About Kathryn Mockler's new poetry collection The Saddest Place on Earth: When Donald Rumsfeld briefed his press secretary on how to deal with the media, he said: 'Begin with an illogical premise and proceed perfectly logically to an illogical conclusion…They [the media] do it all the time.' Kathryn Mockler's new collection of poems applies Rumsfeld's advice to powerful poetic ends. Deeply interested in American politics and the absurdity of our mediated relation to the political sphere, the beautiful and entertaining narrative poems in The Saddest Place on Earth follow absurd premises to their most logical conclusions. Here, God appears on Oprah, Hurt Feelings and Anger rent a cottage together on Lake Huron for a week in August, and the saddest place on earth is discovered in a Chinese restaurant at the end of a stripmall. Kathryn Mockler's approach to language and the world results in an extremely engaging, moving and often hilarious poetics of deep disorientation.
I’ve got a bad case of environmentalism. I was up all night with a
sick stomach and a sore head. And this morning I had a nosebleed, but it was
an oil spill that came out instead of blood.
I hate it when that happens. I had a bird’s beak embedded in my nose like
a sliver the last time I had it. What did your doctor say?
She thinks it’s all in my head like allergies and anxiety and fibromyalgia.
What happens next?
She’s prescribes me medicine so I don’t have to worry about these things
But what about the nose bleeds?
According to her—they’re going to dry up.
And then what happens.
Then we work on the tornados and the tsunamis—which are much harder
to treat. What about you?
My doctor believes me but won’t give me anything to take. He says I have
to let my environmentalism pass naturally like a cold or diarrhea. He
doesn’t think that masking the symptoms will make it go away.
The Evangelical Christian was so busy
tying his shoelace that he failed to
notice the twister fast approaching.
When he finally stood up and saw dark
clouds surrounded by a funnel-shaped
force, he said to himself, My Lord, is
No, said the postman who had just put
a large package in the Evangelical
Christian's mailbox, it's a tornado. The
package had been weighing the
postman down since this morning, and
he was glad to be relieved of it.
Should we take cover? asked the
I suppose, said the postman, but I still
have all this mail to deliver.
Well, you could rest here, the
Evangelical Christian suggested, and
wait for the storm to pass.
The postman looked up at the charcoal
sky, at the leaves and twigs blowing in
the unrelenting wind. The birds and
animals were taking cover, and the
postman decided he had better take
I could make some tea, the Evangelical
Christian offered, and we could sit on
the porch and watch the storm. Should
the storm get too rough, we may take
cover in the basement where there's a
Sounds like a plan, said the postman,
and he removed the mailbag from his
aching shoulder and set it down beside
a pot of red geraniums.
The neighbourhood looked like a ghost
town—not a person, nor car, nor
animal in sight. The postman supposed
everyone was either at work or school.
And the ones who were inside probably
always stayed in, even in fine weather.
The postman had an aunt who was
agoraphobic. She lived alone and had
no children. She died the way most
hope to die—painlessly, peacefully in
Because she never left the house and had
no family, no one knew she was no
longer alive. It was the smell of her
rotting corpse that alerted her
neighbours in the adjacent apartment to
The postman felt guilty for not visiting
his aunt more often or taking more of
an interest in her affairs. But truth be
told, she had not taken any
particular interest in him.
You get what you give—or is it—you
give what you get? In either case, the
postman thought, communication is a
(First published in Rattle Poetry, Canadian Tribute Issue, 2011)
I was walking down the street on a wet winter
day when I came across a pigeon hopping on one
foot. The other foot was broken and bent, damaged,
it appeared, beyond repair. I grabbed a passerby
and said, what can we do about this hurt pigeon?
The passerby said, nothing, there’s no hospital for
sick pigeons. What about an animal shelter? I asked.
No, said the passerby, they won’t take pigeons.
They won’t take birds of any kind, except rare ones
and only sometimes. So it’s just going to suffer? It’s
just going to die? I asked. Yes, said the passerby.
Pigeons are the lowest of the low. The city considers
them to be a nuisance because they shit on people’s
heads and are attracted to garbage. Really, when it
comes down to it, the passerby said, pigeons are just
awful, just good for nothing. If you want my advice,
he said, leave it alone and worry about yourself.
Kathryn Mockler is a writer, screenwriter, filmmaker, and poet. She is the author of the poetry books Onion Man (Tightrope Books, 2011) andThe Saddest Place on Earth (DC Books, 2012). She received her MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and her BA in Honours English and Creative Writing from Concordia University. She teaches creative writing at the University of Western Ontario and is the co-founder and co-editor of the online literary and arts journal The Rusty Toque.
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