Monday, April 30, 2012

The Weekend in Review

G'day, folks, and happy Monday. We'll have more verse for you shortly--after a four-day hiatus we'll bring poetry month to an end with a bang--but in the meantime a few amuses-bouches, as dished up by critics from around the country. Reviews ad mari usque ad mare this weekend. Yes indeed.  

"Douglas Glover, the award-winning Canadian writer of fiction, short stories and essays carries within him a huge sense of duty both to the craft of writing and to the language ... I stand before it in awe ... This is a book for all writers and for any creative writing class syllabus" - Telegraph-Journal

"Consistently strong. Boyd's images and metaphors are deft." 

"The stories in Suitable Precautions are peopled with characters who act in believably quirky and compellingly odd ways ... For Boudreau, it seems love is the most powerful precaution, and as such is the only one that comes with any sort of guarantee." 

Something About the Animal, by Cathy Stonehouse
"Stonehouse's skill lies in her ability to render a topsy-turvy world without alienating her reader. Her writing is disarming and fearless ... The violence, pain, and vulnerability Stonehouse seems drawn to creatively make for intense reading, yet an ease with shifts in time, a mastery of suspense, and perfect, revealing last lines soften the blows." 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Moon is an Eyeball (Three Poems)

As a lead-in to "Lunar Innuendoes," a new piece by our poetry editor Eric Ormsby that's featured in this month's issue of The Walrus, I thought I'd put together a short retrospective of moon poems from across the centuries (or, at least, a retrospective of the moon poems from across the centuries that don't make you feel like braining yourself for grief. My apologies to Charlotte Smith). 

Of course the moon as an eye, and the moon as a participant in the dialogue of eyes that characterizes love poetry from the Renaissance on--along with converse metaphors of death, the cold and deadly virgin gaze, the moon as frigid huntress--those are all pretty old hat. So old as to be necrotic, as per Eric Ormbsy? I leave it to you.
Sonnet 31

Sir Philip Sidney (from Astrophil and Stella, 1591)

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies ! 
How silently, and with how wan a face ! 
What, may it be that even in heavenly place 
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries? 
Sure, if that long with love-acquainted eyes 
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case; 
I read it in thy looks;  thy languisht grace 
To me that feel the like, thy state descries. 
Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me, 
Is constant love deemed there but want of wit? 
Are beauties there as proud as here they be? 
Do they above love to be loved, and yet 
      Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess? 
      Do they call virtue there, ungratefulness?

Sad Steps 

Philip Larkin (from High Windows, 1968)

Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains, and am startled by
The rapid clouds, the moon's cleanliness.

Four o'clock: wedge-shadowed gardens lie
Under a cavernous, a wind-picked sky.
There's something laughable about this,

The way the moon dashes through clouds that blow
Loosely as cannon-smoke to stand apart
(Stone-coloured light sharpening the roofs below)

High and preposterous and separate -
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No,

One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare

Is a reminder of the strength and pain
Of being young; that it can't come again,
But is for others undiminished somewhere.

Lunar Innuendos

Eric Ormsby (from The Walrus, May 2012)

That bluish cataract milky with age,
the moon’s grey glimpse gauzed by night

Scuffed and ochreous as a child’s lost ball
discovered under last December’s ice,

With necrotic shadows wisping its forehead — 
the sudden pleasure of death after long pain —

Invents its spires and beginning belfries.
The moon is not cold cinder swathed

In the stark fixative of thermal glass
nor even speechless stone freckled with gleams

Nor a chill foundation for persuasive air.
Don’t be misled by its shrewd blue gaze:

The small brown bat can clasp it in his mouth.

Image: Huntress Diana With Bow and Greyhound, 1899-1900, Fountainbleu School. Artist unknown. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Red Balloon (At Forty)

Today's poem of the day is courtesy of Alex Boyd, who as you all know (seven or eight times over by this point), is reading tonight with Claire Tacon at the London Music Club. So Londonites! (Yes, all 8 of you, don't think we don't count--) Come out and raise a glass with us to two pretty gosh darn great writers. 

At Forty 

He feels like a kid in a hardware store, half his allowance spent, he needs to think
more carefully about the other half. Thinks
of the T. Rex, dead 65 million years but back
in a way it couldn’t have conceived, the flat
and flickering climax of a film.  He knows
he’s the grunt that would’ve made a good general,
but never mind that now, at least it’s no longer
a world with live cats burned in a wicker effigy.
He remembers standing in the heat of Florida with his father, and when American singers beamed,
announced they were The Voices of Liberty,
his father said “I knew it,” and turned away.
Trusts he’s made of old moments that rattled
past like boxcars, has pain when typing, notes
the slow betrayal of his body, but senses
a much bigger pain behind other doors.  And,

something new, his soul starting to get away, trailing him for the first time, a red balloon.
The image is a screenshot from Albert Lamorrisse's 1956 short film The Red Balloon, which you can learn more about here.

The Phog Lifts

Morning, all. Or afternoon is it? We're all in a daze here, now that the authors have left us. There was a small but impassioned crowd last night at the Phog: they sighed along for poor Stephen when Sabrina Donaldson (that dreadful girl!) poached his soccer MVP award; they learned, delightedly, what boustrophedonic means; and they're all now wiser in the art of eluding royal huntsmen. Here are some photos from the event (taken for us by the inimitable Marty Gervais). More on tonight's reading soon! In the meantime: Claire Tacon (In the Field), Amanda Jernigan (Groundwork), and Mike Barnes (The Reasonable Ogre). 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Catch, by Amanda Jernigan

Today's poem will be no stranger to subscribers of CNQ, nor (as of yesterday) to readers of The Malahat Review. Here's a taste of what Malahat has to say about Amanda's poem:
“Catch” stacks layers of meaning in a deceptively simple moment: a game of catch between a father and son. Father and son have a biblical resonance where passing the ball is, metaphorically, the move from Old Testament to the New Testament, from the alpha of Genesis to the omega of Revelations (she could also intend Adam and Cain or Abel, with Adam passing on original sin). Because the ball is “in the shape / of the sun,” both modern science and classical myth intervene—the red giant sun will “eat / its children” like the Titans of classical mythology. The present moment of the poem steps out of biblical scenes; the speaker’s astronomical knowledge is an obvious clue, but the poem works as well as it does because the ideas harmonize so effectively with the rest of the sequence.
Get it? Taste? Who'd have thought paedophagia was this week's blog theme. A neat bit of cutlery-work, that review: and if you're out there, Chris Jennings, know that you had me at "Milton." Oh dear.

Amanda Jernigan and her deceptively simple child-eating poems are of course on their way to Windsor RIGHT NOW, for a reading at the Phog Lounge. Yes that's right. I'm STILL TALKING ABOUT IT. Amanda Jernigan, Mike Barnes, and Claire Tacon all pass through Windsor's orbit tonight at 7 PM, and I for one can't wait. Come one, come all. My father was holding a ball in the shape / of some fun ... 

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Reasonable Ogre Hits Windsor, Toronto

"ONCE there was an ogre who was like all other ogres except in one respect: he was reasonable. He could see more than one point of view, and he liked to argue and discuss. People seldom realized this, however, since he looked like any other ogre, huge and frightening, and he spent his time doing what every other ogre does: grabbing passersby and stuffing them in his mouth."

So begins the latest collection by Danuta Gleed-winning short story writer Mike Barnes. As you know, Biblioasis is launching The Reasonable Ogre tomorrow, April 24th, at Phog Lounge, and on Thursday--yes, Thursday, I said Thursday, I swear I meant Thursday all along--Mike and Segbingway have their Toronto launch at Type Books. We'd be delighted if you joined us.

(Once there was an Ogre-Publicist who lived at the crossroads just three brooks down and a valley west of the Bibliomanse. He wasn't very reasonable but he was full of ideas. He said when we have events we should just carry people in off the street: in fact, he offered to do it himself for a modest fee. But since Ogre Publicity has gone up in price--the industry standard's now fifty gold dubloons with unlimited snacking--we decided to go with Glinda instead, whose rates for enchanted emails are really quite affordable, and who has a strict policy against eating patrons on-site. She even throws in a free babysitting service for kids 12 and under.)

If you're in Windsor or Toronto this week, do come. Tuesday's billet includes Amanda Jernigan, Pat Lowther-shortlisted poet, and Claire Tacon, winner of the 2011 Metcalf-Rooke Award for fiction.  Thursday's event includes an exhibit of Segbingway's original brush paintings, which are, as you can imagine, absolutely fascinating up close. Fairy Tale Review founder Kate Bernheimer has called The Reasonable Ogre "a tribute to the power of story," and remarked that "the illustrations and language are so entwined as to be inseparable." Altogether? We're in for a couple of magical nights.

(Pudgy children especially welcome.)

Yours with a wiggle of the nose,
T. Murgatroyd,
Chief Witch & Master of Digital Wizarding,
The Bibliomanse.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Early Morning Landing

The past few days when I've pulled up at the Bibliomanse there's a scent of water coming off the lake--and so a fourteen-line salute. To the April pull of beach and bay.


by Charles Bruce

from Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets (2008).
Edited by Zachariah Wells.

In daylight, there is life and living speech;
The constant grumble, the resilient splash
Of slow tide lifting on a slanted beach;
And blowing sunlight. And the measured flash
Of the sea marching … But the beach and bay
Are vague as midnight now; in midnight thinned
At the sky’s edge by the first hint of grey.
And calm as sleep before the morning wind.

Calmer than sleep. But the eyes lift to find
In the veiled night the faint recurring spark
Of a known beacon. And the listening mind
Wakes in the stillness; and the veil is stirred
By a dim ghost of sound—a far-off word
And the soft thump of rowlocks in the dark.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Benefactions of the Muse

Morning, folks. Rise and shine! Another new day at the Bibliomanse; another new-old poem; another dozen or so events to rhapsodize about before you all get on with the business of the day. Today's theme, as we prepare to cogitate upon the sublime chaos that is May, is the farewell to sleep (Get up, get up for shame)! Along with Mr. Herrick, Bartholomew the Englishman/D. Solway have a few things to say about how best to bid Morpheus good night. Here's hoping his advice is sage ... especially since Bartholomew's cure for lethargy ain't exactly a walk in the park. (Lethargic types--especially poets and lovers of women--are to "be brought into a light and airy place / and drawn into wrangling and disputation / and tugged by the hair of [the] beard / and a clyster applied to [the] genitives." Anointing with mustard and a frenzied quaking of flesh to follow. Who knew? I'd rather be shook and called sweet slugabed, myself.)

Anyhow. The point is there are better things than sleep upcoming. Josh Trotter in Newfoundland, today. Ray Robertson in Barrie, tomorrow. On Sunday at 11:30 Ray Robertson is speaking about Writing and Happiness at the Blue Met Festival in Montreal. And THEN the mustard frenzy REALLY begins:

Tuesday April 24, Biblioasis's Spring Reading at Phog Lounge, Windsor: with Mike Barnes, Amanda Jernigan, and Claire Tacon
Wednesday April 25, Claire Tacon and Alex Boyd, Live at the London Music Club, London
Thursday April 26, The Reasonable Ogre Hits Type: A Book Launch/Art Exhibit for Mike Barnes & Segbingway (Type Books, Toronto)
Thursday April 26, David Hickey will be reading with Penn Kemp and a few others at the Poet Laureate and Friends event at the London Public Library (Central Branch).

Claire Tacon, moreover, will be reading at the Plan 99, Art Bar, and Virus Reading Series between April 29th and May 5th, and on May 7th, Alice Petersen will be launching All the Voices Cry at the Atwater Library in Montreal (with Chantel Lavoie).

So. That takes us to the end of the first week of May. The second week of May? You'll just have to see that malarky to believe it. Eh?

We'll have more information here on Thirsty closer to the dates. In the meantime, for full events listings, please see our Biblioasis Events Page.


from The Properties of Things (The Poems of Bartholomew the Englishman), 2007.

Bad waking is other than incontinence of sleep
but is a superfluity in the composition of man
and comes from evil matter grieving the brain
as in those disposed to melancholy;
and sometime it comes of grumous substance
and gloomy moistures in the brain
as in old, forlived men;
and sometime from great repletion and bad digestion
and sometime from craving and overdrinking.
For in this especially the sharp smoke of wine
sticks and pricks the sinews of feeling
and such men are often disposed to woodenness.
Excessive waking is to be avoided
for it dries the eyes and weights the eyelids
and enfeebles the sight and breeds headaches
and finally destroys the body.
But measured waking is nothing else
than the imbruing of spirit
into the limbs of feeling and moving
and working of the animate virtue of the body;
and abstinent waking prepares the soul
to receive benefactions of the Muse
and bring the work to completion
as did the Lord
who lugged the clayform out of darkness;
and moderate waking cools the body from within
and makes it lean and temperate;
and disciplined waking alerts the mind
to the sudden ruses of enemies
who lie in wait wolfishly like Dominicans.
For good waking
brings new resources to wayfaring men
so they do not lose the journey with sleeping
or the crown that is owing them in wakefulness.

(Image: "Satan Arousing the Fallen Angels," John Martin, 1824. Awake! Arise! Or be forever ... etc.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cracked Marys & Crazy Janes

"A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent."

from "Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop"
W.B. Yeats,
Words for Music Perhaps (1932)

After a brief hiatus for vision-seeking and spirit-talking (and, let's face it, craft-beer-drinking in Michigan), Biblioasis's daily poems are back. And because walking in downtown Detroit is sometimes enough to put the best of us in the mood for crazy, I thought I'd take a minute to talk about Cracked Marys (the several homeless women said to have inspired one of Yeats's most well-known personae), and Crazy Janes (the poems in turn that inspired our own Wayne Clifford's Jane Again).

Yeats had been contemplating the persona of Cracked Mary for almost 30 years before he published Words for Music Perhaps. A 1904 note to The Pot of Broth mentions having borrowed a tune from "an old woman known as Cracked Mary, who wanders about the plain of Aidhne, and who sometimes sees unearthly riders on white horses coming through stony fields to her hovel door in the night time." There was another Cracked Mary, furthermore, with whom George Yeats had many conversations: "she was a bit touched in the head," George wrote. "But it was a head full of amusing, often obscene stories about things she'd see on her rambles. I used to seek her out and get her to tell them to me. Then I'd go home and tell W.B. ... He loved them. He asked me to get as many as I could for him. And so I saw a good deal of Cracked Mary at that time." The phrase Cracked Mary, as Clifford observes, "might translate today into 'street person', one of the homeless that the system has dispossessed." There were likely a few Cracked Marys in Yeats's acquaintance.

Yeats wrote several poems on Cracked Mary before he changed the name to Crazy Jane: the most famous of the latter are, as above, "Crazy Jane talks with the Bishop," and "Crazy Jane on God," but others include "Crazy Jane grown old looks at the Dancers," "Crazy Jane Reproved," and "Crazy Jane and Jack the Journeyman." As the stanza from "Crazy Jane talks with the Bishop" indicates, Jane's obscenity and contrary spirit was frequently used by Yeats to point out--quirkily but not cruelly--institutional and social hypocrisies. (The bishop Jane meets tries to persuade her to contemplate the afterlife by observing that her tits are flat and fallen, poor lass. What's the point of earthly life without those?)

Anyhow. Below are a few of my favourites from Clifford's work, which (in his words) is an imagining of "what might have given her the sauce" to flip the bird to the bishop like that. Lovely lovely lovely. The image above I thought nifty if only because it points to a gentling of the critique Yeats levels when he changed the name.

Crazy Jane Contends with Gravity

I caught you thinking of black holes
in which the all of something falls
to point so mootly singular,
this girl with God must mingle her,
so that it never be denied
there in the straitness of that Now,
I held my newborn dead and cried
but None replied, for None cared how.

Jane’s Eighth Sea Song

I bore a daughter dead
and set her in the sea
on wracky, makeshift bed,
not to come back to me.

The dear that men contrive
to land up on the shore
cheats thus her face alive,
if still I ask no more,

but they, their cargoes, catch,
their wreckage, grief and ghosts
together will not match
my wealth the sea-greed boasts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If Hagar Shipley met Stella Gibbons ...

.... well, according to Kerry Clare, that match might give you someone kin to Our Woman, heroine of Malarky.    It's as good a comparison as I've seen.

And that's not all Kerry has to say about Malarky either.  Here's a taste:

Malarky is very much of the world– the Irish economy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the plight of immigrants, mental illness, grief– and yet, its interiority is impermeable. When Our Woman spies her son shirtless in the barn, she notes, “He must have been freezing, his pale body bleary and quivering, trousers at his ankles.” However perversely, she is ever a mother, urging on a sweater. But she’s not just a comic figure; Schofield evokes Our Women with remarkable sympathy: “Mainly she had wanted to hit him about the head and shout these aren’t the things I have planned for you.” Malarky is a journey beyond the limits of love, an equally sad and hilarious portrait of motherhood.

Malarky is like nothing else, and what everything should be,” is something I wrote down this weekend. First, because it’s as funny as it’s dark, and also because it dares readers to be brave enough to follow along an unconventional narrative. Though the winding path is only deceptively tricky– Our Woman’s voice is instantly familiar, and the shifting perspectives remain so intimate and immediate that the reader follows. Consenting to be led, of course, which is the magic of Malarky. This is a book that will leave you demanding more of everything else you read.

For her whole review please go here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ray Robertson in the Montreal Gazette and Barrie Examiner

The Montreal Gazette had some love for Ray Robertson's Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live friday saying "its combination of academic rigour and irreverent humour striking a life-affirming chord." get the full review here.

Robertson also had a few things to say in the Barrie Examiner late last week. His thoughts on why his book has resonated with so many people:
"I think everyone thinks about that: What’s important in life? We get too busy and forget. We pay lip service to what’s important, but we spend all our time doing all these other things.”
See what else Robertson has to say here.

Ray Robertson will be in Barrie Thursday April 19th 2012 to participate in the L3 Writers' Conference at Barrie North Collegiate.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gastrapoda Poems

It was with considerable delight that I discovered, several years ago, a previously unheard-of genre of poem. I suppose it's the Victorian precursor to the SPCA/PETA verse-plea ("The Eyes of a Dolphin," "Baby Seal Brains," etc.). They were popular in anthologies and periodicals of the period.

And the theme?

Why stepping on worms is bad.

Yes. That's right. A slew of poems I found in the British Library circa 2008, a veritable slew, and I wish to heaven I'd written some of them down. They were moral pieces about the necessity of being kind to the least of God's creatures. I have a distinct memory of one, wherein the speaker avowed (passionately!) that he could ne'er befriend a man who cruelly stepped ... etc. Poor worms. Poor man!

Anyhow. In ransacking the Bibliovault for this month's verse treasures, I was delighted to find the beginnings of a second genre, related not by family or phylum, but--ahem--by presence of slime. If I find any more to add to the collection I shall. Seems the gastropod poem, with themes of death, sex, the passage of time, is more ambitious than annelid verse. Is the snail the more ambitious animal? The slug? It's yours to discover.

Time as Escargot

Eric Ormsby
from Time's Covenant (2007)
originally published in Daybreak at the Straits (2004)

Suppose time were not spirally and filigreed
but rather went
ambling more randomly. Imagine
time as escargot, as succulence
with all remembrance curved
concentrically inside a patterned shell,
thick toward the middle then more tenuous
as newer chambers belly out above;
that is, not cyclical but
diatoming inward on itself, a
pulsing palimpsest of the ever old
configured as the new:
O Snail,
the sexual residue you leave on dials,
on watch-crystals and on grandfather clocks,
your glistening viscosities of time,
your sweet slime,
patina instants, all
heirloomed in a chiton’s curl.


Zachariah Wells
Track & Trace (2009)

Leaning into the trash box out back—
all those garbage days forgotten
or passed over due to sloth—
I hauled up moldered slabs of rotten
boxes, reeking wrack
of plastic sacks and scraps of cloth,
and unwrapped
twelve monstrous spotted slugs.
Some pardic cross
of cunts and cocks,
they slimed there in the sludge;
stretched out long,
then squished compact,
they scudged around the box’s bottom,
crossed paths in an erotic splay
(no earthly act
so slow and solemn
as slug-on-slug foreplay)
while others humped
motherly their spineless shlong
bodies across
clusters of eggs—and one
began a sluggish crawl
up the box’s wooden wall,
trailing after a glistening track,
till halfway up it poked
its head-end through the gap
between two slats
and paused there—
seemed to soak
the world in through its feelers,
wriggling in the air—
then out it squeezed
like the bored striptease
of roadside tavern peelers.
It spent a steep minute in the sun—
and turned back,
back through the crack,
back with its fellows in the wet warm vault.
It stiffened with that lot
in a shower of salt.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Angel Quires

Afternoon, folks. April was kind to us over at Quill and Quire, with reviews coming out today for both Alice Petersen and Douglas Glover. Of Alice--who has her Montreal launch coming up at Atwater Library on May 7th--they say she "has produced a first collection of stories that, in its depth and quiet wisdom, is reminiscent of the work of another famous Canadian writer named Alice." All the Voices Cry they call "a beautiful tribute to human fragility and the inevitability of change." And of Doug Glover's Attack of the Copula Spiders they say quite simply:
Glover practises what he prays for in others. His own prose is clean and polished, thoughtful and intriguing, accessible yet serious .... erudite books such as Attack of the Copula Spiders are always useful as roadmaps for developing better readers and writers. Now if we could only get the world to read them carefully.

We couldn't agree more.

Don't forget, all you Toronto Bibliofans, that Alex Boyd's launch will start at the Dora Keogh in about 4 hours. Poesy and beer! And for those of you who already have the shakes for our next Toronto event, here's a little shot to steady the nerves. Courtesy of Open Book Toronto and featuring the marvellous Mike Barnes.

I Shout Love and Other Poems

Today's poem-of-the-day courtesy of Dr. Neilson. For the elephant in all of us.

I Shout Love and Other Poems

from Meniscus (2009)

I'd shout love if it weren't ridiculous,
if there weren't an elephant in the room,
if sonnets were romantic instead of credulous-
semantic, if this brand of mutual doom
indemnified grief beyond my belief in you,
and you, my public policy, my secret sharer,
even whispering this is shouting, blue-
in-the-face, gasp-intake, self-scarer,
laryngitic, involuble, I watch you sleep
and think of timing, of elephant dance,
of this longing and belonging steeped
in my groped finesse. Perhaps I'll prance,
preen and shriek, mate for life.
The elephant is reluctance. Be my wife.

The missionary mating practice of the elephant, as imagined by 18th-century French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc (Comte de Buffon). From his 44-volume Histoire Naturelle.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ho Hum (Hardly!)

Afternoon, all. As we enter the 2 PM hump of the day I thought I'd make today's daily verse dose topical. The following is from Robyn Sarah (who will I'm sure be happy to know that there are no pictures of her yawning on the internet. Or at least none that I could find).

Ho Hum

from Pause for Breath (2009)

A yawn is guileless. It disarms.

And yet we early learn
the protocols of Yawn:
Cover your mouth.
Make like an Indian, wah-wah-wah.
Hide it, if you can.

A stifled yawn pops the ears,
spares others a sighting
of tonsils. Tongue curles
backwards in its cradle,
jaw winches its hinges,
eyes wink to slits and skin
draws tight around the mouth;

in the cave of the throat
a controlled wind
shudders and dies.

Postscript to the Griffin

As part of today's poetry feature, and on light of yesterday's announcement, I wanted to take a moment to highlight a part of the Griffin Trust that hasn't yet had a huge amount of publicity. It's one of the best programs I've encountered recently, certainly the best program of its kind in Canada, and if I (shame on me!) had known about it before the Griffin essay in CNQ 84 had gone to print, I certainly would have mentioned it there. That is: the Poetry in Voice recitation program for Canadian high schools.

Since 2011 the Griffin Trust has sponsored a national bilingual program that brings students from across the country to compete in a multi-round recitation contest, which is adjudicated by recognized Canadian poets (and Griffin prize-winners). You may have seen coverage of this year's semifinal round earlier this April in the Post, The Financial Post, or the Gazette.

The video below is from the 2011 grand finals: the student performances, especially by winner Jonathan Welstead, are truly remarkable. If Eliot read his Preludes like this we probably wouldn't spend so much time mocking his four-piece suits. (And the video, FYI, also contains a nice cameo from Dennis Lee, who talks about the vice of hammy acting, and predicts--bless him!--that recitation will once more sweep the country.)

You can still purchase tickets for the 2012 Grand Finals: April 17th, the Isabel Bader Theatre, Toronto. If you're a poet in the city I encourage you to go. This is my opinion and my opinion only, but there's no single thing we can do to bolster the standing of poetry in this country than to encourage the memorization and performance of verse in high schools. Not a thing. It was a mandatory part of the curriculum in Ontario till 1940, and while I fully support the close reading and critical thinking strategies that came to replace it, I also think the skill sets recitation teaches have no substitute. If it hadn't been abolished there wouldn't be half so much tuneless verse in the world.

So KUDOS to the Griffin Trust for doing this. If it does sweep the country, Mr. Lee, I'll be sweeping right there alongside it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Today's poem-of-the-day I thought a fitting choice for those of you who may have spent 3.5 hours this weekend watching a) Yul Brynner be fabulous, and b) Charlton Heston grow a beard. The image you see to the side--mercifully not Mr. Heston--is a print by Segbingway called "Out of their Element," and was featured on the cover of Patricia Young's collection. (Segbingway, as I'm sure you all know by now, is the illustrator for our forthcoming Reasonable Ogre by Mike Barnes.) Enjoy!


Patricia Young
Here Come the Moonbathers, 2008

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose. – Genesis 6: 1-2

I walked a long way in an old pair of sandals
and when I looked up
I saw the fiery shape of a man
revolving in a field of blue space.

My knees locked, my tongue split like a flame.

In those days the world was immaculate
and devoid of memory.
It was difficult to think
without hearing
the language of birds.

His face emerged slowly,
feature by nascent feature.
And then his neck/chest/thighs –
all perfect, all splendidly formed.

He put on a body of flesh
as though putting on a suit of fine cloth.

Roses bloomed over the dip
of thorny hills and my eye cocked
toward Paradise.


Standing in the dark, braiding the horse’s mane,
I felt him lean into the blank
pools of my thoughts. He was
clean intelligence, incandescent.

Sex with an angel?
my sister said, pulling
water from the well, her voice
dipped in arsenic.

I no longer knew what I was –
woman or jackal, fish or flying thing.


Where had he come from?

I didn’t know, nor did I ask
if he’d been sent to me as some kind of
balm to the curse of being human.

A restlessness seized him.
He grew pale, spoke of the place he’d forsaken,
his words the same swollen sounds
scratched on the walls outside Eden.
And then the gibberish in his sleep –
the sky bursting open like a goat-skin bottle,
the ark’s wooden doors
slamming shut.


Those final days –
walking among the aloe trees,
leaves trembling like my senses.
The nightingale drunk on his beauty.
The giraffe weeping as he passed.
Bees clung to his skin. Everything
from the protozoan to our hybrid son
banging his breakfast bowl on the table
appeared resplendent and tragic.
I understood even the lowest embryo
manifests will, desire, a terrible cunning.


Death by drowning.

Should he have warned me, I whom he could not save?
Should he have whispered that last night of love –
When the rains finally come I will pass through your world like the voice of an animal.

Monday, April 09, 2012

First World Wars. Captain Kirk. Dora Keogh. (Thursday!)

Morning, folks, and happy Monday. Today we get two poems-of-the-day since (what's that? the Biblioserf was slack over the holiday weekend?) I missed Sunday's post. Both are in honour of Alex Boyd, who will be celebrating the Toronto launch of his new book THIS THURSDAY, April 12th, at Dora Keogh. Doors open at seven! Hope to see you there.

First World Wars

by Alex Boyd
from The Least Important Man, 2012

Summer and stepping outside to a wall of wood
lifting, I asked my father and grandfather what
they were doing – building you a clubhouse Dad said
grudgingly, as if I had demanded one (and now,
remembering the sound of hammers at work,
it felt like strange thunder, a warning).
We still have my grandfather’s letters up to the end
of the war, 1918, and some give details: the big shell
right in front of us that failed to explode. Lucky.

Word spread to other houses, and near one
a wooden castle appeared in response, all the boys
of the street springing to one side or the other.
When my Dad was young my grandfather drank
and talked about turning a trench corner to come
face to face with one of them. What did you do?
I got my bayonet up first. I fought the other leader
and we fell through bushes without a scratch.
Sharpened popsicle sticks a purpose turned inside out,
plans for turning batteries into bombs stolen. Someone
defected to our side for a day. One morning, plaster
in my clubhouse lock. I cut an enemy lip, took a
blunt speech from his mother. And the tension, dull
electric, and constant. Boys charged from the bushes,
pushing one long sharpened branch. I fumbled keys
to get inside. Lucky. My grandfather noted an accident
in a letter: ironically, an electrocution days after the war.
He said I guess they don’t need a war to kill a man.

Captain Kirk Love Poem

There was some small moment at the start, wasn’t there,
some touch: the most dazzelous woman you’d ever seen,
there on a street corner and you left, made excuses
like she’s on a bike, I’ve got to get this package home.
It was before you knew your body swarmed with luck,
a black and gold uniform of mashed black-eyed Susans
and lurking, tamed mustard gas reinforcing your eyes.
You thought to make up for it: time travel slingshots,
cacophony of rankled emperors, altered comets, viruses
and wicked computers trashed, your scattered children.
You charmed the tall freckled women of Widow Avenue,
and were gone, never seen on a doddering bus to have
some old woman’s purse full of tissues and lozenges
kiss your knee and carry on. But there was a whisper.
A worry the further you went, the more you missed, some
combination of null space. Back there, a former self aghast
to face that we’re weak and beautiful, made of sticks,
honey, water and ranunculi holding up under the wind,
or that one place is shiny with multitudes, if you stay
long enough to see it. Or that we can be manta ray thin,
but blue whale big-hearted. We needed you, can note
your example, splendour-addicted, finally seeing the woman
who reminds you most of her, and disappearing
in your own pattern: her green and black floral dress,
the thin river of a burst of sun standing up, as if to speak.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Flower in the Crannied Wall

Hello all. Happy Easter, day two, and poetry month day seven. Yours from the woods of Port Elgin!

Flower in the Crannied Wall

Al Moritz

From Crossroads Near Somewhere (2006)

Flower in the crannied wall,
wall ever wearing away, flower ever repairing there,
wall ever dragged toward the condition of a sieve,
more space than stone, a finest filter, a scallop of lace
to embrace and manifest an invisible breast,
flower ever bound to find the condition of being a flower.
O simple clover I seem to be someone grasping you,
your root, your naked legs and waist
dragged from your covering, where you grew,
from your home that you loved and despised, crying.
Forgive me if I seem to say I know
and I do not know and dying
I hold you ignorant
and wondering aloud. Let God close space
and give the day again when I first saw you
leaning back against the wall
and heard in the curve of your throat exposed
the leaf and purl of human flesh.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Death of Poetry Month, and The Lovers' Rebuttal

The preamble for today's feature poem comes to us via the Poetry Foundation's Harriet blog. Why should National Poetry Month be cancelled? No, really, why? Pretty pretty pretty funny. It's almost up there with The Onion's "Distressed Nation Turns to Poet Laureate for Solace," back from September 2011.

Now we mock--or rather other people mock & I giggle appreciatively--but there is one country I know of where poets are genuinely popular. Like, really popular. Like they-turn-poems-into-movies popular. Any guesses? Colin Carberry, I know you know. Yep, that's right: the answer's Mexico. Here's an excerpt from Colin's introduction to the Love Poems of Jaime Sabines:

For a poet who shunned publicity and studiously avoided conventional intellectual circles, Sabines was a wildly popular figure in his native Mexico, where his rare public appearances drew hundreds of readers, prompting Elena Poniatowska to declare that “he brought poetry to the streets.” In an email exchange, Émile Martel, Canadian author, former diplomat, and fellow Sabines translator (into Québécois French), described to me his experience of witnessing the poet perform at the Guadalajara Book Fair in 1995: “During the fair, Sabines had a reading; there was such an overflowing crowd in the lecture hall that the reading was broadcast on large screens and hundreds and hundreds of people gathered to watch him. I remember distinctly mouths moving when he read ‘Los amorosos.’ A living classic, I thought.”

Those were the days. "Los amorosos," incidentally, is the poem which was transformed into a film to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Sabines' death. It was directed by Rafael Montero and shot in Chiapas. Here's an interview with Montero:

And, as a NPM tribute to those gloriously overstuffed auditoriums: Los Amorosos.

The Lovers

from Love Poems: Jaime Sabines (translated by Colin Carberry, 2011).

The lovers fall silent.
Love is the finest, the most shuddering,
the most unendurable, silence.
The lovers seek,
they are the ones who relinquish,
those who change, who forget.
Their hearts tell them that what they look for,
what they seek, they will not find.

The lovers go around like lunatics
because they are alone, alone, alone;
yielding, giving themselves up at every turn,
crying because they can’t hold on to their love.
Love obsesses them. The lovers live
for today; knowing little else, it’s all they can do.
They are always going,
forever heading elsewhere.
They wait–
for nothing, but they wait.
For what they know they’ll never find.
Love is a perpetual prolongation,
always the next, no, the following, step.
The lovers are incorrigible,
those who always –good for them!– have to be alone.

With serpents for arms, the lovers
are the hydra of the tale;
their neck-veins, too, swell up, serpent-
like, in order to throttle them.
The lovers cannot sleep,
for if they did the worms would devour them.

They open their eyes in the darkness
and terror seizes them.

They see scorpions beneath the sheets
and their bed floats as though on a lake.

The lovers are mad, stone mad,
forsaken of God and Satan.

Trembling and famished,
the lovers come out of their caves
to hunt ghosts.
They laugh at those who know everything,
at those who love forever, heart and soul,
those who believe in love as in an lamp filled with inexhaustible oil.

The lovers play at gathering water,
at tattooing smoke, at going nowhere;
they play the long, sorrowful game of love.
You don’t have to give in;
no one has to give in, they say.
The thought of conforming to anything mortifies them.

Hollowed out (picked clean from one rib to the next),
Death gradually distills behind their eyes,
and they cry and wander, adrift, until daybreak,
when trains and roosters bid their painful farewell.

Sometimes, the smells of damp earth, of women
who sleep, soothed, a hand between their thighs,
of trickling water, and of kitchens, reaches them,
and the lovers begin to sing between pursed lips
a song never learned.
And they go on crying, crying for
this beautiful life.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Beckett's Semi-Crazed Cousin: Scott Esposito on Malarky

Wonderful Scott over at Conversational Reading has done a little meditating on Malarky. Here's a taster:

The most interesting aspect of Malarky is Our Woman’s voice (the book shifts erratically between her first-person narration and a very vernacular-driven third person). It is a chronicle of this simple woman’s confusion when forced to confront her husband’s cheating on her and her son’s homosexuality (and later abandonment of the family for the army). Though it’s not as absurd or just plain weird as Beckett, the prose does give a distinct impression of being a relation to his. The comedy is wrung from her outrage at the unfairness of the life she has been dealt and her halting attempts to deal with it.

He's got good things to say about her prose style, too, and--apropos of the Beckett-talk--a nice digression on what it means to mould away to finality. There are worse things than being a cousin of Sam's! G'night folks. More poetry in the morning.

Malarky: The GoodReads Giveaway

Yes, it's a brave new world out there, and digitally-speaking we at Biblioasis are occasionally behind the 8-Ball.  So we're trying something new to support the just-released launch of Anakana Schofield's Malarky.  We're giving away ten copies over at GoodReads, in the hopes that a few more people pick it up and help us spread the word about just how wonderful this book is.   Follow this link for a chance to win.

In other Malarky news, Claudia Caspar had this to say about Malarky on Twitter (and this ranks as my favourite reader response so far...): 

Reading Anakana Schofield's new book Malarky - if James Joyce was a woman, and much funnier - so yeah, it's brilliant.

... and a US reader/writer has posted a half-review of Malarky on his blog:

This is what’s I’m calling a mid-book review.  It might be particularly helpful to readers who don’t want me to reveal the end. 
Schofield’s from Vancouver, but this book’s set in rural Ireland, circa now or maybe a few years ago.  Our Woman (that’s all the name the protagonist gets; it’s a spin on the classic Everyman) discovers her husband’s cheating and plots revenge.  It’s an old template, to be sure, complete with the requisite character development.  The passive female awakens.   I usually hate this sort of book, but where the classics in this model typically involve dainty, prim, proper heroines, Our Woman’s a rawer sort.  So’s Schofield.  Her sex scenes are packed with fun and raunch.  The fun is important, necessary.  A woman’s plight is an old problem.  For many readers, it’s worn.  We know already that women have been misued and continue to be misused.  It’s patriarchy.  But the problem is aged, not solved.  Perhaps it can never be solved.  Schofield recognizes that if it cannot be solved it must continue to be plumbed, perhaps with new instruments.  We’ve seen the serious works featuring serious moments of serious drama.  You can’t teach “The Awakening” or “The Yellow Wallpaper” without hearing groans–often from women.  By turning Our Woman’s plight into comedy, she can let us view and enjoy the old problem from a new-feeling angle.  This sounds essayistic because it is essayistic.  Let me just say that Our Woman’s misadventure with the salesman’s not to be missed.  
So: don't miss it.  

A Brief History of Human Longing

Today's poem of the day comes from David Hickey, whose Open Air Bindery was for my money the undersung gem of 2011. It's a marvellous collection. Find it. Buy it. I'd rather have "The Astronomer's Apology" in my pocket than a star.

Speaking of evening-times: I also want to call your attention to the Poems after Midnight feature that Knopf is running on their website. With their stable it's worth checking out and the first piece is especially nice. Here's to the happy places our serious hearts have made, to paraphrase Jack Gilbert--and without further adieu, David Hickey.

A Brief History of Human Longing

from Open Air Bindery (2011)

Chapter One

I borrowed it from the library. It held onto my hand.

Chapter Two

I carried it like a rosary. It was the weight of a wedding band.

Chapter Three

I wore it off to work each day and back again at six.

Chapter Four

It sang out to the mower (the sink I couldn’t fix).

Chapter Five

I fell asleep against its font and my sleep was an old green hill.

Chapter Six

I look up sometimes, and I see it there.


And farther, farther still.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Rosenblum & "Social Short Fiction"; The Frank O'Connor Longlist

Well we're going to take a short (very short!) break from poesy to mention the three titles that were just longlisted for the Frank O'Connor Award. Congratulations to Laura Boudreau, Alice Petersen, and Rebecca Rosenblum!

The Big Dream has also been reviewed in the lastest issue of Prairie Fire, which you should definitely check out, not least for its four new poems by Sylvia Legris. (See? I told you the poesy-break wouldn't last long). Here's what reviewer Bob Armstrong had to say:

"We tend to think that the American Dream, or its Canadian cousin, is a subject for a novel, rather than a work of short fiction. Portraying our great big world, bringing to life success and failure, youth and age, wealth and poverty – that’s the job for the novel, and not just any novel: the “social novel.” Toronto writer Rebecca Rosenblum may make us re-examine that assumption with her short story collection The Big Dream. Call it, perhaps, the “social short story collection” ... The Big Dream is real life. For readers who want fiction that engages with the world we live in, Rosenblum’s work matters."

The Teacher and the Peach (Plus 1)

Morning, folks. Today's Poems of the Day come from Josh Trotter, whose snort-rippingly good debut was called "a miracle of meter and meterology" by Poetry magazine. Not faint praise! Canada of course also broke out the love for Josh, withAll This Could Be Yours listed as one of the National Post's best poetry books of 2010, and "The Teacher and the Peach" doing double feature in Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets, as edited by Sir Zachariah Wells.

In other news, briefly: Malarky has been featured as an Editor's Pick for the month of April on Get 'em while supplies last!

The Teacher and the Peach

from All This Could be Yours (2011)

"If you weren't bursting," her teacher informed her,
"you wouldn't need patience." - Philip Roth

The sky holds thunder as a swimmer
gone under holds air, holds the first
of panic inside the chest like the first
flush of rapture reined-in, the way grammar
exploits the onrush of language,
the way skin grasps flesh about to burst,
the way lust is engine, all piston and breast
as a dam yokes the river's surge--
What drives you here? What drags you back
to displace again? What, if you catch it,
pulls you face-forward? What lull, what lack?
Wait, he says, don't say it. Save it.
I won't touch it. Don't need to know.
Be full fruit. Fall ripe. And never let go.


The hoard of hoots and chirps outgrew my archives
so i rationed the air in which they flew.

I hauled the wind through tubes. The rain, with gloves,
I hammered into lynchpins, flywheels, screws

and skewered the quivering thing to earth.
To thankless jerks it was a jungle gym.

To me, it was a triumph of great girth
worth every small coup, every calculation.

Is it luck then, or detailed engineering
that sparks the lack of interest in my work?

They cruise the park and park beyond the ring
of lights to curse and mock me through the dark

where hidden mikes squeeze every squeak and squawk--
taunts and all--to a file marked Birds: In Song.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Amanda Jernigan Shortlisted for Pat Lowther Award

Well it's been a big day here on Thirsty, so I won't keep you long, but I did want to share one last bit of good news before we call it a day. The League of Canadian Poets has announced the shortlists for the Pat Lowther and Gerald Lampert Awards this evening: Biblioasis is very proud to say that Amanda Jernigan is among them. The other nominees are: Stephanie Bolster (A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth, Brick), Lorna Crozier (Small Mechanics, M&S), Sue Goyette (outskirts, Brick), Rosemary Griebel (Yes., Frontenac), and Jan Zwicky (Forge, Gaspereau).

The winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award will be declared on June 16th.

Congratulations to Amanda, whose Groundwork was selected as a Top-5 Poetry Book of the Year on

The Birds of Paradise

from Groundwork (2011)

Adam and Eve and Pinchme
went down to the river to bathe.
Adam and Eve were drowned.
Who do you think was saved?

Between her pills, his poisons,
the water in which we bathe
is less than pure: I rather doubt
that even I’ll be saved.

My pet canary, William, died.
But, I am reassured,
there is a factory upstream
to replicate the bird

in polyvinyl chloride: moving
parts, a voice-box cheep
with proven nightingalish means
of putting one to sleep.

Do I wake or sleep? Indeed,
the answer is the same.
Ask Finnegan. In fact, ask me,
if you can guess my name.

Nancy Jo Cullen Wins the 2011-2012 Metcalf-Rooke Award



Biblioasis, along with judges John Metcalf and Leon Rooke, are pleased to announce the winner for the 2011-2012 Metcalf-Rooke Award for fiction: Canary by Nancy Jo Cullen.

Nancy Jo Cullen is the 4th recipient of the Writers’ Trust Dayne Ogilvie Grant for Emerging Gay Writer. She is the author of three collections of poetry. Her stories have been published in The Puritan, filling Station, and Grain Magazine.

In addition to the $1,500.00 cash prize, Cullen will also be given

• a publishing contract with BIBLIOASIS

• a leather-bound copy of the book

• a regional book tour, including festival appearances

Judges' Citation:

We were gladdened to find an author whose depiction of working-class family life was both unsentimental and tender. We were also struck by the clarity with which the idiosyncrasies of her characters emerge. Her portraits of gay culture are dazzlingly understated, her dialogue is superb, and her knack for comic detail a delight. This book is intoxicating.

-- John Metcalf and Leon Rooke


Also named last week on the Shortlist for 2011-2012 Metcalf-Rooke Award were: Girl, Gun, Zigzag, by Joel Katelnikoff; Fire on the Mountain, by Jean McNeil; Mating and Other Stories, by Lynne Kutsukake; and Slow Burning Lions, by Mark Rogers

Previous winners of the Metcalf-Rooke Award are Patricia Young for Airstream, Kathleen Winter for boYs, Rebecca Rosenblum for Once, Amy Jones for What Boys Like, A.J. Somerset for Combat Camera and Claire Tacon for In the Field.