Saturday, May 6, 2023

Michelle Detorie : Poems for Jessica Smith

from Report from the Smith Society Vol. 1 No. 1




          for Jessica

At the magical girl hospital
we go out in the rain
wearing our long night
gowns, white cats’ fur
for fleet feet. The wet green
grass is alive, alive
and green, and wet. The balm
we pour on our hands, our
eyes is sweet and slick – tastes
like meat. Indoors
once again, under clean
white sheets, we light
matches to feel
our pink, our tongues.




Mouthlings, wonder-full and alive:

quick to scissor buzz,  pink

ticks and lashy eyes blink-clicking

as if to flirt with sleeping. Dirt-church

where nothing dies. Singer swings

through cloth, dividing cotton

into quotients edged with tethers

that rise to wispy clingings

and forgive the mourning spots

and soothe tangled knots

of missing weather, empty

parking lots and chainlink

edges, asphalt frayed

like an old gray skirt kissing

skinned knees, like the times

before you knew someone –

some man – might be looking.




I hate nostalgia. A haunted
house. 600 broken keys
and desire like a ghost
flitting about, making trouble –
trembling and glossing – wearing
us out. "It's just an old, filthy
ruin." Fantasy-space come
crumbling down. Teenage
kitsch-tacky of troubadours
and tempests. Space
were unmaking in our ribs, rubbing
out the moment, looking down,
"I don't own any of this."
A record murmurs static.
Our kisses become
machines: our armless
grammar, our armor.





Tell me all about your sisters.

Living is a secret we do in caves, dens
where the turntable never stops

spinning. Drinking rum and cokes

and twisting our hair into knots, attempting

to braid ourselves together. We’re like

those spooky twins, a pair of ticking

clocks twitching in unison. We are most

interested in the movies that begin

with a missing girl. We find ourselves

there. Here, we win. Take a drink

and tell me how they left you

at the Mall. I’ll apologize for them.

For all of them, and for all the times.

For all the wicked things I’ve done.



Michelle Detorie is the author of numerous chapbooks of poetry and visual poetry including Our Clean Heart (Outside Voices), Fur Birds (Insert Press), How Hate Got Hand (eohippus labs), and Bellum Letters (Dusie). Her first full-length collection, After-Cave, was released with Ahsahta Press. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, as well as a direct to artist grant from the Santa Barbara Art Collaborative for her public art project, The Poetry Booth. From 2015 until 2021 she served as the poetry editor for Entropy.  Last year, Michelle began working with California Poets in the Schools to help launch and develop the Youth Poet Laureate program in Santa Barbara Country. By day, she works full-time at Santa Barbara City College training tutors and supporting students in the Communication Lab and the Writing Center. For more information about Michelle and her writing and teaching, please visit

rob mclennan : archipelago, by Laila Malik

archipelago, Laila Malik
Book*hug, 2023




Comparable to Ottawa poet and lawyer natalie hanna’s recent full-length debut lisan al’asfour (Winnipeg MB: ARP Books, 2022) for its diasporic exploration through a lush lyric is Laila Malik’s archipelago (Toronto ON: Book*hug, 2023), a seeming-debut that traces diasporic lineages across the layerings of multiple cultural and geographic landscapes, as well as the traumas of what was lost, destroyed and otherwise left behind. As the back cover offers: “Malik’s lyrical poems intertwine histories of exile and ecological devastation. Beginning with a coming of age in the 80s and 90s between Canada, the Arabian Gulf, East Africa, and Kashmir, they subvert conventions of lineage, instead drawing on the truths of inter-ethnic histories amidst sparse landscapes of deserts, oceans, and mountains. They question why the only certainties of ‘home’ are urgency and impossibility.” Very much structured as an expansive, book-length lyric, Malik’s archipelago traces a finger-line across an ongoing, fragmented, staggered and staccato line, one that seems to run the length and breadth of the collection. As the poem “just kids going home” includes:

in english we spell desert with one s because it is made of hunger.
in urdu we call it registan because it is its own republic.
in arabic they call it sahra, even though this is an oasis, even though
                                                                     ancient waters still stir below.

Hers is lyric of long lines and disruptive sweeps, difficult histories and an array of geographies that are home no longer, as the same poem opens: “we are not the first girls to walk the desert alone but we don’t know this yet.” Composed via four sections and an epilogue, she writes of war and erasure, of exile and endurance, of the oil wars and ecological destruction, and of the accumulative losses both human and cultural, as well as of the imagination. One might call this a book of uprootedness, seemingly held above ground while still tethered, somehow, to a crumbling of broken soil. As the final poem in the collection offers, just near the end: “forever incanting /// i can’t be a landthief if i live in the air // can i [.]” Or, as part of the poem “kafala” writes:

i don’t have a sponsor.

i have one

i have skin that bakes quickly
hair that coils midnight escapes

lying amber eyes & a tongue that curls
around every wrong alphabet.

i have a memory of friends
faded far beyond oceans.

i have what they call a boss.
an englishman built of straw & bloodshot eyes

broken capillaries & beerbreath, hired to strip me
of a million years of schooling in exchange for

          a faceful of spit
          a fistful of fils.

i have a blue passport. but
                                   your accent still chokes me.




Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent titles include the poetry collections the book of smaller (University of Calgary Press, 2022) and World’s End, (ARP Books, 2023), and a suite of pandemic essays, essays in the face of uncertainties (Mansfield Press, 2022). He’s been spending the past six-plus months working on a book-length essay on reviewing, literature and community, “Lecture for an Empty Room,” sections of which have been slowly appearing via his remarkable substack. He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at

Friday, May 5, 2023

Sacha Archer : These words are for Catherine Vidler





These words are for Catherine Vidler. And so they fall short. I should not be the one who writes them, but then none of us are equipped. Sparse correspondence, but then we never collaborated. Not exactly. We spoke of drinking and exhaustion and the hole where energy once was. And we spoke of our work. Our communications were never lengthy, more of a checking in. I have the sense that while she enjoyed the back and forth, she was always ready to retreat, as if to give anything more than she did would be a burden to the recipient. Or maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe she just wanted to get back to work! Catherine wrote to me of her depression and her anxiety. One thing we shared beyond poetry was Valium. But that was after her diagnosis of malignant melanoma. She began to have nightmares. But she still was at her work. She thrived in her work. Her endless variations and cautious iterations. But then they also burst. And then they overflowed! A revealing quote from Catherine’s diary appears on the Cordite Books website in the introduction to her book, Wings, “a single brick in the wall of my college room contained more than enough poems to last me a lifetime … it contained infinite potential poems!”  This is an incredibly visceral image for me. The intensity of the stare endlessly unfolding the world from something as innocuous as a brick. The noise of possibility, an ever-building feedback.

I know so little about her life and I believe few of us in this nebulous and disconnected community of writers and visual / poets do. This distance of knowledge in our luxury of clickable contact, despite the opulent new world of constant connection and in/visibility, is, unfortunately the norm. Or is it necessary? We talk with our work. The conversation. The pros and cons of visual poetries, at least. Which highlights the dire importance of reaching out, of giving a shit, of making the effort. Despite our distances, Catherine and I managed to connect, to offer encouragement and support (in both directions). We dealt in ideas, mainly. No, that is absolutely incorrect. Our conversations revolved equally around the difficulties of navigating fatigue and hopelessness, which is to say, the motive to create that’s only fuel is the urge itself. The urge has its limits. Though, certainly, with Catherine, you wouldn’t know it. Her work teemed from her. I do know that, as a job, she summarized court judgements and that she worked from home. A poet’s source of income is always fascinating. Sentences and the lack thereof. To make brief and concise. To pare down. Her job or her work? But then also to build from. We discussed sound and found our ideas for projects on the cusp aligning uncannily. The results of that conversation are,

Catherine’s Sound Sonnets:
and my own An Alphbet:

As reserved as Catherine was in her communications the same cannot be said of her visual poetry—and she influenced. Myself, without a doubt. And how many others? Kyle Flemmer acknowledges her direct influence on his exploration of the visual sonnet. Catherine’s proclivity toward the lost. Her multiple series of Lost Sonnets, and later, her Lost Matchstick Sonnets. We can only speculate on why she chose to title them as such. When work is presented as lost, The Lost Manuscript/Letters/Poems… it usually means, and now found and presented to you. The question now will never be answered. Are they lost to begin with, which, for most of our works is absolutely true? Are they lost because they do not know what they are or where they land, what they are? Are they titled lost because, in a sense, she carved them from the granite of language and its basic constituents of the line and the curve, because she uncovered them? It is an essential question that remains open.

published by Timglaset

Catherine was prolific, to say the least. Working in verse, constrained prose and visual poetics, as well editing the online literary magazine, Snorkel ( which ran 24 issues from 2006—2017, she was constantly working and publishing. I first encountered her work in a pamphlet published by Penteract Press. Her Table Poems, which excited me immensely with their inventiveness and singular vision.


From Table Poems

As her work continued to challenge and surprise me, I solicited work from Catherine for a chapbook through Simulacrum Press, which was the beginning of our friendship. She sent me a slew of gorgeous  work to choose from and I was honoured to be able to publish a few of her Repetitive Poems.

from Repetitive Poems   

Unfortunately, our correspondence lapsed for nearly two years during the pandemic and it was only very recently that I reached out and we began to write again. Not long after Catherine gave news of a seemingly successful surgery, I received an email from a friend of hers informing me that she has passed away from a stroke. It was April 29th. It was morning. She was 50.

Tom Jenks, with whom Catherine collaborated for the book pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs has been compiling links to her works:

Works by Catherine Vidler

Chaingrass –

Chaingrass (complete?):

Chaingrass Errata Slips:



Stamp Sonnets:

Born to Creep:

Lost Sonnets:

78 Composite Lost Sonnets:

Lost Sonnets – Third Iteration:

Furious Triangle:

pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs:


Oleander 7:

Repetitive Poems:

Matchstick Poems:

Sacha Archer is a Canadian writer and concrete poet. His most recent publication is cellsea, published by Timglaset. Some of Archer’s other publications include Empty Building (Penteract Press), Mother’s Milk (Timglaset), which was included on CBC’s best poetry books of 2020 list, KIM (knife|fork|book), Hydes (nOIR:Z), as well as a collaborative sound poetry album with nina jane drystek, Years Between Rooms. His book Havana Syndrome is forthcoming from The Blasted Tree. Find him on Facebook and Instagram @sachaarcher.

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