Sunday 27 May 2012

Sunday Poem


There are bells under your shirt.

An eye is an apple.

An eye is an apple.

And you have an orange for a waist.

Your legs are straws that draw water
to your shoulders.

Red and white striped straws.

Your laughter, when it comes, are fronds.
You clutter the sky with your green laughter.
I buy a grape
from your ear

and you hear me.
You give away
the grapes, green, from your ear

as I speed in this limitless blue.

I spiral in my yellow balloon
through your height.
The knotted ginger knees
up into the net of fronds,
and the leaf wrists
above you.

Each shoulder a fountain.

The hands . . .

I spiral through your height
untying the air
I pass through
in my yellow balloon
hello, hello
From Floating Life (2012) by Moez Surani.

Friday 25 May 2012


"I pretended I was a small woodland creature, like a squirrel or a bunny in a burrow, late at night under the covers in my princess bed in Prince George B.C., circa 1980."

Elizabeth Bachinsky's earliest memory of being creative.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Is the Postmodern Poem a Dead End?

Leontia Flynn thinks so.
"Rather than figuring the endless textual networks with which we have all become so familiar, I want to stop clicking, scrolling and speed-reading and shuffling on to the next song, and instead focus on poetry which stays still and feels something. And this is what I want to write too. Not unmediated self-expression, of course, but not pre-emptively cut off with a glib reflex."

Monday 21 May 2012

The Poetry of The Taliban

Stephen Marche reads the controversial new anthology, and finds himself unexpectedly moved:
At least one senior American military observer has suggested a war of “counterpoetry,” which would have sounded insane to me before reading this collection but now seems both reasonable and completely impossible. What does it matter if we control the cities and the battlefields, so long as they control the narrative? The narrative is all they need to win. And their story is in the hands of brilliant, often anonymous storytellers.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Sunday Poem


Not particularly cold, it blushes slightly, a tiny bud
in the shadow of my left breast. You’d think it a freckle
or a mole and not be as far wrong as those who
four hundred years ago
would have burned me alive at the sight of it
after, of course, a significant interval of gratuitous torture
involving spikes being driven into various parts of my
tender anatomy and ending not in confession
but in exhausted and probably unconscious silence.

But who convinced the witch-hunters that evil marks the flesh?
And who was not deformed back then by something or other—
the body a map of disease and malnutrition,
stinking, lice-ridden, with bleeding gums and falling hair,
eyes clouded by cataracts, lids drooping with palsy, limbs trembling with ague,
pocked with sores, tumours, abscesses and ulcers.
Yet they ignored clear evidence of our shared mortality
in their search for one singular blemish, an extra nipple
with which to suckle a satanic familiar.

You’d think that centuries of plot and counterplot would have revealed
that most successful villains are unremarkable, their bodies
as fallible as ours, their faces as plausible, their stories
as full of lamentation and excuse. That the hand of God
if it bothered to write to us at all would surely be less
inscrutable. But no.
The encryption of the universe continues beyond our comprehension
as we study the marginalia on each others’ skin
blinkered and enraged, seeking somebody else, anybody else,
to blame.

From The Smooth Yarrow (2012) by Susan Glickman.

Saturday 19 May 2012

The Smooth Yarrow

Susan Glickman launched her new book of poems on May 10th (photos coming soon). The Smooth Yarrow is her sixth collection with Vehicule. She's been part of the Signal family from the very start of her career with her debut Complicity (1983). I love Susan's work, and after editing her selected in 2004, I thought I was familiar with all of her moves. The Smooth Yarrow, however, set me back on my heels. I don't think she's written bolder, fiercer, more surefooted or word-playful poems. Without question one of her best books.

Quill & Quire liked it too: "Glickman’s writing is defiant: like yarrow, it is lean and strong, not only beautiful, but possessed of myriad healing properties."

Friday 18 May 2012


"These are what the poet Peter Sanger might call ‘civilizational’ stories: they gather in to themselves about as much as a story can hold about the experience of being human. Which is, of course, an exclusive and exclusionary experience -- so no one story can tell it all. Still, we construct these arcs, these myths. Their capacity is the capacity of human life: finite, but, to us, all there is."
Amanda Jernigan on her attraction to stories like the Iliad.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Taking Exception

Bryan Sentes isn't impressed with Michael Lista’s review of Tim Lilburn’s Assiniboia (my earlier post here). If I understand him correctly, he thinks Lista trashed the poems without bothering to understand them. Worse, that such negative reviewing “hardens positions” rather than “expanding and quickening literary awareness”—the latter, according to Sentes, being the real goal of criticism. I have three points to make. First, it's precisely because Lista draws on Lilburn’s own theories that his defrocking of his book rises to the level of criticism. Second, it's precisely because Lista has spent so much time thinking about those theories that he is able to dress his doubts in sentences that are crisp, coherent and immensely nuanced. In other words, if I admire Lista's "articulate, high-spirited" prose it's because it is proof that Lista did his homework. There are plenty of well-written "evaluatively polemical" reviews that I think are total bullshit. Third, Sentes is right: criticism for me exists to jolt re-evaluations. There are, of course, valuable critical practices that don’t factor in that duty. You can, like Seamus Heaney, turn your subjectivity squarely on itself and scrutinize the reasons you do what you do. You can, like Stephen Burt, play devil’s advocate with your own partiality and train yourself to be an appreciationist. But man, there’s nothing like watching an informed reviewer weaponize their skepticism and attack with suavity—it’s what criticism was invented to do.

Sunday 6 May 2012

The Cloaca Has Landed

Andrew Hood was in Ottawa recently to launch his monstrously good second book of stories, The Cloaca, published by the very fresh and infectiously unpretentious Invisible Publishing. On a day that The Cloaca received some good critical attention from Phillip Marchand in National Post, Hood gave a short reading at Collected Works Bookstore and answered questions from the madding crowd.

Asked who he's reading, Hood mentioned Flannery O'Connor ('for the violence in her stories') and Amy Hempel. Asked if the stories in his second book were easier or harder to write than the bunch in Pardon Our Monsters, Hood confessed writing has got a lot harder to do, scratched his head, and said some things that cannot be printed here. Asked how he knows when he's finished with a story, Hood answered he knows he's done when he can't take anything more out of a story, without it falling apart. The folks at Véhicule Press wish the inimitable Hoodly all the readers he deserves and then some.

Sunday Poem


This isn't the light we wanted, the weather
we're supposed to be having. But it's still
sometimes all we have to talk about. We
put all our little fingertips in the sky
and changed the climate—those are your
fingerprints on the moon, and mine. Now
we've made room for these leaders,
appointments moving like flocks of birds
down the calendar. The police get sweeping
new powers to sweep us away, and we hope
this particular patchwork of leaders will give
a little thought to the little people, some
blank-eyed woman behind a window holding
a sandwich to her face like gauze to a wound.
Not to worry, there are key initiatives,
discussions. I know change, it's like a coin
we take out and toss again and again. All
we're doing is hanging like a water droplet.
From The Least Important Man (Biblioasis, 2012) by Alex Boyd.

Who is Reviewing Books of Poetry by Canadian Women?

Natalie Zed is starting to keep score, and isn't impressed:
It occurred to me that it had been a rather long time since I read a review of a book of poetry by a woman in The National Post, and so I called up the column in question and counted. Only 2 of the 14 books of poetry that The National Post has reviewed in the last year and a half were written by women. 2 in 14. I was expecting some discrepancy, from what I had just passively noticed, but nothing like this.

Thursday 3 May 2012


"We’re just animals (my three-year-old son is currently fascinated by this thought)—dominant because of our ability to generate adaptive technologies, but still animals that eat, shit, fuck, and die. This may seem like a bleak outlook, but I don’t consider it so. We’re part of something larger than ourselves, which is not god but the long and varied history of life on this planet. When we die, we’ll feed more life; we’re little pieces of the cosmos. There’s something beautiful in that."

Mark Callanan on the absence of God in his book Gift Horse.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Good Night and Good Luck

After four years of blogging, Jacob McArthur Mooney closes shop.
I understand now that what I was trying to do with Vox Populism was socialize a solitary experience, and that’s why I couldn’t keep it up anymore. I mean “socialize” here as an extrapolation from the word “social” itself, and not “socialism”. I was trying to bundle my loneliness as a practitioner of a quiet, bashful, art form into a kind of popular front. In wanting to band together, I forgot my interest in both poetry and blogging started lonely, and was made to thrive in that loneliness. That it was a loneliness covered in the warm blue glow of internet collaboration only masked its solitary truth.