Friday, December 11, 2020

Mike Montreuil, Jessica Moore, Tom Prime, Amelia Does + Shayne Coffin : virtual reading series #24

a series of video recordings of contemporary poets reading from their work, prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent cancellations, shut-downs and isolations; a reading series you can enjoy in the safety of your own protected space,

Mike Montreuil : “untitled” and “When you fall”

Mike Montreuil is a writer of short form poetry. He is enjoying his retirement from the Silly Service.  The Editions des petits nuages recently published Alone after being alone, A volume of the  Selected Unpublished haiku of Jocelyne Villeneuve, which he edited. Catkin Press just released his latest French-language haibun chapbook fevrier.

Jessica Moore : “Warning shot across the bow” and “Lines go blurry”

Jessica Moore is an author and literary translator. Her first book, Everything, now (Brick Books 2012), is a love letter to the dead, and a conversation with her translation of Turkana Boy (Talonbooks 2012) by Jean-François Beauchemin, for which she won a PEN America Translation award. Mend the Living, her translation of the novel by Maylis de Kerangal, was nominated for the 2016 Man Booker International and won the UK’s Wellcome Prize in 2017. She lives in Toronto, near the shores of Lake Ontario, that inland sea.

Tom Prime : “Everybody's taking pictures of me,” “Mycelian fungi links my anterior tibialis to the root system,” “Checkov was not there” and “Wintry in Telassar”

Tom Prime is a PhD candidate at Western University's English Dept. He has a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Victoria. He has been published in Carousel, Ditch, Fjords Review, The Northern Testicle, The Rusty Toque, Vallum, and Watch Your Head. His collaborative collection of poems written with Gary Barwin, A Cemetery for Holes, is available from Gordon Hill Press. He has forthcoming publications in Lana Turner and Blasted Tree Press.

Amelia Does : “Me Two,” “There Was Meat,” “Your Idea,” “The Ham Harp,” “Buffetting,” “The Impossibility of Blame,” “Two In a Car,” “Brother and Sister” and “Apricot Lessons (a story)”

Amelia Does is a writer, artist and video maker from London Ontario. Her poems have been published by above/ground press, Proper Tales Press, Acta Victoriana, and Touch the Donkey. She is author of 5 self-published books and producer of 3 feature documentary films.

Shayne Coffin : “West Highway Burying Ground,” “Meadow of the Norse,” “From Porch” and “I Dream of Edwardian Times,” from Joe Bat's Arm and Other Islands

Shayne Coffin is a writer and award-winning actor of the stage and screen. Originally from Guelph Ontario, Shayne is a graduate of Fanshawe College’s Theatre Art’s Program in London Ontario. He has published four collections of poetry including Issues of A Boarder and Words for Maureen. Shayne lives in and around Guelph Ontario.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Yvonne Blomer : Existentialism on December 1

December 1. What can we say about humans on this earth? Water crisis. Warming crisis. Pandemic. Zoo-demic. Anthropocene.

I’m walking my dog.

Nothing is harmless, everything is. We weigh and measure our choices each day. Have a dog. Hang the laundry. Own a car. Own a bicycle. Coffee to go? Get it from the café that serves in biodegradable cups because we can no longer use reusable ones.

My husband rereads Moby Dick every year. This year, he listens to it on a podcast. The whale is a whale, but the men could be read as the Anthropocene chasing the whale to find their own death. Ocean acidification. Streams lined with plastic waste. Fish’s bellies full of glitter and plastic pellets.

I walk my dog. Rather, he tows me. Out the front door, up the street to Playfair Park. Play fair humans. I toss and toss and toss his ball, then we walk to the next park, a soccer field, and toss it some more.

Sweet water. Salt water. I have stayed safely in my neighbourhood for months now. Though, over the last few years, from here, I have collected poems and made water books: Refugium and Sweet Water. Poets’ words branching from mighty Pacific to stream to watershed to creek and river and back to ocean. Voices. The poems worry over sturgeon and hidden rivers, over whales and endangered spaces.

Headline: “Mink have Coronavirus”.  I picture little white, ferret-nosed mink, but alas no – the accompanying photo is of a coat hanger filled layer on layer with the bodies of mink.

“There was a shock last week when Denmark decided to cull all its mink – up to 17 million animals – because of the spread of coronavirus. That national cull has turned into a political outcry, now that the prime minister had admitted the plan was rushed and had no legal basis.” BBC News World, November 11, 2020.

Are you kidding me?

I toss the dog’s ball. What passers by might hear is “Look out for people, Frodo.” or “This way, Frodo!” as he heads the wrong way, or “Let’s walk.” At which he grabs the ball and jauntily runs on ahead. He is muddy now, from the damp fields. The last throw flew over the fence into the Gary Oak meadow. Damn humans, damn self.  I am ashamed for letting him cavalierly jump trampling overwintering native plants, camas and lilies.

We are cavalier. Careless. Trampling is our way. Water wasters. Ocean dumpers. Lives lost and lives stolen.

I walk my dog.

We walk the carefully laid paths. A neighbour has spent years digging up invasive weeds, rejuvenating this Gary Oak meadow so camas grows in abundance each spring. I deeply and profoundly believe in this work.

It’s just past 7am. My husband has been listening to the last chapter of Moby Dick while making his toast. He stands, his large hands before him. He shakes them like a preacher, says: “The great sky-hawk pecks at the flag on Ahab’s ship and is caught in the folds of the flag and brought down with the ship.” I say: “It is a metaphor, the bird is the whole planet, and the ship is us goddamned humans taking the last creature down with us.” He says: “The ship is Satan bringing heaven down into the depths of the sea.”

Headline: “Liberal government will miss drinking water target by years, CBC News survey shows,” CBC News, November 2, 2020.

“Chippewas of Nawash is one of 41 communities contacted by CBC News that are currently on Indigenous Services Canada's long-term boil water advisory list. The community, located 57 kilometres north of Owen Sound, Ont., hugs the southeastern tip of Georgian Bay and east side of Lake Huron — some of the largest sources of freshwater in the country. Its traditional name "Neyaashiinigmiing" means a point of land surrounded on three sides by water — yet its members can't drink water from their taps.”

The poets speak of water – amniotic, oceanic, water they swim in, water they drink. A glass of water, “the unremarked and neglected/ sentry at the top of place settings,” Rhona McAdam, “By the Glass.”

It is a long straight road from Playfair to the soccer field. It cuts through my neighbourhood. Life is a long road and on it you cut through your belief systems to travel it. Don’t you? My son has low iron and he is vegetarian not by choice but because of me. To not eat animals is a significant choice on the path of helping the planet. But, we have a dog, and he is not vegetarian. Something is cancelled out there. Oh humans, we are rich conundrums. How to choose to not eat animals even still when my son’s iron levels are low? How to not sacrifice. The doctor gives new iron supplement suggestions. I hang up the phone (we can’t see our specialists in person right now). I drive him to school late. The car. The iron. The animals. Water streaming down the street as the city clears the hoses in the school field before freezing weather sets in.

I walk the dog.

The Parks department is trimming the Gary Oak outside my neighbour’s house. Is a prayer said before they start? I wonder what they are more worried about, the old senior limbs, the quaking interior going to rot, or the house, property damage, cost. I take a photo. I give a bow to the tree as its limbs fall. 

Have you read about the bird whose feet got entangled in a disposable face mask? How do you feel about that, as a human? Probably fairly shitty? Myself, I throw my arms up in the air, I fall back into a pile of leaves. In amongst the leaves are cigarette butts, bits of plastic wrapper, a granola bar wrapper, empty pop can, egg shells, an unopened kinder surprise, cellophane. Straws. Face masks. Dog poop bags left on the curb. In Refugium, Brian Campbell writes, “Little slithery ink ball,/ wings stuck. Bleats from a bird throat./ Low slow moan,” (“Slick”).

We did this. We do this. We keep doing this.

Herman Melville believed the world was man’s oyster, believed humans would never hunt out whales, there’d always be more of them. I said to my husband, “The world was white, middle class man’s oyster. Where the women? Where the poor? Where the animals in this equation?” So many of our ideas about mountains, streams, trees, bears, fish, seagulls, birds come from Victorian ideals of things here for our entertainment. We need a catastrophic change. One may have imagined Covid 19 could be it, but 17 million mink killed suggests that we’ve not even attempted to shift our world view. Yes, we are dying, this too is terrible.

The poets wonder at their own survival. In Joe Zucchiatti’s poem the family has stored their cabin’s water in “two repurposed, galvanized steel pails/ still bearing the stickers from their previous life:/ SOLVIT: Professional Rat and Mouse Killer.”  It is funny, and yet I pull the dog from roadside puddles glistening with rainbow runoff. Chernobyl, Logging, Industry.

I walk the dog.

At the next field, I release the dog, release his ball. It arcs across the sky. The sky is blue, the day cold but bright. Rare here. The dog knows the trajectory of the ball, that knowledge is in his DNA. And he does not ignore what he knows, he follows, leaps, catches it mid-fall. There are things we know we know, and yet, change is slow.

My neighbourhood urban streets look rural from google earth. Treed. Green. Each tree a canopy and each canopy bald from winter wind. The splayed lines of branches echoed underground in root systems that draw their desire lines to water. Water. Water.

The dog is thirsty. Drinks from puddles at the base of the trees.

I walk my dog. The streets interweave trails, trees, houses, Christmas decorations are up, ditches run wild from rainstorms, branches litter from wind. Big blue sky where we usually have grey rain. Frost. My thoughts are little flying creatures. My rubber boots muddied; I am one endangered blue footed human.  



Yvonne Blomer is an award-winning poet, and author of the critically acclaimed travel memoir Sugar Ride: Cycling from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur. Her most recent books of poetry include As if a Raven and the anthologies Refugium: Poems for the Pacific and Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds, which she edited for Caitlin Press. She is the past Poet Laureate of Victoria, B.C. and lives, works and raises her family on the traditional territories of the WSÁNEĆ (Saanich), Lkwungen (Songhees), Wyomilth (Esquimalt) peoples of the Coast Salish Nation.





Let me explain. Without knowing the technique that went into the construction of the little book of poems entitled Where Forth Art Though that I wrote with my mother, the title being her accidental reinterpretation of Juliet-to-Romeo’s “wherefore art thou,” one might not realize that it is organized more or less line by line, with half the lines of each poem being mine and half being hers, and these in an alternating pattern, composed in the manner of the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse.[1] Of course there was some editing so this isn’t quite exact. Nevertheless, the pattern that emerged for me, and that remains clearly visible in the published poems, was that every time I sunk a line deep into the “dark and stormy” region of my soul that, as you’ll come to understand if you keep reading, only my mother really sees very clearly, she extracted it, saving the poem, and ultimately myself, from the vortex of a despairing mood, as a bright orange life saver lobbed at the heart of the middle child. This is the kernel of what I have come to know about these strange poems.

Let me begin again: In a little book published in 1989 Georges Perec, lover of writing games, novelist, filmmaker, cruciverbalist, advocated for a quixotic attention to the ordinary: “What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we go downstairs, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed on order to sleep. How? Where? When? Why?”

One evening, about five years ago, on Galiano Island where I was spending a seaside summer week with my mother, Susan Burgoyne, ogling languorous pods of whales from a little wood deck, a misty, half-churned idea turned up at the end of a mojito. I wanted to write poetry, but I wanted to write it with my mother and see the way poems of our co-making might be as prisms, rendering the genetically-kin flow of our thoughts and similar penmanship into jewelly refractions of some deep and important consanguineous incantation. Yes, an evening spent drinking cocktails from plastic glasses with pink and yellow sailboat motifs and writing collaborative poetry, just us two, would be an excellent use of time and also a sort of “calisthenics of our creative faculties” (which is to say a hearty shift from our usual evenings spent “in the recline position,” as my mother calls it, watching trashy movies). And so, when our second mojitos attained a state of depletion, I proposed a spirited game of cadavre exquis hoping she would say yes, for the sake of poetry, Georges Perec and the Sacred Mother-Child Bond, and she did.

The next day I sent the poems (by SB and SB) to a friend who responded with an email, quoting back to me his favourite moments, a veritable poem in and of itself. I needed to know it wasn’t just me, hungover and surprised the next morning upon rereading the poems over a third cup of coffee, to find that, even with the liquor mounted in our heads, we were surprisingly able to write some less-than-trivial poems, poems I liked quite a lot, in fact. An evening of laughter, of cheap pens and cheaper paper, of poorly mixed drinks and salty air, became a highlight of both process and product in the life of a poetess. But, as we know, the heart of the poem is always lodged in the process, not the product. The poem resides in its own making. This evening proved that to me. The poem was altogether the laughter, the relationship. But mostly it was love.

Years later, with 4433 km now between us, our merry-making relegated to phone calls spent discussing health, work, pandemics, politicians, and the latest TV shows, I saw the totality of poems as a script, map or code for a dynamic my mother and I move quietly within: in the time span of my life, I have been labelled, on several occasions, by my mother, with, I believe, a Snoopy reference embedded, as “dark and stormy.” No one else in my life sees me this way.[2] And the dynamic is that when I enter these storms, she calls me from a threshold, one we call humour, to come inside.

I realize this essay may seem a little dramatique, and indeed, now my reputation may be marred or “adjusted,” or perhaps those who read this and know me will wonder if this is not a little bit put on, but that is neither here nor there. The fact I would like to resonate with you, readers, strangers, strange friends, is that the true magic at the heart of the poems of our collaborative chapbook Where Forth Art Though, is the humour with which my mother, Susan Burgoyne, employed time and again during my existence, and still now, to pluck my sorry soul from life’s harder waters—to follow a line like, “Jump. It’s never too high or too scary when / you’re not alone” with “SUICIDE THWARTED (OR) DON’T JUMP.” My friend, a new mother herself, suggests that this may merely be the natural perspective of the maternal role. But I’d like to go with the idea that it is because she sees something about me clearly that others do not. The precipice is closer than it appears. This is my answer to Perec’s “why”: I eat, I walk, I lie down to sleep because someone, my mother, taught me how to laugh at myself. Or, as my mother commented in an unsolicited but appreciated edit of this essay: “It is not dissimilar to the constrast of the dramatic foreboding description of a ‘dark and stormy night’—written by a loveable beagle, on a doghouse…with a typewriter. The essence of pathos is situated in humour and love, hopefully to illustrate a contextual perspective that counterbalances despair.”

In his email responding to the poems, most of the quoted lines were in fact my mother’s contributions, which made me really happy. The poet, and the poem, are altogether too self-serious; rarely do we find ourselves “situated in humour and love” in our at times gloomy practice. We know it’s true. And, in this way, like Perec says, we cease to question what has stopped astonishing us. Astonishment needs a revival. And sometimes, the most astonishing thing is humour where you don’t expect or even think you don’t want it. We know we all mistake or at least mistook “wherefore art thou” in Shakespeare’s play for “where the hell are you” when what it really means is why are you. Wherefore art though? Why art though? What I didn’t know was the art, the lift, had been in the patterning all along.


Sarah Burgoyne, December 2020





Sarah and Susan Burgoyne's chapbook Where Forth Art Though came out with above/ground press in 2020. Sarah Burgoyne's second manuscript, Because the Sun, is forthcoming with Coach House Books. You can find more of her work at

Photo credit: Laurence Philomene


[1]    Should you want to play, I will explain it: on separate pieces of paper, each writer writes a line and a word below it; a line, once written, is folded back, so that the other writer has only the hastily scrawled word to go off to inspire the next line, (speed is of the essence in this game) which is then also folded back, and so on and so forth, until each paper is filled with words or maybe poetry. The papers, once unfurled, have a pleasing accordion-like shape due to all the folding, and they keep well in wallets and diaries like secrets or talismans.

[2]     Or perhaps (hopefully) only see me this way sometimes and those times being after a particularly long day or if I were to find a spider carcass in my wine or a band-aid in my takeout.

Shane Rhodes : excerpt from It’s Here All The Beauty I Told You About



Author’s Note:

This excerpt is from a manuscript in progress which works with one of the most popular Western pulp novels ever writ- ten—Shane (1949) by Jack Schaefer—and Western comics published in Canada from the 1940s and 1950s.

This project is deeply personal. Parts of my life could well have come from the plot of a cheap Western: I was named after Shane and come from a long line of alcoholics, farmers and ranchers. Growing up a white settler in the West means I lived most of my life in an imaginary landscape that hovered above the real. Attempting to see behind this painted screen is to try to see how Westerns (whether they be novels, movies or comics, old or new) continue to obscure and rewrite the history of North American colonization and settlement and the racism that fuels them. It’s Here All The Beauty I Told You About tries to unravel some of this, and see how settler stories of the Great Plains function within the larger apparatus of colonial mythmaking.






This is occupation
I said, square by square, song
By song.

We held each other
As we had asked to be
In the exit interview,

Our shirts buttoned
So they’d remain fastened

As we passed over the nail strips

Laid across the highway.|
The restrictions
Of the authorizations

We issued, were issued, our bodies
Lit by the soft
Searchlights scanning

The fence line. I will
Endeavour, I said,
To be a stronger

Citizen, my commitment
To annihilation
More true.



A woman in a hazmat suit finds a tooth in soft, sifted shovel-fulls of dirt.

The saskatoon berries near the concession fenceline, heavy with sugar and seed.

Still surprised by the force of it, a man tears up describing the life of his mother.

On this highway, you mustn’t stop to pick up ghosts.





Shane Rhodes is the author of six books of poetry, including Dead White Men, which won the 2018 Ottawa Book Award. Shane has also won the Alberta Book Award, the P. K. Page Founder's Award for Poetry and a National Magazine Gold Award. Shane lives in Ottawa, on unceded Algonquin, Anishinabek territory.

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