Archives for the month of: May, 2012

Went to Plasticine Poetry Sunday night where the witty, beautiful, and unequaled Cathy Petch was not master of ceremonies. Much to everyone’s disappointment she was not well and I got to do the hosting duties. Luckily I had worn a clean, but not focusing grabbing, tee-shirt and was ready for action.

on stage Damned @The Central Sept13

on stage Damned @The Central Sept13.13

I started things with a piece from my upcoming Art Bar feature. I didn’t realize it then but it sort of set the theme of evening – one of things I’ve noticed about Plasticine is that a psychic vibe often connects all the features and even the open stagers. This month Father’s Day came early.

Leslie Shimotakahara featured first with section from her memoir The Reading List: Literature, Love and Back Again. When she explained that this section was about her retuning into teach at a backwater Nova Scotia university I couldn’t wait. The book read was Atwood’s Surfacing – which presented a great counterpoint to Leslie’s re-submerging into university life. Enjoyed the observation ‘few men like Margaret Atwood and those that do are usually CanLit majors.’ Part of the chapter also dealt with her relationship with her ailing father.

Sue Chenette was up next reading from her new book The Bones of His Being, which dealt with her father and his passing away. Her pieces were emotionally direct without becoming maudlin or abstract. Strong images: ‘a bird as light as happiness that had flown away’ and ‘the day loosening in low light and bird song’ connected well with me. I especially like the poem about her Dad reading Huckleberry Finn aloud to her.

Final feature Susan Glickman read from her new book The Smooth Yarrow. Picking up on the Dad theme she had pieces that combined the vibe of hospitals and sharing literature with one’s father. The work was emotionally direct without being overly sentimental. I enjoyed ‘the lost sparrow in the rafter at Loblaw’s.’ Plus referencing Jens Lekman effectively.


The evening ended with a great line up of open stagers which I started off with this revised version of ‘Whooie’


it was difficult enough

teaching me how to ride a bike

so my dad never gave me that talk

about the birds and the bees

about how the man sticks

his whooie into a woman’s wowie

I guess he expected me learn about sex

the way he did

from an older brother

too bad I didn’t have one

or maybe it was from his wwII army buddies

I never had army buddies

never fought in a war

we never had that sex talk

about whooie’s and wowie’s

the basics came from school yard smut talk

technical information from playboy penthouse

a book hidden in a drawer

color plates as informative as terrain maps

I don’t recall any man-to-man talks with dad

where he explained how life works

about getting a job  making a family

by the time I had the information needed to breed

I was more interest in whooie’s that wowie’s

my dad never talked to me about sex

what might he have known about queers

when I came out

there was no conversation beyond

am I happy

he had no tips on increasing sexual pleasure

we never spoke about the emotional dance

between men and women

let alone between men

all that I learned from the joy of gay sex

the timid porn of the time

yet I was a quick learner

given the chance to explore

it was easier than learning to ride a bike

more toys in the snow

more toys in the snow


According to my 1977 chap book Distant Music is worth £59.95 !! plus shipping – Even some US sellers. Who knew? I was just checking google/yahoo search engines to see what my name might pull up – mainly to see how high in those lists my blog would appear -

Planning to do a down east set at the Art Bar next month it seemed fitting that I’d get reminder of the chap book that was published while I was still stranded there. I had attended the University of New Brunswick summer writing workshops a couple of years in a row. I got to workshop with Alden Nowlan, M. Travis Lane, even John Metcalf.  Fred Cogswell enjoyed my work and had Fiddlehead publish the chap book.

stairs to where

stairs to snow where

I slaved over the manuscript. Those were the days of retyping an entire page if there was one typo – very labour intensive – no spell check either – sadly I never saw the proofs before it went to publisher and the book was fraught with errata – some my fault, many were typesetting problems. But I was in print. I did my own cover design as well.

It has lots of that over emotive angsty young man stuff ‘Our voices/Heard as echoes/Over the windless/Barren plains of speech’  Lots of rambling, multi-part things & several rather short (for me) pieces. Some of it still holds up, I think, even though I was capitalizing every line & even using punctuation

mists of Cape Breton

I have read a few pieces from it at past features but given time constraints that is rarely feasible. I’ll have a copies with me for sale at my Art Bar feature. I’ve also put together a chapette book for the reading – all the pieces I read will be in it plus a few bonus cuts. I did this last year for a feature and it worked out well. $3.00 for the chapette or free if you buy the Fiddlehead chapbook at $10.00.


from Distant Music

Black Flies



To chance encounters

Stories to share

Suffering to compare.



Careful scarves

Spare realizations

Fleshy destinations.

Darting black flies

Looking for blood.




Getting ready for Bloody Words agent pitch – I did this a few years ago with some success – first thing the agent told me was that she was planning to retire soon and wasn’t really looking for new clients (so why was she there – as favor to someone?) but after my pitch she wanted to see the first 100 pages of the manuscript – sent that  and she returned it as being too sexual – when I had in fact kept the sex things out of the first 80 or so pages anyway & even then introduced things in small way but … such is life – she wasn’t the agent for the market I was aiming for – but I did a rewrite making the sex less explicit. This year I’m hoping for an agent who isn’t about to retire.

traces of hair were found at the scene

traces of hair were found at the scene

I write novels in which crime happens but not crime novels per say – sure my hero gets stalked by a serial killer who he ultimately has a face-to-face knock-down battle with – but that is merely one of the things that happen to him as a result of the family curse. The book is about this curse – sure my hero has to face down a physical manifestation of the curse in a face-to-face knock-down battle but that is only part of the story.

The pitch has to be quick, short, to the point and enticing – like a blurb on a book cover. “A love blessing refused turns into a curse of revenge in The Lazarus Kiss” – that is the essence of the story but is that enough to get an agent to want to hear more? or maybe “When Harris Stevens refuses an ancient love blessing it becomes a curse that attracts a serial killer, then a cage-fighter with anger management issues and then the vengeful embodiment of the blessing itself.” (86,000 words) which covers the main points. Would ‘kick-boxer’ be more understandable than ‘cage-fighter’?

We get about fifteen minutes with the agent so there is opportunity to develop more of the plot if they are interested. Not sure how relevant NaNo is to an agent. Not that I’d keep it a secret but at the same time it isn’t going to be a part of the quick pitch. Any NaNo-ers (or anyone for that matter)  have pitch experience they’d like to share?



Here’s another of the Montaigne prompt pieces

That the Soul Expends Its Passions Upon False Objects [4]

in a little painted wood box

that I don’t remember getting

but kept because it was a little box

there was a rock


a rock that tells me nothing

except that at one time

I wanted to store it away

that at one time it held a memory

of someone    some place    some event

that I don’t remember at all

the rock goes into a garden

a memory sent back to the earth

the little box goes into a bag

of things to be dropped off

along with a bundle of clothes that fit

but that don’t hold any emotional memory

divesting my home    my self

of this sentimental attachment to objects

the mug a long dead friend gave me

do I need it

do I want it

is it time to free my mind of that memory


goodbye to mugs   teddy bears

they spoke of love once upon a time

but I don’t hear them

in the corners they’ve been placed

in drawers   on shelves

under layers of dust

free them   free myself

to expend my passion on

empty space




Hosting The Beautiful & The Damned is alway a treat especially when celebrating its one year anniversary with a dynamic line up and stellar open stagers. I even debuted a new piece – one that may be part of my Art Bar set, we’ll see.


First up was Gemma Files who read a solid enticing section for the third volume of her hexslinger series – it gave us a real feel for the multilevel ‘magic’ in the books – Mexican mythology mixed with gun-toting cowboys (who happen to be gay). I hope she’s doing the audio versions. She ended her set with a couple of poems again dealing with dark myths but this time in contemporary settings – ways of treating an ex, that is if Loki is your ex.


Feature two was Spencer Butt with a high-energy stage thumping performance. He spews vibrant images and unlike many slam poets deals with personal issues with compassion and not anger. Too many great lines and images to keep track of – ‘his memory was drunk eating popcorn in the balcony’ – ‘he was born in an aviary and died in a place crash’

Here’s a pic, taken by Lizzie Violet, of me kissing Butt -

may 10, 2012

Music feature Carlin Belof wrapped the evening up & wrapped us around her fingers at the same time. Songs about relationship difficulties that were oddly uplifting. Great lyrics and a fine guitar player as well – But as she sings being told you’re talented and are going far may not be the solution – so screw you.

Cake was served, drinks were enjoyed & good time was had by all. I’ll be hosting BuDa again in December and have already started to line up my festive features.

As I mentioned a few blogs ago I’m working on a series sparked by Montaigne. (Of Quick or Slow Speech [10])  This one was also influenced by a podcast lecture on Robert Lowell that talked about a poem he had written after the death of his father.

Dad’s Pockets

as a kid

I would go through the pockets

of my Dad’s suit jackets sport coats

as they hung in the closet

I would find quarters which I’d take

sometimes fifty-cent pieces which I’d leave

I’d slip the over-sized jackets

off their hangers

wear them in the dark of the closet

in the smell of his things

his shoes miles too big for me

trying to steal into adult hood

I’d skulk out

from my secret foray

a little daring thief

sneaky   guilty

fearful of being found out

when he’d miss the pocket change

I’d be confronted

say too quick I don’t know what he meant

blurt out I didn’t do that

which he never believed

if only I’d hung those coats back the right way

he’d let me go with warning

that I was slow to heed

I’d be back there in a week or so

go through those pockets

try on those shoes

grow much too slow into adulthood

much too quick into guilt



I’m putting my NaNo novel, The Lazarus Kiss, to simmer for a few months. This round of edits is done and I’ve cut it from 102,718 words to a very tight 85866 words. I did submit the first 30 pages to Bloody Words for a manuscript evaluation – even those 30 pages have changed since I sent them in. Plus I picked out the two scenes to take to the Loyalist workshop in July – so it’s not as if I won’t be working on it but I’ll give the bulk of it a rest till September. I also hope to have an agent pitch at Bloody Words – if the agent wants to see the first 100 pages they are ready to go.


This round of edits involved word search for lazy phrases ‘well, I guess …’ stuff like that. Making action more direct: ‘he felt his anger get the better of him’ becomes ‘anger got the better of him’ in context we know whose anger – ‘he felt’ merely delays the action. Plus the words I most mistype – except, expect – words that spell check would never pick up .


I’m looking forward to Bloody Words. It’s been a few years since I attended – mainly because it isn’t always in Toronto. Part of the package is an awesome goodie bag brimming with papers backs and hard covers that sometimes equals the cost of the registration. There are panels and speakers that take in all areas of writing from how to poison, how to research, how an arrest happens & what comes next once arrested, how to self-publish, how to eBook, marketing, how to approach  publishers or agents – most apply, as far as I can tell, to all types of writing – mystery, horror, memoir, even literary fiction.





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