Art Bar Set Building

I was a bit surprised to be asked to feature at the Art Bar, more that they willing to let me decline the initial August date offered. Surprised because I stepped back from the reading circuit some time ago – mainly because I was tired of the pressure to sell drinks on behalf of a restaurant/bar that wasn’t even paying me to be there. Being a non-drinker I wasn’t bringing enough to the table to merit being there.

I have featured at the a previous incarnation of the Art Bar in 2009 when it was at Clinton’s but not since. I may still have my set list from that show. It was the one where @soulfistikato collaborated with me on a couple of pieces. Man that was such fun. If you read this @soulfistikato – let’s do it again.

I usually have my set ready a few weeks in advance of a show but this time I have nothing much planned yet, other than Arrgh Godzilla – which the universe told me to do with the death of Haruo Nakajima, the actor who occupied that suit for the first few Godzilla movies. The sort of sign I can’t deny. It’s a piece I love to perform so I may do another couple of pieces I love to perform.

But I want to focus on recent work, in particular the ones that have sprung from the 227 Rules for Monks that I have been using for prompts. Like the 48 Laws these have pushed me into thinking & writing about different things or looking at the same old things in a fresh way.


Some of the new ones might be those that I’ve posted here & have gotten good feedback about (if I received truly negative feedback I’d be even more inclined to perform them.) If anyone has any requests of pieces of mine they’d like to hear – let me know asap. So the set will probably be a mix of the very old, the more recent & some so fresh out of the oven they may be half-baked. Plus I have an amazing new shirt to debut.

Shroove Smelt

in the weeks leading up to Shroove

we village children would dress as smelt

and run through the streets

squeaking and calling for the adults

to come out to confess their sins

because it was due to those sins

that the smelt stocks were depleted

it was due to their disrespect for the scared pole

that the moose were in decline

the adult men would follow us children

moaning and beating their foreheads till they bled

we would lead them to the strip bars

to make the first of their confessions

where they wailed so loud

the loose saxes couldn’t be heard

as the women danced in the dark


on the final day of Shrove

we children would swarm up and down

the 10001 steps of the cathedral

forming dioramas from the Biblia Coochineal

to instruct the men in the ways of righteousness

the bishop would smash

a florescent lightbulb

once each diorama was complete

then we would quickly form the next one

till the story of the moose was told

till the men were longing to escape

the searing glare of our child eyes

they knew they were to blame

we boys dreaded becoming guilt ridden adults

we hoped to avoid the responsibilities

the village would assign us

when we were old enough

to shoulder the shame of being human


after the dioramas

we children would swarm the Whistling Woods

in random groups of four or five

to chase out the hungry hidden men

there was no avoiding the smart of guilt

we would find them

we would hound them

till they came barefooted

hair caked with moose blood

to the cathedral to present themselves to the bishop

to listen the choir

sing hymns of renunciation and accusation

‘vile adults in the eyes of the creator’

‘the moose has spoken’


the days after Shroove were ones of rest

we were all exhausted from the running

our smelt costumes were repaired

then stored carefully in airtight rubber bins

till next years

when the cycle of fertility and recrimination

would begin all over again


chapbooks for sale


HotDamn! It’s A Queer Slam

Tuesday – September 19 – feature – Art Bar Poetry series – 8 p.m., Free Times Cafe, #20 College At., Toronto – $5.00http://It’s No Accident

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr


For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton. Check the Village Stories page for links previous pieces in this series.


to this day

I cannot hear the name Santa

without shuddering

the first few times it gets uttered are the worse

a tremble comes from my toes

my teeth chatter

I squeeze my arms tight to my body

to contain myself

it’s as if I’m going to fly to pieces


though I get used to hearing his name

I always dread the start of the festive season

and go out of my way to avoid

any reference or images of his likeness

I don’t know when this started

honestly, I had a fairly normal childhood

Christmas was nothing special in our house

I was never dropped off Santa’s knee

when taken to see him at the strip joint

I never woke to find

his white bearded visage

kissing my Mom or Dad

I once did get to undress

one of the elves


I was always satisfied with what gifts I got

I was an easy to please child

this Santa-shudder didn’t start

till I moved here to the big city

in our village

there were few likenesses of him

the usual ones of him harnessing a moose

or sneaking a beer out of the fridge

so how it came to be

that the very mention of his name

would cause this reaction in me is puzzling

it led my coworkers to think

I was some sort of xmas hater

when the opposite is the truth


I decorated my cubical with a little tree

some garlands

but would resist any likeness of him

it wasn’t if he was the centre of the celebration

but they would take great delight

in putting crystal Santas on my desk

once replacing my mouse with a Santa head

my shrieks were mocked for weeks after that

ho ho ho scream

my demands to be transferred to another section

were greeted with  ho ho ho no no no

those fuck heads

how could I do my job with such disrespect

luckily this only happens once a year


next year I won’t be here to put up with it

I’ve already made reservations

to spend that time of  year at a xmas free resort

where one can just float in the sun

drink tall cool drinks by the pool side

be undressed by cabana men

and then return to the escapist reality

that I was escaping from

This is one of the few pieces written in which my narrator has left the Village but is still enmeshed in mythology – in this case the festive myth of Santa. Personally I have no issues with Christmas or Santa or the Elves. As in many of these pieces the allegory is of those things in the world that go from annoying us to blocking our happiness.

Santa has become more a symbol of Christmas than the Jesus. Though both symbols have been commercialized to the point where they are meaningless beyond their commercial potential. So in some ways my hero is reacting to this reduction of a symbol to a logo for consumption as opposed to a symbol of generosity & fellowship.

My hero is like many who have left a small town for the freedom of the big city only to be trapped in a cubical. The childhood bullying has been replaced by the office mocking of his Santaphobia – by people who apparently don’t even question their own belief systems. The fact he doesn’t toe that line is enough for them to single him out. There is also a sense that some myths are considered superior to others.

I knew a guy who hated Christmas to the extent that he would fly to Australia on 23rd or the 24th & thanks to date line & time change arrived there & would skip Christmas Day. He flew back on New Year’s & got two New Year’s eves as a result. But like my narrator he had to return to a cultural reality he might avoid but could never escape.


For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton. Check the Village Stories page for links previous pieces in this series.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Tuesday – September 19 – feature – Art Bar Poetry series – 8 p.m., Free Times Cafe, #20 College At., Toronto – $5.00http://It’s No Accident

What am I worth? (2012)

According to my 1977 chap book Distant Music is worth £59.95 (up to £85 in 2022) !! 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 2022: I have a few copies left – $35.00 )


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.



Brown Betty

With this current round of novel edits winding down I’ve been getting back to poetry. First putting together sets for my two (so far) up coming summer features. I aim to make them both different and to have mini-chaps books to sell of the pieces  I do. For the Art Bar feature I’m focusing on down east/childhood material I’m calling Brown Betty.

April was poetry month. I didn’t try this year, as some did, to write and post a new piece every day. I wrote something nearly every day though. Some was work on Lazarus Kiss, some work on my novel about coal miners (Coal Dusters) and even poetry.


My current poetry project, other than getting things ready for features & open stages, is to do a series based on the titles of the essays of Montaigne. I read the essays over the past couple of years – they do go on. I really enjoy working with prompts and as there over 100 of these essays I have prompts to keep me going for a couple of months. The pieces will be based on title only, not on the content of the essay.


Reading them once was enough. Here’s one of them:

Of Sorrow (2)


those moments when we glanced

across a subway track

opposite directions

that frequently converged

paths that will no longer cross


missing you

yet still seeing your wave

as you get in the subway car

or I get in mine

a frantic little dance

not caring who sees

or perhaps caring who saw

wanting them to see   to know

you were willing to look so silly

at your age

at my age

showing a world of strangers

that we care for each other

across a the subway tracks


different platforms

different directions

paths that will never

cross again


Nano & Providence (1977)

two seats no waiting

Finally getting back to my NaNo editing. So much hospital visit transit and other stresses over the past month put that work on the back burner. The time away was well spent though as I got to think through some things that needed work before I jumped in and started killing my darlings.   I’ve pretty much had the same opening since I started it two years ago. I’ve even had the first two sections workshopped to good effect but no one said the things took too long to get going – my first few pages are funny and certainly set the mood but don’t get the plot in motion quickly enough. So out they go. The information in them can be set in place at other points in the story. I had to get my hero in contact with his his first ‘antagonist’ sooner. It now starts:

“Harris felt her eyes on him as he dabbed at the sauce from the pulled pork sandwich that had dripped onto his Aquaman tee-shirt. He loved eating on the subway but hated people watching him. He didn’t look up. His feet felt trapped in the new shoes he was breaking in. Trapped and hot.”

Brings them together in the first sentence. Plus gives a pretty clear picture of my ‘hero’ and his eating habits, his sloppiness and his geek quotient. The novel runs to just over 99,000 words so I have lots of work ahead of me. I’d like to have the next draft ready for Bloody Words in June ( so I’ll have something to pitch to an agent. Maybe even submit the first 30 pages for evaluation – deadline for evaluation is April 1.

who's there

Watched a great movie I recorded from French CBC – Providence (1977) directed by Alain Resnais. The way he plays with narrative structure, dialogue and continuity is delightful and inspiring.  It comes up rarely on TV, so far no DVD either.