MD Dunn
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MD Dunn

Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2015

Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, Canada
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Folk Adult Contemporary


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"Sault Sites Help Inspire Dunn's Works"

Mark Dunn had a lot of help writing the poems in his new collection.

Sault Ste. Marie locales such as the former Sault Area Hospital site, Bellevue Park, boardwalk, even Canadian Tire partly inspired the nearly 60 poems in Even the Weapons, published by BuschekBooks. Dunn enjoys sitting by the St. Mary's River, talking with passersby and “see what kinds of gifts I might find along the way.” He carries a notebook, pen or pencil to record any thoughts that may help with his writing.

“Mostly it's walking around or being engaged somewhere,” said Dunn Wednesday. “I'll just get a line or two, or an image. That's the part I really enjoy. It's an active engagement with the world.”

That connection with his community is tied to his walking most months of the year, peaking in the summer when he's making his way along sidewalks 90 to 120 minutes daily.

Almost all his poems he writes begin “from a physical place I'm in.”

“It's almost like that place helps to build the poem in a way,” he said.

Even the Weapons is Dunn's third collection of poems, following Ghost Music (2010) and Fancy Clapping (2012).

The works in his new book were written over about 18 to 24 months starting in 2012. About 80% of Even the Weapons contents were “radically changed” and “stripped down a bit” from what he first sent to publishers for consideration. It's a process he typically follows as he hones his works.

“It's always good to overwrite,” said the professor of communications and general arts and science at Sault College. “Let yourself go. Just write big. I enjoy at least the removing things and then you can debate whether you have the exact words you want there.”

He calls the three books a continuing series, “a trilogy of growth,” from infancy to adult.

The links weren't planned. It wasn't until Dunn's first draft of Even the Weapons was done that he “sensed that there's some things that are repeating, but seen through different lens with much more years in-between the subject matter.”

Even the Weapons explores how humans “live in a mystery.”

“We don't know where it started, where it goes,” said Dunn. “We have religion and philosophies that help us fill in those gaps, but we really don't know.”

Instead, he added, humans “impose our own system of understanding, or our perspective, on the world. We think that the world, and the universe, functions in a way that we relate to us.”

His poem, Eventually, describes how “the living rings of distant giants are measured in human rhythms.”

“We humanize everything around us, personify it, or make into a form that we can recognize,” said Dunn.

The book's title is taken from the last two lines of Eventually: “Have patience. Even the weapons are tired of fighting.”

That poem first ended with “Eventually the weapons will fight themselves.” The “line of almost desperation” was written after Dunn became “quite depressed” hearing about war and violence on television news.

“We do a lot of things that are counterintuitive and destructive that work against the benefit of our species and the planet itself,” said Dunn.

Even the Weapons also showcases Dunn's development as a writer, specifically with his lengthiest effort, The Ages of. Written in three-line stanzas, or tercets, it's “pretty complex rhythmically.”

“I was able to do some things in this book that I wasn't able to in the previous books,” he said.

There's a long line of bird references in Even the Weapons. Crows, chickadees, woodpeckers and owls make appearances in more than a dozen poems including Boy in the Grass, January Thaw, Woodlot and Yesterday.

The cover photo, by Dunn's wife Maria Parrella Ilaria, features a crow landing on a wire.

Such a flurry of activity from the winged vertebrates is a coincidence, the author says.

“Birds are an interesting animal for a symbol because they, depending on the bird, can inhabit three different realms (water, air land),” said Dunn.

There's humour in Even the Weapons' pages too. Postscript tackles unwanted favours. X-Walk recounts a student proudly announcing she was driving her car and almost hit her professor crossing a street. The poem ends with the academic giving the student a lengthy assignment.

“Poems should have as many aspects of human experience as possible,” said Dunn. “Definitely humour is part of it all and important. You don't want to read something that's just so heavy all the time. It doesn't help anyone.”

Even with three books published, and other poems tucked aside for future consideration, he still wonders if he'll pen more works.

“You always figure that's it, that there's nothing else coming” laughed Dunn.

His book can be ordered online from and Amazon's Canadian and American sites. - Sault Star

"Ghost Music and Fancy Clapping"

Ghost Music - Mark D. Dunn, Fancy Clapping - Mark D. Dunn
Today's books of poetry are: Ghost Music. Mark D. Dunn. Buschek Books. Ottawa. 2010. and Fancy Clapping. Mark D. Dunn. Scriverner Press. Sudbury. 2012.

Ghost Music, Mark D. Dunn's first book is a wonderful discovery. Anyone who dedicates a poem to Gil Scott Heron is already stepping in the right direction for me, but if you can throw John Coltrane, Wendell Clarke and William Blake into the mix then I am yours.

Dunn delights the reader with poem after poem full of insight and humour. There may be traces of a dark undertow but Dunn is deft and daring so these poems are more of a celebration than a dirge.

Inflatable Jesus

The cross went up a century ago.
Dear old ladies and gents took coins
from children to make the cross
gaze neon, godly, from the clay hills over Bawating.

Now they pass the plate again
to build a rubber Jesus for that cross.
Put him up there, head lolling in the breeze.
On Ascension Day, they let him fly
two-stepping across rooftops
on his way to an American discovery.

A Michigan hunter bored with ducks
takes his shot just as the crown crests a pine ridge.
The hunter misses, and inflatable Jesus,
borne up by wind, moves
to Chicago through Midwest corn and wheat,
east to New York for Macy's parade.


It is easy enough to see that Dunn is well read and very funny, what sticks as an impression with these poems is Dunn's playful nature while being serious, his dead seriousness with humour. These are strong, strong poems.

In Fancy Clapping, Dunn's second book, things go from very good to better. Gary Barwin's excellent illustration on the cover has exactly the right mixture of humour and gravitas, play and prayer, that Dunn brings to his poetry.

This second volume is full of poems like Let Us Now Invent The Past. This poem is a pistol, all gentle build up and then the hammer at the end. And Resurrection By Garden Trowel, which is hilarious, timely and a small declaration of sorts. What is clear is that Dunn is playful but he isn't playing around. These are serious poems full of punch. Al Purdy would recognize the self taught voice in these poems and approve.

There are a couple of long poems in this collection that could be shorter but that is small complaint next to the glee of the plus column. If his first two books are this good, and they are, number three will be something to see. Mark D. Dunn has announced his presence on the Canadian Literary scene with authority.

(to see more about Fancy Clapping - Today's Book of Poetry


If you're looking to be mollified by sugar-coated lyrics trumpeting the
latest dance-craze or lamenting the end of a sweet summer romance,
don't look to Mark Dunn to be your pied piper.
--Jeffrey Ougler,
The Sault Star
- Sault Star

"CD Review"

...[Floodgate] blends elements of acoustic folk, pop, blues, rock, and
poetry into a collection of songs that please the ear, and the soul... Mark
has created a perfect album that one listens to for lyrical and emotional
content rather than big beats and over-production. This album takes me to a
place of peace and solitude...I can't recommend this album enough.
--Wrek'D Magazine
- Wrek'D Magazine


CDs: Thursday's Monster (2008); Clay Rooster (2006); Floodgate (2000)
Radio Play: A Life, Got War (If You Want It), Looks Like Grace, Plains of Abraham, Saskatchewan -- all played on national CBC and college.
Samples may be heard at and at


Even the Weapons (BuschekBooks, 2014); Fancy Clapping (Scrivener Press, 2012); Ghost Music (BuschekBooks, 2010).



I have been writing songs for twenty-five years and performing for about twenty. Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where I currently live, I moved to Vancouver in the late-eighties. There, I played in a number of bands, including the hard rock outfits Crow Child and Mother Night. Both bands were vehicles for my songs.
A few years of heavy music and loud nightclubs sent me running back to folk music. At the time, the early 90s, Vancouver was experiencing a mini-renaissance in contemporary folk. I performed around BC in coffee houses and small venues, and played the same shows with Stephen Fearing, Matthew Good, Bourne and MacLeod, Jack Harlan, Kinney Starr, and others. I think I played in just about every venue available to me in Vancouver at that time, including the Vogue Theatre, The Town Pump, The Railway Club, The Malcolm Lowry Lounge and more.
I released my first cassette, After the Great Sleep, in 1994.
Two years later, I decided to pack it in and head back to Ontario. I busked across Canada for my third time, arriving home to Sault Ste. Marie.
Looking for gigs in the Sault, I met Maria Parrella-Ilaria, the owner of the Fireball Cafe and my future wife. The cafe was a venue for songwriters, artists, and writers. We ran the cafe for 7 years then closed it for other adventures. During this time I released two more cassettes, Fireside (1997) Shadow Show (1998), and my first CD, Floodgate (2000).
With the cafe closed, I began a performance series in conjunction with the Art Gallery of Algoma (AGA) called Alt-Shift. Some of the musicians and writers featured at Alt-Shift: Charlie Angus, Chris Belsito, Catherine Taddo, Karen Smythe, Anita Daher, Sarah Pinder, Frank Deresti, Karl Jirgens, and Rolland Nadjiwon. The series ran for three years.
Over the years, I continued to write and perform music. In 2003, I performed on CBC Radio's Madly Off In All Directions. I have also received grants from the Ontario Arts Council for my prose and poetry, which I've published in journals and magazines.
In 2006, four of my songs (two from Floodgate and two from the most recent CD) were selected for Neil Young's Living With War protest song project. Those songs can heard at
A new CD, Clay Rooster, was released in November 2006. Produced by Rusty McCarthy, the eleven-song CD features musicians Lindsay Pugh, Frank Deresti, Cliff Alloy, and Pat Psihogios. Several songs from the Clay Rooster CD are receiving play on CBC Radio, both nationally and regionally. In January, 2007, I was a panelist on the CBC radio program Bandwidth, which profiled the music scene in Sault Ste. Marie.

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