Standing On The Shoulders Of Our Mentors

Marvin Bell died yesterday. A poetic giant has fallen. His Dead Man poems are everything good poetry is about: deeply imagistic, humane, formally ambitious, culturally significant, political without pretension, and on and on. It is the work of a lifetime. His death made me realize most of my poetic mentors are now gone. Hayden Carruth. Mark Strand. Philip Levine. And now Marvin Bell.…

Red Rover, Red Rover by Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok’s forthcoming collection of poetry Red Rover Red Rover with Copper Canyon Press (January 2021) is a treasure-house of irrational wordplay and imagistic plenitude. Hicok has staked his career across nine books and this, his tenth collection, reinforces his title as a master of idiom. He is the grand poobah of high and low speech. A modern guru of strange impulses and even more surprising associations.…

Side Effects May Include Strangers By Dominik Parisien

I have to admit I was not prepared for how exquisite the first poem “Let Us For A Moment Call This Pain By Other Words” is in Dominik Parisien’s debut poetry collection Side Effects May Include Strangers out with McGill-Queen’s University Press. It is the kind of poem that, for a poet when you read it, it gives you an immediate sense of satisfaction, and also tendrils of envy which for me marks the quality of an excellent poem.…

The Only Card In A Deck of Knives by Lauren Turner

her debut collection The Only Card In A Deck of Knives out with Wolsak &Wynn publishers, the poet Lauren Turner takes us “to the edge of something” as she writes in the first line of her poem “If You Haven’t Found Me Yet, Say Good-bye”. But what that something is – gendered illness, vulnerability, anger, personal relationships — changes throughout the collection.…

Spotlight Poem #3: “Standing together against ourselves” by Bob Hicok


When an apple starts to form on the mountain
behind my back or you cross the street
to my left and we nod or a bird stops singing,
takes out a notebook and writes, What is this idea
of color, tears out the page, folds it
into a smaller bird the wind picks up and carries
to my shoulder, my face is the same neighborhood,
the same gathering of lips and blue eyes
and white cheeks as when the bird unfolds
and I can’t answer the question any better
than the last time a body wasn’t cherished
enough for me or ten thousand three hundred
and thirty-three people like me to stand
outside of congress and strip down
to the shield of invisibility we have worn
since we were born, hold our faces in unison,
as a single shape or continent of flesh,
and in a voice as clear and morning-loved,
morning-lifted as every and any bird, as each
and all the trills of song seeking song,
seeking life, seeking more, say,
Murder is not the shelter our sleep
has sought, A gun is not a principle
of democratic thought, A club is not an imprint
of civility, and offer our bodies, which are light
moving through time, stars come to rest
in a blue harbor, in defense of those who are like us
in every way a clock understands, in every respect
a scalpel might save a life, in every instinct
the moon has to pull the water of our hearts
closer to its dreaming, and be with
rather than without, among and not apart,
and love such that we can be loved.…

A Meta-Textual Hive: Double Self-Portrait By James Lindsay

In his poem “Survivors” from the collection Double Self-Portrait out in August with Wolsak &Wynn, the poet James Lindsay writes,  “It’s suspect to trust any type of identification that isn’t self-applied.” Thus in his book, aliens resemble humans, computers are likened to the human brain, children are and are not their parents in miniature; and memories have more to do with a nostalgic self negotiating a present moment than the brute fact of vanished days.…

Confessions of A Prize-Winning Poet

When my first book came out, I was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as “an up and coming young Canadian poet to watch out for” simply by having the good luck to land on a few awards lists. My book Bonfires, published by Nightwood Editions, was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award and won the CAA poetry award in 2004.…

Spotlight Poem #3: “Tough and rumble” by Alice Burdick

Tough and rumble

A view of waves & breaks,

sword into fog. A child in a seat

talks to a child in another seat.

The bicyclist drops a bag of paper

lanterns and they roll through the intersection at dusk,

little white globes of light.

Some people are scared of custard tarts.

Tan nightingale, star on rotation.

The lake laked in sideways waves,

train a view of metal with people

on the hurtle.…

We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite by Conyer Clayton

first line from the poem “Seeds” in Conyer Clayton’s debut collection We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite out with Guernica Editions is “I pray to catch on fire” which puts me in mind of Gwendolyn MacEwen’s lines, “who made me as the world’s / first person, breathing / Fire and poetry.”

Perhaps it is not the same thing, but Conyer Clayton’s new collection reminds me a little of Gwendolyn MacEwen’s poetry in its surprising, less-tangible, lyrically-dense, deeply interior images, but also of Ruth Stone’s In The Next Galaxy in its spare structures and short line breaks.…

If You Discover A Fire Cover Image

If You Discover A Fire by Shaun Robinson

In his first poetry collection If You Discover A Fire from Brick Books, Shaun Robinson spins out poems that describe, in precise detail, a faded and fallen world. Larry Levis once said, ”There are places where the eye starves”, but in Robinson’s capable hands even the most mundane or pedestrian of settings feels haunted by his careful attention to the right word and image.…

Curtis LeBlanc’s Birding In The Glass Age Of Isolation

Curtis LeBlanc’s Birding In The Glass Age of Isolation, mental illness, masculinity, and storytelling are all explored in this worthy follow-up to his first book Little Wild (2018). Like the hunters he writes about, LeBlanc practices patience and careful observations leading readers through poem after poem as he seeks a verbal equivalent for the anxiety he feels.

Clearly one of LeBlanc’s triggering subjects for his poetry is his father, and it ignites one of the best poems in the collection “On Seeing My Father In Brueughel’s Winter Landscape With Skaters And A Bird Trap”.…

In The Vicinity of Riches by Chris Hutchinson

Skyping Dionysus

In The Vicinity of Riches by Chris Hutchinson is a poetry collection that takes a hard look at Late Stage Capitalism through the jaundiced eye of a poet whose Romantic sensibilities are constantly under attack by a society obsessed with virtual fame, iPhones, petrochemicals and antidepressants.

The speaker of these poems is bone-weary, cynical, emotionally distant, but beneath all of the skepticism is still a beleaguered belief in art.…

So Distant Like This: April is Poetry Month!

is April 1st and Poetry Month is upon us. Art seems more important than ever as people are sharing free music concerts and homebrewed poetry videos around the world. During these unprecedented times, I think of a little poem by the poet Hayden Carruth that goes like this:

Hey Basho, you there!
I’m Carruth. Isn’t it great,
so distant like this

This is a playful little haiku perfect for social isolation as it reminds us of the immense power of poetry, and how it connects us over distances, and even centuries.…

Spotlight Poem #2: “Trivia Night” by Shaun Robinson

The poem “Trivia Night” by Shaun Robinson comes from his wonderful new poetry collection If You Discover A Fire out with Brick Books later this spring. A review is forthcoming!


It’s important to get things wrong,

even if it feels like fighting

with a lover, forgetting important dates

and the names of her friends,

and she thinks it means you don’t care.…

The Voice That Is Great Within Us: Poetry And Voice

One of the last books the late American poet Tony Hoagland left us with was his slim volume of essays and writing exercises called The Art of Voice. In its contents, he says a convincing poetic voice, “can be embodied through a kind of stuttering hesitation, or by a spontaneous uncensoredness, or as a deepening tangle of psychology. It can be performed as anxiety, or carefree light-headedness, or as overconfident swagger, or as steady, painstaking thoughtfulness” (9).…