All posts filed under: Poetry

R.M. Vaughan (1965–2020): A Beautiful Mind Silently Extinguished in a Time of Fear

We were extremely close for about five years. He was my confidante and my support system. We were best friends. Never lovers—though many thought we were. It was a dark time for me, and I needed him. Canadian gay writer Richard Murray Vaughan (1965–2020) was found dead by police in Fredericton, New Brunswick on October 23rd—10 days after being reported missing. No foul play is suspected. This is in part a remembrance of R.M. (as he was widely known, including to his friends), but also a reminder that the campaign against COVID-19 can create its own kind of harm. I don’t pretend that this essay is one Richard would have authored (though he did write about COVID-19 and mental health shortly before his death). He and I were different men and different writers. But I do think my old friend would have agreed with at least some of what I have to say. I met Richard when he entered my office at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre—142 George Street, Toronto—in 1991. Initially we talked about …

The Misguided Campaign Against Journalistic Objectivity

Locked down in a northern Ontario cottage over the summer, I found myself listening to CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition, an eclectic three-hour weekly morning show hosted, until his recent retirement, by veteran journalist and broadcaster Michael Enright. On this particular Sunday in July, guest host Anthony Germain interviewed Candis Callison, a University of British Columbia professor who teaches in both UBC’s Journalism department and its Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies. The subject of conversation was her recently published book, co-authored with fellow UBC professor Mary Lynn Young, Reckoning: Journalism’s Limits and Possibilities. “Objectivity is ‘the view from nowhere’ and potentially harmful,” announced CBC headline-writers when the interview was aired. “Is objectivity an outmoded value in journalism?” Later, it was asserted that “more and more people, including many journalists, are questioning the sanctity of objectivity—especially when the arbiters of what’s objective truth and what’s opinion are largely the mostly-white, mostly-male people who run most newsrooms. [Prof. Callison] argues that objectivity in journalism is illusory and that it reaffirms the outlook of a white male-dominated world.” Prof. …

The Million-Petalled Flower

Who wrote this? “Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” But you guessed straight away: George Orwell. The subject stated up front, the sudden acceleration from the scope-widening parenthesis into the piercing argument that follows, the way the obvious opposition between “lies” and “truthful” leads into the shockingly abrupt coupling of “murder” and “respectable,” the elegant, reverse-written coda clinched with dirt-common epithet, the whole easy-seeming poise and compact drive of it, a worldview compressed to the size of a motto from a fortune cookie, demanding to be read out and sayable in a single breath—it’s the Orwell style. But you can’t call it Orwellian, because that means Big Brother, Newspeak, the Ministry of Love, Room 101, the Lubyanka, Vorkuta, the NKVD, the MVD, the KGB, KZ Dachau, KZ Buchenwald, the Reichsschrifttumskammer, Gestapo HQ in the Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, Arbeit macht frei, Giovinezza, Je suis partout, the compound at Drancy, the …

In Praise of Sylvia Plath’s Forgotten (Sorority) Sister

A tragic early death can do wonders for a writer’s reputation. On October 27, Google dedicated its search page to the late Sylvia Plath, who would have turned 87 that day, had she not taken her own life, at the age of 30, back in 1963. It seems unlikely that Google will ever dedicate its daily doodle to the life and work of, say Edward Field, a gifted poet of Plath’s generation who is still alive at the age of 95. Nor is the internet likely to ever light up with praise for the likes of Maxine Kumin, A.R. Ammons, David Bromige, Robert Bly, Lucille Clifton, or any number of other poets who lived too long to die tragically young. Denise Levertov, another excellent poet of roughly the same generation as Plath, is never likely to get the same attention. At the end of her life, she traveled to various conferences and lectured on the art of poetry and spirituality, while she was suffering from lymphoma and, eventually, pneumonia and acute laryngitis. A tragic early …

Headline Rhymes

If US immigration facilities Are like concentration camps What other American things Must we brand with the same stamp? Surely general admission seating At a Backstreet Boys show Is like millions of innocent people Killed in unspeakable rows And that maddening line at the airport Where I’m forced to remove my shoes Must be in the same ballpark As killing six million Jews Or maybe a pop show is just a pop show And we should be clever enough to know That politicians are sowing division With hyperbole and revision And as they dump from the stump They’re no better than Trump Views on the news, delivered so smooth. For more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

Headline Rhymes

Silicon Valley has gone all-in On purging ideas deemed bad It’s like mouths washed out with soap By the nuns who taught my dad The important distinction being: That was in 1955 Those with soap on their hands today Were decades from being alive We’re going backward In the name of progress Building fences And letting them flog us Why? Views on the news, delivered so smooth. This week’s inspired by: PewDiePie’s Battle for the Soul of the Internet Against Big Tech Viewpoint Discrimination For more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

Quillette Podcast 31 – Two poets, Clint Margrave and Timothy Green, discuss the public shaming of fellow poet Frank Sherlock

Jonathan Kay talks to two poets – Clint Margrave and Timothy Green – about the shunning of fellow poet Frank Sherlock after he confessed to having been in a skinhead band in the 1980s. Clint Margrave recently wrote an article about Frank Sherlock’s public shaming for Quillette.

Headline Rhymes

Before believing it’s helpful For kids to skip school for the climate Consider the wisdom level That surely must be behind it If I’d been an activist at 16 I would have made your head spin As leader of an airtight regime Based on the songs of Led Zeppelin Why not speak truth to power With a snack over your lunch hour? How about you teach us After afternoon recess? Or a bake sale So you don’t fail Out of school? Views on the news, delivered so smooth. This week’s inspired by: Self-Harm Versus the Greater Good: Greta Thunberg and Child Activism Teenage Climate-Change Protestors Have No Idea What They’re Protesting For more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

Headline Rhymes

We rightly imagine the pain Of kids separated at our borders But tend to ignore the same Happening in other corners I’m talking, of course Of the halls of divorce Where false claims Are part of the game It’s no myth, the silver bullet But the trigger, let’s not pull it Because there may be nothing worse Than failing to put children first Views on the news, delivered so smooth. This week’s inspired by: Divorce and the ‘Silver Bullet’ For more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.