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Versefest 2014: Goyette Connelly and McFadden

A few more things from Versefest.

Sue Goyette read. She warned before her reading think of it like technomusic. The poems make no sense. There’s no decoder ring, no test afterwards. You get them or you don’t.

Sue Goyette's Ocean

You probably already have Sue Goyette’s Ocean right? Before or after it was short-listed for the Griffin?

Funny how books sit on a book table. Some go, most stay then a poet reads and there’s a Boxing-Day-style scrimmage to get copies.

At a festival it’s good to get your must-buys in the first sweep. If you wait until after the person reads or the festival end, they’ll be all gone.

She had an easy patter, a comic timing, and looked at home at the mic as she set the audience at ease.

Her poems didn’t ride the expected path but have little twists of humour in there. It doesn’t read flat. Starting walking along a waterfront in the east coast and one can tangent to anywhere in social commentary or history.

Karen Connelly
Karen Connolly also mid-career (or “senior poet” which sounds like one should get free coffee and priority seating) to an attentive very full room. It’s sweet to see such a large crowd out for poetry when its not even slam. As many as there were you could hear a pin drop in her tribute to missing women. Probably someone could burst in and try to do a hold-up and would be ignored or shushed. She also wrote of “the good man who left a trail in his wake like phosphorescence” and how Calgary has changed, the riverfront becoming expensive real estate where “I cannot afford to be nostalgic by the glass”

David McFadden also read and had the room converted to tame chickadees resting on his palm. Overheard: he’s so cute I just want to take him home. I just want to eat his cheeks.

Maybe that starts with his gentleman’s approach to be called to the mic. First things first, he kisses his partner Merlin, congratulates and greets his fellow reader, thanks the person who introduces him and then goes up and delivers some gently comic good natured poems.

He read from his previous collections but mostly from his spring collection from Mansfield Press.

Here’s some hopefully correctly quoted bits to give you a flavour.

it wouldn’t be me
I’d want to be
I’d want to be
John Wayne
or my mom

every day we age
two days and every night
we get one day younger

Ian says
that as I walk down
government street
cherry blossoms
fall from the trees.

it’s hard to be serene
when every minute or so
another frog
of 5 or 7 syllables
hops into the pool.

And lastly, from longer poem was about being in small town Canada

“as Stomping Tom plays in a café and people are talking about snowmobiling. I was at home. My heart, usually the size of a dried plum, grew until it filled the whole room.”

He’s working on his 102 sonnet collection to come out soon too.

McFadden ovation
When he finished reading there was a whole room standing ovation.

David McFadden

book tables area rush
And then the melee for books and conversations.

Categories: Poetry reading write-up.

Putting the Launch in Launch: Factory Series

because book launch
Glue is dry.

because book launch
Supervisor cat confirms.

because book launch
When supervisor cat wasn’t lying on the instructions.

for April 23 Factory reading
The launch projectiles include a dozen excerpts from each of the poets attached to a mint or chocolate mint candy.

If test flings are, er, ah, problematic, the poems will be party favours on the tables.

Who reads? You know this, right? Pearl Pirie (Ottawa), Kevin Spenst (Vancouver) + Sneha Madhavan-Reese (Ottawa) (lovingly hosted by rob mclennan)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014;
doors 7pm; reading 7:30pm
Raw Sugar Cafe
692 Somerset Street West (1 block west of Bronson)

author bios:

Pearl Pirie has a few chapbooks, a micro press, several blogs, a gig as literary radio host and irregular gigs to teach poetry. She has two poetry collections, and a third forthcoming with BookThug in 2015. None of these poems are in them so you have to buy them both.

She will be launching the chapbook vertigoheel for the dilly (2013), her fourth above/ground press publication and second chapbook, after oath in the boathouse (2008).

In addition to the UK, the United States, Austria and India, Kevin Spenst’s poetry has appeared in over a dozen Canadian literary publications such as Freefall, Prairie Fire, CV2, Dandelion, filling Station, qwerty, and Poetry is Dead. His work has been shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry and his manuscript Ignite has come in as a finalist for the Alfred G. Bailey Prize. In 2011, he won the Lush Triumphant Award for Poetry. In 2014 he is going to do a 100-venue reading tour across Canada with his chapbooks Pray Goodbye (the Alfred Gustav Press, 2013), Retractable (the serif of nottingham, 2013), Happy Hollow and the Surrey Suite (self-published, 2012), What the Frag Meant (100 tetes press, 2014) and Surrey Sonnets (JackPine press, 2014). Follow the chapbook tour at

Born in Detroit, Sneha Madhavan-Reese [pictured, above] calls Ottawa home. Her poetry has appeared in Arc, Descant, and The Antigonish Review. Her debut poetry collection is forthcoming in 2016 from Hagios Press.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

Railroaded: Signature Editions

Railroad is a new pop-up reading series around town run by Rona Shaffran and Rod Pederson. It happens irregularly when there are speakers and a venue. On April 16th it was a special Signature Editions spring launch. It was a full to standing room only house.

Rod PedersonRhonda Douglas
Rod Pederson gave some intros. There was a warm up reading by Rhonda Douglas from her Some Days I Think I Know Things.

Cora Siré’s Signs of Subversive Innocents and Montreal, Steven Artelle’s Metropantheon and Rona Shaffron’s Ignite of Ottawa were the spring books. (We arrived late so missed Rona.)

Cora Siré
Cora Siré read poems from her travels, including around Montreal. She related how she admitted to a local cyclist and painter that she wrote a poem about him. He responded with an illustration that went in the book.

She wrote of Timmy regulars who she called flaneaurs and pointed out the irony of them spending all day on their stools while outside a sign reads, no loitering. She wrote of the 30,000 missing people of whom we don’t speak but the silence around them are like a congenital infection.

Steve Artelle
Steve Artelle’s new book is wonderful ride. Partly I have read it before and so have you if you read that excerpt from his Chinatown chapbook. But there’s more in the book than that delight too. There is the sensation of that folks, is how you write poetry. Not just story, or language but that extra percent that adds density and leap. I find it captivating. He seems at ease at the mic and moving among the material which makes a pantheon of strange gods to walk among familiar concrete places.

Steve Artelle
As he read, perhaps, Terminal City Rollergirls or graffitichild builds the church of sleep p. 57 with its unpredictible rollick of sound and sense. If one is to use adjectives, this is how:

and nightshifter grafittichild knew
more than anything a city needs sleep
so he whispered she to the hypnotic figurine
I’ll worry you a church sweet starfish
but with grinning instinct contracted the circadian job
to the deafening reptiles eh unravelled he like wires
spitting sparks from the all the anxious cracks in heaven
one for every wakeful hour that grafittichild trickmaker
build the church of sleep with dragons

Egad what a roll. Poems that held my attention without a nit or dropped stitch.

cheering crew
Here’s some of his cheering crew.

Steve Artelle
Maybe at this moment it was p. 81,

Umbrella hag

no shelter, love
she’ll never have on
and neither will you
they’re too much like lovers
folding backwards before the least wind
so empty underneath
though the weather never comes from one direction
they’re sadder than the rain
so she’ll break every one, love
no one misses umbrellas
when they’re gone

signing time
Signing books in the line.

Categories: Poetry reading write-up.

Tags: , ,

Versefest Hall of Honour

Rusty Priske introducing
Rusty welcomed a full house to the Versefest Hall of Honour on March 30th. Each year the idea is to give appreciation to someone who builds up Ottawa’s poetry community by sustained efforts. Day 6 of Versefest involved conferring thanks to 2 people in the community who have spent years making the community with their time.

the ensemble
Danielle chose to perform with her old crew of Rusty and Kevin for a song poem. And to add a new ending to a poem that may be familiar to some of you, the one of first true love of kids on the ski lift. Here’s an Ottawa Focus interview from a few years ago and an Open Book Ontario overview.

Sandra Ridley introducingAmanda Earl poeming
Sandra Ridley gave the impressive list of all the work Amanda Earl has put into the Ottawa community. When you see her at one place, you can forget she is doing so many parallel projects to bring creative people together. Amanda shared one of her poem series.

As many of you saw at the time, by being there or seeing on twitter, as Amanda left the stage, in her wake was a hooting stamping, whistling instant standing ovation.

Hall of Honourers
After the ceremony, together: Amanda Earl with all her creative manifestations of poetry, curating, and calendaring with, BQJ, AngelHouse, DevilHouse, Experiment-O, was thanked as was Danielle KL Gregoire who started various slam series and has moved on to curating and starting up stand up comedy in the U.S.

Ottawa’s luckier for having both of you.

Categories: Poetry reading write-up.


Battle of the Bards, IFOA

Since we slipped in almost late for the Battle of the Bards, with only 5 people coming after us, 2 once readings were in progress, I didn’t inquire about taking any pictures. It felt too complex to be worth it to risk having a waggling finger come at me.

It was a couple weeks ago. I still am not sure whether to post anything about IFOA. Big signs said no photography or videos. Such things suggest: ephemera only. If an event is to publicize things to sell, to ask for no recordings is to give a mixed message. The organizers set a tone of not wanting participation or interaction.

I can understand to a degree. It is baffling, for example, when restaurants publicize themselves with terrible photos of their product. Why should that bad branding be invited? But at the same time, why should red tape be invited? Maybe I overthink. Does the world need my opinion?

There were two, I presume official, cameras set up at the back on tripods. I was tempted to snap a shot of the cameraman filming in front of the sign.

Maybe it would have been fine. Maybe it was all on tape. But the presence of long lenses are not a reliable proof that any documentation will ever surface because either it is for sale only or it goes some private channel.

Long story, long, I am glad Jim Smith’s reading surfaced.

Kick ass reading. He has a power of presence that is uncommon for a reader. In audience role he is invisible. In speaking role he commands the room. And then his poems themselves were enjoyable and effective. The poem in tribute to his dog was touching and lovely.

Anyway, what else did I notice in the readings themselves?

Aisha Sasha John I was curious about, having seen intriguing bits but hadn’t heard her read before. The point of view was self-assured rather and assertive and pointed and lively which isn’t as common as one would think would be the case. Sharp writing and sharp turns in it. Not poetry of wafting and drifting and contemplation but engagement. “I want to smell the arm pits of the line” “There’s no salvation here, just a gap”

I would have bought her book on the spot, had the book table had the capacity to accept visa, or the bank machine in the lobby been able to accept my card. Funny when even people selling zines have had the wireless app and device for 3 or 4 years. She’s coming to Ottawa Writers Fest so second chances will come.

I hadn’t heard Julie Joosten read in person although I read her book. Her style was more lyric in the air than I expected and she looks a lot younger than I expected from her voice, which is neither good not bad but interesting other dimension. Because I had the book, I took no note of which she read. She read one long piece unlike others who gave a handshake sort of poem, then something serious/poignant and something comic to leave a good taste at the end. She sustained a thought and tone for her whole time.

Because of the demands of the format people chose poems that would fly easily in the air, thus picked their anecdote end of the spectrum. Was it 3 poems about grandmothers or 2? 2 poems about dogs, 2 about Al Purdy. The competitive nature skews the portion picked from the text.

The range of poems was broad in a way that suggested luck of the draw for who read. How could one aesthetic like all that?

I’ve heard Shannon Maguire give 2 other readings at least. She gave a great reading like a fusion of language poetry and stage play. This one, in which the judgement was based in how well you present your own poems, was presented with a sort of vidid dramatic monologue. I was sorry she didn’t include some of the sound poems that she has in the books, so other people would get to hear that too. At least we got to hear the sound poetry end of things at the Factory Reading Series.

Jason Camlot gave a reading that tickled the entire room. If votes were based on audience response that would have probably been in the top 3 at least. His last poem where the amount of yiddish(?) increased percentage wise as he went seemed to particularly grab people. He gave a great reading, and with no overlap of poems he read at the Ottawa launch, which is nice really. Some poems are enjoyable to hear again but there are some poets who make themselves their own chestnuts and over 3 or 4 years read the same poem sets in pre-publication, pre-release and book released.

Catherine Graham started by taking a poll. Who here likes Barbie? Who here is against all things Barbie? That revved people up. She grabbed people with presentation, mostly on the weight of a story from a point of view of a child talking about boobies and Barbies with her little friend, adding nipples to a sculpture of mashed potatoes. It was cute.

Her book came out of a manuscript of deconstructed glosas and is dedicated to P.K. Page and Irish poet Dorothy Molloy. Striking lines I jotted “even hunger needs a break” and “You stood still as branches, as a thing trapped.”

She ended up being awarded first place which means cash, and getting poems into a magazine.

Even with a flash round of 5 minutes per poet, and each poet introducing themselves over an hour an a half of poetry is pretty intense and tiring.

Poetry is a dense form, usually. It is written of things that matter most. A poetry series that happens every week or two but only last half an hour would be good.

What else was there said?

Edward Carson wrote with perfect rhymes of a lineage purely in a landscape. Was it birds or fish where he noted “the sharp evasions of their turnings”. The whole sample was of the tone of musing in a riparian meadow “not even know of this or that, a half dream that you will soon undo, that you will soon undo.”

Clara Blackwood is from Guernica. At this point I have seen enough by Guernica to know I probably won’t be able to catch in my mitt what they pitch. She had a poem with a sharp line “you believe there is a way to distill chaos.”

Sadiqa de Meijer’s book is rather diverse. The samples she read in Toronto had one overlap with the ones she chose in Ottawa. In the intervening time, my handwriting seems to have come unknit. Could she have said something about “belled metal restaurant elephants”? That quote may be worse than useless.

Kate Marshall Flaherty wrote of Alzheimer’s and related her encounter with a mother to whom she as daughter seems to be the mother’s childhood sisters. “I must know you but the name dissolves like tissues in the bath”. “They say you stew in your own juices. If sweet”…or if sour.

JonArno Lawson did comic verse and aphorisms/one liners “death is the last thing I want to experience” or “you will be judged for the one foolish ting you say not by your 10,000 sensible silences.” The room at around halftime got reset by the comedy amid the poems of death or serious nature observing.

Chris Pannell write of the “red-winged black bird on the wire fence” and the what the “wind carried in each of its infinite pockets” and did some light comic touches that were well-received as well such as the self-deprecating “I wish that I had not been squeezed out of my previous form by beer”.

I read Sarah Pinder’s book it seems a couple years ago. In the voice it had, it seemed a different feel, more ironic and sharp somehow. I’m not sure if I can qualify that remark well; so much time has passed between the seeing text and the hearing of ideas. Sarah Pinder had a raspy voice that reminded me of local poet Jenna Jarvis. “Logic [illegible] beside my body”. It’s interesting to see the poet live and how that changes the text.

Jacob Scheier came with his EWC book and had a poem after Al Purdy. He gave a comic tale of “freedom” after a breakup of being able to be messy again, eat what he liked, walk when he wants “astonished and a little frightened by his freedom, throwing thong underwear to the 4 corners of the [apartment] world.”

Sheila Stewart asked what can you do on the subway? Read. Watch golden flowers. Deena Kara Shaffer I seem to have taken no notes during. Adrienne Weiss was shooting for an audience not me. Something about solid gold dances. Topics included music, celebrities and Walmart.

By process of elimination, reconstruction and bad handwriting, who from Gaspereau Press would be, if memory serves, male and writing about dropping a mattress out an upper window of his father’s house and driving it to the dump on the top of his vehicle like the world’s largest grilled cheese sandwich draped over its roof? John Terpstra I think.

Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang poems are taken from friend’s status updates on Facebook. Each update becomes a title. The biggest hit in the room so far as you could hear a pin drop was the statistics on sexual assault poem where it was driven home the demographics of who and how it’s not even. If you’re disabled, if you’re native, if you’re college age and female, there’s more risk.


Because records of events tend to vaporize off the internet again, all the readers this year at IFOA’s (entering its 40th year this June) Battle of the Bards, were:

Clara Blackwood is a poet, visual artist and tarot reader. Her first poetry collection, Subway Medusa (2007), was the inaugural book in Guernica Editions’ First Poets Series, which features first books by poets 35 and under. Her poetry has appeared in Canadian and International journals. She lives in Toronto. Blackwood presents work from her collection Forecast (2014).

Jason Camlot is the author of four collections of poetry, The Animal Library (2001), Attention All Typewriters (2005), The Debaucher (2008) and most recently, What The World Said (2013). He plays bass in Puggy Hammer and is an English literature professor at Concordia University. He presents work from his most recent collection.

Edward Carson is the author of two previous books of poetry, Scenes (1977) and Taking Shape (2008). Twice the winner of the E.J. Pratt Poetry Award, Carson was Writer in Residence for Open Book Toronto in In 2010. He lives in Toronto. He presents work from his collection Birds Flock Fish School (2013).

Sadiqa de Meijer was born in Amsterdam, and moved to Canada as a child. Her poetry, short stories and essays have appeared in many journals, including The Malahat Review, Geist, The Fiddlehead, Riddle Fence and Poetry Magazine. Her poems were anthologized in The Best of Canadian Poetry in English 2008 and in the international anthology Villanelles. In 2012, her series “Great Aunt Unmarried” won the CBC Poetry Prize. She presents work from her debut collection, Leaving Howe Island (2013).

Kate Marshall Flaherty has published in journals such as Descant, CV2, Freefall and Windsor Review. She was shortlisted for Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize, The Malahat Review Long Poem and Descant’s Best Canadian Poem. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three spirited children, where she guides yoga/retreats/writing workshops. She presents work from Reaching V (2014).

Len Gasparini is the author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry, five short story collections, two children’s books, a work of non-fiction and a one-act play. In 1990, he was awarded the F.G. Bressani Literary Prize for poetry. In 2010, he won the Poetry NOW competition. He lives in Toronto. Gasparini presents work from his collection Mirror Image (2014).

Catherine Graham is the author of four previous poetry collections. She teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies, and her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies around the world. A new and selected volume of her poetry is forthcoming in the United Kingdom. She lives in Toronto. She presents work from her collection Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects (2013).

Aisha Sasha John is a dance improviser and poet. She was born in Montreal, but spent most of her childhood in Vancouver. She currently lives in Toronto. John has a BA in African Studies and Semiotics from the University of Toronto and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Her first book, The Shining Material, was published in 2011. She presents work from her new poetry collection, THOU (2014).

Julie Joosten lives in Toronto. Her poems and reviews can be read in Jacket 2, Tarpaulin Sky, The Malahat Review and The Fiddlehead. She presents work from her debut collection, Light Light (2013).

JonArno Lawson is the award-winning author of numerous books of poetry for children and adults, including Black Stars in a White Night Sky, A Voweller’s Bestiary and Think Again. A two-time winner of the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Children’s Poetry, he lives in Toronto with his wife and children. He presents work from his collection Enjoy It While It Hurts (2013).

Shannon Maguire grew up on the mouth of Lake Superior and now lives in Guelph, Ontario. Her poetry has appeared in CV2, Ditch, Gultch: An Assemblage of Poetry and Prose, as well as other places. She is the author of three chapbooks: Vowel Wolves & Other Knots (2011), Fruit Machine (2012) and A Web of Holes (2012). She presents work from her debut collection, fur(l) parachute, from which a selection of poems was nominated for the Manitoba Magazine Awards in the category of Best Poem or Suite of Poems (2012) and was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry (2011).

Chris Pannell has published three poetry books: Under Old Stars, Sorry I Spent Your Poem and Drive. He is also the author of a set of three poetry broadsheets entitled Fractures, Subluxations and Disclocations, which won the Hamilton Arts Council poetry book award. From 1993 until 2005, he ran the New Writing Workshop and edited two book-length anthologies for the group. He has been published in literary magazines across Canada and internationally. He presents work from A Nervous City (2013).

Sarah Pinder was born in Sault Ste Marie. Her poetry has appeared in various literary journals and small magazines, as well as the anthology She’s Shameless. She presents work from her first poetry collection, Cutting Room (2012).

Jacob Scheier is a poet and journalist from Toronto. His debut collection, More To Keep Us Warm, won the 2008 Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry. Scheier’s poems have been published in literary journals and magazines across North America, including Descant, Geist and Rattle, and have been heard on CBC Radio. He presents work from his collection Letter From Brooklyn (2013).

Deena Kara Shaffer‘s poetry has appeared in many magazines, including The Dalhousie Review, FreeFall and Canadian Voices: Volume 2. She is currently a Learning Specialist at Ryerson University. She presents work from her collection The Grey Tote (2013), which was shortlisted for the Marina Nemat Award.

Jim Smith is the author of 15 books and chapbooks, including One Hundred Most Frightening Things (1985), Convincing Americans (1986), The Schwarzenegger Poems (1988), Translating Sleep (1989), Leonel/Roque (1998) and Back Off, Assassin! New and Selected Poems (2009). He is Crown Counsel at the Ministry of the Attorney General. Smith presents work from his collection Happy Birthday, Nicanor Parra (2012).

Sheila Stewart’s first collection of poetry, A Hat to Stop a Train, was published by Wolsak and Wynn in 2003. She also co-edited The Art of Poetic Inquiry (2012). Her work has been recognized by numerous literary awards, including the GritLit Poetry Competition, Scarborough Arts Council, Pottersfield Portfolio Short Poem Competition, Dan Sullivan Memorial Prize and the Ray Burrell Award for Poetry. She has been widely published in such journals as The Malahat Review, The Antigonish Review, Grain, Descant and The New Quarterly. She presents work from her collection The Shape of a Throat (2012).

John Terpstra is the author of eight books of poetry, including Disarmament, which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. An earlier work, Captain Kintail, won the CBC Radio Literary Prize for Poetry. He has also written three books of creative non-fiction. The Boys, or Waiting for the Electrician’s Daughter was shortlisted for both the RBC Taylor Prize and the BC Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. He lives in Hamilton. Terpstra presents work from his collection Naked Trees (2012).

Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang is the author of Sweet Devilry, which won the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in Canada and was nominated for the Re-Lit award. Her work has been published widely in journals and anthologies, and appears in Best Canadian Poetry 2013. She is the editor of the all-Susan anthology Desperately Seeking Susans, as well as the forthcoming anthology Tag: Canadian Poets at Play. She is also a children’s author and essayist. Her new Young Adult novel, Breathing Fire, is forthcoming in Spring 2014. Tsiang presents work from her collection Status Update (2013).

Adrienne Weiss has been a sketch comedian, college communications instructor and poet. Her poetry flows around issues of identity, performance and self-mythology. She presents work from her collection There Are No Solid Gold Dancers Anymore (2014).

Categories: Poetry reading write-up, Uncategorized.

National Poetry Month Readings

OPL Dorothy Chris Jennings
Dorothy Jeffreys a on behalf of the Ottawa Public Library welcomed people to the reading by the poets who this April are giving the ever popular public library workshops.

First up was Chris Jennings. He was a founding editor of filling Station magazine, was assistant editor of the University of Toronto Quarterly and is currently on the board of Arc Poetry Magazine. He was reading from Occupations (Nightwood).

He started by saying “I am not a prolific poet” and that perhaps it is vanity to think he shouldn’t read the same poems before the same city’s audience since that assumes we would retain his words. I recall the comic one he did of the “life story” of the lancet eventually sold at a flea market.

His poems have perfect rhymes and in a couple at least iambic pentameter, sounding more playful than forced. His poem “The Duke” struck me particularly as resonating, having a hitch in my step.

“I’m walking like the Duke again…”
“The swagger is catharsis…”
“There’s a cost to life in how you live it”
[The injury's legacy is] “The record in how I lived
and how I might have lived better”

Host Monty Reid Sandra Ridley
Monty Reid hosted on behalf of Versefest and gave warm generous introductions to us all.

Sandra Ridley showed the cover of Counting House done by Michele Provost. She read a serial poem, a dirge dedicated to Sylvia who died November 2012. Striking lines about dispersing a friend’s ashes such as “fear disappears as soon as it’s spoken” and “your water body in a wineglass.”

Deanna Young Pearl Pirie
Deanna Young and myself.

Deanna read from her collection to be released this fall from Brick entitled House Dreams. One poem was about fear of turbulence; “thank you square shouldered man in the cockpit who is ready for this” “living is nice /on the inhale./ I am ready,/ on the ex-”

Another was a compassionate poem about the rough men who were raised with the alder switch. A poem called “rest” from the perspective of a GP did some wonderful things with story and how the language tied the analogy together.

For myself, I read from this latest Peter F Yacht Club, and a teaser from vertigoheel from the dilly that releases next week officially, and from Quebec Passages that launches officially next month.

Pearl Pirie
Hubby took a shot from further back in the room.

Categories: Poetry reading write-up.

Poetry on Spines

The top winner Glenn Kletke for the English side of ‘Poetry on Spines’ and the honorable mentions are there with the images of poems made from book spines.

Likewise, Gagnant “Concours Poésie sur dos” are there.

Congrats all. There were dozens of good entries.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

My Writing Process: Blog Tour

Step one: Acknowledge the person and site that involved you in the blog tour: Ryan Pratt’s blog tour tap

Step two: Answer the 4 questions below about your writing process:

1) What am I working on?
As of March 30- April 9 when I’m writing this:

There’s a phrase that bothers me as wrong in Quebec Passages (Noun Trivet Press, forthcoming 2014). Need to fix. I’m trying to stare it out. I keep blinking first.

P.S. And it has arrived

What else?

  • working on getting copies out to the right eyes of Vertigoheel for the Dilly (above/ground 2014) and spread word of poem videos of last two books.
  • lining up people to interview for Literary Landscape for the May 22nd show.
  • setting up compatible interview time with Stanford Forrester of bottle rockets and Massachusetts who is coming in to talk at Haiku Canada Weekend in May.
  • reading books by Philomene Kocher to interview her shortly for the May 1st show.
  • remixing video clips to go to the sound of a poem video trailer for Quebec Passages and one other poem trailer. (If all the files are open, it counts as still being worked on right?)
  • getting the food blog done ahead so that I can build in another vacation from blogging so they run without me while I do other things in to-do list.
  • lining up the notebooks of notes to make more posts on Versefest.
  • doing an event poster.
  • processing photos and inviting the camera and computer to be on first name basis with each other.
  • waiting for a chunk of time to build my trebuchet for the Factory Reading Series reading with Kevin Spenst and Sneha Madhavan-Reese on the 23rd. Because medieval war machines should be turned towards the good of Finnegans Wake and ghazals.
  • prepping a handout to give to the good people of Canadian Author’s Association.
  • looking around at the book stacks to choose what to record for the next segments of Two Things I’m Reading This Week.
  • adding the new published items to the author blog. (some day I’ll have to go thru & prune dead links.)
  • looking at vocabulary lists of constraints of words to play with for a project with Michele Provost and shifting words about listening for the combination lock’s click.
  • doing prototype layouts for a new chapbook from Phafours to come out (knock wood) by this summer.
  • trying to hammer out and humour out a very long poem until I grok its aboutness. Lost count of iterations now. Most poems seem to clock in at around 4-7 pages now.
  • doing final look over of Quebec Passages before it goes to press.
  • designing the little scraps of paper with poem bits that wrap around mints to be launched in a trebuchet. Which is yet to be built. This may or may not involve sparkles.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Poetry has many sub-genres. Like Duke Ellington said of kind. It doesn’t matter. There are really only 2…the good and the other kind.

I play in various traditions of them. I like vispo, haiku, senryu, avant garde, trad forms, surreal and things that are less straight forward. or straight forward if it is deeply considered and well-wrought and short. By volume I tend to do the most words in poems that are called “experimental” wherein different source texts are juxtaposed not making for a clear narrative.

Maybe its more distinctive factor is its volume. I don’t publish a great deal but I write daily and sometimes huge volumes. Over 5 hours recently I wrote 2000 words. Something had come to a head enough so that I could access at least around it. Or over 8 days in October I wrote 6-7 sonnets per day. Ones which will get tinkered and the project finished after a cooling off period. I’m not sure what its half life is. Most days I get parts of a poem or few.

I tend to let a little more chaos and word play in. The style depends on the purpose, subject and audience. I don’t see the point of essentialism in voice being one’s nature. It would only make sense for “branding” if there was money to be had from poetry but mostly there’s the living as one must. Brand doesn’t apply in this domain.

3) Why do I write what I do?
Now we get to the real questions. What and how are easy. Motivation is more interesting. Also wildly speculative.

What makes words salient and sensical? What stands out to you, what you can’t filter out if the analogy hold must clog the filter. So, to clear the filter, dump it so I can move on.

To remix, to get past the dust of Peanut’s Pigpen and get to something real, which isn’t to say emotionally charged because that’s another variety of smoke and mirrors.

Writing to explore what is possible, what stretches and snaps, what stretches and holds. Who can leap with me. Who thinks similarly enough that we can build on each other and make a new tower. Or is that too phallic? To tunnel together an make a mega yoni?

Why do I write? I ask that of myself when I don’t want to. I don’t know how to stop. Hubby looks at me when I suddenly go to point. (Apparently the wheels turn visibly.) Carefully he asks, “is there something you need to write down?” uh-huh.  ”Alright, but remember to come back.” And I always do.

4) How does your writing process work?
It depends on the stream.

For haiku I steep in reading hundreds or thousands of haiku in a day then it seeps out in response with that shape of thought imprinted in the head. Or other Japanese forms come out in response to reading them in workshops or thinking about them as we do renga. Aiming for haiku sometimes I tip into tanka.

For vispo a poem arrives sporadically, more out of autobiographical urge, with long gaps between pieces, then bits of gut feel arriving over a series of weeks of the sense of space and sensation of it then sitting down and finding out what the concept looks like by making it.

For form poetry it comes from a challenge, a set of prompts, exercises, and/or wanting to see how far I can push a concept and what it causes. In my Apostrophe and Semicolon series, what happens if I stage Sydney’s characters of Astrophel and Stella as typographical elements in a modern social context? What does that allow? Talking about gender as a construct that in various species are not binary. The urge to make gods. What if other species have a theistic system. Caste and dominance and what economic forces drive those. Like Flatland, what if these things we make are creations with their own lives independent of us.

For freeform verse, it is a way of thinking and exploring language. I don’t know what I’m on about until I examine what I wrote and speculate. It comes from jangled nerves and inexpressibles. Too little sleep, too much stress, desire for play.

It may come in doing processes on my words, such as linking all the words on a scrabble board, or searching my corpus of jot note file for a letter combination and stringing those together. It may come from reacting to a poem that I think is off-base or so badly written that I could fix. Usually in the process seeing what it was they were saying and why. It may spark off a sound combination like “strum” and “trauma” which I think also were juxtaposed on a scrabble board. As were “fun” and “fauna”. Mouth feel of words of how they relate to another. It comes from resisting the tiresome direct sharings of life stories that are called poems. It comes from wanting to dialogue instead of being told what to think, feel, perceive.

Some quieter freeform may come from a rhythm in the head, especially while walking, pieced together over weeks. It comes from wanting to hold onto something beautiful and ephemeral and to draw someone else’s eye to be more informed and pay attention to world outside of the human world.

Step Three:

At the end of your blog post, say who is on next week (your own chosen three) – give a 1-2 line bio and link to their website. You’ll need to find three other writer mates to ask to do the same a week after you, and so on and so forth…

There’s a #mywritingprocess Twitter tag we can use, as well as linking to the blog post from our Facebook pages.

Rosemary Nissen Wade was born in Tasmania, lives in Australia. She helped start Poets Union of Australia in the late seventies. Pioneered poetry workshops in prisons in the early eighties. Formed Word of Mouth Poetry Theatre with Anita Sinclair, Ken Smeaton, Malcolm Brodie, 1986. Her most recent book is her Secret Leopard: New and Selected Poems 1974-2005 (Paris, Alyscamps Press, 2005).

Two other want to hop on and post in a week?

Categories: Poetics.

Versefest 2014: Sister in Slam

Way back on Day 3 of Versefest there was a woman’s slam performance.

KaylaCandice Bruchhaeuser
Kayla Fraser (left) organized and MCed the event where there was a roller coaster of arc with poets cycling from topic to topic on aspects of being female from dating, to assault or fear of, friendship and love, from politics to motherhood and hopes for kids. They passed seamlessly from one to another to give a faceted collage of snapshots of young women in terms of their relationships among themselves, to love, loss, family, politics and the future.

Candice Bruchhaeuser (right) was first up at mic in the many rotations over 80 minutes. She started with poem interweaving Mama said they’d be days like this.

Candice Bruchhaeuser Philosi-Fire
Candice and Philosi-Fire

Light Billie Jane Kearns Light
Light and Billie Jane Kearns.

Billie Jane picked up the theme and and connected to other things that mother said, like “be kind, but not stupid” and the frustrations of navigating internal and external walls of the the possible and the passible doors. “How am I supposed to makes decisions is I’m afraid of my own power?”

Light said on being judged by one’s outside as being innocuous. “Call it whatever you like but I don’t have time for that.” Black women are from governor general “to head of state yet they still expect me in a strip club?”

“I couldn’t understand my parents worryig about me until I started worry about myself”

Philosi-Fire had a poem about walking alone and feeling paranoid about being followed and starting to walk faster but then “slowed down because fast steps are louder” and then realized the shadow from behind her was herself.

She implored why is it that every time a woman is raped or killed they describe her age, description, job and clothes as if that made any difference?

Candace hooked in and questioned what it is we understand in terms of numbers from a newspaper like stock exchange or crime stats. And how is it that “this society where there’s a difference between stepping on a centipede but playing with a kitten while both are carnivorous.”

Light did one of her regular pieces that’s a crowd pleaser “you don’t need a man to be mistreated”. Treat yourself well. In a later poem “afro this, afro that. I’m an afro-desiac [...] stop scratching the surface to determine the depth of my soul—black and beautiful.” A later poem talked about the failed American dream and how every avenue of “entertainment” sells violence and guns and then pretends surprise when people become violent. Was it the American dream or a nightmare or “was I never asleep”?

Philosi-Fire turned it wider to political and asked why is it not unananimous to sign petitions to end domestic violence? [UN Trust fund to educate on.] In a later poem she said, we’re taught that sexuality is a flower and if it is torn away from us we didn’t grip tight enough but “why was I taught self-defence but he was not taught consent”. And later an anti-war poem that said that if we go to war we have to write the history ad hoc to make it justified and make us victorious. In a later poem she addressed America and their various colonial aka peace/protection invasions. “How is that you come to make things better but when you leave there are scars that weren’t there before?”

Candace then turned the tune to a love poem, but love gone wrong and a chastising a furtive boyfriend playing around. “you are the big dipper but even while spooning me you are scooping another deep dark matter” and and “I’m tired of being a pillar, a lesser figure to you”. “unlike you I can’t survive on salt water. unlike you, I need a lid. do you know what a lid is?”. In a later poem she said I have been eating fire for so long is it any wonder my stomach is full of ash?

Billie Jean came back with a tribute to her best friend. “I had a text book case of new kid syndrome.” and related special memories and concluded “I know this phrase has been turned to candy corn but never forget that I here for you, dear.” She later did a recital of

Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15) by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Each performer had a distinct way of performing with Philosi-fire holding very still and the room quieting to attentive as strength came though her words. Billie Jean moved around the room making dramatic gestures and poses like theatre. Candace reenacted/relived her poems pouring herself into the emotions again. Light was extremely animate of face, and held postures and conversational inflections.

I think the last poem was by Philosi-fire and the letter to her future daughter: “I can’t promise you many things but I can promise you this: you’ll make mistakes.” I’ll tell you to be wary of people who tell you what your dreams are”
and “just because you look up to someone doesn’t mean that they can look down on you. It just means that they’re a little taller.”


This month, Words to Live By Series will be showcasing a talented and up-and-coming poet, Philosi-fire Tuesday April 29th, 7:00pm – 9:00pm Pressed Café, 750 Gladstone.

Roua, also known as Philosi-fire, is a free spirit. She spends most of her time creating schedules only to not follow them so that she can make new ones. Roua has a habit of daydreaming at unsuitable times and gets excited about spring, birthdays, and watching the current of the Ottawa river.

Despite her optimistic views Roua’s poetry expresses the bitter and unspoken side of life. Roua’s goal is to have a positive impact on the world even if the world means just one person.

Doors and open mic sign-up is at 7:00pm and the show starts at 7:30pm. $7 at the door or free for performers.

Categories: PSA, Poetry, Poetry reading write-up.

Tags: , , ,

Word Tools

You already know about Reverse Dictionary which is a kind of an online thesaurus and RhymeZone but did you notice Rhyme Zone now has not just perfect rhymes, near rhymes, similar sounding words but in the same drop down “find word in poetry excerpts“. I’m pretty sure that’s new.

Also new is an oulipo of univocalism by Amanda Earl .

An OULIPO talk by Lee Ann Brown for 40 minutes include procedures such as taking a text and changing every 7th word to the 7th word after it in the dictionary. can use many dictionaries to get most interesting or do it with software

NYT (delightful) Article on Ann Carson

Carson even use a random integer generator to reorder her work. “It saves you a lot of worry,” Carson says about randomness. “You know, all that thinking.”

Updates of people doing national poetry month of oulipost are here which lists techniques and results here.

Bernadette Mayer’s classic list of processes

If you’re looking for more prompts:

Poetic Asides
Daniel Scott Tynsdale samples of his textbook
we write poems
Poetry prompts

or search on twitter for the pwoermd play with #InterNaPwoWriMo

Categories: Link Dump.