John Weier

images by David Wityk for John  Weier

John Weier was born in Winnipeg and grew up on a peach farm near Niagara-on-the- Lake, Ontario. After graduating from high school, he studied anthropology and history of religions at the University of Manitoba. In 1975 he began work as Winnipeg’s resident luthier; maker of banjos, violas and violins. He’s built more than one hundred stringed instruments.

John has studied in India and England. He’s worked in the Canadian book publishing industry and as a musician with the Duck Mountain Bluegrass Band. He coached for ten years in the Manitoba Fastball program and was awarded the Manitoba Order of Sport Excellence. He is a past President of the League of Canadian Poets and past Creator Co-chair of the Access Copyright Board of Directors. John began writing in his teens and has pursued this vocation professionally since 1983.

His first book, a collection of poems titled After the Revolution, was published in 1986; his thirteenth, When Flowers Bloom and Sparrows Sing, a children’s book, will appear in the fall of 2013. Other books include Steppe: A NovelStand the Sacred TreeFriends Coming Back As Animals, and Violinmaker’s Lament. His writing tends to ride the genre boundaries.

Recently Carol Shields Writer-in-Residence at the University of Winnipeg, John works freelance as a writer and violin restorer. He has travelled extensively in Africa and Europe. He is an avid bird-watcher (he’s logged more than 2,500 species) and bird guide; and the owner of Punchpenny, a small chapbook press. He has two grown and miraculous children, Anna and Jonathan, and lives in Winnipeg.

John has been published in a variety of literary journals and anthologies, and has read widely in Canada, Iceland, Denmark, India, Syria and the United States.

Violins and Poetry

I am a poor man

I have holes in my pockets
I have a shop full of wood and violins
I have a bag full of memories
I had hopes
I have holes in my pockets
I need to pay the mortgage and the rent

I am a poor man
I am poor as a poet
my heart swells with the ache  the thoughts of old places
dead friends
I sit at night and count the total of my losses
is this poverty
I find nothing holy here

I have my honour  my honesty
I love my family
love my friends
I care for my violins
I don’t believe in the government
any government
I am a rich man
I have a shop full of empty violins
I have empty pockets

I have a memory of home and Hungary

I love Hungary
love poetry
love laughter and sorrow
love gypsies and tears and violins
I’m a poet praying in my prison
a craftsman tangled in his trade
I have subtracted my worth from my debt
zero is a human number

I wish I could reach the beauty of the sky
wish I could stretch the moon and the stars
touch the song of that blue bird
hold the scarlet of the tanager
I wish I could pour them all in my chest
my empty chest
fill the hole of my missing children
I have holes in my pockets
I am a poor man

there were beggars before the revolution

there are beggars after the revolution
there are beggars here in Canada
I am a beggar
I have nothing left to lose

  • John Weier from Violinmaker’s Lament, Wolsak and Wynn 2003