amongst books

amongst books

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Expozine, yeah Expozine

was fun in an overwhelming comic book, coloured jumble kind of way.

best parts:

Charles taking photos of everyone’s feet under the table;

chats with Steve Zytveld of the Dusty Owl and meeting all of his pals;

watching Daniel tattoo his madness on all and sundry;

coming up with titles for eveyone else: "Meat Voyeur" for vegetarian Daniel; "21st Century Five and Dime" for the Dusty Owl's table.

returning to the 60s, but this time as an adult…psychodelic, man;

metrosexuals and their keen fashion sense;

meeting a bunch of ex Ottawans or Ottawans just down for the weekend (apparently I missed Monty Reid who came to our table when I was on walkabout, chatting with Jon Paul Fiorentino way way down on the other side.

the sunshine and warm weather en route. November? What is November?

did I mention the feet?

Later Ron Sexsmith at the Outrement Theatre… who was/is exquisite.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Vive la Montréal

Off to Montreal

taking the choo choo, staying in a nice B&B in the Plateau Region.

Stop by our table at Expozine on Saturday if you’re about.

We’ll be taking in the Ron Sexsmith show at the Outremont that night too.

A decadent luxurious adventure in a cosmopolitan city.

À tantôt mes amis. Can you hear the champagne bubbles?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Have you noticed all those colourful boxes on downtown streets lately? There’s been an explosion of free dailies of late and they’re clogging up brains with their boring reprints of poorly told stories from the Canadian Press and Reuters. 24 and Rush Hour are the Citizen’s and the Sun’s efforts at what exactly? (Although it's good that at least 24 is available in French too). I’m not sure what their purpose is. From what I’ve seen when I’ve bothered to dig one out of the bus seat cracks, they contain no local coverage. They join Metro as YABOTAs (Yet another boring object to throw away).

There’s one exception to these YABOTAs and that’s the City Journal published by Transcontinetal Media. This paper contains stories about Ottawa, including detailed coverage of the arts scene, and the writers and photographers even get to have bylines.

City Journal bills itself as Ottawa’s urban news weekly and its editor is well known fiction writer and journalist, Wes Smiderle. In this week’s issue there are stories about a photoblogger who takes photos of Somerset Street, the Tree Reading Series upcoming Newfoundland Kitchen Party, and a cool article about the Stable Arts Studios Collective. There are also articles on politics and a daily run down on crime, for those who feel the need to know where all the stabbings and break ins take place (this refers both to the crime and the politics).

City Journal joins Xpress and Capital Xtra as WACOs (worthy additions to cultural Ottawa). This shows that I should never try to invent my own acronyms.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I love an owl…

the Dusty Owl Reading Series that is.

Aside from lovely chats with Marcus, Kevin, Greg, Jessica, Kate, Cathy, Steve, Heather, Mark, Rona and others, there’s the feature, George Elliot Clarke…on the small stage with the big sound, no need of a microphone.

reading from Trudeau, his opera and then having Steve play a track of the opera composed by Nepean local DD Jackson. All this political stuff that most people would bore us to tears with, Clarke makes poetry out of. A fictitious meeting between Trudeau and Castro, Trudeau’s love of girls, Marks, that’s Groucho Marks ,Cuban cigars and of course, rum, cuba libres. Clarke is the only contemporary poet I’ve heard that I’ll accept rhyme from. He does it well…it’s not cheesy, well except when he rhymes Neruda with Gouda, but why not?

Clarke reads from Whylah Falls, the book that won him an Archibald Lampman Award back in 1991 when he lived here (I think?). He says this is a book with seventeen characters, love and death.

In Look Homeward, Exile, Xavier Zacahry, in love with Shelly Clemence talks of “my love’s dark, orient skin that smelled / like orange peels and tasted like rum…” There’s an uninhibited exuberance to this man’s writing. He’s not afraid of revitalizing tradition or writing passionately about love.

He lived at 57 Elm Street here in Ottawa and listened to John Coltrane when he wrote The River Pilgrim: A Letter, his response or retranslation of Pound’s The River Merchant’s Wife. Talk of “Hank Snow’s woodsmoke blues” and the “garden flutes: E-flats of lilacs, G-sharps of lilies.” A synaesthaete’s delight. Earlier, “ Negro exiles/ in France…Drink blurry into young debauchery, / Their glasses clear with Cointreau, rain and tears.”

Clarke changes voice when he changes character, going from Shakespearean lyric to Muddy Water’s blues, buzzing from poem to poem. Or the selected proverbs of a wise old woman named Cora: “the road to hell is paved before elections.”

Clarke reads from Québécité, the opera he wrote that was performed right here at the Ottawa Fringe Festival last summer and produced by young dynamo Jessica Ruano.(Ruano has an art list, sending out event notices. To get on it, e-mail her here: jessicaruano at hotmail dot com. In the audience is Greg Frankson, aka Ritallin who performed the role of Ovide in the opera. Clarke gets him up on stage and the two of them act out a scene from the opera together. It’s moments like this that make the Dusty Owl something you just don't want to miss too often. I regret not seeing this play at the Fringe. Greg does a fine Ovide.

Then DD Jackson shows up in the audience and this means we get to hear more of the opera Trudeau at the end.

Clarke’s gracious enough to thank Octopus Books who came in to sell his books tonight but also has supported him throughout the years.

Next up were poems from Clarke’s latest collection, Black (Polestar, Raincoast Books, 2006). There was a lovely and visceral poem about Jean Chretien that made me request an poem of equal emotion and power about our newest politico, Mayor O’Brien.

Clarke also read from his libretto, Beatrice Chancy, a tragedy about slavery where everybody dies. He said some of the poems appealed to eight and nine year olds, who like nothing better than to invent an outrageous string of insults.

Then it was time for Illuminated Verses, a beautiful book of poetry illustrated with nude photos of Black women, taken by Ricardo Scipio. The book is based on the Bible’s Song of Solomon. This is a gorgeous book published by Canadian Scholars Press. Clarke had trouble finding a publisher comfortable with publishing this book. Eleven Years! The poems and photos are odes to the beauty of femininity. Clarke seduces with his language and vibrancy.

I’ve never seen the crowd give any feature at the Dusty Owl a standing ovation before. Apparently it was a first. And it was well deserved.

The open set after was crazy beautiful with mimes, guinea pigs, found poems about cats, and pink haired bunnies. And then Greg Frankson sang something he’d written about the migrant workers who come from countries like Jamaica to work in the fruit fields of Niagara. I had no idea he had such a beautiful singing voice.

Back into the evening for the frost and cold as the Dog and Pony karaoke show began. I wish I could say the sky was clear and there were stars, but we didn’t need any. Steve had poetry goggles. It was a perfect evening. And I heard the Owl call my name and lived to tell the tale.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

the New York milestone

ok, it's not really that big of a deal but it felt like a thrill today to sign a contract with alyson books for one of my stories and then send it to new york, new york.

it's actually the second contract i've signed this month and mailed to new york, so i should have posted that the first time...i guess it took a while for it to sink in.

geez, new york...snapping suspenders and picking hay seeds out of teeth.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

city elections and campaign donations

I admit that I voted for Alex Munter because I figured he'd be supportive to the arts. We'll see how things go with the same city councillors as usual and a new mayor. Should be an entertaining four years.

I just received a thank you e-mail from Alex Munter. In the e-mail Munter mentions that there's still time to donate to his campaign and that "the city of Ottawa has a generous rebate program, which will refund you the major part of donations up to $300."

Think about this. If a citizen donates money to someone's campaign, the City will use tax dollars to reimburse contributors. Apparently the campaigners didn't have to opt in to this program. I'm horrified that anyone would. This isn't quite the same thing as federal politics where donations are tax deductible because a tax deduction isn't a complete reimbursement. The city site it says the donation must be made during the candidate's campaign, but then you have until until Monday, July 10, 2007 to apply for the rebate. Why the lag? This is an example of what's wrong with our city government. The purse strings are loose about ridiculous things and then the city goes apeshit over posters.

Look at this quote from the site:

"The purpose of the contribution rebate program is to encourage more citizens to participate in municipal elections by supporting a candidate of their choice while, at the same time, learning more about the municipal issues affecting their day-to-day lives."

Did you learn a lot by the money that will be taken from your wallet to pay for the campaigns?

City politics...make me feel dirty.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Toronto-Slants and Slideweighs

The Victory Café provided an intimate setting for this year’s Toronto Small Press Fair and lots of free coffee. I’m often overwhelmed by the Toronto fair and don’t really chat with vendors and visitors as much as I’ve a mind to. This year I got a good chance to peruse, purchase, chat and eavesdrop (four of my top five things to do).

Peruse (Saturday, November 11):

Believe Your Own Press. I would have purchased from them too, but by the time we walked in, they were busy and then packing up. Lots of good stuff there though. Who could resist such books as “The Surly Blondes of Earth” by David Clink or Joel Giroux’s “Larger than Still Life”? I’m just getting these older titles from the site because the books were being put away when I arrived at 3:30 pm. Descant was on sale for $5.00 an issue! Echolocation from U of T looked good enough to submit to. And they want you to submit.


Beth Follett’s novel, Tell It Slant from Coach House Books, just sounded so interesting and had a back blurb by Marie-Claire Blais, who is one of my favourite writers.

Copies of Dig. edited by Jennifer LoveGrove. These are very chewy annual small lit zines with unique handmade collage covers for every copy for the current issue and joyous old fashioned cakes and the lake for previous issues. Dig. 11 features work by derek beaulieu, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Gary Barwin, Kevin Connolly, Ray Succre, Sandra Alland, David McGimpsey, Hugh Thomas and Salvatore Difalco. My favourite bit in the zine was LoveGrove’s interview with Jen Currin about her poetry and latest publication, The Sleep of Four Cities (Anvil Press, 2006). There’s so much wisdom and inspiration in this interview, that as soon as I can, I will rush out and buy the poetry collection. Currin describes herself as a quilt-maker, recording “scraps of language in a notebook all the time, and when I write I sew these fragments together, using whatever else inspires me at the time (overheard conversations, the sunlight on the table, a cup of coffee I’m savouring, a poem I’ve just read…When one is `in the mood’—alive, awake to language—then everything starts to sound like poetry, to take on an importance.” Issue No. 10 featured some Ottawa folk: James Moran, Megan Butcher, rob mclennan, so I had to pick that one up too. Dig. is also looking for submissions, but you have to send them by snail mail, alas, which leaves me out.

I was happy to see TSPF founders Stuart Ross and Nick Power side by each, and it looked like they were working on a piece of writing together. From Nick’s Gesture Press, I picked up “From the Monastery” a pocket-sized chapbook with a peaceful power to it. The drawings by Sharon Etkin are pretty cool too.

Speaking of Mr. Ross, from his table I picked up (and purchased, did not steal) a pylon orange double sided accordion book called “Birds: A City, Some Rain,” Toni Latour/Stuart Ross, published on the occasion of the Artspeak exhibition Perched (2003/2004) in BC. The prose is characteristic Ross and twisty, mouth trippy fun. Kinda reminded me a bit of The Beatles, I am the Walrus. Ross gave me a free copy of one of his books from “the Days of Yore” section of his table, “Wooden Rooster” (Proper Tales Press, 1986), “the tale of Carl Venom, a man caught in a web of tragedy and bewilderment. Venom, whose journey spans three continents, lives in a reality stuck in the wrong frequency,” says the unknown blurbist on the back of the book.

Near the Bywords table, all lit up by the sunshine through our windows, I spotted Laura Murray of Tip of the Tongue. I should have bought her Tree shape poems, but I did end up buying her chapbook, [bouncing off a dandelion crown] because of the very cool flower cover.

The New Pollution Music Review, first printed issue was just $5.00 and includes some really fine music writing with editors who’ve worked on NOW and sang background for the Carebears.


Lovely conversation with Beth Follett to congratulate her on Pedlar Press’s tenth anniversary. When I inquired how Follett manages to keep her press surviving (and thriving by the looks of all the excellent books in two cases on the table), she was very inspiring. She leads a simple life and knows her priorities: books and food. We hear so much pessimism in Ottawa about how difficult and financially risky it is to start a small press, but people like Follett show that it can be done. She reads the manuscripts over and over again herself for editing; she makes sure prospective authors understand what she's able to provide as a small press (look at the great designs on those covers! [not sure the name of designer]; taking a chance on new and unknown writers) and what she's not able to provide (some kind of large ad). Read rob mclennan’s blog for more about some of Pedlar Press’s latest titles.

Charles and I also got the chance to have coffee with fellow Bywordian Sarah Ruffolo, and another member of the Bywords team, Kemisha Newman stopped by our table.


Our table was next to The Grunge Papers, another Ottawa press run by Grant Wilkins. He publishes Murderous Signs which comes from the Iliad in which Glaucus tells the story of his ancestor who was tricked into carrying a message ordering his own death. In Murderous Signs, which Wilkins gives away for free (and therefore “you’re morally obligated to take a copy.”), prose, poetry and commentary by live writers are published. I make the distinction about live writers because Wilkins also uses letter presses to produce beautiful broadsheets by dead folks such as P.B. Shelley and Archibald Lampman on paper he’s made himself. When people stopped by and lingered at his table, he was good enough to bring out type for them to see and hold in their hands. Wilkins goes to a lot of shows and fairs to sell his wares and spread his murderous signs.

What impresses me most about small press fairs is the dedication and idealism of the small press community. Near the venue, were fancy art and architecture bookstores, but I wasn’t tempted to spend my money or time there, not when I had such treasures to choose from at the fair.


John Barlow’s Riverspine Preview Minimagazine # 1 (I’m in this, on a glorious blue page). There was an interesting conversation about drugs and pen names.

Vallum: 4:1 – The Desert. Gosh this is always such a beautiful publication, its pages gleaming I am still perusing this one, but I did enjoy what John Kinsella had to say in his essay about the line break, talking about Australian drum beats, and breaking away from expected rhythms.

Trickle Down Pops, a little yellow booklet by Ryan Bird, Um Yeah Press. Word Sonnets, my gosh.

I would have picked up the Puddleleaf papers, from Max Middle’s new efforts to publish visual and written stuff of quality featuring the likes of derek beaulieu and Sheila Murphy, but I have all these already.

Food & Sidetrips

Toronto is never the same for us unless we dine at our favourite Thai restaurant, the Friendly Thai on Queen Street West. The chicken and shrimp satay, the coconut rice, the curry phad thai, the basil beef, the singha beer…ah heaven.

We went to the Distillery District for the first time. It didn’t exist when I was a wee Toronto Neanderthal. We saw it at night. I think it’s overdone really. The food and beer in the Mill Street Brew thingy place was not that great. The stores were full of kitchy stuff and the studios were crowd pleasers (big leaves, lots of photoshopping), I suppose.

Charles and I indulged our addictions for wool and camera equipment at Romni Wools and Vistec.


We made maybe half as much moolah as we normally do at a Toronto fair, but had more than twice as much fun.


is next. Nov 25. Expozine. Come find us.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Amanda's Adventures in Toronto

Tomorrow we leave by train for the Hogtown. Bywords will have a table at the Toronto Small Press Fair on the second day of the fair, Sunday, November 12. We have four days in Toronto to wander. I grew up there and even did a stint at the University of Terror, but it's a luxury to wander the city as a tourist and to have the time of a long train trip to read and write. My reading material on the train will be Katherine Govier's Fables of Brunswick Avenue.

While there I'll also attend the small press readings at the Victory Cafe Saturday night hosted by Beth Follett of Pedlar Press. Featured readers include Dani Couture, Zoe Whittall, Sharon Harris, Terry Carroll, and Mike Barnes, plus one unconfirmed reader (I adore surprises)

I'd like this trip to be a literary adventure, discovering bookstores, secret laneways, and kindred spirits. One of the things I adore is travel guides. For Toronto, my favourite guide is Secret Toronto The Unique Guidebook to Toronto's Hidden Sites, Sounds & Tastes, ECW Press, 1998. I am hoping to flip thru the revised one while in Toronto. I discovered Good for Her thru this book, that makes it worth its weight in gold ;)

Another bible for me is Cheapeats Toronto, Plethora Press, 2006. This book has helped me find dim sum at eight in the morning on a Saturday, and one of the best Italian restaurants I've ever encountered.

Toronto is full of stories and stories don't come from guidebooks. Murmur is a project which lets tourists and citizens alike hear the unofficial stories of the city.

If I was in town on a Thursday evening, I'd join this group.

Stay tuned for more blog entries and then at the end of the month, it's off to Montreal.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Anna Karenina in 430 e-mail messages

got this thru fhole's blog. you can sign up to read have a public domain book sent to you via e-mail. Tostoy begins tomorrow.

I am just waiting for the e-book to be perfected and then my walking load of books gets lighter!

The Giller Prize Televised

Last night at 10 pm. Was anyone else as puzzled as I was to see CTV broadcasting an awards show about…books? I had to tune in to see what they would do about the authors’ reading. Most authors are not that great at reading to an audience. The show creators actually did a very good job of making the books television accessible, with each book being presented by a Canadian celebrity and then a clip of the author reading the book along with snippets from the settings of each book. One weird moment had Justin Trudeau introducing Ben Mulroney, who was at a literary fundraiser called the Giller Light in support of a literacy campaign. Mulroney suggested that the Harper kids were in the back serving beer. Ah Canadian humour, it’s wry…or is that rye?

Was anyone surprised when Vincent Lam (a U of Ottawa graduate by the way) won for his short story collection, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures? I would have been, but once I saw that Margaret Atwood was the presenter, and it was the final book to be presented that evening, I was pretty sure he’d won. Interestingly it was on a boat trip to the Arctic that Atwood discovered Lam and his writing. He saw her on the ship and asked her to look at his writing. Now I suppose everyone who sees Atwood will be passing her manuscripts. Now that we know she looks at them.

I was rooting for Pascale Quiviger’s The Perfect Circle myself. There was some mumbling at the show about the translators also receive awards, but I didn’t even hear them mentioned at all. Sheila Fischman is an amazing literary translator who has translated so many Quebec books that I love by authors like Michel Tremblay, Marie Claire Blais and Anne Hébert.

I was surprised to hear the Giller referred to as Canada’s largest (meaning most money) literary prize. The Griffin has a higher value, doesn’t it? The Giller winner gets $40,000 with $2,500 to each person on the shortlist, while the two Griffin winners (Canadian and International) get $50,000 each. Even when the Griffin was $40,000 each, it was still higher than the Giller. It’s not that important, but I thought it was odd that they kept saying this over and over. I doubt we’ll see the Griffin televised any time soon. I thought it was pushing things to have a literary awards show at all on the land of reality tv and game shows with Howie Mandel, but they managed to pull it off.

I wonder how many people actually watched.

Here’s the shortlist. I was pleased to see so many smaller publishing houses on the list:

Rawi Hage, De Niro’s Game, Anansi
Vincent Lam, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, Doubleday Canada
Pascale Quiviger, The Perfect Circle, Sheila Fischman, TR, Cormorant Books
Gaétan Soucy, The Immaculate Conception, Lazer Lederhendler TR, Anansi
Carol Windley, Home Schooling, Cormorant Books

Award founder Jack Rabinovitch, who started the Giller in honour of his late wife, Dorothy Giller, a book reviewer for the Montreal Gazette, mentioned that for the price of dining out in Toronto, we could buy all of the books on the list. I intend to buy a few of them anyway. Rabinovitch said that over 60 million dollars in book sales have been generated to date thanks to the Giller Prize.

I found the evening very inspiring and the fact that it was actually put on television gives me hope that people are actually reading fiction in Canada these days. Phew. I can keep writing now ;) (Now if only they would pay as much attention to our wonderful Canadian poets!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

um...toot horn?

This site says nice things about a story I wrote and has a lot of cool cheesy porn videos advertised to boot! I feel honoured to be in the company of such films as The Davinci Load and Clean My Crack.