Tuesday, April 22, 2014



Phew. A kinder, gentler prompting today. Write a poem for a child. I'm dusting off my exclamation points for this one!

Grandma Week

It's Monday, it's Monday,
and Grandma is coming!
We build things and draw things
and play trucks and cars,
and then, when it's dark out
we look at the stars.

It's Tuesday, it's Tuesday,
it's greens, reds, and blues day!
Out comes the paintbox,
the crayons, the clay—
our hands are a mess
when we finish our play.

It's Wednesday, it's Wednesday,
it's paper and pens day!
Sometimes we write poems
that don't even rhyme 
or make up new words
to put in them next time.

It's Thursday, it's Thursday,
it's feathers and furs day!
We take the dog walking,
we brush down the cat,
and later we'll all 
fall sleep on the mat.

It's Friday, it's Friday
it's cookies and pie day!
We put on our aprons
and tie them up tight,
I'll lick the bowl after
and sleep well tonight.

The weekend I'll spend
with my Dad and my Mom.
We'll read and we'll cuddle,
have plenty of fun.
Then Monday will come
and I'll walk down the lane
to meet her; can't wait 
to see Grandma again!


Monday, April 21, 2014



Start spreading the news... da dum, da dum

Today we're going to try writing a poem in the style of the New York School. Poets like Frank O'Hara. John Ashbery. Kenneth Koch, Ron Padgett, and Barbara Guest who lived and wrote in New York in the fifties and sixties. So we're looking for a conversational tone and we're going to try to stuff as many things from the following list into the poem as we can. 

  1. at least one addressee (to which you may or may not wish to dedicate your poem)
  2. use of specific place names and dates (time, day, month, year)--especially the names of places in and around New York City
  3. prolific use of proper names
  4. at least one reminiscence, aside, digression, or anecdote
  5. one or more quotations, especially from things people have said in conversation or through the media
  6. a moment where you call into question at least one thing you have said or proposed throughout your poem so far
  7. something that sounds amazing even if it doesn’t make any sense to you
  8. pop cultural references
  9. consumer goods/services
  10. mention of natural phenomena (in which natural phenomena do not appear ‘natural’)
  11. slang/colloquialism/vernacular/the word "fuck"
  12. at least one celebrity
  13. at least one question directed at the addressee/imagined reader
  14. reference to sex or use of sexual innuendo
  15. the words “life” and “death”
  16. at least one exclamation/declaration of love
  17. references to fine art, theater, music, or film
  18. mention of genitals and body parts
  19. food items
  20. drug references (legal or illegal)
  21. gossip
  22. mention of sleep or dreaming
  23. use of ironic overtones
It's already after two. I'm on the hunt for a specific chapbook in my collection and am about to embark on the messy but obviously necessary task of alphabetizing them by author. My trade poetry books are shelved that way, but until now I've not bothered with the chapbooks.

Oops, I lied! Another couple of digressions and it's now five o'clock. The chapbooks remain unsorted and my poem for today remains unwritten. I leave all this stuff in here, by the way, because it's how I think my way into the poem. At least, that's how it's been working lately. And speaking of lately, I just want to thank all of you who commented so favourably about yesterday's effort on Facebook and on here. 

Right, then. Today's poem. Here we go:

What If I'd Stayed in Van, Richard
(Regrets, I've Had a Few)

I came to this poetry game late in life.
Oh, not the writing of it; I've always written,
but to the game, you understand, Richard, 
the who's-on-first earthquake of who's-who-ness
in the book department, magazine department,
that's-shit/that's-not school of subjectivity
one must attend if one is to graduate with a fully-fledged
manuscript (manuscriptus interruptus) before one
is taken seriously. Richard, my favourite prof at UBC,
you were the first to say I should get into 
(bed? your pants?) a creative writing class asap
back in '69 when the whole of life stretched out
before me like a roller coaster ride I was just
about to crest. What would you have done
if I'd stayed around instead of getting on the first
end-of-year plane I could find and heading back
to Ottawa to continue getting my heart broken 
by Pierre whose business it was to break hearts.
We'll drink champagne and laugh at the world 
he said after he seduced me—again—
in the back of his '65 Chrysler New Yorker, 
then promised we'd fly to New York to see Hair,
leaving me delirious with hope and happiness
until his girlfriend came back from South East Asia
and that was that. What if I'd stayed in Van, 
taken up writing for real with all those profs
who seemed so old and under the watchful eyes 
of friends like Henry who introduced me to gay bars 
and acid and the lesbians who lived on the second floor?
And what if I'd paid attention when I sent some poems
to Tom Marshall at Canadian Forum and they were rejected
but on one of them he wrote I like the general idea
of this one? Ah well. It was a very good year,
Richard, in spite of my not realizing it at the time.
I climbed the Grind, walked across Lion's Gate Bridge,
saw Hello Dolly three times when I needed something sweet
to get me past the horror of Midnight Cowboy, 
posed for topless pictures for a guy in my class named Roger
who told me, as he shot, how incredible his girlfriend's cunt looked 
right after she came. Wouldn't I love to see those pictures now
but they're gone, locked in the vault of memory, 
a fine remembrance of things past and it's probably 
a good thing, Richard, that I came to this game
late in life after a modicum of sense set in or likely 
I'd be the one they talk about who fucked everyone
back then though if I'm honest, to this day I can't see 
a New Yorker (the car, not a human of) without getting 
moist and I still know all the words to Hair.


Sunday, April 20, 2014



Whatever comes out of today's NaPoWriMo prompt should be interesting. It's "to write a poem in the voice of a member of your family." This is followed by various warnings, ie. feelings could be involved. No kidding. Like, what could possibly go wrong? Still, I'm feeling resistance on this one. 

I keep thinking of family members whose voices I could borrow: Dad? Either of my grandfathers, neither of whom I remember meeting because they died when I was a baby? 

Speaking of babies, what about the one I miscarried? I seem to be leaning towards borrowing a voice that is no longer on the planet. 

At least, not that I can see. 

What Became of Me

I can't say it wouldn't have been fun,
you and your crazy friends,
your unexpectedly doting families.

What was it my father said,
"just take it to my mother; 
she's always wanted a grandkid."

And I'd have loved her, too, 
her market garden stuffed with produce,
her prize-winning peaches, 

the way she'd drizzle balsamic vinegar
over thick slices of tomatoes
that lounged seductively on lush green basil.

You really weren't ready for me,
your party days at a zenith, 
less than no money in the bank,

and my father—seriously, 
what would you have done 
with him in your life forever?

Still, I appreciated those few weeks 
I spent with you. I know I was wanted.
It was I who decided against staying.

As for what became of me—
I live on as occasional memory.
It's all any of us can do.


Saturday, April 19, 2014



* Peruvian Hat * Snout Otter Clam * Strawberry Top * Incised Moon * Sparse Dove * False Cup-and-Saucer * Leather Donax * Shuttlecock Volva * Striped Engina * Tricolor Niso * Triangular Nutmeg * Shoulderblade Sea Cat * Woody Canoebubble * Ghastly Miter * Heavy Bonnet * Tuberculate Emarginula * Lazarus Jewel Box * Unequal Bittersweet * Atlantic Turkey Wing *
What are all those, you ask. They are the genesis of today's NaPoWriMo prompt. Someone in the prompt department got ahold of a comprehensive guide to sea shells, and these are some of their names. Who knew? And someone in the prompt department promptly got the idea to lay some of these names on us and suggest we write a poem including some of the names. However one would want to do that. 

Lunch With An Ex at the Snout Otter Clam Pub 

Remember when you asked why I had
a striped engina and I had to turn away
to hide a smile before explaining that the word
was vagina and why did you think it was striped,
anyway? Oh, the confusions that can arise 
when a word is mispronounced, misunderstood.

And now here we are. We receive our libation 
in a false cup-and-saucer. I have decided, unilaterally,
 to call those wizened bumps atop my bra
 a strawberry top, to go with the muffin top
couched lower down. A veritable meal on the torso,
I don't even have to go out. The sparse dove of truth
flies around our heads, looking for a place to land. 

The shoulderblade sea cat prepares to pounce 
on the Atlantic turkey wing, just off the coast 
of some celebratory meal or other. Although we are
unequal, bittersweet is the way into the Lazarus jewel box
that lurks beneath the incised moon, your Peruvian hat
looking svelte and prickly alongside my heavy bonnet.

I hear you're driving a Shuttlecock Volva now.
Me? I have an old sedan I call Woody Canoebubble
because when I drive it in the rain the floor bubbles up. 
(I named it Woody after you, as a joke, you understand.)
And that jacket, the one hanging on the bedpost, 
is it leather, you wonder? If you dunno, donax. 


Friday, April 18, 2014



Did you know that several ruba'i are called a rubaiyat? I sure didn't, until today.

This, from the oracle (aka NaPoWriMo):

"Today I challenge you to write a ruba’i. What’s that? Well, it’s a Persian form — multipe stanzas in the ruba’i form are a rubaiyat, as in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Basically, a ruba’i is a four-line stanza, with a rhyme scheme of AABA. Robert Frost’s famous poem Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening uses this rhyme scheme. You can write a poem composed of one ruba’i, or try your hand at more, for a rubaiyat."

So, without further ado, here goes either a ruba'i or maybe a rubaiyat. We'll see. (Not to worry; it won't be as long as Omar's.)



Back in the north I put on warmer clothes
my skin is dry, the sun tan leaves my nose
I look at pictures of the beach down south,
try not to let myself become morose.

The cat is glad to see me, wants to cuddle
at night I beg a fire round which to huddle
tequila I've abandoned; now it's tea
the climate here has got me in a muddle.

I go for walks but miss the waves' refrain
instead I have to put up with this rain
that falls and falls and turns the garden green
and makes the walking muddy in the lane.

And I think that's as far as I'm going with this one, having already done one blogpost today. Time to go out for a walk, I think. A brisk one that will get me warm!




National Poetry Month was celebrated big time in Nelson last night when Jane Byers launched her first book of poetry.
Steeling Effects, published by Caitlin Press
Jane gave a wonderful reading to a crowd of around sixty people.
I met Jane three or four years ago and it was truly a delight to see all her hard work come to fruition in this lovely collection. In it you'll find poems about work (her background is in corporate health and safety), about her kids (as engaging a pair of six-year-olds as you're likely to find), about being gay, about family and friends and one extremely powerful long poem titled Vigiles in which stanzas examining the role firefighters have played throughout history alternate with quotations from firefighters who survived the World Trade Towers' collapse that is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Otter Books was busy selling books that all but flew off the table!

Jane signed books until her hand all but fell off.
Jane writes intelligent poems punctuated by humour and a keen eye for detail. Steeling Effects takes its title from a term used to describe how coping successfully with stress or adversity breeds resilience, something many of the poems deal with one way or another.
Afterwards there was a wee celebration with cake.

The collection ends with this poem written for a friend's birthday.

for Betty Daniel, 90 

Long twilight,
almost unnoticed,
until the glacier and the endless day you took for granted,
are gone—
your hand a silhouette.

There is relief in darkness:
sag and wrinkles invisible,
expectations of the day evaporate,
like low-hung clouds
giving way to a half-moon belly dancing on water,
not to be compared to the light of afternoon.

There are moments of sparkle in the darkness—
the firefly, the flame,
that also bring warmth,
mingled with memories
of your full life.

At this hour, you risk delight.


Look for Steeling Effects at your independent bookstore, or order it through Caitlin Press or, well, somewhere, but give it a read. It's great!


Thursday, April 17, 2014



Today’s (optional NaPoWriMo) prompt is to write a poem in which you very specifically describe something in terms of at least three of the five senses. 

I have to say, I'm really having fun with these now. I compose right on my blog, tweak only ever so slightly, fire it off into cyberspace with barely a wave. Poetry month is just great for making me not take my poet self too seriously.

Piano-Cat Rain Dream

Under the delicious warmth of a duvet, 
sleek as the aubergine its cover mimics,
I waken in the still dark morning to rain. 

Not a flash flood spilling from the dark sky
as though poured from a celestial bucket, no, 
this is the distinct plink of a bored child hitting a piano key

over and over and over, the slow knock of a tired flicker
on too-hard wood, the drum of an impatient finger
on a counter when the clerk is taking too long on the phone.

This rain slides down the drain pipe, spits cat-angry
at the bottom, hence the steady    plink     plink     plink
that rouses me from dreams of 

what? They're gone now, washed away by this infernal din
that spills to ground in a silvery swoosh, a terrible trickle
smelling of trees, wind, and the asphalt roof.