Best Books Read in 2022

Fiction:

The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero (Trans. Annie McDermott)

Nora by Nuala O’Connor

M: Son of the Century by Antonio Scurati (Trans. Anne Appel)

Bewilderment by Richard Powers

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut

The Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

The Anomaly by Herve Le Tellier (Trans. Adriana Hunter)

The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy

The Twilight World by Werner Herzog (Trans. Michael Hofmann)

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Trans. Jennifer Croft)

The Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin (Trans. James Gambrell)

The North Water by Ian McGuire

Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham

Honorable Mentions:

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (Trans. William Weaver)

A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers

The Blizzard by Vladimir Sorokin (Trans. James Gambrell)

Red Dog by Willem Acker (Trans. Michael Heyns)

Motorman by David Ohle

Songs For the Unravelling of the World by Brian Evenson

Non-Fiction

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy & the Life of John Maynard Keynes by Zachary Carter

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler & Stalin by Timothy Snyder

The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party by John Nichols

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

The Trouble With Being Born by E.M. Cioran (Trans. Richard Howard)

Paul Celan: Collected Prose by Paul Celan (Trans. Rosemarie Waldrop)

Orson Welles Portfolio: Sketches & Drawings From the Welles Estate by Orson Welles (edited by Simon Braund)

I Wanna Be Yours (memoir) by John Cooper Clarke

Honorable Mentions:

Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan

Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design & Pattern in Narrative by Jane Allison

Heretics and Heroes by Thomas Cahill

Sing Backwards and Weep (memoir) by Mark Lanegan

Poetry

Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds

Strike Sparks: Selected Poems by Sharon Olds

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver

Here by Wislawa Symborska (Trans. Clare Cavanagh & Stanislaw Baranezak)

The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin

Winter Recipes From the Collective by Louise Gluck

Lightduress by Paul Celan (Trans. Pierre Joris)

Honorable Mention:

Transformations by Anne Sexton

“The Gospel of St. Nicholas”

A number of years ago I researched the REAL story of St. Nicholas/Santa Claus and what I discovered was surprising…

Beautiful Desolation

THE GOSPEL OF ST. NICHOLAS Nag
Translated & edited by Randolph Carter
(Miskatonic University Press; 2007)

Another lost gospel? Oh, dear, here we go again.

Ever since a couple of farmers stumbled across a treasure trove (over 1000 pages) of ancient scrolls just across the river from Nag Hammadi (Egypt) in 1945, we have been captivated by the notion of “hidden” or heretical texts, suppressed by church leaders, lost to the ages. These texts would, some think, overthrow prevailing church dogma and reveal the “true” message of Christ. The Gospel of Thomas caused a bit of a stir some years back and then a few scraps purporting to give Judas’ side of the most infamous betrayal in human history were recently unearthed and published in the pages of a certain world-renowned magazine.

But the ancient texts always end up promising more than they deliver. Thomas turned out to be a…

View original post 1,656 more words

A new poem…

You & I

we navigate a
landscape of thorns
you & I

knowing full well
no matter how lightly we tread

the sharpness will find us

almost as if it were seeking
our pliant flesh

so eager to inflict hurt
for the sheer pleasure
of watching us squirm

* * * *

I wrote this piece as a response against the kind of world we presently live in, where a small minority seek to limit the terms of discourse, control language and dole out heaping portions of shame and abuse (while claiming to defend some kind of moral high ground).

Their demeanor and attitude have poisoned conversations, cut off debate and reduced us to a population that is divided, paranoid and desperately afraid of causing offense.

“All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.” (Norman Finkelstein).

You said it, Norm.

“The Arsonists” (acrylic on canvas)

The Arsonists

I painted “The Arsonists” about a year ago, partly inspired by Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry For the Future.

Ministry For the Future and Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything are the two most important books published in the past decade. They made it manifestly clear to me that Bill McKibben is absolutely right when he says climate change/global warming should be our predominant concern as a society, rather than allowing our mental bandwidth to be taken up with trendy social causes and pointless culture wars.

I know we all have our pet issues but what other crisis confronting us threatens us existentially, putting our entire future as a species in doubt?

The world is burning, as my painting depicts, but it’s the figures in the foreground—disinterested, passive—who should draw your attention (and ire).

That’s us.

It’s a portrait of shame, a depiction of a mindset that will condemn our grandchildren to dystopic horrors we can’t even imagine.

May God forgive us.

“Libraries: Places of Mystery & Imagination” (available for viewing on Facebook)

I’m relieved and delighted to say my speech/presentation on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Lakeland Library Region was warmly received by my audience.

Sherron was good enough to film the event and it’s now available for viewing on Facebook.

Apologies for the (at times) spotty audio, chalk it up to a glitchy wi-fi connection.

I’ve also uploaded an audio-only version of the speech on to my Bandcamp page. This was recorded with my little Sony digital unit and the sound quality is much better.

Regardless, I hope you enjoy my wide-ranging talk and the discussion afterward.

If you love good books and revere the printed word, this one is dedicated to YOU.

The End of Summer

Cliff:Author:books

I love summer, don’t get me wrong, but my favorite season is definitely autumn.

The changing colors of the trees and surrounding fields, the harvest underway, this part of the world bustling with activity and vigor.

My summers are always busy, for some reason my Muse kicks into overdrive around the end of June, whispering ideas, urging me to work each morning, refusing to allow me to clock out until I’ve put in a full day, slaving at my desk.

Oh, she can be a tyrant.

I’ve written, count ’em, thirty (30) poems since the release of The Definition of Melancholy in May, which is a ridiculously torrid pace for me. I’ve also penned some short stories, plus there are a couple of side-projects I can’t really go into right now and they seem to be morphing into…something. God knows what.

At the moment I’m working on a speech/presentation I’ll be performing next Saturday (September 24th) at our local library. The Lakeland Library Region is celebrating its 50th anniversary and they asked me to do a reading…but I thought I’d try something a bit different and give a talk about the important role libraries have played in my life since childhood. They helped open the door to my imagination, introducing me to authors who became important early influences, mentors and companions I treasured.

The speech will be autobiographical…but also a general discussion on the diminishing importance of the printed word and the impact that could have on our society.

I know most of you won’t be there on Saturday and we’ve been pondering ways of recording the event. We shall see. I’ve spent a lot of time on this presentation over the past couple of weeks—Sherron would say far too much time—but I wanted to be as lucid and concise as I could, ensuring I didn’t bore my audience or ramble on and on, enjoying listening to the sound of my own voice.

I’m afraid that’s the best I can do for an update. I’ll be back again in a couple of weeks (no, really), maybe with a snippet of new work, or a poem to show off, or a rant, just to get the juices flowing.

Until then…

“Prayer For the Dead” (New Music on BandCamp)

Sometimes I get fed up with the printed word and either descend into my basement lair and slap paint on Dollar Store canvases, or haul my MIDI keyboard up to the office and make weird noises for a week or so.

Then the spell passes, my Muse relents and the words (and voices) return.

Here’s my latest audio concoction, dubbed “Prayer For the Dead”.

It was created in recognition of mortality and aging, the impact of the COVID epidemic, the uncertain future humans face on a world that grows more and more inhospitable to us…

Call it “dark ambient” and approach with caution.

Listen to “Prayer For the Dead” on BandCamp

Prayer For the Dead

Memory poem: for Clara

Thrift

The older I get
the less I waste

remember how Grandma used to save
envelopes in a certain drawer
to reuse for grocery lists

	loaf of white bread (not McGavin’s) 
	cream
	McCormick’s social tea biscuits
	Tums
	7Up

From Wylie’s Store downtown
where they used to let us buy on credit
if our Family Allowance check was late
or Dad had been fired again
Grandma

“Saskatchewan Weekend”: The Interview

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Shauna Powers, host of “Saskatchewan Weekend”.

I usually shy away from interviews but chatting with Shauna about my poetry collection The Definition of Melancholy was like sitting down for coffee with a friend or colleague.

You’ll find the interview in its entirety here–not sure how long it will be up, so enjoy it while you can.

Melancholy:cov:art

Strata Festival of New Music

Yours truly will be making an appearance at the Strata Festival of New Music at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Along with visual and performing artists, I’ll be offering my response—through poetry—to the three musical compositions making their debut that evening. I’ve never done anything like this before, so it should make for an entertaining and nerve-wracking evening.

Details below and here’s a link to Strata’s official page.

Strata