Monday, April 30, 2018

Joel Thomas Hynes (the Singer Songwriter one) at the Dakota Tavern, Toronto

Joel Thomas Hynes, The Sauce

Dakota Tavern 249 Ossington, Toronto, Ontario M6J 3A1
Dakota Tavern 249 Ossington, Toronto, OntarioM6J 3A1 View Map

Icelandic Translation of When I Married Halldór Laxness by Agnes Walsh, translation by Adalsteinn Ingolfsson

Back in October, 2006 Rattling Books ran a Translation Contest in Iceland. We invited translations of the poem When I Married Halldór Laxness by Newfoundland writer Agnes Walsh. The winning entry, selected by Ingibjörg Haraldsdóttir, was a translation by Adalsteinn Ingolfsson. On this last day of Poetry Month 2007 we are delighted to share it with you here.


Þegar ég giftist Halldóri Laxness (tileinkað Sam B.)

Ég horfði á froðuna skreppa saman og gulan mjöðinn mæta henni til hálfs. Ég hallaði glasinu, það valt um og vökvinn rann yfir ellistirt hné hans. Ég leit undan en baðst ekki forláts. Með fallegum beinaberum fingrum buskaði hann frá sér froðunni í aðskiljanlegum ögnum, sem væri hún kusk séð um síðir fyrir einskæra tilviljun.

Nú veltur ákvörðunin á þér.

Hann neri miðinum inn í buxnaskálmina. Ég varpaði öndinni. Báðir valkostir voru banvænir.

Ætlarðu að dandalast í þessu landi ljósvakans til eilífðarnóns?


Jafnvel þótt ég hengdi þig upp á hárinu?
Jafnvel þótt ég hellti upp í þig sjóðheitu vatni?
Jafnvel þótt ég gerði þér indjánatjald úr birkihríslum?

Sjáðu mig.

Hann lét sig hverfa.

Kvöldið eftir hringdi síminn.
Ég skal hitta þig á mótum Jökulbrúnar og Kompáss. Ég verð að geta treyst á þig.
Ég verð þarna í þrjú kvöld í röð.

Þrjú kvöld í röð var ég á stanslausum en árangurslausum þeytingi milli staða.

Föstudagskvöldið hringdi dyrabjallan. Hann rétti mér tvær bækur eftir Aksel Sandemose. Ég lagði fingur mína á hlý fingraför hans á efri bókinni og lokaði hurðinni. Ég las og beið.

(Í flóðbylgju gekk kona glugga á milli með kerti í hendi meðan hús hennar barst út á flóann. Henni var bjargað í St. Lawrence.)

Þegar þú ert reiðubúin, ef þú verður það nokkurn tímann, skaltu kveikja á eigin kerti.

Tveimur árum síðar hélt ég skjálfandi hendi á eldspýtunni. Hár hans hafði gránað við kollvikin og hann stakk feimnislega við fæti.

To read the original English text of When I Married Halldór Laxness click here.

To hear Agnes Walsh reading the poem in the original English you can purchase a download of In the Old Country of My Heart by Agnes Walsh from Rattling Books online or get the CD from Freds Records.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Poem: not man's time from The Grey Islands by John Steffler

not man's time here.
sun's time.
rock's time.
I begin to feel it.

days blink by - light
and cold flowing over - tide
breathing smoothly, evenly, I

slip between half-seconds, flash
light-beam pinball-style, do
ten thousand vanishing things
in a breath.

This poem is from The Grey Islands by John Steffler. Originally published in print form by McClelland and Stewart (1985); Brick Books (2000). The unabridged audiobook edition of The Grey Islands is narrated (in order of appearance) by John Steffler, Frank Holden, Janis Spence, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings and Darryl Hopkins with island soundscapes recorded off the coast of Newfoundland.

You can purchase downloads of Rattling Books audiobooks online or physical CDs from Fred's Records in St. John's, Newfoundland (or by mail order).

Excerpt: Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, installment #4

The following excerpt is from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, the story was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The unabridged audiobook edition of Adrift on an Ice-Pan, narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available from Rattling Books as a digital download or you can get the physical audiobook CD from Fred's Records


It was impossible to make any progress through the sish ice by swimming, so I lay there and thought all would soon be over, only wondering if any one would ever know how it happened. There was no particular horror attached to it, and in fact I began to feel drowsy, as if I could easily go to sleep, when suddenly I saw the trace of another big dog that had himself gone through before he reached the pan, and though he was close to it was quite unable to force his way out. Along this I hauled myself, using him as a bow anchor, but mch bothered by the other dogs as I passed them, one of which got on my shoulder, pushing me farther down into the ice. There was only a yard or so more when I had passed my living anchor, and soon I lay with my dogs around me on the little piece of slob ice. I had to help them on to it, working them through the lane that I had made.

The piece of ice we were on was so small it was obvious we must soon all be drowned, if we remained upon it as it drifted seaward into more open water. If we were to save our lives, no time was to be lost. When I stood up, I could see about twenty yards away a larger pan floating amidst the sish, like a great flat raft, and if we could get on to it we should postpone at least for a time the death that already seemed almost inevitable. It was impossible to reach it with0ut a life line, as I had already learned to my cost, and the next problem was how to get one there. Marvelous to relate, when I had first fallen through, after I had cut the dogs a drift without any hope let of saving myself, I had not let my knife sink, but had fastened it by two half hitches to the back of one of the dogs. To my great joy there it was still, and shortly I was at work cutting all the sealskin traces still hanging from the dogs' harnesses, and splicing them together into one long line. These I divided and fastened to the backs of my two leaders, tying the near ends round my two wrists. I then pointed out to “Brin” the pan I wanted to reach and tried my best to make them go ahead, giving them the full length of my lines from two coils. My long sealskin moccasins, reaching to my thigh, were full of ice and water. These I took off and tied separately on the dogs' backs. My coat, hat, gloves, and overalls I had already lost. At fist, nothing would induce the two dogs to move, and though I threw them off the pan two or three times, they struggled back upon it, which perhaps was only natural, because as soon as they fell through they could see nowhere else to make for. To me, however, this seemed to spell “the end.” Fortunately, I had with me a small black spaniel, almost a featherweight, with large furry paws, called “Jack,” who acts as my mascot and incidentally as my retriever. This at once flashed into my mind, and I felt I had still one more chance for life. So I spoke, to him and showed him the direction, and then threw a piece of ice toward the desired goal. Without a moment's hesitation he made a dash for it, and to my great joy got there safely, the tough scale of sea ice carrying his weight bravely. At once I shouted to him to “lie down,” and this, too, he immediately did, looking like a little black fuzz ball on the white setting.

My leaders could now see him seated there on the new piece of floe, and when once more I threw them off they understood what I wanted, and fought their way to where they saw the spaniel, carrying with them the line that gave me the one chance for my life. The other dogs followed them, and after painful struggling, all got out again except one. Taking all the run that I could get on my little pan, I made a dive, slithering with the impetus along the surface till once more I sank through. After a long fight, however, I was able to haul myself by the long traces on to this new pan, having taken carre beforehand to tie the harnesses to which I was holding under the dogs' bellies, so that they could not slip them off. But alas! The pan I was now on was not large enough to bear us and was already beginning to sink, so this process had to be repeated immediately.

I now realized that, though we had been working toward the shore, we had been losing ground all the time, for the off-shore wind had already driven us a hundred yards farther out. But the widening gap kept full of the pounded ice, through which no man could possibly go.

To be continued.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Poetry, the next latte & 30% off Poetry Downloads for April at

Excerpt: Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, installment #3

The following excerpt is from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, the story was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company. The unabridged audio edition narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available from


There was not a moment to lose. I tore off my oilskins, threw myself on my hands and knees by the side of the komatik to give a larger base to hold, and shouted to my team to go ahead for the shore. Before we had gone twenty yards, the dogs got frightened, hesitated for a moment, and the komatik instantly sank into the slob. It was necessary then for the dogs to pull much harder, so that they now began to sink in also.

Earlier in the season the father of the very boy I was going to operate on had been drowned in this same way, this dogs tangling their traces around him in the slob. This flashed into my mind, and I managed to loosen my sheath-knife, scramble forward, find the traces in the water and cut them, holding on to the leader’s trace wound round my wrist.

Being in the water I could see no piece of ice that would bear anything up. But there was as it happened a piece of snow, frozen together like a large snowball, about twenty-five yards away, near where my leading dog, “Brin,” was wallowing in the slob. Upon this he very shortly climbed, his long trace of ten fathoms almost reaching there before he went into the water.

This dog has weird black markings on his face, giving him the appearance of wearing a perpetual grin. After climbing out on the snow as if it were the most natural position in the world he deliberately shook the ice and water from his long coat, and then turned round to look for me. As he sat perched up there out of the water he seemed to be grinning with satisfaction. The other dogs were hopelessly bogged. Indeed, we were like flies in treacle.

Gradually, I hauled myself along the line that was still tied to my wrist, till without any warning the dog turned round and slipped out of his harness, and then once more turned his grinning face to where I was struggling.

To be continued.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Poem: She loved him with a fierce appetite from Coasting Trade by Robin McGrath

She loved him with a fierce appetite

She loved him with a fierce appetite
Patting and prodding his flesh
Like a reliable, well-trained chef
And once, while they embraced,
She pinched the tender meat behind his hip,
Said “If we were stranded on a desert island,
And I had to eat you,
This is where I would begin.”

Over the years she tasted every part of him,
Sleepily chewed the lobes of his ears
In bed in his arms on cold winter mornings,
Licked the jam from his fingers at breakfast,
Then nibbled the tips to still her hunger,
And often she told him he was so sweet
That she could eat him alive.

When he died she
Feasted for the last time,
Spit up bones and hair like an owl pellet
And slept with it under her pillow for luck.

The above poem is from the audio collection Coasting Trade: a Performance for three voices with soundscapes, from Rattling Books.

Coasting Trade is the product of a collaboration between author Robin McGrath, radio producer Chris Brookes and actors Robert Joy, Rick Boland and Anita Best. It follows the voyage of a Yankee trading schooner, circumnavigating the island of Newfoundland sometime after 1865. As the vessel puts in at various ports, lyrical narratives weave back and forth through a century of change while the 19th century sailing notes adapted from Sailing Directions for the Island of Newfoundland by J.S. Hobbes (1865) remain timeless.

Rattling Books' audiobooks are available online as digital downloads or as CDs instore or mail order from Fred's Records, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Excerpt: Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, installment #2

The following is an excerpt from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, it was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company. The unabridged audiobook edition narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available from Rattling Books.
It was late in April, when there is always the risk of getting wet through the ice, so that I was carefully prepared with spare outfit, which included a change of garments, snowshoes, rifle, compass, axe, and oilskin overclothes. The messengers were anxious that their team should travel back with mine, for they were slow at best and needed a lead. My dogs, however, being a powerful team, could not be held back, and though I managed to wait twice for their sleigh, I had reached a village about twenty miles on the journey before nightfall, and had fed the dogs, and was gathering a few people for prayers when they caught me up.

During the night the wind shifted to the northeast, which brought in fog and rain, softened the snow, and made traveling very bad, besides heaving a heavy sea into the bay. Our drive next morning would be somewhat over forty miles, the first ten miles on an arm of the sea, on salt-water ice.

In order not to be separated too long from my friends, I sent them ahead two hours before me, appointing a rendezvous in a log tilt that we have built in the woods as a halfway house. There is no one living on all that long coast-line, and to provide against accidents – which have happened more than once – we built this hut to keep dry clothing, food, and drugs in.

The first rain of the year was falling when I started, and I was obliged to keep on what we call the “ballicaters,” or ice barricades, much farther up the bay than I had expected. The sea of the night before had smashed the ponderous covering of ice right to the landwash. There were great gaping chasms between the enormous blocks, which we call pans, and half a mile out it was all clear water.

An island three miles out had preserved a bridge of ice, however, and by crossing a few cracks I managed to reach it. From the island it was four miles across to a rocky promontory, - a course that would be several miles shorter than going round the shore. Here as far as the eye could reach the ice seemed good, though it was very rough. Obviously, it had been smashed up by the sea and then packed in again by the strong wind from the northeast, and I thought it had frozen together solid.

All went well till I was about a quarter of a mile from the landing-point. Then the wind suddenly fell, and I noticed that I was traveling over loose “sish,” which was like porridge and probably many feet deep. By stabbing down, I could drive my whip-handle through the thin coating of young ice that was floating on it. The sish ice consists of the tiny fragments where the large pans have been pounding together on the heaving sea, like the stones of Freya’s grinding mill.

So quickly did the wind now come off shore, and so quickly did the packed “slob,” relieved of the wind pressure, “run abroad,” that already I could not see one pan larger than ten feet square; moveover, the ice was loosening so rapidly that I saw that retreat was absolutely impossible. Neither was there any way to get off the little pan I was surveying from.

To be continued.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Poem: Making the Fish by Michael Crummey

Making the Fish

Once you'd got the catch pitched up on the stage head, you got down to making the fish. Assembly line. Cutting table, blades of the knives pared almost to nothing by the sharpening stone. Woolen gloves soaked in fish guts, the water running red out of them when you make a fist. The cod passing through your hands llike knots in an unbroken string as long as the sea is wide.

Cut Throat
Get your fingers into the gills of a cod and lift it to the table, 15, 20 pounds some of them and the ache in your arm after three hours like the chill in a church hall on a February morning. Two motions with the knife, across the throat below the gills anad along the bare length of the belly, like a Catholic crossing himself before a meal. Push the fish along the table, the left hand of the man beside you reaching for it, he doesn't even turn his head in your direction.
Get your fingers in the gills of a cod and lift it to the table.

The open body, the knife in your right hand. The head taken off clean, as if you were castrating a young bull. The liver scalloped from the chest and pushed into the oil barrel, left there to ferment like fruit going bad. The tangle of guts lifted clear, the cod flesh pulled from beneath, a body freed from a messy accident. Organs and offal dropped through a hole in the cutting table to the salt water beneath the stage.
The gulls screaming outside, fighting over blood.

A good splitter could clear his way through 5 or 6 quintals an hour if the fish were a decent size, a full boat load done in three and out to the traps for more. Two cuts down each side of the sound bone, curved keel of the spine pulled clear and the cod splayed like a man about to be crucified. Dropped off the cutting table into the water of the puncheon tub, the next fish in your hands. Two cuts down each side, sound bone pulled clear, splayed cod dropped into the puncheon tub. Two cuts, sound bone pulled clear, cod into the tub. Two cuts, pull, into the tub.
By nine o'clock it is too dark to see properly, eyes as tender as skin soaked too long in salt water. The wicks are lit in bowls of kerosene: oily flame, spiralling spine of black smoke.

Empty wooden wheelbarrow set beside the puncheon tub, the flat, triangular sheets of fish meat hefted from the elbow-deep water.
Dead weight of the loaded barrow a strain on the shoulders, the bones shifting down in their sockets, the tendons stretching to hold them as the feet shuffle into the store house. A hogshead of salt beside the bins, a handful strown across the white insides of each fish before they're stacked. Weight of the pile squeezing water from the flesh.
Turn with the emptied barrow. Squeak of the wheel, squish of feet soaked inside the rubber boots. Arm fishing into the puncheon tub, elbow numb with the cold.

The Bawn
Wait for a fine day in August. Sweep a stretch of beach clear, put stones down over any patch of grass that might spoil the fish.
The salt cod taken from the bins and washed by hand in puncheon tubs, front and back, like a child about to be presented to royalty, the white scum scrubbed off the dark layer of skin. Carried to the bawn on fish bars and laid out neatly in sunlight, 150 quintals at a time, the length of the shoreline like a well-shingled roof.
Two fine days would finish the job, a week and a half to cure the season's catch. The merchant's ship arriving in September, anchoring off in the Tickle; the cured cod loaded into the boat and ferried out.

What it Made
You could expect $2 a quintal for your trouble, a good season for a crew was 400 quintals. anything more was an act of God. The Skipper took half a voyage, out of which he paid the girl her summer's wage, and squared up with the merchant for supplies taken on credit in the spring. The rest was split three ways. $130 for four months of work, it could cut the heart out of a man to think too much about what he was working for.

This poem appears in the collection Hard Light by Michael Crummey, printed by Brick Books. A selection from the book, 32 Little Stories, of which this poem is a part, was recorded by Rattling Books. Hard Light: 32 Little Stories by Michael Crummey, narrated by the author, Ron Hynes and Deidre Gillard-Rowlings is available as a digital download from Rattling Books.

The audiobook CD is available from Freds Records in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Excerpt: Easter Sunday from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell

The following is an excerpt from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience it was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The unabridged audiobook edition narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available as a digital download from Rattling Books or as an audiobook CD from Fred's Records in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

It was Easter Sunday at St. Anthony in the year 1908, but with us in northern Newfoundland still winter. Everything was covered with snow and ice. I was walking back after morning service, when a boy came running over from the hospital with the news that a large team of dogs had come from sixty miles to the southward, to get a doctor on a very urgent case. It was that of a young man on whom we had operated about a fortnight before for an acute bone disease in the thigh. The people had allowed the wound to close, the poisoned matter had accumulated, and we thought we should have to remove the leg. There was obviously, therefore, no time to be lost. So, having packed up the necessary instruments, dressings, and drugs, and having fitted out the dog-sleigh with my best dogs, I started at once, the messengers following me with their team.

My team was an especially good one. On many a long journey they had stood by me and pulled me out of difficulties by their sagacity and endurance. To a lover of his dogs, as every Christian man must be, each one had become almost as precious as a child to its mother. They were beautiful beasts: "Brin," the cleverest leader on the coast; "Doc," a large, gentle beast, the backbone of the team for power; "Spy," a wiry, powerful black and white dog; "Moody," a lop-eared black-and-tan, in this htird season, a plodder that never looked behind him; "Watch," the youngster of the team, long-legged and speedy, with great liquid eyes and a Gordon-setter coat; "Sue," a large, dark Eskimo, the image of a great black wolf, with her sharp pointed and perpendicular ears, for she "harked back" to her wild ancestry; "Jerry," a large roan-colored slut, the quickest of all my dogs on her feet, and so affectionate that her overtures of joy had often sent me sprawling on my back; "Jack," a jet-black, gentle-natured dog, more like a retriever, that always ran next the sledge, and never looked back but everlastingly pulled straight ahead, running always with his nose to the ground.

To be continued.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Poem: Close-up on a Sharp-Shinned Hawk by Don McKay


Concentrate upon her attributes:
the accipiter's short
roundish wings, streaked breast, talons fine
and slender as the x-ray of a baby's hand.
The eyes (yellow in this hatchling
later deepening to orange then
blood red) can spot
a sparrow at four hundred metres and impose
silence like an overwhelming noise
to which you must not listen.

Suddenly, if you're not careful, everything
goes celluloid and slow
and threatens to burn through and you
must focus quickly on the simple metal band around her leg
by which she's married to our need to know.

This poem is among those selected by Don McKay for his audiobook release with Rattling Books: Songs for the Songs of Birds.

Presently the digital download is 30% off for Poetry Month.
The Audiobook CD is available from Fred's Records in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Newfoundland Poems for Poetry Month : Percy Janes Boarding the Bus by Agnes Walsh

Percy Janes Boarding the Bus
a poem by Agnes Walsh

I was going to the Mall for a kettle
waiting on the number five,
when the number something-or-other
pulled up.

I was looking past it for mine,
when I saw him, an arm raised,
running softly.

I jumped to life, beat on the bus door,
siad to the driver: "Mr. Janes.
Mr. Percy Janes wants to get on."

He raised a "So what?" eyebrow.

Mr. Janes straightened his astrakhan hat,
mumbled thank you and stepped up.
As the bus rumbled on
I continued under my breath:
"Ladies and gentleman, Mr. Percy Janes,
Newfoundland writer, poet,
just boarded the number something-or-other."

If this was Portugal,
a plaque would be placed
over the seat where he sat.

As it is, you have me
mumbling in the street
like a tourist in my own country.

This poem appears in the audiobook poetry collection produced by Rattling Books entitled In the Old Country of My Heart by Agnes Walsh. Available online as a digital download and 30% off during April, National Poetry Month.  Also available as a hard copy CD from Fred's Records, St. John's Newfoundland.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Poem: Yet by Mary Dalton, from Merrybegot


Moll doll his chin;
Her hair birch-
Chalk and cheese, they said;
Cradle and grave,
They said;
You could smell
The smouldering, sparry,
Whenever they met.

This poem appears in the collection of poems by Mary Dalton entitled Merrybegot. The audiobook edition of Merrybegot published by Rattling Books in 2005 is performed by Anita Best with Patrick Boyle on trumpet and flugelhorn.

The audiobook digital download is available from Rattling Books online.
The audiobook CD is available from Fred's Records in St. John's, NL.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Rattling Books owner hounded by paparazzi declares Poetry the next Latte

Tired of beating off Globe and Mail, New York Times and Guardian paparazzi disguised as gulls eating garbage, Janet Russell, owner of the dazzlingly successful, befouled by money Rattling Books, emerged from the seaside villa company headquarters in Newfoundland today and granted a brief interview on the meaning of April.

“Poetry is the next latte," Russell said.

N.B. Rattling Books poetry audiobooks are 30% off for the whole of April, National Poetry Month.