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      2. Thursday, 24 January 2019

        What the critics have been saying about Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy

        "Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy has arrived, and not a moment too soon! Nothing less than a manual for navigating the current landscape of booby-traps and hidden unravelling. An invaluable aid in this time of troubled spirits, muddled truths, and convoluted thinking. Paul Vermeersch has created a template to help us all traverse the highways and bi-ways of an increasingly confused and confusing world full of misinformationalism and bald-faced lies." — Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO

        "When you can’t trust anything, the poems argue, your imagination becomes the only valid interpreter of reality…. Part inspirational tract (borne of a deliciously playful inspiration, not the usual kind), part prophetic revelation, and all crafted with Vermeersch’s signature elan, Self Defence for the Brave and Happy is a generous chocolate box stuffed with bon(-bon) mots, the perfect gift for your inner visionary. Shine on, you crazy zircon." — RM Vaughan, THIS Magazine

        "Vermeersch captures our culture’s anxieties in these eclectic poems, which range widely in form and draw from pop culture, science (particularly in the Space Age) and literature. Our fears take metaphoric shape as age-old monsters such as the bogeyman and the malicious hag of folklore, but also as real-life menaces such as the atom bomb. The tone is not all doom-laden, though, for Vermeersch suggests that the way forward is through our capacity for imagination." — Barb Carey, The Toronto Star

        "One of the great pleasures of reading Vermeersch is not only in his attention to words... but also the way a poem drifts from a unique starting point to something wildly unexpected. This Vermeerschian Drift quantum jumps from line to line through humour, surprise, and a ton of ratiocination." — Kevin Spenst, SubTerrain Magazine

        "Pataphysics meets pulp in Paul Vermeersch's sixth collection...a canny pop acceleration equal to the obdurate cargo of politics." — Jesse Eckerlin, Quill and Quire

        "In Paul Vermeersch’s conception, we have no need for fictional dystopias: we are living in one right now. The poet’s sixth full-length collection offers a road map for navigating our current moment. One of the poems – 'How to Protect Yourself from Monsters' – could serve as an alternate title for this frightening, yet paradoxically hopeful, work."  Quill and Quire, fall 2018 poetry preview

        "Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy, the sixth collection by poet, professor, artist and editor Paul Vermeersch, feels like a flashlight found in a blackout... it strives to give practical examples of better dreaming for the future." — James Lindsay, Open Book

        "A deeply intelligent collection that uses its interest in form to contribute significantly to the thoughtful arguments of its content. It both delights during a quick read and rewards careful re-reading... Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy is perceptive, carefully-crafted, melancholy and funny. The simultaneously critical and wryly amused attitude of the collection is perhaps the only self-defence that we have against time and the monsters of our own creation." — Amy Mitchell, The Temz Review

        "Replete with deep thinking and reflection, revealing the poet's wide-ranging intellect, eclectic mind, and penchant for sharp satire." — Publishers Weekly 

        "It’s like waking from a dream where you’ve been searching through the ruins for — what? Love? Hope? The way back to your world? Only you realize that you’ve been awake all along and the dreams you have are the moments of clarity amid all the madness. Or maybe it’s the other way around. How can you even tell anymore?"  Peter Darbyshire

        "Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy is a live virus vaccine for our times, inoculating the reader against the surreality of today’s headlines with a healthy dose of its own. Vermeersch’s poems, flavored with 1950s science fiction and Cold War paranoia, are like the dark lenses in John Carpenter’s They Live, providing a way to see our society more clearly as we race toward climate collapse. It’s not with a strict sense of dread that Vermeersch shows us the end, but wit, wonder, imagination and humor." — Jeff Dupuis

        "While the collection might begin in some rather dark places, Vermeersch’s use of humour, pop culture, surrealism and collage work to disarm the increasing anxieties surrounding the darkest possibilities of humanity’s demise.... Between the lyric narratives, essay-poems and visual pieces, I’m intrigued by the broadening of Vermeersch’s structural scope, and how everything contained fits so nicely together."  rob mclennan

        "Monsters, futuristic machines, and disinformation abound in this dystopian poetry collection that is a survival guide for what’s clearly coming."  The CoilMost Anticipated September 2018 Books

        Wednesday, 19 December 2018

        FREE! The 2018 Holiday Apocalypse Word Search

        Happy holidays, everyone!

        To celebrate the season, I have a created the 2018 Holiday Apocalypse Word Search puzzle! Find classic holiday-themed words like "Santa" and "candy cane," or find words related things that are ruining our society and/or our planet, for example "antivaxxers" or "Republicans." There are FIFTY words in all, and they can be spelled in any direction: up, down, diagonal, or backwards!

        Click on the image below for a JPEG version of the puzzle, or on the link at the bottom of this post for a free downloadable PDF.

        For a free downloadable PDF version of this puzzle, click here

        Sunday, 30 September 2018

        My new book is out! Be brave and happy!

        Now that Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy is out, you can check out my events page for details on my upcoming appearances in Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo and other cities.

        Come back to this page for news and visit my books page for the latest reviews. Happy reading!

        Thursday, 21 June 2018

        RIP Koko. My poem "Ape" was written in her honour.

        Today we woke up to the sad news that Koko the western lowland gorilla has died just shy of her 47th birthday on the 4th of July. I've been fascinated by her remarkable life since I was small child reading about her in the pages of National Geographic, and I have followed the on-going experiment of animal language use conducted by Penny Patterson at the Gorilla Foundation with great interest.

        My poem "Ape" from my 2010 collection The Reinvention of the Human Hand was written in honour of Koko and her achievements, and also for Michael, another remarkable language-using gorilla who had been her companion but who died when he was only 26. Today, to mark her passing, I'm posting the poem here.


        for Koko, and for Michael
        in memoriam


        Ape born in Frisco, born out of darkness of mountain 
        forests, out of rain that doesn’t fall, but hovers. 
        Come, Ape, out of bushmeat trade and war zone, out of 
        coffee and tea for human need. 
        Come out of blood diamond, come out of strip mine, out 
        of pit viper and mosquito, out of tick. 
        Ape who lives in Woodside, Ape who rides in Honda, 
        who wears red sweater. Come speak.
        Ape of legend, come. Out of colonial science, out of Bible, 
        come monster of Skull Island, of Original Sin, of 
        City of Gold, come take this kitten to your breast 
        and speak of love unconditional. 
        What did the old men make of you, Ape, when they drew 
        their Victorian cartoon, when they posed for their 
        daguerreotype holding your scalp? Teeth of the 
        meat-eater? Murderer’s hands? Bush devil? 
        Gargoyle? Proof?
        Come Morning Star, come Adversary, daughter of the East. 
        Come beast-thing, come witch, child of the Nephilim, 
        giant in the Earth, come demonstrate the egg-shell 
        gentleness of your strength. 
        And what did the young men make of you when they came 
        with their machete genocide, radiating smoke? 
        They made you Lamb of the wilderness, one animal’s breath 
        at the centre of the green and white day. Hush-a-bye, 
        hidden, quiet with your kind on the unclimbed slopes. 
        There, in shadow, in the hovering rain, the family almost stirs.


        Ape! Ape! We thought you were gone! We thought you 
        were gone into the book. We thought the damp 
        black covers of untreated hide had closed around 
        you forever. 
        Gone into the Book of Sasquatch. There were reports. 
        There were sightings. 
        Gone into the Book of Yeti. There were such bloodcurdling 
        cries in the highlands, footprints that vanished under 
        the snow falling in the pass. It left us cold. 
        Ape, we thought you were gone. It was aboard the hulking 
        wooden ships of Empire that you left us. 
        It was locked inside the gilded wagons of the circus, as tin 
        calliopes whistled notes of sweltering air, that at last 
        you left us.
        We thought you were gone into shopping cart, into camera, 
        into cake. We thought you were gone, Ape, into a 
        discount mall display window for twenty-seven years 
        without soil or mountain, without soil or credit. 
        Ape, we feared, as the valleys emptied, as the land broke into 
        atolls and everything was distant, as the beaches 
        crumbled and the sea was left unreachable, Ape, 
        we feared the worst.
        Stories make things closer. Come now, Ape, and speak. 
        There are stories of a boy who, by great misfortune, 
        fell into your powerful care, who lived with you 
        among the bamboo and lianas, and who learned, 
        as well, to be Ape. 
        Tell us, Ape. Are the stories true? Was he everything that 
        might make us proud? 
        Or did he shame us with his nakedness? 


        Ape of helicopter crash and gunboat, Kalashnikov foundling 
        in the burning brush, snatched by crate, smuggled by 
        truck, why be silent now? 
        Come now, Ape, out of black bazaar, out of bamboo cage on 
        meat-stained table, smelling of gasoline in the insect-
        heavy air, come hoot the low, open vowel of your 
        Ape of camera crew and cutting room, flickering between 
        solid shafts of tree trunk and weightless shafts of 
        light, come speak like this: flickeringtreelight
        and you will conjure the world of Ape. 
        We are listening. Across this forest floor darkened by limbs 
        crowded with birds, through the colliding sound waves 
        of their love songs and alarms, come speak. 
        Tell us, Ape, in your own words, why did the young men 
        come to the forest?
             Squash meat gorilla. Mouth tooth. 
        And how did it sound to Ape? 
             Cry, sharp-noise loud!
        And how did they look to Ape? 
             Bad think-trouble look-face.
        And what has become of Ape’s mother? 
             Cut/neck, lip (girl) hole.
        Come now, Ape, out of landmine and hand grenade, out of 
        the smouldering charcoal fires of Virunga. Downriver 
        upon the deep arteries of the Congo, upon aluminum 
        wings across the sea, come speak to us.
        Speak to us, Ape, in research-centre sanctuaries with hoseable 
        linoleum floors. Come speak to us from government-
        funded genome projects, on glass slides of blood, from 
        the ancient common darkness inside cells, come speak 
        to us, please, in the language of Ape. 
        Come quick. Come now. The family is gathering. 

        My copy of the October 1978 issue of National Geographic featuring a cover story about Koko. 

        Saturday, 19 May 2018

        Praise from Mark Mothersbaugh for Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy

        "Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy has arrived, and not a moment too soon! Nothing less than a manual for navigating the current landscape of booby-traps and hidden unravelling. An invaluable aid in this time of troubled spirits, muddled truths, and convoluted thinking. Paul Vermeersch has created a template to help us all traverse the highways and bi-ways of an increasingly confused and confusing world full of misinformationalism and bald-faced lies."


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