how cheap

is too cheap

cheap is the wrong word

it implies shoddy

lacking in quality

how inexpensive 

is too inexpensive

before something becomes worthless

before self-worth not seen

as egotism


you look at me

as if the price of my chapbook

is too much to ask

after all

the paper itself isn’t that valuable

the cost of printing it

isn’t much greater either

so why should you be expected

to pay more than the paper is worth

the words are worthless 


expecting to cover more than costs

is egoism as its worst



you’d rather buy a beer

to numb the pain

of not getting my chapbook

for free

Based on a true life experience, or should I say, experiences. Experiences I have had & ones that I’ve seen other poets go through. Over the years I’ve produced several chapbooks mainly so I had merch – so I had the physical proof of my writing. I do almost all the work – layout, page layout, cover design & prepare a copy to deliver to a printer. At one time I was doing my own stapling as well. Now I leave part to the printer, but I usually do my own folding. Flat product is easier to store. Plus I write the contents.


I price chapbooks to make giving change easy but not so inexpensive as to be giving them away. As printing cost went up my cover price went up. But because I am asking for more than the cost of materials there is often this reaction that I am being unreasonable expecting to be paid anything. I should be grateful they even looked at the chapbook. I have done trade-offs at times. Freebies go to hosts & co-features but that’s it.

More than once I’ve had people attempt to guild me into reducing the price because they too are ‘starving’ artists & to be supportive of them I should be considerate. I fell for this a few times but stopped when I saw them enjoying a glass or two of wine at the bar. Clearly the bar deserves their support more than the artists. Though I know many poetry events count on bar sales to access the space – if they don’t bring enough they are no longer welcome at that bar. That’s one reason I pretty much stopped doing open stages or features for a share of the passed hat.

There’s also this expectation that because something in ‘homemade’ it should be less expensive than ‘manufactured’ or something with a ‘brand’ such as Atwood of DeVinci. I know painters, musicians etc who aren’t brandnames who hit this same reluctance when selling their work. Undervaluing myself in order to sell is a bad bargain & is not going to happen. I am not worthless regardless of what someone may decide. paypal.me/TOpoet 


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & to eat at Capturing Fire this June in Washington DC – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Dad’s Pockets

For the summer I’m looking at my Brown Betty chapbook. All the pieces dealt with growing up in Cape Breton.

Dad’s Pockets

as a kid
I would go through the pockets
of my Dad’s suit coats sport jackets
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 adulthood 


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 never heeded
I’d be back there in a week or so 

go through those pockets 

try on those sport jackets

grow much too slow into adulthood 

much too quick into guilt

The upstairs bedrooms in our family home had sizeable walk-in closets in each room. I wish I had that much closet space now. My closet here is so small that if I buy a new short or hoodie I have to get rid of one to make room for it 🙂 The closets had sliding doors. There was a time I wished they made the Enterprise door opening sound.

My Dad was a salesman with a nice collection of sports coats, suits & shoes. Nothing overly colourful mind you, all very sensible & well made, even if off-the-rack. He balanced dressing ‘well enough to get your customers respect’ with dressing so well ‘your customers think you are taking them for a ride.’ The piece accurately describes what sometimes happened – me going through the pockets.

In fact I was a bit of a snoop & would got through various cupboards to see what I might find. Once I found a little black, hard plastic box with lids. One had a Monday to Sunday calendar with golden screws glues on to each day, two on Saturday. I didn’t get the joke then. Another box held a reclining female nude with salt & pepper shakers for boobs. Only one hole in each. A plaque said ‘you never know what you’re going to get.’


I did get caught & learned not to take all the loose change 🙂 I did try on his jackets & shoes. When I was old enough for the jackets to fit me I sure wasn’t willing to wear them. My taste is clothes never meshed with his. Though when I visited home after his death I did pick out two of his leather jackets that fit me & still wear them occasionally. There was no loose change in the pockets.


previous Brown Betty posts:

Man With A Past 1 https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3B3

When I Was A Young Boy  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3By

Home (not of the brave) https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Cg

Nailed https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3D9

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Corner Store


Corner Store

why does a group of teens scare me

I walk past the corner store

where they hang around

shoving each other

smoking butts and swearing

on cell phones

fuck you timber bone

what the hell is timber bone

I’m so far from street talk

to know if that is even street talk

I try not to walk too fast

try not to look too long at anyone of them

my eyes flick quickly

from hooded shrouded faces

pants so baggy they need to be held up by hand

girls with pale lips arched eyebrows

look at the boys with that mix

of love distance and boredom


what makes me anxious

is it the mix of blacks asians

am I fearful of violence

that one of them might feel

the flick of my eyes

and confront me

“what you lookin’ at faggot”

why do some wear fir trimmed parkas

on mild spring days

what are they hiding under those hoodies

a generation gap never to be crossed


I know the closer they get

the unsafer I feel

I wish that corner store wasn’t so close

wish I didn’t get that ripple of worry

wish I could lose the memory

of me at that age

never one to have guys

to hang around with

wish I could forget being

the brunt of their dumb shoves

of their sneering exclusion


Here in the east end I live near a subway station that is the main departure point for four or five schools. The next stop serves another two or three other schools. Lots of teens & little diners, pizza places to serve them lunches. Some of the corner stores have signs that say – only 2 student at a time. At least two of the cafes close for lunch when school is not open during the summer.pipe02

This piece is based on real events, real feelings of mine as I pass through or near groups of them. So many congregate at the nearest Tim Horton’s I no longer go in at lunch time. Some of the guys have more facial hair than I ever saw in high schools when I was growing up. Seems wearing pj bottoms to school never goes out of fashion, even in winter.

guitar01I try not to look too closely or too long. I have never been confronted though, or even heard queer slurs when I walk past. But because of my own high school experiences that tingle of fear is there. I’m always glad when summer comes & there are fewer students on the sidewalks.


The memory if my own high school bullying remains fresh because of them. It never escalated beyond the a few incidents of shoving, name calling but I don’t want to minimize it either. I may never have been beaten up, harassed constantly but it left its mark on me.


March 12, Saturday: attending:



March 16, Wednesday: judging at Hot Damn! it’s a Queer Slam – featuring  The Ragdolls Supermarket Restaurant and Bar 268 Augusta Ave., Toronto, Ontario M5T2L9



June 3-5: attending: Capturing Fire 2016 – The DC Centre – 2000 14th St NW, Suite 105 – Washington, DC



June 11 – attending: The Toronto Poetry Talks – 10 AM – Metro Hall, 55 John Street, Toronto, Ontario M5V 3C6



July 4-8: attending: Chasing  your Tale – Loyalist – Belleville


I’ve already registered



September 1-4: attending FanExpo 2016 (I’ve already registered)expo16


November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo




Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet


Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr



“hear my whisper in your heart.”

Even with a chill in the air Cabaret Noir pulled in a full house. A great line-up of open stagers taught us that you don’t play cards with Jesus & that Marilyn Monroe’s death resonated all the way to Russia. I wish open stagers would learn to print their pieces large enough to read – holding the text between your face and the microphone muffles everything read. I did hit the stage with another Pinebow sneak peek.

scarf Philip dropped his come pashima

Philip Cairns (www.philipcairns.com) fresh from the launch of his diamond encrusted chapbook Elizabeth Taylor’s Jewels did a great set of all new material. A sequel, of sorts, to his Bedbug Blues, became a bedbug blue movie. An affectionate bio-poem about Jayne Mansfield name checked her many films (but missed her singing career) – it was her wig not her head that was lost in that tragic accident. Then he tapped into his dark side with Blood Lust ‘the snap of a collar bone.’

I missed his last piece because of chatter – friends of the music feature felt fine talking all the way though his set & getting louder as he got louder to be heard (then were silent when their idol was on). Plus people coming up to the bar to pay their tabs shouted over Philip as they paid their bill.

shoeblack Philip dropped his shoe running from the police

First music feature Shikha Sehgal (www.shikhamusic.com) drew us into her songs with her simple & direct stage presence. Accompanying herself on an electric uke her songs were bluesy evocations of romantic longing and loss. Delicate, spare and sweet with carefully controlled yet emotional vocals – sensuous like a fine silver wire yet strong as steel – her music pulled us into her web.  We were willing to “hear my whisper in your heart.”


Philip dropped his 31306.75 carat aquamarine 

Sadly I didn’t get to hear Cappy & Kev. It didn’t look like they’d get to the stage much before 10 & I like to be home by 10. Next time.

some pics: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.364186547073526.1073741839.145297655629084&type=3&uploaded=24




Kept In The Loop


when I said

I’d meet you at 7

I meant

if I had nothing else to do

something else came up

I didn’t have time

to get in touch

it won’t happen again

how could it

unless something else comes up

I promise I’ll never let you down

I’ve never let you down in the past


at least not like that

and that was your own fault

yes I did say I’d be there

but I didn’t know

what you were asking

I had other things on my mind

at the time

I am not seeing someone else

there is only you

at least

at that time there was only you

but you knew that

I told you about the other guy

I’ve never kept that from you

you can’t say I deceived you

I always kept you in the loop

most of the time anyway

bballs03 blue balls, not Philip’s

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr


Pre-Boarding Dust @RedRocketcafe

Getting my pieces ready for my feature at Makin’ A Racket next week. It is so much easier to plan twenty minutes where flow becomes more important than hitting an open stage, where you need a single piece, or two if you are lucky, that has to grab an audience restless for the real features to come on. Flow allows for build up – not just that American Idol emotional note.

catcool cat

This will be another set in which I step back, a bit, from the in-your-pants raunch, for a more romantic, less bitter-sweet, set of pieces. Because it’s a week after Valentine’s I’m going to do more of lovey stuff than I usually present. Yeah, I may like sex but I’m not impervious to romance – I just don’t let one get in the way of the other or confuse one for the other either.

pollypolly’s c-c-cool

I’m going way back into my archives and pulling a piece from my 1978 Distant Music chapbook. Where it all began. I do have even older pieces but the roof of the cave collapsed closing off that part of the library 🙂 http://wp.me/p1RtxU-3P

glovercool hand Lucy

I resisted editing Dust too much. Clearly pop influenced in the rhythm and repeated phrases – echoes of Paul Simon and Donovan are clear to me plus Dylan Thomas. I’m not sure if there was an actually ‘you’ who was the object of my affections – not that I didn’t have suppressed crushes but there was no one I hoped to impress with this soppy imagery. Who cares about the GG award, I just want to write a poem that will get me laid.


February 21, Friday – featuring – Racket at the Rocket: 7 p.m., Red Rocket Cafe, 1364 Danforth Ave. https://www.facebook.com/events/818441091515505/


March 1, Saturday – attending – Toronto SpecFic Colloquium


June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words

June 23-27 – attending – Manuscript to Book – Loyalist Summer Arts – Belleville https://www.facebook.com/events/589522924455695/

the power of attaction

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada



when I turn to diamonds

will you wear me in your hair

on your finger

or in your dusky ears

like stars in a black night

fondled forever my many eyes

wondering who your diamonds were

before they became diamonds for you

when I turn to night

will you bring me daybreak

bring me stars

or the moonlight

with its ever-greedy motion

across your endless eyes

wondering where this night was

become it became my dawn

when i=I turn to dust

will you blow me away

gather me in your hands

or a in a black onyx box

with your eyes the seal

its sides your tears

as you wonder who I was

to turn to dust for you

I ask, for you see

I shall become

dust fragile

night invisible

diamond clear

and I have to know

before I turn

before I turn

before I turn to your eyes

sinkfont blanc 

Shark Attack at Plasticine Poetry !!!

Freely offering the audience manual sexual gratification Cathy Petch hosted another wild night at Plasticine Poetry. After a rapid-fire onslaught of open stagers (I got into that initial rush with my shark week piece) we were ready for the first feature.

bench loves bows
bench loves bows

John Oughton (who recently took a picture of me undressing at Lizzie’s birthday) is a poet I’ve never heard before. He read some great short fiction from his recent chap book. One story was of an artist’s dream in which  ‘lonely she sketches a dog’ which comes to life – she wakes to find a broken pencil on the pillow beside her. His fluid writing takes simple, direct images and skews them ever so slightly: ‘she wanted him, but didn’t want to talk to him’ ‘a friend becomes a lover but not yours.’

He was followed by Lizzie Violet, a poet I have heard many times and each time I enjoy her macabre story-telling poetry that takes us into the minds of zombies and vampires and makes those creatures seem probable. I liked her new gypsy pieces – ‘well worn cards of the future’ ‘one kiss, a story begins.’ Her voodoo fascination melds her romantic leanings with her eerie vision ‘a love bound in a red ribbon dipped in blood.’

bench loves chocolate
bench loves chocolate

After the break we were treated to Aisha Sasha John, another poet I’ve never heard before – check out her blog. Her first piece, from Thou, was a stream of conscious monologue that piled details of food, clothes and images into a sense of a person lost in minutia hoping the things will add up to a conclusion ‘all these conversations with these various yous’ ‘the color of the sky slaps me in a sexual way.’ Even though the lights weren’t dimmed she ‘put out her best for us.’

bench loves hoo
bench loves hoo

Final feature was Regie Cabico, whom I heard this past January at the Damned and was happy to have another opportunity hear him. He did a dynamic set of short comic pieces, slipping into stand up, then into a long refection on his Filipino family and childhood in Baltimore. He tackles sex directly yet playfully: ‘your fucking is foreshadowing.’ And takes a potent stand on race and sex in the gay world: ‘I am not a teriyaki toy.’

writing sample
writing sample

The piece I read at Plasticine:

Thirteen Ways of Looking At Escape

1/ I want to leave this island

but can’t swim

don’t want to cast my blood on water

the drops attract sharks

2/     to escape

first you have to have

something      to escape from

3/ have a clear definition

of what you are escaping

if you are at all ambiguous

you will remain a captive

4/ you must leave

if you do not leave

it is not escape

5/ take nothing

you must leave everything behind

travel light

6/ remember when you are escaping

part of you is left behind

do not go back for it

it is gone forever

it is the cost of freedom

7/ leaving where you are

for where you once were

is not escape

it is another trap

8/don’t worry about the needs of others

they will hold you back

to become your new captors

just get the fuck out of there

9/ do not have a place to escape to

it will become another captor

10/ you must be willing to flee

without direction

your purpose is to be free

that is enough

11/ when you go

have no pity

for your captor

12/ do not carry memory

let others remember you

so they become


of that memory

while you are without history

a gull swooping over clear blue seas

13/ sharks have no memory

their brains are so small

they don’t even know they are sharks

they have escaped self-definition

something you can never do

tea time submarine
tea time submarine

What am I worth?

According to amazon.uk 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 a 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

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

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. (Update May 2019: I have a few copies left – $25.00 paypal.me/TOpoet )


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.