Publications as Brandon Pitts
Before I began creating art as Simon Occulis, I published under my birth name, Brandon Pitts. Because I get asked about these books, I've decided to compile a comprehensive list with a little personal commentary.
Mosaic Press — October, 2017
Poems of mortality, faith and the sociopolitical landscape of America during Trump’s divisive campaign. With this collection, Brandon Pitts beautifully captures the maelstrom of American society in the throes of self-destruction.
“Pitts displays a Frostian command of the American vernacular.”
— Benjamin Schmitt, At The Inkwell
“Brandon Pitts is an ingenious poet who interrogates the oracles and transfigures their obscure answers into dissonant and outraged verse."
— James Dewar, Poetry Publisher, Piquant Press and poet, “The Garden in the Machine“
Cover image by Peggy Anne Larson
The wild and chaotic time spent in the Gadist literary movement had left my personal life in shambles. After living in Toronto for ten years, and two winters spent in an old church on the Humber River, I decided to temporarily return to Seattle and get my life together. I found the States a changed place, completely out of balance: religious zeal, technological excess, social tantrums as if the population were a spoiled child crying over too many presents on Christmas. And then came Trump.
In the arts, politics don't sell, but the artist in me couldn't help but capture this moment. I wish I would have taken more time with it, but Matt Goody of Mosaic felt it should come out quickly, and pushed for a quick release, wanting to have it answer events as they were happening. Those who are most familiar with my work, consider it my best. Though it sold better than most poetry put out by independent publishers, it didn't sell as much as Tender in the Age of Fury. (Curse of the third collection? A public overwhelmed by politics?) Personally, I feel the second poem is one of the most perfect things I've done. It was also my return to working with Norman Cristofoli as my editor.
Now in its 3rd Printing!
Mosaic Press — January 2016
My second collection of poems and most popular. Written during the excess and madness of my time in Toronto’s Gadist literary movement, Tender in the Age of Fury is the best-selling juggernaut that became an influential force.
"Here is that rarest of things in poetry these days: a unique voice."
— Jim Christy, author of “The Long Slow Death of Jack Kerouac” and “The BUK Book, Musings On Charles Bukowski”
Pitts’ work is visceral, political, irreverent, historical, biblical, romantic, vulgar and lyrical. And you really need to hear those words and rhythms.”
— Blogger Cathy McKim of Life With More Cowbell
Cover painting by Jennifer Hosein
Tender in the Age of Fury was written while living in an old church on the Humber River in Toronto. My bed was directly under the Catherine window. I was immersed in the Gadist literary movement at the time, and doing way too many psychedelics while surrounded by great artists like Norman Cristofoli, Stedmond Pardy, Nik Beat, Jennifer Hosein, Brenda Clews, and Madison Shadwell. I was reciting poetry five nights a week, staying out till 3am, occasionally hitting four different venues within a twenty-four hour period, all out of memory. Tender was a lightening bolt, and I know lightening never strikes twice. My only regret is that Cristofoli didn't edit it. In fact, the editor that Mosaic assigned tore it to shreds, saying, "Brandon should read Alan Ginsburg then start over." Matt Goody of Mosaic responded, "Fuck him," so it went unedited. But then again, chaos should never be reigned in.
IOWI (In Our Words Inc.) — January, 2012
My poetry debut! Since it’s release in late December of 2011, this dynamic collection of poetry surprised the Toronto lit scene with strong sales and a unique voice. Originally published on the small Canadian publisher IOWI by Cheryl Antao Xavier, this central Canadian hit is now out of print after 4 pressings.
“(Brandon) raises the bar to a level that we haven’t seen in decades. A bar that should inspire other poets and writers to reach for.” – Carolina Smart, Lipstik Indie
“A collection of poems written with that undone spirituality you can only get from an irreverent wizard… or a genuinely enlightened hitchhiker.” –Origo Books
Cover painting by David Campbell Wilson
After being inducted into the Diaspora Dialogues in 2011 as an emerging voice, and the acceptance of a novel by a publisher, it seemed things couldn't get any better. After reciting a full set of poems at the Moonshine Café in Oakville ON, I was approached by Cheryl Antao Xavier of IOWI. She had read my poems in Labour of Love poetry journal and was impressed with my recital. She wanted to be the one to publish a collection of my poems. I thought she was crazy, but she ended up being right. I contacted the publisher of Labour of Love, Norman Cristofoli, who agreed to serve as editor on the condition Labour of Love debut my poem Lot. This book launched my literary career and I think of it fondly.
IOWI (In Our Words Inc.) June 2013
Killcreek – a play Limited edition of 100 copies.
This play premiered at Toronto’s Fringe Festival, summer of 2013.
Cover painting by Jennifer Hosein
Killcreek is a lesson in following your gut. The original title of the play was the Threshing and it had a lot of edgy elements and a different ending. When it got into Toronto's Fringe, the producer, director, publisher, and even my father all said, "You can't have that ending. The antagonist is too nice. Make her menacing (so stereotypical.) What the hell is a Threshing?" With everyone saying the same thing, I must be wrong, so I reluctantly made the changes and retitled it Killcreek. When I heard the talented cast doing the initial read through, I thought maybe everyone is right. Then the production went through a series of changes and I had to present the producer and director with a list of things I didn't like that went unheaded. After bad reviews, whose complaints read like the list of changes everyone had me make, I learned a valuable lesson: though feedback is essential, get it from only the best people, and follow your gut.
IOWI (In Our Words Inc.) — August 2013
It was an honour to serve as editor and compiler of this IOWI anthology. Within its pages you can find my play Johanna, first performed by the Humber River Shakespeare Company, and my poem, Magdalene.
A limited annotated edition of my epic poem “Lot,” released by bojit Press. December, 2014
The 40 page edition includes “Lot” in it’s entirety with 25 pages of detailed, line by line annotations.
Only 100 hand numbered and signed copies in existence.
It was probably a bit presumptuous and cocky to put out an annotated poem, but the annotation is as interesting as the poem, and it's only for those who are really interested in the topic. I put this together for Terry Barker of Mosaic Press and thought others might enjoy it. I only give it away for free. I have some copies left, if anyone is interested.
Bookland Press — November 2011
A multi-layered structure that unfolds rapidly. – Mayank Bhatt, Generally About Books.
Read full review HERE
Do me a favor and don't buy this!
My first book and a traumatizing experience. I despise this publication and wish it had never come out. A classic case of too much, too soon, with self advocacy lessons thrown in. It was based on a short story I wrote called the Watchtower. After having a short story published in Bookland's successful anthology Canadian Voices II, being selected to read from it at the book launch, and my induction into the Diaspora Dialogues as an emerging voice, Bookland responded to the hype by expressing interest in publishing my novel. The publication and editing were rushed; the manuscript wasn't ready anyway. There was even a typo in the first sentence. I should've never done it. Then I get an email that they are changing the title to "Puzzle of Murders." WTF!?! What on earth did that title have to do with my novel? It sounded like a murder mystery. This novel had more in common with Fight Club than genre fiction. After complaining, I was reminded by their "legal team" that I was under contract. I was told in one of their tense emails that I should step back and let the people who sell books for a living do their job. So I've stepped back and disowned it, letting them handle it. Good luck. As of this date, it is my only real failure. If it weren't for Pressure to Sing, this fucking piece of crap would've killed my career as it started.
The first appearances of Deacon Jones from the Gospel of Now:
November 2010 ISBN 978-0-9784395-8-3
This was the second appearance of Deacon Jones, and my first major publication. People seemed to be fascinated by the Ritalin Kid, so much so, I decided to expand this, and my other short story, "Privilege" into the novel the Gospel of Now. I was picked by the publisher from the other authors to read my piece "The BC Crib," and be featured at the book launch. While reciting, I ate Smarties from a Ritalin bottle and washed them down with a beer. On stage at the Supermarket in Kensington, while I reading the BC Crib, I could feel that everything was going to be different, like switching on a light. It was this anthology that really started my career. My life was never the same since.
July 2009, Volume 5, #40 Conceit Magazine
The Bracelet Charm – Anthology
The short story Privilege is not only the first time something I wrote was available in print, but it's the first appearance of Deacon Jones from the Gospel of Now too. Thank you Conceit Magazine!!!!!
May 2012, Zephyr Press
Labour of Love poetry journal.
Labour of Love was the brain child of poet, playwrite, and novelist Norman Cristofoli. I among others like Valentino Assenza, consider Norman the Godfather of the Toronto underground poetry scene, and all its various incarnations: the Toronto Poetry Renaissance, the Coffee House scene, Gadism, etc. He was there as it started, in places like Siren's and the Renaissance Café. Norman brought Canada its first "indie" poetry journal, Labour of Love after travelling around the United Kingdom, and seeing that every village had their own DIY poetry journal, available for free in the library, cafes, etc. He also started a comprehensive list of poetry readings that united Toronto's various scenes in a way that most cities its size didn't have, called the Coffee House list. This created a great environment that developed and promoted literary talent.
Many of Toronto's finest poets got their start in Labour of Love's pages. Norman also mentored a few lucky poets he took a liking to, like Nik Beat, Valentino Assenza, and myself. He even published Nik Beat's first breathtaking chapbook, Cartoon Rome. Norman's contribution to Toronto's lit scene has gone largely uncredited. After Norman retired Labour of Love and the Coffee House list, he moved to Montreal, and things were never the same for the Toronto lit scene. Poet Thomas Scot has told me numerous times that Norman should be awarded the Order of Ontario. I agree. Without Norman Cristofoli and Labour of Love, where would my life be?
This volume contains my first published poetry: A Poem for AQ and A Return to America. These works caught the attention of the publisher IOWI, and were later published in Pressure to Sing.
Many consider this issue of Labour of Love as the best. It includes stellar work by Nik Beat, Madison Shadwell, Valentino Assenza, Norman Cristofoli and Saskia van Tetering. Part III of my widely acclaimed poem Lot appears for the first time in this issue.
Labour of Love – poetry magazine #36
Cover Version 1
Labour of Love – poetry magazine #36
Cover Version 2
Publisher Norman Cristofoli invited me to serve as photographer for the cover, a special edition that would have five different versions of the cover, increasing the print runs collectability.
An early version of my poem In My Hour of Death from Tender in the Age of Fury makes its first appearance in this issue.
Inside is the first appearance of an early version of my poem The Doctor of Theology from Tender in the Age of Fury.
Labour of Love — poetry magazine, #41 R.I.P. The Last Issue
Summer 2016, ISSN 1192-621x
I had a friend who was very close to my brother, Joe Jensen, who had taken his own life. I was in the middle of writing an epic poem, “In the Company of Crows – for Jennifer Hosein as she weeps for departed friends" when it happened. Nik Beat had died the year before, and I started composing the poem in response to my grief. Shortly before Joe's suicide, I was at an intersection by the Boeing factory, waiting to turn left when the light changed to green. A crow landed in the middle of the street to my left with a crazy look in its eye, and spread its wings as the light changed green, bracing itself to be hit by the oncoming traffic. The Crow's suicide was horrible to watch. Three days later, Joe died. That weekend, still shaken by Joe and the Crow's suicides, I visited my mother, and wrote a large portion of the poem in a hypnogogic state as crows flew at my mother's window, pulling back six inches before hitting the glass. Ever since, crows have followed me around. I took the section about Joe, and submitted it to Labour of Love, knowing it would be perfect for its final issue.
The first poem, “A Poet Must Die” by publisher Norman Cristofoli, is dedicated to me.
The issue includes contributions from Valentino Assenza, Jeannine Marie Pitas, Brenda Clews, Susan Munro, Pat Conners, Jillian Ingram, Ivy Reiss, Alexandra Innes, Candice O’Grady, Alana P. Cook, and Norman Cristofoli, among others.
April 2014, ISBN 978-09887938-2-8
Randomly Accessed Poetics – Heart Splatters Into Significance
An early version of my poem, Zul Qarnayn, from Tender in the Age of Fury. My poem Magdalene is also in the expanded Kindle version.) Penhead Press is the brainchild of the illustrious poet William Lindbergh.
This is the first appearance of my poem, Hammurabi, later featured in Pressure to Sing and Tender in the Age of Fury.
The Watchtower, my first ever publication:
I had been struggling as a writer for many years before I got published. Probably because I sucked. One of hardest things is to see ourselves the way others see us. As art is a personal expression, introspection and the ability to step outside oneself, is the artist's first, and often most insurmountable hurdle. Much of the early work and anthologies reflect this struggle, none more so than the Watchtower that got expanded into Puzzle of Murders.
I read this poem at CJ's Café in Oakville Ontario. The next day, I got an email from Quick Brown Fox's Brian Henry, asking me if he could publish my story. After years of rejection, it was as simple as that. Thank you Brian!!!!!!!
I have also wrote the lyrics to:
Rosslyn Brown's "The Siren"
I can can be heard reciting a section of my epic poem, The Apocalypse of Weeks from Tender in the Age of Fury on the Heavy Metal band Spewgore‘s cd Face Plant.
Classical composer, Adam Scime used my poem Loved Creatures for his Earth and Air II, performed February 3rd, 2013 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre in Toronto for the New Music Concert Series.
Adam Scime had this to say:
In the four movements of this piece I have used poetry from James Joyce’s Chamber Music, Ezra Pound’s Ripostes, and one poem by Brandon Pitts, from his collection Pressure to Sing. Placing texts by Pound and Joyce, two prominent Imagists, together in a single work seemed appropriate due their similar approach to the Imagist movement. Pound was even known to have admired Joyce’s Chamber Music for its delicate temperament. To complement the texts by Pound and Joyce, I searched for an appropriate text by a living Canadian poet. The poem Loved Creatures by Brandon Pitts proved to be a most fitting companion to the texts I chose by Joyce and Pound. – Adam Scime, from the “New Music Concert Series: Then and Now” program.