Sunday 26 August 2012

Sunday Poem


Sorry for the sound of my steps
on the floor—wherever I
walked, it creaked. There was a new

moon above and I swallowed the dark
(it still comes out now as I speak).
Sorry, too, for the door, I didn't quite close;

the cold pulled you out of your sleep.
It's what the new moon does: it
deals out the stars; it dances, it drinks

and it cheats. All day long,
the planet revolved; it turned in
the troposphere's keep. With new moon

above, I swept through the dark. Then
I swept the dark off my feet. Still
I'm sorry, this morning, when

I came back to bed, if my hands had lost
all their heat. It’s an old tune, love,

what you lose in the dark,
what follows you back to the sheets.
From Open Air Bindery (2011) by David Hickey.

Wednesday 22 August 2012


Canadian-born humorist David Rakoff died on August 9th from cancer. He was 47. Last April, he contributed a short essay to O, The Oprah magazine on how reciting Elizabeth Bishop's poem "Letter to N.Y" helped to calm him during his MRIs.
"Lying on the table, it can sometimes feel like I've been in treatment longer than I've been alive; that my world has contracted and been bricked over and this is who I am and will only ever be. There is solace in the poem's portrait of New York City, my home for close to three decades. It's a New York not just of my healthier but of my younger self. And it's nice to think of it all still being there, waiting for me, just as soon as I get up and walk out of this room."

Daryl Hine 1936-2012

Here is the email I received from Evan Jones last night.
Daryl Hine passed away yesterday [April 20] in Evanston around 9:30pm. His health wasn't great, but he was stable. We spoke two weeks ago. He was at work on his own version of the Argonautica—from the ship's point of view. He had just bought a new MacBook. Daryl, Jay Macpherson and Virgil Burnett in one year. That's the end of something.
Some excellent essays on Hines' work and career are available online. Here's one by Eric Ormsby, and another by Bill Coyle. Arc serves up only a morsel of James Pollock's piece (but you can dine on the whole thing in Pollock's upcoming collection of essays, out in November).

Sunday 19 August 2012

Wedding in Fire Country

Stewart Cole is back with his second installment of his monthly reviewing project, The Urge. This time he writes about Darren Bifford's debut, Wedding in Fire Country. The following passage caught my eye:
Many Canadian poets of Bifford’s generation and younger (it's my generation too—he was born in 1977, I in 1978) have been tending to favour a kind of surrealism-lite: wry, off-kilter, never too serious, clever rather than strictly intelligent, favouring associative leaps over sustained development, often wedded to sonic strategies that virtually fetishize a Hopkinsesque coiled sonic tension, and rarely favouring a common word when a baroque one can be rooted out. This line of development has produced some excellent work (and will doubtless continue to do so), but we’re approaching the point where what may have once been innovation risks ossifying into mere fashion.

Sunday Poem


after Cavafy
The Franklin Expedition, 1845-48

When you set out to find your Northwest Passage
and cross to an empty region of the map

with a headlong desire to know what lies beyond,
sailing the thundering ice-fields on the ocean,

feeling her power move you from below;
when all summer the sun’s hypnotic eye

won’t blink, and the season slowly passes, an endless
dream in which you’re forever diving into pools,

fame’s image forever rising up to meet you;
when the fall comes, at last, triumphantly,

and you enter Victoria’s narrow frozen Strait,
and your Terror and Erebus freeze in the crushing floes;

in that long winter night among the steeples
of jagged ice, and the infinite, empty plain of wind and snow,

when the sea refuses to be re-born in spring,
three winters pass without a thaw, and the men,

far from their wives and children, far from God,
are murdering one another over cards;

when blue gums, colic, paralysis of the wrists
come creeping indiscriminately among you;

and you leave the ships, and set out on the ice,
dragging the lifeboats behind, loaded

with mirrors and soap, slippers and clocks,
into the starlit body of the night,

with your terrible desire to know what lies beyond;
then, half-mad, snow blind, even then,

before you kill the ones who’ve drawn the fatal lots,
and take your ghastly communion in the snow,

may you stumble at last upon some band of Inuit
hauling their catch of seal across the ice,

and see how foolish you have been:
forcing your way by will across a land

that can’t be forced, but must be understood,
toward a passage just now breaking up within.

From Sailing to Babylon (2012) by James Pollock.

Sunday 12 August 2012


"I think there is a flattening of emotions, of depths, with anti-depressants. Fortunately, at lower doses, enough passion gets through, if perhaps not enough anxiety. One has to learn to cope with the new self. It’s about 85% of the old one."

Todd Swift on how anti-depressants helped his poetry.

Sunday Poem


The idea was change, or
at least rearrange our lives
to fit inevitable weather—

We bought fruit
camouflaged by bruise,
froze stews, thought we could make do
with what was left of preserves.

The idea was clemency, prepare,
avoid our tendencies
to move too quickly, to pick pears
that could stand to soften.

We stashed all we could
of birch sleeves, bagged leaves,
figuring we could always burn
our britches, our ancestral tweeds.

The idea was to make it new,
at least attempt to make it through
a season we both knew better
than to bear.
From Hypotheticals (2011) by Leigh Kotsilidis.

Sunday 5 August 2012

"Going Negative" Going the Distance

Years after it was published—and caused an uproar—Jason Guriel's defense of negative criticism is still getting mentions. There's one here, and another here. Seth Abramson uses Guriel's piece as a jumping-off point for a thoughtful, if skeptical look at negative reviews:
The question is, do such reviews serve the community of working poets, which is primarily invested in, well, how not to become bored by poetry? Which is primarily interested in finding new and exciting work to fuel its own creative energies? Which is excited—not chagrined—to read a wide range of reviews looking at a vast array of poetries now extant in America, rather than reading conflicting scholarly accounts of the same small number of authors time after time? I really don't think negative reviewing serves that community or those interests. I think the "negative review" largely serves a series of reading interests which no longer exist.

Sunday Poem


May is not the only month when stockbrokers emerge in large numbers from lakes and streams. The order Ephemeroptera, means "living a day" and some adult stockbrokers do not survive even that long—bursting from the water in the evening and dying before dawn. Most last a few days, but none are equipped to feed as an adult.

To reproduce, thousands of male stockbrokers perform a kind of dance, flying up and down in great swarms. They seize females that enter the swarm and mate in flight. Eggs are laid within an hour, attached by short filaments to aquatic plants or other supports.

Metamorphosis is simple. Interns, unlike adult stockbrokers, have biting mouth parts and can feed on tiny plants and small aquatic animals. They resemble the children of bank managers but have three, rather than the usual two, tail-like filaments, and gills on their abdomens rather than on the thorax and legs.

Friday 3 August 2012

The Poetry Review that Facebook Rescued

So here's the dirt: Poet reviews three books of poetry for national newspaper. Editors of said newspaper cut loose one book before publishing review. Poet sees his altered copy and freaks out on major social media site. Editors do damage control by placing review on website followed by the paper itself. And the publisher of the once-excised book? Pleased as punch. Read it here.

Wednesday 1 August 2012


"I think writers tend to marginalize themselves. We think too much, we watch what other people are doing (which David Foster Wallace described as our general ‘creepiness’), we obsess over things, we isolate…. All things health professionals advise against. Plus, we tend to take unconventional routes to achieve goals. Nothing upsets and frustrates some people more than nonconformity—when they see someone who’s very obviously going against the grain and doesn’t care."
Robert Earl Stewart explaining why some writers come across as a bit weird.