amongst books

amongst books

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 cafĂ©. 

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?

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

1st photography publication: Watch Your Head site publishes my series the End of Days

thanks to Kathryn Mockler and the editors for publishing The End of Days photo series on the site. 

Watch Your Head is about climate justice and climate struggle. Their anthology will be published by Coach House Books in the fall, and can be pre-ordered here

i don't think i've ever had my photographs published anywhere before, so this means a lot. 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Sessions from the DreamHouse Aria

 i've been working on turning my long poem, Sessions from the DreamHouse Aria into a novella. Here is a brief explanation and a reading of excerpts from the work. Content Warning: mentions of childhood trauma and abuse.

Thank you to the League of Canadian Poets for funding the video and to the Ontario Arts Council for supporting the project this year through its Recommender Grants for Writers program, and to Coach House Books for recommending the work. 

Thanks also to rob mclennan who published excerpts from the long poem in 17 Seconds Magazine.

I'm very happy this work is able to see the light of day. 

Video filmed August 14, 2020, Ottawa, Ontario Canada overlooking Bronson Avenue from the 19th floor.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Ottawa, August 14, 2020 Feeling Welcome and Missing Friends - notes on a Zoom reading

 Last night, I decided last minute to attend the Virtual House Party #2 Zoom reading organized by Margo La Pierre. I haven’t been attending many virtual readings during the pandemic because I have felt really awkward on Zoom. But last night I had some time and dear friends were reading, so I joined.

This is the second of a series of readings that began with Margo’s birthday in March and I believe there will be more coming, which is great!

 Manahil Bandukwala, Frances Boyle, Nina Jane Drystek, and Natalie Hanna gave beautiful readings. Margo was an excellent host, inviting all four to share editing tips and to share beloved items from their homes to talk about. Editors Association of Canada Ottawa-Gatineau branch was the organization affiliated with the reading.

 For the event, Margo started a Go Fund Me campaign to help Six Nations defend their land and so far has raised $160. She linked to books and chapbooks by the featured readers and those who donated would receive a book / chapbook. The whole event was friendly and full of kindness.

 Some of the highlights for me were Natalie Hanna’s strong and compassionate poems. I had tears in my eyes a few times. Nina Jane Drystek’s long jelly fish poem with added sound effects and loops reminiscent of Rasiqra Revulva’s great performance at VERSeFest a few years back. Manahil Bandukwala’s reading of part of her Borderpoem with Sanna Wani. Frances’ imagery. Everyone’s editing tips. Seeing into people’s private spaces, artwork, books.  

 I switched to gallery view so I could see who the other attendees. I normally keep my video off but Margo asked that we keep our video on during the reading. I can see that. For readers it’s nice to be able to see the audience.

 Seeing everyone made me miss so many of my friends from the literary community and also made me curious about those I haven’t met in person. I liked the way some of the people attending would go off and make themselves a bit of food or something to drink and come back. Some even went to a sink and I could see them in the background.

 I liked that people chatted and offered praise for specific lines of poems during the reading, and links to the books and resources mentioned by the readers. Such a supportive and welcoming group!

 Unfortunately I couldn’t stay on for the open mic portion and the post reading chat, but I’m so glad I attended the reading and it won’t be the last. I realize just how much I miss the connection with fellow writers and friends who I’ve spent so much time with over the years at events. It was a beautiful experience. Thanks to Margo, all the readers and to other attendees.

 Yes, I still felt awkward, but others did too. We were all awkward together and that made me feel less alone.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Ottawa, August 6, 2020 Strawberries and Hope

I did my Zoom fitness class again for the first time in a few weeks. Grueling, but it felt good to stretch abs, back and core. Carleton Athletics will be doing a mix of Zoom and in-person classes in the autumn. This body will stay virtual. I’m in no rush to go back to the gym. For me to do so, I would have to take public transit as well, so that’s extra risk. I respect those who make different decisions. We all mitigate risk in our own ways.

I went out for a walk this afternoon in the sunshine and it was still hot, but cooler and not as humid as it has been. August light is slanting already toward autumn.

 I was wearing a blue-shirt with stars on it that read, “things are looking up”—a deliberate choice on my part. I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic, but I have a small glimmery feeling of hope. Not because I believe Covid-19 will end anytime soon, but because I believe that change is necessary in the world and the pandemic is bringing to light the reasons why capitalism and profit first policies are harmful for the collective.

 I don’t like the term “the new normal,” because for those  without jobs, health insurance, homes, for those who are victims of abuse and hatred, normal / status quo thinking was the reason they were suffering and still are. Normal is for the privileged.  It doesn’t take into account the needs of the collective, only the individual. We need to make vast social and political changes in order to create a better world, not return to any version of what was perceived as normal by the 1%.

I went to Massine’s for the first time in months today. In my bag now, I always carry hand sanitizer, clean masks in a ziplock bag, and an empty ziplock bag to dispose of used masks after I remove them. I saw so many people walking on Bank and Somerset who had their masks on their chins. I think this is because they are going to be popping in and out of stores. They must believe that it is ok to do this, but it is not.

Ottawa Public Health has a huge information campaign about masks and the correct way to wear them and when to take them off and how to put them on, so what’s the issue? These people I saw have the best of intentions, I’m sure, but they’re going to make things worse for themselves by exposing the masks to airborne particles and then putting them back on. My solution is to  carry a bunch of clean masks with me. 

I purchased the cheapest variety from Staples, a ten-pack for $40. I carry the pack with me, then after I wear them I put them in the wash. I respect that some people can’t afford to buy multiple masks and perhaps that issue needs to be addressed by public health. There are all kinds of fancy and expensive pretty masks out there. But if you can’t afford that, just get the cheapest you can find. Charles goes through two to four masks a day with having to take public transit and go thru St. Laurent Mall daily on week days. Masks should be sold in every convenience store, every drug store, every grocery store and even in dispensers, the kind that have water and candy. There should be no reason why anyone who can wear a mask can’t have several of them on hand, along with hand sanitizer when they are outside of their own dwellings.


Anyway, back to Massine’s. It was nearly empty. I just wanted to pick up a few items for dinner. We get our groceries through PC Express now, so we don’t have to bother going to the store regularly. But I was out, am on my own tonight, so I picked up a few salad items and a treat. I spend almost no money anymore since cafes were closed, and since i'm doing my damndest not to spend on books etc. It's just too unpredictable a time to spend money freely right now. Job security is not something we can take for granted.


I had my little treat, strawberry mochi, whilst reading a letter from a dear friend. It was lovely. Tonight I will have nectarines and strawberries with my salad of spring greens along with some trail mix.

 So where does my hope come from? I think we will learn how to live and adapt to what we need to do during the pandemic to keep others and ourselves safe. I know it doesn’t seem like that given how some folks are not understanding how to wear masks hygienically, but it will come.


I heard Dr. Tam on the radio and she said that a vaccine, even if it is developed, will not necessarily end Covid-19 very quickly. There will be some trial and error. We have to plan for the long term and plan to follow the protection measures now and for the next few years.

 I do worry about kids going back to school. That seems absurd and dangerous. I hope friends are able to keep their kids out of school and can find a way to homeschool, if at all possible, or if not, to arm them with as protection for their physical and mental health as possible, not to mention that of the parents! I suspect that the outbreaks will be too great from the moment they try to open the schools and we’ll see another lock down in the autumn.

Autumn will mean revisiting appointments I cancelled in the spring: dentist, optometrist, and will also mean some kind of plan for the flu shot…but that’s not now. For now, I’m taking everything one breath at a time. How about you?

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Ottawa, July 30, 2020 Sunsets, yearning and the Rapture

I went outside my apartment building for the first time since July 15, just before sunset tonight. I walked from my place near Chinatown over to the Byward Market through Sparks. Things have changed in just 15 days. Folks were riding on e-scooters and theses scooters were all over the place, beside my apartment building, on the lawn on another building on Laurier, standing outside the LRT at Parliament and zooming along Sparks. I hadn’t realized this was actually happening. Now it seems they’re everywhere. Future much? People wearing masks on scooters. It gave the atmosphere a strange but amusing vibe.


I walked when it was not very busy out, but Sparks Street had a number of people on patios having drinks or a meal. Instead of feeling the anxiousness of people near me, I felt more of a relaxed mood, a yearning. Summer won’t last forever. I enjoyed the glow of the sun in the puddles after the rain as I wandered. I masked up and walked into Chapters just before it closed, out of curiosity to see what it felt like. It was too hot in the mask to do much browsing and it was fairly empty. Also the bathrooms were closed, which is the reason to go there in the first place.

I took the LRT back from the Rideau Station after walking past various people in the pedestrian areas, some little kids with lots of energy and young couples trying to be romantic with masks on. I suspect there were tourists as well.

Rideau Street is torn up for construction, yet again. I am not surprised that this was the last straw after Covid-19, the sinkhole and the LRT build for many Byward Market businesses. The Highlander Pub is gone. We used to go there post Bywords Quarterly Journal readings at Chapters back in the day. 

 I kept my mask on after Chapters and back to Rideau Station and into the LRT which was near empty at 8pm. The westbound LRT to Tunney’s Pasture was close to empty too. I felt like I was in one of those movies about Revelation when the good folks are taken to heaven and only us rotters are left. The Rapture means no more cafes left and you have to wear a mask if you didn’t get taken. Yes, I too enjoyed that show, the Leftovers.


Here is Take on Me, a cover by the all girl French Horn band Ghengis Barbie from Season 3.


The mask (designed by Lucky Little Queer) reads “I am full of anxiety” and yeah, I am, but you know, I have a little bit of hope. I think it was because of the yearning.