amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

end of year wrap up

i’m writing this entry as i’m listening to the beautiful music of Sirena Huang, an 11 year old violinist. The sound of the violin for me evokes the colour purple, mostly dark shades flirting with navy blues, blacks and blood red. i can’t play a violin and i’m never going to be able to, and i don’t want to even try. sometimes i can eek out a lovely chord progression on the guitar.
just now a flock or was it several flocks of pigeons flew past my balcony window over and over again, black on white powdered snow falling. whenever this happens i always try to take a photo, but i can never capture their movement. or at least it doesn’t translate into the beauty i see when they fly by.

i was planning on writing up a tally of accomplishments for this entry, something that would have numbers, a list of places where i’d read and been published this year, but then i got distracted by the violin and the colour purple and the black pigeons flight over white snow and the idea of creativity and unlikely things coming together, so…instead i’ll just say…it’s been a good year. thank you for enriching it with your beauty, your intelligence, your creativity, your compassion, your kindness, your intensity and your flare. thank you for making me savour the spring, even on this dark winter evening.

for auld lang syne, my dear

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

recap meme: start of first post of each month in 2008

from Pearl

December - it was an interesting time.

November - in honour of today’s American election.

October - in celebration of the release of The Bootleg Series, Vol 8, Tell Tale Signs

September - rant about Citizen's lack of poetry coverage

August - Pearl Pirie and I will be reading to promote the upcoming above/ground press fifteen anniversary event

July - the blue sky people are complaining about the rain

June - 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

May - Adam Getty read this afternoon at Plan 99 at the Manx

April - Kate Sutherland has issued a challenge; she would like folks to post entries about poetry

March - Stephen Brockwell was the featured reader at the Dusty Owl yesterday

February - may be more like croaking. i've got a cold and my voice is really awful

January - The first reading of the year that I attended was the Dusty Owl, featuring Toronto short story writer, Kate Sutherland.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Peter F. Yacht Club-Xmas Party and Issue Launch

Sunday, December 28, 2008
The Carleton Tavern (upstairs)
223 Armstrong Avenue (at Parkdale Market)
7pm doors; 7:30pm reading
launch of the 5th anniversary issue
featuring anarchy, madness and the apocalypse
lovingly hosted by Amanda Earl
with readings by
Cameron Anstee, Amanda Earl, John Gillies, Ben Ladouceur, Marcus McCann, rob mclennan, Jennifer Mulligan, Pearl Pirie, Sandra Ridley, Stephen Rowntree...
and perhaps more...and leftover xmas cheer brought to you in the form of pitchers and oversize bottles of beer...
Strap on your super slider snowskates and slip on over to the Carleton.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Tenth Anniversary, Front&Centre Magazine

Issue #20 of Front & Centre marks the magazine’s tenth anniversary and to celebrate editor/publisher Matthew Firth includes a free beer ticket so that you can have a beer with him sometime.

I’ve been a follower of the publication for a few years now. It’s published by Firth’s small press, Black Bile Press, which also publishes chapbooks. Black Bile is located in Ottawa and is run by Firth without any kind of government funding.

Firth’s own writing style is plain-spoken, unadorned and gritty and that’s the style of F&C. The other editor of F&C is Bill Brown, a talented Ottawa short fiction writer. Short stories published in F&C tend to deal with the down and outers, the poor, the marginalized, the mentally unstable, those in broken marriages and so forth. In addition there are the reviews. Firth and Brown are the primary review writers but on occasion, other frequent contributors to the magazine write the reviews. The reviews are usually about short fiction, sometimes a novel or two, mostly from the small press world. Some of the books are fairly obscure in mainstream literature. The reviews can be biting. Firth and gang do not put up with anything syrupy or sentimental. The reviews though sometimes harsh are honest and unpretentious. Front&Centre has introduced me to a variety of writers who I’ve never heard of because they aren’t reviewed or published in mainstream fiction.

One of the things I noticed in Issue #20 is that many of the contributors have also been published by The Puritan, a former local literary prose journal, now based in Toronto. I recently spoke with an F&C writer who asked me if there was something in the water in Ottawa because of the fact that we have so many good small press publishers here. Front&Centre is definitely a striking example of good publishing and writing.

Issue #20 of F&C is my favourite so far. Of particular note was Bill Brown’s story “Opera Quiz” about a man’s relationship with his Thai boy toy who perhaps is more than just a boy toy after all. Brown’s writing is smooth and definitely not sentimental, with its references to golden showers and ass play. That’s one of the things I love about F&C, it doesn’t shy away from sex. That’s one of my issues with mainstream literature and if you’re a regular reader you’ve heard me remark on that time and again, so I won’t harp on that again.

Other particularly noteworthy stories in Issue #20 were “the Devil” by Turkish writer Jansek Berkok Shami, a fable-like tale about a woman whose marriage has ended. The Devil takes bones from her skull and uses them to make chess pieces. Quirky stuff.

My favourite story of the issue is Kingston writer Christina Decarie’s” Hot Ketchup and Vinegar” about a homeless woman who is helped out by a hippie. Her savouring of the fries he gives her made me want to rush out and buy a bag. Decarie’s story is an example of what I mean by not sentimental. She’s portraying a poor, downtrodden homeless woman, but she doesn’t resort to clichés and she doesn’t let us feel sorry for the woman. There’s compassion but not condescension. I’ve seen Decarie’s fiction before in the Puritan and now I intend to go back and read it some more.

As I mentioned Black Bile Press also publishes short fiction in chapbook form. The latest batch included three chapbooks, and the most memorable of these for me was Edmonton writer Mark McCawley’s “Sick Lazy Fuck” about a man who ends up committed in a mental ward. Like with Decarie’s story, you get inside the head of the main character/narrator. His life sucks and he’s just going through the motions trying to cope. This means not flushing the toilet after a bowel movement when the nurse gives him a hard time and letting the resident nympho patient fuck him every chance she gets.

If you’re looking for good fiction, honest reviews and a hell of a good magazine, you should get yourself a subscription to Front&Centre and buy a bunch of gift subscriptions for your buddies, so that it’ll be around for another ten years. You can also find single copies at Venus Envy from time to time and from the online store.

A toast to Matthew Firth who devotes time I know he doesn’t really have to Front&Centre. And to Bill Brown, co-editor. Thanks for all you do. And I do plan on claiming my beer in exchange for that red ticket tucked into the issue, but I promise to order something cheap and domestic.

oh and a ps...this year i've been reading a lot of short stories, in particular taking a dip into the Penguin Anthology and the New Quarterly/Canadian Notes and Queries and been bored, bored, bored. yep, more stories about winter, more taking tea with Grandma, endless references to World War 2 again. F&C gives me hope. nuff said.

Friday, December 19, 2008

WHAT KIND OF OTTAWA DO YOU WANT? (Ottawa Citizen, 19 Dec 2008, Page F4)

I urge everyone to respond to Ken Gray of the Ottawa Citizen who asks us what kind of city we want. E-mail him at

Here's my answer:

Dear Mr. Gray,

In regards to your column on what kind of city residents want, thank you for asking. Ottawa is unique in Canada in that it is not just a city but also our nation’s capital. While the latter is important, it is the former status that I would like to address. I want Ottawa to shape its identity as a city in order to be a vibrant and enjoyable place where people want to live.

In that regard, here are a few things on my xmas list:

I want to live in a city where arts and culture are valued and treated as essential. This means investment in facilities such as the Ottawa Art Gallery, the Ottawa School of Art, the School for Photographic Arts Ottawa, local theatre, and festivals such as the Ottawa International Writers Festival and the Ottawa Folk Festival. It also means providing funding to individual artists and writers who live in the city and contribute to making this city vibrant.

I want to live in a city where our downtown is as car free as possible. Areas such as the Byward Market and Sparks Street should be traffic free. More bike paths and bike racks would be a good idea too. I think there should be incentives not to own or drive cars in this city.

I want to live in a city with a vibrant and busy downtown. That means allowing bars to be open late, allowing more night clubs in the Byward Market, more cafes, more downtown theatres, more venues where one can go to see various styles of entertainment. I want to see more shops such as used clothing stores, record stores and bookstores, cafes devoted to knitters and crafters. I’d like to see more 24-hour stores and cafes, laundrymats and bus service.

I want to live in a city with good bus service. One of the issues for me has always been OC Transpo’s tendency to want every bus to go through the downtown core. That isn’t necessary. Also it doesn’t make sense that almost all downtown buses have to travel on Albert and Slater streets, clogging up the roads. Buses should be travelling on more of the downtown streets, making transit a more accessible option. Right now if you want to travel east on Somerset past Bank, for instance, there are no bus options. In some cities, such as Winnipeg, buses have been free in the downtown areas. That would be a good way to encourage people to move around downtown from Elgin Street to the Market, which would help local business.

I want to live in a diverse city that celebrates all cultures, ethnic groups and sexual orientations. I want Bank Street to become a gaybourhood so that we can celebrate the GLBT community.

I want to live in a city that promotes and has a healthy attitude toward sexuality. I’d like to see more community health centres in the downtown core, more places where one can receive anonymous HIV testing and counselling. I’d like to see more sex shops like Venus Envy in Ottawa, more clubs that offer adults the opportunity to celebrate sex and sexuality. More resources available to teens so that they can learn about sex in a bias free environment.

I want to live in a city that takes care of people who have to live in poverty. I want to see care and attention given to the homeless and support given to those who are trying to break free from drug and alcohol addiction. I want to live in a city where the police force is compassionate and not too quick to use force on the disadvantaged. I want to see more opportunities available in the downtown area to donate food and clothing, more boxes like the Salvation Army boxes, which have disappeared in the downtown area. I want to see more money given to organizations like the Cornerstone Women’s Shelter, which provides emergency shelter for homeless women downtown but doesn’t have enough facilities to accommodate the increasing numbers of homeless women or women running from domestic abuse.

I want to live in a city with parks and recreational facilities and green space. I’m alarmed at the rate of new luxury condominiums that are springing up in the downtown core or at Lebreton, taking up beautiful riverfront space. We need more community gardens, more places for composting in the downtown core.

I want to live in a city with a good library system, where the libraries are open seven days a week from early in the morning to late in the evenings. I want the auditoriums and spaces in libraries to be used for seminars and literary readings.

I want to live in a city where the mayor is compassionate towards the people, sees social services and culture as fundamental to the city’s well-being. I want to live in a city where the mayor can work with people not always be in a position of conflict and confrontation or stubbornness. I want to live in a city where the mayor allows experts such as labour negotiators to do their job.

Finally, one of the things that I think was a big mistake in Ottawa was amalgamation. Rural and urban concerns and requirements are quite different and I think both communities are being treated poorly under amalgamation; therefore, I want to live in a smaller city, one that doesn’t include the outskirts of Gloucester, Nepean and beyond.

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to think about this issue. At a time when the City ofOttawa is undergoing one of its worst periods of esteem, thanks to a very divisive mayor with no real vision for the City, what you’ve suggested is particularly important. I look forward to reading the responses from others.


Amanda Earl

Ottawa Citizen
19 Dec 2008

During an interview I had recently with noted author and academic Richard Florida, I asked him how he would market Ottawa. Mr. Florida replied with a story about the great urban critic Jane Jacobs. He asked her post9/11 how she would develop the more...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Canada’s Sexiest Artists-all genres, all genders list

sexiest artists that are in or have passed thru Ottawa…


Wajdi Mouawad, Playwright and Artistic Director of the NAC French Theatre
i heard him speak at the Vote Culture Town Hall Meeting this fall; he was inspiring and passionate.

Jessica Ruano, theatre student, creator of the Ottawa Arts Newsletter, cultural activist
first met Jessica at the Café Nostalgica open set on Thursday nights when she was still at Canterbury. i knew she would be a dynamo and she hasn’t disappointed me yet.

Visual Arts / Graphic Comics

Emily Falvey, independent art curator, writer of both poetry and prose, brilliant and beautiful.

Patrick John Mills is a visual artist and gallery owner who i saw painting a mural at the Ottawa Art Gallery’s art auction a few years ago. yes, i have a thing for redheads and gorgeous intense art.

Kim Hoang, just met her at the recent small press fair; talented and bursting with creative energy.

Colin White, also made his acquaintance at the fair. sexy hair and witty comix.


Mike Blouin, also writes poetry, but it’s his novel Chase and Haven, that has me enamoured and that Tom Waits hat and silver hair. yes, darling, silver is sexy. in hair and of tongue.

Matthew Firth, the publisher and editor of Front&Centre Magazine, an expert short story writer with a dark and temperament that is irresistible.

Megan Butcher= fiction, poetry and blogging for this lithe and sensitive kindred spirit who bares her soul regularly on her blog.

John Lavery for his gift of the tongue both in words and song.


Dante Was Here, a new coterie of photographers that includes my sexy mate, Charles Earl, Yannis Souris, Azimir Burzic, Peter Juranka, Robert James, Eric Fruhauf, Menno Spijker, Bob Acton, Maureen Murphy, Natasha Penknovich and Caroline Gomersall; many of them were recently part of an exhibit at the Armada Club in the Byward Market and the pics were smouldering and sexy. they meet regularly to critique and exchange tips.

John W. MacDonald-it’s that sweet and innocent smile and the not so innocent Nikon


Sandra Ridley, Marcus McCann, Stephen Brockwell, rob mclennan, Monty Reid, David O’Meara, Christine McNair, Anita Dolman, Jennifer Mulligan, Gwen Guth, Kate Hunt, Shane Rhodes (and probably a bunch more i’m forgetting)

all of these writers create new and amazing work i admire; some like rob and Jennifer are renaissance artists, they publish too or work in other genres, such as film, fiction, reviews, essays, interviews, music , theatre and more. beautiful on the inside and out.

the University of Ottawa English Department

do they put something in the water there? PhD students, sessional lecturers and professors are beautiful and intelligent writers and organizers:

Jamie Bradley, Sean Moreland, Robert Stacey (and probably more i haven’t met yet ;)

Ottawa Arts Review – Marc and Tiffany et al…
good to see the energy of these two, but we need more issues, don’t tarry…

Carleton University

– In/Words staff
Cameron Anstee, Mark Sokolwosi, Peter Gibbon, Ben Ladouceur

The Moose and Pussy

Jeff Blackman and Kate Maxfield for being courageous and creative and having the initiative to start up a magazine about ….sssssh sex.


Melissa Laveaux, Phil Lafreniere, Mike Yates and the Candidates, John Gillies, Glenn Nuotio, Andrea Simms-Karp

Storytelling and Spoken Word

Ivan E. Coyote

weren’t we lucky Ivan was here for a bit to entertain us all?

Luna Allison, a beautiful and talented new addition to Ottawa.

Kevin Matthews, Greg Frankson and Free Will

no, i’m not into spoken word, but these guys…for them, i’d enjoy it…words too. spoken and unspoken.


Dog and Pony Sound-Christopher Doyle and for his sexy words and sound at the Owl on Sunday afternoons.

Just passing thru

Natalie Zina Walschots, Steve Heighton, Suzanne Buffam, Daniel Allen Cox, Maria Erskine, Nathaniel G. Moore, Jay MillAr, Gustave Morin, George Murray, Leigh Nash, Robert Priest, Ron Sexsmith, William Neil Scott, Sherwin Tja, Michael Winter, Matthew Zapruder
please come back!


Kristy McKay, Trevor Tchir, Andrew Faulkner, Spencer Gordon, Jeff Fry, Laurie Fuhr, Warren Dean Fulton, Melanie Little, Peter Norman, Rozaline MacPhail, Wanda O’Connor, Adam Petrashek, Melissa Upfold, Lisa Slater
please come back!


Alastair Larwill and Ryan Hume have shown up this year at open mics charming and entertaining us all.

who else should be on the list and which artists will help Ottawa lose the dour, anti-arts reputation and sex us up in 2009? it could be you....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Top Poetry Readings (i remember) in 2008 in Ottawa

Camille Martin, Tree Reading Series, January 8, 2008

Stephen Brockwell, Dusty Owl Reading Series, March 2, 2008

Steve Venright, Ottawa International Writers Festival, Poetry Cabaret, April 17, 2008

Monty Reid, Sandra Ridley, Roland Prevost, Chris Turnbull, Nicholas Lea, rob mclennan, Shane Rhodes, Marcus McCann, John Lavery and Gregory Betts and a surprise performance by jwcurry, A B Series # 9, On the Eve of Re:Reading the Postmodern, Mercury Lounge, May 8, 2008

Robert Kroetsch, Frank Davey, Christian Bök, Dennis Cooley, Christine Stewart, Stephen Cain, Gregory Betts, Louis Cabri, Andy Weaver, and The Max Middle Sound Project, The Atomic Rooster, May 9, 2008

Monty Reid, the Luskville Reductions launch, Rasputins, May 16, 2008 with music by Monty, Sarah Hill and Mike Rivoche

Jaap Blonk, A B Series, St. Brigids, June 6, 2008

Mike Spry, Stuart Ross, Jon Paul Fiorentino and David McGimpsey, the Carleton Tavern on the roof!, June 20, 2008

Stephen Brockwell, Tree Reading Series, last Tree at the Royal Oak II, reading from four poetry collections, June 24, 2008

Michelle Desbarats, A B Series, City Hall Gallery, November 21, 2008

Top poetry happening in Ottawa in 2008: Re: Reading the Post Modern, Canadian Literature Symposium at the University of Ottawa, May, 2008

[if things seem a little balanced in favour of the first six months of 2008, i guess it’s because i haven’t attended as many readings or blogged about them in the last six… and surely there must have been memorable poetry readings in the last six months, why is it that i didn’t blog, why can’t i remember? what do you remember?]

Top Ten Poetry Whatzits of 2008

[includes books, chapbooks, journals, broadsheets…what have you]

Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein (Book Thug, Department of Reissue, 2008)

Every Way Oakly, Steve McCaffery (Book Thug Department of Reissue, 2008)

Matter, Meredith Quartermain (Book Thug, 2008)

Night Scenes, Lisa Jarnot (Flood Editions, 2008)

Open Letter, bpNichol + 20, Thirteenth Series, Number 5, Spring, 2008

Off the Fly, Gustave Morin, Griddle Grin Publications, October, 2008

The Sharon Thesen Issue ,The Capilano Review 3.5, Spring, 2008

After Rilke, To Forget You Sang, Mark Goldstein (Book Thug, 2008)

Force quit, Marcus McCann (The Emergency Response Unit, 2008)

Sandra Ridley, Lift (JackPine Press, June, 2008)


Most innovative publisher – Book Thug

Best on line poetry site and resource –

Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 Top 12 Top Ten Songs

January - the Cornflakes Song – (feat Glen Phillips) Dick Prall

February – Piano Blink (Las Manlicious Version) Hawksley Workman

March-the Greatest Fire – Violet Lyal (Out of Pocket Compilation)

April-Heaven and Alchemy - Siouxie

May-Start Wearing Purple – Gogol Bordello

June-New Romantic – Laura Marling

July-Feels like Rain – Buddy Guy

August-Black Rice - Women

September-I Adore You, Esperanza Spalding

October-Born In Time – Bob Dylan

November-Ronald McRaygun-Dayglo Abortions

December-Visions of Johanna – Bob Dylan

Top CD for 2008 – The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8, Tell Tale Signs, Bob Dylan

Best site to get free and new music:

Best music podcasts: CBC Concerts On Demand

December top ten

1. Visions of Johanna from Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan
2. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands “
3. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, I’m Not There Soundtrack, Cover by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
4. Love Minus Zero / No Limit, A Nod To Bob, Cover by Eliza Gilkyson
5. Falling Slowly, Once,the Soundtrack, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
6. When Your Mind’s Made Up, “
7. I’m Not There, I’m Not There, the Soundtrack, Bob Dylan
8. Sing A Song For You, The Dream Belongs To, Tim Buckley
9. Buzzin’ Fly, Dream Letter, Tim Buckley
10. No Need To Cry, FurnaceRoom Lullaby, Neko Case

Sunday, December 14, 2008

cadged from Pearl's blog

Your rainbow is strongly shaded red.

What is says about you: You are a passionate person. You appreciate energetic people. You get bored easily and want friends who will keep up with you.

Find the colors of your rainbow at

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Letter writing campaign to Mayor O'Brien Required

Please respond to this urgent request from Councillor Diane Deans:

Yesterday the majority of Council voted to reject cuts to arts, culture, childcare, recreational and community programs and accept a 4.9 % tax increase.

How they Voted
YES (15) - Feltmate, Chiarelli, Harder, Leadman, McRae, Legendre, Hume, Hunter, Holmes, Cullen, Bellemare, Deans, Doucet, Brooks, Bédard

NO (9) - Qadri, Wilkinson, Thompson, El-Chantiry, Monette, Jellett, Bloess, Desroches, O'Brien

Today, Mayor O'Brien was on CFRA radio this morning campaigning against his own City Council and against this budget. He is trying to get Council to back down on the budget that was just passed. As a result of the Mayor's "information" campaign, City Hall is being bombarded with emails and phone lines with complaints from citizens agry about the Council's approval of the budget.

The Councillors who supported the budget are appealing to us to email, fax or phone in support of the socially and fiscally responsible budget they adopted yesterday. Our Councillors supported us and now they need our support!!

You can find information here on how to contact your councillor:

No matter how your councillor voted, please send an e-mail, fax or phone call in support of the budget approved by Council yesterday.

Thank you.

my e-mail

Dear Mayor O'Brien,

I was pleased to hear that the majority of council voted to reject the proposed cuts to arts, culture, childcare, recreational and community programs and accept a 4.9% property tax increase. What I found rather disheartening was your reaction, Mayor O'Brien. How could you, as the City's representative depict this democratic process as a joke as you did in the Ottawa Citizen? How could you go on CFRA to instigate a disinformation campaign and create disruption and negativity for the City? In this time of economic crisis, when a lack of confidence in our leaders is so prevalent, you are just adding to the crisis atmosphere. Business and investment will not come to Ottawa if they see that even the Mayor does not show respect for the process of governance.

Mayor O'Brien , you were elected to work with Council. Citizens voted for these representatives. Your vote is just one vote at the table. I am very disappointed in your conduct as mayor. You rely on highly paid consultants instead of working within City administration; you create tension in the citizenry by running to the media when you aren't happy with a democratic process, what's next?

This morning I am sitting here watching the car-crowded Bronson Avenue from my window because of a decision made by your government to not allow OC Transpo bus drivers to book their own routes, supposedly because paying overtime when drivers are not available is an expense your advisors felt was too great. This is the sort of poor decision-making that you have become known for.

I sat in the audience at Council Chambers during the first day of the presentation of budget to Council and watched while you turned your back and stopped listening to a representative of the public make her presentation. You were conferring with your city manager. I feel you are neither listening to your citizens, nor working with your Council and this is a very serious issue.

I dislike the type of vision you have been offering for the City as demonstrated by these City-destroying cuts to arts, culture and community service. You pay more attention to how ugly the planters on Rideau Street are than to important matters.

You have a bloated senior upper level management and highly priced consultants on the City's payroll, while you quibble over tiny line by line budgetary changes, taking up valuable time as part of a strategy to wear out Council instead of allowing them to do the work that is necessary to make this City strong, vibrant and financially viable. You have a $35 million budgetary shortfall on your hands because you increased City salaries by this amount and you'll have it again unless you deal with the labour issues that are the real reason why City finances are in jeopardy.

You were elected on an ignorant and ridiculous promise to taxpayers, to have a zero increase of property taxes. You made that promise when you had no experience or knowledge of how the City works and the gullible voters believed you. I don't understand why they did so and it didn't take long before you reneged on that absurd promise with some cavalier dismissive response tantamount to Josephine's "let them eat cake" response to poverty in France after the revolution. This was shortly after you compared the homeless to pigeons, I believe. Now you are trying to regain citizens' confidence by stubbornly fighting the will of the people as represented by your Council.

Apparently after you aired your disagreement for the Council's decision on CFRA, its listeners flooded the station with e-mails. This may make you think that you have the citizens' support for your anti-arts, anti-social, anti-community and dare I say anti-Ottawa vision, but I wanted to send you an e-mail to let you know that not everyone supports your views. That airing your personal and not representative views to a radio station known for its right-wing extremism does not win you support from all of your citizens.

Now that the budget has been passed, please do not try to undermine the democratic process and let's move on. Please don't waste any more of taxpayers' money or time on petty revenge schemes and petulance.


Amanda Earl

e-mail addresses for the Mayor and Council:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

please flood their inboxes.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wisdom Teeth and Losing Control

This Thursday, I have to have two wisdom teeth extracted. I’m not too concerned with pain or discomfort. The thing that I find the scariest is the sedation and anaesthesia. I’m going to be given nitrus oxide. I could opt instead for just freezing, but advice from everyone is to have the anaesthesia and it makes sense, even to me.

For most people, it seems, the idea of being knocked out is fantastic. I’ve heard all kinds of stories about how great the feeling is, but for me, the thought is more of a nightmare. And one that I thought I was long over, but the whole wisdom tooth/anaesthesia thing has brought the nightmare back.

Like all bad nightmares, mine goes back to childhood. As a kid I had to make sure that I stayed very alert. This is where things get quite personal, so if you’re still reading and don’t want to know, you might like to click x at this point.

As a child I had to protect myself from my father. When we were in the car alone and I was wearing shorts, he would reach his hand down and touch between my thighs. My reaction was immediately to flinch and say no, don’t touch me. I had no idea why, but I didn’t’ like it. After a bad dream once he came in to comfort me. Soon his hand was beneath my pajama top on my back. I had to stop crying and move away, call for my mother. This sort of thing went on all the time. If I wasn’t alert, I would be touched in places I didn’t want to be touched. I always slept with my door closed. Sometimes I would wake up to find my door open and my father standing in the threshold. Sometimes he would drink and come to my door crying, begging. I had to say no and I had to be firm. I had to be alert. The summer I was 13 and had gotten caught for shoplifting, I was grounded. My mother was working every day, but my father was home. After the shoplifting incident, he took me in his arms and gave me a French kiss. I wrestled away from him. I told my mother and for a few weeks, we moved away. Then we moved back.

Growing up there were two of me: the little girl who had to be protected and the smart, stay alert protector. The protector always took care of the little girl, never lettiing her get into situations which would make her vulnerable.

I moved away from my parents as soon as I could. The first time I had a place with a door that locked and no one but me able to unlock it, I felt safer than I had ever been in my life. I had a sanctuary. I slept a lot.

I dealt with all of this years ago with therapy. I thought I had anyway. I used to always believe that nothing ever happened to me because I said no. The therapist explained to me that I was a survivor and that I had taken good care of myself. That’s something I’ve always done. I’ve protected the little girl.

This whole anaesthesia thing brought it all back to me. I wanted to protect that little girl, keep her from being vulnerable and in danger. I have never been able to be out of control. Other people take drugs and enjoy that feeling or drink until they can’t remember anything the next morning. I have never been able to do that. I don’t like airplanes, elevators and being in fast moving cars driven by other people. It’s all about protecting that little girl.

So with this wisdom tooth extraction looming, I’ve become more and more anxious, becoming very distant and scared. This morning I finally understood, with the help of my husband, who knows and understands me like no one else in this world, where all of my fear and anxiety was coming from. I was working so hard to protect the little girl from being hurt, so afraid for her.

For the past few weeks when I’ve told people about the upcoming wisdom tooth surgery and anaesthesia, it’s been pissing me off the way everybody is so eager for me to be knocked out and I’m sorry about that. It’s no one’s fault. For most people, this is a good thing. It should be. Who wants to experience the sounds and discomfort of an extraction with just freezing alone if one can avoid it? Hell, I don’t. But what I needed to understand is that I don’t need to protect that little girl. That everything will be fine and that although I will be under anaesthesia, I have not lost control. Not in a way that will make me vulnerable to something I don’t want.

So why am I blathering about this here? One reason is because I have felt very weird of late. I have not understood why the whole world seems to be ok with losing control. I have felt like an outsider again. I have felt that there is something odd about me again to not want to lose control, to not be into drugs or extreme alcohol use, to keep my feet firmly on the ground at all times.

Perhaps I’m thinking that maybe there are other people out there who know what I’m going through, who might take some kind of comfort in knowing they are not alone.

The good thing is that now that I understand I can face the surgery and the anaesthesia. I’m still squeamish about it, I have to say, but I know I’ll survive because surviving is what I do.

Learning to let go…that might be a bit harder. This is one step. I didn’t realize how deeply the fears were implanted. It will be good to have them extracted.

I might write again about this wisdom tooth thing, but soon back to the lit stuff, a lot less traumatic hopefully. Unless I read some really crappy or brilliant poems in the waiting room on Thursday that I’ll feel obligated to talk about.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Yes To A Coalition Government

In Ottawa the rally is today at noon on Parliament Hill.

Last night at during his inspiring talk and reading of Trudeau, Long March, Shining Path (Gaspereau Press, 2007) George Elliott Clarke reminded the audience that in Ontario, we have seen a minority government fall and the Lieutenant Governor has had to make a ruling to put the Liberals in charge.

In the 1985 Ontario election, the Progressive Conservatives were able to attain only a minority. They were defeated by a motion of non-confidence by a Liberal-NDP accord, ending the Tory's 42 year period of rule over the province. Not only have we seen coalitions before but we have seen situations where the Queen’s representatives in Canada are asked to turn to another party if the party in power doesn’t have the confidence of the House to maintain the government.

The Conservatives want to forget about history; they want you to believe that such coalitions are unprecedented and undemocratic, but there are indeed precedents for these things. This is the way Canada’s Parliamentary system is supposed to work. This is democracy. It’s exactly how democracy works. Minority governments can hold power only as long as they have the confidence of the House.

I urge you to attend the rallies in your city, to write e-mails to your MP and to the Governor General and to take part in this historic movement to make Parliament work.

And yes, there is an arts perspective here: the Coalition would restore funding to arts and cultural groups, eliminated by the Conservatives. In the larger picture though, we must get rid of these Conservatives who distort history for their own purposes, who rule the airwaves and the media with their propaganda and who try to bully Canadians into accepting a Canada where the Oil Barons hold sway at the expense of social programs and universality.

See you at the rally!

Monday, December 01, 2008

stop the cuts- presentations to council and the rally

it was an interesting time; i was certainly heartened by some of the clearly supportive councillors, the presentation of John Reid of the volunteer organization Ottawa Arts and Heritage Advisory Committee and the groundswell of support from the audience/rally participants. i enjoyed listening to the Raging Grannies and the evangelical Oni, Julian Armour, Paul Dewar, Peter Honeywell, seeing the dancers, the mask wearing actors. i carried a copy of Decalogue: ten Ottawa poets from Chaudiere Books as my own way of showing support for the literary arts. i was heartened to see fellow writers and organizers of reading series, performers, publishers and more at the rally.

what still sticks in my craw though is His Worstship, Ludicrous O’Brien’s question regarding whether or not the economic benefits of the arts were direct benefits to the City’s coffers or just to the City at large. first this is a stupid question. if more tourists stay in our hotels, drink at our bars, visit our museums due to festivals, performances, readings, arts, culture and heritage organization activities, the City gains financial benefit and I’m not just talking about parking tickets.

as to whether the arts is a direct source of revenue to the City bureaucracy or even should be, that’s just craziness. Is an intersection a direct source of revenue? a defibrillator? What the arts does is provide valuable services to Ottawa. we shouldn’t have to say that. it’s clear.
I didn’t like having to sit in that Council Chamber today; I didn’t like listening to the shenanigans and bullying tactics of the councillors and the Mayor who actually ordered one petulant and overbearing councillor’s microphone to be turned off. I didn’t like the way groups were pitted against one another.

nope, i didn't like having to be there, and i doubt many of the audience wanted to be there either, but we had to go. It’s our job to protect the arts and our obligation to make sure the City is a vibrant and worthwhile community. Because we live here and we work here and it’s our city.

One thing that surprised me was how little city councillors and presenters knew about the process by which art organizations and individuals are awarded funding. They have no idea about the proposal process, the helpful facilitators who are employed by the City, the juries that are made up of individuals and experts in the community, the number of rejections, the follow up reports, the audits, the whole annoying but necessarily bureaucratic process. This is an area where City money is being carefully scrutinized and spent, yet the councillors and the Mayor knew nothing. Perhaps it’s because the amount of money is so tiny: one third of one percent. A smidgen. As Councillor and friend of the arts, Clive Doucet said, they are spending four days deliberating one third of one percent.

Promises have been made and broken when it comes to the City’s obligation to the arts. There has already been money allocated and spent on developing strategic plans such as Arts 20/20. Commitments to fund the arts to a certain level have not been honoured. We’ll see what happens, but watch out for that sneaky Ludicrous or Lex Luther or whatever you want to call him. He’s trying to establish a case that the arts should offer a direct return on investment to the green elephant that is City Hall.

On another political note, is anyone else glad to hear of plans to turf Herr Harper and his thugs off the Hill through this coalition of Liberals, NDP and Bloquists? that made me smile. that and a lovely conversation with friends at the Manx post rally.

The Ottawa Citizen's lack of poetry interest

while i urge everyone to join me today at City Hall for the draft presentation of the budget to Concil at 10am and the ensuing rally somehow in the freezing rain, i have to interput our current program to discuss the Citizen yet again.

this past Sunday, in the Books Section a delightful feature entitled Holiday Gift Guide was published; it contained many an interesting volume from a biography on V.S. Naipal to Edeet Ravel's wonderful new novel "Your Sad Eyes and Unforgettable Mouth" but what was missing was poetry. Not one collection mentioned. Not one. You can find descriptions of such titles as "The Modern Dog, A Joyful Exploration of How We Live with Dogs Today" or Nino Ricci's latest Governor General's Award winner and many other books, but poetry? nope. i always have to read these things a few times, believing that surely i must be mistaken and they have indeed somewhere included poetry or that they will at some point later, but it doesn't happen.

i wrote a letter to the Citizen today and hope you do the same; here's mine:

re: Books-Holiday Gift Guide, Sunday, November 30, 2008

I was pleased to see the holiday gift guide in the Citizen Books Section until I noticed the omission of poetry. I can’t understand why the Citizen continues to leave poetry off its lists of recommended books, both in the autumn when it presents coverage of the publishing season and here in the holiday gift guide.

I am a big fan of the Ottawa Citizen; I read it every day, and I was pleased to see the recent inclusion of a Sunday Books section; however, this lack of coverage of poetry is not in keeping with the general mandate of the Citizen to support and promote literacy and to provide its readers with comprehensive content that both informs and entertains.

There have been many excellent poetry collections published across Canada and throughout the world in 2008 and more upcoming in 2009. The Citizen does its readers a disservice by not alerting them to the possibility of poetry. Poetry is the ideal gift for enthusiasts of playful language, imaginative content and mesmerizing rhythms and is an antidote to the dreary climates of both politics and winter we shall face this holiday season.

Amanda Earl

stay tuned for a special round up Q&A with local poets on their poetry book recommendations for the holidays sometime later this week in the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter.