Red brick the universe,
red brick crumbled
sparrow crumbs now.

Red brick,
not lily-white limestone,
nor chalk,
white cliffs,
will tumble,
tugged down
by fierce tides

Red brick
and rough:
the builder’s hands,
life- lines fortified,
unfettered brick dust.

Red brick,
heart, liver, lungs:
red holes, not black,
where red roses

Red brick,
shattered into red
dust and this sun
a dwarf brick
shrinking in its

Red bricks:
their dust become
gas giants,
Saturn’s rings,
useless wooden wagons
drawn up
in second hand westerns.

The huff and the puff:
brick shit houses,
these red brick
universes, built to last
way beyond
those dreaming spires,
that failed, will fail,
and still fail to inspire.

“Here endeth
the second lesson:
Book of  Brick.”

Nec Plus Ultra


Nec plus ultra

A womb wound
this open heart
clinging crablike
to your sleeve

a sudden surge
this weakened urge
to end it all and sever
this wander-wonder

how many times
must you jump
eyes closed
through life’s open
circus hoop
red-nosed clowns
falling off their trikes
hoax after hoax

your life’s blood
leaks meekly out
dribbles from
your fingertips
drip by febrile

Plagiary: Wednesday Workshop


Wednesday Workshop
9 August 2017

No, plagiary has nothing to do with the plague, though it might do in certain circumstances, especially if a plagiarist is plagued by lawsuits from others who think that the thief has benefitted financially or unfairly from the theft.

What is plagiary? The Merriam-Webster dictionary suggests the following, and I quote, with references:

Plagiarius, the Latin source of “plagiary,” literally means “kidnapper.” “Plagiarius” has its roots in the noun “plagium,” meaning both “kidnapping” and “the netting of game,” and ultimately in the noun plaga, meaning “net.” The literal sense of “plagiarius” was adopted into English; in the 17th and early 18th century, a kidnapper might be referred to as a “plagiary,” and, in the legalese of the time, kidnapping was “plagium.” But “plagiarius” also had a couple of figurative meanings – “seducer” and “literary thief.” It is the latter that has made the most enduring contribution to the English language. A “plagiary” could also be one who commits literary theft (now usually referred to as a “plagiarist”) or the act or product of such theft (now, more commonly, “plagiarism”).

From the above definition, we can conclude that plagiary is theft, the stealing of another person’s work, and, above all, the presenting of that work as if it belonged to the plagiarist. In other words, creators create: they are not meant to steal and misrepresent.

Does plagiary matter? Of course it does. By its very definition, theft, it is one of the Ten Commandments, and therefore something to be avoided: Thou shalt not steal. However, as with all things, the gravity of the crime depends very much upon the circumstances. In academia, where creativity and original thought is the ‘name of the game’, the theft of intellectual property is considered by the gatekeepers of the purity of knowledge to be a very serious offence. That is why so many universities so carefully define plagiary / plagiarism and place such stiff academic penalties on the plagiarists who offend. By extension, certain professions, such as journalism and science (in the broadest sense, the creation, protection, and distribution of knowledge) must hold to very strict rules on the subject of intellectual theft.

The article on plagiarism in Wikipedia [ ] opens several horizons. It stresses that academia (with its spin off into scientific and industrial research) and journalism (with its theory of scooping) are the two biggest areas in which plagiarism is considered offensive. Plagiarism, the article stresses, more than anything else, is re-quoting other people’s material while claiming it as one’s own and without citing the sources from which it was taken. This quickly leads to the infringement of copyright and this is a much more serious and complicated legal matter, as the article points out.

As for literary and artistic plagiary, this is a very different kettle of fish as artists seem to borrow from each other in the most curious of ways. Molière, for example, proudly announced that, as for his artistic material, “Je le prends où je le trouve.” This roughly translates as “I take it from wherever I find it.” In his day and age, imitation was a favorite rhetorical device, and the imitation of other people’s work was considered more like flattery than theft. Miguel de Cervantes, in the Don Quixote, that most original of novels, took the first sortie of the famous and ingenious knight almost word for word from an earlier entremés (short play to be performed in the interval between the acts of a longer play) entitled El entremés de los romances. This is not so much ‘Homer nods’ as Homer ‘carries a gun and holds up a local bank’. Do we cry plagiary or imitatio when the similarities between the play and the novel’s opening are such that for a long time people attributed the Entremés de los romances to Cervantes and referred to it as his early work?

I follow the Spanish tradition and often use lines and words from other authors in my own work. However, I think that what I borrow is in most cases well enough known for it not to need quote marks, nor to need identifying. Though Lovers Be Lost and Broken Ghosts, two of my book titles, come directly from Dylan Thomas’s poetry. However, I quote the verses in the opening pages of each book and Dylan Thomas’s name is clearly attached to them. If, however, I write “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” … or “Rage, rage … ” against anything, I think personally that the attribution should be clear as should the literary dialog that I am starting within the text. Similarly, if I write that “July is the cruelest month, because we expect the sun and it is always raining”, then surely the reference to T. S. Eliot is clear as well, and so is the attribution and twisting of his ideas. I have used the phrase “Jack Pine Poems” before now, without referencing Milton Acorn, but most Canadian poets will be aware of the origin of the term without my writing “following in the footsteps of Milton Acorn and his Jack Pine Sonnets” ….

To further complicate the matter, plagiarism is a hydra, and its many heads may take a multitude of forms. Wikipedia suggests that there may well be a whole epidemic of what might be called ‘literary borrowings’ that verge on plagiarism; there is, for example, a touch of ‘literary theft’ about all of these: “plagiarism, literary theft, appropriation, incorporation, retelling, rewriting, recapitulation, revision, reprise, thematic variation, ironic retake, parody, imitation, stylistic theft, pastiches, collages, and deliberate assemblages.”

However, as the Wiki points out: “There is no rigorous and precise distinction between practices like imitation, stylistic plagiarism, copy, replica, and forgery. These appropriation procedures are the main axis of a literate culture, in which the tradition of the canonic past is being constantly rewritten.” The quote marks show that this list is lifted bodily from the Wikipedia article.

What I would underline most strongly is that “the canonic past is being constantly rewritten.” Literature is, to a large extent, a writer’s dialogue not only with (in my case) his own times, but also with the way other writers have seen the world and written about it. And not just written about it: think of the geometric expansion of oral literature. We hear so much, so much is repeated, words and phrases slip in and out of common usage. There is usually a prime over, an original author, but when a word r a phrase slips into what might be called ‘common usage’, then plagiarism takes a turn in a different direction.

“To borrow from one author is plagiary, to borrow from many is research,” as Oscar Wilde is rumored to have phrased it. As a result, what is considered to be a can of worms in academia, science, and journalism, may turn into an interesting and not necessarily a dishonest practice in the artistic world. How about the erotic cowboy novel that I am thinking of writing? I am going to call it Fifty Shades of Zane Grey … how many copyright laws am I breaking with that little joke? None, in my opinion, yet given a competent lawyer and two or more clients greedy for money, and virtually anything can be turned into a fertile battleground for legalistic dispute. Hopefully, the pitiful pennies that I own and the innocent and innocuous literary discourse that I exchange with other authors, many of them long dead, will not bring on a flurry of lawsuits.

“Where there’s muck, there’s money,” as a famous Yorkshire millionaire once said. So quit mucking about with even the possibility of plagiary, check your sources, and, if in any doubt at all, make sure that you add those quote marks and those references. And remember, it’s better to be safe than holding up your hand in court and saying “I’m very, very sorry, M’Lud.”




Waxing gibbous:
gibberish to most, or jabberwocky.
How now the moonraker
dragging the village pond for gold,
or the witch on her ducking-stool
accepted by God if she drowns,
but burned alive if she survives
and the Omnipotent rejects her?

Words rise and fall like trout to flies.
In words, out words, taboo words,
code words, the ebb and flow words
that see conversational tides
rising and falling, waning gibbous
beneath a failing lexicon, sacrificed
at the altar of barbaric speech to appease
the new gods and falsify the old:
nuance, shades of meaning, language,
meta-language, para-language,
raised, a supercilious eyebrow,
that lip curled in the snort of a sneer.



Writing in the Red Room at KIRA

I sit at my desk in the Red Room
overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay.

Minister’s Island peeps through
its bandage of low, thin mist.

Sunshine illuminates me
as, pen in hand, I write in my book.

Timeless, that photo, these words.

I will sit forever by that window,
deep in thought, writing in sunshine.

Return to KIRA: Thursday Thoughts


Return to KIRA
Thursday Thoughts
27 July 2017

“You cannot step in the same river twice,” according to Heraclitus. And he was perfectly correct. Yesterday I returned to KIRA. But it wasn’t the same. How could it have been?

Geoff, Hanna, and Cherry met me at the door. Geoff shook my hand, Hanna gave me a big hug, and Cherry pushed her wet nose into my crotch. Some things don’t change and one of them is a favorite doggy’s greeting. Mary sat at her desk just inside the door and she got a big hug too.

One Small Corner, the book that I wrote while at KIRA in June was in my hand. I had a signed copy for each of them. They also had a present for Clare and I: lunch at the Garden Café, courtesy of KIRA and a trip there on KIRA’s latest acquisition, a new golf cart, driven by Hanna. We were early for our lunch booking and Geoff suggested a quick tour of the gardens since Clare hadn’t seen them.

We all climbed into the Golf Cart, Mary and Hanna in front, and Geoff, Clare and I on the back seat, looking back as KIRA slowly vanished behind us. Another quote: “History,” said Marshall Macluhan, “is like looking at the past through the rear-view mirror of a rapidly advancing car.” This is a wonderful metaphor for my feelings at the time.

I had just met the young lady who had inherited my room, the Red Room, and my studio, #1. Neither the room nor the studio belonged to me anymore. They were now closed spaces, occupied by another. It didn’t hurt. It didn’t drive a spear through my still suffering heart. It did, however, underline that the waters of the stream had moved on and were not the same.

The gardens had changed too. Gone were the splendiferous rhododendrons of June, present were the multitudinous colors of Late July. The tiniest alpaca, born just before I left at the end of June, was now a sturdy one month old, larger and much more self-contained. Moe was a month older too as he sat on the roof of his shelter and nickered away at the world in general. Our lunch table was reserved for 12:30 and we would see them all later, parading on the lawn.

The gardens were fuller now than they were in June: more flowers, more blossoms, more color, more people, more children, more hazards for Hanna to slow for as we made our way back to the Garden Café, past the Sensitivity Garden and the Therapy Garden, past the Labyrinth and the Maze, past the Dutch Windmill, past all those magnificent sculptures … new sculptures had appeared … the blue piano wasn’t there earlier … this month’s artist had erected a new piece in the Secret Garden … change was all around me … and I viewed it from the backward-facing seat of a slowly advancing Golf Cart.

We had lunch in the shade beneath the apple tree. I looked around for Carlos, certain that he and his shadow were both close by … but I could hear no pipes. I spoke to Clare in Spanish, just to hear that language once again, but Carlos still didn’t appear. How could he? The river had flowed on and he was back with his family in Brazil.

Friends dropped in at the table to chat: Brad, Tim, Stefan, Mikah …lunch came and went speeded on by reminiscences and plans. After lunch, we visited the exhibition put on in the Garden Café by the latest group of resident artists. We admired the pencil drawings, loved the paper-maker and her art, and were wowed by the rug hooking and the photographs …

I thought of our own exhibition, held in the same place in June. We had our paintings, courtesy of Anne and Ruby, our sculptures, thanks to Elise, but the silence of July’s exhibition had been broken by the sounds of Carlos’s pipes and the viva voce reading of my own poetry. We were not a silent group, but a noisy, head-banging, drum-beating, piping, singing set of selfie-videophiles … the river had flowed on.

Ghosts of our voices clung to the back porch when we returned to KIRA. Hanna and Mary returned to their duties. Geoff, too, had things to accomplish. We met with two more of the new resident artists and complimented them on their skills. Then we slipped silently away to join the river of traffic that flowed down Water Street and up and away and back again to Island View.

Yes, I enjoyed myself. Yes, I will return again in August for I have promised to do that. But each trip will be different and no two trips will ever be the same, for old man river … well …he just keeps flowing along …


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