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Bugs & minis

Not VW Beetles and mini cars but Monty’s microfauna.

If I have the heart to cut its price, it’ll be half off. $6 which is ridiculously cheap.

2011 thingee from phafours
And a mini I lost. I found a file from 2011 that I don’t think I ever brought to the fair so it’s getting reissued. A whole dozen maybe. I’ll see if anyone’s interested.

It’s been a wild week sorting paper stock and cardstock, books and chapbooks in the book closet. I’ve sorted mini chapbooks by year and season packages back to 2011, rather than have to rummage thru all the singles.

All this and a new chapbook from Shreeking Violet Press on Etsy for those who can’t make it to the fair on Saturday.

Categories: phafours press news.

Fish and Moon

New from Terry Ann Carter.

Coming to the Ottawa small press fair, Nov 7th.

See all the phafours press, fall 2015. Etsy links coming eventually in the month.

Categories: phafours press news.

Two more goodies

No sugar added. 100% ghoul and ghost free. (Probably.)

A selection of haiku by grant d savage coming to the Ottawa small press fair. (Free but donations accepted.)

A roundup of haiku, senryu and tanka poems I’ve had published over the last 6 or 7 years.

Also at the small press fair. Also a post here.

Categories: phafours press news.

Nov 7th Special Deep Discount Sale Coming

Ottawa small press fair, Nov 7th has a chapbook or few that are new from phafours including this of discussion and a chain of poems.

There’ll be a first ever sale of chapbooks on up to half-off at phafours’ table — $4 and $5 each to clear the warehouse closet. On sale will be: this new title, as well as Mammals of Hoarfrost, Cocoa Cabin, Writing Sparks, Quebec Passages and Where There’s Fire!

Categories: phafours press news.

95books: List 20: Novels and Novel Poetry, 155-166

At the edge of being done half a dozen more but spread across enough titles, I tend to take a while.

In pursuit of novels in part, what do I have at hand that I never read?

155. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis, (Cox &Wyman, 1950)

People said this is a keystone childhood literature book. I got it as a child and declared it foolish, preposterous and possibly Satanic with talking animals, witch, giant, jinns. I heard Lewis did religious allegory, but I didn’t stick it out thru more than a few pages as a child. If I had I might have entered scifi and fantasy reading earlier.

It’s a rather charming depictions of beavers.

The books asks us though the children, how do we know that information we are given is true? By logic. As the old man who would be trusted with children would suggest you should believe the impossible if that’s what you think is so. By precedent. The truthful sister never lied before. The brother was a bully. But even he can reform thru the lion.  By circular argument of experiencing what you experience. (Bringing to mind the old song: “I was there when Jesus saved me, the very moment he forgave me so I guess I ought to know.”) By gut. The witch gave a bad feeling. By results. The robin led them astray.

There’s some grey areas allowed as the satyr gave a good feeling but then admitted deceit and was killed for it. But being contrite before consequences and trying to make it right, meant he got a second life. The robin we can presume stayed dead.

It does all become clearly Christian allegory most of the way through. But then if the lion is Christ and the two sisters the Marys at the tomb, what else falls in line. The Queen of Narnia is not human but jinn and giant. The forces of evil killed the Christ but depicts the evil as trolls and whatnot, which is, shall we say, harsh on Jews. The children become kings and queens in the afterlife, eldest male first of course, and females told not to fight but cure and heal the victims of war. Statues restored to life, again, life giving way to afterlife. Except the evil ones who are hunted and killed and given no second chance since they have been doomed by pre-destined essentialism. Given any wish in heaven, being there a long time, we’ll want to return to earth as children instead of children of god, since heaven or the next world is years of slaughter.

156. Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne (Penguin, 1873)

I tried to read this as a child. Each night for months I got a few sentences in and it put me right out. Much more engaging now. Funny how texts change like that, eh? We romped thru the whole thing aloud in 2 days. What curious characters, one excitable and foolishly oversharing, one phlegmatic and circumspect. It all hooks forward very well. Odd depictions of far off lands. Easy to fall into the old language.

157. Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life by Frances Mayes (Broadway Books, 2010)

A second sequel to Under Tuscan Sun (which admittedly annoyed me with the airy style for the first few chapter, but I made it through). It’s a mixture of a travelogue with suggested trips to see art, a cookbook and a memoir of her summer vacations.

She and her husbands have lived there 17 years at this point, which she equates to being a rooted as the Etruscans. (It doesn’t seem intended as a comedic remark.) She recounts a bomb threat with an trumped up replay of horror and takes no blame on herself or second-guessing despite running a political petition and the outs those who signed it, thereby risking them all again. Then she boast of pulling strings behind the scenes with her powerful friends. She does a lot of name dropping. If I ever hear the word piazza again, I may overreact. Or that blasted painter that she’s on about calling him Luc and feeling herself a soulmate. She ogles ever male thing to a degree that she seems closeted lesbian. Is any human as lecherous? And the blond Jesus child is oddly recurrent.

The strength of the book is prioritizing beauty of meals with friends, tableware, fresh food, and taking life slow. She regales with beauty with a lot of words.

There are neat little peeks into details, like from ancients to present watering down wine at the table, a house using a liter of Olive oil a week, yet a party of twenty only drinking 2 or three bottles of wine with the food. That going swimming people bring various swim suits and each dip they go in with a dry suit. She gives updates on Cortona which we happened to. She mentions places we visited, talks about a gallery we went to that closed, but then she reveals that it moved. She sketches many sunny towns. She describes renovations of ancient places.

158. James Joyce & Ezra Pound: A More than Literary Friendship by Patricia Cockram (Joyce Studies, 2004)

Well, with the switches back and forth I may now muddle the two people as never before, as with studying Spanish and Italian at the same time. Both seemed rather miserable people to deal with. Nothing in there made me impelled to read more of either characters. Despite the title it seemed exactly a literary relationship but not so much as a friendship exactly. The book was a run thru what and when and where more than any how or why.

159. Illocality by Joseph Massey (Wave Books, 2015)

When I read too much poetry, I go to history for grounding and too much sentences, back to poetry for some density. This is a measured pace more than most poetry. The line breaks are not for converting prose to poetry by magical spacebar action. Each line is considered and each word. As with his other collections, there are no people but the narrator in solitude, only evidence of others. Instead of being a tracker of snagged hair or footprints, there is our plastic caught in fences, our detritus left behind, our carelessness in the wind. This is a book looking at mud, rain, snow instead of looking past them, like p. 76, a close-watched seeing,

Joe Massey, Illocality

Being present yes, but glum, yes, but also small beauties inside the breath.

One of my favs is The span, p 54.
Joe Massey, Illocality

Holding his writing constant it looks as though I am less depressed than I was since the bleakness used to look like optimism and now looks like getting by in life. The attention to breath and sound without giving the sense of being a looking back posture of cosmic transport. It is in the now and in the know of all things matter enough to be aware of.

160. On Poetry & Craft by Theodore Roethke (Copper Canyon Press, 1965, 2001)

A few sections are like a book of quotations but all by him such as “Therefore I shall get on with the daily business of revelation”.  In love with his own authority, not much match for his cynicism and snobbery with poetry I’ve read of his. A lot of capital P poetry with Eliot as the start and end of Poetry. A lot of themes of one can learn but never be the better for it but at least not worst for it, probably and nothing is communicable. There’s more anger than joy.

When he wrote under a pen name scathing essays against colleagues, students and young writers, that sure livened up the collection. Funny for its contempt fed up with babysitting lumps of eyed flesh in their baby fat who are presumed to have yet to live or read anything, so long as its directed in the general about no one you know I suppose.

Reviews of things he liked were more mild and mildly interesting. Not quite a book where I want my hours back but if it can be so arranged…

161. Culls by Roland Prevost (above/ground, 2015)

A couple of my favorite poems by Prevost in here including Grounded to Airbourne. because I like the sense of refusal to accept a scene as prescripted. Even within the poem there’s a questioning of the interpretation,

[...] A dragonfly close-up,
my solitary index offered as a perch. Its seeming
friendliness, ad hoc, filled-in. As with all fictions.
Willing fools, we cram every blank with connection.

Ah, truth of how the brain connects and constructs. Rather than make a poem of pursuing one chain of interpretation, it cracks open wider. And how it is said with its pause and surge is gorgeous.

Later in Lenses at Both Ends the poem takes what is a common experience, to look out a lens from each end and takes it wider.

Those preposterous red blossoms
on the tallest branches, rest assured
don’t know your name either.

The position in the world, a little humble, a little absurd and called as such, which is not to say life is not loved or stoically dismissed as not really existing but human place in it is not the authority and master over all, but equal among trees and knowledges. It is a heartening point of view.

162. Printed Matter by Colin Morton (Sidereal Press, undated)

Chapbooks are a means to show me how papers scatter, yes? Where did I put it? Here a poem from it at the end of the Literary Landscape episode with Chris Johnson.

163. The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon (Vintage, 2009)

What a ride. The research that went into making this life of this life of Aristotle and speculations into the early making of Alexander the Great was compelling reading. It isn’t a novel in the sense of being not-episodic but it holds together and have some sense of closed loop. There is a sequel which mixes history’s wine more freely with water of magical realism. Might like to try it.

164. Hungry Ghosts by Peggy Blair (Simon and Schuster, 2015)

Another case of oh, this is what a novel can do. Blooming highwater.

Absorbing, intermeshed, taking place half in Cuba, a less sunny Cuba than is usually portrayed as the city decays and people get around policies, and half in Northern Ontario on a native reserve.  Detectives in both areas are looking at what might be a serial killer and the lives intercut as they move towards points of connection. As it is worked out with material at hand, it seems there’s a solution but more data comes and no, perhaps, no. It moves along with believable dialogue and enough description of a scene without getting lost in the set.

Her next book, Umbrella Man will be out next June – an espionage/thriller which involves CIA plot to kill Raul Castro.

165. A Book of Saints by Amanda Earl (above/ground, 2015)

I keep saying, no, this is my favourite chapbook from Amanda Earl. This is a different subject and style and yet continuous with the intensity. Here a poem from there at the end of this episode of Literary Landscape. There’s a compassion, elegance, poignancy to the poems. There’s more blunt literal talk than some previous poems, less soundiness, but these still have attention to sound and do not come out shallow for their straightness. Complex and with an insistence on resilient strength. For example Feat of the Guardian Angels, October 2

Does she watch over me
or am I alone?
It’s hard to tell.
I’ve always had the
feeling that I am
protected, but I’ve never
known why. I find no comfort
in death, nor do I understand
those who do. My faith
is in the rocks that tumble
out of the sea after a storm.
In the tumult of the waves,
the raucous calling of the
crows in the dawn
blinded by sleep and
yet I stumble forward.

If you have waves and crows, a poem is apt to stumble me to irritable but somehow she surpasses the elements with the strength and fit of the whole.

166. The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida, trans by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell (Knoff, 2007)

This was fascinating. A kid writing what it is to experience his body and moods as they disconnect from his intentions. He’s keenly self-aware and self-directing but not always in as much control as he wishes. He communicates most easily by a board with 40 common Japanese characters that he pokes to make sentences, blogs, fiction, short stories and this autobiography.

Categories: Currently reading.

95book: list 19: back to poetries 149-154

I’m getting to within 10 books of where I’m currently reading now.

149. Old Winter by Anne Le Dressay (Chaudiere, 2007)
Le Dressay has been a poet I’ve followed for nearly 2 decades, watching for specks. I like her cadence, her worldview, her development of ideas.

A reread. Funny how the poems I previously marked, I’m not sure why and poems I didn’t bookmark strike me more now. I bookmark different poems. Here, a meditation on the daily takes a deeper significance without feeling forced but like truth found by reflecting backwards inside the poem itself a piece of thought. Sometimes there seems to be too much meat around the nut of the poem but still the nut itself is insightful. For example.

p. 77

the In memorium card
your father hands out to all the staff
after the funeral.

Here you are, your photo, your name,
your age at time of death (18 years
and 5 months

[...] he came back to work brittle
and brave and tearless, as id required of men.
He gave us each a card with your photo.

Here you are, smiling in the sun
over 30 years later, still in the world
in some form. And that, perhaps,

is what your father wanted.

She keeps in these poems the habit of looping back with a finishing stitch to bind the poem’s knot. She persists in ending lines in mid-grammatical phrase to push it forward. It seems well enough done to be a functional choice, even though the line-end type often jars me, it doesn’t where she applies it.

These poems go in a long-reach back and point ahead as well. There’s something of a chronological order but I can’t hold it against them. One of the early poems gets at a larger truthiness. For some reason menstruation is a shame. Half the planet does its bloody business in silence. I remember talking with a male friend who had a poem which he considered violent and shocking because there was a blood in the toilet and I said that’s a quarter of women’s daily life, about as common as soap in a bathroom. I don’t read blood as violence. But maybe I was being obstinate as well. There is a violence to blood in hushed tones. To have a period and shame is the cause of kids who happen to be female quitting school. My aunt was told she had blood on her clothes as a little girl and she had no idea why. In a family of 14, no one gives a head up or explanation. A generation later, I thought a pad and strapping would be worn like a holster and my thigh would split open. My body looking ready a couple years before school got around to mentioning anything lucid.

So, all which is to say her poem, “First Blood” stuck me. She ends it with “First blood” and a matter-of-fact thought:Well, there it is“. Admitting powerfully in the poem, silence as the least safe thing.

150. Village of the Small Houses: A Memoir of Sorts by Ian Ferguson (Douglas & McIntyre, 2003) Well this won a comedy writing award. I’m not saying it didn’t have funny moments but it seems more like a grief memoir. It starts in high comedy and descends the whole way to end on a downbeat. It is tributes to people known, not just their lives but having to follow to death. Which is how my father used to talk. Mention someone, bookend it with how and when the person died. Actually, Hit by a Farm did that in the first few chapters two. This pet existed. And then it died this way. This relative told me such-and-such. That person died at this point. It’s a curious way of reveal. The Village is Fort Vermilion which was a native area through most of the book until tract-type homes were knocked up by land speculators and natives moved to city or deeper in the bush. 151. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (Delta Fiction, 1973) So Kilgore Trout gets paid to go to an arts festival in a cross road town by his only fan. Who is really quite unwell. There is a plot, of sorts. It oddly cross connects with the thriller novel, both having characters raised by the KKK. Black vs white is really trumpeted hard. More plot-driven in a way, more didactic of being against environmental degradation but in spots quite funny, such as the absurdity of his stories being used for text content, content not mattering, and illustrated with the normal porn images. Which strangely enough “beaver” being ubiquitous to the planet but terribly illegal to show when one is a human female even though it is common compared to the actual beaver which looks like: [and his drawing]. His drawing and explaining obvious things was quite odd and funny. My favourite page in the book was this: breakfastofchampions 1

Although this was also beautiful:
breakfastofchampions 2

152. Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn by Catherine Friend (Da Capo Press, 2006)

How could one not pick up a title like that?

This biography of two city-born lesbians who decided to start a sheep farm, and vineyard, with meat chickens, various poultry. Hubby rocked with laughter and cried at the tragicomedy of fears and mishaps and joys of new lambs.

It’s a pretty complete picture of farming without being a manual. It is about the relationship of the couple, about her relationship to writing and keeping sense of self, and not wanting her dream to die, and knowing her wife’s dream needs two people at least to get it up and running. Their happiness is intermeshed but how to get the details to not crash.

There’s buying chicks and maybe a gun for coyote-kills? There’s getting attached to animals you’ll eat and the straight-up learning curve.

Pretty captivating and, maybe with maggots on the prowl, I’d rather get me a goat tattoo than a farmyard of goats. (Close enough.)

153. Sleep is a Country by Anne Le Dressay (McGill-Queens University, 1997)
The first book I got of hers and it stands the test of time and reread. To put a lie to a couple times I recently said I basically don’t reread books. Except the ones I do, I guess.

The poems are in a private voice, not curating a community of stories. The scenes seems to be an act of thinking and processing, not a report after telling the reader what to think. They are internal voice and checking in with self of what was when at the cusp of change.

p. 62

“I am learning to think with my body,
to think past words to blood pulse
and breath rhythm,
to translate language into the pull of
muscle and tension of bone.”

Like McKay [next in list] lines often end mid-phrase or with an article but there is a logic of pressing and gushing foward, refusing closure just yet.

It is uniformly tight and with that balance of inner world and grounding in outer world. It is heavy with griefs and fears expressed so that by letting them go, they can be given room so they stop shoving. p. 56 “I walk alongside a hundred distresses/that do not belong to me./I walk aloof. I stay apart.//The distresses walk with me, demanding/attention. They are never absent./I know my aloofness is a life.” and over the poem it chooses to acknowledge rather than shut down and shut out “the pain seeps into my song,/a thousand distresses/singing.”

p. 51

“And then I knew I hated her.
And knowing,
took the rage
like a creature in my hands,
alive and livid and of my flesh,
and looked at it. And I saw
that it was older than she, as
old as my life, as old as
my father’s life.”

What a cadence. And if that doesn’t put a finger on epigenetic response, what does. This reactivity isn’t something to be sussed from my forgotten childhood, not from chemicals in the womb, not traced to my mother, but back generations. This thing that is my flesh is inheritance not a new fault.

The poems aren’t a simple loop but a coming to terms

“I said what I had never said
aloud: I hate”

And to fast forward through the poem

“gather up—clumsy, bent— the
pure blind hate, and I fashion it
like clay, breaking its bones and
forcing its flesh into the form
of a kneeling woman with
arms upraised, head thrown back
in a wail
like the keening of rock.

And I scoop from the earth
a place. Anf I bury,
praying: Stay buried.

And roll the weight of the mountains

A poet that can articulate your past or your future can help you with self-knowledge and show the advantage of literacy and literature.

What a powerful poem of resolving to make personal transformation. To admit the constant, its shame, to verbalize, to become the creator or the already created, Shiva figure, a creator/destroyer and then to make earth into earth and stone under stone. Suggesting the stone of Christ’s tomb, moving the mountain to Mohamed, suggesting the hatred which is sorrow at its heart will become complete it its sorrow and will become dead and buried but will resurrect. But at least, buried in the position, it may come back as praise instead.

154. Sanding Down this Rocking Chair on a Windy Night by Don McKay (M&S, 1987)
Holy lordie, this brain. How does this brain make things.

from Suckering the Silver Maples”, p. 21

“days when she rode the subway like the n
in Wednesday”

Or from “Without a Song”, p. 61

“in phone booths strung along the highway, frail
half-popsicles of light we’re
dying to bring someone closer while the wires between us
sag like midriffs and our captive voices
slip away into their element”

The beings of light cross-references with Karabekian’s painting in Breakfast of Champions. Or Star Trek’s transmuting to pure energy which happened after the poem’s publication. But people as half-popsicles goes somewhere I’ve never put. The cold, but the refreshing, but the oversweet, but the garish, but the half but the frail but the person in phone booth. It all twists to some new sensation.

He has a way of seeing and mashing up and putting side by side all kinds of scenes and language. There’s not a picking a tone and making it all “Internally consistent” according to micron measurement. All fits. Later books I’ve seen are much more homogenous to their loss.

The title poem is with a valley old timer in the speech of then and there, of dandelion wine and “I’ll tell ya Robert, this here infilation, it’s terrible. She was buying tomatoes in Cornwall, they wanted, what was it, something awful. And the meat. It’s enough to make a person quit meat altogether or go back to raising hogs” (p. 40)

But the train poem is the quintessential Canadian train poem: “Travelling east, we age more quickly,/running into time which travels/west. The train wants to be evening, wants that/blue grey wash of snow and sky/eliding the horizon”

“For Laurel Creek” is as hard-edged as that is soft-edged as it is drunk on sound and following the river thru all the human garbage and construction and its turbulent flow of words mimics the river,

“mallards are to duck
as dawg to dog, a concentration of the will to live.
As Homer’s ear drank sea-surge
drink its purlings and enriching chemicals
in rusty strains and rainbows. Catalogue the
shopping carts through which it strains,
the tires it sucks on like insoluble black
Consider styrofoam’s uncanny negatives,
the death of substance gathering in the jetsam.
Survey the changing social status of the creek—
the way condos turn their backs,
erecting Frost Fence to protect the condomites,
while their backyards drain
discretely down the bak through plastic catheters; how it
passes through the university through quotation marks,
discoursing on the eighteenth century idea of landscape”

Did this book win awards? If any book should win awards, surely…

Categories: Currently reading.

95books: List 18: Novels, 143-148

I have long said “I don’t do novels”. A friend asked why. I think it is an unquestioned rule, vestigial prejudice from fundamentalist Christianity days when anything but the Bible is a lie. Even nature can be planted with red herrings. Partly I held fast to resenting the idea of willingly submitting to being manipulated by a fictional roller coaster. At the same time I shunned novels, also movies and secular music for a decade or so. Some things broke thru. Poetry’s wedge could get in because it was prayer and praise and hooked on to other things. But that all is long ago. And yet I still resisted novels. Why? When I tried I felt unchanged for reading them. I felt irritated because the sentences were baggy, thoughts sentimental and poorly formed. The characters were thin caricatures. But could it not be the choice of novels, rather than the genre. And so I began again.

143. Autumn Quail by Naguib Mahfouz (Anchor, 1985)
A compelling interesting novel taking place in the 1950s revolution in Egypt. I couldn’t put it down and didn’t until it was done. I don’t now if this is a literary novel or popular novel but it was structured excellently. It opened with walking through a revolution, wondering who was safe. It was carefully chosen for words so that the reader can understand without being given adverbial instructions. It was pretty subtle.

144. Stories from the Iliad and Odyssey by G. Chandon trans from French by Barbara Whelpton (Burke London, 1964)

Well then, it a very short version fitting both epics in under 190 pages. If you tell 5%, which part? It gives the thumbnail but what was cut? Where Penelope speaks and tells the suitor-lot to stop singing for x-reason. Where Helen speaks and recognizes Ulysses in his son. Where Helen is in the conversation circle, her references to the women herbalists of Egypt. Where Penelope is crying and getting comforted by her maids.

Curious consistency about what is essential. How do the seals get killed? Not by the Goddess in this account but the men. So, women are nearly excised entirely and speaking roles passed to men. Whatever were these authors up to? Making it more palatable for the era?

145. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Dial Press, Random House, 1969)
Trippy. When people say they liked his writing, I didn’t expect funny.

If you say it is a story about POW camps and racism and an old man patronized by his daughter, it doesn’t seem to add up to humour. But there’s such sharp social commentary on commercial society and war. It looks like it’s random as shuffled cards in structure, but there’s movement and feels like a satire of novels. Everyone is related. Except, no one is there for a purpose. It’s like Waiting for Godot except violent and random things happen and yet I kept reading. I can’t tell you why. Partly his odd twisted humour I suppose. And the intercutting. Anything can be endured for half a page. And there is movement. And spectacular phrases at times. It is very odd. Oddness appeals.


And I like the novelist sitting in the character, breaking the 4th wall at times.

slaughterhouse (1)

146. Up the Gatineau, edited by Carol Martin (The Historical Society of the Gatineau, 1995)
Getting grounded again in concrete history, which is its own country as well.

A local history chapbook/booklet with photos and essays by members. Fascinating things I knew no bit of about dam building and The Club that got exclusive right for the Old Boys Club at 31 Mile Lake that extended to Prime Ministers and dignitaries to go bond over guns and fishing rods. Women weren’t allowed on the grounds. The natives weren’t on the map, despite there being first nations reserves all over that area. No one but the rich out of town boys were allowed fishing or hunting rights, hiring guides to take them to their exclusive place. It’s a pretty recent decade than anyone can buy land there. Part of it is still Crown Land.


A curious note on the foreman saying they had to import workers for dam building because otherwise they’d lose thousands a day. Local farmers would bugger off if the weather was good for whatever and whole teams would domino to a standstill because the farm workers were unreliable. Funny. Farm workers consider themselves the most reliable of workers who never get a minute off, except are seasonal workers in a way that construction isn’t exactly.

147. The 176 Stupidest Things Ever Done by Ross and Kathryn Petras (Doubleday, 1996)
Women are ugly. Athletes are dumb. Thieves don’t plan. Har, har. Yes?

The book’s working poor paranoia bias: presumes taxes are to rip you off and science is there to steal your tax money, laws are useless busy work to harass the population. But then it’s premise is to scoff at stupidity so what can you expect. Mostly a parade of dumb thieves, hunters who shot themselves then tried to do a shot in the air to call for help and shot the other foot.

Anyone know about this event?


I suppose that I finished the rot means a couple things, this is how sit-coms continue, and I must pace myself better to not be so tired with so many hours left before a reasonable bedtime.

148. Stormy Weather by Carol Hiaasen (Warner Books, 1995)
I have never read a thriller before. It’s messed up. It was compelling. It was complex, intricately interwoven and with sharp social criticism that was rather funny. Brutal and many characters are followed to death. There’s a huge number of characters but it wasn’t confusing but fascinating. A character born of KKK parents see Jim as generic black man. Edie sees muscles, the way he moves, his injured leg, his uniform. Colour doesn’t register. The Colonel sees a glimpse of his face in the dark and relaxes at seeing his friend. The morgue worker sees man, badge. One signal and character by character as they enter Augustine’s place for their own reasons and trajectory see his wall of skulls or him juggling them and react in kind. The trail of it may crop up anytime. Augustine falling asleep camping out on the run, recalls Bonnie’s reaction as being unlike other girlfriends. Every character was an opportunity to show their perceptions and self by perceptions.

Despite the rule that I read that head-hopping is 19th century, it was contemporary and works. It doesn’t hop within scene. The point of view characters weren’t even central or major characters. A life synopsis for minor characters from omniscient view that would cut in every now and then. All these life paths intersected each other or missed by minutes at the same places and fed each other’s plots. What was fleshed out with a minor character would move later quickly since the groundwork was laid of the bridge, or the view, or what things are near. It’s mapped and implications are mapped. A minor character from a gun family could not hit the side of a barn if we were locked inside it. He as a teen took off his dad’s ear. For pages that followed and how his life was forming him. When someone else later gets part of an ear shot off 300 pages later, nothing needs to be unpacked. We know what that causes. Every mention is for a reason but how to predict how it would figure in again for who. What a complex weaving.

Categories: Currently reading.

95books, list 17: Rural Memoirs and Memories: 132-142

I’ve been on a farm-kick, reading rural voices, some Canadian, American, British, about sheep and goat and horses. In the end, because I read things in parallel, the themed stack drifted across lists.

132. The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen (Magna Large Print Books, 2014)

Found while browsing the library catalogue. Found out after that it has a tv series attached so we got to see the scenes physically as well. Some faces to put the pages.


A thoroughly enjoyable book of a good storyteller of a woman who has a sheep farm in Yorkshire, just a few miles as it happens from where we last stayed. An amazing landscape, and a picture of the dales near there and its bog hangs over my desk from when we stayed just a few miles from there before we knew it was there.

It’s a autobiography from childhood to farm life, from suburb girl to mother of 7 on 2000 acres.

She can paint the scenes of people and situations vividly, catching people’s reactions and words as, for example, in the story of getting her kids education. She tells the school that if her kid needs to go to a further school 2 hours each way, she’ll home school. The educational inspector comes out, and is left gasping at how remote the farm is.

Okay, she told that much better. But she reels out for pages, placing things in the right order. The technique that I was just saying I wished local histories used more rather than list punchlines and boy, oh boy, you would remember this word if you lived then and there. Poetry is the right word in the right order but order of reveal in storytelling, more so.

dales (1)
She has a good sense of timing. Many poets, myself included, could learn from storytellers that art.

We read the whole thing aloud to one another.

133. smithg by Max Middle (above/ground, 2005)
Found while sorting my chapbook drawers. (3 hulking drawers now). The problem with chapbooks is finding some system to make them retrievable. They are more physical than a particular wave in the ocean but it seems not. Once someone has a book with a spine, I file the chapbooks of that author with that but before, disorder.

The chapbook was enjoyable but I can’t summarize why or how. It’s a direct experience not as mediated by language and story. It’s something to the tongue, a tickle of the head. Hope Max puts out more poetry.

134. Meteor Showers: Gil McElroy issue (Stanzas, issue 31, 2002)
Got at a small press fair, I presume.

What an enjoyable read. I must have read it when I first got it but it lost nothing for repetition.

The poem of the nearly going off the road because of watching the sky stands the strongest in memory.

135. A Small Place by Jamica Kincaid (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988)
I can see how this book got on multiple recommended lists. It is a powerful look at Antigua, colonial powers and their legacy on the islands for the people who stay without the option to zip off to America on a green card visa for medical treatment. A critical look at the tourists who come to distract themselves by their humdrum by being in someone else’s humdrum. What is exotic and with-an-accent? An engaging read. Damning. Can First worlders go wandering as innocent individuals divested of their histories? Can one vacation blithely ever again?

Here are two bits:

kinkaid (1)


136. Legends of the North Land by Martha Craig (1910)
Culturally interesting. The woman claimed to be the reincarnation of an Indian Canadian girl and performed Massey Hall and the like to audiences of thousands, much like Pauline Johnston and Grey Owl did. Populist verse of legend and nostalgia for what Lett called the extinct race. Found on online from microfiche. A sense of it here:

137. What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses by Daniel Chamovitz (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012)

Y’all should read this. Fascinating stuff.

What a plant knows

What does a plant perceive? It can tell up from down, from particular cells which if cut off early enough prevents the message. If cut off later, the message was transmitted. They can distinguish red light from blue and grow differently. Plants know when they are touched, when they are shadow, know when a neighbouring tree is under attack by insects. A leaf being injured lets out a chemical that tells its own leaves, which pass the message and release insecticide to protect themselves. If you isolate the leaf in a plastic bag, other leaves don’t change so we know the message is sent by air not by vascular system or by root.

That’s what otoliths means? Earstones? Huh.

138. North End Love Songs by Katherena Vermette (The Muses Company, 2012)
Saw it won the gg. Found a copy.

A novel in verse about a native family where the brother disappears and the family deals. Mostly the grief of the sister. The first section had character/life sketches of various anonymous native girls, each given a name of a bird species in the poem. The first section I guess sets up the scene of urban decay of smoking, drunk, raped and abused young teens on the streets, and the burned out lives. The last poem which was a collage of many voices had the only sense of community of varied voices who were not set as pitiable and powerless.


139. Life on Mars by Tracy K Smith (Graywolf, 2011)
Saw references to the book. Found a copy.

Presented in reviews like a monolithic theme book but it’s not. Each chapter is a best of. It’s not a tribute to space and her father as a whole. Crafted, competent. I wasn’t struck my super lines in a frame or poems put in to pad the book to length. Each poem stood and delivered.

I had said I would wait to comment on her previous book until I read this but her previous doesn’t relate in control of tone. There’s a completely different voice to a different audience here.


140. Like Color to the Blind: Soul Searching & Soul Finding by Donna Williams (Times Books, 1996)

This book I’m still processing. It was a memoir of her as an Autistic spectrum person meeting her first love, their expanding relationship and marriage, and in postscript, divorce. The exploration of the mind is fascinating as she tries to figure out her own processing. She and her boyfriend learn how to communicate as a couple, as individuals. Both got sensory overload and they figured out the patterns. Loud, fast voices, florescent lights, unfamiliar places with too much to process at once, too much movement. In sensory overload, or too much to perceive or too much emotion, she can still be communicative. They developed a sign language, and she can type.

They both were self-supporting, in careers, university degrees, read for leisure or business and yet didn’t know they had a perceptional issue that could be fixed. Our workarounds are maladaptively adept sometimes as humans. In the journey, they discovered they both have Irlen syndrome. With colored filters, their brains could suddenly read text with ease and with processing in the emotional centre of the brain. The problems of spatial perception were removed. Is one clumsy because the senses are trying to compensate for lack of depth perception and eyes that are not hooking up with the brain in a neurotypical way.

They learned that they were working from scripts. As we all are to some degree but there was discontinuity and sense of lack of self when triggered. A sort of disconnect when under threat. She and he went thru old photos and found a photo trail of different behavioral modes and gave them names. The subroutine of her when under threat may become spoiled child coquettish to navigate or may become masculine in your face commanding. Neither she felt were her and both were overreactions. They invented workarounds for discerning shelf vs these schemas. There is a frozenness to facial expression, disconnect with eyes when it is a defence rather than true self. The scripting of defence is high functioning, competent but may work for its own set of motivations to keep self safe. But when self wants to expand, or take calculated risks…there’s conflict.

She named the selves. She called out the selves. She looked at clothes and said, these are clothes chosen by this defensive mechanism. Self is another. When trying clothes that felt right, defences attacked. What part of the brain wins? How can you tell which part of self is talking and why? She worked on teasing all that apart.

141. How long is a piece of string: More hidden mathematics of everyday things by Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham (Robson Books, 2002)

My main beef is that the chapter titles were written by a someone following conventions of newspaper headline writers who don’t read the body text. “Is it quicker to take the stairs?” which talks about elevators, but doesn’t answer the question. It talks about different models of program for elevator, how they are staggered over different default floors to minimize wait times. “What makes it a hit single?” talks about patterns of music over human history, different scales but doesn’t address its ostensible topic. Luckily it has a useful index with the real topics.

This claimed to be a book of what anyone would chat about at the pub. That would be a strange pub. Benford’s Law would come up? These articles were at great length. Fractals in everything was neat enough. How a Albania in 1996 went down due to pyramid schemes that the bank and government went for but demonstrating how a pyramid scheme necessarily will fail—interesting.

The mathematics of editing. Interesting.

The story of people using computers to generate letters to predict by letter every possible outcome of the football game and offer to let people pay some sum to get the inside track. Most letters would get the wrong result but each letter would go to some who got the chance letter with the results that happened. People forgot when the prediction was wrong but when they got a sequence that was right, it paid off the costs for mailing all those letters and then some.

142. The Blacksmith of Fallbrook: The story of Walter Cameron, blacksmith, woodcarver, raconteur by Audrey Armstrong (Musson Book Company, 1979)
Bought in 1986 and signed by the author.

Stories of his life and he could remember from when we was 2 in the 1800s. Stories of his carving and of how to train horses. Memories of running a village store. A lot of details but not a lot of plot or connections between stories or depth to the stories. Still oral history in a unique voice of a time we don’t get to hear much about. There were television shows and articles about him. Wonder if there was another book too.

Although called a raconteur, he is more of a talker. There’s some similarity to a very young poet listing things. Cameron doesn’t have plot arcs, suspense or lessons. I kept wishing the person recording would have drawn him out for details. With questions, he could have been able to fill in all kinds of details. They are often thumbnail sketches. When he does expand out more, it takes you right there. He’d previously explained his general store in Fallbrook became a social hub with people hanging out by the fire, on the porch, even into their main house as men kept to the store and women gathered with his wife in the house.

Walter Cameron1
Walter Cameron2

Kind of a mean trick but gave the lesson. He was characterized more with his stories as being kind and less beastly than some, disapproving of not giving an honest deal or a fair shake.

Categories: Currently reading.

95books, list 16, chapbooks & poetics essays 126-131

And here’s where I throw a sort of pop quiz on myself. And I’ve managed to let months slip in. Ah, me. Now 40-odd books later, what can I say to pick up where I left off?

126. On being a dodo by Michael Dennis (burnt wine press, 2009)

Bought at a house reading.

It feels nutritious and warm like stew. Relatable. (Is that a bad word still or can we use it now?) Poems that feel like a conversation rather than some cleverkins trying to scamper for attention.

the long walk

people don’t intend
to be the bad version
of themselves
but it happens
all the time

there is much confusion
about what is need
and what is want
and selfish often wins

all the bet of intentions
doesn’t mean much
when the lights go out
and you are far from home

people lie to themselves
and believe it
we are the only animal
who knows that trick

those “what was I thinking of” moments
when the real thinking starts
the clarity that only guilt
can crystallize

and then that long walk
back to the place
where you used to trust

127. Between O and V: Poems by Maria Scala (Friday Circle, 2008)

Given a review copy when it came out. Finally read it.  (Oops.) It has stories of her mom and grandmother. Kind of lyric prose memoir of what is worth bringing forward.


Nonna died thirteen years to the day
I see the strain on my mother’s face.
She busies herself with
one of the projects: marmalade.

By six, she is still transferring
the hot orange goop
into the mason jars and bottles.
Who will eat all this jam?

I for for the day
when I have to make myself
forget this way.

128. Small as Butterflies by Lesley Strutt (Tree Press, 2015)

Bought direct from author. I missed the launch. But I got a copy in the end. The poems surprised me. They were more west coast, less anecdotal, than when I last heard poems from her. Minimalist, oblique, kind of abstract but wih moments of insight like these,

from p. 4 What’s in too?

as if a journey us what I am—
a thing
I can arrive at

and p 11
“Treading Water in the Unknown

“inside my love, bone and sinew
what is to be free I love
my love carapace bursting So it is that
broken open So it is that
pulse, the drunken
of the cells

129. The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets: A self-help memoir by Jeffrey Skinner (Sarabande Books, 2012)

Found browsing the library. Figured it either will live up to its title or won’t. (It did.)

This was so bookmarked that it’s tempting to buy my own copy. It amused. It made me laugh. I read it for a month or so but now can’t readily recall a thing apart from the cynical cover of the empty poetry reading, except for the homeless person and knitter, and the clever take-offs of periodic tables for poetry.

There was this: (p. 7) “if you’re writing for yourself, your audience will always be too lenient, too quick to reply, yes, yes, I know exactly what you mean! even if your words on paper do not say anything near what you mean.”

This would be fun to try:


130. Once in the west: poems by Christian Wiman (Farrar, Strauss and Girroux, 2014)

Found while browsing the library. The poems were formal, water-tights as drums, dark, in the stance as a skeptic-raised-religious way.

ChristianWiman 1

Wondered what his prose was like. So,

131. Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet by Christian Wiman (Copper Canyon, 2007)

Found while browsing the library.

Fascinating, extremely well-researched and considered. Part memoir, part literary criticism, part essay. Any essay here is a mind-boggling amount of knowledge of authors. He is angry and highly opinionated and passionate and self-revealing. He is a fan of a history of literary critics which is not a pattern I knew anyone watched. I read it for almost 3 months, sometimes because his rage short-circuits me, sometimes because his views of writers satisfies. His life story is illuminating. For example, Wiman: in the chapter “The Limit”, “Some families accumulate self-consciousness in the way other families accumulate wealth (and perhaps one precludes the other).” touches a truth button.

Fascinating stuff.

And later, p. 57 “we might remember the dead without being haunted by them, give to our lives a coherence that is not “closure”, and learn to live with our memories, our families, and ourselves amid a truce which is not peace.”


Categories: Currently reading.

New mini chapbook


Now on 28lb paper in colour.

Guy Simser has written a suite of war poems including,


Fruit of the Balkans

dug up from under plum trees

wrist-bound and bootless

They will be at Haiku North America and the Ottawa small press fair along with one more title, still to come.

Categories: phafours press news.