Sunday 29 April 2012

Sunday Poem


Yesterday I burned the toast
so I went down to the rapids.
It was not a bright morning.
Close to shore a small twig
spun on an eddy. The eddy
was frilled like a doily, and seethed.
The twig was helpless to go anywhere
except around and around.
On the horizon plumes of smoke
rose like poplar trees. There was
the sun, punched into the sky
like the sky's navel. The river,
pricked and lifted by windhooks.
Mist puffing up, the sky black then white.
Columns of air I could have walked
like pathways to waiting jets,
walked into the skyhold. I'm telling you:
then the river reared up like a dragon,
scales flapping, the sun, smoke,
the far faint islands, all
collapsed in the froth of its lashing.
I had never been so small,
atomic. I was tossed. I have to
say "maelstrom." I wanted out.
I wanted time to turn back.
When I felt the ground again I was
shaking. It seemed I could reach
in any direction and touch the opposite
shore, the islands, the mist and smoke.
The gaps among things had closed.
I'm telling you this because I have not
been able to separate them, and now
all wounds are nothing, are blips,
leaf-toss. Nothing resists.
When I leave, understand, I will not be gone.
From the chapbook Twenty Views of the Lachine Rapids (Gaspereau, 2012) by Susan Gillis.

"Apollonian bummer bumf"

Michael Lista's bracing review of Tim Lilburn's new book of poems, Assiniboia, should be required reading for anyone who still believes the canard that literary journalism has no business calling itself criticism:
"Once we start taking Lilburn as directed, though, we become acquainted with the deleterious side effects: dry mouth, bloating, the runs. For decades, Lilburn, a trained Jesuit, has been preaching his Gospel of Strangeness. In his book of essays Living in the World As If It Were Home, he famously wrote: “the world seen deeply eludes all names; it is not like anything else, it is not the sign of something else. It is itself. It is a towering strangeness.” One must appreciate how strange it is, if nothing else, for a poet to say that the world is not like something else, because that is what poetry is: anthropomorphizing nature by transubstantiating it into the most human elements—language and metaphor."
UPDATE: Bryan Sentes responds.

Thursday 26 April 2012


"Had Glassco lived to be a centenarian—or even a mere nonagenarian—I very much doubt that he would have taken to social media except in one key area: his sex life. Here, the world would have become a less lonely place. I dare say it would be much easier to meet people who shared his interests over the Web than through personal ads."

Brian Busby talks about his literary biography of John Glassco, A Gentleman of Pleasure.

Monday 23 April 2012

Claptrap Canon, Ctd

Todd Swift, one of the co-editors of the Modern Canadian Poets anthology, responds to Zach Wells' review:
"His claim that our selection process was cack-handed is illogical. By definition, the one thing that editors of anthologies comprehend is who they include—we knew what we were doing. If Wells wishes to question our selections, so be it. But to have it both ways, to say our selections are both incompetent, and also mendacious, seems absurd. There is a glimpse of a different review here, when Wells actually admits that we have included some of the great, often unsung Canadian poems. However, the tireless editors are not credited with this. For that would imply that Wells would have to admit the existence of minds greater than his, working at some remove from his little train set—that is, the set of all things that include Wells."

Sunday 22 April 2012

Sunday Poem


Forty paces from the house I live in,
across the street, beside the stone wall
of mottled grey boulders cobbled into place,
the men appear once more, the ones who come

without a word or sign to stand beside
the tall, medieval, wooden catapult
wheeled on stone wheels down the street in the dark
from across the bare outlands, stopping there

opposite my house, beside the stone wall,
and together load awkward, unwieldy
sandbags that are the size of dead bodies
onto the catapult and launch them one

after another against the house front,
and sometimes one of them will come straight up
to the house and bang on the window panes
with his bare fist and then go back to his place,

and when I have just about had enough,
they will suddenly stop, break up, and go,
and just leave the sandbags and the catapult
where they lie, if you can believe it.
From The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry (2005) by Jeffery Donaldson

Wednesday 18 April 2012


"For about four years in my mid-thirties my main form of exercise was to attend kickboxing classes at a dojo down the street from my home in the fantastic Ottawa neighbourhood of Hintonburg. It was confusing and exhilarating to learn how to move my arms and legs in combinations of offence and defence—as exciting as deciphering the nouns, verbs and grammatical structure of a new language."

Anita Lahey on her new book Spinning Side Kick.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Sunday Poem


I won't take no
excuses and I won't take no
for an answer
he said.
Then take this
she said
and hung up.
From Kinetic Mustache (1989) by Arthur Clark.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Myths about Poets

David McGimpsey tackles the 10 "most common misconceptions about poets":
Not all poets are introverted. They aren’t always thinking away at some clever line they can’t actually speak of. Poets are just alone because of their poor life choices. So, when you see a poet, don't think of some wild bard whose pent-up verbal hurricanes may suddenly destroy your world, think more of a sad kid holding the scrap of a recently punctured balloon.
The other nine can be found here.

(Illustration by David Barlow-Krelina.)

Tuesday 3 April 2012


"I want to insist on my own asymmetrical and restless and fallible imagination, and go further into it to embrace mystery as a useful mode of research. I think that one essential preoccupation of poetry is to forge its own terms, even if these terms may at times be seen as absurd, odd, or obsolete."

Peter Gizzi discussing his ambition as a poet.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Sunday Poem


You need the code to leave Montreal Five:
Alzheimer's Floor at Providence Manor,
where the clocks and cracked watches have all stopped;
the moon ticks, charts, and predicts behaviour.

The waltzing nurses that stay are angels.
One today carefully clipped Jack's shirt
from his calf where it had split: a burst tourniquet.
He was proudly preparing for the Prom.

That's Jack Mercer, who cannot ignite
a sentence but will recite Robert Service's,
Cremation of Sam McGee, fluently—
memory wicking through gasoline eyes.

And the name-forgotten children visit
this floor less and less, but who can blame them.
This is hell: witnessing the slow reversal;
spoon-feeding a drooling Mother pablum;

watching a Father taper to a spill.
Crowding them as if it were their first spin
on a bicycle; waiting for that fall
to render them immobile, bed-ridden,

heaped in a pile, and once in a while rolled-
over on one side, propped-up like a doll.
(Poor Muriel Gray lay too long on her hip
resulting in a an ulcerating hole).

It's a grim picture being finger-painted
on those walls. And the hallways smell like shit.
You need the code to enter Montreal Five.
If only God could remember it.
From Better Locks and Daylight (Cactus Press, 2011) by Greg Bell.

(Photo by Phillip Toledano.)