Friday 21 December 2012

I have a new poem on The Week Shall Inherit the Verse

Just in time for the end of the world: my poem "What the Prophecy Could Not Foretell" appears today on Stuart Ross's weekly poem site The Week Shall Inherit the Verse.

This is how it starts:


The new sports set up again in Gaul,
After victory in the Insubrian campaign:
Mountains of Hesperia, the great ones tied and trussed up:
Romania and Spain to tremble with fear.

— Nostradamus

That the layoff notice would come
on a Friday. That the palpitations
would be caused by coffee. The inventor
of a childhood protected by monsters
would die of an acute case of ghosts.
There was no warning at all, no signs
in the flight of birds, no dreams
to caution us: the eggs would all be broken,
the Internet slow. ESPN has announced
the new sports set up again in Gaul...

To read the rest of the poem, visit The Week Shall Inherit the Verse

Thursday 29 November 2012

My poetry course at the University of Guelph runs from January to March

My eight-week intensive poetry writing course at the University of Guelph's Centre for Open Learning and Educational Support starts in January. There's plenty of time to register. 

Click here for details.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

I have a new poem on the website Canadian Poetries

Please visit the website Canadian Poetries to read my new poem "The Unseen World".

Here's the first stanza:

The Unseen World

There was the Hudson—more like the flash
of a sword-blade than a noble river.
The little island of Manhattan, set like a jewel
in its nest of rainbow waters, stared up into my face,
             and the solar system circled about my head!
                     —Helen Keller describing “the view” from the Empire State Building
If you are born to it, there will be no oblivion,
born from one tight womb into another,
as through a door that opens on a different
unmarked door, and then onto a room
with no walls. As though slipping from a basin
filled with ink into a Martian silence, to a depth
where you assume invisibility beneath an ocean
of no light. But look, there’s no oblivion here,
no brusque deletion, only the panic of being found,
of being touched by the limb of something
swimming near you. Don’t you see? Nothing
has been removed from your experience,
only added. First, there was the word for water.
There was the Hudson—more like the flash

Click here to read the whole poem.

Friday 26 October 2012

The Al Purdy A-frame is saved! But the work has just begun and donations are still needed

A press release from the Al Purdy A-frame Trust:


Work now turns to RAISING FUNDS TO UPGRADE AND INSTALL a writer-in-residence

October 26, 2012

For immediate release

AMELIASBURGH, Ont. – The A-frame home built here in 1957 by the late Al Purdy, one of Canada’s greatest poets, and his wife, Eurithe, has been assured of preservation and a continued vocation as a place for writers to gather and work.

Thanks to the generosity of Eurithe Purdy, who dramatically reduced the asking price for the property, and donors from across Canada, the A-frame was acquired on October 9 by the Al Purdy A-frame Association, a newly incorporated national non-profit organization with a mandate to promote Canadian literature and Canadian writers. A major benefit is planned for Koerner Hall in Toronto on February 6th to continue the restoration of the A-frame.

Now we can turn our attention to the next phase of this effort,” said Jean Baird, president of the association. “It’s not only a celebration of Al Purdy’s legacy, but a mission to educate today’s students on the value and worth of Canadian literature, and to preserve the Purdy home as a retreat for future generations of Canadian writers.”

The A-frame, a lakeside cottage in Prince Edward County, was the centre of Purdy’s writing universe and one of the most important crossroads on Canada’s literary map. In their 43 years residing there, the Purdys hosted a who’s who of Canadian authors: Margaret Laurence, Milton Acorn, H.R. Percy, Michael Ondaatje and hundreds of others.

The association plans to begin work on upgrading the property immediately, and hopes to have its first writer-in-residence installed next summer and working in local schools by fall 2013.

Donors acknowledged

The association gratefully acknowledges the generosity of all donors to the project to date, including writers, poets, publishers, academics, students, booksellers, librarians, lovers of literature and, especially, Eurithe Purdy, who was crucial to the success of this effort.

Special thanks are extended to major donors ($5,000 to $40,000): The Good Foundation, Avie Bennett, George Galt, The Chawkers Foundation, The Glasswaters Foundation, The Metcalf Foundation, Michael Audain, Jeff Mooney and Suzanne Bolton, Leonard Cohen, Rosemary Tannock, Tom and Helen Galt, and Josef Wosk.

For a full list of donors, go to

Fundraising efforts continue and are critical to the next stage of this project—upgrades on the property are required and the association will be building an endowment. Online donations are being accepted through PayPal at, or cheques may be sent to: The Al Purdy A-frame Association, 4403 West 11th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C. V6R 2M2.

For further information:
Jean Baird
or 604-224-4898

Tuesday 23 October 2012

I'll be reading with two visiting Russian poets this Friday

I'm reading at this event. Please come.
Debut Prize Presents: Rising Russian and Key Canadian Poets
Poets: Beatriz Hausner, Ksenia Marennikova, Kirill Korchagin, Paul Vermeersch.
Moderators: A.F. Moritz, Christopher J. Barnes
Cost: Free!
Join this event on Facebook!
Two rising figures in Russia's poetic scene, Ksenia Marennikova and Kirill Korchagin, among the newest and most provocative voices in their country's rich poetic tradition, come to the Hart House Library at the University of Toronto. These acclaimed young poets read from their work, discuss the variety and richness of contemporary Russian verse, and consider their art and its role in Russia's volatile political and social realities. Reading alongside them will be key Canadian poets Beatriz Hausner and Paul Vermeersch whose work, in breadth of vision and acclaim, both complements and contrasts with that of the Russian poets in interesting and revealing ways. Notable literary experts A. F. Moritz and Christopher J. Barnes will moderate....

See the original posting.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Video from my Reading at the Pivot Reading Series, September 19, 2012

This video was produced by Spencer Barclay, filmed at The Press Club in Toronto on September 19th, 2012.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Readings in September 2012

I have two readings coming up in September, and I'm in fabulous company. One reading is in Toronto and the other is in London, Ontario. Here are the details:

Wednesday, September 19
Pivot Readings at the Press Club with Katrina Onstad, Kristen den Hartog, and Paul Vermeersch
The Press Club, 850 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON
8 pm

Visit Pivot's website, or find them on Facebook or Twitter

Wednesday, September 26
The Poetry London Reading Series with Karen Solie and Paul Vermeersch
Landon Branch Library, 167 Wortley Rd., London, ON
7:30 pm

Visit the Poetry London Reading Series website.

Monday 30 July 2012

A quotation from Stuart Ross

These lines from Stuart Ross's poem "Road Trip, Southern Ontario, 1999" were spotted on the sandwich board outside The Done Right Inn in Toronto, July 30, 2012.

(Photos by Eva H.D.)

Tuesday 24 July 2012

I'm teaching a workshop at the University of Guelph starting in January

I'll be teaching an eight-week poetry workshop at the University of Guelph starting this January, when the campus will look like this.

Click here for details.

Thursday 14 June 2012

An update on the LPG situation...

An announcement from the Literary Press Group today: 

The LPG's Canada Book Fund Support has been restored
The Literary Press Group of Canada has been given verbal notification that James Moore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, has overturned the decision to end funding for its sales force, which serves 47 Canadian owned and controlled literary book publishers from seven provinces. 
At this time we are awaiting more formal confirmation, but this is the news we needed to move forward and bring the 200 Canadian-authored books entrusted to us this fall to readers across the country....

Read the rest here.

Saturday 9 June 2012

An important message from the Literary Press Group

Please take the time to read this message from the Literary Press Group and take action:

We want you! If your MP is Conservative, you can help Canadian literary publishing.
All of us at the Literary Press Group, publishers and staff alike, have been overwhelmed and encouraged by the public support that we have received since our loss of Canada Book Fund support was announced.

If you would like to help us, there are a couple of things you can do.

One is buy an LPG book, from your local independent bookstore if you can. Support our members and their authors. But you do that regularly anyway, or you wouldn’t be reading this.

You can also help us gain political support to have this decision overturned.

While there has been plenty of speculation, at this time we don’t know anything about the decision on our support – who made it or why it was made. We don’t know if it was made by a politician, or by someone in the bureaucracy. That’s why we have some hope that the decision can be reversed.
If you have a Conservative MP, in your region or your riding, you can help. Send them a note, letting them know what Canadian literary writing means to you, and what this decision means for it. Be clear and respectful....
Read the rest here.

Find out how to contact your MP here

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Author Ryan Kamstra turns to crowdfunding to finish his next project

No grant? No problem. Tomboyfriend frontman and author Ryan Kamstra is turning to crowdfunding as way to raise money in order to complete his next book.

According to Kamstra's fundraising campaign site, System's Children, his next book, will draw "on folklore and journalistic reportage to present a J.R.R Tolkien-scale allegory of contemporary globalism", and will present "the story of eight characters, dealing with eight complexly separate modern circumstances, and the accidental influence their eight lives have on one another." You can read an excerpt from the story "Darby and the Angels" on the campaign site.

The concept of crowdfunding is relatively new; it involves using social media to raise money from lots of small donors instead of from one large one. In the past, a wealthy patron of the arts might have financed such a venture, but with this kind of largesse on the endangered list, why not replace one wealthy patron with lots of ordinary ones? I liken it to a kind of literary barn raising. Nova Scotia writer Leo McKay Jr. has already used this process to raise money for his indie Tim Horton's novel Roll Up the Rim.

As the editor of Kamstra's two previous books, Late Capitalist Sublime (2002) and Into the Drowned World (2008), I know that he is a unique and talented writer with an almost limitless ability to surprise and delight while he turns the decay of civilization into a gorgeous work of art, a kind of elegy for the human conscience. I wish him success in this venture, and encourage you to make a small donation (or, if you are wealthy, a larger one). 

Thursday 24 May 2012

Literary Podcast: John Degen's The Book Room

If you haven't been listening to John Degen's podcast series The Book Room, then you're missing out on a lively, literary good time. May I recommend you start with Degen's recent conversation with poet and novelist Jonathan Bennett, who discusses, among other things: 1) finding his identity as a Canadian writer after growing up in Australia, 2) finding his identity as a poet after first writing fiction, and 3) finding his identity as a rural writer after first living in the city -- and while Bennett discusses finding himself, you'll find that you're enjoying yourself. The Book Room is worth checking out, and you'll want to make a return visit soon. Just beware of the puma.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Peter Redgrove: Collected Poems

Last year on this blog I posted an internet round-up of links to poems, articles, and interviews in order to introduce more readers to the late British poet Peter Redgrove, who has become a personal favourite.

Jonathan Cape has done the poetry world a great service in publishing this timely edition of Redgrove's Collected Poems. While Redgrove was never as widely read in his lifetime as some of his more notorious contemporaries -- like Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin, for example -- Redgrove's singular, idiosyncratic genius is worthy of favourable comparison to any of the best-loved poets of his generation.

I have hope -- and confidence -- that the publication of this much-needed book will help Redgrove finally find a wide and eager readership among poetry enthusiasts of all ages. For a primer, my round up will give you a starting point, but Redgrove's body of work is so immense, varied and rich, that the Collected Poems is really, now that it exists, the best place to start. It's a treasure trove of vibrant, daring writing, at once a literary thrill and a necessary resource.

To whet your appetite, read the haunting, challenging poem called "From the Answers to Job" and a handful of others from his 1977 collection From Every Chink in the Ark. I suspect you'll be hooked.

Friday 11 May 2012

Thoughts on my last Insomniac Press book launch as Poetry Editor

This Tuesday night at the Gladstone Ballroom in Toronto, Insomniac Press will be celebrating its 2012 Spring Launch with five new titles, two of which (Marcus McCann's The Hard Return and Natalie Zina Walschot's DOOM) were edited by me. This will officially be my last event as poetry editor for Insomniac Press. I have already handed the reins over to the very talented Sachiko Murakami, and I've already begun work on my new job acquiring and editing books for Wolsak and Wynn.

Over the last ten years or so, I've edited 30 books for Insomniac Press, 29 of them under my 4 A.M. Books imprint. I've been reflecting on these books, and how privileged I have been to work on them. I have to thank Mike O'Connor and everyone at Insomniac Press for these wonderful opportunities and years of support. I have to thank all the brilliant authors I've worked with, too, because my work at Insomniac has always been all about them and their writing. I'm proud to have played a part in bringing these amazing books to you, and I'm pleased that Insomniac Press allowed me to do this job for ten wonderful years.

So, dear friends, readers, and book lovers, I hope to see you this Tuesday night at the Gladstone Hotel to celebrate two more incredibly talented poets and some marvellous fiction as well. For all the details for the launch, check out our Facebook event page.

In the meantime, I'll be going over my bookshelves, and giving these 30 books another close read:

DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains by Natalie Zina Walschots (2012)
The Hard Return by Marcus McCann (2012)
Grunt of the Minotaur by Robin Richardson (2011)
Love Figures by Sam Cheuk (2011)
Dance Monster! 50 Selected Poems by Stan Rogal (2011)
Winterkill by Catherine Graham (2010)
Tiny, Frantic, Stronger by Jeff Latosik (2010)
Why Are You So Long and Sweet? Collected Long Poems by David W. McFadden (2010) (with Stuart Ross)
Wanton by Angela Hibbs (2009)
Naming the Mannequins by Nic Labriola (2009) 
Porcupine Archery by Bill Howell (2009)
Into the Drowned World by Ryan Kamstra (2008)
The Red Element by Catherine Graham (2008)
The Debaucher by Jason Camlot (2008)
Shell by Olive Senior (2007)
Why Are You So Sad? Selected Poems by David W. McFadden (2007) (with Stuart Ross)
A Newer Wilderness by Roseanne Carrara (2007)
Every Inadequate Name by Nick Thran (2006)
Creamsicle Stick Shivs by John Stiles (2006)
Man & Beast by Eric Cole (2005)
Gardening in the Tropics by Olive Senior (2005)
Over the Roofs of the World by Olive Senior (2005)
Unsettled by Zachariah Wells (2004)
Parts Unknown by Michael Holmes (2004)
Pupa by Catherine Graham (2003)
Outside Magic by Noah Leznoff (2003)
Scouts Are Cancelled by John Stiles (2002)
Late Capitalist Sublime by Ryan Kamstra (2002)
Early Poems by A. F. Moritz (2002) 
The I. V. Lounge Reader edited by Paul Vermeersch (2001)

Wednesday 9 May 2012


There are some new poems by Jonathan Bennett and David Brock up at They Will Take My Island. Check them out!

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Insomniac Press and Wolsak & Wynn: a transitional spring season

Well, folks, there's going to be a few changes behind the scenes this publishing season. After ten years and 30 books, I will be stepping down as Poetry Editor at Insomniac Press to take on the role of Senior Editor at Wolsak & Wynn Publishers Ltd.

I'm proud of the books I've published under my "4 A.M. Books" imprint over the past decade with Insomniac, not only those by poets I've long admired, like David W. McFadden, Olive Senior, and A. F. Moritz, but also those first books that came out under my imprint, by such wonderfully talented younger poets as Nick Thran, Robin Richardson, and Jeff Latosik (for a complete list, look here). It was a difficult decision to leave Insomniac Press, but ultimately I was swayed by the challenge of building a new imprint from scratch, one that will include more books each year and further test my abilities by eventually including fiction as well. In my place, Insomniac Press has named Sachiko Murakami the new poetry editor, and I know she will take the list in exciting new directions. This is bound to be a good thing for Insomniac and for Canadian poetry in general.

Because of the necessary bit of overlap between the two positions, I've been busy planning spring book launches for both houses this year: my last season with Insomniac and my first with W&W. The books included in both publishing line-ups are stellar, and I'm pleased to invite my readers to attend both of them.

First, the Wolsak & Wynn spring launch will take place on May 1st, 2012, at The Magpie Taproom in Toronto. It will run from 7pm till 10:30pm, and we will be launching new poetry collections by Moez Surani (Floating Life) and Oana Avasilichioaei (We, Beasts), as well as a new collection of personal essays by poet and musician Catherine Owen (Catalysts: Confrontations with the Muse).  RVSP via Facebook

Secondly, the 2012 Insomniac Press Spring Launch Party will take place on May 15 at The Dora Keogh Traditional Irish Pub. It will also run from 7pm to 10:30pm, and we will be launching new poetry collections by Marcus McCann (The Hard Return) and Natalie Zina Walschots (DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains), as well as new fiction by Liz Bugg, Julie McIsaac, and Jamie Popowich. RSVP via Facebook.

I hope to see lots of friendly and familiar faces at both events. Cheers!

Friday 9 March 2012

Peter Norman reviews The Reinvention of the Human Hand

Poet Peter Norman (author of At the Gates of the Theme Park) has reviewed my last book for The Mansfield Review. Here's a sample:
The poems in Reinvention demonstrate a keen sympathetic imagination. Whether assuming the voice of the glass eye, or of Laika the orbiting dog, or of another human, such as Joseph Merrick (widely and mistakenly known as John Merrick, a.k.a. the Elephant Man), Vermeersch infuses his verse with compassion. But cheap sentiment is nowhere in sight—these poems do not indulge in hocus pocus; they are grounded in scientific awareness. Some of them function almost as secular hymns, leavening awe with pragmatism.
This delicate balance relies largely on technique—the tone and the music must be very finely calibrated. Fortunately, in that regard we are in excellent hands. Vermeersch makes terrific use of musical effects. His handle on structure and pacing is very strong too—he’s particularly good at the sinister final twist or surprising last-second lift-off. “Ode to Amoeba proteus” is a good example of these strengths.
Read the entire review here.

Saturday 4 February 2012

Some books by women who write interesting poems about nature...

I've just picked up a copy of Radial Symmetry by Katherine Larson (Yale University Press, 2011). It's the winner of this year's Kate Tufts Discovery Award and it was selected for the Yale Younger Poets Series by Louise Glück. It's a tremendous book, worthy of the honours it has received. I'm enjoying it, and it puts me in mind of some other poets, all women, who also write marvellously about the natural world, and I would like to share some of their books with you. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive reading list, but these are book that I have enjoyed, and they all seem to compliment one another. Let these be recommendations for anyone who has enjoyed at least one of these titles; if you liked one, then I'm sure the others will interest you, as well.

A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth by Stephanie Bolster (Brick Books, 2011).

Winterkill by Catherine Graham (Insomniac Press, 2010). 

Inseminating the Elephant by Lucia Perillo (Copper Canyon Press, 2009).

Red Nest by Gillian Jerome (Nightwood Editions, 2009).

Twigs & Knucklebones by Sarah Lindsay (Copper Canyon Press, 2008).

Spectral Waves by Madeleine DeFrees (Copper Canyon Press, 2006).

Woods etc. by Alice Oswald (Faber and Faber, 2005). 

Dream Work by Mary Oliver (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986). 

Selected Poems by Amy Clampitt (Alfred A, Knopf, 2010).

Who would you add to this list?

Saturday 7 January 2012

Chris Banks talks about his book Winter Cranes

Chris Banks is well on his way to being Canada's premier meditative poet, and his Winter Cranes was one of my favourite books of poetry published in Canada in 2011. In a "One Question Interview" with Alex Boyd, Banks discusses the ideas and motivations behind his quiet, well-crafted poems. Here is a sample:
... a problem arises when we pay too much attention to the inner chatter of the mind, it can lead to self-seeking and isolation from other people. Thankfully poetry has taught me to mind the gap. My imagination looks for resemblances and correspondences and suddenly a connection between what is happening in my mind and what is on the outside is satisfied for a moment, and there is a feeling of transcendence.

Read the whole piece here.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Some of My Favourite Canadian Poetry Books of 2011

A top ten of sorts. In alphabetical order by title:

Campfire Radio Rhapsody by Robert Earl Stewart (Mansfield Press).

Earworm by Nick Thran (Nightwood Editions).

Folk by Jacob McArthur Mooney (McClelland & Stewart).

Gift Horse by Mark Calanan (Signal Poetry/Vehicule). 

L'il Bastard by David McGimpsey (Coach House Books).

Methodist Hatchet by Ken Babstock (House of Anansi Press).

Post-Apothecary by Sandra Ridley (Pedlar Press).

Rebuild by Sachiko Murakami (Talonbooks). 

The Shining Material by Aisha Sasha John (BookThug).

Winter Cranes by Chris Banks (ECW Press).

Of course, to avoid any conflict, this list excludes any books for which I was the editor, all of which have my total recommendation. These books are: Grunt of the Minotaur by Robin Richardson, Love Figures by Sam Cheuk, and Dance, Monster! by Stan Rogal. 

Now, these lists are always somewhat arbitrary, and if pressed on another day, in another mood, I might have made an argument for other books; Gabe Foreman, Linda Besner, Helen Guri, Phil Hall, Leigh Nash, Matt Rader, Leigh Kotsilidis and many other people published books in the last 12 months that I absolutely loved. 2011 was one of the strongest years for Canadian Poetry in a long time, with so many wonderful books it is impossible for short lists to do them all justice.

I'm looking forward to 2012, with more great Canadian poetry books on the way!