New book: Shape Your Eyes By Shutting Them

It’s a delight to announce the publication of my debut book of poems, Shape Your Eyes By Shutting Them, from Athabasca University Press. At the link you can buy a print copy or download a free, open-access PDF copy. I’m a firm believer that open access doesn’t mean losing sales, it means gaining audience, and the audience for poetry (which has grown significantly of late) can always use broadening. Open access publishing with AU Press lets me extend a web-wide invitation to #OpenPoetry.

I’m surprised and honoured by the early praise given the book by two major Canadian writers. Di Brandt (author of Glitter & Fall) calls the book “a brilliant, crazy, deliciously carnivalesque romp through the surreal landscape of our times”; and Douglas Barbour (author of Listen. If) calls it “a wild mixtape of literary forms.” I’m inexpressibly grateful for these authors’ kind, generous words.

The book uses Surrealist techniques, like cut-up, juxtaposition, and détournement, in a fugue of poetic forms (centos, science fiction, sonnets, etc.) to tackle subjects ranging from love and work to anxiety disorders and ecological crisis. Moving from eroticism to the macabre and from transformative quotation to the individual idiom, the book enacts Northrop Frye’s claim that “poems can only be made from other poems,” and shows how citation is integral to creativity; authors need fair dealing too.

To give a sense of my work’s debts to others, I’ve created a mixtape of the songs that the book quotes, alludes to, or otherwise references. This mix sequences songs in the order in which their excerpts appear in the book. (Some poems quote no music, and some poems quote more than one song.) The mix includes all songs listed in the book’s Acknowledgments, and other songs from which the book uses short excerpts like titles or very short phrases. More than just further acknowledgment, this mix also means remuneration: Mixcloud pays royalties (to labels at least, and hopefully to artists too). And many artists featured in this mix are Canadian. (Support Can con!)

Whether you #OpenPoetry in print or digitally, I hope you like what you find. Thanks for reading.

Track list

00:00 Peter Gabriel, “Gethsemane”
01:36 Karyn Levitt, “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life”
03:28 Heart, “These Dreams”
07:46 The Bee Gees, “More Than a Woman”
11:03 Shania Twain, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman”
14:51 The Zombies, “She’s Not There”
17:25 Wu-Tang Clan, “Da Mystery of Chessboxin'”
22:08 R.E.M., “So. Central Rain”
25:34 R.E.M., “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”
29:12 The Tragically Hip, “New Orleans is Sinking”
33:13 Paul Robeson, “Ol’ Man River”
37:50 Michael Jackson, “Thriller”
43:47 The Jesus and Mary Chain, “April Skies”
47:44 Bob Geldof, “Thinking Voyager 2 Type Things”
55:54 Stevie Wonder, “Heaven Help Us All”
59:24 The Muppet Show cast, “Why Can’t We Be Friends”
1:01:35 The Boys Next Door, “Shivers”
1:06:20 Brewer and Shipley, “One Toke Over the Line”
1:09:43 The Velvet Underground, “Sister Ray”
1:27:05 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Breathless”
1:30:11 Kate Bush, “Wuthering Heights”
1:34:48 Erasure, “Blue Savannah”
1:38:59 Sarah McLachlan, “O Canada”
1:40:39 Louis Armstrong, “I Guess I’ll Get The Papers and Go Home”
1:43:08 Tori Amos, “Tear In Your Hand”
1:48:06 The English Beat, “Mirror In the Bathroom”
1:50:55 Aphrodite, “Tower Bass”
1:56:24 The Spoons, “Romantic Traffic”
1:59:50 Enigma, “Mea Culpa”
2:04:21 Cowboy Junkies, “‘Cause Cheap is How I Feel”

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