Thursday, February 21, 2008

CBC Poetry Face Off, St. John's

Maybe I’m not competitive enough, but I can’t be sure that poetry is a blood sport. Perhaps it should be. Still, I asked to be considered for this year’s CBC Poetry Face Off in St. John’s. Made the roster, as did Anthony Brenton, Andreae Prozesky, Gerard Van Hirk and Lesley Vryenhoek. Forgot the little detail that the poem has to be three minutes long. Also forgot I’d be up there with, you know, real poets.

So nervous now I’m sweating on the inside.

Three minutes, sure, but can I do three good minutes?

Face-Off details are here:

Riddle Fence

Call for submissions to Riddle Fence

Deadline: March 31, 2008.

Riddle Fence, a St. John's-based journal of arts and culture, is looking to fill its second issue with nothing short of literary genius – though we'll settle for the merely exemplary. Payment? How mercenary of you to ask. We pay $30 a page for prose and poetry.

We are currently considering submissions of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. Send us your best and keep the rest for yourselves. Please send no more than 3-4 poems or one piece of prose, maximum 5,000 words in length.

What are we looking for? What is anyone looking for: brilliance, innovation, that certain je ne sais quoi de sage-like insight that will blow away the doldrums and give our lives greater meaning.

We accept submissions by snail mail (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope): Riddle Fence, P.O. Box 7092, St. John's, NL, A1E 3Y3. Or, send your submission by e-mail (as an attachment in MS Word or Rich Text Format) to


Arguments with your guts are rarely fun. My guts and I bicker a fair bit, like some old couple who realized shortly after the engagement they’d made a mistake but never admitted it. I call my guts “rancid.” They knock me flat. Mutual loathing, barely concealed. A demented little war.

You wouldn’t think so to look at me, five foot eight and zaftig, shoulders like a linebacker’s. My BMI threatens “obese” but usually hovers within “overweight.” I’ve hardly wasted away like someone with active Crohn’s, a condition that keeps an old and dear friend housebound.

Pain is harder than you expect. Even when it’s familiar and old. Each time I’d be admitted to hospital, I coddle a little hope that someone will diagnose me, give me an answer. ---Yes, Ms Butler Hallett, your intractable pain and nausea that’s broken through morphine and sometimes presents with elevated liver functions is caused by ...

Demerol is useless. Just makes me lie still.

Two weeks ago, I went to bed on a Saturday night and couldn’t get up on Sunday morning. Lay there till Sunday afternoon, until it was time for bile. Grey, dark green, copious and thick, from all available orifices. Burns. Scalds, really, carves its own paths through the other pain. Sweats and chills and spins. It settled, but another week passed before I felt safe to drive.

Between bouts, the pain feels like a rumour or some fever dream. Between bouts, all I care about the pain is that it’s gone.

Nineteen days of four to ten on the irritating pain scale docs ask you to use.

Familiar and old. Harder than I expect.

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett
in progress