In the midst of chaos, a little humour is often necessary. Even in the most trying of times, humanity has been able to see the lighter side of things, to commune with the part of life that is meant for happiness and enjoyment. 12:2 will feature poetry that is funny, absurd, comedic, in its various and different forms. Of course, we will also consider some dark humour. A little doggerel, light verse, limerick or rhyme—all will work to create a kind of humour that will give us some respite from today’s grime and grind.

Send us your best work!

DEADLINE:  May 1, 2015


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Vallum: Contemporary Poetry is now accepting original and previously unpublished submissions for the annual Vallum Award for Poetry 2015.

First prize: $750

Second prize: $250

+ publication in the magazine

Deadline: July 15th, 2015

Contest Judge: Stephanie Bolster

Entry Fee: $25 (includes a 1 year subscription to Vallum). Entries accepted by Paypal and by posted mail. For more information visit:

Some of the best poets in the world have graced the pages of Vallum.
Get your game on!

The Literary Hub: Coming Soon to a Computer Near You


Since my last post, I’ve been on a bit of a “literature in the age of the Internet” kick, googling around with the following question in mind: where and how can literature find its way in the digital sea? With a shrinking readership and a population of consumers who forgo bookstores for online shopping or electronic readers, publishers are racking their brains for means to stay relevant and continue to engage in a conversation about literature. So, what’s out there?

Well, it’s the Internet, so there’s a lot. And not all of it is good, but I did come across a little something that has promise. Morgan Entrekin, President of Grove Atlantic, in collaboration with a broad range of booksellers, literary magazines, and publishers, is in the process of developing the Huffington Post of the online literary world—a website called, quite simply, “Literary Hub”.

Set to launch on April 8, 2015, the website will focus on fiction and nonfiction (no mention of poetry, alas, but one can hope). The Literary Hub will feature personal and critical essays, interviews, daily book excerpts, bookstore profiles, a weekly review of books, and a daily roundup of literary news. As of now, there are no plans to sell books anywhere on the site, which is refreshing (if they stick to it). And just in case you’re one of those literary types who still prefers to read on that archaic hand-held device known as paper, the website plans to offer special printer-friendly versions of each contribution for your tactile consumption.

Publishing whales such as Scribner, Knopf, and Farrar Strauss and Giroux, and literary magazines such as the Paris Review are set to contribute. One can only hope the Literary Hub will make sufficient room for small independent publishers as well.

To stay in the loop and subscribe to the Literary Hub’s newsletter, visit

The World of Fakes

With today’s advancements in technology, one is aware of artificial development. It is largely a question of what is real and what is fake. There has been constant questioning of the meaning of reality throughout history, with different philosophical schools battling it out. Is the world a dream in the dreamer’s mind, does actual physical reality exist out there? Are we reduced to different dimensions, atoms, constellations? Are we real?
Today we are questioning even our own sanity, which would seem to be the base denominator for our reality. If one is insane, then he or she becomes a figment of the imaginary, an unreal aspect. The Bible of modern psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is bordering on calling nearly every human experience a mental illness, the latest being a preoccupation with health:
“Orthorexia nervosa is a label designated to those who are concerned about eating healthy. Characterized by disordered eating fueled by a desire for ‘clean’ or ‘healthy’ foods, those diagnosed with the condition are overly pre-occupied with the nutritional makeup of what they eat.”
The DSM covers an enormous range of human pathologies, which are out of control. Mass media, government and corporate autocracies create the fears and the DSM creates the conditions. People are no longer able to grasp their own beingness, to assert their reality, their sanity.
The artificiality of this world, ranging from politics, to quack religions, to unreasonable space/science claims, to untenable “truths” that are in constant circulation, destabilize the meaning of reality. Although I like postmodernism, the word “random” has come to mean something negative for me. It is in fashion to speak of random art, art generated by computers and such AI nonsense (see link below). I want to see art with some intent, some truth, some reality. Yes, art and creativity come from the worlds of dream and imagination. This is the paradox. In an unreal world, how much more “unreal” can we sustain? It is a radical thought that the true artists to come will actually create art that will bring reality and truth back into focus. Is this possible?

Some Random Art:

“Time is Money”– really?

The phrase “Time is money” has always annoyed me. It runs rampant in our current money-headed world. This phrase was coined by Benjamin Franklin in “Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One.” I would wager that this phrase has been largely responsible for the rise of contemporary greed and concern that one’s every minute is subject to a money value.

James Merrill writes about his bourgeois father’s obsession with time and money:
My father, who had flown in WWI,
Might have continued to invest his life
In cloud banks well above Wall Street and wife.
But the race was run below, and the point was to win.

Too late now, I make out in his blue gaze
(Through the smoked glass of being thirty-six)
The soul eclipsed by twin-black pupils, sex
And business; time was money in those days.
(ND, 27)

This excerpt is quoted in Vernon Shetley’s excellent work of criticism entitled,
“After the Death of Poetry,” where he proceeds to write that “The phrase ‘time is money’ posits a universal law; the poet’s [Merrill’s] rephrasing denies its universality. ‘Time is money’ again embodies the conventional wisdom of the hard-headed businessman, a wisdom whose truth the poet both acknowledges and distances himself from; his financier father may have transformed time into money, but time retained its own powers of transformation.” Merrill continues to write that: “Time is not money.”

When asked to translate an experience into monetary terms, the basis of that experienced is removed from lasting personal or emotional value. Money is an exchange. Time is experience. To say that experience is an exchange is suspect. Experience should be rooted in the here-and-now, the singular moment of the present time, which helps construct past times in the form of memory. The time of the future is groundless; we should not think of the future in terms of dollars, nor the present. Time is free, or should be. Or as singer Stevie Nicks says, “Love is time.”

The Internet: Poetry’s New Home?


Desiree Bailey, Trinidaad and Tobogo

In a recent article on, professor of Creative Writing Ian Gregson bemoans the current state of poetry as a marginalized art form, stating “Poetry is well and truly in the margins. Will it ever get out?”

Well, the Badilisha Poetry X-change has an answer for that—for African poets, at least. Founded in 2008 as an annual poetry festival, Badilisha moved online in 2012 and has since become the largest online archive of African poets on the planet. Badilisha attributes the move to a desire to do away with geographical borders and open the project to a wider Pan-African audience. And it appears to be working. To date the project has collected the works of 350 African poets from 31 countries in Africa and throughout the diaspora, in 14 different languages.

In 2014, Badilisha took its boldest step on the path to accessibility when they overhauled the website and relaunched it as a mobile-first site aimed at capturing the attention of a larger international audience. It was a shrewd move as, unlike Americans or Europeans, Africans tend to experience the Internet for the first time on cell-phones rather than computers and tablets. In fact, according to Toby Shapsnak (CNN), in Africa, “more people have mobile phones than access to electricity.” At any rate, the move is paying off—the Badilisha project boasts 3,000 visits to the site every month.

A quick tour of the site on my cell phone proved that it is simple and easy to navigate. Two poets are featured on the website every week by way of a profile that includes a brief bio, two poems, a headshot, and audio podcast recordings of the poet reading his or her work. Badilisha offers users the following categories to explore the archive: theme, emotion, name, language, latest uploads, country, and a Top Ten List curated monthly by a guest poet. This month’s Top Ten was curated by Kobus Moolman— Mellon Writer in Residence at Rhodes University and 2013 Sol Plaatje European Union poetry award-winner—I definitely suggest you check it out.

Poets who wish to submit to the archive can do so directly through the Project Submissions page. The submission is then evaluated by a panel of judges. If they think you’re a good fit, you’re in!

It’s no secret that the publishing industry is struggling in the digital age and the reluctance of publishers when it comes to printing poetry can be particularly discouraging. In what sometimes feels like an irreversibly inhospitable literary climate, the Badilisha Poetry X-change is a breath of fresh air. In a world obsessed with technology, the project offers African poets a new, contemporary, and relevant platform on which to showcase their work.

What do you say, Canada? Are we next?

Rebels of the 1950s

In the USA, there has been a tradition of poets and artists who were considered to go counter-culture, especially in the 1950s. This mythologizing has painted vivid images of Kerouac and James Dean, on bikes puffing mean cigarettes. And these artists, musicians, writers and poets rose up from the ashes of WWII and created a new world. Their work stands as a monument to change and revolution, things we almost dare not speak about today. Although art is ‘rooted’ in imagination, it is often through art that we begin to see clearly. “In a dark time the eye begins to see,” wrote poet, Theodore Roethke. Although these rebellious trends are less evident in Canada, which traditionally has played it safe (except perhaps for some Quebecois rebels), the US imagination spills over borders and infects. This is a good thing with true art, and not with the vacuous cacophony of Hollywood, pop or fashion trends. Being true to oneself as far as one’s honest voice goes is important. When things are not right, the artist will rebel. It is a kind of law of nature.

Here is a link to a great synopsis of the ‘rebel poets’ or movements of the 1950s.

On Imagism

Imagism was a powerful movement in the early part of the twentieth century, with proponents like Amy Lowell and Ezra Pound. It is interesting that it arose around the time when photography began its explosions. To fix an image in the mind. Are the emotions rendered null and void at the moment the snapshot is taken? Is it a passing beauty (or ugliness) that stops us in our tracks? Do we stop to think, or do we just absorb? It is believed in some cultures that the camera “kills,” and in common usage we speak of a photo “shoot.” There is something permanently fixed about images. Some of Margaret Atwood’s most memorable writing involve the “fixing of the eye”–the camera’s final word.

I loved the Imagists when I encountered them. The image is powerful and extends into all art forms. I wonder what this means–in the grander scheme of things.

Here are some historical insights on the Imagist Movement, originally posted in Modern American Poetry:


Short review of ‘The Peter F. Yacht Club #21.’


I recently received subscription mail from rob mclennan, and this time it was his December 2014 collection of ‘The Peter F. Yacht Club #21.’ Oftentimes, I am a hard critic of contemporary poetry, but in this chapbook, I had a good thought about every poem I read. These are some okay poets! I was impressed by the metrical long-poem by Amanda Earl and Tom Walmsley, which was fanciful, on all kinds of beasts, and especially squirrels. It was fun. I also liked Karen Massey’s poems quite a lot. Although sometimes I found myself thinking that these poets could have tweaked their poems’ endings a bit more, on the whole, I liked this issue. Thanks rob.


Life vs Death; An Understanding of Good and Bad in the Postmodern.



It’s not easy to differentiate between good and bad sometimes. What seems apparent is that these two categories exist in reality. In the above photographs, we can sense something good and something bad in them, or can we?

#1 can be viewed as positive, or good, whereas #2 can be viewed in negative terms in that it seems more dangerous or scary. However, #1 is static, it can be viewed in terms of a “dead” image, without life; whereas #2 becomes positive by virtue of its “aliveness,” its life energy.

If we had to choose, life and energy are the winners. That which is dead is by necessity negative, or bad. There are those who celebrate death, chaos and violence. This is not our concern. We are the purveyors of light and life.

I have tried hard to understand Jacques Derrida. The fragments I’ve managed to untangle, I have not agreed with. I do not understand fully his meaning of the term “transcendental signifier” and welcome any feedback from Derrida experts on this. But judging from what this phrase means in common understanding, I do not like, nor agree, with Derrida’s assertion that there is no transcendental signifier. For me, and I clearly may be misreading him, the life impulse is in itself the supreme transcendental signifier. It can be seen as God. It can be seen as the highest good, the order which propels existence. It is the positive aspect, the opposite of death.

Is it possible to say that image #2 has a life significator?

Postmodern art and literature changed the fabric of 20th C aesthetics forever. While we admire the depth and life impulse of, say, The Mona Lisa, as painted by Da Vinci, we often think that postmodern art can have no basis in life signification, that it is not good.

A lot of postmodern art tends towards an absence of life. It is bad. But like the two photographs above, almost identical subjects (here two dead trees) have two very different conclusions. The difference is very subtle, and I categorically claim that postmodern art can be good and signify transcendence.

T.S. Eliot wrote that the dance is at the “still point.” The “still point” is the fixed centre—the place of the life pulse, transcendence. On, and around, this fixed point is the dance. The “still point” he refers to is not the dead point of evil. At the centre is a dance—which certainly can be a mixture of postmodern colours, disjunctions, fragments, etc… The “still point” can also be the order and symmetry of traditional and classical art or writing, which maintains a static component that does not necessarily always equate to death.

The good is not always couched in the traditional, and the hypermodern is not always evil. It takes an artist of depth and compassion to differentiate between the two ways of perception.


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