Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Call for Proposals: Harper is My Muse

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Harper will be our PM for four years, and there's little we can do about that. However, we don't have to suffer in silence. Recent brain research suggested that "liberal" brains have a larger area for processing complexity, and "conservative" ones have a larger fear center. So let's challenge him with complexity by doing what artists and writers do best: fantasy, irony, allusion, parody. I challenge you to "Make Harper your Muse" by creating a poem, story, artwork, video mash-up, spoken word piece, etc. centering on our beloved PM. Even if, as he said, ordinary people don't care about art, we'll make him care.

Can you imagine his reaction when media questions include "Mr. Harper, how do you feel about the photo of you as Charles Atlas kicking sand on liberals, or a steely-eyed cowboy riding an oil rig? Or the sado-masochistic fantasy in which you attack a defenceless Bloc maiden named Gillette? Will you use the portrait of yourself as a long-gun toting “Bounty Hunter” for your official PM likeness? Is Captain Ahab really your greatest inspiration for harpooning socialists?” The master of partisan dirty-trick and spin politics won't know what to do with this; I guarantee it. Harper doesn't have much of a sense of humour, and his political brain trust is not strong on art or literature,

He may have a majority, but we've got ambiguity. Unlike some, though, I'm all for free speech. If you actually like the PM and think he'll do great things for the country, create accordingly.

Publish wherever you normally place your work, but send me a copy or a link by, say, June 30, 2011 at When I have enough good entries, I'll put them together as either a website or a free e-book. All rights but that electronic one will remain yours. If you like this idea, please cut and paste it into messages to your friends and collaborators.

C'mon Canada, make Harper your Muse! – John Oughton, author of five books of poetry and publisher of Sixth Floor Editions.

ps. To get you started, I'll attach my own first effort below – trim this if there's not enough space when you forward.

Stephen Harper's Secret Life:

As a Boy He Reads a Book About the Arctic

And it’s as if the night from a nuclear strike

illuminates his imagination:

a vast, frigidaire wasteland in which not one tree

of liberalism flourishes,

tundra burying rainbows of any hope

for the poor, for women, the environment

lit only by the flares of petrochemicals

unhampered by needless regulation and tax.

“If I build it, I can control it”

the boy thinks, his eyes narrowing in that squint

that later comes to define democracy

as only for those who agree

with the Emperor of Emptiness.

© 2011 John Oughton


So, bigrock, you can spell "turgid." That's impressive.
If you bothered to examine the number of ethical breaches by Harper and his cabinet, the reason why his was the first government in the Commonwealth to be found in contempt of Parliament, and the ways in which he's cheapened political discourse in this country, you might have a clue why some of us are worried.
In the meantime, I look forward to reading your doubtless superior poetic encomium to the genius of this former employee of the National Citizens Coalition. And drop the cowardly mask of anonymity; post it by tomorrow under your real name. That way we'll have some idea whether you're a trawling troll from Harper's PR firm.

Does Stephen keep you up at night? Is he as evil as Stalin, or worse? Why the turgid poetical hissy-fit? Is it because he prefers Domi and Clark to Beatrice and Virgil?

Good poem, Edward... and very timely. As for Bigrock's comment, I really don't know why you spelled "um" with an H. Could be because you like Prime Ministers whose last name starts with "H"?

I really don't understand why you bothered copyrighting that, uhm, poem.

Questions of Our Glorious Leader

Hesitant at what the future might be, the story of our dear leader
escapes from itself, immanent and vital. We ask what element,

relocating to morning, keeping its purpose withheld, is so ready

to withdraw at a moment’s notice? We respond by pushing back
against this, pulling things together, occupied as we are with

questions. Could this be a subtle error of judgment, ill-timed,

recreated in the dark, unforeseen and irresistibly complex?
Hard to know what is, what could be, or comes next. All our

answers ride the tips of our tongues, persuading daylight

to materialize, a rhetoric resolved to emerge out of nothing.
This bright fashioning is in our narrative, daily revealing itself,

having served our brief moments of transition, yet wary of him,
suddenly seeing his calculating darkness before our light returns.

Edward Carson
May 2011

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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John Oughton

John Oughton is the author of several books, including Time Slip: New and Selected Poems, published by Guernica Editions.

Go to John Oughton’s Author Page