A very short poem of mine was chosen to be set to music for the Reshaping Ruins project, which you can learn more about here – https://www.reshapingruins.com/.

If you’d like to participate in the community choir that will be singing the piece, they’ll be workshopping it in Market Square (1 Carden Street, Guelph) on August 13 at 11:00 AM. All are welcome to join.

The final audio-visual exhibition (where I’ll get to read the poem) will be at Goldie Mill (75 Cardigan St, Guelph) on September 24th at 7:30 PM.

I’ll be moderating a Writers’ Panel on the Role of the Local Bookshop this Saturday August 6, at 1:00 PM at the Elora Public Library (144 Geddes Street) – https://www.facebook.com/events/1241991673228722

The panel of Gordon Hill Press authors, Kevin Heslop, Khashayar Mohammadi, and Rhonda Waterfall, will share their insights on the role of the local bookshop.

Attendees can also join the authors for a drink at the Elora Brewing Company (www.elorabrewingcompany.ca) after the panel.

The event is hosted by Elora bookstore, Magic Pebble Books (www.magicpebble.ca), which will be featuring Gordon Hill Press books over the next few months.

I’d love to see you there.

I started this in June. Then I got busy. I made it a little longer to make up for the delay.

Sue Goyette’s Penelope – I really like this book. I have lots of thoughts about how Goyette runs verbal structures throughout the poem sequence, too many thoughts for this forum. Ask me the next time I see you.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me – There are some books that are notable for their content, and some that are notable for their writing. This one is notable for both. It is a remarkable book, and as a father of bi-racial children, it was also tremendously meaningful to me.

G. B. Edwards’ The Book of Ebeneezer Page – Gosh, I tried to like this. Granted, the narrative voice holds its own. Granted also, the details of historical Guernsey Island are sometimes fun. But it reads too much like an old man rambling about back in his day. For 400 pages. 400!

Frantz Fanon’s Black Faces, White Masks – I don’t really have the background in psychology to get the most out of these essays (I could never get into Freud and Jung and their adherents), but Fanon’s exploration into the psychology of race, particularly as it plays out between the colonized space of Martinique and the colonizer space of France, is fascinating.

Liz Howard’s Letters in a Bruised Cosmos – I read this (out of order from the fifty Canadian poetry volumes piled on top of it) because I was supposed to be on a Word on the Street panel with Liz (though she couldn’t make it in the end). I like it where she writes in more standard modes and lets her poetry do its thing. I didn’t like it where she tries on more experimental forms. They feel forced and jarring to me. I would have cut them.

Bardia Sinaee’s Intruder – This was the other book I read for that panel. Bardia did make it, and it was fun to chat with him, even under the constrictions of the panel format. I quite like this book, especially the second section, where he leans into a four quatrain form that seems to work well for him. It was a deserving Trillium winner.

Kirby’s Poetry Is Queer – I’d recommend this hybrid of memoir / essay / poetry / criticism to anyone who finds the combination of those words interesting. I’d especially recommend it if you’re in the Toronto area and have had any occasion to interact with Kirby and the work they do for poetry in the area. It’s a very intimate and expressive book.

Sydney Warner Brooman’s The Pump – This is a fun book. Well, fun and disturbing. Maybe more disturbing than fun, actually. But still a little fun. I’ll just say that it’s set in a town built on a toxic swamp, with killer beavers, and storks that take babies rather than bring them. You should read it.

Johanna Skibsrud’s The Nothing That Is: Essays on Art, Literature, and Being – Be warned that some of these essays are quite academic and that they reference a whole slew of other philosophers and theorists. If that was never your jam (wise life choice), or you gave that stuff up the moment you graduated (glad to see that you can learn from your mistakes), it might not be for you. It does have some really interesting ideas about poetry though, particularly that poetic language is not defined either by what it is or isn’t, but by the limits that it marks between what is and isn’t. Right?

Get cozy. I’m going to tell you a story. It’s about the pleasure of finding things in books – physical things that trigger not so physical things. And it may take me a hot minute.

Okay, so, I took my eldest son to Toronto for his birthday. We made a list of all the manga and anime stores in the downtown area, mapped a route, and spent most of the day wandering from one to the other. He bought the entirety of Deathnote in a single volume (almost as wide as it is tall). I bought a two-volume, hardcover boxed set of the complete Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (oh, the nostalgia). We even found a couple of funky little places to eat.

We also (because I can’t help myself) stopped at a used bookstore, which wasn’t technically (or at all) on our itinerary. It was the kind of bookstore I like best, where books have been piled so high on the sales counter that the bookseller is clearly using them as a bulwark against the unwanted intrusion of actual customers. I found a copy of Raymond Souster’s Ten Elephants on Yonge Street (1968), a second printing but still hardcover. The bookseller was convinced to take my money through a crack in his tottering fortress. I put the book in my bag, and I pretty well forgot about it for a few days.

When I got around to opening it, I discovered inside the front cover a clipping of an article from the Weekend Magazine (April 15, 1972), four years after the second printing of Souster’s book and seven years after the original publication in 1965. The article was written by Don Bell (journalist, author, winner of the Stephen Leacock Award, and fierce advocate for the Montreal bagel). It was titled “Canada’s Poet In A Cage”.

Now, I love these little surprises in books, even (maybe especially) when they involve just a napkin with an address on it, or a picture with a date on the back, or a business card from a vacuum cleaner salesman based in Winnipeg (all actual finds, incidentally). I once found a mini review taped into the front of one book (not favourable, in case you were wondering). I even tracked one book from the Guelph bookstore where I found it, through the Montreal bookstore where it was purchased, to Iran where the original owner was, back to Guelph where the owner’s ex-partner still lives. I kid you not.

So, finding this article in Souster’s book is the sort of thing I find interesting anyway, but in this case it also struck me as a curious reminder of how different poetry culture (and our culture generally, for that matter) is today. Here was an article, about a poet, a full page and more, 48 column inches, with a colour photo, consisting of a reasonably in depth discussion of his work, including several sustained quotations, in a weekend magazine that arrived with the weekend paper.

Let’s be clear – Souster wasn’t being featured because he’d done something outrageous, because he was involved in some social or political activity, or because he’d just released a particularly well received book. The man was a banker. He wrote solid, accessible poetry that achieved decent critical success and won him some awards, but nothing that would remotely have earned him 48 column inches in the world today. In fact, I can barely imagine what a poet would need to do these days to get that kind of poetry-focussed coverage in a newspaper.

There are reasons for that, of course (not all of them bad), and I am always hesitant to critique the present in favour of the past (because there are certainly elements of the past that should remain there), but as I read Bell’s article, fifty years after it was published, I couldn’t help a degree of nostalgia for a time when a regular Canadian poet’s work was able to find that kind of popular attention.

I’ve since taped the article to my office wall with all the other printed detritus that washes up on my desk, as a reminder of something that I can’t quite name.

And that’s my story. Feel free to go about your business.

Come meet me at two events this weekend.

On Saturday June 25, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM at the Hillsburgh Branch of the Wellington County Library, I’ll be running a workshop on chapbook making as well as selling books for Gordon Hill press and Vocamus Writers Community at the Wellington County Writers Festival closing day festivities.

On Sunday June 26, 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM at Harcourt United Church, I’ll be selling books for Gordon Hill Press and Vocamus Writers Community at the One Thousand Trees book sale.

Come on out to one or both.

I don’t usually dignify the ranting of Jordan Peterson with a response. I don’t even usually dignify it with my attention. However, his recent controversial comments around body image did come across my consciousness, and his justification for those comments related closely enough to a trend I’ve been seeing recently that I thought it might be worth worth spending some time working through them.

Now, if you’re sufficiently insulated from social media as to be unaware of this particular controversy, I congratulate you, but I’m about to spoil that. The specifics are these – Yumi Nu, a curvaceous and full-figured model, was featured on one of four alternate covers for Sports Illustrated‘s 2022 Swimsuit issue (the other models were Ciara, Maye Musk, and Kim Kardashian, if that’s information you wanted). On May 16, Jordan retweeted the Yumi cover image, saying, “Sorry. Not beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.”

As you might imagine, the social media universe took Jordan apart, and rightfully. I mean, authoritarian tolerance? Hilarious. We’re talking about a business selling magazines here. If they have Yumi on the cover, it means they think there’s demand for Yumi on the cover. There aren’t any authorities imposing tolerance here, just market forces, which Jordan at least theoretically supports.

And let’s face it, neither Yumi, nor Sports Illustrated, nor anyone beyond Jordan’s little circle of claw wringing lobsters actually cares about which body type he finds attractive. And why should they? He’ll buy a copy or he won’t. The rest is irrelevant to a model or a magazine, and even that much is irrelevant to the rest of us.

Mere hours after the original post, in the face of twitter’s ridicule, Jordan deleted the tweet, then cancelled his account entirely, saying, “So I told my staff to change my password, to keep me from temptation, and am departing once again.” Which was when a friend brought the situation to my attention just long enough for me to wonder at the compulsive nature of Jordan’s relationship with twitter, before giving the head shake and sigh that are all his antics deserve.

Then, yesterday, I ran across a video clip of Jordan on his daughter Mikhaila Peterson’s podcast, where he was justifying his original tweet using some language that I found quite revealing. He defended his description of Yumi as “not beautiful” on the basis that Sports Illustrated is “a sports magazine, so it’s about athletics. It’s about athletic people. It’s about athletic bodies.” The problem with Yumi, he goes on to say, is that her body type “is not as athletic, and it’s not as healthy.”

And I’ve heard this kinds of argument more frequently over the past few years, where men justify their shaming of particular body types based on the argument that these body types are less healthy. It’s not about size, they say, it’s about fitness. It’s about the ideal of a fit, healthy woman.

What’s interesting to me, however, is that the ideal woman these men describe usually has very little do do with health and athletics. Jordan’s interview with Mikhaila is an excellent example, as he struggles mightily to define athleticism. It involves “symmetry,” he says, though it’s not clear how this relates to athletic performance, “and a kind of athleticism in body type,” which merely begs the question. The athlete is “young,” he goes on, “female, generally,” although why gender matters to athleticism is never explained, “extremely athletic,” he begs the question again, “and shapely in a very particular way, with a waist to hip ratio of .68,” which he claims is cross culturally established as ideal for male interest and also associated with fertility.

Now, I hope you’ll notice that there’s nothing in Jordan’s ideal that has much at all to do with athleticism or health. Beyond repeating variations of the word ‘athletic’, the only specific elements of athleticism in his description seem to be symmetry, youth, and a particular waist to hip ratio, which even he justifies on the basis of male interest and fertility rather than athletic prowess. He isn’t describing an ideal either of athleticism or of health, just of the Swimsuit Issue body that he’s been getting off to for the past few decades.

And let’s admit now that the Swimsuit Issue body has never been primarily about either athleticism or health. Although things have been changing recently, most of the models who have graced the Swimsuit Issue’s pages over the years were anything but athletes. In fact, many of them were at a body weight that doctors would consider dangerously low, creating an ideal for women that was unhealthy both physically and psychologically.

If the Swimsuit Issue was actually about fitness and athleticism and health, it would feature the whole range of body types that make for athletic prowess. Compare the physiques of Tia-Clair Toomey (multiple crossfit champion), Amanda Nunes (MMA champion), Brigid Kosgei (top marathon runner), Guan Chenchen (Olympic gold medal gymnast), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (current fastest female sprinter), Rebecca Roberts (world’s strongest woman), Annemiek van Vleuten (world’s top rated female road cyclist), and so on. There’s such a diversity of athletic body types here among the world’s top female athletes, but precious little by way of Jordan’s ideal waist to hip ratio, because, frankly, this kind of ratio has nothing to do with athleticism. And neither does the Swimsuit Issue.

Let’s admit too, on Jordan’s behalf, since he certainly won’t admit it himself, that he isn’t picking up his copy of the Swimsuit Issue because he’s interested in how healthy the models look. He’s not jerking off to some ideal athlete. His own failed attempt to describe athleticism reveals pretty clearly that what he’s looking for is youth, an ideal hip to waist ratio, and I’d hazard to guess some sort of hip to bust ratio thrown in for good measure. And, given that Yumi is only 25 years old, the only thing Jordan can really be complaining about is those ratios.

So don’t be fooled even for a minute. Jordan isn’t mad that Sports Illustrated is overturning some ideal of health and athleticism. He’s mad because his ideal of beauty, which he claims is based on “universality,” is no longer the universal ideal of beauty represented on magazine covers. He’s mad because this calls into question the superiority of his own desire. He’s mad because there are people out there who think that Yumi is ideally beautiful despite not adhering to his carefully calculated body ratios. He’s mad that these people’s desire might be as valid as his own. He’s mad that there are so many of these people, in fact, that Sports Illustrated is financially motivated to give them what they want.

He basically admits as much in his interview with Mikhaila, where he complains that deviating from the traditional Swimsuit Issue body is “a cheap manipulation of something that had been working very well for Sports Illustrated,” a manipulation that he says is “exploiting” Yumi to get cheap sales. And he’s right, in this at least. The Swimsuit Issue became a cultural icon precisely by manipulating and fulfilling ideals of female beauty, precisely by exploiting that ideal to sell magazines, and as Jordan says, it’s been working very well for them.

What Jordon fails to see is that it’s always been that way. The Swimsuit Issue was never the purveyor of some absolute or universal beauty. It was always manipulating and exploiting ideals of female attractiveness in order to sell magazines. That didn’t start with Yumi on the cover. That was the deal all along. All Yumi did was represent a small shift in what our culture includes in the definition of ideal female beauty, a shift away from Jordan’s magic ratio, to be sure, but otherwise just business as usual, all blather about health and athleticism notwithstanding.

I won Guelph Today‘s inaugural Arts Community Builder Award.

Here’s the link to the little video they did – https://www.guelphtoday.com/cbawards/2022-winners/community-builders-awards-jeremy-luke-hill-honoured-for-pivotal-in-guelph-arts-community-5456742.

Thanks to those who nominated, wrote letters, and otherwise supported. Thanks to all those at Vocamus Writers Community and Gordon Hill Press who contributed in many ways to the work that this award recognizes.

Méira Cook’s Monologue Dogs – I really enjoyed this volume’s knack for some unexpected yet (to me) particularly apt images. For example “Love is the choral hum of flies, love lays / its eggs in the body and the body / lights up, hums and hurts in the dark.” Nice, right?

Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children – Very interesting novel of family life, set just before World War II. Stead has a real capacity to make the reader empathize with whichever character she is voicing at any given time. Not a page turner, certainly, but worth the read as a psychological study.

Myron Turner’s Rag Doll’s Shadow – Good luck finding a copy of this one. It was published by PQL in 1979, and the poet went on to a career more in visual art than in poetry. It’s good though. Or large parts of it are. They long poem at the end particularly.

Dionne Brand’s Ossuaries – The energy that Brand sustains throughout this 100 page long poem is remarkable. I would like to know, however, why only one particular stanza (on page 41 in my edition) has two lines as opposed to the other roughly 500 three-line stanzas. Someone explain.

Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes – Wow. Some of these stories are amazing. As a collection, it fosters a deep sense of unease and foreboding in otherwise everyday situations. It is subtle. It is deft. It is magnificent. Get yourself a copy.

Hey all,

I just wanted to let you know about some reading and events that I’ll be at over the next few weeks –

It would be great to see you at any or all of those.

I’ll be co-hosting a reading on Sunday April 24, 7:00 PM, at the Western Hotel.

Guelph poets Karen Houle and Candace de Taeye will join visitors from London, Kevin Heslop, Aaron Schneider, and David White for an evening of readings and fun!

Also, since one of the readers is my publisher at 845 Press, you can drop by and buy my new chapbook there. I’ll even sign it for you.

You can let the organizers know you’re coming on the Facebook event page – https://www.facebook.com/events/724779942301865.