Saturday, April 23, 2022

Amanda Earl : Am I Too Blue For You





after Lucinda Williams

for Steven

I need to be a better poet if the good poets are dying too soon. I only have so much time left. None of the above is acceptable. The language isn’t specific, it’s dull. My subject is banal. I haven’t made this into a poem just a box to stow away my feelings. A ham-fisted elegy to a friend who I’d rather be e-mailing. He’s become another ghost in my inbox.

I’d like the scotch neat please. a toast to a kin(dred), even though alcohol is forbidden to me now. I will have to drink his heady words instead, returning to the dog-eared pages of his books and the inscriptions he wrote to me and dated, so I remember each time I saw him, each conversation in the Royal Oak, at the National Library, in hospitality suites in Ottawa and Kingston, on a train heading west.

I was thinking of my friend off and on this spring as the snow melted and the sidewalks cleared. I told him about the scooters when they first appeared in Ottawa. He seemed delighted. The day after he died I imagined him roaring along on a scooter up Sparks to Darcy McGee’s in one of those bright blue shirts he always wore for readings. The sky today is Steven Heighton reading shirt blue.





Amanda Earl (she/her) is a big fan of Steven Heighton's. She also writes and publishes folks. More info at

Friday, April 22, 2022

Rob Winger : Late Arrival






Steve, I’ve been reading your collected Selected,
earmarking its final pages for a next exchange
– a party hat, sure, but also the next tower

on the bridge, without cables just yet,
holding space across this water between us.

Why do you wait till the waiting fills years
you ask, here, on this page written the year
we might first have met. Why will you stall till

the stalling’s your life?
Online, all my feeds
are hungry with love notes, mixed tapes,

festival lineup chit-chat, craggy outcrops and
dog-filled mountain meadows, serious hula hoops
and basement hecklers, a kid’s constellations,

your bottle still sitting on the staircase down. It’s only
now I see the all the gravestones between your covers.

I’d like to ask your thoughts on all these bridges,
Steve. But only the central girders, the primary
roadways with their cable-stayed towers, only

the ends of the cantilever levelling, only these
have yet been built across this water.

In your second-to-last email, you said, it seemed
to you, we were uncannily similar men, so Chapeau

, you typed. If only. The new Champlain bridge,
I see, was built in independent sections, too, only later
linked with a clear roadway that looked like earth.

It’s fix yourself now or always be broken you said.
So you’re still holding, I think, that whiskey glass
or some Martin’s slender neck. You’re still offering

your winter coat to some freezing stranger. You’re
listening to another final speaker’s ancient closing tongue.

The bridge, then: not just a poem, but a poem written
with care across water. Not just a pointing towards the far
shore, but a way across this rushing gorge, less snow

globe than astral plane. Let’s catch that new thermal the next
time you’re standing here, okay? We’ll ride it all the way across.


for Steven Heighton (1961-2022), with three lines from his “Gravesong,”





Rob Winger is the author of four books of poetry, including his latest, It Doesn't Matter What We Meant. He lives in the hills northeast of Toronto, where he teaches at Trent University.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Natalee Caple : Hello, you've reached 1994. I'm unable to reach you unable to remember what I was trying to say. Please leave a message for me please don’t say, goodbye for now.




I thought I thought a waste a curtain in front of something I wanted to write 

I was going to phone and say no one owns the water friend to my way of thinking you would answer me beautiful astronaut sure sure we look older but answering doesn’t cost a dime don’t laugh but I remember you saying when I was sad as we kissed goodbye what a lovely kiss and I said tell everyone Gosh I think I’m drunk again! I want to be drunk again all of us in a living room a room where we are all alive

Hello those you awhile bereaved Hello daughters and lovers Hello wife and friends Hello

Black curls black irises insomnia guitars sunflowers chili

What if I keep saying bastard, is that a spell? Please don't cut me off by dying leave a voice in the void to stall goodbye 

Fuck nature & nature poems find signals on impossible winds keep from disconnecting right now cause it’s not time for you I'm screening memories in a factory and waiting up for an explanation 


                                                                 for Steven Heighton (1961-2022)


Natalee Caple is the author of nine books of poetry and fiction. Her latest book of poetry, Love in the Chthulucene/Cthulhucene was published by Wolsak and Wynn in Spring 2019. Natalee is an associate professor at Brock University.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Isabella Wang and Stephen Collis : Two Imperfect Sestinas (for Phyllis Webb's 95th birthday




for Phyllis

where are we now      hold our loved poets as seas     as oceans    close  
this imperfect sestina choreographs     the perfect
cinematography of six-beat repetitions      musics of this life

our hearts     slow motion not repetition but a moving
forward ephemeral improv    eyes pouring over the stone    in this heart you hear the sound

of a moving toward    her illuminations     that ephemeral thing 

Fred’s music at the heart of thinking
Steve says happens the moment a poem announces

itself as ready to be written 
  is lost now    perhaps
lost is readiness    of the mind ghost    to unhaunt the living’s
unhomed de-visioned    profiles of movement

bodies / parentheses / being to cohabit with the sound

at the music of sounding
who am i to you    to others    our common loving of mutual things
because if you are lost   how much of myself

that i recognized in you     needed our perennial path
is also lost    Butler writes   when we lose

something we grieve    we i ourselves inseparable    the removal

of selves      a moving
perfect vulnerability    bodies are submerged    such sounds

become the space they inhabit 
[— Ahmed]              think now
while Phyllis was here     think heart     journalistic eye
slow pulsing our collective i we recognized in her     our perfect

island congruent counterpart     and friend      compass point and means to a living

with meaning    inseparable the forces of living
are meant to be broken and assembled     composed moving
a reassembled broken body     without her      but surrounding

that ephemeral thing     [— Barad recomposed ]   
Phyllis i say    tell me what words you want to say up close

for the beating hearts    missing you     how to perfect

(if i’m worthy to know in afterlives you sea)     a music    imperfect
for the homeostatic quivering    Elee: of course   every grief is an anchor line

to previous losses   
island ferry rituals redefined not gone, Steve   the poet moving
in the cities and homes    and poetries     of her sound
how to feed her ravens red bitter berries of winter and still feed     everything

else up close we love     Phyllis thinks     we can it seems   


Phyllis     music toward the movement of closure
fill us music 1 2 3 …. 7 movements toward the closed beat of ephemeral things

~ Isabella Wang




YOU ARE HERE     west through islands and rain to islands and more rain longing
though not giving in to the fantasy of far-flungness     Conrad’s line

about the outlying islands and continents of the earth     close
the portals of the imperium     lest some forget their undiscovered thinking

we are always already here when we perennially arrive     moving
a reassembled broken body forming
     its own heart sounds music sounding


Remember those who imagined a direction to the flow of history sounding?
here is our distress and delusion     I listen instead to geological longings

mountains as hands raised upon arrival of immigrant island atolls moving
into late cretaceous sedimentary formations folded and gouged in glacial lines

now weathers of our own atmospheric making     river everywhere     over everything
so I come to ephemeral islands     heart mind music fires washed clean     composing


Yet still wondering     why is it so hard to dispel languages of colonial foreclosings?
whatever I I am     seeks to leap out of harbour’s deep soundings

to give what I can to our common love of mutual things
remember there was always resistance     fire after rain     and longing

bass tones of belonging     lifting our treble lives
life under harbours surface      surfacing     creatures creaturely     deeply moving


Under this constant rain and mountains that rivers are removing
the slow pulsing of our collective i     we may lose or are currently losing

but empire     Said said     involves all cultures in each other’s living
I wonder what differences are erased in storms raging over linguistic sounds?

everything is rooted in the earth     even the sea has roots and belongings
even here we must think habitation     as we are washed towards the sea thinking


I say this even if we are only poets     and don’t know anything
say this to other poets who know they don’t know     but are yet moved to thinking

out along their time-bent paths      leaning and longing
the whole culture leaning
from a tower in time     a simultaneous we we compose

on islands     edges     listening to the rain and waterfalls and other water sounds
perfect vulnerability
     tenderness of earth’s variable orbit     and the poem’s leaning line


You are in this with me too     climbing into curvature     along the living line
words thread through rain from island to island     to me poets are everything

composing we as vertigo vocalizing     send Columbus back to the shot stars resounding
send Columbia back too     let everything but the oldest names be removed

yes we made all that is all melt into an imperium of indifference and closing
so then recompose differences     erased ecotones     homeostatic quivering and longing


Are you still here?     repeating lines of a symphony of snapped strings     mountains afire

and seas moving

I Arnaut Daniel still grieving     thinking between imagination and study     trying

to keep you close

Empire follows art     Blake’s voice resounding     so lose it in the ark of the dark    

in our endless longing 


~ Stephen Collis




Authors’ Note: Marking PW's 95th birthday. While she left us in 2021, Webb's work and legacy continues to be generative. 'There ARE the poem,' and we continue to read and respond.




Isabella Wang is the author of the chapbook, On Forgetting a Language, and her full-length debut, Pebble Swing (Nightwood Editions, 2021). Among other recognitions, she has been shortlisted for Arc’s Poem of the Year Contest, The Malahat Review’s Far Horizons Contest and Long Poem Contest, and was the youngest writer to be shortlisted twice for The New Quarterly’s Edna Staebler Essay Contest. Her poetry and prose have appeared in over thirty literary journals and three anthologies. Completing a double-major in English and World Literature at SFU, she is a youth mentor with Vancouver Poetry House and an Editor at Room magazine.

Stephen Collis is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including The Commons (2008), the BC Book Prize winning On the Material (2010), Once in Blockadia (2016), and Almost Islands: Phyllis Webb and the Pursuit of the Unwritten (2018)—all published by Talonbooks. A History of the Theories of Rain (2021) was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for poetry, and in 2019, Collis was the recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada Latner Poetry Prize. He lives near Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish Territory, and teaches poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University.




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