Views of an Imaginary City 11: Along the Terenfi Canal

The Nachilaterenfi (“Canal of Flowers”) connects the Imperial Canal to Rejoma Bay. It is so named because, in its early days, before its surroundings became one of the most built-up areas of the capital, the banks of the canal were covered with wild flowers. Opened in the reign of the empress Nanéh, the Terenfi’s importance as a commercial artery was short-lived, supplanted by the creation of the Tizabu Canal a few decades later (See n. 32). However, because the older canal permitted merchants working in the city centre a rapid and discreet access to the area via covered boat, the neighbourhood around the Terenfi became known for its upscale houses of pleasure. The women and men offering their services in these establishments came to be known as “canal flowers,” and many Sensukans are under the belief that it is this trade that gave the Nachilaterenfi its name. With time, these brothels were joined by theatres, and then restaurants, shops of all kinds, chocolate teahouses, and so on, until the Terenfi had emerged as Sensuka’s premier entertainment district, and a go-to destination for all tourists to the imperial capital. Continue reading

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MA in Comics Studies at The University of East Anglia promo video

Check out this awesome promo video for the MA Programme in Comics Studies at the University of East Anglia (the first English-language program of its kind in the world), which is being headed up by my dear friend Frederik Byrn Kohlert. The video features the imagery from the mini-comic I created last year to promote the new program.


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Joe Biden reads “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden

In honour of today’s inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, here is a video put together by Jim Avis pairing my comics adaptation of Robert Hayden’s poem “Those Winter Sundays” with a more-than-competent reading by ol’ Joe himself. Say what you will about Biden, it is impossible to even imagine his predecessor reading this or any poem with even an ounce of human feeling. This difference in itself seems like grounds for optimism at a time when we will all take what we can get of it.

The original comics adaptation, along with 23 others, can be found in my new book, Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry (Plough Publishing, 2020).

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Interview in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics

Exciting news! Rajesh Panhathodi (University of Hong Kong), Augustine George (Amrita School of Arts and Sciences, India,) and Aswin Prasanth (Amrita School of Arts and Sciences) have published an interview with me in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. You can read the interview here: Full article: ‘I like to think of my comics adaptations as my own recitations … ’: in conversation with Julian Peters (

“The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics is a peer reviewed journal covering all aspects of the graphic novel, comic strip and comic book, with the emphasis on comics in their cultural, institutional and creative contexts. Its scope is international, covering not only English language comics but also worldwide comic culture. The journal reflects interdisciplinary research in comics and aims to establish a dialogue between academics, historians, theoreticians and practitioners of comics.”

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Views of an Imaginary City 7: Tizabu Park and Tizabu Prison

Sensuka, to be sure, is a place of endless fascination and delight, but it can also be a heartless place. When one enters Sensuka Harbour and first looks out upon the colonnaded wharves and polychrome marble facades rising from the emerald waters, and behind them the glorious tangle of domes, towers, palaces and gardens, spreading out every which way as far as the eye can see, the effect can be intoxicating. The city’s iconic skyline seems gilded with the promise of extravagant pleasures: pastel boxes being wrapped with ribbon in the luxury boutiques, seductive glances across the glittering theatre foyers, bowing waiters in the famous restaurants, twinkling fountains in the innermost courtyards, rooftop parties with the bright young things sourced from all four corners of the empire. In truth, however, these pleasures are reserved only for a privileged few. The dazzling dream of the place makes one liable to forget that, somewhere beneath that endless sea of rooftops, an evicted family is having its belongings tossed out onto the street, that in an airless room, ragged children stand hunched alongside one another over a silk spinning machine, that in a basement of the Imperial Palace, a knife is being sharpened against a whetstone before the terrified eyes of a man about to be “processed” into a eunuch for service at the emperor’s court. There is a definite undercurrent of cruelty that runs through the city, the natural consequence, perhaps, of its position at the confluence of so many forms of exploitation. Continue reading

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Views of an Imaginary City 6: Dastazuriki in the Little Switzerland Neighbourhood

Western traders first arrived in Sensuka soon after the city’s founding by the emperor Bulodi I as his new imperial capital. Two decades later, however, following a moral panic over the corrupting influence of Western values, religious beliefs, and food, the empress Nanèh issued an edict prohibiting all commerce with foreign nations. Nevertheless, another two decades after that, in the reign of Bulodi II, an amendment was made to this ban so as to exempt merchants from Switzerland. The young monarch held a personal soft spot for the Swiss for a curious reason: his extreme fondness for cuckoo clocks. This passion eventually led to the construction of the Great Imperial Cuckoo Clock over one of the gates of the Imperial Palace, thought to be the largest such clock ever built (See n. 27). As numerous Swiss clockmakers and clockmaking materials had in any case to be brought over to Sensuka for the purpose of completing this project, the emperor was persuaded to allow Swiss sailors to bring other goods as well. This policy has persisted, with the Swiss remaining as the sole go-between importers of all overseas products to the empire. The result is that there is now a fairly large community of Swiss residents in Sensuka, most of whom live in the neighbourhood known as “Little Switzerland” on the eastern side of Sensuka Harbour, facing Orepi. Continue reading

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Christmas on Rue Champigny

This watercolour was commissioned by the Montreal financial services firm ASSURART Inc. for their 2020 company holiday card. It was very much inspired by the magical winter scenes by the Japanese printmaking artist Hasui Kawase (1883-1957). Although the image is based on photographs that I took on rue Champigny in the neighbourhood of Côte-Saint-Paul near where I live, I had to add quite a bit of snow, as we’ve had so little of it so far this year.

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Video of “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower” by Dylan Thomas

A video interpretation by Jim Avis of my comics adaptation of one of Dylan Thomas’s first poems. Featuring a stirring reading by the poet himself.

The original comics adaptation, along with 23 others, can be found in my new book, Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry (Plough Publishing, 2020).

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Video of “The World Is Too Much With Us” by William Wordsworth

A very amusing video by Jim Avis, based on my comics adaptation of William Wordsworth’s c. 1802 sonnet, “The World Is Too Much With Us.” The reading is by Tom Hiddleston. 2020, a year in which, for many, the world was not with us enough, marks the 250th anniversary of Wordsworth’s birth. It is also the year in which I finally caved and got myself a smartphone.

The original comics adaptation, along with 23 others, can be found in my new book, Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry (Plough Publishing).



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Views of an Imaginary City 2: The Teposensuki or “Lovers’ Bridge”

The Teposensuki (“Sensuka Bridge”) is the widest and most monumental of the bridges spanning the Juminta River in the central area of the city known as the Kadini (“Nest”). It is also notable for being the sole bridge in the capital built on two levels: a wide central carriageway for commercial traffic and two narrower raised pedestrian passageways on either side, along which citizens and tourists can walk at a more leisurely pace and take in the impressive views over the riverfront.

Mounted at the very centre of the bridge’s south balustrade is a stone statue of a man and woman embracing, known simply as “The Lovers.” Such is the fame of this statue that the Teposensuki is often referred to as the Teponemoi (“Lovers’ Bridge”), and indeed that is the name by which it is most commonly known outside of Sensuka. The statue was created over a hundred years ago, in the reign of the Empress Aritokéh, by the celebrated sculptor Pumanton. According to legend, “The Lovers“ was originally two separate sculptures, commissioned for the garden of a nobleman’s villa. Continue reading

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