new from above/ground press: Into the Blind World, by Barry McKinnon

Into the Blind World

by Barry McKinnon


into the blind world

the new life the essential tremor /refusal

of diminishment

I see in a double

space conjunction & irony, that part blind Im made

to see. it is not Dantes forest exactly. More

so a sense

/a kind of open door

is beginning /closing dark turning

- light I didnt expect.

old flesh renews, that the dim

eye makes almost nothing matter. looks to

what I find ahead.

I believe -

fear kept

me speaking, or all would cease to be. so I spoke & the forest flew by

& city lights distorted the cold stars of love and dark the

beginning, a journey, a descent

the ghost of myself still


to address the infected world, to stall & cease advance, to the forest

one fears

to enter

sad desire/ without a mask

to journey solely at night dark to the armies

circling themselves the forest of knives

invisible to those who never make it

or recognize

desire: one heart to pull

the other retract - that the gap maintains its depth & distance

to hell the hidden road & the river one dares


This poem/fragment is based on a selection of lines sent to me by

Arianwen Goronwy Roberts, a young student, poet, and artist who I jokingly

referred to as Virgil one night when she soberly drove me home after a

drunken literary event in the fall of 2009. I got Arianwen curious to read

Dantes Divine Comedy & at some other drunken literary event asked her to

send me the Dante lines or sections that she liked or stood out for

whatever reason. This she did from an on-line translation

( -7/inferno-dante-alighieri: The Divine

Comedy: Hell - no translator given). Within those stanzas, verses, and

narrative fragments I could see certain words/phrasings and images that

prompted my own translation and improvised responses.

Ive made no dramatic attempt to describe sinners being dipped upside

down in hot tar or include any of the other dark & menacing monsters

contained in Dantes hell - or developed the relationship between Dante and

Virgil, his poet/guide through hell. Instead, I took only words, phrases

or images from Arianwens choices that I could then reconfigure without, I

decided, any presumption to condense the narrative in Book One, or make

any literal reference to snakes, lizards, and lions etc. (though somehow a

lone fox trotted in).

The ending does not wholly contain the sanguine possibility Dante

recognized in Canto xxxiv a return to the bright world- to look once more

upon the stars. More so, I believe it when the poet Robert Creeley writes

- the darkness surrounds us - yet within it we must live and experience

whatever range we are given or decide.

When the writing stalled, I also took lines/ideas from Arianwens poem

the forest of knives image, Mateusz Patrykas poem for his line the ghost

of myself, Cecil Giscombes email - these days the sisters incoherent,

unrequited, incomplete and Robert Creeleys line happy in hell sources

that kept me going for awhile longer on the hidden road.

Otherwise, all else is missing.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press

January 2012

a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Barry McKinnon was born in 1944 in Calgary Alberta, where he grew up. In

1965, after two years at Mount Royal College, he went to Sir George

Williams University in Montreal and took poetry courses with Irving

Layton. He graduated in 1967 with a B.A. degree. In 1969, he graduated

with an M.A. from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and was

hired that same year to teach English at the College of New Caledonia in

Prince George where he has lived and worked ever since.

Barry McKinnons The the was nominated for the Governor Generals Award for

poetry in 1080. Pulp Log was the winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry

Award for the B.C. Book Prizes in 1991 and Arrhythmia was the winner of

the bpNichol Chapbook Award for the best chapbook published in Canada in

English in 1994. His chapbook Surety Disappears was the runner-up for the

bpNichol Award in 2008.

His most recent trade collections include In the Millennium (Vancouver:

New Star, 2009) and The Centre: Poems 1970-2000 (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2004).

Barry McKinnon reads in Ottawa on Sunday, March 4, 2012 with Paige

Ackerson-Kiely as part of Ottawas second annual VERSeFest poetry festival.

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to:

rob mclennan, 402 McLeod St #3, Ottawa ON K2P 1A6 or paypal at