Shores of One Island
Marcus McCann

Through bramble, we caught poplars exhaling. White fur
soap bubbles, hundreds, as if pure light detached from flora

could with only an inkling of an earthly arc canoe through air.
They weren’t in my idea of the beach

but we might as well give ourselves to their whimsy.
That was the first lesson. We undressed and lay. Tiny yogis

in ermine coats headed for transcendence: they carried themselves
the way we’d hoped to treat our day’s vacation.

I wanted to touch the world so lightly.
To hammer it home, we made a game of metaphor:

crumbs of clouds, porcupines sculpted
from milkweed, souls en route to an orgy…

and I thought we’d hit the groove of lyric. But it sedimented
in the literal sense — breeze rhinestoning us

with unstoppable, obsessive fluff everywhere we sweated
plus our mouths and eyes. And when we stood, we saw

seeds had filled the shallows of the lake. We shuddered at the sight:
endless, gooseshit coloured, and sort of waving at us.

But these are different shores of one island.
There is no way off it. And as we packed, the poplar seeds

slowburning like a guitarist at a campfire
whose one drunk song is Helpless went on and on and on.


“Shores of One Island” first appeared in Matrix Magazine; photo by Martin Lang, used uder CC licence

McCann on the Query Project

February 24, 2016

When Brett Josef Grubisic asked me to contribute to Plenitude‘s Query Project, my only question was whether someone had called dibs on Buddy’s. The “project” of the Query Project is to collect queer book recommendations from queer Canadian authors.

In 2008 and 2009, when I was the managing editor of Xtra in Toronto and Ottawa, I asked authors to write similar pieces for that publication – and I was surprised to find three books that came up repeatedly: Jane Rule’s The Young in One Another’s Arms, The Collected Poems of EA Lacey and Stan Persky’s oddball memoir Buddy’s. Okay, no one is surprised to see Jane Rule on that list. But Buddy’s?

It’s rad. More on that subject here.

Not a syllable is wasted; rather than teach an austerity of pleasure, it encourages luxuriating and loitering in the back alleys of his poems. One day, someone will get the idea to use this book as a break-up letter, because woven into it are the molecular sounds of bodies that regret nothing that was physical, transcendent, important. –Daniel Allen Cox, Plenitude

Each publication by McCann is perfectly rendered so there’s not an ill-considered rhythm or word or syllable and going places that are interesting for journey and destination. –Pearl Pirie, Page Half Full

probably sleep holds you

like the synthetic fur
inside a barbecue cover.

I’m really grateful to The Steel Chisel for publishing a second poem of mine, this one in their December 2015 Issue. “Poem with Three Naps and No Plot” is an odd duck, and sometimes it can be difficult for the more angular poems to find a home. So, yeah, thank you to tem, and maybe head over there and have a look?

And while you’re at it, consider sending them some work. They have the most humane submissions guidelines of any Canadain mag I know.


I really admire the work Plenitude does. It’s Canada’s only queer literary magazine. It provides an important space for queer writers to publish, and for queer readers to discover the, well, plenitude of queer literature being produced in this country.

Find a new poem by me at Plenitude — on a bawdy subject, can you guess what?


I spent a portion of the winter writing song lyrics for a project which is, well, at this point uncertain. Experimentation is important, though, even when the results are not what you originally had in mind. Indeed, if the results were always what you predicted, why experiment at all?

As many of you know, I’ve been writing poems for a long time that pilfer and magpie, borrowing text and voice in various forms, including found poem, glosa and pastiche. One of the happy orphans of my foray into lyric writing was this bit of found text, which I hear in my head as a lullabye. It’s in need of a songwriter, if anyone else hears the music in it.


Lyric for a Little Lullabye

We are currently experiencing a delay
Westbound at Bay.
Efforts to resume
Regular service
Are underway.

Do not rush when you hear
the subway door chimes.
You may experience
longer than normal travel times.

We are currently experiencing a delay
Westbound at Bay.
Efforts to resume
Regularly scheduled service
Are underway.

We apologise for the delay.

A response crew is on its way.



Shut Up Slow Down Let Go Breathe was created as part of Dusie Kollectiv #8, a poetic exchange between 43 poets which took place in February, 2015. An archive of the Kollectiv will be posted at some point to dusie.org.

“The density of McCann’s lines are incredibly packed, sassy, sensual and wry and move at lightspeed, nearly light-headedly so, delighting in an openness and sense of play. In The Hard Return, McCann writes poems that pilfer and magpie, reshaping them into his own fantastic entities, and include commentary and critique on human interactions as well as the failure and confusion of those interactions.”

Read rob mclennan’s mini-essay on Marcus McCann, plus two new poems by McCann, at Jacket2.

5 New Poems

August 23, 2014

a mix of thanks and unease follows me
like a hunter who doesn’t know his rifle’s empty.

Everything’s coming up Marcus. Find new work in Canadian magazines, including a poem about dick pics in THIS Magazine, a poem about a nude beach in Matrix, and a poem about farts in Riddlefence. No joke:

“Shores of One Island” in Matrix Magazine;
“The Jeweller’s Made Uncountable Examples” in THIS Magazine;
“Easy Living While Everything Else Moves”,
“To Whomever Checks The Office’s General Email Account”,
& “Funk from the Man-Man Cave” in Riddlefence.

Thanks to the editors (especially Dani Couture, Billeh Nickerson and James Langer) for their encouragement and support, especially given the potentially risque subject matter. Fortune favours the brave?

I’m writing this poem for you
so quickly it is like a hostage
photographed with today’s newspaper.

April is National Poetry Month. With so much wonderful activity going on, it’s a good time to be a poetry lover in these here parts. My little contribution to the month is a poem about the joy of receiving a particularly good poem by email. So, don’t forget: send your friends and lovers a poem this month!


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