17 June 2016

Bill Berkson Will Pass Among You Silently

Just heard that the American poet Bill Berkson died yesterday. He was 76 years old.

Berkson was the author of over 20 wonderful books of poetry, as well as volumes of art criticism, lectures, and memoir. He was also an enthusiastic collaborator with many other writers and artists. Among my favourite books of his are Our Friends Will Pass Among You Silently, Fugue, and Serenade. But everything he wrote is worth reading.

A few years back, I had the honour of including some poems by Berkson in my mag Peter O'Toole: The Magazine of One-Line Poems.

My new book, A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent, contains a poem for Bill Berkson, which I'm glad I got around to sending him shortly after I wrote it. (His response seemed, well … bemused in a friendly way.)


The pure pleasure of reading Bill Berkson’s Serenade (Zoland Books, 2000; cover and interior drawings by Joe Brainard) while I’m lying in the claw-footed bathtub is such that I levitate. My body rises beyond the rim of the tub, then about another metre, till I can see sweet cobwebs flutter from the ceiling, and I hear the water drain below me, and drops sail down from my naked body, and as they fall they turn to various colours of paint and, landing in the tub, they make a portrait of Bill Berkson. His features are hewn and striking, and he wears a white hat, which the drops quickly change to brown with a white band. I raise a hand and brush away the cobwebs, “Fragile as the glitter on Dame Felicity’s eyelid,” and the ceiling opens, an Underwood typewriter lowering until it’s hovering just over me, a sheet of white foolscap rippling on the platen. I type this poem, shave, dry myself off, pull on some jeans and a madras shirt, and win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

To Bill Berkson: good night and sleep well. Thank you for enriching the world of poetry with your incredible work. (Beautiful photo below, full of spirit and joy, by Robert Eliason.)

Over and out.

06 June 2016

The Sparrow continues its flight

The Sparrow is landing in five more towns, starting tonight! I'm spreading my mainstream sensibilities far and wide with A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent, my new book from Wolsak and Wynn.

Monday, June 6, 7 pm — Cobourg, Ontario
The Human Bean, 80 King Street West
Also featuring: Ashley-Elizabeth Best, launching her debut poetry collection, Slow States of Collapse (ECW Press), and a musical set by Rhonda Murdoch of VanLand.

Tuesday, June 14, 7 pm — Hamilton, Ontario
Mills Hardware, 95 King Street East
Wolsak and Wynn spring launch party. Also featuring: Kilby Smith-McGregor with Kids in Triage; Susan Perly with Death Valley, and Rachael Preston with The Fishers of Paradise.

Thursday, June 16, 6 pm — Wolfville, Nova Scotia
The Box of Delights Bookshop, 466 Main Street
Also featuring Alice Burdick, launching Book of Short Sentences (Mansfield Press).

Saturday, June 18, 7 pm — Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Lexicon Books, 125 Montague Street
Also featuring Lance La Rocque, author of Vermin (Bookthug).

Thursday, June 23, 7 pm — Halifax, Nova Scotia
The Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia, 1113 Marginal Road
Also featuring Alice Burdick, launching Book of Short Sentences (Mansfield Press).

Look for future launches in Ottawa and Montreal — and maybe even Alberta and British Columbia in the fall!

Over and out.