Current PEI poets

This section contains poems by a winner of the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry, by winners of the Atlantic Poetry Award, and by authors who have published numerous volumes of poetry. It also contains poems submitted by new and unknown poets. Rather than separating these, we have chosen to set them together, side by side (see a full list of contributing poets on the right-hand side of this page, or further down the page if viewing on a small-screen device).

Poets and readers will inevitably have their own responses and make their own comparisons.

Cody McInnis

7:00 AM

Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.
— John Donne

Her furled moaning never rests,
For a habitual fire trembles to:

Then spake the voices at 7:00AM
chiming bright like a hateful knell;
because all other times I hath resolved
too fully of the flesh; round it
now a savage ghost, batters tired lids —
so that eyes may never properly close,
and the all-surrounding
urban dawn, may devastate repose;

the edges of a blushing shore, engorge
to meet, an antiquated intrepidity —
with visions coaxing an elated
trill, atop concave tapering;
lucid the rifting speckled light
with all its cold descriptive solicitude,
provokes love’s haggard osculation,
bound, from space & time, and over-exude.

Let us never pause or make an end,
it is dreary to end this clever play;
seek always beyond the furled heart,
beneath the undulating force of the waves,
it is not too late for a heated expression,
abscond the natural importune dream;
regress from the onward journey,
hold close the ecstasy of the desirable terrene.

John Smith

It is unbroken

It is unbroken though forsaken, set
in the tilt of trees toward the prevailing sun.
Not lost, though unregarded, spoken in buried syllables.
Now it rises, a slow star at midsummer,

almost breaks horizon, then glides submissively down
with another declining year. A ripple is enough
in the half-undreaming stillness of lustral places
not yet endowed, or a leaf that falling

meets its shadow on the ground
in a wilderness untraversed where a bird sings unseen.
Like nothing else. Like nothing. Scattered

naked in retreat before the nightmarch
of an alien horde that passes and does not return.
Or say it is you fondling one of a billion stones.

from Midnight Found you Dancing, Ragweed Press, 1986

Audio version

Hugh MacDonald

At Merton’s Hermitage

Five poets sit
in a sort of symmetry
our awkward placement of hands
reading like young actors
unused to the stage
suspended somewhere between
giddiness and serenity.
How like boys we are
our casual shoes
our worn blue jeans
John B. somewhat
out-of-sync in green
our dew-stained cuffs
soaked while sponging
through full blown
wild Kentucky grass
after Gethsemane’s
massive breakfast of porridge
and eggs, jams and jellies
clumps of peanut butter
racks of perfect toast
steaming cups of tea
then, the air alive
with butterflies and gnats
Brother Paul
and Marty in the lead
John inquiring after
leaf and blade of grass
we stroll a swath
like Merton cut
through domesticated wild places
from the working monastery
to his Hermitage on the hill.
We look about inside
meditate on this concrete cell
that briefly housed
the soul that was his life
our gift the sharing
of his human frailties
his familiar temptations
his hypnotic soaring range of words
then we humbly sit at this shrine
while below us the long view
spans acres of wood and grass
the downward sloping field before
bends toward the world’s gate
our thoughts for the moment
temperate and peaceful
reflect the shimmer of summer
the shade tree beyond the porch
while behind us the empty bed
where Merton slept and didn’t
where within him wrestled
the love of internal peace
the turmoil of animal joy
the mad man-parts
that we all share
the saints we sometimes are
the beasts we can become
the blackened hearth
that conjures fiery pits
and writhing monsters
that we still smell today
separated by time and space
thankful for each garnered day
for light upon awakening
in dread of one last morning
that ends abruptly in darkness.

audio version


The Ruins

When I walk past your house, it talks to me. It looks older now, whethered. Like all the fighting we did took a toll on its structure.
Sometimes I can see in your windows,I don’t want to but always my eyes move of their own accord – I guess you taught me the art of self destruction,
I wonder if there’s another girl whose found my bobby pins, who cleans up after you’ve had a hard day. Who is as naive as I was. Your house whispers softly to me . It coos with familiarty. I see the curtains I helped you choose, The pavement where I learned the truth . I somehow expect it to be stained from my tears. After too many shots or cheap liquor I know I’ve been outside your building far too long, like the blurrier my vision the clearer my thoughts.
I hear laughter, look up. Does this girl love you as ferociously as I did. I shake often urge to go upstairs. This house holds nothing but broken promises and disappointment

Dianne Hicks Morrow

The Devil Sends

The truck dumps topsoil on the grass
at the end of our long clay lane,
the place the west wind burns by August.
Barefoot I jump in the loamy earth,
decide to make a rock garden.
My husband wheelbarrows huge
foundation stones to circle the base.
Our sons bring bricks from the torn-down
chimney. One builds steps to the top for fun
facing north, away from the house.
l ask him to make more on the south side
to see from the kitchen window.
Don’t know until too late
l’ve turned play into work.

Granddad gives a wrought iron Sundial for the top
“Gonna be some job to keep the weeds out of this.”
For the first years we call it the Shinto
shrine. Nasturtiums border brick stairs.
Dainty carpathian harebells thrive
a while. Hardy rock garden perennials gray
then die. Even sturdy sedum. The herb
quadrant goes wild. Dill disappears.
God steps in, gives wild strawberries.
Next, buttercups, Queen Anne’s
lace, asters, and goldenrod.
Then the Devil sends the sod
that finally takes over.
Our sons have left home.
Only the forget-me-nots bloom now.

Deirdre Kessler

Etched in the capstone of the
column at top of Kelly Steps
in Hobart, Tasmania:


Kelly Steps

Footfall makes the first sixteen ring,
echo against the high walls.
And there’s a resonance
with a hollow below, perhaps,
where the original ones sheltered
from a squall, or left a cache
of fishing gear; where lichens still do
their slow compositions in stone,
negotiating with southwind
and salt.

Blocks of sandstone, yellow ochre and grey,
quarried from this cliff, engineered
to three tiers: sixteen wide steps,
then a landing and right-angle turn
to west—Mt. Wellington a surprise each climb,
earlier cloud-shrouded, now not;
then fifteen, landing,
turn back south;
sixteen more.

The River Derwent carved its own deep way,
long before Captain James Kelly pointed,
said, “Steps here,” and his second mate
rounded up a crew of locals,
drove them, paid them badly
in the end.

The language of stone shifts
to meet the quarryman, suits the carver
and the chisel; rock remembers rope
and sweat, grain by grain weeps
for families sundered, whales
slaughtered, until
surface sorrow erodes,
is windsown elsewhere.

The foot finds the worn places,
scuffed with lives

Jamie Galpin


Ghouls, goons, ghosts and goblins are eating up the night with no problems.
Coyotes worshiping the vibrant moon, which will stream light upon the earth very soon.
Lighting the realms with cyan and teal.
Casting potent shadows that creep and crawl.
Should you be worried at all?

Zombies are the true deceivers, they carry along with their drunk demeanor, so raw looking and cold to the touch.
They’re swaying, swinging and swatting at air, they surely don’t have a single care.
They do have an urge, an itch so divine that carries them in its enticing hand and gives them the sin that no man has.
The screams of wives pregnant with fear, bleed through the trees and hit the zombies empty ear.
No one can elude this grasp – the stains of night and fright which snares us all.

There’s nothing truer than the facts I just told.
Or would I fib and be so bold?
Is there any parting advice that will keep you safe at night – warm and content?
I will tell you this.
With evil sins no one will adore you.
So be kind to trick-or-treaters, it could be a goblin before you.

Clint Avery

Ad: Dresses

He used to be my world, now he’s just a stone grinding me into nothing. I try to support myself; wearing this crutch.
The years have blown by, the way my dress used to blow in the wind; I haven’t been able to change for some time.
My daughter is turning five, she can’t wait until the big day; I promised her a new dress. She’s so beautiful, looks just like me when I was her age. I used to love when my mother got me a new dress to wear. I felt so free when I twirled around in our backyard as my dress danced in the air.
He wants to leave us, says there’s an ad in the paper about work out of province. I don’t say much, other than “whatever makes you happy”. He’s gone by the end of the week.
I don’t want to ruin her birthday. I tell her daddy is going away for a job and he’ll be back as soon as he can. She says “that’s okay, we’ ll get new dresses together”. I tear up a little and smile at her.
The next day, browsing through the newspaper, I come across an ad:


Hand made, custom dresses now
available. Many styles and sizes to
choose from. Free alterations.

Maybe a new dress will change the way I feel. I called the number to inquire about the address and a recorded voice over the line said “You’ve always been the beautiful dress, never change who you are”. I hung up, walked into the backyard and began to twirl in circles. My daughter joined in, laughing and asked “Mommy, what are we doing”? I told her we’re wearing our new dresses and that we’ll never change.
…We’re free.

Ashley Younker

Graveyard Chants

Loaded guns of infatuated personas
I am known to rescue thoughts from unkind misters
And give them begonias
I come from a different side of town
Legal tender has no use
Death of darkness
Shed a light
Come to your senses
Release the noose
Now who are you to take this dying breed
And give it life
A mastermind is unravelling our fear
So please stop sharpening your knife
The other side of town has called
White wishes are in pursuit
Take your faint and fearful heart
And weed it out of your root
- Meadow Zakai

Drake Sherrard

The Glittering Dust Of Winter.

In bitter air that freezes breath
And covers pine tree quills,
It sits upon the naked birch
Which shivers from its chill,
It covers trees and valleys deep
Falls heavr on the hills,
The flattened plains the frozen lakes,
On beaches by the shore.
Four long months of glittering dust
Dust lay upon the ground,
All grey and white except the sky
Which glows a brilliant blue.
From the air did this despair
Bring timeless time to me,
This glittering dust,
Dust freez my heart still.

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