Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

MuseFlash Thursday: Marty Gervais, Patrick Woodcock and so much more

Marty Gervais

Tyler Brownbridge

Windsor's recently installed and justifiably celebrated poet laureate (not to mention top-notch snap-shooter and award-winning journalist), C. H. (Marty) Gervais, sends along an extraordinary 'graph he grants permission to reprint for you, Dear IOWerZ and Rez Reg Readers:

I wrote this piece for Descant; it takes up a great deal of the new Winter Issue . . . It's about Pat Sturn, a photographer who lived till she was 100 . . . I had been taking care of her . . . Pat lived in a tiny stone cottage in old Walkerville [Windsor environs] never married . . . She passed away last March, almost a year ago, now . . . For 113 days, I watched over and looked after her, organized her round-the-clock care and read poetry to her in the afternoons. We talked about Friedrich Schiller's poetry; we talked about Goethe's . . . She was a woman who was photographed by Yousuf Karsh; but, just before she turned 100, she decided she'd throw that photograph away! (Har! I rescued it and am giving it to our museum.) The piece is a diary I wrote during those final days and features her thoughts about them (among other various interesting subjects). Those last days . . . Well, she remained at home until nearly the very end; then, a few days before she died, she entered the hospital. I sat there in the gloom of those winter days, listening, watching, listening and waiting for her to leave us. She so inspired me and she pushed me — Right till the end! — she pushed me to pay attention to poetry, to the next line and because she was, after all, a photographer, she really forced me in a good way to pay attention to the light in that hospital room. In some ineffable way, she lives within me still . . .


Story continues below advertisement

Most every literate human being on the planet knows June 16th's Bloomsday in Dublin and around the globe; but, how many of you know that today marks the 90th anniversary of the publication of the prose-master's most-revered — Most-reviled? — novel, Ulysses? (<*Waves to M'Oddy*> :).)

Coincidentally, it also happens to auspiciously fall upon the day Joyce would've turned 130 (if anyone can imagine a human being living that long and actually enjoying the experience). That's neither here nor there; just one of those interesting trufax one often encounters making their way through life's miraculous vistas.

However, to commemorate this double milestone in modernist and literary history, Ryerson University's Professor of English, Dr. Irene Gammel, Canada Research Chair in Modern Literature & Culture, asked fans and lovers of Joyce's arguably most brilliant (or balderdashed) work to submit quotations and reflections on same for a collage just now making its way online.

"A brilliant tour de force, structured in the episodic form of Homer's Odyssey," marvels Dr. Gammel, " Ulysses traces one day in the life of Leopold Bloom in Dublin in 1904. Within little more than one day within our call for responses, we received Joycean quotations and reflections in poetic, peripatetic, academic, personal, satirical and witty forms that tell us something about how Ulysses speaks to us today. Here is Ulysses for the twenty-first century, sounding a polyphonic chorus of voices from Nova Scotia through England to Brazil and from New York City through Buffalo to Toronto . . ."

Satisfiction guaranteed! Not-to-miss bliss (or sissss-boooo-hissss :))!


"Wislawa Szymborska, a gentle and reclusive Polish poet who won the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, died on Wednesday in Krakow, Poland. She was 88," reports The New York Times's Raymond H. Anderson in an affective eulogy worth reading in its entirety as much for Szymborska's poetry as the lyrical cadences of this cut-above journo-scribe:

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Szymborska (pronounced VEES-mah-vah shim-BOR-ska) had a relatively small body of work when she received the Nobel, the fifth Polish or Polish-born writer to have done so since the prize was created in 1901. Only about 200 of her poems had been published in periodicals and thin volumes over a half-century, and her lifetime total was something less than 400 . . . The Nobel announcement surprised Ms. Szymborska, who had lived an intensely private life. "She was kind of paralyzed by it," said Clare Cavanagh who, with Stanislaw Baranczak, translated much of Ms. Szymborska's work into English . . . "Her friends called it the 'Nobel tragedy,'" Dr. Cavanagh, a professor of literature at Northwestern University, said in an interview on Wednesday. "It was a few years before she wrote another poem."


Fabulous news it thrills yours truly to share with you from D. O. Dodd, the intrepid author of the critically acclaimed and widely translated JEW ( Exile Editions):

" JEW — recently released as EBREO in Italy — is a bestseller on, Italy's largest e-commerce site. JEW has continued to remain in the Top-50 hourly bestsellers for several days and has been included in the Top-100 Weekly bestsellers list for the last week plus. The work, just now reviewed in Saturno, the cultural magazine associated with Italy's political newspaper, il Fatto Quotidiano, received high praise from Giovanni Ziccardi who rightfully referred to JEW as 'deep, thoughtful and original.'" Aye. That it is, to say the least. BTW, Dodd's finally completed the hotly anticipated next work from the gender-free author, The Immigrant's Handbook. (More to come when more becomes available. Stay toned!)


Everyone loves the Poetry Foundation, right? Right; otherwise, you're left to your own devices and instruments navigating poetry's constantly shifting slipstream/s hipsdream/s. To avoid such a lack of bearings, park your browsership at the latest edition of Poetry Magazine, a jam-crammed extravaganza featuring the work of some of the finest in its wake (from current U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine, A. E. Stallings and Robert Pinksy to Fiona Sampson and, most keenly, an essential and compelling discussion, One Whole Voice, an intriguing foray into a topic rarely publicly examined, one addressing the differences between poetry and prayer if you believe such differences actually exist. Personally? Debatable :); but, that's just me, the dame who once wrote: "The difference between poetry and prayer? The former melts your bones; the latter reconstructs them"). N-Joie!

Story continues below advertisement


Although he never goes near interactive social-media networks (which makes him a de-facto fellow Neo-Luddite kindred spirit in my books, all 30-odd of 'em), world-travelling volunteer Patrick Woodcock reports his newest work, Echo Gods and Silent Mountains, slated for April release by one of our own premier poetry publishers, ECW Press, will nonetheless receive a kind of "new media" promotional treatment:

"Since I am not really one for Facebook nor Twitter, I have instead promised to make five short promo films," elaborates Woodcock by way of framing the following explicitly graphic and gruesome YouTube instalment uploaded Jan. 28th:

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Currently stationed in the Far North Denesuliné (Dene) Nation for nine months, Woodcock adds, "I like the idea of having written the poem in Iraq and now reading it from the town dump in Fort Good Hope, NWT (20 km south of the Arctic Circle)."

The clip's shocking, riveting and heart-wracking beyond belief. The poem he reads, White Boots, contrapuntally balanced and tuned to a fine perfectitude, contains horrifying images of unimaginable brutality. "It rips the skin from your bones," I tell him after viewing it twice (thinking of Conrad's Heart of Darkness and the difference between "horror" and "terror" in Aristotelian terms).

Woodcock clearly concurs. Consider the terrifying descrip attached to this shuddersome clip:

The form of the piece itself is supposed to mirror the panic that occurred while I was being bombarded with images — photographs, mannequins, lights, plaques, videos and assorted memorabilia during our tour [of the Kurdish North Halabja Monument and Museum, Iraq dedicated to mass slaughter following a mustard-gas attack initiated by Saddam Hussein] It is an eight-page piece containing 56 triplets with a syllabic count of 7-5-7 — sort of an inverted haiku. I wanted them to act like quick snapshots — or flashes from a strobe light — therefore the style of the piece was dictated by how it would look on the printed page . . . It was filmed at the museum in Iraq and the town dump — the perfect setting for poetry readings . . . I have never listened to the CBC [but]while driving up here, I could not believe that the one time I do, while recording, they were talking about Fort Good Hope, water contamination and cancer . . . It is also worth noting that it was -36° C. When you add a slight breeze to that it makes it very difficult to read or even hold paper. After the second page my hands were burning with pain. You can see my hands turning pink and contracting while I struggle to pronounce words correctly. Near the end, I was trying to read as fast as possible so I could get back in my truck; by the time I finished, my beard was covered with ice and turning white . . .


BEADS ON CHOICE RANTS & READS: At 5:00 p.m. Feb. 6th, BookThug writer Nathalie Stephens/Nathanael delivers the free PlanIt Purple / Queering Poetics in University Hall's Room 201 of Evanston, IL's Northernwestern University (1897 Sheridan Rd.) . . . Winnipegger Meira Cook, slated to put in an appearance at Toronto's Art Bar Feb. 7th (with Honey Novick, Sandra Ridley and George Fetherling) and its Pivot Reading Series the following evening (with Dani Couture and Sarah Pinder), will read selections from her brand-spangling new Brick book, A Walker in the City while fellow Brickster ( and IOW Top-Ten Outskirts author) Sue Goyette sparkles in the spotlight as one of the featured readers at 7 p.m., St. Mary's University's Atrium Room 101 (923 Robie St.) in Halifax on Feb. 7th as well . . . Raymond Carver's widow, highly respected poet Tess Gallagher, takes to the microphone at the Vancouver Public Library (Alice McKay Room / 350 West Georgia St.) Feb. 8th at 7:30 p.m. Check local listings for more details.


WE HAVE NO CAKE! Next Thursday? Come join us in celebrating our third anniversary! That's right, The Big Three (which, were we married or sumpin', would mean you'd hafta bring us gifts made from [traditionally]. . . BRB . . . leather! Ooooh . . . The mind wanders on its benders; but you, virtuous human bean you is, you fetch it back right smartly. Ouch :). Thus, rather than punishments and suchments, please do bring your eyeballs with a wickedly simple plan to ogle the grand-prize winner of The George Bowering Baseball Trivia Quiz in the fresh for starters). And, for finishers? Well, for now, we — that would be Linda Leith, Peter Scowen and yours truly — are just showing you the calf; come next Thursday, you may view the whole cow (so check early, check often)!

p.s. Sorry, Dear Pope Paul of IOW; but, nope, there will no be cake (unless The Duchess wishes to FedEx all of us instead of her prolly being FedUp with all of us by now). Salut and High Fivvers, though, eh? (Fivvers? That would be Popish for Fivers. Get with the prog, Man!) Who'd-a-thunk it? Essex, leo bloom, Sally Forth, SoLoDiVo (& DiVa or The SoLaDiVae), MinD, BB, ellelle, PoLo and, natch, honourary IOWerZ Leonard Cohen, Maxine Gadd, Fred Wah, Daphne Marlatt, George Bowering and Dr. Thomas Dilworth (; or, In Other Words, in a nut/shell-shocked? The wondrous works and workings of all of us all sticking together through thick 'n' thinsome three whole years . . . Sumus pulli patentes scientiae: Noli Nos Saepire! We're good! Yes!!1!

(And? For the record, this blog would not succeed without the deeply appreciated support, comments and recommendations via Facebook & Twitter from IOWerZ and Reg Readers both despite the fact I really do not have time to entertain joining either social medium. I love to comment when I can, though. I'm a new DawgMa, y'know? Erp! Here's HannaH GrrL, now! I just type her name and she wants her brekkie. Awe . . . :). Welp, at least I ain't no freakin' CatLady nor, in brill John Doyle's case, CatMan!)


CONFIDENTIAL TO PO-PUBLISHERS & PO-PUBLICISTS: Send your Spring lists and related launch events to me-me-meistic-me immediatement or sooner (si possible, SVP). Pourquoi? Early next week? The scoop on what's coming down the po-chute this Spring (which cannot arrive a moment too soon despite them ground-hoggin' predictions)! Merci.

(Hap tips, Barry & Larry Bain, Jean Baird, Rus Bowden, John Donlan, Bonnie Gorham, Father Owen Lee, Linda Leith, Dave Lull, Peter Scowen, Dale & Nancy Wice and Frank Wilson.)

(Photograph of Windsor Poet Laureate C. H. [Marty]Gervais © 2012 Tyler Brownbridge. All rights reserved. Used by written permission.)

Report an error
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.