amongst books

amongst books

Monday, June 30, 2008

because sometimes you have to write a bad, bad parody song

Me and D'Arcy McGee

Busted flat in Lincoln Fields near the OC Transpo station,
Feelin’ nearly jaded as my jeans.
D’Arcy thumbed a hybrid down just before it rained,
Took us all the way out to Orleans.
I pulled my Ottawa Citizen out of my fancy E-bay Prada
And was turning pages while D’Arcy spoke his peace
With them windshield wipers squeaking grime and
D’Arcy’s honest words from lies, debunking every myth
That driver knew.

Freedom’s just another word for another head to lose,
And nothin ain’t worth nothin but it’s free,
And I felt kinda uneasy, lord, when D’Arcy spoke his peace,
And buddy, that was good enough for me,
Good enough for me and my D’Arcy McGee.

From the tech mines of Kanata to the Golden Triangle sun,
D’Arcy spoke of his last walk on Sparks
Keeping to what he believed through all Whelan had done
And every night his tale chilled me to the bone.
Then somewhere near Slater, lord, I let him slip away,
He was lookin’ for revenge I hope he’ll find,
Well I’d trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday,
Holdin’ D’Arcy’s headless body close to mine.

Freedom’s just another word for another head to lose,
And nothin’ left was all he left to me,
Feelin’ uneasy was easy, lord, after D’Arcy spoke his peace,
And buddy, that was good enough for me.
Good enough for me and D’Arcy McGee.

[the real deal]

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Insider Report: Throwdown in O-Town

You have to hand it to the Puritan boys, Spencer Gordon and Tyler Willis, they put together an excellent event that drew a good sized crowd, and this crowd was made up of people who do not usually attend literary readings, at least the ones I saw and chatted with. Someone said that it was the most promoted reading they’d ever seen and I have to agree. All the Youtube videos, the posters, the WWF style hoopla attracted a different crowd. In the end though, this was a reading and a damn fine one.

Perhaps in the past, there have been readings held at Babylon’s Night Club on Bank Street, but last night’s was the first one I’d attended and I liked the space. It was cavernous with lots of room to roam around, the bar was well stocked and the stage, sound and lighting all worked. The organizers did an excellent job of setting up the reading, with three brief sets of three readers punctuated by breaks so we could all drink and schmooze in between, followed by the main event of Nathaniel G. Moore and rob mclennan facing off in some kind of WWF style battle, that I have to admit, didn’t really matter to me at all, yet it lured in those with an appetite for the unusual. If you ask me who won this thing, I couldn’t tell you; although Charles has photos of Nathaniel on the floor and rob lifting his hands up in some sort of victory, I suppose. I was busy chatting up the bartender at that point. What interested me were the readings because I enjoy attending here’s what I remember between the whisky and beer fog.

I was in the first set, sandwiched between Jeffrey Ross and Steve Zytveld. This means that I didn’t pay any attention at all to Jeffrey’s reading alas, but perhaps he read from his story Interlopers (The Puritan, Spring 2007).

I was next in my full slut regalia: mini jean skirt, red garters, fishnet stockings, tied low cut blouse. I did this not just because I’m a raging exhibitionist and attention seeker, which I am, but mainly because I planned to read “Caught In the Rain” (Black Bile Press, Front&Centre #17, 2007) about a woman who gets off watching another woman standing in the rain. I didn’t read from the story that appeared in the first issue of Puritan, Zombie Walk (Winter, 2007) because I didn’t think it would capture the crowd’s attention enough. And this one did. The silence was quite lovely.

Steve Zytveld read next from the Winter, 2007 issue, his Graves and Trains story, which is an excerpt from a novel in progress called The Passing of Arthur King. Steve’s skills as host of the Dusty Owl were telling because he was very comfortable in front of the audience and gave an excellent and dare I say, evangelical performance.


Matthew Firth was up next. He read his wonderful story, “The Rookie and the Whore” (Winter, 2008) about a guy who watches his friends get their rocks off with a hooker. I love Matt’s gritty style. He was totally comfortable on stage and everyone paid attention.

Darryl Berger read next, giving a very entertaining reading of “In The Kingdom of Chicken” (Fall, 2007). Darryl is an accomplished writer with a manuscript of short stories, called Punishing Ugly Children, which won the 2007 David Adams Richards Prize.

Christina Decarie introduced herself to me. She’s the publisher of a great online flash fiction site called A number of local writers, including me, have been published there. You should check it out. I’m not sure what she read from. It may have been her story “Dark Coming On Quick” (Summer, 2007). At this point I believe my attention was taken up with the bartender again for awhile. What can I say? He was cute and enjoyed my story.

Following the second break, Kate Heartfield, who like Steve Zytveld, is a member of a fiction writing group I’m in, read her delightful and surreal story “152” from Departures, our chapbook published with above/ground press. The story is about a man waiting at an OC Transpo station for a bus to take him to Ikea. And he waits, and he waits and he waits. It’s an excellent story and Kate read very well, managing to sustain the audience’s attention.

Finally rob mclennan and Nathaniel G. Moore read. rob from “Don Quixote” the story in “Departures” and Nathaniel from fiction from Savage and a bit of poetry from his book, “Let’s Pretend We Never Met.” [thanks for the correction, Nathaniel :) Isn’t it good that at a reading completely dedicated to prose, a little poetry was snuck in?

After the final break, the offical throwdown began with a trivia contest. the best bit was that Nathaniel seemed to know all about rob. Ah how blogging pays off ;)

After that I’m a bit hazy...there was some strutting, some kind of fighting. Here’s Charles’ photo of Nathaniel in action. (be sure to check out Charles' site daily for more from the Throwdown this week. Also John MacDonald has posted more pics and a brilliant a slide show play by play here.) Back I went to chat up the bartender. It was a great reading with fine prose writers and an attentive audience. I’m honoured that I was invited to participate.

Sadly, just when they’ve fired us all up, the Puritan boys are leaving town for the Big Smoke for more education. No doubt they will have as great an impact on their new city as they’ve had here in Ottawa. I hope the Puritan manages to continue and I wish both Tyler and Spencer all the best in their journeys. Spencer, by the way, is an excellent fiction writer himself. Take a look at his story in Departures, “Silence So Large and Complete” in which he goes inside the mind of Pierre Lebrun, the man who shot and killed a number of OC Transpo employees in 1999. We may have a launch for Departures before Spencer departs. It’s not going to be a throwdown alas.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Throwdown in O-Town, tonight, 7pm, Babylons

To the Respected Community,

This is our final message regarding Friday's Main Event. Never before have you seen two poets pitted in a no-holds barred, career ending debate - and chances are, you never will again!

Come out to Babylon Nightclub, 317 Bank Street, on Friday June 27th, from 7 - 10:30 PM, and you'll be witness to history in the making, as rob mclennan and Nathaniel G. Moore decide the future of publishing.

Come to hear writers Jeffrey Ross, Steve Zytveld, Amanda Earl, Matthew Firth, Kate Heartfield, Darryl Berger, Christina Decarie, rob mclennan, and Nathaniel G. Moore give live readings before the THROWDOWN takes place.

Come to pick up the Spring 2008 issue of The Puritan: Ottawa's Literary Prose Journal, and meet the editors and staff!

This is your one chance to see something unbelievable and completely unexpected in the world of live readings.

ON FRIDAY, JUNE 27th, someone's gonna retire as the Babylon explodes!

Catch up on the history of the THROWDOWN by watching these promotional videos, brought to you by THE PURITAN.

Nathaniel G. Moore calls out rob mclennan - the video that started it all!

rob mclennan and Nathaniel G. Moore sign the official contract for the THROWDOWN - it's now legit!

Toronto CanLit weighs in on rob mclennan's chances of victory - with a special announcement from Nathaniel G. Moore!

Check out the event on facebook:

Yours,Spencer Gordon
Tyler Willis
The Puritan

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

David O’Meara’s Disaster

is in the last few days of performance at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama. you’d best attend if you’re in town. i was there tonight and saw a few friends from the literary community in the audience too. it was a great turn out with the theatre at almost full capacity, a good thing on a Wednesday night with so many other activities going on.

what most impressed me about the play, without revealing plot details, were the compelling characters and their dialogue. David O’Meara is a playwright. i hope he wrights more plays :) do i have to start a sexiest Canadian playwrights list now?

i found myself quite transfixed and involved in the story, and i had compassion and interest in the lives of these people.

makes me ask why i haven’t attended the theatre in so long. i loved everything about it from the care taken with the set design, to the lighting, to the movements of the actors, to the way every action was choreographed and thought out. it made me want to write a play, actually.

i’m missing the fringe fest alas, but i’m reminded that we have some great theatre in Ottawa. consult Jessica Ruano’s Ottawa Arts Newsletter for more deets.

and on another note, hope to see you at the Puritan’s Throwdown in O-town this Friday. i’ll be warming up the stage for rob mclennan and Nathaniel G. Moore at Babylons, along with Jeffrey Ross, Steve Zytveld, Matthew Firth, Kate Heartfield, Darryl Berger, and Christina Decarie. The hoe-down, i mean throwdown, starts at 7pm...but more on this Friday.

Stephen Brockwell, Knight of the Last Oak Tree

Stephen read at the last Tree at the Royal Oak II last night and gave a mesmerizing performance...but first a word about the open mic & the room.

it was heartening to see the open mic set so full: 16 people read and the room was packed. Tree has a great newsletter where they post poems from the open set, so you’ll have to go over there to get more info than what’s currently in my brain & also go over to Pearl's blog, but what i do remember is that we had a rapid fire, mostly one poem only per person, open set that included Marcus McCann, Pearl Pirie, Roland Prevost, Murray Citron, Janice Tokar, Don Officer, Carla Hartsfield, Jennifer Mulligan, Crimson, Adam, Claudia Radmore, Terry Ann Carter, Rod Pederson. And there were still many people in the audience who were just there to listen. Jennifer Mulligan mentioned when she read that she was there particularly because Tree was moving from the spot where she’d run it for six years,along with James Moran.

i have mixed feelings about the move. i am happy to get out of that hot, stinky basement, but i enjoyed the pub environment and location very much. Tree is moving to Arts Court at 2 Daly Avenue, 2nd Floor Library, starting with the next reading on July 8 when Roland, Pearl and I will read for the annual “Hot Ottawa Voices” feature. i don’t think we’ll be as hot out of that basement.

if you want to know more about the history of Tree, you should get a copy of Twenty-five Years of Tree (Buschek Books, 2005), edited by James Moran and Jennifer Mulligan.

and now back to our mesmerizing feature, Stephen Brockwell, a fitting selection for the final feature at the Oak because in 20 years he’s read at many a Tree from when it was at the Friends Meeting House on Fourth Avenue in the Glebe, back in the early 80s right up to now at the Oak and, i’m assuming, over at the new location too :).

last night he read from his four published poetry collections, explaining that Tree is where they were all test driven, particularly during open mics.

his first poem was a memorized piece from the 80s that shouted out in rather accurate sounding southern voice.... “Golly!...” that got the crowd’s attention.

Stephen then read from his first book, The Wire In Fences (Balmuir Poetry Series, 1988). Stephen is an excellent reader and these poems were great choices because of their emphasis on sound. the words were the right words in the right order. nature poems but ones where you can hear the branches snap. no smarmy reverence in there. wonder and sweat. and mucho sensuality. Stephen is on my sexiest Canadian male poets list for a reason :)

next on our tour of Stephen’s literary career, came a reading from Cometology (ECW Press, 2001). Stephen read from the section “Constructive Geometry.” it is clear from these poems that Stephen has a background in math and science. but we won’t hold his logic against him because he uses it deftly to create art, like so...


x(u, v) = (a, b, c)
A parameter-free representation of a point

Dim origin.
No matter how close
I place the eye,
represented by
the smallest dot.
No pins sharp enough
to place you.
Take a pen, draw a point.
Take a pin, push it out.
Look through it.
When I draw the line
you can’t be counted on:
everything to everyone –
yes, you take a position
but you carry no weight.

Stephen Brockwell, Cometology

Next we had Fruitfly Geographic (ECW Press, 2004) and the mathematically based long poem “Three Deaths of Hippasus of Metapontum” concerning the discoverer of irrational numbers and . if that sounds dry to you, you’d be surprised. the poem, is full of intrigue about the jealousies and politics of mathematicians, such as Pythagoras. and there’s blood and the sea. i hear echoes of Baudelaire and Rimbaud in Stephen’s work, particularly from this period. i want to run off to Paris and drink now, but alas my passport isn’t up to date.

the next reading came from the most recent book published The Real Made Up (ECW Press, 2007). Stephen read in the voice of his invented character (or dreamt up character) Karikura. i adore this personna. he is wise, impatient with those who insist on pointing out the self-evident, but has a sense of romance about day-to-day life at the same time.

it was a lovely, lovely evening and the afterbit was fun too. i will miss the Oak in many ways, despite my carping about holding readings there. there’s something magical about that place...must be the leak from the bar. see you at Arts Court on July 8.

and just because the end of the evening felt like this poem by Baudelaire...

Harmonie du soir

Voici venir les temps où vibrant sur sa tige
Chaque fleur s'évapore ainsi qu'un encensoir;
Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!

Chaque fleur s'évapore ainsi qu'un encensoir;
Le violon frémit comme un coeur qu'on afflige;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir.

Le violon frémit comme un coeur qu'on afflige,
Un coeur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir;
Le soleil s'est noyé dans son sang qui se fige.

Un coeur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir,
Du passé lumineux recueille tout vestige!
Le soleil s'est noyé dans son sang qui se fige...
Ton souvenir en moi luit comme un ostensoir!

— Charles Baudelaire, les Fleurs du Mal, Spleen et Idéal, 1857

Monday, June 23, 2008

Shenanigans, Shenanigans

this weekend, i caught only two out of three planned literary activities, missed the Fringe Festival, missed the Dragon Boat Racing and a whole pile of other stuff, but here’s a bit about what i did manage to take in...

the pre-fair reading at the Carleton Tavern upstairs featured Mike Spry, Stuart Ross, Jon Paul Fiorentino and David McGimpsey.

the room was packed and very warm. Mike Spry opened the reading with some fun poems from an upcoming collection called Jack (Snare Books, 2008). i really enjoyed his humour, the witty word play and comically preposterous scenarios. i especially liked ""Calculated Distractions in the Absence of Someone Named Jane," which was available as a broadside by Snare Books. In his reading Mike mentioned Jesus so much, I drank another swig of weak Keith’s beer every time I heard the word.

no one else mentioned Jesus that night alas, so i didn’t get even a mild buzz on.

Stuart Ross read from his latest book Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books, 2008). and also some other new poems, i believe. i particularly enjoyed “Questionnaire” from the section “Hospitality Suite.” Stuart was the lone Torontonian in the midst of all the Montreal readers and Ottawa audience. his poems are definitely funny but there’s always something so awkwardly human about them, so conversational and so imaginative at the same time. I can’t deny that Stuart is one of my favourite writers. I was really glad he came for the reading and the fair.

after a longish break, someone (perhaps Jon Paul, perhaps jwcurry) suggested we move out to the roof to hold the second half. it was still a warm night, but at least we had some circulation out there.

Jon Paul read from a story published in This Magazine called "It's Easy To Be A Moralist When You're Ugly." it was a funny and sad story about disfunctional relationships that reminded me very much of a less beautiful, more real people version of Young People Fucking, a movie i saw on Sunday. especially the threesome talk.

[i have to complain a bit here about the way sex is portrayed in Canada’s literary publications. why oh why is the only time you ever hear about sex in fiction in Canada disfunctional? why can’t we have arousing sex stories in literature? we can have portrayals of anger, grief, pain, laughter and anger, joy through any means but sexual ecstasy. we can have death, but no little deaths.]

all that venting aside, i enjoyed Jon Paul’s story and his presence very much. i’m a big fan of Jon Paul’s, especially The Theory of the Loser Class (Coach House Books, 2006) and transcona fragments (Cyclops Press, 2002). if you were at the reading, you would have had the opportunity to pick up a sample from Stripmalling (ECW Press, 2009) with its Archie Comic book like illustrations by Coach House publicist Evan Munday.

Dave McGimpsey was the final reader. he read from his wonderful poetry collection Sitcom (Coach House Books, 2007). the highlight of his reading for me was “Architeuthis” his poem featuring Dr. Miracle’s academic focus on the giant squid. i love David’s mix of intelligence, pop culture and form. he’s brilliant and uproariously humourous.

what i enjoyed about all the readers on friday was their ability to write with humour. of late i feel like there are a lot of male writers, particularly poets, working with humour, particularly satire and parody, but i don’t feel like i know of many Canadian female writers doing the same. i queried fellow audience members who are much more well read than I am and they came up with a couple of women: British writer Wendy Cope and Lynn Crosbie. i still don’t think a lot of women are playing around much with humour in their poetry today. if you can think of any examples, please pass them on to me. i’m starting to believe that the only way to respond to all the war and right wing nonsense is to laugh like hell.

laughing was pretty much what i did at the ottawa small press book fair the next day. i got to chat to numerous wonderful folk. i didn’t have much time to peruse the tables because business at the bywords table was brisk. Charles says we did better this time around than we’ve done in our previous seven years at the fair (six years representing bywords and one representing Friday Circle). i did manage to pick up an issue of the grocery list inspired Aisle 7, some very cool tidbits by Matt Payne, hand made paper from Grant Wilkins of the Grunge Papers, Peter O’Toole #4 and #1, a magazine of one-line poems put out by Stuart Ross’s Proper Tales Press, postcards / works of art by jwcurry through his curvd h&7 imprint, the latest Guerrilla magazine put out by Tony Martins with really interesting profiles of local Ottawa tattoo artists by Tony, Sylvie Hill and Nicole Shanowsky; i also got “How To Edit: Chapter A” by derek beaulieu, # 8 in the above/ground press Alberta Series. we sold a lot of the current issue of the Bywords Quarterly Journal, numerous copies of Marcus McCann’s petty illness leaflet, an assortment of stuff by various small presses, including pooka press and all the copies of Whack of Clouds that i brought with me. i only have a few left myself and plan on offering them up at Tree this Tuesday if i still have copies left.

the afterbit was once again held at the James Street (former feeding company, now) bar and it was great fun to chat with everyone there. but what happens at the James Street Pub stays at the James Street Pub, so i won’t say anything about the lime flinging, the amazing lettraset art i saw, cell phone hijinx and young publishers whose eyes look like astroboy’s after a pint...

the next fair is in october...hope to see you there. for other canadian small press fairs, go here.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ottawa Small Press Fair-Today!

from noon to five pm at the Jack Purcell Community Centre, 320 Jack Purcell Lane, off Elgin

stop by the Bywords table to say hi and stock up on hard to find and limited edition chapbooks, journals, , zines and other neat small press delicacies published by Bywords and local small presses and writers, including

the Spring issue of the Bywords Quarterly Journal featuring the poetry of K. Bush, Sami Alwani, Jesse Patrick Ferguson, Peter Gibbon, Joe Hickey and Janice Tokar

the first 5 years of the Bywords Quarterly Journal on sale for a ridiculously low price exclusive to fair attendees only

The John Newlove Poetry Award Chapbook Series with chapbooks by Norma Elliott, Melissa Upfold and Roland Prevost

This is not a family venue with poems by Lynne Alsford, Marianne Bluger, Heather Cardin, F.G. Foley, Thomas Hawkes, Kathryn Hunt, Glenn Kletke, rob mclennan, Colin Morton, Barbara Myers, Peter Norman and Michelle Tracy.

New chapbook releases by AngelHousePress, pooka press and The Onion

the hard hitting fiction magazine Front & Centre by Black Bile Press

Other popular favourites: Basement Tapes: Nicholas Lea, Marcus McCann, Andrew Faulkner; Table Leaves: H.A. McLeod, Ronald Seatter, Dean Steadman, Sean Dowd, and Roland Prevost; Fifteen titles: A Playlist15 Poems by Somerled;

free stuff: buttons, calendars, perhaps some baked goods, smiles and tangents

see you at the fair!

Friday, June 20, 2008

a musical interlude brought to you by

a lady in waiting...

here are ten songs that have played on random shuffle on itunes while i've been waiting to head out to tonight's reading at the Carleton Tavern:

the Lucky One – Au Revoir Simone

don’t know this one; it’s from one of those sampler CDs: Now Hear This #53, July 2007.

the band is from New York. the lead singer has a voice reminiscent of Emm Gryner but softer. kind of reminds me a bit of some of the female vocalists in the 60s. when i was a wee girl, just arrived from England, songs like Petula Clark’s Don’t Sleep in the Subway, These Boots Are Made For Walking and Downtown were popular. Along with the Carpenters. Apparently the band name comes from a line from Pee Wee Herman. who knew how influential that show would end up being. i still get a private laugh over my own personal secret word showing up in conversation .no, i won’t tell you what it is.

Allyson’s Song – Trevor Tchir

from the wondering CD The Way I Feel Today; Trevor lived in Ottawa and he and his girlfriend Kristy McKay used to run Cafe Nostalgica’s Open Poetry and Music Stage on Thursday nights. i was a regular poetry performer for a couple of years, along with Max Middle, Kristy, oh a bunch of others, and the music of what would become Soul Jazz Orchestra; and others such as John Gillies, and John Carroll, Rozline McPhail, Melissa Laveaux. it was an extraordinary time. We recorded a CD called Thursday Heroes.

Lewis Boogie Blues – Waylon Pine, Walk the Line Soundtrack

not my fav style music, but i did love the film. i’m a sucker for soundtracks. Joaquiin Phoenix was so sexy in this movie. i really liked his bro, River Phoenix. really loved the film “My Own Private Idaho.”

Lodestar – Sarah Harmer

loved the first CD, haven’t really enjoyed her music much since. i danced with Charles at the Tulip Festival during the rain when Sarah was playing there many moons ago. i like her song Oleander too, which is actually fairly straight forward to play on the guitar. i have heard rob mclennan play and sing it. he has a very good voice.

Lenine Rock – Sinequanon

is from a sampler. you can get ten free songs every month; they also have a great podcast where they play the music they’re releasing onto the site. this is some kind of robotic voice sounding thing, accompanied by a hard rock electric guitar beat. the band name is Latin, “without which there is nothing.” this is actually a Gatineau guy named Jean-Francois Blanchette who plays around a lot with synthesizers. reminds me of Kraftwerk, a band that was popular in the 70s. i think digital music was only just a whisper back then. i had a cheap synthesizer too. i ended up being a guitar girl rather than a piano one.

Talk in Tongues – Natalie Imbruglia

she has a nice voice with a bit of an edge to it, but i can’t say she’s on any of my favourites list. a tad too poppy i guess. i am more of a Pink, Joan Jett, Sophie B. Hawkins, Siouxie, Carole Pope kind of person. she’s Australian. which makes me ask why all Australian men i’ve met are sexy. what’s with that? i have a thing for accents: Australian, Irish, Newfoundland, Jamaican, Nigerian, Arabic. i love rolling r’s. they come in handy.

Happy Blues – Jon Rae (Fletcher) and the River

i adore this guy’s voice. first heard him at one of those CBC Fuse concerts a few years ago and his back up singer was incredible. the two have the most beautiful harmonies. the drummer was gorgeous as well. i am so addicted to beautiful men. if they’re charming it is even worse. if they are musicians, i am easy. over easy like a good egg on a saturday morning after a hangover.

speaking of breakfast, Saturday mornings will find Charles & me at Eggspectations or Gabriel’s on Bank Street, reading the paper and eating ...guess what...breakfast.

Painters – Jewel

oh gosh, why is this still here? a friend gave this to us and i am no Jewel fan. i forgot we had it. it’s her lyrics. they are just awful usually. and worse, she wrote a book of poems. just pile up all the cliches, homilies and illogical arguments and you too can write a Jewel song. ick oh ick. “put watercoloured roses in her hair and said, love, i love you.” geez saccarine halmark crapola. so popular too. what is this penchant of society to love the puppy dog, the kitty cat and the airwick candle? i can’t stand sap unless it’s running down a tree. but i do enjoy a good maple syrup, particularly in my whisky in the winter time.

i’m actually a big whisky fan; although i can’t drink a lot. whisky / single malt scotch. but i don’t mess with scotch; i don’t add stuff to it, even water. some say adding water to it brings out the flavour, but i have only ever found it to weaken it. lagavulin is my favourite scotch; it’s fiery and peaty. and expensive. a bottle lasts Charles and me for at least six months.

lately i’ve been drinking Jameson’s Irish Whisky in the bathtub while listening to Bob Dylan.

Chalk This One Up To The Moon – Lynn Miles

an Ottawa singer who won a well deserved Juno recently. her voice is magnificent and lyrics too. she deserves fame but it hasn’t happened and that’s a shame. there are so many talented Ottawa-area singer/songwriters like Lynn: Andrea Simms-Karp, Kristin Bell-Murray, John Carroll, Mike Yates, John Gillies, Glenn Nuotio, Lee Hayes, Melissa Laveaux, Marie Josee Houle to name only a few. concidentally, all of the ones i mentioned except Lynn have all played for Bywords.

one of the things that i love about Bywords readings is that we always have music (except for that one spring reading a few years back). it’s a great combo and i feel the music helps to give the readings a celebratory air and makes us all feel like drinking after.

Leave a Little Light – The Wyrd Sisters

i first heard this Manitoba group at an Acoustic Waves concert at the old GCTC. used to go to those quite a bit in my old life. this band has good harmonies and lots of spirit. they are a bit like the Indigo Girls. they come up once in a while for the Ottawa Folk Festival, which is a great, great festival that takes place August 14-17 near/in? Britannia Park. some of the must see bands this year in my opinion are Dala, two women from Toronto who have beautiful harmonies and great songs, many quite hilarious; Sarah Harmer, the Sadies, and Rufus Wainwright, oh the beautiful Rufus. i love his music; his voice is amazing; i’m very fond of his mother’s music too in the McGarrigles and his sister Martha.

that’s the little tour of music for today...i’ll do this again some time when i’m waiting for something to start. as i was today, waiting for the ottawa small press pre-reading to start. soon i’m off to catch a red and white multiwheeled vehicle otherwise known as an ogre transpo bus.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Two Publications To Be Released At the Ottawa Small Press Fair

"Whack of Clouds" (AngelHousePress, 2008 ISBN 978-0-9783780-3-5) includes poetry by Amanda Earl, Nicholas Lea, Marcus McCann, Pearl Pirie and Roland Prevost. Limited & Numbered Edition - 54 copies, $5.00. Each copy comes with a playing card featuring one of a kind from the suits demons, hurts, clouds or spaces and the suites ice through ing.

Come out to the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair on June 21, 2008 at the Jack Purcell Community Centre between noon and 5 pm. The chapbook will be available at the Bywords table.

Here's a peak at the cover:

"Departures" (above/ground press, 2008) featuring the prose of Amanda Earl, Emily Falvey, Spencer Gordon, Kate Heartfield, rob mclennan, Wes Smiderle and Steve Zytveld. Available at the above/ground press table.

Are you getting excited about the fair yet? I am!

Monday, June 16, 2008

What are you reading lately?

the Ottawa Citizen wants to know. go to their website: and scroll down to the Sound Off section. you’ll see a spot to add your comments to the “what are you reading” section.

if you’re reading small press stuff, this would be a great time to make people aware of it.

the ottawa small press book fair is only days away. have your say. let Ottawa folk know that not everyone is reading Eat, Pray, Love for heaven’s sakes. there are a bunch of great small press books, zines, journals and chapbooks to buy & to read...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

happy national blood donour week

if you can give blood, please do so.

i would like to be able to give blood but i am not able to.

i have had sex with men who have sex with men. this puts me on the hiv risk list along with gay men and bisexual men. there’s a questionnaire that potential donours have to fill out and in the section on HIV risk (pdf file downloadable from CBS:

“There are certain things that people do that put them at risk for getting and spreading the HIV virus. You are at risk if: You are a male who has had sex with another male, since 1977...You have had sex with someone who has done any of
the things listed above.”

What is sex, according to the questionnaire?
"Sex refers to any of the following activities even if a condom or barrier device was used:
• Vaginal intercourse (contact between penis and vagina)
• Oral sex (mouth or tongue on someone’s vagina, penis or anus)
• Anal intercourse (contact between penis and anus)."

the CBS does run an HIV test, but "the tests for HIV cannot
detect 100% of HIV infections," so the best thing they think to do is to ban gay & bi men and their partners."

is there a blood shortage in Canada?

According to Ross MacGillivray, UBC Professor of Biochemistry and Director of the Centre for Blood Research, "“Ninety percent of Canadians will receive a blood product at some point in their lives, but less than four percent of Canadians donate blood regularly. There is a profound disconnect there,” says MacGillivray. In fact, CBR researchers argue that if this trend continues, today’s shortages of blood and blood products could become chronic, and Canada will likely experience a much more significant shortage."

yet there's still a ban and...

there’s currently a lawsuit going on where a gay man and his partner who have both tested negative for HIV/AIDS were not allowed to donate blood. Mark Wainberg, the director of the McGill AIDS Centre in Montreal, is writing a report which he says will focus on how the advances in HIV testing have made a lifetime ban unnecessary. The basic idea is that gay men are promiscuous. That, of course, excludes those gay men who’ve been in a single, long term faithful relationship. Aside from that, HIV testing has gotten much better than it was when these rules were first put in place.

Another interesting article talks about queers at McGill & their battle to end blood donour discrimination.

Now let’s talk about disclosure. Someone who is out of the closet about being gay or bi is NOT eligible to give blood. The person who is is the lover of a closeted person is not going to know that she isn't eligible to give blood. The closeted person may not give blood, but he might. We can't control that. Since the HIV test isn’t 100% accurate, there’s a chance that the closeted person or his lover will pass on HIV/AIDS.

the fact is there’s no way to eliminate the risk for HIV/AIDS unless you take the blood of a virgin who has never travelled to Africa or gone to jail.

even if a loved one needs blood, i can’t give it to them. does this piss me off? you bet. is it discriminatory and ignorant? absolutely. do i think you should give blood right now if you’re able to do it? yes, i do.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

a feast of Ivan

Ivan E. Coyote read many stories for us tonight at a fundraiser for Capital Pride. I’ve been a big fan of Ivan’s since I first heard her read at Carleton a few years back and even before that when I picked up Closer to Spiderman from Venus Envy. Ivan is a storyteller who manages to look you right in the eye when he’s spinning her yarns, making you feel like he is telling the story directly to you. Ivan performed some of my favourites, including (and I’m sorry I don’t have all the titles)

the one about imaging if a certain type of boots were mandatory and your feet didn’t fit into them and now apply that to gender. Ivan doesn’t worry about which gender you assign her; that’s up to you.

Another story about a young girl who travelled far to hear Ivan perform was quite touching. The girl recognized herself in Ivan as i'm sure many people do.

Many of Ivan’s stories take place on a plane. He collects people instead of taking a photo or painting them. She memorizes their traits, their stories and their personalities and saves them for later, like the one about the grandmother whose husband died and who was en route to a cruise or the one about the fundamentalist christian who mistook Ivan for a clean cut young man as many people do and urged Ivan to marry his lady, with whom he was living in sin. Ivan winked at us and said that the guy didn’t even know just how much sin she was living in.

Another story was about going to Amsterdam to a sex shop with her girlfriend and being held responsible for knocking over and breaking some giant granite cocks, arguing with the sales clerk and then running off with his girlfirend, Bonnie and Clyde on the lam in Amsterdam. There’s a kind of bubbly boisterous jubilance about Ivan and her stories. That even in the face of some pretty heavy narrow-mindeness on the part of people he encounters, Ivan can not only handle it but can celebrate and enjoy people from all walks of life, perhaps demonstrating tolerance that she should receive by way of example.

The audience was clearly made up of Ivan’s great admirers. I’m hoping there were people who had never heard Ivan before and who were amazed and happy at the discovery of this talented writer and performer.

Ivan’s been Carleton’s writer-in-residence for 6 months, having to put up with her first Ottawa winter, a doozy, deciding that since the winter was so bad, he may as well quit smoking.

Another story about encountering an elderly homeless heroin addict in Vancouver’s east side was very compelling. Ivan’s ability to recreate the voices of these interesting characters is excellent. She reminded us that while this part of Vancouver has been exploited in stories in the media, it is also a community with real people.

Every one of the people she talks about remind us of his interest and care about people, such as the story about the travelling snowglobe salesman who writes a novel in his spare evenings and has a wife who hasn’t touched him in years. And then there are the stories about the insensitivy of people who ask Ivan if he’s a boy or a girl, how she handles it with both grace and bravery.

I’m very pleased Ivan’s novel, Bow Grip, won a ReLit award last year. He’s a talented writer. Her next collection of stories, a continuation of Loose End will be published in the fall. As a devourer of his work, I’m happy to hear she’s got something new coming out.

Go to Ivan’s site to find her CDs, or stop in at Venus Envy or Mother Tongue Books to pick up his excellent novel and her short story collections.

Monday, June 09, 2008

rob returns and reads @ Dusty Owl

rob mclennan’s first reading since his return from his stint at the U of Alberta as Writer in Residence was enjoyable & satisfying to say the least. surrounded by good pals and fans, he read two series of poems and an excerpt from a new novel in progress called Don Quioxte. the latter will be published in a chapbook available at the Ottawa Small Press Fair (all being well) called Departures (more on the chapbook soon!).

something summery langourous about rob’s poems these days. especially lovely were his short histories of L. see another short history of L. here. and hey! the podcast is here

aside from slipping back to ottawa fresh from oil country, rob also arrived with new book in hand, subverting the lyric, essays (ECW Press, 2008). this book is a culmination of years of writings, many of them published in shorter forms in various places, including the Globe & Mail. one of the things i enjoy about rob is that he writes about writing as well as writes. there’s a great essay in this book about rob’s trip with Stephen Brockwell to Ireland. there’s a lot of fun stuff in here. go pick it up.

another wonderful surprise at the reading was rob’s latest chapbook open (prose) body: twenty three (incomplete) poems. beautifully created by Warren Dean Fulton. it’s a limited edition of only 40 copies, (will you be able to get one at the small press fair? better contact rob if you want one) all hand-stamped and dated June 7, 2008. the cover is a work of art and the contents aren’t too shabby either. here’s the opener:


stills into an inconvient nightmare.
construction comes in jars. the only way to
leave this place is to deliberately lift.

everything is gentrified. the peel of a taste
of skin over blue sky blue is a layer of dust.
the skin that would otherwise be.

I am hopelessly incomplete; I am hopeless
and this. green car passes, shakes; green car
is the key to a pardon.

today I am human; thrum on its neck.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

for the love of sound

St. Brigid’s had a goodly sized crowd yesterday eve for the Max Middle Sound Project and Jaap Blonk. The MMSP, composed of audio-dynamic duo John Lavery and Max Middle performed some of our favourites, such as "Moon Potatoes," and also some new pieces. Was a joy to hear them as usual.

I have to say I have never heard anyone like Jaap Blonk before. I have very little experience with sound poetry and i don’t know why. it’s definitely an arena i need to explore.

I loved the way Jaap played with sound and also the way his whole body was part of the performance. See pics of all this here and here, thanks to shutterbugs, Charles and John.

Jaap gave us a variety of pieces, that are pretty much indescribable in words alas, but here i go...

repeated lines where vowels were systematically removed until the sentence transformed into consonants only and then the opposite with consonants removed;

he worked with familiar phrases like “well, what i’m saying is...”repeated over and over with various techno sound effects;

he did the first movement in Kurt Schwitters' Ursonate, completely memorised;

he read from an invented language based somewhat on Dutch called underlands with background music and the context of the music, his intonations, facial gestures and the choice of sounds provided the meaning; remember when you were a kid and your music teacher had you listen to Peter and the Wolf and asked you if you could detect the mood of the piece even though there were no words? that's what this was like for me.

his cheeks spoke their own wild language too.

he did a piece on the trills, taps and guttaral r sounds languages have; (around the rugged rocks, the ragged rascal ran.)

the audience went from laughter to surprise and in some cases, were completely startled out of their seats, at his polished performance and loud, unexpected shouts and sounds.

not only did Jaap make use of the international phonetic alphabet, which is comprised of discreet units of sound, intonations, lisps, clicks, guttarals, glides, implosives, diphthongs and more, but i believe Jaap mentioned that he added to that with invented sounds of his own and others. a pal of mine who knows much more about sound poetry than me said something about Hugo Ball, so i guess Jaap also performed pieces from his work.

a hearty bouquet of kudos to Max Middle for having the good sense and vision to invite Jaap to Ottawa. apparently Jaap was here at the Manx Pub fourteen years ago. glad he came back!

this was my first time at St. Brigid’s and it was such an incredible place to hear a performance. the Ottawa International Writers Festival staff and volunteers were amazing, looking after every detail with their usual nurturing attention to detail.

had a great conversation with folks after about sound and choral performance possibilities. right here in Ottawa, we have the sound expertise of jwcurry, whose recent group performance at the Ottawa International Writers Festival was Messagio Galore.

i found last night’s experience to be invigorating for a number of reasons. ever since i can remember i have loved language and sound. as a kid, i wanted to learn every language in the world and invented my own language. Jaap reminds me of what can be done with sound. there’s plenty of territory to explore.

a number of years ago, i heard jwcurry’s talk about the methods used for transcribing sound poetry, much like a musical score. and it was fascinating to me. now i can see how applicable it is when i hear Jaap Blonk or the Max Middle Sound Project. i’d love to see their transcriptions of the pieces they perform.

the whole experience reminded me a bit of that old movie, Fantastic Voyage, where people took a journey inside the human body. this was a journey inside the smallest unit of language, sound and it was fantastic.

as a kind of tribute Ottawa’s sound poets and to Jaap Blonk, i offer the following, one of my own experiments with sound and languages, invented and real, invented meanings and hijinx. some of you have heard me read this piece...

8 planets speaking in tongues

aLpan gua ista una planeta de most familari with earth.
whesta streets e i popoli crowded.
infestizionazze del smoke et automobile.
la Jente work long hours.
i children do not gioca con balls o toys.
i sparrows non singare.
there are no flores, no aqua
guisto pavement bianco nero
missing la scenta del mondo naturo
es una planeta artificial.

Zazim oh che glidara a zazim.
here cantare il sondo de camponelli jingle jingle.
aqui sono la felicidad love making e angeli clouds azurroblu
sunshine shinkle con la gioia di una new morning
i popoli want to stay per eternidad.

Opusiaro est tres soft.
the river coule and les petits stones girdondent
all is yellow echo daffodil et fronds.
une planete de la paix et la tranki li teh.
les boats danse et roque from side to wide
il existe no autos
i populi float above dans les lily white nuages.

Drumvetschmertz tastes good.
everything licks schmits betwixt i glicks und sound flicks.
hier ist alle silly.
mit coloren die children brighten die planete.
alle finger und toes und hands und feet mussen mooven.
hier can no one sit still.
all ist betwirlen in voll stimular kerfaffle noisen.

Gleeeeeeeeeeee ~ shines.
polished swee swee silver pitched.
no populi habiti sisi planeti.
gleet bright at mid day.
gleen inside jung und not so jung.
blequereen birds join the song.
i floreen silveri petals reen down in autri planeti.

Tagliacielo esta una grande planeta del green meadow et rustling wind.
i populi per qui la regenerazione is essential viene aqui.
lo zilensio ista most important.
lo gentle rocking of the waves
contra los tired bodies soothes et lache lache lache against aching bones.
o how l’oceano loves them.
curare i wounds, offra una blessing al damaged souls.

OzStrumwald ist grande waves und fire.
hier i populi find passione et exuberenza.
la droga et l’alcool is ingestiazare daily.
una colossol pipa belts out incenzia del sandalwood
und fragipanni flores line the streets.
o california o 1960s
o without la guerra
les orgies on the hills
tumultuasarias opera
orgasmos infinitiasimo.

Skrahtzi intrigues.
hier ist die bibliotecha,
i books stacked in molti cornori.
il wisdom del tutto di planeti is aqui.
les ancients et sages live on questa planeta.
con barbis long and white and reading glasses.
words imprimare on every surfacio.
typeface nero et large.
citations del celebrated heros of literatura.
each citadello di planeto tell estoria al children.
reading esta la pleasura ultima.
la poeta expanda les minds.


next a b series is Christopher Dewdney at the Urban Well in Sandy Hill on Thursday. Ottawa is a vibrant literary capital because of visionaries like Max Middle, innovators like jwcurry, great writers, promoters, publishers and activists like rob mclennan and the amazing Ottawa International Writers Festival, which rocks.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sound Poet Jaap Blonk @ St. Brigid’s on Friday

Jaap Blonk
w/ Max Middle Sound Project [listen to the sound files with Max & John Lavery for a preview]
Presented by AB Series and Royal Netherlands Embassy
@ Saint Brigid's Centre For The Arts And Humanities (314 Saint Patrick)
June 6, 7:30 p.m.
$15 (general), $12 (student or senior), free for members

the fabulous Glenn Nuotio will be playing the church organ in between!

Pearl has the skinny on the guy over here.
the Ottawa Xpress has this to say.

Max says "St Brigid's is a church structure at St. Patrick & Cumberland now deconsecrated & recommissioned for the arts.This will be one of the first sound based performances to take place in The St Brigid's Centre for the Arts.

Tickets available at Nicholas Hoare Books, 419 Sussex Drive & from The Ottawa International Writers Festival box office at (613) 562 1243."

For even more info: Max Middle, Artistic Director, The A B Series, tel (613) 859-8423

see you there?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Tour of Lobby Bars and More in Montreal

a note on my erotica blog

so...over at, aside from posting publication notices, i also post stories, poems and vignettes. lately i've been getting comments which suggest that some folks are taking me literally instead of understanding that that blog is for fiction. sometimes i play a bit with a tiny bit of reality but then i imagine the rest. i'm also tongue in cheek, if you can forgive the pun, describing stuff as creative non fiction, but that's just me being saucy.

i noticed this kind of response has never happened with my prose. people seem to be able to understand that a story is made up of bits of reality fused onto invention. but with poems, i've noticed this before...readers often expect poetry to be autobiographical. poems can be from completely other places. yet there are truths within the poem. in this case, the only truths in the poems i've been posting on my erotica blog is that i fantasize when i see attractive men. comes in handy for creative writing, don't you think?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

a coupla sites i've discovered recently

the very cool idea factory, run by Dan Waber (& which i'm a part of)'s an idea exchange site where you can go if you're short of creative ideas or just want to enjoy the thoughts of ideers. the prolific and creative Dan came up with the idea for the site because he, himself, is an idea factory, coming up with more ideas than he can use.

a new poetry review site out of Simon Fraser University called the Poetic Front & edited by Stephen Collins. the first issue contains reviews and articles by rob mclennan on the poetry of Stephen Brockwell & David McGimpsey, Clint Burnham on Stuart Ross' penultimate poetry collection "How I Cut My Finger", a wonderful 2002 discussion between Christine Stewart and Ted Byrne on Steve McCaffrey's "Seven Pages Missing" and more stuff that i haven't had a chance to read yet. this is only the first issue. looks good. looking forward to more.

and did you see? the excellent writer, Natalie Simpson is a feature on right now with an excerpt from her book, "accrete or crumble."

finally, one of my new favourite Toronto literary folk, Paul Vermeersch has a blog and i didn't know it.

Monday, June 02, 2008

subscribe to jwcurry’s 1 cent series

for only $10 a year. that means you get everything john curry produces that year in the 1 cent series for the measly sum of ten smackers. we’re talking leaflets, cards and sometimes small booklets. some of the people he’s published in this series include Nelson Ball, bill bissett, Barbara Caruso, Victor Coleman, Nicky Drumbolis, Paul Dutton, Maria Erskine, Doug Fetherling, David Fujino, Geoff Huth, Max Middle, Lillian Necakov, bpNichol, Nicholas Power, Stuart Ross, David UU, Steve Venright and many, many others.

it is my understanding that he uses numerous techniques for producing these little gems, including rubber stamps, photocopying, mimeographing, and others. he doesn’t use a computer, ever.

if you go to his place you’ll see a few typewriters strewn around, floor-to-ceiling shelves of books and cabinets like the kind used to store maps, full of amazing visual poetry, memorabilia from the avant-garde Toronto literary scene and more than you can imagine, so you should go there to buy stuff from his store. he has published editorial chronologies or catalogs of the contents of his store. the one i have starts at 1976 and was issued in March, 2007.

to get your subscription & possibly to get a copy of the catalog, you can reach jwcurry at 613 233-0417 or just mail him your cheque for $10 @ Room 302 Books – # 302- 880 Somerset Street West, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1R 6R7.

i am sure he’ll be at the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair on June 21, 2008 too. at least we should hope so. aside from 1 cent, there are a number of other collections and series and one off publications he produces that anyone interested in avant-garde work should get their hands on. are you writing that cheque yet? ....