"Odd Blocks" — it's the opening poem to Kay Ryan's The Best of It: New and Selected Poems.

monuments to
randomness become
fixed points in
finding home.
And why not
also in the self,
the odd blocks,
all lost and left,
become first facts
toward which later
a little town
looks back?
Self and landscape — also applicable to the elements of the poem and the poems of the book. Embedded in the middle of "Odd Blocks" is the statement that marks both a beginning and an ending: "Order is always / starting over." A set of lines that sticks out in its own way with a different lithology.

Erratic: An erratic is a boulder transported and deposited by a glacier having a lithology different than the bedrock upon which it is sitting. Erratics are useful indicators of patterns of former ice flow.

And so for day 2210

Tools & Letters & Spaces

Nelson Ball has a poem "for and after bpNichol" in The Continuous Present (Coburg: Proper Tales Press, 2012). He notes that "The visual poems were written while I was editing the Coach House Books edition (2004) of bpNichol's Konfessions Of An Elizabethan Fan Dancer".

The poem is entitled "Basic Construction Materials" and consists of a single line (and twenty-six letters).

a bed e fgh i jklmn o pqrts u vwx y z
There are in Konfessions Of An Elizabethan Fan Dancer no punctuation marks. Just letters and spaces except for # sign in a few titles and one place where there is underscoring. Perfect homage.

And so for day 2209

Anatomy Meets Typography

I was examining the copy in the Thomas Fischer Rare Book Library from back to front and remember seeing this page in the BookThug 2012 edition of André Alexis essay My Vagina. It struck be as a colophon. And the layout of the name appeared like a headstone given the context.

André Alexis
I was born in Trinidad, in 1957. My mother's name is Adrian Ena Borde. If, after my death, anyone should wish to reprint this essay, Would be grateful if the date of my death were added, so that my time from my mother's womb to the "great cold" (that other womb) may be known.
Turns out this was no colophon but the conclusion of the essay for the previous page introduces the segment with the words "my name is".

For readers accessing the essay via In the Flesh: Twenty Writers Explore the Body edited by Kathy Page and Lynne Van Luven there will be no such misapprehension; there is no such page break.

However, there is a palpable effect that is reproduced in both editions — thanks to the essay's position in the In the Flesh collection (in almost the middle of the book). Alexis plants a footnote midway in his essay which derives some of its charm in how the book or pamphlet falls away in two equal halves. He writes, "This, the exact centre of my essay, seems as good a place as any to talk about the clitoris." The effect is uncanny. The note flows on over the two facing pages.

And so for day 2208


There is a very swish "d" dancing on the title on the cover of The Rose Concordance (BookThug, 2009) by Angela Carr.

rose concordance cover with swish d

Here is my own little concordance of lines from The Rose Concordance:
[22] cartilage of the reader, the book's completion is a softness
[14] existence is an aromatic crease
[14] credulous and rich secretions
small attentions to cartilage, to crease, to secretion, take on a full deployment in a poem exploring the sensation of slight syntactical turns and it happens to form a happy helix round a tour de force
still in the what happens middle of never
still in the what middle happens of never
still in the middle what happens of never
still in the middle what of happens never
still in the middle of what happens never

still in the middle of what never happens

in still the middle of what never happens
in the still middle of what never happens
in the still of middle what never happens
in the of still middle what never happens
in of the still middle what never happens
of in the still middle what never happens
"of the still middle" — of course never being still for the iris of eye or the rose of ear

And so for day 2207

Reading Round the Rosebud

Yvonne Blumer. Landscapes and Home: ghazals. (Lantzville, B.C.: Leaf Press, 2011)

From the ninth, this sher stands out. It stands in the middle of the ghazal.

The neighbour wants to kill deer that come down from the woods.
They nip sweet rosebuds. Going home, a truck flattens two racoons.
And like an unfolding bloom, I propose the two adjacent sher be read now:
This child stands, legs braced against the pain in her ears.
She screams at her mother. Screams at her father.

The neighbour wants to kill deer that come down from the woods.
They nip sweet rosebuds. Going home, a truck flattens two racoons.

Think: buy a gun; kill a man with five shots. The past followed me.
Animals who are destructive have no right to love.
And now the two outer sher are added to complete the ghazal.
Africa: a word in my mouth; buried place in my memories.
A dog has to be put down. A best friend dies at sixteen.

This child stands, legs braced against the pain in her ears.
She screams at her mother. Screams at her father.

The neighbour wants to kill deer that come down from the woods.
They nip sweet rosebuds. Going home, a truck flattens two racoons.

Think: buy a gun; kill a man with five shots. The past followed me.
Animals who are destructive have no right to love.

Walking toward a funeral procession, I begin to understand things.
My letters come back unopened.
This rippling reading is like memory work or so I imagine it and a good test of the thematic carriage of any given ghazal. Inspired no doubt from having read Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" and its explorations of Semagraphic Thought.

And so for day 2206

A Chuckle of LongLugged Books

Colleen Thibaudeau. My granddaughters are combing out their long hair. "As if in code ...'

It's a poem about chucking out stuff. Jettisoning. There is a keeper — a line to keep in memory:

chuckle of longlugged books, carvings, embroidery,
It is a line that brings to mind a Japanese word I encountered in Ella Frances Sanders's book Lost in Translation

The word is Tsundoku. It's a noun from the Japanese meaning "leaving a book unread after buying it, typically pile up together with other unread books."

definition of tsundoku
And this book of poems by Colleen Thibaudau sat in a pile unread. But no longer so. I read and relished the image of a "chuckle of longlugged books". And now I have sent both image and word back into the world. The book will find other hands and other piles in which to rest.

Lost in Translation is to be gifted to a friend fond of words and their textures.

frontispiece with signature of Colleen Thibaudeau author of My granddaughters are combing out their long hair
And so for day 2205

Enhancing Vocabulary


"The Brown Family" in My granddaughters are combing out their long hair by Colleen Thibaudeau (Coach House Press, 1977).

In the same manner as her Old man: For Mr. Brown's heart was pure glossy gold
By tender handling, of all that's drossy, slowly, suvendibly, rendered down.
Not in the Oxford English Dictionary. Found it in a listing of Trillick dialect.

suvendibly [adj.] – exceedingly (with malice)

and in the American Sentinel of December 13, 1894 (a parable of attempts to force dogs to act as sheep (and eat grass) which originally appeared in 1821 as an article against compulsory Sabbath observance)
they inveigled him or compelled him into the fold, then they surrounded him and "thumped him suvendibly" until the poor dog took a few mouthfuls of grass, which sat so badly upon his stomach, he soon served an ejectment upon it.
Back to Mrs. Brown. She declares "What I can touch and take up in these two hands is what I trust." And the poet supplies a listing which leads to the concluding image of the repeated gesture: "All lovingly hers tangled. And all could be taken up, stroked, cajoled / In the same manner as her Old Man [...]". In the vicinity of "cajoled" and "stroked", "suvendibly" takes on a miserly hue...

And so for day 2204

A Visual Intertext

Sarah Dyer has lodged in Five Little Fiends a treasure for the discerning eye -- almost as if in imitation of the fiends there is a hoarding of a favourite object.

cover five little fiends

The story line...
Everyday the five little fiends stand on a hillside and marvel at the world. Then one day they decide this isn't enough. Each fiend wants to take it's favourite thing home, to look at whenever it wants. One by one the moon, sun, sky, land and sea are claimed until nothing is left. But do they pick wisely?
Their homes (and hoarding places) are within sculptures which look like versions of the work of Barbara Hepworth.

The fiends find out they are happier without actually possessing what they treasure. So too Dyer's intertextual gifts belong to free imaginations.

And so for day 2203

Two Different Allusions; Two Letterforms

The design of the cover is striking. It's by Jodi Ballet. There are two shapes for the "i". One is with its dot the same height as the "l" in "limbo". The other is capped by a round nestled just inside the crook of the "t" "just" above.

just outside limbo cover

There is in this anthology a poem by Wayne Woodman called "dangerless" which has a beginning which alludes strangely to the character of Duncan, the haunter of laundromats and watcher of the machine ballet in Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman.
strange poets in laundromats
washing clothes
watching them tumble dry
And later in the poem an allusion to Desiderata by Max Ehrmann ... like a lost sock.
going placidly
mind the noise and dirt;
There is other company in just outside of limbo Abbe Edelson, Eve-Lynn Grill, Lillian Necakov and Alan Resnick, editors. (1980). Milton Acorn, Maria Jacobs, Cary Fagan make appearances.

And so for day 2202

Symmetry: He Said, I Told Him

Section 5 of "The Fausto Poems"

On Thanksgiving I took him home
to my reservation and he wanted to ride horses.

I don't know how to ride, I told him.

He said, I thought all Indians rode horses.

On Christmas, we watched ESPN surfing
and I asked him how well he rode the waves.

He said, I don't know how to surf.

I thought all Hawaiians surfed, I told him.
from Sherman Alexie The Business of Fancydancing

I neither surf nor ride but I read poetry.

And so for day 2201

Egg-centric concrete found poem

From the bookstore Good Egg in Kensington Market, a receipt that provides a little graphic oval. A nice touch.

good egg receipt

And so for day 2200

Fragility of the Egg : Strength of Image

Gay Allison in "How to Gather Love" dedicated to Lorna Crozier concludes an extended description of the image of a woman espoused to country living with a contemplation of what could be (and what in other circumstances will be) ...

She loves simplicity, the shape
of oval that fits neatly in her palm
an utter faith that could be crushed
in a minute and run yellow
down her arm.
from The Unravelling

Pat Bolger in Volume 16 Number 6 of CM: A Reviewing Journal of Canadian Materials for Young People comments on the cover
Allison writes that "change comes in the form of a woman / holding a raven with breasts. . .," an idea embodied in Lynne Fernie's cover art, a line drawing of a nude with a decidedly odd-looking raven. [And wryly adds] The collection's primary appeal will be to women, including those of senior high school age (although some of them would probably shy away from the cover).
unravelling cover of gay allison book

And so for day 2199

Finding Echoes

Found at the end of an article on the Vitruvius Program in Pamphlet Architecture 16 Architecture as a Translation of Music (Princeton Architecture Press) edited by Elizabeth Martin is this intriguing reference to Rosen, Michael, editor. "Ears, Eyes, Legs and Arms" [a story from Mali] in Oxfam Book of Children's Stories: South and North, East and West (Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 1992), pp. 50-52.

The reference is not explicitly connected to the article about students creating sculptural instruments. But if you look at the illustrations and read the story you see a theme: how unconnected parts come to work together. In the story from Mali the teller recounts how the separate parts of the body were counselled by a mosquito to visit a wise chief to settle how to distribute an antelope. The wise man inflicts judgement:

Then the chief spoke. "I listen to your story and decided that I would punish all of you for being so mean and selfish. First I punished you by eating all of the antelope without sharing any of it with you. Now I am going to punish you all once more by joining you together so that something like this never happens again."

And he did

The parts of the body were furious with the chief for doing this, but they were even angrier with the mosquito for bringing them to see the chief. And that's why whenever the ears hear the whine of a mosquito, the eyes search for it, and the arms try and slap it. If, as often happens, the mosquito still whines even after the arms have slapped and smacked all over the place, the legs join in the hunt.
The theme of assemblages resonates with the pictures and comments on the work of the workshop participants.
When I look through it I can see the other side of my instrument but when I blow, it echoed! Does that mean I'm hearing the other side?" (Elisabeth [Vitruvius program workshop participant])
John Cage would have been amused. Pamphlet Architecture 16 is dedicated in memoriam to Cage.

And so for day 2198

The Tree Saver or a Plea for the Poui

I like how Shani Mootoo condenses history in a moment — here an exchange about not cutting down a tree which symbolizes nothing more than itself.


My father's argument
is not for sound landscaping
but a simple plea for a useless tree

Or is it something more
from the perennial opponent
of capital punishment?

           Remember that season, years back when it flowered,
           and was magnificent?


Now the damn thing stands,
none the wiser,
and surely won't flower next year.
"Poui's Hero" from The Predicament of Or.

And so for day 2197

Tides: Stasis Betrayed

History dreams. Misplaced urges. Just as you think you can grasp a kernel the poem moves on in a kind of eddying reflective of the wanderings of thought and and its return to wander more. I quote at length the opening section of one set...

The Shape of Things


The idle days of autumn close. The planet moves itself
to a place where the thought of everything resides.

This is a place where history lies on its back and dreams.
This is a place where nature has misplaced its urge

to compose itself. The leaves tremble with the shifting earth.
The cooling wind turns itself inside and out.

We lie here beside the open window and wonder what
on earth can keep us from each other. Our sex is a shape

that finds itself taking the shape of the other. In coming
together there is no shape of things to keep in mind,

as if we knew the difference between this way and that.
First comes the hot invention of love, and then the silky stroke

of your bedclothes against me. There is the urgent need to make
sense of our inarticulate breath, our cold sweat, our absent fears.

What makes shape around us is a reflection of words, an island
of knowing one silence, pressed up, hard, agains another.
Edward Carson. from Taking Shape.

I like the skillful enjambement. Everything seems suspended for a moment before rushing on: urge / to compose ; coming / together there ; island / of knowing.

And so for day 2196


The dancing comes as a break from mystical lovemaking and encounters with a marvellous city: New York-Atlantis.

I arrive late for my African dance class at Pineapple
but the rhythm of the drums quickly seduces my feet
the obscure god takes possession of my body
I flutter my hands to heaven and earth
let my head roll
thrust out my chest and move my pelvis
the salt of my own sweat excites me
all this telluric energy tears down my anger
and I know I am savouring the pleasure of being
Yoland Villemaire. Quartz and Mica translated by Judith Cowan.

And so for day 2195

Cocteau and Guest

Stan Persky. Lives of the French Symbolist Poets.

He is in a vast field of white flowers. His name is Cocteau. A white horse is grazing under a cottonwood tree. He is writing something on white paper. A message.

Cocteau gets ups & walks 17 paces to the East. In the middle of the field of white flowers he sees a porcelain shiny bathtub filled with blue water. The lovely white flowers are in the dirty boy's hair. The dirty boy has brown eyes & is washing his gangly legs. He is of course as always naked.


There is a boy sitting on the white bed scooping out chunks of red watermelon. He is getting the bed wet with the juice of the melon. Cocteau comes over & plucks a watermelon seed from where it got lodged in the boy's bellybutton.
One boy? Two boys?

And so for day 2194

Apollinaire and Guest

Stan Persky. Lives of the French Symbolist Poets.

Apollinaire is in a chair outside the dentist's office. His teeth hurt. He is going to have a tooth pulled.

There are 4 chairs there. They are brown chairs. Apollinaire is waiting. Patient.

"God it hurts," he says.

In the other 3 chairs is Gertrude Stein singing her last golden opera to the hysterically giggling multitudes; Montparnasse cafe nocturne, Hummingbird smelling the Real Thing. And Modig. There are hundreds of reporters using real questions.
Modig = Anglo Saxon for brave, courageous. Descendent: moody

And so for day 2193

Visual Intertext

On the left White Rabbit Press (Stan Persky, Lives of French Symbolist Poets). On the right Gallimard (standard design as illustrated by André Breton, Nadja).

Stan Persky Lives of French Symbolist Poets Andre Breton Nadja
Fittingly signifying Frenchness.

And so for day 2192

Work, Carnival & the Other

W.H. Auden's essay on Loren Eiseley (The New Yorker, 1970) serves at the introduction to Eiseley's collection The Star Thrower.

After celebrating the levelling influence of Carnival, Auden muses on the balanced life.

A satisfactory human life, individually or collectively, is possible only if proper respect is paid to all three worlds. Without Prayer and Work, the Carnival laughter turns ugly, the comic obscenities grubby and pornographic, the mock aggression into real hatred and cruelty. (The hippies, it appears to me, are trying to recover the sense of Carnival which is so conspicuously absent in this age, but so long as they reject Work they are unlikely to succeed.) Without Laughter and Work, Prayer turns Gnostic, cranky, Pharisaic, while those who try to live by Work alone, without Laughter or Prayer, turn into insane lovers of power, tyrants who would enslave Nature to their immediate desires — an attempt which can only end in utter catastrophe, shipwreck on the Isle of the Sirens.
Prayer was referenced earlier as going beyond begging.
[...] the habit of prayer, by which I mean the habit of listening. The petitionary aspect of prayer is its most trivial because it is involuntary. We cannot help asking that our wishes may be granted, though all too many of them are like wishing that two and two may make five, and cannot and should not be granted. But the serious part of prayer begins when we have got our begging over with and listen for the Voice of what I would call the Holy Spirit, though if others prefer to say the Voice of Oz or the Dreamer or Conscience, I shan't quarrel, so long as they don't call it the Voice of the Super-Ego, for that "entity" can only tell us what we know already, whereas the Voice I am talking about always says something new and unpredictable-an unexpected demand, obedience to which involves a change of self, however painful.
This attentive listening could be secularized as "attunement". "Voice" as "other". Always something new (or forgotten and then come to the fore).

And so for day 2191

Respect of Not Knowing

Murmur is a novel by Will Eaves that is patterned on the life of Alan Turing. It's a plunge into the mindset of a character receiving treatments for chemical castration and in passing is a meditation on how one makes meaning and the reach of intelligent machines. This struck me:

It isn't knowing what another person thinks or feels that makes us who we are. It's the respect for not knowing.
This hard won realization is prefaced by the speaker in distress: "He breathes into a point of infinite and traceless pain. He stares hard at a carpet tile that's come unstuck and wanted to say: It isn't knowing [...]".

The respect of not knowing opens a sort of plenitude:
We are consoled by someone's efforts to conceive us, and that effort's keen shortfall. We are unreachable. A shared mind has no self-knowledge. A field awareness cannot be unique or self-conceal: it has no privacy of mind.
A nice slide from efforts to the shortfall of one. Something is happening in this passage from plurality to unicity. Something unknowable, unreachable, private.

The notion of respect is complicated.

And so for day 2190

Fern Hair

It occurs in a translation of a poem by Jacques Brault by Fred Cogswell in One Hundred Poems of Modern Quebec (Fiddlehead, 1970). The text reads "headchess" [which auto-correct wants to render "headaches"] for "headdress" [?]. One can see how "dr" can be taken as "ch" since the "c" and the upright of the "h" can form a "d".

You are beautiful my country you are true with your
       headchess of ferns and that great arm of water which
       embroiders the loneliness of the islands
From "Suite fraternelle"

Tu es mon beau pays tu es vrai avec ta chevelure de fougères et ce grand
     bras d’eau qui enlace la solitude des îles

ta chevelure de fougères = head of fern hair

And so for day 2189

Time & Space: chronobiopolitics

Knowledge keeper, Kim Wheatley refers to these acknowledgements as "necessities" not "niceties".

Sign acknowledging Indigenous presence

The sign reads: The TDSB Outdoor Education Schools acknowledge the land that we are situated on is the traditional territories of the Aboriginal founding Peoples of the Great Lakes region of Canada.

Toronto District School Board - Treaty Acknowledgements have two recitations: one for the Toronto Purchase area and the other for Williams Treaties area.

These necessities reorient one's sense of time and space. They perform "Indigenous Orientations" to borrow the title of the introductory chapter to Mark Rifkin's Beyond Settler Time. He writes:
Stories, then, give meaning to current and former occupancy in particular places while also conjuring the specificities of those places, producing kinds of experience and forms of relation that cross apparent temporal gulfs but do not arrive as an uncanny or spectral remainder. These connections to place exceed the terms of individual affect and transect the chronogeopolitics of settler policy and popular narratives. Everyday participation within such storying produces emotional and sensory investments in placemaking that give shape to and help animate collective processes of becoming and ways of being-in-time that can be understood as expressions of temporal sovereignty.

Conceptualized in this way, Indigenous duration operates less as a chronological sequence than as overlapping networks of affective connection (to persons, nonhuman entities, and place) that orient one's way of moving through space and time, with story as a crucial part of that process.
Not just an encounter with the past. The TDSB acknowledgements conclude with a view to the present and the future: "I also recognize the enduring presence of Aboriginal peoples on this land."

And so for day 2188

Swing Shift

Annie Lowrey Smart money: Why the world should embrace universal basic income in the Globe and Mail

So easy to miss the negation

These studies - as well as many others - counter many of the most common objections to a UBI. Such policies do not turn the safety net into a hammock, for one. People still work, particularly if the payments are not too big. Indeed, one benefit is that such payments do not penalize people for working and earning more, as many other welfare programs do. [our emphasis]
Would love to conceive of a world where relaxed swinging would be valuable day dream option for all — just a wee bit of time to listen to a berceuse.

And so for day 2187

Driven Diving

This set of diving exercises is set in the past. It pertains to "Our Youth" in the poem of the same name by Gilles Hénault.

like fools we dove again in seas
of grief where twist the coral spines
of our cruel philosophies
Translated by Fred Cogswell and collected in One Hundred Poems of Modern Quebec.

What strikes me is the very physicality of diving being paired with the consequences of mental activity or philosophizing. And the sound!. coral spines echoed by cruel philosophies --- the lips form the same shapes --- taking a breath and exhaling on the ascent back to the surface ---

And so for day 2186

Time Tide

By happenstance of typesetting, it stands alone on the page at the top of a vast white space that figures the future.

Finally, the flow of my life changed after meeting Rich Murray. The passing of time feels different now, and I'm deeply grateful to dwell with him in the movement of that tide.
The words are Mark Rifkin's in the acknowledgements to his Beyond Settler Time: Temporal Sovereignty and Indigenous Self-Determination.

Note how the temporal sharing buoys the figure of the lover-partners. It is a formulation that neatly captures individuality-in-connection without subsuming it in relationship.

And so for day 2185

Sink, Swim, Sense

Northrop Frye in By Liberal Things [his address upon his installation as Principal of Victoria College, 1959] invites us to contemplate the ingrainedness of practice. It rehearses for me the triple notions of immersion, acculturation and perception.

The kind of memory the university is interested in and tries to develop is practice memory, the skill and knowledge developed by constant application, the steady repetition that goes on in the unconscious, teaching us, as the proverb says, to skate in summer and swim in winter.
The seasonal antithesis calls to mind another.

Prior to a performance of Porch View Dances, following an acknowledgement of traditional territories and ancestral lands by Jim Adams, I witnessed [t]his invitation to the dérèglement des sens [I paraphrase from memory ommiting the pronominal references to "you" (implied as they are in the imperative mood of the verbs) and not wanting to trip up the euphony of the medial anaphora of the repeated preposition "with" so important to a world view where "all my relations" count].
hear with eyes
see with ears
feel with head
think with heart
Perfect advice for entering an aesthetic time and space. Practice.

And so for day 2184

Light Motifs

Family resemblance.

Call for clarity. Clear call.

Philosophy as envisaged by the Tractatus is therefore a futile attempt to say what cannot be meaningfully said but which can only show itself. So, philosophy, insofar as it is possible at all, cannot be a body of doctrines. It must be an activity. It must aim not, like science, at truth and knowledge, but only at clarity and, with the achievement of that clarity, peace.
One difference from the earlier work is that the Philosophical Investigations gives us not a single ladder to climb. Instead it shows us the paths up a series of hills and promontories, from which we may gain different overviews of the landscape and, with luck, see the light gradually dawn.
From Ian Ground, The relentless honesty of Ludwig Wittgenstein

And so for day 2183

Recouping the Aleatory

It is a challenge to decide which quotation to put first. Here they are in chronological order. Suggesting perhaps some filiation.

A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.

      Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity
No, no. don't say where we are! Once we know where we are, then the world becomes as narrow as a map. When we don't know, the world feels unlimited.

Okay. Then let's do our best to get lost.

      Cixin Liu. The Dark Forest trans. Joel Martinsen
Thus I come to the conclusion that map is like metaphor, a structure for exploration. And there is no exploration without "getting lost" which of course means "being found" elsewhere.
“But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.”

      Mark Twain. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

      Dorothy of no-place-like-home fame
For some Oz is the homeward direction. Navigating mapless.

And so for day 2182

Precipitate (Noun)

A single line triumph. Making three look more. By way of enjambement.

The concluding lines of "Rain, Rain, Rain" by Don McKay from Apparatus

Who understands this tongue? No one.
No one and no one and no one.
... yet many.

And so for day 2181

Sibling Conviviality

These were slides that periodically projected onto the wall of our house. Magic lantern show. But also upon retrospect all these years later: an oft repeated object lesson in sharing.

3 candles

Sharing the slices

Thanks to my sister who digitalized the fragile slides.

And so for day 2180