Tag Archives: poetry

UNSAVE THE DATE / Plague poems…

…say it all, and certainly better than I can in prose.

Try to spill my guts here but I’m never comfortable revealing too much. Apparently I’m a “super-social introvert.” Still I’m not used to this degree of solitude though it equates with freedom, once I tamp down the anxiety. Been writing like mad and happy to share some verse. Stay well my pretties.

 

 

UNSAVE THE DATE

Plague year pall
Over wedding season.
Gloomy groom,
Abbreviated bride-
Hamstrung planner.
Perhaps temperature checks,
Accessorised, matching masks?
But who will admire her lipstick?
How will she kiss her lucky guy?
And who will smuggle in bliss?

While florists go broke,
Whiskery best man’s relieved,
Happily ensconced in his bunker.

 

STILL IN THE KNOW

Does the city teach
Rudiments of urban life?
The corolla, how to sport a crown?
Both must be embraced
To be assimilated, to be chic.
More difficult is learning
To accept my mother,
A Québecois oddly named Corona,
That she skidded into me
While seething squarely.

There had been glimmerings,
As when a hoodie
Becomes a hood,
A mask, camouflage,
An errant clarinet
An instrument of spite.

As when a spangled nation
Tingles or spews
With nothing in between,
Might diffused, though might enough
To take us down with them,
With their rusticated dogmata,
Joy-sticking, foot soldier jingoists.

Boots on the ground
As the coastline burns,
Orca blubber boils,
Pretzel-stuffed crows
And black-lunged raptors plummet.

Messages mauled before delivery,
I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut.

 

 

SKOOKUM RAVEN Has Landed!

She persists. Due to a reversal of fortune six years ago I had to leave my island home and return to the city. I started a business which left little time for poetry; reading or composing. Despite that and with herculean effort I’ve managed to produce a third volume of verse and today announce the launch of Skookum Raven. I am able to take joy in witnessing manuscript transformed into book, forged in the crucible of coronavirus. I am still a page baby, a re-emerging page baby. Poet.

I won’t discuss poetics-leave it to the rigour of critics-or defend the form but certainly the right to employ my voice, to claim a quality of life, as life invariably ebbs. There ain’t nobody that can sing like me. I know my purpose and it’s my way of staring down the abyss.

Many thanks to my publisher Ekstasis Editions, to friends and family for their love and encouragement. Here comes the show biz:

There are some rough and wild birds around Howe Sound — West Coast avians like the sharp-shinned hawk, the northern harrier, and the whiskey-jack. Heather Haley, an accomplished mapper of human migration, pair-bonding and predation, takes these feathered frenemies as her starting point in this assured third collection, Skookum Raven. Like her foremothers and contemporaries Gwendolyn MacEwen, Susan Musgrave and Karen Solie, Haley writes sophisticated free lyrics of a witchy feminist kind — but adds some proletarian ferocity with her bus-station grandpas and sketches of iffy guys like Ed the Fence. These are astute, austere poems which sometimes take flight into optimistic beauty — this book is “pockmarked with luck.”

Skookum Raven is a text for the tricksters within. With spondaic pow-bams of language, these lyrics harness neologistic energies to evoke punchy lust, back alley bravado, and coastal croonings on sex, the wild, music and time.” -Catherine Owen

“Tart, taut and terse, Haley’s honed poems of lust and loss, wrath and remorse are imbued with hard-won insight and subversive wit. Her wry x-ray eye cuts to the quick in an array of deftly drawn portraits that will make you grin with recognition. Haley is a master of assonance, consonance and dissonance, intermingled with flashes of a distilled lyricism”. – Fiona Tinwei Lam

“Heather Haley’s Skookum Raven honours the west coast with brilliant side-eye observations couched in words drawn from a wide palette, from Chinook trade language to Pussy Riot. She brings us on a stroll through the village, showing the underbelly of every house and garden, then deeper into domestic disharmonies and unease in relatedness, writing sharply from a woman’s point of view. If any reader has become lulled with the beauties of west coast living, she will shake you into more fulsome awareness of the “hard blessings” shared. “No lotus-eaters we…”-Joanne Arnott

“Haley has the gift of writing to suit her subject in all its raddled variety, from wired and jarring to lyrical and tragic.”-Vancouver Sun

For a preview check out the Skookum Raven book trailer.

If you’d like a copy please visit Ekstasis Editions’ website. Also, contact Ekstasis for details or to arrange appearances, events or media opportunities. For further information: Richard Olafson or Carol Sokoloff    Phone: (250) 385-3378    email: ekstasis@islandnet.com

 

CALAMITY JANES

Feeling embattled? Pour vous, a poem, a work-in-progress for what is there to do but document and reflect as we shelter-in-place? I lost it the other night. In the past I would have run away, though I am seriously considering moving to the Cariboo. “I hate this fucking place!” I feel so hemmed in by the constant racket of various types, the astronomical rent and cost of living. But perhaps it’s just urban life. I miss the woods. I need a vacation! The world needs a vacation. And we aren’t about to get one anytime soon. Again, hold fast my pretties. And as BC’s Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry says,” Be kind, be calm, be safe.”

CALAMITY JANES

We are the beleaguered,
The beleaguered are we.
Each one of us, beleaguered.
Each day, week, month, year;
Beleaguered with corona virus
Or tuberculosis or autism
Or leprosy or slipped disc
Or clubfoot or schizophrenia
Or acne or blindness
Or polio or chlamydia
Or angina or endometriosis or diabetes.
Plus, depression.
We beleaguered are beleaguered
By tornado, earthquake,
Volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, forest fires,
40 days and 40 nights of flood.
Plus, anxiety.
We are beleaguered by riots, misogyny, poverty,
Racism, mass shootings or unwanted pregnancy.
Plus, oops.
We are beleaguered by sugar, tobacco,
Opioids and alcohol.
Plus, whatever gets you through.

2020 requires we delegate
Weeping, triage burials,
Battle over ventilators,
Battle over battles,
Sequester ourselves,
Sustain and administer strength,
Swabs, masks, compassion.
Silence disquietude.
Conquer enervation.
Woo fate.
Adapt or die
As Jane asks, “What else is new?”

VOLCANO WATCH-poem from forthcoming collection

pink_stars_2560x1600

Egads! No time to write, or blog, or even record in my journal I’m so busy relocating/ launching the new business along with my big kid. But, I am making progress on the manuscript with the aid of a dear friend. Here is a poem from the forthcoming collection.

VOLCANO WATCH

Punch tools. Cutups.
Antlered animals.
Arm bones astonish.
Antipodes hook.

Winged jewels.
Bluegrass blades.
Amaranthine throats.
Nothing lost on me.

I am tossed about
In a volcano
Man, billows of black
Tidings. Lured to the horizon

Through a corn maze,
Past turbulence of mind,
Nothing but pink
Stars to separate us.

 

 

“Heather Haley-Poet.” How did that happen?

sideways

Certainly I didn’t plan to become a poet. I didn’t grow up thinking, when I grow up I’m going to be a poet. But in essence, it is who I am. I wasn’t exposed to literature. My father read Popular Mechanics and my mother, True Confessions. Though, being an Irish queen of blarney, Corona could spin a mean yarn.

I didn’t get a degree. I dropped out of university and ran away to join the punk rock circus; sang, wrote songs and poetry which I performed in coffee houses and nightclubs. When I returned to Canada, in a fluky way, published my first collection, Sideways, with Anvil Press. Three Blocks West of Wonderland came out with Ekstasis Editions in 2009 so I’m not exactly prolific, though never cease writing. In a haphazard way, I’m becoming “widely anthologized;” Verse Map of Vancouver (Anvil),  Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry (Mother Tongue Publishing), Alive at the Center (Ooligan Press), FORCE Field: 77 Women Poets of British Columbia (Mother Tongue Publishing), The Wild Weathers; a gathering of love poems (Caitlin Press), The SpokenWord WorkBook (Banff Centre Press), Where the Nights are Twice as Long: Love Letters of Canadian Poets (Goose Lane Editions), The Other 23 1/2 Hours, What Your MFA Didn’t Teach You (Wolsak & Wynn), and the forthcoming Simon Fraser University’s Lunch Poems Anthology. Is my approach irresponsible or irreverent? Due to a bad attitude perhaps and Sideways might be entirely appropriate.

I’ve worked in many genres; journalism/reviewer, non-fiction/blog, prose/novel and written several screenplays.  I always go back to poetry. Or, come back to poetry.

Recently I completed a rough draft of my latest manuscript, Detective Work. Why? It’s in me, verse. And I have no idea how it got there.

MY WEEK

Fed a germ.
Old dog.
Spooned flies out of yogurt.
Dislodged ants from the toaster.
Entered words.
Fought for blackberries.
Free stuff.

Doctored bites.
Signed language.
Collected greens,
Heritage tomatoes.
Meme parlanced.
Registered my feelings.

Last house on Husband Rd.
Prolific bamboo décor.
You can sit in a resin chair
Forever, white ones
Especially war strong.
Too late in the week now
To do anything nice.

Or, nicely.
Too late in our life spans
For anything,
Though he’s still trying
To Xerox his ass,
Moon earth.

 

“Where Sins Are More Sinful”-Collaborating

SinsIlloVictor

Love collaborating.  I’m working on spoken word songs with producer/guitarist Mark Deutrom, formerly of the Melvins and currently of Bell Ringer and Brian Topp, a Vancouver composer whom I’ve been paired with to create a piece for the Art Song Festival in June.  This is a link to an Atticus Review story on my poem Where Sins Are More Sinful, which my friend painter Victor Bonderoff illustrated and Mark Neys AKA Swoon Bildos of Belgium adapted to video.

WHERE SINS ARE MORE SINFUL

A river flows down to the Atlantic-

the Matapédia-

Irish and cathedral

on one side,

Québécois and cathedral

on the other.

They all know sin.

 

Jeanette walked to the pier

every day to buy a lobster,

hid the quarts of beer

from brothers Ed and Reggie

in the toilet tank.

Hung a rosary there,

to atone for the bastard

she nourished

with lobster and beer.

 

Tiny filligree iron cross

laced with lines of rust.

 

Novel reviews are in! And a poem called “Flesh Pot”

Slowly trudging along the dreaded book marketing trail-the main challenge being a lack of both time and money-but so far she’s receiving the star treatment and good reviews:

“The pace is electric, the scenes pulsate with energy, and through the character of Fiona, the reader is pulled into a world that can be beautiful and passionate one moment, and scary and ugly the next. The writing is so honest and direct, and dealing with such powerful feelings and social issues, that it will take your breath away.”-Nick Faragher, author of  The Well and other Stories and No Big Thing. Nick also characterized it as a punk Moveable Feast, which I love.

“You couldn’t ask for a better tour guide. Fiona wants to take you by the arm and show you everything – everything! – and you should let her. She’ll walk you through absurdly dysfunctional families, creatives and poseurs, mountains of cocaine, the thrills and bitter frustrations of band life, a city on fire, and sex that explores a lot of territory: tender, frenzied, exhilarating, surreal, brutal. Fiona tells it all, unflinching, with a survivor’s wry humor. Go on, get in – it’s a ride worth taking. Fiona will drive too fast, and you’ll love it.”-Katy Barzedor

“Don’t let the punk rock scare you; this is a woman’s story of love and adventure and survival. This is about sex and drugs and rock and roll. This is about a woman’s personal journey from young girl to abused victim to scarred survivor. It may begin with the punk rock years, but follows the lead character Fiona through scenes of punk rock violence, to a more insidious violence of personal relationships. Warning: There is quite a bit of sex here, so if you are offended by graphic scenes of sex, stay away. But if you like sex and classic sexy writing, you will love this book. We know that not all sex is good. Sometimes there is a dark side. Poor Fiona discovers this horrible truth as an attraction becomes a trap. The scenes during the LA riots evoke the Jump into the fire scene in Goodfellas, but told through a strong woman’s perspective. Rarely do you read books from a woman’s perspective about sex and music. The Town Slut’s Daughter takes you into the dark side of the music business. Why it makes punk rock seem tame in comparison.”-Dennis Milt

“A whirlwind tale about a girl looking for identity and artistic expression, that takes you from the early Vancouver punk scene through the trenches of rock and roll, life and excess in 1980’s Los Angeles and culminates with the L.A. riots. Intense, passionate, at times brutal, and also funny. The dialogue between characters had me laughing out loud. A rollercoaster ride that raises your hair and lands you back into your seat with a hard bump.”-Tracy Bissonnette

No time to write! But I will be included in several anthologies coming out next year; Love Where the Nights Are Twice As Long, a Goose Lane collection of love letters penned by Canadian poets, edited by David Eso, and a Simon Fraser University anthology of work from their Lunch Poems reading series which I participated in. They selected this one:

FLESH POT 

Born muscle bound

Backboned, map, matrix-

Mother intact

Into families, slums

 

Manors, private

Security firms, institutions.

Pirates or the pious

We flourish. Raw teeth, germs,

 

Clubfeet do not impede us,

Rank and garbled speech fleeting

As tin jeeps, our struggle

Barbie Doll drama, tumult banal,

 

Pain prosaic, strife fueling ripeness

Gauntlets passed through swiftly

Until the day we drop. Nominated,

Cornered, required to wither

 

Under the gun,

Succumb, for we remain

That tender, precious human

Flesh terminators aim for.

 

 

Bringing home our inner pseudo commandos

Yes, I have lived many places, known many people. All I can do is write, if I’m lucky, as I struggle to understand human behaviour. While still in mourning for the loss of one of the most loving and magnanimous individuals in my life, somewhat ironically, I am astonished at the capacity of others for spite, as if anger holds redemption. Well, if nothing else, I suppose it provides fuel, though far as I can tell, anger only propels one further and deeper down into a well of despair, paranoia and depression. I’ve resided in isolation. I know how it works, feel fortunate to have surfaced, partly due to the efforts of friends and family who never gave up on me.

PSEUDO COMMANDO

Cave apartment.
Lonesome injustice collector,
Lame prospero
Maintains object relations
With others based on envy.
Revenge-romance writer.

Between mean street patrols
And bitch prowling, corrals
The unwanted, hated, feared bits
Of himself, to reassemble,
Form of an enemy
Deserving of merciless rage.

Welcome to the neighbourhood.

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PRAISE

PRAISE

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The sea never ends.

Ask a trawler.

Every unexplored trench

Propels her to dive

Into urban ruination.

Blonde brick facade

Fails to deter local rapture consultant

Friendly neighborhood ecstatic man

Ecstatic with belief.

1

Brother Earl pronounces

Each defeat of the heart

Each leave taking

Must ignite a torch song

For Jesus.

Any definition containing the word “God”

Is proof of God.

1

She protests, demurely.

He persists, naturally.

There is no convincing the devout

You don’t need convincing.

The right(eous) crave victory

More than more than fish and loaves

She his undeserved indulgence.

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Piqued, he spends days

Mane taming, grip maintained,

Malignifying every utterance

From of her reluctant mouth

Discourse so acute

She threw up her hand. A signal. Stop.

Let’s restart. Imagine peace.

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Expert at diminution

He named her Heathen. Sub-human.

Steeply, speedily Ignorant. Condemned.

Though the pious never cease flaming

Both remain standing. Hopeful.

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WINTER MOURNING

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WINTER MOURNING

March mad in February
Ma’s temper heats the window.
A flutter of juncos alight
Plying the bare limbed willow
Like a lyre
Fawn, dove, hare
Sheltered in cedar shade
Frightened still.

Bonded in blarney
She’d weaned me
On clever jive
My conception a farce
Life a fiction.
Let the need to know go
She repeated as if Buddha-wise.

Her demise should illuminate
Every secret, every corner
Every cowering tot
Lit by the pop and flash,
Truth, its triumph at last, though
Revelation offers no resolution.
We are all stories in the end.

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