A rose a rose a rose a
Rose a rose a
Rosa Rose arose
Rosa Rose rose Rose
Rose, a rose, arose a Rosa Rose
RosearoseJeremy Colangeloabove/ground press broadside #317
founded July 1993 : CELEBRATING TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AND MORE THAN 900 PUBLICATIONS! Ottawa-based poetry chapbook + broadside publisher; publisher of The Peter F. Yacht Club (a writer's group magazine) + Touch the Donkey (a small poetry magazine) + G U E S T [a journal of guest editors], as well as home of The Factory Reading Series (founded January 1993); edited/published/curated by rob mclennan
RosearoseJeremy Colangeloabove/ground press broadside #317
Nicole Markotić (Windsor ON)lovingly hosted by rob mclennan,
and Gil McElroy (Colborne ON)
Recent Reads: Brecken Hancock and Seth Landman
The Art Of Plumbing by Brecken Hancock
A Note on the Text by Seth Landman
Both titles published by above/ground press.
If the idea of a timeline marking the conception and evolution of the bathtub sounds tedious, Brecken Hancock’s oft-unfathomable history lesson will surprise you. Adopting ancient folklore, historical black-eyes and modern police files as some of her muses, The Art Of Plumbing date-stamps not only the Egyptian bathing tomb’s sophisticated rise to contemporary cast irons but the capacities of humanity, unflinching throughout the ages.
“1984 CE When his fishing trawler sinks, Gudlaugur Fridpórsson swims six hours in the North Atlantic off the coast of the Westman Islands. Two fellow fishermen die of hypothermia, but “the miracle man” somehow survives the cold and the Kraken by talking to mukki, sea birds, and unknowingly relying on his seal-like fat, found later to be three times thicker than usual for humans. Finally navigating the cliffs and crawling up onto an ancient lava field, Fridpórsson walks barefoot over two kilometres of terrain. His soles turn to ribbons that unravel across pumice humps of molten rock. He finds a bathtub meant to trough sheep and punches a hole through its ice, finally plunging his face in the fresh water to drink.”
And further along...
“2007 CE Tatsuya Ichihasi rips out the bathroom fixtures in his Tokyo sky-rise flat. After beating Lindsay Ann Hawker to death with an amputated faucet, he buries her in a bathtub of sand on his balcony. Two weeks later police find her, right fingertips exposed, pinned by weather to the rim.”
These two excerpts taken from the tub’s recent history – after all, The Art Of Plumbing begins in 3300 BCE – hint at the curious variety of Hancock’s selections while showcasing her authoritative but poetic voice, which leaves thought-provoking hooks, or a haunting pause, with each anecdote.
Brecken’s tone further infiltrates her study by way of personal entries bookending the project: one a majestic prologue capturing the deep sea’s churning, primal order of things bubbling up through her “immaculate taps”, the other occurring here in 2013 with our historian allowing a bleak glimpse into her distressed evening by the bath. While The Art Of Plumbing’s bulk commemorates our humble tubs with a radiant chronology, Brecken’s bookends serve a purposeful reminder that for all of its incidental cameos over the centuries, the bath symbolizes one of the very few places humankind can reexamine itself, blemishes and all.
Seth Landman’s unstoppable “text” runs through a knee-jerk network of abstract doubts and indifference. As if transcribing the minutes of every half-epiphany, the Northampton, Massachusetts native nevertheless unearths poignant communiqués from the fractured coda. Often meandering with an agenda, poems such as “A Great Deal” and “Slovenly” seem partial to navel-gazing self-analysis before unfurling into meditations of a more universal nature; ‘notes’ in the grey space between connection and isolation. Here’s an excerpt from the latter selection:
“go ahead and make me
dinner it’s this fantasy
I have a domestic life
but not really
real my life’s
just swell I keep
doing it every day
and some days
it feels like other days
it feels like an adventure.”
His insights are sharply worded but those line-breaks frequently catch me off-guard, the way he toys with tenses and splices one rich thought into a stanza of rudimentary, conflicting ones. But with each off-kilter revelation, A Note on the Text incites the reader to return again, blindfold loosened, to tread his murky logic more fluently.
This plainspoken but tricky approach resonates especially well when recollecting a narrative. The tumbling, possibly intoxicated “Sleep Tuft” and the winter-sick “A Note On the Text” reveal evocative bits of language through Landman’s cryptic lens. I can envision the restricted woods described in “Sleep Tuft” and the darkened cabin corners of “A Note on the Text” yet the author’s emotional proximity to these places – and to his companion, certainly – is coloured with intangibles. Amid notes and texts that plumb both idyllic and idle thoughts on love and loneliness, it’s Landman’s I-don’t-knows that prove the most memorable. From "Sleep Tuft":
a drunk sense of
past all over
calling it out
you can walk
what's the point
though we are
we might not know
in Europe. You’re
tired, & you’re
reading poetry all day. You’re
& still confessing a
hole here, a world
there, a heart, a
life. Wherever you go I’m sick of hearing
--------------------------------------------------------------------------published in Ottawa by above/ground press
Apollinare is the best example: undemanding Apollinaire, inevitable Apollinaire, Apollinare with all the answers.
You saw yourself in Apollinaire, Apollinaire in your eyes.
Look behind me, Apollinaire, while I mourn.
Get the tape cued so I canpublished in Ottawa by above/ground press
betray somebody in here.
won’t let off its oceanic stink.
What you’re trading, just functional luggage.
I mean, I wanted to get
lugged out of a well.
Skoal tin of soil, now rain & soil.
You like to breathe, right?
A good scolding, a hotel room
with one too many freaks to stand it.
Recent Reads: Allison Grayhurst and Shannon Maguire
The River Is Blind by Allison Grayhurst
A Web Of Holes by Shannon Maguire
Both titles published by above/ground press, December 2012.
“He came. He is what everyone needs
But the pavement is thick
the ground beneath is rich
saturated with worms,
with worm motion
at worm speed.”
This stanza, snipped from the tail-end of “In the Thighs”, illustrates an existential curiosity that courses through Allison Grayhurst’s latest collection. We’ll get to the “He” part in a minute. But first, it’s Grayhurst’s physical constraints that comfort us: a box sitting at the top of the stairs, housecats in states of wakefulness and sleep, the “snails and moss” that preoccupy her. Indeed, The River Is Blind situates itself firmly in the familial but imbues those relationships and domestic touchstones with a disembodied calm. Ambition and disenchantment linger along the fences of Grayhurst’s property but she remains candidly in the present: embracing “the comfort of sweaters and knitted socks” for “First Snow of Winter”, “the child sitting and staring and waiting for the coin” in “Wallpaper Stars”.
In lesser hands, muses such as these might’ve resulted in verses of weak-kneed contentedness. But Grayhurst’s voice remains one of detachment, webbing daily pleasures into greater meditations on love and God – the “He” that churns The River Is Blind’s family soil. Through spiritual lens, poems like “Everything Happens” and “Flies” counteract steadfast faith with insights on the material world, a separate world; a place where people grind flowers for honey. From “Flies”:
“What faith was plucked with the flowers
as all their little tongues reached out to pocket
the short-term scent?”
Naturally it’s a tad intimidating when the first word of a first poem has you running for the nearest dictionary. But “epoché”, meaning to suspend our understanding of the external world in order to relate to phenomena on a purely conscious level, proves more an ideological gateway for Shannon Maguire than a term reserved for Greek philosophy. In A Web Of Holes, epoché operates as a palette-cleanser, an italicized provocation plopped down as if to ready us for enlightenment, however fleeting.
The delight of Maguire’s long verse doesn’t lie at the heart of some mystic truth but in the trail of crumbs by which we readers become seekers. Ringing true to my newfound understanding of epoché, her language prefers a disorienting narrative, one that repeatedly suspends our ability to find grounded context amid visceral and scholarly hurdles.
“external acoustic crunch
undulating forms wet with
yard line dirt around her waist
in with clock and guests
elongated, erect seconds”
Besides illustrating her palette for abstract sensuality and Greek imagery, this excerpt identifies A Web Of Holes as acrostic; E, U, R, Y, D, I, C, and E trafficking the bulk of Maguire’s verses in honour of Eurydice, wife of Orpheus. This opens up some juicy parallels between ancient lore and Maguire’s sharp insights on the ownership of femininity. A temperamental breakdown in syntax midway through introduces a conflict in reinterpreting Eurydice’s tale; a commentary on the myth-making roots of Greek literature, perhaps.
You may wish to keep that dictionary handy but A Web Of Holes wouldn’t be nearly as exciting without its obfuscations which, with a bit of a learning curve, unveil ephemeral gems of raw, almost carnal, beauty. To close, here’s an example of Maguire’s hard-fought harmony:
“Evening’s gaze, the limit of voice
Unison of suspension
You watch them
It is a bright and chilly morning
Collapse, there are still not
Enough independent girls
Eglinton at five am, floating
Rebuilt from a country road
You watch them dreaming
Date the world from those Cordova Street cherry blossoms
Ink brushes against her forehead
Cassanation of gossiping motors
Eviction notice floating, floating”
InfluenceSonnet L’Abbé is the author of two collections of poetry, A Strange Relief and Killarnoe, and a reviewer of Canadian fiction and poetry for The Globe and Mail. Her work has been included in Best Canadian Poetry 2009 and 2010 and was shortlisted for the the 2010 CBC Literary Award for poetry. She is currently teaching creative writing at the University of British Columbia and writing a dissertation on botanical metaphors in representations of human cognition in the work of American poet Ronald Johnson.
by Sonnet L'Abbé
above/ground press broadside #316
Poet, novelist, editor and publisher rob mclennan has run Ottawa-based above/ground press since 1993. The press — which specializes in chapbooks and broadsides – celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Through above/ground, mclennan has shone a spotlight on local and national talent, releasing chapbooks by the likes of Marcus McCann, Ben Ladouceur, Marilyn Irwin, Cameron Anstee, Lea Graham and Shannon Maguire, among many, many others. above/ground’s continued existence is a testament to mclennan’s passion and commitment to indie poetry and publishing, and stands as a strong rebuttal to anyone who questions the continued survival of indie publishing. mclennan is proof: if you want to do it, you can. Take a look and subscribe.
Broken Pencil: Did you ever anticipate being around this long when you started above/ground in 1993?
rob mclennan: I don’t think there’s any way I could have seen it going this long. But honestly, I wasn’t looking that far ahead when I was all of 23. How would or could I have known? I just kept doing and making and discovering new things to attempt.
I’ve been telling myself for years that once it’s no longer fun, I’ll stop doing it. This applies equally to above/ground press, the Ottawa small press book fair (twice a year since fall 1994), The Factory Reading Series (which turned 20 years old in January 2013), the Ottawa poetry annual ottawater, Chaudiere Books, the dozens of reviews and interviews I daily post to the blog, and so many of the other things I seemingly do for so very little reward. So far, I haven’t seen a single reason to not continue doing any and all of the above. It’s all still enormously fun. I’ve been doing so many of these things for so long that I consider them essential elements of my writing process and experience. It becomes difficult to separate one from the other.
You’ve spoken in a blog post about there being a larger arc for the press – one that has correlated with your time spent as writer-in-residence at U of A, as well as the focus on local authors, new authors, national and established authors. How has your “arc” manifested itself, and how has it deviated from what you initially imagined?
I think the core ideas for the press have been there from the beginning, if not the near-beginning, and these ideas have simply expanded, or become better articulated and executed. In so many ways, everything I’ve done over the years as editor, organizer and/or publisher has come from that initial spark of above/ground, expanding further and further out.
above/ground is known – among other things – as having an uncanny ability to divine emerging writers who seem to be on the verge of something bigger. How do you define that feeling when you choose the writers you wish to work with? Are you able to see their future “arc” of development?
I look for writing that intrigues, surprises and/or inspires. I want writing that makes me slightly jealous that I didn’t compose it myself. Arc, as such, becomes a difficult thing to define other than simply working to continue those things that I’ve been doing, and be better at them. When I was first aware of Stephanie Bolster’s writing back in 1994 or 1995, I knew she was really on to something. My chapbook offer to her was almost immediate. But not everyone that catches my eye ends up going places. But that’s okay too. One has to have faith, I suppose.
Over the past few years, I’ve been excited watching new writers develop, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to offer help in my own way to their continued development. I don’t know if I can see a particular future arc of development for anyone, but I can certainly spot potential every so often, and am willing to be a next step for someone who might really need it. I also want to be able to provide a space for risky work, writing that might not really fit anywhere else. Already for 2013, I’m publishing new works by a couple of first time authors, including Ottawa poets Abby Paige and Brecken Hancock, and Vancouver poet (and former Broken Pencil Deathmatch contestant) Jordan Abel, none of whom I’d even heard of a few months prior.
Honestly, there’s nothing more exciting than finding great work in a random journal, and that immediate impulse to see more: (does the poet have) a book I should be reading? A chapbook? And if not, how might I get a hold of them to possibly request one?
I consider a part of what I do to be completely open to new writing and new writers, knowing full well that perhaps what I have to offer is less helpful to someone more established, but, by taking on a writer’s first or second chapbook manuscript, it might be the first time their work is promoted so specifically. I would hope that a chapbook through above/ground might make it slightly less difficult for those writers to get work accepted into journals, perhaps have some readings in various corners, and even start getting that first manuscript out into the world. With chapbooks through above/ground, I would hope that Hancock and Abel’s first books then become anticipatory, for those who might not have heard of either of those writers previously.
Can you tell us a little more about the anniversary events you have planned this year?
It’s slightly too early to talk about, but I’m working on a follow-up to Groundswell: the best of above/ground press, 1993-2003 (Fredericton NB: Broken Jaw Press, 2003) to cover the press’ second decade. I’m also talking to Sean Wilson at the Ottawa International Writers Festival about doing something at the fall edition of the fest. They were good enough to host a launch for the tenth anniversary, as well as a launch for our opening salvo of Chaudiere Books titles, so they’ve been a great support. I’d say watch the website for details of events happening in August (the press’ official anniversary, which usually includes two to four new titles launched) and October (during the writers festival). Basically: stay tuned.
Are there any releases this year that you are particularly looking forward to and would like to highlight for us?
So far, 2013 includes new chapbooks by Abby Paige, Jordan Abel, Brecken Hancock, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Stephen Cain, Wanda O’Connor and Gil McElroy, among others. I produced a chapbook by American poet Deborah Poe last year, and she’s coming up to do her first Ottawa reading at the end of March, alongside Wanda O’Connor, launching her first above/ground press chapbook (I’ve been trying to get a chapbook manuscript out of her for almost a decade).
Poet and curator Gil McElroy will be launching his chapbook Twentieth as part of The Factory Reading Series’ lecture series at Ottawa’s third annual poetry festival, VERSeFest. I’ve long been an admirer and supporter of McElroy’s work, and this will be McElroy’s fourth above/ground press chapbook, going back to 1995.
Recently, I finally received a chapbook manuscript from British Columbia poet David Phillips, which is enormously exciting for me. I’ve been trying to get a manuscript out of Phillips since I met him in Vancouver in 2004. We have yet to hammer the small mound into a workable manuscript.
In addition to above/ground press, rob mclennan is the author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2011, and was long-listed for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. His most recent titles include the poetry collections Songs for little sleep (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012), grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), and A (short) history of l. (BuschekBooks, 2011). He’s also at the helm of Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater. He spent the 2007-08 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com. This fall, Chaudiere Books will publish his collection of short, short stories, The Uncertainty Principle.