Thursday, October 30, 2014

Protection - Gregg Shapiro (Gival Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Protection.  Gregg Shapiro.  Gival Press.  Arlington, Virginia.  2008.

Although this book is eight years old it is brand new to me -- and as refreshing as a needed cold shower.

Protection is Gregg Shapiro's first book and it is gob-smacking good.

Today's book of poetry could talk about the LBGT references (as the acronym stood in 2008) but there is no need.  This poetry is so inclusive you might think Mr. Shapiro has been in your head playing with your thoughts.

Anyone who likes good poetry is going to love the high octane brilliance of Gregg Shapiro's dancing. Like Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, Shapiro makes it look effortless -- but then like Fran Lebowitz -- he makes it true as a comedy howitzer.

My Mother Says The F-Word

At first, it felt like I'd been slapped across the face --
open palmed and swift. It reminded me of how she
would try to break up fights between my brother
and me, in the back seat of the car, while she was
driving. She would take her shoe off the foot that
wasn't needed for braking or accelerating and flail
around behind her on the off chance of making contact
with a flying arm or leg. This would make us laugh
so hard that we soon forgot why we had been fighting.
My father had been saying it for years, the word
coming out as easily as air. I know my mother
must have been dying to try it out for herself, slip

into it like an expensive Italian pump. I know I learned
to say it before I ever heard my father use it at the dinner
table, over the phone, in a traffic jam. He waited until
we were old enough before he spat it as us, watched us
retreat a little, than treat him like one of our schoolyard
buddies. It will take some getting used to, hearing it from
my mother's mouth. A mouth not accustomed to such
expressions or outbursts. A mouth full of praise and
kisses, outlined in Quicksilver Coral lipstick and easing
into the smile of someone who knows they're too old
to have their mouth washed out with a bar of soap.


Shapiro writes little screenplays to movies we all want to see.  His cinematic vision
and technicolour detail suggest a deep well that he has access to.

Some of these poems read like great morality plays with sitcom laugh-tracks and good lighting with   Shapiro, the expert puppet master seeing all.

And sex.  There is lots and lots of sex.  For the most part, joyous and loving, playful and celebratory.

Looking at the Ceiling

Rug burns on my elbows, tailbone, shoulder
blades, scalp. Burn for burn, I still come
out ahead. Wonder how I can go to the beach,
take off my shirt in public (everyone will
know!). I will lie on my back, basted in
sunblock, naming clouds. For now, I will lie
on the sand-colored carpet, stare at the galaxy

of water spots on the ceiling. Cobwebs
are moonbeams, jutting out from the light
fixture. Your face is a planet orbiting mine,
light years away. Our lips collide, tongues
tangle, teeth clack like a meteor shower.
Satellite hands, you are out of this world.
Tell me again about the big bang theory.


Shapiro is a details guy, he illuminates the general conception of things by reducing them to the moments of  human nuance that we all understand.  This is a very good skill to have.

Today's book of poetry was happy-shocked by this book.


The boss's wife comes to me with secrets
I must take to heart, to my grave, beyond.
Spilling from lips, thick with red. Punctuated
by brown eyes darting, silent clicks in code.

Facts to be filed, stored for future reference.
She told me that she broke down in the shower.
Crumpled into a heap of steam, salt and water.
Her dreams kept me awake at night. Vivid dreams

of forbidden addictions, another life. Now I know
why February can be as cruel as April. Twenty-eight
days, mimicked by March, with little or no chance
for improvement. Just the promise of white going
gray, hardening like cement.

Gregg Shapiro

Gregg Shapiro is one of the leading literary figures in Chicago’s gay and lesbian communities and an influential critic of the literary and musical arts.

Locally, his work has been published in Outlines, Nightlines, En La Vida, BLACKlines, and Gay Chicago Magazine. His music commentaries are heard on LesBiGay Radio.

His reporting on the sexual-minority arts scene is syndicated throughout North America, appearing in Baltimore, Boston, Washington, D.C., New York, West Hollywood, Philadelphia, Miami, Toronto, and Houston.

Shapiro has worked tirelessly to increase awareness of Chicago’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered literary excellence, both within local sexual-minority communities and beyond them. He has been a member of the New Town Writers and the SoPo Writers groups and has organized readings for them. He has supported Gerber/Hart Library through benefit readings and through donations of signed first editions and manuscripts. He has been a participating writer and performer in arts festivals, and adaptations of his works have been produced at Puszh Studios and Bailiwick Repertory theaters.

Though quiet and unassuming, he has received national recognition for his own poetry and fiction. His works were heralded on the cover of Christopher Street, the gay literary publication of the 1980s and early 1990s, and some of them have been featured on Dial-A-Poem Chicago. His works have appeared in more than 50 literary journals and in more than half a dozen anthologies.

Shapiro’s expertise in popular music is widely recognized. He has been a judge at the Gay and Lesbian American Music Awards for the past three years. He has presented workshops and been on panels at the annual OutWrite conferences. In Chicago, he has taught workshops and judged student work at Columbia College and in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Master of Fine Arts writing program. He has also organized group readings and panel discussions at local bookstores.

At every event in which he is involved, Shapiro strives to include representation from all sectors of Chicago’s sexual-minority communities. He is one of Chicago’s most honored openly gay writers and has long promoted recognition of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered literary and musical talent.

*Please note that this bio was reproduced directly from the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame website:

"Moving across the country, Gregg Shapiro finds his poetry on the same highway traveled before him by Henry Miller and John Rechy - at the intersection of sex and night, the place where the brakes go out."
     Carol Anshaw, author of Aquamarine, Seven Moves and Lucky in the Corner

"Gregg Shapiro's stunning debut marks the arrival of a new master poet on the scene.  His work blows me away."
     Greg Herren, author Mardi Gras Mambo, Jackson Square Jazz and others.

Gregg Shapiro
Filmed at Outwrite Bookstore, Atlanta, Georgia
February 12, 2008


Monday, October 27, 2014

And I Alone Escaped To Tell You - Sylvia D. Hamilton (Gaspereau Press)

Today's book of poetry:
And I Alone Escaped To Tell You.  Sylvia D. Hamilton.  Gaspereau Press.  Kentville, Nova Scotia.  2014.

"The settlement of African peoples in Nova Scotia is a richly layered story encompassing many waves of settlement and diverse circumstances–from captives to ‘freedom runners’ who sailed north from the United States with hopes of establishing a new life. The poems in And I Alone Escaped to Tell You endeavour to give these historical events a human voice, blending documentary material, memory, experience and imagination to evoke the lives of these early Black Nova Scotians and of the generations that followed. This collection is a moving meditation on the place of African-descended people in the Canadian story and on the threads connecting all of us to the African diaspora."
      ...from the Gaspereau Press website introduction to And I Alone Escaped To Tell You by Sylvia D. Hamilton

As a white man who is approaching sixty years of age, history would tell us that I've grown up with a catalogue of privilege.  So I might not be the best equipped reader to handle the incendiary poetry of Sylvia D. Hamilton, but I'll give it a shot -- and you should too.

Melville Island


                                                                                                                                 Silenced by the snow

                                                                                                                        they wondered if even God
                                                                                                                          had finally forsaken them

home a stone prison
temporary officials say
we used to temporary

come in from the fields one day
to find out we been up and sold
we invented temporary

when they line us up
after they drag us
off them waterbeds of death
we ready for a new kind of temporary

nova scarcity
seed potatoes turnip tobacco
good crop in the fall
now all froze to the floor

and if we still here
in spring
we try again


Hamilton's And I Alone Escaped To Tell You is a sad litany, a terrible history and a necessary part of our tapestry.

If some of these poems are hard to read -- imagine how hard they were to write  -- imagine how hard they were to live.

Today's book of poetry rarely talks about form or technique and the firm, terse, precise and haunting narrative Hamilton hammers out moves with such compelling force and content that the form hardly matters.



English Level 4, Book 2 c.1962

Lesson: Listen to the Language

I worked like a ____________________.

He's a real ____________________ driver.

She ____________________ over a hot stove
all day to cook his supper.

He cracked the _________________ to make
them work harder.

Today's Announcements




...And next week will be our slave auction. All those participating must
remember that you can't have your slave do anything that is illegal or
embarrassing. Only those students participating will be allowed to attend
the school dance of Friday. Funds raised will go to the student council.
The glee club will meet today at noon in the Library. The boys' basketball
team will have a home game...



Racism in its' many guises razes havoc across the globe and here at home.  We here at Today's book of poetry think there is only way of conquering racism and all it's evil spawn and that is through mutual understanding, tolerance and respect.

Books like Sylvia D. Hamilton's And I Alone Escaped To Tell You offer a small portal, an open door, to just that much more understanding.  Hamilton has given us access, nay, forces us to take a look at a dark part of our collective story.

We are all richer for the light.

Malcolm's Question

I was fourteen when Malcolm X was murdered. I didn't know him then.
Later in that b/w file when he asked me where did you get your name, I
had no answer. Tarbaby, Sambo, Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, Topsy--they
weren't my name but that's what people called me. Don't let anyone call
you out of your name, the Sunday School mothers said. You got but two
cheeks, defend yourself. When I told my white grade four teacher that, she
didn't believe me, strapped me anyway.


Hamilton reads like the very best of George Elliot Clarke and that makes her very, very good.

Sylvia D. Hamilton

Sylvia D. Hamilton is a filmmaker and writer whose awards include a Gemini and the Portia White Prize. Her poetry has been published in The Dalhousie Review, West Coast Line, The Great Black North andUntying the Apron: Daughters Remember Mothers of the Fifties. She was a contributor to, and co-editor of,We’re Rooted Here and They Can’t Pull Us Up: Essays In African Canadian Women’s History. She lives in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Year Of No Mistakes - Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz (Write Bloody Publishing)

Today's book of poetry:
The Year Of No Mistakes.  Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz.  Write Bloody Publishing.  Austin, Texas.  2013.

Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz is so damned smart she must glow in the dark.

And she gives us hope.

The Bowery

We danced like ball bearings.
We laughed like ripped newspapers.
We smoked like backwards rain clouds.
We kissed like slammed doors.

We drank like taxi cabs in snowstorms.
We ate like honeybees swarming bears.
We screamed like willow trees in windstorms.
We wrote like a knife to our throat.

We fought like a thousand, tiny paper cuts.
We struggled like teeth against brick.
We fucked like rubber-necked car crashes.
We loved like we invented it.


This is the sort of poetry I like best.  Almost every moment is filled with a twist of language that is an instant familiar or a reminder of something you think you should have known.  Aptowicz is clearly from that clan that perfects language for the rest of us.

Dazzling isn't too bright a word.  This poetry is as honest as a child without guile.

The Year Of No Mistakes is hilarious and as engaging as a phone call from an old friend.

Not Doing Something Wrong Isn't The
Same As Dong Something Right

In my defense, my forgotten breasts. In my defense, the hair
no one brushed from my face. In my defense, my hips.

Months earlier, I remember thinking that sex was a ship retreating
on the horizon. I could do nothing but shove my feet in the sand.

I missed all the things loneliness taught me: eyes that follow you
crossing a room, hands that find their home on you. To be noticed, even.

In my defense, his hands. In my defense, his arms. In my defense,
how when we just sat listening to each other breathe, he said, This is enough.

My body was a house I had closed for the winter. It shouldn't have been
that difficult, empty as it was. Still, I stared hard as I snapped off the lights.

My body was a specter that haunted me, appearing when I stripped
in the bathroom, when I crawled into empty beds, when it rained.

My body was abandoned construction, restoration scaffolding
that became permanent. My body's unfinished became its finished.

So in my defense, when he touched me, the lights of my body came on.
In my defense, the windows where thrown open. In my defense, spring.


Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz takes things as seriously as a Richard Pryor heart-attack or a Sylvia Plath swoon, and never looses her balance.

Aptowicz's powerful, powerful poems are never bullying or academic.  They are wise beyond her years, whatever the hell her age is.

If you have friends who don't read much poetry, and you want a guarantee to knock their socks off - show them this book.

My Tiny God

likes balance. He has me step in dog shit today
so I might catch an express train next week. He likes
how happy I am to earn it. How suffering to me is
like loading a gift card in karma's outlet mall.

My Tiny God knows I like established paths, following
dotted lines to my destination. My Tiny God thinks
no one learns anything that way, turns off the headlights
when we're still racing down a road.

Still, My Tiny God is the one I pray to on a rainy tarmac,
in the waiting room, on the other end of a static-filled line.
My Tiny God doesn't always take my calls. I don't know
if he listens to my voicemails. Sometimes he goes missing.

I remind myself he doesn't have to watch over me all the time.
He doesn't need to carry his scale everywhere. He is allowed
to get bored. He doesn't have to watch me write for me to know
that he likes it when I've written, to see the paper pile up.

These days, My Tiny God clocks in every morning. Coffee,
our favorite miracle. Work, our favorite song. Faith, our lucky
number. He pours sunlight on my like syrup, fluffs every cloud,
smacks the birds from the trees just so I can watch them scatter.


Today's book of poetry needs to develop a scoring system (not), just so books like this could go to the top of it.  The Year Of No Mistakes by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz is electric energy you hold in your hands.

Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

(Please note, this bio was "borrowed" in full from the author)
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is the author of six books of poetry (including Dear Future Boyfriend, Hot Teen Slut, Working Class Represent, Oh, Terrible Youth and Everything is Everything) as well as the nonfiction book, Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam, which Billy Collins wrote “leaves no doubt that the slam poetry scene has achieved legitimacy and taken its rightful place on the map of contemporary literature.” On the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) podcast Art Works, host Josephine Reed introduced Cristin as being “something of a legend in NYC’s slam poetry scene. She is lively, thoughtful, and approachable looking to engage the audience with her work and deeply committed to the community that art (in general) and slam poetry (in particular) can create.” Cristin’s most recent awards include the ArtsEdge Writer-In-Residency at the University of Pennsylvania (2010-2011), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (2011) and the Amy Clampitt Residency (2013). Her sixth book of poetry, The Year of No Mistakes, was released by Write Bloody Publishing in Fall 2013 and her second nonfiction book, Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, was released by Gotham Books (Penguin) in Fall 2014.

For the truly curious, here’s the longer story:

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz (b. 1978) was born and raised in Philadelphia. In 1996, she graduated from Central High School of Philadelphia, and moved to New York City to attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She was a sophomore at NYU when she was first introduced to poetry slams by her classmate, Beau Sia. In 1998, Cristin co-founded the NYC-Urbana Poetry Slam, a weekly reading series dedicated to showcasing the most innovative voices in poetry. NYC-Urbana has captured the National Slam Championship title three times and won the first ever Group Piece Nationals, which celebrates multi-voice poems. The NYC-Urbana Poet Slam is still held weekly at NYC’s famed Bowery Poetry Club.

After college, Cristin worked as an editor for the “Adult” section for online portal (serving as inspiration for her book, Hot Teen Slut), slung coffee as the founding cafe manager for the Bowery Poetry Club and served as a rights manager at the Artists Rights Society.

In July 2010, she was named the 2010-2011 ArtsEdge Writer-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, where she spent the year researching and writing a book on Thomas Dent Mütter, founder of the Philadelphia’s (in)famous Mütter Museum. It was during this residency year that she was also awarded a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry.

Cristin continues to perform and lecture internationally & nationally, including residencies with or performances at the Sydney Opera House, the Gasworks Art Complex (Melbourne Australia), Joe’s Pub (at NYC’s Public Theatre), the Largo Theatre (Los Angeles) and over 100 universities and colleges, including but not limited to Yale University (CT), Brown University (RI), Columbia University (NY), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA), Dartmouth College (NH), Boston University (MA), Brandeis University (MA), Amherst College (MA), University of Pennsylvania (PA), University of Chicago (IL), New York University (NY), University of Alabama (AL), University of Arkansas (AR), Minnesota State University (MN), State University of New York (Freedonia) (NY), George Washington University (DC), University of Maryland (MD), Berklee College of Music (MA), Penn State Berks (PA), College of Saint Rose (NY), Columbia College (IL), Hamline University (MN), Eastern Illinois University (IL), Tennessee Tech University (TN), Husson University (ME), Goucher College (MD), Colby-Sawyer College (NH), Slippery Rock University (PA), College of St. Benedict (MN), Universities of California (Santa Cruz and Davis, CA) and Universities of Australia (Melbourne and Sydney, Australia), among others.

Her poetry and non-fiction has been published in various journals, including Rattle, McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies, Pank, La Petite Zine, decomP, Umbrella, The Other Journal, Danse Macabre, Conduit, Barrelhouse and Monkeybicycle, among others…

From February 2013 to August 2013, Cristin was the 2013 poet-in-residence at the Amy Clampitt House, where she finished her sixth book of poetry and sold her second book of nonfiction

Her sixth book of poetry, The Year of No Mistakes, was released by Write Bloody Publishing in Fall 2013 and her second nonfiction book, Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: Thomas Dent Mutter and the Dawn of Modern Medicine, will be released by Gotham Books (Penguin) in Fall 2014.

For more information on forthcoming gigs, recent press and/or her schedule of performances, please see here or write
"Though this a book full of trouble--there's a lot of un- and underemployment; and though love is found, love is mostly lost--Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz is really a poet of honesty and humour. Through all the transitions and difficulties presented here, affection lingers in and hovers around these poems, particularly an affection for place, for the cities she has moved through and taken into her being. "I meet you here at the intersection of pitbull and/pigeon"--passages like this offset the day-to-day struggle with language that is simultaneously accurate and transformative, giving us both a take on the world as it is and a sense of the better world our minds can make. Whenever I meet this poet, I want to stay."
     Bob Hicock, Poet and two-time National Endowment for the Arts Fellow

"Haunting, lovely and heartbreaking. The Year Of No Mistakes is a revelation. It is Aptowicz's best book yet: a poetic Odyssey that takes the reader along on her journey of personal transformation, leading us from love to loss to new frontiers. This book will feel like home to anyone who has ever faced a dark night, or even a dark year, of the soul. Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz is the poet laureate of your heart."
     Wess Mongo Jolley, Poet & Founder of the Performance Poetry Preservation Project (P4)

Crispin O'Keefe Aptowicz
Cristin O'keefe Aptowicz, author of "Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Throught Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam", published by Soft Skull Press, performs her Spoken Word Poem "Notes on Rejection" as part of the Junkyard Ghost Revival tour with Anis Mojgani, Buddy Wakefield and Derrick Brown at Brown University, October 2008 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mules of Love - Ellen Bass (BOA Editions)

Today's book of poetry:
Mules of Love.  Ellen Bass.  BOA Editions.  American Poets Continuum Series, No. 73.  Rochester, New York.  2002.

Today's book of poetry bought this book by Ellen Bass at the public library in Bryn Mawr, just outside of Philadelphia.

As a rule, Today's book of poetry only writes about books that we receive in the mail. But this is my house and I get to do what I want.  So here is the rare exception.

Last year I was visiting an old friend and fine poet, Chui, in Bryn Mawr.  He and his astonishing wife Patt live in a huge stone house filled to the brim with art.  It's a monster beautiful home that is older than Canada.

As luck would have it his backyard abuts the grounds for the public library.  I checked out the "Book Sale" room and scored a mountain of poetry.  I bought as much as I could carry home on the plane.  It was about 30 books.

I've read them all now and this is the one I want to tell you about because it is monster good.

Everything on the Menu

In a poem it doesn't matter
if the house is dirty. Dust
that claims the photographs like a smothering
love. Sand spilled from a boy's sneaker,
the faceted grains scattered on the emerald rug
like the stars and planets of a tiny
solar system. Monopoly
butted up against Dostoyevsky.
El techo, a shiny sticker, labeling the ceiling
from the summer a nephew studied Spanish.

Mold on bread in the refrigerator
is as interesting as lichen on an oak--
its minuscule hairs like the fuzz
on an infant's head, its delicate
blues and spring greens, its plethora of spores,
whole continents of creatures, dazzling our palms.

In a poem, life and death are equals.
We receive the child, crushed
like gravel under the tire.
And the grandfather at the open grave
holding her small blue sweatshirt to his face.
And we welcome the baby born
at daybreak, the mother naked, squatting
and pushing in front of the picture window
just as the garbage truck roars up
and men jump out, clanking
metal cans into its maw.

In a poem, we don't care if you got hired
or fired, lost or found love,
recovered or kept drinking.
You don't have to exercise
or forgive. We're hungry.
We'll take everything on the menu.

In poems joy and sorrow are mates.
They lie down together, their hands
all over each other, fingers
swollen in mouths,
nipples chafed to flame, their sexes
fitting seamlessly as day and night.
They arch over us, glistening and bucking,
the portals through which we enter our lives.


When I read these poem by Ellen Bass I feel hopeful.

Mules of Love reads like a long-play record you don't want to end.  It is languorous and so flesh and bone human.  Ellen Bass has wandered wise into my sphere as a reader and boy was I waiting for this.  Here is a poet you really would want to sit down and have a glass of red with because you know her warm understanding of the world would elevate yours.

Remodeling the Bathroom

If this were the last
day of my life, I wouldn't complain
about the shower curtain rod
in the wrong place, even though
it's drilled into the tiles.
Nor would I fret
over water marks on the apricot
satin finish paint, half sick
that I should have used semigloss. No.
I'd stand in the doorway
watching sun glint
off the chrome faucet, breathing in
the silicone smell. I'd wonder
at the plumber, as he adjusted the hot
and cold water knobs. I'd stare
at the creases behind his ears and the gray
flecks in his stubble. I'd have to hold
myself back from touching him. Or maybe
I wouldn't. Maybe I'd stroke
his cheek and study
his eyes the amber of cellos, his rumpled
brow, the tiny garnet
threads of capillaries, his lips
resting together, quiet as old friends--
I'd gaze at him
as though his were the first
face I'd ever seen.


Clearly here at Today's book of poetry we have a bias for narrative poems.  We are also suckers for a style we like to call Romantic Realism.  Really hoping Ms. Bass doesn't object but that's where I'd throw her hat.

Think Thomas Hart Benton meeting Andrew Wyeth.

Happiness After Sorrow

No days were good, but some were worse.
I'd gotten as far as my door--reach out,
they always tell you--then had to pee.
Two steps toward the bathroom. But
what did peeing matter? I slid down
like a coat shrugged off. And slumped there,
on the edge of the frayed rug, I catalogued the worst
things that could happen to a parent. This--
my daughter stripping the medicine chest, rimming
the sink with plastic cylinders, her life
suspended in transparent amber--
was number three.

And then years pass. And you're making meatballs.
Exactly the way your family likes them.
A little bread crumbs. A little matzoh meal.
No egg. A dash of sherry.
You're browning them in a pan. Diana Krall's
singing "Peel Me a Grape." And you're happy.
The present is what you're crazy for,
each moment plump and separate as a raindrop
reflecting the world on its curved skin.

It happens. Our troubles familiar
as the peeling paint in the back
hallway, the stain on the couch
where the cat threw up.
We live with all the unbearable knowledge--
the hole in the ozone, the H-bomb,
and right now fathers are hurrying
children in their arms across barbed-wire borders.
After we weep, we fold the newspaper
and drive our kids to school.

How do we do it? How do we want
to make supper again? Squeezing
cold mush through my fingers, patting
it into pies. How does love keep
swelling in the cavities of our frail bodies,
how do these husks hold so much jagged
pleasure in their parched split skins?

I tip the pot, oily water rushes out
and steam rises. All I have lost
swirls around me. I scoop
the mist with my palms.


We passed Mules of Love around the office for weeks, reading it aloud, sometimes reading the same poem twice in a row, out loud.  Every single poem made us like this poetry more.

Ellen Bass

Ellen Bass has published several poetry collections, including Mules of Love (BOA Editions, 2002), a Lambda Literary Award winner; and The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book. She coedited with Florence Howe one of the first anthologies to highlight feminist poetry, the groundbreaking No More Masks! Her nonfiction books include the best-selling The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse and Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth. She has published poems in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, The New Republic, The Sun,Ploughshares, and of course, Rattle. Among her many awards is a Pushcart Prize, the Pablo Neruda Prize, the Larry Levis Prize from Missouri Review, and the New Letters Prize. Bass teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University. Her new collection of poetry, Like a Beggar, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in early 2014. (

"The sudden intimacy of these poems will hold you to the page. Ellen Bass knows an awful lot and is ready to tell it all. Her poems will quicken the pulse, and as you read you will become anxious to discover more and more. But she can only tell you so much, one good line at a time, and that is more than enough."
     --Billy Collins

"Reading Mules of Love gave me great joy. I found the poems striking, full, complete and beautifully crafted. Ellen Bass is a poet writing about quintessential beauty, and these poems are swollen with it. These radiant poems emerge from her Santa Cruz garden of life. Bass writes with a Dionysian ecstasy yet infuses it with the calm energy of a gardener's earthy-hands."
     --Diane Wakoski

"Ellen Bass's voice is direct and unambiguous. These are intimate, confessional poems, yet in almost every instance they go beyond the specific details to strike a universal chord. A highly readable and touching book."
     --Maxine Kumin

"Ellen Bass writes of ordinary life with a fierce a loving passion. Her honesty, her insights, and her mastery of language, particularly metaphor, make this book compelling to read."
     --Linda Pastan

Ellen Bass reading "Gate C22"
Cornelia Street Cafe


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Alibi for Two - Augustus Merrill (Parallel Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Alibi for Two.  Augustus Merrill.  Parallel Press.  University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.  Madison, Wisconsin.  2014.

The poems in Augustus Merrill's Alibi for Two are diptychs.  Or at least that's what they would be called if they were paintings.  Masterful painting at that.

I asked our intern to find the appropriate literary term for this form, a poem in two parts with a prose introduction, but she left the office for lunch yesterday and hasn't been heard from since.

Merrill is a retired English professor and I think, after reading these fine, fine poems, I would have enjoyed listening to what he had to say about almost anything.  I'm certainly game for more of these poems.

Perhaps these poems could be filed in the "call and response" tag - but ultimately it doesn't matter.   Each of the poems in this collection starts with a short prose section or introduction and ends with a brief poetic retort, summation, response.

The effect is startling.

The Crossing Guard

They moved to town for the sake of the baby. It was just too hard
living out like that. She was immediately relieved. The grocery store,
the Laundromat, the city parks. It took him the remainder of his life
to make the adjustment. As a very old man his greatest pleasure was
to look out his narrow window at the young crossing guards directing
traffic by the elementary school in the middle of the afternoon. If
civilization were like this, he thought, he never would have gone to live
in the woods.

Not a decade behind them

The young crossing guards stand duty at the stop.

Already they have assumed the serious and sober robes of responsibility.

In neon safety vests they arrive early at their stations

Dwarfed by the nine foot signs.

With miniature mirrored signs of their own they stop traffic.

On the world's windswept open streets.

Obediently the traffic halts

As the guards conduct their small charges to safety.

No one, not even the most hardened criminal

Would disobey their small upraised hand.

Whatever the future brings, into this scene

Such authority and obedience will never be theirs again.

The power and satisfaction given over to them as children

Will soon be replaced by defiance and disappointment at every turn.

Before accelerating again

We stop to admire the young guards and to admire ourselves

Doing what we are supposed to do.


Stylistically Merrill's intelligent poems read like a familiar, but Today's book of poetry has never seen quite this sort of poem work quite this effectively.

To go back to the diptych metaphor; Merrill has found the recipe to create the perfect union between the two halves of these poems.

Merrill has mastered pace and tension so that many of these poems read and sound and taste like folklore we had forgotten.

Leave Your Bow Man Alone

They had been married and divorced three times, and now they were
trying to go down a little, rocky, northern river together. He screamed
for her to paddle on the right. She paddled on the right. He screamed
for her to paddle on the left. She paddled on the left. All the while
she didn't say a word. Her thoughts flowed with the current as light
and easily as a leaf. Three times is enough, she thought, three times is 

Leave your bow man alone;

You are lucky to have him there,

And if he is a she, leave her alone too--

She has had enough of your bad advice already.

Choose which side is dear

Then change like the changing of the year

Without premeditation, plan, or word.

Leave your bow man alone.

Steer when you are tired,

Moving forward as you never would have done alone.

If you must command,

Command yourself to the passing world

Remembering that you are heavy

And that she is light

And that the two of your are only being led along

Because the water has forgiven you both.

Leave your bow man alone.

Go to the shore in silence and tenderly touch the limbs

That have brought you home at last

Where there is no water

And no need for forgiveness.


Augustus Merrill uses dry humour with much the same delicacy as a painter using the dry-brush technique.

Wait, that's the ticket!, diptych's, dry-brush technique -- this guy is a painter.  And what lovely paintings.

I Sit With You

It was not a good place to quarrel. In a city or in a town there would
be restraint, but there was no restraint there and the lake did not help.
When it began to freeze their differences were magnified. The water
creaked and groaned as though it were in its death throes. It pinged
without mercy through the fragile house and the fragile marriage.
When there was no more to say, a cruel silence would set in. Sometimes
it would last almost until the lake thawed in spring.

No wind over the eighty-eight acre face of Lake Nothing,

No moon in the leaf stained water.

The pike who has hunted the ducklings

All summer in the shallows

Is hunted himself now

By the pressures of the winter thermocline.

The otters in their den,

The city people in their city,

The loons flown south,

I sit with you, my silent wife,

Until the wind stirs and the ice forms

Between us and the lake.


Augustus Merrill's poetry has the confidence of the experienced and the humility of man who knows too much.  This chapbook of very human poetry remind us at Today's book of poetry that some of the very best things come in small packages.

Lee Merrill, his hunting dog, Belle, and his grandson, Bastiaan.

Augustus Lee Merrill is retired from a thirty-year career as professor of English literature at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin. He has been involved in the conservation issues of the Lake Superior region as a member of the boards of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute and Voyageurs National Park. His writing has appeared in College English, Poetry Now, The Wisconsin Academy Review, and Gray's Sporting Journal. Merrill lives with his wife Melinda in Washburn, Wisconsin.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Anatomy of Clay - Gillian Sze (ECW Press)

Today's book of poetry:
The Anatomy of Clay.  Gillian Sze.  ECW Press.  Toronto, Ontario.  2011.

Here is a kicker for you!

I might have found a perfect poem.  It is on page 18 of Gillian Sze's The Anatomy of Clay and it is called "Cigarette".

Today's book of poetry is not going to share this poem because we want you to find this book and read it for yourself.

Sze is quite the poet.  Her excellent work feels so casual and light - when in truth there is nothing casual about it.  Sze has laser vision.

The Taken Wife

These evenings
you find more joy in the television
than in me:
your face an empty dish.

Tonight's show,
a woman tells her daughter:
your life becomes what you pay attention to.

I remind myself to use jasmine lotion
after I emerge from the shower
and yet, each morning,
I fail to do so.

Domesticity is more than
the cup of coffee
I set at your side
as you listen, one ear to morning news,
the other to the traffic.

It is the distortion
that takes places when all that's left
is the cooling stovetop,
a dripping shower,
a mix-up between
compassion and compression,
the latter felt
with each plunge of the French press,
each squeeze of a package of brown sugar.

Before you come home,
I wash,
tumble dry on low,
and fold myself into your drawer.


Good poems are like good movies, they allow you to, invite you to, insist that you, inhabit them. Gillian Sze's The Anatomy of Clay is a pleasure palace of cinemascope type renderings that all retain that home movie feel.

Sze seems to have access to an instant intimacy device which cloaks her poems in the familiar.

from Delilah In Seven Parts


Delilah lost the baby two months in. She doesn't like the details
and tries to forget most of them. All she knows is that shortly
after, Thomas stopped coming home at night. Sometimes he'd
be gone for two whole days. Delilah started reading the book
Sally gave her and would write Post-it notes to herself that she'd
stick to the bottom of her underwear drawer. She would write
out pieces of advice like, How to discover a cheater: search his
car; or How to discover a cheater: bring him close and note any
peculiar scents.

After Thomas came right out and told her, Delilah locked
herself in the room, chopped off her hair so it hung just below
her ears in jagged locks and packed her belongings in her
suitcase. When she got to the bottom of the drawers, her eyes
were so wet that they stained everything incomprehensible. She
couldn't even read her own writing: How to discover a cheater.
It didn't really matter though. She realized later that they were
both saying the same thing.


I am utterly won over and convinced.  Gillian Sze writes with humour and charm and a playful surgeon's knife.  The Anatomy of Clay is one of those surprisingly good books of poems where you can open to any page and feel the full force of Sze's dynamic and consistent pen.


My seven-year-old nephew
tells me that he is fourteen
in shark years.

I bark twice.

The whale has me beat.
It knows six different sea languages,
and I, on land, know two.

One day, I tell him,
you'll stare at someone
and all expression will be lost.

A linguist can attest.

How are we all not the same,
as we lie here like cows
waiting for rain?


a fox
like a woman.


This poetry is as precise as it is pretty.  Sze's ability to be down to earth is chthnoic.

If this book were a vegetable it would be an onion.  Every poem/layer as sweet as the next, every single one as good as the last.  Everyone in the office loved this book.

Gillian Sze

Gillian Sze is the author of three chapbooks published with Withwords Press: This is the Colour I Love You Best(2007), A Tender Invention (2008), and, most recently, Allow Me to Conjugate (2010). In 2004, she received the University of Winnipeg Writers’ Circle Prize and her collection, Fish Bones (DC Books, 2009), was shortlisted for the QWF McAuslan First Book Prize and longlisted for the 2010 ReLit Award in poetry. Her work has appeared in a number of national and international journals. She co-edits Branch , a quarterly online magazine showcasing Canadian art, design and writing. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Concordia University and is currently pursuing a PhD. The Anatomy of Clay (ECW Press, Spring 2011) is her second poetry collection. Her most recent book, Peeling Rambutan , has just been published by Gaspereau Press this spring.

"A contagious lyrical energy ignites when concept gives way to necessity and Sze's subjects--family, place origin--are given voice."
     Winnipeg Free Press

"Gillian Sze's debut collection dazzled... The poetry is intelligent and playful... at once pared to the bones--pun inteneded--and wondefully rich and sensual."
     McAuslan First Book Prize jury citation for Fish Bones


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths - Sandy Longhorn (Jacar Press)

Today's book of poetry:
The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths.  Sandy Longhorn.  Jacar Press.  Durham, North Carolina.  2013.

"Once there was a girl" named Sandy Longhorn who traveled in time to discover The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths.  I suspect she dug it up from under the floorboards of some dusty and forgotten shack.

And now Longhorn has the temerity to claim these myths as her own.  Clever work.

Midwest Nursery Tales

In the stories, someone's always lost
amid the cornstalks, crushed beneath

a tractor's wheel, or swept away
in a flooding season. Most nights,

the children ask for the one about the girl
who refused to mind, who followed

a pair of moths into a field of alfalfa
ready for reaping. The girl trailed

the papery wings through a maze of grass,
ignoring her mother's wind-pitched voice.

Out of earshot, a fox appeared, chased her
dizzy and nipped her heels until she fell.

When the searchers arrived, all they found
were her shoes and a patch of blood-red

poppies. Each year those flowers bloomed
no matter how deeply they tilled the soil.


Well bless Sandy Longhorn's cotton socks because The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths is a spectacular read.  It could just as easily been called "A Cautionary Compendium and Glossary to the Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths".

Longhorn's west is a harsh, bloody place and the women of the prairie are called upon in ways that test the limits of the most vigorous hearted.

But these are strong, strong women.

Cautionary Tale for Girls Caught Up in the Machinery

Once there was a girl who dreamt each night of tools,
the hammer's heft and the wrench's clamping jaws,
her favorite pair of pliers, handles worn smooth
from twisting taut the new-strung wire.

She burned the roast, sewed uneven hems, but knew
what needed tightening before her father spoke
his soft commands. They worked as an efficient pair
and some days he forgot his lack of sons.

But then she reached a certain age and the dreams
began to change, tools transformed to the teeth
of rabid dogs, the flailing hooves of horses driven
to crush her bones, anything wild and out for blood.

Her mind gone soft from lack of sleep, she forgot
to kill the tractor's engine and felt her sleeve
brush the humming belt. In the span of one quick breath,
she was pulled into the belly of that greasy beast.

When her father came to find what took so long,
there was nothing there. Nothing save a tractor
with an engine seized and a scrap of cloth,
nothing to prove she hadn't simply wandered off.


Longhorn never takes a short-cut and never takes the pressure off.  In her prairie universe women are constantly being called upon to survive the most arduous challenges.

These poems read like an almanac of continuous wonder.  Longhorn's voice in these poems has the force of astuteness to it.  These myths all sound and feel like fully formed historical words of wisdom, true myths that Longhorn has pulled out of the ether.


Stopping the car, we let the dust return
to the gravel road behind us. Ahead
is the house, our destination, engulfed
in tall grass, which requires a wading
through weeds and pockets of thicket,
a fending off of all that bites and stings.

Because we must approach what haunts us
with gifts in our hands, we make ready.

We unwrap the cloth that protects
the owl's claw tangled in trumpet vine,
loosed the lid on the jar of fireflies,
although it is day and they appear to sleep.
Draping our shoulders with red silk scarves,
we dip one fingers each into the fat pot
of honey, harvested only miles from here.

We are not burdened by these offerings.
Threading the remnants of a path, we arrive
at the door intact, calling out the name
of our beloved, a song rising from the grass.


Today's book of poetry loved this book.  It is taut and menacingly tasty poetry.

Sandy Longhorn

I am interested in where lyric and narrative intersect, in working with the strengths in each of these forms. I am interested in white space and line breaks, in the way silence creates room in which words collide and ricochet. I am interested in the kind of tension that can be made visually and linguistically with letters placed on the page. And I am interested in sound, in how the repetition of sounds creates density and intensity within lines, stanzas, and entire poems.

These sly, beautifully crafted poems inhabit and haunt the heart-land. Sandy Longhorn is a poet with the gifts of observation and imagination. An original voice with a knack for telling tales.
— Stuart Dischell, Backward Days, Dig Safe, Evenings & Avenues, Good Hope Road (Viking Press)

The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths is a stunning collection of poems. With her gift for startling images and precise music, Sandy Longhorn converts the normally peaceful vision of the prairie into a place that perpetually threatens to turn innocence into a cautionary tale. In these poems, young girls discover haunting consequences for “refusing to mind.” Disobedience transforms girls through underground language or the bright forgetfulness of poppies. In this landscape formed by
elegy and glaciers, everything worshiped is dead or wounded, yet Longhorn’s imagination and lyricism resurrects these myths so you can “taste the light his body had foretold.”
— Traci Brimhall, Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton), selected by Carolyn Forché for the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize

Sandy Longhorn
reading "Gracie's Great Adventure"
Tin Roof Project #44


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Shouting Your Name Down The Well - David W. McFadden (A Stuart Ross Book/Mansfield Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Shouting Your Name Down The Well - Tankas and Haiku.  David W. McFadden.  A Stuart Ross Book.  Mansfield Press.  Toronto.  2014.

David W. McFadden's last book of poetry, What's the Score?, won the Griffin Prize for Poetry.

Shouting Your Name Down The Well is a completely delightful encore.  This time out he is exploring the Japanese forms of tanka and haiku.  McFadden would seem to be a bottomless well of excellent poetry.

I've met the man a few times and am always surprised.  I keep expecting to see a giant lumber gracefully into the room rubbing his knowledgeable noggin on the ceiling.  Instead, this gentle, humble man, carefully disguised genius.

Today's book of poetry is going to let other Canadian poets tell you what they think:

"David McFadden is such an essential writer for us. His wonderful poems before and after Gypsy Guitar, his great Trip Around the Lakes series, feel to me the central unofficial voice of our time. He has always kept us close to the earth with his humour and his wandering off the beaten path of literature."


          I was on one of
Those happy drugs for three months
          And liked it okay.
But soon I got nostalgic
For a little misery.


"David McFadden's poems come across as passages in a long, thoughtful, roaming conversation about matters no less deeply serious for sometimes being utterly frivolous. As the title of one of his books, There'll Be Another, suggests, it all seems easy--this stroll from one poem to the next, this leap between stanzas--but that's part of McFadden's art. There won't be another like him.  Let's treasure the one we've got; the conversation of his poems includes us."

          Tanka is to me
As bicycles to Curnoe.
          His friends kept thinking
This was the end of the line
But it was merely the start.


"Dave McFadden's attention to writing has always been top-notch, right from when he published Mountain magazine in the early '60s through many years of a wide range of poetry, prose, teaching, editing, and just being open to the beauty of language. In my generation he's a master."


          Give me those who aren't
Afraid to say "I don't know."
          You can have the rest.


"His words would rip a hole in the night."        


          When you're ninety, say
Grandma, people you haven't
          Seen in fifty years
Appear so real in your dreams
You can reach out and touch them.


"David McFadden has won every book prize ever lodged in a secret corner of everyone's heart, his acceptance speech echoing in our heads."


          Turns out the love in
Love songs is true. Everything
          Will last forever.
The wind blows a gust of rain
All over my desk and me.


"Part rascal, part rogue, David McFadden is one of Canada's chief mischief makers. He condenses essential wisdom and offers it generously. I'm made more human by reading his work."


          When I was a kid
I could walk so quietly
          Through the woods that once
Without any warning I
Saw a dozen dozing deer.


"The world is full of wonder, but this can be easily forgotten. The poetry of David W. McFadden is a manual for restoring that sense of wonder. I'm quite certain reading it has improved my life tremendously."


          I'm eight years old and
I've read Peter Pan eight times.
          Now for my ice cream.


"David McFadden is one of the purest and most radiant poetic souls of our time."


          The poems we write
After the Holocaust must
          Be the type Hitler
Would have despised, that would have
Had us put in cattle cars.


"I feel like writing the most wild / and humble poems in the world / but David had already written them."


          I'm a subjective
Man. I never ask questions.
          I just work it out.


Today's book of poetry could go on forever with both David McFadden poems and the gushing voices of so many other Canadian poets,  But you get the idea.  McFadden is a poet that other poets love.

Stuart Ross continues to champion some of our best poetry with his imprint for Mansfield Press.

David W. McFadden

David W. McFadden has been publishing poetry since the early 1960s. He is the author of about thirty books of poetry, fiction, and travel writing. Why Are You So Sad? Selected Poems of David W. McFadden (Insomniac Press) was shortlisted for the 2008 Griffin Prize for Poetry, and Be Calm, Honey (Mansfield Press) was short-listed for the 2009 Governor General's Award for Poetry (his third such nomination). In 2013, What's the Score? (Mansfield Press) won the Griffin Prize for Poetry. David lives in Toronto.

"David McFadden's poetry is probably the poetry most often read aloud at my house...His broad talent, a unique voice and real vision."
     Elizabeth Bachinsky

The Griffin Poetry Prize - 2013
David W. McFadden
reading "It's Not Funny Anymore"
from What's the Score?


Monday, October 6, 2014

The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane - (Harbour Publishing)

Today's book of poetry:
The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane.  Patrick Lane.  Harbour Publishing. Madeira Park, British Columbia.  2011.

Today's book of poetry has seriously floundered in attempting to write about Patrick Lane and his collected poems.

How do you write about your heroes?

This monumental collection is a pure object of beauty before you open the covers.  Harbour Publishing have done their boy proud.

Oh yes, the poetry.

The Image

Now that he was older
the artists had begun to paint him, and the photographers,
the clever ones with their miniature machines came
and arranged him in gardens and poolrooms, bars and verandas,
to capture the images of who he was, who they thought
he had been. Most of the artists were his age
but some were younger, beautiful young men,
and woman with large hands, their hair pulled back
tight, their clothes unruly. He liked them best.
He liked the way they would walk around him
after spending days and nights with his books,
his poems, the way they would stop and stare
while painting him, all his words in their minds,
all the suffering intact, precise and imaginable.


You can pretty much jump in anywhere to harvest the rich vein of work Lane has been pounding out since his work was first published in the sixties.  Twenty-seven books of poetry so far.

Just so you know, from Today's book of poetry perspective, Patrick Lane is the poet of the people. Horrible moniker to lay on anyone but in this case it fits.  His very approachable body of poetry is working class no-nonsense and as erudite as the golden tongued whisper of the angels.


He sat at the foot of the low bed and watched her cry.
It was not like Rome burning and it was not
like the spare fires he had built
when he was alone in the wilderness,
the ones he sat away from, the ones he put out
when he was tired of watching.
Her grief was of another kind, an event
that was merely ornament, a thing
that perishes as it is made, as a performance
in a northern town perishes line by line
with no one to remember it, something less than art
as time is less than merit. He had made her love him.

She hadn't wanted to. He had shaped her love
by shaping himself, giving himself to her
in the exactness of her integrity, becoming
her, and so, becoming less, their time
together an intimacy which was only imitation.
Sitting there he felt the same
as when he was a child and dressed
in his mother's clothes, his posturing
in front of her mirror, the inaccuracy
of that kind of dance.

He understood his gluttony, the wanting more,
his greed for her loss, the pain
she seemed to love more than him.
She did not tell him to go away, and
she did not call out to him.
What he had was what an observer has,
the man who gazes alone from a private box
protected by velvet curtains, a glass of good wine beside him,
the play going on and him with no rights, one way
or another, the man who watches with detachment
as a critic does, having no stake in the event.


I had the privilege of meeting Patrick Lane once.  It was back in the late 70's.  I was driving taxi in Peterborough and writing my little poems.  I got a call from my high school drama teacher, for some reason or another she was meeting Patrick Lane for drinks and was inviting me to join.  Of course I did.  Pretty sure I was able to get another young poet, Richard Harrison, to join me.

And that's the end of that story.

I've met Acorn, Purdy, Layton, Birney.  And just meeting those men took my breath away.  But Lane has always been the poet whose work paralyzed me with pleasure most.  Of all the giants, he is the giant that makes the most sense to me.

My intern disagreed.  You will not hear from that intern again.

Last Water Song

It is not the water you tried to find when you were young.
That was the water that lost you.
You climbed trees to look and the water was there.
You walked on the earth and the water was nowhere.
That was the losing water.
This water is the finding water.
It is cloud searching water.
When you are old it comes down.
It stretches out on the earth.
It says follow this water.
First water is woman water.
The belly of woman has this song.
This water was the first learning song.
This water is the last learning song.
It is the cloud under the earth.
Now you climb down roots to find this water.
Now this tongue is a root.
Open this mouth in the earth.
Now sing this water song.
Now you are the last water.


For many of us at the Today's book of poetry offices Patrick Lane sets the bar for the rest of Canadian poetry.  The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane should be an essential for every poetry collection in the country.

Patrick Lane

Patrick Lane, considered by most writers and critics to be one of Canada's finest poets, was born in 1939 in Nelson, BC. He grew up in the in the Kootenay and Okanagan regions of the BC Interior, primarily in Vernon. He came to Vancouver and co-founded a small press, Very Stone House with bill bissett and Seymour Mayne. He then drifted extensively throughout North and South America. He has worked at a variety of jobs from labourer to industrial accountant, but much of his life has been spent as a poet, having produced twenty-four books of poetry to date. He is also the father of five children and grandfather of nine. He has won nearly every literary prize in Canada, from the Governor General's Award to the Canadian Authors Association Award to the Dorothy Livesay Prize. His poetry and fiction have been widely anthologized and have been translated into many languages. Lane now makes his home in Victoria, BC, with his companion, the poet Lorna Crozier.

"Like the classic Buddhist, Lane finds in the recognition of life's horrors, or the terrible things men do to men and even more to other beings, the reason for an ultimate compassion, for a desire to nurture love where it survives."
     George Woodcock

"Patrick Lane is our most essential poet; tough, tender, fearless, and beautifully dangerous. For decades he has been our guide to darkness, and our provider of unexpected flashes of brilliant, almost blinding light. Now gathered together in one spot, the poetry of his life enhances and energizes us, and takes us to places we would never go on our own. Lane is a true Master."
     Jane Urquhart

"Lane's poems have a lucid, generous eye for the unsung and excluded, an abiding dignity in their rhythms of blind continuance, compromised peace."
     Ken Babstock

"...a breathtaking achievement of moral and poetic genius."
     Tim Lilburn

Patrick Lane @ 2008 Calgary Spoken Word Festival