amongst books

amongst books

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Impromptu # 30: an ode to guinness and a thank you

Douglas Luman (aka the Venerable Bede) asks us to think of a memorable phone number or a phone number that was important to us. Using his phonewords application over on Applied Poetics, a deliriously joyous site for poetry making using Oulipian techniques and more, to take a source text and reduce it to only words that use the letters from the phone number to create a poem. This was great fun, of course.

HENRYGILBERT. 1911, furnished by the lovely Project Gutenberg.

Phone number: 867-5309 from the song.

 an ode to guinness

to put off joust for stout
to set for stout of old
keep none not for rest
send me up to red
keep room
press of folk
found streets
press of souls
to sound end of love
love love tell me love
send forest to a rose

other phone number or phone songs also came to mind: Echo Valley 26809 by the Partridge Family, The Knack’s Your Number or Your Name. All my references are from the late 70s/early 80s. I’m sure there were numerous other songs with phone numbers in the title in more modern times, but this is what I remember.

finally, a word or several words, of thanks to the Found Poetry Review, its editors, the poets who created the prompts and the participants and those of you who were reading along, who retweeted or commented or shared my poems. this was a joyous experience, sometimes daunting, sometimes so intriguing that I spent most of the day working on a prompt. it’s been an engrossing and consuming activity. a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month. Thanks to all those who commented on my zany poems and shared your own. It’s been fun reading your work and engaging with you.

poetry can lead to community. doesn't have to, but when it does, i find it rewarding. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Cutting Up – n. hanna (battleaxe press, 2016)

the eighteen poems in this chapbook by n. hanna are lyrical, feisty and often raw. the poet engages with the topic of violence against women, their rape and murder through poems addressed to Shakespeare’s skull in reaction to the “violence towards his female characters and women’s process through the legal system.”  I would like to hear the poem “only,” a list of things that do not mean a woman consents, read aloud in a loud voice by a group of women on a stage, in the streets: “silence                is not a yes.” with space at the bottom for readers to add their own.

n.  hanna shows her love of language with images such as “wet fears and blue delights --/an analytical organ” in “william shakespeare’s missing skull (and other proofs in the negative)."

there’s an urgency to these poems, dreams of missing women and air raid sirens in “waking up,” for example. some fine and witty turns on old clichés: “what’s good for the gander/is slander for the genuine” in “truce.”

the poems are compassionate renderings about and for women who’ve been brutalized and murdered, to the victims of that CBC radio host whose name I would like never to speak again. to women who are pressured to shave legs and cunts while men have “pit hair & shaggy crotches” (truce), to women who are earning less than men (wage gap).

there are powerful poems either written in the voices of Shakespeare’s characters or addressed to them: “these assholes/fighting over my grave-bound body/as i lay here/pretending not to breathe” (ophelia’s rue).

there’s nothing heavy-handed about these poems that quietly demand justice. there’s a fine sensibility to the work, wrought by a poet who listens and looks carefully at her environment, at literature, popular culture and history, and into her own psyche.

the long poem “evidence” is a strong and effective piece that centres around the Ghomeshi verdict, but also brings in Portia and Balthazar from the Merchant of Vince and speaks of  the trial of Bradley Barton for the murder of Cindy Gladue. yes, these poems will make you cry. “i can’t look/pressed all sides by fear as/the vagina of saint gladue/is excised and displayed/in the owl-eyed juridic mecca.”

I love the defiance and quiet strength of these poems:  “simply, I do not care/what you are wearing, sisters/come out of your houses/and be in the streets” … “bring your whisky/and the face that gets things done -- / let’s have your stories” (wards against disasters).

“Cutting Up” is published in a limited run of 50 and available through battleaxe press by contacting the author. Buy a copy for your parents, your lovers, your children, your friends. We all need to read these poems right now.

Note also the call for submissions for “the bird, philomela,": “focussing on women’s interpretations and opinions of assault and sexual assault.” deadline – May 11, 2016.

Impromptu # 29 - Alchemy

I used the Lazarus Corporation’s Text Mixing Desk & plucked the occasional phrase that resonated, mixing it with a few words of my own…


Stone is of a made flesh the Spirit has assumed the fire
I am thinking of you and the permanent earth one body air
the moon into bodies philosophers in the dark constant things
the spark of water silver and cleansing a spiritual thing the elements
all the colours a moment I am thinking of you fugitive a corporal thing
this spirit quintessence vapours nimbled bread a coagulation mercury I worry never rise again more than when the body is this secret falling colour ashes ghost a stone combustible pure the right way the wind the eagle corporeal the door a hindrance the belly I am thinking of you vapour ascends the world and truth nothing purification strange words I am thinking truly ancient time when the body unexpert a singular body unwise again with me changing into water I am thinking of you I am thinking of you I am thinking of you

Thanks, Beth, for the wondrous prompt. You have one more day to take part over at the Found Poetry Review or I suppose you can go back & do the prompts later. 

Thank you to Adam McLean of the Alchemy Website for his amazing & thorough resources on alchemy & for the image above from his emblems project. (Copyright Adam McLean 1997-2011)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Impromptu # 28 - fierce angel aloft

Jenni B. Baker asks us to turn a poem into music and offers some excellent step by step instructions. I used Milton’s Paradise Lost Books I and II for my source text. This was a quirky challenge and a hell of a lot of fun. Thanks Jenni.

books one and two of paradise lost

fierce angel aloft                                f (quarter note) a (half note) a (half note)
boundless and charmed                                 b (half note) a (quarter note) c (quarter note)
eternal god                                                          e (dotted half note) g (quarter note)
golden fiend                                                        g (half note) f (quarter note)
flowering exile                                                   f (dotted half note) e (half note)
ethereal earth eyes                                            e (whole note) e (quarter note) e (quarter note)
go each glimmer                                                g (quarter note) e (quarter note) g (half note)
breathe chaos and air                                      b (quarter note) c (half note) a (quarter note) a (quarter note)
beyond an abyss                                                b (half note) a (quarter note) a (half note)
choose endless death                                       c (quarter note) e (half note) d (quarter note)

here’s the score made from this cool program called and below is the audio file because i'm not sure it can be heard over at note that the words are not properly placing themselves over the notes, but this is still very cool. 

For those of you who are just joining us, The Found Poetry Review is celebrating National Poetry Month by offering daily experimental writing prompts from writers. I will be responding to them at poetic whim.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Impromptu # 27: Once Upon A Haiku

Greg Santos gave us four choices. I chose one I’ve never done before: write poems based on titles from a book’s table of contents. I chose English Fairy Tales (Golden Pleasure Books, 1965) and thought: haiku—why not? I haven’t strictly adhered to 5/7/5 syllables when I just couldn’t resist making a line even sillier.

Here, without further ado, are 29 somewhat whacky, occasionally ribald, haiku. 

The Little Fairy Tale Cockerel

Once upon a time
this cock with a big ego
dribbled on and on

The Cat and The Mouse

Once upon a time
this laid-back cat saw a mouse
now they’re good buddies

The Three Little Pigs

Once upon a time
straw house tenant didn’t pay
they blew his house down

A Frog He Went A-Wooing Go

Once upon a time
during a trip to Paris
this chick met a frog

The Enchanted Mountain

Once upon a time
weed was decriminalized
everybody climbed

Little Johnny Buttermilk

Once upon a time
his lactose intolerance
made this shit seem good

The White Bullock

Once upon a time
a racist ran for president
he’d better not win

The Story of Tom Thumb

Once upon a time
a cat burglar did some time
yeah, he was all thumbs

The Pretty Ragmaid

Once upon a time
i was on my period
don’t call me fucking pretty

Roland and Helen

Once upon a time
she met Roland on Tinder
sent Paris packing

The Princess and the Hazelnuts

Once upon a time
her damn peanut allergy
drove her fucking nuts

Molly Whipple

Once upon a time
Molly caused euphoria
not panic attacks

The Three Golden Apples

Once upon a time
The stock market was bullish
Granny Smith turned gold

The Well of the Three Heads

Once upon a time
a horny chick made a wish
that’s a lot of dicks

The Little Red Man

Once upon a time
a ginger with a wee dick
had an agile tongue

Knight Wynd and Lady Margaret

Once upon a time
a gassy pal of Gawain’s
stalked Maggie Thatcher upwind

The Black Bull of Norroway

Once upon a time
media moguls
traded in bull shit

Dick Whittington and His Cat

Once upon a time
he liked autofellatio
now he licks pussy

Jack the Giant Killer

Once upon a time
the two guys measured their dicks:
a crime of passion

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Once upon a time
a fag hag liked hairy guys
was often their beards

Beauty and the Beast

Once upon a time
Walt Disney made the movie
better kinds abound

Coat of Rushes

Once upon a time
Geddy Lee had a rock band
he’s a Canuck, eh

Jack and the Beanstalk

Once upon a time
Jackie went full on vegan
ate a lot of bean

Joan in Fairyland

Once upon a time
after they set her on fire
Joan sang I Love Rock N Roll

The Tailor and His Apprentices
Once upon a time
they came up with this lame name
The Who was taken

Idle Jack

Once upon a time
Jill had to fetch all the water
she pushed Jack down the hill

The Abbot of Canterbury

Once upon a time
Anglican priests could be queer
God loves everyone

The Wise Men of Gotham

Once upon a time
Batman and Robin came out
the rumours were true

The Tulip Bed

Once upon a time
spring followed winter, tulips
didn’t bake with heat

Thanks to Greg Santos for the excellent prompts.

Play along!

For those of you who are just joining us, 
The Found Poetry Review is celebrating National Poetry Month by offering daily experimental writing prompts from writers. I will be responding to them at poetic whim.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Impromptu 26: Cage Breakin'

R. A. Villanueva asks us to think about Jurasic Park, the velociraptors that could unlatch doors. He has us watch a short film of dancers, first with the music, then without. He asks us to think about reshaping tradition, received forms and surprise. i wanted to make the alphabet dance. here's an attempt...

Thanks to R.A. Villanueva for the kick-ass prompt.

Play along!

For those of you who are just joining us, 
The Found Poetry Review is celebrating National Poetry Month by offering daily experimental writing prompts
 from writers. I will be responding to them at poetic whim.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Impromptu #25: Pork Sonnet 45 1/2

Impromtu #25 – Pork Sonnet 45 1/2

This prompt comes from Nancy Chen Long who invites us to try homophonic translation. I thought I’d try my brain on a Neruda poem.

Pork Sonnet 45 1/2

Now Este’s delays hold Damian’s solo, jabbering pork eggs combo
pork eggs, noise desire tells Wes Argo the idea,
“Eat stars spare and random combos in lassitude
When in a lagoon parts stay dormant on trains.”
Note vases pour an hour of pork entrances
Esse whorejumps tans, loose goats dealt svelte hose
& Italian vests total eel humans keys and biscuits causes
revenge at mother’s and our coronation period.

I key no celebrants to silhouettes in the arena.
I key no wailing to parapets’ island sense:
Note vases pour a minute of beans’ armada,

pork in Esse’s minute teahem, bras eat otters’ legos.
Kay’s yolks are totalled ateliers, pregnant and o,
see vulvas’ wrath. o see me deejay morons.

Soneto 45 -  Pablo Neruda

No estés lejos de mí un sólo día, porque cómo,
porque, no sé decírtelo, es largo el día,
y te estaré esperando como en las estaciones
cuando en alguna parte se durmieron los trenes.
No te vayas por una hora porque entonces
en esa hora se juntan las gotas del desvelo
y tal vez todo el humo que anda buscando casa
venga a matar aún mi corazón perdido.

Ay que no se quebrante tu silueta en la arena,
ay que no vuelen tus párpados en la ausencia:
no te vayas por un minuto, bienamada,

porque en ese minuto te habrás ido tan lejos
que yo cruzaré toda la tierra preguntando
si volverás o si me dejarás muriendo.

Thanks to Nancy for the prompt. Homophonic translations are difficult but can lead to a lot of fun. I would probably massage this one a lot more to create a final poem that makes more sense to me. This would be an intermediary step in the process. Poetic licence is always involved…

Play along!

For those of you who are just joining us, 
The Found Poetry Review is celebrating National Poetry Month by offering daily experimental writing prompts from writers. I will be responding to them at poetic whim.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Impromptu #24: a body of secrets

Craig Dworkin’s prompt asks us to fill in an erasure poem. I thought immediately of Mary Ruefle. My source text was her erasure of “Melody: The Story of a Child.” Page 15. from Gwarlingo, a fascinating site that is chock full of art, poetry and other brilliant miscellany curated by Michelle Aldredge.

Here's the cropped original erasure:

Here's my fill in:

Thanks to Craig for the prompt. It’s a superb idea. I will likely turn this into something longer.

Play along!

For those of you who are just joining us, 
The Found Poetry Review is celebrating National Poetry Month by offering daily experimental writing prompts from writers. I will be responding to them at poetic whim.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Impromptu 23: Theran Shan

Daniel Levin Becker’s prompt causes me to write a poem about Star Wars. His Oulipian prompt, “the petit récapitul portative” is here.

April 23, 2016, Alderaan
Theran Shan

Motivated by the desire
to contain village, farms and woodland,
a mixed urban renewal project,

an intellectual wherewithal,
became a hunting ground for talent,
its formidable top position.

The Old Republic focuses on Shan,
the eldest son of William Tuckey,
who played college football as halfback.


I made some slight changes. I also switched the order to give the poem some coherence. I can see this type of random operation leading to a whole series on nonsensical poems about Theran Shan. Love letters, obsessions, riffs on nostalgic memories of Aldernaan, a centre for arts and culture before its destruction. Thanks to Daniel Levin Becker for the prompt.

Post Script

When writing this at 1am, i didn't notice that the prompt called for a final single line at the end. i don't know what the line is in connection to or how it's supposed to be made, so i just followed the model a bit - ish. 

Play along!

For those of you who are just joining us, 
The Found Poetry Review is celebrating National Poetry Month by offering daily experimental writing prompts from writers. I will be responding to them at poetic whim.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Impromptu #20 - another sculpture

IMPROMPTU #20 brim-filled densities

Travis MacDonald offers up a work-intensive prompt that requires building source material from books on our shelves by starting from the left hand side of our shelving units, picking the tenth book, typing in page 10 of every 10 books until we have 10 pages of transcribed text, then deleting duplicate words via the search function on our word processors.

My source books were all poetry:

1. Jan Allen, Personal Peripherals (Buschek Books, 2006)
2. Elizabeth Bachinsky, The Hottest Summer in Recorded History (Nightwood Editions, 2013)
3. John Berryman, selected poems. kevin young, editor (American Poets Project, The Library of America, 2004)
4. Stephanie Bolster, White Stone – The Alice Poems (Signal Editions, Véhicule Press, 1998, Fifth Printing, 2005)
5. Tim Bowling, The Thin Smoke of the Heart (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000)
6. Mobility of Light, The Poetry of Nicole Brossard selected with an introduction by Louise H. Forsyth (Laurier Poetry Series, Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2009)
7. Stephen Cain, I Can Say Interpellation. With art by Clelia Scala (BookThug, 2011)
8. An Oresteia, translated by Anne Carson, Agamemnon by Aiskylos, Elektra by Sophokles, Orestes by Euripedes (Faber and Faber, Inc, 2009)
9. Margaret Christakos, What Stirs (Coach House Books, 2008)
10. Victor Coleman, The Occasional Troubadour (BookThug, 2010)

What surprised me was how little repetition there was. Mostly function words. I was surprised to see God and love only once, for example.

Thank you to Travis for this prompt. It was a long process but quite meditative. I rediscovered some gems on my shelves. I thought a lot about language as I was typing in the poems and as the duplicates were disappearing. I found some intriguing and resonant juxtapositions, like “delicious body god bells” when the language from one poem collided into the next. When I put all the reduced text together in a big chunk, it occurred to me that if I sliced sections off the chunk, I would get some interesting combinations: “crass lapspark” and “lived rat.” In the end what I liked most was the possibility for sculpture, so that’s what I made.

Thank you to all the poets who provided, albeit unknowingly, the text for this experiment. One of the things I love about these prompts is that it offers new ways of engaging with a work to create something new.

Play along!

For those of you who are just joining us, 
The Found Poetry Review is celebrating National Poetry Month by offering daily experimental writing prompts from writers. I will be responding to them at poetic whim.