Jane Eaton Hamilton

"What fresh hell is this?" Dorothy Parker


I’ve never participated in any writing intensives, but this month I have been writing a poem every day for National Poetry Month.  It’s been fun experimenting at the edge of form and from intriguing prompts.   I would never have written these poems otherwise.  I have written on the Tar Sands, on being given up for dead as a 2-year-old, about being in NYC for Hurricane Sandy, about a magician on the metro in Paris, a poem made up of ten lies, a poem to something inanimate, and so on.  Catch the New York School prompt, below, for a great example of what we’ve been challenged with.

The other terrific part has been participating as a group member with 17 extremely talented Canadian poets–their support has been invaluable, their talent and skill breath-taking.  To read their work day after day?  Priceless.  (For everything else, there’s MC.)

This challenge has been completely and utterly exhausting.  I will be glad when it’s over next week.  Really, really glad.

To quote Thom Donovan, whose guidelines we used for the New York School poem:

“It is a “recipe” or constraint of sorts for writing a New York School poem (my class read James Schuyler, Bernadette Mayer, Charles Bernstein, and Dorothea Lasky—a heterodox selection, I realize; and listened to Eileen Myles, Schuyler, Robert Creeley, and Ron Padgett via PennSound).

“Students were encouraged to use as many of the following “ingredients” as possible:

  1. at least one addressee (to which you may or may not wish to dedicate your poem)
  2. use of specific place names and dates (time, day, month, year)–especially the names of places in and around New York City
  3. prolific use of proper names
  4. at least one reminiscence, aside, digression, or anecdote
  5. one or more quotations, especially from things people have said in conversation or through the media
  6. a moment where you call into question at least one thing you have said or proposed throughout your poem so far
  7. something that sounds amazing even if it doesn’t make any sense to you
  8. pop cultural references
  9. consumer goods/services
  10. mention of natural phenomena (in which natural phenomena do not appear ‘natural’)
  11. slang/colloquialism/vernacular/the word “fuck”
  12. at least one celebrity
  13. at least one question directed at the addressee/imagined reader
  14. reference to sex or use of sexual innuendo
  15. the words “life” and “death”
  16. at least one exclamation/declaration of love
  17. references to fine art, theater, music, or film
  18. mention of genitals and body parts
  19. food items
  20. drug references (legal or illegal)
  21. gossip
  22. mention of sleep or dreaming
  23. use of ironic overtones”


Blue Metropolis Literary Festival

Just to let everyone know I’ll be reading my story “Smiley” at Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal on Saturday May 3 at 2:30 pm as part of the celebration for the CBC Canada Writes Competition.  The reading is free.

A good article on duct tape parenting

Not strictly speaking on writing, but I’ve been very worried about our current parenting styles for a very long time.

Leave the Kids Alone

I thought I would share a poem of sorts which I wrote for National Poetry Month on my summers as a kid:


Sound Cloud

As people who know me well know, I love reading aloud.  Here are some sound recordings I’ve made.  Most are of my poems (and one very short story); one is a poem I love by the talented Sharon Olds:

Sound Cloud


Sweet little lick from the folks at Plenitude.  Now on bookstore shelves!


Rogers Telecom




This is a poem for Rogers Telecom

who would not delete the bill

refusing her till exhaustion

took her under. For no reason

other than a human hand

extended once will be grabbed

by other hands

(a community of hands)

pulled down by incomes and want

But Rogers

what if customers are the bottom line

sour, cranky, resentful, struggling customers

who could be turned in a lick

What if your simple act of possibility

turns bills to nill?

What if kindness begets kindness

and relief is measured in productivity

and gratitude instead of anger

in poems?




The antidote to cranky–photograph flowers

I made these impressionistic photographs of flowers this afternoon.








cherry blossom


cherry blossom

Excited by all the women!

Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

Griffin Prize

Such effusive congrats to all!

But there’s something here that ought to give women great pause in the Baileys announcement:

[Ms Fraser said]: “There’s very little domestic drama, and that clichéd idea of romantic fiction. There wasn’t much of that this year. These are big ambitious books that deal with war, grief and loss. They are not confined to the domestic arena.”

How long are women going to accept this critique of what makes literature important?  It used to be that men told us our fictions didn’t matter because they were small, interior, domestic, but now here is the same malarky coming from a woman:  if it’s personal, if it’s domestic, it’s unimportant.

Or goddamn it.  Could we maybe judge on merit regardless of subject matter?

Western Front

Just finished two days at “There are reasons for looking and feeling and thinking about things that are invisible: a two day event on New Narratives in art writing” at Western Front featuring Eileen Myles, Jacob Wren, Lynne Tillman and Maria Fusco. This was on many levels a satisfying and intriguing mini-conference, exactly what I needed to organize inchoate thoughts around the intersection of art/art writing/literature, and past that, to begin to shape my lecture about the process of creation. If there was a cohering theme, it might have been unity–of purpose, of mind, of perception.  How to look attentively at a mouse, power, a breakup, a relationship, a therapist, a life ebbing, artworks.  Their tricks of alchemy were, it seemed to me, divisable by accretion and allusion. 

I could have wanted visual artists to join these four–but that is not a comment on what they were able to extend to us, but rather simple gluttony. The presentations were taped, so they will be available (I don’t know details). Below: Wren, Myles.  Apologies for no second photograph of Tillman and Fusco, but I was not seated advantageously.  Thanks to Alex Leslie for letting me know about this event.



On North by Northwest, CBC Radio One, host Sheryl MacKay.  Photo: Sheryl MacKay.

Some new art

Art after Louise Bourgeois’s late series “Petite Maman.”  Thinking, in this series, mostly of interactions between breasts and medicine, though I want to do more with breasts and babies.


JEHbreast2 JEHbreast3 JEHbreast4 JEHbreast5

Cherry blossoms, Vancouver

The most beautiful street is Graveley at Lilloet. I took these today.  Stunning.


JEHcherry1 JEHcherry3 JEHcherry8

Being Jane Hamilton

I have had, by now, a long whack at this writing game with some successes and many disappointments–so many of the latter that I stepped away for 8 years (which of course is only a wise move if you never plan to step back in, as I am falteringly doing).  Towards the end of round 1, I wrote this humour piece about my stuttering career.  I love writing humour and this piece reminds me that I don’t do enough of it.  For some reason, when I write it it’s almost always in the 2nd person, a viewpoint I, unlike others, really adore.  I’ve pulled it from Author’s Den, but it first won a prize at Grain.

Being Jane Hamilton

CBC North by Northwest

The March 30 2014 podcast at North by Northwest contains a small clip of me reading from “Smiley.”  Host Sheryl MacKay.

North by Northwest

Bird Nights redux

Linking to the piece that’s being translated into French for Siécle 21:

Bird Nights

I think it might be spring

The Garden Getting Going

Cutworms have decimated the sprouts of the daylilies; slugs have been rolling out placemats on my ligularia, forks and knives in hand. Yesterday, I tucked some last-leg plants that have been crying out for root-room into my new garden. I don’t even know if the delphinium, given to me by garden-witch Tekla Deverell on Pender Island, now deceased, can possibly make it. I’ll baby it along, thinking mauve/blue thoughts at it, but what if, as the sun rises higher in the sky, the garden still gets no sun?

All over town the cherry blossoms are out and it’s hard not to believe they are hollering celebration. Is there anything else as beautiful as a magnolia in bloom? I chase blossoms like candy, up and down the good streets in Vancouver, the streets where I know there are canopies, because I have to feast on the beauty, storing it up and hiding it the way chipmunks do stashes. All the hyacinths, the muscari, the daffs, the tulips play their parts. Come winter, I’ll be pulling blossoms into a memory quilt.

A flicker came to sit on my fence a couple of days ago, but it didn’t talk to me, just sat there, orange and grey, eyeing the suet feeder which is surrounded by a cage much deeper than the flicker’s beak. I used to get them at my house, drumming on the metal hat of my garden heater.

My feeder last year was clustered with baby goldfinches for weeks running.

This year I’ve got juncos, sparrows, chickadees, finches, bushtits and even (finally, finally) hummingbirds. I’m going to try that thing where you pour syrup into your palm and see if they’ll eat out of it. Plus I’ll do sunflower seeds to see if I can entice chickadees.

Suffused with well-being that never seem to let go.

Interview with Open Book Toronto

Here is an interview I did with Open Book Toronto about my CBC Canada Writes winning story “Smiley.”

Open Book Toronto interview

Good news!

I am deliciously happy.

CBC short fiction prize

Prism International Short Fiction shortlist

I am delighted to say that “The Ninth Foot” has made it to Prism International’s shortlist! 

Prism International short fiction contest

Good news this morning:  My story “The Ninth Foot” has been long-listed for the Prism International Short Fiction Contest, one of 16 from a pool of hundreds.

Fun for me because back in the olden days (you know, before I was born), two of my stories, “Goombay Smash” and “Sperm King,” won this contest.


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