amongst books

amongst books

Monday, March 28, 2011

30+ ways to celebrate National Poetry Month in Ottawa

dear Ottawans, here's at least one activity a day for you to enjoy in April, which is National Poetry Month. & please add others in the comments section. and many of these activiites are virtual, so if you aren't in Ottawa, you can still enjoy.

1. VISIT for a month’s worth of visual poetry.

2. ATTEND the launch of Err by Shane Rhodes at the Manx Pub, 5pm & Gustave Morin’s presentation on Visual Poetry as part of the A B Series, 7:30pm, Gallery 101 or Capital Slam’s final qualifying show featuring Nathanael Larochette at 7pm, Mercury Lounge.

3. ATTEND the Dusty Owl Reading Series, 5pm, the Carleton Tavern Upstairs to hear the poetry of Blaine Marchand (and the fiction of Gabriella Goliger).

4. VISIT the League of Canadian Poets daily poetry blog for poems about nurturing.

5. PURCHASE a new poetry book from Collected Works, Mother Tongue Books, Perfect Books, Books on Beechwood or Nicholas Hoare Books, especially those published by Chaudiere Books and Buschek Books, Ottawa's poetry publishers.

6. ATTEND a reading at the Ottawa Public Library, Rosemount Branch at 7pm, featuring Ronnie Brown, Blaine Marchand, Craig Poile, and Paul Tyler.

7. LISTEN to Literary Landscapes with David O’Meara at 6:30 pm on CKCU FM. ATTEND a reading of Japanese form poetry at Mother Tongue Books at 7:30pm, featuring Gillian Foss, Mike Montreuil, Claudia Coutu Radmore, Terry Ann Carter, Janick Belleau.

8. ATTEND a reading at Collected Works at 7:30 pm featuring Maureen Hynes, Ruth Pierson, and Patria Rivera.

9. ATTEND Eco Jest Us, a multi-genre prelude to Earth Day featuring poetry of Pearl Pirie and others at Arts Court at 1:30pm, and RAW, a night of poetry and music at the U of Ottawa Alumni Auditorium at 7pm. ATTEND Colin Morton’s day-long workshop on Art and Artifice in poetry at Algonquin College.

10. ATTEND the Sasquatch Reading Series in the Royal Oak II basement at 2pm, featuring Sheila Martindale. SUBMIT poetry to In/Words.

11. SUBSCRIBE to the Bywords Quarterly Journal.

12. ATTEND Voices of Venus at the Umi Café at 7pm for a spoken word feature and open mic; or the Tree Reading Series at 8pm for the open mic and features Gilliam Jerome and Joshua Auerbach.

13. SUBSCRIBE to Arc Poetry Magazine.

14. LISTEN to Literary Landscapes with Kate Hunt on CKCU FM at 6:30pm.

15. SUBMIT poetry to

16. ATTEND a reading at RAW Sugar at 4pm, featuring the poetry of Apt. 9 Pressers Monty Reid and Claudia Coutu Radmore, and the prose of Jeremy Hanson-Finger; or a reading at Collected Works by Christian McPherson at 7pm, or a reading at the A B Series at the Mercury Lounge at 7:30pm by Jen Currin and Jonathon Ball.

17. ATTEND a reading by Jen Currin at Gallery 101 as part of the A B Series at 1:30pm, or the Youth Poetry Slam at 2pm at the Bronson Centre, or a reading by David Groulx, Dusty Owl Reading Series, 5pm, the Carleton Tavern Upstairs.

18. EXCHANGE poetry at the In/Words Writers’ Circle at Carleton University at 6pm, and LISTEN to Monday Night Scribes with John Akpata at 10pm.

19. WRITE new poems and share them with others at the Creative Writing Play Date at Mother Tongue Books at 8pm.

20. VISIT rob mclennan’s blog for poetry reviews of contemporary Canadian poetry and more.

21. EXCHANGE poetry at the University of Ottawa Writers’ Circle at 5:30pm.

22. VISIT Pearl Pirie’s Pesbo Journal for musings on poetry and great photos of readings too.

23. WRITE a review of a recent and local poetry book or chapbook for

24. BUY gently read poetry books from the Bytown Bookshop.

25. SEE photos of poets who have come to Ottawa on the sites of local photographers Charles Earl and John W. MacDonald.

26. ATTEND a reading at the Ottawa Public Library, Carlingwood Branch at 7pm, featuring Craig Poile, Sandra Ridley, Ronnie R. Brown & Blaine Marchand, or the Tree Reading Series at Arts Court at 8pm for University Night featuring the poetry of Sinaee, Kozak, Ladouceur, DePape.

27. VISIT the blogs of Rusty Priskie, Kevin Matthews and Greg Franklin for spoken word.

28. BUY passes to the spring edition of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, which begins today; LISTEN to Christine McNair on Literary Landscapes on CKCU FM at 6:30pm.

29. BUY chapbooks from Apt. 9 Press, AngelHousePress and above/ground press. VISIT Room 3o2 Books and buy rare poetic ephemera from jwcurry.

30. BORROW contemporary Canadian poetry books from the Ottawa Public Library and visit the Ottawa Room at the Main Branch for wonderful and rare poetry.

As always, visit the events calendar to find out about the above events and more as they are added, and the news, links, blogs and store.

and above all, what should be obvious, read poetry! (thanks, Grant ;)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

5 things literary: Ottawa, Ontario

the kind folks at Open Book Ontario asked me to list 5 things literary.

here it is with a photo of me taken by Charles.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Chimney Stone by Rob Winger

In The Chimney Stone (Nightwood Editions, 2010), Rob Winger constructs taut and rigorous couplets with edge and humour. Ever since John Thompson's Stilt Jack (Anansi, 1978), ghazals have become a popular poetic form with Canadian writers. See Catherine Owen's Shall: Ghazals (Wolsak and Wynn, 2006). See rob mclennan’s discussion of The Chimney Stone and the ghazal.

“The ghazal allows the imagination to move by its own nature; discovering an alien design, illogical and without sense—a chart of the disorderly, against false reason and the tacking together of poor narratives. It is the poem of contrasts, dreams, astonishing leaps. The ghazal has been called ‘drunken and amatory’ and I think it is.”
John Thompson, Stilt Jack, Collected Poems & Translations, edited by Peter Sanger (Goose Lane Editions, 1995)

In The Chimney Stone, Winger departs from the voices of Muybridge’s Horse (Nightwood Editions, 2007) and the tension between public and private persona to adapt a conversational and personal style. (See my ridiculously long rhapsody to Muybridge’s Horse in 4.0 “Rob Winger’s Shifting Eye” pp132-143)

In the original Persian form, part of the constraint was for poets to address themselves in the final couplets. Winger does this several times in The Chimney Stone, sometimes by first name and sometimes by last name. Sometimes simply as buddy or pal. Sometimes he addresses others and sometimes even the poems themselves: “Poems, I don’t want you : / there’s no salt left on my old, white mountain.” GHAZAL FOR THE SWEETWATER SEA

Many of Winger’s ghazals reference and take titles, lines from other ghazals by Phyllis Webb and John Thompson, and poems, essays, Mark Twain, even an interview with Wayne Gretzky, songs by Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, the Pogues, U2 and others. Whole sections are named after albums by Dylan and Harris. It’s no wonder the cover with its brilliant red centrpiece, beautifully designed by Carleton Wilson, replicates a vinyl record album. This book is full of music and especially folk, blues and country music, all of these so effectively integrated into the poems, without jarring the couplets or rising out of the poem.

There is whimsy and humour in the titles, such as Ghazal for the Blonde on Blonde Blues, Ghazal for Gazelles (of course!)—a delightfully playful and earnest poem with an evangelical refrain—
and in the poems themselves, which include bits of lyric beauty but are not reverent and distant.

“Longtail’s orchids and the golden Theravada temple : / a postcard’s beatified bureaucracy.” GHAZAL FOR BANG KRUT

“Hydrangeas in the ditch , pigs in the shit / in Jo’burg, you’re born in a cradle of tin.”

“If there’s an answer, so what? / The lightning’s still three bays away.”

I think what I enjoy most about this form, and Rob Winger does this so successfully, is the feeling that, although the couplets are not linked, they are, very gently linked to one another.

I love the playfulness of The Chimney Stone, the word play, the plays on Rob Winger’s last name, the zany juxtapositions, the questions, the combination of humility and humour:


He and I see the game the same way:
the same source, the same lust, the same surgery his mind was capable of.

Finnish sandwich. Flash, the Great One;
at the centre of our lives: this naming.

Carbon and monoxide: the old Detroit perfume.
Everybody take a whiff, on me.

Your best bet’s an accidental trifecta: rye, clever, jackdaw:
there’s no such thing as synonyms.

It’s too late to catch Carter’s homer, Hokusai’s Fuji, Apollo’s thrusters:
why wait for the right Winger to pass?


We rise from marinas into melodrama.
On the counter, the Macallan’s half-full.

I want to write war novels and drink, sucker-punch the busboy;
which bits of men are worth applause?

Out of ditches, the road rises. Fault lines swell. I lose
my footing:

so give me Alligator Pie, teddy-bear pancakes, an angry branch ticking
the nightmare’s window.

Should I climb right out of the machinery, or dig
in, web, build me some good, frosted fences?

Rich, we’d buy the house on the hill and grow pumpkins:
how many children have we lost to friction?

Pause the traffic and cardinals will come to your feeder:
smeared sand in a shattered mandala.

When the road ends, we’ll plunge
into gravel, find

the old man in the young child,
the alchemist in the engineer.

The bulb needs a vacuum to burn, buddy.
Is this the dark you’ve been looking for?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Poet Laureate for Ottawa, a letter to Mayor Watson

[the letter i e-mailed to the mayor. i urge you to contact Mayor Watson expressing your support for an Ottawa Poet Laureate appointment.]

Dear Mayor Watson,

By now you have heard from many members of the local poetry community and I don't want to repeat the reasons they have offered as to why the City would benefit from a poet laureate. I just want to give you some very specific numbers based on my eight years of running, a local literary website that offers information about literary events happening in Ottawa and publishes poetry. We publish only those who are current or former Ottawa residents, students and workers.

The site attracts an average of 250 unique visitors daily.
We receive an average of 100 poems from Ottawans monthly.
Our quarterly readings are usually packed, with audiences numbering from 40-60 people.
Our literary events calendar includes at least 31 poetry related events for the month of April, 2011 alone.

Every month in Ottawa there are poetry readings, spoken word showcases and slams, writing workshops focussed on poetry taking place in Ottawa. Ottawa has hosted the Canadian Spoken Word Festival, the first annual VERSeFest and poetry events at the Ottawa International Writers Festival twice a year.

Also on the site, in the news and links section, you will notice notifications from local small press publishers about recent book releases, the advertisement of poetry retreats, numerous blogs by local poets. Local poets are also teaching young people about poetry in schools and fostering their creative development.

My point is that while the general impression might be that poetry is not of particular interest to the general public, these numbers demonstrate that there is indeed interest and participation.

Also is grateful for the funding we receive from the City of Ottawa and I, personally, have also received funding from the City. The investment that the City provides for poetry is significant.

A poet laureate would offer the public a focal point for poetry and would inspire the public in these times of political and economic turmoil.


Amanda Earl
Managing Editor and the Bywords Quarterly Journal

Monday, March 14, 2011

VERSeFest revisited

here are a but a few of the moments that resonated.
take a look at the videos over at

Brad Morden’s smile, the Underachievers, the Daydreamers
David O’Meara’s laugh
Dave Currie’s beautiful singing voice
Ian Keteku’s fast talking and brilliant performance
Brad & Ian's musical and spoken word collaboration
David McGimpsey’s A&W Mama Burger with artichokes
Brandon Wint’s and the lights are on all night again
Sandy Ridley & Christine McNair co-read of uninflected particles
Christine’s rock star orchid poem
Fay Estrella’s corset and red hat, her warm and welcome introduction
Luna Allison’s French lessons
Alison Armstrong’s All Woman No Question
Beth Anne Fischer’s in between
Beth Anne’s tassles
the dog choking on a condom & crawling off to die
Mark Schaan’s off stage winter burlesque
John Akpata’s sexy voice
jwcurry’s everything
Alistair Larwill’s roar
Ben Ladouceur’s everything
Mehdi Hamdad’s bilingual hijinx
Shane Nielson – I think I’m falling apart
Barry Dempster – poetry walks where students lick potentially dangerous plants
Monty Reid the garden, the fragments & the poets who aren’t there
Marcus McCann’s attribution, permission and plunderverse
Sean O’Gorman’s explanations of how slam works
Mack Cannon’s acrostic poem
Craig Poile’s and Apollo the Child’s Greek myth references
Megan Jerome’s 20s Girl
Mike Dubue’s zany lyrics
Vera’s pinch of tobacco to calm the nerves and her hook
The poet laureate of the moon
Kevin Matthew’s fibonnaci numbers & wondrous wordplay
Rusty Priskie’s amusing poem about being older than his fellow spoken word artists
Sergio Guerra aka Hyfidelik, the Gypsy Sun
the guitarist’s passionate cry for human rights (if you know his name, let me know)
Karen James’ powerful account of the Sheperds of No Hope
Jessica Ruano’s dress on the final night of the fest
the voices, the voices, the voices

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

VERSeFest begins tonight

Quincy Troupe reminds us that poetry began as song. It was performance. Troupe and other African-American poets still invoke the tradition of the griot, the roving troubadour who sang his poetry to villagers. “Language is a living thing,” Troupe says. “It feeds on the living language of a community.”--The Language of Life, a festival of poets, Bill Moyers

Tickets are available at Collected Works, the Manx Pub and the Arts Court Box Office.

for further information, visit

let the verse feastery begin!

Monday, March 07, 2011

thoughts on the term "page poet"

this term has been coming up a lot lately in Ottawa because many poets will be coming together to share their work at VERSeFest, an upcoming week long extravaganza of a whole pile of styles of poetry. You will find a reasonable explanation of the term by Allison Armstrong. i believe this term is being used in good faith, without any attempt to dismiss or show disdain. on the one hand this is a practical way of attempting to describe poetry, but i have reservations:

i don't want to be classified. and i don't like the binary nature of it. and i don't like the fact that the designation classifies a person rather than the work.

i write for the ear, the imagination and the gut. i haven't written anything so far that i haven't wanted to work both on the page and in front of an audience. i read and practice my work out loud and revise in an attempt to make the work compelling for an audience and for readers.

when i am a member of an audience at a poetry reading, i enjoy a good performance, but that word is also difficult. poems can operate on many levels. i sometimes find that the poet's delivery of the poem gets in the way: either too emotive or not emotive enough.

on Saturday night i listened to the readings of Sandra Ridely & Steven Ross Smith. Sandra read her work and i closed my eyes. for me, the person at the front of the stage disappeared and i listened closely. i was mesmerized by the sensuality, the rhythms, the language, the tone.

Steven Ross Smith read from books 3 & 4 of fluttertongue and his versatilty was amazing. book 3- disarray was full of tight, energetic lines, whereas book 4-adagio for the pressured surround had more pauses, was more contemplative & meditative.

it's a very difficult balance to want one's work to be compelling both on the page and on the stage, but i think for some of us, it might be an important element of our work. and i hate to see this disregarded.

i also have heard some great spoken word poetry that would work beautifully on the page, that i want to return to and have the luxury of reading myself, taking time to savour the language, the humour, the brilliant and witty wordplay.

i don't like being in a camp. i want to experience all kinds of variety of poetry and i don't like others being in a camp. i want us to be able to enjoy and appreciate one another's work, but i think this term: "page poet" is alienating.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Peter F. Yacht Club #15 (VERSeFest Special)

The Peter F Yacht Club #15
Edited & compiled & typeset & paid for by rob mclennan
March 2011 ; VERSeFest Ottawa special

with new writing by:

Cameron Anstee
Dennis Cooley
Amanda Earl
Lea Graham
Marilyn Irwin
Meghan Jackson
Ben Ladouceur
Marcus McCann
Gil McElroy
David McGimpsey
rob mclennan
Christine McNair
Sean Moreland
Wanda O'Connor
Pearl Pirie
Monty Reid
+ Karen Solie

issue #15; irregular (very) writers group publication. Edited & compiled &
typeset & paid for by rob mclennan in Ottawa, March 2011, VERSeFest Ottawa
special, to coincide with the first ever annual VERSeFest, Ottawa's newest
poetry festival, March 8-13, 2011, as well as being above/ground press'
600th publication!

published in Ottawa by above/ground press, March 2011
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy
write for submission/subscription info, c/o 858 Somerset
Street West, main floor, Ottawa ON K1R 6R7,
or check out or

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2 & in US
$) to: rob mclennan, 858 Somerset Street West, main floor, Ottawa Ontario
Canada K1R 6R7. copies will also be available at Ottawa's first annual
VERSeFest Poetry Festival, March 8-13, 2011;

Previous issues still available (possibly) at $5 each. Issue #1, August
2003, edited by rob mclennan; Issue #2, April 2004, edited by Anita Dolman
(out of print); Issue #3, September 2004, edited by Peter Norman and
Melanie Little (out of print); Issue #4, September 2005, edited by rob
mclennan; Issue #5, April 2006, edited by Max Middle; Issue #6,
mis-numbered Calgary issue, February 2007, edited by Laurie Fuhr; Issue
#7, writers festival issue, April 2007, edited by rob mclennan; Issue #8,
Edmonton issue, October 2007, produced at the University of Alberta,
edited by rob mclennan; Issue #9, Fredericton issue, January 2008, edited
by Jesse Patrick Ferguson in The Poets' Corner (Fredericton, New
Brunswick), and produced at the University of Alberta; Issue #10, in by
one, out by four special, March 2008, produced at the University of
Alberta, edited by rob mclennan; Issue #11, Edmonton issue the second, May
2008, produced at the University of Alberta, edited by rob mclennan; Issue
#12, Fifth anniversary issue: Anarchy, Apocalypse, & Madness, September
2008, edited by Amanda Earl; Issue #13, lucky thirteen the white album,
June 2009, edited by rob mclennan; Issue #14, from one centre to anothera
Toronto issue. March 2010, edited by rob mclennan.

Friday, March 04, 2011

VERSeFest: a teaser

VERSeFest held a media call yesterday afternoon at the Manx Pub and i had the pleasure of attending. Two poets gave us a small sample of what’s to come next week at Arts Court with the week long celebration of poetry.

Sandra Ridley read a mesmerizing piece from her upcoming book, Post-Apothecary (Pedlar Press), and John Akpata gave a compelling rendition of his poem, “What Do You Know About Love.”

I have a good feeling about VERSeFest. i think the intersection of styles will be enjoyable for the audience, and for fellow poets. I think there are possibilities here for inspiration…

Sandra will be performing at a Pre-Verse event on Saturday night at Gallery 101 at 7:30pm along with the amazing Steven Ross Smith. The last time he was in town a few years ago, he read during Plan 99 at the Manx Pub. what i loved about his reading was his ability to balance the words with pauses, with silence, with the breath. At the same event, respondents to Michèle Provost’s Playlist, a show taking place at the Dale Carnegie gallery, will also be featured.

Sandra reads again during VERSeFest as part of the BlUe m0nday reading series along with the fabulous Christine McNair.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Robert Kroetsch Innovative Poetry Award-finalist

in lovely news, the collaborative manuscript Sandra Ridley and i wrote is being considered for the above award. and what's even nicer is that other local good buddies Pearl Pirie and Christine McNair also have poetry collections shortlisted.

one of my manuscripts "Sessions from the Dream House Aria" was shortlisted in 2008 when the judge was Rachel Zolf, which was very cool.

thanks to Snare Books for creating this award in honour of Robert Kroetsch, who is a kick-ass Canadian poet whose works have been one of my chief sources of inspiration for the long poem...

the full list of finalists is here

and Pearl's created a handy dandy list of finalists with info on some of our writing too.
congratulations to all the finalists.