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Interviews, Recommendations, and More

To the Core: More Selections

Writers and readers continue to send us the Canadian poems they find extraordinary.

Our To the Core Poetry Contest is eliciting tons of participation—thank you! It's a beautiful thing to read each submission (in the comments field below this post). They're all so different and each contributor writes eloquently about how they felt when first discovering their poem. When we dreamt up the contest, we thought we'd reach out to a few poetry enthusiasts to get the contest rolling—you'll have seen the selections of Janet Somerville, Cathy Marie Buchanan, Miranda Hill, and Jack Illingsworth in the original post. So as not to make that post too long, we'll post the remainder of our guests' contributions here.

Geist 84 cover

The editorial team at Geist magazine chose three stanzas of "The Speed of Rust, or, He Marries" by Karen Connelly, saying:

"It's been a favourite around the office since it was published in Geist 84. It's intensely visual and evocative, and speaks to the sometimes tenuous nature of connections between two people."






From "The Speed of Rust, or, He Marries"

You and I walk the wide sand flats,
slick grey acres of seaweed,
cracked shells, crabs scuttling sideways
like our desire. We are so close
to the barges that we see
a modern galley slave moving

feverishly about on the long deck.
He is silent in labour, I am silent
in sympathy, listening to you tell
how you think maybe you can’t marry her.

I suddenly remember my hedge clippers
lying on the grass in the back garden.
Tools rust if you leave them out
 in this rain. They teach us, every year,
not to do it again

Geist is on Twitter @geistmagazine and can be found on the web at


Vicki Ziegler, "steady and omnivorous" reader, book blogger, and social/online media manager at the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry, chose a selection from Kevin Connolly's "Plenty."

She writes: "Since I first read it, and then had the good fortune to hear the poet read it live at the 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist readings, Kevin Connolly’s poem "Plenty" has been my “go to” poem on many different levels. First and foremost, I go to it when I need my spirits buoyed—it never fails to cheer me up.  I love how Connolly distills, with disarmingly rueful charm, aching beauty out of the not obviously beautiful. The poem is down to earth and straightforward, and its accessibility is what I direct people to who contend that poetry is difficult, obscure or not attuned to the feelings of average people getting through the day-to-day. Finally, this poem makes me choke up just a bit every single time, whether I’m reading it or listening to Connolly’s reading—driving home once again how immensely powerful and soothing well crafted words can be."

From "Plenty":

And maybe the sun will hang in long
enough to light up a few raindrops -
like jewels or glass or those bright beads
girls put between the letters on the
bracelets that spell out their beautiful names -
Skye or Miranda or Verandah – which isn’t
even a name, although it is a word
we use to call things what they are,
and would be a pleasant place to sit
and watch the beautiful sky, beautiful
storm, the people with their beautiful
names walking toward the lake
in lovely clothing saying unpleasant
things over the phone about the people
they work with, all of it just adding to the
mother lode, the surfeit of beauty,
which on this day is just a fancy way
of saying lots, too much, skidloads, plenty.

Vicki blogs about books at, and tweets regularly about things literary @bookgaga.


Monique Sherrett, who has worked with 49th Shelf on our online marketing and who is "Chief Everything Officer" at Boxcar Marketing, chose a bit from Dennis Cooley's "at night cooley listens."

She writes: "Dennis Cooley is one of my all-time favourite poets. I find his poems to be flamboyant and a little crazy. Some of them are incredibly heartfelt, while others use tone and timing to turn otherwise casual observations into challenges or wisecracks. He's the only poet I keep coming back to. Others I enjoy and soon forget whereas I'll eagerly read, and re-read, Cooley. This poem in particular makes me giddy in the same way that episodes of Seinfeld do."

From "at night cooley listens":

at night cooley listens to his body
an answering service he bends over now
the day's over the day's messages
the rest of the day he does not listen
does not pay it much attention, his neglect shameful
cooley knows he shld do better shld take it out more often
show it a little more affection

once the noise of the day drops like shoes untied away
every night when the tired switch clicks night on
the body becomes importunate spouse
it's about time you listened to me
you self-centred bastard the body says you barely listen
the body rehearses a long list of grievances, sniffling
& there are violins

Monique blogs at So Misguided: Plain Words, Uncommon Sense and is on Twitter @somisguided.


Steph VanderMeulen, freelance copy editor and proofreader and author of the book blog Bella's Bookshelves, chose the last stanza of an Al Purdy poem (we were wondering when Al was going to turn up in here!).

She writes: "In university I met Al Purdy twice. He had such a profound effect on me that I began to read poetry on my own, aside from school assignments. Finally: a voice I understood, the casualness, bravery, and honesty I craved, the rhythm and playfulness of words I so deeply appreciated! A mixture of humour and blood, of landscape and love. No secrets. Purdy opened my eyes and broadened my reading horizons more than any other poet I read before him. Because of him, I no long avoid poetry, and have even found a new favourite (Méira Cook).
It feels impossible to pick only one of his poems. I love so many. “Our Wilderness” is not only a beautiful tribute to the famous A-frame, which is not far from where I live in Belleville; it has also always evoked in me my dream home. The poem speaks of peace, contentedness, and privacy, as well as a respect for the nature in which they’ve taken sanctuary."

From "Our Wilderness" (in Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy)

Beyond our trees that belong
to themselves the highway
traffic’s sullen sounds
a quietness in our bones
we scarcely notice the cars
and underground here
small furred nations
raise their flag in tunnels
below ground
sing anthems at dusk
and we are the aliens here
but at least there is peace
and time’s slow passage
the sun a gold coin
from lost Byzantium.

Steph is on Twitter @BellasBookshelf.

The To the Core Poetry Contest is still on, so feel free to enter in the comments field below the original post!

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