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Upcoming readings

Wed March 25, 7:30pm
Battle of the Bards, Harbourfront Toronto

The 20 established and upcoming poets selected to grace the IFOA stage this year are: David James Brock, Claire Caldwell, Elizabeth Greene, Kate Hargreaves, Laurence Hutchman, Ellen S. Jaffe, Jill Jorgenson, Ralph Kolewe, Max Layton, Jimmy McInnes, Bruce Meyer, Sarah Pinder, Pearl Pirie, Talya Rubin, Vanessa Shields, Peter Unwin, Zachariah Wells, Shoshanna Wingate, Deanna Young and Liz Worth. IFOA welcomes back NOW Magazine’s Susan G. Cole to host this year’s event. It will be held in the Brigantine Room located in the York Quay Centre (235 Queens Quay West) on the Harbourfront Centre site. Press Release.

Fri March 27, 7pm
Versefest, Ottawa

Reading with Stevie Howell, Marilyn Dumont and JC Bouchard. I’ll do an Ottawa launch of the pet radish, shrunken at one of the best poetry fests going. Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar St

Wed, April 8, 2015, 7:30pm
Launching the Chocolate chapbook, Ottawa

At A Thing for Chocolate, 1262 Wellington At W. A chapbook of cocoa’s rhapsodic delights called Cocoa Cabin with poems by Steven Artlle, Marie Andrée Auclair, Amanda Earl, Susan Glickman, Natalie Hanna, Anna Mioduchowska, Catina Noble, Pearl Pirie, Roland Prevost, Brenda Schmidt, Lisa Timpf and Grant Wilkins. Readings by Steven Artelle and Roland Prevost and more.

Wed April 15, 7-9pm
Great Canadian PoeTrain Launch Event, Ottawa

At Pressed Café with an opening ceremony (blessing by elder Albert Dumont), poetry by Pearl Pirie, Max Middle ad Dennis Reid with Vimeo poetry and an open mic. 750 Gladstone Avenue. More to come.

Sat April 18, 1pm
Best Canadian Poetry 2014 Launch, Ottawa

With Tightrope Books at Octopus Books (116 Third Ave) with David O’Meara, Shane Rhodes, Pearl Pirie and Brent Raycroft.

Thurs April 23, 2015, 7:30 pm
BookThug Season Launch, Toronto

Spring BookThug Season launch at The Garrison, 1197 Dundas Street West, Toronto. Poetry titles include: the pet radish, shrunken by Pearl Pirie, Endangered Hydrocarbons by Lesley Battler, Merz Structure No. 2 Burnt by Children at Play by Jake Kennedy, Their Biography: an organism of relationships by kevin mcpherson eckhoff and A More Perfect [ by Jimmy McInnes

Fri April 24, 2015, 7pm, tbc
BorderBlur, St Catharines

Jake Kennedy, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, Pearl Pirie, Sonja Greckol, Bill Kennedy, and Paul Dutton at the Niagara Artists Centre, 354 St. Paul Street

Sun April 26, 2015, 6:45pm
Writers Fest, Ottawa

BookThug: Let’s Do Launch: Carellin Brooks, Mike Steeves, Pearl Pirie, Jake Kennedy and kevin mcpherson eckhoff at Christ Church (new Festival Café), 414 Sparks Street Details and ticket prices.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

Battle of the Bards

I can say I’m reading at 7th Annual Battle of the Bards, following in the Ottawa footsteps of Sandra Ridley and Christine McNair. 4 BookThug authors are up this year.

The 20 established and upcoming poets selected to grace the IFOA stage this year are: David James Brock, Claire Caldwell, Elizabeth Greene, Kate Hargreaves, Laurence Hutchman, Ellen S. Jaffe, Jill Jorgenson, Ralph Kolewe, Max Layton, Jimmy McInnes, Bruce Meyer, Sarah Pinder, Pearl Pirie, Talya Rubin, Vanessa Shields, Peter Unwin, Zachariah Wells, Shoshanna Wingate, Deanna Young and Liz Worth. IFOA welcomes back NOW Magazine’s Susan G. Cole to host this year’s event.

That’s on the 25th in Toronto at Harbourfront. Press Release.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

Make an Instant Poem, Win a VERSeFest Day Pass

Write a mashup! Win a book! Win a day pass!

Win bragging rights to a brilliant Beastie Boys/Al Purdy masterpiece!

Mash it Up! The Flaming Lips meets Dionne Brand. Katy Perry meets Mary Pinkoski. Choose it. Hum it. Write it.

Write a mashup of that song that’s been stuck in your head all day and your favourite poem and enter to win.

Send your submission to by Sunday March 8th!

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

the pet radish, shrunken

Real as a page.


My author copies of the book have arrived, an early crop 3 days sooner than expected.

Order from BookThug. Or get from me. Or in person at Versefest‘s bookstore. See events for other where and whens.

Categories: Poetry history.

Selling it in the streets

“I don’t have energy to write poetry. Writing a poem is like giving birth.” Sitting in a small nondescript room in the marriage bureau that he runs, Ali explains why he started Thopudubandi, which is Telugu for pushcart. “Poets pull their hair apart to drop a word on paper. And then they give out their books for free. There are people to market novels and guidebooks. But no one markets poetry.”
~More on Hyderabad pushcart poetry

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile.”
You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 
~Ira Glass via Skinny Artist

Categories: Uncategorized.

almost to press

chocolate poems
Just a few more signing off on proofs and a dozen chocolate poems will come to roost on a page near you.

Categories: phafours press news.

95Books, 2015, List 1

So, I dive in again. The first focus was to concentrate and complete, not skim and browse restlessly. To completely read and completely rest to prevent cognitive exhaustion. Next to up the percentage of people read who are not just contemporary middle class white. To focus on Canada’s classics, but not exclusively. To consider the reading and the take aways. Consider how to read a book, not just Elementary, or Inspectional, but analytical or syntopical where it seems worthwhile.

Consider what Mark Goldstein said on translation at Jacket2,

My whole approach to literature is active and is, first and foremost, as a reader. At a certain point, if one is reading widely and deeply enough, a response becomes inevitable, especially when reading translations of a poet’s work with whom you acutely identify.

If you haven’t already you should read Jonathan Ball’s write on schedule post. He quote Paul J Silvia who says

The secret is the regularity, not the number of days or the number of hours. It doesn’t matter if you pick 1 day a week or all 5 weekdays — just find a set of regular times, write them in your weekly planner, and write during those times. To begin, allot a mere 4 hours per week. After you see the astronomical increase in your writing output, you can always add more hours.

I’d like to show excerpts for value added of what’s what. Already it’s almost March and I haven’t.

  1. The Best Canadian Poetry of 2014, ed, Sonnet L’Abbé (Tightrope, 2014) which has a diverse set of voices. A survey of what’s happening in CanLit poetry from sacred verse to surreal to genre fiction tributes.
  2. Some Mornings by Nelson Ball (A Stuart Ross Book, 2014) with very brief but crafted clear as a window, short poems you have vignettes of places and conversations without ornamental bs.
  3. To Keep Time by Joseph Massey (Omnidawn, 2014). With rigamarole the publisher wants for direct orders, print out form, mail request, to be send a book cod to be paid in US funds or money order in a month or two, I just went thru Amazon. Glad I did. It’s nerve wracking to get a book by someone whose previous books you enjoy. Terse but not overtight poems, sharp images. Looking forward to his next book illocality coming in a couple months.
  4. Fragments: The Love Letters and Haiku of Chiyo-ni by Marco Fraticelli (King’s Road Press, 2012) where the haiku are made into haibun by his imagining the context and voice around them. Interesting.
  5. Texture: Louisiana by rob mclennan (above/ground, 2015) seems like convergent evolution with Basho. A travelogue of anecdotes and kaleidoscopic fragments of travel, where deep history, recent history and personal in the moment all collide.
  6. Sapphic Derivations by Dan Sargent, (Ahadada Books, 2006) The publisher website is gone. Is that Daniel Sargent or another? The fragmentary poems are kind of vague. They de-queer the text as far as I can tell, but maybe that’s me taking the narrative voice as the same gender as the writer, therefore the object of affection being het.
  7. Van Gogh, Letters From Provence by Vincent Van Gogh (Collins & Brown, 1990) showed the pop culture lies about the man. He was in a fugue state in the whole ear incident. When in ill episodes he couldn’t function. He created despite not because of and his innovations were conscious explorations of colour theory and extending the history of European art and what his impressionist colleagues were doing.
  8. Songs of the Colon by Eileen Tabios (Ahadada Books, no year, 2006?) has more density and thought per line, I daresay, that some whole pages or sections of some poetic work. Structured kind of like definitions under clusters of heading, it plays against the form. Extremely condensed and witty. I’ve had it on my computer for years before I read it.
  9. 19 Varieties of Gazelle Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye (Greenwillow Books, 2002) who is a brilliant writer. She can make lucid and find beauty without ignoring the shadows. A master craftsperson of words. Not surprisingly this has gone thru a few print runs.
  10. Amy Clampitt Selected Poems (Borzoi, 2010) shows what can be done and well. Her poems are rich but not rococo. Heavily bookmarked, it could make a text of this is how you use adjectives. It’s not that poets shouldn’t use adjectives, but that they are knives that one should be coordinated enough to use properly. Like? “brute honey” (not the person but the bees honey), featherweight wheels of cobalt (of the train) howling doodlebug of fright (in rain), the busy daisy. It’s the combination of things and the sound that begs to go to voicebox.
  11. The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss (Harper Collins, 2005) has general human psychology and to my surprise, a narrative arc. And language “his smile seemed like a plastic, snap-on attachment,”(p.228) catching the gesture of people, and wit of situations, “He was validated. She was validated. They validated each other. They were a perfect pair, each completely unaware of each other.” (p.283)
  12. Asking by Shawna Lemay (Seraphim, 2014). As I mentioned to a class, it sits between genres, poem-essay or blog-post-poem, they are units of meandering musings. The upshots are often towards being aware of beauty, reflecting on how it is we got here. An enjoyable read.
  13. The Poetry of French Canada in Translation ed by John Glassco (Oxford, 1970) was a bear to get thru. The preface says translation makes choices. Some more embedded in language than story can’t readily be conveyed. That forced some choices. Apparently poetry in Quebec of the era was a winter zombie apocalypse.  So many corpses, I regret having to repeat the word again now. With meditations on ocean. A lot of sad young men thinking about boobies. But among them, every few poets there was someone doing something spectacularly vivid like François Hertel, André Brochu, Anne Hébert and Gérard Godin that blow the roof off with a saucy and lively alert presence. Code-switching and conflict between what ideals and broken sense of self and rebuilt implications. A whole miniseries within a lyric arc.
  14. A Chrystal though which love passes: glosas for PK Page ed by Jesse Patrick Ferguson (Buschek, 2013) increasing my kick of doing glosas with more samples, reminding me to pick up a collection by Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang and to keep watching for Sandy Pool’s next collection.
  15. Poems of the Late T’ang, trans by A.C. Graham, (Penguin Classics, 1965). Wouldn’t it be lovely to own a penguin classics library. I entered a draw but didn’t win the lot. The poems vary over time. They seem remarkably similar to Quebec poetry. Perhaps poetry is not place or time so much as age. The young men drinking and going to prostitutes and bragging while having a mope by a waterfall. Some begged the definition of reading. Is running my eyes over them enough. To be told in footnotes that the frogs are eunuchs and it an allegory for some nobleman’s woman on the side wouldn’t have interested me if it weren’t coded as rabbits, etc. But among those Tu Mu and Li-Shang Lin who have verses that cross easily, moving into more reachable universals, concrete details.
  16. Introduction to the Introduction to Wang Wei by Pain Not Bread (Brick, 2000) is a writing name of the collective or Roo Borson and Kim Maltman. They are reading notes around various classic Chinese writers. They unpack the dense into meditations, more essays, often very much in the head and in abstracts. They feel floaty interjected with aphorisms or sharp observations.
  17. Stéphane Mallarmé: The sonnets trans by Marshall Hryciuk (Imago, 2011) The publisher site’s domain has been squatted on. The poems are  semi-faux translation, a trippy fun kind of rhyming play.

So, that’s the year to start. Perhaps I’ll dip back at some point and add excerpts. We’ll see how time and year go. Would that be value-added for you?

Categories: Currently reading.

Last Call, Chocolate

I know the pic says 10th but it was extended to the 20th. Just in case you’re sitting on cocoa poems.

Categories: phafours press news.

Tonight on Literary Landscape

How to get your memoir on? On the air with Brecken Hancock talking about this and more.

Brecken Hancock’s poetry, essays, interviews, and reviews have appeared inLemon HoundThe Globe & MailHazlittStudies in Canadian Literature, and on the site Canadian Women in the Literary Arts. Her first book of poems,Broom Broom (Coach House, 2014), was named by The Globe & Mail‘s Jared Bland as a debut of the year.

Hear a sample of what she’ll be reading at the Feb 27th AB Series with Fred Wah at Raw Sugar. 6:30pm EST on CKCU online or off the air at 93.1fm.

Categories: CKCU.


It’s a remarkable sensation being in a group of writers where each knows the other’s go-to ideas and style and how that projection produces a poem from cento process like a thumb print from each. The effect among people who are strangers isn’t visible in the same striking way.

To today’s rusty gate

I gave the disorder of my studio
our mixed messages
poking flashlight light
ever-deepening shades of avocado

bit of lava from cold volcano
because this seems to be how i keep going
clouds flitter relief

the ceiling opens
present but isn’t

The parts in new combinations adds up to different direction and effect. In order of lines above (including title): The Irrationalist by Suzanne Buffam, p. 29 (Anansi, 2010) The Cabbage of Paradise by Colin Morton, p. 48 (Seraphim, 2007), Elizabeth Fanto in Take-out Window, p. 55 (Haiku Society of America, 2014),  George Bowering in Love Where the Nights are Long p. 50 (M&S, 1966), Paul Muldoon Poem: 1968-1998, p126 (Farrar, Straus & Gireaux, 2001), Blue Light in the Dark by Brenda Brooks, p.44 (Polstar, 1994), Casemate Poems (Collected) by Joe Blades, p62 (Chaudiere Books, 2011), Ecstatic Torture Gratitude by Jill Battson, p. 27 (Guernica, 2011), Margaret Atwood: Selected Poems, p145, (Oxford, 1976), and In the Laurels, Caught by Lee Ann Brown p 74 (Fence, 2013).

Categories: Poem draft.