amongst books

amongst books

Thursday, April 23, 2015

30 Poetry Books for National Poetry Month

Y’all know how I love lists. Lists are fucking arbitrary. Other lists always make me want to write my own lists because I don’t see what I would consider to be great whatevers on their lists. So here are 30 Canadian poetry books on my shelf that I continue to engage with, pull off my shelves and reread, & would recommend for anyone who wanted to read compelling stuff. My tastes tend to run toward edgy, dark poems that have duende (see *); I also enjoy a good long poem or poem series.

1. Tom Walmsley, What Happened (Book Thug, 2007)*
2. Tom Walmsley, Honeymoon in Berlin (Anvil Press, 2004)*
3. bpNichol, the Martyrology (Books 1-9) (Coach House, 1972-1993)
4. John Thompson, Collected Poems and Translations (Goose Lane Editions, 1995, 2015)*
5. Sandra Ridley, Post Apothecary (Pedlar Press, 2011)*
6. Sandra Ridley, The Counting House (Book Thug, 2013)
7. Sandra Ridley, Fallout (Hagios Press, 2010)
8. Robert Kroetsch, the Completed Field Notes (the University of Alberta Press, 2000)
9. Dennis Cooley, the Bentleys (the University of Alberta Press, 2006)
10. Dennis Cooley, Bloody Jack (Turnstone Press, 1984), (the University of Alberta Press, 2002)*
11. Dennis Cooley, Seeing Red (Turnstone Press, 2003)
12. Nathalie Stephens, Je Nathanaël (Book Thug, 2006)
13. Anne Carson, Short Talks (Brick Books, 1992, 2015)
14. Anne Carson, If Not, Winter – Fragments of Sappho (Vintage Canada, 2003)
15. Gwendolyn MacEwen, the Selected Gwendolyn MacEwen (Exile Editions, 2008)*
16. rob mclennan, Aubade (Broken Jaw Press, 2008)
17. rob mclennan, stone, book one (Palimpsest Press, 2004)
18. rob mclennan, a compact of words (salmonpoetry, 2009)
19. Oana Avasilichioaei, We, Beasts (Wolsak and Wynn, 2011)*
20. Oana Avasilichioaei & Erín Moure, Expeditions of a Chimaera
21. Erín Moure, The Unmemntioable (House of Anansi Press, 2012)
22. Erín Moure, O Cadoiro (House of Anansi Press, 2011)
23. Stephen Brockwell, The Real, Made Up (ECW Press, 2007)
24. Stephen Brockwell, Complete Surprising Fragments of Improbable Books (Mansfield Press, 2013)
25. Christine McNair, Conflict (Book Thug, 2012)*
26. Ken Babstock, Methodist Hatchet (House of Anansi Press, 2011)
27. Ken Babstock, Airstream Land Yacht (House of Anansi Press, 2006)
28. Pearl Pirie, been shed bore (Chaudiere Books, 2010)
29. Marcus McCann, the Hard Return (Insomniac Press, 2012)
30. Monty Reid, the Luskville Reductions (Brick Books, 2008)

See my 100 poetry books list over on 49thShelf.com, the queen of lists, if you want more of this.

And if there are books that you feel should be on such a list, I encourage you to make your own list & share it around. Send me the link! If you don’t have any of these books, get thee to your neighbourhood indie bookstore & pick them up or order them.


In Ottawa, I highly recommend Octopus Books on Third Avenue in the Glebe. Its Canadian CanPo section is crammed with great books at the bottom of a shelving unit at the back of the store.
If you're short of dough, visit the Ottawa Public Library. If you don't see these books on the list, ask for them. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Three picks from the Ottawa International Writers Festival

One of the delights of an Ottawa springtime is the Ottawa International Writers Festival, which begins this Wednesday. You can go crazy trying to hit up all of the events, from the literary to the political, to the memoir to the science talks. I tend to focus on the literary and primarily the fiction because we’d have a  paucity of fiction events here in Ottawa, were it not for the festival. This is a great opportunity to hear new and established writers, chat them up, get copies of their books and hang about with fellow bibliophiles.

Here are three events I’m jumping up and down in my seat about:


I think I’ve been to every one of these and they always hold surprises. I discover new music and hear songs I  haven’t heard by some of my favourite musicians. The format is interesting. Alan usually has some sort of theme and picks singer/songwriters that fit within the theme. There’s a lot of conversation and clips from interviews. This year the theme is Random Play with musical guests: CRAIG FINN of THE HOLD STEADY,  
ELLIOTT BROOD, ROSE COUSINS, BONJAY and ISKWE.


I have been a fan of Michael’s since I first read Cumberland, his novel set in Cornwall, Ontario, several years ago. I also enjoyed his second novel, Progress, and am looking forward to his memoir, My Body is Yours. Michael is a talented writer of both fiction and poetry and also a filmmaker

I just read Raziel Reid’s When Everything Feels Like the Movies this past winter and I found it to be heart-breaking, compelling and humorous.

Glenn Nuotio is one of my favourite people and I love his music.

I also feel that discussions surrounding gender identity, prejudice based on gender and sexual orientation are vital and I’m glad that these are being addressed at the festival through these fine works.

April 25, 6:30pm The Time to Make It Shorter with Mark Anthony Jarman, Steven Hayward, Heather O'Neill and Guy Vanderhaeghe

With all due respect to all of the writers at this event, the person I  am most looking forward to is Heather O’Neill. I have just devoured her second book, The Girl Who was Saturday Night; last winter I enjoyed Lullabies for Little Criminals, and have just started her short story collection, Daydreams of Angels. I love her writing, her characters, her descriptions of Montreal and her fancifulness. I like the fact that she writes about people who are treated as the dregs of society, petty criminals, drug dealers, fat old Russians, aging former Quebec musical icons, patients in mental hospitals, feral cats.




The Ottawa International Writers Festival Spring Edition takes place at Christ Church Cathedral, 414 Sparks Street from April 22 to April 28, 2015 and includes poetry, fiction, memoir, history, politics, science, music, food, laughter, mayhem, sweet smiles, awkward pauses, CBC hosts, Carleton and U of O students, workshops, glamourous outfits, Sean Wilson in a baseball cap and surprises…