amongst books

amongst books

Saturday, January 27, 2007

ottawater at the mercury lounge

friday night i had the pleasure of taking part in the launch of ottawater 3.0, an annual on line publication founded in 2005 by rob mclennan to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the city of ottawa.

darkness and rum means that i have to rely on my memory rather than notes, but here are a few choice moments:

the haunting poetry of anita dolman, continuing her mesmerizing reading from the previous evening’s factory reading series. there’s a new intensity to anita’s work in the past year. you’ll find more of her poems in decalogue.

being introduced so graciously by rob. my attempts at adjusting the microphone which hissed and popped like a snakes in popcorn but i wore fringies, so all was well.

clare latremouille’s precise, spare language and evocative imagery. she said that the ottawater poems were the first she’s written this millennium. a great way to mark a new era.

wanda o’connor visiting from concordia’s "school of creative writhing" as rob put it. that beautiful dress. the smooth way she adjusted the microphone (compared to my clumsy snake charming technique) and that poem about the staircase, her ability to make an image that lingers.

shane rhodes on the spanish word esperar to hope, to wait for.

roland prevost’s skillful word play and surrealistic philosophical musings.

rob’s address book poems. the idea that the poem is there long after the buildings have been destroyed.

stephen brockwell’s lightning poem. his gracious acknowledgement and thanks for all rob does in the literary community, echoed and cheered by the crowd.

delightful conversations about jerry garcia of the grateful dead with monty reid, with stephen brockwell, new year’s eve with heather mcleod, candles as a foot warming technique with pearl pirie.

was lovely to see so many people attending the reading. the mercury lounge is a glamour palace with its long red velvet curtains, brick walls and high ceilings. to take part in such a reading with so many excellent writers and such an attentive audience is one of the delights of writing and being part of the ottawa literary community. the event was a dream come true for me. and i didn't even have to ride home in a pumpkin coach.

if you didn’t get the chance to go to the reading and even if you did, visit the site to read the latest issue. it’s 150 pages of literary hijinx, hubub and haberdashery (i made up the hats). i haven’t gotten through it all yet, but so far my favourite bits are rob’s interview with stephen brockwell whose profound knowledge, and dry wit make for a compelling read, together with rob’s insightful questions. also the harold rhenisch review of some above/ground chapbooks packs a punch. i was pleased to see new writing by former classmate Kristy MacKay, who now lives in Edmonton. Of particular originality and depth are the self-addressed post cards.

oh..and the artwork and design enhance the issue beautifully. ottawater 3.0 together with the previous issues are a helpful resource for anyone studying current writing and a good sample of the variety of poetry being written by current and former ottawa folk. i tip my balaclava to the always inspiring and dedicated rob mclennan.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Come hear me (& others) read at Ottawater 3.0 this Friday

Friday, January 26, 2007: launch of the 3rd issue of ottawater, featuring
readings by Michael Blouin, Anita Dolman, Amanda Earl, Clare Latremouille,
Nadine McInnis, Max Middle, Roland Prevost and Shane Rhodes (etc) at The
Mercury Lounge, 56 Byward Street (upstairs). Doors open at 7pm, readings
from 8-10pm. co-hosted by span-o (the small press action network - ottawa)
soon to be up at:

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bywords Warms the Night IV-Benefit for Cornerstone-Jan 21

Bywords Warms the Night IV
Sunday, January 21, 2007, 2-3 pm
Chapters, 47 Rideau Street
Free admission
Launch of the winter Bywords Quarterly Journal, featuring the music of Lindsay Ferguson and the poetry of Cameron Anstee, Heather Cardin, Doris Fiszer, Lindsay Foran, Barbara Myers, Lisa Twardowska and Lisa Xing. Benefit for the Cornerstone Women's Shelter.

Contact Info:Amanda Earl
613 868 1364

Please bring items to warm the days and nights of Ottawa's homeless. The Cornerstone Wish List includes bus tickets, warm socks, pyjamas and new underwear, coupons/vouchers from Tim Hortons or grocery stores, towels and face cloths, winter coats, cups, dishes, cutlery & glasses, fitted single sheets & pillow cases.Clothing can be donated directly to the Well, 154 Somerset Street West, Cornerstone's sister organization.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Have you ever attended a poetry slam?

People perform a timed poem on stage and judges score them. The highest score wins. Slam is part of what is referred to as spoken word, which is basically poetry where the accent is placed on performance, and perhaps on societal issues. It has a huge history and has revitalized poetry, particularly for young people. The Capital Slam Collective (CLC) refers to slam as a revival of the oral poetic tradition.

I’ve been to perhaps four of these in the six years I’ve been involved in Ottawa’s literary scene. Last night I went to the CLC event, which included a reading by rob mclennan, who is not, unless in secret, a slammer.

What impresses me about the spoken word community here in Ottawa is how encouraging and friendly they are. While it was ok to boo the judges who scored the poets too low, the audience was reminded by the hosts Steve Sauve and Elissa Molino to always clap for the poets.

This is not a review of the evening, nor is it a condemnation of slam poetry. I do not have the background to properly review the genre. What I will say is that the performances were strong and I was amazed at those who managed to memorise their poems.

For me however, so far, in the few times I’ve been to these events, they haven’t really been to my taste. I admire the people and I appreciate what they are doing very much, but I get bored. I admire their earnestness and concern for things like the environment, for peace and understanding, but for me, it still felt like I was at the receiving end of a church sermon and it’s nothing I haven’t heard before or don’t hear about every day in one form or another in the news.

It feels to me more like complaining and I find it frustrating. I’d rather take a sign and go somewhere and protest or sign a petition or write a letter to the editor. To me this seems like preaching to the converted. Most of the people who attend these events (I would say all, but one can never tell) are in favour of social justice, are against war, are in favour of love, tolerance and understanding for one’s fellow human being. I wanted to shout out..."so tell me something I don’t know.”

There were a few who didn’t lecture about the evils of society’s ways, such as Kevin Matthews who performed his poem about the colours of making love (I really need to add him to my sexy Canadian male poets list), which was fun and Madame H who told the story of a man who wouldn’t drive a car.

There were some extremely strong performances, such as D.J. Morales and Festrell. Not performing that night was the host, Steve Sauve, but I also really enjoy his performances. Steve doesn't lecture or criticise others, he lampoons himself and that works. These artists are talented and I hope they go far in this genre and wish the best for all of those who enjoy slams, but I’m not a fan. I actually feel badly that I’m not. I want to be, I really do. If anyone wants to educate me otherwise, I'm all for it. Because I really like the people who are involved in the local spoken word community and I respect them.

For those of you who are intrigued by slam and spoken word, you can purchase CDs of your local spoken word artists here:

As to the feature, rob mclennan, I enjoyed hearing him read poems aloud that I’ve only read on the page. Was also lovely to hear Stephen Brockwell read again. He has a commanding stage presence. (and yes, he's on my list.) I didn’t take notes because the venue was too dark for that, so that’s all I’ll say for now.