amongst books

amongst books

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Arc, Summer Solstice, Obscurity and Kerouac

in today’s Ottawa Citizen visual arts columnist Paul Gessell talks about the launch of Arc’s Lost and Forgotten issue, featuring 13 lesser known Canadian poets such as queer poet Douglas LePan and Paul Potts, a pal of George Orwell and Ottawa's own Elizabeth Smart.

the launch takes place at the Manx Pub on Saturday at 5:00 pm. i’ll be sorry to miss it but i have something else i’m doing. this spring has been so busy with events. july and august will be quieter i think.

i’m looking forward to picking up Arc’s latest issue to pay my respects to these obscure writers. it’s kinda cool that Arc would give them a tribute. maybe writing can make you immortal. gee. neat thought.

happy summer solstice! i hope you spend it with a good book of poetry. i’m reading kerouac again as i’ve been doing every summer for the last few years. a few years ago, reading “On The Road” inspired me to write an erotic story about Jack and a fictitious hometown girl who wanted him. if you’d like to read it...go here.

i wonder if kids today are reading Kerouac and his gang? maybe he’s obscure to them like all those Arc poets in the latest issue. makes me wonder. we should all go to Lowell, his birthplace, to check out the original scroll manuscript of On the Road.

i leave you with one of my favourite of his poems about immortality to celebrate the longest day of the year:

Daydreams for Ginsberg

final thing: Charles has a very cool photo of me up on his site today. makes me blush a bit ;)

oops..also, to see Fatema Sayani mention Tuesday's Max Middle Sound Project performance in her Citizen column today for all us "sound scenesters."

um...i guess today's word is "cool"

Monday, June 18, 2007

goodies from the ottawa small press fair

many of these fine works i got free or traded for my AngelHousePress chapbooks

Altitude by Monty Reid, above/ground press broadsheet #261
a damn sexy poem by a damn sexy poet

Basement Tapes, by Andrew Faulkner, Nicholas Lea and Marcus McCann
self-translated, remixed and reupholstered poems by three up and coming young poets

Book of Days by Jennifer Hill-Kaucher (Foothills Publishing, 2005)
bought this because i enjoyed hearing the barefoot american maverick (or BAM! as she’s known in these here parts) read the night before.

cheeeeee...r by Dan Waber, the Runaway Spoon Press, 2007
a fun book of concrete poems all the way from Pennsylvania

common knowledge (some american poems, number one, by rob mclennnan (Pooka Press, Old Jacket Pocket Poet Series, 2004), apparently the second last copy of a limited edition of 50 copies. hurray!

europtrip by Joe Blades (Pooka Press, 1996)
not rec’d at fair but gifted by Joe at pub after. all those maps and pics make me itch to go on a trip. i’m thinking montreal soon, by train..wanna come?

For Riley by Richard Harrison, above/ground press broadsheet #263
memorial piece for recently deceased Ottawa poet, Riley Tench

Hub City, Fall/Winter 1998 (No 1) and Summer 1991 (No 2), published by the Kamloops Poetry Factory, cool mix of various well known and not as well known poets. of particular excitement for me are Susan Musgrave’s poems, especially Arctic Poppies in No 1, and John Newlove’s A Picture from an Exhibition in No 2, but man what a treasure trove of good stuff in here. thanks to Warren Dean Fulton for walking around and handing these out.

I Cut My Finger by Stuart Ross (Anvil Press, 2007)
the latest from the prolific surreal Torontonian. i love the way he sees things: “the door approaches the welcome mat” heee!

If I Were You by Ron Padgett (Proper Tales Press, 2007)
nice monkeys on bright red cover, collaborations with all sorts of folk. i’ve been flippin’ thru and enjoy’in these already. "the infinity of always". wow.

In/Words Scattered Poem series 1-6. & In/Words chapbook series 7.1 -the In/Words boys & girl have now decided to sell stuff rather than just give it all away, damn. creative postcard photos. nice to see the creativity blooming. i got a subscription too!

The Johann Liberation Army, a motionless picture by Adam Thomlinson, 40 Watt Spotlight Productions; i loved “We Were Writers for Disastrous Love Affairs Magazine” so i am pretty much committed to picking up anything this guy does. also i really do need to make that sexiest Canadian male prose writers list soon.

litany of breathing, I.B. Iskov, Pooka Press, 2002
i admit i bought this purely for the ragged dark blue cotton textured cover

Metro Spring by George Bowering, Pooka Postcard Series 5, November 2004
11/50 copies. a nod to William Carlos Williams

Puddle Leaflet Series subscription from Max Middle-all kinds of cool puddle leaves here from various folk

Rummaging for Rhinos by Joe Blades (Pooka Press, 1995)
another handed to me at the pub chapbook. this one seems scary...basement wolves and on the back a leg of canned poet.

Scrap Paper Poems by Warren Dean Fulton (Pooka Press, 2001)
if you just stay in one place long enough eventually a poet will walk up to you and hand you a chapbook. kinda cool to read these after meeting ottawa ex-pat Fulton and chatting over beers. makes sense now. poems written on scraps of paper, having witnessed Warren’s revision of a boring local entertainment magazine with his humorous captions.

She Walks by George Bowering, Pooka Postcard Series 5, November 2004
evocation of an old hymn; as elegant as its author

tears by K.L. McKay, Pooka Postcard Series, August 2005
i can hear Kristy’s voice when i read this.

Unquiet Desperation, june 2007, volume 1 – issue 14
slipped into my hands once more by Mr. Fulton. love the streamlined feel of this one, the narrow photos; i like the title.

the Bywords table did a brisk business, and more importantly Charles and i got the opportunity to talk to a lot of new and old friends. very fun. i was pleased to see some new vendors too: the Ottawa Arts Review, the Puritan, and those who have come (back) from elsewhere. for many the fair and its surrounding activities were a reunion. as a relative newcomer, i watched from the sidelines and it was cool to see how close people in the ottawa literary community have become.

this morning i feel kinda sad that the whole thing is over. i feel i didn’t have enough time to talk to everyone i wanted to, that i should have forked over more cash for a few more items, that i didn’t drink enough beer...that post-xmas feeling kids have after all the presents have been unwrapped and played with.

you should go over to John W. Macdonald’s blog for a really cool video montage of his photos from friday night’s reading. what a lovely tribute to the events. thanks, John! great cure for the post-fair blues.

Friday, June 15, 2007

nifty Dan Waber, nifty Jennifer Hill-Kaucher & nifty Stuart Ross

at the nifty Carleton Tavern for the nifty small press preview reading tonight read and performed to a nifty rec room of non dart players.

a nifty coin toss determined the reading order.

Toronto poet Stuart Ross began with his trademark nifty humour and impossible juxtapositions that make his writing original and compelling (and nifty). he read from his latest book, I cut my finger (Anvil Press) and from older collections, incluing Hey, Crumbling Balcony (ECW Press, 2003). he began with a nifty piece of prose that sparked nifty laughter in the crowd. the only thing i can remember is “draped in bird sheet.”

Stuart will sell his books and chapbooks at the fair tomorrow. come on down! the price is nifty.

Jennifer Hill-Kaucher came up from Pennsylvania with her partner Dan Waber. I really enjoyed her nifty reading. One particular poem about a poetry critic's bad interpretations of poetry was really nifty, but so were lots of her other ones, and wasn’t it nifty that she read barefoot? later when asked why, she explained that she feels more grounded that way. i know of other performers who do the same. Melissa Laveaux, the niftty Otttawa singer-songwriter, guitarist comes to mind.

the reading was hosted by the very nifty Max Middle who did a nifty job. he called for a break after the first two readers. we ate, we drank, we talked, we got to know the out-of-town visitors a bit.

isn’t it nifty that Warren Dean Fulton returned after a 14 year absence and will be at tomorrow’s fair to sell his Pouka Press publications. 72 hours on the bus from Vancouver, just to be with us. lots of nifty folk in the audience. i didn’t recognize everyone, but it was good to see and chat with all and nifty.

Dan ended the reading in nifty style, flourishing about the rain in puddles O. that’s going to stay on my mind all night. also a very nifty poem about what he wants in a poem...poems that almost fail, my fav bit. I have met Dan only online before because he published some of my visual poetry on his nifty website and also for the cross media issue of unlikelystories. was nifty to meet him and Jennifer in person. Jennifer and Dan will be offering the wares of Paper Kite Press at the fair.

charles and i left while the night was still nifty. the small press fair awaits...and i’m excited.
go look at charles site for a good pic of dan on saturday.

neat stuff on a friday

Get Guerrilla has, among other neat reads, a neat interview with Jim Bryson, who mentions that one of the songs from his latest CD (Where the Bungalows Roam) was influenced by the poetry of Ken Babstock. Told you it was neat!

last night I received the first three books in my Wave Books subscription:
Matthew Rohrer’s Rise Up
Christian Hawkey’s citizen of
Eileen Myles’ Sorry, Tree

wouldn't it be neat if the wave poetry bus tour came back? thanks to rob for the info on the subscription.

it'll be neat to hang out with old friends and new at this weekend’s small press fair doings..tonight’s reading at the Carleton and tomorrow’s actual fair, followed by beer and chat.

Ottawa is a neat place to live!

stay tuned for a nifty entry.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Susan Elmslie and Barry Dempster at Tree

last night. it was hot in the basement of the royal oak II. the air conditioning was kaput. the event was well attended, which added to the heat production.

and know what? the reading was so good, i didn’t care.

open mic was excellent. i can’t remember the names of all the readers on the set list, but some that stood out in particular...

Max Middle with his poem featuring a few lyrics from a David Bowie song (i was probably the only one to notice that... “look at those cave men go” from life on mars, hunky dory, 1971. my sis had the album. also a bit of ziggy stardust and the spiders from mars in there too.

Michelle Desbarats and her humorous poem about catholicism.

rob mclennan’s poem for some of the closer planets, the title of which illicited a laugh from the audience.

Peter Richardson, who i rarely get to hear read since he was a feature at Tree some years back. something silky at the end of his poem. lots of rich, sensuality and humour to boot.

there were three other readers and me i’m forgetting about at the moment. i can use the heat as an excuse, can't i?

after the break, first feature up was Susan Elmslie, who read from her debut poetry collection I, Nadja and Other Poems, (Brick Books,2006). the main focus of the book is about André Breton’s muse. the most memorable poem of her set for me was "Forecast: Nadja," a pantoum. i loved the rhythms of this poem and the repetition, the way Elmslie seems to become Nadja in these poems. for a really interesting essay by Elmslie on all the coincidences surrounding the creation of these poems, go here.

next up was Barry Dempster, who read from The Burning Alphabet (Brick Books, 2005) and Letters from a Long Illness with the World...the D.H. Lawrence Poems (Brick Books, 2nd Printing 2003).

i really enjoyed Dempster’s sense of humour and the sensuousness of his writing. the rich and sensuous imagery reminded me somewhat of Métis poet, Gregory Scofield, particularly the book Singing Home the Bones (Polestar, 2005).

Two of the poems that really stood out for me at the reading were “Suburban Poet” about what happens when a male poet spends his days at home and how the neighborhood and he reactions:
“Ah, but you should never have let a poet in / lonely all those weekday mornings / nothing to do but describe.” and “The Man Who Won’t Play Poetry” about Dempster’s relationship with his now-deceased father.

after this, there was a brief discussion concerning writing about real people. both Elmslie and Dempster’s books dealt with historical figures who actually existed. here are a few snippets from the discussion

“I let myself go and allowed myself to be obsessed by him” Barry Dempster

Elmslie realized after the book was published that Nadja’s story resonated with her because it made her think of her mother.

Dempster found emphathy in Lawrence’s lifelong battle with consomption when he had to deal with a long-term illness. Lawrence was a model of strength and possibility who pulled it off longer than he possibly could. Dempster says that in some ways working on these poems saved his life.

there was more but i can’t read my handwriting.

Rhonda and Dean continue to impress me with their fervour and inspired creativity when it comes to Tree. they could have simply done exactly what their predecessors did, which was excellent. but they don’t do that. they try different things, such as this panel discussion. they’re thinking of changing the venue. they’ve tightened the open mic format, they’ve added a few themed readings, such as July 10th’s Hot Ottawa Voices, they’ve held readings in the National Library. from strength to strength.

it was a great evening. take a look at ottawa’s literary paparazzi’s photos today:

charles earl and john w. macdonald

next up is the Max Middle Sound Project on june 26, featuring Max Middle, John Lavery, Jason Sonier and Anne Davidson. it will take place at the Tin House Courtyard in the Byward Market followed by an open set at Chez Lucien. Max suggests that we all take the rest of the week off in celebration and exuberance recovery.

get thee to the small press fair on saturday! get thee to the pre-fair reading on friday night. get thee to the Dusty Owl’s Midsummer Night’s reading, fundraiser and booksale on sunday. (go to events for more info)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Iridescence Q&A

My story, "Haiti's Daughter," about a Haitian Creole poet who meets up with a Haitian Canadian in Montreal was just published in Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica (Alyson Books, 2007). The editor, Jolie Du Pre, interviews me over at my erotica blog as part of a blog tour in which all the authors from the book are interviewed...take a wee peak:

erotic thoughts are a great way to start a Monday, n'est-ce pas?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Brown, Butcher, Firth, Proulx and Itani at WestFestLit

On Saturday morning under a blue sky, Andy Brown of Montreal, Ottawans Megan Butcher , Matthew Firth, Joanne Proulx and Frances Itani read to a decent-sized crowd.

The most memorable parts of the event for me were

Brown’s excerpt from the Mole Chronicles (Insomniac Press), which is not about the creatures that run around and poke their heads out of holes, but about those things on your skin. The excerpt he read from was about the trauma and humour leading up to having one removed. He’s an interesting writer and managed to hold the crowd’s attention.

Megan Butcher's well crafted poetry. One piece, Lullaby, about an anorexic girl in hospital, is one of my favourites of Butcher’s pieces so far. Butcher also read an excerpt from her intriguing and autobiographical blog. Some silly guy actually told Butcher that he “used to think she was hot” but not anymore. Hard to understand.

Matthew Firth's “Bruised Ribs,” a story from his excellent collection Suburban Pornography (Anvil Press). The story is about a middle-aged man playing tackle football with boys in their teens and feeling the pain and their age. It’s good to see stories that are about people who are not in their 20s for a change. Firth as I’ve said many times before, is a fine writer with particularly excellent abilities to create strong dialog and vivid descriptions without bullshit. Oh...I really do have to make that sexiest Canadian male fiction writers list.

My attention span on a hot sunny day wasn’t strong enough to be drawn in by Joanne Proulx’s Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet (Penguin Books), nor Frances Itani’s fiction. I’ve never read Itani’s prose and I keep hearing about how wonderful it is, but based on what I've heard about three times, it’s just not my style...tales of meeting the queen, beautiful and pristine language. I could tell that the audience enjoyed it though and a number of people walked off with the free chapbook of the first chapter of her latest book. With Proulx’s book, I blame myself for not paying attention. I was already sated after Brown, Butcher and Firth. Really I can handle only about three authors at a time. After that my brain goes away.

An afternoon on a patio with friends and beer meant an evening of siesta instead of returning for music, but I heard in the Citizen review that it was a good show.

Speaking of the Citizen, today’s Book Happenings didn’t bother to mention the upcoming Tree reading on Tuesday night, featuring Barry Dempster and Susan Elmslie. I was pleased to see an article on Shane Rhodes’ latest poetry collection by local writer Chris Robinson though. I just wish the Citizen would work harder on Book Happenings. Last week it wasn’t even there at all. Often it is full of errors. How hard can this be?

Westfest activities continue today with Ottawa’s talented spoken word performers: Festrell, Danielle K.L. Grégoire, Nathanael Jules Larochette, Carlos Perez, and lots more music, but I will be tidying up for tonight’s Poetic Desserts merriment hosted in my home. I am thrilled that we have a free music and literature festival in Ottawa in June. Takes the sting out of Tulipfest.

Lots of amazing stuff to do this June!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Griffin Prize

it should come as no surprise to anyone that Don McKay won the Griffin Poetry Prize last night. The international winner was American poet Charles Wright.

congratulations to the winners and bottles of consolotion hooch to those shortlisted.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

congratulations to ottawa's trillium award winners

to local writer Mark Frutkin who won the English fiction prize;
to University of Ottawa Professor Daniel Castillo Durante who split the French fiction prize with Paul Savoie of Toronto;
to Françoise Lepage who won the French children's fiction prize;
and to Ken Babstock (described by the Ottawa Citizen as "an Ottawa Valley man who now lives in Toronto) for the English poetry prize.

other Ottawans who were in the running forthe Trilliums include Anita Lahey and Daniel Poliquin, both of whom have been highly involved in Ottawa's literary, culture and education milieux.

to those detractors who say Ottawa is a cultural backwater whose residents have no energy, i say pfffft. here's yet another example of creative energy and initiative.

i would like to express my gratitude to these writers and others whose creativity contributes to ottawa's vibrant and thriving culture. merci et félicitations.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ronnie R. Brown

was the featured reader at the dusty owl yesterday. the crowd was small, no doubt still hung over from senators celebrations, but it was an attentive audience. brown read from photographic evidence, states of matter and her most recent book night echoes. plus some new material from two manuscripts in progress. it is always a pleasure to hear her read. her poems are little stories with compelling characters and situations. much of what she read was dark, but it was interspersed with humour. there’s an integrity and honest to brown’s poetry that shines through. later in the evening brown also won the dusty owl object of desire contest with her excellent impromptu poem about a bread/cutting board.

one of my favourite of brown’s poems of the evening was a variation on jack and the beanstalk where a woman is told she “doesn’t know jack” and goes on to describe all the men she does know, including jack. i really enjoy the eroticism of brown’s poetry also. if she doesn’t write erotic fiction, she should. she’d be great at it.

the open set was fun also and included yours truly, Marcus McCann, Sean Zio. i really enjoyed McCann’s sestina, which was full of word play, humour and interesting pauses. Zio performed an old favourite, Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, and also a love poem that was full of sound play and rhythm. Martin Levine read his usual e-mail to his sister; one woman read a “funny” anti fat poem. i have to say that there’s usually always one person in an open mic who will use the precious time on stage to be mean or make fun of people. fat is the last acceptable hate it seems. i love sitting in an audience and hearing my body and those like mine referred to as lard. why is it that these kind of poems always seem to rhyme?

the rain meant another pitcher of beer and another and then karaoke. what happens at karaoke stays at karaoke, but i have to say that Steve Zytveld’s amazing Tom Waits does Bon Jovi's Bed of Roses is damn funny. one woman did such a beautiful rendition of Wham’s Careless Whisper that members of the audience got up and danced. she has such a soulful, haunting voice, she could easily take her talent in that direction. kudos to Chris of Dog and Pony Sound. he puts on a good show and makes everyone feel so at ease.

it was a wonderful afternoon of poetry, music, and good friends.

next at the dusty owl will be their mid-summer night’s dream group reading on july 17. i think they might be starting earlier than usual. funds collected will go to a charity. check their schedule at or for more info.

don’t forget the small press fair is saturday, june 16th, preceded by a reading from out-of-towners: Jennifer Hill-Kaucher, Dan Waber, and Stuart Ross at the Carleton Tavern on friday night at 7:30.