Michael Dennis

You probably know Today’s Book of Poetry where Michael Dennis reviewed hundreds of poetry collection. I can’t imagine how many thousands he received. He would only review those he was sent, and things were sent from all over North America for his generous review. The process opened him up. He was so chuffed about all the amazing creativity going on, it lit him up and his jadedness faded. It was beautiful to see him so excited, his mind blown. He could still revert to curmudgeon but adorably so. I treasure sitting at his kitchen table talking poetry and memories.

Michael liked to break expectations, work hard and make people laugh.

“A king. A gentle man, a good man” as Sean Wilson says with Alan Neal on the book panel in All in a Day yesterday. Don’t miss Cameron Anstee’s tribute to Michael.

From Low Centre of Gravity,

Damned Poets
the new bookcases
simple unfinished pine planks
makes us happier
than any piece of wood should

I spend my days
in this study
thousands of poets
staring out at me from the shelves
all of them shouting

you'd think they could agree on something
but they don't agree on a damned thing

His poems were lively reflections of full emotional range and among recent ones especially telling vivid anecdotes. With perfect comedic timing when the poem called for it.

His Low Centre of Gravity (Anvil Press, 2020) was one of a handful of my favourite reads of the read and stood up to reading it at least 4 times cover to cover. The Bear will live with me. It was a poem like a whole short film. I don’t even remember I wasn’t there when it happened. A good poem can do that.

rob mclennan posted memories of Michael and his literary bibliography. It’s good that I don’t have it all. I was half-finished his 70 Kippers book, collaborative poems with Stuart Ross when I heard. Their exchange is so combative, as foam bats at play. It’s dark and suicidal and Armageddon revolution and yet with a sense of onwards we go. Profound and fun and depressed all equals in the forum.

Even when we know death is coming, it’s hard to not hope for one more year. He did stage 4 cancer with all the interventions but still, we got him for a little longer.

Stuart posted the news that Michael died on the Go Fund Me where over $11,000 was raised in thanks for all the reviews and poetry he made. He passed on New Years Eve. His obituary speaks of his love and how much he was loved by many.

A black and white photo of a semi-circle of poets in chairs as part of Stuart Ross and Michael Dennis reading at Amanda Earl’s salon series March 2009.

We are better for knowing Michael, with his explosive sputter of calling out nonsense, or greatness, for his cherishing love of his Kirsty and his siblings and nieces and nephews. Any gap in topic could lead to his nephew being amazing at basketball. And his love of words and books and art.

As Greg Santos put it in his Ghost Face, “we live lives of so many shoulds”. Covid kiboshed so many possible visits this year.

He gave a careful read to one of my manuscripts last year, in summary saying it is not quite mine yet, that I’m hiding behind too many quotes and poem structures. We don’t need notes to know the origins of everything he said. The poems need to be out as you more.

So, I have my assignment from him and have been rewriting. 3 poems down, huge number of pages to go.