Brutal | Andrea Cohen

Brutal to give
the prisoner a window—
a blue sky glimpse—

as if an afterlife
existed. Brutal
for you to parade

in a body
in the same
room where I dream you.


Poster by S James Curtis.

Poster by S James Curtis.

Poetry Slam and Open Mic
Featuring 2-time Vancouver slam team member Erin Kirsh
Sat Nov 30th 2013
Little Bean Coffee Bar 417 King St West
Sign up at 7pm, Open Mic at 7:30, Slam begins at 8
$5 or Pay What You Can


About our feature poet:
Erin Kirsh is a Vancouver based writer, a spoken word poet, and a generally enthusiastic person. She is a two time member of the Vancouver Poetry Team and the Canadian 2012/2013 Haiku Death Match Champion. She has a dirty mouth, cute neuroses, and understands that the only reason she gets away with saying the things she does is because she has a baby face. She will pretend to be all eyelashes, when really, she is only somewhat eyelashes and lots and lots of teeth. Her poetry is the result of cynicism and whimsy getting together and drinking too much. Erin likes playing, cats and making fun of stuff she loves.

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Wild Writers Literary Festival

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the Wild Writers Literary Festival,  where I attended a poetry workshop, attended a few panels, and mostly soaked up a day spent with my mother and other book lovers.

First thing in the morning I was part of Amanda Jernigan’s “The Poetry of Change” workshop. We opened with the Odyssey, discussed Shakespeare, and shared poems that had impact on us. I shared Atwood’s “Their Attitudes Differ” while others shared sonnets, nursery rhymes, and other classics. It was very interesting to go around the table and have poets of all ages recite the poem that had influenced them, changed their way of thinking, or spurred them to write.

We discussed change in poetry, how change can be reflected in the text, and ways to induce change in readers. I found this interesting, but went down my own path of contemplation in regard to translation, and the meaning that can be lost or gained after a poem is translated. Many of our most valuable texts are translations, the Bible, the Greek classics, etc, and their passages construct meaning in our contemporary world. I followed this rabbit down its hole for most of the day, which I think means the workshop was a success, as it got me thinking.

Later, I attended a panel on moving from publishing in literary journals to small press. This was interesting, but because I’ve yet to publish anything really, it was more food for thought than actually something I could put into practice.

The last panel I attended was “Falling in Love with Poetry” where writers discussed their first forays and loves in poetry, the poetry that changed and influenced them. This panel was an interesting balance to my morning workshop, and I was able to see the similarities in the passion of published and aspiring poets.

Overall, it was an interesting day, and had me thinking critically about my own work, which is always a positive.

For Jane: With All the Love I Had, Which Was Not Enough Charles Bukowski

I pick up the skirt,
I pick up the sparkling beads
in black,
this thing that moved once
around flesh,
and I call God a liar,
I say anything that moved
like that
or knew
my name
could never die
in the common verity of dying,
and I pick
up her lovely
all her loveliness gone,
and I speak to all the gods,
Jewish gods, Christ-gods,
chips of blinking things,
idols, pills, bread,
fathoms, risks,
knowledgeable surrender,
rats in the gravy of two gone quite mad
without a chance,
hummingbird knowledge, hummingbird chance,
I lean upon this,
I lean on all of this
and I know
her dress upon my arm
they will not
give her back to me.

Trying to Swim with God | Warsan Shire


My mother says this city is slowly killing our women;
practicing back strokes at the local swimming pool.
I think of Kadija, how her body had failed her
on the way down from the block of flats.

The instructor tells us that the longest
a human being has held their breath under water
is 19 minutes and 21 seconds. At home in the bath,
my hair swells to the surface like vines, I stay submerged
until I can no longer stand it, think of all the things
I have allowed to slip through my fingers.

Inna lillahi Wa inna ilaihi Rajioon.

My mother says nobody can fight it –
the body returning to God,

but the way she fell, face first,
in the dirt,
mouth full of earth,
air, teeth,  blood,
wearing a white cotton baati,
hair untied and smoked with ounsi,
I wonder if Kadija believed

she was going to float.

Open Strings | Jan Zwicky

E, laser of the ear, ear’s
vinegar, bagpipes
in a tux, the sky’s blue pointed;

A, youngest of the four, cocksure
and vulnerable, the white kid
on the basketball team — immature,
ambitious, charming,
indispensable; apprenticed
to desire;

D is the tailor
who sewed the note ‘I shall always love you’
into the hem of the village belle’s wedding dress,
a note not discovered until ten years later in New York
where, poor and abandoned, she was ripping up the skirt
for curtains, and he came,
and he married her;

G, cathedral of the breastbone,
Oak-like, earth;

it’s air they offer us,
but not the cool draught of their half-brothers
the harmonics, no,
a bigger wind, the body
snapped out like a towel, air
like the sky above the foothills,
like the desire to drown,
a place of worship,
a laying down of arms.

Open strings

are ambassadors from the republic of silence.
They are the name of that moment of you realize
clearly, for the first time,
you will die. After illness,
the first startled breath.

While the rest of the population undergoes Movember, or sips eggnog lattes, or studies for exams, November for me is a much more intense adventure. Beginning in November and culminating December 31st, I do an annual Book Retrieval.

This year, like the years before it, I will spend the next two months bemoaning my carefree attitude at lending books and trying to figure out who has what. Don’t get me wrong, I love to lend books, I think it’s one of the unique joys that books have. It’s just always a hassle trying to get the ones you love back to you.

With the increase in my poetry library, so increases the amount of poetry that’s flying in the wind somewhere. These next months will be tricky, but it’s a quest I take on willingly, and with grave determination.



Last night was Night/Shift, hosted in downtown Kitchener by Alternatives Journal. There were tons of events going on, but I spent most of my time with the KW Poetry Slam people at the Queen Street Commons.

The event started at 10 and went until 2, and I participated in the open mic portion at midnight.

It was so interesting  to see downtown Kitchener teeming with people so late at night, and it seemed like every open venue was full to the brim.

I read three short poems, which I felt a little self-conscious about because I’d followed some people who wrote more slam style and were longer. Overall, the night was amazing, there were dancing and singing gnomes that seemed to be at all the events at once.