‘The Witchdoctor’s Bones’

‘The Witchdoctor’s Bones’ is the latest from Lisa de Nikolits. I’ve heard Lisa present sections of her novels at various reading nights over the past couple of years. She always manages to present tidy snippets of complex novels, that stand alone but invite us to want to read the whole novel.

blue lonely blue

Witchdoctor follows the well-establish structure of strangers on a journey revealing their lives, secrets and fears as they travel. ‘From Canterbury Tales’ to ‘Then There Were None’ this story telling framework gives writers a strong form to work with.

shrug day of the dead tree

In Witchdoctor we join a disparate group of travellers on a bus tour from Cape Town, South Africa to Fort Namutoni, Nambia. As they travel tempers and passions flair. Death follows them with increasing tension as the novels progresses.

Lisa handles a large cast well, each of the tourists has a clear personalty, motives become clear then vague as more layers of their lives are peeled back. She also conveys a real sense of place, the heat, the dust, the humor and the endlessness of the bus ride itself.

red didn’t make it to the lights

In conveying so much details about the tour the book verges on a travel guide but the information is parcelled out in digestible portions and never overwhelms the story as it unfolds. With so many characters I did get a bit lost and some didn’t really propel the story forward.

If romance, suspense and serial killers under the African sun are your cup of tea this book is for you.

samples Door

I shut you out

with a smile  a little joke  a judgment

about the small minor little trivial things

the way you sit

the way you clack the giant spoon

against the coffee cup

that small gesture

shakes the foundations

I shut you out

by deciding

this isn’t exactly perfect

in my dream

you aren’t so tall  so thin so willing

so ready wanting  needy  omnipresent

you are so right

in the dream

I have shut you out so effectively

you aren’t even present

so effectively that no one is present

the room is plain empty white

silent self illuminating

I shut you out

buy sneering at your taste

in music in friends

those dope smoker idiots

who never come around

unless you use the lure of diversion

whilst I am there


you don’t have to entertain me

I shut you out

by not giving you that chance

force you to just be

to just sit and not move

so I can look and enjoy the vision of you

silent  sullen  in a quiet room

no loud cranky aggressive music

only a faint echo

from across the street

a piano tinkle  a snore

I shut you out

by acting as if I don’t care

that you are so busy

that you have made a life

that allows you

to enjoy life without me


like an over eager parent

with milk and cookies

for you and your sleazy little

druggie buddies

oh oh there I’ve gone and done it again

like I always seem to do

brought in a judgement

that shuts you out

that lowers you

that raises me

how silly I can be sometimes

I can use that guilt to shut you out

I’m too judgmental for you

I don’t really care what you do

is the lie I use

to shut myself out

from myself

I don’t say a thing

that is the hardest slam

I know

the silent nudge

the ponderous heavy superiority

I don’t want to maintain

but want to blame it on


my upbringing

my righteous path to the glory of god


to keep that smudge

away from my little clean corner of the world

I come back to you

because you are the human one

so sweet angry tender  hurt

looking for something

but not sure what

while I am here nose up turned

distrustful of your search

not allow it to just be

I have to judge it rate it

oh well

what’s a man to do

there is love in the air

when someone on the other side of the door

knocks to be let in

scratches at a window

plays in the sun

I know I have to let myself out

before I can let anyone in

and that means  open the door

come in  come out  move about

as I try not to shut you out

SAM_1020tip 1: toss what you don’t need

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deeper than Nietzsche

It was about time Making a Racket at the Rocket made a racket  after a December hiatus with is usually array of wide ranging readers: poets, playwrights, novelists and more. Rona Bloom, Brian Keith and Lisa De Nikolitis – all of whom played to a packed-to-the-rafters house.


First feature Rona Bloom, who amongst other things is poet-in-residence at Mt. Sinai Hospital, gave us a great set of pieces starting with a travel moment ‘one day I went on holiday and forgot all my pin numbers’ (which happened to a friend of mine on his recent trip to Toronto). Her poem ‘The Storm” about the ice storm listed various things that ‘instead the storm decided.’ Her work is full of clear images – ‘the gate banging in the wind of a winter not done yet,’ ‘stanza is a word for a room we stay in for awhile.’


Next up was Richard Keith – who’s first feature was very accomplished. Though when he said his work was about the end of a relationship I though – oh no. But he dealt with it in fresh, slightly wry pieces that avoided self-pity ‘Oops … did I say I love you?/I meant to say/ I love me.’ A non-native he finds ‘the city is not your city/ until taxi drivers know/ where you are going/ before they pick you up.’

Anyone in a relationship with, or contemplating one with, a poet be aware that they are writing break-up poems even before that is in the air. 🙂


After the break Lisa de Nikolits a read pieces from a couple of her novels. From the recently published Glittering Chaos she introduced us to Huntz with a graphic, yet non-sexual encounter with a prostitute, ‘for such a pretty girl you have ugly feet.’ From her upcoming ‘Witch Doctor’s Bones’ she presented Rydell – a man whose needs for a sense of self results in scissored self-harm. She writes in a way that invites us to empathize with rather that judge these characters.

The night closed with a scene from Sandra Cardinal’s play-in-progress ‘Recessive Genes’ that explored men’s inability to apologize with pointed dialogue in a give-and-take scene in which one wondered who needed rescue the most – the disgruntled father or his son-in-law. The dialogue ran true though I wonder if two such men would talk this long about these issues without once swearing.

I did hit the open stage with a couple of old pieces: June Dogs & Sullen – only to plug my feature spot at the Racket next month (Feb 21) & also plug some up coming feature spots. A great night at the Rocket – whom I hope will adopt my suggested peppermint pekoe as a new house speciality tea. samp02



Several of the open stagers and both poetry features did list poems so here’s one of mine:

How Deep Is My Love

my love is deeper than Nietzsche

deeper than the gap

between sexual fantasy and spiritual reality

deeper than what we all thought the 60’s meant

my love for you is longer than

the time between knowing

it isn’t working and ending it

is longer than the time between

ending it and getting over it

is longer than the blue ray reissue

of the complete Lord of the Ring cycle

with commentaries and extra features

I love you more than

these shoes look great on me

my love is more hopeful than

an overflowing recycling bin

my love for you is longer than

the arm of the law

holding that restraining order

than can never stop me

from wanting just one more chance baby

please please just one more chance

my love for you is purer than the water

in that bottle of rapidly disappearing

Antarctic ice flow melted

just so you could have a sip of it

and throw it away

my love for you is purer than any dream

my love for you is purer than how you felt

before you even knew

the difference between

a care bear and a pubic

my love for you is stronger than

the tang of burned expresso

with a flavour shot of vanilla

my love for you is stronger than

your need to make a fool of me every chance to get

my love for you is

no longer the crime it once wasdelightful plants

#Kissing Stations

Got out to Plasticine Poetry Sunday night. I haven’t been to the series for two months now – busy with NaNoWriMo – so I was eager to get back there. Even more eager because of the dynamic line up. As usual I made sure I got onto the open stage in the first set. It’s always easier for me to listen when I get my own piece out of the way.

By 6:25 there was full house, I had a tasty chicken wrap and …. I get asked to host the show. Let’s be honest give me a street light over head & two drunks watching me from across the street and I’m ready to do some spokenword. I was happy to step up and take on the task. But I did insist on keep my open stage spot all the same. I read a brand new piece (see below) which recent events in the USA made even more poignant.

ants out of my pants

Lisa De Nikolits read from passages from her novels in which the characters either read or write poems – the poetry captures the nature of the p.o.v. strongly and reflects the character and not the author trying to be poetic: ‘I may be a loser/but I’ve always dreamed of someone to hold’ ‘dance on the morals of doctors and madman.’ After a too brief set she was brought back to read more – this time a prose section of West of WaWa – which pulled her in emotionally as she read and pulled us in at the same time.

un jccool

Next up was Lizzie Violet – she started with ironic pieces about relationship: “I cannot confirm or deny my feelings for you” “I speak the truth/ you speak innuendoes.” She did some horror/zombie pieces – I got so caught up in her vampire poem I couldn’t make note. A strong set.

During the break Michael served us cake to celebrate the season. Let them eat cake, if they don’t like the features 🙂


Second set opened with Cathy Petch who gave us a zit-popping good time. Romantic in ‘I whisper I love you as softly as pollen.’ Imagist in “holds cigarettes as if they might float away.” Tender and tough in her piece about Myke Tyson “when you give up on language your dreams narrow.” She closed with a fearless deconstruction (with some  help from her saw) of “Do They Know It’s Christmas.”

June 23, 2013

Final feature was David Clink. He gave us hilarious sections of his recent book “Hidden Emu.” Then led us in a sing-a-long of christmas song parodies “Santa Claus is Tapping Your Phone,” “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Wino” and too all a good night.

After the show I walked along Bloor W to Spadina station to check out the tinsel installations someone had told me about. They are some sort of kissing stations – streetlights trimmed in tinsel with mistletoe in the middle. Odd notion that perhaps invites, even encourages inappropriate behavior with strangers. The rapist’s defense – “the lights gave me permission.”

writing sample


Panic in the Streets

I left the house once

without my water bottle

how would I save

the dwindling environment

could I use my hands

to cup water from some grundy washroom tap

would I dehydrate within blocks

the city spread out around me

parched and dusty

I left the house once

without my credit cards my atm card

what would I do

if I had to buy a cup of coffee

a bottle of water

what would I do

if I had to prove to that I was of some value

without proof of my credit-ability

I left the house once

without my cell phone

out of touch with reality

who would think I was worth

talking to without it

what would I do

if I had to tell the time

would you believe me

if I told you I missed your call

because I left my cell at home

would you forgive me

I left the house once

without my digital camera

I didn’t know where to look

my eyes had to see things as they were

not as compositions to be captured

what if I saw the defining moment

of the collapse of our civilization

or a cat sneezing

I might as well be blind

I left the house once

without my gun

I didn’t feel safe

there was a threat in every glance

how could I defend myself

how could I define myself

without at a spray of bullets

to protect  project me

I felt naked vulnerable defeated