Program note

Blind sets seven poems from Dennis Lee’s Un (2003).  This collection of short, terse poems presents a relentlessly dark and apocalyptic vision of our world, while still finding flickers of humanity and hope.  Armageddon is coupled with redemption, despair with exhiliration, pollution with purity.  Boiled-down texts burst with unorthodox phrases and neologisms.  Lee situates his words in the present, yet they also apply to the terrible war years in which the poet grew up (he was born August 31, 1939, on the very eve of World War 2).  They reflect the physical and emotional extremes of the time, something which is hard to imagine at our comfortable distance.  It’s in this way that I see this work commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Holland from Nazi occupation, an event in which Canadian troops played a decisive role.  The ever-present word “blind” evokes both the unthinking madness of war and the physical damage to its victims.  It also suggests the phrase “God blind me”, which was supposed to have gained currency among World War I troops sickened by the sight of mass slaughter.  It’s intriguing to realize that the apocalypse always seems to be with us, past, present and future.  Is this reason for despair, or is it in fact reassuring?

Blind was commissioned with the assistance of The Canada Council for the Arts by Soundstreams (Lawrence Cherney, Artistic Director) for the Netherlands Chamber Choir.



Texts to Blind 


1 inlingo


In scraggy lingo lost,

high mean-

times petering, thickets of

lex & scrawn:

split for abysmal, hopalong

underword, head for no exit,

grapshrapnel yore spelunking.

fractal untongue.


2 if


If it walks like apocalypse.  If it

squawks like armageddon.

If it stalks the earth like anaphylactic parturition.

If the halo jams like septicemic laurels, if

species recuse recuse if mutti clearcut, if

earth remembers how & then for good forgets;

if it glows like neural plagues if it grins, if it

walks like apocalypse—


3 blind



light, blind

night, blind blinkers.

Blind of the lakelorn / of

lumpen /the scree.

In terminal ought and deny, indelible isprints.

Palping the scandalscript. Sniffing the

petrified fiat.


4 beloved


In silicon gridlock, in

quagmeat extremis – basta, on wings of success,

Still we snog through

sputum waste to

caramelize the Beloved,

riffle thru alley slop for a gob of awe


5 hope  


Hope, you illicit

imperative:  what

sump what gunge what

glimmer of sotto renewal?

What short shot

shimmer of green reprise?


6 noth


And are creatures of


I noth you noth we

long have we nothed we

shall noth, staunch in true

nothing we

noth in extremis, noth until

habitat heartstead green galore & species

relinquish the terrene ghosthold;

crumble to alphadud; stutter to rumours of ing.