amongst books

amongst books

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Wrap Up

I feel the need to do my own version of an xmas bird count...in my old life as the co-owner of a consulting firm we had to write a lot of reports, particularly progress reports. i found them satisfying as an employer and i think the employees, as much as they hated writing them, found them useful to guide themselves forward. i take my writing and publishing efforts seriously and put my heart into the work that i do, so i feel it's important to take note of what i've done and to reflect on the coming year.

In 2010, I submitted poetry to 43 places, including print and on-line journals, book publishers, contests, and granting agencies.

My poetry was published in 15 publications, including three print and one on-line anthology, three chapbooks, three print journals, an online visual poetry magazine, three on-line literary magazines and one travelling visual poetry exhibit in Russia and in Windsor, Ontario.

I received two recommendations for the Ontario Arts Council’s Writers’ Reserve Program.

I was invited to read as a feature twice this year at two anthology launches and will read for the last time in 2010 on December 30 as part of the Peter F. Yacht Club Reading and Xmas Party. This is small compared to 2009, but considering I was recuperating from 2009’s crazy health crisis, I’m still happy with having been able to read and to have been invited at all.

I went to fewer readings this year than last, again due to health crisis, but I enjoyed being there and have already written about some of the memorable readings in 2010 in my last blog post.

In 2010, one of the milestones for me was completing Kiki, the manuscript that held my attention for four years. It is now in the hands of a publisher, so please cross your finger and toes and eyes on Kiki’s behalf.

I have 15 submissions outstanding and several grant applications outstanding also.

This year I also began a new manuscript, All the Catharines and have already received some funding for that, which is very heartening.

With my publishing and organizing hats on, I hosted 5 readings for Bywords and with the help of the Bywords team published 4 issues of the Bywords Quarterly Journal, 12 issues of Bywords.ca, entered hundreds of events and news items on the site.

For AngelHousePress we published two chapbooks, the annual Nationalpoetrymonth.ca with 30 poems by poets from the poetry nation of the world, the annual Experiment-O.com with 10 contributors of art, prose, visual poetry and poetry, and for our essay series, 6 provocative and inspiring essays. I enjoyed speaking to a number of readers, writers and publishers at the ottawa small press book fair in the spring and fall of 2010 and selling a few copies of Bywords and AngelHousePress publications as an added bonus.

I sent out countless letters and e-mails to the Citizen, on line cultural blogs, City councillors etc advocating for the arts and culture scene here in Ottawa. I worry about funding cuts and feel it is important to keep vigilant, especially with the media's blatant disregard and occasional disdain for local writers, particularly poets. I will do my best to promote and highlight literary genius in our city in 2011 and help citizens to realize that we don't live in some cultural backwater but a vibrant and dynamic centre of arts and culture.

2010 was a professionally and personally rewarding year and the most important part of it of course was to be alive and to be surrounded by love, friendship, beauty and brilliance in a city I adore.

The first part of 2011 will likely be taken up once again with my health as I undergo surgery (all being well). In theory I will hunker down with All the Catharines and many good books during my recuperation and be ready for reading opportunities by the spring at the latest.

To writer and publisher friends, literary event organizers, book sellers, devoted readers, artists and creative anarchists of all kind, I hope you have had a productive and enjoyable 2010 and wish you the same for 2011. I am looking forward to reading the ensuing whimsical and provocative creative works and attending many great events in 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

To Peter Simpson of the Ottawa Citizen: Poetry readings in Ottawa are not funereal

Dear Mr. Simpson,

In your December 24, 2010 Big Beat column you list slam poetry as hot and other poetry readings as not hot because you claim other readings are funereal.
I doubt very much you've been to many poetry readings recently. I’ve never seen you at any myself. There are some dull ones, but there are some great ones too. I advise you to go to some of the city's fabulous readings. Here are some of the lively events you clearly missed:

the A B Series’ multimedia performance of Nobuo Kubota in October;

the Tree Reading Series feature of Phil Hall in May with his lively language play and imaginative poetry and confession to being somewhat of a wingnut; how else would you hear about the Nihilist Spasm Band and hear the sound of one of their instruments played by Phil?

the Dusty Owl Reading Series’ launch of Pearl Pirie’s first poetry collection: been shed bore, including the use of a catapult to launch goodies into the audience; the rare and brilliant reading of jwcurry.

Readings by locals and out-of-towners at the Carleton Tavern hosted by rob mclennan, including a captivating and entertaining performance by Gary Barwin from his latest book the Porcupinity of the Stars;

Christine McNair’s two mesmerizing readings this past year as part of the very cool and yes, hot House Band Reading Series at Raw Sugar and the Tree Reading Series;

Rob Winger’s stirring performance to a packed crowd at the Manx Pub as part of the Plan 99 reading series in November.

Not only does Ottawa have a great bunch of local and talented poets but we also attract poets from all over because we have wonderful reading series and bookstores that host the readings.

2011 will be another exciting year for poetry in Ottawa with sound poets coming from Japan, Russia and the Netherlands as part of the A B Series, a week long festival of poetry in March, fundraising readings for community programs such as the Cornerstone Women’s Shelter by Bywords in February, the Ottawa International Writers Festival in the spring and fall and a host of other readings.

And I guarantee you, although poets wear black at times, these readings will be full of life and there will be no coffin in sight.

Amanda Earl
www.bywords.ca

home of poetry and a jam packed calendar of literary events

Thursday, December 23, 2010

an anthology for poetry haters?

i’ve already written about my distaste for poetry as a teen. my mind wasn’t particularly open at 14. today though i am wide open, willing to revisit even the works of Shakespeare, which I loathed as a child, mostly because they were taught so poorly, i recognize now. i have enjoyed all kinds of poetry from the nursery rhymes of Christina Rossetti to the word play of Christian Bök’s Eunoia.

what i am looking for in a poem is to be surprised by language or imagery or a twist in the narrative. i like reading a poem again and finding it different, discovering something i hadn’t noticed before. sometimes one line or a single word will make me appreciate a poem.

many people are very closed to poetry of any kind and that has always been the case. i relate to that attitude because of my own close-mindedness. there’s nothing much to do for those who remain adamant in their unwillingness to try something new; however, there are those who are curious. the question is how to encourage and nurture this interest without shutting them off from the possibilities of poetry?

i remember being very excited when i first read e.e. cummings but being bored to tears by Eliot’s the Wasteland when we had to read it in some course when i was in my 30s, then reading the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and loving it, then recently going back to the Wasteland and finally being able to appreciate it. sometimes we are just not ready for some types of poetry. i think that’s ok.

another revelation for me was William Carlos Williams, discovered thru one of those Norton anthologies they make you buy when you take poetry in university. after that i began to explore, devouring my Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, 2nd edition. and that is how i grew to love (some) poetry: by reading and being open.

and then there was Robert Priest. i’ve told this story before. in the early 90s, my ex and i went to something called the Ottawa Valley Book Festival at Roosters at Carleton. i think it was the first literary event i ever attended. i don’t even remember why i wanted to go. we didn’t know anyone and found ourselves sitting too damn close to the makeshift stage. Phil Jenkins, the host for the event, decided to begin as if it was the first baseball game of the season throwing out the first pitch, or in this case: books to the audience. he stared directly at me and i was afraid. he was going to throw the book at me. i was afraid because i didn’t want to look like a twit by not being able to catch the book, and also because he said it was a poetry book. it was “Scream Blue Living” by the first reader, Robert Priest. the book fell at my feet and the audience yelled out, “take it, take it.” blushing, i picked up the book. i enjoyed Priest’s reading very much and went home to read the book, which was brilliant and funny and contrary to what i thought poetry was: boring old-fashioned doggerel written by dirty old men or prissy spinsters. but this was different. a poem called “How I Cut My Hand” talked about working in a factory. i had worked in factories and had seen an accident or two there. i could relate.

when i was in high school and struggling with math, i used to complain that the teachers all loved math so they couldn’t really teach to those of us who didn’t like it and perhaps that’s the case with poetry.

when poetry lovers try to communicate their love of poetry to poetry haters, it never works. at best you get blank stares or the answer: “i don’t get it.” “How will you find beauty when it is locked in the mind past all remonstrance?”—William Carlos Williams, “Paterson”

it took me until 2006 when i took workshops with rob mclennan before i gained an appreciation for contemporary poetry such as Lisa Robertson or Steve McCaffery or even bpNichol for that matter. i hadn’t known that such poetry existed. i wonder if i’d been exposed to such at the high school level or early university level, whether i would have been more interested.

when i meet someone who tells me she loves poetry, i’m always a little suspicious. how can you love “poetry”? i love some, i hate some and i’m ambivalent about most of it. but there are people out there who are poetry natives, who have loved poetry all their lives. i am not one of those people.

i’d like to see an anthology for those who dislike poetry or who are suspicious and cynical about it. i’m not sure what the contents would be, but i believe that once someone has found a few poems they can engage with, they end up digging a bit deeper to find more. as long as they are never satisfied they will continue to dig.

i’d be interested in your recommendations for such an anthology. if, like me, you aren’t a poetry native, what was the first poem that made you realize you didn’t hate poetry and wanted to read more?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Best Albums, 2010

Eels, End Times
i discovered Eels with Hombre Loco and haven’t looked back. This album is the second of a trilogy that started with Hombre Loco and ends with a new CD called Tomorrow Morning, which I haven’t heard yet. E. or Mark Oliver Everett has a voice that is reminiscent of Tom Waits except more tuneful perhaps. this album has a good range to it from the romantic Little Bird, the reflective On My Feet to the melancholy End Times to the more raucous Unhinged. High and Lonesome starts with a thunderstorm and a dial tone and then there’s a knock at the door…unanswered.


the National, High Violet
i am in love with Matt Baringer’s dark beautiful voice. Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers is one of my favourite albums and i really need to buy more of the National’s music. strong lyrics, voice, melodies and instruments add up to a fine band. High Violet is memorable with beautiful harmonies, strong rhythms juxtaposed with some melancholy lyrics such as in Sorrow.

Elvis Costello, National Ransom
I loved his last album, Secret, Profane and Sugar Cane and i admit to being an Elvis fan from way back. i like National Ransom because it reminds me of his early records on My Aim is True & This Year’s Model with a dash of Goodbye Cruel World and Spike. it must be hard for a popular artist when everyone wants them to be just like they used to be and not do anything new. Elvis is a big experimenter and i like that, but i haven’t been a big fan of a lot of his experimentation. what i want from him is his biting lyrics, strong voice. he has such an excellent range in his voice and when he hits those high notes like he does in Stations of the Cross, i remember why i liked him when i first heard his music. it was Toronto, it was 1982…i was 20, a lovely jezebel…enuff said.

Rae Spoon, Love is a hunter
i first heard Rae at Club Saw a few years ago and have loved his music since. i think there’s something in the water out west because lots of great music comes from there. he pens poetic lyrics and has a gorgeous voice. Love is a hunter is a kind of edgy pop with a beat you can dance to, if you insist. i’d rather just listen and watch…

Deer Tick, the Black Dirt Sessions
never heard of this band until the Black Dirt Sessions, which i likely discovered thru a sampler from Paste Magazine. i’m somewhat predictable in why i like music, voice is the first thing i go for. i love strong sexy voices and i don’t care about what gender anyone is. a lot of current music sounds wimpy to me. i am not a fan of Sufjan Stevens for instance. i like rich voices with big ranges. i’m fond of good guitar too and this album has that as well. on this album i particularly like the song Twenty Miles. it has a good rhythm, John McCauley’s sexy voice with a gritty edge. love the piano in these tunes too, especially in Goodbye Dear Friend.

Bob Dylan, the Bootleg Series, Volume 9, the Witmark Demos (1962-1964)
strange that i didn’t really like Dylan when i was a kid and he was in his element, but then i didn’t like much of anything at that age. i’m making up for lost appreciation now and the Witmark Demos is a comprehensive album to own (2 Discs if you buy the CDs) with 38 tracks, some of which i’ve never heard before and some which are early versions of songs that he’s rerecorded many times. what i love about Bob Dylan is the way he reinterprets his music or in some cases the music of others. i also like that he introduces obscure folk music to his audiences. Love this version of Masters of War, which is one of my favourites. Yep, that’s a door slam you hear at the beginning. One of the either annoying or interesting things about this album, depending on your point of view, is that it is a demo album, so there are sounds in the background, including coughs, but if you’re a true fan, you won’t let that bother you and will appreciate having access to what was previously inaccessible. and it’s kinda cool when you hear Dylan starting over because he forgot the words. insightful. And nope, i did not also buy the original mono recordings since i’m just playing the MP3s and don’t have a good stereo, so they would be wasted on me.


Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada
And if you’re looking for a great and contemporary xmas album, look no further than the free Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada by folks like the Acorn, Woodpigeon and Dan Managan. they take on the seasonal classics and add their own songs too. It’s fun and it’s free. Download here. “thank god for green trees and red hearts, new years and new starts”

Finally a shout out too to the local musicians who make this town so wonderful to live in. on my wish list is new music by Glenn Nuotio, Andrea Simms-Karp, John Carroll, John Lavery, John Gillies, James Missen, Tara Holloway, Birdie Whyte, Kristin Bell-Murray, Lindsey Ferguson, Kevin Grant…and former Ottawans Rozalind MacPhail, Peter Webb, Neil Gerster and Trevor Tchir.

PS: any fav new music from 2010? please let me know...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rant: The Superlative "Best" Ain't No Stinkin' Rose




it’s the end of the year and people are making lists, including me. these are works that stand out to me and nope, i haven’t read every book, seen every movie or listened to every album, so i can’t possibly say that these items are the best, can i? you know what? yes, i can. because these are the best that i have experienced according to the criteria that i have set up. and i want to know what your best ofs are. i want people to express opinions. i want to know what you like and i want you to stand behind your words with specific details. the superlative "best" is no stinking rose. use it. stand up for what you believe in and don’t be such a wuss.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Great Moments in Literary Journals, 2010

i keep hearing that nobody buys literary journals. guess what? i do and many of my friends also buy them. we also lend the ones we don’t have to one another. so here’s my list of great magazine issues in 2010.

Brick 86-winter 2011. the poetry is a tad conservative but the essays are fabulous. Brick has a kind of old world charm to it in its focus on famous dead people and bygone eras. sometimes you want that. in this issue i learned about the BBC broadcast of a nightgale’s duet with cellist Beatrice Harrison and the unexpected accompaniment of war planes. Another great article by Charles Foran talked about his biography of Mordecai Richeler. And there was a lot of French content, perhaps to go with the theme of Brick’s recent fundraiser, Kiki’s Paris: a fascinating excerpt from Adrienne Monnier’s writings in which she talks about her lunch with Colette and the preceding article about her and her French bookstore equivalent to Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare & Company in Paris. Brick allows me to read widely and reading widely is a necessary benefit to writing for me.

The Capilano Review 3.12 Fall, 2010

This is probably my favourite literary journal. Like Brick it is eclectic with photographs, interviews, prose and poetry. This issue’s highlights for me were the artwork of Susan Bee, a fascinating interview with her and Charles Bernstein, Bernstein’s works and Meredith Quartermain’s wonderful excerpts from Recipes for a Red Planet. And then there’s Nicole Brossard in French and in English. Her titles alone are worth the price of admission: L’usage des vertiges minuscules / the Use of Tiny Vertigos. i discovered a writer i didn’t know: Heather Campbell whose tight and imaginative prose poems are exactly what i’m in the mood for these days, as i attempt to write prose poetry myself. i could rattle on more about this issue and about TCR in general. it’s excellent. buy it. subscribe.

Poetry Is Dead Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 2: TV, Beer and Video Games
to be honest, this mag’s is kinda hipster for the likes of me; reminds me a bit of Matrix Magazine, which is way too hipster for me. PIDM's got a slim and contemporary look and futuristic red and blue dots and squares and tiny fonts that are great for young people with good eyesight but bad for middle aged geeks who didn’t eat enough carrots when they were 12. right away though, the editor, Daniel Zomparelli gets me by complaining about how the general public thinks Canadian poetry is consumed with nature. i like that. i like a good rant. and i’m bored with odes to trees and god and cormorants etc. and he talks about how easy it is to push the buttons of poets by making generalizations. i like doing that too. i like watching faces turn red. so he has me and i’m interested, even if i don’t give a rat’s ass about tv, video games and beer.

so what about the content: we have Kenny Goldsmith’s well-published thoughts on conceptual writing. good to have these in print, maybe i’ll actually be able to get through the article now. uh, no…still not. i am interested in conceptual writing, heck it’s all i do. what i’m looking forward to is the anthology that is coming out thru Les Figues (although i wish it wasn't women's only, you know how i feel about gender exclusions in publishing, i loathe that).

then there’s this interview with a bunch of writers i’ve heard of and like: Donato Mancini, Billeh Nickerson, Rob Budde, Heather Haley…but it’s all about tv, beer and video games and it’s glib, kinda clever. not my thing. so i’m starting to lose interest in the magazine… (oh i was glad to see work by Catherine Owen too, a reprint from Frenzy, which i enjoyed vastly) but in general i don’t care about Fonzie or Pamela Anderson and Doctor Phil and all that stuff. just makes my eyes glaze over. but then i get in to the poetry and i’m enjoying the humour of it: Ozymoondias by Michael Cook is an entertaining sonnet. here’s Shelley fucked up. this is kinda like flipping the bird to all those people who keep saying in order to be experimental you have to build on tradition. i prefer writing that breaks tradition. and whose tradition are we talking about anyway? so this one amuses me. David Brock surprises me with some fine lyric work amidst the Freud and pop with Super-ego Mario, Josh Neely’s poems, especially Evening Chores after Al Purdy, serious or parody, it’s all good. and then there are the crazy double vision poems called Hangover by Leah Rae. this stuff is inventive and i think that’s why i’m going to buy another issue. actually i’m going to borrow the first issue from a pal and let her take this one off my hands for a while. but i’ll want it back.

Rampike, Vol 19 No 1: Visual Poetics

i’ve blogged about this one previously. there’s work in here i would have never seen before by some i’ve heard of and some i haven’t. and hey, if you’re like me and you need big fonts, Rampike is the way to go.

The New Quarterly No. 114 The Lists Issue

this is somewhere on my shelves but i can’t find it right now, so i can’t go into detail, but i loved the idea of a list issue and was especially taken with Diane Schoemperlen's collage lists. i like how they broke down the lists into various themes too, but might have liked them to be a bit more inventive in their themes: sandwich toppings i have loved; the 10 best coffee mugs for bus riding… i’m not big on TNQ, another fairly conservative magazine. i subscribed for a bit and i got bored with it, alas. but i enjoyed this issue and boo for you, it’s sold out. but if i can find it, i’ll let you borrow it.

The New Chief Tongue, TNCT 9 Oct, 2010

not an official literary journal and isn’t that a refreshing change. Kemeny Babineau of Laurel Reed Books puts out this magazine sporadically and gives copies away for free. no gloss here and the editorial is a fold out from John Barlow all in caps, reminiscent perhaps of Hannah Weiner’s work. this mag is black and white and stapled. there are drawings, poems by bill bissett, Louise Bak, Greg Evason, Fred Wah, Nelson Ball and others. the back cover was either found or stolen. rebel yells are free.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

jumping on the fav books 2010 bandwagon

here are 10 of the books i enjoyed in 2010, either reading or rereading. there are many lists out there and wonderful choices therein. so what makes my list novel (to use a pun)? i am a quirky reader. i eschew the sentimental, enjoy the transgressive.. i love to read but have no patience for the cormorants and the lichens, the precious, my precious. there are books out there that everyone loves that i haven’t been able to bear. i am not hip, i am not a hipster. i am not cool in anyway. i am a geek, a book nerd and somewhat of a slut when it comes to reading and yes, other things…i’ll take my literature salty with a dash of hot sauce, thank you. i give to you my hot and salty best for 2010:

[these weren’t all published in 2010, but that’s when i read ‘em.]

1. Sandra Beck by John Lavery (House of Anansi, 2010)

I have recommended this book highly all over the place because of Lavery’s fine language skills and ability to create compelling characters that I can relate to, especially PF Bastarache and his daughter, Josée. All three of Lavery’s books, Sandra Beck, You, Kwaznievski, You Piss Me Off (ECW Press, 2004) and Very Good Butter (ECW Press, 2000) are worthwhile reads. He is one of the most imaginative contemporary writers I have come across in the past ten years and with Sandra Beck he upsets the CanLit teacup and saucer in a delightful and provocative way.

2. The Little Seamstress by Phil Hall (Pedlar Press, 2010)

Phil Hall's "The Little Seamstress" is humble, no big enunciations; astonishing with gorgeous sound & image play & humour. "It is true that I encourage my poems, increasingly, to subvert the expected, whether that be sentiment, next word, or rhythm. I especially have it in for verbs these days. In syntax, they are the wax. Verb wax. A verb keeps nouns from torting each other. I don't think the poem wants to go anywhere. It wants to stew in its own juices." (quote from http://www.openbooktoronto.com/news/conversation_phil_hall_with_beth_follett )

3. been shed bore by Pearl Pirie (Chaudiere Books, 2010)

Pirie is another writer who plays with words and sounds. She also packs a lot of variety into her poems, plus recurring images that have lingered with me enough to make me open the book once more.

4. Jailhouse: 99 Canadian Sonnets, edited by Zachariah Wells (Biblioasis, 2008)

This book has sass. There’s an amazing range of sonnets from fairly strict Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets to playful variations. And in the back are Wells’ comments about each of the poems. While I don’t always agree with his comments, I enjoy the fact that he would step out there and voice an opinion. So many writers and editors are unwilling to show their opinions., which bores me. Wells makes me think more about the inner workings of the sonnet. [Another great book of contemporary sonnets I recommend, with perhaps more of an experimental flair, is The Reality Street Book of Sonnets edited by Jeff Hilson (Reality Street) also published in 2008. what is it about 2008 and sonnets? must be something in the Thames.]

5. Fear of Fighting by Stacey May Fowles with illustrations by Marlena Zuber (Invisible Publishing, 2008)

This book was given to me by a dear friend and I must admit I read the whole thing in one day, lazing about in bed and munching on salted tops. It’s that kind of a book, you see. And this is fighting against a certain ennui I have about reading about 20 something women and their life struggles. Yet Fowles succeeds with her compelling characters and their zany circumstances, much in the same way Michelle Tea succeeds in her wonderful fiction. And the drawings by Zuber are a fun complement. Read this in bed when you’re snowed in.

6. Missed Her by Ivan E. Coyote (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010

That same dear friend gave me this book. She clearly knows my taste. I love all things Ivan and have read all her books. The stories here are more of the same type she writes, interactions with young people who are not comfortable in the gender role they’ve been assigned who relate to her, stories of Coyote’s family’s reaction to her identity. I love the way Coyote tells a story. Of Coyote's oeuvre, I particullary enjoyed Bow Grip (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2006. I have to admit it’s fun to see Coyote playing with a different voice from her own in Bow Grip or another voice of her own, perhaps, but I respect her choice to tell her life story through these personal stories. And just as her columns on Xtra.ca and her visits to schools across the country, I believe these stories help. And because I am so tired of all the gender stereotyping that goes on in this world and the hatred for people based on their gender (or anything else for that matter), Coyote’s work is always a refreshing relief that perhaps not everyone is so damn stuck in their binary bias.

7. Except the Dying # 1 by Maureen Jennings (McClelland and Stewart, 2004)

I love a good mystery but loathe a bad one. This be a good ‘un. Jennings’ main character Detective William Murdoch’s sleuthing ground is Victorian Toronto. I have a soft spot for Victoriana and know very little about that period in Toronto or Canada at all for that matter and found the perspective interesting. Murdoch and the cast of characters in this series are compelling folk: the landlady and her ailing husband, her remedies, her attempts to fix Murdoch up with women, the victims and perpetrators of the crimes themselves, the various social circles to which they belong. As someone who loves this era, including such books as Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White (Mariner Books, 2003) and many of Sarah Waters books, I am enjoying this series very much.

8. Glenn Piano by Gladys Pridis by Jason Dickson (Book Thug, 2010)

This is a mystery story cum poetry book about a woman who is under the spell of a doctor with unusual methods. And meanwhile she writes her jejeune poetry and we are all somehow happy. I do so love it when a writer takes on a character’s voice. I don’t mind an autobiographical voice but here’s an example of what happens when the choice is not to write in the I, close to the self, to go in an entirely different direction. You get an unforgettable character and a tale that is more off kilter than most. And as a bonus, it is a small and beautifully made book.

9. Rhapsodomancy by kevin mcpherson eckoff (Coach House Books, 2010)

This is a playful and compelling exercise in using different little known alphabets to create poetry and visual poetry. It’s not often that these two blend in books and I wish this happened more. The work is highly imaginative and full of whimsy.

10. Missing Persons by rob mclennan (Mercury Press, 2009)

I very much liked the character of Alberta in this novel and wish only that mr. mclennan wrote a longer book so that I didn’t have to leave her so soon. i am not of the Prairies, but this book felt like it had the landscape right—the desolation, the vastness. once again i am pleased that mclennan is writing in a voice that is not straightforward autobiographical. [as an aside, I must also recommend his poetry collection Wild Horses (University of Alberta Press, 2010). i return often to these intimate little couplets for their minimalistic elegance and lyricism. and what if the title is a reference not to the Rolling Stones song that goes thru my head every time i see the title, but to the Patti Smith album?]

that’s all folks. although i have a feeling my next list will include Gary Barwin’s the Porcupinity of the Stars (Coach House Books, 2010), Rob Winger’s the Chimney Stone (Nightwood, 2010) and Lisa Robertson’s R’s Boat (University of California Press, 2010), all of which i’m currently reading.

please note the wish list beside this blog entry in case you have any ideas about buying books for me, she says with naïve optimism…