Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Plus ça change

Wordsworth, on Robert Southey's unfavourable review of Lyrical Ballads
"He knew that money was of importance to me. If he could not conscientiously have spoken differently of the volume, he ought to have declined the task of reviewing it."


The index of a vintage
is the season's history: how many
photons have fallen

through the skin. Equations
predict excellence. Unlike
the nose of connoisseurs,

the maths involved
are flawless, however
maculate the soil.

Deprive the vine of water,
it will eke its taproot deeper
down through solid strata

where it draws not only
succour for the turgor
of its foliage and fruit,

but hauls up half-formed
metaphors from minerals
lying latent in the clay,

imparts them to the grape
flesh where they mingle
and intensify as the sun-

washed clusters ripen.
These metaphors remain
embryonic until tongue

-cognized and -constituted
by a seasoned sommelier
who nearly knows them flawlessly.

The index of a vintage,
however reason may explain it,
retains intrinsic mystery—

the grape escapes its proof.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Rage of Extemporary Criticism

As it very seldom happens that the rage of extemporary criticism inflicts fatal or lasting wounds, I know not that the Laws of benevolence entitle this distress to much sympathy. The diversion of baiting an author has the sanction of all ages and nations, and is more lawful than the sport of teasing other animals, because for the most part he comes voluntarily to the stake, furnished, as he imagines, by the patron powers of literature with resistless weapons and impenetrable armour, with the mail of the boar of Erymanth, and the paws of the lion of Nemea.
                      -Samuel Johnson

Thursday, January 1, 2015

ZW on Patreon

Happy new year, everybody. Impressed by the concept and by the results people have achieved using the crowd-funding patronage site Patreon, I've decided to set up my own page. As I state on the page, I am not doing this because I need the funding, but so that people who enjoy/admire my writing can support it directly if they're willing and able. Any support is enormously appreciated, much of it will be paid forward to other artists, and I've built in considerable quid pro quo "rewards" for anyone who does chip in a few drachmas. This isn't something I'll be flogging on an ongoing basis; I just wanted to set it up and let people know about it this once. I have set a "milestone goal," but that's more day-dream than ambition; I shall by no means be disappointed if I never meet it.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mark Sampson's Year in Review

My old friend Mark Sampson has also included CLM in his ten favourite books of 2014. Thanks, Mark!

Brian Palmu on CLM and Cottonopolis

I'm not a big fan of book-biz year-end best-of lists in general, but there are better ways it can be done. Brian Palmu has listed his favourite books of 2014, but, refreshingly, these are books he read this year, rather than books published this year. He also doesn't stop after he's reached an arbitrary number of "best books." And, pleasingly to this household, he has included my book of essays and Rachel's Cottonopolis.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Welcome to your turnkey cul-de-sac,
where faux Tudors and ersatz cedar-sided
colonials sprawl cheek by jowl, and back

on a hemlock-shaded ravine: your own private
wilderness oasis and buffer against the berm-
baffled traffic beyond. This ticky-tacky

facsimile is the acme of blandeur:
gauche rooflines, cultured stone and off-the-rack
opulencies galore—all the doo-dads

and knick-knacks the status anxiety
of your executive lifestyle demands,
and priced to move fast. This high society

dream could be yours, but it won't last.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Quiet Tryst of Living Voices

Our poems are conversations in every meaningful sense. They are an exchange between ourselves and those parts of ourselves that belong to other people. Intimate whisperings, productive tensions. They challenge and tease us, lead us to say things that we have not thought to say. They gives the courage to have a self and to lose it too, which is surely the most we can ask of any conversation.
We are made up of voice and we are the relations between voices, inside and out. They are our judgement and our redemption, our ipseity and our selflessness, our origin and our promise. Perhaps their revelation is possible in real conversation. It may be, after all, what we live for. As Yeats says, "what do we know but that we face / one another in this place?" I suppose there will always be something ethereal and unreal about conversations as long as I feel as anxious about them as I do. But in every ghostly encounter--the ones we have with friends at Tim Hortons and the ones we listen for when we write--we recognize the voices we love and think: it is good of them to come back the way they do and share a part of themselves with us, good to hear them again. And our hearts warm to a quiet tryst of living voices, ones that, if we are lucky, will choir among themselves long afterward.

--Jeffery Donaldson, "Ghostly Conversations," from Echo Soundings: Essays on Poetry and Poetics

Saturday, November 1, 2014

New book next spring

So, I have a new book of poems coming out in the spring. The final edits have been submitted for typesetting and design work is underway. Here is one potential cover idea crafted by Biblioasis designer Kate Hargreaves. Not final, but I quite like it.

Essay online

I have just discovered that an essay on Elizabeth Bishop's "The Bight" that I published in The Worcester Review a few years ago has been uploaded to the interwebs. So you can read it, if you like to read such things.