Commentaries - February 2015

'Sex at Forty-five'

Gearing up to my forty-fifth birthday, I’ve been sketching out lines for a possible “Sex at Forty-five” poem, following on the heels of poems composed for thirty-one, thirty-three and thirty-eight.

Touching words

Advocating for the downplayed, epistemologically outcast sense of touch in her essay “Textiles, Text and Techne,” collected in Hemmings’ The Textile Reader, Victoria Mitchell writes: “It is clear that textiles are not words and the differences between them benefit the conceptual apparatus of thought at the expense of its sensory equivalent. Thus when an activity is labelled as textiles it ceases to be a substance and becomes instead a ‘material of thought,’ and as such enters into the internal logic of a system which tends to privilege the autonomy of the mind.” 

I would like to complexify Mitchell’s claim by extending two of her subjects: words and the senses. 

Victoria Mitchell’s essay begins by recounting Charlotte’s Web and that clever spider weaving words into her web in order to warn her friend the pig. Mitchell articulates that of course the story is a fiction, and a spider’s ability to make webs “is understood in terms of the mechanics of the nervous system; it therefore falls short of the kind of language experience typically associated with the written word.”

Suzanne Zelazo: Two new poems

Given the amount of activity Toronto poet, editor, critic and professional triathalete Suzanne Zelazo has been involved with over the past decade, one can understand why we haven’t seen much in the way of new poetry from her since the publication of her remarkable first trade collection, Parlance (Coach House Books, 2003). Editor-in-Chief of the late, lamented literary journal Queen Street Quarterly (1997 – 2005), she held a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at Ryerson University under Irene Gammel, exploring experimental writers and poets including Mina Loy, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and Florine Stettheimer.

Gerry Loose: Three Ogham poems from Inchmarnock with a note on poetics & translation

Slate with ogham inscription from Inchmarnock, circa 4th-8th century a.d.
Slate with ogham inscription from Inchmarnock, circa 4th-8th century a.d.



Her body fades with her hair becomes invisible her skin is a salmon.

Singing eye sings her songs together kine alpine kine grazing.

Guarded life is guarded shielded ringed with soldiers.

South from our slit ribs bees swarm north.

Now is elsewhere jealousy did this.


Thieves clean her breasts.

A bower is constructed high in the thorn.

Three fires jealousy love and death maggot us.

Under no place there are no trees there is no place.

Pulse great throbbing blooded heart harts live in her irises.



2/ GAMING BOARD                      (to be read in any direction)


you’re blest               you’re dead

you’re fading            concentrate


you’re hopeful          counting chickens              

shit shit                     shit shit


you’re hopeful          you’re hopeful                     

shit shit                     shit shit


o sweet                       o pale

you’re flying             you’re fleeing


you’re dead               a corpse

concentrate               you’re fading


you’re hopeful          o sweet

shit shit                     you’re flying


o pale                          you’re hopeful

you’re fleeing                       shit shit


you’re blest               you’re hopeful

you’re fading            shit shit


you’re hopeful          you’re hopeful                     

shit shit                     shit shit


you’re chiselling      you’re dead

will it hold                concentrate


you’re dead               o pale

concentrate               you’re fleeing

Amanda Earl: Excerpts from 'Saint Ursula’s Commonplace Book'

Amanda Earl : photo credit: Charles Earl
Amanda Earl : photo credit: Charles Earl

There is a fearlessness I’ve always admired about the work of Ottawa poet, editor and publisher Amanda Earl, unafraid to follow her curiosity into unusual corners, whether exploring the sexuality and textures of 1920’s Montparnasse in her first trade collection, Kiki (Chaudiere Books, 2014), to “Saint Ursula’s Commonplace Book.” As she writes to describe her current work-in-progress:

Ursula lived in the fourth or fifth century. Variations on her story exist. In one version, she is travelling by ship with eleven thousand virgins to meet her groom, a Pagan. The ship is attacked and the women, including Ursula, are beheaded. In another version, an arrow pierces her heart.

A church was built over the tomb where Ursula was buried. The arrow which pierced her is kept there. Young girls pray to Ursula for protection and miracles. She is their patron saint.