Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dresser, Vanity Drawers

A history of button collecting, of corrugated cardboard living. Scalloped edged photographs in newspaper lined drawers. Old birthday cards from aunts who remain steadfastly proud. One hundred in each grandparent card, then singular grandparent, and then no more cards. A stuffed toy the pudgy hand of memory clings to, matted from year of soothing me through nightmares. Night opens to lamplight where nightlights once peeked through the open door to crack the abyss of the floor harbours a slithering nothing ready to brush against my feet if I get up to go to the bathroom. Only the yellow light warm pours in to stain the walls with my mother’s lullaby that I will be watched by angels to purify the room and burn the terror from the walls.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009


An old plate can be broken and reset into fine art. Old words can be broken and reset into poems.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Masquerade- a Villanelle

(Image by Belinda Durrant, found at


Laced tight in her plumage of silk and brocade
She ruffles her feathers and gingerly preens
Her heart is aflutter, a dove in its cage

She picks at her bones and pecks at her stays
Nestling into her gowns of sateen
Laced tight in her plumage of silk and brocade

She flits down the stairs with her twittering maids
Ascends to the ballroom that glitters and gleams
Her heart is aflutter, a dove in its cage

She glides through the flock of the tippling jays
When one breaks her breath like newly boned seams
Laced tight in her plumage of silk and brocade

He asks her to dance, they traverse the arcade
To rest in the bows of the garden’s lush screen
Her heart is aflutter, a dove in its cage

But love’s tarnished bars immure their masquerade
And her wings will soon moult along with her dreams
Laced tight in her plumage of silk and brocade
Her heart is aflutter, a dove in its cage

Monday, October 26, 2009

?! Chapbök

For the relaunch of Christian Bök's Eunoia here in Calgary, Coach House Books invited a number of local writers to write and present works inspired by Eunoia- derek beaulieu, ryan fitzpatrick, Robert Majzels, Jordan Grant, and me. As a keepsake of the event, Julya and I made eight of these Chapböks. All the copies are gone, but here is the acrostic of Rimbaud's Voyelles that I wrote for the occasion.

A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu : voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes :

A, night’s opal ignition rages,
E, barques launch, anticipating new coasts,
I, rich opulence underpins gourmet extravagance
U, Victorians embrace rural tranquillity
O, beautiful lines engulf us.

Vowels, only you elide language’s lazy ease, simplicity
Jet engine diction, in rigor’s austere illumination,
Quell understanding’s emptiness;
Language’s quorum unfolds epics
Jinx our untold romances
Vowels, open storybooks, new adventures,
Inscribe soliloquies, slice anecdotal niceties
Cut every sentence, let arteries
Tell every nuanced tale, every scar.

A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,
Golfes d'ombre ;

A, negligee of ire
Rose cut of rusted streets
Each thorn vamps easy lust
Undo dark’s elemental silence
Murmurs of unspeakable chaos
Her ecstatic sighs
Each cry, lace atrocities
Tight around naked thighs
Evening shivers quietly until
It bursts open malignant blossoms
Irate nightshades,
Evening's new temptation
Attacks unwitting trysts
Opens undulant ribs
Deformed embrace
Squalid pleasure unbound
A, notorious tease,
Ever unyielding rough sweetheart
Coyly rubbing until
Elegant lines lick eager sentences
Glyphs openly lust
For even stricter dominance
Odious macabre boudoir
Rune écorché

E, candeur des vapeurs et des tentes,
Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d'ombelles ;

E, coastal air, no dreadnought
Ever undertook rougher deeps
Effervescent seas' violent assault
Pulls ensigns under rolling swells
Everywhere, torrential downpours eat ships,
Tentacles emerge nefariously to embrace sailors
Lassoing any numskull caught exploring
saltwater depths
Easily sunk gondolas languish abjectly
Cthulhu's infernal eddies roping sufferers
Forever in eerie ripples
So rollers overcome insolent seafarers
But land awaits no cautious shiphands
Fearful rogues inevitably succumb
So only notorious scoundrels
Drift on mermaids' ballads
E, lazily lapping easeful strands

I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes ;

I, poached oysters, uncooked roe,
perfectly roasted escargot
satisfied sensualist appetites
never greedily crave
run-of-the-mill appetizers
chefs heat endives rolled
in rich emmental,
dicing each succulent leaf
even vegans require edible suppers
but everyone loves lamb
even simpering damsels against nastiness
scarf lamb and confits
only laymen eat roast eel
opulent upper-class lads enjoy steak
in Venice, ripened eggplant
sells so easily
sellers peddle eggplant nightly
i, temptation's eager nephew,
taste's exquisite seductress

U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d'animaux, paix des rides
Que l'alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux ;

U, crystal yonder, clear lakes
every spring vibrates in blissful rural ease
men's elemental nature transcends suburban dives
in verdant isles, innocence nods, softly
dozing, expectantly shouldering man's eventual return
soft violets inspire rich itinerants
daisies eliminate stress
poppies alleviate illness
Xanadu's dome especially stirs peace
any transient is soothed so effectively
most eventually swear doom
against normal, inactive mankind
autumn undoes Xanadu,
peace abrades in Xanadu
death erodes summer's radiant illusion
death engenders sudden quiet until
english lords arrange lines,
calling herds immesurable miracles
insisting every iridescent magpie
plainly rivals industrial majesty
eventually air uncovers Xanadu
great rains abate noxious death
spring frolics, rolling out new trillium
starlings sing triumphant
U, divinely inspired escape
U, Xanadu
O, suprême Clairon plein des strideurs étranges,
Silence traversés des Mondes et des Anges :
- O l'Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux ! -
O, scribe's unequaled pen
Rending elegies, masculine epics
Chilling lyrics, and indecent romances
Odes no purple lyricist expresses
Ink needs dedicated efforts
Sloppy sonnets try rigor's integrity
Dubious errors undermine respectable sestinas
eventually training regulates annoying nuisances
generating elegant stanzas
Suddenly instinct leads
extraneous niceties cease,
enigmatic scribble tips readily
and violent erasure reigns
so, eventually strict deviants enjoy stature
Many orators neglect drivel
enjoying stilted exercises
to drown emptiness' silence
And negate grim ends
so, overwhelmingly lines oblige
most eagerly grab anthologized rules
and yearly open notable volumes intently
O, let esteem touch deserving, enthralling scribblers
enjoy sharing your eunoia, updated xeriscape

Monday, September 28, 2009

Spam of the Week

I'm a secretary of the WASE (the World Association of Science Engineering) Propaganda department.

At least they're honest.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Anxiety of Unbalanced Influence

When I was in grade 12 I had to read T.S. Eliot's, "The Hollow Men," and I loved the poem so much it helped to steered me into English and creative writing at college. I wrote at least one major essay on Eliot, usually on Prufrock, every year of my undergrad, culminating in 45-page university-funded research project that examined depictions of women in, "The Waste Land." Though I still enjoy Eliot's work, I find it more problematic the more I study it, particularly when it comes to his depictions of women. Reading through my pre-undergrad poetry, I discovered how much I leaned on him to develop my own tone and voice. This seems a bit odd to me, considering that most of my poetic endeavors have a strong feminist slant to them. To reconcile my first and perhaps most formative influence with my theoretical and political dedication to feminism, I have recently picked up a draft of a poem begun two years ago, called, "Other Observations." In this poem I am rewriting, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," from the point of view of the female subjects that appear in the poem. In doing so, I hope to somehow explore or recover the voices and experiences of women, so often marginalized by the markedly masculinist and patriarchal side of modernist writing. Here's the first fragment:

Other Observations

A flimsy crutch to hold the light
Day’s back strained against the night
We stroll in sunset’s consumptive rattle.
He scuttles me through muffled streets
Our tedious retreats
Drain hours--the sour aftertaste of milky tea
His company, the dregs of winter between my teeth
Until some baleful fit guides his stupor
To lift a stammering hand to my back
And shuffle closer through the sawdust and ash
To troll me through still more stale roads
And cocoon me in dusk’s colic glow

All too soon his fumbling gaze
Tugs the hemline of my ease

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Magyar Műhely

Most of the “famous” (haha) visual poetry I’ve had presented to me has come primarily from German, South American, or North American writers. The cultural lines drawn in Mary Ellen Solt’s “Concrete Poetry: A Worldview,” (1968) seem to have held for the most part—so I was thrilled to find this website, which features the work of seven Hungarian visual poets. While some of the work is spiffy, and some of it just sort of there, it’s interesting to find at least a small page devoted to the visual poetry of a culture outside the norm. Just because visual poetry is itself a marginalised genre, does not mean that voices are not marginalised within it. This is an issue I first encountered when studying the role of women in visual poetry. Professors and visual poets alike would assert that, “there are no women in visual poetry,” right before listing off the names of ten women visual poets I needed to look up. A google search of the words “women vispo,” will also turn up almost 60,000 hits of varying pertinence and interest. So it seems there are women in visual poetry. I am glad to have found that there are Hungarians in visual poetry, too. There’s even Mária Hegedús, a Hungarian woman visual poet! Hooray!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

365 Budapest

Check out which follows Hungarian advertising director, photographer, and, it seems, conceptual artist Zsolt Molnár's wicked typographic project, 365 Budapest. Every day for a year, Molnár is posting a new photograph of a street number, all of them in different styles, contexts, and from different eras. As of today, he is up to 213! Just goes to show the variety and beauty of the text that surrounds us.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Spam Po

My work gets a lot of Spam, most of it invitations to bogus scientific conferences, Russian spam I can’t read, or the ever popular male enhancement advertisements. Some of this junk, however, is actually kind of interesting. For a few weeks, I received several poetic spam messages a day. These odd little messages are evidently intended to mess us your spam filter. Since the language of these messages is not spam-like, if you mark these messages as spam or junk, the spammer hopes that all your regular email will be marked as spam or junk as well. Once this starts happening, you will be forced to turn off your spam filter so that you can read your real correspondence. The spammer will then be able to flood your inbox with their real spam, that is, invitations to bogus scientific conferences, Russian spam you can’t read, or the ever popular male enhancement advertisements. Apparently this whole scheme doesn’t really work, but nonetheless, these messages were more entertaining than the usual 60 junk email messages I have to read every day. Sadly, these poetic messages have stopped coming, but here are three sets of the messages I got. The first are those that are trying to be poetic. Considering the antiquated language in places, I assume the spammer has copied and pasted these chunks of text from somewhere… though I haven’t checked this out. The second set are short little messages that cobble together incongruous words. The third set are from regular, run of the mill type spam messages, but whose odd use of language makes these messages inadvertently poetic.
No editing or touch-ups have been done. All odd phrasing and creative spelling is the spammer’s own. The emails have simply been ordered chronologically.


on the lawn among the trees

the bound or outward circumference of energy.

of a firm perswasion of any thing.

deny their own kin in the outcast in gray.

the just man into barren climes.

far over ocean as the plow follows words,

so god rewards prayers.

who nails him down upon a rock,

an infant groan an infant fear –

her arm'd with sorrow sore:
or such other improprieties

as the hudson retakes its thickets

and i shall not tempt the sea to-day.

and i made a rural pen,

thou sittest at the western gate;
lazily rocking on ocean`s breast,

and wash in a river and shine in the sun.

and death shallops but yesterday

When guardian angel behind is ,

bowling ball beyond

%WORD_8 reactor of class action suit.[3

Edward, Edward

hard grains of whirling snow still beat.

Earth, crowded, cries, 'Too many men!'

His nose

And his Aunt Jobiska made him drink

They danced by the light of the moon fniyho


buzzing weinberg anthropology


epidemic equine

cure woven bloat

explanation suny covenant
dub dub


l stroke

serendipity buttrick sparge


bell bell



wehr doorstep

irs canister irs


town miltonic



Confirmation link

marriott cabdriver larkin

eureka planetesimal ironwood


If your girlfriend is always late, buy her a golden watch.

You can appear rich by being very poor if you want.

Your watch will understand you better than anyone else.

You can look great without any special efforts.

The words can't describe the beauty of your instrument.

You will love our interface and you will love our odds.

put you to sleep!

We thinkthe pressure,

involves a number

You'll probably *thank me* for letting you know about it...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

?! Press: Early Work

Here, by popular demand, is one of the earliest ?! chapbooks which appeared in the early 90s. Like most of my early work, this book focuses on the symbol of the bunny. This fleeting, yet ever present figure haunts the work, both a the lens through which the world is interpreted, and that which we see when we look through the lens and see the world.
You heard me.
Look out for other exciting titles olso by Helen, such as Art Book and Kenora.

Harry Potter and the Puffed-Up Poet Psychologist

I just got back from the new Harry Potter movie. I love these movies, as I love most of the books. I love the tiny dragons, the exploding candy, and the ever-so-awesome library with the floating, screaming, biting, and generally drool-worthy books. But oh I know, I know... the heavy use of adjectives, the didyougetitdidyougetit??? flashback humour, and the stock benevolent protagonists and thoroughly malevolent villains.... whatever. I love them all.
In light of this admission, I would like to propose that there are five main types of reactions that literary snobs have towards the Harry Potter series:

1) Those who pretend to hate Harry Potter but secretly love it
2) Those who truly hate Harry Potter
3) Those who just don't care at all about Harry Potter
4) Those who revel in their love of Harry Potter, and bask in the geeky glory of the magical world
5) Those who genuinely think Harry Potter is good, and love it not for its kitsch, but just because. They may or may not be ashamed of their attitude.

I also think that a literary snob's reaction to Harry Potter can be very telling of that snob's own literary practice. The snob who loves Harry Potter but pretends to hate it for its triteness has probably not yet completely developed their confidence in their own work, or is not quite sure how to defend the work they think is good. A type 1 HP lit snob is afraid that if it is discovered that they like a pop-book, all will be lost. They think real poets only like Great Literature, and they desperately want to be a real poet. They think that publicly denouncing HP will make people think they're smart.
A type 2 HP lit snob, on the other hand, just doesn't like HP. They can't relax through the poorly crafted sentences and enjoy the story, or, if they can get past their stylistic concerns with the book, they think the story and plot of the book themselves are poorly crafted. A type 2 HP lit snob could be the result of one or two things. A type 2 HP lit snob might have started out as a type 1, but has become so committed to this world view that they have completely internalised their hatred for all things not-Literary (big L on that...) and now actually hate the wizard stories. On the other hand, a type 2 lit snob is someone who cannot accept that enjoyment can be gleaned from a book that is not a masterpiece. They have complete faith in their taste, and think anyone who violates this taste is an idiot.
A type 3 HP lit snob, on the other hand, is perhaps the purest of the negative attitudes. This type of lit snob is so completely and genuinely fascinated by the work that they love, be it anything from medieval marginalia to contemporary vis po, that the literary appetites of others don't interest them. A type 3 is in it to read or write what they love, not to convince people that they shouldn't read what they like.
A type 4 HP lit snob is a dork. They like D&D and aren't afraid to admit it. The thrill of diving into an imaginary world filled with mermaids, giant spiders, and magical mirrors is a badge of honour--and they can't understand why not everyone knows the rules of Quidditch off by heart. This type is genuine in their love of HP, but they also love it as a defence mechanism. Embracing all that is quirky and disliked by other lit snobs gives the type 4 an edge. They can be expert of their own area, and they can use this knowledge and fetish to their advantage. Being a hyper HP geek alows them to act like non-geeks are silly people who aren't clever or studious enough to have learned everything that the type 4 has. The type 4 HP lit snob can then lord their knowledge over others, and exclude whom they wish from conversations, doing so to mend the wounds of being ostracised earlier in life.
And finally, type 5. I, myself, am a type 5 HP lit snob and therefore, have a clear conflict of interest in elaborating on this point. However, I will say this. Occasionally, no matter how much this type has cultivated their taste or style, they still just like a fun story full of plot twists, imaginary animals, successful heroes, and vanquished villains. This type of lit snob may feel a bit ashamed about this, and fear that this slippage in taste signals that really, they aren't cultivated at all. They thing that only a type 2 or 3 lit snob can really be a good poet. On the other hand, they might not be ashamed at all. This variety of type 5 is closest to a type 3. They just like what they like, and don't feel it has to be defended, explained, or reconciled it with any elaborate literary theory. They don't see the flaws of the book, they just see Harry Potter with his lightning bolt scar, trying his best to save the world.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

?! Press: Tight-Lacing

For the fillingStation Blow-Out festival, Julya Theo and I made 30 of these limited edition chapbooks, each with a hand-laced paper corset on the cover. The chapbooks include 5 original Victorian corset advertisements, paired with 5 poetic adaptations of these advertisements. Keep an eye out for the corset ads in upcoming issues of Rampike ;)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Purple, 2008

While making this piece, I became very involved in the work and rarely looked up from the page. When I finished, I grabbed a pen and started to write myself a note, noticing that the pen that I thought would write in black really had purple ink. Then I looked around my room some more. As it turns out, looking only at the colour green for an extended period of time will make black things appear purple... for quite a while.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Book of the Week Plot

For the past five years while I've been in University, I've been hoarding books but not reading them. Now that I've been released into the real-world, though, and now that I must do something each evening to wash the awful taste of my loathsome job out of my mouth, I have the time and the will to start reading. So, every week from now until I get bored of this plan, I will read and review one book of Canadian poetry a week until my supply runs out. The bottom shelf is the Canadian stuff. Canadian writers, much to my approval, seem to write skinny books, so I have high hopes that I can keep this up.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Blow Out!

?! Press: On Advertising

It’s easier to write ten passably effective sonnets than one effective advertisement. -Aldous Huxley

Together, Julya Theodossopoulos and I made these 27 limited edition chapbooks entitled, "On Advertising," containing an excerpt from my current work-in-progress Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising. In an effort to explore the effects of advertising on our lives and personalities, and to interrogate how advertising effects our ability to genuinely express emotions through language, Poets and Killers tells a man’s life story through found poems composed entirely of advertising text. The book begins with poems composed of ads from the 1940s when the character is born, and moves through time with him, ending with poems composed from ads from 2009 when he dies. The project also contains several poems composed from ads advertising advertisement space, and from books about advertising. Each chapbook has its own unique cover, made from a full-page advertisement from the fashion magazine Arena Homme. Thanks to Jordan Grant for the page layout and for staving off all other computational disasters. Thanks to Julya for um... doing most of the things that made these look good.

From Poets and Killers:

On Advertising:
The cult of ‘creativity’

Good writing is slavery.
If it doesn’t sell it isn’t creative.
You won’t find ‘creativity’ in the 12-volume Oxford Dictionary.
Do you think it means originality?
Originality is the most dangerous word in advertising
Preoccupied with originality, copywriters pursue something
as illusory as swamp fire.
Mozart said, “I have never made the slightest effort
to compose anything original.”
This takes courage because you will be accused of not being
I occasionally use the hideous word creative myself
for lack of a better.
Creativity strikes me as a high-falutin word for the work
I have to do between now and Tuesday.

I’m not saying that charming, witty and warm copy won’t sell.
But let’s say you walk in this office and talk to me,
and you sit in that chair. Now, what do you want out of me?
Fine writing? Do you want masterpieces? Do you want glowing things
that can be framed by copywriters?
Or do you want to see the goddamned sales curve
stop moving down
and start moving up?

Make the product the hero of your advertising.
If you think the product is too dull, I have news for you:
there are no dull products,
only dull writers.

Few copywriters are ambitious.
It doesn’t occur to them that if they tried hard enough
they might make themselves famous.
Most good copywriters fall into two categories. Poets. And killers.
Poets see an ad as an end.
Killers as a means to an end.
If you are both killer and poet,

you get rich.

To hear me reading this and other poems from Poets and Killers at the June 2009 flywheel reading series, check out:
(Just keep scrolling down... it's there)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

VisPo and Multilingualism

Here, graphic designer Yass Nassiri uses Persian letters and numbers to create patterns and flowers. These delicate, edible-looking designs makes me think that North American visual poets often miss out on a wide range of potential material. So many visual poets who stick to the alphabet as their basic artistic unit also stick to Roman characters, excluding characters, like Persian ones, that offer the potential for different shapes, forms, and moods. Since visual poets tend to stick to the letters of the languages they speak, I wonder if we can really support the idea that visual-poetry is completely without semantic content or semantic meaning. If visual poetry is without meaning, why stick to letters that you can read and interpret semantically?


Sad Hamster...

Does your work remind you of a giant gerbil ball? If so, you might identify with Sako Kojima's installation piece "The reason why I become the hamster." A coworker told me about her. Go figure....
or, check out a tacky interview with Kojima at: (tackiness on the part of the interviewer, not Kojima)