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Fw: VERSeFest Hall of Honour Inductees Announced

Ottawa, ON – Mar. 18, 2016 –  VERSeFest, Ottawa’s International Poetry Festival, is pleased to announce this year’s inductees to the Hall of Honour, rob mclennan and Andrée Lacelle, for outstanding service to the Ottawa-Gatineau poetry community.

mclennan and Lacelle will be inducted into the Hall of Honour 7:00 P.M., Sunday, March 20th. The ceremony will also include readings by Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke and Governor General Award winner Robyn Sarah.

For three decades, rob mclennan has been at the forefront of promoting poetry in the city of Ottawa. His literary productivity has been outstanding, with over two dozen trade books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. He has demonstrated tireless community leadership in his activities as the founder of the Ottawa small press book fair, the organizer of the factory reading series, and the editor and founder of Chaudiere Books, ottawater, the Peter F. Yacht Club, and above/ground press. All of these activities, alongside the generosity of his mentorship and his editorial flair, have helped to shape the creative ethos of this city.

Born in Hawkesbury, Andrée Lacelle has published a dozen books and received numerous literary accolades. She was the first to receive the French-language Trillium Book Award for Tant de vie s’égare (Éditions du Vermillon, 1994 [2007]) and she has also been shortlisted for the Governor General Award. Instrumental to the promotion of French-language literature, she has been a long-time contributor of book reviews. She has also reviewed Franco-Ontarian literature on the show “Panorama” (TFO, 2006-2010) and on her radio program “Au cœur des mots” (2011-2014). Her literary collaborations recently included co-writing and co-editing pas d’ici, pas d’ailleurs, Anthologie poétique de voix féminines contemporaines (Montélimar, Voix d’encre, 2012).  Her poems have been translated into English and Czech.

The VERSeFest Hall of Honour recognizes established poets from the greater Ottawa-Gatineau region who have produced a substantial body of work and have made a significant contribution in building the poetry community as a leader and mentor.

Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar St. Tickets are $10 per event, $20 for a weekend day pass, or $50 for a festival pass. Available online or at the door. For more information, visit

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

Toronto Chapbook Launch

Words(on)Pages Chapbook spring launches, Toronto! April 20, 2016, 7-9pm, 6:30 door. That’s Upstairs at The Central, 603 Markham Street, Toronto, Ontario M6G 2L7 FB event page

A triple launch: Brady Tighe’s debut chapbook, Bottling the Lead Singer of the Mountain Goats, Adam Zachary’s Bodies Vs. and Pearl Pirie’s An Ongoing Lack of Spontaneous Combustion,

An Ongoing Lack of Spontaneous Combustion


An Ongoing Lack of Spontaneous Combustion is is a collection of poems with a menagerie of sidekicks, hippos and ladybugs, centipedes and giraffes, all on the same sometimes senseless, sometimes surreal, sometimes ecstatic journey.

In Brady Tighe‘s debut chapbook, a young poet ventures to Seattle to see a legendary folk-rock band. Bottling the Lead Singer of the Mountain Goats is a collection of 13 poems about great cities, great bands, and the eternal question of whether or not your ex needs a postcard, or whether or not you should bottle the lead singer of a band just because he reminds you of someone you want to hit with a beer bottle.
Bodies vs., is Adam Zachary‘s debut chapbook, a collection of essays and stories that details experiences of human bodies as insufficient avatars for our souls. Of bodies demanding too much space between ourselves and things that we long to interact with more intimately; including friends, lovers, and their bodies, too. Of our limited senses, of eyes and nerve endings as ineffective conduits of information. Of bodies subjected to injuries or disabilities that interrupt or permanently impede perception. Of bodies too weak to serve as weapons, no matter how willing is the spirit to fight.


Categories: Uncategorized.

Doyali Islam

Coming up on Thursday on Literary Landscape, a conversation with Doyali Islam who is part of the Arc event at VERSeFest. Hear more ahead at her 12 or 20 interview with rob mclennan. That’s be at 6:30pm EST, 3:30pm PST on March 3rd at CKCU.

3 weeks ago I was with Rachel Rose, who is poet Laureate of Vancouver. That’s on playback here: Rachel Rose on Literary Landscape. We were talking about food and immigrants, working dogs and poetry.

Categories: CKCU.


Centretown Buzz has VERSeFest coverage. The site and schedule is up and advance passes are for sale. 60+ poets for $50. Can’t even get gum for that rate and you don’t take the gum home either. March 15-20th. Coming up fast.

Some of the poets from in, across and out of Canada: David McGimpsey, Marilyn Dumont, Gerður Kristný, Yusef Komunyakaa, Phil Hall, Amal El-Mohtar, Anne Boyer, Barâa Arar, Doyali Islam, George Elliott Clarke, Terry Ann Carter, André Duhaime, Gerald Hill, King Kingbit, Robyn Sarah, Shannon Maguire, Sanita Fejzić, Sneha Madhavan-Reese, Pamela Mordecai, Natalie Hanna, Maurice Riordan, Liz Howard.


More coverage from OttawaLife.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

95books, 2016

I post the 2016 reads on twitter (@pesbo).

I used to heavily hyperlink the summary posts but that add 3x the time. Maybe links mean that publishers and writers can more readily find mention of what they sent into the world. Or maybe trackback isn’t common as it used to be.

books 2

This much I can say for sure, I’m a grumpier reader this year. I started a lot of books that I threw over saying life is too short. Or I’m not in a place to hear. Or I’ve listened too long and am getting nothing but frustrated.

I’ve read 63% Canadian and 8% chapbook. 58% poetry, which is higher than I’d guess. 1/4 of writers are POC and 17% GLTBQQ. So far my CWILA-style number show 46% male, 29% female, 24% multiple or non-binary. My history reach is 46% published this year or last. For genres not-poetry it’s pretty even among memoir, science, novels and history. I read about 3500 pages of completed books, or about 65 pages per day on average, although reading clusters on Sundays.

That said, these read:

    1. A Profession of Hope: Farming on the Edge of Grizzly Trail by Jenna Butler (Wolsak & Wynn, 2015) This was a book we thoroughly enjoyed. I read it silently once and entirely aloud with hubby for a second read. We love the idea of off-grid sustainable farming, although the prospect of land clearing and mosquitoes and second jobs for the privilege and joy of getting to be in a forest some of the time is daunting. It reignited my desire to vermicompost. She has such light and beauty in her passages, love coming through in a way that it transmits more commonly in music.
    2. Failed Haiku edited by Mike Rehling, (issue 1, 2016) This is how to simply get poems out into the world. Gather what tickles, pop them in a file, save as pdf and post. We often get carried away with design and forget about the centrality of the message. It isn’t all medium, McLuhan. The senryu are often in comic digs. Enjoyable issue.
    3. A Splash of Water: Haiku Society of America Member Anthology 2015 (HNA, 2015). I’m in this issue so got a copy. It sounds dangerous to theme on water. Surely you will hate the sound of the word before too many pages but it was pretty deftly done, covering all the water cycle and all tones of poems.
    4. This Day Full of Promise: Poems selected and new by Michael Dennis (Broken Jaw, 2001) I’ve had this book a while and I think I should add notations to the inside cover like I do with recipes to note each time it’s used. I think it’s my third read. Hockey, tv, music, lovers, work, family in plain language.
    5. poems for jessica-flynn by Michael Dennis (not one cent of subsidy press, 1986) These poems were composed in a bookstore window. This book I’ve had a while and it wasn’t until meeting the bookstore owner that I got curious to look at it again. One of my first memories of Ottawa was rob mclennan sitting in a bookstore window composing although I didn’t realize until now that he was doing it as a nod to Michael Dennis. The concrete poetry surprised me. A zen exercise in capturing the moment as it happens. “people being captured for all time/brief moments of their lives/captured forever/posterity coming to them/without choice”
    6. Whiskey Jack by Milton Acorn (HMS, 1986). A CanPo classic book I’ve heard talk of but never actually read. It struck me that some were strong. What does one say, uneven? The pacing probably isn’t what one writing now would do. His bird poems struck me as the most moving in the book.
    7. Debbie: An Epic by Lisa Robertson (A New Star Book, 1997). Another CanPo classic that I feel I should read since so many talk so highly of it. People who like it like it a lot. I was taken by the way the page design is breaking from its confines. What it does with typography makes me energized. The language is caught up in the delight of making language so heady or of-the-head. The poems rail against the long dead for dismissing and omitting women instead of making something new in a parallel culture that goes toe-to-toe. It seems what Virginia Woolf said is true of women being stuck away from sublime because of the defensive position of being treated unequally and assailed.
    8. Tells of the Crackling by Hoa Nguyen (Ugly Duckling Press, 2015) The curious thing about this text is how subjective it was that I could enter. In a buoyant mood I couldn’t hear it. When I was in brooding doldrums it all made sense. It is jumping and jittering, leaping, nervous and angry.
    9. Said like reeds or things by Mark Truscott (Coach House, 2004) I seem to keep bring this back as exemplar of good poetry. I’ve done that in at least 4 workshops. Carefully constructed minimalism
    10. The Best Canadian Poetry 2015, edited by Jacob McArthur Mooney (Tightrope, 2015) A survey of what’s going on. CanPo snapshot for the year. It doesn’t vary by sub-genre as much as last year and I’m still holding out for an edition where a tanka or haiku makes the cut but this is a solid collection with strong poems by a wide range of poets in style and tone. Lucas Crawford’s tribute to Rita MacNeil was moving and I never followed her music. Marcus McCann’s could not be more different in style but also captures a time and place. Lesley Battler scrapes technotalk about oil industry.  Tanis Macdonald’s poem on lineage of women who don’t bear children tickles a different part of the brain.
    11. The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester (Oxford University Press, 2003) This was a fascinating account of the arduous making of the project. Tiny sheets of paper and thousands of people spending decades to put this thing together, trace a word to its earliest citation. I suppose you could say it had an outcome and changed my behaviour since I installed the OED on my phone, replacing
    12. Why We Write: Conversations With African Canadian Poets and Novelists, edited by H Nigel Thomas (TZAR, 2006) This set of interviews was done by a sheet of questions exchanged for the answers I assume since replies left things dangling and not picked up on. That said, they also feel like friendly conversation. One of the most memorable was a novelist who was called from off-continent by mom who twisted an ear over the miles to say how dare you say your mother is a cleaner? The publisher insisted on calling it a biography while the writer contended it was a novel.
    13. The Beggar’s Opera by Peggy Blair (Penguine, 2012) I’m reading all her novels now. Funny, first time I saw her read at Writers Fest I didn’t like it. Saw her read a year or so later at an authors in bookstore day and was struck by how incisively written it was. Then came across one book and sought out them all. Next one in the 4 part series comes out in April. The series has heavy subjects, child abuse, tainted water, pornography rings, poverty, murder, various religions and ghosts and yet it feels manageable and that there are also people resolved to correct such problems.
    14. PCB Jam by Lynne Kositsky (Unfinished Monument Press, 1981) A chapbook of poems from someone who since became a novelist, the poems talk about fruit picking labourers and inside difficult class lines.
    15. Talking Into the Ear of A Donkey: Poems Robert By Bly (WW Norton & Co, 2011) These poems are like parables that seem more of the arabic tradition of poems. Not terribly exciting but not intended to be intense body-hits. They follow their own trajectory of an orderly world and plain spoken cosmic morsels.
    16. I’m not crazy…I’m allergic by Sherilyn Powers (Friesen Press, 2015) This book was fascinating as it doesn’t duplicate what I know. It could have been a few chapters longer. The idea that allergies may manifest not only in hives or breathing problems but emotional irregularity, depression, exhaustion or pain is a whole panel of things I hadn’t known to watch for. A whole other set of body communications of distress where I was confining, anger of mind comes from mind and muscle issues from muscles but mind-body connection means all kinds of cross-overs.
    17. The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk: An Archeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization by Michael Balter (Free Press, 2005). Interesting but not at all what the title billed. A frustrating book to read because of its baggy style and choices of what to include. Reading was panning for things actually about the site. He would rather tell that an archeologist had a pony for a certain birthday, or that a woman working on site distracted archeologists [thereby writing out all the female straight archeologists]. A city that made mural and sculpture, had equal nutrition and burial for men and women, and sometimes seemingly a favoured pet is rife with interest. History or Hot-or-Not? Tic of describing whole life biography felt like an intro that never ended because so many work at the dig. More interested in personal lattices than findings. More about the dig, less about him digging a dance with young women might have been fixed in edits. It led me to other articles and sites and background reading about this fascinating time.
    18. The Poisononed Pawn by Peggy Blair (Penguin, 2012) Much as what I said about The Beggar’s Opera above. Except I might add what a pleasure to read a book where the protagonists are Cuban and where a main recurring character was a transgender person. The focus is on abuses of the Catholic church, not as a local thing but where the church protects its own, moving people when they get in trouble.
    19. Gender Failure by Rae Spoon and Ivan E Coyote (Arsenal Pulp, 2014) This book alternates two points of view as they go thru their lives from young adolescence to present, the challenges, coming of age, sense of group, sense of self, sense of humour. I have heard the book roundly praised and having read it finally, I’d have to agree. A sort of gift-book for giving away, sharing around. It allows one to hop into the daily in the tradition of good storytelling. By all means, let’s dissolve this sugar-cube cage of gender binary as the narrative of all identity and explanation of motivation of all acts.
    20. Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit by Andrew Moore (Chelsea Green, 2015) I read about pawpaw as a kid. It used to be all along the waterways in southern Ontario but as all over North America, it was yanked out as scrub. Somewhere between mango, custard apple and melon in taste it was probably eaten by mastadons, probably cultivated in orchards wherever the Iroquois went. This book is obsessively researched. It is following a road trip to find known people and places associated with the fruit, and travels back to the 1700s in writing references. It covers the ice age and the pushback of seeds to Florida. It goes all over the US finding people growing the tree, or collecting the seed for a genetic bank, trying to make it a commercially viable food. There’s an Ohio pawpaw festival and I might just have to go.
    21. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh Press: Pitt Poetry Series, 2015) Having read an article or few, seen some youtube and rewatched, it’s a sign that it’s worth trying a book. I couldn’t get it in paper since at the time I checked there were none in stock, so I went with ebook. The poems are about finding a route to joy but but not by bypassing joy’s twin, grief. There are visions of community as people interacting in good humour and sharing, caretaking moments when people came together, say to walk close in a homophobic neighbourhood, but taking the risk of being fond of one another anyway. A heartening book writing with complexity and elegance. Trees and death interweave “shimmy into the pawpaw’s steeple/where my rank bloom/ tongue kissed by flies/puckers at the gorgeous world”
    22. The Last Maasai Warriors: an autobiography by Wilson Meikuaya and Jackson Ntirkana (Me to We Press, 2012). A find at a book sale, it is an eye-opening sort of book. Taken for granted offhandedly the 17 language groups of Maasai, the 4 or 5 wives and dozens of kids but being bewildered by the Pentecostals coming to town and the strange habits of tubes of cloth people were in. Maasai so isolated that the concept of vehicle and glass has not reached. Living 2 km from a school, but avoiding any contact with others, whether black or white, the boys grew up within the culture of herding, drinking cow milk, cow blood, sucking clotted cow’s blood and journeyed to get botany degrees and speak a few languages while maintaining their culture and coming home to farm. Before that, one teen saying we need to change starting a wave of ending female circumcision. A whole other perspective and relationship to pain as kids burn each other to teach braveness and strength.

books 1

Categories: Currently reading.

Chris Faiers

Coming up today on Literary Landscape, a talk with Chris Faiers who published perhaps the first haiku chapbooks in Canada in the 60s, started Unfinished Monument Press in the 70s, ran the Main Street Library Series in Toronto in the 70s and 80s bringing in 60-70 poets, and Purdyfest in Purdy country in 2000s. He mentions his poem “Dominion Day in Jail” when he was jailed for the hate crime of a slogan on his tshirt in the 70s.

On two things I’m reading, as flashback to early 80s Unfinished Monument Press with poems by Mark McCawley, now of Urban Graffiti and now novelist Lynne Kositsky. That’s at 6:30pm EST at 93.1fm or CKCUfm online.

Categories: CKCU.

Studio Nouveau Poetry Workshops Online

Studio Nouveau has been popping up for a little while with readings and workshops as a branch of phafours press. Currently underway is a more intensive workshop of 8 weeks focussing on deep reads and making news poems and chapbooks. See the syllabus.

Coming in February is a comparable series, 8-weeks but accessible to anyone, online with more focus on individual poems, with chats via email, Skype and a Facebook group page.

I have 3 trade collections, over a dozen chapbooks, ran the Tree Seed Workshop for 5 years, taught adult education in ESL and ABE for 12 years, have had my poetry published since 1991 and was longlisted for The Best Canadian Poetry, and in the Best Canadian Poetry anthology, have run a small press for over 7 years, and won the Robert Kroetsch [pronounced Croach] Award for Innovative Poetry.

Categories: phafours press news.

Fw: Ottawa’s French poetry reading series

AAOF launched its first reading series, and we would like to invite you all to our first Poetry Night of 2016, next Monday, January 18, 7 pm at L’Avant-Garde Bar (135, Besserer St.).

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

Poetry Links

“It is not my job as an instructor to reify the knowledge that students already have and the spaces that they understand – it is my job to present them with information that they don’t know how to parse” ~ derek beaulieu  in interview.

Blab chat on experiences with making anthologies with Ally Bishop and others. Interesting tidbit, if it’s a Kindle anthology users may not know how to get to the table of contents so if one piece isn’t as interesting they are more apt to skip to another book rather than poke ahead many times to get to the next story. Also, suggestion that a 4-month lead time is best if you have over 5 contributors to the anthology.

(Blab is a few-month old platform where you can video interviews, panels, informal live chats, etc.)

The semicolon project to get tattoos as gesture of solidarity and de-stigmatizing mental illness had an event where 27 got tattooed and the parlour gave the money towards the cause. ““The semi colon represents your story is not over” says Wile who is doing other events to publicize the idea.

The Ottawa Public Library now has a copy of The Other 23 & A Half Hours Or Everything You Wanted to Know That Your MFA Didn’t Teach You By Owen, Catherine and 4 are in line.

Amy McLay Paterson tracked her book reading, comments on learnings and made a public spreadsheet which tracks page number, nationality of publication, why it was chosen to read, and like GoodReads Reading Challenge, which I may eventually figure out (but the interface sure is bearish).

““We get drawn into arguments we did not choose for ourselves.” Sometimes I feel like I would rather talk about Kathy Acker. But what does the word “disability” mean? Is it useful to me? Can I get some heat from it? I am reminded of what Borges said to his nephew, “If you behave, I’ll give you permission to think of a bear.” Most often, I think about disability when I am asked to think about it. Then I feel an obligation to behave.[…] You are expected to be moral and teach. I think this is why Amiri Baraka wrote “Fuck poems / and they are useful.” Or what Laura Hershey meant by “Everything you say will prove something about / their god, or their economic system.”” Jillian Weisse

Sometimes an interview is enough to put a book on the to-read list, like this, with Laura Clarke‘s Decline of the Animal Kingdom.

Peterborough news had a prevailing “bleak fascination with crime and deviance, and a blandly smug insistence on the universality of majority values, of family and home and country.” but  Electric City to the rescue as an alternative.

“Attention is a muscle, one that requires development.[…] While it might not work for everyone, the daily practice, and the momentum it can create, is the only way in which I get anything done.” from The Malahat Review tips column with rob mclennan.  In the fall Shane Neilson did a column and said, “(currently I spend at least half of my professional life attending to the writing of others in essay form) I am immersed in the writing of others and I contribute to a conversation about that writing as a matter of course.[…] donate—invest!—ten percent of your professional time towards the writing of others in the form of reviews.”Jessica Michalofsky in her column agrees with the value of reviewing, how to get started and how to proceed.

Reviewing, workshopping and judging the work of others can hone the editing knife you can turn on your own work….

3 more days to vote for the people’s choice award of haiku at Heron’s Nest. Back issues are online.

Categories: Link Dump.

Stats for Writing 2015

I meant to stay on top of the writing rates for 2015 and made it, well, halfway thru the year in real time.

What I find at the year’s end is I got published about 10% of what I start. Which is a good thing. I am to pursue fewer things more without giving up the attempting much. Drafts freshen the air.

drafted: 462
completed: 115
submitted*: 56
published: 42 poems (including 21 in 2 chapbooks, not including the ones in the radish book)

*(a wrinkle because I counted as a submission if 1 poem sent or 5 pages, but counted published per poem so they’re not entirely comparable. I’ll fix that for 2016.)

This year has about the same amount completed but had a bump up in drafts over last year’s 269 drafts because of a push to do senryu, haiku and one-word poems. I submitted twice as much as last year but published 10 fewer, although also published more that wasn’t poetry, a short story, a couple essays and a chapbook of trope humour.

Visually speaking to put in context of 3 years,

I went thru a longer retrospective last year going back over the 24 years of spreadsheet.

Categories: Poem draft, Poetics.