amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Urban Graffiti X: this is not your tea and crumpet CanLit

Urban Graffiti is published by Greensleeve Editions out of Edmonton. Volume X is a packed issue of great fiction, some cool photography and a bit of poetry too. Mark McCawley is the publisher/editor of the magazine. Mark says "Urban Graffiti is an irregularly published litzine of transgressive, discursive, post-realist writing concerned with the struggles of hard edged urban living, alternative lifestyles, deviant culture - presented in their most raw and unpretentious form."

If this is volume X, i’m assuming there are 9 more and i’d like to get my hands on them. The stories in X (thankfully the issue is available on line) are what are keeping me up at 4am. They are gritty; each one is unique and each one presents an aspect of humanity that society is fucked up over.

In Philip Quinn’s story, Transformer, we have murder in the voice of a serial killer. It’s chilling and brilliant. It’s disturbing to me that i feel compassion for the main character. i love being messed with like that.

In Bart Plagenta’s Beer Mystic: a novel of inebriation and light, we have forbidden desire of a jaded yet romantic drunk in love with a sixteen year old girl.

In Bill Brown’s Green Liquid Soap. we have incest between brothers, sadistic abuse, the consequences of bullying, the possibilities for revenge.

In Neale McDewitt’s tale, Anger on the Outskirts of Arcadia, we have obesity, anger, degradation and fucked up desire.

The language is powerful, tight, lyrical yet unsentimental. These stories make me want to write fiction again. All of these stories will likely wake you up in some way; they will keep you awake at 4am. if a story can do that, in my opinion, it is highly successful. the fact that Urban Graffitti X has managed to do that all the way through its thirty something pages is not just a success, it’s a bloody miracle.

You can read this on line for free over at the Greensleeve Editions blog. And you should. Right now. I’m excited that there is another publication,that, like Front&Centre (published by Black Bile Press in Ottawa) takes up the challenge of publishing stories that are not sweet and pretty Canlit tea with grandma as the snow falls.

I’m still haunted by this from Philip Quinn,’s Transformer:

“One night I picked up this red head. I pulled my part out and she sucked it, moaning like she actually enjoyed it.

I put my hands around her neck and tried to twist her into something else.
She didn’t become something else. She just went stiff, resistant, made it very difficult to work with her. Then I had to stuff her into a green garbage bag to keep her out of the way.

I decided to plant her in the ground like a flower. Two weeks later, I saw a hand sticking out that an animal had gnawed at.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Talented Tongues at the Elmdale Tavern tonight

7:30 pm, Elmdale House Tavern, 1084 Wellington Street
$6, featuring the charming and seductive Luna Allison
the tall, handsome and sexy Ritallin
and love anarchist Amanda Earl.
plus an open mic.

come join us in a post-valentine evening to celebrate sex, love, lust and debauchery.

[photo by Charles Earl, 2005]

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Factory Reading Series

last night at the Ottawa Art Gallery’s Firestone Gallery was formidable in the French sense, which means fantastic and not formidable in English as in intimidating. Three DC Books affiliated authors read, two coming from Montreal and one from Toronto.

Angela Szczepaniak started off the evening with excerpts from her wonderful book Unisex Love Poems (Punchy Poetry, DC Books, 2008). She read a recipe for a honey combed heart, some deranged antics from the heroine of the book, Butterfingers, a typeface comic, appealing to all us font geeks in the room and there were many font geeks in the audience, i assure you, and a suite of etiquette advice. i was thrilled by the inventiveness of her work and also thrilled that there is a publisher out there willing to take on such fun stuff in Canada. Punchy is off to a great start. I've already really enjoyed Stuart Ross's Dead Cars in Managua (2008), another in the series.

Eva Moran read next from her novel Porny Stories (Punchy Writers Series, DC Books, 2008). the excerpt was crazy, original stuff with quirky characters and a kind of satire of Harlequin and chick lit at the same time. Eva’s writing had panache, imagination and skill. i was again enthralled by the inventiveness and unique character of the work. i wish i’d had a chance to talk more to Eva who has said in an interview with the Danforth Review that sex is her favourite subject. Since it is mine too, we had that in common. And I rarely meet anyone else brazen enough to say that out loud.

Lastly Jason Camlot, the editor of the Punchy Poetry Series, came up to read from three of his poetry collections: Attention All Typewriters (DC Books, 2005), The Animal Library (DC Books, 2000) and The Debaucher (Insomniac Press, 2008) as well as a new poem about playing Charlie Brown in a high school play and getting drunk and stoned with Linus. i have to say i loved Camlot’s work. it was playful, silly, witty, sensuous and provocative. I always say I’m not a big fan of rhyme, but when it’s skilfully done and playful as is Jason’s in The Debaucher, it can be exquisite fun. As he says in his long poem from the book: (and i apologize for not being able to format the spacing correctly):

Rhyme makes poetry debauch.
It leads a line regrettably astray.
It jars us off into apposite thought.
With sound, rhyme makes things touch that shouldn’t touch.
Caresses move from hand to knee to crotch
O so quickly when rhyme’s allowed to have its way.
And then everything changes instantly.
Adjacent thoughts that had been friendly and pragmatic,
now set aflame by rhyme, become dramatic.
A rhyme can give a word radical new meaning
When Byron rhymes bottle with Aristotle,
it makes me want to drink metaphysics
ice cold, on a hot day, without a glass.
It makes me want to drink beer until I’m sick,
I mean really puking so it’s coming out of me like
liquefied petroleum gas,
like those undergrads up in Montreal for the weekend from U Mass
(those guys are friggin’ hilarious)
who drink until they pass out on the grass
next day wake up with shards of beer bottle glass
stuck in their ass

you’ll have to buy the book to enjoy more…

i also really enjoyed the poem he read from the Animal Library, “Kit Schubert Meets Kitsch Man” It was so inventive and imaginative. I wanted to buy Attention All Typewriters too, but there weren’t any more copies, alas ;)

In his interview in Open Book Toronto, Jason says that the poems from the Debaucher "will appeal to readers who have been led astray, enticed into doing something stupid, at least once in their lives, and who look back at such moments with fondness." this describes me to a tee. we need more debauchers in Ottawa or at least regular visits.

In his Danforth Review interview from 2005, Jason says he hopes that readers will love a poem here or there the way he loved certain Beatles songs when he was twelve or certain Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, the Smiths songs when he was twenty-two. and i have to say, i’m there. i loved many of his poems when i heard them and i’m looking forward to a chance to read them at leisure. over and over again, just like i do with a Bob Dylan song, still, at 45. (my age and not the old 45 rpm singles)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

the New Stalgica, February edition

took place last night at the Café Nostalgica and it was loads of fun. after a brief open mic which featured both poetry and prose by a handful of us, including Joseph Hutt, one of the students in Seymour Mayne’s Poetry/Creative Writing workshop, and Ryan Hume, who played his Zombie song, which is always a crowd favourite (and mine). After this there was a performance of “The Death of the Good” by the theatre group, Black Hand. It was a zany and fun way to start the night.

Christine McNair read from a selection of new poems which focussed on ghosts and miscommunications. Christine has been a feature for a few readings this year already: Ottawater and Bywords, but this time i felt she had more time to read in depth. I’d really like to see a chapbook or book by Christine soon so that I can take my time to read all the accumulation of interesting images and pause to contemplate. I’m looking forward to hearing Christine again later in the year as part of Tree’s Hot Ottawa Voices reading in July.

Was also great to hear Stephen Brockwell again. He read mostly from the Real Made Up. And this is a book I really love; it’s creative and full of play and skilful experimentation. He mentioned that new poems for him are usually about three years old. I wish he’d read from some more recent material. On the other hand, this particular audience would have been completely unfamiliar with his work, so his choice made sense and gave them a great idea of how excellent his writing is, hopefully inspiring them too, as he inspires me.

It was good to see the mostly university student audience get exposure to contemporary creative work. I expect that this doesn’t happen much in their classes. I know i was most surprised to learn that poets are actually alive and living in Ottawa.

People came from the crowded and noisy back room to hear the poets, which is a great compliment. For a Monday, the place was more than packed. J.P. Laflèche co-hosted with Sean Moreland, and skilfully handled the sound, which was particularly important as things got rowdy.

The evening ended with music by Line Dezainde, who goes by the nick name Zing, Zing since people have always had trouble pronouncing her last name. She was backed up by Click Here Host, Mitchell Caplan. I coveted both their guitars, but never got a chance to ask Line more about hers. Line had some interesting lyrics and playful songs and Mitchell did a fine job on backup, occasionally throwing in vocals as well. Line is also a visual artist, working in a variety of forms.

I’m jazzed by seeing writers i’ve never heard read at the open mic. I’m jazzed by the variety of talented and creative artists based in Ottawa. i’m also relieved to glide effortlessly across the city from Chinatown to Sandy Hill on a beautiful red and white bus. phew.

The next edition of the series takes place the second Monday in March. I’m eager to see what Sean will cook up next for us.