Sunday, 21 December 2014

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Two Poems from "Creative Chaos" by Gordon and Everson

Creative Chaos
By Katherine L. Gordon and Lenny Everson
Passion Among the Cacti Press, 2014
ISBN 978-0-9782339-7-6

Southwestern Ontario poets Katherine L. Gordon and Lenny Everson have teamed up once again to deliver a back-and-forth series of poems in Creative Chaos. Although their styles differ significantly from each other, the poems surprisingly work together as a whole and below are two poems I was quite fond of and am presenting on the blog today ...

What Bird Should I Talk To

You are leaving as the sea summons
to listen to wave talk,
feel the siren winds calling
your restless spirit away.
You will pace that island
while I send you poetry
so that you may stay
to knit the threads of life for me
on this ravelling plane.
In this season between migrations,
vanishing time of nesting,
I listen to the birds discussing rain,
the progress of fledglings,
time for new horizons.
Only the raven watches,
his conversation apocryphal,
guarding the time of passage,
carrying messages between worlds.
For you, the scree of gulls;
for me, the monotone of raven farewell.

©2014 Katherine L. Gordon

The Real Way to Celebrate July 1

Not the fireworks
Nor flags, nor those speeches
That tell what we hope
Instead of what we are

Dianne and I shared a beer
On the deck, reading books
The cat eating a mouse
Freshly caught

The karma of kairosclerosis

The cat does not doubt her happiness
And so is in the shed, feeling sick

Myself, contentment rankles, I’m
Eating my last poem
Freshly caught, thought
Or bought with a poetic melancholy
I cannot, for the moment, find, and
Wonder if I can
Live without now.

©2014 Lenny Everson

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Poem of the Week: "Poem Written from the Inside" by S.J. White

Poem Written from the Inside

The first lines of this poem
I plucked from the sky
while the sun was called away;
they were loitering among the clouds.
I have laid them between hills
under the word for "tarn"
so that they will not billow
should the wind blow,
though a hindrance of beech trees
forms a wind-break to the north
which, in the interests of the poem,
I assembled from a small coppice.
Little girls are picking wildflowers
further down the hill;
I would have preferred them,
in deference to the poem,
to have been paddling
in the shallows of the tarn
but felt it much too much to ask.

© 2014 by S.J. White 
from his book, Oddities, 
published by Third Dimension Press, 
ISBN 978-0-9689463-0-5

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Friday, 18 July 2014

Poem of the Week: "Hunters" by Lindsey Bannister


It's the dead of summer and

grandmother sends me wandering
to the old man's store where
hunters gather and
dirty fingers fiddle knee-cap and
tongues, tobacco-slick, sing bawdy wisdom. Afterwards

I mount the rusty bones of

my second-hand bike. Hunters
make for nasty oracles I think before I stop
pedaling. In this field
sunflowers stun me, they lurch like
sore backs engaged in the stubborn task of living in
row row row like an assembly line, like
a chain gang. I think
of mystery and love and hunter's tongue because

it's the dead of summer

and these are broken men.

©2013 Lindsey Bannister        

Taken from CV2, Vol. 35, No. 4  Spring 2013

Friday, 11 July 2014

Poem of the Week: "Skunk Hour" by Barry Dempster

“Skunk Hour” 
by Barry Dempster

It’s way before skunk hour
when the actual skunk pokes its snout
from under a hedge.
You pause mid-walk and blink,
half-expecting it to go away.

Later, over Bellinis and tiny tomato halves
stuffed with asiago, you begin
what will become your skunk story,
focussing on the black buttons of its eyes,
how they held surprise
at a strange new angle.

You imagine feeding it bits of bread,
limbering its capacity to trust,
the wide white stripe of its back and tail
hailed like a torn flag.
Soon it will be lumbering onto your lap,
a ball of purr and surrender.

You’ll name it Faith, perhaps,
pour it stainless steel bowls
of milk, let it sleep at the foot of your bed,
even groom it, finish off with a dab
of all-blossom perfume.

Startling, how you want to be seen
as wild in your ability to tame, how the loss of
some things are, weirdly, misinterpreted as gains.
Even skunks love you – life doesn’t
get much easier than that.

Truth, given the right opportunity, will hiss
and scratch, will spray you in the face.
Get away from that hedge.
It doesn’t belong to you.

Have another Bellini, courage to confess
the skunk detests you – nothing has
ever been craved more rabidly than your absence.
Now tell a story where you don’t even exist.

©2013 Barry Dempster
Taken from CV2, vol. 35, no. 4

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Poem of the Week: "The Day He Died" by Ted Hughes

The Day He Died

Was the silkiest day of the young year,
The first reconnaissance of the real spring,
The first confidence of the sun.

That was yesterday. Last night, frost.
And as hard as any of all winter.
Mars and Saturn and the Moon 
Dangling in a bunch
On the hard, littered sky.
Today is Valentine’s day.

Earth toast-crisp. The snowdrops battered.
Thrushes spluttering. Pigeons gingerly
Rubbing their voices together, in stinging cold.
Crows creaking, and clumsily
Cracking loose.

The bright fields look dazed.
Their expression is changed.
They have been somewhere awful
And come back without him.

The trustful cattle, with frost on their backs,
Waiting for hay, waiting for warmth,
Stand in a new emptiness.

From now on the land
Will have to manage without him.
But it hesitates, in this slow realization of light,
Childlike, too naked, in a frail sun,
With roots cut
And a great blank in its memory.

©1989 Ted Hughes
From “Moortown Diary” published by Faber and Faber

Thursday, 12 June 2014

new chapbook release!

My new chapbook, All Here Sail in a River of Light, is a collaboration with Eramosa Valley poet Katherine L. Gordon. We each wrote eight new poems this past April 2014 during National Poetry Month and it's a book of transition from a harsh, cruel Winter to the early serenity of Spring. 

This chapbook can be ordered through Harmonia Press:

Here are a pair of sample poems from All Here Sail in a River of Light:

The Season Arrived in Birdsong

The season arrived in birdsong,
in snowbanks receding like glaciers,
their slow and dripping melt
under a radiant sage of sun
eager to redeem itself
for its many days of absence,
its inability to warm us when we needed it most
and winter’s cruel colding
instilling an innate experience
of Pleistocene hunters and mammoths,
of being bound inside our caves,
of venturing into the ice and wind
while we dreamt of distant greening.

©2014  Andreas Gripp

Absent Spring

We grow cautious
in this thin warmth,
unsure of seasons,
doubting calendars,
carrying coats against sudden chill,
ancient genes rise up in warning
of an earth grown hostile to itinerants
searching icy floods for food and water.
Our customary April is an Innocent Lost,
few birds have braved migration, droop at feeders,
sky not yet glad.
Another page of transformation is written,
sharing and kindness new virtues
but the virtuous not yet appeared.

©2014 Katherine L. Gordon

Friday, 6 June 2014

“The Fleece Era” separates sheep from goats

Joanna Lilley
The Fleece Era
Brick Books, 2014
100 pp. ISBN 978-1-926829-89-0

If there’s a special afterlife for poets, both good and bad, Joanna Lilley should find herself in the most pleasant of post-bodily states. Seldom does a writer manage to weave such an assortment of different tales into a unified whole, and though these poems are not directly connected by sequence or linear storyline, they manage to convey what it means to be human and interacting with others of varying degree of dysfunction and with an increasingly bipolar natural environment.  

Lilley’s lines are consistently well-crafted yet remain unpredictable. Her language is the perfect medium between the sparse and the ornate, and The Fleece Era would easily fit on shelves containing both academic narratives and volumes of people's poetry.

The broad appeal of this, Joanna Lilley’s first collection of poetry, lies not only in its accessible diction but in its easy-to-relate-to subject matter – most of us at one time or another finding ourselves in similar situations as described in these various vignettes.

There are so many poems in The Fleece Era that could count toward my list of favourites that the challenge to relay them all in a single review would be overly daunting and not really feasible so I’ll convey a few of the highlights that left me both envious of Lilley’s talent as a poet and lamenting that I’m presently (and will be in the future) unable to duplicate the level of artistry present in her metaphors and the images that are well-timed, pertinent to each piece, but never overblown or scribed to wow adjudicators of CanLit awards.

In terms of sheer personal and emotive quality, “If I Had Children” was one of this volume’s most moving episodes:

If I Had Children

If I had children
I would have to stop
reading the book I’m reading
and stop writing the book
I’m writing and stop worrying
about how much sleep
I don’t get and I, who cannot listen
to the weather forecast all the way through,
would have to pay attention
for the rest of my life to the rest of theirs.
Every night, I would lay them
under a ceiling and have to remember
to keep them warmer
in winter than in the summer.
Every day, I would have to feed them
food that isn’t food
that’s killing me. Every night,
I would lay my hand on
their hearts to feel the beat
I take too long to find behind
my own fleshy breast, my wadded ribs.
And eventually I would have to explain
why grown-ups can’t sit at the table
politely like children can, why
adults argue, tell each other lies.
Eventually, I would admit
that people firing guns and dropping
bombs do have a choice.
As I was dying, all I would have
to bequeath would be a million pounds
of greenhouse gas emissions.
As I was dying, I’d forget
I’d promised myself never to confess
I nearly didn’t have them
because the human race was almost over
and it was clear who was going to win.

© 2014 Joanna Lilley

An “environmental poem” has never resonated so personally and become so human, eschewing the pitfalls of blatant didacticism that entrap many well-meaning poets attempting to write of our species’ incessant harm to our planet.

Familial relations and a pervading theme of loss resonate in a number of these poems, a notable example that can be found in “Aunt”:


I stand in late light
at my nephew’s attic window
as he sleeps. Below,
his mother weeps.
I leak the powerlessness of aunts.
I can’t fling words far enough
for a sister to catch.
Even easy ones:
he’s not coming back.
I’m going to chuck what I have left
out the window, go home
and start a college fund.
Abstract nouns tap like rain.
Proper nouns thwack like hail.
Verbs – wet snow – won’t settle.
No more words. No weather.
Only the moon, which
will stay a comma
this entire night.

© 2014 Joanna Lilley

Lilley takes note of her surroundings and the individuals inhabiting them with a precision and detail that the rest of us, unless mindfully attuned, tend to ignore and as a result fail to discover insights into everyday events and people that the author opens to us with the adeptness of a veteran practitioner of Zen.

Notes At A Concert

I hear notes before the bow
touches strings, notes in the air
around the violinist’s wrists,
in the space inside his shirt
as a shoulder lifts.
He’s tapered, flared and frantic,
the oddest looking, yet the only
one with ironed creases in his trousers.
The guitarist’s mouth is easy-smile.
His stomach swells below his black roll-neck:
good wine, seafood, the occasional
game of squash. He’s San Francisco.
His slapping hands
look as soft as a solicitor’s
but there must be calluses.
The double bass player’s fingers are thick sticks,
his forehead broad. His lips curl
towards his nostrils; he’s Rossetti’s Beatrice –
he has the hair.
The lights go up.
I was in good company:
the woman who didn’t give me a job,
next to the trainer who thinks my dog has depression.
The man who wants the government
to stop killing wolves sits behind the painter
who pulls her feet to the seat like a child.
She’s here each time I come,
trying, like me, to pay attention to genius.

© 2014 Joanna Lilley

English by birth and having spent the first 39 of her 47 years in the U.K., Joanna Lilley is a fine adopted member of a new Canadian poetry (having lived here since 2006, presently residing in the Yukon). It will be exciting to see what observations she presents to us the next time around, and how her first decade in Canada has affected her exceptional poetics and storytelling.

– Andreas Gripp

Thursday, 5 June 2014

London book launch for "The Better Kiss" June 10th

Here is the info and participants for an upcoming arts event at The Root Cellar Organic Cafe and Bakery, 623 Dundas Street just east of Adelaide, on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014, that includes the launch of my 18th full-length poetry collection, The Better Kiss:

Sketches & Lines showcases a small selection of pieces by London hobby artist, Teresa Daniele. Inspired primarily by the work of Canadian icons Tom Thomson and the group of seven, also drawing upon influences from the impressionist movement and post-impressionist styles most widely associated with the work of Vincent van Gogh, this exhibit traces the artist's evolution in painting, from modest beginnings to a recent progression that embraces bolder colours, freer strokes, and larger canvases. Most pieces will be available for sale by the artist.

A poetry reading by Andreas Gripp, the author of 18 books of poetry including his latest being launched at the Root Cellar called The Better Kiss. Firmly based in the People’s Poetry tradition, he believes that poems can be accessible to all without sacrificing artistic merit. His newest collection of verses tells a story of a complicated love within an urban setting and is interspersed with parallel thoughts on nature and spirituality. In addition to The Better Kiss, other recent books including Andreas Gripp’s Selected Poems will be available for sale at a nominal price.

Charles Innis is an accomplished London musician who is versatile in jazz, world, and other musical expressions. An exceptionally skilled clarinetist, he has accompanied a number of other artists in local bands including The Big Picture. He is also a leading community activist and has played a key role in several organizations, particularly in the northeast end of the city including the Carling-Thames Family Centre and North East London Community Engagement.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Monday, 14 April 2014

Friday, 11 April 2014

Katherine L. Gordon -- Leaving the Dark of Winter and Finding Spring

After a very long and difficult winter, Eramosa valley poet Katherine L. Gordon has just released a new chapbook and she has captured the bleakness that many of us experienced in what felt like a new ice age. A testament to surviving the Winter of 2014, Light Rescue, Verses for the Weather Weary (published by Melinda Cochrane International, ISBN 978-0-9936769-6-3) is one of several new poetry projects that Gordon, ever prolific, has been working on.

Many of the poems have a mid-winter theme, and the outlook is indeed grim ...

February Forgets

Yesterday was January’s
quiver of ice and snow,
today the last of winter’s months
February the Roman’s purifier,
mercifully short.
Storming in with more ice and snow
paying no heed to calendared hopes,
promising chocolate, blushing roses,
breaking your heart with icicle lies,
blasphemous blasts,
a rage of cold feet
with nowhere to March.

©2014 Katherine L. Gordon

Not one to leave the reader feeling despondent, Gordon offers up hope that the cruel season will finally come to a close ...

A Need Of Turbulence

Come turbulent March
blow winter away
hint us flowers and spices
from lands hot and fragrant
from the other side of orbit
turn us to a kinder sun
where bare arms can embrace
dark clouds dissipate
grasses beckon bare feet.
We and the tree live again
loose hair and budding leaves
understand each other.

©2014 Katherine L. Gordon

Poet Conrad DiDiodato has said of Katherine L. Gordon that “she’s poet of nature, language and love. But perhaps above all else, Katherine L. Gordon is the true guardian of a true Canadian poetry.” A summation that I easily concur with.

– Andreas Gripp

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Linder and Deahl team up for "Two Paths Through The Seasons"


Two Paths Through The Seasons
by Norma West Linder & James Deahl

Cyclamens and Swords, 44 pages 
ISBN 978-965-7503-13-3

Veteran Sarnia, Ontario poets Norma West Linder and James Deahl have teamed up for a collection of poetry, Two Paths Through The Seasons, an aesthetically pleasing volume published by Helen Bar-Lev’s Cyclamens and Swords Publishing based in Metulla, Israel. 

The cover art, a watercolour by Linder (“Trilliums at Highland Glen”), is lovely and inviting and her poems make up the first half of the book, most serving as poignant memoir and/or descriptions of area woodlands and landscapes. There are also very nice tribute poems to Ella Fitzgerald and Irving Layton, but it’s the tributes to an era of her youth that piqued my interest the most – verses capturing the essence of a time that many of us can only visit through bygone films and music.

One of the highlights of the first section:

For Love Alone

Late in the afternoon
at the entrance to the mall
a frail old man
in a rumpled blue serge suit
tucks his violin
under his long white beard
and fills the August air
with haunting music from
Cavalleria Rusticana.

His instrument
almost a part of him
he plays for love alone
eyes closed against the crowd.

After a mystical hour
the old man stoops
picks up his case
tenderly encloses
his violin inside
and shuffles off
leaving a scattering
of silver coins
on the ground behind him.

He played for love alone.

©  2014 Norma West Linder

The longing for an earlier life is beautifully encapsulated in the closing lines of “Sad Bird of Youth,” where Linder writes, of a whippoorwill’s song”: “How could I know / it was calling to me / through a red sea / of time / through a timeless / red sea.”

James Deahl’s poetry has impressed me more and more over this past year as I’ve gone back and re-read his earlier books plus one of his latest offerings (“Rooms the Wind Makes” which I reviewed on this blog in February of 2013). Deahl is more than capable of rendering nature poems alongside tales of personal relationships and all flow in an unhindered, unified manner. His accounts of nature are unique and visit all of the reader’s senses. He avoids the clich├ęs most poets will scribe at one time or another, and in Two Paths Through The Seasons, his poems to his daughters and later, to his late wife Gilda, are void of the sentimentality you might expect. Take this stanza from “Full Moon in August”:

The sun sinks closing
the day, much as
my wife’s death closed
all the doors of the future.
Only this blinding heat lingers.
I lie in bed sleepless
as if awaiting the hour
God will unlock the white
honeycomb of His wisdom.
A dark wind walks
through the hidden forest.
This evening
even the full moon
wears its black mask.

His pacing is one of calm and confidence, the clarity of word never distracting or intrusive. The poems in this collection have all appeared in earlier volumes and publications over the past 35 years – so in a way it’s a mini “selected verse” – making me long for a full-length version of such.

The loss of what was is a theme that’s visited regularly in these poems, an example of which is below:

     for Beryl Weale

A desolation made by man.
Whole hillsides, valleys
swept clean – a beaten land
under the naked sky.

The mines have long
closed. Only scarred earth
and the unemployed remain.
Here and there a few sheep
starve on the weak grass
a bird scavenges for seed.

It is hard to understand
that once trees covered these hills,
once trout swam
these rivers. Although it is spring
a black autumn descends.

Blackness fills the lungs
of ex-miners. School children,
buried when the slag-tip moved,
are lice in the night of the earth.
And the lightless water
filling the abandoned shaft

is the voice of our bones
calling from a great distance,
from miles beneath our white skin.

© 2014 James Deahl

My only lament is that I wish I could write as well as Deahl – he’s truly in an elite class of poet – and I have no problem ranking him alongside Lorna Crozier as one of Canada’s very finest.

Two Paths Through The Seasons, being released just this April, is certainly well-timed in conjunction with National Poetry Month, and both Norma West Linder and James Deahl have contributed a memorable addition here in 2014.

– Andreas Gripp





Sunday, 30 March 2014

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Ursula K. Le Guin: poems that are not out of this world

American author Ursula K. Le Guin, internationally famous for her seminal Science Fiction novels such as The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, and The Lathe of Heaven among many other incredibly successful titles has also written some exceptional poetry. When an author has achieved acclaim from one genre, it can be challenging to make similar inroads in another. Hence, I thought I’d spotlight a few examples of her verse which appeals to me in its gentle narrative and its subtly emotive quality.

Waking in April

Drifting on the birdsong river
between no light and light
and the sleep of a man and a cat,
I wear the soft old shirt
my mother made me seventy years ago,
nightshirt, dayshirt,
winter coat, wedding gown.
I wonder, as it wears away to rags
and gauze, will there be a mirror
to see the naked soul in,
or only an unraveling of shadow
as the day widens
and things grow clearer.

Le Guin’s involvement in environmentalism translates her love of the natural world to many of her poems which are very much grounded in the terrestrial here and now:

Incredible Good Fortune

O California, dark, shaken, broken hills,
bright fog reaching over the beaches,
madrone and digger pine and valley oak,
I’m your dryhearted daughter.
I listened when the earthquake spoke
and learned what the quail teaches.
The stony bed the rain of winter fills
waited all year for the water.

Some of her poems, while part of a larger sequence, also work when they’re self-contained, as this one taken from Love Songs In Late May:

May 22

I will spend four days
writing love songs
in a house that’s near
but doesn’t look at
the sea.
     The first
is to the cat Archibald,
the demure, ceremonious,
innocent, elegant archer
of back, bestower
of affection from aloofness,
too young in wisdom
of death and people:
Mischief, slantways,
devoutly greedy, gaze of amber,
erratic and indolent silk sherpa
to holy wholly mysterious everests,
I make a lovesong to him,
a gift, a dreamfeather.

Le Guin is not averse to using rhyme and meter in her poetry, a rare thing these days among the heaps of what is published.  Although she’s often more generous in its use in a number of poems, it’s utilized sparingly in the piece below:


O silence, my love silence,
I have feared you: my tongue
has rattled on my teeth
dreading to be dumb so long
when I am done with breath.
     And I have needed prattle,
kind blather, and the come and go
of voices, human voices,
the sky whose moon you are,
the ground whose flower.
     But I beseech you come,
now, my love silence, O
reward and freedom, balance
beyond choices, in whom alone is heard
the meditation of the twilight bird
and the never to be spoken word.

All poems ©Ursula K. Le Guin, taken from Incredible Good Fortune, published by Shambhala Publications, 2006. ISBN 1-59030-314-8

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Monday, 27 January 2014

Some Poems by Matthew Sweeney

Matthew Sweeney was born in Donegal, Ireland, in 1952 and has also lived in the U.K. and Germany among several places. His narrative poetry for me offers a good deal of Irish insight and humour, though his range is quite expansive. I’ve selected a few offerings to share with the hope that readers of fine poetry will seek out more of his work if they presently haven’t ...


He woke up speaking Russian.
He lay there, amazed,
as sentence after sentence emerged
and sailed to the window –
it was verse, it had to be
to flow that rhythmically,
but he hadn’t written it,
nor had he been to Russia.

His wife came in from church
to find pages of Cyrillic
on the bed, and her man
on the telephone, in Russian.
He was arguing, she knew that,
though about what?
When had he been to night class?
Was it him here at all?

She remembered the tapes
and his never-right French,
or that time in Prague
at the tram terminus
grasping for a phrase of Czech.
He had to be seriously sick
or possessed. In the pauses
she heard the answering Russian
faintly, a world away.

© Matthew Sweeney

The poet often reminds me of Billy Collins and is able to take seemingly absurd tales and make them believable. Perhaps the fact that Sweeney is also a children’s book author aids in the depth of imagination which he possesses and conveys in his verses.

Here are a pair of poems showing what Sweeney can do when touching on the topic of death:


Ghost Story

I will break into a tomb
in Highgate cemetery,
one that hasn’t been opened
for a hundred years.
The bones in there won’t mind.
I’ll light a candle
and set up my camp bed,
then I’ll read ghost stories
till the bones rattle
and come together
to form a skeleton.
I’ll watch flesh form
on that skull again,
then the chest, the legs,
until a smiling old man
dressed in tweeds
sits down beside me
and asks me to read on.

© Matthew Sweeney

An End

I want to end up on Inishtrahull,
in the small graveyard there
on the high side of the island,
carried there on a helicopter sling
with twenty speedboats following.
And I want my favourite Thai chef
flown there, a day before,
and brought to the local fishermen
so he can serve a chili feast
before we head off up the hill.
A bar, too, it goes without saying,
free to all, the beer icy,
the whiskey Irish, and loud
through speakers high on poles
the gruff voice of Tom Waits
causing the gulls to congregate.
Get Tom himself there if you can.
And in the box with me I want
a hipflask filled with Black Bush,
a pen and a blank notebook,
all the vitamins in one bottle,
my addressbook and ten pound coins.
Also, a Mandarin primer.
I want no flowers, only cacti
and my headstone must be glass.

© Matthew Sweeney

Articulate and accessible, Sweeney crafts one marvellous tale after another in his work, his economy of words inviting and the visions he creates in the reader’s mind vibrant, stirring, sometimes disturbing but always fresh and unique.


The Tunnel

When they opened the manhole
on the street outside our house
I wanted to climb into it.
I could hear the rats calling.
I could hear the smugglers
manhandling kegs of ale.
I could hear the engine
of a midget U-boat
making inroads from the sea,
and behind it, whispered German,
what these bored submariners
were saying they’d do.
I knew the tunnel went on
down the length of Ireland
and I could row for weeks
in my homemade dingy
before I’d hit the southern coast,
with my strapped-on torch
getting weaker, my water
and sardines running out,
but already I could see
the walls lightening, hear gulls
at the tunnel’s end, then the strange
accents of Cork fishermen
who stood and watched me emerge.

© Matthew Sweeney

Poems taken from A Picnic on Ice: Selected Poems (2002, Signal Editions)

-- Andreas Gripp