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     Mata Hari's Lost Words

     by John Oughton

John Oughton was born in Guelph, Ontario, a block away from the home of John McCrae
(author of “In Flanders Fields”). When his father was seconded to the World Health Organization, John spent two years living in Egypt and Iraq. He completed a BA and MA in English at York University, where he studied with Irving Layton, Eli Mandel, Miriam Waddington and Frank Davey.

After a half-year stay in Kyoto, Japan, he worked at Coach House Press and as a journalist and corporate communicator. He attended the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, and was a research assistant to Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman.

John taught English, led faculty development, and recently retired as Professor of Learning and Teaching, at Centennial College, Ontario. He now free-lances as an editor, including of poetry manuscripts, and writer. Visit his website:

In 2015, he published an acclaimed, offbeat mystery novel about the Kennedy assassination, Death by Triangulation (NeoPoiesis Press). Oughton has also penned five books of poetry, most recently Time Slip (Guernica Editions), and over 400 articles, interviews, reviews and blogs. John is a long-time member of the Long Dash writing workshop.

He is an accomplished photographer with three solo shows and several book and magazine covers to his credit. For fun, he plays guitar and drums. He rides an old Yamaha motorcycle.

Mata Hari's Lost Words
by John Oughton

From the Introduction:

Sometime in 2017, hundred-year-old secrets will be uncovered. They detail the trial and execution of one of the most notorious and enigmatic women ever. Who was she? And what exactly was she guilty of?

The life of Margaretha Gertruuida Zelle, also known as Mata Hari, inspired this sequence of poems. Like Marilyn Monroe’s, her legend grew after she died in middle age. Both were more complex than their popular images suggest: Mata Hari was an independent, accomplished woman whose spying was her least successful venture. Today, the name “Mata Hari” connotes a glamorous, man-destroying woman spy, a curvier James Bond with eye make-up. In fact, Mata Hari was trapped and destroyed by men.

ISBN 978-0-9975021-5-2
76 pages
5.5"x8.5" perfect bound, paper

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Signed copies are available directly from the author! Click HERE.


The Gamelan

After the screaming fight with my husband
I visit my other world
(he has only alcohol)
At the temple the gamelan orchestra plays
led by the old drummer, hands roughened
by rice-harvests and music
Other farmers play the gongs, the shrill flutes
This music is their true work
A certain melody must be played
once every seven years
or the heavens will not consent to revolve

This music forms and varies
time, fits within
generations improvising on the same theme
each long phrase marked
by the largest gong

I close my eyes. Notes become
meteorites falling, rain on the roof
tiny nails closing the coffin-lid of self

I start to dance, a tree swaying
among these small loin-clothed men
the gamelan counts and clangs
pauses, redoubles
until the morning light glows through me
One man breathes “she is Mata Hari”
and another agrees:
within this gamelan I am
the eye of dawn, the sun
magnified by morning mist

This music never stops. Players are replaced
the heavens hear their melody again
and consent once more to revolve

For one night my pulse
and the drums were the same
everything turned around me


"John Oughton metamorphoses into the voice of consummate seductress Mata Hari, delving underneath her femme fatale archetype to reveal the woman’s fascinating life, elevating her mythic stature and simultaneously humanizing her with sublime affection and voluptuous poetic language. From an angry ex-wife who resolves to “crush all beneath my feet,/ crush and re-create myself” to a dancing Salomé who proclaims, “I have remade sex holy,” Oughton’s gift is in presenting a beautifully expressive interpretation of Mata Hari’s rush of thoughts and ideas until her last fatal moments in “Ghost,” a haunting end to a riveting collection."

Myna Wallin, Author of Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar, and A Thousand Profane Pieces

"Mata Hari’s Lost Words is a dark seductive dance through the shadows of the Belle Époque. Each moment, a word, each poem, a revelation of fact and fi ction. Oughton takes us on Mata Hari’s journey towards self-discovery and shares just enough of her story to titillate us. Under his
careful craftsmanship she becomes fl esh, every gorgeous curve of her -- not only on the page, but deep within our imagination. This collection is a must read."

Kath MacLean, Author of For a Cappucino on Bloor (winner of the New Muse Award) and Kat Among the Tigers