Saturday, April 30, 2011

dave margoshes: becoming a writer

What could be easier than learning to write?
Novels, poems, fables with and without morals
they’re all within you, in the heart, the head
the bowel, the tip of the pen a diviner’s rod.
Reach inside and there they are, the people
one knows, their scandalous comments,
the silly things they do, the unforgettable feeling
of a wet eyelash on your burning cheek.
This moment, that, an eruption of violence,
a glancing away, the grandest of entrances,
the telling gesture, the banal and the beautiful,
all conspire with feeling and passion to transport,
to deliver, to inspire. Story emerges
from this cocoon, a crystalline moment, epiphanies
flashing like lightbulbs above the heads
of cartoon characters. All this within you
where you least expect it, not so much in the head
as under the arms, glistening with sweat, stinking
with the knowledge of the body, the writer
neither practitioner nor artisan but miner, digging
within himself for riches unimagined, for salt.

Margoshes, Dave. "Becoming a Writer" The Best Canadian Poetry in English. Toronto: Tightrope Books, 2009.

Friday, April 29, 2011

marilyn bowering: about your name


If you wish to think about what is invisible,
you start with a loved one,

with their essence, with the touch of lips
in actuality or in potential: as beginning with

electrons and moving to electricity,
and the hydro electric dams on the rivers,

and the changes of names they undergo
according to politics -- that is, you ignore history.

As to the way things are -- this is intelligible
only through a vision of you.

Marvellous colours that are invisible except
to the naked eye, unseen by electronic pulses,

or by mirrors, or by angels talking and drawing
each other's pictures,

unseen by all except me, who happened to find you
in the right place and time.

Because when I look at you I seem to see nothing:
I see the sweetness and light that is above

and beyond all mirrors or the hair combing of angels,
or the polishings of motor cars and mountain bicycles:

it is greatest because it is the simplest, and because it is full
like the air, of the intention to touch.

For that which is most actual is you when I see you
and when I am with you.

You ask how this came about:
it is a question of grace, not practice,

a step in the right direction by chance, 
a desire, not thought.

And I meditated on the mind's ascent to love
the whole world before me, and all the roads,

and I waited for you.

Bowering, Marilyn. "About Your Name" Introductions: Poets Present Poets. Markham: Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited, 2001.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

anne carson: blended text

(from Sublimes)

You have captured:                     pinned upon
my heart:                                  the wall of my heart is your love
with one glance:                         as one
with one bead:                           as an exile of the kings of royalty
of your eyes:                              my heart
you have something of mine:         a torn thing
again the moon:                          now
the rule:                                    (who knows)

Carson, Anne. "Blended Text" Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera. Toronto: Vintage Books, 2005.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

anne carson: and reason remains undaunted

(from Sublimes)

Searching for things sublime I walked up into the muddy windy big hills

behind the town where trees riot according to their own laws and

one may

observe so many methods of moving green—under, over, around, across,
up the back, higher, fanning, condensing, rifled, flat in the eyes, as if

pacing a

cell, like a litter of grand objects, minutely, absorbed, one leaf at a time,
ocean-furious, nettle-streaked, roping along, unmowed, fresh out of pools,

clear as Babel,

such a tower, scattered through the heart, green in the strong sense, dart-
shook, crownly, carrying the secrets of its own heightening on

up, juster than a shot, gloomier than Milton or even his king of terrors,
idol in its dark parts, as a word coined to mean “storm” (of love) or

“waving lines”

(architectural), scorned, clean, with blazing nostrils, not a servant, not
rapid, rapid.

Carson, Anne. "And Reason remains Undaunted" Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2005.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

anne carson: book of isaiah (part II)


There is a kind of pressure in humans to take whatever is most beloved by them
and smash it.

Religion calls the pressure piety and the smashed thing a sacrifice to God.

Prophets question these names.   

What is an idol?

An idol is a useless sacrifice, said Isaiah.

But how do you know which ones are useless? asked the nation in its genius.

Isaiah pondered the various ways he could answer this.

Immense chunks of natural reality fell out of a blue sky
       and showers of light upon his mind.

Isaiah chose the way of metaphor.

Our life is a camera obscura, said Isaiah, do you know what that is?   

Never heard of it, said the nation.   

Imagine yourself in a darkened room, Isaiah instructed.

Okay, said the nation.

The doors are closed, there is a pinhole in the back wall.

A pinhole, the nation repeated.

Light shoots through the pinhole and strikes the opposite wall.   

The nation was watching Isaiah, bored and fascinated at once.

You can hold up anything you like in front of that pinhole, said Isaiah,

and worship it on the opposite wall.

Why worship an image? asked the nation.   

Exactly, said Isaiah.

The nation chewed on that for a moment.   

Then its genius spoke up.

So what about Isaiah’s pinhole?

Ah, said Isaiah.

A memory fell through him as clear heat falls on herbs.

Isaiah remembered the old days, conversing with God under the Branch

and like an old butler waking in an abandoned house the day the revolution began,

Isaiah bent his head.

A burden was upon Isaiah.

Isaiah opened his mouth.

A sigh came from Isaiah’s mouth, the sigh grew into a howl.

The howl ran along the brooks to the mouth of the brooks   

and tore the nets of the fishers who cast angle into the brooks   

and confounded the workers in fine flax who weave networks   

and broke their purpose.

The howl rolled like a rolling thing past slain men and harvests and spoils

and stopped in a ditch between two walls.

Then Isaiah unclamped his mouth from the howl.

Isaiah let his mouth go from the teat.

Isaiah turned, Isaiah walked away.

Isaiah walked for three years naked and barefoot with buttocks uncovered
to the shame of the nation.

All night you could see the Branch roaming against the sky like a soul.

Carson, Anne. "Book of Isaiah" Glass, Irony and God. New York: New Directions Books, 1995.

Monday, April 25, 2011

anne carson: book of isaiah (part I)


Isaiah awoke angry.

Lapping at Isaiah’s ears black birdsong no it was anger.   

God had filled Isaiah’s ears with stingers.

Once God and Isaiah were friends.

God and Isaiah used to converse nightly, Isaiah would rush into the garden.

They conversed under the Branch, night streamed down.

From the sole of the foot to the head God would make Isaiah ring.   

Isaiah had loved God and now his love was turned to pain.   

Isaiah wanted a name for the pain, he called it sin.

Now Isaiah was a man who believed he was a nation.

Isaiah called the nation Judah and the sin Judah’s condition.   

Inside Isaiah God saw the worldsheet burning.

Isaiah and God saw things differently, I can only tell you their actions.

Isaiah addressed the nation.   

Man’s brittleness! cried Isaiah.

The nation stirred in its husk and slept again.

Two slabs of bloody meat lay folded on its eyes like wings.   

Like a hard glossy painting the nation slept.

Who can invent a new fear?

Yet I have invented sin, thought Isaiah, running his hand over the knobs.

And then, because of a great attraction between them—

which Isaiah fought (for and against) for the rest of his life—

God shattered Isaiah’s indifference.

God washed Isaiah’s hair in fire.

God took the stay.

From beneath its meat wings the nation listened.   

You, said Isaiah.

No answer.

I cannot hear you, Isaiah spoke again under the Branch.   

Light bleached open the night camera.

God arrived.

God smashed Isaiah like glass through every socket of his nation.   

Liar! said God.

Isaiah put his hands on his coat, he put his hand on his face.

Isaiah is a small man, said Isaiah, but no liar.

God paused.

And so that was their contract.   

Brittle on both sides, no lying.

Isaiah’s wife came to the doorway, the doorposts had moved.   

What’s that sound? said Isaiah’s wife.   

The fear of the Lord, said Isaiah.   

He grinned in the dark, she went back inside.

Carson, Anne. "Book of Isaiah" Glass, Irony and God. New York: New Directions Books, 1995.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

di brandt: jerusalem, the golden

Jerusalem, the golden, city of my dreams,
dreaming, how i waited all my life for you,
to find you, resplendent, in the sun, your
white stones crying, with joy, Jerusalem,
beloved,lying in the Mediterranean sun,
filled with love, delirious with love, lift up
your heart & sing, my heart dancing, how i
longed for you, all my life, your streets
paved with gold, & children playing, your
diamond studded gates, your rooftops filled
with women, dancing, & flowers in their
hair, the tables laden, heavy, the air filled
with music, & feasting, my love, how i
longed for you, dreaming, my arms aching,
from the day of my birth, my birthgiving,
filled with pangs of hunger & remembering,
how i longed for you, my love, how long,
oh how long i waited for you

Brandt, Di. "Jerusalem, the golden" Jerusalem, beloved. Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1995.

an easter song

Set me as a seal upon your heart, 
As a seal upon your arm; 
For love is as strong as death, 
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire, 
A most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, 
Nor can the floods drown it. 

Song of Solomon

Saturday, April 23, 2011

jan zwicky: practising bach (gigue)


        There is a sound
that is a whole of many parts,
a sorrowless transparency, like luck,
that opens in the centre of a thing.
An eye, a river, fishheads, death,
gold in your pocket, and a half-wit
son: the substance of the world
is light and blindness and the measure
of our wisdom is our love.
Our diligence: ten fingers and
a healthy set of lungs. Practice
ceaselessly: there is
one art: wind
in the open spaces
grieving, laughing
with us, saying

and now, click on this link to hear the gigue.

Zwicky, Jan. "Practising Bach" The Best Canadian Poetry in English. Markham: Tightrope Books, 2009.

Friday, April 22, 2011

an easter piece

jan zwicky: practising bach (bourée)


Partita, partie -- a whole of many parts. Pythagoras, who is said to have studied with the Egyptians, is also said to have taught that enlightenment meant solving the problem of the One and the Many, of coming to grasp the divine unity of the world through its bits and pieces, as these come to us in language.

   This may also be thought of as the problem of metaphor: that metaphor's truth, its charge of meaning, depends on assertion of identity and difference, on erotic coherence and referential strife, on meaning as resonance and meaning revealed through analysis.

   Lyric poets are always trying to approach the issue by forcing speech to aspire to the conditions of music. Bach comes at it from the other end: he infuses music with a sense of the terrible concreteness, the particularity, of the world. And enlightenment? -- Acceptance of, delight in, the mystery of incarnation.

and now, click on this link to hear the bourée.

Zwicky, Jan. "Practising Bach" The Best Canadian Poetry in English. Markham: Tightrope Books, 2009.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

jan zwicky: practising bach (menuet I/II)

Menuet I & II

There's nothing special in it. All you have to do
is hit the right key at the right time. Time:
that stream in which we do, and do not,
live. Just practise diligently; it will all go well. You have
five fingers on each hand, just as healthy as my own. 
Unison, the octave; the fifth, the fourth, the third.
Of the strings? The viola, if I have a choice.
At the keyboard, don't forget to use your thumb.
God's glory and the recreation of the mind.
What I really need to know:
does the organ have good lungs?
The partita of the world, the dance of being: everything
has to be possible.

and now, click on this link to hear the menuets.

Zwicky, Jan. "Practising Bach" The Best Canadian Poetry in English. Markham: Tightrope Books, 2009.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

jan zwicky: practising bach (gavotte)


E major: June wind
in the buttercups, wild
and bright and tough.
Like luck -- a truth
that's on the surface of a thing,
not because it's shallow, but because
it's open: overtoned.
Because it rings.
                           Fate, too,
it's character. But it's
the shape -- the cadence
and the counterpoint. Luck
lives in the moment, and it
looks at you: the clear eye,
gold, when being sings.

and now, click on this link to hear the gavotte.

Zwicky, Jan. "Practising Bach" The Best Canadian Poetry in English. Markham: Tightrope Books, 2009.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

jan zwicky: practising bach (loure)


Why is Bach's music more like speech than any other? Because of its wisdom, I think. Which means its tempering of lyric passion by domesticity, its grounding of the flash of lyric insight in domestic earth, the turf of dailyness.

    Let us think of music as a geometry of the emotions. Bach's practice, then, resembles that of the egyptians: Earth's measure as a way of charting the bottomlands of the Nile, the floodwaters of the heart, as a way of charting life. Opera, Greek tragedy, Romantic poetry tell us that sex and death are what we have to focus on if we want to understand any of the rest. Bach's music, by contrast, speaks directly to, and of, life itself -- the resonant ground of sex and death.

   And it does this not without ornamentation, but without fuss: the golden ratio in the whelk shell lying on the beach, the leaf whorl opening to sun, the presence of the divine in the chipped dish drying in the rack, that miracle: good days, bad days, a sick kid, a shaft of sunlight on the organ bench. Talk to me, I'm listening.

and now, click on this link to hear the loure.

Zwicky, Jan. "Practising Bach" The Best Canadian Poetry in English. Markham: Tightrope Books, 2009.

Monday, April 18, 2011

jan zwicky: practising bach (prelude)

over the course of this week i will be posting practising bach, a suite of poems by jan zwicky, meant to be read aloud before the various respective segments of bach's partita no. 3 in E major for solo violin, BMV1006. i will post a link to the appropriate section of the piece, as well as the corresponding poetry. take your time.


There is, said Pythagoras, a sound
the planet makes: a kind of music
just outside our hearing, the proportion
and the resonance of things -- not
the clang of theory or the wuthering
of human speech, not even
the bright song of sex or hunger, but
the unrung ringing that
supports them all.

The wife, no warning, dead
when you come home. Ducats
in the fishheads that you salvage
from the rubbage heap. Is the cosmos
laughing at us? No. It's saying

improvise. Everywhere you look
there's beauty, and it's rimed 
with death. If you find injustice
you'll find humans, and this means
that if you listen, you'll find love.
The substance of the world is light,
is water: here, clear
even when it's dying; even when the dying
seems unbearable, it runs.

and now, click on this link to hear the preludio.

Zwicky, Jan. "Practising Bach" The Best Canadian Poetry in English. Markham: Tightrope Books, 2009.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

bp nichol: two words: a wedding

(for rob & sharon)

There are things you have words for, things you do not have words for. There are words that encompass all your feelings & words that encompass none. There are feelings you have that are like things to you, picked up & placed in the pocket, worn like the cloth the pocket is attached to, like a skin you live inside of. There is a body of feeling, of language, of friends; the body politic, the body we are carried inside of till birth, the body we carry our self inside of till death, a body of knowledge that tells of an afterlife, a heaven, an unknown everything we have many words for but cannot encompass. There are relationships between words & concepts, between things, between life & death, between friends & family, between each other & some other other. We wed words to things, people to feelings, speak of a true wedding of the mind & heart, intuition & intellect, & out of this form our realities. Our realities are wedded one to another, concepts & people are joined, new people conceived within that mesh of flesh & realities, are carried forward in the body of the mother, the family, the bodily love we have for one another. They are creating their own reality every step of the way, daily, another kind of reality is born, each new word, person, expanding our vocabulary, our concepts, new realities are conceived, our old reality changes, the 'real' grows realer every day. We are marrying the flesh to the flesh, the word to the daily flux of lives we know & don't know, our friends grow older and marry, raise children as you once were children with mothers & fathers of your own, grow older, so many things you still lack words for, struggle to wed the inner & outer worlds, the self to some other self or selves, confess your love & struggle with one another, together, conscious there is this word is you, your name, & that you are yet another thing or things you will never encompass, never exhaust the possibilities of, because you are wedded to the flux of life, because we are words and our meanings change.

Nichol, bp. "Two Words: A Wedding" The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

john terpstra: a prayer to be in paradise with the children

for a baptism

When I must come to you, o my God, I pray
it be in the early hours of that day,
and just as on these mornings I would rather sleep
I beg the lively company to keep
of kids, in Paradise, where rest and rising meet.
My eyes will open, I will yawn and stretch,
and to the children jumping on the bed
I shall say, "I am Johannes Terpstra,
and this is Paradise, at your pleasure.”
And I shall say to them, "This house has many rooms,
its hallways are for running, take the stairs in twos,
and we'll play inside the mansions of our living God,
for all doors open to the treasures of his kinderlove.”

Let me awaken with these children, Lord, in your home,
this offspring of your fondest word, who roam
the towered heart of day and lift it from the frame
our plans project; and let me be like them, the same.
I shall arise and follow the one who follows his nose,
followed by the sniffling sound of those who have a cold,
by the ones who dawdle and the ones who'd sooner shove,
by those who pile blocks in silence and those who love
to knock all such building down, by the bossy ones
and those who daily bear their brethren, by the talkers,
by the ones who, left alone, begin to eat the garden dirt
because they, o Lord, desire to taste of your creation
which is good.
                       Let it be with these kids that I awake,
perfectly restored, inside the house your design has made
for the halt, the lame, for those whose raw deformity
stands out: the unloved, or over adored.
                                                         And let it be
that angels guide our thousand feet upon the stair
to lead us into hidden access of the secret lair
of your delights: the preparations, boxes, reels,
the paper, crayons, the fountains of water, ferris wheels.
Pamper us there, for whom the faith is one, waking up
on this morning or that. O Lord God, fill the cup

When I must come to you, I pray
it be at any time of any day,
and if my eyes were closed, I shall awake
now, to Paradise, having seen your grace
fall somewhat like rain upon this one child's face.

Terpstra, John. “A Prayer to be in Paradise with the Children”.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

leonard cohen: the asthmatic

Because you will not overthrow your life. You cannot breathe. Because of the panic of homelessness.  You cannot breathe. Because you have begun to worship time. You cannot breathe. Because you will never have the beautiful one. You cannot breathe. Because you will not sail into the small harbour and enter the village.  You cannot breathe. Because your sorrow will not return to its birthplace. You cannot breathe. Because you believe you were not meant to be so far away. You cannot breathe. Because this is the valley of the shadow of death. You cannot breathe. The boat has brought you here. The butterfly has sealed your escape. Because you cannot be here. You cannot breathe. The butterfly smashed into a silver tray and sealed your escape like a stone rolled into a tunnel. You cannot breathe. Because you do not know what is coming. You cannot breathe. Because this world is yours and it is not yours. You cannot breathe. Because  you rest, because you strive, because you do not work. You cannot breathe. Because you let the world come between you and me. You cannot breathe. Because of an idea of the calm breath. You cannot breathe. Here they have orange and lemon trees. Here there are baths of mineral waters. Because you want to choose a way. You cannot breathe. Because you find the language to welcome me. You cannot breathe. The sun is sparkling all over the blue water. The stony shore is laved by the sea. Yellow curtains are sucked against the portholes. The propeller wants everyone to go to sleep. You separate yourself from an unknown woman in a green sweater. Because of your love of conquering. You cannot breathe. Because you will not address me as an equal. Because you have commanded the guards to shut down the doors and take away breathing. Because the world is stamped with order, like a seal in formless wax. Because you have a God of justice. Because the justice is immediate and flawless. You cannot breathe. Because you cannot uphold your separation. Because your strangerhood is defeated. Because you breathe your breath through the mask of purity. Because you consign to the pale of objectivity her green sweater, the flashing islands, your distance from love, and your whole breathless predicament. You cannot breathe.

Cohen, Leonard. "The Asthmatic" Death of a Lady's Man. Toronto: Penguin Books, 1979.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

leonard cohen: i should not say you

I should not say you. I should say O. Now I see why they said, the Name. I crumble before the Name. My heart is stubborn before the Name. Give my heart ease in the presence of the Name. My heart is like something that waits. My heart longs to be a chamber for the Name. I am ignorant. I don't know how to make a place for the Name. I lose the Name in my thrust of greed. I lose it in my mind. This heart is dead. This heart hoards its death. It will not make a place for the Name. Fill me with the Name O most high. I swim in your love but I drown in loneliness. End my waiting. Allow me the Name. Protect me in the terror of your absent Name.

Not by oracles. Not by the Bible. Not by ghosts. Not by spirits seen in a magic lens. Not in shadows. Not in braided manes. Not by appearance in the air. Not by the stars at birth. Not by meteors. Not by winds. Not by sacrificial appearances. Not by the entrails of animals sacrificed. Not by the entrails of a human sacrifice. Not by the entrails of fishes. Not by sacrificial fire. Not by red-hot iron. Not by clamp. Not by muzzle. Not by smoke from the altar. Not by the counting of petals. Not by the signal of wings. Not by mice. Not by birds. Not by a cock picking up grains. Not by the layers of the mountain. Not by the strength of the moon. Not by herbs. Not by water. Not by fountains. Not by a wand. Not by dough of cakes. Not by the falling of sticks. Not by meal. Not by salt. Not by dice. Not by ladders. Not by the flight of an arrow. Not by a balanced hatchet. Not by a suspended ring. Not by a stone on a thread. Not by pebbles drawn from a heap. Not by mirrors.  Not by writings in ashes. Not by a change of kings. Not by dreams. Not by the lines of the hands. Not by nails reflecting the sun's rays. Not by numbers. Not by drawing lots. Not by passages in books. Not by the letters forming the name of a person. Not by features. Not by the mode of laughing. Not by the pattern of snakes. Not by walking in a circle. Not by drawing a circle. Not by the rings on the finger. Not by dropping melted wax in water. Not by clouds. Not by currents.

Without the Name the wind is a babble, the flowers are a jargon of longingWithout the Name I am a funeral in the gardenWaiting for the next girl. Waiting for the next prize. Without the Name sealed in my heart I am ashamed. It is not sealed. I am ashamed. Without the Name I bear false witness to the glory. Then I am this false witness. Then let me continue.

Cohen, Leonard. "I Should Not Say You" Death of a Lady's Man. Toronto:  Toronto: Penguin Books, 1979.