From Word to Word

It isn’t very often anymore that I can finish a book and truthfully say that it’s like little else I’ve ever read, but Gary Barwin’s debut novel, Yiddish for Pirates, manages exactly that.

Aaron – the 500 year old Jewish pirate parrot who narrates the novel – loves a bad joke, the kind that begins something like, “So a minister, an imam, and a rabbi walk into a bar…” We all know how the joke will end, even if we don’t know the punchline. We know that the gag will probably be as painful as it is funny, that the payoff will be a bit too true for comfort – the sort of joke that tries to laugh so it won’t need to cry.

The whole of Yiddish for Pirates feels a bit like this kind of joke, one that begins, “So this 500 year old Jewish pirate…

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I hate nature but I am fantabulous and strumped.

This is a video of the “I hate nature” poem that I read in class which I created out of my own limitless brilliance, supreme talent, and…a list of my favourite words. We did a version in class, with nothing but your limitless brilliance, supreme talent and a list of your favourite words.




I am fantabulous


the squishy fussiness of erosion

sequences my fuddy-duddy oblivion.


It inevitably inserts my domesticated basilisk


The troglodyte finds its sanctuary

in the higgledy-piggledy tapir of my youth


And so, I succeed with zeal and grit

and leave you a rhinestone prodigy of air.


It’s interesting that by picking particularly ‘chompy’ words (words that don’t just slip by effortlessly in the mouth, but have a strong texture) we get a particular effect. A kind of sonic density. The difference between cream cheese and milk. 


Shopping for Deer




This is a bad iPhone picture of the poem from my book The Porcupinity of the Stars. We talked about metaphors in this. How is a shopping cart like a deer? Is a deer a shopping cart? What do they have in common?

How is my bicep a huge rippling sand dune on the desert of a superhero’s Sahara?

Shopping Cart Deer in the Woods

Shopping Cart Deer



My smile is a deckchair.