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.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Still Life with Stem Cells/Pidgin DNA


an organism which presses
against the planet

an organism which has hair
(sad, believable hair)
that refuses to believe

which has sensations
sick moves
and an interesting history

an organism which holds up its fingers
how many fingers
if fingers are what they are?

an organism that has other organisms on it
and upon which it rains

an organism which sleeps
soft as a cloth

a baby in a bed full of babies
and the earth full of babies


The image is from a remarkable sculpture installation by Patricia Piccinini entitled We Are Family which showed a handful of years ago at the Venice Biennale.

Piccinini explores the borders between human and non-human, between organic and non-organic. Some recent work makes stag-like creatures out of Vespas.


I'm thinking about how stem cells and Patricia Piccinini's work relates to the notion of the lyric subject, the construction of identity in contemporary poetry. The new sentence. How do these stem cell lumps of flesh/bodies relate to new ways of constructing 'identity' or non-identity in writing? There is no I, or eye, just other. But in some way, this other is us, or some part of us, some undifferentiated us potential.

There is the grammar of DNA. What is a DNA dialect? A pidgin DNA?

Happy Birthday Rene Magritte!


In honour of René Magritte's 110th birthday, I reprint this poem from my collection Outside the Hat, available online from Coach House books. I am also walking around with a large apple in front of my face all day.


last week
Herman Melville was born

i found another belt loop
way round back

next week
René Magritte will die

i will not use that belt loop

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ugly Antler-headed Buddha-child Mascot

Sento-kun (left) and Manto-kun (right)

from Top 60 popular Japanese words and phrases

Sento-kun/ Manto-kun (せんとくん/まんとくん): Sento-kun, the official mascot character for the Commemorative Events of the 1,300th Anniversary of the Nara-Heijokyo Capital, garnered widespread criticism from the media, religious groups and the blogosphere after he was unveiled in February. A Buddhist child monk with a rack of deer antlers sprouting from his head, Sento-kun is supposed to evoke the image of Nara’s rich Buddhist history and the wild deer that roam freely around town. But some citizens were angry at officials for shutting them out of the decision-making process and wasting 5 million yen (about $50,000) of taxpayer money on what they saw as an ugly mascot.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008



we wake together
put on the same
oversized skin

it’s baggy and there’s
room for both of us inside
I shave while you
wash where required

we chose clothes
our favourite belt and shoes
share breakfast
open the door to the bone blue world

much larger, brighter
pinker than yesterday

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Obvious Squirrel to take Along.

"a magazine of sound poetry," issue two is now available online.

There is sound poetry/audio text art by about a dozen artists including a piece by Gregory Betts and me from our collaborative project "The Obvious Flap," as well as a piece of mine called "The Squirrel of Love," using voice synthesizer. There is also an lovely piece by Adachi Tomoni. You can see a video of the recorded piece here.

Other contributors include: the Atlanta Poets Group (performing a piece by Michael Basinski and some Love Songs by Bruce Andrews ), Michael Basinski, David Braden, Craig Dongoski, Brian Howe , Maja Jantar (alone and with Vincent Tholome), e k rzepka, Larissa Shmailo, and Mathew Timmons (performing a Hugo Ball poem).

Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Shopping for Deer

I went shopping for deer.

There were no deer.

The shopping cart became the deer.

I brought it home.

I climbed inside.

I turned the lights off.

The seasons changed.

I lived on earth.

Sometimes the bright sun shone.

I became old.

When I die, I will remember the deer.

I will remember its wheels and antlers.

I will remember its silver bones that are

a womb for flesh and lightning.


inspired by this amazing image:"Hunters" on Next Nature

alphabet for derek beaulieu

Capitalism is an alphabet where the vowels think they are allowed to be consonants.

When we say, “Communism” our dog sits.

The great poetry bail-out of 2008 hasn’t happened yet. The great meaning exchanges are not yet in crisis. They’ve always been in crisis.

When we say “Capitalism,” our dog shakes a paw.

Capitalism is an alphabet knotted with diphthongs and invisible ligatures.

I can sit, shake a paw, and play dead but only if you pay me.

Crisis is an oasis.

There are four ‘letters’ in DNA & 26 letters in the English alphabet. There are one hundred dollars in a hundred dollars.

If I replaced my DNA with the alphabet, you’d hear the pennies fall.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Inabecedefatiguable & Abecedaring Craig Lexiconley

This image was created by the Abecedaring lexiconleyjurer and abcderial visualist, Craig Conley in my hono(u)r. Thanks, Craig. Craig is an astonishly inabecedefatiguable creator and investigator of the world of language: written, visual, and conceptual. His Abecedarian blog is here.


And here, below, are a series of short texts that I discovered on my computer. These are pieces that I think that I wrote over several days a few years ago, but just like my term as Governor of Louisiana, I have no memory of that time.

Hairs were Afar

the hairs were afar
then strangers came home
and opened the sky


Then a Rat

a conversation which began with
angels licking a vowel


There was Enough

to taunt me and my tongue
there was enough
to keep my bones white


if the hair of Love
is man, wise statesman
what are its black teeth?

The World is Filled

with marimba music
“head for a dog,” I say
he says no to the life of an elevator



without teeth
huzzahs light as flesh



today my mother
enters the ox
or the wild Soul
my tongue and me
are one

just look at me

I’d Be

I'd be an ox
fed on an ox
if it weren’t for the ox


Great! He Says

great! he says
there's a small screwed-up eye
looking to reheat
their shuffling fur

"Ha, Ha Ha”

millions of "ha, ha ha”
scuffed brown hands, and Ethel
make up an important part of
some quiet island
where I may I go soon

the teaching is real


After Lunch

a cloud bumps
into the stems of his teeth

with a mallet
I correct the road

Giver, And

the orchestra strikes the giver
and he begins
to give men warnings:

keep hungry
he says
think of strength and sewing
you'd leave the veins of God when I did


Xylophones Have Those

xylophones have those shoulders
and really big balls

smash them!

a single emotion makes for
but we wash and fall like stars
in our own underbrush
nuzzle our punch clock rippling minds

Monday, November 10, 2008

Punctuation Funnies 5

See Mike's very beautiful punctuation comic at his
visoundtextpoem blog. It features a lovely Woodstocky series of bird-like commas.


Can you hear me? No? OK? Is the mic on? Can you hear me? No? How’s that? Is that worse? Better? How’s this? Can you hear this? Is that OK? You should hear this, the bird said in its poncho of branches, its brain a curled fist, wet with knowledge of flight. You should hear this, it said to the mitt of gravity. My bones, being hollow, or at least, nearly hollow, are toasters. Think thermal updrafts and early morning. Think padding down the stairs to breakfast and a destiny of feathers, of teeth made like feathers. Why isn’t all skin ‘skinny’? Why aren’t all sticks ‘sticky’? The hollow of the hand is the anatomical snuffbox, though the hand knows neither snuff nor tobacco. Into the emptiness of the garage, a car is nestled. We could dance together in canyons of yowling and through wispy Rococo clouds. A bird is a telephone between earth and beak. The earpiece mountains, the receiver sky. A message must take itself under its own wing if it is to fly.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


for Mike Cannell 6


Outside of town, there is a field where people are tied to rows and rows of posts standing upright in the bare ground. The sun rises above the field. It sets over the hills beyond. There are only the shadows of others, the shadows of the posts. They grow long, grow short, then grow long again before fading into night. It is quiet save for the murmuring of the people, the small songs of the children, and the sounds of traffic on the country roads.

In spring, green shoots sprout on the posts, and in time, grow into twisting branches covered in tongue-shaped leaves. Summer brings cool breezes, warm rain, and an ease to the field. Autumn is beautiful: the yellow leaves of the posts, the butter-coloured light on the faces of the people, that feeling of nostalgia and regret and of the poetic nature of all things. There is sorrow in the winter field. The people clad only in thin coats or shawls huddle against the now bare posts, and look nowhere. The drifts form around them, the wind bites at their skin. But then, spring with its birds and green shoots arrives again, and the people resume their songs and their talk. They watch for the insects, the warm sun, and the pleasant flight of birds.

There are other fields, I tell the people. Fields where the people do not have posts, fields where the people are tied to the spot through some trick of the mind, some deception of the personality. They do not have such fine posts, or chains, or even a ground of such fertility. And my post, it should bring them hope. My post which I carry with me, even into my cave on the side of the hill.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


An anteater chews through the house. The chair arms. Glasses. The legs of chairs. The mattress. It’s the boyfriend my nine year old daughter is going to have 10 years from now. It chews up the swimming pool. I sit on the porch throwing toasters, and shout, “Don’t ever come back!” From under its coat, the boyfriend takes out a violin and begins to play some obscure anteater song. Then my daughter appears from the roots of a burning tree, dressed in football equipment. The sun, in an obvious attempt at drama, backlights her with its crimson tongue. She crouches low and runs into the house. It falls, a sack of doleful rooms, stairs and carpeting. The anteater splits in half. From its insides are born three angels, white as fridges, icetrays hidden between their cloud-like wings. In each tray are my daughter’s future children, each tiny, curled up, and frozen.

Images for Mike Cannell 5

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bullet holes and Question Marks

for Mike Cannell 4
[see his visoundtextpoem for more of
our question (mark) and answer jamming]



A boy’s mother is shot through the front door. The bullet leaves a hole. The hole is an eye in the dark night of the door. The boy puts one of his own eyes to the hole and looks out at the world, looks out at the long road leading away. What should we do? the boy asks his father. Buy a new door, the father replies.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Questionable Shadows

for Mike Cannell 3

for both Aaron Barwins

A cloudless day in the cemetery where we have gone for the funeral of an aunt. Our five-year-old, named after his late grandfather, wanders about the headstones, dragging his fingers along the streambeds of carved-out letters. He stumbles upon his own name inscribed above a small bed of grass. He lies down, crosses his arms, closes his eyes, and waits. In time, he becomes old. The wind carves his features smooth as river rock. Someone lifts him and places him on his grandfather’s headstone. We no longer remember the town where he was born.

Monday, November 03, 2008

One dimensional writing

for Mike Cannell 2

They said my writing was emotionally one dimensional.

It hurt my feeling.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Genghis Khan BBQ Apron

Genghis Khan’s brother’s car rolled down the hill and became stuck in a snowbank on the way to hockey practice. His children were white peonies, horses on the faraway hills. Sunday mornings at the kitchen table, the wife of Genghis Khan’s brother created cities out of ground pepper, then became the wind causing merchants down Main St. to doubt the mercy of their God and, in tiny plangent voices, to call for the invention of insurance. Genghis Khan’s brother’s dog was a dolphin in a silk tent, a rare bird with the wingspan of a tall ship or a sequoia. We swim through the sand in our dreams. The dog was the mouse-coloured dusk in the patient eye of a yak. The mother of both brothers collected table legs as if they were eyes. Three eyes and there is uncertainty, four and there is the assurance of stability. Destiny is a table made of sand, yak’s blood, and the hockey practices of owls. Genghis Khan’s brother looked into the distance and saw an empire of loss, his children standing at the goal line waiting for ice to form. Genghis Khan’s brother lay down in the battery compartment of a TV remote. Beside him, there was a small scooped out space for his brother, Genghis, scourge of Asia.



we’ve placed our shadows inside birds
where they can’t be found

shadows in birds nesting between the shadowy hands of trees
or flocking across the blue lit sky

shadows cast only
when beaks are open


indeed it was during open beakings when
we put our shadows there
or the potential for shadows

the shadow of a shadow
is my friend

and my friend’s shadow
is nighttime in the shape of a friend


let’s put our unconscious in a carseat
let’s put a worm in a carseat
let’s put our regurgitated dinner in a carseat
close our eyes and street race through blood vessels

the creature that rises then bends towards the earth
is a bird


a mountain can’t fly unless
the ground disappears


a thousand darknesses in the chests of small birds
barely visible from the earth
a pupil in the centre of an iris
not dark but transparent
absorbing almost all light


it’s not so much that Polly wants a cracker
but that the lark wants its small supper of sky
its late dinner of twilight among the blue leaves


now a bird’s small shadow is in my chest
the branches of the ribs
the chest blue sky

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Raw Book

for Mike Cannell