Monday 14 November 2011

A round-up of this year's Governor General's Award shortlist for poetry.

I've written about this year's shortlist for the Governor General's Award in poetry. Here's a sample:
In Canada, the announcement of a poetry award short list is always a cause for celebration. And, invariably, it is also a cause for complaint. We poets, you see, are notoriously hard to please. Some of us will be excited about the nominees, either because we love their work or because they are our friends, while others will be disappointed that another great poet has been ignored or that one of our enemies has managed to sneak onto the short list again. Our jubilation is only matched by our chagrin; we are supposed to be passionate, after all, and our tempers flare so high because, as we frequently tell ourselves, the stakes are so low....

Read the rest of it here.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

I will be reading the poems of Al Purdy at a fundraiser for the A-Frame Trust featuring Margaret Atwood

Tickets are still available for a November 23 fundraiser for the Al Purdy A-Frame Trust, a non-profit organization whose aim is to preserve the literary and architectural heritage of the house built by poet Al Purdy in Ameliasburgh, Ontario.

The fundraiser will feature Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood, who will give a presentation titled “Bulldozing the Mind: The Assault on Cultural and Rural Heritage. ” The presentation at the Regent Theatre in Picton, Ontario, will be followed by a reception with food and wine.

I will also be taking part in the event, reading the poems of Al Purdy.

Tickets are on sale at the Regent Theatre box office in Picton. They cost $40 for the presentation alone, or $65 for the presentation and reception. For more information, click here.

As some of you know, I was the editor of The Al Purdy A-Frame Anthology, a book of poems and remembrances (which included an original cartoon by Margaret Atwood) intended to raise funds and awareness for the Trust. If you would like to buy a copy of the anthology, you can order one from Harbour Publishing here.

For more information about The Al Purdy A-Frame Trust, or to make a donation, please visit

Thursday 20 October 2011

Jacob McArthur Mooney on the shortlist for the Dylan Thomas Prize

The Dylan Thomas Prize is the world's largest annual literary prize (£30,000) for young writers (i.e. under 30). The shortlist was announced today, and it includes Canada's own Jacob McArthur Mooney, author of Folk (M&S, 2011).

Mooney is one of Canada's best young poets, and one of my personal favourites. It's great to see him getting international recognition for his excellent work!

Here's the entire 2011 Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist:
  • The Meeting Point by Lucy Caldwell, Faber
  • The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale, Atlantic Books
  • Folk by Jacob McArthur Mooney, McClelland & Stewart
  • The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht, Orion
  • My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher, Orion

Read the press release here.

Coverage by CBC here

And coverage by BBC News here.

Sunday 16 October 2011

The Insomniac Press Fall Launch Party is Monday, October 24

WHEN: Monday, October 24, 7pm - 11pm. 
WHERE: The Dora Keogh Irish Pub, 141 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, Ontario.

On Monday, October 24, Insomniac Press will be launching five new literary titles at the Dora Keogh Irish Pub in Toronto, including Robin Richardson's debut poetry collection Grunt of the Minotaur.

Poet, playwright and novelist Stan Rogal, releases Bloodline, a mystery novel. Insomniac Press published Stan's Dance, Monster! Fifty Selected Poems earlier this year. 

Also launching are Jamie Popowich's debut story collection Metraville, Donna Bailey Nurse's latest book of criticism What's a Black Critic to Do II, and the re-release of Karen X. Tulchinsky's celebrated novel Love Ruins Everything.


Visit Insomniac Press

Visit Dora Keogh

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Tomas Tranströmer internet round-up

Tomas Tranströmer has won this year's Nobel Prize for literature. For those who may not be aware of his work, here is a round up of 47 of his poems available on the internet, and some recommended further reading.

The Half-Finished Heaven
Under Pressure
Open and Closed Spaces
The Nightingale in Badelunda
  • From The Academy of American Poets website
After a Death

  • From The Poetry Foundation website
National Insecurity
November in the Former DDR
The Indoors Is Endless

  • From The Guardian newspaper website
(audio version)

18 poems from The Sorrow Gondola translated by Patty Crane, with Swedish originals.

Breathing Room

  • From Google Books: 
16 poems from The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems translated by Robin Fulton
(Note: "Baltics", a long poem, is incomplete.)


  • Receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry.
Text and Video

  • An Essay on The Sorrow Gondola
by David Wojan


  • The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems, translated by Robin Fulton.
  • The Half-Finished Heaven: Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly.
  • The Deleted World, versions by Robin Robertson.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Margaret Atwood to appear at fundraiser for the Al Purdy A-Frame Trust

Margaret Atwood will appear in a special fundraiser for The Al Purdy A-Frame Trust in Picton this November 23, 2011. Here is some information from a press release about the event:
Friends of East Lake (FOEL) is proud to present Canadian novelist, poet, literary critic and environmental activist Margaret Atwood in a special presentation at Picton’s Regent Theatre on November 23, 2011. Her provocatively titled presentation “Bulldozing the Mind: The Assault on Cultural and Rural Heritage” follows a reception with Ms. Atwood at Books & Company featuring County food and wine.
Tickets are available for the presentation only or for the combined event, which is a fundraiser for the Al Purdy A-Frame Trust and Friends of East Lake.

The A-Frame Trust is dedicated to preserving the cottage built by celebrated Canadian poet Al Purdy and his wife Eurithe on Roblin Lake in Ameliasburgh. The cottage was a destination for outstanding writers of the era, including Ms. Atwood, at a time when its owner became one of Canada’s most popular and important 20th century poets....

Tickets for the November event will go on sale at the Regent Theatre box office in August at $40 for Ms. Atwood’s presentation only or $65 for the reception and presentation.

Read the rest of the press release here.

As some of you know, I was the editor of The Al Purdy A-Frame Anthology, a book of poems and remembrances (which included an original cartoon by Margaret Atwood) intended to raise funds and awareness for the Trust. If you would like to buy a copy of the anthology, you can order one from Harbour Publishing here.

For more information about The Al Purdy A-Frame Trust, or to make a donation, please visit

Thursday 29 September 2011

Sam Cheuk's Love Figures reviewed in the Maple Tree Literary Supplement

U of T Creative Writing grad Catriona Wright reviews Sam Cheuk's Love Figures in the latest Maple Tree Literary Supplement. Here's a sample:
Reading Sam Cheuk’s debut poetry collection Love Figures is like stepping into a film noir. Each poem is “an interrogation room” (63) with the speaker at once the detective “rummag[ing] through the memorabilia / for clues” (74) and the perpetrator confessing, perhaps falsely, to being the one with his “hand on the cleaver” (16). A chiaroscuro effect, as likely to be created by 9-11 memorial searchlights as by the shadows between a girl’s crossed legs, simultaneously conceals and spotlights meaning. Doppelgängers and multiple personalities abound. Two-way or compromised by hairline fractures, mirrors disorient and distort rather than reflect. Speakers connect to the others in their lives, most notably parents and lovers, with sincere ambivalence. Here, lying is always the quickest way to the truth.
Read the entire review here

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Marcus McCann interviewed on

I'm currently working with Marcus McCann to bring out his second collection of poems The Hard Return with my 4 A.M. Books imprint at Insomniac Press in spring 2012. Marcus has been interviewed by the queer advocacy site, and I'd like to share that with you. Here is a sample:
MyGSA: Do you find you are impacted by place?  Does an urban space provide you with a lot of material for your writing? Have you lived/traveled outside of Canada and have those places/spaces influenced your work?

MM: Yes, in terms of urban space. I find a lot of poets who live in cities still resort to poems about birds and wheat fields. Why is that? I write poems about cell phones and puffy coats and apartment towers because for most Canadians, that’s more likely to be an image they can conjure in their heads, compared to a red-throated lorikeet or a creeping thistle, or whatever.

Read the entire interview here

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Today my blog just passed 30,000 hits.

As of this morning, my blog has been visited more than 30,000 times since I started it a few years ago. Perhaps I will celebrate in some small way. Perhaps by reading some favourite poems. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday 4 September 2011

Sachiko Murakami's Project Rebuild

In conjunction with the launch of her new book Rebuild, Sachiko Murakami gives us Project Rebuild. According to the site, "Project Rebuild is an experiment in collaboration. You are invited to move into any of the poems on the site, and renovate them as you will. Your new poem will then join the front page neighbourhood." Once you poke around the site for a minute or two, the game becomes apparent. It's fascinating project. I have just "renovated" my first poem on the site. I invite you to read my poem, and then, if you wish, you may "move in" to my poem and "renovate" it however you wish! To see my poem, called "Well Well Well", click here.

If you're in Toronto this week, come to Sachiko's launch on Wednesday night at The Press Club. The details are here.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Peter Darbyshire's latest short story is "The Angel Azrael Rode Into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse"

Peter Darbyshire is one of my favorite contemporary fiction writers. His novels Please and The Warhol Gang are excellent, and to give you a taste of his writing, here is a new short story, a weird western tale called "The Angel Azrael Rode Into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse."

Here's how it starts:

     The angel Azrael rode into the town of Burnt Church on a dead horse, followed by a pair of buzzards. The buzzards trailed him everywhere. They knew a good thing when they saw it. 
        The day was hotter than the time he’d ridden into Hell, which was maybe why Azrael hadn’t seen a soul since passing the sign announcing the town’s limits: Burnt Church Pop. 32. There were other numbers on the sign, but they’d been crossed out. The houses at the edge of town looked empty, their doors hanging open, but Azrael knew that didn’t mean much.
        Not all of the inhabitants were in hiding. A man in black sat on the step of a burned-out church that Azrael took to be the inspiration for the town’s name. The spire was just ash held in shape by memory. A metal cross was still at the top, though, if a little melted. Azrael noted the claw marks on it, but they didn’t mean much of anything either. Not in this land. 

Read the whole story here.

Sunday 21 August 2011

I'm on Twitter

Hey everyone. I thought it was about time I gave this twitter thing a try. My Twitter handle is @PaulVermeersch. Check me out!

Friday 19 August 2011

Reading at the 24th Trillium Book Awards

Here I am reading my poems "Ode to Amoeba Proteus" and "Elegy for Paul Winchell" at the 24th Trillium Book Awards. Following me are readings by Didier Leclair and Michael Winter.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Peter Redgrove: an internet round-up

Peter Redgrove, the late British poet, is one of my very favourite poets, but he isn't read much on this side of the Atlantic, and he isn't as well known as some of his British contemporaries, unlike his famous friend Ted Hughes. But his ease with startling metaphor, arresting imagery, and beguiling language makes him an equally entertaining and challenging poet, and one who I think more people would enjoy if they only stumbled on more of his work.

I've gathered here a handful of resources from internet to get you started. Here are some poems, articles, and interviews.

If you are looking for a good book of poems to start with, I have to recommend the selected volume The Moon Disposes from 1987, which was also published as Peter Redgrove: Poems 1954 - 1987 in the Penguin International Poets Series. It's one of a handful of books I often carry with me, and that I rarely, if ever, put back on the shelf. If you've never read Peter Redgrove before, I hope this round-up serves to ignite your interest in reading more of his work. 


"The Count of Some Account"

"Dead Bird"

"Eden's Medicine" 

from "Feeding Pieces"

"More Than Meets The Eye" 

"Old House"

"One-Eyed Monster"

"The Patient Successor"

"Sleeper's Beach"

"Small Dirge" 

"The Visible Baby" (with commentary by Ruth Padel) 

"Water-Witch, Wood-Witch, Wine-Witch" 

"Woman in a Flowered Dress" 


Scientist into Poet: The Emergence of Peter Redgrove
an article by Neil Roberts from The Wolf magazine.

Peter Redgrove's "Tapestry Moths" 
an analysis by Jo Furber from The Argotist

The Peter Redgrove Library
an article by Michael Peverett from "Intercapillary Space"

The Mystical Barber: A Review of The Harper
a review of Redgrove's posthumous miscellany by Anthony Thwaite


The Science of The Subjective: An Interview with Peter Redgrove
by Neil Roberts

An Interview with Redgrove 
by Lidia Vianu


An Obituary for Peter Redgrove
from The Telegraph

A Remembrance of Peter Redgrove
from the University of Leeds

Peter Redgrove's Papers
Redgrove's papers are housed in the University of Sheffield.

Friday 12 August 2011

I've completed my MFA studies at the University of Guelph, now back to blogging

I know that the frequency of my blog posts has been reduced considerably while I've been completing my MFA in creative writing at the University of Guelph. Now that I have completed the degree, I hope to return some of my attention to my blog, so stay tuned for future updates.

Guelph's MFA in creative writing began in 2006, the brainchild of the late and much beloved Connie Rooke. That first graduating cohort included such remarkable writers as poet Jacob McArthur Mooney, playwright and librettist David Brock, Trillium Book Award for Poetry winner Jeff Latosik, and many others.

I was fortunate to have many talented teachers and classmates while completing my studies, and I've had a wonderful time challenging myself to produce new work in the stimulating environment this program provides. I am especially grateful to have worked with closely with Dionne Brand and Kevin Connolly, two poets I admire greatly, and from whom I have learned much.

If you've found this blog because you have been contemplating applying for the creative writing MFA at the University of Guelph, I cannot recommend the program highly enough. It's simply terrific. 


Wednesday 10 August 2011

Philip Levine is the new Poet Laureate of the United States

A long-time favourite of mine, Philip Levine has just been announced as the Poet Laureate of the United States. According to The Detroit Free Press:

Detroit native Philip Levine has been appointed poet laureate by the U.S. Librarian of Congress.
The Library’s 18th poet laureate consultant, Levine, 83, will open the library’s annual literary season Oct. 17 with a reading of his work.

As a Wayne State University student in his 20s, he wrote poems as he worked a number of industrial jobs at Detroit’s auto plants, including Detroit Transmission -- a branch of Cadillac -- and the Chevrolet Gear and Axle factory.

“Philip Levine is one of America’s great narrative poets,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a news release announcing the appointment. “His plainspoken lyricism has, for half a century, championed the art of telling ‘The Simple Truth’ -- about working in a Detroit auto factory, as he has, and about the hard work we do to make sense of our lives.”

Levine succeeds W.S. Merwin as poet laureate and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, Rita Dove and Richard Wilbur... 

You can read the rest here.

And you can read Levine's poem "They Feed They Lion" here.

Friday 5 August 2011

Stan Rogal's Dance, Monster! 50 Selected Poems reviewed

Rob McLennan reviews Stan Rogal's Dance, Monster! 50 Selected Poems in the latest issue of Prairie Fire Magazine. Here's a sample:
A poet of sharp thought and halting line breaks, each of Rogal’s individual poetry collections is shaped as much around theme and subject as structure, making the coherence of individual books not the easiest to select from, but this small volume manages to keep to the expansive flavours of what makes a Stan Rogal poem work. Hopefully this collection will increase attention to his writing, counteracting the strange critical silence, and attracting not only new readers to his poetry, but reminding occasional readers just what he has been doing for years.

You can download the PDF here.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Please support Toronto's public libraries!

Toronto's public libraries are under attack. Please support our public libraries. Sign the petition. Write to your Councillor. Stay informed.

Monday 9 May 2011

Amy Lavender Harris writes: "Terrible Beauty: The Poetry of Paul Vermeersch"

In her tenure as writer in residence at Open Book Toronto for May, 2011, cultural geographer Amy Lavender Harris takes a look at the evolution of my poetry over my first four collections. Here is a sample:

Paul Vermeersch has had a long and instructive apprenticeship as a poet. His first published poems began appearing regularly in respected poetry journals in the late 1990s, around the time he founded the I.V. Lounge reading series in Toronto. For about a decade Paul has been the poetry editor with Insomniac Press. During this period he has published four trade collections: Burn (ECW, 2000), The Fat Kid (ECW, 2002), Between the Walls (McClelland & Stewart, 2005) and The Reinvention of the Human Hand (McClelland & Stewart, 2010).

In each collection there is a measurable, and pleasurable, improvement in his craft. Over time Vermeersch's poems grow tighter, even more terse. Many of his early poems are descriptive, seemingly autobiographical. They find meaning in prosaic, if pointed events: the death of a dog, a kid who shoots himself with his uncle's gun, the psychological consequences of childhood obesity. These poems are fascinating and often powerfully written, a kind of southwestern Ontario Gothic that reads like a poetic counterpoint to the stories of Alice Munro. 

Read the rest here.

Wednesday 6 April 2011


George Murray, the driving force behind the popular book blog, is back with a new project:

Right now it's just a mission statement, but the future of this initiative looks promising. Here's a sample of what Murray proposes: 

A magazine that proposes themed issues, then builds them by inviting poets and performers from all genres and forms to interpret as they will.

The web is the first medium that I know of that can accommodate most, if not all, of the forms currently out there. Through text, image, audio, video, and multimedia, as well as whatever new technologies are to come, will publish the best of everything we can find: lyrical, visual, dub, sound, narrative, formal, hip-hop, surreal, automatic, recitation, aural, slam, flarf, algorithmic generations… and whatever is to come!

We’ll do this by bringing in key representatives from as many fields of production as we can, many of whom previously found themselves on opposite sides of the editorial pages. We’ll ask these people to bring us the best from their forms and styles for each issue. And we’ll see what comes.

For too long a lot of the poetic discourse in Canada has been squelched out by a handful of shrieking personalities pushing their own aesthetic agendas. I welcome a level playing field where those with different approaches to poetry can build something together rather than squabble over whose aesthetic values are more valid. Right now, it's only a statement of principles, but I'm enthusiastic to see what develops here and to participate when I can.

Friday 11 March 2011


ybay Ercypay Ysshebay Elleyshay 
ranslatedtay ybay Aulpay Ermeerschvay

Ihay etmay ahay ravellertay romfay anhay antiquehay andlay
Owhay aidsay: Otway astvay andhay runklesstay egslay ofhay onestay
Andstay inhay ethay esertday. Earnay emthay, onhay ethay andsay,
Alfhay unksay, ahay atteredshay isagevay ieslay, osewhay rownfay
Andhay inkledwray iplay, andhay neersay ofhay oldcay ommandcay
Elltay atthay itshay culptorsay ellway osethay assionspay eadray
Ichwhay etyay urvivesay, tampedsay onhay esethay ifelesslay ingsthay,
Ethay andhay atthay ockedmay emthay andhay ethay earthay atthay edfay.
Andhay onhay ethay edestalpay esethay ordsway appearhay:
"Ymay amenay ishay Ozymandiashay, ingkay ofhay ingskay:
Ooklay onhay ymay orksway, eyay Ightymay, andhay espairday!"
Othingnay esidebay emainsray. Oundray ethay ecayday
Ofhay atthay olossalcay eckwray, oundlessbay andhay arebay
Ethay onelay andhay evellay andssay tretchsay arfay awayhay.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Jeff Latosik on Open Book Toronto for March

I know I haven't been posting much here lately, but as some of you know, I'm busy completing the thesis for my MFA, and that is taking up a lot of my mental energy. I hope to be a more active blogger when it's completed.

In the meantime, fellow poet and good friend Jeff Latosik will be the Writer-in-Residence at Open Book Toronto for the entire month of March. Check what he's doing here.