Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Infinity's Street Sign

A man dreamed that he was living the dream. When he woke, he couldn’t tell if he was living the dream.


A dream dreamed that it was dreaming. When it woke, the dream did not know if it was a dream.


When waking sleeps, it dreams of waking. Upon waking, it cannot tell if it still sleeps.


There was a reality TV show. When it ended, the people didn’t know what was real.


There was a self-referential aphorism.


There was a self-referential sentence about a sentence that didn’t exist.


A dream dreamed of its own end. It couldn’t tell when it woke up.


Infinity walked up and down the street carrying a sign. “THE END IS NIGH” it said.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Many Fold Origami of Darkness

Thanks, Craig, for your comment (& the quotations) on yesterday's post. Very interesting. It helped me get a handle on the image and the text of this post.

a briefcase
like the sun
has two faces:
and not there
an inside that becomes
an outside

the origami of darkness
many fold
an origami of time as well as space

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Belief Case


the world is everything that is the briefcase
the twin clasps of the sun
rising then falling at the margins

it seems that we’ve seen it all before
here at the beginning of everything

the hinge

this is my briefcase hand
the other my clasptree

I had nothing

thought a lot about hinges
the shadow and ground
held together

the papers kept inside
the tree
future papers
an archive

as world

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rabbi Krinklebaum's Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve. My daughter has scarlet fever and water is pouring from the ceiling of one of the bedrooms. So much for our Jewish Christmas: we were planning to be stereotypes and go out for Chinese food and a movie. Instead, we’re watching Narnia.

Santa doesn’t come to our house. But sometimes we have Rabbi Krinklebaum who my daughter made up. He looks like a Chasidic Jew but dresses all in red and he comes out of the hole in a bagel, and he rides in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. The image above is one of the good Rabbi’s deer. I was thinking of making an image of a snow menorah – it’s the same shape as a snow angel.

So, in the spirit of Rabbi Krinklebaum’s Hannukah, I want to take a moment to mention that I appreciate all the people who visit here. Who comment or just read. As a friend of mine, Trevor Owen, has written about the internet, it’s not so much information technology, but interaction technology. It’s inspiring to be engaged in dialogue.

I’ve really enjoyed & been inspired by the various people who I’ve been able to jam with, posting versions of each other’s work, bouncing ideas off each other, sharing common interests and distractions, creating work referring to my work, sending me things of interest, linking to this blog, calling me on inaccuracies, or linking to or reposting my work. Some include Jeff Hawkins, Craig Conley, Mike Cannell, Troy Lloyd, Chris Piuma, Geof Huth, and Sina Queyras (who did an interview with me based on work that I posted here.) There are many others.

So, if you’re reading this – or are reading other things on this blog – thanks. I appreciate it.

Burglars: I'm going to be going away for a week. So go wild. But you'll never find the safe hidden in the floor. Or the large frightening guard dog.

And I probably won't be posting for a bit, so I'll also take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe, fruitful, and happy new year. Uh...so...Happy New Year.

Scavenger Hun

Teenage friend of the family: "I don't like scavenger hunts...my life is a scavenger hunt...and I never understand the clues."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"the power of words speaking in their own heads would burst open their inner doors"

Today on his always thoughtful and informative blog, Ottawa writer rob mclennan posted some brilliant and inspiring excerpts from an article in an old issue of New writing, eds. Malcolm Bradbury and Judy Cooke (London England: Minerva, 1992) by Nigerian writer Ben Okri. I repost them here with thanks to rob for bringing them to my attention.

rob writes:

As it says at the back of the collection, his piece “was inspired by the deaths of three poets: Christopher Okigbo, in 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War; Michael Smith, who was stoned to death in Jamaica; and Dambudzo Marechera, in Zimbabwe. It was first read in 1988 at the P.E.N. International English Centre.” Here are two paragraphs among many that are worth repeating, worth keeping in the back of the head as a reminder during tough times.

Our lives have become narrow enough as they are. Our dreams strain to widen them, to bring to our waking consciousness the sense of greater discoveries that lie just beyond the limits of our sights. We must not force our poets to limit the world any further. That is a crime against life itself. If the poet begins to speak only of narrow things, of things that we can effortlessly digest and recognize, of things that do not disturb, frighten, stir, or annoy us, or make us restless for more, make us cry for greater justice, make us want to set sail and explore inklings murdered in our youths, if the poet sings only of our restricted angles and in restricted terms and exclusively with restricted language, then what hope is there for any of us on this or any other planet?

Those of us who want this are cowards, in flesh and in spirit. We fear heroic heights. We dread the recombining of the world, dread a greater harvest of being. We sit lazily and demand that our poets draw the horizon closer. Water bursting suddenly into multicoloured spray represents for us something vaguely frightening. We no longer recognize who we are, and have forgotten what we used to be, what states we sometimes inhabited during phases of an extended moment of awareness. It is those who are scared of reality, of their own truths, of their own histories, those who are secretly sickened by what they have become, who are alarmed by the strange mask-like faces that peer back at them from the mirrors of time, it is they who resist the poetic. They resist the poetic with all their hidden might because if they don’t, the power of words speaking in their own heads would burst open their inner doors, and all the monsters breeding within would come bounding out and crashing on the floors of their consciousness. What would hold their inner frames together then? They have to suppress the poetic, or accept it only on blurred terms, or promote its cruder imitations, for the simple reason that they have long ago begun suppressing eruptive life and all its irreconcilable shadings, its natural paradoxes.

Hating Symbols; Brain Noah

My son: "I hate symbols and all they stand for."

fingers the antlers of hands
hands the breasts of arms
arms the voice of shoulders
shoulders the crown of the torso
torso the meat between head and legs
several top hats inside organs
eyes the doves of skull
returning always with news of floods’ end
of things washed away
brain Noah speaks to each paired body thing
‘hunch was right.’

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Toaster Ouroboros / Moebius Toast

toast, like fate
has only one side
and it's always buttered

Elephant Ouroboros

I began to think of my grandfather as an elephant
and myself as an elephant
and time as a trunk curled round
trumpeting until it rattles the dishes

The Library of Birds

a bird is a message to future birds

a bird understands the world by being a bird

the bird is really two birds—or many

it is useful to be a bird, if you are a bird

flight is one way of explaining

living—and not dying—is another

future birds are the written language of birds

the new bird has the absence of teeth in the old bird’s mouth

a fish is a bird because it is useful

a fish is moonlight underwater


with thanks to the "What is Biosemiotics" page

Friday, December 19, 2008



There exist sounds that are not used in a particular language, yet which humans have the ability to create. Sounds not in the vocal toolbox of the language, but instead left scattered about the floor of the language workshop.

There are a range of click sounds used in African languages but not in English. A variety of ch-sounds that exist in Polish but not in English. The “ch” sound in Hanukkah. [There’s that lovely bit in Stuart Maclean’s Vinyl CafĂ© stories where kids are holding up the letters spelling Merry Christmas at a school holiday pageant and saying what they stand for. M as in Mary, E as in Emmanuel...C as in Channukah, H also as in Hanukkah.]

We have silent letters in English. These represent the forgotten, the discarded, the changed sounds of words. Of the language.

Perhaps these letters exist in solidarity with concepts, ideas, or experiences which are silent, secret, hidden, repressed. The letters are the inscription of these silences.


There exist sounds not used in any language. Sounds from the alphabet of the possible. Sounds that are never used and so no letters exist to represent them.

There should be letters to mark, to inscribe these unknown, undiscovered sounds. Here there be dragon’s breath. The dragon’s vowels. There should be created the field of theoretical or speculative orthography to represent these sounds. Aphonics.

And what about the sounds that we can not yet pronounce. Let's look ahead to the future of our species, of our vocal cords, the next history of our voice boxes, to the field of cyberphonics, to the speculations of evolutionary phonics. Let's make our orthography 'next larynx capable.'

Alphabets for the far reaches of the galaxy of pronunciation.


Here’s a quote from an earlier post about silent letters:

Today, I was wondering if one could construct a story of silent letters. I was thinking one could construct such a thing in a manner similar to Bernard Shaw's "ghoti" which is a representation of the word "fish" (gh as in tough, o as in women, ti as in inspiration.)

What about the word "chemughpk"? ch as in chthonic, e as in rose, m as in mnemonic, ugh as in thought, p as in pneumatic, k as in knight? Perhaps I will write an entire dictionary of silent words, a pronunciation guide to the inexpressible and unpronounceable, to the unspeakable and unspoken.

Or maybe I’ll leave it to conceptual lexicographer, Craig Conley.



Some languages have more than one writing system. Kurdish has three, and historically even more. Each written system encodes a historical experience.

Here’s a quote from the Wiki page on Kurdish noting alphabetic persecution:

The Turkish state does not recognise the [Hawar] alphabet, and the use of the letters X, W, Q which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet have led to persecution in 2000 and 2003 (see [1], p.8, and [2]). Since September 2003, many Kurds have applied to the courts seeking to change their names to Kurdish ones written with the letters Q, W, and X but eventually failed.[1]

And more:

Kurds have been officially allowed since September 2003 to take Kurdish names, but cannot use the letters "x,w or q", which are common in Kurdish but do not exist in Turkey's version of the Latin alphabet. [...] Those letters, however, are used in Turkey in the names of companies, TV and radio channels, and trademarks. For example Turkish Army has company under the name of AXA OYAK and there is SHOW TV television channel in Turkey.

Certain letters are thus symbols of resistance, persecution, and of cultural and ethnic identity.

I am aware of my freedom to write any name that I wish. To pronounce and to make pronouncements however I want to. To spell my secret thoughts with real or imaginary alphabets. To proclaim my public ideas with theoretical sounds, hypothetical letters, or the shared vocal soapbox and common orthographopedics of the body politic.

Perhaps there needs to be branch of PEN for the silenced letters, for the people who are not allowed to write their names.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

smithcoronamancer's typoscripterratoraculography

all day sitting
at the doorway
fingers drumming


The images and the poem are from an old MS (twenty years old?) entitled From the Smith-Coronamancy, a "smithcoronamancer's typoscripterratoraculography," an exploration of the idea that insight can be found through "errors" in typing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Programmable Letters and the iEarth


two images for Troy Lloyd and Jeff Hawkins

Monday, December 15, 2008

Moebius Ampersand

To human is to Moebius.

Outside is inside.

A squirrel path through the dimensional trees.

Sunday, December 14, 2008



Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The world appeared as stigmata on my brain.

Then I read a poem about everything.

I wasn’t in it.


A stop sign from Iqaluit in Nunavut. The Inuit writing system, like other indigenous systems, was artificially created to serve the needs of an oral culture. It is a beautiful script which seems to reflect an almost pictographic representation of Inuit-styled art. It also always looks Helvetica-like to me, as if it came from a parallel Helvetica universe, which I guess it does. What would it look like in Gothic? or a very curvaceous Italic?


A poem inspired by Omegaword and a friend's anecdote.


the stars have
tiny cars because
in space there are
so few places to drive

they have tiny ears
because there is little
to hear
except for oneself

she was learning to drive
in the empty parking lot.
“oh god!” she said
slamming on the brakes

“what?” I asked
“I was imagining
a stop sign,” she said
“I went right through it.”


Two semi-colon images for Mike Cannell:

Saturday, December 13, 2008




the shape of the mind
an owl in the bed

or rather
the shape of the brain

mouse-coloured dusk
in the mind of the owl

shadows linger
the owl evolves us


bath with an owl
sandalwood scented
the surprise of the beak where
it is least expected

we become the shape of
the current of
wisps of
in the night air


instead of paper
filling the tray with darkness
printing reports on night

a rippling surface of sighs


the lungs: two owls
the teeth: two fences

I’m all thumbs and an owl
the thumbs of an owl
my thumb is an owl
red-faced, labyrinth inscribed


this tawny thing with me always
the slow flutter of itself

discount flight of feathers across the brain


owl is to tree

a forest of owls
deep beneath the ear

trees grip the floor of night
their bristly feetlets

scares the living owl out of

rampikes the spine


I thought
the owl was
a letter in the alphabet
of the forest

but instead
I thought
is a letter in the alphabet
of the owl

a letter on the tree’s tongue
owls on paper
predatorial tv
night always in its mind


take two owls and call me

the forest
an inverted bath

an immersion in
the dayegg of an owl

Friday, December 12, 2008


we take our beard
which is a consensus of night
feed it into an ATM

we withdraw stars
or perhaps

wait for help


from notes towards a continuation of a poem for Jeff Hawkins.

Punctation of the Divided Future: two more for Mike Ca(n+1)(n+3)ell

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tree Hanging

I thought the tree was a letter in the alphabet of the forest
but instead I thought is a letter in the alphabet of the tree

Mike Cannell respo(n+1)se

A tree walks into a library

a tree walks into the library
my people, it says


a pile of earth on the table
it buries itself ‘til spring


a tree at the circulation desk
I’d like to renew some leaves


a tree browsing the shelves
my people, too


a tree cuts itself down in despair
you are not alone

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Semi-colons: a love story

Response n+1 to Mike Cannell's Response n

A North American Book of the Whiskered Dead: Omegawords's Death and Landfills

Jeff over at Omegaword writes quixotic little essays about the various metaphysical intrigues and quandaries of everyday life. Yesterday's post was "Death and Landfills," about death. landfills, and human hair. I began a poem as a response to and appreciation of his work. Here is the first bit of my continuing poem. Please when you're done reading it, recycle or reuse it.


for Jeff Hawkins


I am a wild one
(We are wild ones)

I razed the hairs of our wild face
with names from the telephone book

mailed them
each to a different voice

there is a beard that is of our face
that is of this city

a beard like a river of mail
moving over the streets and porches

feline as twilight or as ash
outliving death
and the smoothfaced stars


as a child
I was a tree
in a clearcut forest

as a forest
the stubble of parents
shared a face with my friends

the stars are holes in the receiver of night

the hairs of the planets growing
the godbeard of night
shaking out its owls and dark angels
its evening calls to loved ones
and death


an emergency

the dental work
the moon shapes
the lichen
the shopping carts
the kaballah of the beard

the armchairs
the pumpkin eater
the stamp collection
the cheese grater
the surround sound of the beard

the sacred text
the Fujiyama
the giant face of bees
which is the beard
on the face of time

on the earth’s baby face
its trees
and mailboxes
its razorblade of stars and cochlea
its mail carriers
its undertow of discount flyers and freemasons
is urgent
like the hairs of the beard growing
inside the mouth
“bats in a cave,” we say.
“bats in a cave.”

maybe not an emergency
but an emergence


Image from A Practical Guide and Manual for Human Hairs

Monday, December 08, 2008

After Magritte / Rae Armantrout

As a child,
I was abandoned

in a story
made of trees.

Here’s a small

of this clearing
come “upon” “again”

from Rae Armantrout’s “The Way,” from Veil. There's a great discussion of the complete poem with Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman, and Rachel Blau DuPlessis on PoemTalk.


Stigmata the Ultimate DIY Publishing 2

response n to Mike Cannell's response n-1



we already know
what happens:
small apes and white feet
sundays at the vowel museum

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Stigmata the Ultimate DIY Publishing / The Stigmata of Language:

What fascinates me about stigmata is that they are an external representation of an internal state. A bodily representation, a representation in the physical of something non-physical, of ideation. The mind writing on the page of the body.

I’m also intrigued by the notion that the thing represented (the wounds of Christ) are human constructs. But people don’t get Elvis stigmata, even if the passion of devotion is almost religious in scale.

One could get semi-colon stigmata. Semi-colons are a human construct, represented in the mind. And the mind, stigmata tell us, can write on the flesh. And what are the wounds of Christ if not punctuation marks par excellence?

My personal choice of stigmata would be ellipses…

Could one go to a writer’s workshop and learn how to create stigmata on one’s own body? Could one have a series of different stigmata which change over time, like a movie in slow motion, or the pages of a book? Could one buy stigmata hypnotic suggestion tapes to listen to in a darkened room: the wind, gentle rain, and the suggestion of stigmata? Could one have stigmata in the wrong place, or “umm…that was supposed to be a nail hole but it came out looking like a heart…”?

Tattoos seem to me like stigmata that come not from the unconscious or the subconscious but from the conscious mind. And surely, stigmata do originate in the subterranean regions of the self?

Whenever I accidently stumble on something to write, I get the feeling that poems are the stigmata of language.


This in response to Chris Piuma's comment on my last post. Missing a date because of stigmata. That never happened between me and the saints. That ranks up there with my mother-in-law's secretary calling in to say that she couldn't make it in to work because she, a nudist, had sunburned her genitals. Perhaps she could have lied and said she had the flu.

Semi-colons with hand stigmata

Response to Response to Response to Mike Cannell's Response & Why My Son is a Brilliant Scrabble Player

Mike Cannell's response 2

Why my son is a brilliant Scrabble player: "But Dad, why can't I use capital letters? Look at the tiles. They're all capital letters."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Sesqui-colon stigmata

Response to Mike Cannell's response.


Why is it a 'semi'-colon? In what way is the semi-colon functionally half a colon? Can one create a scale of the magnitude of punctuation? Does a semi-colon denote half of the pause of a colon? Would a comma be half of that? Both punctuation marks (colon and semi-colon) join, but in different ways.

What would a sesqui-colon look like? A deca-colon? A giga-colon?


My hands are currently astigmatic but only one of my eyes.

Friday, December 05, 2008


the world like a flaneur
wanders around you
it has not yet decided
which way to turn


for Wendy Caszatt-Allen

Semi-colon Stigmata

The semi-colons appeared on my hands;
a mark between heaven
which is my earth;
earth which is my womb.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Copyright Violations and Doll Parts

Yesterday, I had discovered and posted some remarkable and disturbing images of miniature doll parts here and I'd written some little texts to accompany them.

I had posted the images of the miniature doll parts on this blog, however, the creator of the images, Lesley Shepherd, requested that I take them down because of copyright violation. I had thought that posting images and their link from something gleaned on the web was not a copyright violation, especially since I was neither claiming them to be mine nor competing with their original use (in this case, how to make miniature dolls.) (And the copyright notice at the bottom of my blog says that the work is copyright by me, or by its creators.) Also, I thought that creating collages with found imagery was fair use in the way that work created in parody was fair use. And this without going into the whole area of art appropriation. "Fair use" is complicated legally. Anyway,I did some research, and Ms. Shepherd is correct, as far as I can tell, that I am violating her copyright. I suppose I could have chosen to keep the images on my blog anyway -- there likely wouldn't be any particularly enforceable consequences, other than eventually having to take them down -- but I don't want to offend her and I feel governed by rules of decency and fair play. I wish she would have let me post these interesting images (the posting of which, I can't imagine, would have any negative or detrimental effect on her doll making site) because they make for good art, but they are her images and she has the right to choose, as I have the right to choose how to respond. (She did explain to me how I could apply to purchase the rights to the images, but that seems beyond the scope of my reposting them or the one modest collage I made. I certainly receive no financial considerations for the blog.)

Of course, if it had been my images or my writing, I might have been equally keen to protect their original intent and my copyright.

Taken out of context, the images do have an uncanny, discomforting sense about them. Outside of their context, the images do say some interesting things about how we regard the body.

Here are links to Ms. Shepherd's images and the texts which I had written to accompany them. I assume that it is fair to post links to the original images.

(image removed. see here.)

the lungs: two owls
the teeth: two fences
memory: a tawny thing I think of as an owl

I'm all thumbs and an owl
or the thumbs of an owl

my thumb is an owl
red-faced and inscribed with a labyrinth

(image removed. see here.)

instead of paper
filling the tray with liquid
printing reports on water

meniscus as an organizer
the rippling surface of the reader's sighs

(image removed. see here.)

my people, the hands of dolls
elephant tongues

twitching hand grenades
leaves in the backyard


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Experiment-O now online.

Collage image by Camille Martin

Amanda Earl has posted the first issue of her online journal Experiment-O. The writers included in this issue are Camille Martin, Jenny Sampirisi, Pearl Pirie, rob mclennan, Sheila E. Murphy, Roland Prevost, Spencer Gordon, Emily Falvey, and me. Way cool.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gary Barwin: an Interview about Deer, Teeth, and Semi-Colons

Sina Queyras, the writer, editor, and critic did a great interview with me over at her fantastic blog, Lemon Hound. It's great because she asked me such excellent questions, questions which really meaningfully framed my own thinking and created an occasion for me to speak about things that are of great interest and concern to me.

Ok, so I talk a lot about deer, teeth & semi-colons, but also about the nature of nature poetry, humour in contemporary Canadian writing, teaching and the imagination, the representation of animals in contemporary poetry, and some other stuff. And there's a picture of me with a pigeon on my head.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Indie Literary Market: Lend me your Long arm Stapler and your Buttonmaker

I'm very excited about this new collective initiative, Meet the Presses. This 'Indie Literary Market' should be great. Many excellent presses are participating and we're expecting a good assortment of friends, Romans, and countrymen.

I'm publishing two books for the event. Inverting the Deer, a chapbook of poems, and Punctuation Funnies, some visual work. Working on laying out the books today -- and its been a while since I did this -- I was taken aback by how happy it made me: how making a little book, trying to make it beautiful, surveying one's past work, tweaking a word or two in a poem when it is realized in a new font and layout, thinking about images, book size, paper types, colour, anticipating standing at a table waiting new readers and old friends, wondering if I should, again, sell by books by weight...or perhaps by the weight of the reader, or...

So, if you are in range of Toronto, please consider yourself invited. I don't have a buttonmaker, but I will have a long arm stapler and a coupla new books.