In primary school reading Rainer Maria Rilke— how lavish the words, how freeing that a woman should write of blossom breasts and God. 

“But though my vigil constantly I keep
My God is dark—like woven texture flowing,
A hundred drinking roots, all intertwined;
I only know that from His warmth I’m growing.
More I know not: my roots lie hidden deep
My branches only are swayed by the wind.”

Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, trans by Jessie Lemont (Project Gutenberg, 1918)

What a sweep of passion.

How my heart sank into my thigh’s hollowed marrows to learn in university that Rilke was just another famous man writing of boobs. 

With a name like Maria, famous, and still not a woman. Drat.

Still, how not to like a poet whose whole life arc is set in verse.

Almost century after his death, he’s still on CBC,

And on my jacket.

Routes to the Public

Some never publish books. Some never submit to magazines. Magazines can be trailers for books.

I seem to have 3 routes for sending out poetry to the world: Magazines, Chapbooks and Books.

In theory poems are gathered and sent to magazines. Those that land successfully are gathered into chapbooks. Chapbooks that land well are collated into books.

However I mostly send different poems to magazines than chapbooks than books, without a lot of overlap. Partly because magazines want a theme, and chapbooks are that unit of thought long. I still have chapbooks left so don’t want to undercut sales by putting them in books and I want to give people new poems in books.

Nelson Ball Prize

Canadian poetry book/chapbook/ephemera publishers!

The Nelson Ball Prize has extended its deadline by two weeks. This $1,000 prize goes to a Canadian poet for a publication of any length featuring “poetry of observation,” as chosen by our two judges.


Been reading, editing, gardening, sewing, cleaning.

I have a backlog of books read that I’d like to summarize, note, review.

Eventually they’ll be too many and I’ll skip and start where I’m at again.

I’ve been thinking that a chapbook can be as dextrous as a bicycle, moving nimbly among items of a meditation. Single poems in magazines often feel fragmentary, as if a bicycle part, if you will. What does that make a 97 page poetry collection? A panel truck full of bicycles and parts.

Maybe the analogy misleads, or overgeneralizes. But it seems there’s often a driving necessity in a chapbook that gets diluted when book form packages up many. Maybe an individual book overextends its natural length. Some small poems can be their right length in a short minimalist poem.

Women’s writing

You suppose I’ll scare anyone off with a title like that? Is it a pejorative phrase?

It niggles at my that the workshop on the history of women’s tanka and haiku, while it attracted a good number, all were female. There was a proportional to population representation who showed up for a senryu workshop, albeit, skewed towards the average age of 70 demographic.

In the discussion Terry Ann Carter reminded we don’t want to make false sweeping generalizations about gendered writing. Women have traditionally done housework and fit writing into the corners and edges. Claire Pratt who she wrote about in Moonflowers, chose small forms because her spoons were few and her health chronically poor. TA said “kitchen sink writing” was not traditionally thought of as high poetry or profound but who gets to say what is profound.

For months I’ve been wondering at the lack of life maintenance in poetry by men. Surely men who live alone must do laundry and dishes. Is it taboo because poets of the 1800s never wrote about it, because they had a lower class of maids to serve them? Is is a function of class prejudice?

Clearly the nag at the back of my mind is from a reading 1- or 15 years ago where I was an invited reader and after my set, including a poem of longing for a lover while doing laundry, the host stood silent at the mic, opened and closed his mouth looking confused then said, um, well, thank you for those, um, housewife poems. Big breath. And the next reader, I’m really excited about as I’m sure you are….

Rule 1 of hosting, don’t make your invited reader feel dismissed as crap. That’s only happened three times in 11 years but why once.

And why are most minimalist poems by males. Are the women doing such tiny precise work not getting work out there in the public/published realm or not doing it?