Friday, February 14, 2020

new from above/ground press: Poems for Lunch Poems at SFU, by rob mclennan

Poems for Lunch Poems at SFU
rob mclennan

Four poems for Kathleen Fraser


If I were to pin my favourite quotes,
this wall might collapse.

Stitched from fragments, and held,
for an instant.

Everything destroyed, Spicer wrote,
must be tossed.

There is always a truth, you wrote,
to such restlessness.


The elegy speaks to an absence
both unexpected

and abrupt. Applies
lyric pressure. She speaks to me

in sentences. Solitude

as capital. Echo, across
these crystalline structures. Poem

as carved diamond, or
a certain uneven panic.


The heart, in whatever language, wants, or
does not care. Incorporate this into what

we have already learned. The water heater
sound like a bird. The furnace

sound like a bird. Everything
sounds like a bird.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press, in part for a reading with Christine McNair in Vancouver on February 19, 2020 as part of Lunch Poems at SFU, with special thanks to Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Simon Fraser University and The League of Canadian Poets.
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012 and 2017. In March, 2016, he was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour. His most recent poetry titles include A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019) and Life sentence, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019) and the perpetually-forthcoming Household items (Salmon Publishing). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Touch the Donkey ( and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater ( He is “Interviews Editor” at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, editor of my (small press) writing day, and an editor/managing editor of many gendered mothers. He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at

This is mclennan’s sixty-second above/ground press chapbook, following Somewhere in-between / cloud (2019), Study of a fox (2018), snow day (2018) and It’s still winter (2017).

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at at rob_mclennan (at) or the PayPal button at

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

new from above/ground press: Thaumaturgy, by Anthony Etherin

Anthony Etherin


Anagrammed Lines

Winter Solstice:
Written close is
woe. Strict lines
wrestle in stoic
selections, writ
low in its secret.

Homonolic Lines

Winter Solstice:
Silver shimmers
needle darkness.
Gilded lanterns
gently splinter
leaden evenings....

Homovocalic Lines

Winter Solstice:
Nights echo, wide.
In the cosmic web,
lives collide.
In the low light, we
find the old rites.

Many of the poems in this collection are palindromes — either by letter, by pairs of letters, by triples of letters, or by word. One poem is an aelindrome, which means it palindromically parses its letters in accordance with a premeditated sequence — for example, the phrase “trap no rat” is aelindromic “in 123”, since its letters are parsed according to the associated palindromic sequence 12321: [t]1[ra]2[p no]3[ra]2[t]1.

Of the non-palindromic poems, some are composed of perfectly anagrammed lines. One piece (“Barely Time”) comprises three anagrammed haiku.

Some poems are minimalist sonnets — three Petrarchan, one Shakespearean and one Spenserian. The Shakespearean sonnet (a tetragram-sonnet) uses only four-letter words.

The other constraints are:

Triolet: A traditional form, of rhyme scheme ABaAabAB (where uppercase letters indicate repeated lines). Uniconsonantal Haiku: A haiku using only one consonant. Homonolic lines: Lines using words with the same letter-lengths. Homovocalic lines: Lines using the same vowels, in the same order, while varying consonants. Beaux Présents: Lines using only the letters found in their first word. Univocalic Haiku: A haiku using only one vowel. Beau Présent: A poem using only the letters found in its title.

Another poem uses only words that contain the consecutive letters “the”.

Cover: “An Incantation” by John Collier (1887).

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
February 2020
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Anthony Etherin
is an experimental formalist poet, a publisher, and a sometime musician. For more of his poetry, find him on Twitter, @Anthony_Etherin, and via

This is Etherin's second chapbook with above/ground press, after Danse Macabre (2018).

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at at rob_mclennan (at) or the PayPal button at

Sunday, February 2, 2020

John C. Goodman reviews Mary Kasimor's disrobing iris (2019)

John C. Goodman was good enough to provide the first review of Mary Kasimor's disrobing iris (2019) over at Otoliths; thanks so much! You can see the original review here.
In disrobing iris, Mary Kasimor engages us in a continuing dance of connection and alienation combined in a dazzling balance of control and abandon. The book is intensely personal, exploring a sense of “the ownership of loss”, lost beauty (“she was once beautiful”), lost opportunity (“possibility/doesn’t know what it is missing”), and struggling to find an inner place in a world of fragments and memories, searching for a fearless grace in a fractured reality.

These poems are about interconnectedness, especially the interconnectedness of the natural world contrasted with our alienation from it. There is a tension between fragmentation and connection reflected in the interplay between words and emotions. Kasimor uses the techniques of post-modernism to create a deeply emotional landscape, similar to the way Sylvia Plath used the techniques of Modernism to express her inner world. These poems fill out the relentless intellectualism of post-modernism with searing emotion. Although criticized for lack of feeling (“I am intellectual and cold”), Kasimor’s insensitive external persona is a cover for a chasm of emotional depth too painful to acknowledge (“I left my loss in the room/with gray walls – it slept with the rain”).

In disrobing iris, we haven’t created a human world so much as deconstructed the natural world, which makes us question ourselves and search for the meaning in what we have done (“forcing/the eye/to find itself”). Nature tries to heal through ancient and eternal patterns, but finds the world too disfigured (“trembling     without a radius/in the     diagram     of broken lines”).

Sewing, a traditionally feminine occupation, is a recurring theme as a way of threading things together (“ants restring broken air”), but also as a way of making boundaries (“of stitched culture”) and as a means of repression (“she knew all the stitches to close her mouth”). The feminine is lost in mirrors, make-up, dresses of spun sugar and fractured reflections (“girl babies in the window/the de-feminization of them”). The feminine is prevented from healing the world because women are culturally reduced to commodities (“the mass of little men/digging up my fingers—two for a dollar”, “to market love and atmosphere/for the impulses of men”).

Sewing both connects us to and alienates us from meaning (“God’s life sewn shut”). The act of sewing becomes a means of revolt, making connections in a new way (“a new language of dropped stitches”) that disrupts the cultural rhetoric of oppression (“secrets/of cross stitch draw blood”), a revolution accomplished through small acts of reconnection with the natural world, achieved, not by the flamboyant ego (“I have an intuitive self-importance), but by the quiet small “i” persona (“i Sew/together the edges/to keep the Broken air/restrung”).

disrobing iris shows how our emotional identity is bound to the physical and that alienation from the natural world (“I cannot locate myself/outside”) brings alienation from the self resulting in objectification (“a thing/shaped image. a talking device”). In the end, we need to listen to the natural world and participate the endless cycle of life (“logic grips the ceaseless”), for new beginnings always start with the mundane (life squatted giving birth./I wiped off the blood,/spent the evening watching television.”).