Monday, December 17, 2012

Forthcoming essay

I have an essay in the soon-to-be-published issue 125 of The New Quarterly. TNQ's new editor, Pamela Mulloy--who was very patient and accommodating with me as I first failed to deliver the essay on time and then failed to deliver it on topic--previews the piece thoughtfully on the TNQ website: 

An elegant, honest disquiet prevails in Zachariah Wells’ essay “A Walking Shadow.” The essay, part of our “Day Jobs” series, started out as a piece about his working on the Halifax to Montreal train as a service attendant while maintaining a career as a writer. However as things started to falter in his life, the essay took another shape. As I mentioned in an email exchange with Wells, the charm of working in the field of literary arts is the unexpected gem we receive when soliciting work. So while not the essay we originally conceived this one sears with humanity as he writes of his father, the rocky future in railroading, his own history, and the question of what lies ahead.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Would I be doing x if not for y?
Fucked if I know. Can't imagine why
not, but then neither can I stir the cream
and sugar from my coffee. The disinterest

rate is indexed to entropic dégrin-
golade and life is but a lucid dream:
you can change the outcome on the fly,
but it takes absurdly rigid discipline.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Audio: New York and Perth

Obviously, I'm in the middle of a difficult time. I left home a week ago today not knowing if my father would still be living when I returned. His condition had deteriorated rapidly since being diagnosed with lung cancer in September and he took a major turn for the worse after being admitted to a hospice last week. The day before I was to leave for New York, I said to my mother that I should cancel the trip. She told me I should do no such thing and that my father would have said the same. So I went, deciding to cut an Ottawa high school visit out of my schedule and take a plane home instead of the train.

 I arrived in New York late Thursday morning. When I checked in with my mother that evening, I learned that Andy had died a few hours earlier. This made being away harder yet, but also made it all the more important that I carry on. My father had a powerful aversion to preciousness and hated to have a fuss made over birthdays and such. In one of the last conversations I had with him, he was reading the obits in the Charlottetown Guardian and vociferating about the purple prose they contained. "Not for me," he said, "I'll have none of it! Just put me in the ground. Or burn me."

 So, I'll say no more on that subject. Here is the audio from two of the readings I did. First, the Best Canadian Poetry launch at The Corner Bookstore in New York's Upper East Side. Second, my reading with Elizabeth Greene and Matthew Tierney at the First Edition Reading Series in Perth, Ontario.


Monday, October 29, 2012

I.M. Andrew Wells (April 8, 1936-October 25, 2012)


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 Jøtul blazing hot.
My father was not a man who said a lot.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Big Apple and Perth

A couple of events coming up. I'll be reading in NYC at launches for the Best Canadian Poetry 2012 on Oct. 26. There's one reading at 2 and another at 6.

The following day, I blast back over the border for a reading in pretty little Perth, Ontario. Details on that reading, here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Poem Online

I have a new poem up at The Toronto Review of Books, as part of a terrific little feature curated by TRB poetry editor Moez Surani.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Doped on the day-bed in the maple-stained
sunlight flowing through the bow window he built—

it leaked and, though stopgapped, dark watermarks
still flaw the stanchions that anchor the panes—

my father, propped up on pillows, reclines,
gnarled, arthritic hands crossed on his breastbone,

mouth open a crack and jaw slack, so that
his bottom lip underhangs the top and his face

makes an uncanny true-flesh facsimile
of the death mask of Brunelleschi,

at rest beneath the improbable, homely
softwood cathedral he raised with his hands.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Moving Scene

I have an essay up at Contemporary Poetry Review on the poetry and poetics of description. CLM followers might have a feeling of deja vu, as I posted an audio version of this piece some time ago after I delivered it as a lecture at UNB. See, I'm doing my bit for the planet by recycling.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why I Am not a People's Poet

Herewith, the talk I didn't give at Mount Allison University yesterday. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

BCP, upcoming events

I am pleased to announce that, for the second time, a poem of mine will be gracing the pages of Tightrope Books' annual Best Canadian Poetry anthology. "One and One," originally published in The Winnipeg Review, was chosen by Carmine Starnino for this year's book, which includes work by a number of friends and five (!) excerpts from Rachel's forthcoming long poem sequence Cottonopolis, which will be published in the spring by Pedlar Press.

A cool thing about being in this anthology is that I'll be reading at two launch events in New York City on Oct. 26. Which happens to be the day before I read in Perth, ON, at the First Edition Reading Series. Nothin but jetset glamour in the poetry world, I tells ya.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I don't know if it's awol during daylight hours
or if the tinnitus in my left ear is merely
dimmer when I'm out and about my business,
its whine too fine a frequency, drowned in the din
of the city's traffic so I forget it's there
until, horizontal in the dark, I'm ready
to receive it. Or, like now, it makes its nuisance
presence known when I sit before a blank screen
wondering what to write. I shouldn't complain
too loudly; as auditory snafus go, mine
is pretty minor. My sister's hyperacusia—
which has plagued her since, doing foley work for film,
she was bombarded by a misfired mortar shell
of sound—makes the normal noise of living hard
to bear. I can't pinpoint when my little hum
got going, don't know if it's grown louder or if
one day it simply fluttered down and lit upon
my shoulder, singing. It's probably the product
of damage less traumatic than my sister's:
my imperfect employment of ear defenders
on the airport tarmac and in the thrumming innards
of the Hawkers I offloaded. I remember
landing in Hall Beach one summer and, once the prop
stopped spinning, I cracked the cargo hatch to such
an immaculate bare flash of silence that I
half-wondered if I'd been struck deaf—until Jonah
fired up the forklift and rumbled up to greet us.
Flying home, I sat mid-cabin in the empty
freighter, reading Dylan Thomas poems aloud,
thinking, wrongly, that the pilots wouldn't hear me
with their headsets on, over the racket of those
Rolls Royce engines I'd parked myself between. And then
there was the neighbour who heard me reading Horace
through the wall in the wee hours and asked, awkwardly,
if I prayed at night. And were the voices that I heard
as I lay abed in Resolute Bay the dark
season hallucinations of a man left
too much alone by the shore of the Northwest Passage—
or signals picked up by my fillings? I listed
to the static of the HF radio enough
to know the tricks the magnetosphere plays on the ear.
John Cage, in his quest for perfect silence, encased
himself in an anechoic chamber, only
to experience the flow and sizzle of his
blood and nerves as auricular phenomena.
I once tried unsuccessfully to give a message
to a woman on a train, until, looking up
from her book, she switched her hearing aid on. “Sorry,”
she said, “I prefer to hear nothing when I read.”
Naively, I've since caught myself at odd times
envying that option, prone to distraction
as I am—but then it strikes me that an intermittent
buzzing could mean that I am yet among the quick.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Public Poetics

I'll be giving a talk at this conference--as long as the timing's right at my soon-to-expire day-job. Failing that, I'll post the talk online. It looks like it'll be a stimulating couple of days.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


On a furlough from work, I travel home with my family to visit my family. It is mid-August and hot, so we go to the shore, to the beach at French River, where as a child I went with my mother (who is working today, and so cannot join us) and brother (who is moving a shed from one field to another). I am not fond of beaches, especially not in summer. I am no swimmer and prefer cool shade to unbroken exposure. But my wife loves the ocean, as does our boy, so if I am here with no enthusiasm, neither am I reluctant.

The water is all crested combers and tumult, but we find a calmer spot where a shoal extends far into the surf even though the tide's halfway out. My wife and boy make for the waterline; I stay behind. They wade in. I catch snatches of Kaleb's laughter as the small waves nearly knock him down. I catch myself framing the moment as a future memory, possibly a poem. I catch myself editing out my nephew—my brother's step-son, actually, whose childhood is unrolling on the same plot of land as mine and my brother's—because, charming boy that he is and worshipped by my son as elder cousins are, he would be an extraneous actor in the dramatis personae of this poem. I catch myself making a mental note to re-read Don Coles' “My Son at the Seashore, Age Two,” in case my incipient poem might be too similar to his, or in case a sly allusion to it should prove a propos. Any poem with such a cast and backdrop, after all, cannot but be bound up in memory, time and oblivion.

The whole recursive rumination ends sharply when I see my wife has been waving me to join them. I've brought no swimwear, but the sea is so shallow and the air so hot it doesn't matter. The water is warm but cooling. It laps the hem of my knee-length shorts and wicks upward. I am glad to be here instead of cooking on the griddle-hot sand. Pleasure craft, tour boats and trawlers jounce by, just off the shoal, which is marked by buoys, though the sharp line between the reddish sand bar and the cobalt deep water would be guide enough to keep a boat from grounding.

Rachel has me mind the boys while she takes a swim. She wades out further on the shoal, then starts swimming in the same direction. I holler three times before she hears me and stands up, puzzled. I wave her over and she comes. Walk out, swim in, I say. There's an undertow. It's been the death of better swimmers than you. Stay where your feet can touch bottom.

Even as I hollered at my wife, I caught myself framing another future memory: The Day Rachel Drowned. There is no lifeguard at French River and few bystanders near enough to help had the undertow sucked her under and out.


Back on the beach, I talk with a man from Quebec City whose schnauzers Kaleb wants to meet. We speak in French and he mistakes me for a francophone, which happens often in such encounters. Not, I expect, because my French is so good, but more likely because my haphazard melange of chiac, joual and français-comme-il-faut marks me as a dialect speaker foreign wherever he goes. The man is surprised to learn that I'm from here. He's been coming to the Island, to this beach, for thirty years. I first visited French River around the same time, I tell him, when I was the boy's age. We talk about how the shoreline has morphed. Storm surges. Sandstone. Warming. Erosion. The grottoes further down the beach, he says, are gone.

That was where we used to go. Sheltered, shady at the right time of day, safely away from the undertow.


That night, Rachel observes that I have written three love poems to her and that all three are set in places other than our home. And all on shorelines, I point out. Resolute Bay. North Cape. Vík. Walk out. Swim in. Repeat.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dear Peter

A'right, so I haven't been using this space for non-literary content much of late, but I wanted to put this up somewhere other than Facebook. I really can't express how much contempt I have for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, but I gave it a shot this evening, when I sent him this email:

Dear Mr. MacKay: 

You helicopter-hopping turncoat hypocrite. Shall I add nitwit to the list, sir? I just now heard you say on CBC radio that you are concerned about service reductions to Via Rail's operations in the Maritimes. You went on to say that service might be restored if people were willing to use the train more. Perhaps you are aware that the service cuts are a direct response to decreased funding for Via legislated by the government. Perhaps you are aware that the government is formed by the party you belong to. Perhaps you are aware that party only exists because of your willingness to sell out the values of the party to which you used to belong. Perhaps you are aware that your party's majority in parliament is not reflective of majority support, but a byproduct of a broken electoral system, Machiavellian strategising and apathy?

You are probably not aware that Via has not touched service on much less frequented routes, such as the trains to Churchill and Senneterre. You are probably also not aware that declines in ridership--which have been much exaggerated, given that ridership actually rose last year on The Ocean--are THE DIRECT CONSEQUENCE of large and small service reductions that have been ongoing for years--including recent refusals by Via to increase the size of The Ocean's consist, despite being consistently sold out. Ridership declines are also the indirect consequence of Canada's strong dollar, which has led to a drastic decrease in visits by American tourists--which is the direct consequence of your Party's love affair with the Alberta tar sands and the "Dutch disease" that love affair has caused. So don't blame Maritimers or "local policies" for this, you ass. Do something about it.


Zachariah Wells

Friday, August 3, 2012

Some love for the Snowman

Very pleased and proud to learn that the Canadian Authors' Association has given Goran Simic their poetry prize for Sunrise in the Eyes of the Snowman, a book I had the honour to edit. I think this is the first official  award Goran has received in Canada, though of course it was around five years ago that I had the pleasure of presenting Goran a somewhat more ... ad hoc prize when From Sarajevo, With Sorrow was disqualified for the Governor General's Award--so this is a particularly sweet turn of events, from my perspective.

Friday, July 27, 2012

There's a trick with a hose I'm learning to do

I received a visit a couple weeks ago from photographer Patrik Jandak. One of Patrik's favourite subjects is poets (gawd luv 'im), so when he planned a trip to the east coast, he contacted me about doing a shoot. I was expecting him to drop by, but he hadn't said when he'd be coming. Around nine a.m., the morning after a railroad trip, I clomped blearily down the stairs in my housecoat. Looking out the living room window, I saw a very tall man standing on the sidewalk, about to dial a cell phone. Recognizing Patrik from his picture on Facebook, I opened the front door and invited him in. We had a coffee and chatted on my back deck. When I suggested I get dressed so we could go out and find a good place to shoot, he asked if I'd mind him taking a few shots of me as I was. Then he asked if I had a hose...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


We arrived at the bend of solstice week
and pitched our tent below the red-roofed kirk
afloat like an ark on a blue-lupin

lea. In the lee of the cliff, we blew up
our bed to lie down beneath the midnight
sun, hard by the black-sand beaches of Vík.

Afloat on the youngest land Earth's bred, we slept
and woke to the surging sea, to the screak
of the terns who'd returned to breed, to rise,

plummet and nest. In wind and rain, we struck
our tent and girded ourselves for return
by a route discrete from the way we came.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Home from Iceland, Review in Print

We arrived home from Iceland last night, where we spent a week driving around various parts of the country and camping at night. Trip of a lifetime. Iceland might just be the greatest place on earth. Most of our trip was spent in "the nature," as they say there, but we snuck in a bit of culture, too, including a reading hosted by Angela Rawlings, who is living in Reykjavik these days. It was a great literary exchange between people from all over the world (Iceland, Canada, Columbia, Germany, Palestine and Hungary). As visitors to Iceland, Rachel and I were featured readers, along with German fiction and children's writer Finn-Ole Heinrich. Here are some pictures from our trip. Just a few that I snapped on my tablet. We'll be uploading more soon. When we got in last night, I found issue 68 of Arc waiting for me. In it, you will find a long review by yours truly of Bruce Taylor's knockout book No End in Strangeness. One of the best poetry books of the 2000's, folks. As always, much else of interest within the covers of Arc, so I'm looking forward to digging in. Once I get caught up...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Attack of the Strawman Zombies

I was amused to see this truly awful essay reanimated. Since the zombie apocalypse is clearly upon us, I thought I'd share my response to it, from around 8 years ago in Books in Canada.

Friday, June 1, 2012


When every little scent's intense, intensity
itself grows tedious. Not every sensation
can be sensational if we wish to remain

whole and sane. Holy thoughts and sacred
sentiments should be consigned to holidays
where they belong, so that the mundane

and unremarkable might also grow.
I know a woman who can hear an ant
gnawing on a seed deep within a fissure

on a beam. This doesn't lead to rapture—
it causes pain. I take a walk around
the garden walls I've built as baffle

to the fascinating marvels of my life.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Poems in print

Three of my poems (Anatta, Mersey, and Waypoints) can be found in the latest issue of The Fiddlehead, which is on newsstands right about now, if you're interested.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stay still and feel something

Listen to this. Then read this. And savour the difference between ideology and wisdom, talking points and thought.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I know nothing of the role I play.
Rolling over, I raise a middle finger to the day
whose light pours through the slats
of my venetian blinds and pounds me with its brickbats
and reproofs. This is proof that I exist
despite the fact the timepiece on my wrist
no longer ticks and the calendar page
has read September since I can't remember when. Rage
against the coming of the light gets you
nowhere fast, but the blood it sets in motion lets you
feel a little something. From the parlour comes
the rhubarb-rhubarb buzz of conversation, drums
rumble in the pit, I rise and shuffle into the day,
knowing nothing of the role I play.

first line from Wislawa Szymborska's "Life While-You-Wait" (translation Stanislaw Baranczak & Clare Cavanagh)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Interview and poems in print

FreeFall Magazine editor Micheline Maylor has been exceptionally good to me over the years, publishing glowing reviews of both Jailbreaks and Track & Trace. And now, she's published an interview she did with me, alongside two of my poems, "Magic Man" and "Twelve Poppies." You can read all this and much else besides in the Spring/Summer (22:2) issue of FreeFall, which I assume can be found on newsstands now. 

I'm especially keen to read the contest-winning story by Andre Narbonne. Andre and I were in several classes together as undergrads in the Dalhousie English Dept. He has since gone on to get his PhD and has been teaching university English. A whipsmart guy and a fine writer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


On a ramble
down the creekbed

I kicked a log
that spanned

the stream.
From an unseen

orifice in its
underside streamed

a host of irate
white jacket

wasps. I froze
and watched

them buzz about
my knees

and rubber-booted
feet for what

might have been
an hour. One by

one they retreated
to their hidden

hive, my heartbeat
slowing one

by one, until
the last wasp

disappeared inside
and I paused

one beat

kicked the log
and ran.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review online

A few months back, Garrick Davis, the editor of Contemporary Poetry Review, a site I've long read and admired for its erudite and incisive criticism, approached me about contributing to CPR. Having a very full dayjob and freelance dance card these days, I'm not writing much by way of reviews, so I asked him if he'd be open to co-publishing a piece I had written for Canadian Notes & Queries, on the recent anthology Modern Canadian Poets. Happily, Garrick agreed to this and the other day my review went up on the CPR site.

One of the anthology's editors, living up to his name, if falling considerably shy of his namesake in wit, has already responded. (He has an unfortunate history of leaving no wound unwhined.) The only thing I have to say about this hilarious epistle is that, while I may well be an autodidact, I also have an MA in English. Which isn't nearly as impressive as having a PhD, natch. What was that about obsessive appeals to authority? Right.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Some deliquescent, quasi-mystical vacuity

...There will always be something in any poem, some reverberation of the numinous, which is not patient of explication, otherwise it would not be a poem.
     But I must insist that I am not endorsing a lapse into some deliquescent, quasi-mystical vacuity. That would be an insupportable cop-out. The poet may ask of his reader the willing suspension of disbelief; he does not, ever, ask for any diminution of the critical faculties. On the contrary, he would have the reader's critical faculties raised to the highest possible degree. No one can be more aware of the fact that, if everything means everything, then nothing means anything. Purgatory would be for me a perpetual mooning about in some gormless Dream-Analysis Workshop. The poet attempts to work within the most stringent of strictures; he abhors above all else the slovenly, the imprecise, in thought or in language.

--Richard Outram, "An Exercise in Exegesis," from Richard Outram: Essays on His Works

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Chapbook Has Landed

One of the best things about unemployment/freelance is that you're home when exciting mail arrives. Today, I answered the door to my friendly postie, who had in hand this lovely package:

So now I have my weekend project all lined up: packaging these beauties so I can mail them out with minimal delay to all you wonderful folks who helped me travel to Linares. And for all those who've been meaning to order a copy, you can still do so at the Indiegogo page I set up, as the campaign doesn't officially close for another twelve days.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reviews online and in print

My brief review of Julie Bruck's new collection, Monkey Ranch, is now online at the Quill & Quire site.

And my lengthy review of the Carcanet-published anthology Modern Canadian Poets is now in print, in Canadian Notes and Queries 84 (another beautiful issue, which I look forward to reading; please do subscribe). The review isn't online yet, but will be co-published soon by the American web-journal Contemporary Poetry Review. I've been reading CPR with admiration for years, so was chuffed to receive an invitation to publish criticism there, from editor Garrick Davis.

Audio: ZW live at Church Point

I recorded my session with the students at U. Ste. Anne yesterday. has a new audio player widget, which doesn't seem to allow me to embed the player directly to the blog, but you can go to their site to hear it, if you're so inclined.

As I said, I'll be having a second session with the students on Friday morning, 8:30 a.m. at the school's Halifax campus, on Walnut Street (same building as the St. Thomas Lemarchant School). You're welcome to come, if you can stand the thought of an hour of my voice at that time of day.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Another exotic reading

Next, my travels take me to Pointe de l'Eglise (Church Point, eh: the interior of said church is pictured, left), NS, for a reading at Université Ste. Anne on Tuesday morning. The reading's at 8:30 in the Gustave Blanche building, SV3. The public's welcome, but given the hour and locale, I'm guessing that's not relevant to many (any?) people reading this. The students in prof. Darryl Whetter's class have been assigned my book, so it should be an interesting exchange. I expect to learn a thing or two about my poems, as I invariably do at such events.

I'll be doing another reading/talk for the school at their Halifax campus on Walnut St. on the 30th, but that one is also, alas, at 8:30 a.m.

It's Alive!

The translation chapbook is in print. I'll be mailing it out to campaign contributors within a week or so, once I get them from publisher Jim Johnstone in Toronto, who is numbering this ltd. edition beauty as we speak.
There are still copies left unclaimed, if you wants one.


What you are looking for
could not be found
and this torrent
is unfit to be forded.

You will have to
return to where you
set out and follow
the long way around.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reviews in print

Just got my contributor's copy of Arc 67, in which you can find my brief review of D.G. Jones' retrospective volume The Stream Exposed with all its Stones. And much other stimulating content besides.

And I believe, tho I've yet to see it, the new issue of Quill & Quire has my brief review of Julie Bruck's fine new collection Monkey Ranch.

In future publication news, I got the proofs and contract today for my interview and two poems, forthcoming in the next issue of the Alberta litmag FreeFall. The interview is with Micheline Maylor, who has published glowing reviews of Jailbreaks and Track & Trace in past numbers of FreeFall, so the magazine has a special place in my cold, dark heart.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Questionless (and damn near answerless) Interview

This went up just before I went to Mexico and I neglected to post it here. A bit o' fun.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Last night in Linares

Hard to believe it's coming to an end already. A slew of people left today, returning to their various homes or carrying on with further Mexican journeys. Only four festival participants left, myself included. I'm glad I had today for decompression. The schedule's been so full that this has been the first real opportunity to just wander around the streets of Linares a bit. It really is a charming little city, utterly bereft of kitschy tourist trap shops. This is simply a place where people work and live. There are occasional signs of the troubles that plague Mexico-- state troopers armed to the teeth, rumours of vans cruising the streets, driven by men in bulletproof vests--but I've seen no actual violence or crime.

Wednesday finished with an epic evening of literature and music. Maybe a few too many acts on the bill, but still some remarkable performances, especially from Estonian poet Katlin Kaldmaa. I also really enjoyed a couple of older gents playing traditional Mexican tunes. Muy simpatico.

Thursday, I and others were back at the Colegio Linares, where I talked to a grade 7 class and a grade 11 class. The classroom visits have all been terrific, even if the older kids didn't swarm us for autographs...

In the evening, I attended a talk on the place of Mexico in Pablo Neruda's Canto General. The lecture was delivered by Irish poet Kieran Furey in Spanish, so I didn't catch a whole lot of it, but it was very well received by those who understood it better than I did.

It's really been a fantastically stimulating week. I feel privileged to have been invited and humbled to have received so much help getting here. In post-mortem conversation last night, my campaign was cited as a potential model for future fundraising for the Linares festival. I hope that Colin Carberry and the other folks around here who make this event happen are able to keep it going and growing.

I blast off quite early tomorrow, catching a 7 am shuttle to Monterrey. From there, I fly to Atlanta, where I lay over for a few hours before carrying on to Montreal, from whence I'll be training it home, arriving Monday evening. Hasta luego.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Linares Day 2.5

Very busy day yesterday and was too damn tired to post anything last night.

Read to a class at the Technical University in the morning, which went well, then had lunch (best prime rib fajitas ever) with other festival participants and people from the university.

After a bit of a siesta, I was up again and out for supper, then off to the university for a big reading in an auditorium, which was also quite good and was followed by a lively Q&A.

Today so far has been great. This morning I visited a class of 9 & 10 year olds at Colegio Linares, a local private school. I read them Anything But Hank! and they were really into it. Once more, I was swarmed by kids with questions and autograph requests. Left a copy of the book with the school library. A number of them spoke quite good English.

This afternoon, several of us were driven out to one of the state university's campuses, where we read to a crowd of 60 or so in a stunning, cool old chapel.

And this evening, I'll be reading at the Noche Bohemien, which will also feature musical acts. Apparently, over 100 tickets have been sold.

So, altho this festival was deemed too small to qualify for travel grants, I've read to many, many more people here than I have at bigger festivals in Ottawa and Toronto. Go figure.

In other news, I have received and corrected the proofs for the translation chapbook, so it should exist in three dimensions before too long. There are still 30-odd copies not spoken for, if you want to claim one. If there are any left once the campaign closes, I'll sell them by other means.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Linares Festival, Day 1

It's been such a full day that I had to stop and think about whether this was the first or second day of the festival. It's too late to write at length, but in precis form:

8:45: Opening ceremony at a local school. Dignitaries on hand, speeches, music, a dance performance by local artists informed by native traditions. Afterwards, inundated by young kids with notebooks and scraps of paper seeking autographs. I don't know what I was expecting, but whatever it was, this blew it out of the water. Incredible red carpet reception.

10:30: Did a reading with Jasmine D'Costa (from India, now living in Toronto) and Katlin Kaldmaa (from Estonia), at a technical college. About 100 students on hand. Wonderful response from them. I've recorded it and will post it when I have a bit of time.

4:00: After late lunch, went to a reading at the very impressive casino building. All of the writers who did not read in the morning read at this event, including Al Moritz. Some wonderful things. The most poignant moment   occurred when Veronica Garza Flores, reading the translation of an excerpt of Irish writer Jack Harte's novel, was so moved she started to cry. She pulled herself together and finished the reading. Unheralded overflows like this one are among my favourite things about live readings.

6:00: Hustled off after the reading to the radio station where each of us had a few moments' worth of interview. In my time, I told the interviewer how much Linares reminds me of Charlottetown, which in an odd way it really does.

8:00: Went out of town a few clicks to a friend of Colin Carberry's where we enjoyed a delicious barbecue and much lively conversation.

Present moment: exhausted and off to bed.

Tomorrow a.m.: Going to the university at 10:30, where I'll be doing a solo session with a class.

Buenos noches.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A sample from the translations

I thought I'd provide a little taste of the translations. Here is Lidia Valencia-Fourcans' and Hernan Sicilio's take on my poem "What He Found Growing in the Woods":


Aire verde y un susurro mohoso.
Tiernos puños apretados en retoño
brotando en helechos de hoja amarga.
Salamandras, desnudas bajo piedras
volcadas; y babosas, reptantes gotas
de moco fresco. Espuma de pompas

cubriendo un dique de árboles caídos.
Cigarras chirriando estridentes credos
y logros. Flores donde antaño ardió la brasa.
Borrosos faisanes marrones agitando
un aire verdoso. Su última rica cabellera
y los primeros bosquejos de barba.

And here is the original:


Green air and a rusty babble.
Tender tight fists of fiddleheads
fronding into bitter-leafed ferns.
Salamanders, nude under turned-
over stones, and slugs, creeping beads
of cool snot. Foam of bubbles

coating a dam of fallen tree rubble.
Cicadas scraping shrill creeds
and credentials. Flowers where a fire once burned.
Brown blurred pheasants churning
green air. His last full head
of hair and the first faint traces of stubble.

Look out, druglords, here I come!

After much back and forth with my long-suffering translators, we now have what seem to me to be excellent Spanish versions of ten of my poems. I have printed those poems and stuffed them in my carry-on. I have emailed them to Jim Johnstone at Cactus Press HQ. And tomorrow, shortly after noon, I will be enroute to Mexico. By train. Which will take me to Montreal, where I'll spend a bit less than 24 hours before boarding a very early flight to JFK, then on to Mexico City, then Monterrey, where I will be met and conveyed to Linares. What a journey! In many ways. I can't wait to get there.

The campaign, as anyone can see by glancing to the right, has been an incredible success. Yet another thing that has made this whole business so wonderfully affirmative. It's nice to get a grant, but you always know, if you're honest, that all it means is a couple of people happened to like your work well enough on a given day--and that those people had nothing much to gain or lose in the process. Something like this has so much more reciprocity to it. I feel humble and grateful for all of the support I've received for this most marginal of endeavours.

There are still translation chapbooks unspoken for if you want to read me in Spanish (with English en face). Hasta luego. Updates to follow.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Goal Reached!

As you can tell by glancing to the right, I have not only achieved my fundraising goal, but have now exceeded it. I had no expectation of the campaign being this incredibly successful; thank you so much to everyone who has contributed. As I said, I will be redirecting funds raised in excess of my goal to Colin Carberry, to help cover any costs he's incurred as a result of funding lost when the Linares government pulled its support.

Around forty copies of the translation chapbook have been claimed to-date; Jim Johnstone and I have decided to publish it in a limited edition numbered print run of 100. The translations are almost finished; I should be receiving final draughts from Lidia Valencia Fourcans in a few days. So I'll start mailing them out, along with other books claimed, when I get home from Mexico in three weeks or so. I'll be keeping the campaign open for another six weeks, or until all the chapbooks are claimed, whichever comes first.

Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Putting the micro in microfunding

Contributions to my campaign have slowed in recent days, but I'm still edging ever closer to my goal. In the hopes of stimulating things somewhat and because I know all about how lean things are for a lot of people these days, I've added a  couple of econo-perks. Donating less than $10 has always been an option, but now it's more explicitly so. If you've been meaning to contribute, I hope you stop by campaign HQ. Thanks again to everyone who has contributed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Talk re-posted

For anyone who's interested and missed it when I first posted it here, the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary blog has reposted my talk on descriptive poetry and poetics.

Patching the Potholes

Great news tonight from Mexico. Seems that locals in the private sector are stepping up to replace much of the support withdrawn by the Linares government. The festival was going ahead regardless, but this is welcome news.

As of the present moment, I have received almost one third of my campaign goal, with 54 days left till the deadline. This is wonderful; like the festival, I'm going ahead with or without funding, but the support makes it so much easier. Thanks to everyone who has contributed.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Potholes on the Road to Linares

So, there have been some developments in Mexico that are less than ideal (I've provided details on my campaign website, which you can click to on the right), but the festival is going ahead and I have now raised 24% of my campaign goal, which is wonderful. Gracias a todos!

I have also received an offer to publish the translation chapbook, from Jim Johnstone of Cactus Press. This will save me production costs and time, so it is a major contribution to my campaign.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Campaign Update

I won't be posting daily about the campaign, but today's a significant day because I've received the rough draft translations of my poems from Lidia Valencia Fourcans. Very exciting. We need to get our heads together to work out some knotty problems of diction and syntax, but it's great to see the poems taking shape in Spanish.

Also great to receive all the generous donations yesterday. I certainly didn't expect to have almost 15% of my goal within 24 hours. Muchas gracias to all who have pledged support.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Crowd Sourcing

Regular readers of this blog may recall me saying a while back that I'd been invited to read at the Linares International Literary Festival in Mexico next month. I applied to the Canada Council for a travel grant to cover my airfare (the Festival can only pay for my hotel and meals, which is pretty standard), but the CC deemed the Linares Festival to be insufficiently "large" for my participation to merit funding.

So, as an experiment, I've decided to try out this micro-funding thing that's all the rage. On the right, you'll see a link to my funding campaign at Contributing to the campaign isn't a simple matter of donating money to me (tho it can be, if you'd prefer): you get stuff in return. So please do check it out and make a contribution if you're so inclined. And by all means, spread the word.

Muchas gracias, amigos y amigas!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Publications galore!

So, I've got four poems up at the Maple Tree Literary Supplement site, for your reading pleasure.

Aaaaaaand, today in the mail I received my copies of UNB's Journal of Student Writing, wherein is printed my essay on Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus. Probably pretty hard to find unless you're on campus, I'm guessing, but if you're stone-cold jonesing for a bit of left-field scholarship, you can read it here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kingston! Tomorrow!

I've been having a most enjoyable little tour. After Montreal, I read and talked to a first year writing class at the University of Western Ontario in London, which was a lot of fun, as such things almost always are. And tomorrow, I'm reading here in Kingston. Hope you can make it if you're in the area.

Monday, January 23rd, 7:30 PM: Kingston, The Grad Club, with Matt Rader and Anne-Marie Turza. DETAILS

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bennett, Eckerlin, Hartman et moi

A fantastic night in Montreal. Up late and out early, en route to London. Here's the audio from last night's event at Argo Bookshop:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Upcoming Dates

Hey there, sports fans! I have a couple of readings coming up, and if you live in Montreal or Kingston (or within hailing distance), I'd love it if you could make it out.

Monday, January 16th, 8 PM: Montreal, Argo Bookshop, with Kaspar Hartman and John Eric Bennett. DETAILS

Monday, January 23rd, 7:30 PM: Kingston, The Grad Club, with Matt Rader and Anne-Marie Turza. DETAILS

I was supposed to be reading in Perth, ON, on January 20, but that event was cancelled, unfortunately. On the 18th, I'm visiting a class at the University of Western Ontario in London, but I don't believe that one's open to the public.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Essay in print: "A Bite out of 'The Bight': Elizabeth Bishop's Diction as Depth"

Just got my copies of The Worcester Review (XXXII: 1&2), a special issue devoted to Elizabeth Bishop, including an essay of mine, which is an excerpt of the (very long) essay I wrote about Bishop's "The Bight" while I was at UNB last year. Lots of other nifty-looking content in the magazine, including an essay by PEI expat poet and scholar Thomas O'Grady on "Elizabeth Bishop as a Maritime Poet."

A bit of love for the Lyrebird

Rhonda Douglas has a very thoughtful review of The Best Canadian Poetry 2010 on the Arc site. She has nice things to say about my contribution to the anthology, which pleases me of course, but reserves her highest commendation for Ross Leckie's mesmerizingly beautiful poem, "The Critique of Pure Reason." Hear, hear.

There are few of us who have not sometimes wakened before dawn, either after one of those dreamless nights that make us almost enamoured of death, or one of those nights of horror and misshapen joy, when through the chambers of the brain sweep phantoms more terrible than reality itself, and instinct with that vivid life that lurks in all grotesques, and that lends to Gothic art its enduring vitality, this art being, one might fancy, especially the art of those whose minds have been troubled with the malady of reverie. Gradually white fingers creep through the curtains, and they appear to tremble. In black fantastic shapes, dumb shadows crawl into the corners of the room and crouch there. Outside, there is the stirring of birds among the leaves, or the sound of men going forth to their work, or the sigh and sob of the wind coming down from the hills and wandering round the silent house, as though it feared to wake the sleepers and yet must needs call forth sleep from her purple cave. Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern. The wan mirrors get back their mimic life. The flameless tapers stand where we had left them, and beside them lies the half-cut book that we had been studying, or the wired flower that we had worn at the ball, or the letter that we had been afraid to read, or that we had read too often. Nothing seems to us changed. Out of the unreal shadows of the night comes back the real life that we had known. We have to resume it where we had left off, and there steals over us a terrible sense of the necessity for the continuance of energy in the same wearisome round of stereotyped habits, or a wild longing, it may be, that our eyelids might open some morning upon a world that had been refashioned anew in the darkness for our pleasure, a world in which things would have fresh shapes and colours, and be changed, or have other secrets, a world in which the past would have little or no place, or survive, at any rate, in no conscious form of obligation or regret, the remembrance even of joy having its bitterness and the memories of pleasure their pain.

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray