Saturday, July 31, 2010


Rob Taylor has published a book-title cento, in which he uses both Unsettled and Track & Trace.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alexis responds

And explains that all the infelicities in his essay were intentional. Boy, do I ever feel dumb!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Something else Andre Alexis missed...

...has been pointed out by publisher Kim McArthur.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Sherman Jimmo wakes me rudely
from my slumber on the train.
I slip on pants and t-shirt, step
out into the hall. Caged between
two sets of pneumatic sliding
doors, Sherman Jimmo, a duvet
draped over his right shoulder, jabs
his finger at a button
that needs a firm push, not a quick
poke, if ever it's to do its
Star Trek thing and open. Jimmo's
back is to me. Over and over,
he jabs at the door and intones
“C'mon, goddammit, c'mon.” (This
is what awoke me, the rhythmic
repetition, not of steel wheels
over rail seams, which I have trained
my brain to ignore, but of muttered
imprecations. “C'mon, god-
dammit, c'mon. C'mon, goddammit,
c'mon.”) So I come on and push
the button on the door aft Jimmo's
ass. I tap him on the shoulder
and he pauses his infernal
iterations. Jimmo doesn't know
where his bedroom is. Jimmo
thinks he is in London. Jimmo
has clearly imbibed something
in his bedroom on the train
that has gone and addled poor
Sherman Jimmo's brain. But part
of Jimmo's mental apparatus
recalls that there's a ticket
in the pocket of his shorts.
(That is how I came to learn
Sherman Jimmo's name and how
I learned the location of his
quarters, which Jimmo had forgot.)
As I walk behind him, down
the narrow hall, the duvet
on his shoulder slips, and I see
that Sherman Jimmo's cargo shorts
are soaked in Sherman Jimmo's piss.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Kinda Bird

Thanks to Brenda for the video.

Lord help me

I'm tweeting. Have resisted going down this road to perdition, but finally decided to see what it's all about. Might not last.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Some Love for CNQ

A nice writeup by Mark Medley of the National Post on the new-look CNQ.

Paul Wells...

...who points out that he is no relation to me, nor to Dan Wells (who is no relation to me, either), comments on my, ahem, "magisterial rebuttal" to Andre Alexis. Wells also points out a couple of unacknowledged biases on Alexis' part. Tsk, tsk.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Long Reply

In which yours truly attempts to impart some advice to Andre Alexis.

Centreville Report

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the Roscoe Fillmore Picnic in Centreville, NS at the quirky and cool Charles MacDonald Concrete House Museum. Roscoe Fillmore was a left-wing political radical who was also a horticulturalist and the first Canadian to write gardening books relevant to gardening in Canada. He was also a friend of Kenneth Leslie's, which is why I was invited to participate, along with Chuck Lapp, who produced the excellent Leslie biopic, God's Red Poet. Chuck picked me up in the morning along with photographer Mark Simpkins and off we went.

I had no idea what to expect of this event. It turned out to be a great time, despite intermittent thunder showers, including one that started just as I was coming up to read Leslie's poems. There were great people there, including old friends of my parents I hadn't seen in a couple of decades or more, and many good conversations. Lots of tasty grub, too, and local winery and brewery donated libations, including the very creditable Stutz hard apple cider, which is almost as good as Strongbow and a little lighter in alcohol volume, thus enabling one to enjoy more of them... After the picnic broke up, we checked out the concrete cottages at Huntington Point, then headed to Halls Harbour for fish n chips in the Fundy fog, with event organizer Marke Slipp and journalist Nicholas Fillmore (grandson and biographer of Roscoe) and his wife.

I finally got a call today for a railroad trip, so off to Montreal tomorrow. It's a good thing I've been able to pick up as much freelance work as I have, because the ol' railroad just hasn't been providing yours truly with much of a living the last couple years.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Another interview

This time it's David Kosub interviewing Lorri Neilsen Glenn about her poem "You Think of Meister Eckhart." I haven't seen the book this poem came from, but I agree with David that it's a very good piece. Interesting to hear Glenn talk about coming late to poetry. I really couldn't find much to like in her previous collection, which seemed to have been written more by Canadian Poetry than by an individual poet.

A couple of other things struck me in the interview. At one point, LNG says:

as a poet it’s harder still in contemporary culture to write about concepts such as ‘heart’ or ‘soul.’ Those discussions are too squishy for some people; they make the cynical squeamish and dismissive. I think that’s a certain kind of fear that’s talking, and I’ve felt that fear. Increasingly, I find that cynicism and ironic stances – or masks, I suppose --are no comfort or retreat; in fact, they sadden me when I see them in myself and in others.

She's right. It is very hard to write about these concepts. It's a fallacy, however, that it has something to do with contemporary culture, per se. It's that these concepts overlap considerably the Hallmark realm of kitschy spiritual verse and always have. I've criticised many poems and books over the years for taking the shortcut of saying "heart" or "soul" instead of finding some original or oblique way into the concepts. This has nothing to do with cynicism on my part. I've been equally critical, if not more so, of such profoundly cynical--or "terminally ironic" as I put it--books as Brian Joseph Davis' Portable Altamont. Such books are to me less interesting than a bad book of lyric verse because in the latter, much more is ventured, however ineptly: the author at least takes the risk of looking foolish in public. In the former, all the author does is act the class clown. I know there are people out there--Christian Bok comes to mind--who are suspicious of anything resembling lyric expression, but I think it's unwise for a poet to think that any critique of lyric expression comes from this kind of antipathy to lyricism as such.

Something else Glenn said struck me:

At some level, I think the couplets in this poem worked as staves for me – they were the right containers for rhythm. I play around with form often; this poem morphed over several revisions from short lines, to prose, to couplets and back again. And then, once a poem is near its last draft, there can be publishing constraints (page width, for example).

I may be misunderstanding her here, but it sounds as though she's saying that if the page isn't wide enough to accommodate her line, she'd change it. Which to me says that the formal choices she has made are, ultimately, quite arbitrary. Reading the poem confirms this, as there's no discernible pattern behind the very loose couplet structure. Why set it in lines at all if something so random as page width would affect the structure. I like the writing in her poem for the most part, but I almost never understand why poets go for these ultra-long lines. With poets like Whitman, Sandburg and Ginsberg, there are syntactic reasons for it, hearkening back to the parallelism used to structure Biblicial verse. But without such syntactic structures, which don't predominate in Glenn's poem, a line over 14 syllables is bound to be prosodically arbitrary. Blake, an important precursor to Whitman's line, often wrote in fourteeners, but as has been pointed out by many prosodists, his line most often breaks down into the ballad meter of a tetrameter and trimeter, split by a caesura. Even hexameters are hard to maintain over any stretch without the lines splitting, aurally. This is why the pentameter line has had such currency in English; it's a flexible, versatile form. Poets like Muldoon and Ogden Nash have done really neat things by stretching and compressing lines in such a way as to disrupt readers' expectations, but there is clearly no such playful effect intended here. So, while I think what LNG has written is poetry, I'm far from sure, in its present form, that it can be called verse in any meaningful sense of the term.

Damian Rogers and Michael Lista...

... talk to each other. Well worth the read. These two have written two of the best recent debuts in Canada. Which is saying something, considering how damn many good debuts have come out lately.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010 Noon til Evening
at the Chas. Macdonald Concrete House Museum
19 Saxon Street in Centreville, Kings County, NS
* Picnic goes until 5pm. Further discussion & activities TBA*
Rain Date: Sunday July 11
Bring your picnic lunch, radical ideas, chairs, & beverages,
musical instruments (if you like), sunscreen, bug repellent,
a blanket &/or what-have-you for your afternoon's enjoyment.
Special Guests:
Nicholas Fillmore reading from his book, Maritime Radical
Zachariah Wells reading poetry from, The Essential Kenneth Leslie
Chuck Lapp will be in attendance with his film God's Red Poet
Musical interludes will be provided by Bill Tupper & Friends
(bring along your own instruments and join in if you like!)
There will be a special art exhibit in the museum's Legge Gallery plus a selection of Charlie Macdonald's painting and drawings in the main gallery
Why a picnic named for Roscoe Fillmore?
Roscoe Fillmore was a figure that represented the values of community, equality and a socially-conscious lifestyle. Maritime Radical was written about his life by his grandson Nicholas Fillmore. Entrepreneur, writer, activist, gardener, political candidate Roscoe Fillmore was involved with a group of farmers, artists and like-minded folk back in the 1930s. The Centreville Socialists and would congregate on Sundays, talking about the values of equality & community, singing political songs to the melodies of hymns, and imbibing host Jim Simm's hard apple cider under the shadow of the North Mountain.
Roscoe used to gather friends on occassion for a picnic social, which would have guests like Socialist Party of Canada organizer Tim Buck, poet/editor Kenneth Leslie and others in attendance. After Roscoe's passing there was a desire to revive the idea of a picnic social to gather friends and like-minded together:
In July 1978, on the ninetieth anniversary of Roscoe's birth, the first Roscoe Fillmore memorial Picnic was held at the home of Kaye and Charlie Murray in Lower Sackville. More than 200 friends and admirers, many of them socialists in one variety or another, sat in the yard of the Murray home, amid Roscoe's plants and flowers, recalling what they could of Roscoe and talking about the difficult times facing socialism. Delivering a tribute to Roscoe at the first picnic, Dane Parker read Ken Leslie's poem, "There Is A Man Within".
There is a man within, a sure one.
He having taken your heart will hold it ever,
will hug and hold his treasure ever and ever.
You may wander and lose yourself, you may return,
you may forget him, you may betray this lover,
but he will never mislay the heart you have given.
He will hold his treasure forever and ever.
from Maritime Radical, pg. 246, by Nicholas Fillmore
Here's some other info you might find interesting regarding the Centreville Socialists.
More info on Roscoe Fillmore:
NOTE: Anyone wishing to purchase Maritime Radical in advance should contact Nick Fillmore at to reserve a copy. Cost: $20.00
for more information, please contact:

marke slipp
7770 Hwy 221
RR#2 Centreville
B0P 1J0
(902) 678-3748
Please feel free to forward this to your friends.