the poetry that matters

Stephen Cain

Stephen Cain is the author of three poetry collections—American Standard/ Canada Dry (Coach House, 2005), Torontology (ECW, 2001), and dyslexicon (Coach House, 1998)—and a collaborative series of micro-fictions, Double Helix (Mercury, 2006), written with Jay MillAr. He is also co-author, with Tim Conley, of The Encyclopedia of Fictional and Fantastic Languages (Greenwood, 2006). He lives in Toronto where has been a literary editor at the Queen Street Quarterly and fiction editor at Insomniac Press. His newest chapbook, Word Wards, is forthcoming from No Press (Calgary).

from Post


There’s no “I” in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry.
I gotta stay focused, take it one poem at a time.
An epiphanic first person lyric is like kissing your sister.
I knew what I had to write and I went out there and wrote it.
If you’re Charles Bernstein, you’re gonna want to put a joke in here.
Gotta watch out for the overpublishing factor.
Bad reviews even out over the course of a career.
He won’t retire until he gets that GG.
You draft the best available poem.
She’s still very much alive.
I lost my focus, I beat myself.
Gotta get out there and find your voice.
She could be the winningest writer in history.
He’s the epitome of a great creative writing student.
He’s not writing for immortality—he’s writing not to die.
What a difference a workshop makes.
They can smell blood in the ink.
He managed to eke out a rhyme.
That’s the hardest working line in poetry.
I did not knowingly or willingly take vatic substances.
These readers deserve a writer.
This is all just a walk in Parnassus for him now.
She’s the sweetheart of the scene, she reminds me of a young Nicole Brossard.
He’ll have his elegy-face on.
A publication is a publication.
You gotta respect her prosody.
Canonization can be misleading.
Canonization tells the whole story.
She’s silenced all the critics.
It’s all over but the reciting.
Poetry can make things happen out there.
It’s a whole new ballad form.
She needs an award to stave off elimination.
A lot of the faithful are heading for the movies.
When it stops being fun, it’s time to quit.
Mistakes were made.
There’s no question about it.
I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life.
This one’s going, going—gone!



1996 Video


Lousy year unless you’re a lawyer.

No Doubt it’s important.

The Roses go Belly up. No more Lush lushes (a Pogue or two will do ya). Out with the trash and the Dustbin is history.

But we get a Rotten reunion. So much for celebrity Situationism. Screen the Spectacle.

Shots in Scotland. Devastated by Dunblane. At least the Scots have the sense to cease the sales. Scouts under suspicion.

Another children’s crusade. Shut down the sweatshops and Gifford’s gouging.

Can’t stop with the kid snuff. Ramsay’s revolting revelations. Tabloid tales for the next ten years.

More grimaces for the Grimm: Livesay leaves us. Bye bye to Brodsky. Duras’s small death.

A Leary liftoff. Laughing until the last. Tuned out, turned up, and shot out. From inner space to into space.

So goes Sagan; no tears for Tiny Tim.

Sublime just like Shannon. So sick of that chic. Another heroin anti-hero without artistry. No alternative.

And you can’t and you won’t and don’t stop. You gotta come to take that sure shot on Shakur. Tupac means biggie trouble in bicoastal times.

More bombs from Buttheads. Atlanta. Canary Wharf. Sixties redux without the reasoning. We do need the Weathermen to tell us which way it blows.

Mario’s gone but gave us this: there's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, and you've got to make it stop!

Kaczynski’s shack attacked. No more letters from Luddites.

Naturally, one implosion to go with the explosions, folks.

Dolly’s an extra sheep and Diana goes free.

Cancer and car crashes to come. Cronenberg rewards.

Clinton makes a come back. Begins coming on backs.

Tiger Tiger burning bright, in the Woods day and night.

Admiral Hayden hits the hard wood. Still in Hollywood.

Now we wait forever at Downsview. All Wilson lines obsolete in the poetics of transportation.

 And when Anik goes down we have nothing to do. Previewing Y2K, or else the early sweeps for the Blackout.

First it was the soapstone scenario and now we have the Mobster strangler. Take a hit out on the homeless.

Days of Action, wishing for an October Revolution. Not against a white palace but a regal and racist police state. One day that shook the city, shut it down. Billy braggs, if you’ve got a blacklist I want to be on it.

Call it Harrisment. No boozing bozos. Not a common sense revolution—a right wing reactionary. And all we can do is walk and wait. 

from Word Wards

 from Mortar

Stefan Kuzbyt (1893-1933?)
Trans. from the Ukrainian by Stephen Cain


Mayakovsky’s Yellow Shirt

Mayakovsky, comrade
I shout to you in salute
Your younger brother
In a sister country
Equally cold and severe

Mayakovsky, mentor
Your yellow shirt
Radiant and blinding—
As the wheat field at dawn
Golden and intoxicating—
As my neighbour’s home brew
Bright and oppressive—
As the sun we wish to defeat

Mayakovsky, imagine—
I shout to you from
Unlettered Alberta
Where I have no readers to shock
No shirt at all
Let alone a yellow one
And no mother to mend it



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