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!

Find a review of Marcus McCann’s reading in Hamilton, with fellow poets Christine McNair and Andrew Faulkner, and others, here.

“[McCann] pushed on with quirkier focuses, including receiving random penis photos from strangers, frustrations with the ‘chance of sun/rain/cloudiness’ pictogram – the sort of material comedians look for. The ultimate highlight for me was hearing McCann tackle some poems from Labradoodle, An Essay on David McGimpsey (above/ground press), one of my favourite chapbooks from last year.”

“McCann writes tightly structured poems that heave and push against the restraints, brimming with musicality, unexpected images and plenty of humour.  He also knows how to put a trope to work.”

One of the great pleasures of the John Newlove Award is that the winner produces a chapbook with Bywords Press the following year. Here, Rob Thomas discusses the results, including work by Jenna Jarvis, rob mclennan and Rob Friday.

“Labradoodle contains many instantly classic, write-on-the-wall, one-liners that are best preserved in the hilarious logic of McCann’s full verse and not necessarily in McGimpsey’s shadow. All killer, no filler.” Check out a review of Labradoodle (and Rob McLennan’s and Christine McNair’s fantastic The Laurentian Book of Movement) by Ryan Pratt over at the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter.

David Emery and the folks at The Steel Chisel recently published a little self-effacing poem of mine about not being able to sing. The poem itself is kind of rhythmless, which friends have come to expect from my singing voice: “Voice like a stomped-on harmonica. The little puff of noise / you can squeeze from a rabbit with all the melody of a poem // about Marcus McCann written by Marcus McCann.” Et cetera. Have a look at the poem, or check out the latest issues of The Steel Chisel.


This week, I’ll be headed to Ottawa to help rob mclennan celebrate the 20th anniversary of above/ground press, and to launch a tiny little chapbook called Labradoodle, which is an essay on David McGimpsey in the form of 5 “chubby sonnets”. Alejandro Bustos wrote up a story about the anniversary for Apartment613, but here’s the full text of what I wrote about rob and the press. Congratulations, rob, on 20 wonderful years!


It’s true that I don’t live in Ottawa, but in a way I will always consider myself an Ottawa poet, because I came of age as a writer while living there between 2001 and 2010.

It’s impossible to overestimate the role of rob mclennan and a/g in Ottawa’s poetry community. The community really is like no other I’ve seen — there is more happening in Ottawa in terms of community than in Toronto or Montreal. And rob is the fulcrum on which it turns.

And he takes Ottawa writers and puts them before wider audiences. His blog has an international following, and he’s always talking about Ottawa poets. He does Ottawa-specific things like Ottawater and PFYC. But then, given his stature as a poet, he often finds himself doing things, like curating the Dusie Tuesday poems, which are not Ottawa projects, but he mixes established national and international poets with Ottawans — I’m sure it’s a conscious choice, to expose a wider audience to our work. And then there’s above/ground — these chapbooks end up wedged into mailboxes across the country and beyond. He is a one man cultural ambassador for the Ottawa poetry community, and it’s a marvel. We’re all deeply indebted to him.

Maybe me more than most. a/g published my first nervous little chapbook, Heteroskeptical, seven years ago. He did it, I think, just so I would stop fussing with these older poems and get on to new work. Labradoodle, which I’m launching at the anniversary party, is my 9th chapbook, and my third with a/g. So, if that was his ploy, it worked. There are a few moments in poet’s career (first poem published in a magazine, first book with a spine) that are kind of transformative, and I feel like that was, for me. And he’s stuck with me — I am a child of a/g, you know?, part of his stable somehow — which is humbling, and awesome. I feel really lucky about it.

I want to also say that publishing is a tough thing to do, and it can take time away from a poet’s own work. Working on the “business” end of publishing and promotions is time rob isn’t using to work on his own projects. It’s a sacrifice. You know, rob’s work really doesn’t break down into pithy aphorisms, but in Gifts, he writes “help please me to know” — and I think that about sums it up. He wants to know, and to share, and that’s where a/g comes from. He’s got this curiosity about the craft of poetry, including its social aspects, and buried inside it is “please me”, the tremendous pleasure, the satisfaction, desire.


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