“Tuned every ear towards a tiny lengthening of light”

Listening for Weak Hope in John K. Samson’s Winter Wheat


  • Bronwyn Malloy University of British Columbia




This article posits weak hope, which I characterize as a combination of resignation, optimism, and generative delusion, as a productive framework through which to listen to Winnipeg singer-songwriter John K. Samson’s 2016 album Winter Wheat. In turn, I suggest that engaging closely with Samson’s lyrics offers up a kind of weak, tenuous hope for the listener—though we may not know exactly “what survival means” (“Confessions of a Futon Revolutionist”), we can—in fact, we must—“recommit [ourselves] to the healing of the world” and “pursue a practice that will strengthen [our] heart[s] (“Postdoc Blues”). For the attentive listener, the very act of engaging with the weak hope audible in and enacted by Samson’s lyrics can form part of a practice that “strengthen[s our] heart[s],” by listening closely and imaginatively to the radical, unflinching empathy that Samson models in his precise, demanding song lyrics. 

Author Biography

Bronwyn Malloy, University of British Columbia

Bronwyn Malloy is a PhD Candidate at the University of British Columbia. Her research centres on contemporary song lyrics and poetry.