damian lopes: Three new poems

In November, 2014, damian lopes was named the second Poet Laureate of the City of Barrie, emerging after an extended period of relative silence. There are those that fondly recall his 1990s micro-press fingerprinting inkoperated, his time spent as an editor at Coach House Books, and his three trade poetry collections: towards the quiet (ECW Press, 1997), which was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry; sensory deprivation (Coach House Books, 1998); and clay lamps & fighter kites (The Mercury Press, 2000), a book that worked to “‘translate’ South Asian and East African imagery into a Canadian poetic context. Drawing primarily on the devotional tradition of South Asian literature, and rooted in a Canadian landscape […].” As part of a recent profile at Open Book: Ontario, he says:

In the last twelve years, I have played with many forms of writing, primarily applying all I learned from ‘experimental’ writing to ‘traditional’ forms like the family saga or epic poetry. The results have been mixed. At times my writing digressed. Or at least wandered. But I learned from bpNichol’s work to trust the process. And I’ve had some great help along the way.

I’m writing for myself again. That’s partly why I’ve remained quiet. Today’s world wide cacophony can be silencing and can make it difficult to hear myself. And what hubris is required to speak above that din? So I concentrate on this page, to see in it my desk, the window beside it, the road through the glass, and beyond my neighbours to our downtown across the bay.

 The laureateship is spurring me on: it’s time to get some work out the door. I am finalizing two manuscripts at the moment, poetry and fiction. With any luck they might appear in short order of each other to make me look busy again.

The author of the poetry-multimedia website Project X 1497-1999, and co-editor of A Handful of Grams: Goan Proverbs (Caju Press, 1996), lopes was born in Scotland and raised in Toronto, and can trace “his family over much of the globe, including the UK, New Zealand, Tanzania, India and Portugal.” With poetry, experimental writing and fiction published across Canada and internationally, he was included in Kenneth Goldsmith’s “Conceptual Writing: A Worldview” essay for Harriet: A Poetry Blog, as well as the seminal collection The Last Vispo Anthology: Visual Poetry 1998-2008 (Fantagraphics Books, 2012). In his review of sensory deprivation, Craig Hill wrote: “Composed over ten years ago, published on-line and in print by Coach House Books about ten years ago, the work continues to crackle (in part because of the superb print work, sharp, solid blacks on good paper).” The poetry manuscript-in-progress he’s working on now, “away home,” from which the three poems below are taken, includes a variety of pieces from the past decade, and play with the nebulous binary of “home” and “away,” in a multitude of lyric aggregations. lopes’ lyric shorthand is reminiscent of elements of Robert Kroetsch’s own poetic explorations on home and away (specifically, the “Stone. Hammer Poem” that now opens his Completed Field Notes). From his chapbook yasser arafat is dead (above/ground press, 2015), due later this month, the poem “your hammer” opens: “this hammer / one of the few things / you brought from scotland // is light, well balanced / wood smooth / from use [.]”


consonants separated
by bakelite tie
tongues as teens
bash teeth

copper lines trace
silent impulses
electronic thought where
synapses flounder on
concurrent waves
confluence of
  influences restrained

over the net
three times my height
i lob & circle
to return my service

conversion if not
conversation tried
concession genuflected



sheathed & shielded
from draughts
salt air off
the north sea

your hands measured

did you contemplate
our arrivals
or were we monsoons
off the indian ocean



you completed your
specialization before
i was born

in canada you
further specialized
in fertility

i was the second
you added a third

our conceptions
are shameless

would we be
the same
if you made us