Poetry - Decade by Decade

What I first loved about writing poetry was that I wrote it, put it in a box,and never changed it or read it again. I hope to evolve to that point again.

But then I started to open the box and revise, and make public.

The two highpoints in the 1970s were publishing a literary magazine called Acanthus with my sister Susan, and the publication of Powerland Minds, my first book of poetry.

My Poetic Influences: Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, bp nichol, ee cummings, Leonard Cohen, Earle Birney, Margaret Atwood, Alden Nowlan, TS Eliot, Michael Ondaatje, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Al Purdy, William Wordsworth.

My Favourite Poems from others: The Martyrology, The Four Quartets, Fern Hill, Daddy, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Chansons Innocentes, Fern Hill, From The Hazel Bough, Dog, Howl, Lady Lazarus, The Collected Works of Billy The Kid.

Acanthus was a literary magazine from 1978-80, and for a new magazine we were able to attract some well known and very talented poets, such as Earle Birney, Joe Rosenblatt, Alden Nowlan, and younger, now well known ones, such as Roo Borson and AF Moritz (winner of 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize). Sending out letters requesting poems from the famous poets was a bit nerve wracking, but then receiving a pile of freshly minted poems back was so so exciting and unexpected.


Powerland Minds
In 1979, Fiddlehead published Powerland Minds, my first book of poetry. The book consists of two suites of poems: the Capone Poems, on gangster Al Capone’s life, and the South Pole Poems, on RF Scott’s failed journey to the South Pole.

I was attracted to how the stress and desire in these men’s lives could be turned into poetic fodder; how the polarities they represented could illustrate one view of the duality of life.


I continued to develop suites of poems as the narrative bug was hitting me more and more. (I was also writing short stories and moving into play writing.) The epic approach to poems dominated with suites on

I also tackled more mythological roots with my

My favourite is the Candy Desert suite. It is about the regulars on Bloor St, a busy downtown Toronto thoroughfare. There is the glue sniffer, the busker, the African fundraiser, the Jehovah Witness, the ghosts of those who died, etc. I had many intriguing undercover observation experiences as I watched these people over a number of years as I was writing these poems.

I published poems in literary journals, such as Prism, Quarry, and the Antigonish Review, into the mid 80s, but trailed off as I became more immersed in theatre.

guitarman giving
me shudder
the trolley going
through my bones
the church of Honest Ed
eating its gaudy chance
for a moment
of grace with
glue stars
universal love
shooting by
like spaceships

from Candy Desert


By the end of the 90s I had collected thirty years of poetry into a book called Neon Dust Storm (contents: Love Poems, History, Candy Desert, and Pathology). I was not sending out poems to be published in those days, so the book remained virtually unread except by me. In 2010 I will put a selected Neon Dust Storm up on this site.

My poetry seems to have become much freer since 2000 - maturing, I guess. And I’m writing more personal poems – an opening up. I have written long narrative personal poems:

Many poems have been written up at a cabin I built on fifty acres of bush. I have been collecting my 1999-2009 poems into a book called Semaphore. Semaphore is a system of visual communication using hand held flags. I stand on one hill and spell out my message to you standing on another hill. My poems are my messages. I will put up a selected Semaphore on this site in 2010.

Poemography – A list of titles and dates of my bardic oeuvre.