Tuesday, July 17, 2018

new from above/ground press: year of pulses, by Jenna Jarvis

year of pulses
Jenna Jarvis


east of the barrier orleans
amalgamated on a fault line

my chest is plain but i’m no
landscape nor its dianthus

i don’t blame my spine for curving
away from my heart

or from what isn’t there
love or a proper metro system

in ottawa like diphenhydramine
against the spinning detour

the mall punks sulk at a deluge
they’re expected to crave

but rain binds them and clouds
of fresh smoke to the entrance

i vomit over an empty
stomach and bike rack

commuters ignore me politely
over horoscopes, the predictable

the earth deviates in slow time
proleptic and incarnate

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
July 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Jenna Jarvis
has published poems in such places as Word and Colour, sea foam, my (small press) writing day and The Puritan. Her poem “syndical not synecdochal” secured an honourable mention for the Puritan's 2014 Thomas Morton Prize. In 2012, she won Bywords.ca’s John Newlove Award. year of pulses is her third chapbook.

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 www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Feliks Jezioranski reviews Sarah Dowling’s Entering Sappho (2017) in Broken Pencil #79

While I very much appreciate that Feliks Jezioranski took the time to attempt a review of Sarah Dowling’s Entering Sappho (2017) in Broken Pencil #79, I really think her wee chapbook deserves better attention than this. I mean, I know sometimes reviewers don’t “get” certain works (it happens to the best of us), but I wish Jezioranski had worked to find a bit more background (you can see the original review here). Fortunately, this is the second review of Dowling’s title, so why not go back to see what Amanda Earl was good enough to write on her blog? As Jezioranski’s review reads:

Sarah Dowling’s zine Entering Sappho is a love poem. All we know if the lover written to is that the speaker is completely overwhelmed by “you.” We also know that “your” voice is especially devastating; by my quick count there are 13 references to this voice.
     Repetition is the poem’s dominant technique. Some of the pages are a listing of places the speaker “is” and persons (and, especially confusingly, concepts such as xenia – hospitality) from Greek antiquity, followed by the words, “I wake up and disappear,” or else, “I wake up without coming to.” Beyond Greece and sex and romance generally, I do not understand the connection to Sappho. These essentially identical lists occupy five out of 21 pages.
     On the rest I found an approximation of this: “as soon as I see you – hardly / because I have seen you, I lack the / voice – this voice no longer reaches my / lips, and my eyes perceive nothing – I’m / greener than grass – and I die almost / of failure – I trickle with sweat…” There’s some variation in structure but by my count there are 13 lines or couplets about dying/being nearly dead, 18 times about sweating, 21 about trembling or vibrating, twelve about “subtle fire”, 10 about green grass, and 31 about not being able to speak/hear/see in the presence of the lover.
     There were certain stanzas that seemed interesting but which I had trouble understanding, which was frustrating when sandwiched between repetitions. There several cryptic references to pressing enter.
     Tallying may seem like a cheap way to evaluate a poem if rhythm and repetition are being used to create the sensation of being overwhelmed. However, getting back to the issue of the lover, I found it difficult to be invested in the speaker’s romantic asphyxiation without having any sense of its cause. Why am I reading 31 examples of the same thing when I could be exploring the poem’s other character? For me, Dowling’s repetition had a deadening effect, boredom taking the place of romantic intensity and empathy.

Friday, July 13, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Eric Folsom

This is the twenty-fifth in a series of short essays/reminiscences by a variety of authors and friends of the press to help mark the quarter century mark of above/ground. See links to the whole series


   How do we get published?  All of us desperate, aspiring poets want to know.  After a long dry spell, the question mutates and becomes: what am I doing wrong?  Naturally, we want to simplify the business and say “luck”, or tilt everything the other way and talk about “talent”.  The actual complexity of getting creative efforts out there and into public memory is just too daunting.  So, perhaps we should say not “luck” but “happenstance”, not speak about randomness like a random number generator, but of continually coming out in the literary environment until we are seen by the right eyes, handled by the right hands.  It’s circumstance really.

The circumstances as I remember them went something like this.  I did a reading in Toronto many years ago for Stan Rogal, the inimitable poet, novelist and literary spark plug.  The Idler Pub Reading Series on Davenport Road, I think it was.  At the time my children were still young, and I would write sitting on the couch with them while the TV blared Thundercats or Transformers.  Needless to say, my attention span was crap.  The situation was bound to change the form of the poems.

Having been a fan of the legendary John Thompson, a New Brunswick poet who died tragically in 1976, and especially the ghazals in Stilt Jack , I began to play with couplets, writing two lines that made some sense (almost) but not so much when paired with the next couplet.  The couplets became ghazals, and the ghazals became a series.  The poems ended up being “anti-ghazals” both as a nod to Phyllis Webb’s work (see Sunday Water: Thirteen Anti-ghazals; she seems to have invented the term) and a wincing recognition that no one capable of reading ghazals in Arabic, Farsi, or Hindi would have acknowledged the resemblance.

And I thought those poems would go nowhere.   They were too weird and too few for a book.  Except one day much later Stan was talking with rob mclennan: generous, energetic and brilliant rob mclennan.  Stan said something to him about Eric’s ghazals, which were a decade old by that time, and rob contacted me.  Thanks to the incredible underground network that rob and his above/ground press had developed, the chapbook called Northeast Anti-ghazals found its way internationally to god knows where.  Some guy in Australia was very complimentary.  It was fantastic.

So, dear tyros of the internet, all I know is get your arse out there and do it.  It’s about saying ‘yes’ whenever you reasonably can, about being like the dandelion floating your poems around the world on the wind (not that your poetry is fluffy of course….. we’re only talking distribution here).   There are good eyes who will see you.  (Like rob mclennan.)  There are great ears who will hear you.  (rob always has his ear to the ground.)  And there is above/ground press, not just as a place to submit to, but as a model for how to build superlative, durable and essential networks on a writer-to-writer basis.  And there are some damn good poems there.

Thank you, rob.

Eric Folsom is a poet and a longtime resident of the Kingston area.  He has published four books, most recently Le Loutre: a Poetry Narrative with Kingston’s Woodpecker Lane Press.  He also authored Northeast Anti-ghazals for the celebrated above/ground press. In the summer of 1976 he worked as a bingo caller at a Conklin fairground, refining his poetry skills by rhyming calls during the games. The unhappy bingo players made him stop.

Folsom is the author of the chapbook Northeast Anti-Ghazals, originally published by above/ground press in 2005, and reprinted in 2011.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

new from above/ground press: PROPOSITIONS, by Lise Downe

Lise Downe

out of thin air and into a world of solid matter
a button on a railway platform
hundreds of thousands of magic shining swords
the surprise of signs, the real world
pouring in this afternoon where you are headed
rescued from the brink of dullness
that unbroken succession, an echo that lingers
simultaneous and sometimes a conflict of punctuation
favored by sorting

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
July 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Lise Downe
grew up in London, Ontario. She studied art at the Beal Art Annex and at the City and Guilds of London Art College (England). Lise painted for many years before focusing on writing poetry. She has published four books: A Velvet Increase of Curiosity and The Soft Signature, both with ECW Press; Disturbances of Progress with Coach House Books; and This Way with BookThug. She also studied jewellery arts at George Brown College and the Ontario College of Art (now OCADU). Lise lives in Toronto where she continues to write at a snail’s pace and make small objects.

Cover design by the author

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 www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Amish Trivedi

This is the twenty-fourth in a series of short essays/reminiscences by a variety of authors and friends of the press to help mark the quarter century mark of above/ground. See links to the whole series here.

Amish Trivedi : for above/ground

            I’m not quite sure how I got in touch with rob mclennan or maybe he got in touch with me— who can recall? I could probably dig back through all our correspondence, though I assume if I did, this brief note about above/ground would really be about my constant negativity regarding the world of poetry publishing, my ever-present anxiety about the world of academia, and my gnawing terror about the world we presently inhabit.
            Actually, this tiny essay is about those things, because in a way, what rob has done with above/ground and, by my last count, his six-hundred other projects, has pushed back against the structures which have made the field we’re all working in seem like a grind. rob does what so many others in our field must do, which is work for the love of it and out of wanting to promote the myriad of writers who come his way and whom he tirelessly supports in their various endeavors. In short, if you’re in with rob, you’re in somewhere good.
            And above/ground has been that somewhere good now for so long. Look through the list of chapbooks and you’ll see some absolute rare works by major poets— tiny tinkerings that rob fell in love with and had to put out. I love chapbooks already: it’s an outlet for the smaller project that maybe isn’t going to become the full, fancy book thing. But the way rob makes them, too— his love for his long-reach stapler (I assume); that stamp at the back with the long Canadian address; the covers, bright, with that old school feel of mimeograph. Always just you and rob, working together to produce this thing that he sends out all over.
            Looking back, I see our first correspondence was really me taking advantage of rob, though I hope he doesn’t see it that way. I had just published him in the second issue of a journal I was running and decided to write him. Ya know— that awful thing where you publish someone and then you hope they’ll return the favor? We rarely admit to it, but with rob, for some reason, I totally did it. Of course, in the one other tiny endeavor that I tried, beyond the journal, I included rob too. It’s what we do in this industry, right?
            Well, rob has gone way beyond a mere trade off at this point. For my one tiny bit of work, he has made me feel not so alone in this world of poor poets— a tall order, he can tell you. He’s always quick with an email, always looking for the next thing of yours he can put out, promote on social media, or just encourage you along in. If James Brown was the hardest working person in showbiz, then rob mclennan is the hardest working person in pobiz, if only because he never stops. You know he’s overwhelmed, you know we’re awful to deal with as a whole, but he never stops working because he really loves this strange little world of ours so much. above/ground is no doubt an extension of that— one project in the midst of so many other things he’s always doing to promote the writers he likes. Isn’t that kind of what this is all supposed to be about?

Amish Trivedi is the author of Sound/Chest, has poems in Kenyon, New American Writing, Typo, etc. He has an MFA from Brown and is at work on a Ph.D. focused on the poetry industry and capital.

Trivedi is the author of two above/ground press chapbooks, including The Destructions (2015) and What We Remembered Before the Fire (2018).

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

new from above/ground press: What was the sign you gave (a selection), by Allison Cardon

What was the sign you gave (a selection)
by Allison Cardon

k. Never separate a behavior from the account the subject gives of it, for the word penetrates the act throughout.

Have you seen this richer

Do you see anything
else of them but the

Did you never see any

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
July 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Allison Cardon is a Ph.D. candidate at SUNY Buffalo and edits P-Queue. She has published work in Gramma, Touch the Donkey, Full-Stop, and Jacket2.

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 www.robmclennan.blogspot.com