amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

another amusement brought to you by the city of ottawa

Pedestrian Plan Open house - Tuesday, May 29, 2007
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Holy Trinity Catholic High School, Cafetorium180 Katimavik Road, Kanata
The City invites you to attend a public open house to: ·
review the findings of Phase 1 of the Pedestrian Plan study;
· introduce Phase 2 of the Pedestrian Plan Study; · discuss pedestrian network planning opportunities.

Your feedback is an important part of the consultation process. Community participation will influence the development of the Pedestrian Plan, and will form a part of the report when the Plan and associated recommendations are presented to City Council for consideration.

For more information and/or to submit comments, please contact:
Traffic and Parking Operations Branch100 Constellation Crescent
Ottawa, ON K2G 6J8
Tel.: 613-580-2424, ext. 13766
Fax: 613-560-6069
Comments should be submitted by Friday, June 8, 2007.

i find it amusing that a meeting about pedestrian plans should be held in a location as difficult to reach by non car drivers as this. i'm sure the suburbanites suv drivers of kanata will have a lot to contibute about plans for pedestrians.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mayhem and Madness-lotsa readings this month

Jennifer Whiteford, Megan Butcher, and Nairne Holtz read at Venus Envy last Wednesday. i always like VE as a venue for readings. they can move shelves to create whatever space they like. in this case, there was a small cozy space that had to be enlarged as more and more people arrived, some of them refugees from the Michael Ondaatje reading, apparently.

Jennifer Whiteford opened the reading with a new work about eleven-year old girls. She mentioned that she had started to write about older characters, but the young characters were what ended up taking over. I found this interesting. I have noticed lately there seems to be a lot of fiction about teenage girls and women in their early twenties, especially in the Queer community. I would like to read more fiction about dykes in their middle ages and older. What happens to aging dykes? I have no idea based on the literary fiction being published of late. That being said, I enjoyed Whiteford’s piece. She is a strong writer and is very much able to recreate the eleven year old mindset.

Megan Butcher was next to read. She read (what seemed like a combination of) prose and poems. Some of the pieces were sexually explicit, which is always refreshing at readings. My favourite piece was about an anorexic girl in a hospital. Very sad and harrowing to hear about. I would like to read more about both the speaker of the poem and the girl she visited.

Nairne Holtz read from her new novel, The Skin Beneath. Her reading was the shortest part unfortunately. I would have liked to have heard another few minutes at least. The scene she read from described a lesbian seeing someone she had a thing for strip at a strip club. The brief excerpt held my attention. I wanted to know more about the characters. The novel is apparently a “fast-paced psychological thriller.” I know Holtz best as the co-editor of the wonderful “No Margins: Writing Canadian Fiction in Lesbian.” (This is an example of stories that are not just about women in their early 20s!...yay!) I’ve also learned that Holtz is the creator of the very amazing “annotated bibliography of Canadian literature with lesbian content.”

Friday night saw the launch of Decalogue 2: ten Ottawa fiction writers at my favourite venue in town, the Mercury Lounge. This is Chaudière Books' follow-up to last year’s ten Ottawa poets. Nine out of the ten authors read, with Matthew Firth being unfortunately not able to make it. The prose in this anthology offers a splendid diversity of style.

Some of my favourite bits read came from Emily Falvey’s novella, Lessons in Darkness. Her writing is the right mix of sarcastic wit and romantic comedy. The excerpt she chose described a woman riding on a bus from Rotterdam to Paris, a man offering her a piece of smelly cheese.

“He nodded and held out a piece of cheese. The smile that accompanied this sour-smelling offer was meaningful.”

Gabriella Goliger's excerpt from Behold the Ladder of Love was both humourous and compassionate. In her reading she described a teen girl’s lessons on sex and maturity by her mother.

John-James Ford’s story “Are you there?” concerns a high tech worker’s life. The scene Ford read described the man’s dealing with his wife’s alcoholism, her hidden bottles. It is always interesting to me when a writer fictionalizes local stuff such as our own high tech sector. In this story, Ford mentions Cisco and Ottawa golf courses. This piece reminded me somewhat of John Cheever’s “The Swimmer,” portraying a rich and beautiful veneer which covers inner turbulence. Ford’s story, along with Roy’s work thematically with Firth’s story reprinted from his excellent collection of short stories, “Suburban Pornography.”

On a side-note, I was rather blown away by Ford. I see I’ll have to start a Canada’s sexiest male fiction writers list (along with my sexiest male poets list).

I enjoyed hearing host rob mclennan (a writer who tops both of my sexy lists) read from his story escape notes: london. His fiction has the rhythms and intentional ambiguities of his poetry, but added to that is an even dryer wit.

I am a big fan of Ian Roy’s fiction. His collection, People Leaving, is wonderful. He read a scene from a new story, “Family.” The scene described two men, one trying to get to Halifax on very little money in a car that likely wouldn’t make it there. I liked Roy’s ability to write the internal language of two friends who’ve known each other for a long time, and the characterization of the loser-manipulator, someone who tries his best to get what he needs out of a good friend. And then Ian made jokes about the disco ball at the Mercury Lounge. I enjoy his self-deprecating banter. Not everyone is good at that. He is.

I was impressed with the collection that editor mclennan put together. i look forward to more fiction from Chaudière Books.

Sunday afternoon was Dusty Owl time. The Owls are currently holding their reading series twice a month, instead of once a month to celebrate their return to Swizzles, their roosting ground of old which had troubles after a fire started in the Thai restaurant upstairs and was closed down for what felt like an eternity.

The swanky new space-age Swizzles makes one expect a Jetson character to walk in at any moment. Red plastic chairs, square steel looking tables and bright porthole lights plus a hexagonal stage really spruce Swizzles up. Chris of Dog and Pony Sound was there to make all of us sound good as usual.

Margaret MacPherson, the feature, read from her first novel, Released. The book is the story of an abused woman’s life in the north. What impressed me so much about what I heard was MacPherson’s strong skill with dialog and characterization. I was fascinated by her main character as a child and as a twenty something girl and some of the people she encounters in her life: the native girl going to a residence school, the brother who tells her stories about her reptilian teeth as a baby, the sensitive and temperamental poet whose abusive behaviour she runs from.

Macpherson mentioned that she had read to a crowd of two at the National Library on Saturday, thanks to the Senators hockey game. The Dusty Owl audience and crew welcomed her in its usual warm fashion.

The open mic was its standard and unpredictable hodge podge creativity from spoken word anti-male rant to biting satire about the current Canadian political scenario, literary pieces and sound chants. The object of desire was won by Ottawa newcomer, Sam who is here from the University of Victoria. Kinda cool when a new person wins the OoD. And another exciting thing...Keith’s Red on tap!

Dusty Owl will feature Ronnie R. Brown on June 3. I’m very happy to see the Owls back in their rightful nest.

And don’t forget to get thee to a Tree, this Tuesday eve. The feature will be American poet Suzanne Buffam. And then there's Ravenswing's craft and zine fair on the 26th.

I don’t need to tell you to go to the calendar for more events, do I?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ottawa Trillium award nominees

It's wonderful to see Ottawa writers Anita Lahey, Mark Frutkin and Charlotte Gray nominated for Trillium Awards for their poetry, fiction and non fiction, respectively.

Congratulations to Ms. Lahey, Mr. Frutkin and Ms. Gray for their nominations. My fingers are crossed.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

maybe the citizen isn't so bad after all

today the responses to andrew cohen's ottawa nonsense were amazing; folks like the director of the gctc and stephen beckta and russell mills pointed out the great things about ottawa that cohen conveniently ignores. and the columnists too had their say. it was poetic justice, as they say. i have to hand it to mr. cohen; he's at least made people think about this city and discuss what works and what doesn't work. i'm looking forward to reading rob mclennan's book on ottawa, the unknown city, for a much fresher and not stereotypical perspective on local attractions and our history as a city.

on a side note, did you know david warren read's poetry? yup. in his column today (normally something i avoid unless i want a bad stomach ache), he actually mentioned margaret avison and david soloway are his fav canadian poets. (hey at least he's read some canadian poetry, it's a start).

today's paper reprints the cohen chat transcript, so you should buy it if you haven't already. i'm sure there's room for even more letters from you talking up our literary community.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Kate Greenstreet and Rhonda Douglas

last night at the Factory Reading Series may possibly be the best reading of the year, at least it was so far for me. I ate two of Pearl’s so thoughtfully and whimsically provided fortune cookies in which she stuffed alternative fortunes of her own creation: “Say Yes even to that bit of life?” A state of yes is the right condition to be in for a reading, isn’t it.

Kate Greenstreet is an American writer who I haven’t had the pleasure of reading or meeting before. She read with an intensity and intimacy that made me feel like she was speaking directly to me. She read from “case sensitive” (Ahsata Press, 2006-[and isn’t that a lovely name for a press!?) and from the freshly published "Rushes" (above/ground press, 2007).

The poems she read from “case sensitive” were so powerful and beautiful that I found myself wanting to slow things down just to be given the luxury of dwelling on one line. the book is a series of long poems, so Greenstreet explained that she would read bits and that they wouldn’t necessarily have titles. Listening to her read was like being plunged headlong into the middle of things, the part where it gets interesting.

Normally I just extract little lines that hit me and I did have lines that affected me strongly but I don’t feel I would at all doing justice to this book by extracting, so instead I will send you to read my very favourite poem from the ones she read, to appreciate natural and quiet rhythms, the thoughtful language like a prayer and the precision of the imagery; here’s a poem from the section entitled “Where’s The Body?”:

dusting for prints

Also see rob's review of "case sensitive."

You can listen to Greenstreet on her site. She’s got poems recorded there!

We were also treated to a reading of the chapbook in its entirety. The cover is a beautiful black and white offset photograph of rushes, those thick blades of leaves from bullrushes. The photo was taken by Toronto-based designer David Risk.

“Rushes” starts with the brilliant quote “I don’t follow the news. I have to follow something else.” and then with the reassurance “You look worried. Don’t be.”

What Rushes and case sensitive have in common are what I would refer to as small movement insights. They aren’t the big answers to questions and who would want that, but they are kind of short form reassurances and observations. Some of these observations are very profound and others are disturbing, while others are humourous. The ending still leaves us wanting more. “I’m enjoying this. I could stop now.”

I could have heard more and wanted to from this talented writer. There’s a photo of a baby on Greenstreet’s blog of a baby (who must be related to her) and Greenstreet captions the photo with “She sees into your heart.” I’d say the same thing for Greenstreet. You have to go to her amazing blog, which rob described as the best literary blog since the 1850s or something like that. She interviews writers about their first books and it’s a fascinating read.

Our second reader for the evening was Rhonda Douglas, director of the Tree Reading Series and recent winner of the Diana Brebner Prize. Douglas read from her very first chapbook, “Time, If It Exists, The Cassandra Poems, just published by above/ground press. rob writes about her poetry here.

If you’ve been to Tree, you’ve likely heard a number of these poems or variations of them when Rhonda has read at the open mic. It was satisfying to hear these poems in a sequence this time. The chapbook is part of a larger manuscript about Cassandra, one of the women in the Iliad, which Dougals read on a dare. The main thing that struck her about the Iliad was that the women’s stories were not told. She decided to tell Cassandra’s story or at least her imagined version of it. This reminded me very much of Lorna Crozier’s concept for Apocrypha of Light, a book of poems which tells the stories of women from the Bible, which didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on its female characters either.

What I liked best about the poems were the way Douglas brings Cassandra into modern times and into the speaker’s own life. The opening poem for instance, "Imagining Cassandra” which ends with: “When she knocks on your door at 3 a.m.,/asks in a clear small voice if you can talk,/I’m just saying you might want/to think about it before you open the door.”

There are some beautiful lines in these poems. Hecuba, which won the Brebner Prize, for example: “All this – water falls from fingertips, makes a sound like small bells –“

There’s a joyful yet wry irreverance to Douglas’ poems as I discovered when listening to her read, “Negotiating with Apollo” which is written from the point of view of Cassandra who Apollo tries to seduce, promising her the gift of prophesy. It is written in very colloquial language. It was satisfying to see a god addressed in this fashion.

I also enjoyed the quiet and subtle eroticism in the above poem and many of the others.
“as though I would give up/caresses of nipples for nouns;” ... “Touch me again and let me think about it./It’s hard to walk away from the promise of heat.”

I think my favourite poem of the ones Douglas read was “After Agamemnon: Advice for Married Men” with its very mesmerizing imagery: “You were a boy who captured/bees in a jar, their rounded bodies/beating against your palms through/glass...” There’s a passion in this poem which is very alluring: “...where has this gotten/you except into the heat of my lap?/It’s time to go home, where a woman/pulls you inside for the evening. Time/to set the old bees free.”

It was a lovely reading, one I will remember for a long time. Such amazing writers. This is what it is all about for me.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

follow up rant

i’m passionate about this city; i think it’s creative, fun, small enough to really get to know well, and friendly. yes, we have our share of problems and i’d love to see more money put toward helping the poor, i’d love to see more publicity and promotion of the arts, i’d love to see more venues for arts and entertainment...i have my wish list...

but the one thing that pisses me off more than anything in this city are all the malcontents and naysayers who spend all their time complaining.

what impresses me are the ones who do something, who drive new initiatives. those who actually work in art galleries and try to promote local artists, the publishers, the festival organizers, the local poverty groups, the activists who get people to sign petitions when they have issues, the entrepreneurs who start up new businesses and restaurants when they think something isn’t there.

if you think ottawa is dull, liven it up, don’t leave town to party elsewhere. i’d like to see all the negative energy spent whining turned into positive action. i love this city and i want to see it thrive, but not as some fancy roast beef and granite mausoleum as this cohen guy seems to favour. ottawa is as vibrant as we make it. what are you doing to spice things up?

andrew cohen on ottawa, live chat at the citizen untl 1pm today

go to and scroll down to live chat with andrew cohen. he's written a book about ottawa and the excerpt in the citizen is the same old complaints. and worse, those who are asking questions are just joining in on the let's trash ottawa bandwagon. apparently i've just read we have no visual arts scene at all. eek. i know this is just hogwash. it's just that the citizen and other media don't cover it enough and care mostly about the nat'l gallery. send an e-mail to with your thoughts.

here's what i wrote...don't know if i'll get on, but this is my two cents...

hello mr. cohen,

it's interesting to me that you make such a strong point about urban decay on bank and rideau streets. i can't argue with you that such streets could use improvement, but isn't that just typical of any city?

toronto, for instance, the city you tout so much in your column "the capital of condescension" feb 16, 2007, is full of urban decay and what's worse it is very inaccessible for anyone with mobility problems. the streetcars have no accessibility and subway stations with accessibility for those with mobility problems are few and far between.

the general tone of your book, assuming your excerpt is representative, seems to be that ottawa is mostly a dull capital with little culture and focuses heavily on the bureaucracy of the government.

have you ever gone out to any of the approximately 100 literary readings each month? the small press fair which takes place twice a year at the jack purcell community centre? do you participate in AIDSWALK, or any of the charity walks that we have so many of? have you attended the Glebe Garage Sale, or one of the Art in the Park events in the Glebe or in Sandy Hill?

Have you done anything that isn't just what tourists or people with lots of cash do? seems to me you are merely touting the party line about Ottawa, representing us just as most media from both outside and inside ottawa do. i'm not denying that our city needs improvements; all cities do, but why not examine the communities and the various exciting and neighborhood building activities that go on here? does your book do that or do you mostly stay on Sussex?

as to dining, it's very weird that you would talk only about fancy restaurants. we have so many amazing restaurants in this town from Ethiopian to Italian to Vietnamese, yet you talk only about the places where the monied people go. I can get a drink and a good meal for lunch for under ten dollars.

What about the vintage clothing stores, the record shops selling vinyl, the great music venues like Zaphod Beeblebrox, the bookstores like Mother Tongue and the used bookstores like the Bytown Bookshop, the repetertory theatres like the Mayfair and the Bytowne? it just seems to me that you are representing Ottawa in the same old way and you haven't really taken an up to date look. is that what citizens care about architecture? i don't personally, i care about warm bodies and friendliness, cheap and good places to eat and hang out, low crime, good housing prices. green space, good pedestrian access, care for the homeless etc. we could improve, but we aren't doing as bad as your excerpt made us out to sound. i just think you aren't having any fun and you're not hanging around in interesting places enough.

i don't want to live in a "grand capital" i want to live in a thriving and interesting city full of life. your way sounds more like living in a mausoleum or a tomb, at least from the excerpt...maybe you get into the nitty gritty bit in another part. i can only hope. otherwise the book is just the same old cliches we've been hearing here for years.

amanda earl

new blog

for my self publishing endeavour: Angel House Press

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

wanted recipients of fellatio

to describe what it feels like

for an article i’m writing which is actually about writing (i know the connection isn’t obvious, but i’m heading somewhere here ;)

you either have or used to have a penis, wear or at some point wore a strap on and have received fellatio

send no more than a paragraph to amanda underscore earl at storm dot ca

you can send me anywhere from a few words to 500 words

also, if you’ve read a really good description somewhere, send me the description and the source info or just the source info, including author and publication title

if i use something you’ve given me, i’ll credit you if you want to be credited and keep you anonymous if you’d prefer that

note i’m not looking for stuff on how to give fellatio, i’m looking for info on how it feels to receive it

i may respond with some follow up questions

the research will be used in an article to be published in either an on line or printed journal

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

David O'Meara at Tonight's Tree-8pm Royal Oak 2, 161 Laurier Ave. East

alas i will be missing...but i was pleased to see a whole article on O'Meara in Saturday's Citizen.

especially his answer to the question below:

"What do you think when you hear the word 'Ottawa'? "

"Oh I could get really smart- alecky here, but I want to take the high road: It’s always fun to whine about Ottawa’s downsides, but I’ll take issue with people who genuinely complain about how boring it is. That whole attitude’s stale and a hand- me- down from earlier, less- privileged decades. There’s enough good music, sport, green space, art, culture, food etc. in this city to make a go of it. Sitting around whining about how we’re not New York or Montreal might be an easy way to look hip, but it’s pretty limited. Mostly, Ottawa is the abundance of really interesting, engaged and creative people I know."

Yay...we need more people to stand up and say stuff like this. Do it today. Find an excuse to brag about Ottawa's wonderful cultural side. In Toronto this weekend, I was stuck reading the Globe and Mail ugh. In the travel section, some idiot reporter again talked about Ottawa being just a government town that rolls up its sidewalks at night. How do we get some positive publicity for our city and the vivacity of our cultural scene? This is one of the reasons why I blog about events I attend, to get the word out. If you have any other ideas or initiatives, I'd love to hear them.