Vallum Poem of the Week: “My Father’s Grief” by Pamela Porter

Pamela Porter

Pamela Porter – MY FATHER’S GRIEF 



I want to take away my father’s grief.

I want to unravel the thread of it
from his shirts. I want to scrub
the dirt-black seams of it
from his fingernails.

I want to sweep it
from the doorways of his house,
wash it from the walls and hinges
……….and window wells.

I want to capture the moth of his guilt
that has crawled inside his ear
and whispers its dusty word,
the shudder of its wings
sibilant as shame.
I want to reach in and take it in my fist.

I want to quiet the river of sorrow
that gurgles its weary dirge
beneath his bed, his kitchen table.
……….I will ask the willow
to quit her weeping.
I will point toward the sky, say,
See the moon ripening – there –
in your branches.
Be now content.

I will call the little birds
to bring the lilt of their gossip
into the yard.
……….I will call the crows
to carry the bonehouse of his sadness
in their beaks, open their wild
……….blue-black wings
and drop it into the sea.

I will place the stones of the dead
beside the back fence
and I will sing them to sleep.
……….It is enough now,
I will sing.  Enough.

Go to sleep you dead.
Leave my father to his life.

I will plant a tree whose blossoms
will burst and scatter
over the wet
………………….black earth,
and I will call each petal in turn
joy, light, peace,
until I have named them all,

until my father’s grief is consumed
……….as though by fire,
and I will strew the ash of it
over the sea.


Patrick Lane has called Pamela Porter “a poet to be grateful for.” Her work has won over a dozen provincial, national and international awards, including the 2005 Governor General’s Award, the Gwendolyn MacEwan Poetry Prize, and the Vallum Poem of the Year Prize. Her eighth collection of poems, House Made of Rain, was released in 2014 by Ronsdale Press. Pamela lives near Sidney with her family and a menagerie of rescued horses, dogs, and cats, including a formerly wild mustang.


To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website here:

Vallum Poem of the Week: “Black Ants During the Recession” by James Deahl

Poet James Deahl




……. How strange to see Hamilton Harbour without its mask of drifting smoke, and odder still to look along Sherman in late afternoon and see no rush of cars taking men home from the day shift. My fifteenth spring in the city: the air never so fresh, the days never so bright, and this unexpected freedom to deeply breathe. But what to make of the buildings on James Street North! Revealed by such sudden light, all their scars are visible, every bit of suffering stands out as Renaissance Revival gestures of grandeur slide into abandonment.

……. The police abandon city parks to cocaine gangs, preferring to patrol the city’s forty-four Tim Hortons outlets as spring renews the urban face where flowers remain and, yes, beauty, too. Still, when the academic year ends, the young abandon their city for Toronto, Vancouver, or Calgary, seeking new lovers and a place to stand. With each decade the old buildings sag a little more on their foundations. I watch a line of ants transverse the clothesline. They hurry east and west like cars on an expressway. Studied closely, the ants appear to carry nothing as they journey from the boxelder by the back laneway to the maple by my back porch. Back and forth, back and forth, industry and discipline for no obvious reason; perhaps for no reason at all.


James Deahl was born in 1945, and lives in Sarnia with the writer Norma West Linder. He is the author of twenty-three literary titles, the five most recent being: Two Paths Through The Seasons (with Norma West Linder, 2014), North Point (2012), Rooms The Wind Makes (2012), North Of Belleville (with Richard M. Grove, 2012), and Opening The Stone Heart (2010).

A cycle of his poems is the focus of a one-hour TV special, Under the Watchful Eye (Silver Falls Video Productions, 1993). The audiotape of Under the Watchful Eye was released by Broken Jaw Press in 1995. These have been reissued on CD and DVD by Silver Falls.

Deahl writes and edits full-time. He is the father of Sarah, Simone, and Shona.


To view more poems from this issue please visit Vallum’s website here.

Vallum Poem of the Week: “Three Spam Emails Sonnet” by Gary Barwin


Video by Gary Barwin


Make your hair stand on end in my mind’s eye,
Horatio, your Federal Tax Payment Account was blocked
for fraud. More in sorrow than in anger.
Please check the information about your account.

Fair play. Woe is me. Rhyme nor reason.
All one to me. Stiffen the sinews.
Your Federal Tax Payment Account was blocked for fraud.
To sleep: perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub.

Please check the Information about your account:
The Queen’s English. We have seen better days.
Make haste. Screw your courage to the sticking place.
We have seen better days.

Your Federal Tax Payment account was blocked for fraud.
Shall I compare thee to a summer.

Gary Barwin, Poet

Gary Garwin’s Picasso-style photo.

Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, multimedia artist, and the author of 19 books of poetry and fiction as well as books for kids. His most recent collections are Moon Baboon Canoe (poetry, Mansfield Press, 2014) and The Wild and Unfathomable Always (visual poetry, Xexoxial Editions, 2015.) Forthcoming books include Yiddish for Pirates (novel, Random House Canada, 2016), I, Dr Greenblatt, Orthdontist, 251-1457  (fiction, Anvil 2015) and Sonosyntactics: Selected and New Poetry of Paul Dutton (WLUP, 2015). He was the 2014-2015 Writer-in-Residence at Western University at teaches at Kings University College. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario and at


To see additional audio and/or video content you can subscribe to Vallum’s digital editions here.

Michael Dennis reviews Mary di Michele’s chapbook “The Montreal Book of the Dead”!


The Montreal Book Of The Dead is a sterling little treat from the ever-strong voice of Mary di Michele.”

“These poems are full of tender ghosts.”

– Michael Dennis

To read the full review and excerpts, please visit Michael Dennis’s blog “Today’s Book of Poetry” at

To read more about The Vallum Chapbook Series, please visit our website at:


Poet, novelist, and member of the collaborative writing group, Yoko’s Dogs, Mary di Michele is author of eleven books including a selected poems, Stranger in You, Oxford University Press 1995, and the novel, Tenor of Love, Viking Canada, Simon & Schuster USA 2005. She lives in Montreal where she teaches at Concordia University. Her most recent books are The Flower of Youth, Pier Paolo Pasolini Poems, ECW Press, 2011, and with Yoko’s Dogs, Whisk, Pedlar Press 2013. Awards include first prize, CBC literary competition, the Air Canada Writing Award, and The Malahat Review long poem.

Vallum Poem of the Week: “Leathering” by Garth Martens

Garth Martens

Garth Martens – LEATHERING



He travels north from camp to camp,
trailers on dunnage, gravel,
rusted barrels and stacked wood,

tents where men dream cement,
its consistency, its price,
the length of its fix.

He forgets his reasons, his debts, his wife,
works a ditch or drives a spike.
There is a stone in his wrist.

He craves the cracked up moon, the lake,
a place on the mud bank to shout, to drink,
to fuck under the stars.

He’d like a newer pouch, tools with clean
teeth, straight lines to gouge
geometry in peat, a level he can trust.

Mosquitoes have eaten his skin.
His thumb is black. Clouds
fatten through the west.

What lasts is law: that axis breaks
on axis, rain on rain.
If he could reach, he’d pull

every twisted star with a hammer.


Garth Martens won the 2011 Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. His first book Prologue for the Age of Consequence (Anansi, 2014) was a Finalist for the Governor General’s Award in Poetry. For nine years throughout northern Alberta and interior British Columbia he has worked in large-scale commercial construction. His poems have appeared in publications like Poetry Ireland ReviewHazlittThis MagazineVallumFiddleheadPrism, and Best Canadian Poetry in English 2014. In the spring of 2014, in collaboration with Alma de España Flamenco Dance Company, he wrote and performed the libretto for Pasajes, an international production. He lives in Victoria.


To view other poems published in this issue please click the link below:

Blast From The Past #3: Hesiod

“No mortal, Kurnos, makes his own success,
Nor his own ruin, for the gods bring both.
Nor is there any man who knows at heart
If in the end he works for good or bad.
Often he thinks he’ll fail, and then he wins,
Often expects to win—and then fails.
No one gets all he wants; all men stop short,
Checked by the boundaries of the possible.
We think our thoughts in vain, all ignorant,
The gods do everything just as they want.

Kurnos, no man who harms a suppliant
Or wrongs a guest can ever fool the gods.

It’s better, Kurnos, to be poor and good
Than rich and crooked, if you have to choose.
All excellence amounts to being just,
And all real gentlemen obey the rules.”

(Theogonis, Elegies)

Hesiod: 8 BCE


The past is something we all grapple with. Oftentimes, we want to block it out, to move forward. But from experience we realize that the past breaks down into fragments and “molecules” that have become part of our physical and spiritual make-up. It is something that cannot be erased, despite our efforts to progress and deny it. Usually, the past is painful. Usually, we want nothing to do with it.

Our poetic past, the writers of antiquity, the Middle Ages, the 19th C—all constitute fragments of ourselves as a culture and as individuals. Osip Mandelstam writes that “classical poetry is the poetry of revolution;”

“Poetry is the plow that turns up time so that the deep layers of time, the black soil, appear on top.” “There’s no point inventing one’s own poetics,” he writes in “The Word & Culture.” Maybe the poet must keep remembering and re-inventing, integrating history in our present and future. And, indeed, this has been the journey of some post-modern poetry and art.

Maybe the past can become our friend.



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