amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

excerpts from Sessions from the Dream House Aria

has just been published in the third issue of seventeen seconds.

the third issue of seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry + poetics
is now online

edited by rob mclennan, the third issue features new works by:

Judith Copithorne
Gregory Betts
derek beaulieu
and Amanda Earl

as well as an interview with Pearl Pirie by Sean Moreland, and a second
interview between rob mclennan and Stephanie Bolster, ten years after their

seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics comes out as the
natural extension of the eight issues of edited by rob mclennan
and Stephen Brockwell. Highlighting the diversity of voice, style,
practice and politic, seventeen seconds continues the resolve to provide a
forum for dialogue on contemporary poetics, with a focus on Canadian
writing. Over the past two decades, the amount of critical writing
published in print literary journals on Canadian poetry, specifically,
seems to have decreased dramatically, but slowly returned through a number
of online journals. seventeen seconds simply wishes to help strengthen the
dialogue and the ongoing conversation about writing through publishing new
writing, and conversation about new writing. How else are we supposed to
learn anything, unless we keep talking?

Feedback and submission queries are most welcome.

rob mclennan, editor
Roland Prevost, managing editor

Saturday, August 27, 2011

should bureaucrats be our cultural arbiter?

August 27, 2011

re: Mural Deserves Its Words, Activists Say

Dear Editor,

Not to diminish the importance of finally having a mural in support of gay rights, but I am dismayed that a City of Ottawa bylaw officer is allowed to decide what and what is not art. This officer clearly has no idea of what art is. Art is not restricted by such narrow guidelines.

I understand that the City has to create rules in order to make revenue on signs, but this decision enforces the letter and not the spirit of its rules. Why can't a message be part of art? I am disappointed in the City of Ottawa's draconian and ill-informed policy.

The bylaw officer's ruling contravenes City of Ottawa cultural policy as written on the site: "The City of Ottawa is committed to fostering an environment in which arts development is valued and artists of all disciplines are supported in the creation of their work." This is not supporting "artists of all disciplines."

Such a limiting attitude limits the cultural landscape and shows disrespect to the numerous Ottawa-area artists who work with both text and visual elements. I think, for example of Michèle Provost, Guillermo Trejo and Dennis Tourbin who incorporate text into their art. Such work has been displayed in the City Of Ottawa gallery. I was at a recent exhibit in Montreal at the Museum of Contemporary Art where cut up texts were on display. There are also many poets who work with text as visual art. Some with direct messages, some without.

Clearly much needs to be done to educate our bureaucrats, since they are being allowed to act as the cultural arbiters of this city. I suggest that the bylaw officer in question work with the visual arts community and the City's own cultural liaison officers to avoid this kind of nonsense in future.

Amanda Earl

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

17 Things I Love About Ottawa

There are so many things I love about Ottawa in general: its thriving literary scene, of course; parts of town such as Chinatown and Little Italy, the excellent musicians, its walkability, and most of all its sense of community. I got to experience the strength and support of that community in November, 2009 when I almost lost my life to a strange combination of pneumonia and full body sepsis. So many people came together to help Charles and me when I was in the hospital and to show their concern. The medical staff at the Ottawa General Hospital also were amazing. So yes, I'm a fierce defender of Ottawa and all it offers. Here are a few specific things that I love about Ottawa.

Perfection, Satisfaction, Promise, 167 Laurier Avenue West. It's a wee spot beside the Royal Oak II and it's where I like to go after doing research in the Morisset Library at the University of Ottawa. My favourite meal is the steamed vegetables with sweet potato and tahini mayo, washed down with kombucha.

The Ottawa Small Press Book Fair, Jack Purcell Centre, in June and November: my first introduction to any kind of small press activity back in the early aughts, this was an eye opener. You don't hear about things like this in mainstream newspapers, alas. This is where I discovered the chapbook, a flexibile and wonderful form that allows anyone to publish anything in a variety of ways. The chapbook is the fuck you of publishing. It can be very cheap to produce and self-published. The Ottawa fair is special because it is small. There's time to talk to fellow small pressers and socialize after at a local pub. It is also laid back. I've discovered many writers and presses I would never have heard about through the fair.

Byward Market courtyard-in the summer time you will find me perched on a bench with a brown bag full of cherries and a soy latte from Planet Coffee and a couple of molasses cookies for Charles. I love people watching in general and this is a great spot to do so.

Sushi 88, 690 B Somerset W., I go there with friends for lunch, or sometimes on my own. I especially love the inari, which I can rarely find in Ottawa. The atmosphere is relaxed, the service excellent, and it's often quiet before the lunch rush.

The secret gardens of downtown Ottawa-Ottawa is very green with plants and trees everywhere, particularly downtown. If you don't believe me, next time you take a plane, take a look. It's a sea of green. And for downtown, it's amazing. Every season yields gorgeous flowers from crocuses and tulips to peonies and poppies. Therre are also a number of community gardens in my neighbourhood.

The Rideau River Nature Trail behind St. Paul's University. I love the area known as Old Ottawa East with its tiny new agey enclave with Singing Pebble Books, the Green Door and a few others. A walk along the river leads to the Hurdman Transitway Station. It's quiet, you can hear a lot of birds and the view is beautiful.

Strathcona Park in Sandy Hill. Years ago I used to be a regular of the Odyssey Theatre under the Stars and later a Mid-Summer Night's Tree where a bunch of poets would meet to read the work of the greats. It's not a giant park, but the trees are old and big and there are red-winged blackbirds that congregate on the side of the river. (And another spot for grand old trees is the Central Experimental Farm's Arboretum.)

Funk Your Junk, 110 Parent St. near the Byward Market offers recycled clothing, bags that use old album covers or Frito bags, buttons, notebooks made from Timbits boxes, shoes and treasures.

Mags 'N Fags
, 254 Elgin St. I love magazines, still, in this age of e-everything, I prefer to hold a magazine in my hands and flip through it. Mags 'N Fags has an extensive collection of literary magazines, more than any other book store in the city.

Venus Envy, 320 Lisgar St., the best sex store in Ottawa with the most approachable and friendly staff. And there's a wall of dildos too. A great selection of books both fiction and reference, videos, a full range of vibrators, massage oils and lubes plus workshops and readings. It's the epicentre of sex positivity in Ottawa.

the Manx Pub, 370 Elgin St. a bar in Ottawa without big screen tvs? I'm in heaven. It's a cozy spot with copper table tops and red velvety seats, an excellent whiskey list, beer and food. Not only that but it is the home of the Plan '99 Reading Series hosted by local poet and playwright David O'Meara. This series takes place from fall to early spring and has hosted many fine writers from all over Canada.

the Ottawa Public Library, Main Branch - I take care of much of my fiction needs here. It saves me from going bankrupt to support my reading addiction. It is close to my home, it is easy to take books out and to renew them on line and the atmosphere is friendly. I have found some pretty obscure titles, such as books by members of Mexico's 21st Century Crack Movement. I know everyone's saying we need a bigger main branch, and I'm not disagreeing, but I still love the library.

Wild Oat Bakery Cafe and Catering, 871 Bank St., in the Glebe. They have rich, strong and tasty coffee and their lavender scones are to die for.

Stubbe Chocolates, 275 Dalhousie. I love their truffles and their spicy hot chocolate.

le Moulin de Provence, Byward Market Building- so many delicious French pastries, especially the eclairs. and it's open on Xmas Day!

The O-Train-oh, I know, it isn't enough and we need more, etc, etc, but I enjoy it and find it a great way to get to Carleton University. Sometimes I have just gotten on and rode it back and forth, especially in winter when icicles are hanging from the rock.

Pub Italia, 434 1/2 Preston St., love their mussels washed down with a bottle of Mort Subite. It's a whimsical pub with crazy stuff all over the place on the walls and a wonderfully quiet abbey where you can have a meal and a drink in peace.

Ottawa winters are my favourite season and my favourite version of winter. This city looks beautiful in winter with the canal and ice sculptures, all our green space covered in snow. As someone who lives in an apartment and doesn't own a car, the winter is not a laborious time for me, but rather joyful and unpredictable. Much of my creative work is done in the winter. Take a walk along Sussex Drive on a winter evening and marvel at the sparkly window displays while the snow falls on your mittens. It's beautiful. And don't forget the Beavertails and hot chocolate.

[photo by Charles Earl]

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tree on Tuesday-Robert Kroetsch Innovative Poetry Award Shortlisted & Winner

A funny thing happened in Montreal this year when four of the poets shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Innovative Poetry Award all came from Ottawa. And one of these, Pearl Pirie, won.

To celebrate this rare alignment of the planets, the Tree Reading Series invited us all to read on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 8pm. You will find us upstairs at Arts Court, 2 Daly Avenue.

The readers will be Christine McNair, Pearl Pirie and in the persona of Samandra Eardly: Amanda Earl and Sandra Ridley.

Bios & Info are over at the Tree site.

The award has had a lot of meaning to me since its inception because it is named after Robert Kroetsch, a poet whose work I admire greatly and have even tried to emulate. This year the award is even more poignant with his death in the spring. For me, being on the shortlist for an award in his name is a way of paying tribute to a kind man and a skilled poet. Hope you can join us in the celebration.

Thanks to Brian Pirie for his artistry with the above photo meld. And to Charles Earl for my updated photo, taken at the St. George Subway Station in Toronto last June.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cities of Stone, People of Dust

With “Cities of Stone, People of Dust,” Leslie Hossack offers a portrait of three cities, Berlin, Jerusalem and Masada. I was affected most by the photos of people at the Western Wall, formerly called the Wailing Wall, their dark clothes against the bright sunlight and stone wall, the way they leaned into the wall. sadness.

On her site, Leslie Hossack talks about an ongoing tension in her work between the micro and the macro and that tension is definitely prevalent in the photos of this exhibit: the smallness of the soldiers under the large tree, three tiny people holding hands and walking along a massive arch-like bridge, dark clothing against a white wall.

In her poems, Pearl Pirie echoes the elements of the photographs, including the micro/macro aspect: the starkness of the landscape, the hope, sadness and temerity of the people. In “Against this Hot Sun” she writes “we could each lose/the stories that form us,/lose from the white/limestone of our bones…” and in another poem, she writes of capitulation: “we capitulate to what can’t be won.” (The fly on the Western Wall).

In order to write in response to someone else’s interpretation, it is necessary to yield, to capitulate in a sense or to lose oneself to that interpretation. I have said before that in her writing, Pearl is a chameleon and never has that been so evident as with these poems in which she shows her ability to match colours with the colours of the photographs, the understated emotion of the photos.

“who does not/make themselves as small/as one tilting shadow?” (The fly on the Western Wall)

For some poems she switches to colloquial American slang, such as “bro” (Doing the tour), while for others she borrows Arabic words “too much Ma’aasalama in their mouths/not enough peace in their palms” (Men).

“A song becomes a horn,/a car motor, once you stop hearing the words.//a song becomes a dancer like grass/feet tied against the music.//only the blades wing once sounds/lose meaning.” (Men). I found this to be very compelling. Not a horn becomes a song, but the other way round. Feet tied against the music. It’s the “against” that is creating the tension here. Fascinating and heart-wrenching.

In Pearl’s poems there are these beautiful lyrical moments or unique observations that take my breath away:

“the harp/that holds up the road hums the wind.” (Bridge of string).

“repetition is a seed/you have to take all of.” (Children’s memorial)

Even wry humour finds a home in Pearl’s poems:
“heaven and hell’s doors bloom corn smut.”

Don’t get me wrong, there is no over the top sentimentality in these poems and none in the photographs either. What this exhibit offers is a combination of raw truth and stark beauty.

Cities of Stone, People of Dust
Photographs by Leslie Hossack
Poems by Pearl Pirie
Now until September 2, 2011
School of Photographic Arts
The Red Wall Gallery
168 Dalhousie St.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

This Dark Economy: flash fiction on Leodegraunce

My wee story about a woman who has trouble reconciling her bank book is here with an interview with me here

Leodegraunce was founded by Jolie du Pre and its associate editor is Gary Russell. i'm chuffed to have work published by these two writers and editors who i've had the fortune to work with as both editors and writers during my stint as a smut writer back in the day.

You should send them some flash fiction. There's even a small payment.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Can Lit Mags A Twitter

from time to time i'm going to post directories of twitter accounts in categories that make some semblance of sense to me and perhaps might be helpful to you, those who use twitter or you, those who wish you could, but find the chaos and cacophony unsettling and overwhelming. here's a list of Canadian literary journals that have twitter accounts. some of them are more active than others. their accounts are a good way to quickly find out about calls for submissions and contests, online content, such as supplementary interviews, etc. i am a neophyte at twitter but am slowly making my way and finding it worthwhile. & please let me know which mags i've left out & correct any list...

Arc Poetry Magazine @arcpoetry

Brick, A Literary Journal @BrickMag

Broken Pencil @brokenpencilmag @bywordsdotca : i tweet Ottawa's literary events daily and sometimes nag for submissions or mention calls/contests/workshops from other mags. you can get all this from the site, of course, which works well for planning ahead. This is good for the impulsive and absent-minded, which is apt for most of us these days.

Canadian Notes and Queries @CNandQ

the Capilano Review @theCapReview

Contemporary Verse 2 @CV2magazine

Dandelion @dandelionmag

Descant @DescantMagazine

Dragnet Magazine @dragnetmag

Event Magazine @EventMags

fillingStation @fillingstation

Geist Magazine

Incongruous Quarterly @incongruousq

Matrix Magazine @MatrixMagazine

the Moose and Pussy @mooseandpussy

the New Quarterly @thenewquarterly

Poetry is Dead @poetryisdead

Prism @prismlitmag

the Puritan @thepuritan

Quill and Quire @quillandquire
Room Magazine @RoomMagazine

SubTerrain @subterrain

Taddle Creek @taddlecreek

This Magazine @thismagazine

the Toronto Quarterly @ttqlitjournal

the Walrus @walrusmagazine

Vallum @vallummag

Zouch Magazine @zouchmagazine