02 June 2020


Listen can’t breathe. Listen what voice whose voice can’t breathe. Listen what broke what voice who says listen can’t breathe. Listen cop knee to neck what broke can’t breathe. Listen what hope can’t breathe. Listen whose neck whose voice what broke can’t breathe. Listen cop knee to neck speak up can’t breathe can’t speak shut up listen shut up. Listen what broke whose voice cop knee to neck don’t choke who says can’t breathe speak up. Listen shut up what hope don’t speak don’t choke whose voice cop knee to neck what broke can’t breathe what voice listen. Listen speak up what hope who says. Listen can’t breathe.  Listen.

29 April 2020

Voiceover / Shoring, a videopoem

This video poem, completed two years or so ago, is made from edited scrap Super 8 footage taken by my grandparents — mostly by my grandmother — during a return visit to Nova Scotia in the summer of 1962. I composed the texts for the two poems, "Voiceover" and "Shoring," and read them. Geoff Mitchell composed and performed the music and constructed the soundscapes from field audio he recorded around the Bedford Basin in Nova Scotia. The voice and music were recorded at a studio in Montreal in June-July 2017. The texts form part of an ongoing series around the idea of the nostos, the return journey, and address, for me, something like what Svetlana Boym has called off-modern nostalgia.

Voiceover / Shoring, a videopoem from Kevin McNeilly on Vimeo.

Constable (poem)

I’m using this blog to self-publish a few poems from home, most of them elegies and other public pieces that have emerged in the recent months. “Constable” is an elegy respectfully dedicated to RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, who was murdered in Nova Scotia a week and a half ago. It’s intended to offer sincere condolences. I grew up in Truro, Nova Scotia, and still have friends there.

Heidi Stevenson, 1971-2020
Maintiens le droit.

You’re told, hold to what’s right, no matter what,
which if taken to heart you take to mean,
first off, you’re the one called to look out for  
the wounded, the bewildered, and the shunned.
Service inscribes its craft across the law.
There’s anybody could be your neighbour:
common decency forms the better part
of what ought to pass for justice. You swore
to temper fear, favour, and affection,
but maybe not at the cost of close-grained
kindness. From the folks you stand on guard for
you learn what real care costs. Come the last shift
on your current patch, for instance, a good
ways north of Cole Harbour up the 102,
you might pull your cruiser to the shoulder
to think through how your oath might get you killed,
how kids and husband, left to reconcile
duty to loss, might persevere, and how
no place else comes remotely close to home.

13 April 2020

For Saff, made famous on Netflix (poem)

Here is a poem I wrote on Good Friday morning, in response to an article I read about Saff, and after a two-day binge-watch of Tiger King on Netflix. Saff feels to me like a voice of relative calm amid the furor.

For Saff
The most anybody could claim to come to know
about you would be by what you look like and how
you talk when you’re on screen. Reality tv
gets you to rethink life. Before Joe Exotic
made it onto Netflix, he cared enough to give
you refuge and a job. Manspreading on a green
plastic Adirondack chair near the zoo tool shed,
flanked by discarded propane tanks and jerry cans,
by stained tarps, building scrap, and one chrome-rimmed spare wheel,
your black trucker’s cap turned backwards, you take a drag
on a freshly lit cigarette and shake your head,
brushing off some producer’s glib, mis-pronouned prompt.
The fact is you returned to work within a week
of having had your lower left arm torn half off
by an honest-to-fuck tiger. You say you can’t
expect actual animals, let alone people,
to check their instincts. What happens, happens. Keep chill.
Better to accept what you’ll never overcome,
the unjust husbandry of this imprisoned world.

                                             Good Friday, in the year of COVID-19

If you're interested, here is a link to an image taken from one of Saff's confessionals in Tiger King; this is the image I'm describing in the poem.

Here is some video from Tiger King in which Saff describes his accident: