Geomantic riposte: 'Wood Spoken'

Born in Norway and raised in Colorado and Virginia, Erling Friis-Baastad emigrated to Toronto in 1969 and has spent most of his adult life in the Yukon Territory. He is a widely published journalist, essayist, and book reviewer, and works as an editor with the Yukon News in Whitehorse. With Canadian short story maven Patricia Robertson, he has edited (if not pioneered) Writing North, an anthology of Yukon writers from the last decade of the twentieth century. Friis-Baastad’s accomplished collection Wood Spoken: New and Selected Poems showcases the thirty-year career of the poet who is credited with bringing contemporary poetry to the territory, and is considered a landmark event in its literary scene, and is most certainly a warm and generous ‘wayfinder’ for those agile poets snowshoeing after him.

Wood Spoken by Erling Friis-Baastad (Northbound Press, 2004, Page 64)


The Poet Attempts a Novel


My hero always fails me.

In Chapter One I give him everything:

height, youth, train fare,

a healthy moustache.

I encourage him to share

my family, my first wife,

the books I’ve read. All I ask

is that he be a man, push on

and meet his fate. But he

demands a rest at the first bend

we come to and slumps there

as if brooding on the injustice

of it all: the noisy typewriter,

the stubby pencil.


Geomantic Riposte: Néant


Still looking up “hero”, “typewriter”, “pencil”

but autocorrect has other ideas      The néant


just around the corner and seventy eight people think

it’s pretty at this time of year      You know, it’s so-so

being Meursault or similar 20th century after-

birth, with

nothing in your pocket

but pleased to see you        Hey,      a

mysterious representative of your agency

gives you a name and a passport, in case

anyone asks but you don’t remember

that, exactly, or why everything’s in the

pluperfect         We were going to have dinner

and the rain had started and everyone left the

Klondike terrace and I was the only one left

undampened and Emily asked how I was

and I tried to remember the name yelled

under the lovely bumbershoot, yelping

splendid things about the arctic char when

the plane engine startled a gopher             It

was not raining and did you mean “gyro”

in a local radius of 104 km