amongst books

amongst books

Monday, May 29, 2017

A List of Canadian Chapbook Awards

Canadian Chapbook Awards

Here’s a list of annual prizes that result in chapbook publication. For more details on deadlines and specifics, up-to-date submission requirements, guidelines, etc, please visit the sites. I consulted with all the presses/journals listed below, but any errors are my responsibility. If you see a mistake, please let me know. If you know of additional Canadian chapbook awards, please let me know.

Note that the bpNichol chapbook award, administered by Toronto’s Meet the Presses collective, is awarded to chapbooks published by a Canadian press in the previous year and result in a $4000 award for the author and $500 for the press. Chapbooks can be submitted by the press or the author. Check the site for specific information.

"Cost to author" refers to the cost authors must pay per chapbook should they decide to buy additional copies.

"Sales on site" refers to whether or not the chapbook will be sold by the press via its web site.

Press/Journal : 
Name of Award:      John Newlove Poetry Award
Entry Fee:                  $0       
Prize Amount:          Honorarium for reading varies (up to $250)       
Print Run:                  126     
Comps to author:     26
Cost to author:          half price retail cost.
Sales on site:             Yes

Press/Journal:           Tree Press/Tree Reading Series
Name of Award:       Tree Press Chapbook Contest
Entry Fee:                  $0
Prize:                          $250
Comps to author:     10
Note that the categories of "cost to author," "print run" and "sales on site" are flexible and depend on wishes of winner and size of book. 

Press/Journal:           Frog Hollow Press  
Name of Award:       Frog Hollow Press Chapbook Contest
Entry Fee:                  $0
Prize:                          $0
Print Run:                  100
Comps to author:     10
Cost to author           depend on cost of publication, including mailing proofs to author, endpapers, etc.
Sales on site:             Yes

Press/Journal:           Vallum
Name of Award:       The Vallum Chapbook Award
Entry Fee:                  $25
Prize:                          $115
Print Run:                  125
Comps to Author     10
Cost to author:          $10
Sales on site:             Yes

Press/Journal :           Kalamalka Press
Name of Award:       John Lent Poetry/Prose Award
Entry Fee:                  $10
Prize:                          $500
Print Run:                  “varies from year-to-year depending on available materials, available storage capacity, how recent titles have been selling... so, last year it was 75; this year it's 55, i think.” Kevin McPherson
Comps to author:     10% of total print run
Cost to author:          Author discount is usually 25%
Sales on site:             Yes     

Friday, May 12, 2017

Outsider art, micropresses and money

Creative workers deserve monetary compensation for their work. I agree with this. I run an online literary site/magazine that pays writers thanks to the help of local government. However, I also run a micropress with print and online publications that do not offer financial compensation to our contributors because I do not seek out government grants to pay for their existence. We offer complementary copies for print publication, but that’s it.

The administrative work that goes into applying for financial assistance is huge and it’s not a burden I’m prepared to take on more than I already do. I am always uncertain, when I ask for free contributions from artists whose work I admire or have discovered whether I should not be a publisher at all because I am unwilling to do the work required to ensure that we are all financially compensated.

I am fortunate to be able to work as a volunteer for everything I do. We limit micropress publishing activity to what we can afford, which isn’t a lot. Money received from those who purchase chapbooks goes directly into paper costs and the cost of hosting the online publications. The expense is greater than what is received.  I receive occasional grants for my own work and the occasional honorarium from literary magazines or reading fees. The advance from my poetry book was small and after two years, sales have resulted in payback of the advance.

I respect those who won’t contribute to anything unless they are financially remunerated for it. But my own way of thinking is to support small, outsider presses who don’t receive money either. Money often means accepting conditions. For government grants for example, you have to have steering committees, regular meetings, insurance and final reports, and you have to adhere to very specific rules about such things as Canadian content, to name one example.

I suspect that if everyone insisted that they only contribute to publications able to offer financial compensation, a lot of micropresses and online publications wouldn’t be able to exist. This means that readers and appreciators of art would be exposed only to government-sanctioned art. I don’t see this as a good thing. I see what these micropresses do as being part of a long tradition of outsider art.

The other option, the kickstarter/indigogo campaigns are an alternative, but also require administrative work and focus on things other than the publication of the art and working with the contributors. I think this is a completely valid way of raising money, but I’m unwilling to spend that kind of time. My micropress is a two-person operation and that’s the way it has to stay in order to do what we do without complicated board meetings and consensus building exercises.

So I will continue to ask you to contribute for free and if you don’t want to, I will understand if you respectfully decline.  I will continue to share remunerative opportunities on social media to help you find ways to share your work and be financially compensated. I won't criticize outsider art and micropresses for not asking for money. I'd be a hypocrite.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Electric Garden, 2017 Tree Press Chapbook Award and Launch

I'm thrilled to announce that my manuscript, "Electric Garden," has won the Tree Press Chapbook Award administered by the Tree Reading Series. The judge was brilliant Ottawa poet, Stephen Brockwell, who wrote "There’s a willfully joyful complexity to Electric Garden’s exploration of female ageing and its accompanying social silences and invisibilities. These poems never settle into mere complaint. Amanda celebrates the potential energy—physical and creative—in the transition by engaging with other texts and mucking about with the declining pronouns for the self in the rust-belt of our later years."

Tonight I will be reading at the Tree Reading Series, Black Squirrel Books. More info on the reading is available here:

Heartfelt thanks to the Tree Reading Series, and to Stephen Brockwell, to Claudia Coutu Radmore, who designed the chapbook, to all the open mics where these poems have been tried out and readings/journals where they’ve been featured and published and the City of Ottawa and Ontario Arts Council for funding.

Electric Garden is part of a larger work called “Grace: City Poems Under the Influence of Buckley, Barnes, Cixous, Jacobs, Midol, the seasons, melancholy and gin.” I began the series in 2015 with the help of participants in a workshop I took with rob mclennan at his home in Alta Vista.

 I’ll be reading from several parts of Grace: Electric Garden, Lady Lazarus Redux, firstwalks of the  year (In/Words Press, 2016), wintered (forthcoming from shreeking violet press), and Daily Graces.

Words and phrases in italics come from various sources, which I credit in print.

The Tree Reading Series began in 1980 and has been a stalwart supporter and promoter of  not only Ottawa's literary community but the Canadian literary community at large, inviting readers from Vancouver to Newfoundland. It's always treated me well. I am honoured to have my work included as part of the award.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

3 Summers by Lisa Robertson, a reading diary - part two

February 21 to March 16, 2017

I liked the startling and rich imagery, the way the book was organized into different sections with recurring themes that weaved back and forth throughout. I liked the illustrations by Hadley + Maxwell. I liked the concept of the work as a hormone, the poem as hormone, the various glands: dandalian, acoustic, enjoyment. I liked the contemplation of the awkwardness of the body, its relationship to form and gender. Rebelling against form but also how form can adapt to fit its content. I liked the investment of abstracts, especially desire with concreteness, with feeling. I loved the relationship of the work to art, the way LR seems to build imaginary art installations. I loved the changeling speaker, sometimes with hoofs, sometimes wearing a sheep or cow’s skin. I loved the colour palette: green, purple and gold. I loved the sutures, folds and seams that brought the outside in, that made me think that nothing is ever really whole, but rather stitched together. I loved the sometimes wry and humourous juxtapositions: poetry, highway robbery.  I loved the quality of the light. This book is beautiful. I wrote and paraphrased over 3500 words when I realized I was oversimplifying, unintentionally clarifying or putting LR’s words into my own words  and I despised doing so, so I stopped.

I loved the flower machine. I am glad I am being converted to a lily. I squandered myself rosily with 3 Summers. I hope you do too.

Next I realize that all along it’s been my body
that I don’t understand
I just have to describe what it means
supernatural, negative and sexual
and blooming on one side. It’s fierce and then
it’s tired. The dog lies on the lawn
eating apples, me crouched in the
luxurious secret, whatever
I have been building, vena cava
threading to atmosphere, psoas
ruffling, everything quiet
rocked only by love, hazard, fate, sleeping—

Like a weak church flung across the matter they scarcely are
each dandy stands prepared to dispose herself
stands sutured to her animal mortality
to make philosophy say
the hummingbird.

from “The Middle” in 3 Summers (Coach House Books, 2016)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Upcoming Reading in Toronto: Poetry Now Battle of the Bards-March 29, 2017

I've been invited to read at Poetry Now's Battle of the Bards in Toronto on March 29. At this event, 20 poets compete for a spot at the International Festival of Authors, which takes place in the autumn.

Here's a link to the event, including readers: Wish me luck & if you're in Toronto, it might be a fun way to spend yr evening...

Brigantine Room

235 Queens Quay West
Toronto M5J 2G8
Cost: $10, Free for Supporters & Students

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: