Jogging with the Great Ray Charles

Jogging with the Great Ray Charles

by Kenneth Sherman


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Jogging with the Great Ray Charles by Kenneth Sherman

A poetic masterclass from a writer at the height of his craft

Kenneth Sherman’s work has always displayed a vibrant lyricism, so it’s no surprise that his powerful new collection contains a number of poems with musical motifs. In such pieces as “Clarinet,” “Transistor Sister,” and the book’s titular poem, Sherman ponders our human transience while searching for “a voice to stand time’s test.” Sherman also confronts health concerns in a language that is Shaker-plain. The book concludes with the sombre, compassionate, and truly remarkable seven-part “Kingdom,” a meditation on the plight of the dispossessed.

In a Globe and Mail review of The Well: New and Selected Poems, Fraser Sutherland notes, “Sherman always seems to be listening to the voice of Canadian soil and landscape at the same time as he is attentive to the great European metaphysical theme of the soul in conflict with the world and time.” So it is with Jogging with the Great Ray Charles. Sherman has also included three brilliant translations of Yiddish poets that appeared in the Malahat Review’s “At Home in Translation” issue.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781770413443
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication date: 10/11/2016
Pages: 88
Sales rank: 1,288,122
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Kenneth Sherman has published ten books of poetry, including the highly acclaimed long poems Words for Elephant Man and Black River. He has published two collections of essays, Void and Voice and the award-winning What the Furies Bring. His most recent publication is the memoir Wait Time. He lives in Toronto, Ontario, where he conducts poetry-writing workshops.

Read an Excerpt


Vanishing Ink

A phone text is not a letter.

An email does not possess

the density of paper.

Hitting “delete”

is not to crumple or tear.

To hold in the hand

an indictment or a love letter

is heavier than peering

through glass. Electricity

is fast but some things

need to linger, to get lost

in the soul’s attic

and be rediscovered.


It’s a crime

to sit by a pool

while the sun is shining

and your friends

are talking

and you’re off in the corner,

pen in hand,

groping for words.

It’s slightly inhuman

to record rather than


to act the sieve

collecting each day’s


and passing time

retrospectively —

saying not what you mean

but what you meant.

The Beach, Today, Is Closed

This Portuguese man-of-war

did not wish

to be washed ashore,

but lacking means

to control its direction

found itself wedged

between sea and sand.

Its only hope

is the one Great Wave

whose arrival’s


So it waits

and seethes in the sun,

a blue translucent sphere

gathering venom.


A cruise ship

sailing into the blue.

Toodle-oo. We don’t

say that anymore.

It’s an expression

from another age

when people rhymed themselves

to sleep and dreamed

in metaphor.

When blue meant more.

De la Cruz Gallery, Miami

Next to the objects

found in this

installation — the segmented

plumber’s pipes and dented

paint cans, the twisted

tortured bicycle wheels

suggesting life is random



more than material —

there’s a large Peter Doig

painting titled “Rainbow

Ferris Wheel.” The many-hued

wheel is intact and rendered

with precision

offering a seat for the human

and an alternate view.


It’s good to watch him work

in white shirt, black

pants, mixing the

spirits, slicing lemons,

limes, shaking a tumbler

close to the ear as though

listening to a whisper.

What hasn’t he heard

from the lips of the frustrated,

the forlorn, the obsessed? His

is not to pass judgement

but to pour colours —

burgundy, emerald, amber —

and to stop only

if one stumbles

or slurs.

Obuse, Japan

This is the town

where Hokusai lived

in old age. Everyone recognizes

his “Great Wave”

which, in my book,

is no longer a cliché

but the Nothing

you can drown in.

Legend has it

he would kneel before

this Shinto altar

with the little mirror,


and charred sticks.

Not much to pray to.




So the boat sets out

the contractors flee

the storm comes on

and thirty-three men, women

and children risking freedom

go under. I can hear their death chatter.

Voices, what do you say

of the low metallic clouds, the whiplash

wind, the unforgiving turbulence

that refused to cough you up?

Can you describe your new kingdom?


I unlace my shoes.

I strap on sandals

and walk along a beach

that appears endless

under a sun that does not quit.

It is so easy in the tropics:

palm trees indifferent

surf hypnotic

shore breeze a soft eraser.

Only geckoes

darting between stones and flora

seem to sense danger.

Little creatures, what do you hear

aside from hip hop at the hotel

aside from poolside splashes

and laughter?

Can you hear the lost ones

whispering over sonar?


After thirty seconds

the brain signs off

the heart slams shut

the blood congregates in pools.

The drowned float on the surface

like limp marionettes.

Their skin turns to grave wax

pecked at by small fish.

Their rags bulge with sea slugs —

slimed, curious.

They welter in the parching wind.

Beneath the whirring propellers

of heaven they are anonymous specks,

a radioed position

then a bloating weight

for the winch ropes and pulleys

that haul them up —

a mechanized ascension —


unclaimed on land.


In this place

birds bear no malice

not even when they’re scooping fish

or pecking shells for flesh.

Waiters named after angels —

Michael, Gabriel —

dress in white

and black.

Sun drifts off to late sunset

and sky reddens like a stage set

over distant, opalescent islands.

Here there are no

charred prayers

or stained petitions

as darkness descends

and voices soften.


rise to lips.

Gin’s drowsy kiss.


In their country

sand glints like steel

or diamonds

stretching the long length

of the horizon.

In their country

a woman once told an elephant

to stand still,

which is why their trees

stay motionless.

Fed by myth,

nourished by earth’s

turbulent decay,

they remain rooted.

But the people flee




The proprietors have clouded my mirror.

They have dimmed the light

in the elevator.

They have made my martini dirty.

To be drunk is to be intimate with a man

practised in the art of forgetting.

Soon it will be a question

of only remembering

how to put my one foot

in front of

the other

of finding

the right



Their journey is harder.

Dead but still vulnerable,

they sail by islands

that remain untouchable.

They must weather our breaking currents

careful not to sink

through piles of yellowing newspapers

careful not to pass too quickly

from our pulsing


They must find a way

to rise above the daily clamour

and have their voices heard

then they must learn to forgive us

our coldness,

our fleeting


Table of Contents

Clarinet ~ 1
Transistor Radio ~ 1
Jogging with the Great Ray Charles ~ 1
Contra Language ~ 1
Berlioz ~ 1
Heart ~ 1
Awaiting Biopsy Results ~ 1
A Dream of Leaving the Toronto
General ~ 1
Venus Occluded ~ 1
Predictable ~ 1
Umbrella ~ 1
You ~ 1
Western ~ 1
North ~ 1
To My Brother ~ 1
How to Prevent Your Own
Conception ~ 1
The Collector ~ 1
Revision ~ 1
On First Reading Hamlet ~ 1
The Tailor ~ 1
The Home ~ 1
At the Glendale Theatre, 1957 ~ 1
Layton ~ 1
Little Grandmother ~ 1
The War ~ 1
Salvaged Pages ~ 1
A Contemporary ~ 1
Photograph of a Talmudist ~ 1
Our Home ~ 1
My Friend Is Dying ~ 1
Four Questions ~ 1
No Tracks ~ 1
Cherry Tomatoes ~ 1
Snail ~ 1
Fishing ~ 1
Clouds ~ 1
Northern Lake ~ 1
The Marina ~ 1
Dusty ~ 1
Wringer-Washer ~ 1
Penhale’s Schooner ~ 1
The Seville ~ 1
Colón, Panama ~ 1
Seashells ~ 1
The Value of Repetition ~ 1
Gingko ~ 1
Buddha’s Parasol ~ 1
Contra Absolutes ~ 1
Hearing Your Favourite Poet ~ 1
Wise Cracks ~ 1
Vanishing Ink ~ 1
Scribe ~ 1
The Beach, Today, Is Closed ~ 1
Toodle-oo ~ 1
De la Cruz Gallery, Miami ~ 1
Bartender ~ 1
Obuse, Japan ~ 1
Kingdom ~ 1
Acknowledgements ~ 1

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