amongst books

amongst books

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Joan Hamilton (1932 - 2017)

When I think of my mother, I think of creosote and oxtail soup first. These are the items she brought to my first apartment in Toronto when I was twenty and living with my boyfriend. Creosote to clean the apartment with and ensure there were no bugs; oxtail soup because we had very little money and she wanted to make sure we had something to eat.  Let me tell you that soup sustained us over a cold winter.

I’m not going to pretend that I had some sort of idyllic family life. When I was growing up, my mother spent a lot of time and energy trying to deal with my father’s moods and issues. He was a difficult man. As I grew to adulthood, I increasingly resented my mother for not leaving him and trying to placate him instead. I didn’t see her as independent because she refused to leave him, when she seemed capable, competent and strong. I didn’t value these aspects of her at all, I’m afraid. Nor did I value how hard she worked to ensure peace in the family. Instead I distanced myself from blood family because I couldn’t handle the way stories were revised to gloss over heated arguments and high emotions, alcohol battles and depression.

It wasn’t until the last eight years when we began a correspondence that I had the chance to become better acquainted with my mother as a friend. I learned that she loved to dance and socialize. She also loved to walk, which is something we share. She confided in me. I would say that by the end of her life, we were friends. I’m glad of it.

If my mother taught me anything, I suppose, it was to be a realist and to prepare for the worst. When I asked if Santa Claus was real she said that my parents had to pay for everything but he delivered the presents. I saw her shoulder the burden when my father grew ill and they lived in an isolated town up north. There were many things she simply accepted as the way life had to be. She ate black toast at four in the mourning before her factory job. At the end of her life, she said that she had a good life. I admit that I didn’t always know about the good when I was growing up, so I’m glad she managed to find some joy.

The thing I most admire about my mother is that she combatted adversity ferociously. In this life, you have to be tough and you have to fight to protect your loved ones and yourself from ogres and bastards. You have to love fiercely and find joy where you can.

My mother died on December 22, 2017 at 85 in Brantford, Ontario.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Fav music of 2017

Folks, by now you all know I’m a list maker. Some people hate lists. I understand that. But I am a list lover. There are some great lists out there for 2017, especially for music. My fav list of best music is Bandcamp’s list of 100 best albums of 2017. Start with 100 and make your way to the top, wishlisting a bunch of records as you go.

If it isn’t clear by now, I’m addicted to music. I love a good melody, combined with great lyrics, a mellifluous voice or three and some fine instruments. In 2017, I purchased--or obtained as free samplers--85 albums, 25 of which were released this year. So here are my arbitrary favourite ten:

1. Ghostpoet – Dark Days + Canapes [Pias Recordings, BRITAIN]

I love Obaro Ejimiwe’s voice. It’s low and sexy as hell. I only found out about him earlier this year, probably from someone else’s list. I immediately purchased Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam, which I always want to call Peanut Butter Soul and Melancholy Jam. Dark Days + Canapes continues the low key vibe I learned to love in PBB&MJ with songs about the injustices of the day. It’s the perfect album for this time. Put this on your dark playlist along with Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker and you’ll be ready for the apocalypse.

2. Cherry Glazerr – Apocalypstick [Secretly Canadian, USA]

Your quintessential don’t fuck with me girl band out of LA. Reminds me of Girl in a Coma and Girlpool, two other favs. Clementine Creevy has a fierce voice. The music has a steady beat and some sick licks. I think of the Runaways. Marc Maron should interview Clementine on WTF.

3. Shilpa Ray – Door Girl [Northern Spy Records, USA]

She has an amazing voice and the music feels like a throwback to the 50s and 60s with a 21st century doomy sensibility. I think of Dusty Springfield or Skeeter Davis. There’s a feistiness to the music that pleases me. You can dance to Morning Terrors Nights of Dread. The lyrics are catchy and witty. She's also really hilarious.

4. Juliana Hatfield – Pussycat (American Laundromat Records, USA]

First off, I like her voice. It’s soft yet clear, kind of buttery yellow without being overly rich. I like the lyrics and subjects of her songs, which are unapologetically sexual, especially Short-Fingered Man.

5.  Ron Sexsmith – the Last Rider [Cooking Vinyl/Compass Records, UK/USA]

It’s no secret that I have a sweet old fashioned crush on this man, so it should come as no surprise that I love his latest. The combination of his voice and the great melodies he composes have created another memorable record. Some of the stellar tracks on the album for me are Worried Song, West Gwillimbury (we can do a playlist of Ron’s place songs alone, which would be fun!) and Shoreline. The album is reminiscent of Whereabouts in its melancholy but with a happier tempo. It’s great to see Ron producing his own album, along with the talented Don Kerr.

6. Jack Pine and the Fire – Left to Our Own Devices [Jack Pine and the Fire, CANADA – Ottawa]

Speaking of crushes…

This album mixes an easy slow understated sound with some jump up and dance numbers. The voice of Jack Pine (aka Ottawa singer, song-writer, producer, Gareth Auden Hole) reminds me somewhat of the country troubadour sounds of  a young Russell De Carle of Prairie Oyster. 

He’s got the range in those lovely melodic slides. The lyrics are fun, thoughtful, sly. The band makes a solid contribution on the album with fiddle, guitars, and drums. I especially love Lone Wolf, and Make Up or Break Up, both on his previous EP; however here the back up vocals and added instruments add texture and give the songs a different tone. I like both versions, although the fingering on the EP pleases me a little more. The video below is an older rendering of the song.

7. Bill and Joel Plaskett – Solidarity [Pheremone Recordings, CANADA]

Beautiful lyrics, great melodies and voices, there’s something extra special about this CD, a collaboration between father and son. Makes me think of cabins in the woods, the smell of wood burning in a fireplace. And just when you think everything’s mellow you get some wild electric guitar in there and sweet sweet fiddle music, then accordion…if Ghostpoet brings you down, get uplifted with these two fellers and accompanying musicians, Mo Kenney, Erin Costelo & more!

8. Emm Gryner – Only of Earth [CANADA]

This is an achingly beautiful album. Emm’s voice is so resonant and haunting. I’m starting to think that the main thing my choices have in common is a touch of melancholy and a dash of maverick. Emm went her own way to create this album, just as Jack Pine did for his album. It’s a record with a lot of variety from the more plaintive tracks, such as the Passing of Ayro to the upbeat Imagination. This will be the first of what we all hope will be a trio of albums. ““Only of Earth” is a soundtrack to a story, inspired by true events and fiction. Inspired by the the mystery of childbirth, the work of motherhood and the intrigue of love, life and loss, “Only of Earth” is a multi-media experience that will incorporate music as much as sketches, videos, a book and eventually, a live show.” from PledgeMusic’s updates.

this video is not from the album and i have no explanation.

9.  Fiver (Simone Schmidt) – Audible Songs from Rockwood [Idée Fixe, CANADA]

I had the pleasure of hearing Simone for the first time at a Basement Revue performance at the International Festival of Authors last autumn. I was blown away by her beautiful voice and the songs from this album, which are haunting and substantial. The inspiration for the album were the case files of patients at the Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane between 1854-1881. My favourite is the acapella song Yonder White Mare. I’d love to hear Simone do a duet with Sam Amidon. She’s nothing short of amazing.

10.  Wesley Stace - Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding [Yep Rock Records, UK]

I want to end with a bit of a quirky one and why not? This guy is also a novelist. So he’s already in my good books, not that I’ve read his work, but judging by these songs, he’s a good writer and he’s got a superb voice. The Jayhawks are also involved here. Note that he has in the past gone by John Wesley Harding, to make matters confusing or fun, if you’re like me. I could go on and talk about even more confusion in regards to the album of the same name by Bob Dylan, but let’s move on…His voice reminds me of Elvis Costello, especially in You’re A Song, which could be Elvis’s follow up to Good Year for the Roses or Baby Plays Around. Wesley/John has a lovely voice. I can imagine him singing madrigals in a choir as a youngster. I love the song, How to Fall. The whole album brings  me great joy. It’s quite and I don’t think it received much acclaim, but here it is…getting acclaim from me!

Honourable mentions: Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness, Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looks At Me (already on a lotta lists, so doesn’t need to be here, Laura Marlin’s Semper Femina).

There’s still time to buy music for your dear friends and family for the season. I highly recommend and to get great tunes for all and sundry.

I may be back with more favs of the year lists or I may not. What are your favs? Drop me a line or a message or whatever you like.

May you find joy, love, comfort, an appreciation for the absurd, empathy, whimsy, good pals, a soft kitty, the best fudge ever and a secret garden in 2018. 

yr pal,

Saturday, December 02, 2017


as part of AngelHousePress, i'm offering a free close reading service. the service was active from june 2016 to august 2017 and i took a break over the autumn because it's a busy time. but mentoring is important to me and i'd like to do my part.

WHAT:           I will read five pages of your free verse or prose poetry, offer editing suggestions and possibly suggest poetry to read;
WHO:             new poets, not yet published with a press (chapbook or spine), who identify as women or genderqueer writers; must be avid readers of contemporary poetry;
HOW:             send poetry to as pdf, doc, docx file; name a contemporary influence (poet, work of poetry);
WHEN:           anytime; work read on a first come first served basis, one poet per month;
WHERE:         wordwide;
WHY:             lack of chapbook submission by women & genderqueer writers; an attempt to encourage and mentor;
COST:             free.


 If your work resonates with me, I’ll invite you to submit a chapbook (20 pages or fewer) for consideration to AngelHousePress, which publishes limited editions of 50 copies, no reprints. You receive 10 copies and can buy additional copies at half price.

 You are under no obligation to submit a chapbook.

I reserve the right to suspend the service if I get overloaded, but wouldn’t that be great if that happened… I see this as a great opportunity for AngelHousePress to discover new writers and to share that discovery with the world.

I've edited the original call to clarify that I am also thrilled to read work by trans writers (FTM and MTF and gender fluid writers). And I want to make sure that people of colour, disabled and indigenous peoples feel welcome to ask for help with their poetry as well. Basically I want to help to create a world where artists that are not heard or paid attention to as much as they should be have every possible tool in their arsenal to get their creative work out there and be heard. 

Cis men, I adore you; you send queries, you send chapbook manuscripts; you are courageous. I appreciate your support of AngelHousePress and I hope that you continue to support the press with your work and by sharing our calls and information with others. 

 In 2015, in response to our call for long poems and poetry series, out of thirty submissions/queries, only three were by women. I want AngelHousePress to be a place where all poets feel welcome to send work for consideration. This is an experiment to see if mentorship and encouragement will lead to more women sending work our way. And we have received more work by women, so it’s going well. Perhaps other presses could consider a similar idea or have other mentorship methods they would like to share.

AngelHousePress, together with its transgressive prose imprint, DevilHouse, publishes two to four chapbooks a year in the spring and fall, but that depends on our schedule. We sometimes publish more chapbooks. We also have an online essay series, and a monthly podcast, we host in April and in November. We publish raw talent, ragged edges and rebels. We are always interested in essays, rants, manifestos, interviews, reviews and poetic statements for the essay series. For more information on the press, please visit

In particular I’d love to read dark and playful work in unique voices. I enjoy work that engages with art, film, literature, music and the world. Everything I do is for whimsy, connection and exploration...and...of course...for love.


Amanda Earl is a Canadian poet, fiction writer, visual poet and publisher. Her most recently published work includes Kiki  (Chaudiere Books), The Book of Esther (Puddles of Sky Press), wintered (shreeking violet press), Lady Lazarus Redux (above/ground press and poems in Arc Poetry Magazine, Matrix Magazine, the Windsor Review. Her poetry has also been published in American, Australian, British, and French publications on line and in print. Amanda is the managing editor of and the fallen angel of AngelHousePress. Her manuscripts have been shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Innovative Poetry Award. She was inducted into the VERSeOttawa Hall of Honour in 2014. More information is available at Or connect with Amanda on Twitter @KikiFolle