amongst books

amongst books

Monday, February 13, 2017

Toronto: Canthius Issue 3 launch at Likely General

 On February 11, Charles and I took the train to Toronto where I was reading as part of the launch of Canthius magazine's third issue along with the talented Nicole Brewer, Doyali Islam, and Lisa Richter.

First we imbibed in some delicious cider at the Cider House.

 Then we walked next door to the beautiful little gift shop, Likely General, where the reading was being held.

After listening to the engaging and delightful short fiction and poetry of my fellow readers, I opened with an excerpt from "Kiki," read poems from the issue, including one by fellow contributor and amazing poet, Ariel Dawn, then read from a new work in progress, "Lady Lazarus Redux," from "Electric Garden/Grace."

It's a terrifying experience to read to a group of people who I don't know at all, but the audience was kind and attentive, and the hosts, Cira and Claire, were welcoming and made sure everything was taken care of. It was a pleasure to talk to people afterward.

The issue is gorgeously designed by Quentin Mitchell with artwork by Tafui. Thanks to the editorial team of Canthius: Claire Farley, Cira Nickel, Puneet Dutt and Chuqiao Yang for putting this issue together and for Canthius. It's a smart and engaging magazine. I wish it many happy years of circulation.

Thanks to the League of Canadian Poets for underwriting my shenanigans and to the City of Ottawa and the Ontario Arts Council for funding the work published in the issue and WIP. Thanks to Brick Books for the OAC Writers Reserve Recommendation for same.
 On Sunday, we left snowy Toronto

to return to an even snowier Ottawa (28 cms!). I look forward to my next out of town reading in Windsor.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Lisa Robertson, a reading diary; Part one: Cinema of the Present

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I have decided to embark upon a reading diary of the works of Lisa Robertson. I’ve purloined  this idea from Benjamin Friedlander whose own reading diary on Lisa Robertson was published in the Chicago Review Issues 51:4 and 52:1, Spring 2006.

Lisa Roberton’s writing came to my attention via a workshop I was taking with rob mclennan in 2006. He gave us links to several sites with poetry and poetic statements to respond to in the form of a poem. I chose a Philly Talk with Lisa Robertson and Steve McCaffrey.

LR talked about her book, The Weather (New Star Books, 2001) and also “From the Office of Soft Architecture,” which became part of Occasional Works and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture (Coach House Books, 2010). I became fascinated with the idea of creating an entity as the voice of a poem. I tried it myself. The notion of basing a long poem or a suite of poems on a concept was new and intriguing to me. I had only started reading contemporary poetry in 2000.

I begin with Cinema of the Present (Coach House Books, 2014), LR’s penultimate book because it is a library book with a due date. I have renewed the book three times, scrawled in it in black ink and dog-eared it, so I shall have to buy a new copy for the library.

CoTP is a long poem made up of individual sentences alternating between Roman typeface and Italics; these sentences are in the first, second and third person. This method gives the impression of multiple voices that interrupt one another or complement one another. Many of the sentences are about form and language: “Curiosity, limbs and momentum: because of form, you keep playing.” (p. 22). “Form requires of you a reticence.” (p. 30).

This rebelliousness against/exploration of form is one of the reasons why LR’s writing has always resonated with me.

The sentences are a collection of different types: declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory, fragments, reported or indirect speech. I haven’t done a thorough grammatical study of the book, of each sentence to determine whether they are mostly simple or include compound and complex sentences, but the work seems to encourage an examination of systems and patterns.

I read somewhere that LR wishes to corrupt the pastoral in her work. It may have been in an interview in the Chicago Review’s special issue from 2006 cited above. There are instances in CoTP where nature is shown as unidyllic or where it is corrupted by urban spaces and time. “You entered the university of vines and crumpled mosaic, hot sun, the cracks in the walls, the balconies peeling and collapsed.” (p. 63).

LR’s sentences have cadence and sound: “Flanking the clatter and shriek of migrations.” (p. 24).

Running through the entire book is list of the materials that make up a gate. The materials become more and more absurd and textual as the poem moves along. Reminiscent of an art installation. Contemplation of the notion of a gate, what it holds within or shuts out. “A gate made of gold, metal rods, driftwood, glass, concrete, peacock feathers, wood.” (p. 83.) Writers can be gatekeepers of language.

There are several mentions of the present in the poem and its relationship to language, the constraints of language: “You’re interested in the brutality of description: it is the transversal of infinitely futile yet fundamental and continuous space called the present.” (p. 27) This makes me muse about how writing distorts reality. These sentences aren’t linear. They don’t offer an obvious narrative, they aren’t in any kind of conventional order, such as chronological; they don’t tell a story. Don’t think that I’m complaining about this. The way in which to address or not to address narrative in poetry has long been an obsession of mine. Questions I always have come to me as I’m reading this work: Do these sentences work together to form a cohesive whole? If so, what? Is cohesion important? Will readers engage with a text that doesn’t have an obvious narrative? Who is LR’s reader?

“If you speak in this imaginary structure, it’s because other choices felt limiting.” (p. 31).
“That your mouth lovingly damaged the language.” (p. 48).
“Then you felt lyric obscenity both erotic and rhetorical.” (p. 50).
“At times you had only wanted to float upon the norms of a beautiful language, obedient.” (p. 59).
“You had wanted to believe that language needs us to witness its time.” (p. 59).
“You are only lyrical if you’re harsh.” (p. 65).
“You ask what if language is already beyond itself?” (p. 46).
“You may no longer use better words.” (p. 84).
“You carried the great discovery of poetry as freedom, not form.” (p. 75.)

Cohesion comes from the repeated subjects, and also from repetition of sentences. Several of the sentences are repeated numerous times. These repetitions act as a refrain, become incantatory. I’d like to reread this book to note the sentences that are repeated.

While the sentences seem objective, emotions, such as sorrow, loneliness, scorn are mentioned. There is a feeling of constraint however: “Time is short; you need to constrain your feeling for the sentence.” (p. 59).

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

I have long been fascinated with the concept of “plenitude” or abundance, the horror vacui fear of the blank page. Somewhere LR talks about inflation and in CoTP, “Sometimes the concept of plenitude is a help.” (p. 46).

I enjoy the way the sentences cause my mind to wander, lead outward:
“The countess of prose in your abandoned orchard.” (p. 49 and repeated.)
“You’d rather be a dandy than a writer.” (p. 50).
“Tattered Europe caking up in the corners of abandoned rooms.” (p. 60 and repeated.)
“Let feminism be the girl raging at a chandelier.” (p. 80.)
“So you came to nilling.” (p. 98). [the title of an entire book: Nilling (Book Thug, 2012).

The role of the pronoun is also the subject of several sentences:
”The I-speaker on your silken rupture spills into history.” (p. 50).
“Its pronoun plays a social rupture.” (p. 59).
“What is a pronoun but a metaphor?” (p. 62.)
“An unknowing expands within your pronoun but it feels convivial.” (p. 89).

The poem contains references to sex, to the body, to feminism and to being a woman.  It also examines the concept of the city. There’s so much here. I could do a study on the use of the gerund alone, the verbs/nouns: “becoming/burning/trembling/rotting/crumbling” as states of being, of transformation.

As Stephanie Gray writes in her review in Jacket2, there is a cinematic quality to the text, each sentence moving from one frame to the next, a kind of unreal quality to the present, as if one is watching it rather than participating in it per se. The sensing of the present, the present as character in an avant-garde Man Ray film.

Cinema of the Present made me want to also collect and assemble sentences, to try to engage with the ineffable, the inchoate, the ludic. In answer to the question, who is Lisa Roberton’s reader, I will say that I am. I’m fascinated by the concept of assemblage, the collage of concepts, ideas and images that aren’t obviously related, the interrogation of form, playfulness in language, lush imagery, attention to sound.

See also

Ella Longpre’s review in Entropy:

Stephanie Gray’s “Moving image, moving text, never past, look in mirror (repeat)” in Jacket 2:

Jacqueline Valencia’s essay “Poetry as the Conceptual Experiment of Language” in AllLitUp:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Upcoming Readings - travelling poet

I'm thrilled to have been invited to read at upcoming readings in Toronto and Windsor.

 On February 11, I'll be one of four poets reading at the Canthius Issue 3 launch at Likely General, 389 Roncevalles, Toronto.

Doyali Islam
Nicole Brewer
Amanda Earl
Lisa Richter

i'm excited!
Then on March 2, I will have the pleasure of opening for André Narbonne who is launching his poetry book "You Were Here" published by Flat Singles Press in Windsor, Ontario at Biblioasis, 7pm. 

Hope to see you at one or both of these readings. Drop by, say hi, buy a book, schmooze. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Flat Singles Press publishes my essay on prose poetry on its blog

What did you do over the holidays? It was a quiet time for me. I had the opportunity to respond to Flat Singles Press's excellent series on fullness in poetry. Thanks to Joe LaBine for his fine attention to my writing and editorial improvements.

You can read "Sentenced to Poetry: Fullness as Accumulation and Rebellion in the Prose Poem" here.

A reminder that you can sign up for my newsletter to get updates on readings, publications, poetry tips & other musings by going to

Sandra Ridley - My Poetic (m)Other appears on Many Gendered Mothers

There's a wonderful new project/blog curated by a group of folks, including Adèle Barclay, Nat, Natalee Caple,Klara du PlessisClaire Farley,Jane Eaton HamiltonSonnet L’Abbérob mclennanHazel MillArJacqueline Valencia + Erin Wunker   Natalee Caplee. 

"many gendered mothers is a project on literary influence featuring short essays by writers (of any/all genders) on the women, femme, trans, and non-binary writers who have influenced them, as a direct or indirect literary forebear."

I chose to write about dear friend and daring poetesse, Sandra Ridley.

Please read the piece and the previous three essays and all the essays that come after.

My Poetic (M)Other 

thanks to rob mclennan for insightful and helpful edits.

. . 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Gift Guide For Unholidaze

For synaesthetes, art dabblers and the insatiably curious

Alexander Theroux, “The Primary Colors: Three Essays” (Henry Holt and Company, 1994)
given to me as a gift while I was in hospital in 2009 by a dear friend, this book is a delicious and splendid rumination on red, blue and yellow with a serpentine meandering through art, literature, music and film, if memory serves.

For Justin Trudeau’s dead father and others who walk in the snow

Brightly coloured boot laces from (I admit I got this from Oprah’s list, but purchased them earlier this winter for a certain husband who does a lot of walking and gets tired of all the dark colours.

For Purdy fans and sweet fangs, (No, I don’t mean Al)

Purdy’s Himalayan Pink Salt Caramels. I have purchased these locally at the Rideau Centre location. They are divine and delectable treats for anyone who enjoys the combination of sweet and savoury.

For those who spend a lot of time indoors with lovers on long winter nights

“Love Where the Nights Are Long: An Anthology of Canadian Poems,” edited by Irving Layton (McLelland & Stewart, 1977). Let Leonard Cohen and gang inspire the libido of a potential lover.

For the sipper, not the tippler

Pilliteri Estates, Niagara-on-the-lake 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine, a taste of sunshine so sweet and light, it will lighten any dark night of the soul.

For the housebound, who needs a trip to Spain

Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain – the man plays the flugelhorn. Davis was an experimentalist who amped up jazz and this album is no exception. Bitches Brew is my favourite Miles’ album, but this one leads the mind to sunny climes, elevates the spirit.

For those unable to resist wounded birds

Born to Be Blue, a film about Chet Baker. this film came out last year and seems to have been lost in the usual Hollywood big-box of bland. Ethan Hawke plays Baker skilfully & even sings.  Baker was a troubled soul. that trouble is reflected in his performances and in Hawke’s rendering.

For Miss Lonelyhearts who never dines out

A gift certificate to North and Navy, one of Ottawa’s most delectable restaurants. It’s a beautiful place, the food is exquisite, Italian old world and new . $30 will provide a platter of varietous cichèti, each one no more than a mouthful and an aperol spritz with its lovely orange sweet and bitter tastes. She can sit at the gorgeous marble bar at the back of the restaurant and chat up the waiter.

For the explorers, the rebels and questioners of convention

“The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Adventures” by Dossie Easton and Jane W. Hardy, 2nd Revised Edition (Celestial Arts, 2009). I actually prefer the first edition, but this one will do. A helpful guide by example for those who wish to explore relationship types other than monogamy. It is a book I have given away a few times now and one I go back to help others interested in opening the cage and seeing where they might fly to.

For unsatisfied lovers

“When Someone You Love is Kinky” by Dossie Eastn and Catherine A. Liszt (Greenery Press, 2015). I have an earlier edition of this book and don’t know what has changed, but I highly recommend it for anyone who has a partner who might want to engage in adventurous, more than  missionary…sexual activity. It’s a way to communicate with them and understand their needs. It doesn’t speak down to those who are not into sexual exploration, it just helps them to understand.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

imaginary? patreon-like request for support in exchange for goodies

“I can draw and write, and you'd be foolish not to hire me.”
--Djuna Barnes

i think it’s great that some of my creative friends are offering their work via patreon, but i took a look at the community guidelines & realized that my own dream of doing it might not be possible. i have some tweets in to patreon to verify…but I’ve always been an odd creature who doesn’t fit into conventional spaces very well..

the guidelines are unclear when it comes to fiction or creative work. it may be that fantasy of any kind facilitates or contributes to harmful activity. some have made a case for that. i am of the belief that one shouldn’t take things literally or should allow creative work to cause a person to think. as far as glorification of rape or violence goes, as far as i know, i’ve never written anything that has done so, but what if i have a character who is a rapist? who is to judge whether or not this character’s portrayal glorifies rape? do i want patreon to judge that for me? no, i don’t. in fact, i don’t think it’s any of their business, but hey, they’re offering this service for free (at least it seems free from what i’ve read, so it’s their decision). i can’t be part of attempts at censorship of any kind. I doubt I would be able to fit into their mould. I have seen that some people are creating NSFW erotica on patreon, but I’m not sure I could commit to the guidelines.

here’s what i’d offer if i could, knowing that it is unlikely that anyone would partake anyway, let’s dream.

any support goes to my general comfort, upkeep, tea & shenanigans that help me to conjure up strange wonders. there are better ways to spend your money. give to the food bank, help the homeless, cure cancer, etc. but if you have some funds for an artist & you like what I do, this is what I can image as an offering for you, darling potential or imaginary patron of the arts. so sit back in your leather chair, sip your scotch & dream with me…

Level 1: The Go Wilde Volptuary: $100 / month ($1200 annually)

4 e-mails a month containing:

1. a lascivious short story which could be kinky, taboo, romantic or zany as hell; either unpublished, published but revised, or new;

2.  poetry, either unpublished, published in a limited edition, revised or new;

3. a steamy confessional note detailing my latest sexual activities or thoughts on sex.

& that’s not all! . . .

4.once a year per investor editing consulting service of a short story  or novel manuscript of no more than 2,000 words or five pages of poetry;

5. any books or chapbooks of mine that are published during your investment period mailed to you;

6. a signed copy of Kiki mailed to you upon first payment.

7. four visual poems on lovely paper, mailed to you on the spring & autumn equinoces & the summer & winter solstices.

Level 2: The Kiki Folle Hedonist: $40 / month ($480 annually)

1. 2 e-mails a month containing a visual poem & new or revised poems;

2. a signed copy of Kiki upon first payment;

3. copies of previously published chapbooks (while supplies last);

4. new chapbooks published during your investment period.

5. a random surprise in the mail: could be anything from a chapbook to a visual poem to a music mix, a custom hand-crafted collage, a personal letter…the possibilities are limitless.

Level 3: The Duchamp Readymade: $20/ month ($240 annually)

1. One e-mail a month containing new or revised poems;

2. a visual poem on lovely paper mailed once on the solistice & equinox.

3.  one new chapbook a year either self-published or something that comes out with a publisher (while supplies last!);

4. a signed copy of Kiki upon first payment.

Level 4:  The Edith Sitwell Eccentric $10 / a month ($120 annually)

1. 6 random surprises in the mail: could be anything from a chapbook to a visual poem to a music mix, a custom hand-crafted collage, a personal letter…the possibilities are limitless;

2. a signed copy of Kiki upon first payment.

''I am not eccentric. It’s just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular electric eel set in a pond of goldfish.'' Edith Sitwell

Please note that if anyone should happen to be interested in any of these packages, you are welcome to contact me at amanda at amandaearl dot com to discuss financial arrangements. it’s unlikely though. but hey, why not try?

I can promise you work that is free from censorship, unboundless in imagination & as quirky as its creator. but I can’t promise you safety. I can promise you that anything I write is thoroughly researched to the point of obsession on my part.

Oh that’s’s the holidaze…treat your lovers & pals, why don’t cha?

Monday, December 12, 2016

One Thing Too: Rob Thomas

Europe lies on a Swedish bed
with an indecipherable name
a drunken teen thrusts his membership
into her wounded side
Donald Trump is on television again,
this time as the apprentice
somewhere snow is filling divots,
on an exclusive golf course, with Christmas
the snake withdrawn at Standing Rock
coils like a deadly turd
the mighty dollar is down
but the holiday lights are up
tomorrow the kids will build a fort
the kid next door is gonna pay
we’ve dressed our bonhomme like a klansman
to melt in effigy come spring
thirteen days shy of solace
/scratch/ solstice
supply of Leonard Cohen is down
but demand for music is up


your invitation:
tell me or show me one thing. it doesn’t have to be profound. it could be visual or written or a combo of both.  it could be about your work; it could be an artefact or a glitch, a link to some film or tv show you’ve watched or a coffee place you like. it could be short or long. i’ll post it along with a link of your choice to your work or somewhere else. disclaimer: i might choose not to post if it doesn’t suit me.
your reward? send me your mailing address & i’ll send you something whimsical…
it’s dark out there this summer  fall/winter [since the election of that motherfucker in the USA etc] ; i think we need an injection of whimsy / duende.
so fire away. svp. amanda at angelhousepress dot com