Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Some Love for Anything But Hank

Nice little review of Anything But Hank! in the kids' book site Paper Tigers.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Two orderlies are taking an old man
on a stroll down Summer, one pushing

his chair, the other rolling an oxygen bottle
behind her as they walk, at the stately

pace one might take poling a raft down a lazy
river. In their ward there is no rushing

about, as in ER; no sudden panic
punctuates their days, as it does for colleagues

in Psych. And so they slowly stroll
down Summer, unscrolling the cemetery's

wrought iron fence as they go, absorbing
sun's warmth through lavender clothes. In the graveyard

sunlight leaks through enmeshed leaves
of centenarian hardwoods, spring lilac

blossoms are brown and around broken stones
in orderly rows, the grass is freshly mown.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Poetry in Him

The poetry in him’s not hard to miss—
Lear’s Kent, steady servant, taking cover
when cynics stormed the stage, but never
hiding out. No lies in him, his honest
talk not florid, stripped of artifice
and ornament. Plain. Don’t take his silence
for indifference, don’t mistake it for a lack
of love, nor his boxer’s skill for violence,
his aptitude with axe and saw and maul
for bloodlust. Flawed? Yes, but what he hacked
apart he raised into a home, a small
solid shield against impending weather,
and at its heart a Jotul blazing hot.
My father was not a man who said a lot.

from Track & Trace

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I provide some A's to Q's posed by Ian Letourneau on the topic of writing/publishing a second book. A very neat idea; I'm looking forward to seeing who else weighs in and what they have to say.

Friday, June 18, 2010


to John McDonald, after Hopkins

I caught this morning's highlight reel sens-
   ation, sensei of the second sack, prime
   pivot's dazzle and dash, flop, flip, quicklime-,
grass- and dirt-grimed shirt, shy grin flashed, defence
maestro catching all comers like a chainlink fence.
   No gilding for his great glove in this high time
   of silver slugging guildsmen, but, oh, sublime
the achieve of, the mastery of this diamond prince!

Consigned to ride pine for lack of thunder
   in his lumber, no grief or gripe, no slack-
sailed slump drags his practised hustle under.

   No less we've come to expect, Johnny Mac,
and yet we gasp, goggle and, awed, wonder
   how you render routine the miraculous act.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What the Fart?!

This blows stinky wind.

Puritanical Poems

Two poems of mine are now online for your reading pleasure at The Puritan.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chain, chain, chain

Thanks to Michael Lista for pointing out this video of Paul Muldoon reading his poem "Symposium," the poem on which the Dodds poem is based upon which my poem of yesterday is based. Because Jeramy didn't acknowledge the debt in the book (which is interesting, because he did for other poems--and because it makes the first sentence of my poem look far cleverer than it actually is!) and because my reading of Muldoon's poetry has been desultory, I didn't realize it. But I'm not surprised at all that Michael did...

ADDED: Michael thought that this may have been an excerpt of the poem, but it is indeed the whole thing, I learned upon consulting the Big Book of Muldoon that I haven't been reading for the last 9 or 10 years. I also learned that "Symposium" is a sonnet (a shaggy sort of sonnet, of the type that Ken Babstock learned from Muldoon; "Symposium" is collected in Muldoon's book Hay, the title poem of which--also a shaggy sonnet--Babstock wrote about in The Globe and Mail way back when), whereas Jeramy's poem is 33 lines long. Mine, at present, is 36 lines, but most of the lines are shorter than most of Jeramy's. Genetic mutations... It should also be noted that mine is by far the filthiest of the three poems.

The Heinrich Manoeuvre

Another cool thing. Gary Barwin invited me, along with many other folks, the other day to revise a draft of his interpretation of a poem by Heinrich Heine. Here's the blog he set up to host the project. Here's my contribution.

The Meadow Network

A few weeks ago, I was invited to take part in a project by a couple in Oakland, California, involving my experience as a Prince Edward Islander who moved away. The results of that interview, along with several others, including my cousin Ker, has now been published. Haven't read all of it yet, but it looks quite interesting.

The Epileptic Acupuncturist

For those (few, no doubt) unfamiliar with the Jeramy Dodds poem on which my previous post is based:

Friday, June 11, 2010


after Jeramy Dodds

People who live by a pen

mightier than the sword beaten

into a ploughshare don't share

their secrets lightly. You can't

make a silk purse from pigs in a blanket

no matter how well

you porkbarrel over the falls.

If you get caught fucking the dog,

deny the devil his Scooby Doo.

You've got to give 110% of your ass

on the line if you want to get in line

for some loving. It's hard to get head

when your ball's in the bunker

and your club is a spade.

Stupid is as smart phones; my darling

is an open netbook, a bitter tablet

to spit or swallow. That fish

out of water is off the hook

and into the line of fire. Dead men

don't chase their own tails

down blind alleys. If I wanted your vice

I'd bust my balls to live by the sweat

off my bag. Wall to wall shagging

leads to black eyes and blots

on the bottom line. At the end of the day

another day comes knocking. Seize

the dayjob you won't quit

and throttle it to within an inch

of your wife. Pull all the stops

out of the dike and throw away

the keynote address. Dressing for success

is bound to fail the acid test

so don't sweat the small stuff

in your boxers or briefs

if you can't get it up the garden path.

Go hang your twisted knickers in the wind.

TS Eliot on Pound's Metrics

Ezra Pound has been fathered with vers libre in English, with all its vices and virtues. The term is a loose one--any verse is called "free" by people whose ears are not accustomed to it--in the second place, Pound's use of this medium has shown the temperance of the artist, and his belief in it as a vehicle is not that of the fanatic. He has said himself that when one has the proper material for a sonnet, one should use the sonnet form; but that it happens very rarely to any poet to find himself in possession of just the block of stuff which can perfectly be modelled into the sonnet. It is true that up to very recently it was impossible to get free verse printed in any periodical except those in which Pound had influence; and that now it is possible to print free verse (second, third, or tenth-rate) in almost any American magazine. Who is responsible for the bad free verse is a question of no importance, inasmuch as its authors would have written bad verse in any form; Pound has at least the right to be judged by the success or failure of his own. Pound's vers libre is such as is only possible for a poet who has worked tirelessly with rigid forms and different systems of metric.


The freedom of Pound's verse is rather a state of tension due to constant opposition between free and strict. There are not, as a matter of fact, two kinds of verse, the strict and the free; there is only a mastery which comes of being so well trained that form is an instinct and can be adapted to the particular purpose in hand.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I first encountered the poetry of Peter Norman in the delightful ltd. ed. chapbook Wild Clover Honey and the Beehive, which I reviewed for Arc in 2005. The book consists of 28 sonnets written by Peter and Stephen Brockwell, with Peter arguing for the sonnet and Stephen against it. I was particularly struck by the wit and formal ingenuity of Peter's contributions and thought to myself that when he got around to publishing a trade collection, it would be some kind of good.

I later met Peter briefly when I gave a reading in Calgary in 2006 and we corresponded a bit thereafter. In 2008, I published Peter's brilliantly conceived and executed sonnet "Bolshevik Tennis!" in Jailbreaks. After moving back to Halifax last year, I was very glad to learn that Peter and his wife, writer and editor Melanie Little, would be moving to Halifax from Calgary. They're not only supremely talented folks, but great company as well, so we're sad that they'll be leaving for Toronto come fall, so that Melanie can take up her new duties as Senior Editor at Anansi.

But I'm very glad that, five years after first meeting Peter in print, he has published that first book, and it's every bit as good as I figured it would be. Moreover, it's surprisingly different from what I might have imagined. Peter and I share certain attunements; in my copy of At the Gates of the Theme Park, he wrote: "I promise I wrote "Reassurance"--with its "shucked mollusc"--and "What He Found in the Vacuum Bag" in advance of reading T&T!" For those unfamiliar with my book, I use that very phrase in my poem "Heron, False Creek" and the first poem in Track & Trace is "What He Found Growing in the Woods."

But what is on display in AtGotTP, far from being imitative or one-note, is a tremendous show of versatility, as Peter tries on all kinds of different formal approaches and voices. What's most impressive is that he writes very good poems in all those different forms. (He also has a novel forthcoming, which I expect will bear all the marks of his precision, diligence and imagination.) And what's exciting is that I know of several Peter Norman poems every bit as good as the best in this collection that are yet to be collected. You'll have to wait for that, but in the meantime, as it says on the back cover of At the Gates of the Theme Park, step right up!

Reviews online

My reviews of Suzanne Hancock's Cast from Bells and Camille Martin's Sonnets, are now online at Quill & Quire.


It was a colossal case of crossed wires.
When he stopped to beg a drop of water,
I misheard him. His mouth was gummy,
there was a horrible hubbub and my ears
have never been that hot. I thought he asked
for a pair of sandals. (The rhyme's more clear
in Aramaic.) Well, a poor cobbler
can't afford to give the work of his hands
away for free, any more than can
a carpenter, and I could see that he
hadn't far to go before he'd need
no shoes. (Prospects for their speedy return
seemed dim.) So I told the scrawny beggar
to move on with his cross and briars.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Todd Boss

While I was in Toronto, I picked up Yellowrocket, the debut collection of American (Minnesota-based) poet Todd Boss. It was a book I'd heard recommended by a couple of people, so when I saw it on the shelf, I took it down for a look. It didn't take much reading to convince me this was a book I had to spend more time with.

And a delightful time it's been. It's a 120+ page book and contains about as many weaker, dispensable poems as one--or at least I--would expect to find in such a fat collection, but I absolutely love the best poems, and there are lots of them (which I'll be rereading for some time to come). Boss has a great website (link above), where you can read and hear him read several of his poems. I wasn't surprised to learn that a poet with such a good ear reads very well. (And you can hire him to write a poem for you!) Also awesome are the video poems of his on this site. Here's one I particularly like:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Framing the Window

The romantics and the modernists were right to suspect the window frame of standing between ourselves and nature, between us and others, but I suspect they were probably wrong to think this distance could ever be closed. It won't be, not by glass walls, not by flinging windows wide open, not even by blowing up the houses. For even outdoors, even in the pine wood that Thoreau said was his favorite room at Walden, we are still in some irreducible sense outside nature. As Walden itself teaches us, we humans are never simply in nature, like the beasts and trees and boulders, but are always also in relation to nature: looking at it through the frames of our various preconceptions, our personal and collective histories, our self-consciousness, our words. There might be value in breaking frames and pushing toward transparency, as Thoreau and his fellow romantics (the Zen masters too) have urged us to do, but the goal is probably beyond our reach. What other creature, after all, even has a relationship to nature? The window, with its qualified transparency and its inevitable frame, is the sign of this fact of relation, of difference.

--Michael Pollan, A Place of My Own

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Toronto report

Well, I won neither gold nor silver at the National Magazine Awards, but I really didn't expect to, so I'm not disappointed. The gala was a good time; I got to hang out with Carmine Starnino and Jennifer Varkonyi, my good friends from Maisonneuve, which was up for mag of the year for the third time, but unfortunately lost out to Up Here. Also got to meet a few people in person I'd only known digitally, which was very cool.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the Blue Jays/Yankees game at Sky Dome (yes, I still call it that) with Jason Guriel. And what a game it was: 3-2 Jays in fourteen innings. We really got our money's worth out of our 500 level seats. Would have liked to sit closer to the field, but it was, for a change, a pretty well-attended game and they only had single seats available in the lower levels. I wish Toronto turned out in greater numbers to watch the Jays. They've got a helluva good young team; very exciting.

Had a bbq last night with several old friends and now Rachel, Kaleb and I are on the train to Montreal, en route to Halifax. A whirwind of a trip, but worth it.

All for now.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

NMA, Blue Jays, etc.

Heading out on the train today with family for a very brief trip to Toronto, where I'll be attending the National Magazine Awards gala (with fingers crossed that my nominated essay will take bronze) and a Blue Jays/Yankees game. Only in town for two nights, as we have to get back for work commitments. So we'll be spending more time on trains than on solid ground, but train trips are holidays in and of themselves. More anon.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Some Love for Track & Trace

Kerry Clare has posted a very nice response to Track & Trace on her blog, Pickle Me This.