Tag Archives: sonnets

Camille Martin, Beatriz Hausner, and Claire Lacey at AvantGarden (Toronto)

Please join Beatriz Hausner, Claire Lacey, and me next Tuesday, June 7, for our AvantGarden reading at The Ossington (Toronto).

I’ll read never-before-aired poems from my new manuscript “Looms.” Copies of my recently-published Sonnets (Shearsman Books, 2010) will be available for purchase.

A big thanks to hosts Liz Howard and Shannon Maguire!

Time: Tuesday, June 7, 6:30 pm—9:30 pm
Location: The Ossington (61 Ossington Avenue, Toronto)

Beatriz Hausner’s (Toronto, ON) poetry is rooted in the legacy of international surrealism, especially its Spanish American expression. Hausner’s extensive work as a translator has focused on the writers of that literature, including Rosamel del Valle, Enrique Molina, Olga Orozco, César Moro, the poets of Mandrágora, among many others. Hausner’s work has been anthologized and published in journals both in Canada and internationally, in French, Spanish and Portuguese translation. Recent publications of her poetry include: The Wardrobe Mistress (2003), Towards the Ideal Man Poems (2003), The Stitched Heart (2004), The Archival Stone (2005) and Sew Him Up (2010). Hausner is one of the publishers of Quattro Books (www.quattrobooks.ca). She works as a public librarian in Toronto.

Camille Martin, a Toronto poet, is the author of three books of poetry: Sonnets, Codes of Public Sleep, and Sesame Kiosk. Her work has been widely and internationally published in journals and translated into Spanish and German. Her current works in progress are “Looms,” a collection of layered narratives, and “The Evangeline Papers,” a poetic sequence based on her Cajun/Acadian heritage.

Claire Lacey blogs as poetactics. Claire studied English language and literature at Glendon College then headed west to cause a ruckus as a patagrad at the University of Calgary, where she writes poetry about linguistics and birds and bridges. Claire spent the last year working as writer-in-residence at a Calgary high school to convince students that poetry isn’t boring. Claire is poetry editor of Dandelion magazine.



Camille Martin


photo: rob mclennan

I’ve been Influencied! Last Wednesday, Sonnets was the focus of Margaret Christakos’ Influency class at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education. After Margaret’s warm-up introduction, students read reflections on the book and rob mclennan gave a talk about it (which can be read here). I read from the book (and from my manuscript “Looms”) and then there was a general discussion.

What a brilliant idea, this class! In a few weeks, I’ll be on the other side of the magnifying glass as I give a talk on Kaie Kellough’s Maple Leaf Rag. I’m especially looking forward to hearing Kaie again. I read with him in Montreal a couple of years ago—he’s a mind-blowing performer!



Camille Martin

Sonnets “torqued high”

Check out this new and excellent review of Sonnets by Marianne Villanueva in Galatea Resurrects #16.

Villanueva’s take: Sonnets is “rigorous and uncompromising . . . intellectually fearsome . . . torqued high.”

Click here for links to distributors that carry Sonnets.



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

The Street Names of Toronto

So that Rogue Embryo isn’t completely idle during the break, I’m posting three poems from Sonnets, originally published in The Literary Review of Canada—I hope you enjoy this holiday holding pattern.

And please stay tuned in the new year for more reviews, poetry collages, whatnot . . .

the street names of toronto

a great benefactor, you planted more fruit trees
in the aftermath of your tragic death than during
your expansive life. you discovered gold
and had music piped in. and then your name lost an “e”
in a fencing accident. in 1927 you opened the university
of the difficulties of the poor, who danced
a minuet of sublimation rather than eat their soggy
sustenance. armed with pitchforks and other farm implements,
a feed mill and an amusement park managed to survive
your last act as lieutenant governor. we seek you,
great benefactor. although you can still be spotted underwater
or strolling through hollows, you are an unsuitable
subject for the queen. the hurons killed and ate you,
and now you are a street.

you were a brewer and a faithful methodist. prejudiced
against trees, you imported some of your prize bushes
from a brickyard in scotland. though considered ineffective,
you dreamed of living in a real castle
with thirty bathrooms and ornamental lakes
for the ponies. during the rosedale croquet riots,
the house of lords burned your effigy
at their clubhouse. after hanging the rebels,
you rebuilt your tavern and outlived all your accusers.
eventually your debts drove you to selling candy floss
in public dance halls and lunatic asylums. you left
instructions for your heart to be tucked away
in a place with no alcoholic beverages,
and now you are a street.

you had the checkered early history
of an anointed bishop who ate french fries
in paper cones and snowflake donuts
on the side. you traded blankets for fishhooks
and carried people, mail, and goods to rousing
camp meetings, despite a good deal of ill feeling.
after you sold most of your land, your name
was often misspelled. in spite of your emotionally
disturbed outlook, you moved to york
at 600 feet per hour and set up a shop that will soon
be razed. in a streak of good fortune, you were knighted
for introducing showgirls and rhubarb to the area.
then dynamite exploded in your face,
and now you are a street.



Camille Martin

Carol Dorf reviews Camille Martin’s Sonnets

I just came across Carol Dorf’s terrific review of my recent poetry collection, Sonnets, at New Pages Book Reviews:

“Can you pour new wine into old bottles? Well, if you are Camille Martin and the bottles are sonnets, the answer is an emphatic, “Yes.” [click here to read the full review]



Camille Martin

The Fledgling Book Flies the Nest

          This post is more meditative and personal than most of my literary musings, but I’ve been thinking about various reactions to some of the poems in Sonnets.
          As I was putting together the final manuscript of Sonnets, naturally I made certain decisions about which to include and which to put on the back burner, perhaps for future revisions. As well, in the final, published, version, there are some sonnets that I feel closer to than others.
          But once my book goes out into the world, I have no control over which poems, to quote Dickinson, make readers feel physically as if the top of their head is coming off, and which, not so much.
          For example, one friend named a sonnet that he particularly enjoyed. It was one that in the editing stage I had seriously considered tossing. This has happened often enough to bring home the point that after a work is released into the world, the author becomes largely irrelevant, unless biographical information contributes to the meaning of a poem (my Katrina poems, for example)—and even then. Unmoored from the intentions and contextual significance in the mind of the poet, readers become, to use Barthes’ term, writerly. I might not share a certain predilection for or interpretation of a poem, but who am I to say? And it’s a pleasure for me to know how others are reading my work.
          At a reading, I sometimes find myself about to start talking about what the poem means to me and then catch myself, so as not to impose a set of significations to the poem.
          And in the editing stage, when I had trusted friends help me to edit the manuscript, one editor felt that a certain sonnet should be dropped, while another felt it absolutely must be included. I hated to be the one to break the tie, but more often than not, iI decided to include it, since at least one seasoned poet felt strongly about it, and I didn’t want to deny the little sonnet its chance to shine, even if only for a minority of readers.
          It can be illuminating and broadening to read other’s interpretations of particular poems. Not long ago, Bill Knott wrote a sensitive and insightful analysis of one of the sonnets, “comatose in paradise,” in which he gave it a depth of meaning and pointed out interconnected ideas that I hadn’t noticed before. As much pleasure and satisfaction as I derive from writing, it’s at least as gratifying to hear others’ take on the poetry. Perhaps it’s true that poets are the worst interpreters of their own poetry.
          I’m wondering what others think when they hear such unexpected feedback from others.

Camille Martin