32 | Erín Moure | Retooling for a Figurative Life

Retooling for a Figurative Life
Vallum Chapbook Series No. 32
Erín Moure

In Retooling for a Figurative Life, Erín Moure blurs the physical and the linguistic. She conducts an investigation of material life and its linguistic manifestations: bridges, rivers, and punctuation marks all receive equal footing and care. Each of the short poems bears a one-word title, beginning with the notion-in-question and journeying through other entities. In “Girl,” a speaker considers her mammalian body, and watches the sun rise. In “Sky,” she approaches mortality with frank irritability: “I am going to die but it annoys me / that it has to be every day in the news.”

Moure catalogues the joys and disasters of life, as well as the natural and political cycles that knit our lives together. She pauses on firefighters and their failed rescues; a house with a broken fence, preserved online; bees, buzzing in an apiary. The simple disappearance of a hat can be devastating. Moure does all this with a sharp sense of humour and inviting imagery: “temperance, intemperance / unglued like a bar-code sticker / on a plum.” Ultimately, she insists on possibility, and the importance of ground and sky: all that they generate, and all that returns to them. “Every bit of matter counts,” she writes, “no matter / how small.”

Author’s Bio

Erín Moure has published forty-nine books to date: poetry, essays, memoir, as well as translations and co-translations from French, Spanish, Galician, Portuguese, Portuñol and Ukrainain into English. Recent works are Planetary Noise: Selected Poetry of Erín Moure (Wesleyan, 2017), Sitting Shiva on Minto Avenue, by Toots (New Star, 2017, tr. French by Colette St-Hilaire Toots fait la Shiva, avenue Minto Le Noroît, 2021), Wilson Bueno’s Paraguayan Sea (Nightboat, 2017), Lupe Gómez’s Camouflage (Circumference, 2019); a co-traduction with Roman Ivashkiv of Yuri Izdryk’s Smokes (Lost Horse); In Leaf, an annotated edition of her translation of Rosalía de Castro’s New Leaves; and her own The Elements (Anansi). 2020 saw Moure translations of Uxío Novoneyra’s The Uplands: Book of the Courel and other poems (Veliz), Juan Gelman’s Sleepless Nights Under Capitalism (Eulalia), and Chantal Neveu’s This Radiant Life (Book*hug). Moure holds two honorary doctorates from universities in Canada and Spain, was 2017 WPR Creative Fellow at the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard, 2019 international translator in residence at The Queen’s College, Oxford University, a 2020 Kelly Writers House Fellow at UPenn and gave the 2021 Leslie Scalapino Memorial Lecture at Naropa University. In fall 2021, her translation of Chus Pato, The Face of the Quartzes, will appear from Veliz Books, and she will be the Jake MacDonald virtual writer in residence at the University of Winnipeg. She lives in Montreal.

31 | Joe Neubert | DC Poems

Second Place Winner of the 2020 Vallum Chapbook Award

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 DC, 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.

There’s no answer to the question, only a continuous search—for Neubert we’re all pilgrims. Through his observations and his memories, we encounter people, places, things, each within their own small world, each one a “plain miracle.” A father steals mustard; a woman grades papers. Clocks wink, limestone sighs. Poetry is a means of collecting the small sacred acts that make up life.

“To know the Tao
is to know the Buddha
is to know Christ
is to know Friday Night,”

Neubert writes. Time and space spin on, and we keep seeking, encountering each other on the way.

Author’s Bio

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

30 | Matthew James Weigel | It Was Treaty / It Was Me

It Was Treaty / It Was Me
Vallum Chapbook Series No. 30
Winner of the 2020 Vallum Chapbook Award
Matthew James Weigel

2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award Winner

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.”


Author’s Bio

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.

29 | Paul Muldoon | The Bannisters

The Bannisters
Vallum Chapbook Series No. 29
Paul Muldoon

The Bannisters explores the origins of the objects, people, and places that populate our lives. Muldoon examines these histories with equal parts confidence and curiosity, holding them up like artifacts to light. Considering the world through the lens of what could best be described as a kind of Particle Theory, Muldoon argues that although things may change over time, a vestige of their existence will endure, an archive preserved in their original make-up — “Our ornamental gates and railings that were melted down / for rifle barrels have gained some sort of posthumous renown.”

This innovation and adaption of one physical entity to another is echoed in Muldoon’s experimentation with structure, using traditional poetic forms and flipping them on their head with fresh use of rhyme and meter. A masterful storyteller, Muldoon creates vivid worlds that captivate and surprise, showing us that the ordinary is much greater than that.


The desert would be an ocean were it able to withhold
its judgement on wavelet after sand-wavelet
and suspend itself over its own floor.


It’s not only death’s a Great Leveller.”


Author’s Bio

Paul Muldoon was born in County Armagh in 1951. He now lives in New York. A former radio and television producer for the BBC in Belfast, he has taught at Princeton University for more than thirty years. He is the author of thirteen collections of poetry including, most recently, Frolic and Detour (2019). Among his awards are the 1972 Eric Gregory Award, the 1980 Sir Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award, the 1994 T.S. Eliot Prize, the 1997 Irish Times Poetry Prize, the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, the 2003 Griffin International Prize for Poetry, the 2004 American Ireland Fund Literary Award, the 2004 Shakespeare Prize, the 2006 European Prize for Poetry, the 2015 Pigott Poetry Prize, and the 2017 Queens Gold Medal for Poetry. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

28 | Sina Queyras | Swelles

Vallum Chapbook Series No. 28
Sina Queyras

What happens when one’s greatest hopes and worst fears become realized? And when they become realized without one’s own agency? In the hands of others who are taking them up in breathtaking, and sometimes brutal ways? Pain, to quote from the British show Fleabag, is in us. Women are born with it, we use it, or it uses us. Pain directs us, it attracts, repulses, and drains: but it also makes us more willing to take more on, to take more up, to take in the grief and shit of others and it can completely upend us. Swelles is a way forward, an attempt to get one’s shifting body back on top of the life raft.

“I am still listening. Even when there is only
silence in the corridor of our origins
I am listening. Above me the rafters sift grey

light, my emotional palate this season is blame,
blame like a drum in my ear, a kind of razoring
into my third eye. Am I? Am I here, in time?”


Author’s Bio

Sina Queyras grew up on the road in western Canada and has since lived in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, and Montreal. They are the author most recently of My Arie(2017), MxT (2014) and Autobiography of Childhood (2011). Their previous collection of poetry, Expressway (2009), was nominated for a Governor General’s Award and a selection from that book won Gold in the National Magazine Awards. Lemon Hound (2006) won a Lambda Award and the Pat Lowther Award. Queyras lives in Montreal where they curate Writers Read and teach creative writing at Concordia.

27 | Alexei Perry Cox | Finding Places to Make Places

Finding Places to Make Places
Vallum Chapbook Series No. 27
Winner of the 2019 Vallum Chapbook Award
Alexei Perry Cox

Alexei Perry Cox utilizes incredible rational and philosophical stances in her work which point to her being a notable thinker. The main energies in the text involve time, the passage of time, the inability to come to terms with a constantly shifting time and also a shifting geography. In other words, Perry Cox’s work embraces the concept of universal flux.

“Because the scalpel of intellect isn’t able to adequately discern between
operation and autopsy, the object of its incision is abstract at first and only
during the act itself does it emerge from the fog of unconsciousness into the
sphere of understanding to gradually acquire the face of a conscious reality.”

With Arabic and other contemporary intertextuality, Perry Cox underscores that “some of the things we try to understand are simply incomprehensible, and this is precisely because of their essence;” and asks questions like: “Why do we so stubbornly look for locks to every door—even the ones that are already open?” Perry Cox also engages in the book with notions of hyper-masculinity and the female condition, with the concluding pages being more focused on mothers and motherhood.


Author’s Bio

Alexei Perry Cox is the author of the poetry collection Under Her and short fiction collection To Utter a Life’s Sentence. Her work has appeared in various iterations in The Puritancarte-blancheCV2Hart House ReviewVallumMakhzin / مخزنMatrixCosmonauts AvenueRusted RadishesJournal Safar (جورنال سفر) The BeijingerLemonhound and elsewhere. She has two wondrous young ones named Isla and Ilham.

26 | A. F. Moritz | Art of Surgery


Art of Surgery is a moving chapbook of depth and of looking into the distant lights of the past. With Dantean and Vergilian invocations, A. F. Moritz wrote out of his experiences in the hospital where he underwent difficult heart surgery. A strong sadness envelops the reader in Moritz’s depictions of life, death and the struggle to find meaning and love within a chaotic world without apparent mercy.

These depictions bring to the surface the fact that we, as a society and culture, have lost the ability to find beauty as meaningful connection. And thus it comes with the life journey that we often don’t know our names and that we are lost. Memory is the ephemeral link to our experiences; perhaps involving trickery and illusion. A. F. Moritz allows us to journey deeply into an internal “imagining” where living may mean having to step away from the past. The poems resonate with their own beauty and rhythmic musicality, ultimately bringing us closer to life’s potential.

“Even though you are the fount of every name,

your name we won’t know. We scarcely know

the beauty of our names

pointing to yours where it sits among them silent

as though lost…”

Author’s Bio

A. F. Moritz  is the author of more than 15 books of poetry; he has received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Relit Award (for Night Street Repairs , named the best book of poetry published in Canada in 2005), an Ingram Merrill Fellowship, and a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation. He is the sixth Poet Laureate of Toronto.

25 | Thurston Moore and John Kinsella | from The Weave: A Work In Progress

from The Weave: A Work In Progress
Vallum Chapbook Series No. 25
Thurston Moore and John Kinsella

Thurston Moore and John Kinsella present a monumental piece with a rhythmic flow unmatched by most contemporary poetry. A musical energy takes words and propels them into sometimes seemingly illogical sequences, but on closer examination, depicts perfect clarity in its movement, in essence “weaving” into our understanding the terrible cost of human insensitivity to its environment. “Our shrinking / Capacities fooled no one and we grew slightly afraid / On pavement, a haunted look mirroring our desire.” And indeed, this piece is haunting in its statement of society’s preoccupation with nothing meaningful, but with an obsession for things like “killjoy facts,” and basically, destruction. All “Are equally to blame,” and we are left with the question: Is it too late to save ourselves?

“We loosen lips to love the ships from stern to bow,
Taking the treadmill sunset with sealegs and scuba faith.
Who will surface to take the cake, the fallout frosting?
Who will stay up late and watch us fall to sleep?”


Authors’ Bios

John Kinsella’s many books of poetry include Drowning in Wheat: New and Selected PoemsJam Tree Gully, and the three volumes of Graphology Poems 1995-2015. He has written numerous books of fiction and criticism, edited others, and taught poetry and literature in the USA, UK, and Australia. He has also written for the theatre and has frequently worked in collaboration with other writers, musicians, and visual artists over the last thirty or so years.

Thurston Moore, born 1958, is a writer/musician currently residing in London. Founder of experimental rock group Sonic Youth and publisher/editor of imprints Flowers & Cream and Ecstatic Peace Library. He teaches summer writing workshops at Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado, USA. His most recent group recording was Rock n Roll Consciousness. In 2018 he presented Galaxies, an ensemble piece for twelve 12-string guitars at the Barbican, London, England.

24 | Zach Pearl | Ladybird Bug Boy

Winner of the 2018 Vallum Chapbook Award

Zach Pearl’s first collection of poetry in fifteen years, Ladybird Bug Boy, is a bold and cerebral montage of his past and present selves. Teen spirit rubs against 30-something banality, urban ideas intersect small town living, and personal malaise is infected by global dis-ease. Through an assemblage of voices and tropes, Pearl crafts a deeply personal folklore that is dark and witty as it probes the increasingly performative nature of identity in our media-driven culture: Masks are essential. Icebergs are enviable. And myriad ghosts (real and imagined) invade the text and haunt the margins.

“Breaths inside breaths give panic and pause
to the escalating multitude of guests
squatting in my soliloquy.
How can I evict the ambivalent?”


Author’s Bio

Zach Pearl  is an American-Canadian writer, designer and educator. Born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, his work is often informed by the tensions of city living in farm country and growing up gay in the Bible Belt. Zach is also co-founder and Managing Editor of KAPSULA, a digital publication for experimental arts writing and sits on the board for Mechademia, a biannual journal for studies in Asian popular cultures

23 | Bhanu Kapil | entre-Ban


entre-Ban is a collection of notes taken by Bhanu Kapil during the writing of her 2015 book, Ban en Banlieue. Inside are deletions, dedications, invitations, the smell of burnt hair, caves, violence. The fragmented text oscillates between the global and the hyper-local, the past and the present, the institutional and the personal, in its steady unfolding of experience and history. entre-Ban was written, in Kapil’s own words: “…for anyone who is oily, overly present, or existing beneath a dominant gaze.” entre-Ban is a “feeling” of that which has been excluded. It refers to immigrants, the children of immigrants, and to all those who have been diminished and rendered invisible by the so-called dominant class, gender or race. It speaks in the voice of a female, inaudible while it screams. Can the terms rendered in entre-Ban ever be reconciled? Will the dominant remain dominant? Is there only a recourse to a final shame, when reality misses the point and one is left haunted and alone? Will those in power ever be held accountable for their crimes?

“A stain blooms on the sidewalk, in city after city, for example. A pavonine sheen in its slick. We gasp to see it, the rainbow, then retrain our feelings on the spot. We look away.”

Author’s Bio

Bhanu Kapil  is the author of five books, most recently Ban en Banlieue (Nightboat Books, 2015) and the re-issue of Incubation: a space for monsters (Kelsey Street Press, 2017). Born in the U.K. to Indian parents, she now lives and works in Colorado. Her current long-term projects include a re-writing [emptying out] of “Ban”— of which a succession of mutations and deletions are included in this chapbook. She is also writing a novel on yellow paper, a re-telling of the childhood classic, The Secret Garden.

22 | Jami Macarty | Mind of Spring

Winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award

Set in a desert borderland, Mind of Spring, a poem in three parts, uses contemplation as a compositional element to call to attention the social, cultural, environmental, and personal mechanisms of war. Written across borders—both visible and invisible—between homelessness and home, estrangement and intimacy, lyric and language, the poem reflects on an accreting grief for the world and meaning of the observed, while offering the reader an alternative to the commodified and monetized.

“palo verde blossoms

speed no different
……………….. than snow’s

covering…….making unknown…….this ground

yellows …….y y e l l o ws…….ggaalore”


Author’s Bio

Jami Macarty  is the author of Mind of Spring, winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award, and Landscape of The Wait (Finishing Line Press 2017). She teaches creative writing at Simon Fraser University, edits the online poetry journal The Maynard, and writes Peerings & Hearings–Occasional Musings on Arts in the City of Glass, a blog series for Anomalous Press (FKA Drunken Boat).

21 | Jan Zwicky | String Practice


Jan Zwicky’s String Practice  is an astounding collection of poems ranging in theme from desire, to music, to loneliness, and to other lovely meditations on the nature of love, death and reflection; “Is dying/that hard? Its horizon/is the same shape as your life,” she asks. The complexity of emotion and thought conjured by the poems in Zwicky’s book leaves the reader breathless, with lines such as “a tenderness we cannot teach perhaps/until we die – that leaving from which/there is no return,” or “the road/unreadable now.” One cannot help but absorb the beauty of these poems, with the musical references throughout adding more depth and resonance, so that the collection exudes an almost ethereal quality.

“Our century is breath
on a winter night, or late thin
cloud, the moon. This music
is the earth’s inaudible revolve
through space: horizon
draws back like a curtain.”


Author’s Bio

Jan Zwicky  lives on Quadra Island, off the coast of British Columbia. A new edition of Lyric Philosophy, her discussion of the nature and importance of lyric thinking, is now available from Brush Education. McGill-Queens released Alkibiades’ Love, a collection of essays, in 2015.