My new chapbook These My Streets will be officially launched on Thursday, December 10, 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, at the ANAF (32 Gordon Street) along with other Fenylalanine Publishing chapbooks by Darcy R. Hiltz, Jessica Avolio, and David J. Knight. It will be a fun and relaxed evening of poetry, music, and conversation. You can also bring some finger food to share. All are welcome.

Fenylalanine Publishing (a Guelph-based publisher that specializes in “latent peripheral ephemeral paraphernalia”) has just released a chapbook of my poetry called These My Streets.

The collection responds to the experience of walking the streets of Guelph. It comments visually and poetically on the social fragmentation of those spaces caused by our culture of fast cars and faster communication. Also (trigger warning) it talks a bit dirty about the virgin Mary.

If you want print files you can get them under the Longer Works section of this blog.

I also have a few physical copies that you can get from me for the low, low price of $5, but for a limited time only. So take advantage now, and I’ll throw in (as a free gift from me to you) a good, firm handshake (retail value, priceless), and a personalized inscription (which, in all honesty, will only decrease the book’s value).

Also, stay tuned about details for a launch party of some sort. All I know at this point is that it will happen, that it will be scheduled after the kids are in bed, and that it will involve more consumption of food and alcohol than actual reading of poetry.

Why is there such general terror of the empty page? It is because people discover in it that they have nothing to say — no stories to tell, no ideas to share, no passions to express. They look at the empty page and see that they too are empty.

For those who are full, however — full of living — the page is no terror, however empty it may be, because its emptiness is an incitement to make it full, to pour it up to the brim.

This is the lesson of the empty page — if it terrifies you, do not waste your time trying to overcome it. Instead, go, live more deeply, think more carefully, do more passionately — live — and then, when you are full, the empty page will beckon.

This poem is based on an actual conversation I had with a perfect stranger in the line-up of a Toronto fast food joint.

The Damndest Thing

“I’ve seen it all,” he said.
“Every damn perversion
you can imagine.
And some you probably can’t.”

He seemed to be talking to me.

“Every manner of appendage,
flesh or fabricated,
into every manner of orifice,
flesh or fabricated —
and then some.”

The line moved us forward.

“Seen it in HD,
surround sound,
on my very own couch,
cock in hand.”

The cashier gave him his sandwich.

“But I still can’t get it up
for the wife,” he said.
“It’s the damndest thing.”

“Do you know that the door of the ladies’ bathroom is always propped open?” The woman leaned over the librarian’s desk, her arms folded across her heavy breasts in a way that was probably intended to look stern.

The librarian looked up from her computer, startled. “I…”

“The gentlemen’s is always closed,” the woman continued, “but the ladies’ is always propped open.”

“Well, I know the custodian leaves them to air after he cleans at night. Maybe you’re just the first one in.”

“No.” The woman looked condescending. “It’s always open. Even in the afternoon. People outside can hear everything.”

The librarian shrugged. “Maybe it’s someone who needs accessibility. Lots of washrooms now don’t even have doors.”

The woman slapped a hand against on the desk. “Yes, and people can still hear!” she almost yelled. “It’s disgusting!”

“I see. Well, I don’t think anyone would mind if you just closed it when you went in.”

“Oh, I close it. I assure you. I just don’t feel that I should be put through the inconvenience, do you?”

“No, Maam,” the librarian said, “of course not.”

I happened to pick up a copy of Mordecai Richler’s This Year in Jerusalem. I won’t have time to read it in the foreseeable future (there are too many books before it on my reading list), but I was leafing through it a little and came across this quotation by Albert Einstein from 1938 on the possibility of a Jewish State. He says,

“I would much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state… my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will suffer — especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks.”

Smart man. Some might say a genius.

This is another poem intended for the These, My Streets project. Gordon / Norfolk / Woolwich runs north-south through the entirety of Guelph, changing its name three times.

Gordon / Norfolk / Woolwich

You grew up rural, before the town crept
out to meet you and the college drew you
through its mixed architectures, its facades
and you lingered there longer than you should,
spent time in student housing on the hill,
crossed the river up to the Albion
when all that got a bit too serious,
and somewhere around there you changed your name,
took on a love that spent itself too soon,
ended as suddenly as it began,
spent your nights in apartments above shops,
and then you changed your name again, old school,
at the Baptist church where the five points meet,
found yourself living in substantial homes
through that long middle age when nothing much
distinguished day from day or week from week,
until, at last, the old names died away,
and it was then that you found religion
among the wild fields of St. Ignatius
and returned to the country of your birth.


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