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New mini chapbook


Now on 28lb paper in colour.

Guy Simser has written a suite of war poems including,


Fruit of the Balkans

dug up from under plum trees

wrist-bound and bootless

They will be at Haiku North America and the Ottawa small press fair along with one more title, still to come.

Categories: phafours press news.

Ottawa Literary and Book Scene

I was asked by a local writer if Ottawa has anything literary going on.

Once, after a decade writing here, I hadn’t noticed the Ottawa’s Writers Fest. Then once I did, literary was increasingly everywhere. Literary Tourist has a lot of nodes for here including bookstores and libraries but there’s much more.

Festivals: We have two major international literary festivals bringing in over a hundred authors a year, Writers Fest with events throughout the year and clusters in late October and spring. (Buffy Sainte-Marie is coming to it in a few days in an on-stage discussion.) With a schedule coming, the next VERSeFest is coming in spring.

There’s also Canadian Literature Symposium that comes once a year, and the new Prose in the Park one summer day extravaganza. As EnRoute’s profile on Ottawa mentions, WestFest in June has a literary stage as well as music.

Reading Series: We have over a dozen reading series in town including Tree Reading Series, Capital Slam Collective, Urban Legends, Factory Reading Series, Ottawa Storytellers, Chi Series, Sawdust, KaDo, A B Series, In/Words, Blue Monday Reading SeriesTellers at the Well, El Dorado, Railroad, Studio Nouveau, OPL poetry month series, and the reading that happen with Octopus Books.

I hear there’s a French series too but I don’t know its details. Bibliothèque municipale de Gatineau has author talks and has Café littéraire. There’s Guy Jean‘s events, but there must be more.

Open Mics: Sawdust, In/Words and Tree have open mics. There’s also the downtown Spirit-of-Umi Open Mic at The Tea Store, 53 York St. and in the south end, Spoken Word/Poetry Saturday Night Open Mic at 4000 Bridlepath at Grumpys Pub and Eatery. In the East, Open Floor Readings at Gaia Java, 1300 Stittsville Main Street. (First Tuesday of the month? see Bywords for details.)

Central Listings: Check, for all events or to list events or the news link. Each 15th of the month is the deadline to submit poems to their online journal, also at that link.

Small Press Fair: To meet some book and chapbook publishers, local letterpress community and zine community, Nov 7th, Ottawa small press fair. It’ll happen again around June. Some pics of past fairs.

Ottawa-based Magazines: Arc Poetry Magazine, Saturday Night Reader, Ottawa Magazine, The Ottawa Arts Review, Touch the Donkey, Ottawater, Peter F Yacht Club, Byline Magazine, and In/Words magazine & press, Damn (a music magazine). YgdrasilMaple Tree Literary SupplementPostscripts to Darkness, 17 secondsOttawa Review of Books, and The Steel Chisel. Amanda Earl, editor at Bywords, runs a few presses: AngelHouse, DevilHouse (subversive), National Poetry Month, and Experiment-O (vispo).

Ottawa-area Chapbook Presses: Apt. 9, Shreeking Violet, 40-Watt Spotlight, above/ground, Textualis Press, Black Bile Press, 1cent, Bondi Studios, phafours press and Hussy.

(P&W magazine has a US list of 400+ small presses. This wikia of small press Canada gives 480+ more and some context.)

Literary Book Presses: Buschek Books, Chaudiere Books,Les Éditions David, Oberon Press, ChiZine Publications (genre), Éditions des petits nuages (haiku and tanka), Deux Voiliers Publishing, Crowe Creations and Renaissance (genre).

(There’s a list for Canada at And rob has made a publisher index of with profiles of former presses, presses of former residents, current presses with interviews.)

Literary Printing and Speciality Books: The Grunge Papers, Ottawa Press Gang (letterpress), and room 302 books. Literary Tourist does oral interviews of bookish people and has a guide to bookstores.

Ottawa Zines: A zine scene with a couple zine offs a year. Pressed Cafe stocks a rack. Here’s a map of Ottawa zines nodes are at, made by Rachel Gilmore. A regular zine that bridges magazine and chapbook an zine is Chrysalis.

On Facebook there’s Ottawa Writers with almost 700 members, English and French, and Ottawa Independent Writers with over 1200 members and growing. uOttawa Literary has a round-up.

Online and off writers groups: OIW has a site and monthly meetings and their own book for self published as well. The Writers Union of Canada has occasional events here and The League of Canadian Poets does in-school or on-street poem-in-your pocket events. On the Gatineau side, there’s L’association des auteurs et auteures de l’Outaouais. For readers/writers there’s the science fiction book club.

If you do non-poetry as well there’s the Canadian Author’s AssociationCapital Crime Writers Association that meets monthly and a Ottawa Romance writers and a pretty big sci-fi fantasy core but I’m not as hooked into where they meet up other than ComicCon. There’s also Comic Jam.

Apt613 profiles regularly writers, recently a guide to literary blogs.

Workshops: The Bywords calendar lists a few, including the weekly In/Words at Black Squirrel. Tree has the Tree Seed Workshops twice a month. The Ottawa Public Library has a series of January and February youth writing workshops and April poetry workshops. Workshops may pop up anytime. This year the library has resumed its OPL Writer-in-residence with Michael Stewart.

rob mclennan is running a series of workshops near Alta Vista now which is about halfway through, but are likely to recur.

Radio: And then how could I not mention radio? CKCU Literary News, Literary Landscape with JM, Kate and myself and CHUO’s Click Here with Mitchell.

2000-3000 people would be in the ballpark.

Who all did I miss? Leave a comment and I’ll add them.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

95books, list 15, more history than mystery, 120-125

I’ve been poking away at various local histories. Finished a couple. It’s good to clean the palate with straight-up language. Poetry can try to be difficult and claim the art is the being difficult. It’s touching earth to have people talk about events and people instead of ideas.

I say I don’t read novels and it’s largely true. It’s like people having wine with their meals. It’s easier to say that I don’t drink than to explain that I might a handful of times per year or over a few years.

My mom reads a novel a day. I might read a novel or two some years. Basically I light up for poetry. Or essays about poetry. Or memoirs by poets. But I like to keep variety in poetry and in genre. So,

120. Waging Peace: Poetry and Political Action, edited by Susan McMaster (Penumbra Press, 2002)
(seen references to here and there, finally tracked down a copy thru the editor)

The book was part of a process of approaching Members of Parliament petitioning them to be aware of the wages of war and to raise consciousness about peace, giving them abstract visual art and poems.

Jerahmiel S Grafstein also had this to say in an essay,
Jerahmiel S Grafstein also had this to say in an essay.

Roger Nash asks about lines, jingoism vs. steering well clear of anything risky. Where do we fall?

The poetry is not about how to do peace but largely complaining about war being destructive and hurtful. To torque a phrase, peace is not the opposing of war but the presence of seeking a difficult compassion and solution.

I actually liked the essays much more than the poetry. Sarah Klassen’s in particular as she got at the core of my understanding of what the book’s work is, to “propose an alternative to aggression”. I have a book of her poetry that I’ve never read. May have to crack that spine.

121. 20 Most Asked Questions about the Amish and Mennonites by Merle & Phyllis Good (Good Books, 1975, 1995)
(The Ottawa heart institute has a May Court Library and a library cart and accept donations to any information desk or nurses’ station there.)

The authors are articulate in belief, “Each group draws its boundary lines differently–but no less sincerely” (p. 25) and cover food and gender relations, and formation.

This didn’t exactly cover its subject of answering the questions of why the appeal of farming but there are a million of Amish or Mennonite people worldwide across various continents, more outside Europe than in it, the most in Africa now, especially Zaire (136,000) and Ethiopia (50,000). the Caribbean, Central and South America, most concentrated in Paraguay (22,000) and Mexico (20,000). There’s a lot of diversity and each community self-governs, isn’t a central top-down system.

The old order conservative of each group have more in common than the more liberal orders. Some use motorcars, buttons and the internet, selectively and enter trades. They are often a parallel society with their own system for childcare and care of the elderly and in some regions have exemptions from the military.

From p. 4-5,

“It is impossible to summarize these peoples’ lives in one short sentence.[...] It is impossible to interpret the lives of a people—any people—in one or two quick sentences. It sees a violent act.”

I had forgotten what I used to know about the anabaptists. There was violence for belief and a response 400+ years long.

122. The House of the Black Goat by R.M. Ferrier (self-published, 2015)
(written by son of dad’s friend, passed thru family)

This is twisted and odd and every few pages made my head hurt. A lot of gods in these machines. Back story revealed by conversations. A lot of generational incest.

Spoiler: It became a ghost story around page 70. There’s a ghost who aged which is something I hadn’t seen before. Her green eyes cried so much her eyes became colorless/black.

At the same time, without spoilers, villains become more noble and heroes become villainous. It spans the better part of a century so whole generations die. The landscape is as much a character as anyone living or dead in the book with its boggy morass that eats whole herds of cattle.

It’s got a gothic feel. Warning: there is a late scene of women slut-shaming each other. Maybe the language is a little anachronistic here ad there, but it has a momentum hooking forward. The language was strikingly poetic at times.

I jotted quotes but (glitch) often almost entirely illegibly. p. 51 in light of a death of a child, “The old plastered and varnished pine walls warp around in eloquence”, p. 113 “these memories have been left to drown in a pool of their own vagueness”, p 115 “he makes the finest of gestures by biting his lip and presenting his teeth most amiably”.

123. The Boy from the Farm by Frank Hedley Arnold (Epic Press, 2002)
(book by the neighbour of a man my dad used to sell horses to who came and sold the book.)

Interesting person. A real go-getting who hopped from career to career in agriculture but I wish it had been fleshed out more. Here’s a sentence summary of a story. Next story. No, that was an upshot of what could be an interesting story which you just skipped. Bah. Frustrating.

But odd things turned up, like how he met his wife. He was in England in line to see a movie in 1946 and the wicket ticket fellow asked the woman ahead of him if there was someone she knew she could sit with. (blink). The writer volunteered. The date went well. They married the next year.

He ran a milk route and expanded and sub-contracted out part. He managed a plant. When the factory closed, he hopped to something seemingly random. He and his wife ran a factory putting caramel on apples and expanded it. He had a nose for opportunity and a tough gut to go for it. He wasn’t opposed to working flat out for years, but drove himself to 2 heart attack and exhaustion. He was fervently anti-union feeling it was an impediment to getting things done. In a factory when something broke, he applied his mechanical skill to get the assembly line running with minimal interruption but was called on the red carpet because proper procedure was to get a union mechanic to come out and do it.

He jumped on opportunities to improve process on farms where he was a milkhand, and to run farms for others on vacation. He built up his reputation a business in Canada called Agricultural Labour Service where he would supply himself or other people to allow a farmer a vacation. The Agricultural Labour Pool still exists. What a good service. Most farmers never get an hour’s vacation over a lifetime. He would have his guys shadow the farmer to learn how that person ran things so the farmer could be sure the substitute would do thing his way.

He competing in international plowing matches with horses and tractors and naturally rose to chairman since his habit is absorb something completely, then manage from the top.

124. Arden Blackburn’s Mail Route: The Early Days at Christie Lake by John A. McKenty (Wheels Gone Bye, 2012)
(book that is about dad’s cousin in part)

The title was the organizing factor— who was on the mailroute around Christie Lake 15 clicks from Perth. There’s little about Arden or the mail route, even in chapters titled after them. Once he was on the route, he ran mail 6 days a week, and whatever items people wanted, whether grocery pickup (since he was in town anyway) to a stove or giving someone a ride in.

Apart from tidbits like before there was a mail route who had mail at the town post office knew that from a notice in the newspaper. Once there was a postmaster station on the lake in 1914, George Noonan was named postmaster although it was actually his wife who did it but women weren’t legally allowed to be postmasters. (p. 204) 30 years later George received a government medal for longtime service instead of her.

From sentence to sentence the subject and year change even when there’s a narrow subject chapter heading. And sometimes unanswered questions. Amelia Rancier worked for the Noonans from 1895 as a house cleaner, nanny, maid, cowherd, and then at some undated time members of the Methodist church arrived with the sheriff and took her to work at the Matheson House as a maid. She bolted back to the farm ad when the sheriff came back Noonan ordered the sheriff off the property or face consequences. The sheriff left. The servant (worker? slave?) stayed.

A game warden complained that he was shot at for trespassing by George’s grandsons. George asked, did they hit you? The warden said no so George said, those are no grandsons of mine then. (p. 205-206)

There was a school for poor boys and girls and sports teams, race days for boats and swimming, a phase of sports fishing, and a stream of cottages built, sold, closed, used for scrap to rebuild, expanded, etc.

There was the story of putting the railway through Mud Lake in 1913. It was 2 or 3 feet deep but below that was 20 feet of muck and then clay and sand. To find bedrock they had to set a pier a 103 feet below water level with concrete footings poured on site.

There was a whole Hollywood North sort of scene in the 1930s-1960s with a choreographer and ballet director for the Rockettes. It was a theatre colony for the off-season with the Marks Brothers and their friends of the touring theatre road shows. Strauss who wrote documentaries on Marilyn Monroe and Jascque Cousteau summered here. (Chapter 8).
Part of Chapter 11 is on Dickie Patterson who was profoundly mentally challenged and lived at the dump in a shack he built himself and hoarded in. People brought him meals, even built him a toilet but he destroyed it and went back to the log he was used to. He was a character who didn’t understand money but worked odd jobs and errands and was watched out for by the community.

It has fascinating information but is terribly arranged in the common manner of local histories. It’s like the book was cut to pieces and then pasted together randomly by machine. Photos and years and people are all scattered. Good material, good anecdotes. Good for bathroom reading where you don’t expect you can sit through a whole chapter or book so don’t need continuity.

125. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster, 2000)

This is recommended from various directions, lists of what to read, recommended at Author for Indies day, a couple friends said it was worthwhile.

What I took away wasn’t anything I’d seen quoted. For example, a tip given to him that the second draft should be 10% smaller than the first draft. Or that to overexplain is rooted in fear of not being understood. In writing as in theatre, nothing should be on stage that doesn’t serve. And if you didn’t put it on stage in act 1, it’s inelegant and ill-advised to lob it in late as surprise.

Independently of each other he and Jeffrey Skinner (in The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets) talk about how alcoholism and drug addiction aren’t mandates of creativity but impede living. And how art is to make life better; life is not to make art better.

He talks about how if you love words, how can there be an excuse to not read or write at any time? There is no muse. Drop that. Show up 3 hours a day and if the muse wants to find you, it knows where you are. You’re working on your quota of words.

He didn’t think much of workshops as they flatter without trying to cut the fat. He learned more in a few black lines of a newspaper editor than in two workshops. Curious that Alden Nowlan wrote so astutely and came from newspaper world, carrying forward the lessons of what works for comprehension.

I’ve never read his novel. I first heard of him in grade 7. A classmate consumed book after book standing on the front porch at lunch reading Thinner and Carrie.

It was interesting how he locked into horror from a very young age. People lock in early. Girls in 4H with me were mad about horses. 30 years later they compete in rodeos. I was ambivalent on horses but scribbled poems during 4H. Now look where we all are still.

King lives a fascinating life and it is an easy and lively read. Long but it doesn’t feel bloated. I’d pass on the recommendation.

Worth a read and a re-read.

Categories: Currently reading.

95books, list 14, poetry habit and a touch of science, 115-119

Putting your poetry into the stream of culture and literature takes either guts or naivety. Maybe both. But one does it because one must.

It’s an art, it’s a science, a compulsion and derived from pulse.
115. Trout Stream Creed by David Carpenter (Coteau Books, 2003)
(found at a bookstore in Saskachewan)
Write about what you love. There’s an argument for that. I find the notion of fishing horrific. Sports fishing is the same as game hunting as incomprehensibly callous but these poems are glowing. The love comes thru. Some of the poems are about caring for dying parents, coming to realization of his father’s mortality. I’ll be out of here tomorrow, says his father. The son thinks release, optimism, renewed life-wish and only considers later that his father meant acceptance of death. Which is understandable since there’s that decline in late life then a sudden improvement which is a hallmark of the zag before the end instead of a new better era.

You can tell when a writer is in their passion, not talking for platform or audience. It is written with a love and skill.


As father in the hospital again and may not come out this time, it becomes grounded in observations such as relating dad’s life attitude,

A thoroughly enjoyable book for craft and content.

116. Nicholodeon: a book of lowerglyphs by Darren Wershler-Henry (Coach House, 1997)
(found in library catalogue)

How curious vispo tributes go to men. Are there that few practioners? What would tilt to disproportionally male? Is it a generational thing related to socialization of females chatter of their lives and males speak more externally? Or about who mentors who and males happened to give access at a certain time and place?

This tribute to bp of using his elements in a letterpress tray particularly popped, as well as breaking the form of the book by having a fold out sheet. Wow, in a land of tidy bound pages it seems extravagance more typical of hand-made press items.

Structured as tributes, an insiders kind of book. I wonder what some people would get out of it.

117. Grey Owl: The Mystery of Archie Belaney by Armand Garnet Ruffo (Coteau, 1996)
(found in library catalogue)

What an enjoyable read, quite compelling as it went thru his life in a chronological memoir. I’ve seen a few books by Ruffo but this is my hand’s down favourite.

I too read of Grey Owl as a figure in my childhood and didn’t know he wasn’t native. A complex figure rendered from poems from various points of view to build a complete chronological memoir. It reads like a biography and unfolds like a mystery wondering what turn his life will take next. It hooks forward like a whole unit more than individual poems although each poem stands alone. I liked the research aspect and how thing from his journal were actually from his journal, like this,

We don’t have to make stuff up. There’s a wealth of out there to draw on.

118. Riveted: The science of Why Jokes make us laugh, movies make us cry, and religion makes us feel one with the universe by Jim Davies (Palvgrave & McMillan, 2014)
(seen at writers fest)

Everyone should read this. I was skeptical about it being pop sci with a lot of hook but no follow thru but it was chock full of neat little facts. It’s almost manic energy keeps up without being too all over the place. It took a while to adapt to the jumpiness of the almost stream of consciousness text but it is clustered by subjects. Still, I wish it had an editor to corral it a little more, but as the text and studies show, to work more to understand leads you to believe the text more.

depression and call
Fascinating stuff.

OC and religion
OC and religion. Better than his talk at Writers Fest focussing more on how vs. people believing in UFOs.

119. Our Days in Vaudeville: 29 Collaborations with Stuart Ross (Mansfield Press, 2013)
(bought at an Ottawa small press fair)

Because it’s collaboration, it’s a different beast than some. Some poems went back and forth by word, or line, or couplet or quatrain. It has the feel of a exquisite corpse. Sometimes they jazz together. Sometimes it feels like two writers competing and resisting one another like a jazz improv I once saw.

Sometimes its reeling to sillyland like this,

Non-sequitur jumps is my mother tongue.

Favorite one has a sense of humour in playful pokes against one another as the two styles were collaged:

Ridley, Footnotes
It has a meta level that reminds me of Michele Provost’s work in and against text.

Categories: Currently reading.

95books, list 13, poetry habit, 107-114

Well, I’ve gone and done it again. By time I do a round up of what I read the start of the list is starting to fade from memory. Complicated by my computer battery kacking, attention divided and my iphone frying and with it photos of pages I did take. Ach. Some weeks, I tell ya.

I’ve got 27 books open under currently reading and as many stacked under the start next once i corral them all up.

So better sooner than even more later.

107. Dickinson, Emily. “Poems (Vol. 3).”
(Got by searching book app for free books)

Have I mentioned how struck I am by how religious they are?

She is in myth a hermit but lived with her father and sister and was the yearly hostess to her father’s party. She went to church until she found sacredness more in the woods. Lover-of-my-soul pining could be for an object of smittenness or Christ lover of soul longing for the next world. Pining for death, to the better world coming could be depression or religious ideal. Still they’re pretty goth overall. Sometimes it’s more being a completist than engaging. 3 books was something of a marathon hobble. It’s not that it was bad, but more down-in-the-mouth than I recall, which might say something about where my equilibrium was the last time I read vs. now.

108. The Wrong Cat: poems by Lorna Crozier (M&S, 2015)
(got by browsing at a library)

Interesting to read alongside her husband’s biography, seeing the cats in the round. There’s a light touch of grace that is harder to achieve than one might think. Pretty gentle and light, a fast read but not fluffy. Necessarily but The Moose’s Nose was pretty straight-up comic.

I swore I took notes, and a couple photos of poems but can I find either? No, but I recall liking Deer’s take on Man which Amazon will also let you preview.

109. Industrial Sabatage #64
(by subscription.)

New issue finally made it to production. (#63 came in 2008.) It’s the thing you do not the scheduling it as if poetry is a business. Even when there is a business of subscriptions. Weird poems, various pages printed in different ink colours.

Judith Copithorn’s Anti-inflammatory is my favourite. “Plum blossoms in the incandescent light/as silent and slippery as snow” Beyond sound there’s the indoors lighting and ephemeralness of electricity compared to snow. A modern sort of comparison. As if this power grid too shall pass.

110. aberrant lounges by Kimmy Beach (The Martian Press, 2006)
(found again by sorting my chapbook drawers and boxes)
A road trip thru the prairies via dingy diners. You can nearly hear the flies. Strangers in bars.

From Cudsworth Saskatchewan, January, 2003…

I ignore the NO TRESSPASSING sign between
Stations VII and VIII of The Cross
trudge up the hill and there she is
a foot of snow around her bare feet
an angel faces in every direction
they keep an eye on her abandonned barns,
dead tractors, Our Lady
of Perpetual Frostbite

the blue jays scream at me
I leave peanuts for them at her hem

and from Grand Hotel Patio

a very important business man is a the next table
and my left hand is low at your back
he speaks to someone on a headset
about Futures I let my shoulder lean into your arm
the man’s companions swirl expensive wine over their tongues
stare past his busy head
they could all be in different restaurants

you are not mine to hold or touch
I do it anyway
the night bleeding onto my bare and sweating hands

111. update by Bill Kennedy & Darren Wershler (Snare, 2008)
(found in library browsing)

I probably wasn’t suppose to read the thing. It’s conceptual poetry. The concept that you feed in the status updates of the authors, have the software strip out your names and replace with names from a list of index of poets.

Culture is replicated not embellished to model the world we want to create. So 4/5 of the poets are male while reaching thru centuries of world literature. Is our obligation to reflect history or fix it?

Identity is melded. One is one with them all. Your thoughts are my thoughts. A vulcan mind meld with a disordered mind of much pain like Horta except on the subjects of being hung over, dealing with email, thinking about the Flintstones.

It did run on. It aims to be against Great Significance and the Poet As Heroic Figure Thinking Timeless Thoughts.


I’m not sure if it was the best of the algorith’s randomness or if that would be against process. It is commentary on data stream of trivialness I guess. It’s alternative to narrative, significance, and authorship. Look ma, no hands.

112. return to open water: poems news and selected by Harold Rhenisch (Ronsdale Press, 2007)
(found at a used bookstore, Black Squirrel I believe)
To read is to map your thoughts into the gait of another, go thru the gates of their choice. This selected was by someone I’d never read.

It is about curating the significant.

It was a bit distracting/amusing to read since it is used and a previous reader did scansion marks on quite a few poems and here and there edited with marginalia and crossed out wording. Have to go with the author’s original wordings or line breaks.

“like a man’s life
pouring out of his eyes in sleep—”
p. 22 a previous reader was sure the line break should put pouring up on the line to make lines even. I think it would trouble the read and to have the line short and the couplet uneven unlike the other suits the shift in tone there.

p. 19
“The sun is a white glare
glancing off a crow’s blue wing feathers,”

The previous reader struck ‘wing feathers’ as redundant. I might have to agree with my co-reader on that one.

Despite there being a lot of poems troping bird and river and darkness, copse, grass and poeterly poems of quietude, it was a pleasant read.

p. 133, some beautiful slow reveals and expansions.
“the white house,
the red door, the shock

of arrogance
and settlement”

Some true observations like the list of things at the flea market, a pottery with a thumbprint and whatnots, who “plunks their money down// to live the life. We all take on/what others have put off.”

113. Land Without Chocolate by faizal deen (Wolsak & Wynn, 1999)
(given to me by rob mclennan)

Accumulation-style poems of run-on sentences. Seeming stream of consciousness. Not feeling particularly cooked or too tangled but a tangled spilling forth.

Is this like the sensation when I was teaching ESL and the quorums of students would come forward and ask that I not use “that word” any more? The word in that case was “gay”. So people couldn’t conjugate some verbs. They could learn the distinctions between gay and transsexual and cross-dressing and bisexual, or least learn not to make jokes where in gay marriage one had to be the woman.

I digress.


Intense as a read. Dark. I didn’t often follow what was going on.

114. Beatitudes of Ice by Rienzi Crusz (TSAR, 1995)
(found browsing the library catalogue)

He has written an enormous number of books and yet they don’t blather. Tight poems from this Canadian Sri Lanka writer who has been in Canada longer than I’ve been alive. Some poems about elephants but not in the superficial way that is more common. Some poems of everyday life of seeing the snow plough come but with a deeper reach thru history.

Suitcase, p 50, revolves around a list of things in the suitcase with “a small white pad/ of unwritten poems—/white gold/asking to be mined.”

I’d happily read another of his books. In Canada since the early 60s some of the poems are about Sri Lanka, some, like this, below, are grounded here.

A poem on page 4 is about a suburban snowstorm evoking let my people go. For the plow to drive thru would be like parting the Red Sea.

“There shall be no diaspora today[...]
Your Egypt still shines[...] in its white misery”

How unfortunately typical that hounding assumption “but what are you really”.

Categories: Currently reading.

LitLand and Literary Upcoming

Did you miss Daniel Zomparelli of CantLit and Poetry is Dead with JM? That’s on playback here.

The week previous it was me with Avonlea Fotheringham on workshopping and editing poems. Speaking of which she is leading a Tree workshop on Sept 8 as the new season begins after that with Moritz at 8.

Speaking of upcoming, Factory has a reading in a couple weeks you won’t want to miss (but I have to, booo): Ryan Pratt (Hamilton), Roland Prevost (Ottawa), Cameron Anstee (Ottawa) and Monty Reid (Ottawa). That’s September 24th.

The week before the reading I’ll be on air with Cameron Anstee. So tune in on the 17th to CKCU.

Categories: CKCU, PSA, Poetry.

Stats Check

Stats check:

Chapbooks are running at 16% of total. 1/3 of what I read is current 2014/2015. When not reading poetry (3/4 of the time), it’s a 3-way tie between essays, memoir & history. After that, science, novels and business.

I went back and gave a starred system— which I probably will never share per item — ranking the 2015 books I read. It’s skewed because 1 star doesn’t exist. If it does it is hell, no—life is to short to hate-read and those will never go to a done list.

2 star is likely going to drag to a halt before done but if finished, was a real slog with some payoff but if so, not immediately. Might be worthwhile to read some of at least. 18% of the finished were a slog in part or whole.

53% I’d say are average, good enough, competent, maybe enjoyable or interesting with a part that jazzed up.

22% are wow, so glad I read that. That, my friends is how to do it.

And 8% are recommended that you’d buy and read this! Why hasn’t everyone read this.

I see 19 places I get books from. The top sources for books I read:

7. small press fair or a writing festival table,
6. direct from publisher,
5. gift,
4. direct from author,
3. online,
2. used book store, bricks or online
1. library

Categories: Currently reading.

Arc Poetry Magazine announces Lampman Award finalists

Each year, Arc Poetry Magazine honours Ottawa poets. Arc is proud to present the three finalists for the $1500 2014 Archibald Lampman Award for an outstanding book of poetry by a National Capital author.

The award is named in honour of Archibald Lampman (1861 – 1899), one of Canada’s finest nineteenth-century poets. Lampman moved to Ottawa in 1882, and much of his mature poetry was inspired by the National Capital region.

The 2014 Archibald Lampman Award will be presented in conjunction with the City of Ottawa Book Awards by Mayor Jim Watson. The awards ceremony will take place at Ottawa City Hall on October 21, 5-7 pm. Nine books were entered in the 2014 competition and Arc congratulates all the finalists and their publishers! Arc would also like to thank the 2014 judges Arleen Paré, E. Alex Pierce and David O’Meara.

The three finalists are:

Steven Artelle Metropantheon (Signature Editions, Winnipeg, 2014)

Inspired by eastern myth and theology, the Persian epic, Hindu scripture, and other eastern classics, Metropantheon is a gritty, brilliant, and wonderfully eccentric debut

collection that seeks to inject a bit of spiritual levity into the rat-race void of western urban life. Judges remarked on the book’s exuberance and imaginative scope, noted its political stance and striking imagery, and sprinted to keep up with its headlong streetwise pace. Able to present completely different but utterly compelling scenes as points of departure for larger mediations on art, politics, history, and contemporary culture, this is a powerful book by a gifted poet.

Shane Book, Congotronic (House of Anansi. Toronto, 2014)

The second collection from poet and filmmaker Shane Book, Congotronic riffs on philosophic texts, manifestos and a West African epic in an explosive series of original, unsettling poems. The language is energetic, the imagery vivid, and the territory unstable, as multiple layers of voice, diction and music collide. Sometimes as sparse as prayer, other times jangling with hip-hop rhythms, Congotronic is an original, unnerving book.

Deanna Young, House Dreams: (Brick Books, London, 2014)

House Dreams is a subtle exploration of adulthood, that uneasy realm between the expectations of youth and the fears of mounting responsibility. The book quietly surprises with graceful and unsettling images drawn deftly from domestic shadows. A book of both urgency and grace, House Dreams exhibits expert technique and careful metaphor, and its words take on a disturbing dreamlike quality, almost escaping the page. Haunted and haunting, this is a book of plainspoken power and the uncanny imagery that transforms everyday life.

Watch for announcements of a reading by the Lampman finalists coming soon!

Categories: PSA, Poetry.


One for the eyes,

Clean Sails by Gustave Morin is coming this fall,

Gustave Morin has gathered up dozens of typewriters on their so–called dying legs, modified several of them with the addition of hand–crafted custom typeheads and, by driving these jalopies to the very limits of their capabilities, wrenched from them one last spin around the proverbial block.Clean Sails is the culmination of countless thousands of hours spent typing — five years in the actual writing, after a 20–year private apprenticeship and period of incubation going back to 1990, when Gustave’s formal experiments with concrete poetry began in earnest. Clean Sails is his masterwork, the result of a life–long investigation into the typewriter poem.

One for the ears,
Paul Nelson interviews Barry McKinnon which is broken over several parts about his writing, teaching, memories of running a reading series and about poetics. For example, he quotes Creeley who said ‘I write short poems because my wife keeps walking into the room.’ These are not profound metaphysical arguments but they are real.

Categories: Link Dump.

95books, list 12: local history & literary histories

The problem with lists rather than real time is the fall-off of memory and the books getting re-scattered.

102. Ottawa’s Farm: A History of the Central Experimental Farm by Helen Smith (General Store Publishing, 1996)

Got at St. Vincent de Paul Thift store.

This was full of fascinating stories and details about the development of the farm, where buildings were, what people remember of the days as Ottawa developed towards that area, and around it. People in streetcars used to come by and steal the fruit from trees which they couldn’t begrudge much in the dirty 30s but it did make hybridizing research harder.

Did you know the cattle are there just for pleasing the public now? They don’t have a mandate, or didn’t at the time of writing, to research dairy cattle anymore. Volunteers look after the flower beds, which also aren’t part of the research anymore. The sunken flower bed uses the foundation of a house that became derelict and kept the foundation plantings. At one point, someone tried to abscond with flagstones. Can you imagine. Of all the things to steal.

It does some research to advance agriculture but is partly supported by the general public and Friends of the Farm.

103. Kathleen’s Caroliole Ride by Margaret Kell Virany (Virany & Virany, 2014)

Got at the Ottawa Small Press fair.

This was a story of her parent’s young life, from just before they met, continuing mostly though their early marriage in the native north where her father worked as a preacher. Although a curtailed version of her earlier book, A Book of Kells, it feels right-sized and with very little exact overlap. Both are good and complementary books.

From Jack’s journals we see him realize that the HBC was not out to support the natives but get as much fur with as much profit. He was left to pick up the pieces as people died of TB, VD and goodbye gifts of children from traders who were going back south. When he first arrived picked a nice piece of 75 acres as his, and built a cabin, which as it turned out was a holy hill where the progenitor or all otters came from. (p.12-13). Life was often harsh, with him getting used to frost bite. His skin will turn waxy and white and then burn and then flake off. He read novels, recorded Cree family structures. (Wish more of that had been pushed forward).

104. George Eliot by Marghanita Laski (Thames and Hudson, 1973)
Used library books sale.

The main thing about this book is the details. Every life every in tangential or 5 steps removed from George Eliot is named. People family worked for, people who worked for the family, school teachers, people who are speculated to be based on characters, including the author who sees her 1st cousin, 4 times removed as the real life source. A lot of the focus is establishing the real life counterpart to events in novels. An accountant’s zeal to pass forward every financial transaction, amount and address. It is lush with sketches, engravings, first hand quotations. Fascinating stuff. The who, where, when and what are accounted for. The underlying why and how are not interjected so much. Lots of character witnesses/assassinations to say she came across as false, mean and cold in later years while she was a pariah and socialite combined.

Certainly there’s a lot to track, with her travelling frequently and far and oh, the dramas of a life of swingers and free thinkers turned more puritanical later and denying fangirls who professed love. One even dedicated her tombstone to the legacy of George. George (and her name thru the book takes on whatever dominant spelling or pen name which dominated in the era being talked about) took the name of her husband who couldn’t divorce because of some legal loophole of permitted his ex to have children with another man with his knowledge. A consequence of this relationship her brother blacklisted her for 23 years, only speaking to her again once she was clearly wed to the next man, 20 years her junior for the few months before she died.

I’ve poked away on and off at Middlemarch for years. I got rid of my print edition for the sake of shelf space but got an ebook to see how I’ll get on this time.

105. Further Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer by Stuart Ross (Anvil Press, 2015)
Got at the Ottawa small press fair.

Much more contemporary than the previous collection that went further back. Essays — but don’t let the word essays scare you because they aren’t academic bafflegab but talking around a subject— on themed books vs. miscellaneous collectons, with thumbs ups to particular ones, 35 years of memories of Crad Kilodney, musing on what is good and bad literature anyway, one on Michael Dennis. A lot of it is resume and shout outs. Interesting perspectives on the long look at the League of Canadian Poets.

The postscripts that update the columns are a fun element. A favourite is one that starts with a poem by Stephen Crane and ponders on the goals that got away; it concludes —**spoiler alert**— that the point is process of going towards the next horizon. Somehow this sequel feels more like memoir than Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer.

106. The Library Book: An Overdue History of the Ottawa Public Library 1906-2001 by Phil Jenkins (Ottawa Public Library, 2002)

Gifted by the library for doing workshops, or was it judging a contest? I forget.

Fascinating bit of history. Hands up who knew that the first Ottawa Public Library was a Carnegie that was torn down to build the current main branch which may be replaced for the same reason. Too small and ugly by the standards of the day. Glad they kept the stained glass and hope they do that the next time they move.

All the dramas of getting the bookmobile going. Did you know there were a few writer-in-residence positions over the years sporadically from 1987-2000 with Joan Finnegan, Gabrielle Poulin, Elisabeth Harvor, Charles de Lint and Jan Andrews?

Categories: Currently reading.