Recent Puritan author Marcus McCann discusses his poem “Cover Letter” from Issue XX: Winter 2013.

The Hard ReturnOkay, so the poem is a bit of a joke, right? The Chuck Norris meme, the dig about auto-correct,  the self-conscious hyperbole. If it works for you, it works. If it doesn’t, well, I understand that, too. If I stumbled across “Cover Letter” in The Puritan, I might think I was a bit of an asshole, too.

It wrote it in part because a lot of poems in my second book, The Hard Return (Insomniac Press, 2012), are kind of sad sack, and so I wanted some lighter fare to perform at readings. Not that “Cover Letter” is cheery, but there is certainly a lot of grim humour in it. I wrote it specifically to perform. This is probably a very obvious point, but it’s meant to be read aloud. How does that tinge its composition? Well, in a few ways.

Firstly, the grammar is less knotted than some of my other work. This is a necessary evil when writing poems to be read aloud if the literal sense of the words matters.

Secondly, I amped up the bumpy, percussive noises. This makes it more fun to read, although such sounds sometimes present problems with sensitive mics.

Dave McGimpsey is not actually looking at you.

Dave McGimpsey is not actually looking at you.

And thirdly—and this is a thing I always, always struggle with—I tried to adjust the pace of the poem, trying to find the sweet spot of oohs per minute, and putting the twist of the line, if there is one, right before a pause. It’s a tough thing to do, and I’d love to talk to the folks who do this really, really well (like Jeanette Lynes or David McGimpsey) about what their calculations look like.

In the meantime, here’s a three minute clip of me reading this poem out loud at the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

“Cover Letter” by Marcus McCann at The Manx Pub, Ottawa

Marcus McCann is a poet and journalist. He is the author of 
Soft Where (2009, Chaudiere Books) and The Hard Return (2012,Insomniac) and a number of chapbooks, including The Glass Jaw (2010, Bywords), Town in a Long Day of Leaving (2010,above/ground), and Force Quit (2008, The Emergency Response Unit). He is a winner of the John Newlove Award and the EJ Pratt Medal, and was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert and the Robert Kroetsch awards. He now lives in Toronto, where he studies law.

One Comment


I’ve got nothing to say except that some friends and I gathered around the computer and read “Cover Letter” together. It delighted us.


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