Checking In: Phil Hall

Phil Hall is undoubtedly one of my fav poets and people. I have many of his books. As should you. Try on Guthrie’s Clothing. He doesn’t do author sites/social media so you have to buy his words, preferably in your local indie bookstore. You might want to use the photo below because he’s not the Phil Hall of how-to books, Bigfoot books, nor thrillers.

His flutter books The Math (2018) and Eigner (2014) were put out by phafours. His poem was also in our hurcine, murcine, doppelgängers, mars (phafours, 2013) [aka the squirrel anthology chapbook].

PP: So, Phil, what have you read lately that lit you up? 

PH: One and Half of You. Leanne Dunic. Talonbooks, 2021: Three poetic sequences in travel journal mode & tone: Vancouver’s Chinatown, a mixed-race childhood. Notes & asides that merge toward harmony.

A surprising tension in the ease of it all is maintained by a disjoint to the entries, so they don’t lead directly next into each other, thus a reader does not feel “themed.” 

A terrific poet. And for each sequence in this book there is a link to accompanying music—at the Talonbooks web page. Dunic’s own band is called The Deep Cove. Check them out.

PP: Always good to get a hot tip on a writer I haven’t heard of. Thanks. What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?

PH: I’m editing A Possible Trust:The Poetry of Ronna Bloom for Wilfrid Laurier University Press (WLU), in their Canadian Authors series.

And I’m editing The Essential Eugene McNamara for Porcupine’s Quill in that Essential series of theirs. 

Decluttering. The hunting & gathering phase is over. Many boxes of bad books donated to sales. 

Things bought at auction sales are now finding their way to Free Stores at dumps.

Would anyone like a bucket of rusty spigots? Perfect for tapping rusty maples.

PP: Heh, maple won’t you weep for me.

PH: In fact, that’s what we call(ed) our “can’t play so good” band: The Rusty Spigots! 

Did we ever perform? Not live. We aspired to invisibly be the Nihilist Spasm Band’s cover band. A joke. Noise, & a good album photo, if ever…

(Other band member: Stuart Kinmond (L) and Phil Hall (R) / Photo credit: Barbara Sibbald.)

PP: Apart from music, what is underway, or forthcoming? 

PH: This fall (2022), from Beautiful Outlaw Press: The Ash Bell—a book-length poem in thirty parts within parts.

PP: Oooh, writing that down on my buy list. And what intrigues you these days?

PH: Susan Sontag’s Introduction to A Barthes Reader is the best thing I’ve read (again) all summer. 

The thoroughness intrigues me. It teaches me how to read Barthes (again). I wish I could write as well as her! (And him.)

And why such writing gives me such pleasure in the reading act, despite or besides its usefulness, its cargo—that why intrigues me too. 

The kinetic tension of a sustained critical sentence followed slowly like poetry: Sontag, Hugh Kenner, Marjorie Perloff, Peter Quartermain… 


Also, asemic writing in all its wayward forms. Gesture alluding to Alphabet.

And also asemic in its original meaning, from Barthes: words that by error make a new word without any official meaning, but vaguely suggesting odd meanings…

Here are a few I’ve made the mistake of finding & being intrigued enough by lately to record:





Such asemicisms seem like poems in nugget to me. Syntax can’t get to them! Even music can’t get at them — too dense to lilt.

They hope to leave Meaning flapping its gums.

PP: As meaning should be left. I wrote in my poem Montague, the machine changed it to Mina guess. Autoincorrect is the new machine asemic. 

Thanks for your time. And, as ever, your words.