Birds in Aquariums

I'm really excited to be announcing that my debut poetry collection, birds in aquariums, is going to be available on May 25, 2018! This is a collection of poems I've written over the span of several years, arranged in a series of typographic expressions. I should be updating this blog more often ahead of its release, so stay tuned for updates!

2017 Year in Review

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Well, 2017 sure was a year (actually it went by so fast I’m not even sure it was a full 365 days). It was the year of a lot of things:

The year everyone got married

I had the pleasure of being in two wedding parties this year – for Bryan and for my sister, Stephanie – as well as attending one of the most unique and beautiful weddings, for my great friends Dec and Alex. All three weddings were beyond fun and it was nice to be reminded that true love didn’t die this year.

The year I made more art

Having moved to a new city last December seemed to have refreshed my creativity. I (mostly) finished a poetry collection I’d been working on for years, made some really weird collages and experimented more with photography.

The year I got tattoos

I got my first tattoo in the spring of this year, a quote from The Malazan Book of the Fallen (“The sea does not dream of you”) and my second a few months later – the printer’s mark used by Aldus Manutius, a revolutionary printer from Renaissance-era Venice.

The year my ears began to deteriorate

This year was great for live music but not so much for my ears. The older I get the more I start to think that the people at shows I always see wearing earplugs may have the right idea. But the damage to my ears was totally worth it, as I got to see Silent Planet twice (and met/talked to frontman Garrett), a great lineup of Beartooth, Underoath + Bring Me the Horizon, and Thrice + Circa Survive, and Tusks.

The year I didn’t read enough books

After finishing the ten-book fantasy series The Malazan Book of the Fallen, I needed a reading rest this year – which didn’t last long, as I immediately started re-reading the series. Other notable reads from this year: The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur, City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett and The Devourers by Indra Das.

The year I started going to movies alone

Going on a solo movie date is underrated. There were too many movies this year I didn’t want to miss so I stopped caring about sitting by myself in the theatre. Some great films I caught were Silence, It, A Ghost Story and Lady Bird.

The year I got a “new” job

I’ve spent the last five years working at Riordon Design, a branding firm that my two bosses had built from the ground up thirty years ago. Now preparing for their next chapter, they’ve merged with CREW Marketing Partners, a BC-based marketing firm expanding into Ontario. So far the transition has been great and it’s nice to have a change of scenery without starting an entirely new job.

The year I stopped eating meat and dairy

Back in July I decided to start eating a plant-based diet and haven’t looked back (yet). I’ve been feeling healthier, have lost weight, and have been experimenting with some really creative and delicious dishes.

The year there were other random highlights

Like Bryan’s bachelor party in Niagara Falls, camping at Lake Superior Provincial Park, having a moustache for a few months that I’m still pretty proud of, wearing dad hats all summer, cutting down on coffee, being depressed less, almost adopting a cat, going to a really cool new church, drinking a lot of tasty craft beer, seeing Ilana Glazer live, actually saving some money, and not having a single cavity.

Top 10 Albums of 2017

10. Rabbit in the Snare – The Lulls in Traffic

Being a huge fan of Copeland, I was really excited to hear vocalist Aaron Marsh’s side project. The Lulls in Traffic features Marsh on vocals and production and lyricist/spoken-word artist Ivan Ives, and a really creative mix of hip-hop/spoken-word and indie.

9. Phantom Anthem – August Burns Red

August Burns Red has refined their craft to near perfection on Phantom Anthem. There’s really not much more to say.

8. Sleep Well Beast – The National

Like August Burns Red, The National have created a formula that works great and have been refining it over their past few albums. It seems to have come fully to fruition on Sleep Well Beast.

7. Turn Out the Lights – Julien Baker

I didn’t really listen to Julien Baker until this year so I got to enjoy both her new album and 2015’s Sprained Ankle. Both feature fairly simple songs instrumentally that put Julien’s voice front and centre – along with her lyrics. And it’s the lyrics that are the high point of these records, as she lays bare her struggles with depression, addiction and faith.

6. Die With Your Tongue Out – Tigerwine

Tigerwine’s debut album is another emotionally heavy-hitting album from this year. I found myself continually coming back to this album when sitting in traffic or needing to vent – finding comfort in the heavy, soaring guitars, dual screaming/shouting vocals and sing-along-able melodies.

5. After Laughter – Paramore

I’ll admit I sort of lost interest in Paramore in recent years, despite having been a huge fan during their Riot! days – which set me up to go into After Laughter with little to no expectations. I wasn’t expecting an album full of such catchy, 80s-influenced tracks that there were days I literally couldn’t stop listening to it. It’s nice to have Paramore back in my recently played and I hope they continue this new sound for their next album.

4. All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell – Pvris

This one definitely grew on me. Pvris has been one of those bands that’s always been on my radar but never in my recently played – but they were there for most of the summer and fall. The band’s second full-length has a consistent vibe that balances heavy vs. calm and brooding vs. hopeful, with really impressive vocals from frontwoman Lynn Gunn.

3. Life After Youth – Land of Talk

Earlier this year I saw an article on CBC Music about indie band Land of Talk’s vocalist and songwriter, Elizabeth Powell, talking about writing her new album in my hometown of Orillia. This immediately caught my attention and I gave the album a shot – and have been listening to it weekly ever since. Her mesmerizing vocals soar over punchy rhythms throughout this short-but-sweet album, and, in the track Inner Lover, repeat possibly my favourite lyric of the year: “You light it slowly / Your light is lonely.”

2. Waiting for Morning to Come – Being as an Ocean

It’s always cool to see bands who’ve found success in the metalcore/hardcore scenes experiment with new (and usually slower) sounds. Sometimes it’s hit or miss, as they risk both losing fans and losing the emotion found in their heavier music. But this new experimental album by Being as an Ocean is definitely a hit – and despite an overall slowler sound, it’s an even more emotional album than their previous work.

1. Dissolve – Tusks

If you missed my review of this album, let me sum it up for you: London singer/songwriter/producer Emily Underhill (aka Tusks) has put together a cinematic and chilling album, with simply beautiful vocals, creative instrumentation/production and my most listened-to tracks of 2017.

Honorable mentions: A Deeper Understanding – The War on Drugs, Truth is a Beautiful Thing – London Grammar, Fool’s Paradise – Cold Specks, Young Mopes – Louise Burns, The Love You Let Too Close – Thousand Below

Past is Prologue

My sister is getting married later this year and, with her and her fiancé being just as much book nerds as I am, are going with a vintage book theme for their wedding. With some connections to Dutch family members, they’ve been collecting some vintage Dutch books to use as decor for the big event (which they gave me permission to keep afterwards). The oldest book I found was printed in 1908 and the most recent from 1929. Take a look:

 This cover features some pretty intricate linen patterning.

This cover features some pretty intricate linen patterning.

 Translation: “Death and the Afterlife” (I told my sister this one might not be wedding-appropriate).

Translation: “Death and the Afterlife” (I told my sister this one might not be wedding-appropriate).

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Deified (Palindrome Poem)

Taste and see, brother – my downfall.

I am both broken and whole,
break to rebuild.
I feel I fear this: as above, so below,
as all we are.

Breath illuminated;
as blooming seeds grow trees,
your love of tatters and shreds
fears these sinking dreams.

“I have fallen, haven’t I?”

Calling me to climb further, a
start to ending – perfectly reflecting ourselves.
For aren’t we?

Again and again:

We aren’t for
ourselves, reflecting perfectly – ending to start
a further climb to me, calling:

“I haven’t fallen, have I?”

Dreams sinking these fears,
shreds and tatters of love. Your
trees grow seeds, blooming as
illuminated breath.

Are we all as
below, so above? As this fear I feel: I
rebuild to break.
Whole and broken, both am I.

Fall down, my brother – see and taste.

Fall's Last Stand

that first white’s fallen
while the last red leaves
her neck and limbs stripped,
she sways and grieves

omens in the whispering wind –
autumn’s shiver
piercing summer gardens
left to whither

let it go to hold it together
and stand with the fall
blinding white and fading light
she endures it all

Creatively Unsatisfied

Every once in a while, I hear the phrase “creatively satisfied” – usually an interview asking an artist if they’re satisfied creatively. And that phrase has always rubbed me the wrong way. Because as a creative person, I feel like it’s my very nature never to be satisfied with my work. The kerning in a logo could be tweaked until my eyes bleed, an article could be rewritten endlessly until I run out of words in the English language. Everything could always be better.

But is it a bad thing that I’m never 100% satisfied with my work? Of course not – what point would there be in doing anything at all once you’ve created the perfect thing – whatever that may be? I would never want to create a “perfect” piece of art. “Perfect” is bullshit.

And maybe “satisfaction” is bullshit too… at least as far as it relates to creativity. Creativity by its very definition is producing something new and original – and creative people look for new, unique solutions to ordinary problems. If there’s any satisfaction in that, it’s fleeting because something can’t be “new” and “original” forever. “New” is only truly new until the next new thing. And that new thing is only new until the next new thing, and so on.

I may be proud of my creative work, but I’ll never be satisfied with it. It may function perfectly. It may connect with people and satisfy them – but I won’t be satisfied. I’ll always think of how it could be better or how I can push myself further next time.

I’ll always be unsatisfied. But I’ll be unsatisfied as creatively as I can be.