Thursday, August 5, 2021

Tom Konyves: Me and ME (Mouse Eggs): a Booster Shot




Thank you rob mclennan for providing the second dose to keep the Mouse Eggs phenomenon alive (the first dose was manufactured last year by Endre Farkas who resuscitated a dormant mouse – the Phoenix Rising Issue). A phenomenon it was, make no mistake. If there was any doubt that poetry was alive and well in the late ‘70s Montreal, the dozen or so issues of this rat mag whose initials screamed “ME!” (I Am Poetry!) put that to rest.

 I am breathless flipping through the pages (clicking through the screens)

Mouse Eggs was, simultaneously, an open and closed magazine. As such, it was a metaphor for many poetry-related truths: here the ego, there the id; above all, it became autonomous, a being-in and unto itself, a character of its own (its outward appearance accurately rendered on each cover by Marc Nerenberg).

Like Tristram Shandy, Mouse Eggs described its own birth – in the first issue, five of the 7 Vehicule Poets wrote a short quixotic poem, titled TCAKA (Tom, Claudia, Andre (Endre), Ken, Artie). This was the tzimtzum, a kabbalistic term for contraction, (in order to allow for a "conceptual space" in which finite and seemingly independent realms could exist. Mouse Eggs became that conceptual space.)

The next step of the “conception” was the first assignment: each poet would submit a poem on the theme of “8 ½ by 11”, the frame of the poem. Interestingly, it was Artie Gold’s “Poem on an 8&½ by 11” that described the generation of TCAKA, how we five ‘passed around this notebook of Claudia’s…’ and how Artie got bored and, after the second round, wrote ‘the end/ last line by Artie!’ How he would always want to have the last word and what that said about him and us. (At poetry readings, the order of readers usually leads to the final poet, considered the most popular, sometimes the “featured” if not the best. It was the position most desired.)

Here too probably for the first time, he’s wrestling with the notion of a group that would have its apotheosis in his writing the introduction to John McAuley’s 1979 anthology, The Vehicule Poets (it was the necessary and sufficient condition for the publication). So here he is, 4 years earlier, with ‘what we were doing, being apart, yes, but being apart-together.’ Then there is a big space, a long moment. He adds, ‘Is the business of the individual to each who is among a group, separately rise above it, yes, let us tower, conjoin our separate erections of the spirit, making an unbreakable parable in 5 by 1…’ but by that point he had lost it, he realized he was being thrown back upon the originating idea of 8 ½ by 11 which had now emerged as 5 by 1. The parable was broken.

And so, in that first issue, there are 5 poems with that title in the same order as the original TCAKA poem (which closes the issue). Again, Artie got the last word, “After me… the absolute deluge… (actual end) .”

Ken Norris sensed the spiritual significance  of the moment:

                                         “In the beginning was the Verb
        and the Verb was

What followed was “outrageous” writing, the more outrageous the better.

Issue after issue, a self-reflexive reference bled purple from its noxious pages. Ken wrote a poem that was not by me, I wrote a poem by (the one…and only…) DITTO. Let the machine speak for itself.

Issue after issue, testaments to this city’s beating heart: “Dante’s Inferno is selling at Cheap Thrills for 49¢.” I marked the events of note in 1977: “What was dada in “The Dada Show”? Nothing. What was not dada? Dada.” It was a word to separate, like Quebec from Canada, poems from poems, poets from poets. It was what was going on in Montreal at the time.

Our gallery, Vehicule Art, was what was going on in Montreal at the time. As in poetry at Vehicule, Sundays at 2. Or the press, Vehicule Press, that published our first books. Or performance at Vehicule, tonight 8 pm. Or, in my case, video at Vehicule, grab a portapak and become a visual/video poet. Or take a poem and put it on the buses. A thousand buses. Access to the means of production, that was Vehicule. Some people didn’t like it. Those fucking Vehicule Poets. What did we stand for that was so out of favour, out of flavour? Louis Dudek knew there was more to us than being wild. (Check out “A Real Good Goosin’: Talking Poetics with the Vehicule Poets”)

As for Peter Van Toorn’s separation of (our) messies from (their) neats, it was an attempt to quell a rebellion that had turned against a stifling convention that privileged praise and harmony in verse. While we revelled in the ironic, we rebelled against the academic. Everything was on the table:

                                                   Though the dawn
slips in
                                                         like a kiss/

We   need less

criptive poetry

                                                                                  Artie Gold

That we didn’t mind being identified as the “other” couldn’t have been very satisfying to them; a beautiful butterfly had landed on our shoulder, not theirs.

We had only to name it 8 ½ by 11 and it became a space for a poem. The aesthetic qualities were almost guaranteed – as sure as eggs is eggs – no one was expecting THIS. It was unfamiliar territory and we wanted it to stay that way.






Tom Konyves is a Canadian writer, poet, videopoet and videopoetry theorist. In 1978, he coined the term videopoetry to describe his first interdisciplinary work, Sympathies of War, and is considered to be “one of the original pioneers of the form”. In 2008, he began research in the field of videopoetry, publishing the groundbreaking “Videopoetry: A Manifesto” in 2011 to define the hybrid genre, assign constraints and categories to differentiate its various manifestations and specificities.

Kōan Anne Brink : A few notes on The End of Lake Superior




I've been in close proximity lately to the Pacific Ocean, a body of water which I did not live close to growing up, but often dreamed about traveling to. It still feels like a treat to be near it. A kind of childlike rush floods my body as I drive over the crest of the hill; a silver sheen begins to unravel below the truck, making its way toward me.

As a child the closest I came to "the ocean" was more often Lake Superior, a huge, freshwater lake leftover from the last Ice Age. To small eyes, it was how an ocean was supposed to look by simple definition: no land on the horizon. The small city of Duluth, Minnesota, a place I visited frequently with my family, remains the furthest inland port in the U.S., its large iron ore ships floating between the locks and canals of the Great Lakes all the way to Quebec City. I remember placing my hands in the water and thinking about how the water I touched would eventually touch the ocean, and by way of this motion, we were connected.

When I read back over these poems, I feel a melancholy swimming inside them, at both times floating and quickly moving. They might be the leftover sounds or pieces of light from a dream that want to escape the room. The room is a farmhouse—maybe that of my grandparents in Northeastern Iowa—surrounded by a field of snow that has frozen into a kind of paralyzed inland sea. For most of my life I have felt as if I was looking out the window of this house, the "real" sea a place of longing I constructed in my mind, a kind of coping mechanism, a faraway heaven. I like to think we each have an interior sea within us, the place we go to when the present feels like too much. 

My friend the poet Eric Baus once described making poems as building "a second kind of body" when in pain (or I think of any intense sensation, a mark of being alive at all). These poems in particular feel like a series of cocoons I lived inside for a very long time, each one its own, singular universe. I love the Buddhist cosmology of the possibility of heaven and hell realms existing simultaneously, and that there are also entire worlds blooming and dying within each second. It seems accurate that a winter field then, for example, could be both a heaven and hell realm in the same instant on earth, and that a poem can also function this way.






Kōan Anne Brink was born and raised in Minnesota. They are the Art Writing Fellow at The Cooper Union and a lay ordained Sōtō Zen student. their chapbook, The End of Lake Superior, is new from above/ground press. They live in Santa Fe. 



Kim Fahner : ICQ, by Matthew Walsh

ICQ, Matthew Walsh
Anstruther, 2021






Matthew Walsh’s new chapbook, ICQ, is another Anstruther beauty. I’m more and more fond of chapbooks these days because they feel more intimate to me, as if you’ve been invited into the poet’s mind and heart. This is the case with ICQ. There are just twelve poems, so you feel gathered in and confided in. Walsh uses elegant couplets throughout the collection. Swimming the other morning, in a Northern Ontario lake, I saw a couple of loons in flight. I felt that their flight, as a pair, was a bit like Walsh’s use of couplets as a set form in ICQ—so elegant and graceful on the white space of the page, an almost visual respite in a challenging pandemic year.

I need to admit that I’m a fierce fan of Walsh’s poetry, and that I really loved These are not the potatoes of my youth. Like that book, this one is also confessional in tone. ICQ is about trying to find out who you are, where and when you can safely be yourself, and how we all seek a path to walk through this life. The poem that opens the chapbook is “Mystery,” a piece that speaks to the complexity of romantic relationships. Here, a boyfriend “has no ears” to listen when the speaker tries “to explain/the verb of my own heart.” There it is—that quickly and deftly turned Walsh line that pierces you when you least expect it while reading. In “Ellipses,” Walsh writes of how religion harms self-expression, especially in terms of sexuality. They write: “it was as if talk of the human//body was denied due to internal error or the mixture/of Catholicism and shame in knowing you genuflect//in a building to worship a man who lives in the sky.”

Someone’s need to hide their true identity, because of society’s ridiculous and archaic hang ups with sex, is further explored in “Soft Core,” when Walsh writes “I had never seen this before, the moment my desires/were on screen like this” and “my mistake was accepting opinion of others/to be true when the only true thing is I am living.” Further, they write: “I wish I could have let it be known/that I was queer earlier in my memory.” Then, in “Iamb,” the quiet moment of certain realization is written down: “I realized that I found my people much later in life/and that I can make choices for myself.” These journeys that we go on take up so much of our lives, and we keep evolving as we go, even if there is a great deal of pain in the middle of the growth spurts that we encounter.

The world of cell phones and social media—along with the duelling notions of human isolation and connectivity—plays a key role in ICQ, which is internet language for “I seek you.” Internet dating is common now, and people are tethered to their phones in a way that has only increased in recent years. In “Desire,” during sex, the speaker says, “like the internet I open window/after window after window.” In “Pea Cloud,” auto-correct in a text message changes “I think I am working through/Mon-Thurs to I am ethereal,” further underlining the way in which we confuse ourselves with the way we speak, write, and communicate with one another. In “Mystery,” again, Walsh ponders: “It’s weird to think humans created language/yet we can’t speak to each other—it’s like texting.” We lose and then re-make meaning in new ways when we communicate through electronic devices, perhaps more often muddying the water of meaning than we can ever really know.

Deep undercurrents of beauty run through ICQ when Walsh conjures up “a perfectly laid out deer/skeleton near dark,” a “world where you can’t tell ocean from sky,” and “if my body was dot dot dot it was punctuation, ellipses.” In “Desire,” they write of “spring blossoms in the air, Alexander Keith’s, white moths/catching moonlight while he ate the apple off the knife.” In “Pea Cloud,” there is “an affinity to rise from the ocean//feeling like I was born, made of sea foam, cloud.” Walsh has a way with images, so that a sunrise after a night of lovemaking is remembered vividly as “this baby/blue, then pink” seeping “out from what was the pupil//of the sky over Lake Ontario.” Their work is stunning and fresh at every turn of line, couplet, and page.

While this chapbook contains just twelve poems, Matthew Walsh’s ICQ is honest, poignant, and feels substantial in the themes it addresses. Reading it just makes a person wish that the next full- length collection was already here. This is a chapbook that will hopefully lead to more work. For me, as a keen reader of poetry, that time can’t come quickly enough.






Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario. She was poet laureate in Sudbury from 2016-18, and was the first woman appointed to the role. Kim's latest book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019). She's a member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Ontario representative of The Writers' Union of Canada (2020-22), and a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Kim can be reached via her author website at

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