amongst books

amongst books

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Canada 100: music for Canada Day

well, this is embarrassing...i tried to create a playlist that includes all our regions, but this, this is so Ontario heavy. my apologies. perhaps you can suggest bands past and present to represent the areas that are so poorly represented on my list.

here's the youtube playlist

in my attempts to make this list, i have explored and discovered musicians i haven't heard of before, such as Annabelle Chvostek, Jerry Alfred and Lucie Idlout. the whole idea is to learn & explore. perhaps you can make your own Canada 100 or 50 or 10 list. i'd be interested to see it. the main thing is to celebrate Canadian talent and skill. Canada Day seems like a suitable reason for it. otherwise i'd be painting the flag black and mourning our current political situation, so here's a distraction for me and others who have similar tristesse...

Lucie Idlout

Jerry Alfred

British Columbia
the Be Good Tanyas
Luke Doucet
Stephen Fearing
Lily Frost
Ndidi Onukwulu

Jann Arden
Bill Bourne
K.D. Lang
Rae Spoon
Trevor Tchir

Colin James
Buffy Sainte Marie
Wide Mouth Mason

Susan Aglukark
the Guess Who
Chantal Kreviazuk
Loreena McKennitt
the Weakerthans

Bryan Adams
Kiran Ahluwalia
Barenaked Ladies
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings
Blue Rodeo
Bruce Cockburn
the Burning Hell
the Cowboy Junkies
Kathleen Edwards
Peter Elkas
the Great Lake Swimmers
Emm Gryner
Emily Haines
Sarah Harmer
Kyp Harness
Peter Katz
Avril Lavigne
Rozalind MacPhail
Madison Violet
Max Webster
Danny Michel
Moxy Fruvous
Murray McLauchlan
Alanis Morissett
Alannah Myles
Jenny Omnichord
Stan Rogers (but he should be listed as a Maritimer, me thinks)
Parachute Club
the Sadies
Ron Sexsmith
Oliver Schroer
the Shuffle Demons
Andrea Simms-Karp
the Skydiggers
Bob Snider (via Nova Scotia)
Andy Stochanksy
Sarah Slean
Kurt Swinghammer
the Tragically Hip
Andrew Vincent
Wax Mannequin
Royal Wood
Neil Young


Arcade Fire
the Aurian Haller Band
Annabelle Chvostek
Leonard Cohen
Coeur de Pirate
les Cowboys fringants
Angela Desveaux
Marie-Josée Houle
Daniel Lanois
Jean Leloup
Lynn Miles
the McGarrigles
Martha Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright

New Brunswick
Eric’s Trip
Julie Doiron
Stompin’ Tom Connors

Nova Scotia
Charlie A’Court
Jill Barber
Mary Jane Lamond
Ashley MacIsaac
Sarah McLachlan
Anne Murray
Joel Plaskett
the Trews

Newfoundland & Labrador

Mark Bragg
Amelia Curran
Great Big Sea
the Punters

Prince Edward Island
Teresa Doyle


in some cases there were musicians i wanted to include but they had no videos that i could find.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

literary fun between the fireworks & royal brouhaha this weekend

Friday, July 1
Open Mic Night at the Umi Café for music, poetry & whimsy-8pm

Saturday, July 2
Nuit Noire opening night at the Cube Gallery, the vernissage launches a month long artsy celebration of the nuit. on Saturday at 8:30pm James Bremner will read from his essay in the book "Let there be Night", telling how he lost his fear of the dark and found a little courage. Can there be courage without fear, as we crowd together in over-lit cities? After that there will be a big gala sidewalk party. Music by the fabulous John Gillies & the Telescopes. More here.

Sunday, July 3
Dusty Owl’s Canada Day Weekend Picnic on Victoria Island featuring London, Ontario poet & sound gadabout Penn Kemp, 2pm
and to stretch the weekend even longer…

Monday, July 4
Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam Finals at the Ottawa Public Library, Main Branch, 5pm plus Loh El

Tuesday, July 5
blUe mOndays on Tuesday at Café Nostalgica, 603 Cumberland St. with Penn Kemp, Jamie Bradley, Carmel Purkis, Christine McNair, Grant Wilkins, Sandra Ridley and Sean Moreland

in between the fireworks & the royal brouhahaha get yourself out to hear some words.

& for the poets among you, Ottawa residents, students & workers now or before, send poems to submissions at bywords dot ca for consideration for the August issue of you have time to smell the roses, you have time to send us poems. check out the guidelines first on the site.

[photo by Charles Earl]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

an open letter to poets with long, rambly intros at readings

Dear Poet,

In your work, you make intentional choices to create a poem. You are rigorous about economy of language, the sound of the words, a line’s balance & rhythm, the images you choose and the layout of the poem on the page and in the air. I suggest that you apply this same rigour to your introductions. If your poem needs an introduction, keep it short. Remember that this is your first contact with your audience and they will easily lose interest. You do your poem a disservice when your introductions lose the attention of the audience, when you mumble and when you ramble.

If you have a lot to say about a poem, perhaps you should consider writing a poem about the poem or choosing another poem that requires less supplementary information. If you feel you need to explain a poem to the audience, perhaps it isn’t the right poem to read to this particular group, or perhaps the work itself is lacking and needs a good edit or you aren’t having faith in the audience’s ability to catch on. Trust your writing.

I suggest you care as much about your introductions as you do about the poems themselves. Rehearse them, edit them and make them compelling. Or drop them and make the poem itself stronger. The poem, like the cheese, stands alone.

an audience member.

Monday, June 27, 2011

booty from the fair

Anvil Press
wasn’t at the fair; they are way far away in BC; however, Arc Poetry Magazine was giving away books they haven’t reviewed and thanks to Kate’s kindness, i scored Suicide Pslams by Mari-Lou Rowley, & i admit to getting it merely because i liked the title and the pretty green cover, so we’ll see…
Apt. 9 Press
Cameron Anstee, She May Be Weary (published for Cameron’s reading at blUe mOndays last April, which i missed; beautifully made, of course, and someone’s been nipping at the Brautigan;)
Jim Smith, Exit Interviews (purchased at the pre-fair reading because Smith gave a killer reading, especially the pieces from the gorgeously made EI;)
Monty Reid, Site Conditions (because i want to have all of Reid’s garden series; in particular i enjoy the way he includes historical & biblical gardens in this series, each one of these garden works leads outward to exploration & see Pearl’s notes here.)
a wee slim yellow type-written work by Stuart Ross from 1999 called Home Shopping with a cover designed by jwcurry. it was a mere $5; most other things on the table i couldn’t afford, but salivated over, as i always do.
Ex Hubris
Vis>Cue-Cue with some of my fav poets and pals: Christine McNair, Jamie Bradley, Sean Moreland, a reading i missed a few years ago, apparently the 2nd last of two copies; glad i snagged it.
Exile Editions
also not at the fair, but pooka press, all the way from BC, was here, with works by Catherine Owen; i picked up her first book: Somatic, the Life and Work of Egon Schiele (1998), something i’ve been looking forward to reading for ages; and speaking of Catherine Owen, i also picked up Caneide, 30 sonetti in cagnesco, a collaborative book of sonnets in English and Italian, made with Joe Rosenblatt & published by Shena Editore as a supplement of “Rivista di Studi Canadese”; Catherine gave a reading with Warren Dean Fulton in my living room not long ago and i picked up more of her wonderful books.
a few of their publications traded with Dave Currie for a few AHP chapbooks & my own broadside from “ghazals against the gradual demise”: in/words verses put out for VerseFest; rescue poems by Jesslyn Delia Smith; In/Words 10.2 lovingly dedicated to John Lavery & including his semi-colon/full stop joke; with a story by Stuart Ross, who turns up in the most surprising places.
Pedlar Press
for us early birds, a sale: $5 per book; get there later and you end up paying full price. nice for me, who is always early and usually chided or made fun of for such. was a delight to speak with Beth Follett once again. i have never seen her at our wee fair before, so this was grand:
Antonella Briton, Sex Libris (the first published book of Pedlar & beautifully designed (gifted to me by Beth due to sweet excuse of infinitesimal flaws of cover);
Gregory Betts, the Others Raisd in Me (another i’ve had my eye on; i love to plunder & Shakespeare seems a fine object of plunder. i like the wit of the title and the design.;)
Joanne Page, Watermarks (with a beautiful cover by the author herself. when i was perusing the book to consider its purchase, i read from the prose poem “White”: “Pigment, writes Cennini in Il Libro dell’ Arte, comes in little cakes like goblets or drinking glasses.” SOLD!)
Ken Sparling, Book (i’ve read a number of reviews on this book and it sounds good, so i’m glad to have it;)
Souvankham Thamma Vongsa Small Arguments (i’ve had my eye on this book for donkey’s years);
Beth gave me a tip on one of my favourite Newfoundlanders, Joel Thomas Hynes. his book Right Away Monday made me drink more Guinness than i should. the book/film Down to the Dirt was entertaining and memorable. A Newfoundland press called Running the Goat has done a beautiful letterpress chapbook of his God Help Thee: A Manifesto, which i snapped up. & what's more, Pedlar is going to publish a book by Joel in the fall. i am most excited to hear.
i'm also very much looking forward to Sandra Ridley's Post-Apothecary, a new Pedlar Press poetry book that will be launching this fall. you know what the slogan of Pedlar Press is: "Making no compromise with public taste." hip, hip, hurray for Pedlar Press!
free home baked and delicious raisin cake, pickles & a free wee folded booklet called re dis un cover, sweetly designed & illustrated by, i suspect, Pearl Pirie.
SunnyOutside Press
all the way from Buffalo, NY, they make wonderful books of poetry & prose, and have some works created on LetterPress. i bought two poetry books by a woman i have never heard of: Micah Ling: Sweetgrass & Three Islands. it was a combo of flipping thru & having a few lines jump out at me, the beautiful design of both books and wanting to support a press that came all the way from the US of A to our wee Canadian berg.
the Workhorsery
non-traumatizing Canadian fiction from Toronto; i admit that i loved their logo and designs so much, i wanted to buy something from them, and the vendors sold Pitouie by Derek Winkler so well, including a lovely book cover with that fabulous logo, i couldn’t resist.

the fair was wondrous this time, more so than usual because we had so many out of town visitors. most especially pooka press run by head pooka Warren Dean Fulton from Vancouver. i was thankful he made enough money to get home by Greyhound. the turn out was wonderful. we were told it was quite a bit better than some of the fairs others have gone to recently. i am pleased for Bywords and AngelHousePress, my own labours of love. we managed to sell numerous copies of the BQJ, broadsides, chapbooks and had fun in the bargin.

of course my favourite moments were seeing my dear Charles running around with devil horns on his head and taking beautiful black and white Polaroids of the vendors, many of which will gradually make their way up to, his Polaroid site. he is my whimsical co-conspirator.

i was pleased to chat with vendors and visitors, even the one who bled on Pearl’s chapbook, “over my dead corpus,” which seemed alarming, but somehow fitting. we prefer money to blood usually though.

thanks to rob mclennan, who is good enough to keep running this fair and doesn’t receive enough thanks by far, nor money. he, along with his two presses above/ground press & Chadiere Books (run with Jennifer Mulligan) were, as always, the heart of the fair with umpteen broadsides, chapbooks, trade books by great, unsung writers across Canada, free coffee and wit. the next fair will be in the fall. i will have one and possibly two new chapbooks from AngelHousePress for sale. stay tuned.

AngelHousePress has been invited and will attend the Meet the Presses Screaming Chapbook Market in Toronto on July 9. i have to say i am very psyched to be part of this fair, along with Apt 9 Press, BookThug, Emergency Response Unit, Gesture Press, Horse of Operation,Imago Press, Junction Books, Laurel Reed Books, Proper Tales Press, Red Iron, Serif of Nottingham, Talking Pictures, Toronto Poetry Vendors, Twoffish Press, and Underwhich Editions. these are presses that love the chapbook, as we do. we publish raw talent, ragged edges and rebels. we are spineless and have no intention of adding vertebrae to our angel wings. hope to see you at the MTP fair.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

won't you come to the fair?

today is the ottawa small press book fair & i’m excited. i have written often of this fare, but i will do so again because i want to convey the wonder of it, the essentialness of it. hell, this is an entreaty. i urge you to attend.

you have a whole pile of things to do today.
the weather has been inconducive to leaving your comfortable abode.
it’s hard to find a place to park your car.
you have very little money to spend.

if you write, if you read, if you are tired of the conventional nonsense that comes from large cookie cutter operations, you must come to the fair.
if you enjoy poetry by rule breakers, if you like raw talent, if you are a fan of ragged edges, you must come to the fair.
if you love the book in all its forms & appreciate the handmade beauty of small books, you must come to the fair.
if you want to find out more about some of the small press publishers in Ottawa and beyond, you must come to the fair.
if you want to find books & chapbooks you will never see in any big box bookstore, you must come to the fair.
if you have very little money, you can find chapbooks and broadsides for free, so you must come to the fair.
if you are a supporter & lover of independent ideas, rebels and those that kick against the pricks, you must come to the fair.

Bywords will have a small gift for those who come to the table, while quantities last.
AngelHousePress will hitch its halo to the Bywords table and shall offer wee treasures by some of Ottawa’s most delectable writers.

pooka press is here all the way from Vancouver and has a wonderful selection of chapbooks from the well known and lesser known poets of this era. also the pooka will be selling books by Catherine Owen & her work is beautiful & resonates.

what else can i tell you?

Apt. 9 Press will have chapbooks of beauty and substance, including the newly published Exit Interviews by Jim Smith, who gave a fabulous reading last night.

Chaudiere Books has a new book by Joe Blades that is worth the price of admission to the fair, even though the fair is free. There are always more chapbooks to discover by above/ground press in various colours and styles, i’m sure there will be some you can try on and buy for a mere $4 a chapbook.

I’m hoping local publisher Buschek Books will be there with its array of fine titles. Last spring, Toronto’s renegade BookThug was there, including the amazingly talented Phil Hall. it was an honour to get him to sign the Little Seamstress, my favourite book of poems of 2010.

and speaking of Pedlar Press, i hear that Beth Follett will be at the fair. you don’t want to miss Pedlar Press, whose books are beautiful & splendid. & at prices lower than you find in stores.

Adam Thomlison with his 40 Watt Spotlight will be shining at the fair, with zany & comical fiction that will make you think twice, but that’s alright.

I hope Colin White will be there with his colourful graphic comics.

jwcurry of 1cent will be there. small works of significance & beauty that are off any path you have ever taken. you don’t want to miss him.

Sometimes there is music. One year Punchy Writers/DC Books from Montreal showed up & it was a pleasure to see David McGimpsey & Jason Camlot at the fair. I believe someone even played guitar.

& afterwards, drinks & good company at a local tavern where we wrap up, count our farthings and talk about stuff & nonsense…

i expect to see you there, Ottawans. don’t disappoint me.

the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair takes place today from noon to 5pm at the Jack Purcell Community Centre, Rm 203.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Robert Kroetsch: 1927 - 2011

i am saddened to hear of the death of Robert Kroetsch, a vibrant and kind man who i had the pleasure of meeting at the U of Ottawa post-modernism conference in 2008. i gave him a copy of my The Sad Phoenician's Other Woman (above/ground press) written in homage to The Sad Phoenician. and he said kind words about it, which is one of the thrills of my poetic life so far. here is a repost of my essay: "Notes on The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman: Experiencing Robert Kroetsch’s Poetry In A Fever" because i sing his praises and it's time to remember and celebrate a great man, a great poet and fiction writer, one of Canada's best. I offer my deepest condolences to his family and friends and raise a glass to Robert Kroetsch. You will be greatly missed.

Notes on The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman:
Experiencing Robert Kroetsch’s Poetry In A Fever

I knew of Kroetsch, had heard references to him all the time, which is no surprise given his status as an influential and well-known Canadian writer, but I’d never read his work. In the winter of 2008, I stumbled upon “Completed Field Notes, The Long Poems of Robert Kroetsch” (the University of Alberta Press, 2000).

I don’t know about you, but for me there are so many writers I hear about who I mean to get around reading some day. Robert Kroetsch was like that for me, and when I finally did get around to him, I was blown away.

I love his wit, his double entendres, his easygoing style. I felt, in part, like I was home, like I’d found an influence. Before Kroetsch I’d also been galvanized by the writing of Lisa Robertson and Dennis Cooley in much the same way and had to explore such things as the long line and the sentence based on their work.

In this case, I couldn’t help but write a poem of my own, inspired by “The Sad Phoenician” (first published in its entirety by Coach House Press in 1979). I read Kroetsch in a fever (literally, due to a flu, I had a 100 degree temperature) and I wrote “The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman” (above/ground press, 2008) in a fever too…in just over three days and three nights. I really did feel a quickening and a shiver as I read

This stone
becomes a hammer
of stone, this maul

is the colour
of bone (no,
bone is the colour
of this stone maul).

The rawhide loops
are gone, the
hand is gone, the
buffalo’s skull
is gone;

the stone is
shaped like the skull
of a child.

[I from Stone Hammer Poem, Prologue and reprinted as part of the Stone Hammer Poems in 1975 by Oolichan Books and included in the “Completed Field Notes”]

That was the first poem of Kroetsch’s I ever read, and I had to read more; I’ve never been so glad that I had a whole thick book of long poems to discover. We were in the middle of that crazy snow storm last year where the snow kept falling and falling and falling, I was sick and couldn’t go anywhere. And I didn’t want to.

In his author’s note at the back of the book, Kroetsch explains that the “Completed Field Notes” represents a body of work which appeared over a period of fifteen years, each long poem published individually over the years and later together as “Field Notes” (General Store Publishing, 1981), then by McClelland and Stewart as “Completed Field Notes” in 1989 and when that was almost out of print, reprinted by the University of Alberta Press in 2000 with an introduction by Kroetsch’s long time friend and another renowned Canadian writer, Fred Wah.

In the author’s note, Kroetsch writes “Since the eloquence of failure may be the only eloquence remaining in this our time, I let these poems stand as the enunciation of how I came to a poet’s silence. And I like to believe that the sequence of poems, announced in media res as continuing, is, in its acceptance of its own impossibilities, completed.”

I think this idea of failure, the poetics of failure is what draws me to Robert Kroetsch’s writing. I have always been intimidated by writing that seems to come from a voice on high from writers who, deliberately or not, portray themselves as having the answers. Writers like Kroetsch (and there is really no one like him) don’t promise answers or some kind of heightened and sensitive insight based on their role as Poet with a capital P. I don’t believe anyone has that kind of role. I don’t like the way it distances the reader and the writer. Kroetsch’s writing didn’t make me feel distant from him or his work, but rather kindred.

In his introduction, Fred Wah talks about how Kroetsch’s poem “Mile Zero” “attempts to avoid design, to occupy an unresolved transition. The poem as field becomes a translucent white surface of trajectory, a field of particles that, above all else, seeks constant motion and resists rest.” and later...

“Think of ‘field notes’ as temporary, as momentary gestures that interpolate possibility. Perhaps even as investigations into the potential for narrative. Or at least the poem’s capacity for narrative. Then think of narrative not as a predictable line of action and consequence but as a maze of sudden twists, obstacles, impossibilities, possibilities.
Kroetsch’s Field notes are not only lessons in the naïveté of completion, lessons, in fact, on being lost, there are also a manual of field note technique.”

This notion of a long poem as a maze of “twists, obstacles, impossibilities and possibilities” excites me and makes me want to write more long poems. I think the long poem gives one space to set up and shape these twists and gives the reader space, time and rhythm to become compelled by them.

I particularly like the idea of “in media res” or starting in the middle or as I like to think of it, depicting moments as they occur rather than seeing them in hindsight. I was trying to do this with “The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman,” a long poem about a woman who, to quote “The Sad Phoenician,” “now loves adverbs.” I wrote the poem in the spirit of the Kroetsch poem and worked some of his lines from the poem in my own, playing with his ideas of working with other sources to create a poem. Like Kroetsch, I had fun disrupting systems, particularly grammar. I used grammar as a means to mislead and create ambiguity in the poem.

Some readers have described my poem as a poem of conquest since it engages with the sexual exploits a woman initiates with various male accomplices. The tone is a repetition of the tongue-in-cheek bravado from the Kroetsch poem.

In their interview with Robert Kroetsch, in Poets Talk, The University of Alberta Press, 2005, Pauline Bunting and Susan Rudy bring up the role of gender and domesticity in The Sad Phoenician. Rudy says “…once a woman tries to articulate the banal, the everyday, and the ordinary, what she’s articulating in the first instance is its oppressiveness. What she might need to do first is to critique, not celebrate it.”

I didn’t read this interview until long after I’d written the poem, but what I was trying to do with The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman with the female character in the poem was certainly to celebrate a woman’s freedom to choose her own sexuality but also to poke fun at and play with the dynamic and insanity of sexual relationships between people.

Frankly as a writer and as a woman, I’m tired of hearing about how oppressed I am. I’m not. I do what I want and I say what I want. I always have, but particularly in the form of a poem, I have felt free to play and yes to get things wrong. I make no apologies for playing around with language, breaking rules and fucking around in my work. I am pleased to have the opportunity to do so.

In “Jack Spicer to Frederico Garcia Lorca” in “Poetics of the New American Poetry,”Grove Press, New York, 1973, Jack Spicer said “There’s plenty of fudging that’s allowed in this kind of thing. But the old thing that René Char said, he said that the poet should have a sign on his wall saying, ‘CHEAT AT THIS GAME.’

I love to cheat. What I like about writing poetry is trying to get away with things. I enjoy rebelling against convention and constraints, whether they be grammatical or societal. “The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman” is one of my attempts at such.

One of the things that I enjoy playing with in the long poem form is the notion of delay.
rob mclennan (& perhaps others) has talked about the long poem as a poetics of delay, which is one of the techniques apparent in Kroetsch’s poems, especially “the Sad Phoenician.” I loved the way Kroetsch used the conjunctions “and” & “but” to cause a disjunction in the narrative and at times to misdirect the flow of the narrative, putting a rock in the river to change the tempo and movement of the water.

What other pieces in the book did I enjoy? All of them, all of them. I can’t give highlights or tell you about what fun i had in “The Winnipeg Zoo” or talk more about the contrasts in tone from one long poem to another. The whole book was one of the most joyful and mind opening experiences with poetry that I have experienced since I began to study contemporary poetry in earnest only five short years ago.

And just when I thought I couldn’t be more excited by Kroetsch’s poetry, when, after my fever broke, I continued to read his works, I discovered “the Hornbooks of Rita K.” (the University of Alberta Press, 2001). The book is written in the voice of Raymond, the intimate friend of the aptly initialled poet Rita Kleinhart, who disappeared from the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, or so Raymond tells us. I loved the way Kroetsch plays with reality here, and the sense of play all the way through.

This is evocative too of Rob Winger’s “Muybridge’s Horse” (Nightwood Editions, 2007), another poem I read before I embarked upon “The Sad Phoencian’s Other Woman”. In his book, Winger also plays with the notion of reality, specifically what is known and documented publically and what may have occurred behind the scenes. This is also what I get from Kroetsch’s work and what I tried to achieve in “The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman,” to create a world which questions and plays with fact and extrapolation, the effect of opinion and distortion of reality.

As a rank beginner to poetry, I learn by example (actually I’ll always be a beginner and I always hope to learn by reading). I’m only just understanding, thanks to writers like Kroetsch, that it’s possible to write in a voice other than one’s own. The voice(s) in this book open up all kinds of possibilities for what can be done in a poem. Same thing with “the Snowbird Poems” (the University of Alberta Press, 2004). These voices allow the writer to get away with things, he might not otherwise be able to, such as parodies in rhyme form.

What Robert Kroetsch has done for me is that he has given me a gift:

he has opened up my writing to endless possibility of play;

he has made me rethink my recalcitrant perspective on narrative poetry, something I used to avoid at all costs, and find a way to write poetry using devices that I previously thought were only acceptable for fiction;

he has made me want to read other long poems, mentioned and discussed in his brilliant essay “For Play and Entrance: the Canadian Contemporary Long Poem in “The Lovely Treachery of Words, Essays Selected and New (Oxford University Press, 1989);

he has made me want to read and write more.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

READINGS: A Guide for Readers & Hosts



Promote the reading ahead of time to friends, fans, family, stalkers.
Send organizers your bio and site info.
Rehearse your work.
Find out about how much time you have and stick to it. You should time yourself.
Bring a copy of your bio along in case the host forgets it.
Communicate to the host if you need help with the microphone.
Bring copies of your work to sell.
Let the organizers know about any of your promotional initiatives.
Arrive at least 15 minutes beforehand.
Look up and make contact with the audience members.
Stay for open mics, if they happen.
Be attentive to the other readers’ work.


Be late.
Wait til you’re on stage to decide what to read and then fumble thru the pages.
Bring a thick manuscript to the stage. Bring only the work you want to read.
Edit on stage.
Read intros that are longer than the work itself.
Read from an IPhone or any other electronic device. (Your body will turn inward as you squint to read. Scrolling creates annoying delays.)
Tell long, rambling stories.
Heckle other readers.



Provide instructions ahead of time to the readers about time limits, microphone availability, publicity.
Read brief bios.
Ensure there’s a book table for sales.
Promote the reading far and wide.
Ask for help with publicity if you need it.
Introduce the readers & give the audience an opportunity to clap.
Be sure everyone in the room, bar, etc knows about the reading and is told to be quiet.
Make readers feel at ease.
Provide payment of some kind, even if it’s just a free beer.


Add or make up anything to the bios to be funny or a wiseass.
Make the reading be about you. It isn’t.

What else?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Upcoming Reading with Ladouceur, Smith, Thomlison & Me!

Ottawa Small Press Book Fair Pre-Fair Reading
Friday, June 24, 2011, doors 7pm
the Carleton Tavern, 223 Armstrong St.
Amanda Earl, Ben Ladouceur, Jim Smith & Adam Thomlison
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan & presented by span-o (the small press action network-ottawa)

i'll be reading from a work in progress, ghazals against the gradual demise.
would be lovely to see you there.

also, do check the calendar of events for more readings happening that week. there are two on Thursday, for starters.

then come out to the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair on Saturday, June 25 at the Jack Purcell Community Centre between noon and 5pm for treasures, good company and chapbooks galore.

Friday, June 10, 2011

the small of July, more excerpts on Moria

a 25-poem cycle written during rob mclennan's summer workshop of 2008. here are some excerpts in Moria.

Moria is an on-line journal that has been producing experimental poetry since 1998. Its editor is hiker, sailor, poet, teacher and musician, William Allegrezza, who is one of those indispensable mainstays of contemporary literature, publishing poetry that might be unsung if it were not for him.

parts of "the small of July" have been published in Otoliths 18 and are forthcoming in fillingStation.

check out the whole issue of Moria, Volume 13, Nos 1&2. it's brimming with play and panache.

Monday, June 06, 2011

a fictitious summer

summertime & the living is not lazy exactly but for my part, more contemplative. i am less interested in attending readings & more interested in writing/reading. & what i am writing/reading more these days is fiction.

currently reading: Ten Thousand Lovers – Edeet Ravel (Headline Review, 2007, first published 2003). i am a big fan of Ravel’s, both her fiction for adults and children. this is the first of the Tel Aviv Trilogy. the main character who is a Canadian studying in Isreal, falls for an Israeli interrogator.

recently read:

The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy (Random House, 1997)
i had to pause over many sentences in this book, so filled with lyricism. i enjoy reading works set in India. my favourite Indian novel is Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, a thick epic that took me about three months to read one summer, very entertaining and full of detail about India from the time of partition and onwards, but mostly the story of a woman’s attempts to fend off her parents’ plans to set up an arranged marriage for her. very excited to hear he is writing a sequel. and just recently i read the short story collection by Clark Blaise, The Meagre Tarmac (Biblioasis, 2011). These are linked stories featuring characters from India who have moved to the USA or Canada. i had the pleasure of hearing Blaise read as part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

February – Lisa Moore (House of Anansi, 2009)
Moore is very skilled at creating characters i can care for and the way she depicts the grief of the main character, Helen, is well done. note that three of the books on my recently read list were set in Newfoundland & Labrador. i have enjoyed reading other Newfoundlanders in the past, including Michael Crummey whose book Galore is on my list of books to read, & Michael Winter. i am not so sure about his new book The Death of Donna Whalen, as i am not much into true crime stuff but will give it a try at some point. & despite having enjoyed her reading at the Dusty Owl quite a few years back now, i have not yet read any of Michelle Butler-Hallet's work. so i add her to my list of authors to read.

Annabel – Kathleen Winter (House of Anansi, 2010)
i loved this novel, set in Labrador, about a hermaphrodite child who is turned by the doctors into Wayne. i had compassion for all the characters, particularly for Wayne. the voice of this character is so strong it still resonates even now, months after reading this book. and it was a pleasure to hear Winter read and to meet her at the Plan 99 Reading Series at the Manx recently. i was very interested by her comment that she tends to stuff her work with truth and then puts in a little bit of not true that sounds plausible because it is surrounded by all the true bits. she said that better than i just did. i have always worked the other way around, inventing most of what i write and putting in the occasional true detail. now i might try this method.

The Fetch – Nico Rogers (Brick Books, 2010)
i was enchanted by the stories in this collection, set in Newfoundland with very strong voices. and there’s nothing smarmy or sentimental in the telling. Rogers is a fine storyteller.

The Red Garden – Alice Hoffman (Shaye Areheart Books, 2011)
this is a collection of linked stories about the inhabitants and origins of an American town called Blackwell, Massachusetts. i am a big fan of Hoffman’s writing and these stories were compelling and as always left me wanting more. Hoffman has a way with the fairy tale & with misfit characters the way Anne Tyler used to in such books as Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and the Accidental Tourist. If you’ve never read her teen book Green Angel, you should.

Sub Rosa – Amber Dawn (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010)
i loved this book, an urban fairy tale about an alternate world of young prostitutes. it mixes magic with realistic insights about runaways and prostitution. it is in no way heavy-handed. a fascinating, compelling book that i didn’t want to end.

Through Black Spruce – Joseph Boyden (Viking Books, 2008)
loved the voices in this book, the Cree bush pilot and his family. loved the lyricism of the descriptions of nature. not so keen on the story of the missing niece who becomes a model. i enjoyed this novel very much, but preferred Boyden’s first novel Three Day Road.

these are the novels and short story collections i’ve read so far in 2011. on my list is more fiction set in India, more work about misfit and eccentric characters. if you have suggestions, please send them my way.

the main thing i’m looking for in a work of fiction is a compelling and imaginative story with characters i can care about. i want to be transported: into complete fantasy or into different realities than my own or to see aspects of my own reality reflected back by the author in different ways. i’d love to hear from you about your favourite fiction or current fiction that is consuming you. i am also on & there's even a wish list there...

i have resumed writing fiction myself, but am finding the challenges pretty scary. with poetry i am used to and comfortable with removing much of what i’ve written or recasting it, but not as much as what i imagine i will be doing with fiction this time around. i need to do a lot of writing to get to where i want to be, if that makes sense, or to get to where i suddenly realize i am. i want to be able to tell a compelling story and i want to help readers who find they need to escape for a while be able to do so. nothing more than that. fiction has served me greatly over the past few years, as a form of escape and in recent years, as a way to pass the time with characters who become friends when i have been at home or in the hospital with time on my hands and in need of a distraction.