Teaching English Literature Through Comics – In Flanders Fields at Collège Anna de Noailles

One of the most rewarding aspects of creating poetry comics for me is hearing from teachers all around the world, from Armenia to the Philippines to Spain to right here in Montreal, that are using my work as a learning tool in their high school, college, and university classrooms. Over the last couple of months I have been in correspondence with a teacher at Collège Anna de Noailles near Brive (Corrèze, France), who has been using my comics adaptation of John McCrae’s iconic poem “In Flanders Fields” as a means of engaging her students with the history and literature of the First World War. This teacher, whose name is Claire, teaches English to the students of 3ème 1 and 3ème 6 in this public middle school named after a wonderful  and beguiling French poet from the turn of the twentieth  century, and located just outside the town Brive-La-Gaillarde, whose market provides the setting for Georges Brassens’s famous song “Hécatombe.”

With Claire’s permission, I am outlining the exercises she used  in the hopes that they might provide useful inspiration to other instructors looking to integrate poetry comics into their teaching program.   To begin with, Claire cut out each of the individual panels from reproductions of my comics with the textual elements removed,  and then asked students to identify which passage of McCrae’s poem the imagery in each of the randomly shuffled panels is meant to accompany. After that, students were asked to write a short realistic text to match each panel. Finally the students were given the task of analyzing the cover image of my comics adaptation, which I’m reproducing below, along with some pictures of the corrected student assignments.


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White on Black Sketch #3 – Shiudiao Getou II

In honour of the first full moon of 2017 (and the last of the Year of the Monkey), here is another white-gouache-on-black-paper sketch inspired by “Shiudiao Getou,” a famous poem by the 11th-century Chinese poet Su Shi (or Su Tungpo). This technique really seems to bring out an unsuspected New-Agey side in me!

This drawing illustrates the last line of the poem: “Though thousands of miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.” You can read a full English translation of the poem here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuidiao_Getou


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Preview of video for Heresy’s musical adaptation of “Prufrock” featuring images from my comic

Heresy is a New York-based progressive rock band that has been playing together since the 70s. A few months ago they released Prufrock, their first album since 1989, which includes a 16-song suite setting to music “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot. Now they are preparing an epic, 40-plus-minutes-long video to accompany the whole thing, containing numerous illustrations taken from my comics adaptation of the poem.

I just love what they have done with my drawings in this preview video, which accompanies the final song of the suite. It’s uncanny to me how the simple “wave” effect (starting at 1:55) really brings the drawings to life in a new way.

For more information on Heresy and on purchasing the Prufrock album, click here: http://www.heresy.rocks/

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White on Black Sketch #2 “Thinking of You” (Shuidiao Getou) – a poem by Su Shi

In honour of tonight’s full moon, a white-gouache-on-black-paper sketch inspired by a poem by the 11th-century Chinese poet Su Shi (also known as Su Tungpo). The poem is set to the traditional Chinese melody “Shuidiao Getou” (“thinking of you”). You can read an English translation of the full poem here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuidiao_Getou My drawing illustrates the following passage:

I’d like to ride the wind to fly home.
Yet I fear the crystal and jade mansions [of the Palace of the Moon]
are much too high and cold for me.
Dancing with my moonlit shadow,
It does not seem like the human world.


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White on Black Sketch #1

Fantasy landscape painted in white opaque watercolour on black paper. The composition and perspective are a little wonky because I started painting directly on the blank page (or rather black void), inventing the scene as I went along.


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Massacre at Saint-Joachim

Throughout their siege of Quebec City in the summer of 1759, the British went about systematically raiding and destroying the French settlements both upriver and downriver from the capital of New France. During one such raid on the village of Saint-Joachim on August 23, a detachment of British light infantry, American Rangers and Scottish Highlanders clashed with a group of French-Canadian habitants led by their parish priest, the 52-year-old Abbé Philippe-René Robinau de Portneuf. There are contradictory reports on what happened next, but it appears that a group of habitants, including Abbé Portneuf, were made prisoner by the British and then murdered and scalped. The number of victims is unclear, but a monument in Saint-Joachim commemorates seven dead, in addition to Portneuf. The monument also provides the ages of four of them: 48, 61, 64 and 69 years. Presumably their younger neighbours had been posted to the defense of the city of Quebec.

These pencil illustrations of the events of August 23 are extracted from the first draft of my ongoing graphic novel project recounting the siege of Quebec City and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.saintjoachim12saintjoachim23saintjoachim33

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Leonard Cohen in The Tower of Song


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