Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category


Posted: November 22, 2017 in Education, Humanity, Literature

A whole year since my last post… I guess I wasn’t bothered by much in the way of education. However, a recent situation has come to light. I am currently in the middle of Orwell’s 1984 and I am trying to teach my students that our culture is not THAT far off from what Winston is experiencing. It’s scary. For example, we live in a society where we are constantly surveilled what with the rise of technology and every Tom, Dick, and Harry whipping out their phones to capture the slightest odd behaviour to post or send to their friends. Now, we are experiencing a hush culture (I came up with that myself) where if the opinion you’re sharing is even slightly uncomfortable or unpopular, you are quickly silenced. Winston Smith (protagonist in 1984) would be shaking his head.

Lindsay Shepherd, a TA at Wilfrid Laurier University (my Alma Mater) recently came under fire from Administration for sharing a clip from Jordan Peterson (Psychology Professor at the University of Toronto) when he appeared on the show ‘The Agenda’. Peterson has been outspoken about his refusal to use gender-neutral pronouns in reference to transgendered people. He claims that these gender-neutral terms only help to perpetuate the over-sensitivity of our culture. Shepherd showed this clip to her students to illustrate “the complexities of grammar…she was trying to demonstrate that the structure of language can impact the society in which its spoken in ways people might not anticipate. To illustrate her point, she said she mentioned that long-standing views on gender had likely been shaped by the gender-specific pronouns that are part of English’s fundamental grammatical structure.” (The Toronto Star, Nov. 21, 2017).

Shepherd was reprimanded by Nathan Rambukkana (Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Laurier) and Adria Joel (Acting Manager of Gender Violence Prevention at Laurier). Rambukkana tells Shepherd that showing the clip to her students created a “toxic climate” and an “unsafe learning environment”. Joel accuses Shepherd of violating the Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy. When Shepherd asks how, Joel tells her that she has caused harm by belittling the identity of transgendered people. This meeting with Rambukkana and Joel was recorded secretly by Shepherd who immediately shared it. The President of WLU and Rambukkana have recently issued apologies to Shepherd, admitting that the sharing of the video, as well as her intent was of no harm to any peoples.

My worry is the impact of this hush culture on our young adults and future leaders. Shepherd’s situation is similar to Winston’s experience in 1984 because of his inability to speak openly without getting in serious trouble (and possibly killed). This stifling of freedom of speech (which is much different than hate speech) is an on-going trend across Universities. For example, last August (2017), the same Jordan Peterson (as well as Gad Saad and Oren Amitay – behavioural scientist and psychologist, respectively) was to appear on a panel discussion at Ryerson University and this panel was effectively cancelled. Not only was the nature of their talk a concern, but also the possible outcry from protestors. It was simply easier to cancel the event.

“University” is a term with Latin roots meaning “community of teachers and scholars”. Traditionally, a University was established for a means of unhindered academic freedom; a place to share educated ideas respectfully, be heard openly, and debate freely. Contemporarily, it seems, Universities have become factories to get students in (even by lowering their entry standards) and spit students out (by leaving them with crippling debt). The aforementioned would be fine, perhaps, if the acquisition of knowledge and great debate were still held in high regard.

Syme, in 1984, is in favour of the government turning the people into robots – citizens who only speak in prescribed statements with no original thought of their own. Perhaps we are closer to this than we think.


Book Launch

Posted: November 18, 2014 in Literature

AD copy

I will be hosting a book launch for my short novel, Nostalgia.

My good friends, Ken Turner and Glen Hammond, will also be launching their collection of short stories.

If you’re in the area, come on out for coffee and enjoy some live readings and live music!

Ken Turner – Old Habits and Other Stories
Glen Hammond – A Little Piece of Eternity
(Both available on Amazon)

Foul Language

Posted: November 4, 2014 in Education, Literature


I can’t wrap my head around literature that is banned in schools, but that’s just me. I mean, there is a line somewhere, but if you examine the list of commonly banned novels, the list is quite silly. For instance, The Great GatsbyThe Catcher in the Rye1984Lord of the Flies, and Of Mice and Men constantly find themselves in the top 10. Is it the love story of The Great Gatsby that upsets people? The violence in Lord of the Flies? The unceasing use of the n-word in Of Mice and Men? Surely we can all agree that Fifty Shades of Grey can be left off the curriculum…

When I read Lord of the Flies with my class (grade 10’s) – or have them read – we can make it through the majority of the novel without a hiccup. Unfortunately, Golding uses chapter 11 as a way of giving his reader unnecessary insight into the character of ‘Piggy.’ When Piggy is arguing with boys from a different tribe, he is trying to convince them that it’s better to be civil than uncivil if they want to survive and be rescued from their deserted island. He asks: “Which is better – to be a pack of painted niggers like you are or to be sensible like Ralph is?” (Golding, 199). Yikes. I always read through those lines with ease (always feeling internally uncomfortable), but students will always hesitate reading the word. Golding throws us a curve ball – it took us 11 of 12 chapters to realize that Piggy’s a racist? What I tell my students is that it signals Piggy’s downfall from a once-intelligent being to a marginalized and mentally-weak child. His racism comes through with his frustrations with the rest of the boys. The foul language here serves a purpose – though, arguably unnecessary.

The blatant racism in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men serves an obvious purpose too – it’s simply a commentary on the time period (1930’s). It doesn’t make the language any less uncomfortable, but Steinbeck is presenting a very real depiction of life during this time. I will go ahead and assume that Steinbeck wasn’t willing to hold back on the racism simply to ensure that his novel would be read with high levels of comfort… In fact, Curley’s wife threatens Crooks (only Black character in the novel) that she could have him “strung on a tree so easy…” It’s supposed to make the reader uneasy.

Sheltering these students from these words doesn’t help them, it hinders their understanding. Instead of teaching these students how the language conveys meaning, we simply allow them to miss out on the classic entirely – that’s a shame. Perhaps the worry is that students become desensitized to the language, but I’ll tell you from experience, reading Jim be referred to as “nigger Jim” throughout the majority of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn isn’t any less uncomfortable in the end than it is in the beginning…take my word for it.

Re-Release of “Nostalgia”

Posted: October 22, 2014 in Literature


I have re-released a copy of my short novel, Nostalgia.

It is available on Amazon for only $9.99CLICK HERE

The Fall of Icarus

Posted: October 15, 2014 in Literature

New Cover

In 2015, I will be releasing a collection of short stories.
I have always been intrigued by the myth of Icarus – the boy who flew too close to the sun with wings of feathers and wax.

Are we all destined to fall?
We have been given a life and we are in way over our heads.

When now the boy, whose childish thoughts aspire,
To loftier aims, and make him ramble higher,
Grown wild and wanton, more embolden’d flies
Far from his guide, and soars among the skies.
The soft’ning wax, that felt a nearer sun,
Dissolv’d apace, and soon began to run.
The youth in vain his melting pinions shakes,
His feathers gone, no longer air he takes:
Oh! Father, Father, as he strove to cry,
Down to the sea he tumbled from on high,
And found his fate; yet still subsists by fame,
Among those waters that retain his name.

– The story of Icarus (Ovid’s Metamorphoses)

Poetry: The Lost Art

Posted: March 14, 2014 in Humanity, Literature

I was at the staffroom lunch table on my prep trying to type out a poem – some ideas came to mind and I never pass on an opportunity to get some ideas out. Some colleagues soon joined me when I remarked that typing a poem on my computer at a lunch table in a staffroom seemed…odd. It wasn’t in a candle-lit room, with a feather-pen, and paper (one vision) or with a journal, a pencil, and sitting up against a tree out in nature (other vision). Who says I can’t be at a lunch table? That’s just it though, isn’t it? This is where poetry has arrived. Really? Ew. In all honesty, I don’t think poetry has to be written/typed in one room or another…but, poetry has changed.

When I teach poetry to my students, they always ask why it’s not popular anymore. My response: Poetry used to be a form of rebellion – it was a way to voice an opinion regarding social issues like politics or religion, or it was a way to communicate one’s thoughts regarding love, death, and all of those other themes of life. So, why use poetry anymore when we can tweet, update our status’ minute-by-minute, blog, or even create a personal website? Where does poetry fit in the many mediums available to us now?

Poetry is meant to be felt and blah blah blah, but I teach poetry very methodically; not on a scale like Robin Williams pokes fun at in Dead Poet’s Society, just…methodically. I teach students how to locate literary techniques and how locating them can help in understanding the poem. We also examine the poet, the title, and the time period to see if those can lead us to a better understanding of the content. They do, in most cases.

Joshua Block, author of the blog post (Re)Creating Poets, says that one of the ways to engage students with poetry is to encourage students to read poems aloud and respond creatively. I wholeheartedly agree, yet this can be difficult when some students simply want to be told the meaning of the poem and are unwilling to take the time to figure it out on their own.  I do, however, ask them to bring in poetry of their own choosing (self-authored or other), which may also include song lyrics. In some cases, students can explain why they’ve selected the piece, while others cannot get past “I just like it.” Are we becoming lazy (as I’ve suggested in a previous post) or is it that poetry is simply unappealing because we all have a voice?

At the very least, teaching poetry challenges students to think in a different way and connect in a way that only poetry and art can inspire.

Poetry is not turning a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have a personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.  – T.S. Eliot (playwright/publisher/literary critic)

Portrait of a Dead Girl – by Dmitri Lee

There’s lots in the eyes that are looking,
There’s much in the heart of the mind.
But if ever the eyes stop looking,
She’d ne’er be a lover of mine.

A face that is now made of canvas,
And lips that no longer taste wine.
My chances, my chances, my chances,
Are off on the clouds floating by.

A frame that is detached, dull, and dead,
I shake with fright and desire.
With Romeo’s soul I am lead,
And down on this world wreck’d of fire.

She watches until I descend there,
And back in a moment or two.
To fight ‘gainst the demons that dwell there,
Then garnish her darkening hue.

But all love’s lost when love starts to peel,
Through this I’m entirely sure.
I will descend, back on my heels,
Then hung on the wall next to her.

Why Teach Shakespeare?

Posted: February 25, 2014 in Education, Literature


Most English literature teachers will tell you they like Shakespeare…the honest ones will tell you they love Shakespeare…and the ones trying to be unconventional and hip will tell you he’s overrated. Pfft. I love him…well…his work.

As far as I’m concerned, Shakespeare is to English literature as keys are to a car – one is used to drive the other (pun intended). The first and, perhaps, most obvious reason as to why Shakespeare is taught in schools (still) is because of his themes. His themes consist of: love, lust, hatred, greed, power, trickery/disguise, happiness, death, loyalty, friendship, marriage, justice, murder, suffering, and companionship – all of which are still prevalent in our world today and will continue to be themes present in our world tomorrow and for centuries more. There is the argument, however, that newer and more contemporary playwrights are not only easier to understand, but tackle those same themes in a more contemporary way. True. However, if you’re an avid reader of my posts, you’ll know my feeling on this…contemporary doesn’t equate to better. With that being said, the students at my school do read Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman…so…that’s good.

Reason #2: Like I said, one cannot study English literature (or the English language for that matter) without studying Shakespeare. He was one of the biggest influences on the English language. He experimented with blank verse, created new words and phrases still used today, and is even responsible for helping to standardize the English language.

By the 1590’s, blank verse had caught on with some of the best new writers in London…The words and sounds coming from the stage were new and thrilling to Shakespeare’s audience. England was falling in love with its own language…The grammar books and dictionaries that finally fixed the “rules” of English did not appear until after Shakespeare’s death…Politically, the country also grew in power and pride. (Hamlet. Barron’s Educational Series, 2002. 11-12).

Reason #3: Northrop Frye states in his work, The Educated Imagination, that the best works in English literature have already been created – Frye states this in reference to Shakespeare. In other words, someone may come along and write a play as good as King Lear, but never better. If that’s the case, there’s no sense in wasting time…if we have the best, then study the best.

Ever used these phrases? 1. A sorry sight, 2. Come what may, 3. Good riddance, 4. Send him packing (ladies?), 5. In a pickle, 6. Love is blind, 7. Wear your heart on your sleeve, 8. Seen better days, 9. In stitches, 10. Didn’t sleep a wink. Well, you can thank Shakespeare for those. Hey, ever told a knock knock joke? You can thank him for that too.