by Cara Benson

Why a poem.

Why not:

Waste of time, energy, materials
Distraction from the real business of living
Cannot emulate reality -- nature's knock-off
Only emulates...
Engenders alienation and obfuscation
Poor man's philosophy
Mother will worry for your future
It will upset the status quo
Fosters solipsism
Fosters elitism
Fosters confidence to write in anyone with an ex-boyfriend, a
mother, or a therapist (it's a given if subject possess all three)
Doesn't sell product
Is barely product itself
Unsuccessful attempts at escapism (TV = better)
Difficult / impossible to quantify
Breed flies in bottles*
Weren't those anarchy black coats reading Bukowski or
somebody other like that?
(your reason here________________)
(and maybe here________________________, too)

*(Wittgenstein was said to have thought much philosophy was generating its
own conundrums to solve. Philosophers were not necessarily brighter than most
folks, merely more capable of trapping themselves in linguistic confusion. It was
a matter of, he said, "language gone on holiday." He believed it the philosopher's
duty to "show the fly out of the bottle"; to relieve the mind of confusion.)

George Oppen:
A simple poetic undertaking: to see if life is livable,
to make life livable. Without lying.

Jack Kerouac:
I myself have difficulty covering up my bullshit lies.


Quantum Chaos & Poems was published by BookThug in 2008. Cara Benson's latest collection, a series of prose-poems, is called (MADE). She talks about it here:

Cara lives in NY State, not city, without a TV.

by Zoe Page

It's Friday night so they’re throwing a dance party in the Mile End for specific people. They do this often, mostly on Fridays. I’m specific, so I go, most always. Where else am I going to get to be specific, like, really specific, flamboyantly specific? All of my specific friends are going to be there, being specific. I feel obligated to go.

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t specific so I could just go to any party, or, truthfully, so I wouldn’t have to go to any parties at all, let alone specific ones. I hate parties, but I feel obligated to go. Plus, I’m lonely. I don’t think that comes with being specific, but the posters for the party tell me that this is the best place to get with specific people, so I go, most always.

At home I put on my red shiny vest and yesterday’s underwear because it’s the sexiest. It’s just plain white cotton but that definitely beats all the other ones. I clean my room just in case, purposely leaving the collage-in-progress, just so.

The nice thing about these specific parties is that I don’t have to shave my armpits, or wear makeup or high heels. I don’t have to feel shame for wearing a sports bra. Radical specificity officially promotes saying “fuck you” to patriarchal beauty standards. In fact, I feel obligated to feel proud of my mustache, to flaunt my belly fat, so that’s what I’ll try to do, at least for tonight.

It’s a small bar on Parc, where the road is widest, where I always lock my bike across the street and time my jaywalk when the tide of cars is far, far away or when the stoplight is red, so I can close my eyes and walk very, very slowly. I’ve never made it to the other side without getting nervous and opening my eyes.

Once I’m on the curb I’m in a face off -- with the too-bright-hot-pink-tube-lighted sign that never even flickers -- it’s got one sure word it shouts over my silence, so what it says isn’t important, I always lose.

Sometimes I have friends and they’re sitting on the steps outside, but not tonight. Just the same smoke-talkers shivering in T-shirts, having heart to hearts and watching me watch them. I might know some of them from somewhere, but they wouldn’t let on. I kick dust and go for the stairs.

Inside the heat frosts my glasses. Arms pull me towards the cashbox, where I’m stamped. A shiny sea of torsos, open mouths and closed eyes, shove-heave through the crowd holding beers like fragile children above their heads. Sex organs bounce in crotch-ripped jeans between bass blasts and hand claps. Everyone seems to be trying to get somewhere else than where they’re standing. The DJ ching chings alone in the corner wearing duct tape pasties, smiling. She looks like she might be having fun.

Someone spills warm beer down my back and I am flung towards the washroom. The toilet has no seat cover, so I take my pants down to sit on it. Oh well I think, even though I’m not here to pee.

The party is muffled, and the stall is a teleport. I close my eyes and my mind travels to memories of other places I’d rather have never been.

My second grade Spanish teacher, Senorita Summers sits on the edge of the school playground at recess, flaunting her pregnant belly like an A on a spelling test. She was really pretty. Pretty like a cabbage patch doll. All the girls stop playing tag and run over to pet the imaginary fetus, a princess shining bright with mucus and blood. I always believed that beneath their cooing voices, and eyes saucy with sisterhood, the girls were conspiring against me. Alas, what they didn’t know, I remember thinking, was that it was in fact a dodgeball under Senorita’s shirt. But I keep that to myself. I don’t know… what made me think of this.

I travel to the conversation I had with that girl I met at the protest today.

“Global warming exists, and it sucks.”

“Yeah, I agree, like, whoa.”

“I totally feel like we have an affinity! Do you totally feel like we have an affinity? I totally feel like we have an affinity! Why? Because you’re wearing that headband with a bike wheel and a heart and not only do I like hearts and not only do I like to bike, but I also think it means you’re a dyke.” And then we held hands and walked off into the sunset, towards a post-penetration anarchist utopia.

Back in the stall I wonder if that really happened, or if it’s just in my mind. Then someone’s banging on the door. Maybe they need to pee, or make out, or wallow in self-pity. I realize I’m wasting my time, I only get to be specific ever so often. I feel obligated to leave the washroom, and go dance. Soon I will have to face the throngs of sweaty bodies, people with just as much torment as me, but who dress better, and who aren’t afraid to bury it in the lips of a familiar stranger or crush it in the space between pants flies, and plus they hide it better too.


Zoe Page is a Montreal activist and poet who organizes at the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy and the Union for Gender Empowerment.

Check her out in the Matrix 85 New Feminisms online supplement:


by Ian Sullivan Cant & Melissa Bull


I don't understand why this picture is smaller than the others either.


by Mat Laporte

(click to enlarge)


I live on rue Laporte. Or avenue. But Mat lives in Toronto, so. Mat just started this: Ferno House is a brand new publishing house based in Toronto, Ontario, committed to designing and printing hand-made, beautiful chapbooks and full-length collections of fiction and poetry. Also you can download his interview with Jan Zwicky for The Puritan. Just Google him up. It's there.


by Alex McIntosh

Plastic Pies

The lack of garbage cans in the cities of Japan is likely linked to the fact that no one eats on the street. Frowned upon, say the guidebooks. Food is consumed sur place even if it means hurriedly swallowing a proffered sample at a food hall, or chugging a drink by the vending machine. There is no roaming about with coffee cup in hand. Tourists thus find themselves carrying small accumulations of refuse in search of an appropriate receptacle, and think twice about the barbaric act of eating a clementine in a public park.


Recently back from the future, Alex McIntosh considers the lobster delectable.


by David Bradford

Esther’s Cornwallian grandmother feeds me a canned mess of apricot and peaches and cottage cheese. She sits and watches me suck it down slowly, watches me texting my arrival at the Oceanview Cottage. Esther texts “Finally come to rescue me from my family yet, princess?” I text her “Granny is feeding me.” She suggests she might rush back and try and save me from being poisoned, which is melodramatic and silly and makes me smile. I and her Mummama discuss her potentially broken rib and the impertinent worries of her family, the moss-green Subaru she was forced to leave at home. I concur. We discuss the superior mileage on my borrowed Corolla and she is much satisfied. She is not one to mention its pretty candy-apple color. She says “Sour” and I say “Cream” and I knock over a glass of water. I speckle the Maine sun beaming in with that spilt sparkle and she laughs so I do too. We mop it up together and she says “It’s ok” and “You know, aren’t there a lot of black folks on TV this convention week?” and I assume this is what Esther meant when she described her as inappropriate. I assume she was not informed. So I slowly shut my mouth and she kindly invites me to walk over to the beach, to leave her to her rib and I am much obliged and thankful and say “Thanks.”

Maine is, like, not “Live Free or Die.” Maine is a lobster roll wonderland of unlocked doors and cruiser bikes, Dutchman and Shooting Star, discarded sandals entrusted to the sand-glittered dead-end walks to the beach, kept safe by the ever-pearly white Goose Rocks Beach community. Maine is TRU BLU in square indigo Massachusetts license plate letters. Salt-bleached whites and blue skies. “Vacationland,” cursive greens over pure pearly clamshells. Maine makes me grateful for my girlfriend’s blue hair. I’m walking up the dead end towards the shore and she pulls up and gets out of her mother’s white station wagon. We cross a guy, who looks like Goose Rocks’ own token Sahid from Lost, on the seaside road. We nod and smile. So does he, warmly. My wise black and white ambiguity tells me he sees himself. Another other. The “other” is close enough. His smile breaks as soon as we pass by.

Hindu or not, I am American. Enough to be a little blasé in regards to my suburban Victorian home just outside of Milford, CT. I too did not see the point of little league. I too could hit. As cute as the town might have been I am willing to accept it as the prolapsed epicenter of collegiate drug distribution in this here New England. I am grateful, but peeved by the ease of access a resident of Milford has to Xanax. I am American enough to be tired. I am blasé enough to be relieved, albeit un-staring, when I see a white blue-haired girl emerge in a pair of NPS boots from a white Subaru and lock hands with what may be a lighter version of a Ferris Bueller à la Bollywood crossing the street. I too crave hamburgers. I imagine square patties and pickle sliced bacon wonders like every other non-vegan collegian. My parents are Roger and Maude, very formerly Rajesh and Madhoo, and their favorite restaurant is the Olive Garden. They are Episcopalian. I’m American and I sigh a little when a Maine granny with a turkey sandwich in one hand sniffs a bit at me with a tight smile and a “Hello” as we cross paths. I hate Indian food, but I can tell she would beg to differ. I assume cocaine is too far away from this foamy high-tide to inform the meaning of said sniff, and I smile and pop a bit more spicy Oberto Jerky in my mouth, Eat Like An Alpha and keep strutting on. I crest that dead end and hum quietly all-American at the deep. I too laugh and hope for Animal Cops on the tube tonight.

The Animal Channel. It occurs to me, as we witness the Michigan Humane Society removing a pot-belly piglet from a fat lady’s dirty evil uninsulated basement—Esther calls the shots, I don’t. I reach for the remote, knowing she’ll smile and smack my hand away. We and the appalled Humane Society agents are not alone. The mother coyly demands a “nighty cap” and I indulge her. Watching from the foot of the LayZboy that Esther is rocking in, I see her slug the cheap Duty-Free Cutty Sark like banana cough syrup from her lobster mug and smack her lips peacefully. Mummama is dozing in a ball on page 31 of Under the Tuscan Sun, while Cindy watches on and sucks on virgin seltzer. Esther told me, on the walk from the general store, to entirely and strictly avoid offering Cindy a drink. Though she owns horses and seems happy enough now, despite the two childrenless divorces. It worries me how Diff’rent Strokes seems to continually occupy one of the seventeen channels in this state. I’ve decided to avoid the issue altogether and drink up early, head to bed for what I’ve been told will be Quiet Fucking. The mother asks which parent is the black one and I’m used to the question. She says “Ohhh!” pleasantly when I tell her it’s my father. She seems a little dissatisfied when I answer “Where from?” with Pennsylvania instead of Jamaica or Kenya. The beach, I hear, is best at low tides and cold as a block of ice in a recovering alcoholic’s freezer. Cindy’s freezer. I pour myself another pint of Duty-Free Cutty-soda. She is starting to notice.

The girlfriend texted me this morning: “Ura shitball. U know dat right? Who da fuck goes to Maine alone.” It occurs to me that her questions are rhetorical. I’d be mad. Then again, perhaps she meant “spitball” and screwed up without noticing. Perhaps she is being flirty to let me know she’s all freaky hot for me in her dorm room, wallowing in the stench from the moldy towel she left there this summer. I surely hope not.

The beach is an esoteric melting pot of rich Massachussetts folks and middle-class Bostonites. It’s nice. They don’t notice each other too much and everyone says “Hi” and smiles. I brought a men’s magazine I found in the toilet and I try to assimilate a revolutionary abs-routine and the BE A BRO column, all while sinking deeper into the Valium before I go and freeze myself in the water, along with the littler Bostonites. They giggle and act a credible silly and are A-OK. Maude always tells me life is “A-OK.” I’ve decided I might try to find my sloop today. A note in multicolor fridge letters led me to believe a “sloop” would be waiting for me around here, beached at low tide. I wikipediaed it to make sure I was looking for the right thing. I might attempt a few figure eights. I’ll find it. Let it rise as I suck on some cans of beer. My LL Bean cap will surely be needed.

A wife beater tan. The mother insisted I lather up for the sun, and my response was “I’ve had twenty-three years experience at this, I think I know what I’m doing.” The beach is my red burnt shoulders bringing out the Caucasian half in me. Esther’s laugh is not too mean and sweeter every minute. I’ve decided the water is slowly killing me. I am living in tremors. Esther’s legs are like prickly fucking cucumbers, but Esther is at home like a seal and I keep her close. Full bellied little fuckers run in circles spouting salt like fountains, wandering farther and farther from mom and dad. There is more pointing and awing than I would have ever assumed and Esther and her blues get it all. She floats in the attention like seaweed and I tickle her like tiny nameless fish under water. I am looking forward to the urine-warm pools in the low-tide glare and I await them like happy hour. I tickle her like the deep sea and she squeals a little louder.

The 99 is like a restaurant-island in a strip mall parking lot. There are ninety-nine reasons painted on the walls inside, protruding from what used to be reason numero uno: things were ninety-nine cents. “Always enough for a doggy bag at the 99”—reason 41. I’m trying to order a hamburger. From route 9 to route 1 and twenty minutes of phantom mist and high beam squints and they won’t let me have a burger. It occurs to me my Darjeeling Limited tee might be too powerfully suggestive. “Ain’t it against your creed hun?” I insist and insist again a little louder and the waitress finally says “OK”, though she isn’t looking too happy about it. She offers chives and bacon on the garlic mash and I feel I can’t really deny her the pleasure at this point so I say “That be great!” She brings some lemon water and I feel a Percocet may be in order. People are a little too involved in looking away to notice. No need to hide. No worries friendo. Bring on the steakhouse patty.

The fat guy at the Burger King. The one with the shiny ASST. MANAGER tag. The one staring down Esther’s hoodie, taking proverbial pictures, forgetting the bacon on my 6$ hamburger. This place deserves me mentioning the one black person I’ve seen around here was wobbling through the parking lot when we pulled in. The Five Points. Biddeford is where they’ve hidden the Wal-Mart and Target from the seafaring folk. They are also hiding the brand new Tim Horton in the Shaw’s parking lot. We stormed in all “Oh Gosh” and “Timmy Ho’s”, demanding sour cream glazes and Double-Doubles. They didn’t get it. They informed us it would be opening on Monday and kindly asked us to leave. We made up for all that by having an ironic make out to the smooth sounds of Just my Imagination on the All ’71 Rock Ride in the Burger King lot. I picked up more liquor at the Liquor Superstore.

Kennebunk Port is silk-screened paper bags and glasswear boutiques, a pharmacy doubling as a heritage site, hybrids and Volvos, mural plates and herbal tea—everywhere. The beach is stupid eager political correctness and hardtimes for pill popping. I loaded up in the car and headed over and am tearful with portside glee and something better to stare at for a while. Really nice knick-knacks and doodads and Limoges gravy boats with little lobsters on the side. Also coffee mugs made out of giant snails, which is a creepy guilty pleasure, like little people wrestling in Don Perignon and Jell-O.

“Ask about the Daytrip Society” someone told me. I was sitting on a bench with a clam roll, an hour or so after driving into town. There was tartar sauce slowly dripping onto my WESC khakis. I believe I was what is commonly referred to as K-Holed. If I had been white, I might have been spat on. The scooter-police, little guys in Glock-strapped shorts, baby-yella polo shirts, just waved and smiled, though the tartar drip gave me away. People just smiled at me, and introduced themselves. They introduced their children, and their mothers and told me, flat out, I’d LOVE the Daytrip Society. They just wanted to talk to the nice quiet brown man. It occurs to me I might be imagining this. So I said “A-OK” and made my way over. I remember Bueller ­à la Vindaloo and his gal friend were around. They were leaving the Society with this far out, porcelain paper cup—a paper cup design made out of porcelain. “This Is Not A Paper Cut”—that’s what was written on it. And I kept thinking oh, oh man. I stopped in the middle of the road and “Woah. I need that” came out of my mouth. And they kind of giggled and toasted me as they walked around me. I asked the lady in DS for a Not Paper Cup. A Not Paper Cup, a “This Is Not A Paper Cup.” We laughed. Unfortunately Slightly Brown Guy and his gal friend had purchased the last one and I left kind of pissed. I spent the next hour buying stuff at the Federal Jack’s gift shop. Scrabble, a captains hat and a lobster shaped beanbag, etc. I got lost on my way home and stopped for organic ice cream on route 9. It melted green all over the car.

Sitting in Kport today, holding breakables as she ran into the drug store for something, it occurred to me I was shaking a little, feeling hungry. I was eating pistachios. An old man kept looking at me and finally I said “Hello” cause that’s what I’ve come to understand you do here and the old man just smiled and pointed to the corner. I ate some more pistachios and sighed a bit. He kept pointing and I gave him a “What” and he sat down next to me. He just pointed some more and said “George Jr., DUI.” And I said “Huh?” And he said “Dubbya, DUI, ’76.” I said “Hell’s Ya?” I shook some pistachios in his hand and he nodded an Affirmative. And we just sat and shook for a while. Experiences with the locals are typically the same.

Old Orchard Beach is Poutine Supremes and Russian carnie kids on drug exchange from Saint-Petersburg. I am told last year was skinheads from Poland, and Esther’s sudden reasonable urge to kick them. I convince Cindy and her to get on the matterhorn and I’m not too sorry. It turns out it doesn’t have any locking mechanisms, just flapping bars you have to hold down. We swirl around to the universal thumbs-up from the sweet Russian teens. The mother looks on, looks away, looks for a corner to quietly vomit in, if need be. I laugh Esther laughs, Cindy clenches her prize toy clam and whimpers and laughs. After we get off I win a fluorescent plush lobster for Esther, but leave it by a tartar sauce pump at a clam shack. I manage to drag her into the haunted house her childhood has made the bane of her existence. The thing is kitschy as all hell and delightful child shrieks throughout and she’s as cute as a button clawing at my arm, squealing. I feel useful and not too thirsty and that leaves me peaceful by the time kids are using bumper cars as their metaphorical ploy for the destruction of my youthful love. Esther just bumps around in a corner and I try not to laugh too hard. Old Orchard Beach is bedazzled sunglasses and my mopy, beat, blue-haired fox. Life is cute and novel. I drink two pints. She massages my neck most of the misty way home and won’t stop changing the radio station. I drink three highballs after she goes to sleep and watch Seinfeld for two hours. The Summer of George taints my dreams like a pre-slumber cheeseburger.

I’ve packed a Paddington Bear style bag of pills, Schlitz and marmalade sandwiches, as well as an entertainment hodgepodge of old movies and Jeeves and Wooster episodes. I have set sail—I have sought the St-Elmo’s Fire of my smithy. What would be the manically depressed Bueller of St-Elmo told me I should watch a little less Charlie Brown and a little more Seinfeld, or better yet, his, my smithy’s, words, “the soothing tea club complex” of New England PBS—say Right Oh Jeeves and take a hint from the help. A local summer millionaire, a rather domestic legacy, told me to stick to the sea, more or less north of Timber Island, keep an eye out for whales and stop hoarding the Percocets. So I did and so I shall. Thank you kindly, Mr. Walker.

Then again, I am running a little low. Eight hours has shrunken my resources. I’ve taken to the starboard side, for puking, when needed. I am rationing, feet deep in the blue sea as I sit over the back edge, sound and heavy, graduating to the smooth sounds of codeine cough syrup and vegetarian sea monsters. I myself am hell, I will not scare, ye saltwater fiend.

Saturday night, at Shaw’s. It’s late as shit and we’re just wandering round Shaw’s, me with a bottle of Maalox, she just scratching her arm, doing her thing, complaining about latex, when all the sudden there’s this kid, this like 9ish girl. She’s standing at the top of what feels like aisle 5, slowly raising faithful arms to a Fresca sale display when she suddenly turns and just stops what she’s doing arms still in the air and goes “WO! Your hair. My head. Now.” She then proceeds to run down aisle 4. I have a swig of Maalox. Esther keeps telling me about her latex allergy issue.

We make it to the condom display in the corner by the health food and she starts looking for polyurethane. And then for “non-rubbery-plasticky” urethane. Like non Ziplocky. And then, to Esther’s want, I look for extra thin polyurethane, which doesn’t exist, which really peeves her. That kid is still running around in the background. Esther makes up her mind. We leave empty handed.

Later in bed, I read in the paper that David Foster Wallace hung himself.

The little plastic bottles are all empty. I’ve switched to Gin and Schlitz, which is not as good as I had assumed it would be, but it’ll do. The night is high tide apocalypse in to the lowlight flicker of Emilio Estevez wigging out. On drugs. I have never wanted to be Emilio so bad. Breakfast goes down harder in the lonesome night. Tomato soup has come along with some saltines and the brave spoon shakes a little more than I am willing to describe on its way to my mouth. Molly Ringwald became such a loser after this. To think of The Breakfast Club as a life’s masterpiece is so sad. I will now argue that John Hughes invented the Teen Movie and is presently drowning in Montauk. I imagine him bobbing along with the gulfstream, here by daybreak, a dead, not so youthful Ariel gleaming fish-nibbled irises beneath my dry-heave gaze. We’ll have a little eye contact. It’ll be pretty cute. And I’ll fall in and give him a hug and we’ll go drink and laugh at a bar in Atlantis and everything will be everafter good times and salted beer. Everything will be A-OK.

School starts in three days.

I had a dream. I had a dream we were trying to fuck. And her family was in the other half of the room, Cindy watching Seinfeld, others sleeping. And her ex-boyfriend, whom I’ve never met, was sleeping in a LayZboy I’d made up for him. And we were trying to fuck at her insistence, despite the Brillo pad between her legs. We were disturbed by my substance abusing friends of yore knocking at the door. And she insisted we answer and climb up to the roof. And she pushed one of them off the roof. Laughing. And I kept wanting it to rain, sticking my tongue out for rain. That never came. And she insisted we climb up to the other, higher roof. And try to fuck. All I wanted was a little rain.

I was all shaky again when I woke up. I headed out to the shore before anyone else woke. Watched Diff’rent Strokes, the white face episode, and walked down to the beach with some left over fruit salad that came back up again. There was this low tide quiescence in it that left me wandering towards what I assume is that Timber Island Esther mentioned. I was alone, smacking the air with a few blood-red rosehips I’d tripped on and cussed at and picked up. I remember how dark it was. How I still felt a little sick, even after the sour-creamed salad. Hungry like a teenage panic attack that wouldn’t actually happen, just lingered. Smacking the air with the rosehips, wandering. So many snails covering the rocky island. Lying on the snailed rocks. Trying not to kill any. Trying to still myself, and listen for the tide I would not hear coming in. Chattering teeth. Closing my eyes.

The mist is kind of nice. Like a wailing, monotone vacuum.

The sun rises and hunger is welcome. I head back like Mr. Walker said, wading slowly around timber island. A lone haggard party—the slumped sloop, as dull as ultracane. The shore is kind of nice from this far out, all the Nantucketty little cottages and the beachfront Estate houses hiding them here and there. Retrievers are running on the beach with L.L. Bean models, possibly p.34 of the fall of ’85. I breathe it all in a little; imagine the state pride, coon cats, singing beneath the boat, my own little smithy’s chorus. I stare out. And I see him, the bluehaired girl’s boyfriend. He’s lying in a rising pool by the island, half-disappearing beneath the waves. A huge snail looks like it’s trying to eat his face and I nearly sloop him over I’m so surprised. He stares at me, eyes as cold as the deep blue wasting him, Bueller the Untouchable looking at me like help is a bad idea. He gives what I can only assume is a sigh, ambivalently heaving his arm and purplish hand out of the water, towards me. I pull him in. And he just lies there, staring, and I look at him, shaking. I pull the snail off his face. He looks it over and tells me its “a moon snail” and I say “OK.”

I get us moving again, I look into the dry wind, towards the shore. He asks if we can kind of wade around for a while, before heading back in. I tell him that’s “A-OK,” that that’s what I was doing anyway. He says “Thank you.” And we take it a little farther out.

by Dan Svatek

show details 16:31 (5 minutes ago)

those HUMPS over at Pigeon International Contemporary Dance Company beat me to the punch in getting out a show that pays homage to the discovery of a sea route to India by Portuguese mariners and to the creation of the “first global village.” How many times is this going to happen to me?

- Show quoted text -


for real?

what else?

- Show quoted text -

On 4 March 2010 16:12, Ronald wrote:
o me

Oh, I don't know, alone in the office, feeling expansive, certain I am surveilled. You?








Originally from Shawnigan Lake, on Vancouver Island, Neah Bahji Kelly currently lives in Montreal, where she is studying Fine Arts at Concordia University. Gesture paintings use acrylic paint and measure 3'X3'. Knitted Gestures (also known as the 'baby gestures') are 1'X1' and are made up of various fibres: synthetic and wool mixes.





I first started to paint towards the end of my first year in college. I had a required painting class in the second semester of that year and that was when I started to develop a greater interest in painting. Before that I wasn’t too interested. My dad is a painter and I think because of that, I just never wanted to try it, it didn’t seem mysterious enough.

I think I am pretty influenced by minimalism and colour field painting. I also think that because of the way I work with paint, which is in a lot of layers with very thinned down paint, I have a strong relationship with people like Helen Frakenthaler and Morris Louis. I have definitely looked at these painters a lot.


This series is based on an article I read; at least this is where the idea began. I read an article by Zacharias Kunuk in which he talked about his filmmaking process. He talked about authenticity and something he termed “the significant gesture”. To Kunuk the significant gesture referred to the moment he captured on film of his actors portraying their parts in a very authentic way. Kunuk, in a lot of his films would have his actors improvise their parts which might give a better idea of the authenticity he was after. I heard this phrase and it captured my imagination. I wondered what it would look like in visual terms. Right away I saw it and felt it as something immediate, a gesture, a reaction, something with presence, something with a strong formal and compositional significance. I saw it as something that would dominate the compositional space in which it was situated. So with these ideas in mind I started practicing my gestures.

The style of them and the colours just sort of came about organically. I tried different tools and learned how to go about making the gestures so that they had presence, movement, interest, were resolved formally. I always saw them as one colour, the gesture, done in thick paint laid over top a surface done on raw canvas in washes. I don’t know exactly why, I just saw them that way. The colours were intuitive. I just start with one colour then my imagination leads me into another colour. Its always relational, even between the individual works in them selves, the colours are relational. I didn’t want them to be necessarily harmonious; I was interested more in fringe colours that would relate in unexpected unanticipated ways.




Most things in art are mysterious and ideas come from who knows where. The best answer I have is that I am knitter so it is a language that is familiar to me, so perhaps it was a natural next step in expression. The best part about it is that knitting and cross-stitch could be considered a thousand little gestures. So it starts with copying one gesture, which is all about immediacy and reaction, with a gesture painting made up of a hundred tiny gestures, which is the opposite of a reaction though still authentic. These knitted paintings end up talking about authenticity in a different way, in terms of commitment and a level of discipline. I really enjoy the irony of it all. When it occurred to me to make knitted copies of the significant gesture paintings my immediate reaction was to laugh, and it is funny, it’s a funny way to think about them.


I think my mom taught me to knit. Although my mom isn’t sure because years later I taught her how to knit. I was really sick and had a bad fever and couldn’t read or watch TV, so to pass the time my mom showed me the basic knit stitch and I think I knitted that thing for years, until I was a teenager. And then I learned how to knit a scarf.


Right now I am in the middle of the reversible knitting book where there are a bunch of patters where everything is reversible, there is no wrong side just two different right sides and sometimes two same right sides. It’s also this amazing stitch dictionary that has all these crazy lace stitch patterns where you can make folded fabric which allows for the fabric to become almost 3 dimensional. It’s a pretty exciting knitting book.


Someone I’m always looking at is Eva Hesse. She was a sculptor and used materials like resin and string, and other industrial materials. She also made weird drawings that were very sculptural; they were more like reliefs than drawings. I am always interested in her because she was and is super imaginative, what she did with materials, the way she would just make them do whatever she envisioned is exciting. She just seemed to be detached from any discourse that was going on around her and created what she needed to create. She still seems ahead of her time.

by Michelle Marie Santiago

That wasn't chicken.


Michelle Marie Santiago is a top-notch classical pianist. In her spare time she knits her cat, Max, sweaters he can be coaxed into wearing and also makes elephant Play-Doh Star Trek dioramas. I know, right? She is so cool.