Friday, December 30, 2016

The Peter F. Yacht Club Christmas party/reading/regatta : a report,

Last night we held our annual PFYC Christmas party/reading/regatta [see the report from last year's event here] at the Carleton Tavern, our "office Christmas party," if you will, for those of us in our informal writer's group [see a history of PFYC here].

Stephen Brockwell provided some fine co-hosting duties, as well as an array of photos (all of these pictures were taken by him). There were short readings by Amanda Earl, Stephen Brockwell, Frances Boyle, Pearl Pirie, Marilyn Irwin, Janice Tokar, myself, Gwendolyn Guth and Roland Prevost, with an array of audience that included Monty Reid, Brian Pirie, jwcurry, Rachel Zavitz, Steve Zytveld, Jason Wiens (Christmassing here from Calgary) and Robert Stacey [pictured at the end, with me]. Most read short selections of new pieces and/or works-in-progress, but for myself, who could only manage a poem or two from the new book (all my works-in-progress aren't yet ready for public consumption).
It was good to hear some new work from Gwendolyn Guth, including a poem since that has been accepted for a forthcoming anthology on motherhood via Demeter Press. Congratulations, Gwen!

Really, much of the enjoyment of the PFYC Christmas event is in hearing new work from poet-friends that perhaps don't read as often as they should, whether Gwendolyn Guth, author of the 2010 chapbook Good People, or Janice Tokar, author of the 2014 chapbook ARRHYTHMIA.
Some of us, including Marilyn, Pearl and myself, even provided some baked goods, with an array of chocolate goodness brought in by Roland and Jan. There was also much merriment! I also brought along copies of a variety of above/ground press items not set to release until January, including the new issue of Touch the Donkey, and above/ground press' 800th item! (What could it be? Stay tuned!)

Unfortunately, weather and circumstance kept a few readers away, including Jason Christie, Claire Farley, Chris Turnbull, Chris Johnston, Christine McNair and Vivian Vavassis. But hey, there's always next year, right?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas, holiday, season and/or whatever you celebrate!

For whatever you celebrate, we hope it is satisfactory, and beyond. Merry!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Katie L. Price interviewed at Speaking at Marvels

Katie L. Price is interviewed over at Speaking at Marvels around her second above/ground press title, Sickly (2015) [while referencing her first, BRCA: Birth of a Patient (2015)]. See the full interview here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Klara du Plessis reviews Stephanie Bolster's Three Bloody Words (2016) at Broken Pencil

Montreal poet Klara du Plessis was good enough to provide the first review of Stephanie Bolster's Three Bloody Words: Twentieth Anniversary Edition (2016) over at Broken Pencil. Thanks so much! You can see the original review here.
Three Bloody Words
Stephanie Bolster, 23 pgs, above/ground press,, $5

This is an anniversary publication, a reissue twenty years after the original release, celebrating Stephanie Bolster’s chapbook Three Bloody Words—a sequence of poems and short paragraphs aiming to rewrite well-known fairytales from the perspective of the princess. In an new afterword, Bolster describes her feminist project and her desire “to reclaim women’s narratives … I was, simply and sincerely, claiming identity as a writer. In giving these women a voice, I was giving myself one.”

Modeled as retellings of fairytales, these pieces are thematically linked by their consistent exposure of the latent violence inherent to so-called children’s stories—“To think they read these stories to children” being one of the poem’s titles. While the fairytales are never named, the narratives are presumably so familiar to most readers that select elements are enough to clue in reader that, for example, a man lurking in the forest, threatening a girl dressed in red, is most probably based on Little Red Riding Hood. Similarly, a girl with “snow-white skin/ blood-red cheeks, hair as black as ebony” is sufficient to position the under-aged, coerced and subsequently vengeful child bride as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

What sets Bolster’s retellings apart from similar work by, for instance, Anne Sexton, is her insistence on the contemporaneous nature of the narratives. When “this guy in a suit comes & asks what’s it like being in fairytales he’s doing his thesis,” it becomes clear that the entitled, patriarchal, often aggressive and nonconsensual archetype of the Disney prince has just changed his guise for modern times; “it was the same old story.” The legendary “happily ever after” postures as the continuity of fairytale violence and inequality into the present day.

Monday, December 12, 2016

dusie kollektiv #8, curated by rob mclennan, now online

The 8th “dusie kollektiv” is now online, with pdfs of a variety of chapbooks by multiple current and former above/ground press authors (among a long list of others).

above/ground press authors in the 8th kollektiv include: Gary Barwin, Joe Blades, Rob Budde, Jason Christie, Amanda Earl, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, Hailey Higdon, Megan Kaminski, Marcus McCann, rob mclennan, Marthe Reed, Elizabeth Robinson, Jessica Smith and Chris Turnbull.

See the link here to read all sorts of dusie goodness from across North America (and occasionally beyond!).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ryan Pratt reviews Bronwen Tate's Vesper Vigil (2016)

Our pal Ryan Pratt was good enough to provide the first review for Bronwen Tate's Vesper Vigil (2016) over at the ottawa poetry newsletter. Thanks much! You can see Pratt's post here. As he writes:
Vesper Vigil by Bronwen Tate
Published by above/ground press, 2016.

"You sleep, I sigh, we mingle breath like lovers –
I reach a stealthy hand, adjust the sheet.
Somewhere between sentiment and complaint
are words to name the child sleeping here"

So begins Vesper Vigil, a collection of sonnets which chronicle the last weeks of Bronwen Tate’s pregnancy with this perfectly succinct ambiguity – how it feels to be pinned down by what we love most. True to her intent, Tate records both the daily parenting of her young son and the approaching birth of her daughter without getting precious or irate. Instead, she employs a tenderness that seesaws between love and pain, gentle yet sore to touch.

“Will this lumpy baby ever come out?”
Owen considers, replies “I don’t know”.
So we measure days in peaches, bruises,
bruised peaches, it’s the body that chooses."

Tate explores the fragile limits of our bodies – how we feed, grow and injure them – within the framework of domesticated routines that gauge her excruciating wait. Every seemingly casual digression probes one of two spectres, the impending pain or joy. They’re a package deal, of course, and her bittersweet tone acknowledges it. Like the development of a fetus, these sonnets mature in nerves that feel deeply rooted thanks to the sing-song rhyme scheme. Each page can encapsulate hours or weeks. Her choice of form allows that compression rate without sacrificing a fluid rhythm, though – as is common with the sonnet – rhymes occasionally raise an eyebrow. (Did she really play disco, or does it just rhyme with San Francisco, etc.?) In any case, by the time she’s admitted to her hospital room, the anxiety and loneliness of third-trimester pregnancy is palpable:

"I’ve taken Misoprostol, Cervidil,
now sitting, watch contraction numbers rise,
one hand to hold the heart monitor still,
slight lag between the pain and peaking highs.
We left with early fog but found no bed,
paced corridors and watched the shifting crane,
took Owen to a playground, sat and read,
called only to be postponed again.
At two at last they showed me to my room,
this prison of uncertain duration,
can’t leave these walls till baby quits the womb,
perch on window bench, await dilation.
Alone now, I breathe through pains, try to sleep.
The road to you be gentle, dark, and steep."

Reading the above selection, I realize how little I’ve contemplated the psychological effects of pregnancy and childbirth. (Just analyzing Tate's thought that, once admitted, she cannot leave the hospital without first enduring an unknown pain gives my pulse a race.) As someone who looks in on parenthood from the outside, that’s my biggest takeaway from this chapbook. Tate manages to imbue archetypal family dynamics with a memorable dose of personal details, creating an unguarded glance at motherhood in transition.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Peter F. Yacht Club regatta/reading/christmas party!

lovingly co-hosted by Stephen Brockwell 
+ rob mclennan;

The Peter F. Yacht Club annual regatta/christmas party/reading

at The Carleton Tavern (upstairs)
233 Armstrong Avenue (at Parkdale Market)
Thursday, December 29, 2016
doors 7pm, reading 7:30pm

with readings from yacht club regulars and irregulars alike, including Claire Farley, Amanda Earl, Frances Boyle, Pearl Pirie, rob mclennan, Roland Prevost, Marilyn Irwin, Chris Turnbull, etc.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cary Fagan reviews Carrie Olivia Adam's Grapple (2016)

Toronto writer Cary Fagan was good enough to provide the first review for Carrie Olivia Adam's Grapple (2016) over at his new Bodies and Words. Thanks much! You can see Fagan's post here. As he writes:
Carrie Olivia Adams, Grapple.  Ottawa: above/ground press, 2016.
It is notoriously difficult to capture one art form in another; can one do more than search for clumsy equivalents, fractured reflections?  And yet when I read Carrie Olivia Adams’ Grapple for the first time, it was if I could see the movement and struggle of bodies in my mind.  Not only the words themselves but the placement of the lines, fragments across a wide page, evoked extension and constriction, stillness and action.
My first reading was without benefit of the “Notes on the Composition” which comes after the eight-page poem.  I did have the image on the cover, and two inside, to know this was a dance in words.  And the epigraph by Nawal El Saadawi told me that the poem was about movement and passivity, surrender and resistance.  But it was only upon reading the notes that I understood the poem to actually be a text that had accompanied a dance performance–a performance inspired (if that’s the right term) by the arrest of “a young African American man during a protest as part of Moral Mondays Illinois in Chicago in November 2015.”
The poem begins with two definitions of the title–“to stop the progress or movement of / (something)” and “to attract and hold the attention of / (someone or something).”  This apparent contradiction, or mirror-imaging, is carried on throughout, with “strength” linked to “vulnerability” and going “limp” being an “act of resistance / …an act of / strength”.  There is a particularly telling moment when
We cannot see your face                              you cannot see ours                                                                                                              pressed

                                                      But we are so close
These words seem to me both powerful, frightening, and almost beautiful.  On the poem’s next page, however, the poet becomes somewhat less nimble, writing in true, if sloganeering fashion, of a city that “forgets / the backs on which it is built”.  But then the poet becomes more suggestive again:
Tell us again how you know
how you submerged us
how we re-wrote the movement of sidewalk and street
how it bent up to meet us
These words were spoken to a dance created by Chicago choreographers Jamie Corliss and Lydia Feuerhelm, who were also the performers.  According to the “Notes,” the dance and the words were intended to “work with and against each other,” echoing the tension within the poem itself.  I certainly would have liked to see this performance in which “intimacy and aggression overlap” but the poem works well on its own, especially with the accompanying photographs.  It is a work that, while for the most part not allowing its political purpose to diminish its artistry, never forgets that purpose.

Friday, November 25, 2016

above/ground press contributes to the filling Station fundraiser

above/ground press has donated a whole MOUND of chapbooks to the filling Station magazine fundraiser! [there have been a number of fundraisers lately; did you see this one for Canthius?] Check the link here to bid on this magnificent collection (some of which are extremely rare), or even here for other items in their fabulous auction! The nineteen titles included in the above/ground press package are by Calgary poets, both former and current, produced by above/ground press over the past two decades. Most of these items are still available through the press, but a couple of them only through the recent "backlist/rarities" list.

The Appetites of Tiny Hands
Natalee Caple

Julia Williams

[Dear Fred]
derek beaulieu

A, You're Adorable
George Bowering as "Ellen Field"

"Calcite Gours 1-19," STANZAS #38
derek beaulieu

ryan fitzpatrick

The writing that should enter into conversation
Natalie Simpson

& look there goes a sparrow transplanting soul [3 eclogues]
Emily Carr

Further to Our Conversation
Robert Kroetsch

@BillMurray in Purgatorio
nathan dueck

Cursed Objects
Jason Christie

Braking and Blather
Emily Ursuliak

transcend transcribe transfigure transform transgress
derek beaulieu

ryan fitzpatrick

The Charm
Jason Christie

Ins & Outs
Nicole Markotić

10 Poems
Christian Bök

ERASURE: a short story
Braydon Beaulieu

John Barton

Friday, November 11, 2016

“poem” broadside #340 : Quercus: “Nations hurled together so they might learn to know one another,” by Derek Beaulieu

Quercus: “Nations hurled together so they might learn to know one another”
by Derek Beaulieu
November 2016
above/ground press broadside #340

Derek Beaulieu
is the author of the collections of poetry with wax, fractal economies, chains, silence, ascender / descender, kern, frogments from the frag pool (co-written with Gary Barwin) and Please no more poetry: the poetry of derek beaulieu (Ed. Kit Dobson). He has also written 4 collections of conceptual fiction: a a novel, flatland, Local Colour and How To Write (Nominated for the W.O. Mitchell Award). He is the author of two collections of essays: Seen of the Crime and The Unbearable Contact with Poets. Beaulieu co-edited bill bissett’s RUSH: what fuckan theory (with Gregory Betts) and Writing Surfaces: fiction of John Riddell (with Lori Emerson). He is the publisher of the acclaimed no press and is the visual poetry editor at UBUWeb. Beaulieu has exhibited his work across Canada, the United States and Europe and is an award-winning instructor. Derek Beaulieu was the 2014–2016 Poet Laureate of Calgary, Canada. With rob mclennan, he edited the new anthology The Calgary Renaissance (Chaudiere Books).

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ryan Pratt reviews Robert Hogg's from Lamentations (2016)

Ryan Pratt was good enough to review Robert Hogg's from Lamentations (2016) over at the ottawa poetry newsletter. Thanks much! This is actually the third review of Hogg's chapbook, after Rebecca Anne Banks reviewed such over at Subterranean Blue Poetry, and Scott Bryson reviewed such in Broken Pencil. You can see Pratt's review here. As he writes:
As its title suggests, from Lamentations is a sampler of poems from an as-yet-unreleased body of work about memory. That this is the compilation’s expanded, second edition implies considerable gestation time. But even without knowing that, the sporadic growth of this manuscript can be measured by dates that accompany each poem, marking when their finished drafts occurred. As a result, Robert Hogg explores the past in layers, writing about his childhood and formative years in the 1950s and 1960s via perspectives he held on dates ranging from the early '90s up until January of this year.

Hogg pokes and prods these breadcrumbs of autobiography for gleanings beyond his own experience. “Roy Rogers – a jazz elegy” and “Summer of sixty-three” deal in fractured, stream-of-conscious details that transpose the youthful significance of its subjects to disquieting uncertainty. He slows his boyhood’s galloping adoration for Hollywood cowboy Roy Rogers to examine the simple “good against evil” doctrine of America’s wild west:

the colorful black and white dazzle of your perfect horsemanship riding
full speed the reins wrapped around the horn those mother of pearl six guns
twirling round your index fingers and firing so perfectly the outlaws seemed
to fall and die but not really it was just like the make-believe we also played
Jesus Roy did you know all that when you practiced your squint in the mirror and
yodelled all those songs on the radio nights we were too young to know any better and
thought it was real romance?

Later, in "Summer of sixty-three", he steadies a romanticized image of his “bohemian goodfornothing but love and lovemaking friends” upon the dulling of years passed:

West Pender
Coal Harbour

place itself
nervous and precarious as this pad
perched on its stilts above a steep ravine

and below near the shoreline the rail yard
abyss we all knew
time was or would be

Tight, conservative stanzas like the above excerpt follow wooly, run-on yarns – sometimes within the same poem – as though the writer is torn between rose-tinted nostalgia and the dislocation of trying to categorize certain memories, decades on. Yet these poems aren’t so much conflicted by age as they are counterbalanced, the wild and restrained Robert Hogg appearing on page in roughly equal measure. The tone’s just right – good natured but deeply felt.

With “Ahead (in memoriam, Bob Creeley” and “Synapse, Mid-Morning, January”, the chapbook takes on true existential colours; the former poem aiding a good friend in traveling the mysteries of afterlife and the latter finding Hogg at present day, kindling a wood stove. There’s no sentiment in this last poem, just small observations on the present moment. And given so much space to interpret, I wonder if "Synapse, Mid-Morning, January" provides such a contrast from the bulk of from Lamentations because it signals the sort of insight one's left with after seventy-odd years on Earth. There's no ego; just a new memory, cut at the root.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Factory Reading Series pre-small press book fair reading, November 25, 2016: Strimas, Di Cicco, Brockwell, Fiszer + Marchand,

span-o (the small press action network - ottawa) presents:

The Factory Reading Series
pre-small press book fair reading
featuring readings by:

Meagan Strimas (Toronto)
Pier Giorgio Di Cicco (Toronto)
Stephen Brockwell (Ottawa)
Doris Fiszer (Ottawa)
+ Blaine Marchand (Ottawa)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan
Friday, November 25, 2016;
doors 7pm; reading 7:30pm
The Carleton Tavern,
223 Armstrong Street (at Parkdale; upstairs)

[And don’t forget the ottawa small press book fair, held the following day at the Jack Purcell Community Centre]

Meaghan Strimas [pictured] is the author of three poetry collections, Junkman’s Daughter, A Good Time Had By All and Yes or Nope, and the editor of The Selected Gwendolyn MacEwan. She grew up in Owen Sound, Ontario, and lives in Toronto, where she is a professor in the Department of English at Humber College and the managing editor of the Humber Literary Review.

Pier Giorgio Di Cicco is the author of twenty-two volumes of poetry, most recently My Life Without Me, and a book of manifestos on creative cities called Municipal Mind. He has lectured widely in the domain of creative economies throughout N. America and Europe and is the recipient of a Canadian Urban Institute Award for his thesis of civic spirit as the underpinning of prosperous modern cities. He is a Roman Catholic priest, a jazz trumpeter, and principal of the urban consultancy, “Municipal Mind” ( He is presently the public space liaison between the stakeholders of the Toronto waterfront land and the City of Toronto. He was the Poet Laureate of the City of Toronto between 2004 and 2009.

Stephen Brockwell cut his writing teeth in the ’80s in Montreal, appearing on French and English CBC Radio and in the anthologies Cross/cut: Contemporary English Quebec Poetry and The Insecurity of Art (both Véhicule Press, 1982). George Woodcock described Brockwell’s first book, The Wire in Fences, as having an “extraordinary range of empathies and perceptions.” Harold Bloom wrote that Brockwell’s second book, Cometology, “held rare and authentic promise.” Fruitfly Geographic won the Archibald Lampman award for best book of poetry in Ottawa in 2005. Brockwell currently operates a small IT consulting company from the 7th floor of the Chateau Laurier and lives in a house perpetually under construction. His most recent poetry title is All of Us Reticent, Here, Together, published by Mansfield Press.

Doris Fiszer is a member of Ruby Tuesday’s writing group. Her poetry has appeared in Bywords Quarterly Journal, and other local publications. Her chapbook The Binders won the 2016 Tree Chapbook Award and was published by Tree Press. The poems in the chapbook were inspired by her parents’ experiences in Nazi camps during world War 11 and are part of a larger collection she is currently working on. 

Blaine Marchand's poetry and prose has appeared in magazines across Canada and in the US. He has won several prizes for his writing, including 2nd Prize in the 1990 National Poetry Contest and the Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry for his book A Garden Enclosed. His two most recent books, Aperture and The Craving of Knives were short-listed for the Archibald Lampman Award in 2009 and 2010. He has six books of poetry published, a children's novel and a work of non-fiction.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

above/ground press at Meet the Presses + the ottawa small press book fair

above/ground press will again be participating in Toronto's annual Meet the Presses INDIE LITERARY MARKET on Saturday, November 19, 2016, 11:30am-4:30pm, at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto as well as the semi-annual ottawa small press book fair on Saturday, November 26, 2016, noon-5pm, in room 203 of the Jack Purcell Community Centre, Elgin Street at 320 Jack Purcell Lane, Ottawa. Both events are free to the public! But you should totally bring a handful of cash...

Of course, there will be a TON of above/ground press items, including a couple things I haven't even told you about yet! Come by and say hello, if you can...

Monday, November 7, 2016

Klara du Plessis reviews Sean Braune's the vitamins of an alphabet (2016) in Broken Pencil

Klara du Plessis was good enough to provide the first review of Sean Braune's the vitamins of an alphabet (2016) in Broken Pencil. Thanks much! You can see the review here. As she writes:
the vitamins of an alphabet starts in medias res. There is no title page. There is no title for the first poem. In fact, the first word of the first poem isn’t even capitalized, although the other poems in the collection abide by this convention. Sean Braune’s chapbook of poems launches itself as if it weren’t really the beginning, but rather an “alphabetic terrarium” – the poems are kept safe inside the physical form of this little book, but they exist equally off of the page and out in the real world. As Braune inquires: “Do the letters or languages live? / Do they exists beyond this typing.”

Braune enlivens language. Words grow organically (perhaps enriched by the “green, leafy / vegetable / vitamins / of an alphabet”) into each other based on sound or the concrete shape on the page rather than meaning: “a lattice work, but the lettuce effects no nourishment because a cause is a use of being a caucus of tic tac toe cacti / causus belli.” the vitamins of an alphabet is a playful treatise on the arbitrary nature of orthography. Indeed, in the section “Four Variations on the Signifier,” Braune further explores the conflict between the abstraction of language and the empirical world with a set of images labeled as modifications of the word “signifier,” such as “Signifire” or “Signifrier.” Now serious linguistic terminology evokes images of sausages on a grill. Braune’s poems are an equal mix of theory and jokester.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Jeff Low reviews Nicole Markotić's Ins & Outs (2015) in Broken Pencil

Jeff Low was good enough to provide the first review of Nicole Markotić's Ins & Outs (2015) in Broken Pencil. Thanks much! You can see the review here. As he writes:
Flip the page (literally); search for an alternate point of entry; without a handle, a door is just a wall: frustrated and feeling somewhat inadequate, I stumbled through Ins & Outs without a clue. I must be missing something. Or maybe it’s good at hiding. Regardless, you really have to investigate (or “stigate”) to coax meaning out of Markotić’s vertical poetics.

But frustration and feelings of incompletion run rampant throughout this zine. And, true to the nature of such things, there’s no self-affirming claim to meaning. Murmured clauses pool at the centre, arranged somewhat arbitrarily like the pull of gravity itself: “Who at this quisition deems non-stop sults as sufferable? / yes please”; “sung to the meld of orable banking / uh-huh, the candleabra’s plicable blue tremis / wait, don’t wander (save for haustible times)”. Too many speakers, or too many thoughts left unspoken, unclarified and subsequently meandering without ownership. The poems are arranged with respect to the reader’s experience during intake: negative space and stark alignment frustrates the potentiality of the pure white page, much like poetry’s insatiable promise of truth. Clarity offers little perspective. Confidence is often thwarted.

I’m a glutton for punishment and nit-picking, so Ins & Outs is an absolute treat. And I anticipate that this review holds all the same frustrations as the mumbling text itself. Another satisfying and characteristically complex read from above/ground press.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Pearl Pirie's sex in sevens (2016) is featured in Rusty's Reading List 2016

Pearl Pirie's most recent above/ground press chapbook, sex in sevens (2016) is featured in Rusty Priske's ongoing Rusty's Reading List 2016. Thanks much! As he writes:
I have been known to say that I am not a big fan of ‘sex poetry’. What I really mean is that I am not generally a fan of ‘erotic poetry’, though there have been exceptions.

This is the former without being the latter. The sex is there, but it certainly does not mean to titillate, rather… illuminate? Causing you to ruminate?

Or maybe just enjoy. This is a very good chapbook by a very good poet. Thanks to rob mclennan for passing this beauty my way. Thanks to Pearl for writing it.

Monday, October 31, 2016

new from above/ground press: REFRAMING PAUL CADMUS, by John Barton

John Barton
Egg tempera on pressed wood panel, 1945
1.5 x 1.25 inches

Sprawled in tights
On floorboards in a tiny

Square of time drafted between
Rehearsals near the end       

Of the war, the page
After page he browses so

Distracting from start
To finish, the spine

Of his book broken
His shoulders exhausted

Foreshortened by the score
He has all morning bent

His essence to, the music’s dark
Harmonies without

Remorse forcing his world in
To step with its own, as

No longer lithe, he removes
Himself, gives in, pas

À pas, to oblivion
Reading himself beyond

Men yet to return and others
He loves who never shall

The precise squares
Of time he borrows

So necessary
So seldom spared.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
October 2016
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

John Barton
has published eleven collections of poetry, including West of Darkness: Emily Carr, a Self-Portrait; Designs from the Interior; Hypothesis; Hymn; For the Boy with the Eyes of the Virgin: Selected Poems; and Polari. He has also published six previous chapbooks. Coeditor of Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay-Male Poets, he has won three Archibald Lampman Awards, an Ottawa Book Award, a CBC Literary Award, and a National Magazine Award. Since 1980, his poems have appeared in anthologies, magazines, and newspapers across Canada and in Australia, China, India, Romania, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. From 1985 to 2003, he worked as a librarian, a production manager, a publications coordinator, and an editor for five national museums in Ottawa, where he also edited Vernissage: The Magazine of the National Gallery of Canada for two years and co-edited Arc Poetry Magazine for thirteen years. He has taught or given workshops at the Banff Centre, Sage Hill Writing Experience, Tree, the New Brunswick Writers Federation, and the University of Victoria. He has been writer in residence at the Saskatoon Public Library, the University of New Brunswick, and Memorial. He makes his home in Victoria where, since 2004, he has edited The Malahat Review.

This is his third chapbook with above/ground press, after DESTINATIONS, LEAVING THE MAP (1995) and Oxygen (1999).

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at

Friday, October 28, 2016

new from above/ground press: GRAPPLE, by Carrie Olivia Adams

Carrie Olivia Adams

Come back to the space
where we were so close

Tell us again how you know

how you submerged us
how we re-wrote the movement of sidewalk and street
how it bent up to meet us
how our cries made a body an earthquake
What was that chain reaction?

Notes on the Composition

“Grapple” was written as a multidisciplinary poetry-dance work in collaboration with the Coincidentals, Chicago choreographers and dancers Jamie Corliss and Lydia Feuerhelm. Initially the dancers drew inspiration from a photo by Shayna Stacy of an arrest of a young African American man during a protest as part of Moral Mondays Illinois in Chicago in November of 2015. The text then incorporated ideas from the image alongside source material and videos provided by the dancers. Together, we adapted the structure of the poem to inform the building of the dance, so that the two work with and against each other. Using spoken text and movement, the resulting piece evokes the complex physicality of the act of protest where intimacy and aggression overlap. Street protest occupies a unique space in contemporary society, where strangers are fueled by a shared urgency, where limpness and release take the form of strength, where people defy norms by being so close. Rather than address the politics of protest, the piece in performance addresses the energy and feeling of these movements in a corporeal sense. It examines how physicality in protest exists in seemingly contradictory ways: bodily weakness can be an act of strength and physical closeness can unify or it can assert power hierarchies. 

“Grapple” was first performed in Chicago as part of the Mess Hall series in August 2016.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
October 2016
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Carrie Olivia Adams
lives in Chicago, where she is a book publicist for the University of Chicago Press and the poetry editor for Black Ocean. She is the author of Operating Theater (Noctuary Press 2015), Forty-One Jane Doe’s (book and companion DVD, Ahsahta 2013) and Intervening Absence (Ahsahta 2009) as well as the chapbooks An Overture in the Key of F (above/ground press 2013) and A Useless Window (Black Ocean 2006).

This is her second chapbook with above/ground press, after An Overture in the Key of F (2013).

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Scott Bryson reviews Elizabeth Robinson's Simplified Holy Passage (2015) in Broken Pencil

Scott Bryson was good enough to review Elizabeth Robinson's Simplified Holy Passage (2015) in Broken Pencil. Thanks so much! You can see the review here. This is actually the second review of Robinson's chapbook, after Pearl Pirie wrote about such here. As Bryson writes:
A pleasant continuity inhabits these poems — like a snowball rolling downhill, collecting and growing. Themes and explicit notions resurface frequently, often deliberately, but sometimes surreptitiously.

When you catch those veiled recurrences, it’s like Elizabeth Robinson is giving you a knowing wink — you’re in on her scheme. She even drops in round-about references to her methods: “The question is how one can pick up a process and continue it after / an interruption. If that is even possible.”

Robinson’s tone is reliably confessional and conversational. Most of this reads like a journal — poems are titled “Day 1,” “Day 2,” etc. — though it often comes across as a letter. She’s directly addressing a particular person that she’s imagining reading it.

Structurally, these poems are succinct. They consist of small stanzas that are usually no more than one to three lines. There’s little need for embellishment; Robinson’s phrases read like they have weight behind them — like she’s close to uncovering something profound.

She also possesses some inexplicable means of drawing investment out of a reader. In short order, you begin to care about her experiences. The final poem, “Unnumbered days later,” works like the epilogue of a film, when you’re shown — for your own peace of mind — that after the trials and tribulations, lessons were learned and everything worked out.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jeff Low reviews Pete Smith's A New Love/ An Aching Stone (2016) in Broken Pencil

Jeff Low was good enough to provide the first review of Pete Smith's A New Love/ An Aching Stone (2016) in Broken Pencil. Thanks so much! You can see the review here. As he writes:
A New Love/ An Aching Stone is, contextually, pretty clear from the get go. The cover introduces the text as a somewhat fractured spirit: partial photos of two men are arranged side by side, yet separated by a triangular wedge of negative space. Their half-smiles align but do not meet in the middle. The dialogue is frustrated and I haven’t even flipped the thing open yet. The title page reads: “A double-cento out of Yehuda Amichai Mahmoud Darwish.” The former was an Israeli poet and the latter, a Palestinian poet. And so, the text’s political backbone surfaces. Throughout the text, Pete Smith examines the correspondence of Israeli-Palestinian art and identity with a whisper of futility. “Poetry isn’t poetry / because of the wall. / Which exile do you want?”

A New Love/ An Aching Stone is quick to set up circumstantial boundaries. But there is plenty of poetic ambiguity throughout, rest assured. The speaker laments the loss of identity both individual and collective: “The dust is my conscious, the stone my subconscious: / a heavenly horizon … and a hidden chasm / which wasn’t even good for thorns and thistles / in the emigrant’s night.” History is clouded by dust and dark convictions: “Perhaps I’ve been here once before, / the road of invaders who want to renovate their history, / make again a new love / over an aching stone.”

Pete Smith’s writing is strong and produces a clear poetic vision — a vision of fragmented political and cultural histories. And, in doing so, A New Love/ An Aching Stone remains wholeheartedly empathetic.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Scott Bryson reviews Robert Hogg's from Lamentations (2016) in Broken Pencil

Scott Bryson was good enough to review Robert Hogg's from Lamentations (2016) in Broken Pencil. Thanks much! This is actually the second review of Hogg's chapbook, after Rebecca Anne Banks reviewed such over at Subterranean Blue Poetry. You can see Bryson's review here. As he writes:
You need to be a few pages deep in this collection before its title begins to make sense. It opens with a two-page freestyle that pays tribute to the late Western actor, Roy Rogers, then moves to a childhood memory of Robert Hogg sitting atop a horse himself. The mood is predominantly upbeat until Hogg drops the lines “who took this photo / probably mom dead now,” and the material begins its shift into the advertised lamentation direction.

That Rogers elegy aside, Hogg’s lines are rarely more than two to four words long, and his phrases are continually interrupted. The stilted reading that results is almost like someone trying to talk through sobs — getting out a few words with each breath. This brevity, as well as Hogg’s plainspoken approach, is reminiscent of award-winning British Columbia poet, Tom Wayman. Where Wayman tackled the toll of work, Hogg examines the weight of death and loss.

The best poems in this collection recognize loss while celebrating (sometimes flippantly) what comes before and after. The stand-out piece, “Summer of Sixty- three,” sees Hogg longing for estranged friends and the good old days, when he and his comrades — smoking joints and listening to jazz records — “expected / to die the next day get busted or live forever talking poetry.”

Monday, October 17, 2016

new from above/ground press: Shiftless(Harvester), by Buck Downs

Buck Downs


            put a licking out
on that ass
to heat it up

            put a licking out
on that ass
to cool it off

who the fuck
trust a man
switch a lick like that

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
October 2016
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

A native of Jones County, Miss., Buck Downs’ previous books include Tachycardia (Edge Books) and You Can’t Get Enough of What You Really Don’t Need (Private Edition). He works as an executive writing coach and lives in Washington, DC. Other work appears in issue #11 of Touch the Donkey.

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at