Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Poets for Living Waters has included this writer's poem "Earth Poems and Oil Spills" in its online collection of poems that has been calling attention to the dire effects of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana.

(The "poetry action" project appears in as a continuing attempt to create a sustained telescoping of the ecological disaster which has already wreaked havoc on ecological systems surrounding the affected areas and threatening to spread to vast areas connected by water.) will link poets interested in adding their voices to the "call to action." Amy King and Heidi Staples edit the collection tagged as "Coastal Poems".

This kind of poetry action was last seen in decrying the Maguindanao Massacre in the Southern Philippines (in the archipelago's island of Mindanao) where civilians and journalists were brutally mowed down by political partisans of warlords contesting the recent election for governor of Maguindanao. (See Rage Poems: Maguindanao Massacre
Literature has always been a measure of the significance of human acts and foibles, and this literary project continues with that tradition.

This is certainly putting the breadth and reach of the global net to more powerful use. Indeed, more meaningful than Facebook connections and social networking.

The following Statement accompanied the 3-part poem contributed by this writer and published by Poets for Living Waters June 28:

"The oil spills in New Mexico and Louisiana compound the ecological problems that our planet seems to be reacting to rather disturbingly. The poems Earth Poems and Oil Spills decry the abandon with which humans have exploited the earth's resources. The central image of Mother Earth slipping and falling from the oil spill (see last line in poem 3) achieves the poem's objective correlative of how she has suffered the human tantrums of war, man's inhumanity to man, his profligate ways, hence, the counterpoints in the first poem. Oil spills pale beside the inconvenient truth of our knowing only so well that oil lubricates wars, war machines that culminate in killing fields. All the more pity for those birds clipped from flight with sticky, toxic oil. Sad."

Thursday, June 24, 2010


There is nothing but trees for miles from where Allen and Margaret Berrington’s silver Chrysler Sebring was found on Wednesday afternoon. . . .A pair of dirtbikers found the Sebring, out of gas, and Margaret, 91, deceased, three kilometres down the road. . . .Mounties later found the body of Allen, 90, nearby, concealed by a small embankment. How they got there, and why, is a mystery. - - - Kevin Libin, National Post, Friday, June 4, 2010
(Click image of news item to zoom in on text.)

Something about the spring sun slicing through
Shadows of maple and birches cuddling the road,
Their branches creaking like stretched backs do
When pulled erect from a burden of stoop, load
Of the years fallen off as derelict leaves gone
With the lashing wind, roiled into an uproar
Of rain and foliage --- something about the sun
Caught in her ruddy blush and now gossamer hair
Has sprung a sprightly pull on his flaccid arms
And he was going to enfold her again, trolling
Their road song again: O leggy Peggy in my arms,
O lovely Peggy in my arms!
And hear her trilling
Again: Al of my dreams, I love you, honest I do;
Oh, what can I do, I love you so. I love you so.
But something about the spring sun on their faces
Was all he could recall, the sky, and empty spaces.

June 23, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010






Toronto Star's Joe Fiorito doggedly followed Al Gosling's case since it happened June 2009. In 2010, retired Judge Le Sage's findings say the government agency was "complacent" about aiding seniors like Al who find themselves shuffled in bureaucratic requirements for housing.

Fiorito, through all this reportage, however, did not trace whether Al had any family in Canada, or whether they cared about him or not. Not his sin of ommission. Maybe Al did not need to be "found" or claimed by kin.

His anger remains a smouldering ember, and Fiorito vows he will not drop this ball. Al maybe dead but Fiorito will bark at every shadow who had anything to do with his hapless death.

This hero of a journalist might as well have been Al Gosling's son. A surrogate son or brother. But Al's death in the hands of bureaucrats will not be swept under the rug, he swears.

Happy Father's Day, eh wot?

(Click on Image of Column to Zoom in on Text)

(Joe Fiorito writes his Star column Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Email:

Friday, June 18, 2010


For all the fathers out there who "have grown wearing the bottoms of their trousers rolled."



Are you ready for your morning stroll, Mr. T? In a minute, he bristled unable to get his arm into his heavy cardigan.

It’s not that cold, you know, the Filipina caregiver reminded the harrumphing octogenarian.

He was in the process of making a 180-degree turn, trying to fix the pictures atop his credenza while he struggled with his sweater.

Did anybody move these pictures around, Luisa? Er, Maria, is it?

Dolly, Mr. T, she introduced herself as she does every morning now, her conches-like eyes widening in a bit of apprehension; he did not particularly like these pictures rearranged. That would ruin his day. He would have to be re-oriented to the east-west-north-south co-ordinates of his room. He was a “topgun” fighter pilot in WWII in the Pacific war, in Corregeedoor. You know, in your country. He never tires of reminding her or any of her Filipina compatriots who work at Erin Mills Lodge for Seniors.

I particularly like the picture of my late wife on this spot, Luisa, uh, Maria, or whatever you called yourself --- sorry --- It points me to where I get my underwear. You know -- undies? He tried to smile the scowl from his face away.

She’s just taken over. The nurse from Trinidad just upped and went complaining loudly that she’s sick and tired of being groped by demented perverts who should stop hoping they could still do it.

Dolly, Mr. T. And by the way, your walking partner, Mr. Alex, called while you were in the washroom. Said he will wait for you at the lobby. He said the sooner you get out today, the more sunshine you both would get. You’d have to get back quickly for a late breakfast.

Thanks for letting me know, Luisa. He must have something going for that name Luisa, she figured. But always a gentleman, he would say thanks for anything helpful coming his way. After a fashion, though. This is a community of civilized old farts, he would say.

Alex is always late anyway. His cane trips him up when I tell him to walk a bit faster. Between us we’ve got six feet, you know. Four crumbling ones and two wooden ones. Get it?

She laughed, relieved that he had been distracted away from the misplaced picture. She’s pretty, she remarked, by way of thanking him for not exploding. My son says, I use it to scare the mice away, he giggled.

At the lobby, that morning, his buddy and next door neighbour, and fellow three-legger, waited with a pained look on his face.

Got boils on your derriere while waiting, Alex? What’s with the face?

Don’t even go there, Teague, the bent, scowling man sprawled on the lobby steps snapped.

It can’t be that bad, old chap.

My son did not pop up again. He’s got this wife problem, my daughter says. It’s been two months now. He’s still in the Philippines, you know. Teaching at that protestant university in the southern Philippines. Dumaguete.

He could pronounce Philippine words better than his buddy --– he’s been there, too, in Corregidor, in Bataan, the last stand of General MacArthur. They were GI soldiers from Michigan. Both immigrated to Canada after WWII (so that their sons would not have to go to war -- Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and all that s... )!

Yeah? I have a son there, too. Teaching fine arts, painting, you know.

Of course, he got my son in there, too. Reverse brain drain. Canadians teaching the little brown people. Remember? Oh, no, you don’t. It figures.

Let’s walk. Oh, wait. Here’s the slow mailman. Doesn’t he look like Robert De Niro?

The ambling postie greeted the gentlemen with canes, and said he’s got only one letter for youse, gents. For you, Mr. Teague, sir. Urgent. Express Post. From the Philippines. The last syllable pronounced like “pines”. Paayns.

Teague knew it must have come from his son, the painter in the Silliman University school of fine arts. He cracked it open. He fell silent.

I’m going upstairs, he said.

What about our walk?

I’m going to my room.

Wait up, Teague. What’s wrong?

Dolly was still there when he got back. Please leave me alone, Luisa.

What’s wrong, Mr. T?

He sobbed into his pillow as his panting partner ambled into his room.

Did we have to take separate elevators, Teague?

He showed the half-crumpled letter.

God, no! Alex grimaced and fell silent. I’m going back to my room, Teague. You don’t need me here now.


Both men stayed up that night. They did not answer calls.

The following day, at the breakfast table, they exchanged envelopes.

Read it before your nap, they almost simultaneously prescribed.

When Alex opened his envelope, he read:

Mr. Teague of Siquijor

Teague’s sandbox at Lo-oc beach spills
over to the slopes of Siquijor –
a kind of walking out on infancy
or bright courage, the carcass marching
nude to humour a carrion God
astride Siquijor’s dark mountain loins.
“O, when will the lad get out of his sandbox
to walk towards the mountain slopes?”

By the way, Dad. This is goodbye. I wanted to end the poem this way, but what the hell. I did not want to end things this way, either. But what the hell. Again.

“By the way, Teague’s body was fished out
of Lo-oc the other day, near Siquijor.”

But just read the news from the PI. I am a bit of an art celebrity here. Am friends with the likes of Imelda, art patron, and Sionil Jose, National Artist. Yes, my obituary will be full of their praising shit.

Little Teague

It is a poem from my son. Teague signed his single-sentence note.

In his room, Teague used a magnifying glass to read Alex’s note. A former CanLit professor, his partner wrote:

The Habit of Mountains: A Dirge

It was his grief pursued the habit of mountains:
It moved the world with quietness. Quietness moved them.
No dearer madness there is than which he died for:
A will to perish in time and manner he chose.
It could not have been any kinder than this falling,
A manner of bargaining one’s way
Into a choice between a kind of dying and feeling dead---
No option for us who learn, too early perhaps,
That death prorogues a dream of fancy
Or a prayer of willing our pain stay
The ramrod poised to rend out days descending
Foglike upon us decreeing silence for our bed.

* * *

Earlier that day, Alex received a call from his son in the Philippines, a colleague of Teague’s son at the Silliman University. Dad, Teague Junior committed suicide the other day.

Why? Asked his buddy that evening. There was just the two of them like crumpled shadows beneath the dining room light.

He could not abide his being different. He went away, as far away as he could from me. He was gay, Alex. He promised he was going to see me here before accepting that teaching job in Mexico. He said he will exhibit his paintings here at the Lodge.


He fell in love with one of his male students. There was a case filed against him. Corruption of a minor. Not one of his big friends wanted to be around him since then.

They don’t have same sex marriages in the Philippines, do they?



Alex postponed taking his painkillers that night. It made him drowsy quickly. He fished out his Reminder Note from his hip pocket: Write Junior. Check his e-mail address. Last time he wrote was eons ago, I don’t know if I saved it. I hope Mary has them just in case. He mumbled to himself. He started whacking away on the keyboard, and even imagined he was still desking at the United Press International newsroom in Manila.

Dear Junior,
Teague was a wreck today. Could not even complete our walk. Little Teague killed himself over another guy? Was he gay, too? The guy? Hey, there’s talk here that Teague himself is like that. Now, I get a lot of ribbing because he is my best buddy. I wrote you about our routine here. You did not write me back. Mary visits me every time she could escape from his over-sexed husband. He is still trying to get her pregnant. No grand kid here. Which reminds me. How’s Chloe? How tall has she become? Is she in high school yet?

I will be off my rocker if I lose Teague over this. Nobody visits him. He is 83, you know. I know that he is doesn’t have all his marbles in his nut. But I can talk to him. About poetry even. The last time I lost a friend was when Cao Tran left the lodge to live with a daughter on Robin Drive. Nguyen Bao died; you know his little wife; just snored aloud one night and died in her sleep. 75. I wrote a poem for Cao Tran, you know. Got it published in Walrus last year. Did you read that? Here it is anyway, just in case it will be worth big money some day. Dad is going to be famous yet, eh wot? Nuts, Chloe thought I had so many big words, and your wife thought they were million-dollar words worth a pittance. How is she anyway? What’s this I hear that you are splitting up. About a man? About a woman? What? Been there, done that. Not good for Chloe, son. I never ever want to see tears in those lindisima eyes. Oh yeah, the poem.


“Favorite spot,” Nguyen Cao Tran pointed
To the bench on Lincoln Green before
He waved me bonjour the Montreal way.

“Favorite spot for wife and me…drink
Tim Horton Coffee from across,” he winked,
Now unafraid his accent might betray

A Viet Minh rasp from Saigon days,
A shrapnel buried on his nape: “Still smoke
Camel sticks from GI Joe friend in Frisco.”

He looked away when I remembered to ask
About Nguyen Bao. “Isn’t she walking
With you this morning? It’s spring, mon vieux!

He mumbled: “She gone…far away now,”
And shuffled away, his knapsack slung
Like a rifle crooked on his flaccid hand.

A single cup of Roll-up-the-Rim teetered
On the bench the next day while I waited.
No cups on the ground, the bench was naked.

I miss Chloe. When are you folks going to visit me here at the Lodge? You know, I am part of the socials committee here. I have Friday readings. Poetry and fiction. I don’t know if these zombies here understand what the heck I am intoning ala Dylan Thomas or even Richard Burton (remember Nono in The Night of the Iguana?) There was that poem I wrote last week which got Teague and some of our old fart residents here crying. Want it? Could be another winner, you know. Here it is. (By the way, and I refuse to write BTW), do you still read anything literary? What do you teach there? Oh, yeah, the poem:


Sitting on her Florentine chair
Atop the red-tiled stairs, the sirocco
Breeze playing with her ivory hair,
She awaits her turn to say hello:
A caudillo-like half-raised wave
And a schoolmarm’s smile on her
Waxen face, a smirk at times to save
Her some chagrin falling off a chair
While she wags childlike to say:
Blow a kiss to your window-waving
Girl, say au revoir for now, and pray
That as they grow, won’t stop loving,
And they do grow and go away,
And you’d be left sitting on a chair
Wondering why they have flown
Like swallows, and hope would care
To come back and perch at sundown.

I wrote it to remember a girlfriend by. She was 90 when I would pass by her house on Robin Drive on my 30-minute constitutionals. I also knew a little girl who would wave at me whenever I pass by before noontime. Then my nonagenarian babushka (Mary told me she was Ukrainian) would await her turn to say hello. Just smiles. Didn’t even know her name. But she told me how old she was. Did not want to be seen like I was lusting after her, you know. Boy, at 77, I am still all right. What about you? You must never be too busy to do it, and do not forget the pillow talk. Mary says you seem to be getting older, and your wife getting younger. What gives?

Dang! I am suddenly sleepy. Must be the wine. Teague brought out his 300-dollar bottle finally. He got really drunk tonight. It’s Father’s Day this Sunday, and it makes me furious how it has been commercialized. It’s all what Dads want today from Walmart and Marks and Spencers. Nothing is sacred anymore. I remember Father. He would write those Spanish poems. I love to recite them to entertain guests. He wrote a poem for his Mother whom he had not seen for the longest time, because she did not want to migrate to Barcelona. He missed her. You know, just like your Mom did not want to live in the PI when you asked her to go back there while you taught at that Southern Philippines university. It is just as well. Your wife might not have liked her around. Oh yeah, the poem. You translate it yourself. Don’t write me for one. You remember the language still, eh?


(Para mi Madre)

Los pajaritos están dejando su nido;
el invierno de su vida ha venido
tan muy temprano!

Mira! Mira! Madre mía.

Tan fuerte ahora, sus pájaros
están volando a puertas desconocidas;
están volando tan lejos para que
nunca jamás devolver y quedar en la casa
de corazón triste, ahora casa abandonada,
nida desolada, madre mía.

O mi madre querida!

Do you think he was better in these darn things, poetry, than I? If you think so, I will concede that. That will be my Father’s Day gift for him. Wherever he has landed. Do you think St. Peter will want to drink a pint with me when I kick the bucket?

Write me, Junior. Off to sleep. Missing your Mother. Omni Soli Semper. (Enrol Chloe in some Latin classes, will you?)

Con amor duradero,
DAD, Papa, Pops, Dada, Old Man, Mon Vieux, or whatever you want to call me these days. Kiss Chloe for me. Lots.


Teague roused Alex, the next day.

I owe you a stroll, old chap.

How are you feeling, Teague?

Okey-dokey, I think.

Who’s sending Little Teague’s body here? No relatives in the Philippines to take care of that, are there?

What body? What relatives? What’s the story, this time, yarn spinner?

Oh, Teague.

Alex sat on the foyer bench, fumbled through his pocket, and fished out a poem for the Saturday Review.

Here. Read it later.

Who’s Lucy, Alex? Why does it say: “Lucy Does Not Live Here Anymore?”

Nobody you know, Teague. Let’s walk.

Alex kicked an empty Tim Horton coffee cup on their way out of the Lodge.


June 18, 2010


I grow old, I grow old...I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
--- T.S. Eliot


Ah, to be old and a mariner come upon that restful cove,
Where the final weapon is a chair not love;
To be old, cher ami, is a gallant slouching on that chair
Some porch of the heart grown insensitive to care ---
--- Houses are Better Off Without Porches Here
From A Theory of Echoes (Selected Poems)


“Favorite spot,” Nguyen Cao Tran pointed
To the bench on Lincoln Green before
He waved me bonjour the Montreal way.

“Favorite spot for wife and me…drink
Tim Horton Coffee from across,” he winked,
Now unafraid his accent might betray

A Viet Minh rasp from Saigon days,
A shrapnel buried on his nape: “Still smoke
Camel sticks from GI Joe friend in Frisco.”

He looked away when I remembered to ask
About Nguyen Bao. “Isn’t she walking
With you this morning? It’s spring, mon vieux!

He mumbled: “She gone…far away now,”
And shuffled away, his knapsack slung
Like a rifle crooked on his flaccid hand.

A single cup of Roll-up-the-Rim teetered
On the bench the next day while I waited.
No cups on the ground, the bench was naked.


Caminnare. Fare una passeggiata.
Eh, come stai?
She shot back looking askance.
Perched birdlike on her stroller, she inched
Her way to the middle of the cul de sac ---

Where I tarried, a wide wave our ritual,
I called out, Come va, Nonna?
Her andador tilted off the cobbled strada,
She stared blankly, but smiled nonetheless
In the courtly manner she never failed to show
To neighbours and strangers alike.

Her sallow skin becomes her regal face,
I thought, but the same face furrowed,
Her eyebrows arched impatiently then;
She demanded: Are you the police?
Or are you my son with a Florida tan
Hiding as usual from me? I called them
From 2441 because I could not find
My house, nor my keys. Was just walking,
Was just enjoying the sun for once.
Crazy Calabria weather. Rain. Sun. Wind.
Sun. Snow. Cold. Hot. Aiee... who are you?

“2441 is your house, Nonna. And you have
A daughter who will be here tomorrow.
And this is Mississauga. I am Alberto
With the nipotes Chloe and Louie at 2330.”

Aieee...dolce angelo! My angels.
How are they? E come va, amore mio?
Caminare. Fare una passeggiata.
O, com `e bello, O sole bello!
But you will help me find my home,
Won’t you? Won’t you? Amore?
A lilt on her voice, she flirted rather coyly.


Sitting on her Florentine chair
Atop the red-tiled stairs, the sirocco
Breeze playing with her ivory hair,
She awaits her turn to say hello:
A caudillo-like half-raised wave
And a schoolmarm’s smile on her
Waxen face, a smirk at times to save
Her some chagrin falling off a chair
While she wags childlike to say:
Blow a kiss to your window-waving
Girl, say au revoir for now, and pray
That as they grow, won’t stop loving,
And they do grow and go away,
And you’d be left sitting on a chair
Wondering why they have flown
Like swallows, and hope would care
To come back and perch at sundown.


(Para mi Madre)

Los pajaritos están dejando su nido;
el invierno de su vida ha venido
tan muy temprano!

Mira! Mira! Madre mía.

Tan fuerte ahora, sus pájaros
están volando a puertas desconocidas;
están volando tan lejos para que
nunca jamás devolver y quedar en la casa
de corazón triste, ahora casa abandonada,
nida desolada, madre mía.

O mi madre querida!


“I just wish your Father would come and take me soon. I am tired,” Mother said and closed her eyes. --- From a Visit to Poro Point, Writer’s Notebook, 2009

The flannel blanket was an armour:
it shielded me through nights I needed you
to defend me against the onslaught of day
when I had to rise to know
that the children were all in bed last night
dreaming their dreams or fleeing nightmares
where flailing they fall from precipices
and you were no longer there to catch them
nor were they there to fall in your arms.

Even the sunrise assails me.

I beg for sunsets now and nights to hide me
from the rush of day when finally I ache to see
them home and you beside me asking
how I made it through my day.

When will you come to take me home?

The flannels have shrunk and, threadbare,
They could no longer keep the intruding light away.

*All alone, always

June 16, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010


The small presses and valiantly heroic (quixotic, cynics would have it) publishers of poetry have not given up on Canadian poetry, for that matter poets who would not be touched by publishers with proverbial 10-foot poles. They have cranked out the slim volumes with dogged regularity, year-in, year-out --- they have even gone on-line to snag those poems from poets who have little patience for publishers and editors; they suffer grumpy authors averse to buyer-pumping booksale sorties wherever there are bookshops who would accept consignments of poetry books which invariably gathered dust or cobwebs in the least conspicuous corners of the bookstore; they lobby for grants from arts sponsors (e.g., Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council); they even pray in their sleep that somehow, sometime, their published poets would win a Griffin Poetry Award, a Governor-General poetry prize, a CBS Poetry Award, a Pulitzer, or even (believe it or not) Friends of Dog Watch Open Poetry competition in Warlingham, Surrey, England.

Rather than bemoan this state of penury for poets and their publishers, I thought reviewing poetry publications or even on-line poetic effort would help. A poet reviewing other poets would be frowned upon as a "conflict of interest", or even worse, some pitiable literary onanism --- but whining about "lack of poetry market" is infinitely more abominable.

(FYI: Poet's Market, an annual directory of F&W Publications lists more than two thousand place "to publish your poetry"; of course, this directory sells better than any book of poems --- in 1999, the book sold over 300,000 copies. After all, it cited 400 new publishing opportunities, 1,100 journals and magazines, 200 chapbook publishers, 500 poetry book publishers, 200 contests and awards, 1,200 phone numbers of potential poetry publishers and publications, and more than 300 e-mail addresses and websites for on-line poetry.)

Is this reviewer needed then? If I had just one reader-reviewer reading my poems who would spend precious lifetime looking for achieved art in my work, I would be happy. That would increase my readership by one "perspicacious" reader in addition to my wife, my children, and grandchildren if any of them would even bother to read the "funny big words of gramps, and those million-dollars words that earn quite a pittance, indeed, eh wot?"

If these valiant poetry publishers could take the blistering ignorance of poetry snubbers, why can't I go back to what I used to do when I would lose my voice and sleep as a Lit and Creative Writing academic convincing students of poetry's value by even trying to dramatically read poetry in class a la-Basil Rathbone or Dylan Thomas!

Hence, this undertaking with Tightrope Books, and other poetry publishers to do "my bit for country and culture." Or die trying.

Tightrope sent me the first three books to review as soon as I indicated my interest. Using "Expedited" Canada Post, it took them merely a day to send the following books after I sent them an e-mail reply accepting my "share of the burden" of restoring poetry to its place of literary eminence.

My pledge is to review them with the patience and appreciation for this art which Whitman, Ginsberg, e.e.cummings almost killed with their "howling". Rappers continue to assault the art. I pledge to offer any shield I could muster to stop the onslaught of the neo-barbarians.

The reviews will follow. To introduce my "assignments", I quote from Tightrope's Website to warn any takers.

The Days You’ve Spent
Suzanne Bowness

ISBN-13: 978-1-926639-10-9
ISBN-10: 1-926639-10-3
Poems that reflect the individual’s experience in the urban jungle, combining observation and insight that every city dweller will recognize.
The city, at once benevolent and indifferent to its residents, is the inspiration for this debut collection of poetry by Suzanne Bowness. In the first poem, a young woman arrives in the big city, where “in the beginning, anonymity is everywhere,” and wonders what her life there will bring. Using this new arrival as her starting point, Bowness moves on to develop urban themes of anonymity and collectivity alongside individualist themes of freedom, loneliness, and growing self identity. Part private reflection, part love letter to the metropolis, The Days You’ve Spent pulls back the curtain on city life, finding beauty in neon signs and profundity in laundromats. In these poems, the individual and the city interweave, and urban immersion becomes an essential element in personal growth.
Suzanne (Sue) Bowness is a writer and editor whose poems have appeared in the Literary Review of Canada and Pagitica. Her play The Reading Circle won first place in the 2006 Ottawa Little-Theatre One-Act Playwriting Competition. She is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Ottawa with a focus on nineteenth-century Canadian magazines.

The Grammar of Distance
Ian Burgham

ISBN-13: 978-1-926639-09-3
ISBN-10: 1-926639-09-X
Ian Burgham once again presents poems of compassion that celebrate all manner of the heartland’s hazards and risks.
In his third collection of poetry, The Grammar of Distance, Ian Burgham writes from his gut and his heart. His imagery is, by turns, sensuous and rough-hewn, soft and hard. The poems crackle with sonic energy; they whinny and stamp. They whistle in the dark. His poetic landscapes frequent the windswept coasts of Scotland; but in this collection, we also find him doing terribly Canadian things like snowshoeing, surveying, chopping wood. Sometimes Al Purdy can be heard in Burgham’s voice and, occasionally, Patrick Lane. His penchant for storytelling and Celtic elegiac moods makes him a solid candidate for the position of poetic counterpart to Alistair MacLeod. Like all strong poets, Burgham’s imagination breaks past borders. Tribal and intense, his poems are conversations with loved ones, lost ones, and all the poets with storms in their bones. They are feisty. They rant. They grieve. They celebrate. Burgham is a thinker, a philosophical poet, a restless soul who asks big questions.

Ian Burgham is an associate of the League of Canadian Poets. Born in New Zealand, raised in Canada, he has lived and worked for extended periods of time in both New Zealand and Scotland. He studied literature at Queen’s University and at the University of Edinburgh. He worked as an editor for Canongate Publishing and later became publisher of Macdonald Publishing in Edinburgh. He has previously published two collections of poetry, A Confession of Birds, a chapbook published in the UK in 2004, and The Stone Skippers, published in 2007 by Tightrope Books and nominated for the 2008 Relit Award. He currently divides his time between Toronto and Kingston. In 2004-5 Burgham won the Queen’s University “Well-Versed” Poetry Award. His work has been published in many Canadian literary journals including Prairie Fire, Contemporary Verse 2 (CV2), The New Quarterly, The Literary Review of Canada, Queen’s Quarterly, dANDelion, Harpweaver, Precipice, Jones Avenue, and Ascent Aspirations.
Praise for The Stone Skippers:
“… a voice you don’t want to miss.” —Di Brandt
“ … concision, leanness and directness …”—A.F. Moritz
“rare and remarkable … the work of one who has the ear for the possibilities of language …”—Alexander McCall Smith

The Nights Also
Anna Swanson

ISBN-13: 978-1-926639-13-0
ISBN-10: 1-926639-13-8
Fearless and insightful poems that illuminate one woman’s experience of chronic illness, relationships and gender identity, and solitude.
Anna Swanson’s poetry leads you through a life that tries to deal with a misunderstood illness, a gradual acceptance of one’s sexuality, and a sometimes onerous relationship with nature. Her writing is as honest as it is complex, and it attempts to reconcile an identity that has been distorted by illness through a profound analysis of memory and individual meaning. With poems that run the gamut from fearful to the absurd, that are at once deep and pithy, Anna Swanson proves in The Nights Also that she is a brave new voice in Canadian poetry.

Anna Swanson studied creative writing at the University of Victoria and the Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her poetry has appeared in PRISM International, The Antigonish Review, The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008, and numerous other literary journals. She has paid the rent by planning festivals, selling books, serving drinks, making maps, walking on stilts, bowling with teenagers, writing press releases, and watching for forest fires. She now lives in Vancouver, BC, and works as a children’s librarian.

The Best Canadian Poetry in English: 2009
Edited by A.F. Moritz, Series Editor: Molly Peacock

In this anthology, this year’s guest editor, award winning poet A. F. Moritz, has selected 50 of the best Canadian poems published in 2008 from the long list of 100 poems drawn from Canadian literary journals and magazines.
A. F. Moritz has written more than 10 books of poetry, has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, and has won the Award in Literature of the American Academy of the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He recently won Poetry magazine’s Bess Hoskin Prize for 2004. Moritz was honoured for his poem “The Sentinel”, published in January 2004. His latest book The Sentinel was short listed for the Governor General’s Award and is shortlisted for the 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize. He lives in Toronto and teaches at Victoria University.

Molly Peacock is the author of five volumes of poetry, including The Second Blush published by W.W. Norton in the U.S. and UK and M&S in Canada, Cornucopia: New & Selected Poems published by Penguin Canada. She is also the Poetry Editor of the Literary Review of Canada. Before she emigrated to Canada in 1992, she was one of the creators of Poetry in Motion on the buses and subways in New York City, and she served as an early advisor to Poetry On The Way. Her reviews and essays have appeared in the Globe and Mail, and her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The paris Review, and the TLS. She lives in Toronto with her husband, Michale Groden, an English Professor at the University of Western Ontario.
(Succeeding Parts: The Reviews. Other posts will deal with other books in my review shelf.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Readers vs. Critics

ISSUE: Is it time to democratize literary criticism? Is it time to finally remove the distinction between Literature and literature, High Culture and Low Culture, Literary Masterpieces and Airport Paperbacks? The majority may not always be right, but surely they must know something the minority (that's us!) may not know. (Dr. Isagani Cruz, “Readers vs. Critics,” Posted in his LOL Literature in Other Languages Blog, June 8, 2010)

OUR POSITION: Democratize literary criticism in the sense that this discipline must accept that the readers know best? Certainly, the ultimate arbiter of what gets read is the reader. No amount of scholarly literary criticism will trump this reader's prerogative.

Nevertheless, literary criticism is one of the teacher's tools to guide the reader toward a productive and fruitful reading. Note that I am not using shibboleths like "intelligent reading." That would ultimately be a presumptuous standard.

Good and bad literature, high and low culture, masterpieces and airport pulp are useful as distinctions only in so far as "literary appreciation" could be taught to those who might wish to squeeze the best aesthetic experience (including epistemological, ontological, moral etc.) out of a piece of literature.

As in a political democracy, citizens who are readers, are generally more effective practitioners of the democratic processes if they were "informed" and "capable of educated response" as well as relatively correct choices for the wherewithal of living comfortably in a dignified human and humane community.

Of course, the freedom to be dumb in a democracy can only go so far. Literary criticism provides guidelines for "educated" reading. Like most education toward a higher human purpose, one can only choose that which is consistent to the exercise of being a homo sapiens.

Education is not democratic in the sense that one could choose any which way to "know" or to "learn" regardless of goals. If it were, it would have ceased as an offering in learning institutions. Learning (thank Heavens) has not yet metamorphosed into a dumbing-down free-fall to ignorant anarchy.

The dictatorship of teaching "taste", thinking and appreciation processes, is not ripe for toppling by brutish people power.

Literary criticism as an art form is just one of its facets. It's been that since the formalists' "regime". Literary criticism remains as the teacher's "GPS" (Global Positioning System) to lead the lazy reader to find the road he is running through --- before reading becomes a collision alley of meaningless, benumbing, sleep-inducing grazing of a little-idea-there-and-a-TV-Ad-sound-bite-there resulting into a community of couch-potatoes finally blinded by the blue rays of the boob tube (Then known as the idiot box. Remember?)

In literary appreciation, the majority could always profit from the critic's coaching, provided the former has not petrified in his calcified toilet-bowl of gobble-de-gooky hermeneutics and snobbish invention of terminology that has lost sight of the ultimate purpose of helping readers learn how to love reading for its sake.

Literary criticism and the literary artist both aim to celebrate the "splendour of a thing" and not miss it for a manic preoccupation with "traditions, conventions, and genres" where form and substance no longer matter or even meld.

The problem really is that literary criticism has forgotten to abide by its primordial aim of "counselling, positioning" the reader to recognize between the piece of literature worth spending precious lifetime on and the drivel that money-grubbing publishers have flooded airports with. And yes, a welter of literary criticism has also become drivel, and a lot of them come from academics who cannot write artistically so they "criticise" to justify their tenure.

When literary criticism gets recognized as an art form, the literary critic must a fortiori be a literary artist first. That way, he knows whereof he speaks, or "pontificates," lest he be treated like celibate clergymen who preach about the sanctity and joy of marriage or the sublime function of sex and sexuality.