Category Archives: poetry blog

Looms “expansive”: mclennan

Many thanks to rob mclennan for his lovely review of Looms!

“There is such an expansiveness to Martin’s Looms. The poems exist in that magical place where words, images and ideas collide, creating connections that previously had never been.”

In his review, rob generously included a couple of poems from the book. If you’d like to read more from Looms, you can order a copy at the following vendors (click to link):


“They Will Take My Island”: Paul Vermeersch’s Gorky Project

"They Will Take My Island," Arshile Gorky (1944)

(Click on image to go to my poem.)

         Paul Vermeersch recently asked me to participate in his ongoing “They Will Take My Island” poetic project, in which he asks poets to respond to the eponymous 1944 painting by Arshile Gorky. I enthusiastically accepted the challenge, and immediately the question of the identity of “them” and “me” arose.
         In an age in which questions of political and economic power seem more urgent than ever, probably the meaning that will most readily surface in people’s minds is of a powerful “they” taking something away from “me,” perhaps the sovereign island of individuality, the ability to determine the course of one’s life, free of coercion from the nefarious powers-that-be. In any case, that was the meaning that first came to my mind. And several of the poems powerfully develop that political facet of the title.
         But what is fascinating about all of the poetic responses to Paul’s prompt is the sheer variety of approaches to those open-ended pronouns, as well as to the syntax of the sentence itself. As I sketched, drafted, and edited the poem, I developed the title to reflect my own philosophical, aesthetic, and cognitive concerns. And writing it was satisfying in unexpected ways.
         So thank you, Paul, for the invitation to participate in a project that has brought me much pleasure, in both the writing of my poem and the enjoyment of reading the other poets’ responses to the title.

Camille Martin

The return of the rogue . . .

More posts arriving soon, including samples from poetry books that have taken off the top of my head lately.

Meanwhile, please have a look at my newly spruced-up website—it’s leaner and cleaner and easier to navigate:

Enjoy the perusing. Comments welcome!

In other news, I recently completed a new collection of poems, “Looms.” I used the Toronto New School of Writing‘s Manuscript Midwives program and went through intensive and gratifying editing sessions with poet Phil Hall, who has an uncanny ability to figure out what you want to do and help you do it better. I’m excited about this new manuscript, which is getting encouraging feedback from poet friends who’ve read the manuscript and heard my readings from it, most recently at AvantGarden.

And onward to a new poetry manuscript with the working title “Cambrian Blues.”




Camille Martin

Bill Knott’s strong-lined sonnets

Bill Knott, Fifty (Rhyming) Sonnets: A Selection from 1969-2009

          I recently received two gorgeous hand-made books from Bill Knott featuring his original art on the covers, front and back, including the above Fifty Sonnets. I’ve been wanting to feature some of his works on Rogue Embryo, and given my predilection for sonnets, I’ve chosen four from this collection, reproduced below.
          Normally skeptical about contemporary poetry that rhymes, I have no such reservations about Knott’s formal excursions. The rhymes are woven into the poems in such a way that they might be perceived only subliminally at first.
          That effect of seamlessness has something to do, I think, with the lineage of these sonnets from Metaphysical poetry’s “strong lines”: the complex, elliptical syntax with its hierarchy of nested dependent clauses; the use of sustained metaphor or conceit; and the intellectual stance, delighting in irony and paradox. The diction is often densely musical, turning alliterative Hopkinesque phrases with compound adjectives (as in “gallant-grieved angels’-armor” and “brief bloomed steam-sheaf”). The serpentine syntax and compressed music of some of these sonnets recall the complexity of poets like Donne: difficult nuts to crack, but rewarding.
          Bill Knott is famously as open about his work (most of which is self-published or posted online) as he is reluctant to allow publishers to assemble selections. I hope the latter changes, but meanwhile it’s wonderful to have these tangible and lovingly assembled books with his original art on the covers.
          SPD carries two titles by Knott: Stigmata Errata Etcetera and The Quicken Tree. His 2006 collection The Unsubscriber is also available from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
          Check out more of Bill Knott at his poetry blog, his prose blog, and his art blog.

THE HUNGER (enneasysyllabics)

If a path to the Gingerbread House
could be established by breaking crumbs
off its edifice and sprinkling them
so as to find what lies behind us

across the featureless fairytale
void of childhood: yet how very quick
that trick wears out when the story’s track
takes hold, takes toll, a far-older trail

prevails, we’re forced to give up this lost
cause; and the fact is that every last
morsel was gone long before the you

or I might totter our way back here
to try to dissuade all these other
Hansel-Gretels hollering in queue.


Who sought that sad height and that constant change
Laboring on an extraneous verse
Which through the dispersion of universe
Might elect one second whose spectrum’s range

Was so capricious it broke the scholar
Caught in daily efforts to confine the eye
Pursuant of ceruleanesques that lie
Against each longong to fling a color

As brief as my life if I am alive
And am the one destined to undergo
Any authorship of the words that show
Whether such vexacious tints can survive—

You must judge, ancient friend! what I’ve seen
Or accept as real the illusion I mean.


Ray that overturns every pane,
force that first invades but then

is pervaded: sunstripe penetrant!—
what made your phalanx fail: why can’t

its gallant-grieved angels’ armour
avert our dirt: must the conqueror

convert his ways, the savour adope
savage customs? The slaves currupt

all bright kings—each mote of us
holds abject thought that blots with dust

your gold-shed greatness: shadow
breaks your arc and essence. How

transient the transparency
your brandished here so recently.


The bacon of the ankles crackles, and the sky
Perks up birds this coldsnap morning—very
breath sheds a breath-effect, brief-bloomed steam-sheaf . . .
Puddles huddle in frost. Past the barn the path

Shoots hill-pastures which rose to winter early
And sun-shucked clouds blast-off from: migrants that fly
South—mouths that wet-nurse icicles—hatch forth
A form, a furious precision I sloughed

At birth, preferring life. And like the wind
Can reduce anything to description—
Running to finish my chores, beneath my scarf

I’ll feel my chinbone seek my collarbone,
As if the flesh has ceded and the skeleton
Now must precipice itself against all warmth.

Camille Martin

Time-Sensitive Material

There’s a new poetry blog in town: Toronto poet David Dowker’s Time-Sensitive Material.

David edited The Alterran Poetry Assemblage, a literary magazine published from 2000-2005—it’s a treasure trove, and David has taken the trouble to have the contents archived by the National Library of Canada Electronic Collection.

A recent post on his blog consists of links to contributions to The Alterran Poetry Assemblage from Lise Downe, Chris Stroffolino, Lisa Robertson, Charles Alexander, David Dowker, Fiona Templeton, and many more (I’m in there somewhere).

I look forward to future postings!



Camille Martin

rob mclennan reviews Sonnets

There are so few that seem to know how to bring something new to an often-used form that when it happens, it’s worth noting, and such is the case with Toronto poet Camille Martin in her second trade poetry collection, Sonnets (Exeter, England: Shearsman Books, 2010). Martin, an American relocated north after Hurricane Katrina, writes with the most wonderful sense of clarity, thought and play in these poems, and with a flavour . . . (read more)

Stoning the Devil on my sonnets in moria magazine

Adam Fieled’s review and thoughtful analysis of some of my sonnets published in moria magazine:

“I was excited to find a group of wonderful sonnets from Camille Martin. What I at first dimly suspected has now been affirmed; there is as much vitality, craft, and genuine art being transmitted via the Web as there is being released via print journals. Martin’s sonnets deserve a closer look. I have chosen two of the six to look at . . .”
             —Adam Fieled, Stoning the Devil
Click here to read more.
Camille Martin