amongst books

amongst books

Monday, December 31, 2007

A Call for Ottawa Laureates

In his column today, Phil Jenkins talks about the need to promote Ottawa arts and culture. He believes that Ottawa should have representatives to do so. I couldn’t agree more. Specifically he talks about a poet laureate, which is something the city used to have, but stopped ages ago, and adds that we should also have laureates for art, dance, music and other cultural activities.

It’s lovely to see an article from the Citizen advocating promotion of the arts. Jenkins makes the point that showing Canadians and the world our vibrant cultural scene may help to improve our tarnished reputation. This year especially when the city has been tainted by allegations of corruption and by broken promises from its leadership, while at the same time the less fortunate have been likened to pigeons in the street by our mayor, we have a lot of work to make outsiders and fellow residents understand that this is a great city, that its citizens are not lacking in imagination, vision and compassion despite the current regime. Promoting our excellent arts and cultural scenes is certainly a way of doing so.

Thank you for your vision, Mr. Jenkins! Let 2008 be the year we tell the world what a great city this is.

Send your nominations in for Ottawa arts laureates in the various categories to

Here’s what I sent to the Citizen today:

A Call for Ottawa Laureates, December 31, 2007

I nominate rob mclennan for poet laureate. Mr. McLennan is an excellent promoter of Ottawa arts and culture, not just in Ottawa but to Canadians and to the world at large. As publisher of Chaudiere Books and above / ground press, author of numerous books of poetry, manager and instigator of the website, upcoming author of a book of Ottawa’s best kept secrets: Ottawa, the Unknown City (Arsenal Pulp Press), creator of the Ottawa Small Press Fair and numerous reading series that bring writers to Ottawa and promote local writers in Ottawa, novelist, essayist, and reviewer, McLennan is well-known in Canada and in the literary communities throughout the world. McLennan would be a marvellous choice for poet laureate.

Thank you, Mr. Jenkins, for your vision. We need more advocates and promoters of the arts and culture in Ottawa.


Amanda Earl

Sunday, December 23, 2007

2007 Tops

2007 has been another stellar year for everything: events, poetry, prose, music, good friends and long conversations over endless pitchers of beer at the Carleton and other locales. In my list of milestones I count having my chapbook Eleanor published by above / ground press and getting to read it all over the place; recording my own songs thanks to Roland Prevost; making new lifelong friends, friendships that have become even richer this year. I look forward to the discoveries of 2008 and for now am just basking in end of year reminiscence such as....

READINGS –links can be found somewhere within the blog :)

MARCH: Hugh Thomas, Sandra Ridley and Max Middle, the Carleton Tavern
I thought the combination was inspired. Hugh’s poems were especially striking to me. I love the way he plays with language and his sense of humour too is understated and intelligent, which I prefer to slapstick.

APRIL: Anne Szumigalski – When Earth Leaps Up – readings by Mark Abley, Nadine McInnes at the Factory Reading Series
I really liked hearing about the poet and her life; she sounds like the kind of person I would have liked to have known. I found it touching to hear Mark and Nadine read her work.

Steven Ross Smith & Shane Rodes at the Plan 99 Reading Series
I particularly loved Steven’s performances of the spaces in between his words. I’d read a bit of his poetry before he came, but it was a luxury to hear his interpretation of his work.

Kate Greenstreet & Rhonda Douglas at the Factory Reading Series
Something beautiful and poignant in Kate’s work still lingers with me now. Rhonda’s Cassandra poems too are so memorable, even now.

JUNE: Susan Elmslie and Barry Dempster at the Tree Reading Series
I enjoyed the panel discussion on writing about historical figures. Susan’s poems about Nadja, the muse of Andre Breton and Barry’s poems about D.H. Lawrence and the health and personal issues that created a bond between author and subject.

OCTOBER: the Ottawa International Writers Festival Fall Edition was particularly inspiring this time around and fun and crazy. I can still hear Glenn and Patrick playing keyboard and cello to the vagabond prose of Leon Rooke, the whole audience mesmerized and happy.

NOVEMBER: ryan fitzpatrick, William Neil Scott and Natalie Zina Walschots at the debut of Max Middle’s AB Series
What a way to debut a series: innovative poetry and the best storytelling I’ve heard in a long time.


Monty Reid and the Snowy (Dusty) Owls
a rare treat to hear some of the older work and the new from one of our most prolific writers.

the Peter F. Yacht Club at the Carleton Tavern with readings by me, Nicholas Lea, rob mclennan, Roland Prevost, Sandra Ridley, Pearl Pirie and our waitress Kelli. the Carleton Tavern is a surprisingly warm and hospitable place where regulars receive the occasional free pitcher of beer, where the patrons bring in a bunch of xmas gifts for the annual dinner for the homeless, where there are knitters who come to drink beer and spin yarns, where there are Tennessee Williams plays and where rob holds readings sometimes. despite the fact that it was just before xmas, the turn out was wonderful. Steve and Cathy of Dusty Owl fame, brought a breadboard called “rob’s poetry board,” which they had us all sign. Monique and Kelli gave us cookies and there were a few gifts and hugs exchanged. i got a chance to catch up with people i hadn’t seen in ages. it was a great way to cap off 2007’s literary year.

POETRY published and read in 2007

Rob Winger - Muybridge’s Horse, Nightwood Editions
Nathalie Stephens – The Sorrow and the Fast of It, Nightboat Books
rob mclennan, the Ottawa City Book Project, Chaudiere Books
Logan Ryan Smith – The Singers, A Dusie House Press Book of the Future
George Bowering – US Sonnets, pooka press
Laynie Browne – the scented fox, Wave Books
Natalie Zina Walschots – Thumbscrews
Jed Rasal, Hot Wax, Or, Pysche’s Drip, Book Thug
Nicole Brossard, Notebook of Roses and Civilization, Coach House Books
Sorry Tree, Eileen Myles, Wave Books
Stephen Brockwell, the Real Made Up, Coach House Books
Stuart Ross, How I Cut My Finger, Anvil Press
bpNichol, The Alphabet Game, a bpNichol Reader, Coach House Books
John Newlove, A Long Continual Argument, Chaudiere Books
Steven Ross Smith, fluttertonge 4 – adagio for the pressured sound
Colin Morton, The Cabbage of Paradise, The Merzbook and Other Poems, Seraphim Editions
Cole Swensen, the Glass Age, Alice James Books
Nick Thran, Every Inadequate Name, Insomniac Press

PROSE read in 2007 but not necessarily published in 2007

William Neil Scott, Wonderfull, NeWest Press
Joel Thomas Hynes, Right Away Monday, Harper Collins
David Gilmour, the Film Club
Alice Hoffman, Skylight Confessions, Little, Brown and Company
Michael Winter, the Big Why, Anansi Press
Michael V. Smith, Cumberland, Cormorant Books,
Michelle Tea, Rose of No Man’s Land, Anchor Canada
Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually): thoughts on faith, Riverhead Books,
Writing Life: Celebrated Canadian and International Authors on Writing and Life, McLelland and Stewart,
Reynolds Price, the Collected Stories, Scribner

MUSIC released in 2007

Siouxie, Mantaray
Lily Frost, Cine-Magique
Mardeen, Read Less Minds
Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton, What Is Free To A Good Home
Jenn Grant, Orchestra for the Moon
Jim Bryson, Where the Bungalows Roam
Lindsay Ferguson, Sound
Andrea Simms-Karp, Sleeper
Rufus Wainwright, Release the Stars
Vic Chesnutt, North Star Deserter


Benny’s Bistro
the Cherry Porter beer at the Wellington Street Gastropub
the 9-stitch scarf
last fm
Aunty Olive’s
new friends / lovers
the epigram and the sonnet (thanks to Stephen Brockwell)

Thanks to you all for reading my blog this year. Peace, joy and love to you. See you in 2008!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Peter F. Yacht Club Reading & Party This Saturday

at the Carleton Tavern, 223 Armstrong Street (at Parkdale in the Parkdale Market), 7-10pm... for those of you still in town who have managed to dig yourself out of snow fortresses...would be lovely to see you, drink a beer with you, celebrate the inanities of the season, etc...

reading will include some but not all from the current issue:

Stephen Brockwell
Amanda Earl
Jesse Ferguson
Clare Latremouille
Nicholas Lea
Roland Prevost
Marcus McCann
rob mclennan
Max Middle
Monty Reid
& Sandra Ridley

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Tchir Brothers

Stephen and Trevor played Zaphod’s last night and were spectacular. During the sound check, Slo' Tom, Zaphod’s regular sound guru and a great musician himself, told the boys their guitars sounded very different, Stephen’s was very bright, while Trevor’s was low and dark, but it worked. And it did. Stephen and his guitar harmonized with brother Trevor and his guitar perfectly, the brothers bright and dark :)

The Tchirs played new and old songs from Trevor’s repertoire. I loved the song based on partner Kristy McKay’s poem, Pipère (Barefoot Through the Pickybushes, Friday Circle, 2005) and other new songs which I’m not sure of the titles: one about Avalon and another about mountains. I was very happy when they sang my request: Marie (Morning Song) from the second cd November. Other songs played included Girl of the Hour and Smoky Lake Moon from his latest cd Wooden Castles Fall and the big finish for the encore: Ivan Wassam, from his first cd The Way I Feel Today which got a few people dancing Russian style.

I’ve been a fan of Trevor’s since I first heard him open for Emm Gryner, once again at Zaphod’s, back in 2000 when I met him through Kristy, who was my fellow classmate in Seymour Mayne’s poetry workshop at the University of Ottawa. Over the years I got to know both Trevor and Kristy, particularly as hosts of Café Nostalgica’s open poetry and music stage, starting in 2001 to 2004. I participated in the poetry open mic for a couple of years and Charles and I heard great music and made good friends. I still see these folks around Ottawa, except Trevor & Kristy, who moved out to Edmonton a few years back (say hi to rob!).

Every time one of the former Nostalgica open stage regulars performs, it’s a reunion of old friends. I didn’t get to chat with everyone last night, but it was great to see John Gillies, Kevin Grant, Annie, who can still be found there, waiting tables on occasion, John Carroll, Pierre Chretien, and other musicians that I remember from the Nostalgica days, many of whom have embarked upon exciting careers as musicians, such as the guys from the Soul Jazz Orchestra. i’m not surprised...they were talented four years ago.

Many former Nostalgica regulars come back and perform at Zaphod’s. We’ve gone to hear Mélissa Laveaux (soon to leave Ottawa for France and a recording contract!), Lindsay Ferguson (who has a gorgeous new CD out), Rozalind Macphail (the amazing flutist who has since learned to play guitar, sing and write her own songs), Andrea Simms-Karp (who also has a new wonderful CD out) and many others. if you ever wonder where Bywords gets its talented musicians from, now you know :)

From the poetry open stage, I’ve kept in touch with a number of the regulars including Max Middle, Kristy McKay, John Gillies, Tiah Akse, Jessica Ruano and others. I even see bartender Lenny around on occasion. Loved those jumbo Trevor says in Thursday Heroes, the cover song from the compilation CD recorded with the poetry and music from those who participated in those great open stage Thursday nights. Ah memories. Thanks to Trevor for coming back again to Ottawa. He’s a talented musician and I can’t wait for his next CD and his return to Ottawa, hopefully next time with Kristy.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pumping Ironies at Rasputins on Friday Night

come out to Rasputins at 8pm to hear the poetic and musical stylings of Stephen Brockwell, Wendy Brandts, Mike Buckthought,Amanda Earl, Emily Falvey, Gwendolyn Guth,J.Y. Jancar, Robin Macdonald, Pearl Pirie,Roland Prevost, LM Rochefort, Janice Tokar,Jean Van Loon, and more!

epigrams, sonnets, guitars and levity, oh my!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Monty Reid and the Snowy (Dusty) Owls

Just before the snow hit on Sunday night, Monty Reid read poems about winter and snowy owls to Dusty Owls. The luxury of time gave us the opportunity to hear Monty’s poetry culled from more than 25 years of work.

One of the many things that impresses me about Monty’s poetry is that it is always spellbinding. He tells tales in moments, with images. His humour is wry and quick and his observations are keen, yet unexpected and not predictable.

Monty read from The Life of Ryley (Thistledown Press, 1981), The Dream of Snowy Owls (Longspoon Press, 1983), Disappointment Island (Chaudiere Books, 2006), Sex at 31 (an upcoming anthology by Chaudiere Books), The Luskville Reductions (Brick Books, 2008) and Host, a manuscript about the parasites and their hosts, including the human body as host and finally the beautifully rendered Lost in the Snowy Owl Woods (i may have this title wrong) (Bookthug, 2007).

Many of Monty’s poems are in series or sequences, so it wouldn’t be right to excerpt them here. Those of us in attendance were fortunate, indeed.

The open mic was exciting too, featuring a bunch of folks from my workshops with rob mclennan and Stephen Brockwell (Mike Buckthought, with his fabulous drumming circle Earth*tones, Pearl Pirie, Marcus McCann, Roland Prevost) and others including Josh Massey, Christopher Doyle (Dog of Dog and Pony Sound, who does all the sound and a/v and later in the night, the Karaoke, and Emile on guitar.

There is no warmer reading series than the Dusty Owl for a cold winter’s night. Their next event is the annual Chocolate House on December 16 at 5pm with the music of Dave Lauzon and an open mic and perhaps the object of desire might be something two-thesome. The event is in support of the Ottawa Food Bank. Non-perishable items will likely be met with hugs.

For more on Sunday evening's reading, see Pearl's blog entry.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Name Some Winter Films

I just saw the Golden Compass, the screen adaptation of the first book in Philip Pullman’s wonderful trilogy, His Dark Materials. In the film, the scenes of winter were gorgeous. It got me thinking about what movies are set in’s the beginning to my list...if you can think of others, please comment. Let’s skip the xmas movies for now, that’s too obvious. These are the ones I’ve seen, and still remember good winter scenes from:

1. Dr. Zhivago
what movies stand out in your mind because of their winter scenes?
ps-the photo is of course, one by Charles, from December, 2004.