was this one. Anyone who is into the music of the Weakerthans and/or poetry should check this out.



[Lorne Roberts, NewWinnipeg]

Clive Holden, a local filmmaker and poet, was born and raised in a suburb of Victoria, B.C., and has lived in a variety of locations in Canada and abroad. Since moving to Winnipeg, Holden has released a highly publicized spoken-word CD (Trains of Winnipeg, featuring music by Christine Fellows and the Weakerthans), and has been creating provocative solo video work.

At a recent launch celebrating the introduction of the Manitoba Video Pool's revamped Web site (www.videopool.org), as well as the launch of Pool Side, their annual magazine publication, Holden spoke to NewWinnipeg about his work.

Deliberately edited in a choppy and jarring style, with "phrases of video clips," Holden's films are often blurry, grainy, and written over with ink or colour. Familiar images of cityscapes and neighbourhood life become difficult to see, forcing the viewer to reexamine the everyday.

"On one level," says Holden, "you have the typical suburban images of homes and back lanes, but on another level you have a network of shifting and moving textures. If it's harder to see the images, you have to pay a little more attention to them." In addition to being a "focusing device," obscuring the images serves as "a metaphor for seeing things, yet not really seeing them."

One of the samples of Holden's film 18,000 Dead in Gordon Head is available on Video Pool's site. A collage of images, the work also features a voice-over by Holden, reading a poem from Trains of Winnipeg. Gordon Head is the suburb of Victoria where Holden grew up. The "18,000 Dead" in the title, in addition to "sounding like a newspaper headline," refers to the idea that, by age 16, the average North American has seen 18, 000 deaths on TV and in movies. The poem's narrator tells of witnessing a murder, and of his reaction to feeling little emotion about this.

"He feels like he's seeing something he's seen thousands of times before," Holden says, "and in fact he has." As a result of being witness to so many violent images, "we grow insensitive to death and violence … it becomes devastatingly normal."

Modern media, Holden feels, has caused recent generations to "grow up to be desensitized to these really important things that we should not be desensitized to." Throughout most of his twenties, this feeling of being desensitized led Holden to make the decision to avoid all popular media - including TV, commercial radio, newspapers and magazines. "When you're surrounded by these things," he explains, "you don't have any conscious relationship to them. You're basically living in a constant state of shock."

Other works by Holden, such as Nanaimo Station, also engage with themes of the warping of our perceptions. Featuring home-movie footage of the artist taking some of his first steps, Nanaimo reflects Holden's fascination with the ways children view the world - the original and untainted insight they posses. He offers this image of a child's viewpoint: "It's like when you're in a city you've never been to before, and you walk around a corner, and there's this view that's just gorgeous. Maybe if you lived there, you wouldn't see it like that," describes Holden. "Or, one day, you're walking through your own neighbourhood, and the way the light falls between houses, it's suddenly beautiful to you - a scene you see every day, yet you're just in the right frame of mind to see it differently. It's what happens when you shift your focus."

The shifting of focus, and the need to view familiar landscapes and ideas through new eyes, lies at the heart of Holden's work. Ultimately, Holden's work is a personal challenge to the viewer to assume nothing; relearn and reexamine what you think you know.



[Bartley Kives, Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday, August 18, 2001:]


no less musical than any recent Lou Reed album

Winnipeg poet Clive Holden, a transplant from B.C., uses this city's multitude of railyards and locomotives as metaphorical fodder for a spoken-word CD, set to music by guitarist John Samson and drummer Jason Tait of The Weakerthans as well as pianist Christine Fellows.
     The selections range from bare-bones tracks that rely entirely on Holden's deadly serious recitals to more musical selections with a gentle roots-rock feel. They're all unified by a sense of being awestruck, as the vagabond Holden -- a train of thoughts and ideas who stopped in Winnipeg himself -- spins extremely focused tales of space, place and belonging.
     If the mere mention of the word "poetry" scares you, relax -- Trains Of Winnipeg is no less musical than any recent Lou Reed album and much stronger on the lyrical front to boot. In stores next week. 



[Chuck Molgat, Exclaim!, August 29, 2001:]

genre: avant garde, experimental, spoken word

Any Weakerthans fans who picks up a copy of Trains of Winnipeg based on the cover billing of John K. Samson and Jason Tait are bound to be a little confounded. The disc is a collection of poems and short essays by Winnipeg artist Clive Holden, set over train noises and a series of scores written and performed by Tait, Samson and fellow 'Peg musician Christine Fellows. There's little collaboration between the trio, though, so the soundtracks to Holden's words play out in three very distinct styles: Tait issues a series of tape-loop oriented works; Fellows stays close to the piano for pieces ranging from ambient to pastoral; and Samson turns in some straightforward guitar tracks that sound as though they could be rough sketches of Weakerthans rockers. Of the three, Tait flexes his creative muscle the most, pulling a variety of tricks out of his multi-instrumentalist bag and coming away with some seriously innovative and compelling material. But the main focus of the package, of course, is Holden's image-laden and often intensely personal prose. Holden deserves credit for baring his soul (or that of his narrator, at least) to the extent that he does, however, his litany of childhood minutiae and graphic recollections of violent deaths he's witnessed gets a little taxing and doesn't exactly beg for repeat listening. Even on the rare occasions when Holden slips out of the first person he still manages to talk about himself, his experiences and his impressions. The experience is akin to sharing a table with some self-indulgent soul who refuses to stop talking and who talks only about himself. Fortunately for the talented and extremely descriptive writer, most of what he has to offer is interesting enough for just about anyone to take something away from it.



[sodapop.it, Italy, November, 2001:]

Molto "beat", molto jazz.

Clive Holden è un poeta canadese, per la precisione di Winnipeg. Questo disco, registrato in compagnia di Jason Tait e John K. Samson dei Weakerthans e della cantautrice Christine Fellows, è una raccolta di poesie musicate. Il tutto assume un gusto molto "beat", molto jazz, le poesie (leggibili su www.trainsofwinnipeg.com e putroppo non nel booklet) sono molto belle ed intense. Un disco contemplativo (è necessario conoscere bene l'inglese per apprezzarlo appieno) Ed allo stesso tempo fruibilissimo. Non per forza deve essere considerato "roba da intellettuali". Bel lavoro. Bonus track: Al Purdy.

(roughly translated:)

Clive Holden is a Canadian poet, from Winnipeg to be exact. This disc, recorded with Jason Tait and John K. Samson of the Weakerthans, and the singer/songwriter Christine Fellows, is a collection of poems with music. Over all, it has a strong "beat" flavour, very jazzy, the poems (which can be read at www.trainsofwinnipeg.com along with more information in the CD booklet) are beautiful and intense. A contemplative disc (it’s necessary to understand English to appreciate fully) and at the same time [fruibilissimo. Non per forza deve essere considerato "roba da intellettuali"]. Beautiful job. Bonus track: Al Purdy.



[Todd Babiak, Edmonton Journal, Saturday, July 28, 2001:]

(four out of five stars)

mournful, sweet, contemplative and transcendent

Canadian poet Clive Holden is the voice here, backed by Christine Fellows and two members of Winnipeg's literary band The Weakerthans, Jason Tait and John K. Samson. Spoken-word poetry, done badly, is the most melodramatic form of aural cruelty. Done well, it is mournful, sweet, contemplative and transcendent. Trains of Winnipeg is the latter version. Oh, the Prairies. The Prairies, my friends, and the sadness of the Prairies. Bonus track: Al Purdy!



[Spike, Momentum Magazine, Vancouver, February/March, 2002]

This CD, paired with Holden's breathtaking website, www.trainsofwinnipeg.com, creates a multimedia project which is at once ambitious and yet so simple, it's a wonder no other Canadian writer thought of it first (what with Canadian writers being so imaginative and all). By recalling inherently Canadian images – such as prairie winds, long and deserted highways, the ailing face of the late al purdy and, of course, cross-country trains – Nanaimo-born and Winnipeg-based poet Clive Holden has crafted an ode to the confluence of his personal and national identities. Unfortunately, the album succumbs on many of the tracks to the sometimes pretentious nature of poetry backed by music. However, the bone-jarring emotional impact of such tracks as "de'ath at neepawa" and "babette" more than atones for any shortcomings. Add to Holden's power of imagery and sentiment the post-modern piano phrasings of Christine Fellows and the recognizably wistful tag-team guitar phrasings of Jason Tait and John K. Samson of The Weakerthans, and you get a potent mixture that is sometimes mysterious, sometimes sad, sometimes menacing, sometimes even overwrought and schlocky, but almost always informative. It sheds light on the recesses of the human condition and, for better or worse, the Canadian identity – as the country each person lives in is defined by what we make of it and do within it. If there is such a thing as positive and constructive patriotism, Clive Holden has committed it to this disc.



[Hal Niedzviecki, Broken Pencil Magazine, Summer Issue, 2001:]

this is good stuff

"Spoken word by the restless Clive Holden, but with an unusually adept and subtle score or soundtrack or band, whatever one calls the music behind the poetry. Poettrack? Pcore? Okay, this is good stuff, it has a real velocity and the mood is set immediately by the title song, "Trains of Winnipeg", which has an almost marching pace and seems oddly exultant considering the generally downbeat tone of most of these tracks. But maybe the exultation isn't surprising -- Holden's CD is a quest for place, a search for home, and it is at once rooted in the precision of living somewhere (ostensibly Winnipeg), even as it conveys a despairing sense of being and going nowhere: "I am a train of Winnipeg, I had no home till you, your dress, the wind, your tangled hair, my rail on track is true." Works like "Eighteen Thousand Dead in Gordon Head" eschew the poetic format to tell us stories, stories that start, "I started to make the film after witnessing the murder of a thirteen-year-old girl. She was shot by a sniper in the suburb where I grew up." Other tracks are not as successful. "Nanaimo Station", with its repetitive motif -- "I was born in Nanaimo" grates, it's as if Holden is trying to convince us that he exists, was born somewhere, is going to end up somewhere. But such mishaps are rare: Holden's songs/poems/stories are engaging, and his back-up band is fabulous. On this rainy afternoon, I am grateful to be able to drive the dirt roads all around Transcona, wander through the ghost town of Gordon Head, and, finally, ride Holden's train back home to Winnipeg.



[You As The Driver, April, 2002:]

Six months later and I still cannot grasp how good this album is. Trains Of Winnipeg is the poetry of Clive Holden interwoven with original music from Christine Fellows, John K Samson (of The Weakerthans) and Jason Tait (also of The Weakerthans). Clive reads his poetry with such emotion, feeling and sincerity he might as well be singing; his words can stick with you for days. All the while Samson, Fellows and Tait provide the perfect score to Clive's words using guitar, piano, percussion, tape loops, glockenspiel, etc. If you are even a casual fan of poetry or spoken word you need to own this album. Furthermore, if you are into the music of Christine Fellows or The Weakerthans you will not be disappointed. This is THE BEST spoken word album I have ever heard. Please don't pass this up.



[Deanna Radford, Stylus Magazine, August-September, 2001:]


Along with the help of local musicians Christine Fellows, John K. Samson, Jason Tait and Steve Bates, local poet Clive Holden brings us Trains of Winnipeg. The sounds encompassed within this recording are dense and rich with language and emotion. This former Canadian nomad examines the definition of home by looking at our history, and his memories of happiness, of violence. This work is a culmination of Holden’s examination with the running theme within much of Holden’s work: where is home? “I’ve had no home til now,” says Holden on the title track. Holden’s voice is distinct, the words he speaks often cut like shards of glass; this is not an easy listen. Heartfelt and heavy, Trains of Winnipeg is a beautiful recording to look at and hear with excellent musicianship, great sounds, melodies and production - indeed a patriotic recording. The track “Transience”, with the voice of the now deceased Canadian poet Al Purdy set against the sound of trains grinding (Al Purdy, Necropsy of Love, Cyclops Press), sums the passion of the recording succinctly; “it is simply glorious to ride a train through the mountains, to be on top of a boxcar, it gives you a feeling about your own country to be able to do this.” Holden has chosen to make Winnipeg his home in a life of many and Trains of Winnipeg is a beautiful testament to this.



[Tim Scott, tim.usversusthem.net (Australia), January 4, 2002:]

Normally I baulk like Fairuza when it comes to spoken word ‘pieces’ but this record featuring the poems and haunting voice of Winnipeg poet Clive Holden set to music by Jason and John of the Weakerthans is one interesting release.
      Ranging from the nostalgic ‘Nanaimo’ to the sad ‘Condo’, ‘My parents’ condo is where they’ve moved to die’, Holden’s poems manage to capture the beauty of a region (the wide plains of central Canada), the personal histories of its inhabitants and …trains.
      The music involves everything from distorted guitar and drums, to sparse and melodic piano, to eerie tape loop compositions, all of which capture perfectly the mood of the different poems – hey it’s the Weakerthans, and that’s reason alone to pick up this record.



[Rob Thomas, The Varsity - University of Toronto, September 20, 2001:]


Poet Clive Holden just responds to what’s around him. He doesn't consciously think of himself working in any tradition; as a Canadian writer, for example, or as a regional writer.
     But, he explains in a phone conversation, some of his work does end up embracing traditional elements.
     His most recent work is a compact disc entitled “Trains of Winnipeg,” which marries Holden’s spoken word performances with the music of singer-songwriter Christine Fellows and Jason Tait and John Samson of the Weakerthans.
     And Holden calls to mind this “Trains of Winnipeg” image specifically when searching for an example to illustrate how traditional elements enter his work directly as inspiration.
     “Just having stuff with trains in it is interesting in that respect,” says Holden—interesting in the sense that Holden has been inspired by trains as many other Canadian writers, writing in very different styles, have also been.
     “I think trains are these wonderful explosions of moving visual art and sound art,” he continues. “And when you live in a city like Winnipeg where there’s so many trains all around you, you never know when you’re going to come around the corner and have this incredible display, this sort of concert. And that’s a very natural reaction.”
     On the subjects of visual and sound art, Holden can speak with authority.
     In addition to being a poet and spoken word performer, Holden is a novelist, filmmaker and publisher.
     It’s a menagerie of roles that Holden summarizes quite simply by referring to himself as an artist. But poetry—especially poetry spoken aloud—is something that he emphasizes.
     At least, it is certainly characteristic of Holden’s publishing company, Cyclops Press.
     Cyclops has produced audio compact discs by a number of authors including Canadian poets Al Purdy and Patrick Lane.
     And a specific concern informs Holden’s emphasis on spoken poetry.
     “A lot of people don’t know how to read a book of poetry,” he explains.
     “I didn’t myself, twenty years ago. When I got out of the school system I had to learn how to read a book of poems. Unless you’ve been lucky and you’ve had a good teacher, that’s the case for most people these days; it’s a kind of extra literacy. And it’s not very difficult to learn.”
     Holden hopes that someone who hears Al Purdy’s compact disc, for example, would go through the powerful experience that it is to hear Purdy read.
     And, because that person had heard the poetry, they would know how to read Purdy’s books; they would know how to do it instinctively.
     Holden sees audio poetry as an effort to make poetry itself more accessible for people.     



[Gilles Tremblay, Voir (Montréal), August 16, 2001:]

**** (four stars out of five)

Une rare occasion d'apprécier la poésie nous est donnée par le poète et cinéaste Clive Holden. La poésie dans sa forme dramatique première, le texte récité. La musique de Christine Fellows (John k. Samson, Jason Tait) n'est ici qu'un soutien, une création d'atmosphère, certes nécessaire mais demeurant à l'arrière-plan. Toute la place est laissée aux mots, aux histoires de Holden, à son histoire. Trains of Winnipeg EST une quête, la recherche d'un endroit où fixer son errance. Trains, voies ferrées, gares sont les toiles de fond et les personnages de ses souvenirs. Une réalisation de premier ordre.

(rough) translation:

A rare occasion to appreciate poetry is given to us by the poet and filmmaker Clive Holden. Poetry in its original, dramatic form, the text recited. The music of Christine Fellows, John K Samson and Jason Tait is in a supporting role, intended to create atmosphere, it’s certainly necessary but remains in the background. Plenty of space is left for the words, for Holden’s stories, his history. Trains of Winnipeg is a quest, the search for a place to heal his wounds. Trains, railways, stations are the backgrounds and the characters of these memories. A creation of the first order.



[Dave Heaton, erasingclouds.com, Kansas City, October, 2001:

"I am a train of Winnipeg, had no home til now," poet Clive Holden speaks at the beginning of his "poems and music" album Trains of Winnipeg, immediately introducing one of the album's chief themes, continual moving. The 13 poems that make up the album proper (there's also two bonus tracks) deal with that theme and a few other recurring ones, while painting vivid portraits of places, people and feelings. Backed by musicians Jason Tait, Christine Fellows and John K. Samson (the latter two are also in The Weakerthans), Holden delivers his poems with a calm beauty that hides a myriad of fears. The mode of transportation depicted on the cover and in the title, railroad, shows up throughout the album, as does the general theme of traveling. "Nanaimo Station" and Condo" both tell the story of growing up in a family that was always on the move, in different ways. In the first poem, supported by stately, calm piano, it seems like an idyllic childhood, until you notice the ominous presence of the train station strung throughout, mimicked by equally ominous train noises in the background. By the end, it's clearly a romanticization driven by a sense of rootlessness: "I was born in Nanaimo, two blocks from the station/the steps to our house were covered in moss but our family was shining from moving and moving/we went to the station and didn't return." Those final words are the perfect segue into the next track, "Condo," where a warped guitar sound backs the story of eternal moving and of aging parents trying to settle in a home. The people in Holden's poems travel to escape, but they also travel naturally, as a way of living. What brings the traveling to an end, then, is the realization of impending death. In "Condo," he tells of his parents' chosen final home. "My parents' condo is where they've moved to die," he says, "They'll never move again except in space, heaven, the eternal ether and the gracious ground wet and pungent with millennia of crushed bone and weeping piles of leaves." The materiality and earthiness of those words recur throughout Holden's poems, as do thoughts of death, of moving from life to whatever places come next. A few of the poems here are chilling portraits of the dead, tales of friends, acquaintances and strangers lost to suicide, to accidents, or to old age. The lengthy, spooky "Eighteen Thousand Dead in Gordon Head" tells of witnessing death for the first time, while both "De'ath at Neepawa" and "Necropsy of Al Purdy" dwell on the ways that Holden was affected by the deaths of famous writers from whom he drew inspiration. "Babbette" is especially eerie and affecting, a message to a "jumper" friend filled with stark, honest recollections of good times and bad. "Neighbours Walk Softly" shifts the emphasis to death in a bigger sense, touching on wars and environmental damage. He connects those large-scale deaths to more personal experiences with death, making the piece a caution to listeners that they should pay attention to how they live and act. "Where would the lines be drawn in the event of war?" he asks, "Well, the war against the weak wages in the air around us/hanging like my poor roommate in his bedroom cell/neighbor, walk softly." The sadness and inevitability of death permeates the entire album. There's also the fear of death, as encapsulated in the second of two bonus tracks, "Unbreakable." Dealing with the realization that his parents are about to die, Holden makes a wish that he could either conquer death or aid in the journey from life to death: "I love them, and I'd make wide and strong wings for them, if I knew how/with white, modeled feathers and unbreakable bones." Backed by melody here, ambient mood there, Holden uses words to travel through the complexity of the universe, gently inquiring about life, death and nature. On Trains of Winnipeg, those musings are captured perfectly and augmented by superb musicians. The notation in the liner notes that the project was aided by a grant from the canada council for the arts may seem odd to those of us in the United States. An album on an indie-rock label getting a grant from the government may seem like an absurd dream to us, but this is the sort of creation that should be supported. It's what art is about, creating in order to understand, writing to reach into the mysteries of life and see what you can figure out. (www.cyclopspress.com.com, www.trainsofwinnipeg.com) [Note: go to the Trains of Winnipeg web site for all of the poems in printed form, plus other animated, film and video poems and an assortment of recordings, links and "general ephemera."]



[stillholdingon.net, reviewer: sebastian, October 18, 2001:]

Score: ***** (five out of five)

This record is a challenge not only for the listener but also for the reviewer. On the cover it says “Poems and Music” and that might give you a fairly concrete idea of what “Trains Of Winnipeg” is all about. Clive Holden’s beautiful poetry is underlined by the soft sounds of Jason Tait, Christine Fellows and John K. Samson. I don’t know if I do this work justice by reviewing it among the other “normal” records, but since the “literature” section is still under construction there’s no choice. This cd contains 15 tracks, 15 beautiful poems, 15 moving stories. You see, this sound-document has many different sides and it takes the listener’s whole attention to discover the true potential of this disc.
      I really admire Holden as a poet since his poems touch personal as well as political issues and in combination with the music this is incredibly moving and sincere. Of course this is a pretty demanding record, far away from easy-listening or background-music. “Unbreakable Bones”, a piece that Holden wrote for his parents is probably my favourite poem on this record, but it’s really hard to tell. The honest way in which Holden tells his little tales of joy and hope, depression and desperation is plain impressive. You have to be aware that you have to invest a lot of time and attention in order to discover the enormous beauty and feeling of this record. Make sure to check out www.trainsofwinnipeg.com for further information on the whole project, and all the poems.
      If you’re into literature and poetry, if you’re open minded and if you’re willing to invest a little time this record can give you so much. Compelling!



[SHZINE, jononation.com/shzine, December 5, 2001:]

Here's something that made me want to throw out all my music, find a quiet corner and never stop listening to this brave collection of expressed thoughts. Taking you through the warm, the cold, the minds and the living stories of Canada. Such colourful words and moods that have been felt only by a few shiver through the body inconsistently and free.



[emoRAGE Magazine, Montreal, December, 2001]

Clive Holden EST un poete-videaste qui a travaille dans differeantes villes canadiennes, dont Montreal, et qui presente en format musical cette fois un projet qui utilise l'industrie ferroviaire de Winnipeg (ou IL habite maintenant) comme scene de fond. Son projet en est d'abord un de 'spoken word' ou il raconte des histoire plutot personelles - quelquefois un peu glauques - qui baignent un peu dans la meme ambiance que celle du film "Mystery Train" de Jim Jarmusch (de 1989). Comme musique de support, il s'est entoure de quelques-uns des Weakerthans, s'assurant d'une comfortalbe ambiance faite de guitares electriques atmospheriques. La geniale pianiste Christine Fellows amene aussi des airs repetifs au piano et l'utilisation de reels bruits de trains a differents endroits dans Winnipeg ajoute a l'imagerie creee par les mots de Holden. Celui-ci a une belle voix grave, tres agreable ? ecouter et qui ressemble tellement a celle de John Cale ?l'ex-Velvet Underground? qu'on s'y meprendrait. Le seul inconvenient de cet album-concept est son manque de diversite: la redondance des trop court loops, ainsi que la voix plutot monocorde (mais belle) fatiguent a la longue. Ca devient facile pour l'auditeur de perdre le fil de l'histoire. C'est quand meme un beau projet bien ficele et fort interessant par son contenu poetique et par la pertinence du cadre ferroviaire. (8/10) NP

Desc.: spoken word sur loops musicaux
R.S.V.A.: John Cale, Nick cave, Lou Reed.

Translation (rough):

Clive Holden is a poet & video artist who's worked in different Canadian cities, including Montreal, and who this time presents a project in musical format, that uses the railway industry of Winnipeg (where he now lives) as a background. His project is focused mainly on the 'spoken word', in which he tells very personal stories - sometimes a little [glaucous] - creating an environment somewhat similar to that of Jim Jarmusch's film "Mystery Train" (1989). As for musical support, he's backed by several members of The Weakerthans, ensuring a comfortable environment made up of atmospheric electric guitars. The brilliant pianist Christine Fellows also brings repetitive airs on the piano, and the use of field recordings of trains at various places in Winnipeg adds to the imagery created by Holden's words. He has a beautiful, serious voice, very pleasant to listen to, that resembles John Cale's ?ex of the Velvet Underground? to the point that one could mistake one for the other. The only disadvantage of this album-concept is its lack of diversity: the redundancy of too many short loops, as well as the voice being a bit monotone (but beautiful), which can become tiring. It makes it easy for the listener to lose the line of the story. It is, all the same, a beautiful project, well realized, and extremely interesting, due to its poetic contents and the relevance of the railway context. (8/10) NP

Desc.: spoken word over musical loops
R.S.V.A.: John Cale, Nick Cave, Lou Reed.



[Sore Magazine, Virginia Beach, December, 2001]

Rating: XXXX1/2

This is probably one of the most daring yet respectfully well done records that the independent music scene has produced. The overall project is a collaboration between the Weakerthans John K. Samson and Jason Tait, as well as singer/songwriter Christine Fellows and poet Clive Holden. Samson, Tait and Fellows arrange the music behind Holden reading thirteen of his poems. The result is really terrific. The loops and the sounds behind Holden's words ? which are well arranged, artistic and powerful ? sound perfect with the mood of the poems. There's a great mix of intended to be cold sounds and feeling, and others that sound and feel more cheery. Holden's poems, though they surely would be just as good in written form, sound like they were meant to be read in front of this music. There is so much mood in the words - just by listening, even passively, one understands the places and the moods he speaks about. And the slight melody and loops behind only make that more intense. It seems obvious to me that everyone involved in the writing and production of this record has a terrific grasp on the intense relationship that exists between words and music. This is great for late nights, and car rides when it's raining or nighttime, in any season, anywhere



[MUSIC-SCAN.DE, Germany, February 11, 2002]

This album pleases me very well – Mir gef?llt das Album sehr gut

Endearing war ja schon immer ein Label, das keine Genregrenzen kennt und mit einer gro?en Zahl an ganz verschiedenen K?nstlern arbeitet und das ist mehr als gut so. So kommen auch die Punkkiddies vielleicht mit einer sch?nen Singer/Songwriter Scheibe wie Clive Holdens "Trains Of Winnipeg" in Ber?hrung und merken, dass es doch noch mehr gibt, als die selben drei geschrettelten Akkorde in jedem Song. Clives Gesang ist ?ber weite Strecken gesprochen und kann eigentlich nicht als solcher bezeichnet werden, da die Vocals mehr eine lyrische Erz?hlung darstellen und wenig bis keine Melodie beinhalten. Genauso wie das gesamte Album mehr wie eine musikalische Untermalung f?r Geschriebenes zu dienen scheint. Dabei kommt auch oft das Klavier zum Einsatz, das der Musik mit Sicherheit ihren Stempel aufdr?ckt und zum Merkmal f?r Holdens Schaffen wird. Mir gef?llt das Album sehr gut, schon weil es mal ein ganz anderes Singer/Songwriter Album ist, das sich nicht unbedingt an die Regeln h?llt und deshalb umso spannender und interessanter ist. ? ?

Rating: 7 *******

rough translation – input welcome

Endearing wasn't always a label with clear category borders, putting out a large number of completely different artists' works. Now along comes the Punkkiddies with a beautiful singer/songwriter disk like Clive Holden's "Trains of Winnipeg", giving notice they can offer more than the same three [geschrettelten] chords in each song. Clive's singing is actually spoken, and cannot actually be called such, since the vocals are more of a lyric narration and contain little or no melody. It's the same with the entire album, which seems more like a musical [Untermalung] to serve the writing. Piano is also frequently used, which pushes open the music while adding its secure stamp, and this becomes characteristic of Holden's work. This album pleases me very well, because in places it's a completely new kind of singer/songwriter album, which doesn't follow the rules [haellt] and as a result, is all the more exciting and interesting.



[Danforth Review, Toronto, 2003]

Clive Holden’s debut poetry collection from DC Books has an elastic range in both style and voice. Interactions with the page and structure come in both visual art and visual poetry. Which means, beyond this review you will have to actually read the book to experience these elements. Edited by Winnipeg poet Jon Paul Fiorentino, Trains of Winnipeg is not resigned to its geographic bent. The title piece is a well drawn out example of Holden’s voice, which is more often than not in first person melodic:

i am a train of Winnipeg
i’ve had no home till you
your dress, the wind, your tangled hair
my rail on tracks is true.

One of my favorite moments in the collection is 18,000 Dead in Gordon Head, based on a found VHS tape:

i heard a crack that bounced off the houses. It wasn’t like a tv gun shot.
it was like hearing a thin fracture form in the rest of the day.
With its subtle prowl like narrative, it is an engaging poem with a lot to offer.

The poem conditions itself into a layered internalization, where events become objects: the moment where the VHS tape itself has been thrown out translates into a physical moment in the piece. 

Holden’s narrative is convincing and pure, taking the reader without hitting them over the head with a mallet. This piece is morbid, but sensual, not as creepy in tone, which allows us to clearly view the participation of the ‘i’ and the task.

and I kept thinking—why doesn’t this feel more unusual?

Holden’s book is worthwhile, a crisp volume with lots of static and energy. In summation of three final pieces in this review, I would suggest the following: Nanaimo Station is an instantly accessible biographical piece; g r a i n t r a i n for its repetitive verve and pit bull sharp flow; and Manitoba Manifesto, a sensitive piece where the poet takes off a lot of protective layering and offers the reader raw, contemporary, empathetic warmth.



[Iron Skies Web Magazine, Spain, February, 2002]

Clive Holden naci? en Nanaimo, en la Columbia Brit?nica, en 1959 y actualmente vive en Winnipeg. Es un artista que estudi? escritura creativa y artes visuales en la universidad de Victoria y cinematograf?a y estudios de cine en la universidad Concordia de Montreal, lo que se refleja desde entonces en su obra. A Clive le encanta experimentar tanto con formas tradicionales como nuevas de expresi?n, para alcanzar diferente p?blico de diferente manera.
       En este caso ha elegido este proyecto, en el que se juntan la poes?a y la m?sica con los trenes como elemento com?n y para el que se ha rodeado de otros canadienses como Jason Tait y John K Samson (Weakerthans) y de Christine Fellows, que se encargan de la parte musical.
       El resultado es un disco en el que predomina spoken word pero que cuenta con temas con un claro regusto a la Velvet Underground como el que da t?tulo a la obra o como Death At Neepawa y Nanaimo Station, o como Transcona, en el que se juntan todos los elementos con brillantez para evocar historias de tren.

translation (rough):

Clive Holden was born in Nanaimo, British Columbia, in 1959 and currently lives in Winnipeg. He's an artist who studied Creative Writing and Visual Arts at the University of Victoria and Cinematography and Film Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, which has been reflected since then in his work. For Clive, it's as fascinating to experiment with traditional forms as with new forms of expression, to reach different audiences in different ways.
       In this case, he's chosen a project in which poetry and music blend with trains as equal elements, and in which he's been joined by other Canadians such as Jason Tait and John K Samson (of the Weakerthans) and by Christine Fellows, who are in charge of the musical portion.
       The result is a disc which is predominantly spoken word, but that [counts on subjects with clear regusto] to the Velvet Underground, resulting in tracks with titles like 'Death at Neepawa' and 'Nanaimo Station', or 'Transcona', in which all the elements are brilliantly joined to evoke train stories.



[Dagger, Santa Rosa, CA, December, 2001]

This is a collaboration between a poet and a few of Canada's indie rock folks (including Christine Fellows who I think had a solo record on this label). This is unique, at least unique for the kind of stuff I usually receive in the mail. It sort of reminded me of a Ken Nordine record, it's Mr. Holden reciting his jazz over spare musical accompaniment. Some of this is pretty cool and those numbers actually swept you away to the the places where the characters are going: "Transcona" shuffles along to an aw shucks beat while "Eighteen Thousand Dead in Gordon Head" was wooshy and ambient. "Nanaimo Station" was a smokey piano ballad. The mix is pretty eclectic and kudos for releasing something as unique as this!



[indieville.com, January, 2002]

The 20 Top Albums of 2001

#6. Clive Holden - Trains of Winnipeg CD   (Cyclops)

This is a beautiful, cosmic mixture of music and spoken word.  Despite what you may think, spoken word can be played on top of an instrumental background without clashing.  Some of this is fun (members were borrowed from the Weakerthans), some of it is relaxing, and some of it is unsettling.  When Holden describes the shooting death of a young girl in a suburban neighbourhood, you can't help but feel moved.  This received an 88% by Indieville.



[Kathe Lemon (C.U.P.), The Peak, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, October 22, 2001:]

"I am a train of winnipeg i've had no home 'til now i hurtled north and east and west and flung my song to crowds..." -Clive Holden from Trains of Winnipeg.
      Poetry is, in many circles, a dying art. As the world speeds up, fewer and fewer have time for something as archaic as beauty in words. Fortunately for the world, Clive Holden bashes on regardless.
      "It's poetry after all, it's not something that usually gets a lot of attention," says Holden who has been touring across the country reading. "I'm pleased by the generally sensitive and intelligent response."
      Holden's latest work is a CD of spoken word and music called Trains of Winnipeg. To the accompaniment of Jason Tait on drums, Christine Fellows on piano, John K. Samson on guitar, as well as train yard recordings, Holden recites his lines as if sharing his dreams.
      Trains of Winnipeg evokes a feeling of loss, although it is hard to pin it down to a specific track. "There is a sadness, a sort of sweet sadness," says Holden. "A lot of people have said they cried the whole way through, but a good kind of crying. I don't think of the piece as sad because I see the positive too."
      It's not much of a surprise to find that Trains has a strong theme of travel, place and searching. "The themes are sort of subconscious to me while I'm writing," says Holden. "One of the main themes has to do with travelling around so there's a traditional theme of the child of an immigrant looking for roots. Your roots are fairly shallow then."
      As a first generation Canadian born of Irish immigrants, Holden himself has drifted over much of the country. But he now finds himself growing attached to Winnipeg.
      "I'm finding out what [Trains] is about and I'm finding out that it's a very Canadian disk. Without even trying to do it I ended up living all over the country," says Holden. "A sense of place is important to everyone but for an immigrant the search for place is really important. I think that's why the trains work so well. It's powerful, searching."
      Trains of Winnipeg is more than poetry though. The project also includes a Web site (www.trainsofwinnipeg.com), a group of short films by Holden, and a book. The interactive nature of the tour and the Web site has allowed Holden to find many of the people interested in his work. "I like to think there's a secret great audience of poetry lovers out there. Part of the problem of the poetry world is that it's spread out."
      The CD and Web site are also, by nature, a little more accessible than the traditional slim volume of poetry. "I don't think avante garde art has to be difficult to get into. I think there has to be a doorway to get into. Then if there is some depth it's something you'll come back to again and again."
      Between writing poetry and fiction, touring, recording, and making films, Holden also finds time to run Cyclops Press, which specialises in spoken word albums.



[indieville.com, Toronto, October, 2001:]

This is a collaborative album between spoken word artist/poet Clive Holden, Jason Tait (the Weakerthans' percussionist), John K. Samson (the Weakerthans' guitarist), and Christine Fellows. Many of the pieces are serene and calm, far from the signature Weakerthans sound. Other pieces are dark and comprised of spoken word elements against a sound effect-based backing. The poetry itself is often sad and spooky. Holden speaks of many things: death, his own birthplace, the wind, and lots more. Some parts of this album are just overwhelming, some parts are shocking, and some parts are lighter and more like ballads. A large element of the greatness of this release is the excellent quality of Holden's actual poetry. The words and his voice merge perfectly, his speeches are detached and awkward, yet also seem to fit perfectly. Even when they are used in conjunction with the song-like parts if this album, they seem to work perfectly, without any conflict between the voice and the instruments. Of course, it takes a bit of time to get used to this type of stuff at first, but after you've gotten used to it, this can be a real pleasure to listen to. Recommended.



[Meredith Lasik, The Silhouette, Hamilton, February, 200

A line not often crossed is that between spoken word and song. It is even more seldom crossed with worthy results, with the exception of some of Leonard Cohen’s recordings.
   Winnipeg poet/artist Clive Holden has jumped across those imaginary borders to create this album of poetry-infused songs or song-infused poetry, depending on how you want to look at it. The musical accompaniment is provided by other famed Winnipeg artists Christine Fellows, Jason Tait (The Weakerthans) and John K. Samson.
   Sonically, the album continues to jump barriers. From the eerily sparse "18,000 dead in gordon head" with Holden’s emotionless monotone to the ballady, catchy title track, heavily reliant on the Weakerthans’ influence, Trains of Winnipeg proves barriers can and should be crossed.
   Exploring the places between us and the means which get us there, this album is uniquely Canadian (meant as the best of compliments).



[Jane Francis, This Is the Time To Be Derailed, January, 2002]

The top ten most influential albums of 2001:

#5. Clive Holden: Trains of Winnipeg



[Paula E. Kirman, Suite 101.com (Canadian Literature) September 7, 2001:]

Winnipeg poet Clive Holden’s project Trains of Winnipeg, is a multi-media work of art. A CD of Holden’s original spoken word poetry set to haunting music by composers Christine Fellows, a well-known Winnipeg- based musician, and Jason Tait and John K. Sampson of The Weakerthans. The result is Holden’s deep, moody voice rhythmically mixing with the music to create a performance that is not quite songs but also not spoken word in the traditional sense of the lone poet reciting solo.
     “I was sitting on a bench by the Assiniboine River, not far form where it meets the Red River, about a year ago. I heard this really beautiful sound the rusty wheel’s brakes were making as they went across the bridge. It was echoing down the river. It just popped in my head, the phrase 'Trains of Winnipeg.' I went home and the next day and wrote the poem, and the rest started coming together,” says Holden, who is a filmmaker as well as a poet.
     When Holden decided to put the poems on the CD, he collaborated with his musician friends to add another dimension to the project. “It went back and forth. I presented the poems and they would come back with musical ideas and we would have rehearsal sessions where we’d play our ideas for each other,” he explains.
     Trains of Winnipeg is very much a multimedia project, with a Web site at http://www.trainsofwinnipeg.com featuring related art, film and video, audio in MP3 format, pictures and other links relating to trains in Winnipeg and throughout Canada. The CD is at the center of the project. “I think this is a powerful medium,” says Holden, who has produced CDs of other poets’ work. “I love being able to hear a poets’ voice doing his or her own poetry.”
     Although some of the poems would make very good songs sung in the traditional fashion, particularly the title piece which has all of the rhyme, rhythm and flow of a good song lyric, the fact that Holden recites rather than sings adds a certain feeling to the poems that only the spoken word can capture. “It seems to me that it works as it is, and it is mysterious as to why it does,” he says. “I did a spoken word poetry column for CBC Radio’s Definitely Not The Opera for about three years. The last thing I did for the show was a documentary on Leonard Cohen for his 65th birthday. One of the things that really struck me listening to his work, was that every time I heard him reading instead of singing, I thought, ‘The singing is great and is very powerful, but I want to hear more of him just reading the poetry as well’.”
     Indeed, Holden’s main goals with the project is to promote spoken word poetry, and poetry in general, as an art form that is unique and exciting. “It’s really important that people realize that this is a naturally exciting artistic medium. It’s not this annoying thing they had to study in high school, if they were taught it at all. It’s a vibrant, alive thing. I think that oral presentation, whether it is live or recorded, can lead people to read poetry as well in books. We’re moving into a time when text that you read will continue to be very important for along time to come, but we are also moving into a time where people are literate with more than just words.”
     (A different version of this article appeared in the Summer, 2001 issue of Prairie Books Now.)



[David, www.EnoughFanzine.com, Mannheim, August, 2001:]

this is something extremely special

Oh great! This is something extremely special. It's a CD holding poems which are underlined and accompanied by fitting music by John K and Jason Tait from the Weakerthans. The poems are very interesting ranging from pretty personal to extremely poetic. In total we are confronted with 13 passionate poems, nice background music and a great cover art.



[Groove, Sweden, Magnus Sjöberg, October, 2001:]

Kanadensaren Clive Holden presenterar en CD med poesi invävt i melodier. Reciterande till musik. Men till skillnad från mycket i denna genre är både dikterna och låtarna samhöriga, de känns aldrig obesläktade: bland annat därför att dikernas meter är utformade enligt vers-refrängkonceptet. Denna interaktion gör också att man lätt sjunker in i albumet, och släpas med i atmosfären. Även om alltid poesin står i fokus, så håller musiken också relativt hög klass i konceptet. Och tur är det, för Clive Holden själv känns lite ofokuserad i sin frasering, det verkar som att han inte är riktigt är med i sina egna texter. Det gör att hela albumet i längden framkallar en blasékänsla. Och det är kanske inte direkt meningen.



[Kari D, ChartAttack.com, Winnipeg Buzz column, September 7, 2001]

I've been feeling hideously moronic lately for omitting news about the release of Trains Of Winnipeg from my last column. Clive Holden is the man behind the project, one which encompasses his own spoken word poems set to the music of friends Jason Tait, John K. Samson (both of The Weakerthans fame) and Christine Fellows. The 13 (plus two bonus) tracks of Clive's writing haunt the listener with eerie tales within a distinct regional area by using a familiar object of study as a means to draw it all together. Hence the train theme. The album carries with it a strong sense of local awareness, picking up on the trains as a means to convey a message which is meant to be felt out and explored by each individual listener.
     The CD itself is only part of a much larger multimedia project which includes a website and plans for a movie. The many branches of what Team Train is up to can be found on their website, which is constantly evolving and looking for submissions from readers in a variety of forms.



[Bartley Kives, Winnipeg Free Press, Thursday, August 16, 2001:]


IF a rock star like Gord Downie can put out a book of poetry, it's not much of a stretch to see a poet record a CD with a bunch of rock stars.
     Clive Holden, the writer and driving force behind Winnipeg publishing house Cyclops Press, is courting indie-rock audiences with Trains Of Winnipeg, a spoken-word collaboration with John Samson and Jason Tait of rock band The Weakerthans and singer-pianist Christine Fellows.
     The CD, jointly released by Cyclops Press and Endearing Records, doesn't land in stores until Sept. 1. But critics from Edmonton to Toronto have already taken notice of the CD, the latest project to highlight the increasingly interconnected nature of Winnipeg's grassroots music and literary scenes.
     The disc itself is an unlikely subject of the sort of buzz normally reserved for emerging rock bands. Trains Of Winnipeg is inspired by the eerie but often beautiful sounds of Winnipeg's multitude of locomotives and railyards.
     "I grew up in a town without trains," explains the 41-year-old Holden, who was raised in Victoria and lived in Montreal, Vancouver and Whitehorse before moving to Winnipeg with his partner Alissa York -- author of the award-winning short-story collection Any Given Power -- in 1997.
     He didn't encounter his first train until a childhood family holiday to the B.C. interior. He was entranced.
     "The sound was so exciting. Everybody has that sort of experience with trains -- it's an association with memory," he says. "People come up to me all the time and tell me stories about trains."
     While Holden was writing poems about trains, he was planning to collaborate with Samson, the lead singer and lyricist for literary minded quartet The Weakerthans, one of Canada's most critically acclaimed independent bands. Samson, who runs a publishing house of his own called Arbeiter Ring, later enlisted Weakerthans drummer Tait and good friend Fellows into the project.
     Holden winces at the idea, but this assortment of individuals is part of a new cultural elite (or at the very worst, clique) within the Winnipeg arts scene -- a relatively young but artistically fertile group of like-minded friends that also includes author York, dancer Lesandra Dodson, broadcaster Jake Moore and singer-songwriter Greg MacPherson, among others.
     "I guess that's a compliment," says Holden, who considers himself more of a regular Joe than an artsy-fartsy type. He holds down a day job as a film industry driver and used to drive Greyhound buses through the Yukon and work as a typographer.
     Still, Holden admits Winnipeg's culture was what brought him and York to the Prairies from the West Coast in 1997.
     Five years ago, he and York sat down at a table in Vancouver and tried to plan a life that would allow them to be together, pursue their art and own a home of their own.
     Winnipeg fit all the specifications. "We left all our belongings in storage. We knew two weeks later it was the right city for us.
     "Winnipeg has the ideal situation: Big, respectable cultural institutions, but also this huge grassroots scene, where everybody is working on something in their living room.
     "We made good friends very quickly, but there's also something greater going on."



[Splendid Ezine, August, 2001:]


Trains of Winnipeg is a conceptual spoken-word collaboration between poet/lyricist Clive Holden and members of The Weakerthans. More a series of tiny musical portraits than a flowing, cohesive album, Trains of Winnipeg revels in the sort of morbidity and lost innocence last heard on Damien Jurado’s Postcards and Audio Letters. Holden handles lyrical duties; his descriptive tales of death, trains and the loss of humanity form the album's emotional core. John K. Samson and Jason Tait (lead singer and drummer, respectively, of The Weakerthans) provide eerie musical accompaniment for Holden’s sordid allegories. By far the most disturbing piece here is "Eighteen Thousand Dead in Gordon Head", a thirteen-minute sound collage in which Holden talks about watching a thirteen- year old girl die before his eyes. Things don’t get any sunnier as the album progresses; "Neighbours Walk Softly" and "Transience" unravel their twisted tales atop Samson and Tait’s sorrow-inducing accompaniment. Trains of Winnipeg is truly a compelling listen, though it is unlikely to take up long-term residence in your CD player -- unless, of course, you actually enjoy being unhappy. -- jj



[beatdownmusic.com, Greece, January, 2002:]

www.beatdownmusic.com/beat_reviews_1.htm (scroll down – couldn't copy this one as the greek characters wouldn't paste – translation welcome)



[Paul Nolan, Uptown Magazine, August 16 to 22, 2001:]


Since swinging his company's doors open three years ago, local artist and publisher Clive Holden has been challenging poetry and fiction fans to rethink the media that sustains them.
     As co-founder of Winnipeg's Cyclops Press, Holden has overseen the release of more than seven poetry and fiction audio CDs by some of Canada's most prominent and talented writers, including Al Purdy, Terrance Cox, Sean Virgo and Catherine Hunter. Later this month, he steps out from behind the publisher's desk and up to the microphone with the release of his own spoken-word CD entitled Trains of Winnipeg.
     Holden was a poet, fiction writer, filmmaker and media artist long before he opened his publishing company, and his CD is anything but a vanity project. Trains of Winnipeg is a compelling mix of poetry, spoken word and music. The performances on the disc cover a wide variety of themes ranging from the dark and moody to the patriotic - many speak fondly of the Canadian landscape and of the role railways have played in the lives of Canadians.
     "The train is a big deal for a lot of people in Winnipeg and across the country," Holden explains on the phone from Toronto. "In terms of poetry and art - they're powerful and rich with metaphors. Canada is full of big and powerful resources. Did I set out to do a Canadian thing? Hell, no!" he laughs. "I don't work that way. I think what I'm doing with the themes is fresh."
     Holden comes by his passion for the Great White North honestly. "I moved around for years and years, and then I met Alyssa [York, his wife and partner in Cyclops Press and author of the award-winning book Any Given Power] and we moved around, mostly in Canada - we had a travelling gene in us, I guess. As a result I got to know the country quite well."
     In pulling this CD together, Holden hasn't gone it alone. Creatively, he teamed up with local singer- songwriter Christine Fellows, as well as with John K. Samson and Jason Tait of The Weakerthans, to help put together some of the music to underscore and enhance the poetry.



[Vincent Tinguely, Montreal Mirror, August 16 to 22, 2001:]


They'll be getting all syllabic this Sunday when Wired on Words and Music kicks off its second season. This month's show welcomes Clive Holden, a Winnipeg-based poet, publisher and media artist who's touring to promote his new CD, Trains of Winnipeg. The CD features musical contributions by John K. Samson and Jason Tait of the Weakerthans, as well as another popular artist, Christine Fellows. With 15 tracks, Trains of Winnipeg covers a lot of emotional and narrative ground; there's the infectious chugging rhythm of the title track, the gently introspective portraiture of "Bus North to Thompson with Les at the Wheel," and "Eighteen Thousand Dead in Gordon Head," a harrowing and detailed examination of post-industrial death scenarios.



[Darryl Sterdan, Winnipeg Sun, Friday, August 10, 2001:]

3.5 stars

Warning: These are not your father's train songs.

Poet Clive Holden's new CD Trains of Winnipeg is a collaboration with guitarist John K. Samson, percussionist Jason Tait (both of Weakerthans) and keyboardist Christine Fellows.
     A word here: anybody who buys it expecting to hear punk rock-fuelled local equivalents of, say, Lonesome Train, Mystery Train, Train Kept A-Rolling or even Train in Vain is in for a surprise and perhaps a bit of disappointment. In truth, not all of these songs are about trains. Not all of them are about Winnipeg. In fact, most aren't even songs. At least not in the traditional sense.
     That subhead -- Poems & Music -- is the fine print on this contract that gives away the deal. Trains of Winnipeg is more a spoken-word album than a musical one.
     Using trains, motion, transience and travel as symbols of freedom, escape and distance (physical and emotional), Holden proffers a series of poems, stories and reminiscences, set against a wide variety of musical backdrops. Some of these are gently rolling and repetitive, like a train pulling out of a station. Some are otherworldly ambient, experimental and soundscapish.
     We know, we know -- it all sounds like a bunch of arts-grant self-indulgence. And it very easily could have been, were it not for two factors that make it eminently listenable. First and foremost is Holden himself, a writer with a gift for evocative imagery ("Geese on steel-white sky ... Charcoal on my mind's eye") and thought-provoking narrative.
     Whether the topic at hand is a wheat field (Grain Train), a visit to Margaret Laurence's birthplace (De'ath at Neepawa) or a young girl felled by a sniper's bullet (Eighteen Thousand Dead in Gordon Head), Holden's dry voice and delivery make for compelling listening. (Even though, honestly, he overdoes the whole train thing just a tad.)
     Second -- and only slightly less vital to the overall effect -- are the musical compositions. Samson, Tait and Fellows are in the top ranks of the city's indie scene, and their talent and experience raise these tracks above the sort of indistinct noodling or showboating many lesser players might supply.
     Whether the setting is simple and songlike (Trains of Winnipeg, Necropsy of Al Purdy), gentle and lulling (Bus North to Thompson With Les at the Wheel) or alien and ominous (Neighbours Walk Softly, Condo), the band renders its tones in subtle shades, underplaying to create textures that complement Holden's tales without overshadowing them.
     Don't get us wrong: Normally, we'd still rather visit the DMV right after a root canal than listen to a spoken- word album. But there's something different about Trains of Winnipeg -- something intriguing, something gripping, something not to be dismissed so lightly.
     It's by no means a perfect album, but Holden's definitely on the right track.



[Pat St. Germain, Winnipeg Sun, Augutst 17, 2001]

Clive Holden launching Trains of Winnipeg CD

Multi-media artiste Clive Holden launches his new CD Trains of Winnipeg: Poems & Music, and tosses in a premiere for his 13-minute film Eighteen Thousand Dead in Gordon's Head, at Mondragon Bookstore.
     Holden, who runs Cyclops Press with his wife, writer Alissa York, says Trains is a two-part, two-year project. The CD and web site were completed this year, and now he's working on an expanded collection of poems for a book and a collection of short films.
     The musical portion of the CD features keyboardist Christine Fellows and The Weakerthans' guitarist John K. Samson and percussionist Jason Tait. Fellows will open the launch party show.
     Holden, who is the author of Fury -- Fiction & Films, a novella and short-story collection, has been working on the Eighteen Thousand Dead film on and off for several years. It deals with a fatal sniper attack on a young girl, which he witnessed more than 16 years ago near Victoria, B.C.



[Gabino Travassos, MOTE Magazine, November 2001:]

Clive Holden has filmed two experimental spoken-word jazz movies about his schizophrenic and disabled institutionalized older brother. He thinks of them as "film poems" and you can download them from his site (trainsofwinnipeg.com). The film he's working on for 2002 is called Trains of Winnipeg, featuring music by fellow Winnipegers Cam Tait and John K Samson of the Weakerthans, and Christine Fellows. This CD is part of the soundtrack: spoken word and musical textures, with something like John Trudell's voice over the Rheostatics "Music Inspired by the Group of 7" soundtrack. The poems are prose poems -- long narratives bout murder, deceit, long prairie nights and riding boxcars through the mountains. The music is pushed back most of the time, and it would go a long way to make this CD more easy-listenable if the music was to take front stage more often. "Transcona" becomes almost a "song" with that driving snare evoking a train picking up speed. All the pieces are interesting, if a bit demanding. The bonus track "transience" features the voice of poet Al Purdy describing the beauty of riding the rails. This is a rare moment.