amongst books

amongst books

Friday, March 30, 2012

Apologia: the art of making/ the making of art

I create to explore & to connect. I have no lofty goals. I grope my way around blindly in the dark. I stumble. I falter & I fail. I treat the object of my creation, whether it is a poem, a visual poem, a ceramic bowl, a collage, a blog entry, a short story, a song, a maniacal doodle, a Facebook status update, a Tweet, etc ,as a conveyance for these attempts to explore & to connect.

I am attracted to creative work that makes me want to explore more, that moves me in some way. I am attracted & repelled by anything that claims to represent "the truth." The words "truth" & "authenticity" disturb me. I enjoy being disturbed. I explore various voices to engage with these concepts.

I've been appalled when people have applied these words narrowly to restrict the definition of the truth to autobiography. At the same time, perhaps everything is autobiography because we are always looking at something thru our own eyes, interpreting it thru our own values & experiences; however, what that means to me is that the truth is arbitrary & personal; in other words, something to explore using various means. Yes, autobiography, but also the imagination. & yes to questioning my own concepts, my own values & interpretations. & how these change based on learning & experience.

One of my main preoccupations when I create is to explore boundaries, whether it be the boundary between fantasy/reality or poetry/prose or poetry/visual art. I am interested in that blur & the tension between absolutes.

Of late I have returned to the craft of ceramics. I like to play with clay & work with my hands. I prefer to build by hand rather than to throw pots on a wheel. While I admire the skill of throwers, I have to admit that I prefer hand-built ceramics to thrown pots. What I like is the lack of uniformity, the way the clay takes on the shape & feel of the potter's own hands. It feels very personal & intimate. & this pot is something that I can also experience, hold in my own hands & admire.

I want whatever I create to have this resonance. I want it to be something that others can enjoy or be moved by or relate to. These two dynamics: the need to feel connection & the need for my creative work to become part of others & separate from me results in an interesting tension between personal & universal that excites me.

There are many ways to explore this tension, from using pseudonyms to creating objects & leaving them for strangers to find or even yarnbombing. I admit to the occasional small act of graffiti on bathroom walls. I can derive satisfaction from creation alone, from exploration & learning.

I am alarmed when someone posits a prescriptive attitude towards artistic creation or tries to imprison it within their own value system. The word "should" makes me shudder. It tends to stifle me creatively. If I think I have to do something according to a set of rules or standards, I become completely blocked. I can't get past that critical voice that tells me I'm doing it wrong.

When I find myself infected by one of these prescriptions, I need to exorcise it through visits to an art gallery, through reading rule-breaking writers or watching a film or listening to music which breaks away from the status quo.

I need to be open, to listen, to watch, to taste, to smell, to savour, to experience. That which resounds or troubles me will eventually find its way into something I am doing. I am drawn by what I don't see, by absences, by the in-betweens. I create out of desire & longing for what is intangible.

"Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, and 'I love you too,' the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only the aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of the flesh and self between you and me. and it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can." Anne Carson, "Finding the Edge" in "Eros the Bittersweet" (Princeton University Press, 1986)

pocket full of grief

just discovered (thanks to rob mclennan's March note about Free Poetry For) my wee chapbook has just come out via Free Poetry For. "Free Poetry For is an ongoing series of tiny chapbooks that are printed in a limited edition. When the chapbooks are printed, they are disseminated throughout public space (cafes, airports, buses and bus shelters, trains, waiting rooms, etc. etc. etc.) The purpose of the series is to heighten the awareness of poetry by putting it (poetry) in odd and unusual places and spaces, where poetry isn’t traditionally understood to belong."

instructions for printing

fun!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Poetry Talk with Amanda Earl 17-23/03/2012

Nicholas Hoare Books is closing its Ottawa store due to NCC's exorbitant rent increase. while the store has never had a very large selection of poetry books, I will miss it. it has plenty of books that inspire poetry. & the mystery & memoir sections were excellent. shocking & sad news.

Where does a poem usually begin for you?

I begin with the ending. Most of the time. I have an ending in mind and I try to make my way to that ending. Endings are always on my mind. Often to the detriment of my beginnings.

from Emily Pettit's 12 or 20 Questions interview with rob mclennan

speaking of rob, he's open for poetry editing biz, so if you've got a manuscript, you should contact him.

& speaking again of rob, here's his review of Jenna Butler's latest book, Wells. apparently this is the first of a new University of Alberta Press series in honour of the late great Robert Kroetsch. wouldn't it be grand to hear Ms. Butler read from her new book here in Ottawa soon?

A new translation from M&S by Anne Carson? huzzah! from M&S's FB page: "Anne Carson has published translations of the ancient Greek poets Sappho, Simonides, Aiskhylos, Sophokles and Euripides. Antigonick is the first time she's making translation into a combined visual and textual experience. Sophokles’ luminous and disturbing tragedy is here given an entirely fresh language and presentation, making the fundamentally human issues of death and honor, family and morality as relevent as ever.

The text itself is hand-lettered on the page by Anne Carson, and this one-of-a-kind edition features stunning drawings by Bianca Stone printed on translucent vellum pages that overlay the text." On a personal note, I studied Jean Anouih's "Antigone" in high school & she is a character who has always intrigued/haunted me. One of the reasons I love Anne Carson's writing is that she renews my love of mythology, gets me to think about Greek & Roman myth again.

here are the forthcoming M&S poetry books & their ETAs: RAIN; ROAD; AN OPEN BOAT by Roo Borson (March 20); PARADOXIDES by Don McKay (March 20); ASSINIBOIA by Tim Lilburn (March 27); and ANTIGONICK by Sophokles, translated by Anne Carson (May 22).

Tim Lilburn read from Assiniboia at VERSeFest in March & was absolutely riveting. I'm excited!

& speaking of new books & poets coming to town, i was hoping Marcus McCann & Natalie Zina Walshots with new books out from Insomniac would be coming to Ottawa this spring, but i don't see their names on any upcoming event lists. why in hell not. stamps foot. looks petulant.

Steven Heighton & Erín Moure talk about the concept of "post-national writing" & the state of book reviews in separate interviews in the Winnipeg Review. i found Moure's answer on the state of book reviews particularly positive: "The space and means for commentary on books is morphing. Blogs and sites like goodreads provide space for readers to interact more directly with poets and poetry, and to express their own opinion of the work...."

Had you heard of TWR before? I hadn't. apparently they publish a bunch of different things every quarter & there have been seven issues so far. Here, for example, are four poems by Jonathon Ball

Do you like book trailers? Here's one for A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, CA Conrad's new collection of (soma)tic exercises coming out with Wave Books.

& here's an interview with CA Conrad in which he talks about somatic exercises, a response to the real world daily grind….

Nine contemporary poets read themselves through modernism, a collaboration of the Kelly Writers' House & the Modernist Studies Association. I've only dipped a tiny bit into this, but it's exceptionally enjoyable. Ron Silliman reads William Carlos Williams; Rae Armantrout reads Emily Dickinson, Lyn Hejinian reads Gertrude Stein…& more! You can listen to the whole segment by each writer or click on individual poems (scroll down)…

Guardian Books talks about poetry pamphlets here. is this the British term for chapbooks or broadsides?

Got chapbook manuscript? submit it to Thrush

NPR's Tell Me More is running an April poetry tweetathon for National Poetry Month. Tweet poems of 140 characters or less to #tmmpoetry for broadcast in April.

Jacket2 presents a forum on the relationship between poetry & science with a panel of poets. . there's a lot here & I admit I haven't begun to explore its fathoms….but if you're thinking about writing poems that explore science, I'd recommend this as excellent reading.

The forum was inspired by a PoemTalk on PennSound. Interesting to hear Rae Armantrout's thoughts on science, after hearing her read at VERSeFest. she incorporates all kinds of disciplines in her poetry, including science. I like her idea that science, like everything else, is fair game for questioning, including the metaphors. this is a really interesting discussion with poems & musings included & back & forth discussions of the poets.

speaking of science & poetry, do you have Rampike Vol. 20 / No. 2? it's the Scientific Wonders issue & boy is it fun. I especially loved Steven Humphrey's Post-Organic Taxonomy - Plantae Typographica textefolium, Eric Zbyoy's Algorithmic Translations & J.R. Carpenter's Whisper Wire. all of which captured my imagination & sense of whimsy. & now Vol 21/No 1 is out: Poetics: Part One…

I have written of science, but only in the way Rae Armantrout talks about in the section on Disciplinary Pertinence: required expertise. I use the language of science I find in books written for lay people. for example I loved Sam Keane's the Disappearing Spoon And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements . I knew diddly squat about chemistry, but his descriptions of the discoveries of the elements & the subsequent intrigues in the world of science were rivetting & i have been playing around with the elements in my poetry. Science inspires awe, responds to superstition, mystifies, demystifies…how can it not be part of poetry?

POETRY PROMPT: (another new & sporadic feature of PTWAE): read something sciency or visit a sciency-type place (the Museum of Science & Technology perhaps?)…write a poem(s)…

finally, for more poetry news & views, visit Pesbo, Pearl Pirie's fabulous & thought-provoking blog-o-blogs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Today's Poem: an invitation to you

Like poetry? On Twitter? What about Pinterest?

Share your interest in poetry by tweeting a line from a favourite poem over at #todayspoem.

Here's how it's usually done (usually one line for poem excerpt & another to credit author & book because of Twitter's 140 character limit.):

#todayspoem "It is early. I've gone walking./So you won't see my eyes!"

#todayspoem O Cadoiro - Erín Moure

then go over to Pinterest & share your #todayspoem selection on the Today's Poem board. if you aren't already on Pinterest & you want to be, ask & I'll give you an invitation. apparently it's still in some kind of early adapters mode.

the Today's Poem Pinterest board, started by Vicki Ziegler of BookGaga has 75 followers so far & 133 pins (poems). why not add to the mix?

my motivation to participate in #todayspoem is to highlight good contemporary poetry. I noticed when I first joined that a lot of the selections were from pre-21st century poetry; not that there's anything wrong with that…but it's also important to see what's out there today.

please join me & and a bunch of other folk. it's a fun & easy way to attract & sustain interest in poetry.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Poetry Talk with Amanda Earl

March 9 - 16, 2012

Poet Claudia Coutu Radmore responds to Olivia Johnston's 13 - 18, "a series of photographs by Olivia Johnston: "a unique and penetrating look into the world of teenaged boys." The vernissage is on Friday, March 16 from 6-8pm at SPAO, 168 Dalhousie & runs til April 2. These poems of Claudia's are imaginative & fun, full of word play.

jwcurry's latest catalogue is out "list 13: as random as it'll get" You should call or write him for your copy & then buy a bunch of things.

Pearl Pirie has a fine write up of head Book Thug, Jay MillAr's talk on the long poem/serial poem over at Tree this past Tuesday.

Bruce Kaufman, radio host of Kingston's Finding a Voice on CFRC 101.9 FM has created a blog to house the recordings of his interviews with writers & also their readings. takes a bit of time before the audio begins, but worth waiting for.

speaking of listening to writers read from their work, I suppose you already know, but I'll mention it just the same, Brick Books has a huge library of recordings on Audio Boo: http://audioboo.fm/BrickBooks & these are also on Brick's YouTube channel

Camille Martin's interview with American underground zine publisher Joel Daily is here. he talks of his poetry being published in Rolling Stone Magazine, of Hurricane Katrina, of Ted Berrigan & Alice Notely, his motivation to publish chapbooks, small press underground basement culture & his new chapbook Surprised by French Fries. it's a great interview. Camille and Joel seem like pals who go way back. it was good of them both to share this with us.


a call for code poems, in other words poems that use computer languages, (I think)…

an in-depth engagement with Ron Silliman's the Alphabet is something I found when I was searching for references to the book after his great talk & reading on March 10.

I'm not doing a full blown write up of the two events featuring Silliman, but boy oh boy did I love his poetry, the attention to detail, the sheer bulk of accumulation, the objective nature of the description mixed with questions out of the blue or the understated and careful doling out of emotional content, a word here, a phrase there. beautiful stuff. also I have to say I was amazed that the man has been writing a life poem since the 70s. with segments coming out at various times through the years. these are books 1,000 pages long. rob mclennan has an in-depth note on the talk & reading here . & i just noticed that Pearl Pirie also has an excellent report here.

Speaking of Ron Silliman, he posted a review of a new collection called Haiku 21 over on his blog on Wednesday here. it was interesting to learn what a fan he is of the form, but not that surprising when listening to his poetry with its spare nature even if there are many many pages.

please don't hurt me, haikuists, but I have to admit I have never been able to get into haiku. I have tried; like most budding poets, I wrote a shit load of it in the day & thumbed thru Basho translations, but I just can't seem to appreciate the form.

I understand the aesthetic of not wasting a word & the idea of writing of the immediate & both of these techniques are something all poets must strive for, but except for in brilliant haiku parodies like The Basho Variations by Steve McCaffery (Book Thug, 2007)[ "The Juvenile Basho: "tadpole/potty/ wee wee"], Sherwin Tjia's The World is A Heartbreaker: a pseudohaiku collection (Coach House Books, 2005) [became like/a snail that just/ got poked], the haiku just feels too predictable to me with a lot of poems about the moon or the river; the use of season words feels cliché to me; inevitably a carp appears. a bell rings. there are clouds & butterflies. sunlight shines through leaves. ho fucking hum. I need poems with an edge. otherwise I don't get poem shiver. plenty of excellent poets love the form though. hell, what do I know, I love anchovies, pornography & sports movies.

Jack Gilbert's collected poems released; although he's a prize winner, he is somewhat obscure. a local poet pal of mine loves his work. I am always happy to see a writer getting well-deserved attention.

Gary Barwin's Speechbook here. also seeing Swedish in everything. I am such a fan of his whimsical imaginative work.

I rarely recommend a Flickr stream but I highly recommend jwc 3o2's exhaustive collection of printed matter, particularly the works of bpNichol, graphics, graffiti, collage, constructions & installations. yes it is voluminous, but the work included represents a collection & is therefore specific & discriminating not just a free for all.

Jerome Rothenberg posts an excerpt from Ian Hamilton Finlay Selections & if you have never heard about Little Sparta, IHF's extraordinary sculpture garden, take a look

On Speaking of Poetry, several poets are interviewed about their poetic practice. I particularly like Patrick Lane's idea of starting the day with "piano exercises" that is to say, copying a poem by an established poet by hand. I used to do this & found the slowness of my handwriting made me focus on the poem.

For those who care about awards, the CBC Bookies are back for the 2nd year with several categories including poetry. Voting is on til March 31. You can vote for poetry collections by Patrick Lane, Linda Besner, Phil Hall, Jacob McArthur Mooney or Susan Musgrave here. apparently the choices were made by CBC producers.


Irving Layton fans celebrated his 100th birthday this week with readings taking place across Canada. Over at Globe and Mail books numerous writers talk about his work, his bombastic personality and his influence in an article by John Barber entitled "Why Irving Layton Matters"

BBC Radio Scotland will broadcast poems from each of the 204 countries participating in the coming Olympics to take place in London. The poems are being selected by the Scottish poetry library. Reading the poems will be people with ties to the respective countries. For example, a beauty therapist from Denmark, a Nigerian priest. daily readings started Wednesday & will be tweeted by @splwrittenword . Read the story from Guardian Books here.

& lastly, dear friend & prolific writer, publisher, blogger, man about town, rob mclennan turned 42 on March 15. we at PTWAE are glad he is here in Ottawa & on the planet & shall join in the festivities to mark the occasion.

Monday, March 12, 2012

happy 100th, Mr. Layton
























Nail Polish (McClelland & Stewart, 1971)
"Dionysian Reveller" is only one of the many poems that made me a Layton fan & helped to take away my preconceived notion that poetry had to be fancy dancy remote & rarified. thank you, sir, for the poetry. "The air is sultry/So is my soul./The coffee is bitter./So are my thoughts." from Irving Layton: Love Poems, Mosaic Press, 2nd Printing 2002; "But the Furies clear a path for me to the worm/who sang for an hour in the throat of a robin,/and misled by the cries of young boys/I am again/a breathless swimmer in that dcold green element." from "A Wild Peculiar Joy, the Selected Poems" (McClelland & Stewart, new edition 2002)

poetry published (recently-ish)

an excerpt from "All the Catharines" appears in Issue 64 of Unarmed, a wee journal from Saint Paul, Minnesota. the front & back covers are by fellow Ottawan, jwcurry. red giant, a chapbook by rob mclennan was also included in the envelope. love the cover by dearly departed artist Barbara Caruso.

one of my ghazals is published in the winter 2012 issue of In/Words Magazine put out by the lovely In/wordians at Carleton University; the spring/summer 2011 issue of Spirits, Indiana University Northwest's Literary Journal which has William Allegrezza as its faculty advisor published "Songs of Evolution" my brief sequel to "Welcome to Earth (poem for alien(s)" (Book Thug, 2008)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

the South Townsville micro poetry journal

Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke has kindly published one of my ghazals & asked me a few questions too. He is also looking for submissions. thanks to a. rawlings for sharing the call on FaceBook

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Notes On Blogging

I'm looking forward to today's two A B Series events featuring Ron Silliman, the American poet & blogger. In the afternoon workshop & artist's talk, he'll be talking a bit about blogging. I've followed his blog here and there over the years.

I might post some thoughts after the events, we'll see, but for now I'm left with asking myself about my own blogging practice: why did I begin blogging? what are my blogs for?

I think I had a Live Journal account first, so long ago that I can't remember my username or anything much about it. it was probably some kind of tell all 30 something version of a teenage wank fest of angst and confession.

then in 2003 I began eleanorincognito.blogspot.com. I hadn't had too much poetry published at that point, was overly influenced by Rumi & wrote sentimental saccharine plonk about fruit. poems which probably shouldn't have been shared, but I had friends who were intrigued & wanted to see them, so I set up my blog.

this blog has been revamped as my visual poetry blog these days, for pretty much the same reason. I'm a vispo neophyte, with not too much of it being published yet (if ever), so it's a way to share my work, get some feedback & connect to the visual poetry community.

my literary blog started in 2005 with a brief hiatus in 09/10. it began as an offshoot to Bywords.ca where I was posting a bunch of literary events. I kept hearing, keep hearing that nothing ever happens in Ottawa etc. etc. based on all the events I was posting & attending, I knew this to be a bullshit mindfuck repeated by passive aggressive types with woe is me agendas.

I started to report on poetry readings. I do this less now because others have taken up event reporting more & much more accurately & in depth than I would ever be or would care to be. I write notes, impressions, opinion.

from there I began writing about books that engaged me & now I'll include a hodge-podge of stuff. I haven't worried about how many followers I have or visits or any kind of statistics. I get the occasional feedback from someone who's read my blog.

the main reason I blog I suppose is to share info & opinion, to write about literature & music that excite me & to connect with like minded people.

Monday, March 05, 2012

VERSeFest - wrap up & notes from day 6, the finale

For the second year in a row, the Factory Reading Series hosted talks by poets. Last year it was Monty Reid & Marcus McCann, this year Paige Ackerson-Kiely & Barry McKinnon. Essays are later posted on Seventeen Seconds. I think these talks are fine opportunities to see what kind of emphasis poets put on aspects of their own work, to hear about influences, & for fellow writers, to find kindreds, motivation, inspiration.

Ackerson-Kiely talked about eating pemmican (kind of like beef jerky with cranberries), wearing the same polar dress for a year, isolating herself from friends & family...which were all part of her preparations for her latest book, "My Love is a Dead Arctic Explorer" about or motivated by the exploits & character of Richard E. Byrd, a polar explorer. she also spoke of the illness of glancing, a fascinating idea to me, which i need to see in writing before i can say more about for now, but it piqued my interest. she talked about wanting to be consoled & how literature has helped to fill this need. I simply loved this talk & shall be glad to read it when it comes out on line. I felt an affinity with Ackerson-Kiely's aesthetic, her world view, which was not absolute, but forgiving. This affinity began for me with Ackerson-Kiely's above/ground press chapbook, "A Book About A Candle Burning In A Shed," its intensity & immediacy.

McKinnon read the Afterword from his above/ground press chapbook "Into the Blind World" & talked about how the corporeal has influenced his work. in this new life of mine, I seek out poems of the body, from the body. there was a bit of a diatribe against some review of derek beaulieu's of his work, which was less interesting to me. But I appreciated his candour & what he read.

Hall's approach to the Summit reading was a humble one & I appreciated that. Hall integrated his appreciation for being part of the festival, part of this reading, in his poetry, so that the poems felt very much in the now for me. I wish I had the retention to remember specific lines of his reading, one in particular about being quirky or the work being quirky spoke to me. & when he talked about poetry as a way for him to choose family. yes, exactly.

López-Colomé read in both English & Spanish, which was a pleasure to hear. The musicality of her poetry in Spanish seemed to be matched by Forrest Gander's translation. I saw without much bias at all (as a former translator), how thankful I am for translators, for making it possible for me to read work I wouldn't have access to due to my sad lack of fluency or knowledge of other languages. I enjoyed the mix of abstract & concrete in the poetry López-Colomé read. I have read a wee bit of Mexican poetry in translation as part of my Call and Response project & I heard echoes of Octavio Paz & possibly even the Pre-Columbian poets.

Levine was charming & funny. I should say that all three poets were understated rather than lofty or unapproachable in any way. I particularly liked his poem "the History of Chalk." & then of course, there was a very skilful sonnet, the rhymes subtle, syllabic.

During a brief q&a session, the poets were asked about their mentors. It was fascinating to hear Levine speak of both Robert Lowell & John Berryman. I am not one for mentors per se; however, if I had to answer this question, I would say Anne Carson, Gwendolyn MacEwen, French writers & artists between the wars…for starters…

The whole festival has been a great opportunity for an apprentice poet like me to learn & to listen. Inspiration, the movement of air into the lungs, breathing in…that's what VERSeFest has been for me. The vast variety of styles & the range of voices demonstrated possibility & re entrenched or re ignited my own poetic mandate to explore & to play, to not take no for an answer (that small but insistent inner voice) when it comes to writing what I want to write.

I applaud the vision and hard work of the organizers. VERSeFest, my dear, you have become indispensable.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Day 5 - notes & reflections

I had a really good time listening to Saturday's poetry at VERSeFest. We managed to take in the 5pm & 7pm shows at Arts Court with Shane Rhodes, Tim Bowling, Tim Lilburn & Rae Armantrout & also to socialize a bit with poets & friends& friends who are poets in between & after.

Rhodes gave me the kind of sound play I'm always hankering after in both Err, his most recent book from Nightwood & in new work which samples post-confederation treaties.

Bowling choreographed his reading beautifully, reading not just from his own work, but introducing each segment with work from two other poets.

Lilburn's language & imagery were exquisite & well-rendered in Orphic Politics & the section of a long poem from his soon-to-be-released (but not out yet, alas) book Assiniboia. Orphic Politics, a book about sickness, has particular resonance for me & I had the chance to chat with Lilburn to exchange anecdotes on experiences.

Armantrout was funny & I was taken by surprise by this. I loved the way she mixed everyday expressions with science, money, sex. politics, mushrooms, sunlight, signs, airports.

The evening was the most I've been steeped in the poetry of others for a long time. Again I think of Cohen's "poetry is read in the chamber of the heart." & I think it can be heard there too. all of Saturday's readers were good readers, their words quiet & poignant or funny; imaginative, whimsical, subtle, powerful.

Today's the final day to enjoy the festival. I'm looking forward to Paige Ackerson-Kiely & Barry McKinnon at 4:30pm. Then there's the Summit reading at 8pm. apparently there are still tickets available, so you should splurge & treat yourself to a reading by Phil Hall, Philip Levine & Pura López-Colomé.

While Hall has read in Ottawa fairly regularly, which I am damn grateful for because I love his poetry & seldom miss an opportunity to hear him read & chat with him, Levine & López-Colomé have never read here before & likely won't ever again.

Friday, March 02, 2012

day 3 = VERSeFESTatility

I was listening to Leonard Cohen on CBC Radio's Inside the Music yesterday. he was asked to differentiate between a song lyric & a poem. he said that poems are read inside the chamber of the heart. I took that thought with me to VERSeFEST last night & it came to my mind as I heard Roo Borson read from a diary of the seasons published in the latest issue of Arc Poetry Magazine.

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time focussing & listening at poetry readings. when I first hear work that tends to be more narrative or deals with themes such as mortality & nature, it can be very difficult for me to pay attention. I am trying harder to be more attentive & open. I stopped listening to the narrative, which for me was very prose-like without much sound play & concentrated on the imagery.

of late I've been reading Shawna Lemay's excellent book of essays, Calm Things, which centers around the subject of Still Life painting. The images in Borson's poem became for me a series of still life paintings, the red cardinals, the windfall apples, the snow. Once I did that, I was able to enjoy & concentrate on the poem.

By way of trying to give some kind of play by play of the actual events that took place last night, I will tell you that the first reader was Abby Paige, who has been published in the winter Bywords Quarterly Journal & read at the Bywords Warms the Night Reading back in January, her first reading in Ottawa.

Abby read the poem that she'd worked on with Borson, who had been Arc's 2011 writer-in-residence, a program that puts together experienced poets with emerging poets for manuscript editing of the latter's work. Abby read a poem about marriage with some lovely spring imagery, but I would have liked to have heard more of her work. what I want is fewer words in intros by hosts & more poetry by poets.

Fred Wah gave an eclectic reading with poems from his latest Is A Door. There was end rhyme, there was narrative, there was more experimental stuff. there was humour & irreverance.

After the break & delicious treats provided by Arc, I felt fine enough (ear ache & sinus pain gone!) to attend the second portion of the evening, Ottawa Fountain, the Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam team & C.R. Avery.

Biting Midge, Blue, CauseMo, Scotch, Switch performed separately & together. There were poems about suicide, sex, virginity, mental illness, god. The youngest poet was Biting Midge at 13 years old. (13!) I am glad to see teenagers being given an opportunity to express themselves. Hearing the candid words of these young poets about their fears & life experiences could help fellow teens. Poetic-wise, there were some unique & powerful images, particularly in a joint piece by CauseMo & Switch. the friendly & energetic host for the evening was Array-of-Words.

The final feature was C.R. Avery who performed some amazing beat box covers of Dylan's Maggie's Farm & Springsteen's 57 channels. with the assistance of a banjo, a guitar, a harmonica, & a keyboard & some killer lyrics & poems, Avery mesmerized the house, me included.

I tip my winter touque to VERSeFEST for the versatility of the festival, or as I'm calling it VERSeFESTatility.

for more careful & complete notes & notes on days i'm not in attendance, plus photos from the festival, you want to visit Pearl Pirie's blog here.

also Pearl reads tonight at VERSeFEST.