Wednesday 28 September 2011

One of the 50 Best Covers of the Year

Kudos to David Drummond (on the right). Susan Briscoe's The Crow's Vow is the AIGA's choice for 2010's 50 Best Book Covers
. Be sure to check out the other 49. Some stunners in there.

UPDATE: There's an interview with Susan Briscoe in the new issue Poetry Quebec.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Sunday Poem


The photo of the little Jew in the cap,
Back to the gun held by the Nazi
With splay feet aware of the camera,
The little boy with his hands in the air,
I turn over. I don't want to see it.
As a member of the human race. I am
Civilized. I am happy. I flap the
Newspaper with the picture over
So that when it is picked up to be taken
Down the cellar to be put with the trash
I won't see it. I am sensitive.
The little boy is dead. He went
Through death. The cap is his best one.
He has brown eyes. He does not
Understand. Putting your hands
Up in front of a carbine prevents
The bullet. He is with the others,
Some of them he knows, so
It is all right. I turn
The paper over, the picture face
From Selected Poems by Ralph Gustafson (2001)

Saturday 24 September 2011

The Gutter Years

Marko Sijan's CNQ essay on the clusterfuck surrounding the failed publication of his first novel (the piece also doubles as a devastasting profile of Toronto agent Sam Hiyate) is monstrously good:
What I liked most about Sam’s “Coke and Sex Parties” was meeting women....Tell-all memoirs of former strippers also aroused Sam’s interest and some of these reformed pole-dancers attended his parties. One of them claimed to be in the process of writing her memoir. She had a nasally voice and a laugh like a punctured accordion, both of which she attributed to her nose job. To protect her surgeon’s work she wouldn’t let me kiss her, and to keep me far away from her nose, we had sex in the manner of dogs.

Signal Spotting

Two Signal poets make an appearance in the Fall issue of Maisonneuve, now on newsstands. Nyla Matuk has two superb poems from her upcoming book, Sumptuary Laws, due out from us in Spring 2012 (a clutch of new work will also appear in the forthcoming CNQ 82). Jason Guriel has a stiletto-sharp take-down of last year's Harbourfront Battle of the Bards. Both pieces are behind the paywall, so you'll need to buy a copy. Or better yet, subscribe.

Friday 23 September 2011

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Kitchen Sink Editing

Richard Greene says some flattering things about me on the Canada Writes homepage today. Thursday, the tables turn.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Sunday Poem


With combs carved from porpoise jaws,
they rake their seaweed tangles out
and coif their hair like centrefolds
at a poolside party on the rocks.

The waves froth like champagne;
the cliffs are mansionesque.
It’s all cocaine and late night orgies,
a certain moral depthlessness.

One spikes a branch of coral
in a bun upon her crown
and holds an ivory mirror up
to look at the result.

Another drags a salvaged rasp
across her fingernails
and flicks the water with her fins
as if to test its warmth.

The last one wields a bottleneck,
still wedged with shipwrecked scroll,
to pry an oyster shell apart
or mark her wrists with gills.
From Gift Horse (2011) by Mark Callanan.

Tuesday 13 September 2011


Linda Leith sums up the recent fracas over late Quebec novelist Nelly Arcan's "humiliating" TV interview in 2007.

Gift Horse

It took seven years, a bit of arm-twisting and a near-death experience for Mark Callanan to finish his second book of poems, but I'm happy to announce the wait is finally over. Gift Horse is being launched at The Ship Pub (265 Duckworth Street) in St. John's, NL on October 11 at 8.00 pm. Joining him is Amanda Jernigan, who will be reading from her (also long-anticipated) debut Groundworks with George Murray hosting the event. Sounds like an amazing evening. Breaks my heart that I have to miss it. Mark's new poems are such grim, sharp-cut little things. It's certainly one of the strongest collections I've published in my time at Signal.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Sunday Poem


The first time in, we passed right through
to end up on the outside of the other side
of town. "The fog's so thick, it's like pea soup,"
was said. All I saw beyond the taillights
of the car before us were the tollgates
then the girders and the bridge that hung
like an island where the horizon belonged,
but now was all washed up and out and away.

For two whole days Saint John did not exist,
and each time in or out of town we missed
an exit: nothing in that place
was seen until you saw it face to face.

But then, a home's not real unless it's half
imagined. We make each move not knowing if
what's coming through the fog is threat or gift.
From Postscript (2004) by Geoffrey Cook.

Saturday 10 September 2011


David Orr raises the alarm about copyright laws threatening American poetry criticism.
"The difficulty is not so much that the copyright system is restrictive (although it can be), but that no one has any idea exactly how much of a poem can be quoted without payment. Under the “fair use” doctrine, quotation is permitted for criticism and comment, so you’d think this is where a poetry critic could hang his hat. But how much use is fair use?"
(And when you're done reading this, be sure to check out Orr's Paris Review blog, Lost in the Archives, as well his excellent book Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry.)

Sunday 4 September 2011

Sunday Poem


Bald Adham used a threaded damper puller
To coax the hub from the end of the crankshaft.
He took out the pulley retaining bolts
And then withdrew the breather pipes from the rocker covers.
He pondered the hairpin clip
At the bell crank, then carefully
Removed that too. He swabbed the mating
Surfaces of the cylinder head and rubbed them clean
With loving swipes of rag and growled-out prayer.

“My little hubayrati, my sweet sand grouse,”
He crooned, “You’ve grown old like me.”
He diagnosed his body as he diagnosed
The engine of an old Caprice. He knew
His timing chains were clanking on overtime,
His dowel-pin-chamfer was a catastrophe,
And even his camshaft sprocket, once his pride,
Wobbled when he floored the pedal now.
He remembered with a blush beneath his grease
The days when his steering knackle and his
Stabilizer bar required
No pry tool for their maintenance.
Now, left to overhaul this elderly V-8,
He plunged his surgical fingers, gloved in sludge,
Into the torque-stunned heart of the engine block.
“My dove,” he crooned,” “My antelope” as he
Dotingly installed
New valve-cover grommets that the Infidel
Had docked at Jeddah just two weeks before
“Beloved,” he hummed, “when your lugnuts gleam again
We’ll tame the turnpikes and outrun our rust...”

The engine shivered. Adham felt
The whomping heart fire beneath his fingertips.
He sensed how purringly his own
Combustion chamber filled again
With the gleam of fuel.
Bald Adham kissed his grease gun and oil filter wrench
And he praised the lord who pricks the dead to life.
From Araby (2000) by Eric Ormsby.

Saturday 3 September 2011

Mary Harman Interview

Marius Kociejowski talks shop with Montreal painter Mary Harman:
In order to start something new, I mustn’t have anything else on the go. I have to have a couple of weeks of clear space … no doctor’s appointments, no guests coming … absolutely no commitments. Usually I will load up the paints, a couple of canvases, and go out to the cabin. I can’t have anyone around at all. I don’t want anyone looking at that canvas especially in the first few days. I have freedom to do anything I want to do, no matter how stupid it is. If someone says “That’s interesting” that kills it or anyone seeing it is a killer. It has to be absolutely between me and me, absolute space.
More here.