2020 Year in Review: Part 1


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Vallum year in review

To put it lightly, 2020 was a year of changes. We have all had to learn to adapt to this new way of living, yet despite physical isolation, we at Vallum feel so lucky to have been able to connect with you through the digital sphere. Thank you for helping us continue to share the art of poetry — we are truly humbled by the support of our community and send our sincere wishes of health and happiness to you and your loved ones for this year to come. 

Despite the many challenges and uncertainties of this year, we managed to launch Vallum: Contemporary Poetry issues 17:1 and 17:2, and publish four chapbooks: The Bannisters by Paul Muldoon, A Tilt in the Wondering by Nicole Brossard (re-release), It Was Treaty / It Was Me by Matthew James Weigel (1st Place in the 2020 Vallum Chapbook Award) and DC Poems by Joe Neubert (2nd Place in the 2020 Vallum Chapbook Award). Read about our new chapbooks here.

Judy Barlow won the 2020 Award for Poetry with “Walking Into East-end Toronto 2020” while Mary Trafford received second place with “Border crossings.” Honourable mentions went to Josh Feit with “Linger Factor,” Esther Johnson with “we lost ahmaud,” and Michael Trussler with “As Unnoticed as Possible.”

We also participated in virtual press fairs Word on the Street (Toronto) and Expozine (Montreal), and hosted outreach workshops with new facilitators and organizers

To reflect on the year, we asked this year’s contributors to share their thoughts on the books they read in 2020 and what’s in store for the year ahead.

Here’s what some of the writers published in our latest issues had to say:

Archana Sridhar

0_SridharPic_ColourFavorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
Cluster by Souvankham Thammavongsa

What’s on your 2021 reading list?
Luster by Raven Leilani and Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine

Best Writerly Advice
Always carry a notebook or a piece of paper and a pen – in case inspiration strikes in a meeting or on a walk or even at family dinner… I am always surprised when a poem comes, and reminded of the importance to make space to welcome it.


Roxanna Bennett

RoxannaBennettFavorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
Side Effects May Include Strangers by Dominik Parisien (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020) is a collection that means the world to me. It’s an intimate and insightful examination of pain written with exquisite vulnerability.

What’s on your reading list for 2021?   
Poetry-wise, I am super stoked for Khashayar Mohammadi’s Me, You, Then Snow (Gordon Hill, 2021) and for Kevin Heslop’s the correct fury of your why is a mountain (Gordon Hill Press, 2021). 

In terms of cultivating mindfulness in challenging times, I highly recommend these books to all beings:
Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body (Avery, 2018) Daniel Goleman, Richard J. Davidson,
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying (Penguin Press, 2018) by Michael Pollan,
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living (Riverhead Books, 2009) by His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala, 2007) by Pema Chödrön, 
Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation (Simon and Schuster, 2017) by Robert Wright. 

I also recommend reading nothing to develop a relationship with inner silence.

Best Writerly Advice
You don’t need advice, writerly or otherwise, you already know exactly what to do and have everything you need inside of you. 


Ellen Chang-Richardson

0 Favorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
When it comes to poetry, I’ve been on a chapbook and lit mag kick this year. A few of my favourites chaps from 2020 are:
Bait & Switch by Claire Farley (Anstruther Press)
ENTROPY by Ashley Hynd (Gap Riot Press)
Manifest by Terese Mason Pierre (Gap Riot Press)
Concealed Weapons Animal Survivors by natalie hanna (above/ground press)
Shadow Black by Naima Yael Tokunow (Frontier Poetry)

What’s on your reading list for 2021?  
A mix of poetry and prose – I want to read more short stories in 2021 but for poetry:
Sprawl: the time it took us to forget by Manahil Bandukwala x Conyer Clayton (Collusion Books)
Side Effects May Include Strangers by Dominik Parisien
Scary, No Scary by Zachary Schomburg
Comma by Jennifer Still

Best Writerly Advice. 
Listen to the spaces and record that.


Mary Trafford

Mary Trafford for VallumFavorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
I discovered Tell Them It Was Mozart by Angeline Schellenberg (Brick Books, 2016). Schellenberg weaves an honest, courageous narrative about raising two young sons, both on the autism spectrum. The book pulls you along in ways good fiction can, but with the emotional impact and intricate use of language often best expressed through poetry. Schellenberg’s writing is very powerful, personal and grounded. 

What’s on your reading list for 2021?
I will continue reading non-fiction, fiction and poetry by and about Black and Indigenous peoples, and peoples of colour, and people with disabilities. Currently, I’m reading Ibram X. Kendi’s excellent book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Nation Books, 2016). In 2021, I plan to read:
— Michael Eric Dyson’s new book Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America (St. Martins Press, 2020).
— Eden Robinson’s Trickster trilogy.
— Bob Joseph’s 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act (Indigenous Relations Press, 2018).
Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann (Beacon Press, 2020).
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart: 2019)

Best Writerly Advice.
I am not the best person to give “writerly advice!” But if I must answer, I’d say this:

  • Follow your heart
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Read, read, read, especially works by marginalized peoples – they’re significantly underrepresented in the literary canon, and in popular literature and mainstream publishing.
  • Take writing workshop(s).
  • Find a supportive writers’ group and/or mentor.
  • Keep writing and sending out your stuff. Rejections are paving stones toward getting your writing out. Your writing is important, even if it doesn’t seem so in the moment. Just ask Emily Dickinson!


Josh Feit

0Favorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
Victoria Chang’s Obit. Ruminating on loss, Chang presents a series of philosophical thought experiments in plainspoken metaphors.

Mostly, she uses the traditional newspaper obituary format (both in form and tone) to write breathtaking poems about the death of optimism, logic, home, and other things that suddenly vanish when a loved one dies. She accents the obituary poems with tankas (my new favorite form), tiny five-line poems that loom large.

What’s on your reading list for 2021?
Non-fiction is the ticket. I’m looking for a good history of 20th Century Egypt with Nasser and Nasserism at the heart of it. Does this book exist? Recommendations please. Otherwise, Donald Shoup’s “Parking and the City,” the follow-up to his urban planning classic, “The High Cost of Free Parking.”

Best Writerly Advice.
Read multiple books at the same time and pay attention to the ways they intersect.


A. Garnett Weiss

unnamedFavorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year 
So difficult to choose just one.
Trailer Park Elegy by Cornelia Hoogland
Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo

What’s on your reading list for 2021? 
Poetry: Magnetic Equator by Kaie Kellough
Other:  Is This Anything by Jerry Seinfeld  (I need a laugh.)

Best Writerly Advice
—    Allow some slack.
—    Not give in to pandemic fatigue, fear and frustration but recognize creativity in these times may need a more nurturing, nourishing, restorative approach than be driven by ‘Eureka!-I’ve-nailed -it‘ ambition.
—    Look beyond the written word and try a different art form—e.g., music, collage, or drawing.


Mary Gilliland

unnamed-6Favorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
I have been modest far too long. My award-winning chapbook The Ruined Walled Castle Garden was published in September 2020, and huzzah’d in the fall catalog as a new SPD Recommends by Small Press Distributors. After reaching the finals in many contests, one of my manuscripts won the honor of being typeset! with a spine, between covers. Despite covid, I’ve signed quite a few copies, and I’ve discovered a book different from the poems in manuscript. My eyes are fresh. I’m with my audience. I discover the words, the page, the resonance of the poems’ layers, their sequencing. I am grateful for the many readers’ compliments that have lighted my view.

What’s on your reading list for 2021?  
Virgil’s Georgics. I loved Greece and steeped myself in its poets ancient and contemporary. Perhaps because of history and the greater odor of conquest, I scorned Rome. But a friend recently sent a new translation of the Georgics, which seems to be a collocation of weather, diseases, joys and tasks, worship and governance—by the poet Dante chose as guide. Living with Covid, we want fresh air. And yet who can freely be a part of nature? In the U.S., that is a racialized question. I’m curious about Virgil’s account of a world that’s passed away and what it will illuminate. Who is accounted for, who missing? How is the ruler perceived? How do deities function?   

Best Writerly Advice. 
Emotions are manifestations of energy. When feeling deep despair, grief, or anxiety,  locate and release the energy that the emotion holds. Without clinging to the emotion itself, use the energy available for the transformative work of poetry. The energy can help move you quickly through a poem that’s been dying on the page under your revisions. I did not seek this phenomenon but it’s happened more than once. Sound, voice, is energy. An emotion is one shape that energy can take. A poem is another.


Joe Neubert

Joe_NeubertFavorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon, Richard Wright. 

What’s on your reading list for 2021?
The outside world. Going to used book stores and lending libraries and touching things that strangers have touched and feeling like that’s a safe thing to do and taking those books home and reading them. And kids’ books, really colorful and fun kids books wildly illustrated and streaming with the riotous joy of being alive and a sincere fascination with the miracles in everything. 

Best Writerly Advice
Just, y’know, be a decent human being. Reduce suffering in this world. If you think you can do that with words, do it with words, because my goodness this species has got some healing to do.


Stuart McKay

unnamed-1Favorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
Over the summer, I popped in to a great new bookstore in Inglewood, here in Calgary, called The Next Page. On impulse, I picked up a massive volume of the Morrocan poet Abdellatif Laabi, In Praise of Defeat. It is tremendous poetry, and provides a good history of that fascinating country.

What’s on your reading list for 2021?
I plan to read more art history, more Canadian history, some Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, and if I can find a good edition, John Ruskin. I always make a point of picking up work by my fellow Canadian poets.

Best Writerly Advice
A change of scene always helps me regain my focus, and renews my spirit. During the summer, I renovated my home studio. It is cleaner, bigger, and has more light. Also, I was fortunate enough to get away for a little while. I spent time in British Columbia, and saw parts of Alberta I hadn’t seen in a long time. Writing by the ocean and in the mountains feels wonderful!


Kate Braid

Kate_Print(7)Favorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
My favourite book of poetry this year was [hacha] from Unincorporated Territory by Craig Santos Perez (Omnidawn Publishing, Oakland, California 2917). A stunning book that covers environment, history and many other issues by an Indigenous writer from Guam. Though it was closely followed by another American writer, Reginald Dwayne Betts and Felon, poems about his experience as an African American who spent several years of his youth in jail for a minor crime.

What on your reading list for 2021?
On my list for 2021 is to go back and re-read some of the oldie-goldies: T.S.Eliot, Ted Hughes, Rilke, PK Page. It seems somehow appropriate to honour my elders in these crazy days.

Best Writerly Advice 
Best writerly advice? Just write! Though I know that’s a heck of a lot harder than it sounds. I’ve found it really hard to concentrate in Covid times so my new resolution is to declare at least one work day a week: make no appointments, not even a coffee date, no chores. Just follow what the Muse dictates! (And if she’s quiet, just read.)


Kieran Egan

unnamed-2Favorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
Bernard O’Donoghue,  Farmer’s Cross. Faber, 2011.

What’s on your reading list for 2021?  
Whatever Alice Oswald writes next, and her new book Nobody and a re-reading of her magnificent Memorial, and Falling Awake.

Best Writerly Advice. 
As someone new to the business of writing poetry, I think it’s important to not get too caught up in the ‘business’ of poetry. It seems too easy, for me at any rate, to become involved with groups (in these days, around the world), and discover new writers, become involved even in a small scale administration, etc. and find time for actually writing poetry diminishes. So write first, explore the ‘business’ after.


Jade Wallace

author photoFavorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
Favourite: a word of dreadful exclusions! What I will say is that I was delighted by Wolsak & Wynn’s fall poetry lineup under their Buckrider Books imprint; I read Rasiqra Revulva’s studiously playful oceanic animal poems in Cephalopography 2.0 and Lauren Turner’s deadly serious metropolitan human poems in The Only Card in a Deck of Knives back to back. They’re nothing alike, but both completely exceptional at what they do.

What’s on your reading list for 2021? 
As the Reviews Editor for CAROUSEL, I have a whole stack of copies I’m thrilled about to peruse, including Maria Meindl’s The Work (Stonehouse Publishing), Tyler Pennock’s Bones (Brick Books), and Sue Goyette’s Anthesis: A Memoir (Gaspereau Press) —after which I would love to be reading a set of traditional review pitches and experimental review submissions about these and other books (hint, hint).

Best Writerly Advice.
What works for me is just putting in time, as often as I can. Some days it’s only five minutes of daydreaming about a story in progress, or sending off a submission email, or reading something thought-provoking, but the point is to keep words that shimmer, words written with joy, words for their own impractical sake, ever-present.


Rob Winger

6-2Favorite Book of Poetry Discovered this Year
All of my choices for 2020 might be more essay than poetry. Just Us by Claudia Rankine knocked my socks off, especially as a sort of sequel to Citizen (2014); and it felt like necessary reading this past year. Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey, a 2012 book of exceptional essays on poetry, is dazzling and rich and makes me have to take a breather after every single section. Same goes for two more titles to which I’m arriving way too late: Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (2015) and Bluets (2009), both movingly smart, genre-bending books.

What’s on your reading list for 2021?  
So many titles come to mind! But the debut collection by Bardia Sinaee, Intruder, might top my list for poetry. We’ve all been waiting for years now for Bardia’s first book to arrive. It’s bound to be quite something.

Also on my radar is a follow-up to what might be the best book on sports that I’ve ever read, The Utility of Boredom: baseball essays, by Peterborough short fiction writer Andrew Forbes. His new title, The Only Way Is The Steady Way meditates, in part, on one of my favourite-ever players, Ichiro Suzuki; I’ve got no doubt this book will be just as good as the one that preceded it.

I’m also planning to reread poet Souvankham Thammavongsa’s Giller-winning fiction debut, How To Pronounce Knife, my favourite book of 2020. It’s going to be worth rereading every year forevermore, I bet.

And, finally, I’m stoked to check out new books by my fellow poets on the 2021 spring list at M&S, all of which sound stellar: sulphurtongue by Rebecca Salazar; Letters in a Bruised Cosmos by Liz Howard; and All Black Everything by Shane Book. 

Best Writerly Advice. 
Adrienne Rich in 1984: “Begin with the material. Pick up again the long struggle against lofty and privileged abstraction.”


Look out for Part 2 of our Year in Review

We have more wonderful suggestions and advice from our contributors on it’s way! We’ll be featuring a second part to Vallum’s Year in Review on our blog soon. We appreciate all of the writers who participated. 

172coverYou can find the creative works of the poets featured in this edition of our Year in Review in Vallum Issues 17:1 and 17:2.

And be sure to check out our Poem of the Week archive to look back at some of our favourite poems this year.


Featured Interview: Matthew James Weigel, Winner of the 2020 Vallum Chapbook Award


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Interview by Leigh Kotsilidis

Matthew James Weigel (he/him) is a Dene and Métis poet and artist pursuing an MA in English at the University of Alberta. His words and art have been published by people like Book*Hug and The Mamawi Project, while his first self-published chapbook “…whether they took treaty or not, they were subject to the laws of the Dominion” is held in Bruce Peel Special Collections.

It Was Treaty / It Was Me feels almost like a collage. Drawing on government records, archival images and his own family history, Matthew James Weigel blends prose and poetry to look how John A. Macdonald and his government used treaties to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands. Weigel juxtaposes the machinations of the Canadian government with other versions of the story; official history bumps up against memories recorded in the body, exposing corruption and violence. “I wake up at 6am to a weight on my chest. / I massage it until it says the word treaty,” Weigel writes. This body memory is inextricable from land and water. “Did you know that when you wrote this down the river would remember it?” In recounting these histories, Weigel re-situates them. Under a picture of Queen Victoria’s throne, he writes: “I have acquired and used this photograph without permission. It has been digitally altered to suit my needs.” Another photo, though, remains beyond his grasp – an image of his family, held at the archives of the University of Alberta. These are not just questions of what happened, but who gets to tell the story of a past that bleeds into present. Sometimes, the most important act is to bear witness. “Dreamt I was a river again,” Weigel writes in the final poem, “2020: witness (continued).” “A thread of a glacier unwinding itself in slow motion, / slow enough to dip hands in and drink.”

Leigh Kotsilides: Can you talk a bit about the research process for these poems? Did you start your research with the intention of writing this chapbook?

Matthew James Weigel: For me, this chapbook is an example of what is called research-creation. So, I would say that the research process and the writing process are parts of the same whole. The research is of a very personal nature, and to a certain extent, poetry is the only way to work through and understand the research. The process takes many different forms depending on what kind of poem I’m building, but they always follow the same basic pattern. I’ll spend many, many hours looking at archival material, reading stories or sharing stories with others, staring at photos, maps, tables, parliamentary session reports, old advertisements, anything—and then I’ll work through what I learn by building poems. Sometimes poems come together quicker than others, and sometimes they require substantial revision or significant changes to form. But for the most part my work ends up something like 90% rolling up my sleeves in the archive, and the last 10% thinking and writing and re-writing what it is I’ve learned.

LK: There’s a long tradition of historical records as source material for poetry. Were there any particular poets you were inspired by while working on this project? Or, did you have a particular vision for how you wanted to use these records in your poetry?

MJW: I don’t think the vision is very clear very often. In my visual art and artist’s book practice, a lot of the objects I’ve created started out as images in my head, and then it becomes a technical
challenge to bring them to life. With varying levels of success! And some of my visual poetry is like that, where I know what it will look like before I begin crafting it. With less-visually- focused poetry it is more often a process of substantial revision and re-writing and sitting with the records and stories and knowledge. It’s more like I have to turn the pieces around and around and find the places where they fit together. Sometimes my visual poems start out as verse I’m not happy with, and sometimes what ends up as verse started out as a visual poem I wasn’t happy with. It becomes a process of trying to figure out what the vision is for a while. That “10%” of the writing process can come in a lot of different forms.
           Before I turned seriously to poetry, my undergraduate degree was in Biological Sciences, where I worked in a lab and did a lot of research. That kind of research is more of a conversation with the people you’re working with. So, as a poet I definitely know a lot less about that tradition of using historical records than I maybe should. I’m a bad student of poetry! But there are a lot of contemporary Indigenous poets that inspire me and I think my work fits in conversation with those writers in ways that it could never speak with ‘traditional’, ‘academic’, or ‘institutional’ poets.
           Someone who comes to mind in that way is Joshua Whitehead. I don’t think I’m ever more inspired to write than when I read Full Metal Indigiqueer. The way he biomorphs the western canon and tells stories is just so wonderful to me. I’m a huge fan. Marilyn Dumont is definitely another person whose work inspired me in this project. Her poetry engages with history and archive and story and lived experience. Every time I return to her work I come to new realizations and understandings, and I see how those pieces fit together in ways I didn’t understand before. She’s amazing, I love her. And finally I would say Jordan Abel is someone who constantly inspires me. His work talks about land and materiality in ways I find so remarkable, and his writing really makes you think about what you’re reading and how you’re reading it. I’ve been fortunate to work with him and his support has been tremendous. He’s brilliant, I love him.

LK: The collection travels through time, looking at treaty signings from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The narrator seems to move between past and present. How do you conceptualize time and memory in this collection?

MJW: Well, I am the narrator! I think it’s important to mention that. I would say that time and memory are not linear or straight forward concepts. The title of the collection is “It Was Treaty/It Was Me”, I want people to come away being confronted with the fact that people and the land are part of the same whole, and that treaties are about the relationships between each other and the land. I am literally composed of the air and water and plants and animals around me, and my ancestors are a part of that, a part of me. So when I put myself in the shoes of my ancestors, I’m living those connections and relationships. Telling those stories is a way to process, and honor that. But of course, that work is ongoing, I’ll be doing this work for a long time, I hope.
           Lastly, I would say that the federal government is very clear that they consider these treaties to be “historical” land agreements. That’s wrong. These are living agreements with very real contemporary consequences. The treaty-making process was very violent and resulted in a lot of displacement and dispossession. Colonial violence and genocide is ongoing.

It Was Treaty / It Was Me is available now, through the Vallum website.

Featured Interview: Joe Neubert, 2nd Place Winner of the 2020 Vallum Chapbook Award


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Interview by Leigh Kotsilidis

Joe Neubert was born in Georgia and is currently living in Washington, DC.

In DC Poems, the sublime is all around. Joe Neubert’s new chapbook is a collection of snapshots from everyday life, where the poet is the observer, watching and wondering from a distance. With sparse language and precise images, Neubert records the seconds of the day before they’re gone: “early March the sun / the streetlights the people / the afternoon men / playing checkers on a trashcan.” Time and space are reconfigured – we are in D.C., but also Siberia, and also rural Spain, and also the southern pole. Neubert charts these moments in a circular relation to each other. “Does the view from the roof on a monday in march / stir the cells of their unknowable individual / private universes,” he asks.

Leigh Kotsilidis (LK): How did this collection come together—were most of the poems written in the same time period? What was the writing process like?

Joe Neubert (JN): My wife and I moved to DC in 2017 after living abroad for a couple years. The decision to move here was slightly more thought out than throwing a dart at a map, but only slightly. We booked an Airbnb for ten nights, found an apartment we could just barely afford within those ten nights and now it’s 2020 and we’re still here. Most of these poems were written in the past few years. “A bus full” was written on the megabus ride from Atlanta to DC. And the one about the Trans-Siberian Railroad was written in early 2017 in Moscow. That was a trip. There were nesting dolls in the tourist shops with little Trumps that went inside of Putins.

LK: The collection references many different places, despite being titled DC Poems. Do you see this as a collection about one specific place? Or, how do you conceptualize themes of place and transit in the collection?

JN: Well, I saw an ad for this contest in the back of the April issue of Poetry Magazine and I thought, “Hey, I got some poems that would look neat in a chapbook… nah.” And then I saw an ad for this contest in the back of the May issue of Poetry Magazine and thought, “Okay, I’ll do it.” My cat peed all over the June issue, so I don’t know if there was a Vallum ad in that one. Plus, you know, COVID-19 and unemployment meant I was home with my typewriter. So then I picked out some poems from my journal, typed them up and looked at them all typed up together in one set and thought, “I wrote most of these in DC. I’ll call it DC Poems.”

LK: There are several religious references in the poems, too, to God and pilgrims and, especially, the Tao. Do you see this collection as a spiritual work?

JN: These poems, like their author, place their faith in humanity. Or at least they try to. Humanity is making it pretty damn difficult this year. But I’m trying. The sun is always shining, right?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

DC Poems is now available through the Vallum website.

Vallum Poem of the Week: “A Dozen Morning Translations” by Rob Winger


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A Dozen Morning Translations

When I talk, again, about Voyager 1
out there beyond the heliosphere,
what I really mean is that
none of us recalls the birth canal.

And when I show you this photo
of my favourite painting, made in Paris
with palette knives in 1954, I’m giving you
my boyhood’s village springs.

Every novelist’s demilitarized zone
wants a good coconut beach.

The robins eating winter sumac mean
the oceans are deeper than we think.

So when I tell you the ladder’s too short
to clean out the eavestroughs,
what I’m really saying is that
the ladder’s too damned short
to clean out the stupid eavestroughs.

What I’m really saying is that bankers
still scavenge everybody’s breadcrumbs.

The baseball at the height of its arc
in the outfield by the ears
of corn is every lost October leaf pile.

The bookmarks strewn across
our desktops mean we’ve forgotten
our grandmothers’ birthdays;

and our once-read grad-school
textbooks will never be
the last ship out of Saigon.

Let’s re-focus our blue-box cylinders;
there are still, right here, green points
in our gardens, pushing up
against three inches of April ice.

The chorus in your favourite song
is next year’s coiled calendar.

So, when I tell you, again,
about Voyager 1 shutting down
its systems, measuring
interstellar gamma rays,
what I really mean is that
none of our kids
can ever be shielded
from even a single solar flare.



Rob Winger‘s most recent book, It Doesn’t Matter What We Meant, is forthcoming in the spring of 2021. He’s also the author of three previous collections, including Muybridge’s Horse, a Globe and Mail Best Book, CBC Literary Award winner, and finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards, Trillium Book Award for Poetry, and Ottawa Book Award. He lives in the hills northeast of Toronto, where he teaches at Trent University.

This poem can be found in It Doesn’t Matter What We Meant, which can be purchased here.

Image: Kristal Davis

This poem was originally published in Vallum issue 17:2. To view other content published in this issue, Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

Vallum Poem of the Week: “A Day of Nothing in the Multiverse” by Julie Cameron Gray


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A Day of Nothing in the Multiverse

What comes next doesn’t really matter.
A stripe of light, watered down,
the television a parliament of owls
to wind me up, set the tension

on an internal spring. Considering this:
definitions are softening. What is the world
if not an arctic of sound, a bowl of seeds,
a room of cuckoo clocks?

As though the rain on the concrete
is not rain, and there is no concrete.
It is inside or outside, it is a sky blueing
or a platelet whitening.

How the air bends and light slows down
to size up each particle it encounters
as a potential dance partner,
to samba for a moment that is forever

or only a fractal second, or never at all.



Julie Cameron Gray is originally from Sudbury, Ontario. She has previously published two full length collections of poetry – Tangle (Tightrope Books 2013) and Lady Crawford (Palimpsest Press, 2016) which was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award. Her work has also appeared or is forthcoming in various literary journals such as The FiddleheadVallumPrairie FireCarouselGrain, and anthologized in The Best Canadian Poetry in English. She currently lives in Toronto.   

This poem was originally published in Vallum issue 17:2. To view other content published in this issue, Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

Vallum Poem of the Week: “This Love Like a Rock” by Jennifer Hasegawa


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This Love Like a Rock

My dad hauled home
a beautiful rock. It was three-feet tall
and pocked like a wild sponge.

When it rained, water pooled
in the top pocks and cascaded down
to fill the lower pocks.

He told my mom,
Pele made em jus fo you, honey!”
She said, “Fairy tales.”

The rock started making
its own water. I monitored it as it
slowly circled our house.

He ate some bad opihi (auwe!)
and was writhing in bed for days
as red moss crept across the rock.

Back at work, a boulder toppled
from the trench of a bulldozer
and caught his leg.

Earthbound meteor left a gash
in his shin. Blood pooled in the top pocks
and cascaded down to fill the lower pocks.

He hobbled out the front door,
gently tucked the rock into the bed of his truck
and we headed for Volcano town.

He returned it
to the grove of ōhi‘a lehua
where he found it.

My father stared at his battered leg
and I worried that the rock would be
there waiting when we got home.

We listened to the urgent trill of the ‘i‘iwi,
dipping its beak into the nectaries of the forest,
our pores wide open
_________________and taking in
)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))our own sweet medicine.



Jennifer Hasegawa is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet who has sold funeral insurance door-to-door and had her suitcase stolen from a plastic surgery clinic in Asunción, Paraguay. She was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaiʻi and lives in San Francisco. The manuscript for her first book of poetry, La Chica’s Field Guide to Banzai Living (Omnidawn 2020), won the Joseph Henry Jackson Literary Award. She is creating videopoems visualizing the book using footage taken while sheltering-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her work has also appeared in The Adroit Journal, Bamboo Ridge, Bennington Review, and Tule Review and is forthcoming in jubilat.

To view other content published in this issue, 17:1, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

Vallum Poem of the Week: “Cold War Wash Day” by Dawn Macdonald


, ,

 Cold War Wash Day

When we integrated under the curve and the fuel
ignited, when push came to
rubber glove, and in all the kitchens
food fell from plates,
_________we leapt into our holes and made
tracks, one small,
one just right.
________One side makes you human.
________One side wakes you.
________One side makes you see stars.

When we pulled out all our handkerchiefs, chain
rule, integration by parts, Bessel
functions and approximation by
infinite series near a point, the gap
_________dilated and everywhere we walked
in new-bought shoes,
_________here one centimeter, zero point five, there
a squeak, a prize
blister, a glow. The lint detached itself
from our jackets and we paraded before our own
discarded fluff. We shed,
_________and were proud.

Never have the oven and the dryer
stood so square, nor their dials
counted further down.



Dawn Macdonald lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, where she was raised off the grid. She holds a degree in applied mathematics from the University of Western Ontario. Her poetry has appeared in The Antigonish Review, Literary Review of Canada, Rattle (Poets Respond), and elsewhere.

To view other content published in this issue, 17:2 “SPACE”, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.


Vallum Poem of the Week: “Removes Sleep from the Eyelids” by Adam Sol


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Removes Sleep from the Eyelids

המעביר שנה מעני ותנומה מעפעפי …

A good soaking overnight
and now the clouds
hover spent, going nowhere.
Already the yellowjackets
are up looking for someone
to mess with. Blue jays
mock my prayer which
would be fine if only
they’d help clear last night’s
plates and tissues. But no
they had no part in the mess
and they won’t help
with the aftermath.
My Y is busy recomposing
herself from shining fragments
and my boys are off
to learn something about the world.
Something just fell out of a tree.
Don’t say I was fooled
into thinking I could matter.
Say rather… Say instead,
say nevertheless. Say even still.

Adam Sol’s most recent book is How a Poem Moves: A Field Guide for Readers of Poetry (ECW Press, 2019)He is also the author of four books of poetry, with one on the way from ECW Press in 2021. He is Coordinator for the Creative Expression & Society Program at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College.

To view other content published in this issue, 17:1, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

Featured Poem: “Cultivating a Testament: Bending Space” by John Kinsella


Kinsella, John.credit--Tracy Ryan_BW copy

Cultivating a Testament: Bending Space

Always in the after
we take on responsibility
and devise ways to cope
with the stress and anxiety
which is a contradiction
of terms of arrival.

So many of you are sick
of bird lists but for others
they will always be epiphanic,
and for the birds they are
a fact of our registering
and respecting their presence
of which I am a tree-shaped shadow.

Listening to ‘Walk’ by
Pussy Galore I realise how
caught up I am in the raptor
and pigeons of skyscrapers,
but there is so much more
to distance than a window box.

Listening to the Jon Spencer
Blues Explosion they transition
between seasons — seems possible
and impossible and that’s the
senses of vegetable matter
rotting make new vegetation
rise from the bed of a garden.

Listening to Poison Ivy’s
psychobilly guitar sliding
with a snarl I know it’s not
the same snarl as the shooters’
snarls around here — the bloody
tapping that kills (every) time.

If electricity goes outside
static and lightning and the glint
of a solar cell we will taste the spark
and see sunset in above-ground wires
scintillate in rurality with tendrils
waving, seeking city and its closed spaces.
We don’t let ivy grow here but love her licks.

If I am a pantheist
I am bent in this space —
leaf and flower (few out
just now, but York gums
working up a demi-monde show), stone
and nodules of nitrogen
held to a bean-plant’s roots.

If I am a pantheist
I am folded out of this space —
a stray arrangement
of meteorites showering
as it rains, parody of drought,
and a comet just come into parity.
Starlink has no place in space.

If I am a pantheist
I bend space without grace —
but respect the grace of all places
I subsume into my sentences,
continuations of cultivation,
rows of edible plants,
plants of edible rows.

If I am a pantheist
I need no space to have space —
I will take from no other
and only expand inwards
shedding what little power
and even self-possession
I have: see, red-capped robin!

Always in the after
I acknowledge those who
are always, and listen
where I am able to listen,
the leaf-breeze blowing
through me. I take nothing,
I say, knowing particles lodge

and dislodge, rearranging
before and after, like
industrial music questioning
consequences of industry
defending the workers,
that rub of gold-leaf static.

The accumulation of wealth
takes up space for living
of the tree expressing its
genetic impetus towards
a ceiling, but it might
yield a mutation and break
free of out reading given half a chance.

The commodification of space
is the fashion-label of an inland
quarry, or the blasting of a mountain,
or the leak from deep radiation
building against ‘containment’,
and an eagle is more than a hunter.

The making of smoke
to fill the valley
is a control mechanism,
a showing the air we touch
is not ours even around us,
the smokers letting us know
burning their seasonal residues.

As light bends
as we see around
the corner of a tree
the bark-piercing
grubber, a magpie code-
breaker as all magpies

see around the limits
of the age so determined
with space a song-reach
a warning a call a consensus
or a tyranny; what’s a yellow-
plumed honeyeater if you watch
without seeing the way

air and light shift
to accommodate its exquisite
presence its claim and no claim
which is what you aspire to
but are stuck in an XY co-
ordinate’s dimensional thinking?

To love when not loved
doesn’t work within definitions —
the early flower yellow sparks
lopped-off because an end too soon
in pollination and seed
or is that just desire, wanting?
Not loving when loved is not a reversal.

Always in the after
an orientation towards
dysphoria, a longing
for the labyrinthine, places
you can’t step without gardens —
a metonym of deception

or a plethora of emanations,
a bounty of spirits even
with erasures — I learnt
from a generous friend,
an artist whose claims
were outside description.

Always in the after
I can’t even follow on —
a hurt stem, a torn root,
a strip of bark on a damaged tree-note
and all that’s left to transfer as melody, channel,
and yet, and yet the crown — outside
all usurping of wreaths of power —

is lustrous at a time
of decline a future of barrenness
that will celebrate space
whatever laments we put out there,
vascular and chloroplastic and architectures
of bone and skin and water, water

and the vastness crossed (the bridge)
to its making, its formation,
its gathering — life as it understands
life bound to rock-signs of orbit
and visitation, expansion and contraction,
the sense of drumbeat I’ve fallen in with.
As light bends a string. As space crumples a fret.

John Kinsella’s most recent volumes of poetry are Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems 1980-2015, Brimstone: Villanelles (Arc, UK, 2020) and Insomnia which has just appeared in North America (Picador, 2019; WW Norton, 2020), His volumes of stories include In the Shade of the Shady Tree (Ohio University Press, 2012), Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge, 2015) and Old Growth (Transit Lounge, 2017). His recent novels include Lucida Intervalla (Dalkey Archive, 2019) and Hollow Earth (Transit Lounge, 2019). His volumes of criticism include Activist Poetics: Anarchy in the Avon Valley (Liverpool University Press, 2010), Polysituatedness (Manchester University Press, 2017) and Temporariness (with Russell West-Pavlov, Narr, 2018). His new is memoir Displaced: a rural life (Transit Lounge, 2020).

He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University, but most relevantly he is an anarchist vegan pacifist of over thirty-five years. He believes poetry is one of the most effective activist modes of expression and resistance we have. He often works in collaboration with other poets, writers, artists, musicians and activists.

John Kinsella wishes always to acknowledge the traditional and custodial owners of the lands he comes from and so often writes about – the Ballardong Noongar people, the Whadjuk Noongar people, and the Yamaji people.