Wednesday, December 19, 2012



Goodbye 2B-A-40
Ak 5

Goodbye AK-47

Goodbye AK-74M

Goodbye AO-38
Heckler & Koch G11
Heckler & Koch AN-94

Goodbye AO-63
Armtech C30R
of bullpup configuration, named for its creator Georgi Delchev Bakalov.

Goodbye Barrett REC7, formerly known as the M468
Goodbye M82 .50 caliber sniper rifle.
Beretta AR70/90
SC-70/90 folding-stock variant.

Goodbye Beretta ARX-160
Bushmaster ACR
Bushmaster AR-15
Bushmaster Patrolman's Carbine M4A3
Cherkashin assault rifle
Goodbye Colt Canada C7 rifle
ČZ 2000

Goodbye Robinson Armament XCR
Rung Paisarn RPS-001
Sa vz. 58
Safir T-16
Safir T-17

Goodbye Daewoo K1
Daewoo K2
Daewoo XK8
Diseños Casanave SC-2005

Goodbye .30 Carbine
Franchi mod. 641
FX-05 Xiuhcoatl
G5 rifle

Goodbye EM-2
FAD assault rifle
Floro PDW

Goodbye AMD-65
Goodbye AMP-69
Goodbye AN-94 sometimes called the "Abakan" Avtomat Nikonova
FN F2000
Franchi LF-58

Goodbye Gordon Close-Support Weapon System
941 LMG, FG-42 and EM-2.
Goodbye Grad
Goodbye Heckler & Koch G11
H & K G36
H & K HK33

Goodbye Heckler & Koch HK416
Howa Type 89
IMI Galil
IMI Tavor TAR-21
INSAS rifle
Interdynamics MKR
Interdynamics MKS

Goodbye Kbk wz. 1988 Tantal
Kbs wz. 1996 Beryl
Brazil (BOPE)

Goodbye L64/65
M4 Carbine
M16 rifle
Pindad SS1
Pindad SS2
Pneumatic Valve And Rod System (PVAR)

Goodbye QBZ-95

Goodbye R4 assault rifle
Rk 62
Rk 95 TP

San Cristobal
SIG SG 540
SIG SG 550

Goodbye Sterling SAR-87
Steyr ACR
Steyr AUG
Stoner 63

Goodbye Sturmgewehr 44
T65 assault rifle
T86 assault rifle
T91 assault rifle

Goodbye Truvelo Raptor
Type 11
Type 56
Type 63
Type 81

Goodbye Valmet M82
VB Berapi LP06
Vektor CR-21
VHS Assault Rifle
W+F Bern C42
W+F Bern StG-52

Goodbye 7.5mm Kurzpatrone
Wimmersperg Spz-kr
XM8 rifle
Z-M Weapons LR 300

Goodbye  Zastava M21
Goodbye Zastava M70

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Dog Ate the Bird: Sound Poetry from 1991

In 1991, Stuart Ross and I performed "The Dog Ate the Bird," part of THESE ARE THE CLAMS I'M BREATHING, a sound poetry performance.

Friday, December 07, 2012

A spam sonnet and my literary holiday guests.

Sachiko Murakami who is this month's Writer in Residence over at Open Book Toronto, invited me to write something from the question: You're having a holiday party, and can invite any number of literary figures, living, dead, or fictional - who's invited, and why?

My answer is here.

Oh, and I just discovered that  I was the featured poet over at the Vallum Magazine blog, a piece of mine based on three spam emails that I received.
That's here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Elvii and Two Hummingbirds

we had never met
two hummingbirds 
on the inside of a star where
we were 6’ 3” 
casting our light
when we could not be sure 
either of us
like the ends of a cow—the same cow—
to a cow
though we were almost endless
or like me and my great-grandson
born a Jetsons-distance away
a hummingbird
on the luminous verge 
of beginning and end

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wild Dashes--Hope is the thing: Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing. The thing without letters. Without alphabet. A punctuation only, which speaks when there is nothing to say. When the mouth quiets and only breathes. What if Emily Dickinson retreated from language? What if there were no letters in her house?  I was thinking of a lipogrammatic Dickinson -- one where I erase E M I L Y D I C K I N S O N  from her poems. But then, all the letters went. Nothing but the punctuation. The hurly-burly of letters. Emily in the margins, the ditches, the stitching, away from the bustle. Dashes are a corpus callosum. And quotation marks are the soul, which is a feather, or the outside of a bird, or what is outside the bird, an unknowable inexplicable thing, a hope for hope, a silence louder than talk. Here is my Emily Dickinson, speaking without speaking. The juggler trapeze artist, the fascicle maker, the sewer of so, the intense silver of her needle-thought piercing, binding the dashing papers, the poems loaded but bullet-pointless, the letterless power of the breaths between, the synaptic synoptic leaps, the mad dash that is made sane.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Indie Literary Market (Toronto) & the bpNichol Chapbook Award

This past Saturday, I attended and exhibited at the Meet the Presses Indie Literary Market. The picture above is of Michael Sikkema's book THE SKY THE which I published through my serif of nottingham editions. If you'd like a copy, write me here or at my email address and it can be yours for the low low price of $5.00.

It was a great day. Lots of interesting writing and publishing, and much sense of friendship and community, and many engaging discussions and catch-ups. I met people I'd only corresponded with or whose work that I'd read. For example, Ron Silliman was in town and it was a pleasure to meet him and to give him NF Huth's great little chapbook 3 Words which I published last year. And jeez, to think that I've been attending and exhibiting at this market in some incarnation or another for the last 30 years! I'm very pleased to be part of the organizing collection.

And this year, our collective took over administering the bpNichol Chapbook Award. It was awarded to Mimic by Adrienne Gruber (Lanzville, BC: Leaf Press.) An anonymous donor was kind enough to contribute the $2,000 prize to the writer. And the great Jim Smith (read his latest book, listed below--it's amazing! a revelation! a virtuoso whirlwind of invention, incision, and fun! Really!) contributed $250 which goes to the publisher of the winning book. I was honoured to be able to design to logo and certificate for the award. Honoured because I so greatly value the small press, chapbooks, this market, and the contribution and inspiration of bp, and the efforts, energy, commitment, and enthusiasm of my fellow members of this collective.


Here are the books that I picked up at the market--most of them purchased, some traded for, some kindly given to me by their publishers.

Sunnysideout Press (Buffalo)
Settlement by Micah Ling
State Sonnets by BJ Best

Leaf Press (BC)
Mimic by Adrienne Gruber

aboveground (Ottawa)
Opening the Dictionary by Hugh Thomas

Peaches & Bats 7 (Winter 2011) (Portland, Oregon)
Lines on Canvas by Sam Lohmann (c_L 2011, Portland)
Commonly by David Abel (airfoil, Portland)
porous, nomadic (airfoil, Portland)

Ferno House (Toronto)
Demons by Matt Laporte
Skullambient by Liz Howard

Laurel Reed Books (Mount Pleasant, ON)
Shortcuts by Kemeny Babineau
Pretty in Pink by Kemeny Babineau
After Progress by Kemeny Babineau
The Further Adventures of Hairy Tragus and the Ork Drow by Kemeny Babineau
The New Chief Tongue #10 (Kemeny Babineau, ed.)
Chortling American Show Goo by Daniel f. Bradley

Proper Tales Press (Toronto)
Rich and Dead as Dogs by Tom Walmsley
The Continous Present by Nelson Ball

Mansfield Press (Toronto)
Happy Birthday, Nicanor Parra by Jim Smith

Puddles of Sky Press (Kingston)
cemantics by Michael e. Casteels
Untitled (for Billy Mavreas) by derek beaulieu
Of the Body by Amanda Earl

David Peter Clark, feathereDinosaurs (shuffaloff/Eternal Network)

Rampike Vol. 21 No. 2, ed. Karl Jirgens
Rampike Vol. 18/2, ed. Karl Jirgens

Emergency Response Unit (Toronto)
Coordinating Geometry by Julie Cameron Gray
Actual Girl by Nicholas Lea
Don’t Break the Mailman by Dion McGregor
Thoughts While Walking Home by Linh Dinh

And now, I repair to my chaise lounge to begin the long read of all these marvels.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Punctuation of Shakespeare

A live performance of an excerpt of my Servants of Dust (Calgary: No Press) which removes all of the words of Shakespeare's Sonnets and leaves only the punctuation. This performance features David Lee (bass) and Ryan Barwin (pedal steel guitar). I read the text.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012



I understand what this sentence is trying to say.
I empathize with each of its letters and its small but valiant
full stop.
I believe in its I.
I love its spaces.
They are little animals to me
Not yet extinct. Whispering.
Between one thing and another
you and me.
This sentence is my little world

for now.
Who am I
outside, looking in?
What was here before I?
What will be left when I is gone?
The parade is over.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Imagination, You're Not the Boss of Me: Advice to Teen Writers

I was asked to give a talk for the Burlington Public Library’s Take Flight and Write teen writing contest coffee house. I’ve been a judge of this context for several years. Next year, they’re going to include multi-media literary work which I’m very excited about. I’ve just returned from the evening. Very exciting to hear all the teens read their work – some goofy, many highly emotional, perceptive and certainly heartfelt, some remarkable accomplished and virtuoso. Here is my little speech:


I’m delighted to have been asked to speak at Take Flight and Write and offer some advice to the writers here tonight.

But first, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate myself. Really, I’d like to offer me the deepest congratulations. Congratulations, Gary. Well done. You’re awesome. Congratulations!

Why congratulate myself?

Because I’ve been a judge of this contest for the past several years and each year I’m excited and inspired by the work that I get to read. Each year there’s a range of energetic,
interesting, and passionate work from all of the writers. So I want to congratulate myself for getting to read it. I am awesome.

But of course, I want to congratulate all of you writers, too. All of you who participate in Take Flight and Write. Because—though maybe you’re not as good-looking or as well dressed as me, I mean, just look at this shirt, look at my hair—you have done something amazing. Think about all the great stories and poems that you’ve written.

And I want to congratulate you for your courage.

Because writing is a great act of courage. It is courageous to trust the imagination. To trust yourself. To have trust in reading and readers. In words. In our culture.

We’re surrounded by many things. Ecological disaster. War. Endless reruns of Friends. “How you doin’?” And language has never been so complicated and slippery. Just listen to politicians or the media.

But still, you are brave enough to write a poem or a story. To make magic happen between words. Between your brain and the page or screen. To make magic between reader and writer. It’s brave and exciting and fun to even try to make magic. Go on stage before an audience of 500 people. Stick your hand in a hat. Is there a rabbit in there? Will it chomp on your fingers? Will you pull out the rabbit out and make the audience go crazy? Will you pull out a unicorn wearing a jet pack? Who knows? It’s writing.

And who has more courage, the trapeze artist who has done their act a thousand times, or the one who is doing for the first time? As the old joke says, the first person to eat lobster was a very brave person. With writing, it’s always the first time. That’s another reason why I’m so inspired and impressed with all of you writers. It’s a brave, exciting, and dangerous thing that you’re doing.

I should also congratulate some other people: teachers, parents, friends, and the people who work in the library. With all the pressures in our world today – mortgages, jobs, endless Friends reruns, Justin Bieber, politics, you – parents, teachers, friends, librarians—support these young writers and their writing. You support them by being here. By reading their stories and poems. By believing in the power of words and the imagination.  By trusting them.

Nothing teaches us to value ourselves and others more than trusting in stories, memories, thoughts, and imagination.

Here’s a fantastic poem by David W. McFadden, a great writer from Hamilton.

At this moment in Viet Nam
as I write this the clear moon I imagine
shines down on one peaceful scene.
It’s night and the village sleeps.
Everything is quiet as the universe.
The moonlight lies everywhere
illuminating chance corners.

There was about to be an attack
but I’ve deflected it with this poem.

And now, some advice:

The crime writer Elmore Leonard said, “I try to leave out the parts readers tend to skip,” and Kurt Vonnegut said, “Start as close to the end as possible.” These are both good pieces of advice, but I’ve a few more to add.

In fact, I’ve writer’s dozen of pieces of advice to add. That’s eighteen pieces of advice. And like all good advice, it’s good to follow it. But it’s also good to ignore it, too, if you know why.

1. Never try to create a masterpiece. Just write something that you like.
You can’t make something a masterpiece – the goal is to write something interesting, ambitious, and exciting—to you. Something that is yours. Masterpieces are for old dead people and marketers.

2. Read every kind of writing.
There are so many kinds of writing out there it’ll blow your mind and the top off your eReader. The world of writing is so diverse, it’s hard to believe. It’s as diverse as nature: in writing there are also platypuses, echidnas, and unicorns with jetpacks. And through the library, bookstore, and internet, you can discover amazing and surprising things. And even lots of suprising and fantastic writing.

3. Try writing every kind of writing.
As my mother used to say, “Try it, you might like it.”
But each different kind of writing unlocks a different kind of door. You might not have been expecting what was behind that door, but it might be just the thing that you were looking for. Or the thing that was looking for you.

4. Don’t hang your hopes on inspiration, but rather on imagination, creative play, and developing skill. Of course, sometimes you’ll be inspired, but while you’re waiting for inspiration, play, explore, experiment. I think of this as saying, “Inspiration you’re not the boss of me.”

5. Publish and perform– make your own books, chapbooks, magazines, blogs, tumblrs, Facebook posts, texting your friends, and through open mics and readings. This is how to realize the next two pieces of advice:

6. Make or discover a community of other writers, and,

7. Make or discover an audience of readers & listeners.
It’s important to be surrounded by people who are interested in what you do and who are interested in what you are interested in.

8. Find a thoughtful, inspiring, non-patronizing mentor who’s not afraid to tell it like it is.
Maybe join a writers’ group or find a smart teacher or relative, who knows about writing. Though many people may know many things, they don’t all know about writing, though many think that they do.

And don’t be afraid to listen to the advice. But, don’t be afraid not to listen to them. Just be honest with yourself. Now that’s easy advice to follow.

9. Like most writers you may think that what you’ve written is lumpy misshapen crud, but look at it next week.

10. Like most writers, you may think that what you’ve written is better than Shakespeare, but look at it next week. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to put a piece of writing away for a little while and come back to it. Sometimes the best thing to do is to read it to someone right away.

11. Be willing to ay-dit, to ahhdit, oodit, to oditt…to edit. The difference between and good writer and a bad writer is that the good writer mines the masses of their bad writing for the few nuggets worth keeping, or finds a way to make the good bits noticeable. A bad writer just keeps it all and doesn’t change it.

12. When editing, try out other solutions. Don’t be afraid to totally change what you have written. You can’t break a piece of writing. It’s not like playing baseball with a glass unicorn. But if you do break it, you can always go back to an earlier draft.
13. Don’t hold on to your initial ideas, but be open to what you discover as you write – your writing process might know more about what’s going on than you do. You might sit down thinking that you’re going to write a poem about how much you love your dog, or a story about the hundred spiders that you found in your underwear last night, but then discover that you have something else to say. Or the words have something else to say. Go with that. Trust in the process.

14. Try to imitate other writers and don’t worry it if doesn’t end up sounding like them. Once you’ve started a bad imitation, you may find something interesting in what you’ve written. Keep going. See what happens.

15. I said this one already, but I’m going to say it again because I think it’s important: Read lots. Everywhere. In the library. Online. In bookstores. In school. On the bookshelf of your great aunt Fatima. On the bus. What do you like? What don’t you like? What writing techniques and ideas can you steal? What can you learn?

16. And buy all of my books. Give copies to your relatives. Give them two copies each. Three, even.

17. Keep writing. An Olympic runner runs and runs and runs. A writer keeps writing. It’s how you get better. It’s how you discover things. It’s how the ideas come to you. It how your imagination grows. It’s how the world gets bigger.

18. And finally, remember when you decided to build the world’s tallest Lego tower and you worked all afternoon without stopping. Write like that. Or, remember when you ate all of your Halloween candy in one night. Write like that. Or, remember when you were scared of the spiders in the basement, but you went there anyway? Write like that. Or remember when that kid said that nasty thing to you. Write like that. Or remember that thing you overheard that person say when you were downtown? Write like that. And, remember painting when you were a really little kid? You used your fingers, your nose, your little brother. You played. You experimented. You had fun. Write like that.

Congratulations to all of you and thanks for listening.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Next Big Think: Something about what I'm working on now.

Imaginary cover for my work in progress.
(thanks to Craig Conley for the six-fingered hamsa and sword)

Writers are tagging writers in this new questionnaire going around the web. What’s the next big thing we’re working on? Thanks to novelist Lauren B. Davis for tagging me!

What am I working on? The main project I'm engaged in is a novel. It's the first full length novel for adult readers that I've worked on. I've written many other kinds of books. But never this.

An excerpt of the book appears on the great online journal, Joyland. It's here.

What is your working title of your book?

Yiddish for Pirates

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Aaron, an immortal Yiddish-speaking parrot recounts (from the present day) the tale of his experiences with Moishe, a young Ashkenazi Jew who travels to Spain in the late 15th c., survives the Inquisition becomes a kind of freedom fighter, then journeys to the Americas with Columbus, becomes a pirate in the Caribbean and, with some mysterious hidden books, searches for the Fountain of Youth.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was amused and intrigued to read about the historical reality of Jewish pirates -- though in truth they existed 100 years later than when I'm writing about and mostly in the Mediterranean. And they didn't speak Yiddish. There were various theories and old wives' tales which posited that Columbus was actually Jewish, or from a converso background. The famous Nazi-hunter Simon Weisenthal even wrote a book marshalling the evidence as he saw it.

The notion of Jewish pirates seemed a rich fictional world ripe with comic possibilities. It’s also a compelling idea that some of the Jewish mariners sailed because they hoped to find a “new world” that was safe for the Jews.  I was further stuck by the fact that the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492—the exact moment when Columbus left on his voyage of discovery.  I’ve always been intrigued by the notion of crypto-Jews – hidden Jews.

There is also the matter of the European attitude toward the native peoples. What would be the relationship between my Jewish protagonist and this new persecution? In the manner of a Bildungsroman, my youth/explorer/pirate protagonist experiences the moral, social, and conceptual turbulence of the age, and develops both psychologically and morally.

It seemed an obvious (and comic) choice to have a pirate narrative told by a parrot.  He is a wise-cracking, quick-witted Greek chorus-of-one.

In terms of language, I was thinking about the tremendous vitality of both the Yiddish language and nautical argot. And about how the use of multiple languages in a single sentence make that sentence more energetic and supercharged--and rich in association. Once I started seeing how some old fashioned nautical-sounding words bumped up against Yiddish phrases, I found 'my' voice (or, actually, my parrot narrator's voice.)

I was thinking also thinking generally about identity, history, oppression, the self, masks. And money.

What genre does your book fall under?

Great Canadian Jewish pirate novel? Tragi-comic-bildungsroman-swashbuckling-metaphysical-satiric-post-colonial-linguistic best seller?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

It’s narrated by an immortal gay Yiddish speaking African Grey parrot. I’d be pretty flexible about which parrot plays the narrator and try to not to typecast. As for Moishe, my Yiddish pirate, I can imagine a cross between Woody Allen, Henny Youngman, Leonard Cohen and Jake Gyllenhaal with a bit of Errol Flynn and Johnny Depp through in for good measure. My protagonist has many qualities innocence, wonder, anger, pain, cruelty, tenderness, bitterness, nostalgia, love, humour, regret, giddiness, faithfulness...When the book begins he is thirteen. He's an old man when it ends.

There are several love interests. Only a few are parrots. The two significant women characters are a young native woman. Strong and charismatic. There is a young Spanish Jewish girl who (I think) returns (plot spoiler...) as an old woman. I'm not sure who should play these characters.

I confess that I have had a fantasy that the fantastic Coen Brothers make a film out of the book. I'd let them decide who should act in it. I mean, if they ask nicely.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have had some interesting discussions with an agent. And Johnny Depp why don't you return my calls?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Ask me in a couple months... I’ve written 82,000 words so far. I imagine the whole book being 110,000 words -- it seems that it'll will need about that much more to travel to where it needs to go. But, of course, that may change. If I come across any more great Yiddish parrot jokes.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m riffing off famous pirate books such as Sabbatini's Captain Blood and several works by Daniel Defoe. I'm inspired by the speculative history and polylinguisitc play of Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman’s Union and by Juno Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  I have also thought about Gulliver’s Travels, Candide, and a range of other models.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve written many kinds of books, but never a full length adult novel and I wanted to explore (at last for me) what was possible. I was thinking about the tremendous complexity of culture, identity, self and language.

Are we formed by language and culture and must 'parrot' our received inheritance or can we use what we have received to form our own identity and self? Is this language and culture a filter through which we see ourselves and the world? A parrot can only use the words it has learned to speak and express self, but it can use and understand this verbal repertoire in its own way. Is this how it works with us?

My own family is Eastern European Jewish. My grandparents moved from there to South Africa. My parents moved to Northern Ireland. Then we moved when I was a child, to Canada. All places rich in complexity, memory, and discrimination.  The idea of wandering, seeking a homeland, as well as marginalization has a long history in Jewish culture. The further historical vision of Jews as soldiers against hostile forces, whether in Biblical or contemporary Israel provides another context for the novel.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s full of Baroque language, terrible jokes, lots of plundered quotations and scenes, stolen poetry, blends humour with pathos, and begins with the word “Feh.”

I've tagged some writers including Jenny Hill, Gillian Chan, Marsha Skrypuch, Jennifer LoveGrove, and Stuart Ross. I'll post links as they arrive.

Sunday, October 14, 2012



a hole exists
only in something else

except what isn’t

I speak then crawl into the hole
at the end of the sentence

I like a Doric column
holding up ruins

unmoon in the sky
when sky and moon are gone

the moon not shining
the mouth gone

the apex of a pyramid
that was never built

then filled with birds

Monday, September 24, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Week Shall Inherit the Verse

Stuart Ross has a great poetry blog with a great rotten title. He has featured a bunch of great poets and excellent poems. I'm delighted to say that this week has inherited one of my verses. You can find it here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Everything Seems. China

In bed, China is a baby kitten. India purrs expectantly. America twists on its back, shows me its belly. They’re jealous. Here China. Here’s milk. Let me scratch you. Let me love you, poor frail thing. Come under my long moustache, China, for it protects those over which its thin shadow falls. My rock n’ roll hydroelectric brain, my bird’s nest calligraphic heart. Each boundary between cell wall and cell wall, the delicate tracing of ink. My nostalgia for the future. China, there you were on my doorstep. Your thin cry and scrabbling paws. The moon large. I hold you in my arms, whisper to your expanding economy, your ecological disaster, your hairball government, your hope. China, the world is large. We comfort each other.