Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sideshow Concessions - Lucas Crawford (Snare/Invisible Publishing)

Today's book of poetry:
Sideshow Concessions.  Lucas Crawford.  Snare/Invisible Publishing.  Halifax & Toronto.  Canada.  2015.



Lucas Crawford's first book of poetry, Sideshow Concessions, is a stunner.  We meet a bearded lady and the world's fattest man, both of them hungry for love and wedged into a prosaic poetic style that frequently finds itself confessional and disarming.  These disarming poems can also be as dangerous as having identity being both a weapon and a curse.

Crawford is ploughing some tough earth with this gender politic poetry but Today's book of poetry has never cared much about plumbing.  We are interested in poems smart enough to take us places we haven't been, fill our heads with wonder and if we are lucky - to fill our hearts with the same.

Our concern has always been whether or not the poetry pot boils, whether or not the poetry cooks. Lucas Crawford can flat out burn.

Scar Tissue Looks Good
On Pomquet Beach
     for B.

I can only go in up to my nipples, I warn;
they're freshly lanced, still leaking.

Campfires here witness the stealth sex
of people passing through
on their way to the Cabot Trail. But it's in the plain sight
of hot daylight that we two transgender guys disrobe
to air out wounds and wind tales.
His nipples are like scar tissue;
he moved too much, too fast, post-surgery.

     (Rum-clumsy is a stranger's bathroom, I once
     watched my lover dot her chest with cover-up.
     dabbing red pre-pimples mid-party. The world's
     strangest bingo that in this moment strikes me as
     charmingly Martian.)

A shallow pool holds a hot population of jellyfish,
which we sit down to meet. One is inside out but
what can we do? They've got no brains--they're like amoebas.
A baby almost shimmies up my shorts and five big ones
are pinned down dry on the shore by three rocks each.

     Later I read that jellyfish never die; they death-defy
     by morphing back into cystic blobs and starting over.
Before we shake out sand and drive back, I march in once
more with keen cold feet since the last dip
ought to be deepest.

We'll slip into the poetry reading late,
Scottish-sunburned, smelling
of salty pina coladas and few could guess why we're in 

     I'll take off for Montreal,
     meet a Westerner named Laura
     who tells me she spent a day in Antigonish
     and got a ticket
     for parking in the priest's spot
     in an otherwise empty lot.
     She asks: How could you stand living in a wee town
     where nothing interesting ever happens?


If you want a real slap and tickle you have to read Crawford's poem "Canadian Literature Premises" with your tongue firmly in cheek, or elsewhere.  If you are at any sort of loss for a good title or even a good premise for a poem - this one supplies ample material while gently sticking a knife in the side of Canadian Lit.

Crawford isn't much for sacred cows.

Sideshow Concessions has it share of sad humour and unnamed demons but Today's book of poetry sees Crawford's book as a daring shot across the bow, a confident declaration of arrival.

My Last Meal

A cup of orange juice squeezed
between the retired pope's thighs.

A gallon of diet orange soda pop
because (aspartame haters be damned)
I'll burp my goodbyes.

I'll gnaw of Lloyd Robertson's kidneys, I will.
Chase them with a guava milkshake and
that assassin some would call a pink anti-depressant pill.

An enema (from) an enemy.
Another too-whipped bowl of organic cream.
Anything but another cauliflower-as-pizza-crust meme.

A Ziplock of frozen tuna tartare
to ice my burning hip.

Eggs cooked to 63 degrees,
atop ropy cheap beef cheeks.

     More cheese

Mom's tuna noodle bake

Jamon iberico and
champagne (no fakes)

More gristle
More salt

No sweat
No wake


Lucas Crawford's blunt and beautiful assessment of us all is at times haunting and almost always hopeful.  There is ample ground for frustration and anger and that plays out as well - but Today's book of poetry sees Sideshow Concessions as both a healing and a learning tool and we don't often get to say that.  

When Today's book of poetry mentioned earlier that Crawford could "burn" my choice of words was both a theft and a tribute to what I love best.  If you are lucky enough to have seen the insanely good Bertrand Tavernier film Round Midnight you'll know that the main character, Dale Turner, is played by the sublime saxaphone player Dexter Gordon.  Dale Turner had his own lexicon and when he refers to someone having the craft, the voice, the tone - he says that they can "burn".

My Fattest Aunt

went through our back deck, but just one leg's worth.
This leg dangled in the deck's dark underbelly,
where the black cat would go in a thunderstorm,
where only the bug-brave would hide
when others were seeking.
The rest of her was left on deck,
applying the pressure of her pounds
to a ring around her thigh.
Later it was bruised first-degree purple,
shame-shade of a varicose vein gone feral.
The toes that led the leg's way through the wood
did not reach the ground. They sought earth,
craved gravity to help bear the load. My mother,
like an adrenalized logger
who deadlifts a timbered trunk from a toe,
tore the siding off the deck, crawled under, and built a 
tower of stones
under my aunt's foot, bringing her down to earth
by raising the earth up to meet her.

      My fattest aunt is at odds with her world.

     She taught me lessons:
     How to love imported salami bought on credit.
     How to deal with adults throwing tantrums.
     That fat falls but floats.

     One day, she'll push herself
     up through the soil
     as a cat's cradle of roots.
     No, it won't be soon,
     and I can't tell you how I know.


Sideshow Concessions was the 2015 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry winner.  My startlingly brilliant young niece Hillary once told me that her favourite poet was Karen Solie and wouldn't you know it, she was the judge for the 2015 contest.  Here is what she had to say about Lucas Crawford's poetry:

     "Sideshow Concessions is fresh, honest, heartbreaking, and funny, with turns of phrase
     equally intelligent and moving."

Today's book of poetry couldn't have said it better.

Crawford picture
Lucas Crawford

Lucas Crawford is the Ruth Wynn Woodward Endowment Lecturer at Simon Fraser University, where he teaches in the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. His poetry has appeared in Room, Rampike, PRISM International,The Antigonish Review, SubTerrain online, Other Voices, and The Nashwaak Review, as well as the anthology Between: New Gay Poetry. Crawford’s poems won the the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Writing Competition and are currently nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He’s based in Vancouver.



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tatterdemalion - Jennifer Londry (Chaudiere Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Tatterdemalion.  Jennifer Londry.  Chaudiere Books.  Ottawa, Ontario.  2015


"Hindsight is a temporary virgin                                    a has-been"
       Second guessing the timetable

"I ain't no killer, but I could be."
       Dueling musicians

Oh, hello.  It seems you've stumbled into the Today's book of poetry offices just as I was making a list of the lines I wanted to steal from Jennifer Londry's very fine Tatterdemalion.  It was going to be a long list.

Or how about that killer title, I'm in love with what is a new word for me, Tatterdemalion, to be "ragged or disreputable in appearance" says Merriam-Webster.

Londry's second book of poems comes to us in seven sections but her voice doesn't waver much.  Too bold, brave and brash to be bitter but there are some sad miles on this road.

Three awful days without god

The asphalt aquarium of my innocence wobbled
and became unhinged.

Crouched in the garage
I read the label on a box of toddler-carbs--
folic acid, zinc oxide, vodka, niacin, riboflavin, carbon monoxide.

My mouth tastes like the morning after, plan B.
My hair is an auburn mess
twisting and turning inside my smallclothes.

They caught me running uphill on a one-way street
naked in a new pair of shoes
attempting to outrun the mundane.


Londry is an admirer of Ann Sexton and it shows like red lipstick on a collar.  Today's book of poetry has long been an ardent admirer of Sexton.

We sent Milo to the Today's book of poetry bookshelves and he came back with Sexton's The Death Notebooks, Words For Dr. Y., Live or Die, The Book of Folly, All My Pretty Ones along with a Selected and a Collected Ann Sexton.  We included the reading of a few Sexton poems along with Londry's for this morning's read.  Didn't take long for us to remember why we call her Saint Ann of Sexton.

It doesn't take long once you've opened the cover of Tatterdemalion to see that Londry has the same razor edge sharp that she admires in Sexton.  Some of these poems would be willing to cut you.


I am the driver behind the wheel.

Keep going, she says, out-manoeuvre this array of facades--
clown face storefronts with down-up circular penny staircases
from Plenty's fallen pocket.

Snapshots of dead relatives scotch-taped to the hooch-man's window.

3, 9, 7
suddenly, the world rights itself.

Green lights twitch everywhere.


Today's book of poetry is particularly pleased to be writing about a title from a local Ottawa publisher.  Chaudiere Books is the hard work of Rob McLennan and Christine McNair.  Chaudiere Books are producing top flight beautiful books and Today's book of poetry is proud to brag local.

Jennfier Londry's Tatterdemalion has pace.  These poems never dwaddle.  Most of them are whippet thin and greyhound strong, it's all muscle and lung.

Who shan't                           escape

A pale witness picks up a cigarette and lights its final inhale.
Quitters live in a wasteland.

Sway and stoop.

Cemetery gate is open, nothing gets in.
Not even the twice dead.
The man who choked on a rat snake
the man who messed with Eden.

Like a shotgun awaits a prayer
it will take years for the city to mend.


Tatterdemalion bristles, this is fierce poetry, full of desperate situations and dire consequence.  You might even think that some of these poems are salvos aimed at redemption but Today's book of poetry thinks Londry is working towards a higher purpose.

These poems want those red lips, that gin and that blue sky.

Jennifer Londry

Jennifer Londry is the author of two previous books of poetry: Life and Death in Cheap Motels, which was adapted for stage, and After the Words, which was nominated for a Saskatchewan Book Award. A featured reader at the 2009 Kingston Writers’ Festival and at the 2011 Sweetwater 905 in Northern BC, she has also facilitated and organized a literary event for Alzheimer’s Awareness. Jen has taught creative writing and recently was a judge for Words from the Street, a creative writing competition, which gives a voice to the downtrodden, in association with The Toronto Writers’ Collective. She is also a contributor to the anthologies: A Crystal through which Love Passes, Glosas for P.K. Page (Buschek Books, 2013), Where the nights Are twice As long, Love Letters of Canadian Poets (Goose Lane Editions, 2015), and has work forthcoming in the Alzheimer’s anthology, A Rewording Life, editor Diane Schoemperlen, creator Sheryl Gordon. Currently Jen is collaborating with the documentary filmmaker Sarah Turnbull at the Carleton School of Journalism and Communications to produce a mental health video.

"With capricious locution and charged language, Tatterdemalion fires the belly like spiked punch. Londry's poetry is fierce, full-tilt, and darkly unexpected--she thrives in the off-kilter corners of the dystopian human condition. Kick off your shoes. You're in for a wild night."
     - Sandra Ridley

"In Tatterdemalion, Jennifer Londry weaves her dusky art at its best. A jagged, intense, down-the-rabbit-hole collection where leisure suits, dismembered limbs, the minaturized world of dollhouses and asphalt aquariums mingle into poems with a dark, folk-tale vibe. Immersive, beautiful tatters."
     - Jeanette Lynes

"The poet write perceptive lines I savour like hard candy on the tongue."
     - Shelley A. Leedahl



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Martha - Leslie Allison (Ugly Duckling Presse)

Today's book of poetry:
Martha.  Leslie Allison.  Ugly Duckling Presse.  Brooklyn, New York.  2015


When I tell you that in part, Martha is a sex fantasy for lesbians you are going to start thinking one thing.  Well, think another, because Martha is a ghost story.  No, a feminist knee-slap, laugh out loud kitchen party, if it were Martha Stewart's kitchen and she were surrounded by sex-slave minions.

This is a carnival ride with illustrations by Molly Schaeffer that will remind Canadian readers of Joe Rosenblatt style drawings of flying labia, multitude of them arranges into bouquets, mental bromides, dashing off of the pages.

Today's book of poetry believes two important things are happening at the same time in Leslie Allison's highly entertaining Martha.  There is the pink-toned-pink-lipped-Divine-over-the-hill and bonkers comic romp that is Martha.  And at the same time it is clear that Allison is being serious as a heart attack with every word.  

There are no titles per se in Martha and it is unlikely my choices of text fall into Leslie Allison's original design so please know the fault is mine, not Allison's.  Today's book of poetry thought that every line in this punk steamroller of a chapbook was cherse.  And ghosts.

- - -

Dear Diary:
do you remember when I arrived?
back then the images were like straight out of Moby-Dick
noble and naval, ropes, wood
cold steam lilting truth from room to room
and now

well, my vagina
has nerve damage
and it's all
I can think about

in the drawing room
I see Kate
names are not ever real words
but Kate is a word

Madeline's palatial shudder creates a vortex that sucks me

under like riptide
and dark moisturized genderless Kate
is endless

forever trailed by Ghengis Khan
who puffs himself up and
sheds in her shadow

Martha's skin is neon moire
her oily hands are dishrags
even still portions of her always appear to be moving

she appliques a life-size two dimensional version
of every object in the house
onto that very object
an applique of a curtain
on a curtain,
a chair on a chair
so the palace is a quilt
Martha's own body is concealed
behind an applique of herself

this house may be the house
in which she lives
marbled curls and peels
she fingers literally everything
this may be the definition of 'crafts'


Martha has our heroine joining Martha Stewart's fictional nun's-habit-wearing-harem in an oddly fantastic Martha Stewart world of delicate debauchery.

Leslie Allison's Martha sure roiled up some reaction at this morning's read.  Milo made great comic strides riffing through this ghost love story full of passion but then every once in a while he would bounce awkward over some of the more overt and ribald sexuality that prance over these pages like a Madeleine Schubert driven Pegasus.  Kathryn, our new intern, punctuated Milo's red cheeked silences by pointing out that women's sexuality has been thoroughly colonized by the oppressive nature of the male gaze and that books like Martha undermine the dominant male role in our deeply polarized and protestant society.

Oh that Kathryn.

- - -

Actually that's the only face she has
and she puts it on every morning

flipping through profile pages
the usual suspects drum out their wares in waves
do you even know what is interesting about that?
I sure don't

to be fair, I know nothing if I'm not high
I just wait for Martha to feed me mashed potatoes
with her little fingers and I suck them until she tells me to stop

but Madeline, she chants a little song in my ear
when Martha goes out of town:
we built this temple
not let's burn it to the fucking ground
how I wish she meant this

When I went into Martha's room last night
to ask if I was allowed to change out of my habit
one of the interns was stoking the embers in the fireplace

one was burrowing her face in Martha's immaculate bush
and one was singing the day's numbers:

Martha Stewart Living
           Omnimedia Inc Inc Inc!
Novemmmmmmmber Twenty-Two, Two Thousand and
3.44 + .04
open o PEN open 3.41
hiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh 3.45
l-ah-ooow 3.36
volume ume ume volUME 135,119
average volume 305,000
maaaaaaaarket cap 323.5 miiiiiillllllllllllllioooooooooon

"Maybe now isn't a good time," I said quietly
        and exited habited.


Leslie Allison is doing at least three things in the absolutely delightful romp Martha.  Today's book of poetry wishes we were better equipped to tell you exactly what they are.  We aren't.

So we'll stick to what we know and why we do like Martha.  How could you not?  Martha vibrates with a boisterous brio, it almost hums in your hands as you read it.

- - -

Dear Diary:
I can hear Kate's blood through vines overheard, I can hear the
     moon in the bed.
Three bodies are masts and the dog ate through the crotch of three
      pairs of my underwear.
The moon smokes through Kate. Did she call them panties?
Three masts are smoke on the dog.

that night, I saw myself
walking through the desert

I was hanging there, being mildly amused
cheeks warming up, crotch turning violet
the disembodied eyes in front of me
their waves growing darker and darker blue

I think it stopped being consensual when Martha got in there
up to her elbow
her ruched gloves stretched taut
she said she needed a wet brush for the waves
more like a give to it
more like a torn wake


Today's book of poetry would give away almost all the Crying Charlie's in our possession to see the look on Martha S's face as she read this fawning and fabulous fantasy ode.  We would hope she'd keep it next to her pillow.

Leslie Allison's first chapbook is a stunner.

Leslie Allison
Leslie Allison
Photo: Mekko Harjo

Leslie Allison is a writer and performer. She composes choral music for performance collaborations with Francis Weiss Rabkin. Her dance and poetry criticism can be found in HTML Giant and The Brooklyn Rail, and her band Cross released its debut album, It's Curtains, earlier this year. Martha (Spring 2015, Ugly Duckling Press) is her first chapbook.

If you hear yourself morosely whispering I’d really hoped there’d be more stoner girls slaying the ghosts of the patriarchy here just as you are stepping out of the shower on a dark wintry morning, cheer up, help is at hand! Here, in this little book, Martha Stewart has joined up with a wave or weave of beautiful peonies opening our decorous and sullen heart-minds into the pure pleasures of an altered universe: plural, funny, sexy, bright and animate. Leslie Allison has made a new room for poetry, a hologram of a corner shimmering where no corner exists. Enter, bring a towel, or not!
     - Ann Lauterbach



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tender Data - Monica McClure (Birds, LLC)

Today's book of poetry:
Tender Data.  Monica McClure.  Birds, LLC.  Austin, Minneapolis, New York, Raleigh.  2015.

TD front-cover low-res

Because we haven't had a "list" poem in a while and because you all know how much Today's book of poetry loves a good list poem, we are going to start off today with a hummer.

Monica McClure is a poetry assassin of the highest order.  Her aim is perfect and she is packing some serious heat.  There is very little tender in Tender Data but it is all heart.

Monica McClure

Monica, vain as two crystals in a window
Monica, proportionate face like a student drawing
Monica, passable body like a non-celebrity
Monica, competing affects getting crossed
Monica, languid like a tranquilizer napping in the sun
Monica, sensitive like an artist coming to terms with failure
Monica, signing over her paltry assets
Monica, sleazy like the nouveau riche
Monica, watching herself while watching you
Monica, like a summer in the shade of a factory
Monica, editorial like the ego ideal and like the ideal ego
Monica, effusive like alka seltzer
Monica, blushing like purple areola
Monica, disarming like a borderline
Monica, free as a stolen mink
Monica, steadfast as scotch from an Islay faraway
Monica, lost like a puppy in an undertow
Monica, like lambs in a cavern
Monica, like grey birds aerial diving
Monica, broken like tea leaves in the hand of Jack the Ripper
Monica, in love for the empire and courtly manners
Monica, menstruating with endless iron
Monica, like a truck full of hoop skirts
Monica, sculptural with Debuffet's dirty pick
Monica, saintly fallopian tubes butterflying
Monica, easy like a promise to make
Monica, sluggish as the mind in conversation with itself
Monica, kissing deep a plum cooled on mint


Today's book of poetry had to read Tender Data over several sessions simply because the book got too hot to handle.  These pages burn.  McClure absolutely never lets up on the gas.

McClure is fresh, these poems as crisp as new snow, and at the same time these poems know things that only a certain kind of experience reveals.  McClure sounds like she's read everything you've read and then a lot you haven't.  How did she get so wise?

Then we have to deal with the title poem, her opus, "Tender Data",  Oh my, oh my.  What wondrous thing is this?  Monica McClure's long poem "Tender Data" is surgery with an emotional laser and she lays it all open.

     "You don't have the guts for me
       Why people do evil is
       the only question worth asking"

Think Hunter S. Thompson and Erica Jong having a love child devoted to poetry and writing a new feminist manifesto for a new order.  No prisoners taken here.  McClure isn't afraid of anyone or anything.

Today's book of poetry would absolutely love to show you the entire poem but the length of the poem precludes inclusion.  But take our word for it - McClure is staking out territory with fierce intent.


The Chateau Marmont in winter
is like a beautiful woman in the morning
on the second day of her period
It's a body rejecting its implants
Lindsay Lohan is walking around
like she owes the place
sliding into the darkest seat
with two lesbian truckers
I'm sipping an Italian aperitif
and feeling exuberant
like it's the 20th century
and a love sick Breton is whispering
messages on my answering machine
in an empty antechamber
while I check my powder on my iPhone
When I lost my academic job
I became an unskilled sex worker
and got pregnant out of professional frustration
My mother drove me to a midwife
in the first light of morning
Lazy Susans on the table spin me
another cold highball


Today's book of poetry regular morning read was a fiasco.  The women in our office insisted they do all the reading this morning.  Kathryn, our new intern, must have used the word "empowering" at least seven times.  She gave all us men the stink-eye more than once.

Tender Data is powerful stuff and it is gloriously relentless.  McClure struts with her time on stage because she can and we all reap the rewards.

White Girl Wasted

There's nothing inherently noble about work
At New York Dolls I could choose to sit
and let men buy my drinks
instead of hauling ice buckets
of champagne across the mainstage floor
I didn't make money when I got drunk
instead of getting men drunk
but I was not cold or sober either
My heels dangled from the bar stool
as I watched the engorged breasts of girls
tremble in the arcade-like wavelengths
weightless and bovine
A happy couple stumbled in and soon
the wife was throwing up
in our dressing room
We held her hair back
careful not to drop ashes
in her shiny blowout
I was Kathy Acker in the 80s
doing nothing exceptional yet everything
in a corset without muscles
Her husband had paid for two hours upstairs
and was up to his watches in flesh
You girls are mistaken I said
to seduce this stupid city
Then I went home no richer or poorer
than when I showed up
I wish I could get shit-faced wasted
on my own dime
and have someone I trust carry
me screaming and drooling into a taxi
I think of the words of Anastasia
the fat ballerina of the Bolshoi
"I'm going to fuck the shit out of this world."
Goodnight swans on your lakes of vodka


Today's book of poetry puts Monica McClure at the top of whatever list I'm making today, she should be on the top of whatever list you are making.  Tender Data will make you love poetry in whole new way.

Monica McClure

Monica McClure is a write and performer living in New York City.  Previously, her poetry has been published in the chapbooks, Mood Swing (Snacks Press, 2013) and Mala (Poor Claudia, 2014).

McClure may be the poster-girl for a new generation of poets: irreverent, well-read, sexy, even dirty, snarky, but ultimately fighting an earnest battle against reductiveness and easy answers to the complex problems of the Internet age: "Every citizen of this world is on trial/ I'm learning to speak legalese/ as I stroll through civil law like/ a gamine through a sample sale."
     - Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR

Word Warriors:  Monica McClure
Video: The Huffington Post



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

No Work Finished Here: Rewriting Andy Warhol. - Liz Worth (Book Thug)

Today's book of poetry:
No Work Finished Here: Rewriting Andy Warhol. 
Liz Worth.  Book Thug.  Toronto, Ontario.  2015.

NoWorkFinishedHere_LizWorth_highres_9781771661645 (2)

Today's book of poetry is slightly confused, I don't know what to explain first, my technique for choosing today's poems or Liz Worth's technique for writing them.

Let's start with Liz Worth and her astonishing second book of poems No Work Finished Here: Rewriting Andy Warhol.  Worth has taken the 1968 Andy Warhol novel A Novel and eviscerated it.   Within a self-imposed set of boundaries Worth tackles each page to tear away what isn't needed and to savour the juicy morsels, rendering them down to inexplicably fine poems.

You are here

I didn't do a thing last night
felt like a ghost
just staying up and all that, just talking
car noises in the background.
Some of my throat is gone.
Need some Obertrols--blue ones, blasting
oh, the orange ones are divine.

Is there ANY place we can keep calling
voice on the other end
know where we can get some.
This number in front of us--sister would know us.

We should start for the park. Takes forever.
Asleep on the bus, too gorgeous.
It's all right--fantastic baby,
you definitely are here.


And we are there.  Boom.  Worth plants us in the Factory with these poems that are a remixing distillation of Warhol's novel.  But they are so much more.  These poems are electric.  No Work Finished Here is simply a towering achievement.  Page after page after page of this opus burns.  It's a bit like going for that blue flame, dipping your fingers in lighter fluid and catching lit matches.   Whooosh.

Today's book of poetry was completely gob-smacked by No Work Finished Here and so was everyone in the office.  Our morning read hasn't had quite that smirky smack in the head edge since we last read Susan Musgrave, another great Canadian poet who can burn.

Push to tell

Kill me
in a fake voice,
disguising the real day.
Make them believe
we're stars,
unbearable to live with.
They hate me
for being what I am and
all your friends
get so mad at you.
Why should we wait here
like this, with doubt;
come and talk to me,
push to tell
how we are.


Andy Warhol was one interesting cat and Today's book of poetry is slightly ashamed to say we've never read A Novel.  We sure want to now.

Today's book of poetry isn't able to tell you anything about Andy Warhol or the Factory that you don't already know -- but Liz Worth sure can.  No Work Finished Here opens up the Factory like it was a can of tuna and Worth was the can opener, she just rips the top off of that thing.  Then she reaches in a plucks out the best of what she needs, hammers them into gems.

And that would be enough.  Worth does more than that.  She bridges the gap from the Factory to us, the reader and then tells us how we are.


I wanna tell you something
very secret:
my voice
is turned up
to drown out
all possible
Background obstructs
those people
in the other room
with their fucking values.
Their tactics
have led 
to nothing.

Aren't you going
to fuck
for five minutes
with me?
On tape?
In the elevator,
pressing that button,
there's time for
charity, falsity.


So since Today's book of poetry pretty much loved every poem in No Work Finished Here (and that never happens, seriously), today's poems were chosen at random and with confidence.

If you want to know exactly how we made our random choices please send two Crying Charlies and a buck-fifty to Today's book of poetry with your enquiry.  You know the address.

No Work Finished Here: Rewriting Andy Warhol is one big thick lovely tome, coming in at over 450 pages, and for this reader it is a high water mark for Canada's most adventurous small press, Toronto's Book Thug.

Saying wow isn't saying enough, as far as Today's book of poetry is concerned No Work Finished Here gains immediate entry into that lovely pantheon of absolutely essential Canadian poetry classics.

Liz Worth

Liz Worth is a Toronto-based author. Her first book, Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond, was the first to give an in-depth account of Toronto’s early punk scene. She has also released a poetry collection called Amphetamine Heart and a novel called PostApoc. You can reach her at, on Facebook (, or Twitter @LizWorthXO.

“Liz Worth’s collection of poems is a testament to both her artistry and daily discipline. In an age of diminished attention, her perseverance in daily poem—making by mining the same source over and over reminds us that artists can be a model of life without distraction-how to go deeper and deeper until you find yourself looking back at you.” 
     — Heath Allen, composer of Andy, A popera

“What if you tore apart the city’s tenderloin; if you seized its ephemera and — before burning all the sweet voodoo — collected the best, and most brilliant cuts? This is Liz Worth’s stylish master-nightmare, No Work Finished Here. This is ‘the start of something true.'”
     — Lynn Crosbie, author of Where Did You Sleep Last Night

Liz Worth
Mike Geffner Presents The Inspired Word
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
116 MacDougal Street Bar/Lounge
Video: InspiredWordNYC



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Realignment - Ruth Roach Pierson (Palimpsest Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Realignment.  Ruth Roach Pierson.  Palimpsest Press.  Windsor, Ontario.  2015.

Sometimes when I read a poem I just have to slap the book down on the table and shout out "DAMN!" with a big, old Pat Carter exclamation mark.  Once in a while a poem just hits all the amusement buttons I have.  Ruth Roach Pierson peppers Realignment with just such marvels.

Agapanthus Blue Triumphator

With a name like that I could do almost anything
Loose my chastity to three men in one night
Write a new and better poem about a red wheelbarrow
Makes three beds and not sleep in a single one
Play Kris Kringle at the annual Christmas party
Win a hissing contest with my bad-tempered cat
Deliver a treatise on sin to His Holiness
Successfully sue the CEOs of Goldman Sachs
Peel back the layers of an onion without shedding a tear
Become president of the Brotherhood of Inveterate Curmudgeons
Build a chain of dungeons for those guilty of grammatical and 
              syntactical errors
Solve the case of who killed red robin
Learn the difference between a gong and a bell, a tongue and a clapper


Today's book of poetry has to admit we stumbled once or twice in the thicker passages but Realignment often just wants to see the look of surprise on your face.  Pierson waxes eloquent with a vocabulary that surpasses our current standards by a country mile - but we like to be challenged and we like to learn, Today's book of poetry also likes to be amazed.

Pierson echoes Thomas Wolfe You Can't Go Home Again sentiment again and again, but then like good ol' Tom, like the rest of us, she tries it, again and again.  That's the kind of animals we are. Resolution is a disconnected metaphor that we work and knead until it fits our current desire, fits into the confine of our need.


I have only what I remember, Merwin writes, resigned not to a dearth
but an omnium-gatherum of memories--whether amorphous and 
unloosed from time or firmly grounded and undimmed as though
he's again playing, in the re-entered past, the protagonist in the theatre
of life.

From time to time mine ambush me as I walk down the street in full
daylight. Some delight, others devastate, breaking through the frozen
crust to re-inflame buried pain. Still others flit past my inner eye like
short-lived visual migraines. Odd fragments seek me out in dreams,
like last night's. I held a younger

woman in my arms and told her I had paid a terrible price for not
having children, but she, with her two, should go on and fulfill her
ambition. We found ourselves inside a house under renovation. Behind
a demolished wall, a laundry had been discovered that easily could,
we conjectured, be joined

to the kitchen. Outside there were explosions in the night sky, fireworks
in celebration of a Russian holiday, the face of a Czar shattering into
icy glitter. And all the while the woman from next door was setting out,
onto her front porch as on a stage, three bottles of pink-tinted water.


Milo had a few hop, skip and jump moments at this morning's read with some of the German text in Realignment, but wouldn't you know it, Kathryn, our new intern, speaks German.  She lived in Berlin for a year and although she is just telling us that now we are not nearly as surprised by this information as Milo appears to be.  Admiration and translation ensued.

The rest of us each picked a favourite and read in turn.  I was torn between the tender and touching "So" where the young girls are lithe and beautiful, a story "Overheard in All That Jazz Cafe" and "Herat Carpets" where a carpet tells a disjointed story of a marriage that probably never was and a future cut in two -- but I went for "Innocence" because that's the sort of lost Peter Pan I am.


The cabin's screened-in porch
was where we slept, dropping
off only after much
whispering and listening

to the cries of the mountain lion
sounding, in our imaginations,
like a woman being murdered
somewhere deep in the woods.

We'd hoist ourselves
onto World War II
army cots, wriggling our bodies
deep inside surplus GI
sleeping bags, khaki, down filled

and gaze out across the river
at the not-yet clear-
cut mountainside illumined by moonlight
or by flashes of sheet lightning
from a distant storm.

But the sound filling those nights
more than any other, the sound
that eased our sleep persuading us
all was as it should be
in the world beyond the porch

was the paused, then deepened
growl of nighttime trucks transporting
peacetime cargo over Snoqualmie Pass
shifting down and down again
with the steepening of the climb.


Today's book of poetry has had a temporary Realignment, I'm still sore in certain places but comforted in the important ones.

Ruth Roach Pierson

Ruth Roach Pierson has published three poetry collections: Where No Window Was, 2002, Aide-Mémoire, which was a Governor General Literary Award for Poetry finalist in 2008, and CONTRARY in 2011. In 2014 Guernica Editions published an anthology of film poems she edited entitled I Found It at the Movies. Aperture, her chapbook of poems written in response to the photography of Josef Sudek, was also released in 2014. Realignment, her fourth poetry collection, was launched by Palimpsest Press in 2015.

“For the fortunate reader of Ruth Roach Pierson’s book, her “realignments” are all enlargements – of working vocabulary, as words such as “brindled,” “mazard,” “umbrageous,” and “mephitic” take on new and surprising poetic power; of voice, as Pierson’s muscular syntax reflects the movements of an agile and capacious mind; of experience itself, as her Whitman-like catalogues embrace a dazzling breadth of times, places, and things; and – most especially, for this reader – of spirit, as objects resonate with human meaning through Pierson’s dynamic metaphors. Look and marvel, for instance, at how a simple piano stool in the title poem becomes an image for the winding realignments of felt life, enlarging our grasp on that turning, precarious world through which she guides us so expertly in this superb collection.” 
     — John Reibetanz



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

You Can't Be Serious - Ronald Wallace (Parallel Press/University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries)

Today's book of poetry:
You Can't Be Serious.  Ronald Wallace.  Parallel Press.  University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.  Madison, Wisconsin.  2015.


When I first read You Can't Be Serious back in December I avoided reading the Author's Note at the beginning of the book.  When I'm reading for the blog I always avoid introductions, notes or any other sort of preamble to the poems.  Today's book of poetry is never looking for prior context.  (Of course we always read these notes afterward).

So, I liked these poems a lot before I realized that the poems in You Can't Be Serious are all constructed in such a way that "the last words of each line of each poem, read vertically top to bottom, form a haiku by a classic Japanese master."

It's brilliant stuff.

When I read You Can't Be Serious again last night it was like each poem was a main course, the haiku an illuminating dessert.  This is the cue for Wallace to take a big bow.

The Wisdom of the Old

     after Basho

I thought when I got old that I'd be wise. Wearing
my vast learning lightly I'd find myself a
source of wisdom for others. If you looked in the paper,
you'd find me quoted on most any subject, the robe
of knowledge trailing from my shoulders. Even
my enemies would marvel at my sagacity. If
you had an insoluble problem, I'd solve it. It
would be a no-brainer. I'd be the sage who gets
to explain everything. Turns out, I was all wet.
The older I get the less I know. Here I am picking
through the alleyways of my memory looking for flowers
and finding only trash, a panhandler who, in
better days, had what passed for a brain, but now is the
wacky preacher who won't come in out of the rain.


Ronald Wallace is a "Wascally Wabbit" by every stretch of the imagination and as coy as he is clever. These poems roll off the tongue like you'd written them yourself, they go down as naturally as a drink of water.  These poems are ripe with moments that are familiar to us all.

Our morning read was a scream.  Milo, our head tech, read the poems and the Kathryn, our new intern, read the haiku.  The rest of us leisured at their feet as though we were in front of a warming fire in the hearth on a snowy night.  It was morning bliss.

You Can't Be Serious

      after Basho

A writer who can deal with murder, barbarity, horror--with
"tragic elements"--is the greater artist, said the young
Anthony Trollope, than the writer of the mundane. This leaves
me out. "The mild walks of everyday life" are what I
gravitate to. The neighbor's sudden dementia--would
that count as horror? Could barbarity be something like
mistakenly digging up my wife's favorite lemon verbena? To
poison the pesky chipmunks, to do my best to wipe
them out--would that be considered murder? I far and away
prefer the milder walks of the lesser art--the stroll in the
happy diurnal, the observable day-to-day. Tears
are plentiful enough in this life without me putting in
my own two cents. Tragically unambitious, I'm your
chronicler of the commonplace, a ramble in Trollope's eyes.


Today's book of poetry admires You Can't Be Serious very much.  As much as Wallace proclaims the anti-Trollope stance and trolls the quiet conventional corners, he has no problem at all taking on the big subjects like abortion, gay rights, politics, sexism, religion and so on.

The fact is You Can't Be Serious can be very serious indeed while remaining entirely Basho/Issa tongue in cheek.  Serious as a heart attack, serious as two grasshoppers can get.  That's when you know there is a master at work.

Bully for You, Mitt Romney

     after Issa

We held the gay boy down and cut his hair. Hey,
it was fifty years ago, and we didn't know, you
know, that he was gay. It was just a prank. There
is nothing more to it. He's dead by now, anyway. do
you think I'd do that today? We'll of course not!
Look at this smile. You can see it wouldn't swat
a flea. Let's have some other questions. Marriage? The
union of one man, one woman. We don't want to fly
in the face of sacred conventions. Abortion? It wrings
my heart to see an innocent fetus murdered, his
teenage mother bereft. Let's leave it in God's hands.
The elderly, the indigent? Give them work! If they're on
the dole, they'll never be useful. The gay boy? On bended
knee he came on to us. We gave him a knee.


It's a dreary grey Wednesday here in our nation's capital, spring is trying to come through the clouds and there may even be a bit of sun on the horizon.  It doesn't matter, You Can't Be Serious has already made our day.

Ronald Wallace

Ron Wallace is the author of twenty previous books and chapbooks of poetry, fiction and criticism. He co-directs the creative writing program at the UW-Madison, and serves as editor of the UW Press Poetry Series which he founded in 1985.

He is currently Halls-Bascom Professor of English and Felix Pollak Professor of Poetry and the recipient of three distinguished teaching awards, and prizes from his previous poetry collections from The Council for Wisconsin Writers, The Society of Midland Authors, and the Wisconsin Library Association. In 2005 he was awarded the first George Garrett Prize of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs for his service to writers and writing.

Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, he has been a Wisconsin resident since 1972, dividing his time between Madison and a forty-acre farm in Richland County’s Bear Valley.



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.