the poetry that matters

Liz Howard

Liz Howard, a native varietal of northern Ontario, has taken root in Toronto where she engages in cognition research and poetics. She is a member of the Influency Salon editorial group and co-cultivates AvantGarden, a new readings series that foregrounds innovative text and sound based performance by women. Her work has appeared in Misunderstandings Magazine and online at Matrix Magazine as part of the New Feminisms Supplemental. In 2009 she was shortlisted for the LitPop Award for poetry. She is the recipient of a Toronto Arts Council grant for poetry. Skullambient, her first chapbook, is forthcoming from Ferno House Press.

excerpt from Skullambient

                                                                                                                                                                   (anarchaeology of lichen)

In the towns I wear a sash monogrammed “Jacque Cartier”
and paddle through the desiccation of mute origin

if I wasn’t such a bâtarde I’d swell dissident
and beaded aquatic, take to water

                             tender stairwell of mares
                             limbic foals all misskwa nibowin
                             red death of my arms and horses and horses

lichen for the stomachs of caribou you track me in this herd
the city now a dénouement of the assimilative purge

                             symbiome:  what it took for you to enter
                                                      history, a slackened joy

John Clare and I and 37 Claires well versed in literature
each have a simulation of a raven in the crooks of our arms

                             tepid swallows
                                              be your own antecedent
                                                                             where possible

or a coda to my bibliography of silence, a fur-lined oneirophrenia
ascetically-charged moral pastures and thought-systems of rivers

                              but not for lack of wolves
                              or inside of wolves or besides the point of wolves
                              also teleology

what cache of stone flaunts umbilical sinew and lesser hides?
in a whalebone summer I’ll hum, ‘que sera, sera’ on the tundra

just below this earthen burial urn is your
mammalian warmth place a hand
to tend it             the
                                velveteen recognition
                                                slides down
                                                the artifact
                                                                of calcified desire

where memento and trajectory vistas assemble subthalamic
or post-coital alluvium—all dressy—take the small bend of it

for memory/stamen/intoxicate

no sister flower could ever recover this

                                                                                  —selfsame pleasure.


                                                                                                                                             (watershed and shield reminiscence)

lake with tailings where
one brother was born
as cognition drained its basin

on land black from the mine
all ventricles sap and terminate
this girlish toss of stones into water green from copper


limbs angled and familial as industry
dead and still the water
where lichen mouthed its roots in cedar

there were ravens on this highway once
these days antidote and tumbling into silt
great-grandfather worked the trap-lines

sleek as a grey lip this cadaver lake
ground seepage into a highway for horses
of sulphur or hydrochloric said the railroad

using dynamite to clear the shield
this was after the caribou or smoke
to crack the sky open this caustic history

of moisture a glacier had worn a nest for the river
before the caribou metabolic alleys diverged into currents
of embryos  where his horse fell into a shattered femur

nothing for the horse but the dynamite as if lichen
could crack the sky into a filter of words mutagenic

placed inside its mouth demolition


below an orange traffic light the diabetic amputee
from the reservation placed
engine of possible

said this atomic history of silt into the watershed

his only hand on my brow
this one lift of waves
to call down my exit from the sky

then recurrent
from this river
all water flows north

in a memory of sleep
where I am four
and falling through
each level of a house:

there are four corners

piles of clothes

carpets of old smoke

a staircase



brittle  slightly flaking

a soft drift

to when the cement floor signals




                                this pemmican
                                —or a GMO

                                déjà vu
                                these moccasins
                                —or powwow pumps

                                a trap line
                                —or a laptop

                                acadian a katajjaq
                                or franco-ontario
                                an accordion
                                —or québécois

                                the residential school
                                — or ancestor, ascended

                                a fancy dance
                                —a chiasm rant
                                —a hunt chant

                                de rien
                                 red river
                                —a quiver of errors
                                —these absent quills
                                —this track

                                the erasure
                                —whose name anon
                                —like am I not?

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                                                                                                                                            August 2011