Archive for the ‘poems’ Tag

Doom porn: What would Martin Luther do?

Again, as happens, acquaintances I believe should know better, being educated, intelligent, and reflective, let the doomporn clickbait get the better of their sincere, best intentions and share distressing articles, such as this one about a report by two (2) Australians this spring positing that there is a “‘High Likelihood of Human Civilization Coming to an End’ Starting in 2050”.

Nearly, already, three decades back, a similar despair, coupled with Hopkins’ “God’s Grandeur” I had by heart and the offhand remark by a friend visiting the lush, extinct volcano near his birthplace, inspired a poem in answer (the second of seven Budapest Suites in Grand Gnostic Central).


Budapest Suites II

for Laszlo Gefin


“There is a god here!”

In wild strawberry entangling thistle,

In maple saplings, a shroud on loam,

In chestnut and cherry blossoms over tree-line,

In goldenrod and grass, every green stalk, bowed with seed.


And there is a god who

Quarries slate for imperial highways,

Mines iron-ore out of greed,

Who would have Mount Ság again

Ash and rock.


And there is a god

In the seared, scarred, spent, still,

For lichen, poppies and song

Here rise from the bared

And broken rock to the air!


Just last year, some widely-publicized remarks by Mayer Hillman (“We’re doomed!”) inspired a number of responses, an early version of one I posted here the last time a friend disseminated some other bleak pessimism…

I’m hardly a Bjorn Lomborg playing down the gravity of the situation and the urgent, concerted, radical action it calls for, including the need for no less focussed, lively and creative reflection and critique to articulate a post-anthropocentric, if not post-humanist, biocentric ecosophy. But nor am I a latter-day Jeremiah confusing his insight into the woes and flaws of the present with visions of imminent, righteous catastrophe. (It’s high time I address at greater length this newly-arisen apocalyptic tone in cultural criticism…).

To wit, and not for the last time, I’m sure, I share here two unpublished (…because editors [eye-roll emoji][facepalm emoji]…) sections of the sequence “Made in Germany”, composed in 2012.


Waiting on a train to what was

the East, the summer of the year

the New Age believed the World

would end, wildfires smoke

from Colorado to Croatia,


floodwaters deeper than memory

drown southern Russia and Thailand,

tornadoes plough the Midwest,

hurricanes blow past records

on the Eastern Seaboard.



http:// (21.07.2012)


Asked what he would do were the world to end

next day, Luther replied, “Plant an apple tree.”








A theme with vista: food

An Australian acquaintance I know through our shared admiration for the poetry and political writing of Peter Dale Scott is fast becoming a shadow co-editor for Poeta Doctus. She weekly or so will share poems on-line, one of which has already prompted my sharing one of my own.

Today, she shared Daniel Nyikos’ poem about making Hungarian potato soup. This resonated with me for numerous reasons: food is a persistent theme in my own work, and my father’s family are Hungarian immigrants (my sister holds in her possession my grandmother’s handwritten recipe for potato soup). I share below, therefore, two (!) poems, from Ladonian Magnitudes.

The first, “Marmitako“, is similar to Nyikos’ (though it never made it into the pages of Poetry), about a traditional, Portuguese fish stew. Things have changed since it was written, as to eat tuna, today, is both to dose yourself with mercury and to contribute to the extinction of the fish. The second, “Horizontal Gold Noble Mercury”, concerns mercury, too—explicitly, but in a more rarefied sense—and, consequently, sustenance in a more sophisticated manner. Bon appetit!




They cut the tail section off some

Of the tuna, bonito, and mackerel

They caught, skinned and boned it,

Cleaned it up in buckets, chopped it

Up and threw it in the iron stewpot

On top of the onions, garlic, tomatoes,

And dried red peppers, cleaned and chopped,

Simmering there, oil bubbling through,

Shared loaves and some good red wine,

That Friday of all days still offshore.


Horizontal Gold Noble Mercury


1/2 grapefruit, red or white, sliced banana on bowl muesli w/ 2% milk or 1% yoghurt, brown toast w/ jam or honey on peanutbutter, 1 espresso

Piece sprouted unleavened Manna Bread, 1 espresso

Sandwich, russet apple or pear, 1 espresso

2 nights now, stir fry of Spanish onion, Hungarian pepper, bean sprouts, broccoli, tofu;  1 espresso

4500 mg vitamin C daily until cold is gone

There stands a house under the mountain of the world

Be thou the happy subject of my books, a brave craft

Dash’d all to pieces, my tongue, this air,

Born here of parents born here of parents

The same, hoping to cease not, till death




Budapest on my mind

A friend of mine recently shared Anya Silver’s poem “Doing Laundry in Budapest”, which brought to mind a thematically-related poem of my own, from my first chapbook Budapest Suites (Montreal:  Pneuma, 1993) and first trade edition, Grand Gnostic Central and other poems. I share it here for my friend’s, and anyone else’s, pleasure.




“Apply what you know to what you feel that’s more than enough”


On Váci utca, mongrel pigeons, flapping,

Mount American-style shopfront windows.


Grey cops in pairs or trios patrol;

Country people bag handiwork, whistling.


At the end of Vörösmárty tér, a blind man begs fillérs at tables in Gerbaud—

A blond father yells No! at a Gypsy girl and daughter.


Behind me a woman asks for directions:

Bocsanat.  Nem magyar.  “Nem Magyar?!”



Váci utca is a famous commercial street in Budapest; Vörösmárty tér is a square at the end of the street; fillérs at the time (1991) were pennies; Gerbaud is a famous café on, I believe, the square; the Hungarian that ends the poem can be translated roughly as “Pardon me. I’m not Hungarian.” “You’re not Hungarian?!”

I am aware that the racial designation of the girl and daughter in line 6 might, today, be read as an epithet; I retain it here as an index of the time of the poem’s composition; its use, innocent at that time, was also prompted by the alliteration with ‘Gerbeaud’….



Jason Kenney rides UCP wave to majority government in Alberta


When I read this headline this morning, I was immediately reminded of my friends’ reactions to the election of Rob Ford last summer, whose social media postings I collaged into a kind of poem as they threaded their way to me then.

You can read “Ontario Election Results 2018 in real time“, changing the names and places as needed to make it about this most recent electoral development.

I’ve poetically expressed my own political leanings here, in a long poem from Ladonian Magnitudes (2006).

All I can say is, Þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

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The Year in Review, or The Latest Album

gull bouyUnlike some poets, who seem able to compose and publish a new book every year, I learned long ago my creative metabolism is more like that of a pop musician, about twelve new pieces, or a new album, annually.

Here’s what I’ve produced this year, with early versions of poems shared here hyperlinked; italicized titles are sequences, while those in quotation marks are individual poems:

Cyberian Vistas (one of which can be read here)

Replies to Mayer Hillman (an early version of one of which can be read here)

Toronto Suite (two of which can be read here and here)

“Standard Eyes I Shun”

Pasqua Lake Elegies

“A Portrait of the Artist”

“A book I can’t read closed”

“I’m told you’re disappointed”

“Brief von München”

There are some miscellaneous “one-offs” here, too:  “Two [more!] for Mayer Hillman”, “Ontario Election Results in Real Time 2018”, and a little poem on the eve of the provincial elections in Quebec, here.

Happily, too, I delivered a talk on the poetry of Peter Dale Scott and the Postsecular at what used to be called the Learneds in May, while the end of summer saw my collaborator Antoine Malette and myself translating passages of Louis Riel’s Massinahican, which will hopefully appear in an anthology forthcoming from University of California Press in 2019 or 2020.



Replies to Mayer Hillman


At the end of April, The Guardian published a dour interview with social scientist Mayer Hillman, wherein he pronounces “We’re doomed.”

Said interview resulted in some tangled discussion threads that, in turn, resulted in some poems (here, here, and here), and some friends’ sharing the interview on-line—again!—prompted the following intervention.


Replies to Mayer Hillman

                “We’re doomed.”


Your therapist would guide you

gently to see you’re fortune telling.


The dialectician would unfold the thought

that determination does not


foreclose unforeseen developments

being the condition of its own negation.


A happy chance slip of memory recalls

“What is real now was only once imagined”.

One for Tuilaepa Sailele, avant la lettre

Sailele, the prime minister of Samoa, delivered a speech in Sydney, Australia, 30 August Tuilaepa-Sailele2018, wherein he said that “Any leader … who believes that there is no climate change I think he ought to be taken to mental confinement, he is utter[ly] stupid and I say the same thing for any leader here who says there is no climate change.”

2012, the year the world was supposed to end, I had a similar sentiment, except, of course, expressed poetically. You can read it here.

In Good Company

JR 5Jerome Rothenberg posted today some poems from his “Pound Project”, a set of sixteen-line poems that riff off lines of Pound’s. Rothenberg writes Pound is “a strong poetry influence for many of us ([him]self [& myself] included)”. And the poetic at work in his series echoes that at work in a sequence of poems I wrote in response to (Ezraversity graduate) Louis Dudek’s penultimate book of poems.

Rothenberg has been an important influence and/or poeticultural coworker for me, too:  his Technicians of the Sacred strongly orients my own understanding of what poetry has and can be, and his Poems for the Millenium assemblages, especially Volume III, Romantic and Postromantic poetry, resonate with my own present concerns. It’s good to be in such spiritual, poetic company, however physically distant.

9/11 in poeticompositional real time

Between 16 August 2001 and  1 February 2002, I was composing a sequence, one of whose constraints required I write every day, which I managed, more or less. Curiously, the events of 9/11 left no immediate impact, rather hearing of, I think, Billy Collins’ refusal to write of the event almost a week later spurred several days of response. What follows then is five consecutive parts of what was published as “Sewn Knot” in dANDelion, Number 28, Volume 2, 2002. The original version exploits different typefaces and point sizes to create a polyphony (here lost due to WordPress’ limitations…). Given that my new book March End Prill due out  next month was composed under the same constraint, except then coincident with the invasion of Iraq, it seems not apropos to reissue, however provisionally, these stanzas.

from Sewn Knot


Big Huff—Terrorism and the Western mind stops. wozu Dichter. It is 10:19 in Montreal a Sunday. Five six days after Tuée’s Day. “Will you ever write a poem about what happened…?” “No,” quickly and emphatically. Who has been stuck a tin wreath upon? die miserably every day for lack. A bard of each side watched the battle on high ground and after agreed on a version; the Ollave rich in rhythms and myth embroidered a coat for the moment; the Wit quips “Allah’s snuff.”; the Scop might scoop up the bard harping on Beowulf’s Slaying of Grendel (ISBN 0 14 04.4268 5) / a fellow of the kings whose head was a storehouse of the storied verse whose tongue gave gold to the language of the treasured repertory wrought a new lay made in the measure the man struck up found the phrase framed rightly the deed…drove the tale rang word changes / ; Petöfi and Radnóti scribbled. —Scribes scramble laptop clay dusty clumps; reeds good kindling; one library crumbles another burns or more slowly falls in dust; what towers over the words that raised them? & that a breath as easily stopped?


Foul meat eye coffer rage. Crock the wit. Deferent citation / winces / winds a trump bone. Sick utter coroners what dare lips. Better scrawls wall owed. Raw urge it hated revel elations. Jawin’ on pat most in axe aisle. Fore gut litter chewer. Letter cheer eye cop’s latter. Ich or us or th’us spay ache swimmer saw raw twos straw. Die imbecile! ‘domicile’ ‘haunt’’s synonym. Cryptic Coptic Gnostic a craw’s tick crossed stick a crow’s trick wing glick flick kwa! kwa!  Who facade in it. A/n assured / cheap chirp. Sublimated dinosaur sotto voce. Vollied simian takes to air like a fish to strand. Heart o’ gold hard off hear to go. Hour dust any in spays. In the bug grinning wash “WORD”. —“Ten year old schoolchildren in Hanover pressed posters against their classroom windows Now bin Laden will show you what he can do!” The nation that invented chess & zero has since the seventh century plotted the West’s end infiltrated a porous open society with assassin generations just waiting for the word when only one colour will be left on the board. Frank Rogue in cuffs calls out “I stand for America all the way!” who gunned down a turbaned bearded Sikh gas station attendant & took a shot at an employee of Ali Saad & Saad Saad & an Afghan-American home. A Moroccan gas station clerk’s attacked; someone guns a car at a Pakistani woman; mosques torched from Seattle to Montreal, a Hindu temple burned down in Hamilton.—Stale some tang missung. Philosopher Consort silent in Governor General’s shadow; our rich charred roar tea of the ’’gnored / too / quiet.


Strip mine. Striped mind. Loching through rods and koans. Trenchant thought’s trough. Pry sun break. no way to make a work of Art! Litter chewer swine. / high bred / Peary plum hype rid. Dreams rise like swells salted of earth. Numberless schools shoal never to surface, e.g., Billy /(/Collins or Jori/)/ Graham. Bored by the dilemma. Mycenaean vault over a cretin maze. Fin, sail, or wing. He stomped right over the hoods of cars stopped in the crosswalk. Riding clear of / illusive / mythification. Dawnward orange sun…sparrowsuite…traffic aleatoricsoundtrack / backgroundnoise /…ceilingpipe / upstair/tap ablutions…ubiquitous towerfan…nagahyde officechair squeak…jetroar…warming brick crack and wood creak…carhonk…explosive sneeze & apologetic sigh: awl a tread of scents. Timbre sap: xylobones flowin’; wet reed leaps / ; stickdivotted skins in a crashing jungle of simples (no cur—nay, cheer—throbs the temples); elephant and treefrog trumpet / : stiff breeze of applause. Classic cull cored tête; twin fugues can veer risabley. Percussion composition for precipitation and random venue. Heaving it out with the line in five-ten time / foot in mound / (i.e., the berth chord) / : ounce more into the breach! Empyreal tailor’s Adamic Fall line. Virtual atomae variable as elements. Pillow soporific all. Two the tangs dissolved! Hysterically roughly half of us carry fishegg seawater —[…]—Bending corners.—Dog-eared year. Serious sorry series.


Hypnopomp jabs fork up into tongue out.—Eye dull rhumour dozeled bi anoughter manic keen bindery: Eider yore wit us or agin‘em! Bale a cause spear rite jabs carries over and tosses another squirming body into Searcull of Blood ‘mid the vie yell lent. Mythed ague in….bearing cog ant raisins, a skuller is never sans loot: caught between warring camps, one week no food,  Kung played on his k’in the Odesentences bleed into each other, commas stage a comeback, the language in question dialects syntax? Nor more plurality of worlds on ‘errd.—core poor rate muddle ya one or ship mayas the boughty pullatick’s had; pub lick real late shuns avail gene yes….fied huntered chainnull causemost….


Disfrig meants shore up hour runes. Elude sieve mess memory’s mummeries. Leapin’ lacunae! The boredinerry rudder re-sent fool aversion of un’s self. Bach’s Magnificat D Major BWV 243 & BWV 1083 Autumn air cools sunlit room an occasional sparrow checks the emptied birdfeeder. Canned worms best left unopened after or before best before date. Fingers’ capers. You think I care about your lousy hermeneutic when the language is speaking to me?!–… “You must lie 53 years with the Bone Maiden.” She lies on blackredbrown mud against a stonebrick wall as dark, looking seven feet tall, heavy bone, shreds of flesh like on some hamshank after hungry dinner—What ? I can’t mourn Peace? Pax packs a punch? I’m running out of cheeks to turn.—What is the heaviest thing, you heroes? so asks the weight-bearing spirit, Is it not this: to desert our cause when it is celebrating its victory?—All answers will be questioned….