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Versefest – Day 2 – Books

The book table. See if you can spot something familiar or intriguing from left to right.

book table

book table

book table

book table

book table

book seller David
And at the end, bookseller David Dollin (and crew who jumped aside camera shy) are there to get you your books.

More as I have time.

Day 3 at Versefest: 7pm is old guard: David McFadden, Sue Goyette and Karen Connelly, and 9pm is soundful: with Scottish poet Sandra Alland and Ian Ferrier’s For Body and Light.

Categories: Uncategorized.

The Journal Project

the Journal Project
Have you heard of The Journal Project yet? Versefest is helping to promote the program to get people to donate unused journals to women in maternity support homes, domestic violence shelters and other such community organizations. Their story.

Becky Halton & Arwen Faulkner
Becky Halton & Arwen Faulkner are helping this non-profit get new journals, bound notebooks and hardcover scrapbooks to people who are transition in lives and could use somewhere to verbalize what they’re living. “Writing heals. Writing inspired. Writing empowers.”

They also accept inspirational books, chapbooks, CDs or cash. There’s a dropbox at Knox Presbyterian church at Elgin, 120 Lisgar while Versefest is on. After that, check their site for how to find a home for notebooks to people who could put them to good use.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

Versefest, 2014, Day 1

in the book area breaktime Kevin Matthews welcoming
People on Day 1 of 6 of Versefest, including David O’Meara who now has an album with the Hilotrons. Right, Kevin Matthews welcoming people.

Nina at table
There’s table where you can put out your wares if you’re there — magazines, books, chapbooks, CDs, flyers and Versefest will look after selling it as free extra service to the writing and reading community.

versefest tshirt & concession
So, Versefest is off to the races: there’s the t-shirt and canteen, the book table with all the new releases and some back list items of featured poets.

And poets — 6 read last night. Liz Lochhead cancelled due to illness, but if you want her books and I’m told they can be hard to get in Canada, there’s at least 3 titles of hers that arrived.

Sarah de Leeuw
Sarah de Leeuw was the opening reader. She read from new work & Geographies of a Lover (NuWest, 2013). She has poems forthcoming with above/ground and at Arc Magazine.

She works in accumulation for effect. There may be the odd article or adjective or verb but there’s mostly a piling up of nouns. “…heat muscle saline salmon daughter…” It was interesting to hear live the text that I had read. She inflected more, varied more in pitch and speed than the list poems did in my head. I got distracted for a while with the word “calving”. I didn’t realize some don’t pronounce the L and some due so my linguistics brain got derailed for nearly a poem musing that.

She writes about place, including Herschel Island which was a major point of Inuit whaling, back when they were plentiful. Her poem, funnily enough hooked forward to Mary Pinkoski’s poem of bones and their significance. While de Leeuw describes the absence “the quiet is rich, thick, almost fatty”, Mary Pinkoski presented the bones of history to different scenes, as memories, heat, lessons, permanence, to the kid’s binder in school, to the couple in the high rise having sex, to the mother who worries, “these are what you can hold if you let yourself burn”

If geography and place are poetically sparking for you, the Toronto New School of Writing has fieldworks April 5

Lytle Shaw’s most recent critical book, Fieldworks: From Place to Site in Postwar Poetics. Students will participate in a guided discussion of a number of poets (from William Carlos Williams to Lisa Robertson, which hopefully will suggest the wide spectrum of examples available) who have explored the notion of place in their work. The goal is to reframe their work as experiments in both historical thinking and ethnography, and to put that into dialog with the slightly quainter “poetics of place” as a means of repositioning a “site-specific poetics” in a world that is becoming ever more porous and borderless. Students will also have the opportunity to share and workshop their own original work in relation to the guided discussion.

Mary Pinkoski
Second was spoken word poet, Mary Pinkoski who is Poet Laureate for the City of Edmonton. She grabbed the room by the lapels as if she were hundred-fisted. And shook the room ever so gently. She’s doing a degree in interviewing people for collecting oral histories. This collecting of stories reminded me of Magpie Ulysses who was at the fest last year.

I heard several people afterwards asking, does she have a book? Are they all sold? Were there CDs and I missed them? She’s got some youtube and soundcloud but not those performed in Ottawa.

She is working on the idea of how we all have stories within ourselves. If we can speak, we must. Her mother and grandmother held silences. In a poem which was a list poem “my throat is” it was everything from an alley to “a library haunted by the books I grew up on”, “flint tongue against steel teeth, there’s a spark”. And somehow over that poem she covered everything from non-violence to fracking to how not to “make the body a coffin” but to speak up or risk being silenced. It had an uplifting tone and encouragement and reminder, “a different way of knowing is a miracle”.

She spoke of the desire to protect but having no switchblade to protect her sister, she made these words. A lot of poems that are more from the bent of cherishing, valuing, unity, rather than acerbic dismissing or distancing.

She also had a poem about olive trees and how in a “perfectly pruned olive tree a sparrow can fly though the libs without hitting its limbs” and how we are not perfectly trimmed and yet the birds keep coming.

Mary has presented her unique style of spoken word throughout Canada in numerous live performances and on radio programs including CBC Radio One’s Radio Active and The Key of A, and CKUA’s The Road Home.

In 2013, Mary placed third at the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam and in 2011 at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word Mary was voted Most Valuable Poet of the festival and won the national championship as member and captain of the Edmonton Poetry Slam Team. Mary was the winner of the 2008 National CBC Poetry Faceoff. When not performing, Mary runs spoken word workshops for youth and adults.

Matthew Tierney
Matthew Tierney read from two books past including Probably Inevitable (Coach House Books), & one future which he joked he might entitle Metaphysics since his last book was about poetry about physics.

He gave all appearances to being uncommonly at ease at the podium. He was wearing his Star Trek T-shirt and made a poem of a conversation between himself and Wesley Crusher. He got a good tickle out of the audience.

His poems are sharp and dense but more in the sense of instruments than switchblade. The intellect is present but also humour without being cleverness for its own sake. For example, “That we use only 10% makes good copy but bad Einstein” or in a poem about people who wake during their operations, naming “pain as illusive saves none of its throb”. There’s a driving intelligence that makes tight lines “Hindsight is hunch in reverse” and also self-examination of what have I done with my life. is there anything that would cause a future scholar to declare “that’s a grave I’d love to exhume.”

Max Middle introducing Andrew Faulkner
Max Middle introduced the A B Series sponsored readers; first up Andrew Faulkner reading from his Coach House book, Need Machine. The warned possibility of choir practice sound leaking into the space came as he said “watches our sister from a webcam no one knows is there” and again at “It was the year Heidegger walked among us and seemed especially deep.”

Peter Richardson
Peter Richardson reading from Bit Parts for Fools (Gooselane, 2013). I was almost though the book before Versefest arrived. I was surprised to see the poem about bird watchers, wife upstairs in her office, husband in the basement office, convening to share stories over tea, was about a particular couple, both chemists and the woman the first to receive a degree in chemistry in 1900, who effectively, he said, became her husband’s secretary from dynamics the prevailed. That seems a more interesting backstory than the front story. Sometimes patter pays off.

He also read his poem wherein a family member resurfaces as a moose. There’s a special moment of communion with the moose who walks out of and back into the forest. “You roved and your roving included me.”

Copies of his previous book is also out for those who missed it.

Suzannah Showler
Lastly but not leastly Suzannah Showler was was launching the book for the first time ever, Failure to Thrive from ECW. They are not yet in stores, direct from the printer to the event. Living in Toronto now, Ottawa was her hometown and where her family still is and she had a poem about being drawn back to where you came from “drawn back by whatever is mediocre and true”.

Her poetry was quite striking from the point of view of metaphor. They run around navigating vitality vs. imminent armageddon. “I’m just a little worried about the aperture that lets in amazement”.

She also has a chapbook out with Odorless Press.

And tonight 8 more poets, the women’s slam showcase and those who in/words present.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Past and Upcoming on Literary Landscape

Jenna Tenn-Yuk
Literary Landscape was with Jenna Tenn-Yuk (right) who will be at Versfest which starts tomorrow. That show will be up here for a few more weeks.

This week, Thursday, 6:30pm, tuning into 93.1fm will find Dave Currie.

The next time I’m on is April 10th and it will be with Kevin Spenst about the small press. In a later show I’ll be talking with Philomene Kocher about her new collected of haiku, tanka and haibun.

Categories: CKCU.

Vispo in Cobourg

Tues, April 1st, 2014, 7:30pm
The Human Bean, Cobourg

Opening of a month-long display of visual poetry. Official Opening / Reception / poetry reading / open mike at 80 King St. West, downtown Cobourg.

With vispo by Angela Rawlings, Derek Beaulieu, Camille Martin, Bill Bissett, Helen Hajnoczky, Robert Zend, Lindsay Cahill, Mark Laliberte, Jenny Sampirisi, Eric Schmaltz, Angela Szczepaniak, Gregory Betts & Neil Hennessy, Pearl Pirie, Eric Winter, Jessica Smith, Ted Amsden, Sharon Harris, Cliff Bell-Smith, Mary McKenzie, Wally Keeler, Katriona Dean, Gary Barwin, Judith Copithorne, michael j. casteels, Alixandra Bamford, Em Lawrence and Dan Waber

Categories: Uncategorized.

Page: Material & Visual Literature

The Page: Material & Literature Grad Conference was 3 days. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to most but caught a little.

A couple speakers remarked on how there’s a thread going through all the talks about the challenges and opportunities where digital culture meet print and how that impacts who we are and who we have been.

There is so much to know about the history of publishing. The talks went back to the middle ages to 20th century Canada recap, in this case, through the study of Ryerson Press’ rise and fall.

intro by Katherine Andrews Canadian Literary Production at the End of the Nineteenth Century Bridgette Brown
Katherine Andrews gave introductions to Bridgette Brown who talked about the Boer War in print and what made the news, by who. The Boer war dominated private and public discourse for 3 years. The context at the time of readers and writers included pre-Confederation lives. They were still hashing out what it is that this new shuffling of nation meant. The Boer war aggravated a rift between English and French Canada since English Canada, or at least Imperialist monies among them, favoured the war and the French were against it, even a prominent politician writing a letter of apology for getting involved.

What was called Canada depended then as now on who was speaking. To the Anglos in Toronto our Canada didn’t include natives, women or French. But may include some continental Europeans who would write as an ex-pat. The presses often came out of urban areas and romanticized rural areas of the undiscovered west.

In 1899 Robert Barr remarked that what hobbled publishing is, despite The Adventures of Jenny Baxter being a best seller with 3000 copies, people would rather spend their money on whisky than books. The more things change…

Ryerson Press gg
Ryerson Press has given a wealth of poetry to Canada but it wasn’t poetry that made the money. Like EWC, other titles underwrote the low print run money loser titles. The textbooks could recoup some of the cost of poetry by buying the rights to the 200 chapbooks they put out and thereby having free copy to use in the textbooks for literature courses, a rather symbiotic relationship.

The press overall made a million books a year. For them it was textbooks and (until the bottom fell out of that market in the 60s) religious titles and bible tracts. Ryerson was originally the Methodist Book Room. By 1970 it in was $2.5 million in debt.

Jennifer Baker introducing The Legacy of Ryerson Press, Ruth Bradley-St-Cyr
But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. First, Ruth Bradley-St-Cyr (on right) spoke about the start of Ryerson Press.

Lorne Pierce (a bio of him (Both Hands was recommended) had let the company through its high times from 1920-1960. It became a sort of birth room for CanLit in that those who started there went on to start M&S and the Canadian branch of Oxford. When McGraw-Hill bought the company, it was interested in expanding their main line of textbooks, not the poetry and literature aspects.

The selling of a key Canadian publisher to a U.S. group spurred some of the formation of The Writers Union of Canada and the Association of Canadian Publishers, a Royal Commission, and some systemic changes to encourage domestic literature competitively through setting up grants. The U.S. considered Canada something of a farm team, and major league would move to the U.S. There was a movement to shift the traction and attraction of heading south.

Jennifer Baker (pictured above) did introductions to the next round of speakers.

Colin Martin (University of Calgary)Cameron Anstee
Colin Martin has been surveying operators of small presses for a couple years. He still could use more data from native presses and presses run by women. Cameron Anstee has been looking at the life and work of Barbara Caruso.

Barbara Caruso covers

These covers were done by Barbara Caruso although she also did large scale paintings and poem collaborations such as one with bpNichol. She looked at visual art the way sound poetry, concrete or vispo can look at language, for the material elements. She foregrounded the paint and canvas, the vocabulary of color, rather than making representational images or story. Samples at Cameron Anstee’s blog. She also did poetry. Her poems are in The Cosmic Chef, an anthology of concrete poetry which won the gg for bpNichol. There’s an Open Letter dedicated to her. She ran Seripress that combined letterpress and silkscreen. There she collaborated to make (1972). The adventures of Milt the Morph in colour. That subtitling doesn’t give the sense of playing in humour and boundaries and negative space. I also can’t show you from here “H an Excursion” that she and bp also did. Amazing work. Very few copies were made. And she ran Weed/Flower Press with her husband Nelson Ball. Fabulous creativity. I look forward to more going on accessible record.

Colin Martin has been asking questions of the small press, such as size of print runs, if you register an ISBN, where does the money come from, what reproduction technique do you use, of art, or words or both? How many people are involved? How do you get the word out? How do you distribute it?

From what he’s gather there’s something rhizomic. It’s not about getting wide access or big sales. There’s a prestige to the ephemeral. Most aren’t using any grant system, strictly out of pocket from materials at hand or that can be paid within ones means upfront. Some are deliberately made on non-stable materials to make them disappear more easily. Many avoid tracking of ISBN to stay underground, hand-to-hand. Online is used but mostly for spreading information about micropresses, not to make material available online directly. Of writing, publishing, illustrating, distribution, distributing is always the most expensive part.

There’s a countercultural model of prestige based on inaccessibility. The biggest loser is symbolically the most successful. A sacrifice of time and resources pays it forward to give these for free creating a social contract that encourages others to do the same, to pay back and pay forward, keeping the gift economy system in momentum. A few people remarked on it being like potlatch. Gifting creates a social debt and ideas circulate and replicates itself and ruptures from the commercial model.

Most presses fold within 3 years, although some stick it out for the long run such as Nomados, Broken Jaw and above/ground. BookThug was picked out as a case of micropress in transition to mainstream.

He also showed slides of various examples of small press, including one by Phyllis Webb which was a cross-shape when unfolded and the loose pages inside were printed on onion skin which allowed ideas/words to be transparent to each other.

Small press publications can run from each item unique, such as found materials of junk mail repurposed to objects repurposed such as beer coasters to hand printed to mimeoed. They can be high art to low art, but are aimed to go from hand to hand rather than Make it Big to Everyone.

Categories: Poetry reading write-up.

Ottawa Public Library Poetry Readings & Workshops

Want to take a poetry workshop with the Ottawa Public Library? There are 4 over the month. The first one is with Pearl Pirie (hey, that’s me) is A Notch Up: Sat, April 5th, 2014, 2-4pm

Poetry Workshop: A Notch Up: How to push your poetry another notch? A poem from each participant will get detailed comments for density, sharpness and energy. A reading list of links to tips to tighten and torque, and to poetics articles will be handed out. Each participant gets a chance to consider what shines or needs polishing in each other’s work in a cooperative environment moderated by the workshop leader Pearl Pirie.

My workshop at the Sunnyside Branch (1049 Bank) to the first 10 participants to register. Register. Send your poems A.S.A.P. It’s free.

The workshop with Sandra Ridley is April 12th at Carlingwood on Poetry Garage.

Chris Jennings’ workshop is April 19 on Melos, Opsis, Lexis at Rosemount.

Deanna Young’s workshop is April 26 on Rendering the Moment at Nepean Centrepoint.

Relatedly, for National Poetry Month there are “readings by acclaimed Canadian poets Pearl Pirie, Chris Jennings, Sandra Ridley and Deanna Young” on Mon April 14, 7pm in the Auditorium of the Main Branch of the the Ottawa Public Library. Offered in partnership with Versefest. The FB Event Ottawa Public Library Listing.

Categories: PSA, Poetry, Workshops.

Remix Poetry Workshop/CAA

I’ll be giving a workshop soon…

Tues, April 8th, 2014, 7-9pm
Canadian Author Association, Ottawa

Remixing your poetic material workshop at Canadian Authors Association

Remix culture is presented as characteristic of our age but poetry’s toolbox has long been taking pieces from here and there and synthesizing elements to new effect. Partly hands on, partly theory, this 90-minute workshop would explore examples and techniques of using disparate sources and collaborating to make new whole. Sampling, recutting, and using the material of distinct poems to make distinctly fresh ones. Whether you are a fiction-writer by nature or poet, there’s more to be gained by looking at tools for livening you out of risk of rut.

The group meets at the Main Branch of the Public Library, 120 Metcalfe Street (corner of Metcalfe and Laurier). Free to members; non-members, $10; students up to age 17, $5

Categories: PSA, Poetry, Workshops.

On fragments

Jennifer K Dick’s fragment project got an addition of mulling from rob mclennan,

The fragment allows for the distractions of easy narrative and straightforward patterns to be abandoned for the sake of the collage or even collision of lines, phrases, stanzas and even poems to shape into something that couldn’t easily be explained, but somehow manages to exist and make perfect sense.

How the alphabet was made, [an instructional]
From “How the alphabet was made, [an instructional]” by rob mclennan (apostrophe press, 2014)

Might be my favorite book/chapbook of rob’s thus far. For ways I can’t quite explain except alertness, scalp’s “hello, what’s this” and interest in rereading not in case I might grasp it better this time but just because it’s a pleasure to re-read. The elements came from separate births, were incongruent but grew together by juxtaposition into something musical in ideas.

Each element adds together numbers, letters, colors, shapes, fonts somehow with the common denominator of language and intent making it make sense.

Stepping outside parts to prove a particular pre-decided thing that can be elevator pitched, the parts add up in a way you can’t quite explain.

For example in a reading at Tree 2 or 3 years ago where I can’t quite remember who was reading from what. It was non-linear, list-like, troubled in grammar and refusing narrative. He who was beside me asked me if I liked it. I shrugged, “no, I don’t get it.” “Really”, he replied, wiping tear stream on my cheek.

Categories: Currently reading, Poetics.

On the radar

For those who don’t follow me at twitter or who get swamped in the deluge that is twitter, here’s some poetry things I found interesting lately,

A comic guy made a guide for setting up a book table! Great for any small press fair.

Buy a Versefest festival pass by March 23 and be in the draw for NAC Dance tickets or a subscription to Arc Magazine. It starts on Tuesday!

Until April 3rd vote for Arc’s Reader’s Choice Awards here

Just a few days for CHUOfm Funding drive. Check out these incentives to donate and keep Click Here going.

More poetic than poetry perhaps. Quote those kids quotes: “The Girl: I don’t like post apocalyptic books because I just don’t like the scenery.”

You may have already seen, Amanda Earl is part of OULIPOST for April month. So is Carol Stephen

April 8th I’m next up at CAA CAA talking about remix culture poetry.

Last night on CKCU was the interview with Jenna Tenn-Yuk who recently won the Tontine Award. She’s part of the Ten Oaks Bowl-a-thon March 29th to raise money for the LGBTQ kids and teens. If you want to sponsor her team, throw some coinage or billage at “Team Players”.

Extensive recordings of Canadian sound poetry ensemble Owen Sound (1974-1985):

Messagio Galore take XIII: Toronto is coming April 4th with work by bill bissett, Jaap Blonk, houédard, jandl, Tomahawk, Richard Truhlar, David UU, Zappa and more.

Also that week in Toronto is Battle of the Bards. No Ottawa competitor this year but Jason Camlot, Jim Smith, Catherine Graham, Julie Joosten, Shannon Maguire and 15 more.

There’s another poet blog tour on Gary Barwin‘s suggests specific nitty gritty questions. Hope he starts it.

Sheenagh Pugh across the pond thinks on hitting the mark, not saying too much, too little, too clever. What is unpacked enough?

Diane Tucker has made a trailer for Bonsai Love; her video poem for “reading”

Up at Truck there’s been lots of good lately, including Deanna Young’s Black Bug poem and LM Rochefort’s HeLa’s Cells

Ooh, new Rachael Simpson broadsheet.

from Red Velvet Forest at Shawna Lemay’s poem sampler on her site has this,

“The wrong word comes out.
This is fine.
I’m among friends who know the red map
that appears on my face
I believe they can read it and know
where I had really meant to take them.”

Also, Jim Larwill has joined the internet and has an author site now with several chapbooks online.

Categories: Link Dump.