Distant Near

Distant Music was/is a chapbook that resulted from summer workshops I took at University of New Brunswick in the mid 70’s. They were live-in residency, five-day intensives under the careful eyes of Fred Cogswell. Poet-in-residence was Alden Nowlan. M. Travis Lane, John Metcalf & Susan Musgrave were a couple of the workshop leaders I whose names I remember.I was encouraged to go by Malcolm Ross, then head of English Lit department at Dalhousie University. 

My memory of the actual classes is gone. As are the names of my fellow writers. I do remember getting drunk on Lonesome Charlie (if there’s a wine named for poets that has to be it). I do remember the Salvador Dali’s Santiago El Grande, at Fredericton’s Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

I’m not sure when I was asked to submit a manuscript for possible publication by Fiddlehead Press but I was amazed when it happened. I spent a couple of months selecting possible pieces, putting them in some sort of order. I’m not sure the sequence published was mine or Cogswell’s. I wanted long & short pieces to alternate. I was into long pieces with numbered sections – sometimes those sections also had titles. Titles were as important as the poem itself.

I did a photo shoot with my apartment mate at the time. I still have a raft of the shots from that shoot. I was keen on the one of me up a tree – poet up a tree – but when I saw it print I realized the lighting was not all that good. I designed the cover. Sadly, I no longer have my original drawing.

I rented an electric typewriter to make the final drafts of the pieces & sent them off. Some months later I was given the publication date, a few weeks before that date I got my first copies of the book. I had a big launch set in Sydney, & there was also one in Halifax. I was totally stunned & dismayed to find that the book was littered with typos, starting with the very first piece. I did a by-hand correction of the copies that I had on hand. I sent an angry letter to Fiddlehead & a got a reply shaming me for being so ungrateful. Fiddlehead added an errata sheet to the inside cover of the copies they had. It covered about half the typos.

Hopefully I caught most of them & didn’t add new ones when input the book to take a closer look at it for July & August starting Wednesday.

Distant Shadow

where is the mountain pass?

I need you

but the mountain

is in my way

if I cross

I can never return

for I am the mountain

while my need for you

is the mountain pass

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it.


My Belongs Dada Heart to

Another major influence on me was Dada which lead to another major influence: Surrealism. In particular the art, which was at time more gimmick & concept than painterly technique. I loved Marcel Duchamp – ‘The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even’ visually & conceptually infused me with a strong sense of the possible, while Salvador Dali infused me with a strong sense of the absurd.

The collages used ironic, sometimes non sequitur, images to create an emotional & intellectual resonance in the viewer. One writer Tristan Tzara would take random lines from random books to create poem. This was also the movement that invented the  to disorientate readers. I have several books of their writings, painting and recordings of their music (Satie). Dada was the start of surrealism & cubism.

I also see the movement’s influence on T.S Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Ginsberg, ee cummings, Warhol. Both the art and the writing demonstrated to me that linear narrative isn’t necessary. Imagery didn’t have to make sense to make sense. Sometime the power in a word or words was in how they sounded, in how they resonated in the reader, rather than in what story they might be telling.

The photos in my blog here reflect my Dada influence, rarely do they have anything to do with the text. When I’m taking pictures it’s sometimes the odd juxtaposition of objects that attracts my eye. My poems can include what to me is surrealist images: ‘balls like emu eggs in my hand’ ‘my fridge made a pass at me the other day.’


Dada & surrealism respected the power of the dream, of automatic writing as a creative process. Of course if I could become famous by signing urinals I’d give it a try.

Lʼamour domestique

my fridge made a pass at me

the other day

I was in my usual hurry

to get the milk


the door caressed my cheek

pushed me into its cool

welcoming heart


now Iʼm not into sex

with inanimate objects if I was

I would probably pick

my coffee maker

something small and easy to satisfy


the fridge is never filled

always has demands that

make me feel inadequate

while the coffee machine

fills to brim so quickly


yes give me hot and perky

to big and cold – any day

but it was one of those days

the kitchen chairs were

plucking at my pant legs

like over excited little dogs

humping a foot

it made eating almost impossible


I wasnʼt sure

what to do with the left overs

the fridge was glaring me


at being snubbed

in favour of the coffee maker


in the bathroom

the face cloth competed

with the tooth brush

to get in my mouth

until the towels

pulled them aside

to push me into the shower

they needed all my body wet

for the satisfaction they craved


I didnʼt have the moral strength

to deny them anything

they rubbed and dried

every square inch


the sofa was anxious for me to

snuggle in front of the TV

I had to watch

home decorating shows

about getting cute little throws

hints from the sofa

of what would make

our family complete


in bed the pillows

tenderly cradled my head

as the sheets twined around me

hungry for dreams

about coffee makers



every Tuesday 2019

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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