Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Paul Vermeersch

Share |
Paul Vermeersch is the author of four collections of poetry and the editor of The I.V. Lounge Reader and The Al Purdy A-frame Anthology. His writing has appeared frequently in the Globe and Mail and been featured on CBC Radio. His poems have been published in numerous journals and anthologies in Canada, the United States and Europe. He lives in Toronto, teaches at Sheridan College and is the poetry editor for Insomniac Press.

Visit Paul's website at
Send your questions and comments for Paul to

Ten Questions with Paul Vermeersch

Open Book: Toronto:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

Paul Vermeersch:

I had a poem published in John Degen’s Ink Magazine in 1996; that was the first. A lot of young poets in the 90s were publishing in Ink; fabulous local poets like Chris Chambers and Alexandra Leggat were publishing alongside established poets like Al Purdy. It was a wonderful little magazine, a real grassroots, community-building endeavor. After that, I began publishing poems in more and more Canadian journals, and my first book was published by ECW Press four years later.

The Reinvention of the Human Hand

By Paul Vermeersch

In The Reinvention of the Human Hand, Paul Vermeersch continues his ongoing poetic exploration of what it means to be human and alive in the physical world.

From the mean and humble origins of our genetic inheritance to the present-day complexities and limitations of the human form, from crude depictions painted on cave walls to pixilated images on a screen, and from the collective voices of "the hundred billion dead who came before" us, to the unspoken, private thoughts of individuals today, these poems ask us to question the various ways we see ourselves — in life as well as in art, in science as well as in myth — and then they ask us to look again.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Wolsak & Wynn Spring Launch Party


Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 7:00pm


Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON
M6J 1J6


Head to the Gladstone on April 16th for Wolsak & Wynn's Spring Launch Party! Celebrate the launch of three new books of poetry and fiction from W&W's new literary imprint, Buckrider Books.

Everyone Is CO2 by David James Brock.

The Stag Head Spoke by Erina Harris

David Foster Wallace Ruined My Suicide & Other Stories by D. D. Miller.


Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M6J 1J6 43° 38' 33.216" N, 79° 25' 37.6212" W

Pivot at the Press Club Featuring Michael Lista, Jacob McArthur Mooney and Paul Vermeersch.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 8:00pm


The Press Club
850 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON
M6J 1V5


Hello, 2012! Come ring in the end of the world with A Very Special Pivot. Featuring Paul Vermeersch, Trillium nominee for last year’s The Reinvention of the Human Hand; Michael Lista, author of Bloom; and, fresh from two seasons off in the world, the return of poet-and-blogger extraordinaire Jacob McArthur Mooney, author of Folk.


The Press Club
850 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON M6J 1V5 43° 39' 5.4648" N, 79° 24' 37.1376" W

Pivot Readings with Jonathan Bennett, Camille Martin & Paul Vermeersch


Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - 8:00pm



From our friends at the Pivot:

Yes, it's National Poetry Month, and Pivot has three delicious, mouth-watering poets for you on the 20th: Camille Martin, Jonathan Bennett, and Paul Vermeersch. Come eat them up at the Press Club. You bring the napkins, we'll bring the special sauce. Nom nom nom mmmmpoetry!

Pivot Readings at the Press Club
Featuring Jonathan Bennett, Camille Martin and Paul Vermeersch

Brockton Writers Series with Alissa York, Paul Vermeersch, Farzana Doctor, Amy Lavender Harris & Susan G. Cole


Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - 7:00pm


St. Annes Church
270 Gladstone Ave
Toronto, ON
M6J 3L6


Susan G. Cole guest hosts a special edition of The Brockton Writers Series: Writing Toronto with Alissa York, Paul Vermeersch, Farzana Doctor and Amy Lavender Harris.

PWYC (suggested $3-5). Readings, Q&A. Books available for sale.


St. Annes Church
270 Gladstone Ave
Toronto, ON M6J 3L6 43° 0' 0" N, 79° 0' 0" W

A Parting Thought from Our March Writer-In-Residence: Toronto Is a Vibrant Literary City. Become a Part of It!

Dear Toronto Book Lovers,

It's been a pleasure blogging for you all here at Open Book Toronto. Thanks to OBT, I've had the chance to be political, nostalgic, optimistic and perhaps even (time will tell) prophetic. But whatever I have written here, I have written it because for one reason or another it seemed important to me to share it with you, and before I turn over the residency to April's writer-in-residence Edward Carson, there is one more thing I would like to address.

Better than the Oscars: My 2010 Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Predictions!

A few weeks ago the the world turned its attention to Hollywood to watch the 82nd annual Academy Awards, and, as is customary, most of the people watching probably made predictions about the winners in advance. Friends circulated ballots at Oscar parties. The news media and the blogosphere weighed in. Speculation ran high. All that's old news, of course, but something far more momentous is just around the corner, and I want to bring it to your attention. The Griffin Poetry Prize will be announcing its shortlist on April 6th, and that's far more exciting to me than any old Oscar.

Remembering My Poetic and Not-So Poetic Day Jobs (Part Two)

In my last installment, I told you of my adventures as a warehouse worker, cook, merry-go-round operator, and map folder. Yes, map folder. The purpose of this exercise is to determine, with the aid of hindsight, how my previous occupations have influenced my writing. I suggested it’s possible that my first job may have nudged me toward a desire for unconventional employment; being a cook inspired a poem in my first book; operating a merry-go-round taught me that there is a certain lyricism to be found in everyday business; and folding maps for three years taught me that what I learned operating a merry-go-round is not necessarily applicable in every situation.

After the map-folding job, I started working in the book trade, both in publishing and bookselling. Surely, this must have had an effect on my writing, but how?

Remembering My Poetic and Not-So Poetic Day Jobs (Part One)

Poet Sina Queyras, whose latest book Expressway was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award, has been talking to poets about their day jobs over at Harriet, the official blog of the Poetry Foundation. Specifically, she's talking with poets who don't have academic or teaching jobs. Since I teach at Sheridan College, I wouldn't qualify for Queyras' investigation, but it has given me the idea of looking back on my other day jobs and seeing how they may have affected my writing.


As a species, humanity has made poetry for as long as we've had language. It's one of our most ancient, and innate, forms of creative expression. And for almost as long as we have had poetry, we have had those naysayers who predict its doom. Local poet Jacob McArthur Mooney, for one, has had enough of the nattering nabobs of negativism. He believes we have beaten the inevitability of the death of poetry to death just a little bit, and now he's doing something about it.


I've already mentioned how poets are often naturally attracted to alternative methods of publishing and distribution -- things like boutique printing and small press publishing -- and this is certainly true for local poets Elisabeth de Mariaffi and Carey Toane. This spring, they will be launching a new project called Toronto Poetry Vendors, a small, inexpensive broadside press that will distribute its wares using refurbished vending machines. I first became aware of TPV when they asked me to submit a poem for the project. It seems like a fun new way to put poems in the hands of readers, so I was eager to get on board.


Writing poetry is a labour of love, and sometimes that love finds expression beyond the act of writing. Many poets are naturally attracted to small press and micro press activities. They make chapbooks and pamphlets. They seek out alternative methods of distribution. Some of them, like award-winning poet Chris Banks, take it to a higher level. The decision to purchase and operate a printing press can be a major commitment and a lot of work, as Chris has found out. It can also be rewarding and a whole lot of fun. This spring, Chris will be printing a broadside of one of my poems, and I’m eagerly awaiting the result. I recently asked Chris about the steps he took to get his River Rock Press imprint off the ground.


One of the themes I've been dealing with as writer in residence for Open Book Toronto is the danger of losing our cultural inheritance because of a tendency toward cultural amnesia. In Canadian letters, our chief safeguard against this tendency has been the New Canadian Library. Established in 1958 by Jack McClelland and Malcolm Ross, it is the aim of the NCL to keep in print the very best of Canadian literature. Or, rather, the best of Canadian prose fiction, since the vast majority of the works that constitute the NCL are novels.


In my last post, I wrote about our tendency in this country to abandon (or even scorn) our cultural history. It's a sin that becomes even more unforgivable when the history forgotten is still within people's living memory. For instance, I have noticed that members of my generation, even those of us predisposed to talk about poetry, generally don't discuss Canadian poetry before 1960. To clarify, we will talk about a lot of poetry written prior to 1960, just not the stuff that was written in Canada.


We are frequently accused of being a throw-away society, and not without reason. We often praise the new simply for being new, and in the same breath we deride the breakthroughs of the past for being quaint, rustic, or obsolete. Such are the capricious judgments of fashion. Even poetry, which is often meant to speak to the ages, cannot always escape the fate of our fickle moods.


A few days ago I wrote about how the Chinese government prevented poet Liao Yiwu from attending a literary festival in Cologne, Germany. It was the thirteenth time the totalitarian regime had prevented Mr. Liao from leaving the country. Yesterday, it happened again. This time to a woman. This time in Iran. It was reported that celebrated Iranian poet and feminist Simin Behbahani, often called "the lioness of Iran," was detained in Imam Khomeini Airport, her passport confiscated. She was scheduled to appear in Paris at an event celebrating International Women's Day.


Yesterday I received an email from a high school student in Peterborough who is analyzing my poem "Shadowing the Medivac" (from my first book) for an assignment in his English class. He wanted to know where the idea for the poem came from, and he also asked questions about the creative process in general.


It seems not too long ago that online literary journals were poor cousins to their established counterparts in print. In the age of dial-up connections and primitive web design, when almost everyone had a website on GeoCities or Angelfire, many writers considered online publishing to be crude and second rate. And who could blame them?

Queering Jason Kenney, Literary Style

Yesterday I wrote with some pride about the freedoms we enjoy in Canada and about the responsibilities of democratic citizenship. Then something was brought to my attention that diminished that pride and appealed desperately to that sense of responsibility. It was made public that our Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney did knowingly, willfully, and specifically order his staff to remove all mention of equal rights for gay and lesbian Canadians from a new edition of the Canadian citizenship guide.


Three years ago I was invited to participate in the Berlin Poetry Festival. I have many fond memories of that trip and still consider it one of the highlights of my writing life. It's a powerful thing to travel internationally in order to share your work with people -- with readers and writers -- from around the world. The invitation was an honour. The experience was unforgettable.

One of my classmates was mentioned in the Globe and Mail today.

Did I say "classmates"?

Yes I did.

A lot of people have asked me about my decision to go back to school to undergo MFA studies in creative writing with the University of Guelph. Some of them say, "But why are you doing an MFA? You already teach, or you're already an editor, or you've already been published."

I tell them, "Yes, but those things are not the point. Writing is the point."

I think a writer ought always to be learning, and oftentimes the learning that a writer undergoes is private; it comes from reading and self-study. Occasionally, though, there might be opportunities for other kinds of learning, in more formal and structured learning environments. When this kind of opportunity presented itself to me, in the form of the Guelph MFA, I jumped at the chance.

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.