Poetry News

Trading Poems for Booze

By Harriet Staff

According to this article from the Times Colonist, Canadian poet and editor of Arc magazine Shane Rhodes has been writing product placements for alcohol companies into his poems. And it's paying off. In booze, at least.

Not all writers are drinkers. But a lot were — and are.

Take Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald. Or Raymond Carver and John Cheever. Take the last words of dipsomaniacal poet Dylan Thomas, which allegedly were: "I've had 18 straight whiskies . . . I think that's the record."

Rather than ignore literature's booze-soaked past, Ottawa poet Shane Rhodes has embraced it. Rhodes, who will read at Hillside Avenue's Moka House on Friday, has created Canadian literary history by exchanging dedications in his latest poetry collection, Err, for booze.

'Tis a stroke of genius. Finally . . . poetry pays!

For example, his poem Cocktails: In the Beginning is dedicated to Victoria Spirits Gin. Aficionados recognize this as the boutique Saanich distillery. In recognition of the honour, Valerie Murray, one of the owners of Victoria Spirits Gin, will present him a bottle of the good stuff at Moka House.

Murray says she was impressed when she read Rhodes's email soliciting the sponsorship.

"I thought it was fun," she said. "And I thought this is what people have to do to survive in the arts."

Wow. Gin for poems. No doubt fellow scribes reading this are crying out in joy.

Cocktails: In the Beginning is a fine, rollicking poem replete with bold and bawdy imagery — but then, Err is overflowing with such gems. Here's a fragment: "I friggin' tell you she, my madam, was half-baked on jacky, crank, jiggin' Strip me naked, stark naked beggin' for a gingery cougue of Mother's Ruin . . . "

Victoria Spirits isn't the only Canadian company sponsoring Rhodes. He's also enlisted Steam Whistle Brewery (Toronto), Beau's Brewery (Vankleek Hill, Ont.) and his favourite Ottawa watering hole, The Manx, also has a dedication.

Rhodes got some of his free booze in the mail: rum and vodka. At the official launch for Err in Toronto, Steam Whistle trucked over eight cases of beer. Not surprisingly, fellow scribes viewed that as manna from heaven.

Originally Published: October 17th, 2011