December 16, 2006

Poem vs. Spam

The streets are awash
with chalk outlines, Poem
walks with care
for the invisible.

The commercial district
lands on his head, his server staggers.

Automoton is a structure
of feeling falsely secure
and shoves Poem
into the overdone store. Poem admits
the others, the lost,
line upon line of the interred. This space
haunts him, skews lines of vision.
He chews a few votive
labels, reads the ingredients,
hums a counter point tune but
he is meant to die here.

The store (afloat in the mouth
of the Automoton) stutters to
a halt. Poem lies
spread-eagle on the checkout counter.
He sings in a high falsetto:

"Take me, my dear dumb crawler
give me that golden drawl here.
Crown that fist and kiss me
shove stocks through me for free.
Spam my head full and clear
claw and fill me up my dear."

The total rings up in
plastic bags of inbox urgency. Poem
excuses himself, apologizes
to the other shoppers, the nervous
security guard,

and with the sound of broken glass and
ungrammatical sentences,
logs out.

November 26, 2006

Poem’s Fear of Travel

The history’s there, layered
in arrivals, stonework, a global subject writing
ignorance as mastery and caught
in the traffic between difference.

He is mistaken, a mistranslation.
Random buses and a bad compass.

But this awareness is a release,
a pull-tab on a life-vest tossed at
36 000 ft into the library of
not knowing. Water shimmers below.

The foray takes many
litres of fuel, emissions a trail
over Greenland, the line
and imperial tracing of mobility
a second modernity, two
sunrises a doleful symbol, and
Poem lands, thankful for coffee.

The retrospect is writing—“I
should not have gone.” The earth convulses,
reinvents itself as quantum physics, a psychic
thrust of its own. Unowned. Not the coffee but
the coffee bean and
the dirt it is.

Development: the stuttered, halting end
to a fantastical harmony that never existed.

Please ensure your serving trays are
in an upright position and fasten
your poetics securely around your waist.

Poem with No Credit

for rob mclennan

Before he begins, Poem
observes the scene—who
has been here before
& why not again/still.

Long coat tasting the soup &
side salad bar slouch w/ poetry
up his sleeve, Poem
comes to town to read.

He’s single, fast
w/ a come back, heckles
the other poet’s reading, strokes
his moustache to better
see the audience.

The improbable harlequin w/
no place for capital, the plane
car bus a text testing
the air a desk.

This time, he strolls onstage
more assured, a vagrant
who knows his place—the words
a rhythm of longing
for the old days, poets
w/ poets’ grace or flair, the madness
hovering like the next stanza—

He knows them, the old guard
floats over his shoulder,
a subtext between the uneven
breaks in thought/breath and

then he begins, an homage
and Poem’s poem carries
us here—home.

October 28, 2006

The crusher, by Ken Belford

I will think of your road when the open pit is flooded
and the immediate receiving water is authorized,
and habitat destruction and the flow losses begin
in the final version of the plan. I can say it now,
I can say goodbye Amazay, the crush disposed
under your natural body of living water. And
I don’t have much to add except to say always
these proposed strategies to compensate for
whole lake destruction are lies. I would love to
go back to T’am Uumxsit one day because I was
ageless in Sakxwhi Tax and here you are
needle face, in the crushing café circles of
Seattle, where the wheel of fate is red.

There is a net loss when options fail, when
transplants like me, in the combination
of boulders and woody debris, can’t adhere
to the drainages like a Dolly in another
watershed or lake or upstream passage, here
in the upper Ingenika, when the like for like
transplant men remove the barriers and
mix sacrificial samplings into streams.

They are creek robbers,
and in the spring
they will be lifting gravels and lifting fishes
where slides run out across the channel.
The mainstem reaches
and dewatered Chuckachida
slides in the cascade
along the valley bottom
to an isolated lake downstream.
Still, the bedrock falls
and the function of the passages
angled from the confluence
might destabilize the structure,
so I count rays along the shoreline
while the channel is hammered out.

Form controls and Amazay is powerless
against these men who cannot keep their hands off.
Every second year during the stable summer flows,
they will lace their boots and return
to dominate the waters. Amazay was nature’s body.
This dead body of water was never an idea
and the acts done to the reproductive systems
have everything to do with fragmented bodies,
spawning beds and making money off women.

I can’t imagine compensation lakes.
The littoral truth of the shore zone keeps
Amazay’s structures and cascades in place.
Sediments extend across the bed, across
the gravel, the sand, the silt and clay.
Beneath, the ground water flows
across the inflow and outflow barriers
they plan to blow. But the passage
structure inhibits the over-story
and they say the barriers will be removed
and the classes within the system
will fin their way to the two-way,
to the small lakes at the end.
If transplanted fish squirt over the divide,
and cross over in the headwaters reach
and the flow path length is extended
to the glacial headwater lake,
then poison will seep over the area
and the pure water above the barriers
will be within the system no more.

Photo of Crow

A gurgle ruffled from a morning
fog hunkered over the park, black
spruce float the sound higher
a sharp click and chuckle.

Lack of definition circles
the tallest evergreen, barks a tattoo
against the white air.

Myth a luminous absence—
the corrosive text, its toxic
sentence flowing out.

Poised here, an intersection of opportunity,
garbage, vantage, and disinterest, the possibility
of flight caught in a thick cracked beak and
a penultimate purple.

Poetry is dead, a photo
not taken, a scavenged plot
adapting itself to the wastelands.

September 20, 2006

File sharing, by Ken Belford

I have another job on the weekends now
and my neighbour goes about her business.
A foreign-born worker, she’s moving,
living under a married name. I’m thinking
of file sharing and the fiction of the self,
remembering the day I flew out, leaving
a new person in my place. I’d like to thank him
for coming. It takes a lot of energy to think of
his vacant face. And I had a real sense of place,
even though I’d never been here before.
She never winked at the camera. Apparently,
the man who worked in my shadow slept
through the whole thing. There were episodes
of confusion and frenzy in the south. And
contradictory opinions and book tours gone
after I shot the wrong person. Write down
I’m a traitor. I’m in the mood to work backwards
so I’m hanging on to my name right from the start.
Why write poetry? For the weird unemployment. For the painless headaches, that must be tapped to strike down your writing arm at the accumulated moment. For the adjustments after, aligning facets in a verb before the trance leaves you. For working always beyond your own intelligence. For not needing to rise and betray the poor to do it. For a non-devouring fame.

--Les Murray

September 11, 2006

The Soft Speakers (1741)

Traversed east-west the axis
of seasons a motion not a span. The rivers
then went around not through.
Less lush than overdone, the walkers
from there to there, when
here wasn’t somewhere. Back when
the traveler's track recorded
in hush and snare.

Imagined trails leading through
the poem, not from. The sentences
on the line cut
wide, overtaken as it
should be. Like parkland from
Grand Rapids through Saskatchewan
Rivers, then over. The living
was hard, a seasonal take.
The old tales moved. Still
do. Just not here.

Thieves & Preachers (Fort George 1914)

The salmon-coloured mirror leans
closer, closer and then
smack into the forehead

Don’t mistake repulsion
for submissiveness, she crowed
from the back of a boat
heading north

All this dog garned country
is good for is growing Christmas trees

and trading posts for
modernity to land on;
fence-posts disguise the limit

The Dreamland Theatre moved
on a sledge, the tickets
taken as ransom

South & Central in the same tired drawl

The site clear cut for practice
the trees a nuisance even then;
how to get through not why, and
the lens trained to look back south

Each southerner drawn
closer, closer and then
damned and darned
shut, a strange voice
heading away, north

August 25, 2006

August 14, 2006

August 12, 2006

Ball too small to see, by Ken Belford

- for Si

The same ideas seem more likely now
as we move toward completion at the end
of our cycle, when time speeds up and
boundaries dissolve. An occluded line
grazer, an all-at-once animal beyond
syntax in the liminal slime, I’m drawn
toward you through time, to all the last things,
and all the lost things. Why all this talk?
The phone rings in the middle of the night
but I don’t answer. No-one’s ever there.
An updated node and ball too small to see,
when I rearrange my room, interference
patterns and three-dimensional images
reflect living forms. Telephone used to
be a noun made by combining forms
but it’s a verb now. You are not here,
and you are nowhere, and I wonder
if that coherent beam outside my door
is you, casting your shadow in.

August 11, 2006

Poem Shops for an Image

Anything really, a visual
cue to go along with the abstract
status of being arty, or vaguely
original. Poem casts about,
almost frantic, for his image.

He tries make-up, you know,
mascara and blush, but
it seems redundant and his white
skin reacts in odd allergic ways.

It doesn’t seem appropriate to go on . . .

He tries acting school, a good one, and
shows promise; his vocal range is
wide and he is able to slip
in and out of character at will. His timing
is impeccable. But his stage presence
sucks and soon the director has him doing
voice-overs for animated films instead.
Poem talks to mirrors, trying to project,
to evoke, to smash through that
blank vacant stare . . .

Poem flails.

An animal, he thinks, I could
be an animal, a bold creature,
majestic, loaded with national
fervour, a history of violence . . .

Poem is not himself.

A musician who radiates light and
transcends the stage, climbing the scale
higher and higher until he blinks out,
a flash of recognition spilling down
onto the upturned faces.

Limits. Poem is what is not-Poem.

He gathers himself, sets off
out the door. The ordinary day
follows him.

August 1, 2006

Not a Fighter

Poem’s Industry & Progress

A review board convenes, votes
to lift the restrictions

lines on a map appear

for the prime investor, it is a coupe, capital
flows into the machines

reading extracts the resources,
truck loads, driving unsafely on questionable roads,
filled with significance, leave
for the container ports, and markets
overseas send a cheque

but jobs are created, review
publications, chapters propped
up thriving on Poem’s product,
that shining bin, that exasperating cargo

economic forecasters watch him,
his subsidiary paper product tax shelter,
and then, the vein is near
exhausted, the reserves spent,
the harvest dwindles and
Poem is left vacant

the road is abandoned,
saplings grow through the windows,
a wealth of rodents move in

Poem pleads, ‘Wait, wait
I can do other things—
look, this waste can become
something else useful or
I can be a call centre or, or
I can, I can sing!

but he is alone, a ghost
town echo

only the knowledge
that his wares, bobbles and
cheap lining material have traveled
the globe, filling drawers
and lost and found boxes

Poem rests, coos at the rafter
pigeons—it’s okay, everything is okay

July 20, 2006

New Narrative (or, why things don’t happen)

there is always
an elsewhere, an otherwise
to the placed moment, the event—when

Poem sits in a restaurant
named Papa George’s (Winnipeg
or Jasper?) as three vacationers
pose for a fourth who
takes a picture but looks
like she thinks the photo
will not turn out or when

events recede into the larger
integration which, when named
become an event—when

the picture is taken, it
is not one but four emotions
which are taken (but where?)
by Poem—who

recedes, in time

July 13, 2006

Poem the Fish

Poem creates the escape
hatchery of ideas—a frayed
patience, a silver sliver dithering,
a small fry leap over
the enclosure bank, a moment mid-
air, fin wings—

but if Poem were farmed, he wouldn’t
be Poem.

By the shoreline, cool and swift
the current’s curve of neural swirl,
that’s where Poem rests.

July 2, 2006

The imposition of story forms, by Ken Belford

I have been erased in the stories
that are now told of the Blackwater.
Everybody talks about stories
but nobody remembers them long.

I have a little black bag I wear on my back.
I was an outlaw and my story was killed
without sacrifice. More human than divine,
I am not a man and I live between the forest
and the city. I think the way animals think.

There is the subject and the subjected and
everything happens as if. The cities
at the headwaters of the nass were dissolved
by cutting through the subject but I made places
for rest and found something to eat.

The camp was originally a line cabin
from which one could see both ways –
to the Skeena and the Nass, Blackwater to the front,
the forest on three sides. When I first saw it,
there were no trails and the value was zero.
It’s still unroaded but it won’t be long before it isn’t.

June 22, 2006

Poem in the Postmodern Age

part here, part there, past
his prime but plugged in,
Poem tries hard to do the right thing

the paradigms of mid-day
traffic just look bad
but remain in motion; Poem sighs, edges out
on his refurbished bicycle using
proper hand signals and a dash
of theatre

Poem is off to the printers and he
is an informed shopper,
rubs the linen texture between his fingers,
and looks for post-consumer
recycled paper whenever he can

the Age thinks it’s in transition but
Poem knows there is no such thing

if the moment exists,
an object is hurled out of a club-cab
and the object “certainty” is not in flux

it hits him in the forehead, beneath his
properly adjusted helmet, and Poem
falls beneath the wheel of what

when his eyes open Poem looks up at
a kind pizza guy
cradling his head in his lap;
there is something familiar there but
publishers are a restless lot and
Poem must hurry out of consciousness

he winks to the bystanders and takes
one final breath, there

June 16, 2006

The last entry, by Ken Belford

We were talking about water the other day,
and I thought there’s a fictional literacy
called access, that some of us get there
by going a different way. Some doors work,
some don’t. People used to think narrative
depicted subjects but now it’s about
the gestures of avatars. Old meaning is
the assimilation of the words of others.
It’s a kind of camera surveillance, so
I alter my behaviour when I’m shifting
around town. When asked, I say
my server is down. In the old oral texts,
results are rewarded, and the words
made flesh. Teachers point at the page
and point at the text but today
I’m thinking the metaphor of flow
has to do with slow. I mean, this looks
like a poem on a page but there’s a world
of difference. My narrative is waves of meaning
crashing through a watery code. Sometimes
meaning is stupid and reading is painful.
With you, clusters of tiny, new perceptions
shift and turn at once and I don’t know
how it works, but I can see it. I can see you
in the river and as crazy as it sounds,
I can hear your cries for help.

June 12, 2006

Poetry Wars and Their Causes

what was observed & left
unrecorded, the microphone stand
askew and the patent ideology echo

no one

blog spit or a tribal
boundary the words, a territory
in air, the vibrations of loud
and errant and staked

a variant on chairs, the left/right

slide into a poetics
of urgency, an unplaced micropolitics
a seepage

May 27, 2006


(& if they dare,
the system, the tangled boundary
(that has no place in what we learn as place)
deflates, at every encounter point
--George Stanley, “Gentle Northern Summer”


The Esso owner shoots me
a scowl when I ask, ‘you
from around here.’ He is changing
the till and thinks I might rob him.
I consider

tracing the tributaries, the small
flow/large currency, where
the caches are, the upward
ascendancy of cash, torrents
from the station, 5th & Central,
to Vancouver, Calgary,
Toronto, New York, places

we go to
vacation, enjoy the amenities
(after all the fill-ups & hotel
expenses), the infrastructure
bought, at both ends,
by poor envious us

i would wish
not to be used

The gas plant chugs out
across the river, the local
thug & his territory—the truck
is god,
icon & driven.


Back in the day,
the logs hauled by horse,
those men like the local grocer
bulldozed under by the 7-11
on 20th (the VLA lives on Mars
bars) & the power of conformity, all the

fast food and box stores smile,
‘give back to the community’ in charity,
overload the landfill.

If I bought in bulk,
would knowledge be cheaper?

We send raw logs, fire them
straight out to China
(me, little, trying to
dig there—like the trees)
& buy the kids meals
with plastic toys made in China
(the logs clog the system
in return) &

deflation occurs not at a point
of political catharsis

but upon the collapse,
the breaking point where nothing
is left, and we leave, get in the car
on empty.

May 17, 2006

Poem’s Shelf-life

He’s approaching forty,
anthologized three times, an intertextual
allusion four times, translated
once, achieved internal peace

measures like skin.

The Psychiatrist Reconsiders Poem’s Case

The file closes; there is much
to discuss and the session is near done.
Outside, a small dog, perhaps a poodle or
bichon frise, is barking in a continuous staccato.
A styrofoam coffee cup squeaks.

What is it you really desire?

There is a history to consider here. A change
in the room; has the heating come on? Legs
repositioned. There is to be a debate on the nature
of avoidance. The psychiatrist reads
a note at the top of his page:
“Read as if for the first time.” A candle
lights itself. Street noise enters the room and
the session is near done.

May 16, 2006

The high water mark, by Ken Belford

I like poems that aren’t related to everything
else, where near things are more related
than distant things. Where you get the idea,

the Prof is in the puddle
and it’s miles between measures
known as turning points
or borrowing.

Geography’s descriptive
but explanation isn’t possible, even
with theory, which only works if

every place is the same.
For forms are made
in the idiographic school of poetry
assessments office in Fort Pierce, Florida,
nowhere else. That’s because
land values decline with distance,

or, putting it another way,
theory can have no geography. That's why
there’s no use hanging on to sunsets.

May 11, 2006

What is a poem? How are they made?

by Ken Belford

Nothing can be done to save you of poetry.
Poetry is 100 percent communicable.
Even one poem is enough to begin a cycle.
Ingestion of infected poetry results
in permanent death, but injecting poetry
directly into a dead brain is useless.
Meat inspectors, when not looking for lesions,
laugh at the poem and spit at the poet.
Poets posses no powers of regeneration -
poems that are damaged, stay damaged.
Poems travel through the bloodstream,
from their point of entry to the brain.
Not waterborne nor airborne, poems use the cells
of the frontal lobe for replication. This is why
no poetry occurs in nature. Warning
against an act of poetry would be useless,
as the only people to listen would be unconcerned
for their own safety. A poem is safe to handle
within hours of the death of its host.
Children have been infected by brushing their wounds
against those of a poem. In the pastoral areas
of the east and west, studies have shown
that institutions can sense and will reject
an infected poet 100 percent of the time.
Unless someone teaches a course that feeds on living,
human poets, there will be no life in their poems,
no warmth in their words.

May 10, 2006

He Evades Genre Again 3

An alter ego or shadow-become-self wallows in the textual minutiae—this is not a form issue or a boundary. Something hovers in the periphery of reading. Where are you looking? Several windows open on your page; there is no narrative presence in the narrative. Evasion is such a word; my motion is unframed. There goes the turn now! The question becomes unclear: how does one write? Take the text in. An endless sequence runs the risk. Even the sentences are changes, corrections, revision, less than. You see, Poem is. Boredom disappears into notions and pages fly. Full stop.

He Evades Genre Again 2

An alter ego or shadow/self, swallows fly in the textual minutiae—this is not a form issue but/rather a boundary. Where are you? Several windows open on your desktop; this is narrative presence in the narrative presence. Evasion is such a strong word for it; my motion is frame. There goes the alter now! The question becomes: how does one write flux? Take the text tissue in one hand. Even the sentences are changes, corrugated, less than cerebral. You see, Poem is nervous when under surveillance and legislated. Borders disappear into nations and paged. Full stop.

He Evades Genre Again

An alter ego or shadow/self swallowed in textual minutiae—this is not a form issue but/rather an issue of boundaries. Where are yours? Several windows open on your desktop; this is narrative presence in the narrative present. Evasion is such a strong word for it; my motion is frame. There goes the alter now! Take the text tissue on one hand. Even the sentences are changed, corrugated, less than cerebral. You see, Poem is nervous when under surveillance and legislation. Borders disappear into nations and pages. Full stop.

April 28, 2006

Poem Achieves Closure

as if the relationship stood
for some abstract cost—you & Poem
tongue & lobe low vibrations
back seat the language steamy
thick with sweet ambiguity

he swears it is more than just physical

Poem was caught in the end
unawares—a rogue
wave or two coincidental
illnesses causing
the whole to tilt
this way

he knows how to tie
one on, create the escape
hatchery of ideas—a fraying
of your patience, a dithering
near the end, looking for conclusive
clues in the glove compartment, but not quite--
then there is a ‘pop’ air pressure
drop and Poem
is already

April 20, 2006

Poem and the Movement of Thoughts

Not like some baroque landscape or group
of seven epiphany, thoughts parasitic and un-
profound. Poem pulls them together like a
catalogue entry, an eBay ad for directions to
some imaginary city with wide avenues and no
traffic. At the post office, there is posted a ‘most
wanted’ poster for a perfect word, its history and
sound pattern. The path of flight is imaginary and
inwardly is the only direction. Buttons and thimbles,
a letter unsent, three inkless pens, a compilation CD
sent late for his birthday; in ten years temperatures
might begin to sky-rocket. The lens changes the thing
is no longer. Etymology and physiology are the same. Or looping.
Reconsidering the word “baroque.” Ah, and in that other city,
the air is clear and deep. Cogito joins you for a walk.

April 12, 2006

the tax man

--a RRSP for Ken

he has it with him, always
the records kept unerringly
sharp, cohesive, like a tight pact,
a spiral, sparing the stark days
doled out dumb and exact

the marriage was a lead divisible
number carried over to the thousands
and scaled in degrees;
a cache of time lost, prepaid

his charm swarmed over understood
and he opened the door to zero
and if it was, why

April 7, 2006

the history of language as an email subject heading

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April 1, 2006

Poem Reconsiders the Female Muse

Poem is unamused; she
is a writer, unused, un-engendered,
interdependent, and she shrugs
this off.

Poetry is a truck she learns to drive
differently, somewhere else,
and then leaves it to the overgrowth.

‘Meaning’ she said, meaning
it, and not the way you think, but
closer, and less esoteric, though
that’s not the word she would use.

She realizes, if she only inspires,
she expires.

Poem’s muse is a juncture between.
She considers this point (a wave,
a particle) and muses on
the instability. She works
at a university but does not
love it. Poem’s closure
is an alternative physiology
sensing itself for the first time.

Poem Looks for Poetic Impetus

In his writing, he waits
for inspiration, waiting
for his writing to begin, starting
with the impetus, the spark that’s
not an easy metaphor, the story that’s
not an easy way out, a futurity
that’s not now.

(Perhaps he could create a narrative
presence, a persona, and call him
“Poem” . . . no that would be
too easy)

The word sits squat
immovable, innate, not an impetus
at all and yet . . .
after a span,
it wavers, there is movement,
the word twists in an indivisible
wind, and the poem begins
by describing its own
disability . . .

(Poem could draw on nostalgia,
an interminable debt, a torrid
addiction; nostalgia hopes
for use, wishes Poem
would fall back into his
unsteady hands.)

But Poem is the word he is
waiting for, his own name, waiting
for the word to distinguish itself
from other words, Poem
waits for his own separation
from the world, waits
to launch from the page,
begins to enjoy waiting . . .

March 28, 2006

by Ken Belford

The size of everything is increasing, 
including rulers. It’s called inflation
but it’s like driftwood on the tide.
The twist to the story is I make my own
measurements. When you became
the constant in my life, the world I knew
changed. I think I had fallen toward
the middle, that I had forgotten
about the strength of interactions.
If you want to know what really happened,
I was writing a code of narrow, black lines.
Now I know there are emission and
absorption lines, many possible worlds,
many random uncertainties. If you had
different values, the number of unstable souls
would increase. If you lived across the street,
I’m not sure I would have been able to
stay still long enough to catch your eye.


The size of everything

March 24, 2006

from "# 46" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

from A Coney Island of the Mind. © New Directions. Reprinted with Permission.

# 46

And every poem and every picture
a sensation in the eye and heart
Something that jolts you awake
from the rapt sleep of living

March 23, 2006

Poem Considers Sound Vs. Print

The veracity of meaning surprises him.
Once, a crow imitation worked. What
was said was uncertain.

Are you visualizing this moment?
Time passes similarly; here he is
a wave from dockside sloshing
against speakers and paper
cuts the imagined spillage. Yes,
it is a trick--what isn't?

The scientists test in dimensions of coffin, the variables
terrible and swift; the scientists
watch their lens swim. Poem watches
with curiosity, humming.

March 20, 2006

"Despite our prevailing anti-intellectualism I feel part of an innovative tradition among poets that is very much alive and courageously independent, if you consider the political tragedy and corruption of recent years. This tradition is particularly to be found in small presses, because they haven't entered into the capitalist nexus and dare to do the unexpected. In some ways the Internet has made access to cutting edge work easier because it is easier to locate books on line. I don't care if poets have small audience in terms of this culture's insatiable desire for blockbuster ratings or numbers of Internet hits on a title or author's name. Numbers aren't everything. Some powerful work is quiet and at first may even seem to set up defenses against being approached." Susan Howe

March 18, 2006

Poem Goes to University 3

                       for Earson

a portable podium, he said
that's what we need, disembodied

the carnival pretends when
the chaos is already circling your big top

transition is everything, the shift
between seeing and decoding the show

the speech he made was a trifle, disorganizing
and sharp, a disruption of the office mail

all the while thinking of the number of inappropriate
things I could do right now

March 15, 2006

"Poetry is inadmissible, and besides it doesn't exist."

Denis Roche

Why Chapbooks Rule

Chapbooks are small hand-made books that artistically enhance the literary text. They come out of a tradition of literary “pamphlets” that date back centuries and allowed an author to distribute their work locally to receive critical feedback and spark debate. In the 18th & 19th centuries

“printers sold their chapbooks to itinerant peddlers called 'chapmen', who in turn sold them to consumers. These chapmen, who hawked all manner of small goods for their livelihood, were often roguish figures who lived on the margins of society. [Of course, nowadays there are chap-women as well.] In general, chapbooks were inexpensive publications designed for the poorer literate classes. They were typically printed on a single sheet of low-quality paper, folded to make eight, sixteen, or twenty-four pages, though some examples were longer still.”

For more on chapbooks go here.

Some chapbook presses include book thug, leaf press, mother tongue press, greenboathouse books, above/ground press, belladonna*, nomados, and coach house books.

March 14, 2006


















art no view

special disinterest

































Poem Goes to University 2

The tuition is in fake money and the bookstore
imaginary. Nutrients flow one way. Water
is scarce.

Poem listens feverishly to the building's
blueprints that hover behind desks, disdainful
and dour.

The hill is unstable, but no one
seems to be concerned. Information

Evaluations and competitions are sold
at the buffet and the condiments non-recyclable.

Poem's degree is major and he has no
effect. Plastic knowledge is his profession;
he plies it with grease and a song. His pension
seeps into the ground.

March 12, 2006

Poem Goes to University

The tuition was too obscure so he didn't. But
then later he was invited to read and he did,
carefully, wearing nothing but a body. The class
filmed everything for a documentary on
ethics, let him back into the wild as
unaltered as possible. During the reading,
Poem ducked through glass cases and found
himself matching his tone to the sounds of
heating ducts and plumbing--the building
applauded and his grades never made it
through the mail.

Looking Closer

March 11, 2006

Blackwater Belle

by hardy f

an excerpt from Flicker (Signature Editions, 2005)

obsidian sliding, a throat; the comma catches, and then what is heard is what is here, divisible not by focus, or measure.

the rock comes lost in a box of other rocks. deep black, revulsion even, the texture charted by the textbooks, revising its insane purples and blues. a necessary magenta falls away. the word as much as anything. "obsidian" and it was.

a throat as audience, beginning with attention, attending, the idea hooked into air, hooked into a palm, oblivion between fingers.

the only rock for miles and miles in the silt-sandy soil of the Peace River. downstream Dunvegan drowns in bridge. this chunk of hurt churned up from the subterranean chambers where rivers flow with four banks and water falls upward.

contorted masks of igneous, gneiss, quartz still hot, hissing out between teeth, past tongues of lava, eyes of mica. but here, once, on a plain stretch of summerfallow, is the dramatic entrance. a throat. sound. obsidian.

the word sets a pace and first is breath, wind, furrows, a comma disc cuts roots, thin sod, rhythm, the rhythm of steppe, murmur of water surges, convulses --a body heaving with names.

carving. carving away possible images of a face. carving away. settling on a method of handwriting after many nights of practice. settling for that face. that face.

finding strangeness, and love, in a palm cupped in practice, pressed to stone, stitched, the pattern believing in sight, believing in the stone. the hands cupping the stone believe in gradation, the granite hinges turning, await the taste of a stone tongue.

a picture may have been taken. holding the camera with a latticework of brown iris, precipice, pupil. the edges of the stone blotted out, a blur of inky black. this is obsidian, once.

the artifacts of conversation, touch, maybe the silence after. forgetting to breath. pressure, the subterranean seething in valiant black, a glass-sharp hush, inhalation without colour before its own obliteration.

the stone, obsidian, was lost. the oblique moment, stooped: an eye flash, toe stub, laughter even.

March 10, 2006

The gilly by Ken Belford

They put me to work on the shore, grabbing and landing the hens.
I brought fish to my lure but had no hook. It is easy to imagine
the Steelhead among the boulders. I charmed them
but did not deceive them. The Steelhead were drawn to my intrigue.
I did not chase them. I drew them from their hiding places
and soothed them. I brought them close so I could see them.
But I would not imitate the hen so I could hook the buck.
I would not need the techne reel. I carried no gadgets.
In high water I saw them in the bush. They were love-sick
so I didn’t tease them or set the hook. Fishermen brag
about their hot hens. And they brag about their technology.
The photos degrade the fish, especially the hero shot.
Steelhead are the most vulnerable to men.
Mimicry, language and gadgets are their tools of the slaughter.
The focus is mostly on the men and their desire
and little is on the fish. The fish is just a thing but
at the same time the men seek to experience the life of the fish.
The fish experiences the hard hand of the fisher, and
just as in hate and sex crimes, apathy and empathy are there.

March 7, 2006

Natural history by Ken Belford

                               - for Si

Constants change over time and I was unstable
before I lived with you. Bound to no one, I was rolled up
somewhere in the past. I’m a solid state left over now
that comes in two kinds; recall and retrieval.
There’s a difference but it has do to with
developmental inadequacies. Love has the power
to convince: a single outcome of so many possibilities.
There are many worlds and many histories. So many
stories trap dark matter – it’s a good thing most
matter is invisible. This poem was borrowed
from the fields and conjured out of nothing.
There’s a natural loss of coherence in it. Light comes
from clouds and the clouds are getting old.
There are wormholes in them, distant beacons behind.
Your brothers and sisters are a galaxy in free fall now.
Some bodies carry charges for a split second.
That’s all it takes, and it’s enough.

March 5, 2006

Poem Stays in One Place

Plants asparagus and
other notions starting
with a . . . pauses
to consider History standing
on the esker crest, surveying,
with a claxon or cowbell
and emblazoned lapels.

History ignores Poem.

Poem goes back to his
work placing himself
now the soil to his knees
prying his thighs apart.

There is something effusive
about roots, dangerous.

Culture comes and sniffs
his ears, decides not
to mark territory, trots
off in search of fresher meat.

Critics smell blood,

The topsoil now
spills into Poem’s mouth,
a sweet taste, triumph:
he is here.

March 2, 2006

Poem Goes to the Hospital

Becomes addicted to
placeboes and the sounds of words
tented over his laboured
breathing . . .

A tube is inserted through his nose
to his stomach so he can
concentrate on his language
unimpeded by meals, taste, tongues . . .

Cancer is planted at the base of
his cerebral cortex—this
to accelerate the rhythm
and repeat his motifs—but
it makes Poem tired . . .

Germs invade
the vents and siphons
into Poem’s system—he is
corrupted, nervous and
meaning slips
into fever,
delusional, he convulses, generates
a new form:

a sleek,
elegant twist of flesh
the nurses don’t see as
Poem floats out the white window.

February 24, 2006

Poem Considers Sustainability

Traffic. Traffic and food. Money and language. And bowels.

It is all about waste, Poem says, gesturing
toward somewhere else.

Poem is a dangerous
retention. Cities without air. Something
needs to give.

The word ‘plum’ is about
where it’s from. Poem asks
a grocer, receives little or no information,
opens the next book.

A cleansing, Poem hears his friend say.
A cleansing, Poem thinks and forgets
his wallet, the store’s location, the shape
of arugula, why he can’t be far from
the truth or its proxy . . .

A cleansing, Poem remembers what he needed
and writes about syntax and
walks to give it to his friend.

February 20, 2006

Poem in the Overcode

Poem is a good boy, disturbs
the flow of pedestrians as little
as possible, mixes oil-based paint in
prescribed ways, eats the fictional
food groups, redeems his air
miles, watches hockey, thinks
about mutual funds, international
security, gets hopped up on
caffeine and sugar, has a full
medicine cabinet, frets over
fuel prices, submits regularly
to established magazines, finds
unique ways to create
vivid description and surprising
but comforting comparisons, breaks
the line right where it should, hears
screams at night, has a mellifluous
reading voice, is suspicious of
postmodern pomposity, dreams of the city
falling apart, demons
fouling the internet, resists discussing
the trivialities of language indeterminacy,
knows where he is going, tries
to get there on a straight straight overpass

February 19, 2006

Poem Undoes Himself

As a self-awareness, he fails;
as an act, the audience
shuffles into an auditorium, half-empty.
They sit far apart to concentrate.
The oratory is brief, concise,
filled to the brim with something
akin to order. Failing voice,
near the end, Poem
takes a drink of water, wakes up.

He thinks about socio-environmental violence
and hypens, and
blacks out.

Poem grew up secure in knowing
that the critical mind was like
a good small engine and
similes too.

As his head hits the podium
a word still exists.

February 14, 2006

Page Loading . . .

. . . hook-up, and you were there too
waiting; knowledge is that unreliable
season or illness, control
then becomes myth
although a useful one, the net’s
working hum jacks into rooms

we rush to fix it

once, i am sure, we sat staring
at the same image at the same moment—
a kind of 21st Century tenderness that
synergy and words
falter accordingly . . .

it’s that state of constant looking
that syringes our lives, solders our
agility to look away, ways
that redirect

sluice out into open spaces . . .

and still,
loading . . .

various nations die online;
some imaginations do that, corroded
and privatized, the world is harvested
out from under, muted in

click click i thought the words would
establish themselves
without puppet dictators

me and my naïve mac

light is not all the same quantity
or price; even it betrays the flesh

crashes aren’t nature-loving, aren’t
used to being
more than occasionally
a cleansing

and so we sit
late at night
waiting . . .

spun truths, the either/or of pixels,
that is where my heart may have been lost

not a fantastical heart but
beating like in a deep sleep: slowing, slowing, slowing . . .

February 5, 2006

Poem in the City

Poem came to the city looking for Justice.
He found Fame instead.

The bars are filled with other Poems, ordinary
verses all just trying to find their way, some
with jobs, others looking for a pick-up
line and a sucker to pay the bill. He plays
solitaire in the corner with his eyes
lowered. There is no place to go. The pressure
to conform refills his glass. He sips
carefully, nursing, waits for something to happen.

Poem tips small as he leaves, notices
the sound of change against the glass table-top,
the tension between the two lovers at the next table,
idiosyncrasies of light and the uncertain time of day.
Poem’s vision of the whole thing is troubled.
This is what Poem does best.

This is not his City; he has
come from the Outside, notices the sound of transition:
his arrival and their stasis—the street dissolves
into the Poem. This is
what Poem does best.

Poem begins wandering, a search that is not
linear nor circular despite everything he has been taught. Stories
fill dumpsters and landfills. Fame follows him, dependent
and whining—Fame can’t sustain himself. Stories can’t
sustain themselves.

He is still there, Poem, poking
down alleys, knocking on back
doors, begging for another hit.

Now, he is a product of the City. Still
he dreams of outside, that place where
Poems aren’t poems and that thing
he’s surely forgotten is found.

January 18, 2006

splitting kindling with a bad axe

It’s a small motion but shipped in
from a long way off. The log is always
local but the iron old. Lines in the grain
work against the classic pose—you either
cohabitate or battle the common prose. I’m neither
here nor there but greening in my way. The handle
is key—a woodcutter taught me that
in 1741—for the feel of it, looking for the way
in, unforced, keen. My handle is too straight so the line
leads me to compensate. The cut is radical sustainability
in the overcode. If the blade
turns, shift the shoulders with it. Branch incursions
are just other books waiting to be written. The wood
is prime mover and the snap sound is the event
horizon of language.

January 8, 2006


the north-central interior plateau of bc:

"a continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities whose development avoids any orientation toward a culmination point or external end. ... any multiplicity connected to other multiplicities by superficial underground stems in such a way as to form or extend a rhizome." (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 22)

January 7, 2006

to and fro st.

nonhuman emanation,
unfeeling its crust
and filigree
singe the edge
off and cause
words to slip

supple inside the crisp
leaves see blooms
and myth
in crinoline flourishes

eyes melt
the ghosts of
the inanimate street

January 4, 2006

Irving Layton 1912-2006

One of Canada's pioneer poets, Irving Layton, passed away on January 4th, 2006. To read more about Layton, his poetry, and his life go here.

"If poetry is like an orgasm, an academic can be likened to someone who studies the passion-stains on the bedsheets."--Irving Layton

January 3, 2006

Music of the Heartland

I am from Winnipeg. I am at least a quarter prairie boy (the other parts being city boy, northern boy, book boy and mall boy). If you are from Winnipeg and at all cool, you will be a fan of the Weakerthans. They represent so much that is endemic to boys from prairie cities: sweet, angst-ridden, creative, sensitive, leftist, aimless, and ineffectual. Their three albums are filled with lost boy anthems and contain lyrics with a flair for the poetic. "We write the only songs we know how to write: songs that reflect the place we come from, musically and geographically, the community we live in, and the struggle for any one person to connect with another in a meaningful way," says lyricist John Samson. Comprised of Stephen Carroll (guitar, backing vocals), John K. Samson (guitar, lead vocals), John Sutton (bass, backing vocals), and Jason Tait (drums, saw, etc.) The Weakerthans began playing together in 1997 in Winnipeg, Canada.

My favourite line is from “Aside” on Left and leaving: “And I'm leaning on a broken fence between Past and Present tense.” Here is some lyrics from “The Reconstruction Site” from their last album: “I'm lost. I'm afraid. A frayed rope tying down a leaky boat to the roof of a car on the road in the dark, and it's snowing . . . I broke like a bad joke somebody's uncle told at a wedding reception in 1972, where a little boy under a table with cake in his hair stared at the grown-up feet as they danced and swayed.” John Samson is an accomplished poet aside from his song lyrics.

Visit their user-friendly website and help me bring them to Prince George!

January 1, 2006