Tag Archives: Canadian poetry

New poems by Colin Morton

Two excellent Canadian literary magazines found room for my work on their pages this winter.

I recommend you check them out, and to get an idea of the kind of work they print, you could start by reading my poems here.

Prism international, based in Vancouver, includes my “Tinnitus” in its new issue:


I read John Cage and, in a silent room,
listened to the low thrum of blood in my veins,
the hiss of nerves in my head.
Proprioception I called it, after Olson.

For years I believed what I heard
was the microbiome of my inner ear –
cells living out their lives in there –
and I wondered about this thing called me.

How much of me is a population
of microbes doing I don’t know what
to or for me, living and dying
as I say these words?

Now I accent the first syllable,
call it tinnitus, as if that’s an explanation.
I told the doctor, I guess there’s little I can do.
You can complain, he said.

Waterloo, Ontario magazine The New Quarterly includes two of my poems, and I have written a blog post about one of them for the TNQ blog. Here are the poems.

Dark Flower

What fresh hellebore is this that flowers
deep purple, deeper than its shallow
sunny fellows?
How deep
to flower in winter, face frost
and snow, to know when to bow,
how not to break.
Burgundy bloom,
have you a tincture for me and my fellows?
A word to the wayward perhaps?
Or a charm to scare the devil
out of any who cross us?
Would you at least come live with me
and be my dark midwinter comfort?

Please forgive my forwardness.
You are, and that’s enough for me.


Wind in the branches
Whispering waves

How much of our poetry is

the abalone bed for
a single small pearl

found on a petal
or a rainy street

on the crest of a breaker
in the beak of a raptor

in the depths of the sea
or the eye socket of a skull

If you could see its gleam
without the setting

you’d be left without
a poem to learn

It would turn in your mind
like a moon


Poetry online and in the family

We’ve been away from the computer a lot this summer, but have been keeping up appearances online, with poems at these wonderful web zines:

In the U.S., Ascent published my “Crepuscule” many years after editor Scott Olsen asked to talk about aging.

Valparaiso Poetry Review reached back millions of years with my poem “Footprints.”

In Canada, the new Juniper Review allowed me to give a birthday gift to my wife Mary Lee Bragg with the poem “Amnesia.”

Not incidentally, Mary Lee Bragg has just published her first full poetry collection, The Landscape that Isn’t Therefrom Aeolus House Press. It is the mature work of a lifetime, as you know if you heard her read at the Aeolus House launches in Toronto and Ottawa recently. She will be giving readings from the book in Ottawa at Tree in October and in Victoria at Planet Earth in January.


So we’re quiet here, and spend much of every day in silence, but all along, things are humming.

In Fine Form, a fine intro to poetic forms

infineformcover-001My bionote in an issue of Grain magazine dating back to 1979 said my goal was to write in every poetic form, “sonnet, sestina, serial poem” and also the ones that don’t start with s. Four decades later, while I like to think I’m still in mid-career, I see that I have at least tried my hand at nearly every form categorized in the extra-fine new second edition of the anthology In Fine Form, edited by Kate Braid and Sandy Shreve.  Their selection, from two hundred years of Canadian poetry, covers the landscape encyclopedia style: Ballad; Blues; Epigram; Found Poems; Fugue and Madrigal; Ghazal; Glosa; Haiku and Other Japanese Forms; Incantation; Lipogram; Palindrome; Pantoum; Pas de Deux; Prose Poem; Rondeau Family; Sestina; Sonnet; Spoken Word; Stanzas; Villanelle; each gets a chapter … And More. The editors take troubles to introduce the forms, many of them ancient, and review how they’ve developed under the pens and keyboards of today’s poets. Examples follow, ordered not chronologically but according to how closely the poet has followed the models, progressing toward more and more experimental interpretations.


It’s a bit alarming how comfortably my roundeau (or roundel?) from “Three Small Rooms” sits beside John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields.” “We are the Dead,” he declares, and the only thing missing is my date of death. Given the elephant in my “Small Room” though, it could come directly from Kipling. I wrote the piece, with others, as an exercise upon finding Lewis Turco’s Book of Forms twenty years ago. Like many of the poets in the anthology, I don’t think of myself primarily as a “formal” poet. Often, we aren’t represented in the anthology by our most characteristic work. But there are fine discoveries here, including the fact that poets, while blazing trails through the thicket of language, aren’t burning bridges. There’s a deep heritage of poetry, a renewable resource for a poet to draw on, and look, it’s still possible.

Looking back to 1979 and beyond, I realize that, yes, form has always been at least as important in my poetry as metaphor (not that I’d tear the wings off that fly). Poetry is ordered speech, ordered language. What it says matters. The way it’s said – its form – is poetry.

  • Colin Morton

Ottawater launches


Saturday, Feb. 6, 7:30 at Ottawa’s Carlton Tavern, several contributors to rob mclennan’s annual poetic and artistic showcase of national capital-related talent,  http://www.ottawater.com/

I’ll be among the readers. Ottawater’s always-elegant design isn’t quite ready yet, but a whole decades’ archive of previous volumes can still be read at the site.