Excerpts and Reviews


Winter day at bus-stop hands in pockets puffing smoke thinking ‘bout a bike I had as a kid in this very neighborhood, retarded boy named Ken used to challenge me to race wobbling from side to side as he rode making car sounds on that old fucking thing basket in front, “rooom roooom” “come on retard boy, that all you got?” racing down Garwood Avenue that crazy loon flying right by me up to corner then back and forth laughing like the world is all right and it’s there just for us my mother on front porch shaking her fist at me “beep beep” goes Ken, I’m thinking about this at bus-stop mid-day streets alive with furious wanton music, young woman shows up out of the darkness “hello” lights cigarette, winter day gray and shady,
“So who are you?” she says as the lights go wiry,
“Uh-huh, oh yeah”
“I turned 23 yesterday”
Old lady walks by well-scrubbed pink tragic like the sun she smiles at us young woman beside me we’re talking high-speed ‘bout local bands booze on her breath I should be going home on call for work security guard at downtown high-rise she’s smiling big black hair we’re on the bus going through little Italy restaurants bars cafes go by in a blur I’m telling her I used to play guitar in a band her green eyes light up “should have known” she says,
“Why, cuz I got long hair?”
She pulls a mickey out of her knapsack takes a swig hands it to me I decline, think about it, then I take a sip bus racing through The Osborne Village artsy part of town funky shops black clothes mohawk kids begging for money guy with glasses throws up on corner, “Where you goin’?” she says I explain the work thing gotta sit by the phone in case they need me, got an hour to kill she’s looking for CD’s, likes That Petrol Emotion and The Violent Femmes, going to that second-hand music place downtown lady on bus starts singing Old Man River I laugh alive in love, my friend beside me laughs too applies deep red lip-stick snow piled high on the boulevard cruising down The Osborne Bridge sweating in our winter jackets bus cramped and tired nippin’ vodka between the sheets my friend looking brave and thinking, she’s reciting a Black Flag song whistling in the wind, howling at the septic tank says she used to live in Toronto hates it grew up on Indian Reserve called Pukatawagan says Winnipeg really works for her, really like The Peg she says, guy snoring behind us, bus-driver taking crazy turns announcing each corner with lame-ass joke crowd laughing like derelicts my friend looks at me crosses her eyes sticks her tongue out I feel my ass-cheeks rumble, damn…
“Ever been to The Canadian Shield?” she says,
“Oh yeah”
Gust of wind gives Cocker Spaniel on corner a mouth full of snow few guys on bus start laughing shiny hair suburban nightmares my friend comments on them doesn’t like that type big fucking deal I say do you listen to Brave new Waves? Sure thing she says, new band called The White Stripes pretty good love that three chord unorthodox rock and roll…similar to what The Pixies did I say,
“No one’s as good as The Pixies” she says
Approaching downtown the drunks come out middle of the afternoon stumbling through parking lots and construction sites she digs it says life is about this takes another sip of vodka I join her people on the bus take notice driver looking at us in mirror let’s get off I say…heel-toe-express down the downtown streets chinese guy parking car reminds me of something I can’t remember my friend exactly same height as me short parka with hood tight blue jeans beautiful winter I’m thinking breath comes out in clouds we live one step at a time caught in the shit of things stick and move monkey man on high wind tears out brain things as usual he says, business guy walking fast briefcase dangling I point to a mall then past it to a small bar hungover mohawk-kid in front wrapping his jacket around him lighting cigarette,
“Let’s go there” I say,
“Juicy” she says….


There is a constant poetic tone and musical sense in About a Girl. There are also some shrewd observations of great penetration…Nesca brings a largely unpunctuated and lyric flow of observation and thought. There is no plot in the accepted sense of the term although there is a progression in the relationship of the narrator and the young woman who ends up in the narrator’s apartment. In place of plot we have a studiedly precise description of a gritty life-style. It is a sufficient answer to pretensions and falsity in the dominant culture, sick with its material glut and fast food ethics. Through the narrator’s reflections we accumulate an unusually exact understanding of his aims and character. His life is not pretty and he may waver and wobble but he is grounded in honesty. He waves illusion away and sees life with a directness and acceptance that is refreshing and, rightly apprehended, renewing.

“…all senses are satisfied when reading this piece…”
By Sara Calnek – The Projector

The Beautiful, Wandering Flow

“About a girl” is a book that will waft the stench of smoke and liquor right up your nostrils and leave you begging for more. It is so vivid, so real, that the true sense of a dingy downtown bar will invade your inner soul. “About a girl” will transport you into the world of a pub crawl that begins in the early afternoon and ends when the bouncer shoves you out the door.
The book is about two strangers, a man and a woman, who meet at a bus-stop. The story is told in the first person from a point of view of the man who describes their journey from one downtown Winnipeg bar to the next and all the fascinating characters they meet along the way. By the end, your heart bleeds rock-rhythm guitar and you feel an overwhelming urge to stop for a drink at the nearest bar.
Written in spontaneous prose with sentences that go on for pages the book flows beautifully, free, rebellious and alive. The book reads like random thoughts – all thoughts, even the wicked – frantically scribbled onto the page, not one tiny detail overlooked. All of the senses are satisfied when reading this piece. This is a raunchy read, laced with profanities – exactly the language you would hear at any licensed establishment.
All in all, this book is an insightful view into a life of free spirits who live day-to-day and love every minute of it. It provides the reader with inspiring and uplifting thoughts combined with an urge to spark up a conversation with a stranger over a drink or two or three…


He drives into town at the mouth of the village just where the mountain curves its way around the seven hills and faces Naples and all that ancient wonder and everywhere is that lush green forest with colours bloodshot auburn emerald mixing into the early evening sunlight drooping Westward timeless and gone already, the occasional house dots the road or hides in the trees as it pears out at you through the thick purple foliage mixing with the mountain sounds of things alive and far away and Ruggiero’s sport car bright red with hard earned money and all else lost turns round and round hugging curves that just a few feet away drop down in straight line for thousands of feet, after that comes the gravel road easing its way into the Piazza with shops and cafes and bars and people and outcrops of rock where young people sit and smoke cigarettes scowling at the world everything roving moving cascading drumming up and around spinning and raising the volume loud and up-tempo with that vigor and aggressive love only found in Italy scorched and conquered and reclaimed…it was summer holiday school out as kids of all ages ran around the horseshoe-shaped Piazza and Ruggiero eased the red nose of sport car forward weaving slowly around the throng of people grooving with the hot summer evening and lazy-slow-beauty of Calabritto, he moves slowly past Mascanzone and Troisi sitting on curb drinking chocolate milk and talking all kinds of shit then parks his car in usual spot, sees someone and waves as he gets out in short-sleeves and pressed beige slacks with black dress shoes and cigarette dangling from mouth…

She downed her Cognac and her ass wiggled out of the room a few whistles and smiles and “madonna mia!” “jesu christo!” “whoohooo”, she smiled, she dug it, she moved like a snake her body gliding through the streets with electricity and certainty and the older town ladies eyeing her with disdain and suspicious jealousy as she began her trek up and up and up moving away from the village piazza and into the trees and the cobblestone steps of Calabritto jagged and wide at parts narrow and shaded in others, splitting, forking, twisting, winding its way around Calabritto, sun setting behind the mountains you could hear the wind moving around its peaks Graziella took a deep breath, held it, then expelled and felt it all, stumbling up the steps past the shacks and huts and two story buildings all attached like in Brooklyn New York row houses and there were roving dogs and the occasional house light and the darkness that concealed all the life-dance and beauty and futility and lost grins on the horizon, her high heels banging and sliding and groovin’ and she took off the heels and continued barefoot toes painted deep red shining in the mountain moonlight and lantern sadness past the butcher’s, the bread shop, a tavern, a few stone huts that lined the winding stairs, then stopped in front of a broken down hovel all grey and silent-tragedy silent-blindness, it was one room, hanging carpet for a door, plywood for a roof – she paused – then came the sadness – she crumbled knees hitting rock floor – she sat there for a while hugging her legs  then reached inside her top and slid some money under the curtain – then she continued and there goes Anna-Maria balancing  the usual wood-piles on her head, and Guglielmo running with the dogs, and old guys drinking at small tables in the open mountain air waiting for the sun to go down, Graziella’s plump long thighs full of all things wild and alive, one easy step after the other – there were stone huts on the side with wooden doors arched and ornate designs carved by artists long dead, outhouses in the woods among the trees and the wild dogs howling through the cool nights, lanterns hanging from awnings casting shadows long and wide so strange to see when alone and faded, suicide corners in the gloom at the edge of cliffs overlooking Italy worn and ancient and still in the game…

Sara Calnek – The Projector



caged chicana livin americana dream west-side ghetto fantastico
welfare-rich food-stamp delicioso got her a gringo an cuatro ninos
full lips pouting from cheap rum kisses smooth easy rider
smile santana style conga beat rounded hips hot hypnotic neighborhood
notice diabla loca’s strut smoky eyes santeria voodoo
good homage tat crucifix praying hands script “la familia” on short thick neck…
petite mama’s tall hard-head held high she says “pride, baby, pride”
pounds her breast over heart makes a cross kisses her finger tips
whispers looks sips on drink rolls up sleeves tugs on jeans
gettin down to business crazy laughter, takes another drag from cig
hanging over stove pots pans banging lips flapping baby on her hip. now fixen a dish…
serving love kitchen happy bandanna held head sweat dripping
twisted english switch-blade tongue fast an sharp
story telling splaining bull-shit logic unfolding mysteries
head spinning she’s staggering kids and music playing…
she says, “you lookin’ all pale and thin. eat somethin’ before you split?
gringa, remember baby round here everything runs. huh?
it’s simple.
so, you an me, we the firework over ‘little eden’ tonight.
we the light that flips on an out and makes em all run. okay?”
drunk and beautiful she laughs and cries in a single sound


A Raw Exercise in TRUTH
By Ted Prokash – Author of “A Fool for Lesser Things”, Joyless House Publishing –

More great stuff from Screamin’ Skull Press. Edgy prose and poetry from Winnipeg, of all places! What we have here is a compilation of three books of poetry written in 2008, 2009 and 2011. The themes are sexual freedom, class identification, marginalization, alienation, coming of age. The stuff of poetry, isn’t it?

Nesca’s perspective is often at odds with society, her surroundings. She is proud and defiant, yet fragile and self-deprecating. Always looking for the TRUTH in every word, asserting her worth amid each indignity. The stuff of poetry indeed.

The first selections are rapid fire, stream of consciousness, the language vivid and raw. Full of the anger of youth. Later selections are more thoughtful, still angry at times, but more informed. I found myself most enthralled with pieces from the 2nd and 3rd volumes here, but I suspect that these are informed by the chaos of the 1st. It’s as if the reader is taken on a journey along with the poet – from a place of chaos and riot to a state of . . . wisdom, perhaps? I don’t know. Wisdom is a big word. Nesca is never so presumptuous as to assign herself such a trait.

Nesca’s style is affecting and honest. Prose without pose. And this collection of three books ends up being a very effective package -the rare whole that is more than the sum of its parts. Success. Nicole I. Nesca is an artist that deserves your support!

You Can Still Feel The Ricochet Of Her Writing A Long While After You’ve Closed The Book.

By Ali Kinteh – Rogue Press – Author of “The Nepenthe Park Chronicles”

Nicole Nesca’s “Kamikaze White Noise” is an exploration of her rogue mind, namely because she touches upon several taboo subjects and writes affectingly with such gross honesty. She is very much in the mould of Angela Carter and Sylvia Plath and her work is deserving of a greater audience. “Kamikaze White Noise” is a collection of short stories, essays and poems. There’s a lot of bloodletting going on. The pain of religion is encapsulated into this beautiful line. “To agonize is divine. To feel peace is to die.” ‘California Dreamin’ speaks to the corruption of the small town girl’s innocence. “Just a way to survive bright lights, big city pulled my legs apart, licked me clean and left me dirty.”
“In what context does your content give any validity to the topic?” she asks in Lerna. Well, her content is valid because a fierce tidal wave is awash in her couplets.
‘Random Thought’ was the poem that most struck a chord because it speaks of the emancipation from religion, and it sums up the turbulence and pain towards deliverance from servility. The abandonment of any belief system is never easy and she rejoices in simple pleasures “swilling wine and gobbling a twenty dollar pizza” and “paying eighteen dollars for a plate of pasta and eleven dollars for a pack of smokes” and then revealing, in the same breath, that she could have an abortion and donate twenty seven cents a day to the ‘Save The Children’ fund without a hint of irony. Because she is free to!
“They are the words that smash and crash. Some hold meaning. Others own the significance of spittle found on the end of a chewed pencil. They are mine.” You can say that again, sister!


…by February anyone with half a brain and any sense in them was sick and tired of the never-ending blinding snow and the freezing air the frozen sidewalks, the heavy clothing, the constant indoor living, the downright grim mood permeating throughout, the inability to go for a simple slow easy comfortable walk, but March was the beginning of a new world for us, for Canadians in general, it was the E chord hit hard and heavy, it was the final thunder bursting open the clouds and the sunlight blissfully coming through, it was the Mongolian Lizard Queen rearing her ugly head and lopping up everything in its way, it was Alice going for another final romp in Wonderland, it was me happy and willing as Steve came up early morning like clockwork and began talking…

…how the hell I would tell my family about our sudden loss of income was another story full of its own mysterious viciousness, I remember thinking about how I felt 20 years earlier, young rock and roll fucker just starting out man, I didn’t have a family, I didn’t have any heavy responsibility blocking my way of thinking, I was living dirt poor in seedy places chipping away at being alive, in my memory it felt brighter and more in tune yet I quickly realized that wasn’t the case man, it wasn’t the case at all, I had recently been hit hard and heavy and the present looked shitty but I had never felt what Izzy gave me, I had never felt the golden glow of everyday smiles and let-downs, I had never experienced a woman seeing me for what I really was all lousy and insecure and damn determined to be happy, that special sensation of immediacy was still there and that rock and roll promise of forever-today rung as true as it ever did, I was a child running with the tigers in Bangladesh, I was an idiot-savant surrounded by numbers, I was so completely flawed I was almost holy, I was walking at three minutes to midnight and I was feeling no shame, everything went black and blue and the never-ending beautiful exploded across the orange colored sky, and on the corner of River and Osborne if you look real close you can see Jesus jogging on the spot, can you hear him my friends, can you see the flamingo sketches, does he speak to you, does he riddle his way into your mind and tell you about all the sadness early morning rain in my eyes I got the catfish blues, sun hidden behind everyday-clouds working-man doing the everyday-dance, I’m going home walking down Main Street bums are all out getting their early fixes feast your eyes on them brother, I stumble through the suits and ties the perfect hobo in disguise as full of shit as everyone else and just as ready to crumble, I think about poor Cora lying in her hospital bed, I think about the last five years working at the college and my good friend Bill…


rat’s nest rant

been thinking too hard on the knees
watching the bleed, crimson purple orange

Hollywood Boulevard coastline
tourists attraction two-dollar ticket tilt-a-whirl

kiss shit thrill seeking
making time and money with nothing nobody

no soul discount flyer fucking
buttered biscuit gravy political show

gunned dead flowers stripped to bare taken
given down from the royalty of the underground

waiting for another to pay with
whatever they be getting to sooth to smooth

forgetting your roses hats
literature foreign accents Fellini-esque personal personality

bull-shit photos that you and the hes and shes hive thrive

bought and paid for
lives livers veins tits brains hammered too tight too tight to think trick

poor little baby’s wearing bronzed

Excerpt from Nicole Nesca’s “Let It Bleed”

…the corn stalks rose above our heads and we laid on the damp cold ground and stared into the autumn sun.  Smoking pot and drinking and dreaming. Each one of us with a dream to do more than our parents had. Each one of us with a pregnancy scare behind us at seventeen years old. Each one of us with a dream. The sky was a bit gray with the sun amber and warm fighting through the blanket of cold. I lied there for hours just listening to the other girls talk. About men, life and sex and drugs and rock and roll. I could smell the earth underneath my body and I shivered from the chill but dare not move. It was too beautiful and too nice and too safe. We started laughing thinking about being career women in a just a few months. Laughing about being Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl”. I know I wanted to go to New York City. We all did. Hell, Cleveland even. The Little Kings were so warm on my throat and the Newport cigarettes were just going down the throat so smooth and easy. I was in my bliss. We all were.  Time got away from us. The booze and pot got the best of us. The day was slipping away and turning into night. We stayed. Neither of us hungry. Neither of us with a pager. Neither of us missing.



When you look out windows at night
through smoke-clouds and tired eyes
and everything shines in that orange streetlight glow
and the rain-soaked skyline’s barely visible in the gloom,
when the distant-lost wander the streets and hatred abounds and the steam from your hot drink hangs
in the air,
when you recede in your mind and all things
when you reach back to happy times long-gone,
when the deep dark heart of Saturday night
cuts a swath through your brain,
when you realize some of the things people do just ain’t right,
and that some of those people are just
like you,
and the soft drone whisper says something ugly,
and that alone smile forms on your lips in the quiet
when the sidewalk drinkers bend their elbows
in the rain,
when me and you lost forever meet under the boardwalk,
when happiness sits coldly just around the corner,
when puff number 23 feels mad and brilliant and the words come easy,
when the lost and righteous find something to do and touch themselves in all the right places,
the moment shines bright,
for us,
for you,
and the long cool night is alive
as you realize 
that everything –
tastes better 
after midnight


When the rain is heavy and wild
you walk the streets shining and grey
the music soaked through gleams deadly
moments torn from your sunshine-memory
and the sweetest smile –

you think heavy glory under the brick-house awnings
water pelting away up-top,
that high saxophone hangs in the air
then the piano eases its way in,
and the barroom tremors cling like shadows
their gloom making it just right –

another one for me, jack, you 
say in the wild of the moment
another sing-a-long beat happy rumble,
crazy young girl in the deep throes of your night
she’s doing it on the bathroom floor baby
blissful and tragic and forever laughing –

the unreal happiness sets in with long easy bursts
you crouch low brain washed down in somber yellow
teeth bashing an uneasy truce
and what a sad-beautiful sound it all makes
don’t it?

when the rain is heavy and wild
you walk the ragged streets
soaked all the way through with that
forlorn music
torn from your best sunshine-memory…



 … mama loved her drink her new man and her mustang daddy? daddy thought life was nothing more than black & white still photos framed in pain and willed his girl the same  but, she had a wicked smile with a face “that would let her get away” dark eyed lovely in a constant home grown hazed old-soul stare heart led by childish themes with a body of a woman statuesque beauty surrounded by bleached-out black-lined friends “so, you think he really digs me?” “sure, he said he did.” walking the pitted gravel road through the dark, light a “red”  looking cool calm unaffected focused on the mission ahead the quarries where the bare-chested duded-up-for-Saturday-night -chevy–boys, proud and posed on their chevelles and cameros waiting on the parade of rawboned and frilled kittens to purr freak show everybody drinking rolling and racing quarter miles always keeping tabs on the latest victims of the blue hearts club constant carnival ride ’tilt-a-whirl’ style funny-mirrored laughter that ‘venom never burned in her veins’ she had no head for games angry hard faster-than-the-wind love tanked engines burned dreams would be promised and filled just by unsnapping your jeans she hears factory boy and girl steel-valley-tri-county mentality –

“i’ll scream your name at the
line, baby! i’d be nothin’ without you. understand? we’re gettin’ out of here
and i swear i’ll never leave. kiss me.”

at nineteen he got to join the
local union and she got a baby…





vessels ?

of light




marching on





yet strong

so protective


against elements

ironic against

pristine white





to outside


hot breath

against pane

making circles


in residue







hair wild and tangled perfumed with humid salty air and stale cigarette I wander into the dark morning…pilgrimage moving in shadows of dull street lamps listening for sounds of awakening…nirvana found; smile spreads across lips, nose and tongue unite—salivate broken neon light flickers, blinks, spits the news “closed”…shit! pretending I’m illiterate, I bang on door–invited in–we sit chat relay and relate local paper giving reviews on latest events voices click and clack like old friends in a kitchen making morning from grandma’s dough clock ticks quickly as we gather familiarity in experiences shared apart–


And we continued in that fashion under the barren trees rust-colored grass, couple of kids race by us, a dog barks in the distance, a mother screams out her son’s name, ’67 Firebird burns rubber right beside us bolts off in a cloud of smoke, three stoned chicks across the street laughing and singing looking lovely in their tight jeans and striped Adidas runners, Nazzie’s wiry eyes looking at me with laughter and sadness at the same time talking all kinds of shit waving his hands driven by the manic early morning beer-buzz bounce in his step worn out fedora pulled tightly around his head, myself all sinew and energy and smoking-gun-happy, chicken joint at the end of my block bursting at the edges argument in the parking lot, Vincent Massey High across the street group of punk rockers on the front steps popping pills hurling insults at the sky, Bob Marley song pops into my head “No Woman, No Cry” as we linger on and on and on cross at the walkway start crawling along Pembina past the small apartment buildings, fast food joints, small parks, angry teenagers and the other kind, car horn rips into our reality there’s Ross crazy bastard behind the wheel of the Great White pulls up right beside us halting traffic large smile on his panic-stricken face,
We jumped in the back and the shark took off followed by the complaining car horns and curses and Ross opened the small window in the cab…
“This is an artless society we live in!” He shouted

 Review for Tony Nesca’s “Jukebox Music”

“The musical background is a strong influence in Nesca’s poetry. In the present collection there are references to Stan Getz, Billie Holliday, and Count Basie as well as to more current groups….”…” Tony Nesca is original and in the best sense tuneful…The musical influence is also apparent in the elision of superfluous words and in the multiply hyphenated words that slip and slide around precise meanings….”

Review of Tony Nesca’s “La Gioconda”

Reviewed by Matthew Firth for the Canadian Lit-Mag Front & Centre

I don’t often compare one book to another in a review, preferring to assess books on their own. But there’s a link here I can’t resist. The publisher of “Six ways to Sunday” uses word and phrases such as “brashly…gritty settings…shining bright and battered in the dingy recesses of the bar…” After reading Tony Nesca’s excellent novella, “La Gioconda”, I’m tempted to go back and rewrite my review of McPherson’s book because it is none of the things it claims to be when held up next to Nesca’s true example of down and out, gritty, yet sincere Canadian literature. McPherson’s book plays at being tough and stylistic, Nesca’s book is the real deal.

“La Gioconda” takes readers to Winnipeg, a city known for its dark side. In the novella Tony is a twenty-seven year old bohemian semi-student trying to be a writer. He hangs out in dingy bars, not because he’s looking for material, but because he’s a regular working class joe in Winnipeg and that’s what there is for him to do. Here’s the authenticity, the sincerity that McPherson cannot duplicate in his faux urban settings.

Tony, through an old University friend, falls hard for and hooks up with Jasmina, a visiting French teenager. The two strike up a quickie romance and live for the moment, drawn together to Winnipeg’s thriving underground music and literary scene and its – on the surface – seemingly strange crossover with the aforementioned dingy bars. Jasmina savors Winnipeg’s authenticity as well and thinks about leaving France for good. But instead the pair live fast and hard (their sexual relationship becomes increasingly kinky) and leave it at that. This is a story of experience. It is about what happens when two people come together and get it on. There is no contrived moralizing, no redemption or glory. Tony and Jasmina drink and fuck and carry on and that’s all it takes to make a great story. When it’s over and done with, Tony is where he started. The memories of his experience are enough and they make him smile. He goes back to Winnipeg’s crappy bars pleased that he let life and love in.

Nesca writes in a rollicking, free-flowing style. The sentences are often long and rambling but uncluttered. It goes well with the vibe of “La Gioconda”, of freedom and living in the moment and grabbing what life presents you with. Nesca has written a short, sharp gem of a book that truly represents the gritty and the urban.

Matthew Firth is the editor of Front & Centre magazine and of Black Bile Press –

Front & Centre

573 Gainsborough Avenue

Ottawa, Ontario

K2A 2Y6


“The flow is stream of consciousness reminiscent of Kerouac or Ferlinghetti (they of the beat generation) or of Patti Smith, resembling speed rap here and there throughout…It is immediate. Loss and longing recur as themes throughout. Everything is tinged with realistic sadness. This is not the rarefied or removed world of some elite rock star but a life we have all experienced at least at some point in our youth, whether we remember it correctly or not….”

More reviews –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: