amongst books

amongst books

Saturday, March 30, 2013

New erotica now on line for April


I have two new pieces of erotica over at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association Gallery for April:

In "The Third Floor" Mandy finally yields to meeting a man who's been phone & e-mail domming her. D/s; M/f.

In "Enfleurage" a nun receives flowers from a mysterious stranger. f/f.

Thanks to the gang of dedicated writers & editors at ERWA for their helpful editing suggestions. 

This month's Gallery contains a whopping 22 stories, quickies & flashers plus poetry.  Bone up on your erotica this month with ERWA. Like the crocus, these tales are bright spots of colour which expire at the end of April. Savour them before they're gone.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Oh Get A Grip - First post

i've joined the venerable & irreverent group of erotica writers over at Oh Get A Grip. each writer posts on a group topic for two weeks. i'm your gal Thursday, every other Thursday that is. my partners in crime include Lisabet Sarai, Cari Silverwood, C. Sanchez-Garcia, Giselle Renarde, Charlotte Stein, Sacchi Green, Desiree Holt, Daddy X, & Jean Roberta.

My post "Notes from a Debauched & Insatiable Reader" is now on line.

Monday, March 18, 2013

VERSeFest 2013 - final thoughts


thanks to the dedicated VERSefest team. I'm gobsmacked. the festival was such an incredible array of poetry. loved getting a chance to chat with the poets as well. I do believe that the festival, already fantastic in its first year & second, is improving with age. & according to its director, Rod Pederson, it's going to be here for 122  years. I plan to attend all 122.

it's only a day after the festival but so much of it will stay with me. highlights included 
Rob Winger's the Next Poem;
Emile Zoe Baker's imaginative set, vegetarian zombies; 
Luna Allison's Don't Date To Domesticate accompanied by the talented Glenn Nuotio on keyboards & his socks;
Nathaniel Larochettte's choose your own adventure poem & his socks;
Matt Jones candour;
the deadpan wit of Rita Ann Higgins; 
the fanciful & wine-soaked imagery of Matthew Sweeney; 
the ghost trobaritz' whose shadows accompanied Catherine Owen's poems, & her portraits of two exotic worlds;
Stuart Ross' childlike I;
Don McKay's "Snowball Earth";
Gil McElroy's playful deconstruction & close up of language in the ABC IOU poem, like a biologist examining cells beneath microscope; 
Claudia Coutu Radmore's voice ringing out for the zany Dear Shark & the references to classical music;
Ewan Whyte's hushed Latin translations & playfully wry observations  of riding the Greyhound bus;
Magpie Ulysses' compelling tales of hitchhiking; 
RC Weslowki's candour, whimsy & mesmerizing stage presence...

Christine McNair's Dear Darling & the strength of her voice, the tension in her work, the word play & sound play; 
the very inspiring Hall of Honour event, including rob mclennan's wonderful intro, William Hawkins quiet & strong voice, memories of when Kent was a two-way street, King Kong, Greg Frankson's beautiful voice, the fruit picker poem, beautiful drumming of ArRAY of WoRds;
David O'Meara reading the English side by side with Eric Lindner's poems;
Hélène Gelèns brilliant performance & her tightly focused poems. I loved hearing the Dutch language, the places where it intersected with English & then moved away, the patterns of poems & their tone being understandable even without words;

the hosts of all the events, the volunteers: the front door folk, the back hall folk, the bartenders & tenderesses;

the indie table & volunteer vendors, David Dollin & the booksellers, well stocked tables full of great books, CDs & journals & chapbooks & VERSeFest merch;

conversations with dear friends, new friends, old friends reappeared after years of absence from our literary community. i'm going to miss you all...

what a week. beauty. see you next year!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

VERSeFest, rest of days, no blog, but perhaps later

i'm having a grand time, but yesterday, so many events...i'm knackered. i think my brain stopped by about 4pm. so this is where i cease blogging the fest for now at least. but what a wild, fun & fanciful ride yesterday was & how sore my ass is from those pretty blue chairs & how great it is to have long conversations with friends old & new betwixt poems. & god damn, that RC Weslowski is a sweetheart. so much to say, but for once, i'm speechless. chat amongst yr selves & come out today for the finales....hugs & wet kisses to all who made this bliss happen.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

VERSeFest Day 4 brief notes


This is going to be a brief, or perhaps more apt to say, cursory blog entry because a) I had a pint of Guinness & more than a pint of convo with a dear friend yesterday before the reading & b) I was laughing too hard at the entertaining poetry of the two readers to intelligently process much. but here are a few wee remembrances for those that weren't able to attend.

first off, there was a variety of cheese gifted by the Irish Embassy. one had figs in it & was divine. the other was Irish Cheddar with Guinness, had a dark shell & nutty flavour. so glad that losing my colon eliminated my lactose intolerance. that's the best thing about it, frankly.

the host for the evening was the handsome green shirted & eloquent David O'Meara, pronounced by poet Matthew Sweeney as "O'Marra." what I like about David's introductions is they aren't long or overly fawning but he still gives us more than just the biographical details, providing a thoughtful & insightful overview of the poet's work. I'd actually like to see a book of essays that are made up solely of his introductions to writers. they're that good.

Rita Ann Higgins read first. She had to fly back to Ireland straight away after because she had to give a reading for the President of Ireland on Sunday. her poems were narrative, dead pan, at times funny & at times funny dark. one poem, "My Face Goes Scarlet"  from her retrospective "Throw in the Vowels" (Bloodaxe, 2005) began with a quote from a priest about blow jobs, which was surprising enough & then went in an entirely different direction by the end. Another one mentioned broken glass between the walls of houses to keep the kids off. Another talked about the young Irish men who left for England. Higgins presented a sharp portrait of Ireland or at least her part of it. She is a prolific poet who read from several works.

Peter Porter  had this to say about her collection "Sunny Side Plucked" & I reproduce it here because it is a more articulate way of saying what I'm thinking about the poems she read from last night:

"This is a refreshing collection of work from a quiet untameable poet. Higgins roams the provincial towns and countryside of Ireland fomenting rebellion and writing with unstaunchable energy of everything warm and unrespectable in Irish life. Her voice is like nobody else's, simple but not naive, raucous but sympathetic."

I did manage to find one of Higgins' poems on line, not one she read. but much of her work is not available there. Should have bought the books, dagnabbit.

The Did-You-Come-Yets of the Western World

When he says to you:
You look so beautiful
you smell so nice —
how I've missed you —
and did you come yet?
It means nothing,
and he is smaller,
than a mouse's fart.
Don't listen to him…
Go to Annaghdown Pier
with your father's rod.
Don't necessarily hold out
for the biggest one;
oftentimes the biggest ones
are the smallest in the end.
Bring them all home,
but not together.
One by one is the trick;
avoid red herrings and scandal.
Maybe you could take two
on the shortest day of the year.
Time is the cheater here
not you, so don't worry.
Many will bite the usual bait:
They will talk their slippery way
through fine clothes and expensive perfume,
fishing up your independence.
These are,
The did-you-come-yets of the western world,
the feather and fin rufflers.
Pity for them they have no wisdom.
Others will bite at any bait.
Maggot, suspender, or dead worm.
Throw them to the sharks.
In time one will crawl
out from under thigh-land.
Although drowning he will say,
"Woman I am terrified, why is the house shaking?"
And you'll know he's the one.

Rita Ann Higgins

Matthew Sweeney mesmerized with fanciful poems with lush & vivid imagery. Someone correct me if i'm wrong, but i think he said something, which was very similar to a quote I found from Higgins, or did she say it? "To get at the poetic truth it is not always necessary to tell the what-actually-happened truth; these times I lie." Words to live by for a poet. 

In an interview with Lidia Vianu in Desperado Literature, he described his poems as "imagistic narrative" & went on to say "As this suggests, I consider poetry – or at least this kind of poetry – to have a lot in common with film. I am not at all interested in confessional poetry, or indeed much in autobiographical poetry (although there are some poems which are autobiographical in nature, and many other poems have autobiographical details smuggled in). One early TLS review put it that I was more a poet of the world than the self, and it is true that I prefer on the whole to imagine myself into other people’s experiences than to write out of my own. Most of my poetry has a narrative element. Some of it strays beyond realism into the territory I call alternative realism (which is not to be confused with surrealism, although many people do this), and it often mixes humour and seriousness. Both these latter tendencies are common in the Irish literary tradition, also in the German literary tradition that I studied at university and had such a profound effect on me."

[A strange small world coincidence: Sweeney is the co-editor of an anthology entitled "Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times," along with Jo Shapcott (faber & faber, 1996). a lover brought it back for me in 2005 from London. it's a fine antho. you should give it a look.]

One  thing I particularly noticed about both Sweeney's & Higgins' poetry was its specificity. He didn't just talk about a ghost missing the food & drink he'd had while he was alive, he mentioned that the wine was Côtes du Rhône. Both he and Higgins had a way with language. One particular phrase I remember from one of his poems was "Nico's sepulchral singing" from a poem called "His  Crows." & a bunch of interesting portraits of men, "The Sad Man," "The Big Man." He apologized tht these poems were tragic. I get on well with those who combine the tragic with the whimsical. As he drank from his small plastic glass of red wine, he mentioned that Keats could never have written his odes if it wasn't for red wine. I would have liked to have sat down with Sweeney over a bottle & exchanged ghost stories myself. And Higgins too. At the end of the evening, I felt as if I had. I was drunk on their fine poetry. Here is a sample of two poems that he read last night & you can read a number of them in the Bow-Wow Shop, for starters.

Ghost

A man egged another on to kill him,
then appeared as a vengeful ghost,
whispering to his killer that the cost
of his enjoyment of that final whim
would be nothing less than suicide.
No lifetime spent in prison's care,
not even a blast of the electric chair
would do. He'd need to have died
by the same hand as the other man,
on the same day, in the same place,
and if the killer should prefer to run,
the ghost would float before his face,
hissing that he was no one, no one,
and he would never win this race.

His Crows

Four crows flew in formation
above the train, and at Milton Keynes
they spread out into a wave
and veered towards Norfolk,
and the roof of that Old Church.

He was inside, dressed in black,
as always, meditating, and
drinking his dark red wine.
A glance at his black watch
sent him to the fridge, to take out

a long, marble plate, with four
dead mice on it, which he placed
on the altar he kept outside.
Each crow dived on a mouse,
till four skeletons lay on the plate.

He put on a CD of Nico's sepulchral
singing, and the crows sang along,
almost in tune, with him conducting.
Then he strode off to the back room
and his black, leather hammock.

Matthew Sweeney

Today is going to be a very full day, starting at 1:30 pm with the Factory Reading Series talks at the Mercury Lounge & finishing over at the Knox Church with the final event starting at 9pm. I'm going to do my best to attend the whole day, but something tells me I'll be knackered, so we'll see. Hope to see you there & there.

Friday, March 15, 2013

VERSeFest Day 3 Notes


Another three fabulous readers last night at the festival: Stuart Ross, Catherine Owen & Don McKay. I have to say that for me this was probably the smoothest of all the events so far. The readers read for twenty minutes each. The introductions by Tree Reading Series hosts Carol A. Stephen & Deanna Young were brief and not sycophantic. At the end, there was enough time for us to stand around socialize, buy books and have the authors sign them & still get home by 9pm, unless you were staying for the second event, the Women's Slam Winners, which I wasn't, not having any stamina for it.

My favourite kind of poetry  is poetry that is not obviously autobiographical or poetry that plays with the concept of the I. It's not that I have anything against autobiographical poetry; I write it myself, but there is often less variation of style & voice in  a purely autobiographical poem that doesn't attempt to use the opportunity of the I to play or to vary.

One of the things that I enjoy about the poetry of Stuart Ross is his playfulness, his ability to write in the voice of a child with that mix of wonder. even the poems written from an adult's point of view tend to convey a tone of humble befuddlement, disorientation with the way the world works, with social convention & hierarchy. the poems often go off into the land of imagination, which is part of the way a child sees the world, but Stuart has extended the child's world view to the adult voice as well.

Stuart read from his latest poetry collection, "You Exist, Details Follow" (Anvil Press, 2012) & also from new work. Many of the poems he read sprang from writing exercises that he has developed based on the work of poets he studies and admires, such as Joe Brainard. I know this because I've attended two of his excellent workshops: a Poetry Bootcamp that took place in my own apartment a few years ago & a Tree Reading Series workshop last year. This method of writing allows for a lot of freedom, playfulness & stretching of the imagination. Many of his poems give life to inanimate objects or reverse or make us think about what we commonly know about how life works: "Soon the day became rusty; the furniture went to bed." 

Stuart is a writer who unleashes my own creativity. His poems combine compassion, humility, humour & imagination. I admire Stuart for many reasons, but particularly because he continues to read the poetry of others & to study it, to let it serve as an influence for his work. One poem was a cento made up completely of titles of songs. I also consider him to be a dear friend who shares my love of Ceylonta & So Good, two local restaurants & who I have debated with about a variety of subjects, which is always fun.

Here's an excerpt from the title poem, "You Exist, Details Follow" which he read last night:

I smoke the permanent clouds,
and listen to the citizens
badmouth the city. Meanwhile,
the pleased furniture rumbles
to victory. An echo scrapes
across the doomed surface
of a laughing golf course.
I have come to talk about manners:
we live by lost rules.
Do you know why?
You leave by the back door,
where the supermarket pauses,
where the smooth night relaxes
into rusting box springs.

[...] You Exist, Details Follow (Anvil Press, 2012)

It was a night of friends at the festival & in Ottawa's tight-knit literary community, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by friends throughout the festival. Vancouver poet Catherine Owen first came into my life in 2009 just before my health crisis. She is the partner of one of my closest friends, Warren Dean Fulton & actually stayed in my home when I was in ICU at the Ottawa General when she read at the intellectually whimsical Dusty Owl Reading Series. We had made the arrangement beforehand. She and my husband bonded over whiskey and sad stories. Her book "Frenzy" was the first book I was able to read after I got out of ICU & was in the wards. It helped me through the long boring stay in the hospital, especially at first when I could barely leave my bed. In 2012 I had the honour of publishing Catherine's chapbook, "Steve Kulash & other autopsies" through my micropress, AngelHousePress.

I've been attracted to her work because I have felt we were kindreds. We've been fascinated or plagued, depending on how you look at it, with some of the same obsessions: misfits, art, flaneurs, music, photography, rusty found objects, trees, historical figures or periods of history & the edge, darkness.

Catherine's latest book "Trobairitz" (Anvil Press, 2012) combines medieval French women troubadors, trobairitz with heavy metal music of this era. One of the things that gives Catherine her cool cred is that she actually played bass in a heavy metal band for a decade.

In one review, Catherine is described by her friend and collaborator, Joe Rosenblatt as a "neo-romantic bard." I would have to agree. I love Catherine's sense of language, its precision, the imagery, the sound play. All of her poems can be read aloud. I've always loathed the term page poet because to me a a poem must work for the ear as well as the page. To divide the page from the ear & vice versa for me is like trying to separate conjoined twins. Catherine's poems amuse my mouth as well as my ear, eye and mind.

During her reading last night, the lights in the room caused looming shadows of Catherine to appear on the stage's back wall. Sometimes the shadows were doubled. I felt like the ghosts of medieval balladeers were present, co-conspirators. poem shiver.

One of the poems I particularly enjoyed hearing Catherine read & which is exemplary of her work is one of the Eneugs, which are lists of hates & contrast with the Plazers, lists of loves, words that come from la langue d'Oc, the language of Ocitania, which is where the French court was in the Middle Ages.

Eneug 1

Hating the stench of the undigested, relegated cellars,
beer scrim on all the tables, hating the wrecked red carpet,
the lost-toothed patrons lumbering off their bar stools,
Hating their paw-fulls of sticky coins, the cheap, cheap
swill & butts glutting the toilets,
Hating the twittering girls, their apropos tatties,
stabbed against tongues that clack against their chatter,
tits that shrink men's eyes to bite-sized leers, the dirty,
pretty, plump and pale tweens, twirling their youth
in my face, hating the youth youth youth of it, the
anthemed, apocalyptic air of the thick & pitiful mosh
pit with its bashing, pumping hurls of flesh and the asshole
who asks my sign, lynching a ridiculous cowboy hat
beneath an unscriptable bit of beard.

Trobaritz, Anvil Press, 2012

The final reader was Don McKay, who I have never had the pleasure of meeting or hearing read in person before, but I have had the honour of republishing in 2011 his piece "It Won't Work" written for Brick Books' 25th anniversary in the AngelHousePress series of essays. I had a chance to chat briefly with him & to thank him for allowing me to republish the piece. I was pleased to find that he is a charming & approachable person. 

I know I complain a lot about banter during readings. I don't usually like a lot of introduction to the poem. Don McKay expressed concern during his reading that his introductions might turn into lectures. Except they didn't, but I appreciate his awareness & concern that this is what can happen. His intros were just as interesting & poetic, in my opinion, as the poems themselves. They added to the work rather than summarize it blandly or meander off in all directions. 

Don read from his twelfth poetry collection, "Paradoxides" (McClelland & Stewart, 2012). If you're like me, you had no idea what that word means. Don explained that it was a trilobite. The picture on the front cover is one that he had found, if I understood correctly. If not, I'm just making this up. 

One particularly striking  poem, "Snowball Earth" talked about a time when the earth, according to a hypothesis, was covered in ice for 100 million years in the Protozoic era. Don invoked Persephone in the poem & imagined her journey in such a world. He used lines from one of my favourite carols, In the Bleak Midwinter (based on the Christina Rosseti poem)…"Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone."

I found his poems mesmerizing & wondrous, inventive & playful, beautifully constructed & compelling to listen to. I also liked his manner, which was humble, even apologetic for his obsession with birds in his poetry. I am not someone who has found much interest in nature as subject before, simply because it is often so cliche or reverently presented, but I admit that I liked his treatment of it within these poems, not as something separate from humanity or giving humans a dominating role in nature, but as part of us. Here is a wee excerpt from "Snowball Earth" for your reading pleasure & i apologize for any typos. I found the poem reproduced & translated into Russia here, but there were several typos in the transcription of the poem on that site.

2.

In the middle of the frozen pond
we pause: blow noses;
tighten snowshoes. Around us

snowdevils skirmish and disperse.
Loose tresses sift, braiding, un-
braiding, and where

the ice is bare the slant sun,
like a glass eye,
glances. Biology is elsewhere,

busy with its death-birth
buzz. Here we are simple citizens
of Snowball Earth, the cosmic disco ball

[…] Paradoxides, McClelland & Stewart, 2012

I'm looking forward to tonight's Irish celebration with poets Matthew Sweeney & Rita Ann Higgins. Rumour has it there may be cheese. See you there.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A VERSeFest Close Up: Chris Jennings


Among the many delights of V-Fest Day 2 was Chris Jennings' reading as part of the excellent In/Words event. He read a few new pieces & poems from his first poetry collection, "Occupations" (Nightwood Editions, 2012).


I am fascinated by poets whose poetic feet are firmly planted in contemporary soil, but who also dip their toes into the classics. This seems to be the case with Jennings, who plays with form, including rhyme & whose lines evoke the ancient bards of yesteryear while still managing to remain contemporary.

He talks about his own struggle with understanding the poetic lyric while studying poetry at the University of Calgary in his 12 or 20 questions interview with rob mclennan in April 2012: 

"I didn’t start writing poetry with much purpose until after I'd already done a year as an undergrad at the University of Calgary. I'd taken the big survey courses in English lit. from beginning to present, and the whole first semester was poetry of one kind or another - Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, Faerie Queene, Shakespeare, the Metaphysicals, Milton, "The Rape of the Lock", the Romantics.... I was aiming for an English degree at that point only because I didn’t know what else to do and because I thought it would be relatively easy.  Then poetry, especially the lyric poetry, defeated me.  The longer works weren’t easy, so you could get into the narrative flow, but because they were longer, it was much harder to hold them all in your head when it came time to write an essay, and I have never been good at taking notes. I felt like I had to find my way with the lyric.

I fell into the trap of thinking that there were “hidden meanings” in the lyrics because I was told they were there and, hey, they must be hidden because I didn’t see them.  I now think of this as a consequence of poetry illiteracy; I didn’t know how to read a poem because I didn’t understand the importance of form, I had no education in formal rhetoric including figurative language, and I really didn’t even understand generally what makes for good writing either grammatically or stylistically.  And I found it much easier to work through these things by trying to write poems than by trying to understand other people’s poetry. There was a lot of banging my head against the wall and writing some really awful poems, and, over time, a lot of resisting the influences of people around me who were much more into non-traditional poetics.  

Things really only gained some momentum when I was both trying to write poems and studying poetry with a really good professor, Alexandra West.  She didn’t teach poems as much as poetry literacy, and that was a huge help.  She also gave us Paul Fussell’s Poetic Metre/Poetic Form, which was my first exposure to writing about poetry that I both understood and from which I started to understand how to write about structure and content as part of a whole.  I’ve written poems and about poetry in lock-step ever since."

His perseverance has clearly paid off. It was a joy to hear his work last night. I found the poems he read to be full of panache & eloquence, strong images, thoughtfulness, word play, cadence, richly layered philosophies. I particularly enjoyed his playfully rhymed "Ebenezer Ivory" & the painterly pieces, such as this poem below, the 2nd in homage or reference to the W.B. Yeats poem, "Cuchulain's Fight with the Sea." I. in the book is a completely different poem with couplets & references to baseball; however, the sense of battle is there too. an interesting idea to tackle an influence in different ways. one i'll have to attempt myself.both poems deal with the man vs man; man vs nature; man vs his own nature conflicts.

To delve a bit more into the latter, II: the line breaks & language are powerful. The structure of the poem is well rendered: could we say that there are two sonnet like stanzas broken by a seven line stanza in the middle?  If it had been an eight line stanza or two quatrains, I suppose that would have been too obvious.

Each sonnet contains a turn in the final two lines. The repetition of turn. A circular structure that begins with the physical tide of waves, moves to a "tide of devils" in the 2nd stanza & ends with the figurative meaning of tide in the third, echoing Yeats' own repetition in the original. The 2nd stanza's language becoming more visual, more exotic, three-syllable words, such as "suppurating" causing an increase in tempo to evoke the feeling of the crest of the wave.

CUCHULAIN STILL FIGHTS WITH THE SEA (II)

Soldier, there is a war between the mind
And sky, between thought and day and night.
                       -- Wallace Stevens, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

Milton stands by the sea in May of 1638, waiting
to sail for France six years before he would feel
his sight begin to fail. He watches waves break
across prows and continue their surge to shore.
It's windy, so the waves are high. A storm darkens
out over the channel, and its first serpentine
tendrils already scar the water with shadows.
White caps like wings spread across broad breakers
that hammer the rocks along the shore then turn
back against their source. Sometimes, turned sharply,
they crash back into the oncoming waves and foam
scatters into the air. Before the foam turns to water,
the wave that was moved by the law of the tide
and the wave turned back by the earth disappear.

Years earlier, in the Low Countries, Pieter Brueghel,
paints the grotesque of suppurating insects,
fish-headed imps and the assholes of lizards
that he calls The Fall of the Rebel Angels. Absurd
cloud-like figures float above a tide
of devils that pours from the sun,
swords like crosses more posed than poised.

Still earlier, in the Garden, Raphael,
describing the war in heaven, wrestles
with the limits of human imaginations
that have known only Paradise. He laments
"how shall I relate to human sense
the invisible exploits of warring spirits?"
and chooses violence without consequence.
Michael smites Satan, but his ethereal
substance soon closed, not long divisible,
and from the gash a stream of nectarous humour
flowed sanguine, such as celestial spirits
may bleed. At least, according to Milton,
blind by 1652, but sensible about the tide
of competing impulses within a single mind.

(Occupations, Harbour Publishing, Nightwood Editions, 2012)  [if there are any typos in this poem, they are mine, please inform me.-AE]

Jennings has also written reviews & critical essays about poetry, participating in the poetic conversation. Read an excerpt from his fabulous essay, "On the Sonnet" here, or better yet, pick up Arc Poetry Magazine Issue 65 for the full piece.

After hearing Chris Jennings, Al Moritz, Matt Jones, Jordan Chevalier & Luna Allison last night, I found myself composing lines of poetry. To me that is the ultimate compliment I can pay a poet, that their work inspires me to create my own. Thanks to VERSeFest for another fine evening of poetry. Tonight I am looking forward to hearing Catherine Owen, Stuart Ross & Don McKay. this festival for me is like an extended poetry workshop. i have learned from everyone who has graced the stage.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

newbie on line mag: the Steel Chisel

former Ottawa resident & In/Wordian David Emery has just launched a new magazine, the Steel Chisel. an excerpt from my poetry manuscript, the Coffee House Studies appears, along with fine work by 5 good uns. take a look see, here.

a wee look at V-fest day one


Rob Winger knocked it out of the park with a piece called "The Next Poem" spoofing the type of material poets  provide in their introductions to poems. Such talk is otherwise known as banter. I believe this poem should be tattooed to the backs of all poets & sewn into their information packages at readings & festivals.

Emilie Zoe Baker read hilarious & imaginative poems about vampire zombies, coffee, cutlery,& pasta sauce & a satisfying rant called "Fuck You Glee. "

the handsome & friendly Nathanael Larochette aka Sir Realist pinch hit for the absent Kerry Reid-Gilbert & took on the intimidating opening spot. He did a great job engaging the crowd in his socks with feel good poems & a choose your own adventure piece that all the other poets of the evening referred to.

Mark Tredinnick had lovely round glasses, read well crafted poems about birds & flowers that captivated many in the audience & had them buying his books. He put my bird count to 8. Alas I had only water to drink, but that is likely a good thing. Perhaps a drinking game based on the number of times birds are mentioned at the fest may not be a good idea.

Brent Raycroft, a poet who has been given the benefit of Arc's poet-in-residence program, a 5-year old initiative that matches emergers with well-published poets, gained the audience's attention with gently rhyming sonnets & personal admissions about his poetry submissions.

Anita Lahey, came back to Ottawa, her former home, to read some tight, muscular poems  with compelling imagery from "Spinning Side Kick." She had the job of being the last poet of the night, not an easy position. For some reason the readers from Arc all seemed to be overly long at the mic, with Lahey being on-stage for forty minutes. My poor ass was numb & I had to visit the loo, since I drink a lot of water. But I appreciated hearing Lahey's poems & was glad to see her return. Many of her former colleagues from Arc, where she had been the managing editor for a number of years, were in attendance.

If I had choreographed last evening I would have put the Arc folk first, opened with Winger, for a powerful rousing beginning & closed with the Australians, giving Baker the final spot to end the night on strong, comedic, rather than thoughtful imagistic work.

Opening night went very well with a sizable audience, only a few wee glitches with sound & getting perk packages, passes etc doled out to arrivals, all perfectly understandable. The book store run by David Dollin with the capable assistance of Carmel Purkis was full of poetry for the festival & the indie table operated by a group of young volunteers who I suspect were from Carleton University was fully stocked with V-fest merch, chapbooks & CDs.

On to day 2 which features shows by Voices of Venus & In/words. Tonight I am attending the later In/Words event featuring Matt Jones, Jordan Chevalier, Chris Jennings, & A.F. Moritz, but if you have the chance to pick up the earlier VoV show with the ever captivating Luna Allison & the hip hop artist Lady Katalyst, you should.

Pearl Pirie is likely documenting the festival with notes & photos. I suggest you read her excellent blog, which will be much more detailed & specific than mine could be. I used to take copious notes; now I just listen & see what sticks.

Final note: thanks to the organizers & volunteers who did a fine job & were friendly about it. You're a lovely, fine bunch.

Disclaimer: for those with a fetish for accuracy, I'm not yr gal. The opinions herein represent the early morning ravings of a woman on the cusp of 50 whose memory was never all that great to begin with.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

VERSeFest: My Must Sees # 2


Sunday, March 17, 2013, 8pm

Must See # 2: Hélène Gelèns & Erik Lindner

I am intrigued by what I have read so far of the poetry of Dutch poet Hélène Gelèns. of course, I don't speak Dutch, so I've had to rely on translations, but these translations sound very exotic to me, very imagistic with refreshing turns of phrase that make you think thrice. take a look at "What Frays and Blossoms" from the book "zet af en zweef" (Take off and Float) published by Uitgeverij Cossee. The poem was translated by Willem Groenewegen. another of her poems is translated as "Poem for Two Voices and A Clock." You can see why I'm intrigued.

There's something outlandish & lavish about translations into English. it's as if the curtain between realities has been dropped. The poems of Erik Lindner, at least their translations, the ones I managed to find by googling, seem to be understated & simple, but not simplistic, simply micromovents of the world as depicted as ordinary. a cloth falls off a table. a drawer holds crumbs & paper clips. the language of the English translations seem so very formal, distant. cool observation. yet the camera focuses on what is important to the poem's speaker.

A fly walks from the edge/to the centre of the table top/and back again, follows a few centimetres/of the side, enters the emptiness/of the pale white again…" from "REASON" but of course this is a poem from 1996, from Tramontane. so not necessarily reflective of his current work. you can read some English translations of Lindner's poetry from that era but also from 2004 here.

&  I leave you with the words of our own brilliant beauty David O'Meara who seems to be painted into most poetic landscapes these days:

"The pivot on which these observations rest is his masterful use of the image, which abound in his shifting lines, as they casually appear and are taken note of by the poem’s gaze. Coupled with his supple handling of language, this lyric approach makes for a haunting, memorable poetry." David O’Meara

the fact that the festival is showcasing Dutch, Irish & Australian poets, most of whom we would rarely be able to see here (Baker, Lindner & Tredinnick have been here before through the A B Series, the Ottawa International Writers Festival & the Tree Reading Series respectively) is pretty damn fantastic. 

Friday, March 08, 2013

VERSeFest my way & personal must see #1


my rule for any reading but especially festivals is to get to the venue at least half an hour before. that way I get a good seat, I can look around, buy a drink, peruse the bookstore & chat with arrivals. I don’t like to be flustered or rushed; it's a luxury & a privilege to attend any reading, but especially a festival. I want to support the efforts of the organizers & offer my respect & earnestness. I'm a god damn keener for good word & it shows in my exuberance.

this year's festival takes place at two venues: Knox Presbyterian Church on Elgin & Lisgar & the Mercury Lounge in the Byward Market. to get there early is to get the more comfortable seats with the best vantage point. otherwise you end up on wooden chairs (Knox) or standing in the back (Mercury). plus you get to visit & canoodle with me.

when I started attending festivals, I would try to attend everything. now my stamina & attention span are simply not as great. this means I have to be somewhat choosy. for a poetry festival, what I most want is to hear poets whose style is innovative or imaginative or whimsical enough to keep me awake & inspire my own writing, to hear poets whose work is new to me & to revisit favourites & support pals who are reading.

this year's program has the diversity that VERSeFest is known for. you can hear hip hop, if you're so inclined (I'm not), you can hear poetry from Australian, Irish & Dutch poets. You can hear award winners-the Montreal Poetry Prize, the Griffin. You can hear contemporary surrealist absurdity, dark comedy, 21st century medieval heavy metal trobaritz ballads, Japanese form poetry, urban grit, nature poetry, ghazals, lyric poems…the festival is your oyster.

here is the first of a number of my personal must sees at the festival.

Gil McElroy, The Factory Reading Series talks, Mercury Lounge, Saturday March 16, 1:30pm FREE

McElroy is one of Canada's most interesting poets & yet to my knowledge, at least in my era, he has never read in Ottawa. I am very interested that he has recently written a memoir , Cold Comfort, Growing Up Cold War, published last year with Talonbooks. I own two of his poetry books, Non Zero Definitions, 2004 & Last Scattering Surfaces, 2007, but not his most recent, Ordinary Time, 2011, part of which was previously published in the AngelHousePress online annual PDF magazine, Experiment-O.com , Issue 2. He also has an essay that AngelHousePress republished with his revisions entitled Ground States: the visual contexts of bpNichol in 2009. here's a link to the PDF. McElroy writes about visual art & this connection to art can be seen in his work through the intricate minutiae, the textural nature of his poemscapes. I am grateful for poets like McElroy whose poetry surprises, doesn't seem to  have stock images or clichés. I love the threads that run through his poetry collections, the patterns, his sense of time.

Gil McElroy will be featured along with Nicole Markotíc, whose book Bent at the Spine (Book Thug, 2012)  I own, but have barely glanced at so far, not out of a lack of interest, just an embarrassment of riches. I am very much looking forward to hearing her read & talk about her work.

with time & inclination, I may write more of my personal must sees, not to be abbreviated to PMS …

I am very grateful to the organizers of VERSeFest for taking on this herculean effort & creating what promises to be another enriching & robust festival of poetry.

if you're at all interested in contemporary poetry, this is your chance to immerse yourself in it for a week. buy your passes & tickets today.