Best of the Web: Rives, the Wordsmith

One of the true joys of the internet is when you find something you weren’t looking for, and then pursue it down the rabbit hole of the world wide web until you end up someplace you never thought you’d be. In that moment, new worlds open up to you, and you look around with fresh eyes to enjoy what you’ve found for its own merits, without anyone telling you what to look for. Often it’s a fleeting contact, picked up and discarded in a matter of hours, but sometimes it’s more than that. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to strike something rich and deep, so that you can go back and seek it out again and again, and each new discovery adds to your experience and enjoyment. That’s how I feel about the work of John G. Rives.

I first came across him while tooling around Rives –it rhymes with ‘weaves’ if anyone is struggling with it– is a professional wordsmith. He can make the contents of the dictionary dance on the head of a pin in a ballet worthy of Baryshnikov. He makes a living as a poet and a public speaker, and I understand he also makes pop-up books for adults. To hear this man speak is to know what the English language is capable of.

Before I heap still further praise upon his head, I’d like you to indulge me for three minutes and watch this YouTube clip from his appearance on Def Poetry Jam. If you fail to be impressed, leave a nasty comment and never deign to visit my blog again.

Pretty amazing stuff, right? I’ve shown this to half a dozen people over the last year or two, and they’ve all been blown away. A good friend of mine who dabbles in hip hop went so far as to deprecate his own work after seeing this, but I told him that’s not fair. Rives is something to aspire to, but you should never try to compare the work of artists. Imagine if Monet gave up his water lilies because he thought they would never compete with Manet’s seascapes?

Rives’ website,, is well worth a look, although it’s not often updated. You can also find Rives all over the web. The TED conference has invited him a couple of times. He’s also toured pretty extensively. The next time he comes through Toronto, you can bet I’ll be in the audience.
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The Day Stephen Harper Shook My Hand and Called Me a Liar

From time to time people talk about meeting celebrities. I suppose I’ve met my share, but the one story that everyone always wants to hear is the day Stephen Harper shook my hand and called me a liar.
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