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Poets Touching Trees & Desks

This installment of Poets Touching Trees is up and its me and thinking about the forest. If you want to do one too, there’s the contact info there on their sidebar.

Do you miss Desk Space too? Looking to share your thoughts on your writing space? “where do write, my lovely?” is looking for submissions to write about your writing space, See what Amish Trivedi’s project here.

In other news, Sawdust Readings now have their veteran feature, Kevin Matthews

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

Words to Live By

Words to Live By is celebrating its two-year anniversary this month! The series has become a place for many firsts, including the starting spot for first-time performers and featured poets.

This month, Words to Live By will be showcasing the creator and co-host of the show, Jenna Tenn-Yuk, along with several guest performances. This will be Jenna’s last show as co-host of Words to Live By, which will be continued under Brad Morden and Artemysia Fragiskatos.

We’ve had a blast seeing many first-time performers and featured poets step up to the mic, so come and celebrate our two-year anniversary with us!

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. Pressed Café, 750 Gladstone, Ottawa.

In the open mic section you can get a copy of Shery Alexander Heinis’ new creation, her first chapbook: A Greater Whole. Watch for this around town over the next few weeks.


Categories: PSA, Poetry.


The almost 4 dozen from hundreds of CBC Poetry’s longlist for Canada Writes includes “Sandbagging the River Before the Flood” by Stephen Brockwell (Ottawa, ON), “Blue at the Heart of Being” by Lorna Crozier (N. Saanic, BC), “The Archeologist and the Roofer” by Barry Dempster (Holland Landing, ON), “A Tuition of Time” by Susan Elmslie (Montreal, ON), “Settler Education” by Laurie D. Graham (London, ON), “Bindled Back: Three Travel Poems” by Jacob McArthur Mooney (Toronto, ON), “Blow ye Winds” by Ruth Pierson (Toronto, ON), As we Bend” and “Three Poems” by Emily Nilsen (Nelson, BC).

Sept 8th they announce the shortlist.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

Step Into My Office

Woo! My instalment of At the Desk at OpenBookOntario is now up.

Robert Kroestch competition for innovative poetry 2015 is now open for submissions if you only have a book or two under your belt.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

Open Mic Season Re-Begins

The RailRoad Reading Series is going to host its first open-mic at 7:30 PM on 25 September 2014 at Pressed Café, 750 Gladstone. There will also be 2 features, rob mclennan and Ricardo Sternberg

Readers at the open-mic will have 3 minutes to read, which will allow people to read multiple poems or one long one. The more the merrier! Pass this along to friends. We’d like to see a veritable host of Ottawa Open-Micers!

Is that too far away or need a dry run? Sawdust Reading Series is Sept 17th at Pour Boy and has the open mic and a contest for having a feature set before then. You heard the interview at Literary Landscape on that, right?

Still too long to wait? Sept 9th Starting at 6:45, Peter Richardson is leading a round table workshop and there is an address at the workshops page if you want to send your poems ahead of time to Peter. April Bulmer and Helen Guri are the 8pm features at Tree at the Black Squirrel. There’s an open mic attached.

If you’re chomping at the bit for an open mic, bet there’s one at the In/Words reading/launch this Friday, Aug 22 at Pressed Café, 750 Gladstone, 7:30 pm.

In/Words Magazine and Press is releasing our Summer Issue, along with our latest round of chapbook publications. The event will open with a performance by an amazing local band, Hungry Animals, and later on, the super-talented Suzy Pankhurst will perform! Following this we’ll hear readings from authors published in our latest magazine issue. Esteemed Ottawa poet Steve Artelle, hilarious writer and comic Dave Currie, and In/Words’ very own Chris Johnson will both be reading from their latest chapbook publications. The show will kick off at 7:30 on August 22nd at Pressed Café. As with all of our release parties, this is a free event. So bring a friend, or bring a partner, or bring your mom.

Feel free to read the following bios of several of the artists who will be featured throughout the evening. More information to follow on the poets who will be reading at this event.

Hungry Animals combine experimental elements with lyrics that carry passion and vulnerability, creating an enriched but accessible sound. Walking the line of angst and joy, the 5-piece outfit are devoted to making music with a palpable arc. Don’t be scared, they don’t bite… except when they’re hungry… which they are… always.

Steven Artelle’s first book of poetry, Metropantheon, was published by Signature Editions in 2014. His other work includes four hundred rabbits, a chapbook published in 2013 by AngelHousePress.

Dave Currie is a writer who writes in Ottawa. Ottawa is the city in which writer Dave Currie writes. As a writer in Ottawa, Dave Currie writes. Dave Currie has written in other places, though, now he writes in Ottawa.

Chris Johnson is finishing a Master’s degree in English Literature at Carleton University, concentrating in Canadian poetry. He is also a co-editor for Carleton University’s student-run literary magazine, In/Words Magazine and Press. Recently placing second in the George Johnston Poetry Prize for his poem “Begin in Water”, his poetry has also previously appeared in The Steel Chisel and Bywords

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

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Categories: phafours press news.

Literary Landscape: tonight Sawdust gets set to fly

Tonight at 6:30pm EST at 93.1fm or CKCU online I’m talking with Jennifer Pederson is in studio about the new reading series she’s starting. Jennifer Pederson is an Ottawa poet, musician, and teacher. Her life is filled with children, art, and pickled herring. She is also the director of The Sawdust Reading Series,

Where? Pour Boy on Somerset.

Who? Maybe you. Apply to be the first feature reader now. On your mark,

The Sawdust Series starts Sept 17.

To hear more, tune in.

Categories: CKCU.

Creative Writing Camps for Youth

Now it’s third week with a new crew each week, the Creative Writing Camps have one more week to go. If you know a kid ages 13-16 who could benefit from the sessions with instructors and guest speakers. The instructors are:

Sanita Fejzic is an Ottawa-based literary author and freelance writer. She freelances for a number of newspapers, magazines and blogs including, The Ottawa Magazine and Apt613. Fejzic’s first novella, To Be Matthew Moore, was shortlisted for the 2014 Ken Klonsky Contest, and she has published her poetry and short stories in various literary magazines including The Continuist, Guerilla, Byword and The Newer York.

Tara Ogaick is a graduate of the Masters in English Language and Literature and the Master of Design at Carleton University. She is a graphic artist and illustrator, a volunteer veterinary technician, website designer, and video game developer. She has created short comics in a variety of media — both digital and analogue.

Laura Gagnon is in the BA of Communications Program with a minor in Indigenous Studies at Carleton University. As a camp counsellor, she has been responsible for teaching Aboriginal culture, history and art to children aged 6-18. Her role at the camp was to encourage children to tap into their inner creativity in order to create their own masterpieces. As an Aboriginal Storyteller her aim is to pass along teachings and messages that promote kindness, selflessness and honesty.

Chris Johnson is finishing a Master’s degree in English Literature at Carleton University, concentrating in Canadian poetry. He is also a co-editor for Carleton University’s student-run literary magazine, In/Words Magazine and Press. Recently placing second in the George Johnston Poetry Prize for his poem “Begin in Water”, his poetry has also previously appeared in The Steel Chisel and Bywords. He has released two chapbooks with In/Words Press and will be releasing a third in June.

Andrew Connolly (Director) is a PhD. candidate in English Literature at Carleton University. His dissertation focusses on religion in contemporary American prose. Previous to this he completed a MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard College in Vermont. His personal essay “Speaking in Tongues” has been published in the Experimental Theology anthology. He has also released a chapbook of poetry and prose.

This Friday I talk and do exercises with the teen writers.

Next week, August 18-22 is the next session. Registration is $250 and includes one lunch per day. Camp hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. See if you can squeeze them in or watch for them early next year.

Categories: PSA, Poetry.

95books for 2014, list 10: Writers of History

In this set, memoirs and memories of writers reaching to the start of the last century in Canada, through 1400s France, through 1800s China and to the artist now. It’s rare for me to read a book, let alone 3 at the same time where I would considering stocking up copies and thrusting them at people but it’s true of Shen Fu and The Margaret Laurence Lectures and Making Your Life as an Artist.

Come to think of it all 4 books are about life approach. François Villon claims he is a robber because he was poor and born into a poor family. Shen Fu is extremely poor but insists on living with artistry informing his meals, walks, home decor (where ever he’s put up by indulgent friends) as he lives the high life of wandering with literati, painters and prostitutes and claiming a legacy of poets as well. Making your Life as an Artist talks about goals as well as duties of an artist whereas A Writer’s Life walks thru all the way life shook out in general form. That overlaps with the first two books as well.

  1. Writers’ Trust of Canada made A Writer’s Life The Margaret Laurence Lectures: 25th Anniversary of the Lecture Series. At that link you can get the book, see podcasts, or hear about upcoming ones.

    It’s 25 years of top of career writers reflecting on their writing life, giving advice, sharing memoirs. If you’re a Canadian writer and want a touchstone, you really should read this. If I taught CanLit, this would be on my reading list. Except for myself it took a year and a half to read so it might be onerous in a quick turnaround course. Part of that is the problem of good writing. It is rich and I don’t need to read more to be satisfied so its slow going.

    PK Page on her early years. Edna Staebler on her long road rewriting her book on Neil’s Habour from ’47 until published as Cape Breton Harbour in ’72. In ’95 Haven’t any news: Ruby’s Letters from the Fifties was published after 40 years in a filing cabinet.

    It’s a kind of a bonsai life, this writing.

    Acadian writer Antonine Maillet thinking about the stories of making identity stories. “The international is so far from being personal and singular”

    Janet Lunn in part was asking why do people never question her writing articles, histories, yet children’s books seems to be seen as a stage, rather than a calling.

    Alistair Macleod talked about geography and how “various kinds of geographies have an effect on central characters.”

    William Deverell recounted showing up at his McClelland & Stewart Press award conference drunk, in jeans and long hair and overheard the publicist say “Well, I guess he looks alright, but he’s a little West Coast.”

    It includes writers from novelists, biographers, historian fiction, article writers, poets. Peter C Newman on The Establishment. Some talked more about their writing, or their life around writing, others, the writing life generally. Farley Mowatt’s account passionate account of trying to speak for non-people nature.

    Josef Škvorecký talked about trials of life within censorship and wrapped up saying “one first has to entertain one’s audience, and after that, with a bit of luck, one miht also be able to say something meaningful about life”

    Margaret Atwood recounted early years and mentioned that in 1961…”there were twenty of so books of poetry but these included self-published memeographed and hand-set pamphlets”. What are we at now? That much per week?

  2. Norman Cameron‘s translations of Poems of François Villon including “The Testament” are poems from before the 1460s. They are mostly baudy jokes, pages of his last will and testament giving away his worldly possessions, including his sword which the person can get from a certain bar if they pay his outstanding tab because he hocked his good sword for drinks. To Prince of Clowns he leaves him a wish for a good afternoon. To the thief who stole his lockpick set “the louse,/may he find spittle in his wine”. To Friar Baude he wishes to leave a helmet and two guards in case someone tries “to rob his pretty cage” and adds a warning “though old he’ll set them all a dance, /he is a devil when in rage.”

    A double ballad says stay clear of women; they’re trouble throughout history, citing his own case at last, who, got friends together to insult the bride outside her window on her wedding night in chants. She had her revenge in having him “stripp’d and beaten like a rug” outside her window by the law.

    He had a lot of run-ins with law. “Money plagues me like a murrain” (that is, like foot and mouth disease, which is slant fitting since he was on the run and tending to shoot off his mouth.) Poems to kiss-up to people to give him a loan “with neither loss nor interest thereon, /’twill cost you but the time of waiting, Sire”. Living by wits and theft himself he admired a fellow because “his tongue was tied, but not his fists.” Among his possessions to dole are marked cards and to the double crosser, a wish for 10 lashes.

    A poet that I’d rather meet on the page with all his bluster than in person, not that I can time-hustle.

    I do admire the the rhyme of “et reliqua” (Latin for “and the balance still due”) to “et cetera”. No one rhymes with et cetera nearly enough.

    from p. 102,

    And all those other skulls, that bow’d
    One to another, in their day,
    Some condescending, some high and proud,
    And others stooping to obey,
    They give no greeting now, perfay!
    Assembled in a nameless muster.
    Their lordships have beeb reft away:
    Which is scribe and which the master?
    This is my final benediction
    both on the dead and the quick–

    Without the footnotes, it would be a much harder text to read. Fart jokes are transparent enough but women preaching in the cemetery I wouldn’t have guessed, for example, is about the habit of prostitutes strolling Parisian graveyard for customers.

    Footnote 13 is my favourite footnote: “The original contains a joke the point of which is not known” which I should use as a sig line. I’m not sure why shift language, update spelling, punctuation, rhymes and some vocabulary but only bring it ahead to one century before.

  3. Andrew Simonet’s Making Your Life as an Artist (free download, $18 hard copy). Much useful food for thought about the how and the why of what we are doing. For instance,

    We live in a time when we are inundated by images: pictures, language, videos, stories, music, bodies.
    99% of those images are made for one reason: to get you to buy something. We artists are responsible for that tiny sliver of images that can be made for every other possible reason: cultural, spiritual, political, emotional.
    In an age of image overload, this is a sacred responsibility.


    The success of other artists is good for me [...] Art isn’t a race where the winner erases the efforts of others.

    Art and entertainment do different things. Entertainment distracts our attention.
    Art focuses it.

    All kinds of interesting and inspiring ideas.

    Things you need (food, sleep, love, art) you can get enough of. Things you don’t need (sugar, cocaine, possessions, good reviews, adoration from random strangers) are addictive.

    Like A Writer’s Life it calls one’s attention to the bigger picture. Instead of laying one more stone on top of the last, there’s the possibility of being part of generations building a cathedral of culture. Heartening.

  4. Graham Sanders’ translation of Shen Fu: Six Records of a Life Adrift (Hackett, 2011).
    Written in the 1780s and translated by a University of Toronto prof, this is utterly readable. It is a remarkable vivid touching story so it’s no wonder it was well loved for over a century in China. Before it was first published the last 2 of the 6 stories were lost, or perhaps never completed. The chapter Charms of Idleness includes as detailed of treatise on the logic and intricacies of making bonsai as I’ve seen. For a year and a half the couple, who were without work for long spells, were put up in a friend’s house. They brought with them a servant, his wife and child and Shen Fu cut seals or did calligraphy for people while Yu embroidered on the cloth that the servants made. They added artfulness to the daily with picnics and flower arranging and enjoying each other’s company. While there friends who were painters would come hang out, amuse each other as they ate and drank and play poem games for days or weeks, a group “who would come and go from our place as swallows flit to and fro from the rafters.” Yu knowing this idyllic time couldn’t last sold her hairpins, pawned to buy wine before the habit “dispersed like clouds by the wind.”

    There are copious footnotes so you can read the main text of his life or learn, that poem line he just quotes was from such-and-such by so-and-so and read a paragraph of that poet. It’s kind of like a wikipedia for Chinese Literature. IAt that point if your poetry passed muster it was admittance to civil service. Poet and zither player Sima Xiangru (179-117 BCE) eloped with a rich man’s daughter which caused them both to be estranged from their families and “forced to open a wine shop to make ends meet until Sima Xiangru was called to court and awarded a post by the emperor, who admired his poetic talents.” (footnote 22 on p. 11)

    If you want to dive in there is a chronology ad family tree. The main characters are both poets but there’s an immediacy as if they are contemporary, although with strange-to-us-mores where women can’t leave the house. But she goes to the man-only temple with her husband’s help in his altered clothes so she can see the lanterns as well.

Categories: Currently reading.

Poet’s Journey

What are the parts of being a poet? Not every person has the whole skill set. It’s why cooperation is good. Some have an eye for this, others for that. Off the top of my head, here are some aspects. Some may be true, who knows.

  1. [composition] having an idea or sound or rhythm and communicating it well enough so it conveys
  2. [education] knowing what has been said and how so you know what’s tired and what’s fresh and can stand on the shoulders of others and make resonances that go deeper by connection with what people already read
  3. [editing] changing what you made so it gets better by some standard, both substantially for style, control, density, and copy editing and/or proofing/honing orally with an audience
  4. [presentation] learning how to read or show the poem in a way that you don’t block the poem’s comprehension by your tics or nervousness, the mechanics of how to use your voice, a mic or the white space and fonts of a page
  5. [audience] getting the poem to someone to consume whether in print or open mic or blog
  6. [community] a) finding people whose work you feel better for knowing b) finding poets who can appreciate your poem, reciprocally or not
  7. [pitching] knowing how a poem fits with others written by yourself or by others
  8. [marketing] getting others to broadcast your poem by printing with others in magazine or anthology, by digital, radio, video or book
  9. [poetry rather than poem] putting a poem with other poems so that parts and whole is enhanced
  10. [publicizing] expanding the reach of your poems to more people by putting it out there in ways people can find whether by knowing more people, making broadsides, entering contests, applying for grants, submitting to magazines or printing and handing out books or chapbooks, or printing with someone else to strategically giving review copies, or making your name more known by arts-related connections as columnist or whatnot
  11. [self-development] cultivating observation skills, seek insights, learn, research, look for interconnections, cross-pollinate with other arts and science, experience Things Not Poetry (they exist, sorta), and distill those awarenesses
  12. [pitching out] stopping to not pursue, drop bad time investments. writing is a discipline until the point where the discipline becomes to not write. to stop a poem or automatic habit of writing if it comes from your identity or your gig instead of a discipline to do new.
  13. [publishing] purely optional but a lot of poets seem to take a run on at it either on a selection board or hook-line-and-letterpress.
  14. [exploring] learning the amount of poetry produced and discriminating possible but not sure patterns of what might enrich you by reading, listening, meeting, etc towards clarifying what it is you are already given and giving to give and receive better.
  15. [sales] learning that it is not shameful to take cash and that it is not selling yourself cheap to give poems away either. cold calling, consignments at stores, tables at festivals, the works.
  16. [partnership] collaborating with others, keeping your radar out for things of interest to friends/peers and they’re watching out for things to hear that are relevant for you as well. because the product doesn’t matter, or the process exactly but the life and people, yeah. that.

Categories: Poetics.