My sweater-vests and cardigans, my necessary junk, my shower-curtain rings of course: my life is in my trunk.
A framed glossy picture of Marie, my better half, but not her perfume (jasmine), her cooking, or her laugh.
From New York to Chicago and Chicago to New York, the days are seldom sunny, the nights are always dark.
Pretty soon I’ll have to pack it in, I’m getting old. There’s not a lot worth having that a travel trunk can hold.
Editor’s comments: From Pino Coluccio you should expect light and dark combined, light but deep, usually short, always well-phrased… and always existential. This poem is from Class Clown, which won a Trillium Award, putting Coluccio in the company of fellow Ontarians Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Alice Munro.
They’d all be like, never say never in classes we had, but whatever. I turned to the windows and hallways that always said always say always.
Editor’s comments: From Pino Coluccio you should expect light and dark combined, light but deep, usually short, always well-phrased… and always existential. This, the eponymous piece of his 2017 collection, is tucked away in the middle of the book. The book won a Trillium Award, putting Coluccio in the company of Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Alice Munro. He has given me permission to republish more of his pieces from Class Clown periodically.
Hungry late, I clank around the kitchen for a snack. A pickle first and then, why not, I peel apart a pack
of luncheon meat, some Swiss, a leaf of something limp and wan, and now — oh no, the lid’s on tight but look — the mayo’s gone.
It feels like only yesterday I parked my father’s car, peeked at other shoppers’ carts and tootled to a jar
for slathering on hotdogs and for dolloping on frites — there’s loads of foods whose fatty goodness mayonnaise completes.
My pumpernickel won’t go down — it’s like a warning bell, the chilly clink of stainless steel on glass. I know it well.
And wonder under nibbles if at bottom human lives aren’t always scraping empty jars with tips of pointless knives.
This is another of Pino Coluccio’s favourite poems from his first collection ‘First Comes Love‘. He doesn’t choose to comment on it, but I too like it; I like the way it clanks around the kitchen for a couple of verses, and then hits you with existential despair in the last lines. Which might be a matter of personal taste: I like eating limes and lemons, and I find Coluccio’s reflections equally tasty.
Pino Coluccio won Canada’s 2018 Trillium Award for English Poetry with his second collection, ‘Class Clown’. His poem ‘City Sunsets’ is featured in the most recent Potcake Chapbook, ‘City! Oh City!‘ He lives in Toronto.
There comes a time when sitting home alone looking at your life — I’m such a knob — gets to be a drag. You hate your job, your car’s a piece of crap, and what you eat is fatty, fried and salty. But then you meet a girl. The life you made a mess of pulses. And not content to mess up just your own, you settle down and mess up someone else’s.
Pino Coluccio writes that this poem is one his personal faves. It’s from his first book, also titled ‘First Comes Love‘, published by Mansfield Press. His poem ‘City Sunsets’ is featured in the most recent Potcake Chapbook, ‘City! Oh City!‘
City! Oh City! – poems on the light and dark of urban life. Thirteen of the best contemporary English-language poets present their wildly differing takes on the glamour and squalor, the joy and heartbreak, the varied people and the hidden wildlife of our modern cities.
Five of the poets are new to the Potcake Chapbook series, and I’m delighted to be adding Kate Bingham of England, Francis O’Hare of Northern Ireland, Pino Coluccio of Canada, and Quincy R. Lehr and J.D. Smith of the US. They join eight returning poets. Amit Majmudar and Maryann Corbett deserve special mention for their brilliant use of form to capture contradictory situations: Majmudar’s static street scene which suddenly changes pace to a hectic chase, Corbett’s interwoven Baroque chamber ensemble and homeless encampment with their separate realities in a shared evening in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In addition: Michael R. Burch, Jerome Betts, Terese Coe, Marcus Bales, Martin Elster and myself; everyone contributes to this memorable capture of the complexity of the modern city.
Bios, photos and links to read more of their work can all be found on the Sampson Low site’s Potcake Poets page, while all the chapbooks in the series, showing which poets are in which, are here. Each of the 12 chapbooks is profusely illustrated (of course) by Alban Low, and can be yours (or sent as an intriguing gift) for the price of a coffee.
The poem enters your head as a litter of kittens brought in by a cat from somewhere hidden, place of birth unknown. A word, image, rhyme, an idea, a tone, they are brought one at a time In no order, no preference, no ruling or schooling, they just need to come in, like refugees at the border. And they have no order, they crawl over each other, blind and mewling, and here comes another, and then here comes another. So the thoughts enter your head like kittens. Give thanks to the Mother.
Where do ideas come from? No idea. (An oxymoronic observation that is not so different from saying that all the Universe comes from nothing, or that there was no time before the beginning of time.) But simply having ideas is nothing in itself – you can have ideas and ignore them (and generally irritate the Muse that is offering you ideas), and so you will have nothing to show for them. Canadian poet Pino Coluccio recently pointed me at an old piece by British poetPhilip Larkin, which begins:
“It is sometimes useful to remind ourselves of the simpler aspects or things normally regarded as complicated. Take, for instance, the writing of a poem. It consists of three stages: the first is when a man becomes obsessed with an emotional concept to such a degree that he is compelled to do something about it. What he does is the second stage, namely, construct a verbal device that will reproduce this emotional concept in anyone who cares to read it, anywhere, any time. The third stage is the recurrent situation of people in different times and places setting off the device and re-creating in themselves what the poet felt when he wrote it. The stages are interdependent and all necessary. If there has been no preliminary feeling, the device has nothing to reproduce and the reader will experience nothing. If the second stage has not been well done, the device will not deliver the goods, or will deliver only a few goods to a few people, or will stop delivering them after an absurdly short while. And if there is no third stage, no successful reading, the poem can hardly be said to exist in a practical sense at all.”
So, 1) become obsessed; 2) construct a verbal device that captures the obsessiveness; 3) have it read by people who thereby experience your obsession.
This series of poems in the ‘Calling the Poem’ chapbook focuses on how to be open to the internal wellspring of ideas, obsessions, emotions, words and images to reach Larkin’s first stage (these first 11 poems); and some thoughts about the construction of the “verbal device” of his second stage (the remaining four poems that are coming up). As for the third stage… well, if the poem is strong enough, it will resonate appropriately with those who read it; but how to get it read–that is a different problem entirely.
Here on the vast beach, you, my hundred friends, Can see how sea stretched tight round curved earth bends, How empty sun-filled sky fills timeless Time. My arms stretch out, but you can’t see how I’m Trapped, caged, confined, boxed in, in love, alone. Come, sun, burn beach and skin, bleach hair and bone, Flay life to its essentials: love alone.
This poem was originally published in The Rotary Dial, a wonderfully rich monthly published as a pdf in Toronto, much missed after suddenly stopping publication. It was edited by Alexandra Oliver and Pino Coluccio, both prize-winning Canadian formal poets, Oliver being the more serious and Coluccio less so, as his collection titled ‘Class Clown‘ suggests.
Coluccio was very kind in comments about my poem, calling it “Borderline Hopkinsesque in a way, ecstatic quality” which made me reevaluate and revalue it. This is one of the interesting things about having your work published, or even merely read by others – things that you take for granted may be found exciting by others, just as things that excite you may just elicit yawns elsewhere. One human may have some diversity of moods, but that is nothing compared to the enormous diversity of humans as a whole. It is fascinating to hear the reactions of others, in all things.
The future like an avalanche is roaring down the sky. If you’ve prepared no hiding place then be prepared to die. You never reason why.
The future like a question mark is scything humankind. If you can see, then handle it – you’ll be cut down if blind. The future doesn’t mind.
The future like a giant wave is heading for the shore. If you can ride that wall-like wave it’s no wall, but a door into forever more.
I was looking for one of my poems that might be appropriate for the aftermath of the 2020 US election, regardless of any of the possible outcomes. This is the best I could find: no matter who wins which election in any country in the next couple of decades, the world is going to be struggling to play catch-up with enormous changes happening in the climate, the sea, cyber warfare, space militarisation, A.I., genetic modifications… Trump, Biden, BoJo, Putin, Xi, they are all corks on an ocean with a hurricane coming.
‘The Future as Event’ was originally published in the much-lamented ‘Rotary Dial’, produced in Toronto by award-winning poets Pino Coluccio and Alexandra Oliver. A delightful monthly of formal verse, it ceased without warning. So it goes.
These are the scarecrow years
When frost tears glisten
On moulded and painted cheeks, beside ears
That no longer listen
Being more deaf than dead
And hearing only
Through implants and inputs into the head
Fears come while certainties lapse:
Fears of the dark,
Of abandonment, monsters, uncertainty. Now (perhaps)
Some Schrödinger’s shark
Divides cosmonaut, cryonaut, chrononaut
From those who can’t trust
The unknown, are ill-taught, or die without thought.
Thrive on change, or be dust.
This was first published in The Rotary Dial, an excellent online monthly of a dozen formal poems that was put out by two of Canada’s best poets, Pino Coluccio and Alexandra Oliver. Unfortunately The Rotary Dial folded in 2017 and Pino, after winning Ontario’s Trillium Book Award for ‘Class Clown’, disappeared off the radar.
The poem subsequently appeared in the fifth Potcake Chapbook: ‘Strip Down – poems of modern life’, where it has a page facing A.E. Stallings’ far gentler and more positive view of modern medicine, ‘Ultrasound’.
You bring me back to when I once was young
When candles gild your eyebrows and your hair;
And to this rocky isle from which I’ve sprung,
You bring me back to where I once was young,
Birthplace of all the varied songs I’ve sung.
Now lying with you in the predawn air
You bring me back to when we both were young
As sunrise gilds your eyebrows and your hair.
This poem was originally published in The Rotary Dial, a Canadian monthly of 12 formal poems that ran some 50 issues before packing up in 2017. It was edited by two prize-winning Canadian poets, Pino Coluccio (winner of the Trillium Book Award for “Class Clown”) and Alexandra Oliver (winner of the Pat Lowther Award for her collection “Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway”). A very enjoyable magazine, I’m sorry it’s gone.
A triolet is strangely attractive form – it only has two rhymes, and several of the lines are required to repeat (though slight variations in the repetition are allowed, carrying the sense forward into new areas). So the rhyme scheme is ABaAabAB, with lines 1, 4 and 7 and lines 2 and 8 repeating, yet having fresh meanings as the little poem moves along.
In the case of this poem, being married for 25 years became enmeshed with returning to live in my home town after 40 years. The triolet’s structure of repetition suits a poem about development, ageing, memory, return.