amongst books

amongst books

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Poetic Desserts, Sunday July 2 at 7:30 pm

Contact me if you'd like to attend. I'm reading some amazing poems by shauna mccabe from ancient motel landscapes and serving up something lemony. While we're waiting, go listen to Emm Gryner's Girl Versions...

Monday, June 19, 2006

rob mclennan: notes from a fan

The organizer of small press fairs, readings, workshops, editor of books and poetry websites, writer of poetry and essays, and reviews, interviewer, rob mclennan is the unstoppable poetry engine of Ottawa. I am impressed with rob because he is a promoter and supporter of poetry like no one else I’ve ever encountered, particularly poetry by Ottawa writers and particularly poetry that goes beyond the traditional narrative form ubiquitous in Canadian writing today.

I hear people whine and complain about the lack of attention given to Canadian poetry, but very few of us do something about it except perhaps to promote our own writing.

I had the good fortune recently to get a sneak peak at rob’s upcoming essays, “subverting the lyric: essays,” which will be published by ECW Press. In fifteen essays, he sheds light on writers, publishers, and the various communities that have existed over the years in Canada’s literary community, but that many of us might not have heard of or have heard very little about. People like Jon Paul Fiorentino, Meredith Quartermain, and Barry McKinnon for example, or writing groups like TADS a kind of offshoot of TISH in Vancouver. He discusses poetic form like the prairie long poem and themes like geography. It is clear from looking at these essays, rob’s blog entries and various articles he’s written over the years that the man has a far-reaching knowledge and interest about Canadian poetry. There is so much to learn. Some would find this daunting, yet rob continues to learn and to share what he’s learned with those who take the time to listen.

When I go through the various things that rob has done, the main thread I see running through all of it is an attempt to make and be part of a community, to share and to support those who, like rob, want to learn and discover, push limits in their writing.

This is just a small homage to someone who deserves so much more.

Saturday's Small Press Book Fair

was fun galore and more. It's always a small fair but a goodly size for Ottawa with folks coming in from Montreal, Toronto and the locals. Our Bywords table did a brisk business and we got to chat with old and new friends all day long. I picked up wonderful gems from above/ground press, The Mercury Press, loose teeth press and 40-watt spotlight. The most popular item on our own table was Variations, the zine put out by Melissa Upfold of Sarnia. We had five copies and we sold out. There were just 40 copies made. The zines were typed on newsprint, sewed with and industrial sewing machine and each one included handpainted pages by Melissa. I bought the last copy. I believe the writers were all from Sarnia, but not certain of that. Can't wait to get Volume 3!

I kept meaning to pick up evergreen: six new poets (Black Moss Press, rob mclennan, ed, 2002) and I finally got my copy from rob at the above/ground press table. I particularly enjoy Laurie Fuhr's poetry, so it was good to read a bunch of them in this book. Other poets published therein (a bit of legalese thrown in gratis) are Jon Paul Fiorentino (His latest book Theory of The Loser Class just came out this year and it rocks), Meghan Jackson, Andy Weaver, Susan Elmslie, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Was nice to see familiar folks like John Buschek of Buschek Books. I bought Jan Allen's Personal Peripherals from him and got to meet her, which was very cool! Grant Wilkins of the Grunge Papers was triple-booked with the Canadian Book Arts Fair, the small press fair and a wedding, left all his stuff on his table and gave it away for free. The Dusty Owl folk had some kind of a spoken word impromptu thingy with Montrealer and poetry visionary/advocate Paula Belina of streeteaters, Sean Zio and Steve Curtis bursting out into poem.

j.w. curry's amazing bits and bobs from room 302 books /1cent (it's art really) are always a joy. I am waiting for him to sell a whole table of his one cent publications so I can buy them en masse. I have some wonderful wee chapbooks and poems inside hydro bills I bought from his table a few years back. (Later he rode by a bunch of us en route to the pub on his bike, giving us the raspberry and yelling out "poetry sucks!" which was the first time I've ever heard a drive-by raspberry poetry razz.)

New to the small press fair this year was the gang at In/Words from Carleton. Like the Grunge Papers, they gave away their publications for free too. (And the view from the Bywords table was spectacular) I'm always very impressed with the energy and creativity of David Emery et al. They have monthly open mics at the Avant Garde and they are tons of fun.

Nice to see Bywords published poets/volunteers come visit us. The rarely seen these days Nick Lee, the soon-to-leave-us for-New Brunswick Jesse Ferguson (whose new chapbook, Old Rhythms, is out from Pooka Press), Marcus McCann and Mike Heenan stopped by. Did you know that Marcus is the editor of a cool online poetry site called Onion Union?

One of the books I picked up from Toronto's Mercury Press was Betsy Warland's Only This Blue (Mercury Press, 2005) about a woman's daily dealings with her breast cancer. It touched me. This is a very personal book of poetry. I'm a tad tired of the prescription that poetry shouldn't be personal, shouldn't contain I. should! Warland's book shows how to do it well.

As usual the fair was inspiring and a cool treat in the humidity. We vendors were cool, the customers were all hot and sweaty, poor dears. All we had at the Bywords table was candy. Wish we'd had a lemonade stand.

The Ottawa Small Press Fair is a great place to find out about different ways and means of publishing. It's also the best way to get books and mags at reasonable prices. I bought books at prices reduced by $5 or more from the cover price. The next fair is in the fall.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

David O'Meara and Suzanne Buffam

this aft at the Dusty Owl Reading Series. The very sexy David O'Meara read first. Some very impressive new poems, especially one called News From The Moon, which will hopefully be in an upcoming poetry collection soon.

The last time I heard Suzanne Buffam was at the Ottawa International Writers Festival last year. At the time, I was distracted by her partner, Srikanth Reddy, whose reading from his book, Facts for Visitors was something very special. Today I got the chance to focus more on Buffam's work. She just won the League of Canadian Poets' Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for first poetry collections for Past Imperfect. At the Dusty Owl she did a great reading. I especially liked her intro to her poem Sir Gromore Somyr Joure in which she talked about the less popular and well known knights of the round table. Personally I've always had a thing for Gawain. She read some of her new work, including poems about interiors that were really well done. The poem, Ruined Interior, lingered with me, long after the wild and crazy open mic and the object of desire contest, long after the tall, beautiful Brandon, the crazy guitar angst ridden aaron, the heckling rob, the birth mother who confessed, the hot water bottle.

I love the Dusty Owl reading series.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Factory Reading Series-wake up and get out of the rain

last night at new venue the Ottawa Art Gallery (moved from Gallery 101). The new location is great: chairs are comfy, artwork from the latest collection (Heteropeia) hung from the walls. One of my favourite things about the Factory Reading Series (formerly Poetry 101) is the pairing of local Ottawa writers with those from out of town. In this case Ottawa sound poet Max Middle with Vancouverite/New Yorker text and performance poet, Leanne Averbach and the famously uncategorizable bill bissett.

Middle opened with poems from the recent above/ground press chapbook flow march n powder blossom s, and went on to perform new pieces, stuff from the latest Peter F. Yacht Club publication and a variety of rapturous sound segments. Later when bissett read, he mentioned that he's known Middle since 1991. Middle's started to publish pamphlets too, such as the moonlishly delicious Moon Potatoes and this purposely crumpled up and pieced together scrap booker on overload looking thingy that might be called "ues ext rig." You can get free copies at the upcoming ottawa small press book fair on June 17.

Averbach's reading was more traditionally text based than Middle's, and it packed a wallop, especially a poem about working in an abattoir. She explained in her introduction that she has worked as an activist fighting for the rights of the proletariat. Would have been good to hear some of her spoken music. She does a cool version of "Fever," but we had no band. Where's a good jazz combo when you need one? Go to her site and watch her video Car Wash, it's really neat!

bissett performed oh so briefly but it was such a great thing to hear him do his thing. He asked what's wrong with salmon farming, wondering about the strain on their little fins as they flounder. He jammed on maracas while singing a gospel-sex hallelujah. It's a complete delight to hear this man, even if for a short time.

And that's what's cool about the Factory Reading Series really. You get a chance to hear poets who are not often around, not often in town. That and you get to find books, chapbooks, DVDs and CDs that you might have a hard time finding elsewhere. One of the items for sale which can be bought in shops like Chapters is Radiant Dance Uv Being, a new book where Bissett's fans sing his praises, a kind of Cohenesque I'm Your Fan tribute.

These poets are a true demonstration that anything's possible in poetry. It was such an inspiring evening. If you missed it, you really misssed out! The next Factory Reading Series is in July. Check the Bywords calendar regularly or that and other events that'll knock your shoes off and blow your hat away.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Canada’s sexiest male poets, publishers, editors, renaissance men

in alphabetical order and look how many of them are in Ottawa!

Joe Blades

Stephen Brockwell

Steven Heighton

Nicholas Lea

Jay MillAr

rob mclennan

David O’Meara

Robert Priest


Rob Read

I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch. Do add your own to the list via comments. What makes these men sexy is not only physical beauty (although that helps) but also what they do, and how much they contribute to the world of letters (meaning literary, not French).