amongst books

amongst books

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Coping: living in the now and counting my blessings

 I don’t know if this is helpful to others or just frustrating to read, but the way Charles and I cope with this time is to treat it as if it is how things are, to live in the now. We don’t plan for “after the pandemic” or “after the lockdown.” We try to find joy somehow in life as it is. And we have a lot of reasons to be joyful. We adapt to the changes we have had to make: wearing masks when we’re out, and Charles wearing masks on transit and at the office. We have some colourful and silly masks. We order most of our food via online services. I rarely go to any public spaces.

 We are also quite fortunate and don’t want to take that privilege for granted. For those with loved ones in long term care or those with children there are some incredibly difficult worries and experiences, not to mention those who have Covid-19 or who have close loved ones with the virus, and those with job issues, economic, housing and food insecurities.

 I worry about all those dealing with the pandemic and its consequences and that is always in my mind and heart, but the best way for me to not get overwhelmed is just to live in the now and adapt to the times as they are.

 I have vague hopes of doing a bit of touring in a few years to go to readings and celebrate my 60th, all being well, but these are not set in stone and they are not essential to my inner peace and happiness.

 I have a darling husband. I have food, shelter, financial security (for now) and health (for now).  I have many books to read, markers to doodle with, friends to keep in touch with and an imagination that keeps me occupied. I have a comfortable bed, an apartment I love and even fitness via Zoom with a great instructor and in a great community via the Carleton University’s Senior Ravens program when I choose to attend.

 I do look forward to a day when I can sit in a café and enjoy a chai latte and the conversation of those around me. I look forward to jumping around in the pool in my building again, taking aquafit at Carleton again and spending time in person with dear friends. All those experiences will be all the richer then. But I don’t pine for them. I just want to get through this time as sanely and safely as possible.

 I am grateful for the creative gifts so many artists, musicians, and writers have made to make it possible for me to feel joy. To all of you, I wish you a happy solstice and a joyous holiday season. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Covid-19, Schools and the Need for Government Plans and Accountability

 Dr. Shushiela Appavoo MD FRCP(C) Associate Clinical Professor, University of Alberta Co-chair, Canadian Association of Radiologists Breast Imaging Guidelines Working Group and member of the Masks4Canada group spoke today with Alan Neal on CBC’s All In A Day about whether it was necessary to shut down schools. Alas there isn’t a recording of that segment on the site yet, but if it is posted, I'll add it to this piece.

She made a valid point. She said that closing schools was only one tool in the arsenal. She talked about making schools safe by ensuring they follow Covid 19 protocols. She said that class sizes of 25-30 students was too large. In the press release there are a series of demands, including the enforcement of 2-metre distance as opposed to 1-metre which is currently the case.

Masks4Canada is a volunteer grassroots group made up of physicians, media, data scientists, marketing specialists, technologists, lawyers, engineers, students, teachers, parents, and advocates. Their goal is to raise awareness about the necessity of wearing masks.

 On their site, they feature a Canada Covid 19 School Case Tracker in order to provide transparency and increase safety in schools. The map has a live tracking feature and a form for Canadians to report cases. They say that schools “violate the 3C’s of social distancing: they are crowded, closed spaces with prolonged close contact.”

 They advocate the use of masks for K-12 students, and they also advocate strengthening schools by ensuring that the schools are following the protocols.

 I have argued over and over since the schools were reopened that children can be asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19 based on information from testing where those tested positive can show no symptoms. I have said that the most recent change in the Northern Hemisphere that has coincided with a surge in case numbers has been the fall openings of schools while there has been a decline in cases in the Southern Hemisphere, where schools are closed.

 I have not denied the importance of schools. I recognize that governments need schools to be open so that they can continue to keep money moving, parents need to work and can’t do so if they have to handle childcare. I recognize that schools are often havens for children who are victims of abuse at home or dealing with issues such as housing and food insecurities. I recognize too that for many children schools are a place for society and friendship. I see that it would be better at this time if the schools could remain open.

 However I also see a myth being spun by health authorities and governments claiming that schools are following the necessary protocols. 

Teacher and support staff unions have been up in arms since news of the planned opening about the lack of preparation, overcrowded classes, poor ventilation, over crowded buses, lack of teachers, lack of proper physical distancing recommendations. These issues are, in part, due to long term and systematic budgetary constraints of governments that have placed profit over people as a priority. I’m still looking for a resource with some kind of list of Ontario Education budgets and cuts over time, but in the meantime, take a look at this opinion piece by Ricardo Tranjan, in Education Action Toronto, which shows the effects of some of the Ford government’s recent cuts in education. Here’s a link to their editorial board and mission so you can check any possible biases, but it sounded straight-forward to me.

Meanwhile businesses and individuals are being called out with claims that they are disobeying protocols. And I’m sure some might be. Small businesses and individuals who have little or no money are being fined and shamed. I don’t know how this method is expected to result in an adherence to protocols or lead to a reduction in Covid-19 cases. It reads like a bad Victorian era morality poem. "I speak severely to my child, I beat her when she sneezes, she only does it to annoy, because she knows it teases."

Anecdotally only, I have heard of businesses who have not reported a member of their staff with Covid-19 because they can’t afford to shut down their workplaces for 14 days.

The only info I can find about Ottawa businesses and Covid-19 is vague about reporting requirements on this issue, so I am not sure of the veracity of what I’ve heard; however I have heard this from several workers.

 I have heard of workers going in to work when they have symptoms because they can’t afford to take time off, even with the emergency 14-day benefit offered by the federal government for sick leave.

Once more, anecdotally only, I have heard of testing centres where the staff is simply too overworked to provide the codes necessary for the contact tracing application to be effective.

The system is broken and it’s broken because money is in short supply and governments don’t have a plan to deal with the issues, as we’re told by Dr. Joseph Gans, an economist with the Roterdam School of Management and the author of the book, The Pandemic Information Gap: The Brutal Economics of COVID-1 in a recent conversation with Rita Celli on CBC’s Ontario Today.  Governments prefer to put the onus on business and individuals.

 When a third of Covid-19 sources cannot be traced in Ottawa

and we are able to trace sources of Covid-19 from large gatherings, restaurants etc, when the only major change that has happened since the surge in Northern Hemispheres began in late summer is the opening of schools, doesn’t it make sense to at least consider the possibility?

Doesn’t it also make sense to make sure that schools are following health protocols to keep children and staff safe and to ensure that community transmission through the schools is minimized?

The science on transmission from children is not clear yet, but Ontario’s science advisory table has said it may play a bigger role than first thought.

 Anecdotally only, some of our friends with kids are talking about situations where classes are being merged due to lack of available teachers, resulting in 30+ students in one class, or windows having to be opened due to poor ventilation systems. How many teachers are in ICU? How many family members of teachers or kids in school have tested positive for Covid 19? Are they even being tested?

 A reminder: in one third of Covid 19 cases in Ottawa the source is “unknown.”

"No known source means the person with a positive case was asked about risk factors and exposures, but "no source of exposure was able to be identified." 

No information available means people who test positive "have not been asked about risk factors and exposures yet," and they haven't been identified as a close contact to another person with COVID-19." Priscilla Hwang, CBC News, October 13, 2020

Given the lack of interest or due diligence regarding tracing asymptomatic transmissions from schools, i'd say we have our smoking gun.

You can take a look at the Covid 19 Canada School Case Tracker live map here.

I would rather not see schools closed; however, I would also rather not see them remain open if there is even one possibility that transmission is occurring via the schools where educators are not able to follow protocols due to budget cuts.

 I would also rather we end the fining, blaming and shaming of individuals and businesses unless we hold institutions equally accountable.

 Governments need a plan, rapid testing, a pause on rent payments and other strategies to help businesses and individuals. This blaming and fining has got to stop. Individuals will always find a way round a broken and unjust system. This is not the best idea in the times we are in. Transparency and following protocols, a just and equitable application of the rules for everyone is.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

getting the details right - a handy primer Amanda not Angela, Earl, not Earle etc

 i just thought i'd do a roundup of stuff relating to me and to my activities as a publisher. i won't freak out if you get this stuff wrong, but here's a handy primer for those who might find it helpful.

it's Amanda, not Angela.

it's Earl, not Earle.

although i'm thinking of an alter ego named Angela Earle ;)

unless you are putting everyone else's name in lowercase, my name is not lowercased: Amanda Earl.

it's not Bywords or Bywords magazine or Bywords x or y, it's (Month, Year).

we ran a monthly poetry magazine from 2003 to 2013 called the Bywords Quarterly Journal (BQJ). if you are published in that you would write Bywords Quarterly Journal (month, year). 

it's AngelHousePress (one word)

it's Experiment-O Issue plus number (AngelHousePress, year)

it's (AngelHousePress, year)

if you have an essay published online in the essay series it's published by AngelHousePress (month, year).

AngelHousePress chapbooks are published by AngelHousePress (year)

DevilHouse (also one word) was a prose imprint of AngelHousePress. Chapbooks published should be credited as published by DevilHouse (year).

i make all kinds of terrible typos and spelling errors for people's names etc. i wish i didn't. as i'm ageing this is happening increasingly. i don't fault anyone for making errors/typos. but i'm sharing this now, so that i can point it out if asked.

my pronouns are she/her.

i'm a cis-gendered pansexual polyamorous woman.

i'm a romantic non-monogamous slut.

i'm a feminist who is against fascism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia.

i'm married to Charles Earl (18 happy years and counting). we are in an open relationship.

i almost died in 2009. i am grateful to be alive.

i write poetry, visual poetry and prose (both fiction and nonfiction).

i am the managing editor of and the (fallen) angel of AngelHousePress. 

I host an art and literature podcast called the Small Machine Talks. 

Links to all my stuff

i hope you are coping somehow. 

what can i do to help you when i'm capable? 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Ottawa, October 15, 2020: this is how my birthday went

polaroid photo from afternoon flowers series by Charles Earl   

Charles had the day off and we spent much of the day snuggling and snoozing together. He made us bacon and eggs, nachos for lunch, and we had some delicious Chinese food delivered with favourites, including lemon chicken.

Marcus McCann, a dear friend shared an article he had written about cruising during the pandemic, the importance of advocating for harm reduction rather than abstinence, kindness over shaming. I read it aloud to Charles.

 I was serenaded happy birthday by two people who are very dear to me: Kirby and Joakim Norling, who sang in Swedish.

 I had a conversation with Gary Barwin for the Small Machine Talks. Gary is a creative whimsical person I have admired for many years, probably in other lifetimes too.

 I received lovely birthday greetings and kind words on social media and in e-mail from friends and also from lovers, former lovers, future lovers.

Charles and I watched one of my favourite movies, Where’d You Go Bernadette, starring Cate Blanchette, one of my favourite actresses. I love this movie because it addresses the issue of the importance of creativity for the artist and shows how important creativity can be to the world as well, even when it is often disregarded or given a low priority. It’s a movie about the love between a mother and a daughter and how precious life is.

On the weekend Charles will make his annual New York-style cheesecake, as he has been doing every year since my health crisis in 2009, when, after I came out of the hospital, he was trying so hard to find foods that I could keep down. He also roasted a turkey for the first time then too. Gentle, nurturing and decadent foods that offered both comfort and delight then and still do.

 I am sitting here drinking Aranciata, a bubbly sparkling orange beverage while listening to music and sitting in the home office I share with Charles at the end of the evening. The dishes are done. Coffee is set up for tomorrow.

Tomorrow night I will attend a practice session for the John Newlove Poetry Award on Zoom with all of the participants. I am content. I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for love, friendship and community. And now I am 57. Let the wild rumpus continue…

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Ottawa,October 14, 2020 c o p * / in ~ ! g Sort/ of _* ^

Some days I’m ok. I am focused, I can cross tasks off my to-do list easily. Other days my brain is in a fog. I feel unsettled and rattled. What does it take to set me off? This morning it was the news that writer, R.M. Vaughn has been missing for two days and is being searched for in Fredericton, New Brunswick. I am not close to him, but he’s a fellow writer, we’re FB friends and we have interacted a bit here and there, if memory serves. I worry for him and feel badly for his friends and loved ones.


I listened to a bit of the news, Ottawa is not doing so great at dealing with the pandemic. At the same time there are increases in fines as methods to curtail a lack of precautions toward it. I worry about that too, about the vulnerable who can’t afford fines and what giving authority and enforcement to individuals and organizations looks like these days, what it might become.


I see lines being drawn: citizens, particularly the have nots vs institutions. The institutions are always right. the Economy is everything. I see absurd and obvious hypocrisy: going after family gatherings while turning a blind eye to budget-strapped schools that can’t possibly follow the same precautions that individuals are being fined for. Who do we fine in that case? The politicians who were voted in by the right-wing because they promised to keep taxes low?

 I hear the rumblings of the working class who are not able to do what they are asked to do because they have to work and pay the bills. They can’t call in sick because they don’t get sick pay. Bosses of businesses aren’t necessarily being co-operative either. There is pressure – the Economy. Alberta just cut a bunch of health workers, for fuck’s sake.

 Racism and misogyny is ugly here too. Nova Scotia, what the fuck? New Brunswick, what the fuck?

 Meanwhile our neighbour to the south is in a time that is so overwhelmingly upsetting. Someone asked recently on Twitter, “since when is caring for people a radical idea?”

Today I am unsettled and my fitness class helped a bit but not enough. I can’t cross tasks off my to-do list right now. I feel bad about that, but wait! It’s ok not to do these things right now. It’s ok to take a break and do what I can do to get through this moment.

 On a CBC Radio Ideas show recently, the philosopher Roman Krznaric said we might be witnessing the death of a system, the so-called democratic system. The program was about thinking of those to come, and being a good ancestor. It was hopeful.

 tomorrow is my 57th birthday. I had a lot of ideas and plans for the future. my brain and my heart were giving me hope….

  I’m going to go outside soon and spend a little time in the sun. If I can get myself to do it. I’m fighting brain fog and anxiety pretty hard right now. Are you? I’m sending you hugs and this moment. I hope you are ok. I hope those you love are ok. Will we get through this? I don’t know.

 here are my plans:

do work when I can

when I can’t, do something else and don’t beat myself up about it

listen to hopeful and constructive activities and philosophers via podcasts and radio shows

hug Charles

reach out to you and let you know that you are not alone

cry sometimes

hug Charles



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Let’s not rush back to business as usual. A Call for Revolutionary Reform.

 Covid-19 has shone a light on the terrible repercussions of inequality.

 “Virus lays bare the frailty of the social contract…

Radical reforms are required to forge a society that will work for all”

 When large organizations and institutions try to open, hoping that people will follow rules, it results in increases. See this example from the University of Illinois: Students hacked the contact tracing app, they likely hooked up. Cases skyrocketed.

 I don’t want to see the end of activities that bring people together. I want to be able to enjoy art, music, poetry readings, films etc, but I think rushing back to recreate what we had before is unnecessarily risky at this time and why would we want to?

 The insistence by many to go back to “normal,” as they refer to it and to “open up the economy” is dangerous and foolhardy in many ways, not the least of which is the way in which such a return will not create the reform that is needed.

 A Call for Revolutionary Reform

I think that we have an opportunity for revolutionary reform that could address social injustices and inequalities, improve accessibility, decrease economic disparity, and amplify voices that have been erased in the arts, while maintaining the necessary practices that will keep Covid-19 levels down and perhaps even eradicate future pandemics.

 Some Examples Close to Home

In Ottawa I have already noticed increasing awareness and attempts to address these issues. For example, there are now porta potties on Bank Street and McNabb Community Centre has a respite centre:


Community Gardens, which were initially closed have opened up, in consideration of food shortages.

 I’ve heard more people pressuring their governments: federal, provincial and municipal on issues like affordable housing, food security, the treatment of workers, public transportation, police brutality, anti Black racism, elder neglect, health care and education budget.

Need for Collective Based Approaches

“According to one analysis, as of April 23, a staggering 151 countries have planned, introduced, or adapted a total of 684 social protection measures in response to the pandemic.”


COVID-19: remaking the social contract


The pandemic has driven home the point that our individual actions affect others. You can easily see the connection between rise and continued spikes in Covid-19 cases and laissez-faire economic and social policies. The crisis means we must all work together. The priorities are clear.


Ahead of May Day, 500+ Groups Worldwide Demand Just and Visionary Recovery From Covid-19


"This virus proves how interconnected we are. The solutions we come up with now must ensure that no one is left behind." Brett Fishman,


1. Put people's health first, no exceptions.

2. Provide economic relief directly to the people.

3. Help our workers and communities, not corporate executives.

4. Create resilience for future crises.

5. Build solidarity and community across borders—do not empower authoritarians.


 Some Examples of Reforms and Innovations Currently Underway

Here are a few of the ways in which a revolution has begun and some of the ways in which innovators, organizers and artists are using their creativity and care to make necessary changes. I believe that the only way we’re going to survive the pandemic and its ensuing economic downfall is to to lead with love, to lead by example, to care for each other and with an unwillingness to restore the same old white cis-het patriarchy that has gotten us to where we are now.




Health experts have finally started to communicate that racism is a public health issue.


We’ve been facing a pandemic of racism. How can we stop it?


We Must Defund the Police. It Is the Only Option.





How Scientists Could Stop the Next Pandemic Before It Starts


These six Canadian initiatives just received $1 million in funding to help fight COVID-19. The one-time innovation grant was split between six Canadian physicians and health care teams who designed unique solutions to the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.




When the pandemic came to Ottawa, I was impressed by how immediately FB groups sprung up to offer food, supplies and aid to those who needed it.


What Is Caremongering? And Why Is It So Uniquely Canadian?


Why George Monbiot is fighting to build a 'politics of belonging' to better our world


Monbiot argues creating communities of "mutual concern, of mutual aid, where we support each other, as indeed many people have been doing during the coronavirus pandemic" is key.




Remote events, work and education have an accidental benefit of making it possible for disabled people to take part. I say accidental because accessibility has not been a priority at all, and this is just a side effect, but now that it’s happening, I don’t think it can be turned back that easily. Much more needs to be done, including making technology and the internet accessible for all. Ableism continues to create barriers to much needed change.


Why coronavirus may make the world more accessible




The future of feminism

Five feminists explain where the movement needs to go next.

By Jessica Machado and Karen Turner





Over Headphones and in a Truck, the Philharmonic Stays Alive

With indoor performances still far-off, the orchestra has organized a “Soundwalk” in Central Park and outdoor pop-up concerts.


The Isolation Museum, a brand new virtual museum asks people to submit artifacts that represent their isolation experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Artist and Carleton University student Kit Chokly came up with the idea after they lost their job and their classes were moved online. via CBC Sparks



In Berlin, the Art World Spreads Out to Stay Safe

The first major international art event since the lockdown started took place at smaller venues around the city, rather than under a single roof.


How to Birth a New American Theater – replacing the white canon


The Frankfurt Book Fair will be digital




 Take into account the link between humans and the planet


Lockdown Let the Earth Breathe. What Do We Do Next?

COVID-19 could be a turning point in climate activism—but only if we play it right



“Human wellness and planetary wellness are inextricably linked, and that link must be taken into account in order to save us.”




Making Connections, Telling Stories: Dispatches from the Empty Met


Solutions from Around the World: Tackling Loneliness and Social Isolation During COVID-19


“A Norwegian company, No Isolation, developed a “one-button computer” designed to help people with no experience using smartphones or computers. With an internet connection and a power outlet, it can stream photos, send or receive messages, and conduct video calls. Currently the product is available in eight European countries.”


Beaded map of Canada creates 'a sense of community' among Indigenous artists amid pandemic




It’s not enough to just move classes online. We need better access to digital solutions for all. We need free and universal accessibility to technology.


Classes are moving online, but teaching methods still need to catch up, says education expert


“I don't see why, in the long run, we shouldn't be able to offer everything, so students can study in any way they wanted. The important thing is the learning outcome should be the same, the exam should be the same, but the students can get there through different routes, different ways of learning.”


After covid: 'Working from home' is long term ambition




120 Canadian CEOs And Business Owners Representing Over $2.3b In Combined Annual Revenues Are In Support Of A Universal Basic Income In Canada.


A Universal Basic Income would also help to eliminate food insecurity issues.


Groups like Food Not Bombs in the USA is a free meal collective that redistributes food to those who need it.


In Canada, federal funding has been allocated to help provide surplus food to the hungry from farms.


The pandemic has illuminated the issues with gig working and the need for basic worker rights.


This Pandemic Is a ‘Fork in the Road’ for Gig Worker Benefits

As Covid-19 keeps people indoors, delivery and other contract workers are more visible than ever—making this a pivotal time for them to secure basic rights. Arielle Pardes




 How the pandemic sparked a new program that connects rural Ontarians to rapid-response health care


The virtual triage assessment centre connects residents to health-care providers over phone or video chat




Meet Will Rondo, the man behind the NBA's bubble barber shops


Hate Social Media but Love Nature? There’s an App for That

Facebook and Twitter can be sinkholes of rage and despair. But virtual communities like iNaturalist might usher in the digital utopia we were promised





I don’t want to go back to business as usual. I want mindful change and I will support and amplify visionaries calling for change, and social justice movements in their attempts to ensure we have it. This isn’t a short-term issue. The pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon and after it is over, we are going to need to support one another more than ever.


4 Key Ways to Build Strong Social Justice Movements


Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Anxiety, Wild Goose Chases, and Red Herrings Because It’s 2020

 Ottawa, September 8, 2020

Today it’s cloudy. It seems like a switch went off at the end of August and autumn began. The darkness, yes, that was inevitable. I turn on the light now at 5:15 a.m. when I pad out to the kitchen to pour Charles’ coffee into his two big travelling mugs that will get him through the day. The coffee maker is programmable and during the times of Covid-19, I appreciate that feature very much. We never used it BC19. Before Covid-19.

It’s cool now in the mornings, often in the single digits. Dark comes earlier at night too, around 7 pm. So the days are shorter and shortening until December 21 when they begin to lengthen. I’ve seen a few trees on the turn already. On the turn, like traitors or spies. Things you can turn, change the mind of, convince. I love autumn. It is the season of my birth, Charles’ birth and our wedding anniversary. We got married on the day that summer turned to autumn in 2002, September 23. Can I still love autumn at this time?

This morning I had to pick up a book from the library and it was cool enough for me to don my autumn attire: a pair of green corduroy pants, an orange jacket with a queer button pinned into the lapel. Apparently I am queer only in the autumn, or so my jacket tells me.

After mailing post cards to dear friends, I wandered over to the library. Before using up some hand sanitizer and a fresh, clean mask, I went up to the door, but it was closed. Usually there’s a woman my age or older there with a mask on, inquiring as to the purpose of my visit. If it’s for holds, she waves me on through, reminding me to stay two meters away from others and to use the hand sanitizer, but today the automatic door is closed. It is about 10:30 a.m. The library opens at 10 a.m. on weekdays. There’s a big sign on the door with the hours reading 10 a.m. beneath all the days except Sunday. I google and discover that today the Main Branch doesn’t open until 1 p.m. Several fellow library users arrive, and I let them know. We are all flummoxed.

This is how things are now and will be for as long as it takes. I keep hearing folks say, “when things get back to normal…” but I’m not sure there will ever be a return to the way things were. At least for me. I’m expecting things to be tricky and uncomfortable for a while. I’m expecting everything that I took for granted to be different. So yes, the library is opening later. It’s not completely closed all the time, which is amazing in itself. I appreciate the library staff and the risk that they are taking so that I can take out books. I also feel guilty about that. I think all of these things while standing outside the library and watching several others come and go.

I have to remember to check hours of any place I have to go to in future. Especially the library.

I enjoyed walking outside. Yes, there were men wearing masks on their heads or around their ears. There were construction workers standing close together. I had to resist the urge to buy coffee from a local café. 

Not only am I trying to spend as little as possible at this time, but since I am in control of only my own decisions, I let as little as possible fall into the control of someone else. This means avoiding in person contact with people as much as possible except for Charles. 

I go to the post office once or twice a month, the library about the same and the pharmacy once in a while. That’s it. That’s what I’ve decided to do for now. I can’t guarantee what I will want or do in future. For now, this helps keep my anxiety at bay.

What are you doing to keep your own anxiety at bay?