Wednesday, February 9, 2022

R. Kolewe, Nate Logan, Katie Naughton, Sue Bracken + Catherine Hunter : virtual reading series #28

a series of video recordings of contemporary poets reading from their work, originally 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,

R. Kolewe : “Four Scatters from a notebook with the word Breeze on the cover”

R. Kolewe has published three collections of poetry, Afterletters (Book*hug 2014), Inspecting Nostalgia (Talonbooks 2017) and The Absence of Zero (Book*hug 2021) as well as several chapbooks. He lives in Toronto.

Nate Logan : “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” “Diner,” and “Laura Described Poetry”

Nate Logan is the author of Small Town (The Magnificent Field, 2021) and Inside the Golden Days of Missing You (Magic Helicopter Press, 2019). He teaches at Franklin College and Marian University.

Katie Naughton : “Study,” “debt ritual: drift” and “debt ritual: grain”

Katie Naughton is the author of the chapbook Study (above/ground press, 2021). Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Bennington Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Jubilat, Tagvverk, and elsewhere. She is at work on two collections of poems, “Debt Ritual” and “the real ethereal,” which was a finalist for the 2021 Nightboat Poetry Prize and Autumn House Press Book Prize. She is the publicity editor for Essay Press, editor and project manager at the HOW(ever) and How2 Digital Archive Project (launching in 2022), and founder of Etcetera, a web journal of reading recommendations from poets ( She lives in Buffalo, NY, where she is a doctoral candidate in the Poetics program at SUNY – Buffalo.

Sue Bracken : “Little Victories,” “The Evolution of Feathers” and “Frequent Flyer”

Sue Bracken’s work has appeared in GUEST [a journal of guest editors], Hart House Review (forthcoming 2022), Dusie (forthcoming 2022), Touch the Donkey, WEIMAG, The New Quarterly, Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology (Mansfield Press), The Totally Unknown Writer’s Festival 2015: Stories (Life Rattle Press) and other publications. Her first collection of poems When Centipedes Dream was published by Tightrope Books in 2018.

Sue lives and writes in Toronto in a home overthrown by artists and animals.

Catherine Hunter : two poems from St. Boniface Elegies (2019): “Submission” and “Irish Studies”

Catherine Hunter is a poet and fiction writer who teaches creative writing at the University of Winnipeg. Her most recent book, St. Boniface Elegies (Signature, 2019), won Manitoba’s Lansdowne Poetry Prize and was short-listed for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. Her short story “Calling You” (Prairie Fire, Spring, 2020) won gold in the National Magazine Awards. Her books are Latent Heat, Lunar Wake, and Necessary Crimes (poems) and After Light, In the First Early Days of My Death, Queen of Diamonds, The Dead of Midnight, and Where Shadows Burn (fiction).

Sunday, February 6, 2022



In memory of Louis Dudek, on his 104th birthday



I went out of my way to study with Louis Dudek. It wasn’t just happenstance.

I first heard of and became aware of Dudek as the teacher of Leonard Cohen. At the age of sixteen I was a Leonard Cohen fanboy. And I knew that Cohen had attended McGill University and studied with this professor named Louis Dudek. Dudek had also published Cohen’s first book, Let Us Compare Mythologies, in the McGill Poetry Series.

Originally, I wasn’t supposed to attend McGill University for my Ph.D. I was supposed to be going to York University and taking Frank Davey’s graduate Canadian Poetry seminar.

So, in the summer of 1975, I was doing advanced reading for that course while still living in Montreal with my new girlfriend Barbara. We were living in an apartment up on Cote des Neiges.

Reading ahead for Davey’s course is how I first encountered Dudek’s poetry. I was reading “the white book”: The Collected Poems of Louis Dudek. And I was really impressed by what I was reading.

The early lyrics were magnificent. And then there was a long poem called Europe. And then there was another long poem called En Mexico. By the time I got to Atlantis I was at least a fan, possibly a disciple. And Atlantis just wiped me out. Several years later, I was deeply gratified when bpNichol told me that the Epilogue to Atlantis was one of the greatest achievements in Canadian poetry. I agreed and agree with that completely.

My life got rewritten on a morning in late August. I was alone in the apartment when the phone rang (Barbara was down in Toronto, looking for an apartment for us). On the phone was Archie Malloch, who was the graduate director of the English department at McGill.

After exchanging greetings, he said to me, “I’m afraid I spoke too soon when I said we didn’t have a teaching assistantship for you. Someone has dropped out of the program, and I can offer you one now. You’re still coming, right?”

I paused for a moment, then decided to tell the truth. “Well, actually, I sent a letter declining admission back in May, because there wasn’t a teaching assistantship,” I admitted.

“We never received it,” Professor Malloch said.

Pause. Think. “Okay, then I never sent it,” I said.

And so it was resolved. I would be a candidate in the Ph.D. program at McGill. The teaching assistantship at York was $2,400, at McGill $7,000. It really was a no-brainer. I called Barbara and told her to come home, we were staying in Montreal.


After Labour Day, it was time for me to check in with McGill.

There were three fateful meetings to have.

The first was with Professor Archie Malloch, who supervised teaching assistants. He welcomed me to the program, then asked me if I had any preferences for courses I’d like to be an assistant to. On a whim, I said Canadian Literature.

“That’s great,” he said, “no one ever asks for that.”

I was then on to meet Professor David Williams, who was the Chair of the English Department. He welcomed me to the program, then gave me a fifteen minute lecture on how, to be successful at literary studies at the Ph.D. level, you had to have a methodology. It wasn’t enough to just love reading books. I assured him that I would develop an adequate methodology (I did: it was literary history).

I’d timed things right. I appeared at the door of Professor Dudek’s office just as he was beginning office hours. I knocked, and was told to enter.

It was a big office, on the second floor of the Arts Building, that members of the English department are probably still fighting over. There were big bookshelves, and behind the desk there were large windows, with an amazing view of the campus and of downtown Montreal.

And behind the desk was Professor Dudek.

I introduced myself, and quickly handed over a copy of  my first poetry book, Vegetables.

Before I could even get comfortable in the situation, he said, “Give me some time to read this. Come back next week.”

Our first meeting had lasted all of two minutes. Not promising.


Nevertheless, I returned the following week.

This time he motioned me to the student chair. He allowed me to get settled before he started speaking.

“Your book reminds me of Joe Rosenblatt,” he said.

I hadn’t yet read any Joe Rosenblatt, so I had no idea what this meant.

“Pop Art gestures. You aren’t going to get very far writing poems about vegetables.”

Did I ask Why not? I don’t think so. I was intimidated. I was still a kid. What did I know about poetry?

Dudek rose from his chair. It was my first glimpse of how tall he was. He walked to the window and gestured towards the outside. “There’s the world. Why don’t you write about it?”

It seemed like a reasonable suggestion.

The conversation moved on. I told him I was a Ph.D student in the program and proposed to write a Ph.D. dissertation on D.H. Lawrence.

“The fiction or the poetry?” he asked.

“Probably the poetry,” I replied.

“As you probably know, there are no formal classes for Ph.D. students. You can audit my graduate class in Modernist Poetry if you like.”

I told him that I would like to do that.

I also told him that I’d been reading his Collected Poems and that I thought he was a fine poet.

He told me when the graduate seminar met, in his office (his office was big enough for a small class to meet there), and wished me good day.


As I got to know Louis, he began to school me in Can Lit. I was like a sponge, soaking up everything. In fairly short order, he knew that I was a both a poet and a cultural activist. He started to educate me in the work that needed doing.

He began to school me in what I have always called The Five Missions. They are the tasks I would have to undertake as a Canadian writer. They were the tasks that Dudek, himself, had already fulfilled.

The first mission was simply being the writer, being the poet. Canada wasn’t exactly an hospitable environment. He taught me that I would have to be self-motivating while also developing a very thick skin and a will to survive.

The second mission was to be a literary magazine editor. There were very few outlets at the time for Canadian writing, and writers needed to run magazines.

They also needed to run publishing houses. Dudek and Layton and Souster (and later Peter Miller) had set the finest example for literary publishing with Contact Press. They started Contact Press because Dudek and Souster could only get chapbooks published by Ryerson Press, and Layton could not get anyone to publish him in Canada at all. In later years, Robert Creeley would regale me with stories of how he came to publish Irving in the 1950s.

The fourth mission was to be a reviewer. If writers did not review Canadian books, no one reviewed Canadian books. I was happy to have found a place at The Montreal Gazette under the tutelage of Doris Giller. The good news was that I could write the necessary reviews, and also get paid for doing so.

The fifth mission was to teach Can Lit. It was now my specialty.

At the time, I acknowledged that Dudek had to perform all five missions. I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to, or that I needed to. Maybe a few things were beginning to change. Maybe, by 1980, we had some book reviewers and some Can Lit specialists.

Looking back, I see that I fulfilled all five missions. Not necessarily all the time for a lifetime, but at points in time. I’ve been a practicing and publishing poet for forty-eight years now. With my American friend Jim Mele, I ran the magazine CrossCountry for close to a decade. I participated in the running of other poetry magazines like Mouse Eggs and Somewhere Across The Border. Jim and I ran CrossCountry Press for a decade, producing twenty-three titles. Along with Endre Farkas and Artie Gold, I was a poetry editor at Vehicule Press from 1975 to 1981. I “assisted” Endre Farkas in running his publishing house, The Muses’ Company, from 1980 to 1995. I wrote an abundant amount of newspaper reviews for The Montreal Gazette under the tutelage of Book Review Editor Doris Giller. And I taught Canadian Literature (and Creative Writing) at the University of Maine for thirty-three years.

Louis Dudek taught at McGill for thirty-three years, and I taught at U. Maine for thirty-three years. Teaching thirty-four years just wasn’t possible. I didn’t want to attempt to go past him, even in that small regard.







Ken Norris was born in New York City in 1951. He came to Canada in the early 1970s, to escape Nixon-era America and to pursue his graduate education. He completed an M.A. at Concordia University and a Ph.D. in Canadian Literature at McGill University. He became a Canadian citizen in 1985. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Maine, where he taught Canadian Literature and Creative Writing for thirty-three years. He currently resides in Toronto.







The surface of the lake riffles in the morning breeze —
Boats burble at their moorings.

I woke feeling particularly white, visiting
This lake, sleeping in a cabin nestled among other cabins.

We’ve been coming here for years.
A bird cleaves the sky; it’s today.

I’m acutely aware imagination shapes the land and the lakes;
how we claim space or know our place requires our presence.

I know this lake is older than the name it bears,
That it was known by another name long before any Millers showed up,

But I don’t know what that name is; and I want to sit here next to the lake,
Read my book, and think.

A loon stitches the surface of the water
And trees along the opposite shore.



Because it is summer
I can enter this lake,
And because of my privilege

When I enter this lake
It is another lake my

Privilege cannot see
In which I find myself.

Privilege is blind, an
Agent bestowed upon

Me by my age. I know
About it because others

Know — others always
Know what I do not.

And they tell me what
I need to know. Here

Inside this lake is another
Lake, and I may or may

Not know it is into this lake
I emerge, submerged

In the present, where it is
Quiet and murky, and

There is a history, even if
I cannot see it entirely.

Please tell me what it is.



Birch bark became to middle with green,
Which also became to muddle with sky.
Perhaps we can remember everything together;

Work hard, ignore what we think is real, rely on the possibilities
The shifting ground has. Doesn’t every

Square inch of ground contain multitudes?
One does not contain multitudes by saying so:

Language is finite, it stops bodies from walking through open doors.
It is a privilege. And to have the privilege to say privilege —

Doors must have walls to frame them, and walls will frame a body
So a body can sit indoors and watch the sudden arrival of rain

Greening the grass and the leaves trembling the limits of branches
And contemplate long enough to compose a poem.



We remember fewer birds now
But their songs ring out. They
Are framed by what we see,

By what we think we know.
But they are still birds. We are

Still people, living our lives
And either listening or not,

Move through time. Will
The fear of saying the wrong

Thing ever pass? It is impossible
Not to say the wrong thing.

Power is inherent to language.
It is impossible not to give the

Birds what we want them to have,
Things they never asked for,

Or want, or even need. To make
Them human, even if we don’t

Think they are. Description as
Denaturalization — the function

Of language — how it ascribes,
It captures, it colonizes, whether

A bird or another, it makes
That other yours.



The truth of the matter:
We are engaged in a civil war of memory.
I want to see a landscape for what it is

Full of presence and erasure
I want to know the truth of a place

As much as I want to live in it.
I want this lake to be mine

A body inside my body
As my body can be inside its body

And allow other bodies to do the same.





Jay Millar lives in Toronto where he is the co-publisher at Book*hug Press. His most recent book is I Could Have Pretended to Be Better than You: New and Selected Poems (Anvil Press, 2019).

most popular posts