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Fiction Literary

The Pornographer's Poem

by (author) Michael Turner

Doubleday Canada
Initial publish date
Sep 2000
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2000
    List Price

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As a grade seven student living in an affluent suburb of Vancouver, our unnamed narrator and his closest friend Nettie, are introduced to the exciting world of super-8 filmmaking by a progressive young teacher. Together Nettie and the narrator find in film a means of expressing their somewhat skewed world views.

At the age of sixteen the narrator shoots his first adult film, surreptitiously capturing his neighbours having sex. He believes that through representations of sexual activity he can comment on that which he finds both painful and confusing. Nettie, an idealistic poet now away at school, sees in pornography the opportunity to do something artistic, liberating, and socially relevant, and she pushes the narrator to make films that subvert the way the world is constructed. Ultimately, despite his radical intentions, the narrator falls into a world of greed, delusion, and hypocrisy - the same world he once rebelled against.

About the author

Michael Turner was born in North Vancouver, B.C. in 1962 and spent his teenage summers working in the Skeena River salmon fishery. After high school, he travelled through Europe and North Africa, eventually to the University of Victoria, where he completed a BA (anthropology) in 1986. Between 1987–1993 he sang and played banjo in Hard Rock Miners; upon his retirement from touring, he opened the Malcolm Lowry Room (1993–1997). His first book, Company Town (1991), was nominated for a Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. His second book, Hard Core Logo, was adapted to feature-film. Kingsway (1995), American Whiskey Bar (1997), The Pornographer’s Poem (1999) and 8x10 (2009) followed. A frequent collaborator, he has written scripts with Stan Douglas, poems with Geoffrey Farmer and songs with cub, Dream Warriors, Fishbone and Kinnie Starr. He blogs at this address

Michael Turner's profile page


  • Winner, BC Book Prize's Ethel Wilson Award for Fiction

Excerpt: The Pornographer's Poem (by (author) Michael Turner)


Sixteen years old. My first porno. Pornos, really. There were three: The Blue Balloon, something starring Clint Westwood, and another one whose name I can never remember. Cut together. And continuous. From noon to midnight. Seven days a week.
So: first porno was pornos. About fifteen minutes' worth. The cops threw me out before I knew what I was watching. But which one out of three? Does it matter? You'd think it wouldn't. But it does, in a way. I think.

This is what I know I saw:


A brick building. Her busted marquee. Purple curtains in the windows. Posters, too. A Hindu woman (40) stares from the booth. I approach, camera-right.


Five dollars.

I give her the five, she tears off a ticket.


A small lobby dressed in pink drapes. A popcorn machine with a CLOSED sign taped to the counter. An older Hindu man (70) sits at a card table. In front of him, a shoebox. For the stubs.

He reaches out. I give him my ticket. He rips it in half, then points to a slit in the drapery.



Static pops. Low groans. Some "oh" sounds. And some high-sucking "ahs." Snippets of dialogue. But they are so muffled, so scratched, the voices seem sexless, indistinguishable.


Can you feel it?

My heartbeat. Beating harder. In 2/4.



I step into the light. The silver light. Hundreds of seats. The backs of ten heads. Silhouetted. I adjust, though I'm slow to focus. I think: Silver makes the darkest shadows. I still can't see. But I end up front-and-centre. A mystery to me. To this day.


Here ...

The brightness of the first row. Skin completely white. The pores of my flesh. The stiffness of each arm hair.

This big guy takes the aisle seat. To my right. Creaking. An old guy. Fifties. The speakers hang above us. His crunchy coat like thunder.

taste it.
An interior scene. A woman and a man. She shuts the door. Not a crack of daylight. Just a candle by the nightstand.


I'm gonna wanna smell it first.

The guy on the aisle. He crosses his legs. Then he uncrosses them. Then he crosses them again. And again. The heat off his body with each uncrossing. The salt in the air. From his lap. Different from the rest. I mean the others in the building.

IV #1


His hands in his pockets. The whole aisle creaks. A sustained creaking. Then this ticking. Like a metronome. Then a note ascending. Chromatically. This tick ... tick ... ticking.

IV #2

Okay, then.

Soundtrack. Bass first. For two bars. High-hat. Then a close-up on her face. Eyes. Wow! Organ fills. Horns. Then wah-wah. Fuzz. And him. So funky.

His hands grip the armrest. The aisle creaks. The bolts strip. I feel me. Sliding down to see. To where I can't be seen. I scratch my cheek to see. Him. Leaning. Arching. Toes pushing out. Heels dangling down. His pushing pushes me. Jiggling my seat.

IV #1

Oh ... ohhh!

His eyes closing. His breathing. With my fingertip, touching. I trace the outline where I've grown to be. The strain against my jeans. And me. Leaning. Into this moment. Creaks. Everything.

IV #2


An exterior scene. A blast of streetlight. His coat slides away. He pulls from his body. This monster. Holds it forth. The boldest I've seen. To this day. Mottled. Uncut. Big balls bobbing. Jumping for something. Right out of his goddamn pants!

IV #1

I'm coming.

In spurts. Three. The first between his feet. Then one straight up.

Disappearing. The last one a drop off the top of the stage.

IV #2

Yeah. Oh yeah!

An interior scene. Pitch black. The lighting of a match. A cigarette. Mumbles. Chuckles. One voice high, trailing off at the end. Suggests a question. Then another. Low. Monotone. Not inclined. Bored.

IV #1

You'll have to go now. You know you can't stay here.

IV #2

I've got a feeling you're right.

He adjusts his coat. Gets up. Goes.

IV #1
Do you think I'll ever see you again?


An exterior scene. A car pulls away. From an old brick building. He's gone.


Young man?




Can I see some ID?

Two cops. One talking. One holding the flashlight. Asking me to leave. The flashlight in front. His partner behind continues ...


It's for your own good, son. These people - they're perverts. You never know what one of them's gonna do in the heat of the moment.


Outside. The talking cop. His lecture. To the woman in the booth. She nods. Looks barely there. A ghost car pulls up, jumps the curb. The flashlight cop makes the OK sign. Talking cop calls out ...


The guy from the aisle seat. He gets out of the ghost car. Looks right through me. To the talking cop, the detective says ...

What do these kids see in this shit?

And from the flashlight cop ...

If we knew, we'd be detectives.


- Sorry. I've forgotten the question.

- We asked you how old you were when you saw your first pornographic movie.

- Oh.

Editorial Reviews

"Michael Turner is simply one of the best writers in this country.-- Reading The Pornographer's Poem is exciting in a way books very rarely are." -The Georgia Straight
"Very few novels manage to be funny, moving and true: Turner is capable of hitting some very difficult notes." -National Post

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