Today, for the first time since I was playing rugby in university, I bench pressed my own weight (that’s 250 lbs now and 210 lbs back then, in case you’re interested).

I know that’s peanuts to real weightlifters, but it’s a milestone I’ve been shooting for, so it feels good.

So, my wife and I are rewatching Firefly, one of our favourite shows (because I’m Wash, and she’s Zoe, obviously). We heard that Disney bought the rights and thought we’d get one more watch in before they got around to ruining rebooting it.

Anyway, as we were watching, I had the idea that the characters should all be assigned D&D classes. No, I don’t have a good reason. Just enjoy – 

  • Shepherd Book – Cleric
  • Zoe Washburne – Ranger
  • Hoban Washburne (Wash) – Rogue
  • Inara Serra – Bard
  • Jayne Cobb – Barbarian
  • Kaylee Frye – Artificer
  • Malcolm Reynolds – Fighter
  • River Tam – Monk
  • Simon Tam – Paladin

Most of these were read when I was quarantining over Christmas, so they’re oddly confused with working on giant crosswords and doing jigsaw puzzles.

John Paul Fiorentino’s I’m Not Scare of You or Anything – Funny, witty, stylistically deft – Fiorentino’s stories are certainly entertaining, but the one about the exam invigilator who’s certain that he’s a “desired and highly sexualized figure” for his students hits uncomfortably close to home, given the real life accusations of sexual misconduct leveled against Fiorentino at Concordia.

Sile Englert’s The Lost Time Accidents – Sile shows proficiency with a variety of forms, and her voice is controlled across a wide range of tonality. Sometimes I could wish that she’d punch a little harder, a little further below the belt, but then her more subtle, more certain approach usually wins me over in the end. I’m looking forward to where her work goes next.

Peter Rollins’ How (Not) to Speak of God – Rollins repackages ideas from contemporary philosophy in a manageable way to help articulate a sort of philosophy of the “emerging church” for an audience that would never read these thinkers directly. I think it succeeds as far as it goes, but it doesn’t add much if anything to the philosophical conversation that it draws from.

Allessandro Baricco’s An Illiad – This retelling of the Illiad retains a surprising amount of the original’s epic power and condenses it in a way that highlights the varied perspectives of the vast cast of characters. A beautiful little book. My sixteen year old is reading it next.

Thomas King’s One Good Story, That One – I’ve never read a Thomas King book I didn’t love, and I’m not just saying that because he’s a rather large human being who lives close enough for me to bump into him on the regular. He’s older now. I think I could maybe take him. Anyway, I’d never actually read this early collection of stories before, but it didn’t disappoint. You should read it too.

Greg Rhyno has reviewed my new chapbook, Ordinary Eternal Machinery.

You can read it here on Periodicities

I replied to him here –

You can get your copy of my chapbook here – Or, if you’re in the Guelph area, you can drop by my place.

Someone asked me the other day whether these posts include everything I’ve been reading. They don’t. When I’m in the mood to write one of these, I just start working through my pile of books to be reshelved until I’ve hit five or six. That keeps the list sufficiently random for me and hopefully gives a flavour of what I’m reading at the time.

Eric Dupont’s Songs for the Cold of Heart – I really enjoyed this book, but for some reason it took some time getting though. It wasn’t just the length (it’s relatively beefy at 600 pages). There was just something about it that never let me read too much at any one time – the anti-page tuner. That’s not a criticism (at least not in my mind), just an indication of how the book feels to me – like something you should sip like a scotch rather than slam like a vodka cooler.

Joshua Whitehead’s Full-Metal Indigiqueer – I like poetry that gives a good punch in the gut, and this one certainly delivers that. It’s formally experimental, but in ways that are telling, not just for the sake of it. It’s both playful and poignant, often in the same line. Good book.

Susan Briscoe’s The Crow’s Vow – The bits of this book that address the subject of a crumbling marital relationship more or less directly? They often work. The bits of this book that narrate nature in various seasons by way of providing mood and flavour to the subject? They’re mostly forgettable, and there are too many of them by far.

Mike Carey’s Lucifer – Not sure why it took me so long to read these graphic novels, given that the main character first appeared in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, which I read and enjoyed ages ago. The Lucifer books perfectly hit the spot if you’re into that kind of thing (which I am, when I’m in a certain mood). I burned through them in a day. I also tried the show, but couldn’t finish even the second episode.

Shane Neilson’s Call me Doctor – Are you allowed to comment on your business partner’s books? I don’t know. So I’ll just say that it was interesting to read some of Shane’s earlier memoir in light of his more recent stuff, which is much more formally varied and emotionally vulnerable.

I’ll be reading with Catherine Lewis and David White in London at Brown & Dickson bookstore, on Monday December 13, 7:30 PM.

If you’re in the London area, come on out, listen to some poetry, grab a copy of my new chapbook, Ordinary Eternal Machinery, and then stick around to chat a bit, because chances are I haven’t seen you in person in two years or more.

We’re only permitted a limited number of people though, so RSVP to if you can make it.

If you can’t make it, you can still buy your copy of the book here –

I’ll be reading online from my new chapbook, Ordinary Eternal Machinery, for London WordsFest, on Sunday December 5 at 4:00 PM.

It’s part of a group launch with 845 Press and Rose Garden Press, also featuring Nadia Froese, Catherine Lewis, David White, patti sinclair, Andrew French, and Laurie Koensgen.

For more information and sign up for the zoom link, check here –

If you want to order the book, go here –

If you’ve attended online poetry events lately (which I hadn’t myself until covid drove me to it), you’ll have noticed how people often show their appreciation for a reading by using the chat to quote a line or two that they find particularly striking. Because I am who I am, and because my brain works the way it does (or doesn’t), I’ve found myself wondering how this form of audience response compares to those found at most live events, which range (depending on the sort of poetry) from polite clapping at the end of a reader’s set, to finger snapping at a particularly nice line, to actually calling out in appreciation .

The range of these live responses correlate roughly to how “formal” a reading is and how “literary” the work is considered to be. If the event is an award ceremony for fairly traditional poetry, you’ll probably just get polite clapping. If it’s in a bar, especially for more experimental stuff, you’re more likely to get responses in the neighbourhood of finger snapping. At a more performative, slam poetry style reading, you might get calling out or calling back.

In other words, the ways that audiences respond to poetry often signal where that poetry is positioned with respect to class and culture, even race and education, where, for example, the polite kinds of poetry that generally get reviews and win awards are also the kinds that get golf claps from the audience, and where those who produce this poetry have historically been more likely university educated, White, and affluent. There have certainly been exceptions to this, of course, and the demographics are certainly changing, but it remains true that there are real social and political distinctions implied in different kinds of poetry, distinctions that are signaled in various ways, including in how the audience is expected and willing to respond.

Which makes quoting poetry in the chat of online reading an interesting example of audience response, in that it draws elements from various kinds of live responses. On the one hand, it is silent, never interrupting the reading of the poet, which is a hallmark of audience response to traditional poetry. On the other hand, it’s a form of call back, even an extreme form, not just exclamation or encouragement, but entire lines called back to the author and the rest of the audience, which is far more like the kind of response you’d expect at a poetry slam.

So, how do we understand this mode of response? Is it expanding a more performative response to traditional poetry readings, forcing the poet to engage more with the audience? Is it literally silencing and marginalizing those kinds of responses, relegating them to the sidebar of the screen, leaving the poet’s speech uninterrupted? Obviously it’s at least some of both, and probably a whole range of other things too. In any case, I’m keeping my eye on the phenomenon. I’m interested to see what its long term effects might be.