Geomantic riposte: 'The Regina Monologues'

In poetry circles, Michael Barnholden is best known for his highly active involvement with the Kootenay School of Writing, an internationally recognized locus of experimental writing. Barnholden published many early KSW chapbooks under the imprint of Tsunami Editions, and with Andrew Klobucar, he is the co-editor of Writing Class: The Kootenay School of Writing Anthology. Based in Vancouver, BC, Barnholden has made and continues to make important contributions to foster and encourage innovative new writing, through his founding of a book review periodical called The Rain Review of Books in 2003, and more recently, as managing editor of West Coast Line and publisher of the exciting micropress LINEBooks. Barnholden’s non-fiction books with a historical bent most clearly reveal his sensitive interest in issues concerning social class, and include Reading the Riot Act: A Brief History of Riots in Vancouver, and his text to accompany the photos of Nancy Newman for Street Stories: 100 Years of Homelessness in Vancouver.

Originating from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Barnholden became fascinated with the Riel Rebellion period and the struggle of the Métis people to retain their land and resources in the wake of being “railroaded” by governmental appropriation and trading company takeovers, and Riel's military leader Gabriel Dumont in particular, leading to his translations for Gabriel Dumont Speaks and Circumstances Alter Photographs, a collection of rare photographs of battle under fire that occurred in Saskatchewan at the time leading up to Louis Riel's surrender, and eventual trial and final sentence in Regina. On a brighter(?) note, Barnholden’s complex poetry chapbook The Regina Monologues is best described by Louis Cabri:

These "social safety sonnets" proceed to "write through" the Regina Manifesto of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (the CCF – later, NDP) tabled at its founding convention in July 1933. Thick texture at beginning (big nouns), few supporting cast members of the sentence; then the lines open up later and give starring roles to function words ("the little words") – the the's and the of's – a move that can be read allegorically as a comment on that self-referential impulse within modernist poetry to focus on the materiality of the word (the the's and the of's, exactly).


The Regina Monologues: So(cial safety)nnetS by Michael Barnholden (July, 1933)


So transportation, communications, electric

power and all other industries and services

essential to social planning, and their operation

under the general direction of the


freed from day to day political interference.

Public utilities must be operated for the

not for the private profit of a small group

financial manipulators. Our natural resources


developed methods. means continuance

ownership enterprises some distance.

Only planned, can our main be saved


outcome of capitalism. regime of public

full benefits control and mass

production be passed on to the


Geomantic Riposte:  O World


Have you lost the scrip?      The gleaming promise of futures

galore came in the form of Kiefer Sutherland introducing an

animated short of Tommy Douglas’ mice and fat cats speech

and it Tube-viralled well      CCF aside, Guy Debord was spot

on that the Keystone XL Pipeline project would be nayed or

yayyyyyed at the summit of Clooney, Beyoncé, and The One

as O so creatively put it       Sad, like a grasshopper picked up

spewing through spiracles on just cleaned ant floor defensive

toxicity      lush-singing could the early spraying of Psoloessa

delicatula starve grassland songbirds more than the fat cats

snack ‘em back where one can be consistently mocked for

walking around city, as lowly as what Environment Canada

calls a “fugitive gas” but scripwise, gate proselytes gotta wait

a year to qualify but on this open muck, our home and Native

land, we can still dream the graphic novel of Gabriel Dumont

busting into the Regina jail dealing out Vulcan nerve pinches

carrying Riel away in a Bay blanket on his sometimes-crazed

steed to join the Wild West Show, fixing John A. Macdonald’s

and the Conservative Party’s fret about displeasing voters in

Ontario AND Quebec      it just has that cinematic quality but

such a bushel for Upworthy     all this talk about our Reginas