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Plans Deranged by Time

The Poetry of George Fetherling

By George Fetherling
Edited by A.F. Moritz
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature, Poetry
Series Laurier Poetry Hide Details
Paperback : 9781554586318, 82 pages, January 2012
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554586493, 82 pages, May 2012


Art Criticism by George Fetherling

Je suis ici pour faire des achats de dynamite.

— Blaise Cendrars


There are no guarantees

that anything will last

especially when you use

these inferior materials.

Thick chemical gesso

slides onto recycled canvas

one coat horizontal

the next vertical;

as soon as one dries,

another arrives to

contradict it.

I can’t stand the silence.

My ears chafe waiting

for the tune of a catchy explosion.

I am the neighbourhood dynamiter

who never knows when opportunity

might strike. One must always

be alert and heavily armed

against success and its enemies.

This is how I am.

I have no patience

with craft for its own sake

not like the old

Chinese man standing

in his garden every morning

applying more red lacquer

to his coffin.

When the surface is hard

and shiny like a beetle

he will be venerated as only

the ancient dead can be.

I will be scattered over a wide area.

Parts of me may never be found.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Plans Deranged by Time: The Poetry of George Fetherling, selected with an introduction by A. F. Moritz

Foreword, Neil Besner

Biographical Note

Introduction, A. F. Moritz

Alleycat / 1

Harry's New York Bar in Paris / 2

Border Catechism (excerpts) / 3

Subroutine / 4

The Dark Grid / 5

The Six O'Clock News from Buffalo / 6

Moving towards the Vertical Horizon (excerpts) / 8

Memorandum for the File / 12

Pre Texts / 13

Radio / 14

Ancient Beliefs / 16

Telegraphic Instructions / 18

Beginning with North / 19

The View Keeps Reminding Us of Flags / 20

With the Name Goes Great Responsibility / 21

Opportunities for Redemption / 23

Chinese Anthology (excerpts) / 24

Mother Goddess / 26

Art Criticism / 27

Juice / 29

Ice Ages / 30

Old Chinese Poem / 31

Bush Architecture / 32

0930 / 33

Letter Two (excerpt) / 34

Singer, An Elegy (excerpts) / 35

First Signs of Wartime Spring / 50

Navigating Chinatown / 52

Confusion of Themes Not of Motives / 53

Mappamundi / 54

Postdated / 56

Afterword, George Fetherling



The Toronto Star called him a legendary figure in Canadian writing, and indeed George Fetherling has been prolific in many genres: poetry, history, travel narrative, memoir, and cultural studies. Plans Deranged by Time is a representative selection from many of the twelve poetry collections he has published since the late 1960s. Like his novels and other fiction, many of these poems are anchored in a sense of place—often a very urban one. Filled with aphorism and sharp observation, the poems are spare of line and metaphor; they display a kind of elegant realism: loading docks, back doors of restaurants, doughnut shops with karate schools upstairs.

In the introduction, A. F. Moritz places Fetherling in the modern picaresque tradition in the aftermath of Eliot and Pound, highlighting his characteristic speaker as an itinerant cosmopolitan outsider, a kind of flâneur, impoverished and keenly observant, writing from a position of “communion-in-isolation. ” He contrasts Fetherling’s contemplative intellectualism with that of the public intellectual and highlights this outsider’s fellow-feeling, making the poems indirectly political.

Fetherling’s afterword is an anecdote-anchored exploration of what the poet sees as his two central approaches—“the desire to create new codes of hearing” and “writing-to-heal”—and how they are reflected in the collection.


``[Fetherling's] images are not simply precise and evocative; they are also witty. ... Many of his poems tend toward aperçu or epigram. The reader is constantly surprised by an unexpected analogy. Moritz in his erudite and densely allusive introduction. ..bring[s] out those elements of Fetherling's critical self-examination that underlie his empathy for members of the similarly disillusioned wider community, and makes a good case for recommending Fetherling's poetry to the expanded audience it deserves. ''

- Event (Douglas College), 42.1