the work of sean arthur joyce

chameleonfire books

who is sean arthur joyce

Better known to West Kootenay readers as Art Joyce for my popular Heritage Beat column that ran in the Nelson Daily News from 1996-2000, I now write and publish poetry as Sean Arthur Joyce. I continue to work as a freelance journalist—an occupation I took up in 1990—for The Valley Voice in New Denver, BC, one of the last independently owned community newspapers in Western Canada. My articles and columns have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout BC. The approach I take in my historical writing is to adapt a poetic sensibility to the narrative, so that readers are transported vividly back in time.

My Heritage Beat column, profiling the rich history of Nelson, BC and the West Kootenay region, was the inspiration for two books, A Perfect Childhood, and Hanging Fire & Heavy Horses, on the city's historic homes and streetcars, respectively. Knowledge Network TV quotes from A Perfect Childhood in its BC Moments segment on the heritage homes of Nelson, and I was interviewed in a National Geographic TV special on the history of BC lakes. My newspaper columns are archived with the Touchstones Museum & Art Gallery in Nelson, BC. See also the BC Bookworld author bank.

I have written and published poetry since my teens and studied the craft extensively. Since first hearing the voice of Dylan Thomas striking his poems alive from the page, I have been convinced of the vital role of performance in completing the experience of poetry. To that end, Chad Norman and I formed a touring ensemble of poets we called Grassroots Oracles (1987-89), with the goal of “bringing poetry back to the people.” Since then I have gone on to organize reading tours and cafés throughout BC's Lower Mainland and West Kootenay regions. See the Poetry page for more.

where to buy

A Perfect Childhood, Hanging Fire & Heavy Horses, The Charlatans of Paradise, Star Seeds and Homeless in Paradise are available through Otter Books, Nelson BC.

The Charlatans of Paradise and Star Seeds are available directly from the author. Please send cheque or money order plus $5 shipping to chameleonfire editions, Box 151, New Denver, BC Canada V0G 1S0.


Star Seeds

Star Seeds Sean Arthur Joyce, New Orphic Publishers, 2009, poetry, perfect-bound, 94 pages, $16, ISBN 978-1-894842-16-7

“A unique formalist in the best sense of that word, Joyce combines his general sense of what really matters to humanity on the largest possible scale – the macrocosm – with a startling precision, while drawing attention to the natural world, his spirit’s favourite locations, but not just to landscapes, also to some of our smaller fellow creatures, such as moths, crows, and cats – the microcosm.”

“Sean Arthur Joyce already possesses many of the poetic gifts that take a lifetime to master. His voice shows an innocence, a childlike openness to new wonders, a deep respect for the natural world. Joyce is certainly at home in the universe and he wants to remind us that we are, too.”
—Steven Michael Berzensky (Mick Burrs)

Star Seeds brings together poems that celebrate, as Berzensky says, the microcosm and macrocosm – from the seed that parachutes onto the wind to the supernova whose death is the birth of a new star system. These poems remind us that separation from the world around us is an illusion, and one that humanity needs to grow out of if we are to survive the challenges of the future. But these are no mere polemics: Joyce may have a stark eye for hypocrisy but he ultimately offers the reader hope – not Pollyanna hope but the real truth of our spirit’s potential.


Going Mad for the Love of Sanity

Chad Norman, Going Mad for the Love of Sanity, Foreword by Sean Arthur Joyce
Chameleon Fire Editions, poetry, 108 pages, softcover, $15 Cdn
ISBN 978-0-9687673-7-5
No longer in stock; order direct from the author at

Chameleon Fire Editions announces the release of a new book of poetry,
Going Mad for the Love of Sanity by Chad Norman

As we enter the twilight period of yet another empire, what is the role of poetry? As Lawrence Ferlinghetti asks, amidst this chaotic frenzy of power players, “Isn’t it a romantic illusion to think that poetry can really change anything?” If nothing else, it may be that the poet writes simply to bear witness to an age. Perhaps the poet truly cannot help but sing just as the moth cannot help but die in a blaze of light.

Going Mad for the Love of Sanity brings together in one collection for the first time Chad Norman’s incisive poems about the planet and our place in it. While scientists appeal to our minds and basic survival instinct as a race, poets appeal to our hearts, our spirit’s sense of place in the oneness of things. Written over the period of a decade, these poems don’t just warn with the sound of a fire alarm in a crowded theatre but, as Ferlinghetti suggests, with “dissolving halos in the ocean of sound.” Norman’s voice demands an ear wide-awake and attuned to catch the subtlest nuances. Such listeners may be increasingly rare—all the more precious then, the chimes and arpeggios they alone will hear in the poet’s voice.



Timothy Shay, Resolutions, Foreword by Sean Arthur Joyce, Chameleon Fire Editions, poetry, 32 pages, softcover, $12 Cdn, ISBN# 978-0-9687673-6-8
Orders available from
or direct from the publisher

Here is an eye that is unblinking. An eye focused with equal intensity on the inner and outer worlds. As uncompromisingly honest about himself as about “civilization” and empire, Timothy Shay understands too well the complicity we all share. His weary eye captures in stark relief both the “piss and pinesol” in the aftermath of a suicide and the half-born idea, folding in upon itself like a “confused origami.”
Shay’s language is sinuous and muscular, sometimes Herculean in energy, other times a crushed spirit wired on too much late night coffee.  But always ready to state plainly that he is unwilling to pledge allegiance to the seductive “candy cane flag” of oppression and death. Unafraid to make resolutions, even when profoundly uncertain of his own motives and conclusions. Yet beneath the relentless eye is a surprising tenderness, a genuine sadness for what might have been...

Timothy Shay has published poetry in Canadian Dimension, CBC Radio Anthology, Rolling Stone, Fiddlehead, and the usual literary suspects. He is a past editor of Horsefly Literary Magazine and the recipient of several Canada Council awards.


A Perfect Childhood

A Perfect Childhood—One Hundred Years of Heritage Homes in Nelson Kootenay Museum Association and Historical Society 1997, regional history, perfect-bound coffee table format, 176 pages, $23.95
ISBN 0-9680038-1-8

Book review by Sally Smith, Inland magazine 1997

Art Joyce, A Perfect Childhood

"Flipping through the pages of A Perfect Childhood, the first thing I notice is how much time and care Art Joyce has taken in order to produce this marvelous keepsake. The lovely presentation, generous amount of interesting photographs, volumes of research, and abundance of material make for a delightful historical account of Nelson’s beginnings in this, its centennial year.

"Art Joyce, well-known columnist for the Nelson Daily News, has gone one step further and come up with a book inspired by heritage homes in Nelson. By delving into the history of 15 homes and their inhabitants, he weaves an intriguing tale about some of the most noteworthy characters.

"The stories contain historical accuracy, but what’s most attractive is that Joyce portrays the human part of the story, not the dry facts and statistics.

"‘Tribal cultures have known instinctively for millennia that to keep the attention of those sitting around the campfire, they had to tell a good story, one with a human face,’ says Joyce in the Introduction. ‘There is nothing more deadly dull than history presented as a kind of grocery list of facts and figures.’

"My favourite story is about John Morey and his daughter Shelagh, at 519 Cedar. The family’s rich memories of the house they’ve owned since 1950 are heartwarming and particularly moving.

"This book makes a tremendous contribution to pulling together some meaningful historical accounts of the early part of this century in Nelson. "

view excerpt

To see an episode of Knowledge Network's 'BC Moments' that quotes from 'A Perfect Childhood' in its segment on Nelson heritage homes, follow the link below:


A Perfect Childhood

Hanging Fire & Heavy Horses—A History of Public Transit in Nelson Art Joyce, City of Nelson 2000, regional history, perfect-bound coffee table format, 200 pages, $28.95
ISBN 0-9686364-0-3

Anyone who has visited the historic city of Nelson, BC during the summer months will have seen the city’s restored Streetcar 23 trundling along the lakefront. The story of Nelson’s century of public transit is the story of the people and the city that made it possible. And the story of the dilemmas still faced by mass transportation everywhere as the new millennium dawns. Ironically, with the current worldwide renaissance of electrically powered street railway systems, transit’s future may now lie in its past.

‘Hanging Fire’
Nelson was the smallest city in Western Canada during the 1890s to have its own street railway. From its beginning in December 1899, however, it was wracked with problems—derailments, out of control operating deficits, and heavy maintenance costs. But the ‘fire’ that kept the electricity flowing into the ‘hanging’ trolley wires came from the people of Nelson who refused to let the streetcars die.

‘Heavy Horses’
Hailed as the great wonder of modern mass transit technology from the late 1920s onward, buses often failed to prove their potential. Brought in to replace Nelson’s aging streetcar fleet in 1949, they soon ran into the same roadblocks faced by the street railway—a population too small to sustain profitable operation, a steep mountainside terrain, and treacherous winter streets.

view excerpt


Charlatans of Paradise

The Charlatans of Paradise Arthur Joyce, New Orphic Publishers, 2005, poetry, perfect-bound, 77 pages, $15, ISBN 1-894842-07-3


“In The Charlatans of Paradise, Arthur Joyce demonstrates that he is one of the finest poets working in Canada today. In lines that are energetically taut, elegantly crafted and wonderfully luminous, he brings the reader to the brink of feeling utterly vulnerable in a world that strains toward destruction. Tethered by his belief in nature’s ability to renew his spirit, Joyce looks unblinkingly at humankind’s fall from paradise…”

—Ernest Hekkanen, editor, New Orphic Review

"Romanticism is not a dead school of poetry. We still have our 21st century successors to Blake, Shelley, and Wordsworth, poets not afraid to criticize civilization while they celebrate the natural world. Arthur Joyce belongs to this tradition.

"Joyce’s main concern is the ongoing conflict between the inward life of the poet (or of any soul yearning for enlightenment) and this globe infected with materialism and commercialization, with greed and power—our home planet whose necessary beauty is being ravaged daily even though we depend on it for our very survival.

"There are echoes of (his) anger throughout this collection, but they are frequently tempered with fresh metaphors of undiluted affection for nature, with images of astonishment and awe, and with expressions of the individual soul’s eternal longing for love and beauty, wonder and wisdom."

—Steven Michael Berzensky (aka. Mick Burrs)

"Joyce’s vision of Nature is steeped in the spiritually restorative (powers) of Nature. …one of Joyce’s great strengths (is) his ability in taut language to paint a landscape without befouling it with clichéd metaphors, and the effect is luminous and healing."

—RW Meyer

"Joyce’s poems… are fierce, clearly relevant, to be read and heard by this impassively deceived age."

—Chad Norman, author of These Are My Elders, Lives of the Year

view excerpt


Homeless in Paradise

Homeless in Paradise, edited by Arthur Joyce and Timothy Shay, with a Foreword by Arthur Joyce and an Introduction by Vanessa Patry, Chameleonfire Editions 2007, poetry anthology, perfect-bound, 54 pages, $12, ISBN 978-0-9687673-5-1

A collection of poems from a poetry contest held in 2007 to raise awareness of the homeless problem in the West Kootenay. All proceeds go to the Nelson CARES Society ( to fund its Stepping Stones homeless shelter. 

Excerpt from the Foreword

“There’s an angel singing on the streets, holding out her cup for spare change. She’s the siren luring men and women to their doom. She’s the hand that launched a thousand starships. The man or woman worth billions—or nothing. A frayed butterfly, hovering on a wing and a prayer. A soul broken on the wheel of the machine we set in motion. She is all of us.”

“The irony of this anthology is that most of these poems are written by those comfortably inside, not outside, in the wasteland of homelessness. On one hand, this is positive, hopeful: it means there are many ‘inside’ who do care. On the other, it’s sadly symptomatic of the fact that the ‘haves’ have taken away even the voices of the ‘have nots’. But in the end, a single eloquent voice is worth a thousand others. That angel sings for a thousand souls, or a million.”

view excerpt