Saturday, July 26, 2008



Thursdays 7:30 - 9:00 PM
Bryan Prince Bookseller
1060 King Street W.

30 October 2008

27 November 2008

15 January 2009

12 February 2009

2 April 2009 (co-sponsored by gritLIT)

Thursdays 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Hamilton Central Library
Dundas Room

18 September
16 October
23 November
22 January
19 February
19 March
16 April (Workshop & AGM)
7 May (Open Reading)

With thanks to:
Hamilton Public Library
Bryan Prince Bookseller
Canada Council for the Arts
Gaspereau Press, Printers & Publishers


Tuesday, April 01, 2008


HAMMERED OUT is currently taking a break from its regular publishing schedule. In the meantime, Hammered Out #13 (the surreal issue) is available for $10 per copy (includes postage) payable to "Hammered Out" c/o Box 89027, Westdale PO, Hamilton, ON L8S 4R5. Copies of most back issues are also still available.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


I.B. (Bunny) Iskov is the Founder of The Ontario Poetry Society. She is the author of 9 chapbooks (some a joint effort) and one full collection. Her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies, including Quills Canadian, Poetry Magazine, Ascent Aspirations Anthology One, and in several issues of Hammered Out. She listens to Hamilton's oldies radio station, A.M. 1150, every day.


I have made my hutch a haven
for abandoned years of sorrow.
I fill one crystal bowl with tears.

Sunlight falls on dusty shelves.
One silver plated koisa begs for a shine.

I open my cabinet doors,
Rearrange cluttered chachkas,
Wipe away stains of the past,
Hope for a clearer tomorrow.

I bake challah for Shabbat,
Candlesticks decorate my table like two sentries
guarding a precious paradigm.
I’m composed.


the bread flesh came away
body hairs gold as challah
ephemeral like a fling

impossible contradictions
paint my skin
between existence and enchantment

sweep the years
coagulate into colours

these colours change
I almost forget
they’re framed in stained glass

white only lives for the winter
among dead roses, scrawny trees
poems, too
shed their meanings like leaves
on sallow parchment

in the family of loud summer
red bursts into watery flames
stains the walls of the heart
turns grass to blood
turns sky to blood

as I grow old the
seasons elude
fog and fire co-mingle

every time I shed skin
I am caught off-guard
there are always shades
of indifference


Once, when the earth was young
and Eden just a garden,
the names of clouds
were only a sigh.

Once, when the smallest shiver
wafted through autumn,
a fashion statement resonated
in basic green.

Once, when no shame
and life were contained in a breath
each moment ignited in a glimpse
between mouths full of fruit.

Once, while everything still
fresh and naïve,
the twilight brimmed a rainbow
of benevolence and gold.

Once, when my man was just a boy
and terror a horror movie
each peace protest from a flower child
sang a new era.

Once, when buildings were giants among men
and the telephone a dynamic lifeline
gentle shadows hushed a tableaux of fury
between flightless flora and fauna.

Once, when beasts were confined to zoo cages
and communism the perfect enemy
rain-soaked and dramatic
iron fear curtained a new born question.

Once, when snakes could walk the earth
and apples promised wisdom in a bite
the air harnessed
a rhapsody of fire.


I am self-taught in the art
of memorized magic
ancient incantations
ignite in a moment
bloom at once
bright yellow flickering petals
spike halos
run off into the air

my grandmother would be proud
again and again
lighting her candle sticks
praying respectfully
with mellowed hands
weighted with worries
beneath salt water and scars

my Hebrew is a pretense
I have created myself
wrapped in a Canadian shawl
on a dead end street
moving lips in moral denial

a thick fabric of warmth
shades precious

Published in the Passover Literary Supplement,
The Canadian Jewish News, 2005

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Katerina Fretwell's fifth poetry collection, "Samsara: Canadian in Asia," is forthcoming from Pendas Productions run by Gavin Stairs and Penn Kemp. It will include a CD of her reading and music as well as reproductions of her art. Her fourth book, "Shaking Hands witht he Night," was also published by Pendas. Fretwell edited two anthologies for the League of Canadian Poets and chaired the Lowther Jury Prize. She sings choral tenor, paints, and plays piano. Here are a few examples of her work:


Each year the hand-stitched booties,
"My Summer Holiday" snaps and crayoned
cartoons cover one less picnic table.
More prizes compensate the loss.

Fewer stalls sell neon T's, cheap tools,
day-glo necklaces, licorice whips,
pogo sticks and cob-corn.
Even the midway boasts less

chance to toss your money
or darts to burst your balloon,
only one ring toss game,
no bumper cars or tilt-a-whirl.

The sole Ferris glitters in the rain
like a downside Catherine Wheel.
A lone neon-cowgirl belts the blues
to fans clumped under dark

umbrellas on a muddy slope, huge
as the Forces Recruitment trailer-
incongruous as Canada's
non-peacekeeping combat.


My Love is Seven Years Older than I Am
California redwoods tower, heartstrong
as you did before your blocked osmosis.
And their ground-rich loam
needs no soil correction, energy
evident in grove upon grove-

in the rear-view mirror, these
giants fading, their moss & mist
a cobweb mirage. I stare forward,
this new vista-bare
but for the odd stand

of eucalyptus-expands,
resigned to squat, brow bent
to the horizon, cropped of trees.
Next bend, presto, surf foams
white as your hair. I alone

get out, inhale the winds
that weather and beautify
a well lived face
and discover such a visage
on the beach-

two glinting shells,
blue like your eyes,
are aligned above
a driftwood splinter
and I grin back.


Final Foray in Gethsemane
Mary, walled inside your mother's garden,
on the carved bench beneath the lunar-
dappled myrtle and olive trees,
you & Yeshu snuggle against your last
night as One on earth. The moon
weeps silver, silver as the thirty pieces
paid to betray Yeshu to Pilate,
come the cold clear morn.

Your hands flow through Yeshu's
carmine beard and locks, he fondles
your flaming tresses highlit silver.
Lips find lips, tongues trace the years
among the desert of men who convert
beliefs to money at Temple,
the years imprinted on you both-
each curve, cleavage, declivity.

As One in love, longing and loneliness,
your thoughts, voiced by Spirit, not lips,
flit back and forth this dying hour,
resting on your mother Hokhmah's tomb
in a cave sealed with a boulder.
Your lids flutter, then shut tight as sealed wax,
Yeshu's limbs shiver cold as the Styx
in Hades. And Nyx, your raven, casts

a shadow over your huddled heads.


On gazing at the Milky Way,
its gaseous clouds of hydrogen, helium, nitrogen...
I'm amazed we carry
the same elements
spread across the sky
within us.
This unity bends my knees,

similar to stepping
over the wooden bar
at an Asian temple's entrance,
watching my footfall,
head bowed before mystery.

an unmapped crystal city
refracting all climes, skins, tribes.
Mosque, shul, wat, coven, kirk,
one holy house.

Gold-leafed sacred writ
or oral epic tales-
each inspired verse shapeshifts
into Koranic, Talmudic, Wiccan,
Biblical, Algonkian or Upanishad
according to the celebrant's tongue.

All traditions slide through us
as if our soul translates each
into a glowing cosmic dome.


"Only, let not our haters brag,
Thy seamless coat is grown a rag
Or that thy truth was not here known
Because we forced thy judgements down."
Henry Vaughan, "L'Envoy"

Henry, Consume is the Word
Flashed in malls before Christmas.
Clothiers ignore the voiceless,
Plump teens not mirrored
In Barbie-mannequins,
Garbed in designer rags
& platinum wigs. Salesgirls tease
these hairdos for hours, waving
A don't-mess-with-me flag.
"Only, let not our haters brag"

That we seniors are frumps
In pearls and pumps. Magenta
Bras raise a chuckle-"Get a lift,
Our cleavage defies gravity."
A pre-teen dress-up store
(Short shelf-life?) speeds the drag
From wallets of six c-notes
For a Grade 8 prom gown. Forced
Into catwalk mindsets, tweens wag-
"(My) seamless coat is grown a rag."

At Playtimes R Us, girls' boardgames
Focus on shopping & stealing
Boys' games reward climbing
Up the company
And shortcuts to own
Their destiny. Is this what
Our culture admires in us-
Greed & grab-get these cloned?
"Or that thy truth was not here known"

That Jesus hangs at the Sally Ann
Shunning brands & mockups
Sweatshopped offshore.
Paid pennies for work so consuming
That pregnancies abort,
Makers faint, injuries abound.
In the Desire Cult, we pout neon.
Caveat to admen & suppliers-
faking demand, you're only renowned
"Because we forced thy judgements down."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

DAVID HILLEN, 1941 - 2005


-by Heather Hillen, daughter of David Hillen

This intricately crafted coffin
seals tightly when closed;
on top - a slot for your picture
a thoughtful gift from a friend.

Each deposit seems a betrayal of you –
losing more of you
each time I open it
only to shut it again.

This beautiful pine box
encourages these thoughts,
enables me to write these words,
and my memories to escape from the box.

David James Hillen, 1941 - 2005, was born in Toronto where he attended Parkdale Public School, Parkdale Collegiate and graduated with a Master degree in History from the University of Toronto in 1965. David and his wife Janet soon traveled to Bolivia with the Baptist Mission Corps, where David taught English until returning to Ontario in 1969. David also taught English passionately, in Kitchener, Stoney Creek, and Mississauga until retiring in 1997.

David taught his students to believe in themselves and their ability to think creatively. A former student, musician Garnet Rogers spoke at his memorial service and said “David did nothing short of change my life”.

In addition to teaching, David wrote voraciously and his articles, poems, short stories and reviews have been published in numerous newspapers and anthologies. Living Downtown … familiarity breeds content which David co-wrote with his wife Janet was published in 2000. David’s book of poetry Even Our Shadows Dance was published in 2003.

Finally, David was a cherished family man who left his wife Janet and 4 children Heather, Andrew, Amanda and Stephen with teachings that are fundamental to who we are as people. He taught us to enjoy every moment as if it were our last, to love and respect all people all the time. He encouraged us to be fragile yet strong, courageous yet scared and that this is the essence of being human and it is ok. We miss him. Here are some poems by David.


When I watch television
time flits
quick and shadowy
like a midnight spectre.

When I read books time
deepens, becomes
slow and full
like the air after rain.

I plan to read lots and lots of books
live a long, luscious life
before getting off
this Gutenberg Galaxy.


Almost sorta’ mean

know haste is waste
learn to tease out some truth in a form of words
get the feelings right
remain, sometimes, steadfastly unsure

clear, clear, pure, wise
capable of surprise
never merely witty, one of the guys

bold, serious fun
record life on the run
witness to events before the first coffee and the night cap
and the night cap and the first coffee
expose themselves in public
sigh over dandelions
point to the still centre that does hold

persons among people
sharing being
creating unregretted reading

almost sorta’ nice.


Flowers of the fall
we weather into winter
death, nothing
at all.

the few
that knew us
mourn briefly if
at all.

Then they too
dry, blacken, fall
and there is nothing
at all.

Only inside is can we be
-the frost strikes
and was makes us nothing
at all.


Finite I am
inside time and space
god’s electric fence around the human race.

Finite is fine with me
allows me infinite possibility
a universe of places to go
whole nations of people to see
always changing – never the same
always becoming- never became.

Born I am
to be born again and again and again.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Since 1966, sound poet Penn Kemp has taught creative writing and sounding in Canadian schools. Raised in London, she received her Honours BA in English from UWO and her M.Ed from OISE/U. of Toronto. Penn has published twenty-five books of poetry and drama, had six plays and ten CDs produced as well as Canada's first poetry CD-ROM. Sample pieces on,, and Penn is Series Editor for Pendas Poets, and host of Gathering Voices on CHRW FM, lit.-on-air archived on The League of Poets has proclaimed Penn one of the foremothers of Canadian poetry.


Throughout our listening area
light pollution. Evening haze

drifts down from some secret smelter
depending on which wind blows. Small

particulate matter fills the air, fills our lungs
with tiny lumps that hang there undetected
except we can no longer fully breathe.

Cosmic clouds descend upon us. Below
breath. Below thought. Below bellow.

Probability of precipitation. Mixed rain
and thunder showers. Severe weather

warning. War in heaven, warming
torrents into twisters. Forecast unforeseen.

The radio calls for showers. Fog patches.
Clouds clog the mind, crowding thought.

Now calm come... clear of cloud...
I'm thinking stars. Or stars are thinking me.

Where are they? Beyond the veil, still
twinkling, emitting their own dust trails.


I eat nut chocolate instead of carrots. I drink
caffeine straight from the bean. I don't care
if my senses rot, cavities root in my mouth,
gnaw at my brain. I nod a refrain to be
wicked, to be wild at the expense of ordinary

sanity. The expanse of external wisdom
mounts as paper wrappers, candy wrappers,
oh sweet sweet the caress of chocolate.

While I don't care if the sun turns
my uncoloured skin ultra-violet, the long
and the short of it is the spectrum
unannounced of the daily. In living we
are realized, we are being flushed out

of hiding our response by this reddening
cheek, the drenching of the brow in sudden
cartoon frenzies of sweat, the character is
worried. She is fretting she is sunk.


Purple spikes rampant now. Cliché bounds
garden gnomes. We drink somewhat musty

ginger tea. Second cups await, red roobos
with mint and lemon balm I've just plucked.

Magdalene might know this tonic, or others
similar. Her purple turban that paintings so

proudly display as her nearly royal emblem
might bob through the fields as she gathers.

Though she would have servants harvesting,
that fine curved hand not browned by sun.

Her name day conjures presence on waves
of prayer, an iconography of purple and red.

Similars, signature. Like calls to like out
of time. Speaking harmonies. Chords lift.

A decorum wealth bestows, lush richness
suggesting florid abundance, jars of unguent.

She is always depicted wrapped, self-contained

and rapt. Cups of tea cool by her side, steam
rising like plumage, like the coils of her turban.

Twenty-two is the master number in Hebrew,
a vibration that opens time with broad strokes

beyond the moment to more universal scope.
But butterfly bush flowers in her honour now.

Echinacea flourishes, blossom and root, for her
medicinal. Wise woman of herbs, of mystery.

Sing your secret through us, Lady. We are
listening. Then and now. Now and then when

we remember. When your name day reminds.


Our daughters push beyond us,
when the power is strong,
unrolling the future to

We can no longer stand
behind our rules. We have
only our word and theirs
to be free. All we can do
is learn without

obligation. To. From.
I free you free me.

Liberation intertwined
with a difference.

The cycle of generation
spirals once more.

We return to our mothers,
offering them the gift
our daughters offer us.


For those mothers who remain
ashore and shoring, mending
the holes, cutting the cords,
gathering stray strands.

Weave the common thread
wide and strong. Make it hold.

Make it glow like that
first cord we almost
remember, the one they
cut off too soon.

For the mothers
who spot the pattern
and laugh

digs wells in
the dried clay
our tears made moist.

We are jars that love
has filled emptied
and fills again.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


-Jean Rae Baxter

I don’t remember the summer I was born, but as I grew up I sure heard plenty about it. That was the summer my cousin Annabelle vanished while hunting golf balls in the rough at Hidden Valley Golf Club. She was ten years old.

The kids who had gone with Annabelle returned to Kilbride without her. They weren’t worried—not at first. Annabelle must have been hiding on them, they thought, because she did things like that to get attention. Once she pretended her ankle was broken, so two boys had to make a chair with their hands linked to carry her home. That was a half-mile walk. They were pissed off when it turned out her ankle was fine. So when Annabelle disappeared, they thought it would serve her right if they left for home without her.

Annabelle’s parents, my Uncle Hugh and Aunt Rita, didn’t know anything was wrong until Annabelle didn’t show up for supper. They supposed she was at one of the other kids’ houses. Why not?

But after they phoned around and nobody had seen her since four in the afternoon, Uncle Hugh and Aunt Rita started to fret. By eight o’clock, when it began to get dark, they were frantic. Uncle Hugh rounded up my dad and the dads of the kids who had been with Annabelle. Uncle Hugh brought along Susie, his yellow Labrador retriever—not good at following a scent, he always said, but eager as they come.

It wasn’t a big area to search. A couple of acres. When they had looked for an hour without finding Annabelle, Uncle Hugh called the police. Then there was a real search, with trained dogs and tracking experts and dozens of volunteers.

Annabelle’s picture and description were in the newspapers and on TV. Missing-person posters all over the province asked if anybody had seen Annabelle Jenking. Age ten. Four-foot, six-inches tall. Copper-red curls, blue eyes, freckles. Last seen wearing a white T-shirt, blue shorts, blue ankle socks and white sneakers.

For three days, the searchers were out from dawn to dusk. Then the search was called off. Mom told me that when Dad got home, he sank into his chair in the living room, muddy boots on the carpet, and sat for a long time without saying anything. He just stared at one-month-old me, Nora Jenking, wrapped in my pink blanket, snug in Mom’s arms, and finally said, “No daughter of mine is ever going to earn pocket money looking for golf balls.”

“Never,” my mother had agreed, visualizing the shadowy form of a tramp slipping through the trees, a dirty hand clamped over Annabelle’s mouth, strong arms dragging her through the bushes. The act that followed was more than she could bear to imagine. The terror. The blood. The limp body borne away.

Mom said that Aunt Rita and Uncle Hugh never got over it. They had three other kids, but Annabelle had been the youngest. Whenever I went over to their house, Aunt Rita brought out her big scrapbook and made me look at Annabelle’s Baptismal Certificate, and her report cards, and all the Valentines her friends ever sent her. Sometimes I caught Aunt Rita staring at me, and then turning her face away. Once I asked Mom why my aunt looked at me funny.

“Because you’re just like Annabelle,” my mother said.

I overheard my parents talking with my aunt and uncle about Annabelle. Aunt Rita said the only thing they looked forward to was closure. Closure? It turned out they wanted somebody to find Annabelle’s body. This sounded weird. I always hoped that Annabelle would show up alive some day. I pictured her driving into Kilbride, stopping in front of her parents’ house, getting out of her car. She’d be about twenty years old. Tall and gorgeous, with copper...

-J. J. Steinfeld

“I have no more tears to shed, no more words to utter ever… I have no more tears to shed, no more words to utter ever…” the person standing in front of the Toronto Reference Library was saying over and over. More like chanting, really. Persistently, without a hint of cessation. A mantra, or maybe an incantation. I was just ready to enter the library, to escape the city and my own inactivity, and I stopped to listen to the strange-looking person. There were about a dozen people standing there already, listening to the chanting: “I have no more tears to shed, no more words to utter ever… I have no more tears to shed, no more words to utter ever…”

The voice was quite lovely but I didn’t know if it was female or male. The person was in a colourful, loose-fitting costume and wearing a mask, not that it was anywhere near Halloween. I mean, some of the characters you can see downtown. At first I thought it was a busker or a performance artist. Someone seeking publicity for— For what? People were leaving and others were joining the afternoon crowd, which was getting larger. The sun was just starting to shine after a morning of light rain.

Sometimes, more so lately, I would like not to speak, to make a public pronouncement that for a month or two I would not say another word. I could imagine myself yelling out “I have no more words to utter for a while” but that would be it, a single sentence, no chanting, no interminable repetitiveness. This person was being repetitious with a declaration of wordlessness. Talk about big-time absurdity and a contradiction in terms. Despite how fascinating I found the utterance of the words, if I were still a teacher, I would give her or him, this strange person, a failing grade. Unless I was missing something in what was going on or being said. I have been missing a great deal these days and I can’t blame it all on moodiness or depression or a little too much imbibing. Talking with my parents last night seemed to make everything worse, and I even used that silly word imbibing with both my parents when they accused me of drinking too much. Just a little harmless imbibing, I had said, the same words to my father and to my mother. I had called first my father, and then my mother, and told them I had quit my latest job, and both, in their usual way questioned whether I had quit or been fired, and both of them wanted to know how many jobs this was and what I was planning on doing next. Even though they are divorced, have been for a decade, they can still ask me the same questions, as if they had been comparing parental notes before talking to their disappointing son. My mother never fails to remind me of when I was a high-school teacher. Of when I did something. Not doing anything is a form of doing something, I told her the other day. My father said I always spoke without thinking. That’s not a crime, I told him. So tell me what’s happening in your life, let me hear a happy story, my father said after that, and I told him that I have no more stories, confessed in a pathetic way. Isn’t that sad? Horribly sad, I said, but I wasn’t feeling sad. I had pretty much said the same thing to my mother, admitting my lack of a new personal story to convey to her or anyone else. What are you going to do tomorrow? my father asked. I’m going to catch up on my reading at the library, newspapers and magazines, I explained, starting to make childish faces at the phone, to the past, to nothing in particular, really—a silly habit of mine when phone conversations aren’t going particularly well for me. You can’t read at home, after coming home from a day’s work, if you still had a job? he said, as I was doing my meaningless and I would guess grotesque face-making. The Reference Library downtown is my retreat, my recovery room, so to speak. Each of my parents reminded me—accused me—of being forty, forty without a career.

I started to look at the gathering as free entertainment, more free entertainment. That’s why I go downtown in the first place. But the sight of two city police officers arriving...

-Chris Laing

Good Grief! This wasn’t the way it was supposed to work. The payment had disappeared again, nothing left in its place. Second time this week. My job was to leave it in its usual spot and, in the morning, retrieve what the driver had left. What could be easier?

Jeez, if I couldn’t perform this simple task, what hope did I have to be trusted for bigger jobs? And just the thought of the old man’s disappointment withered my insides. I felt desperate, down to my last chance.

No choice now but to hire the detective.

Office hours were apparently irregular but I’d been told after school was best. From Hess Street Public, I crossed to Peter Street, stopping in front of a neat brick bungalow. Mountains of curling leaves heaped against a whitewashed fence, a concrete walk led to the rear. As instructed, I knocked twice, paused, then twice more. I entered onto an enclosed landing and next to the light switch; a sign read E T AGENCY, an arrow pointing down.

Cold as a cave down here and an earthy odor, perhaps from a root-cellar. I followed a narrow hallway to a closed door at the end of the hall and tapped out the same code before entering.

Emma Thomas stood staring at me as though I were a cockroach on her lunch plate. The ceiling light was turned off; two candles on floor-stands flanked her makeshift desk, their shimmering light giving her the appearance of an evil sorceress in the Saturday serial at the Tivoli Theatre.

She was taller than her candles, and her blond Medusa-hair writhed all over her head. And skinnier than Popeye’s girlfriend: long legs, long arms, the hands of a basketball player. She wore an oversized fisherman’s sweater, against this underground chill I supposed.

Emma gave me the once-over, twirled her hand and I turned in a circle. I guessed she saw no need to frisk me because she pointed a bony finger at a three-legged stool and I sat, keeping my lip buttoned.

“You know what I charge?” A low throaty voice.

I bobbed my head, gazing into her wolf-slit eyes which she hadn’t taken off me since I’d entered her lair, thinking that her daily fee was more than I could earn in a week. Maybe she’d be interested in bartering; I’d explore that later.

Brow furrowed, she said, “Do I know you?”

“Sure.” Why wouldn’t she know me? We attended the same school for cryin’ out loud.

She continued to study me, tugging back the blond strands flopping over one eye, before making up her mind. “OK … So what’s your problem, bub?”

I explained my dilemma: the missing payments, no product left by the delivery guy, the possible loss of the old man’s trust. Simply telling her made me realize just how tight a spot I was in.

She jotted in a small black book until I ran out of steam, then aimed the eraser end of her Dixon HB at me. “So what d’you want me to do?”

I’d thought of nothing else since deciding to see the detective. “One, find out who took the payments. Two, get them back. And three, stop it from happening again.” Sounding like a late-for-lunch radio announcer.

“That’s all?”


“You don’t want me to beat the shit outta the thief?”...