Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Six new poems up at Dispatches

Dispatches from the Poetry Wars has most generously posted six hitherto unknown poems of mine in their summer upload.

It’s a vast and provocative site, well worth the time.


Saint Patrick’s Day 2003

Below is a poem from my 2011 volume March End Prill (BookThug) marking an intersection of the calendar’s circle and history’s line of singularities.

Saint Patrick’s Day 2003


libera agonalia nefastus publicus

I’d love to tell of sudden fish



late end of January Friday afternoon

New Square Fish Market New Square NY NY Luis

Luis Nivelo single handed lifts a flashing carp on the scale 20lb

Then out and down club up to club it for Sabbath gefilte

    tzaruch     shemirah     hasof     bah    !

Diablo! 57-year-old Skver Hasid Zalmen Rosen

11 children “Luis, what?!” I heard that fish talk! 

tzaruch     shemirah    Old Abraham

buried last week? Adonai?    hasof     bah

“account for yourself

“the end is near

“pray & study the Torah”



St Patrick’s: Shamrock Irish triple deities

long before Patrick’s Trinity; Roman festival

of Mars, an enormous phallus paraded

through the streets: green for sex festivals the fashion;

Middle Ages the day Noah boarded the Ark:

World Maritime Day.



…Saddam Hussein’s got 48 hours…

…the Day of Iraq’s Liberation is near…

…do not destroy oil wells…

…do not follow orders to use Weapons of Mass Destruction…

…“I was just following orders” no excuse…

…we are a peaceful people…

…not intimidated by thuggery or murder…

…new and undeniable realities…

…a policy of appeasement toward…

…plotters of chemical, biological, or nuclear terror…

…the just demands of the world…

…to overcome violence…

…the future we choose…

…& may God continue

to bless America



Thursday morning Kenneth Masterson out the front door for his paper

“five or six dead fish about 10 or 12 inches long out by th’edge of my yard”

in the street more some rush hour road kill more across

“don’t look like they’ve been hooked”

might be white bass no ponds or lakes near

“really bad storms I wonder if some twister didn’t just pickemup & dropem”



imagine being “jess a pohet”

in Baghdad; who gives a fugg


if you care little abt Saddam

& less abt Geawge Dablya,


jess wanna pen yr little

quirky sufi scrapings


in peace, pumpin yr 2 wives — thassall

ye kin afford– chewing yr majoun like:


you’ll be incinerated along with them

maddogs jess ’cause ya happen to be an Iraqi!!!


I believe it ain’t unright fr me to

feel some solidarity with benighted pohets


‘n’ artists cowering in bum shelters,

disfigured into faceless monsters a la


Saddam. I is dead certain

there are more than one confreres there


who write Je est un autre — only we

aren’t allowed to see them, knowem.


Is there such a thing as Iraqi samizdat

how to send ’em secret artists a sign?


Get Real: a poem

I recently got caught up in a brief on-line debate as to whether emotions, sensations, and other mental phenomena were “really only” neurological states or not, which, later, reminded me of the poem below that had come to me a little like a joke concerning the same topic-ish.


Get Real


A neurobiologist, a theoretical and a computational physicist, an anaesthesiologist, and Deepak Chopra walk into a lecture hall to discuss The Nature of Reality.

Better to have staged a dramatic recitation of Plato’s Sophist, the Tao te Ching, or The Divine Comedy; even better if nobody knew Greek, Chinese, or Italian.

Better to’ve performed Schubert’s last sonata in B flat or had Ahad Master improvise, had everyone enter an anechoic chamber to hear their blood circulate and nerves hum,

Gone to The National Gallery of Canada and gazed on Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire,

Had everyone guided through a sequence of novice yoga moves or instructed how just to sit and fix the wandering mind on the breath swelling their bellies,

Fast forty days and forty nights, take a heroic dose of Psilocybe Cubensis (with due care to set and setting), cry for a vision, or participate in a potlatch,

Consider the view of the proverbial fly on the wall, the air in the room.

“A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another”

Brainpickings just posted some passages from an essay on writers, books, and reading by Rebecca Solnit, from which comes this post’s title. Solnit’s remark echoes one in an untitled “soughknot” from Ladonian Magnitudes:


When the hand’s styled

at the alphabet as

eyes sense words there

here’s something new say

five thousand years ago


Not the mother tongue which

when we think it born


all time dreams

comes to completion


What’s bound cannot be carried like air

shelved in the library the dearest

books give spine to fingers and palm

by heart beat and hip get carried away

Call and response: community and collaboration

When T. S. Eliot died, Ezra Pound famously and bitterly quipped:  “Who is there to share a joke with?”

I’ve been in a similar funk for some time now. This sense of acute isolation was recently aggravated by a friend’s lauding the sense of collaborative community she felt working with her publisher. Ironically, this same publisher recently despaired over getting any interesting conversations going given the hermetic nature of most social circles that are too often made up of like-minded, nodding heads.

That’s why it’s  heart-warming and somewhat heartening to escape this dilemma and collaborate by chance. Yesterday, Bruce Rice, a poet I knew when I resided in Saskatchewan, posted a picture of a chickadee feeding from his hand at a writer’s retreat where he’s staying. The picture reminded me of a little ditty from March End Prill, which I shared with him. My lines, in turn, prompted him to compose a pantoum and put the picture, my poem, and his together as a spontaneous, e-broadsheet, which I share here, thankful for the ephemeral community that enabled the collaboration (including the chickadee!).

Chickadee 1; poets O

Three poems in German translation

Three poems in German translation has kindly published three poems from Grand Gnostic Central  in careful, meticulous German translation by Petra Sentes, with the English-language originals.

Thatcher’s Ghost, Bill 85, and a Poetical Rejoinder

Though Margaret Thatcher may have been struck down, her mean-spirited spectre still haunts the so-called developed world: to wit, the socially retrograde Bill 85 about to be passed in Saskatchewan. As a true-born son, I can’t bear to bite my tongue while my erstwhile homeland goes against everything that made it a social beacon in Canada for decades. I therefore append the poem “Reasons Why” from Ladonian Magnitudes (DC Books, 1996) as reminder of different, arguably better, times. Allusive obscurities can be clarified via Google…

Et illud transit


Reasons Why

for Laszlo Gefin, ‘56er


“He’s some kinda Universal Welfare Tommy Douglasite!”

Because in the early Seventies National Geographic called Saskatchewan the only communist province in North America

Because Saskatchewan is not Alberta, settled by a dispossessed deported peasantry, not American ranchers

Because Sask Student Loans helped me study philosophy and poetry at home and whose flexibility kept me from defaulting so I could pay them back no problem

Because I had and have to pay for my glasses and dentist

Because in the Great Depression just a boy Tommy Douglas broke his arm—The doctor set it for free

Because in the Dirty Thirties everybody was literally dirt poor plagued by drought and locusts

Because hobos went door to door asking for water, onion, potato, and carrot to make themselves some Nail Soup

Because their Volkswagen was the Bennett Buggy

Because at the Regina Riot the police gunned down the workless on their cross-country way to complain at the capital

Because of old Ukrainian collective farmers way out in the country

Because my friends drove red Ladas

Because my Uncle’s antique cars are in Who Has Seen the Wind? we saw at its premiere—he took us to a threshing bee where old cars were raced to see which was slowest

Because I prefer Russian vodka over all

Because my grandmother melted brown sugar and caraway into moonshine and we toasted each other “God bless you!” in Hungarian

Because my dad got beat up at school not because he didn’t speak English but because he didn’t speak Ukrainian

Because the only Hungarian I learned was curses

Because my Great Uncle Peter and Aunt Julia are DPs from Bukovina

Because he rode the rails walked the dusty grid roads and slept on hay in barns

Because Tommy Douglas told a parable about Country Mice electing Fat Cats

Because they told me You know the Truth! You should go into politics!

Because the British Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts are modelled after the Saskatchewan Arts Board

Because over two dozen of Canada’s social programs originate in Saskatchewan

Because we have a China Town with street signs in Chinese in Regina (but no signs in Cree for half the population)

Because fibre optics was invented there a necessary condition for the Global Village

Because the first television broadcast was made from Saskatoon

Because of Saskatoon Berries and Saskatoon pie, syrup, jam, chocolates, and spirits

Because I sat on a bench in Victoria Park one spring Saturday morning reading Kiekegaard and Pound’s ABC of Reading and Selected Poems understanding nothing

Because lying out on the sunny lawn fifteen I read “Not how the world is is the mystical but that it is” and understood

Because John Newlove the Regina Public Library’s writer-in-residence gave me his Fatman and reading it in the shade on the white picnic table on the patio in our backyard thought “I can do that!” and wrote my first three poems

Because John Cage conducted a workshop at Emma Lake July 1965

Because Saskatchewan is the bed of a shallow prehistoric sea

Because weather systems of bison thundered over the land turned only by prairie dog villages of millions

Because my brother the doctor is walling his house in the capital with stones picked from farmers’ fields

Because I grew up on Coldwell Road named after a signee of the Regina Manifesto

Because the Regina Manifesto calls for the downfall of capitalism

Because of  T the anarchist with guns in his walls, washing machine cleaned with Spic ‘n Span between each load, locked up every Royal Visit

Because another signee was named Wordsworth

Because at the Summer School of the Arts on Echo Lake in an old sanitarium we were taught to write as we talk in our idiom as we phrase it

Because my first love’s name’s etymology is Dionysius’ Mark and I asked her out once for every line in a sonnet

Because Modern poetry starts when the winter night sky over the prairies makes plain no single theory can encompass them

Because the tornado’s vortex is an ideogram for inspiration

Because the province’s borders are absolutely arbitrarily geometrical

Because verse’s root is Latin for a farmer’s ploughing

Because of winters 8 months long and in their middle rising in the dark and coming home in the dark for six weeks down to -70 with the windchill and snow banks white dunes up to the eaves

Because on cold black January dawns, hours reading Hegel over a mug of coffee, cream and sugar, and a sticky steaming cinnamon bun, in a violet pink and gold yellow aurora the sun broke

Because Tommy Douglas’ rhetoric flowed inspired by unconscious Liberation Theology Christianity and peasant poverty

Because my grandmother had her poppies rooted up by the RCMP

Because you didn’t go to the Indian parts of town

Because everyone laughs when I say “I’m from Regina”

Because everyone’s been through Regina

Because of the natural genius of friends who renovated their home and own furniture and keep two dogs, four cats, fish, and birds, and a baby boy and a garden lusher than two square metres of jungle

Because my brother-in-law built his own furniture and grand country house from a hole in the ground up with the relatives beside a Stone Age Saskatoon Berry grove

Because the Saskatoon is the Kiwi of the 21st Century

Because I was adopted and can invent my blood-parents and their lives

Because the Conservatives thought you could run a province like a used-car lot and now most are jailed for their clumsy corruption

Because I left with hundreds of thousands of others needing what home could not supply

Because my grandfather fought at Ypres first gas attack, returned and was wounded three more times and enlisted in the Second War, dead before I was born

Because my parents sat on the steps watching the skies waiting during the Cuban Missile Crisis

Because my father had to choose between staying on the farm or getting a job and never became an engineer

Because the Saskatchewan Arts Board paid for my four years’ studies in Montreal and my first trip to Europe which inspired my Budapest Suites and there I met my dead brother, drank poppy tea, and played surrealist parlour games all night

Because everybody called me the Ambassador from Saskatchewan

Because growing hemp, food and cash crops, we could provide our own food, shelter, housing, clothing, and paper—We should fill all the uranium mines in the north with concrete (two-thirds of the world’s uranium!)—Make greenhouses to grow whatever we can’t above out of all the abandoned potash mines (two thirds of the world’s potash!)—The rivers, the sun, and the wind might light our nights and heat our winterhomes—If a million people can’t get their acts together to supply their basic needs, what’re they doing?

Because rocking chair anarchist Les said smoking a cone of home grown “Better old folks homes in Estevan than swimming pools in Bogota!”

Because when I visited the Louvre with my lousy French I felt like I’d been raised in a hole in the mud under a plastic garbage bag flapping in the wind

Because I was born not in a half savage country but an utterly barbaric one

Because the Lab Building at the U of R is partly a maze for testing LSD subjects

Because one psych prof would join the hands of his class in a circle and try to levitate the Ad Hum Bldg

Because I think I remember the last Mass said in Latin at our church when I was still a babe in arms, the smell of incense

Because ‘Saskatchewan’ can translate Heraclitus on time into Cree



(Montreal March 1998)

On the end of the Doha Climate Change Conference: a poem and commentary

Brushfires from Colorado
to Croatia; floodwaters
deeper than memory

drown southern Russia
and Thailand; tornadoes
plough the Midwest;

record hurricanes on
the Eastern Seaboard.
Humanity betrays all

the collective intelligence
of a bacterium
in a petri dish.

Although the poem above was composed in Berlin this past summer, today its sentiment seems prescient of what many of those of us who care about the fate of civilization feel. A lone voice speaks to the issue in Canada’s parliament, and in the face of suicidal official denial and incapacity, it would be barbaric not to lend a poetic voice in support. Posting a poem, of all things, must seem a futile gesture, but its impulse takes inspiration from Luther, who, asked what he would do if he knew the world were to end tomorrow answered, “Plant an apple tree.”

Poem for Humpday

Argo Books, MontrealNeed a poetic boost to get you on through to the other side of the week? Argo Books in Montreal thinks so, too, so they were kind enough to post a poem from Ladonian Magnitudes on their website!

March End Prill sampler

BookThug has just posted a generous sample from March End Prill, readable under the “Poems” tab.