Friday, March 30, 2012

Poetry Month chapbooks by Lisa Robertson + George Elliott Clarke available during April through Mother Tongue Books and Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeebar

Poetry Month chapbooks by Lisa Robertson + George Elliott Clarke available during April through Mother Tongue Books and Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeebar

Ottawa chapbook publisher above/ground is pre-releasing two poetry chapbooks for poetry month at two Ottawa bookstores: mother tongue books in Old Ottawa South, and Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeebar in Parkdale. Fifty copies of each title, normally sold for four dollars each, will be pre-released at one of two Ottawa bookstores gratis, with bookstore purchase only. Given the plight of independent bookstores the past few years, this project hopes to highlight the importance of the independent, community bookseller by encouraging the public to explore just what these businesses provide, not just for readers, but for writers, in the city.

Lisa Robertson’s On Physical Real Beginning and What Happens Next will be available free (with purchase) starting April 1, 2012 at mother tongue books, 1067 Bank Street, Ottawa.

One of Canada’s most engaged poets, Lisa Robertson was born in Toronto and lives in France. Bookthug has just published her new book of essays, Nilling.

George Elliott Clarke’s Selected Canticles will be available free (with purchase) starting April 15, 2012 at Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeebar, 1242 Wellington Street West, Ottawa.

Poet, playwright, novelist and literary critic George Elliott Clarke won the Governor General's Award for Poetry for Execution Poems (Gaspereau Press, 2001). His most recent book is Red (Gaspereau Press, 2011). He is currently the E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto.

Fifty copies of each title will be distributed free through the respective bookstores, and will be made publicly available through the above/ground press site two weeks after their bookstore release date.

Edited and published by Ottawa writer rob mclennan, above/ground press was founded in August, 1993 in Ottawa, and has produced over six hundred publications, including works by George Elliott Clarke, Stephen Brockwell, George Bowering, Deanna Young, Monty Reid, Max Middle, Patrick Lane, Christine McNair, John Lavery, Pearl Pirie, Robert Hogg, derek beaulieu, Marcus McCann, Amanda Earl, Sandra Ridley, Louis Cabri, Shane Rhodes, Marilyn Irwin, John Newlove, Rae Armantrout, Barry McKinnon, Cameron Anstee, Phil Hall, Robert Kroetsch and Gwendolyn Guth. A list of recent titles can be accessed through the above/ground press website.

An anthology of the first decade of the press’ operations, Groundswell: the best of above/ground press 1993-2003, edited by rob mclennan, with an introduction by Stephen Cain, appeared in 2003 with Fredericton publisher Broken Jaw Press. A second volume is currently in production.

For more information, contact rob mclennan at 613 239 0337 or

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

new from above/ground press: Entropic Suite, by Kathryn MacLeod

Entropic Suite
Kathryn MacLeod

Out of Sequence (4)

Warmth sinks into hunger
form into formlessness

children into enemies
clouds into sand

(I carry stories, memories
I’ve lost as many as the next guy

Some days I barely know
my own small history)

Our lives implacably

(I’ve made a lot of
bad decisions, I’ve been

bankrupt, hungry, faceless
without a hat, forgot

to speak out, truth
to power, all my ideals

well-formed, crumbling)

The facts, the laws, the documents

(and so the world escapes us)

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
March 2012
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Kathryn MacLeod [see her 12 or 20 questions here] lives in Victoria, BC and works at the University of Victoria. Much of Entropic Suite was written as part of her dissertation: Transgressing Words and Silence: Aesthetics, Ethics and Education (UBC, 2011), which explores the relationship between ethics, aesthetics and education using the limit case of art created in response to the Holocaust. Her previous books and chapbooks include mouthpiece (Tsunami Editions, 1996) and How Two (Tsunami Editions, 1987). Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Companions and Horizons: An Anthology of Simon Fraser University Poetry (2005), Writing Class: The Kootenay School of Writing Anthology (1999), and East of Main (1989).

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 402 McLeod St #3, Ottawa ON K2P 1A6 or paypal at

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

new from above/ground press: An OK Organ Man, by Fenn Stewart

An OK Organ Man
Fenn Stewart


give thy furrows no fatigue
nor any charming king his march
be thou clever, but by no means five feet high
the blows thou hast, and their remonstrance tried
compact them to thy palm with  venison
but do not dew thy dog with common law
for each malignant, unrepentant fish
doth know: that every grief remains in common yet.
give every woman’s ear thy question voice
beware the ambergrise, that it beware of thee
take each man’s acre of inclosed land
reserve thy wild, uncultivated wastes
costly thy nations as thy purse can buy
but not expressed in quarrels, fancy, hums
for oft it is delight proclaims the ban
& the fleetest part of all’s the baker’s sweat.
neither abundance nor a husband be.
supply my defects: this is thy chief end
and thou, my proper fee.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
March 2012
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Fenn Stewart
reads and writes in Toronto, Ontario. Her work has previously appeared in The Capilano Review, Peter F. Yacht Club, and Open Letter. She is currently writing a dissertation on de/colonization and literature, and reading Daniel Deronda.

cover artwork by reed stewart

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 402 McLeod St #3, Ottawa ON K2P 1A6 or paypal at

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cassie Leigh reviews Rae Armantrout's Custom (above/ground) on the dead (g)end(er) blog;

St. Catharine's, Ontario writer Cassie Leigh was good enough to review Rae Armantrout's Custom (above/ground press). See the original review here.

Language is a tricky thing. It can be used to tell us with a point-blank simplicity how things really are, or it can be used to envelope the truth in irony and elegant words that force a deeper look into what is between the lines. Rae Armantrout, part of the first generation of Language poets on the West Coast and 2010 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, finds a way to give us both in her chapbook Custom.

At first read, Armantrout’s presentation is simple and graceful. The words fall into perfect place in the four poems (pulled from the scheduled 2013 release of a manuscript titled Just Saying), and we are lulled by the methodic and flowing nature of her poetic voice. There is something just below the surface, though, that begs for interpretation. Something past the beauty in her words calls out with a darker irony. I found myself reading and rereading these four poems, overwhelmed with what came out of each different examination.

Specifically, Armantrout’s title poem ‘Custom’ uses the everyday speech that she is best known for, but we are presented with a deeper question that is loosely hidden behind the simplicity. We are given an airport, a hotel, a plaid duvet and constant movement from terminal to terminal – and they are all regular, simple proclamations that sit on the surface of her words, in plain view. But with her last lines, Armantrout states that,
We are almost money. / We can wait at high speed.
The image of moving between terminals becomes the representation of people as nothing more than a transaction for big corporations, and any personality that could be represented from person to person fades away as quickly as the stripes of an old, plaid duvet.

The language of Rae Armantrout’s Custom remains vast and open. I find that there are so many layers to her writing that there will always be more that you can pull out from the grace of her words. From a simplicity to a complexity that begs for fight or flight, the journey that she takes you on in four short poems is overwhelming, subversive, and completely worth the trip.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

new from above/ground press: This, circular tower by rob mclennan

This, circular tower
rob mclennan

we uncover an assortment of clues, the task of sorting
after Lise Downe’s This Way (2012)

the difficulties of precision: you

what multitudes left, some generations back

Victorian, spoke (these qualities, reversed

not to say the stretch of line was ever lacking, thus

(a conjecture, politely arranged in single lines)

questioning what might be

a signpost, regiment of flightless birds

might consider, in proportion

useless, and aesthetic

your notebook, my omissions

Toronto Island trees

, a stem

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
March 2012
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

This chapbook is a translation of Deborah Poe’s Keep (2012) [see my review of such here].

Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent titles are the poetry collections grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), A (short) history of l. (BuschekBooks, 2011), Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011) and kate street (Moira, 2011), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, 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 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 402 McLeod St #3, Ottawa ON K2P 1A6 or paypal at

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

new from above/ground press: we / cum ::: come / in the yield fields / amongst statues with interior arms, by j/j hastain

we / cum ::: come / in the yield fields / amongst statues with interior arms
j/j hastain

Innervations of post-threshold threshing. Wanted all of your tattoos to be of wanting. Wanted you to come in my eyes so I could see. This dependency on ether-lipids. It matters to note that since then, we have never washed our sheets.
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
March 2012
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

j/j hastain is the author of several cross-genre books including long past the presence of common (Say it with Stones Press), trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press) and anti-memoir a vigorous (Black Coffee Press/ Eight Ball Press (forthcoming)). j/j has poetry, prose, reviews, articles, mini-essays and mixed genre work published in many places on line and in print.

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 402 McLeod St #3, Ottawa ON K2P 1A6 or paypal at

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

new from above/ground press: Shikibu Shuffle, a collaboration between Andrew Burke and Phil Hall

Shikibu Shuffle
Andrew Burke and Phil Hall

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
March 2012
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Happy fate brought a poet from Perth Western Australia and a poet from Perth Ontario Canada together in 2009.

Then Andrew had a heart attack and was queued up for life-saving surgery.

With nothing to do but wait, kept alive by sprays and medical potions – to distract himself – Andrew agreed to work with Phil on a collaboration.

Andrew suggested the Japanese court poet Murasaki Shikibu (973 – 1014); her 5-line form might be a place to start.

Phil was thinking of Ornette Coleman: two quartets facing each other and going at it (1960).

We wrote in 5s back and forth, then shuffled our silence-inducing cacophony into 10s, then improvised from there...

Andrew's operation was bumped once, and then happened. He's fine.

The shuffle served its purpose, and now surprises and delights them both.

Andrew Burke was born in Victoria, but raised in Western Australia. Since the mid-Sixties, he has published nine collections  of poetry. His most recent book of poems is QWERTY- take my word for it (Mulla Mulla Press, 2011). He has also published short stories, a novel, and criticism. He has lectured at universities in Australia and China. Readers may read his daily musings at

Phil Hall [see rob mclennan's lengthy essay on his work, here] is the 2011 winner of the Governor General's Award for Poetry in English for his book Killdeer (BookThug). Other recent titles are The Little Seamstress (Pedlar Press, 2010) and White Porcupine (Bookthug, 2007). He is a member of the Writers' Union of Canada. Everything escapes him.

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 402 McLeod St #3, Ottawa ON K2P 1A6 or paypal at

Friday, March 9, 2012

Stephen Brockwell reads at The Dusty Owl Reading Series, April 15, 2012

above/ground press author and Ottawa poet and editor Stephen Brockwell [photo of Stephen Brockwell in the Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington, D.C. by rob mclennan] reads at The Dusty Owl Reading Series on Sunday, April 15, 2012, 3:00 PM, at their regular, monthly home at The Elmdale House, 1084 Wellington St. W, Ottawa.

The Dusty Owl Reading Series includes an open set and featured reader(s). Free admission.

Stephen Brockwell is the author of 4 books of poems. Fruitfly Geographic won the 2004 Archibald Lampman Award for the best book of poetry by an Ottawa writer. His Excerpts from Impossible Books is an interminable work in progress. Brockwell runs the small business from his basement, borrowed office space and coffee shops. Brockwell is also the author of a number of poetry chapbooks, including three from above/ground press: Marin County Poems (2001), Impossible Books (the Carleton Installment) (2010) and the most recent Excerpts from Impossible Books, The Crawdad Cantos (2012).

Dusty Owl Reading Series Coordinator:
Steven Zytveld (613) 230-7710

Media Coordinator:
Catherine MacDonald-Zytveld (613)-230-7710

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Some author activity: Armantrout, McKinnon, Ackerson-Kiely + Hall at VERSeFest (some reports);

Now that the second annual VERSeFest is behind us, there are notes and reports popping up in various corners of the accumulated activity at our newest poetry festival (Pearl Pirie has a whole TON of photos here). For above/ground press authors Rae Armantrout, Barry McKinnon and Paige Ackerson-Kiely, these were their first appearances in Ottawa, making a series of rare occasions that much more impressive. Perth, Ontario poet Phil Hall, on the other hand, returned after numerous readings around Ottawa over the past decade as the most recent winner of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for Killdeer (BookThug, 2011).

American poet Rae Armantrout [here a photo of Armantrout and McKinnon at lunch] gave a magnificent reading from recent work, including her chapbook Custom (above/ground press, 2012), which was, unfortunately, the only title of hers available throughout the week. See here, a photo Pearl Pirie posted from the event, as well as a report on the evening generally, and Armantrout specifically. Here, two days earlier, a photograph she took of Barry McKinnon. See here, Amanda Earl's report on the event.

As The Factory Reading Series @ VERSeFest, Barry McKinnon and Paige Ackerson-Kiely presented informal lectures/talks to a packed crowd at The Mercury Lounge in the Byward Market, both articulating various aspects of recent work and how it had been created, informed and structured. Ackerson-Kiely spoke of her second trade collection, My Love is a Dead Arctic Explorer (Ahsahta Press, 2012), and McKinnon spoke of an ongoing project translating fragments of Dante’s Inferno, parts of which have appeared as the chapbook Into The Blind World (above/ground press, 2012) and in The Peter F. Yacht Club #16. McKinnon even distributed copies of his talk as a self-produced chapbook of twenty-six copies through his long-standing Gorse Press, When “I” Left the Stage: A Realm of Intention (January 2012). A small fraction of the essay reads:
When I started writing at the age of 16, I wrote fast, filling boxes with quickly scribbled lyrics dashed off with a sense of excitement and risk. I never know what I was about to say or where the page was to take me. Now I’m 67 and the energy and pleasure of the writing process hasn’t really changed, but I wait much longer between poems. I’ve had to learn patience. Much writing and thinking for me is practice in preparation for the event when the poem arrives.

I’ve also learned to live with another paradox of its activity: The poem simultaneously identifies its writer to the world, but only comes into being when the writer, so to speak, is out of the way. What a strange occupation and process that requires obliteration of self at the same time that it reaffirms it. I think I knew this early on.
The event concluded with a lively (albeit brief, for the sake of time) question and answer session. Both pieces will appear later on this year in the fifth issue of seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics. See Pearl Pirie's magnificent report on the reading here.

Phil Hall, reading at the final event of the festival, the “Summit Reading,” shared the stage with American poet Philip Levine and Mexican poet Pura López-Colomé. For his opening set, the collage of Hall’s poetry was blended into a single, extended piece specifically structured for the sake of his performance at this event, with these two particular writers, and was one of the finest readings, and perhaps one of the finest works, of his career to date. How does Hall manage to keep surprising after all of these years? See Amanda Earl's report here on both The Factory Reading Series and The Summit.

A new chapbook, a collaboration between Hall and Western Australia poet Andrew Burke, will be available in a matter of days.

Monday, March 5, 2012

above/ground press authors MacLean and Dachsel make the Robert Kroetsh Award shortlist!

Congratulations to all who have made the Robert Kroetsch Award shortlist: Kathy Mac, Kath MacLean, Michael Nardone, Laura Broadbent, Nathan Dueck, Marita Dachsel and Jeremy Stewart.

Kath MacLean's above/ground press chapbook, ten: ways to skin a cat (2003), is still available for $3, but, unfortunately, Marita Dachsel's Learning to Breathe (1996) is long out of print. Still, other items of hers are still available here and here.

Looking forward to seeing the finished book by the winner, and perhaps, a few others as well.