Monday, April 30, 2012

new from above/ground press: Selected Canticles by George Elliott Clarke

Selected Canticles
George Elliott Clarke

You took the sea-green road
and made it incarnadine:
A whole continent became as painful
As an occupied crucifix.
Your skull-faced disciples,
as wrathful as weather,
wallowed in wet blood
and dust of dry blood;
obsequious to Violence,
they served their brown hosts
the milk of gall and sea-salt of tears.
(War goes wild at whiff of blood.)

Were you God-fearing seafarers,
or conquistadors
(the basic tenants of your faith),
oh dove of Christ,
who emerged, clad in fire,
from the shuddering sea? (“À Cristophe Colombe ”)

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

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.

This is George Elliott Clarke’s second above/ground press title, after Provencal Songs [II] (1997).

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

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mark McCawley reviews recent chapbooks by Elizabeth Rainer/Michael Blouin, Stephen Brockwell + rob mclennan

Edmonton writer, publisher and reviewer Mark McCawley was good enough to review three recent above/ground press titles on his Fresh Raw Cuts blog. See the original review here. Thanks, Mark!

let lie\
by Elizabeth Rainer and Michael Blouin
above/ground press, 8.5x5.5, 20pp, $4.00 (CAN)
published, January 2012

Excerpts from Impossible Books:  The Crawdad Cantos
by Stephen Brockwell
above/ground press, 8.5x5.5, 20pp, $4.00 (CAN)
published, February 2012

Sextet: six poems from Songs for little sleep,
by rob mclennan
above/ground press, 8.5x5.5, 20pp, $4.00 (CAN)
published, January 2012

The quintessential poet's micro-press, above/ground press — founded and published by poet, writer, and editor Rob McLennan out of Ottawa, Ontario — publishes chapbooks by both newly emerging and established poets alike. What makes above/ground press titles stand apart from other micro-press poetry chapbooks (besides their nondescript covers, that is) is that they offer the reader glimpses into collaborations as well as individual works in progress. It's these glimpses which above/ground gives that makes their titles unique, revealing the process of the poet's composition, their collaborations, as each waltz's their muse along the thin razor's edge of creation.

In let lie\, an excerpt from a collaborative work by Elizabeth Rainer and Michael Blouin, we are given  glimpses into pieces which were written over a period of a year and a half and emailed back and forth:
    to describe it\ I should not ask you when you touch yourself to think of me as I am there no probably this is the very type of thing I should keep to myself that and this is the failure of poetry to do you any kind of justice at all light tapping of my heart punching holes in the sky.

    it would be\ nice for me if you were someone else for a change someone who didn't know me so well my tremors hopes then when we were making love it would all be different once more your ankles up around and there wouldn't be that look on your face him, again.
Here, Rainer and Blouin successfully combine masculine and feminine language and metaphor in an ongoing collaboration which mixes and juxtaposes contrasting identities into a string of textual and contextual and allegorical narratives.

Stephen Brockwell’s Excerpts from Impossible Books: The Crawdad Cantos is the latest installment of Brockwell's ongoing work-in-progress. At times pithy, sometimes brilliant, Brockwell's poems run the entire gamut in this ongoing project. For instance, both this chapbook and the following poem's self-deprecating dark humor reveals Brockwell at his poetic height:

    "Brockwell, you're a fool, thrilled by a sunset
    'beyond words.' The sunset is beyond; but
    beyond words? No. Words for it outpace you.
    God bless impala words you'll never speak."
    Here's what I posted — you can slag it too:

    Watched gorgeous sunset from window on flight
    to LAX. Beyond words. Tried anyway.

    "from Messages from Imaginary Friends: Karikura and the Inarticulate Sunset" 

Lastly, there is the controlled musicality and the experimental narrative quality in rob mclennan's Sextet: six poems from Songs for little sleep, which draws the reader inside by using repeated phrasings of short sentences and brief staccato rhythms:


    The gathering place of something, we. I can't recall. It was I who called, who called, who.

    Watch the moon, full, you must. You must, we. We are watching the full moon, full of something. Was full, of only, possibly ourselves. Only full.

    We were watching the moon we were.

    from "The learning curve that sometimes manages, itself"

All three of these titles offer varying glimpses of excerpts, collaborations, and works-in-progress not found elsewhere by poets just reaching the height of their craft. In these above/ground press chapbooks they practice a high wire literary act. Sometimes failing. More often than not, though, succeeding brilliantly. It takes guts to write without a net, and particularly to publish those early efforts for all to see. Guts, indeed.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Factory Reading Series: Joe Blades + Nicholas Lea

Chaudiere Books + The Factory Reading Series presents:

The Ottawa launch of Fredericton poet Joe Blades' Casemate Poems (Collected),
published by Chaudiere Books

for more information on Joe's book, check the link here:

with an opening set by Chaudiere Books author and Ottawa poet Nicholas Lea

    Thursday, May 3, 2012
    The Carleton Tavern, upstairs
    233 Armstrong Street (at Parkdale), Ottawa
    doors 7pm; reading 7:30pm
    lovingly hosted by rob mclennan

Joe Blades has been giving readings, performing and publishing his poetry since 1980.

Blades was born and raised in Nova Scotia. He's a graduate of NSCAD (BFA (Studio Major: Intermedia), 1988), and he recently completed a Film & Television Certificate Program through the NB Filmmakers' Cooperative. He is also an alumni of the Banff Centre, Maritime Writers Workshop, Sage Hill Writing Experience, and the Simon Fraser University Book Publishing Immersion Workshop.

His poetry and art have appeared in over 50 trade and chapbook anthologies and CDs, and in numerous periodicals. Blades has authored or edited 30 poetry chapbooks and limited edition artist books. His five full-length poetry books are Cover Makes a Set (SpareTime Editions, 1990), River Suite (Insomniac Press, 1998), Open Road West (Broken Jaw Press, 2000, 2001) and Casemate Poems (Widows & Orphans, 2004). Serbian translations of River Suite as Recna svita in the Slike iz kanade: Tri kanadska pesnika (SKC Nis), and Casemate Poems as Pesme iz kazamata (i.p. Rad), were published in 2005.

Nicholas Lea earned his B.A. from the University of Ottawa. His poetry has appeared in such journals as dANDelion, Qwerty, The Puritan, Ottawater and ditch. His work was also been featured in the Globe and Mail’s online books blog, In Other Words. He has worked on the editorial boards of Bywords Quarterly Journal and The Fiddlehead. His debut collection of poetry, Everything is Movies (2007, Chaudière Books, Ottawa) was nominated for the Lampman-Scott Award. He most recently published the chapbook, Actual Girl (2011, The Emergency Response Unit, Toronto). He lives in Ottawa.

for more information on authors, books or event, or for review/interview requests, contact rob mclennan at rob_mclennan at

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

new from above/ground press: THE SHINY THINGS by Jay MillAr

Jay MillAr


With refreshments wine was usually served and sometimes stronger beverages, and it was not an uncommon sight to see men reeling through the streets and sometimes uproariously drunk at the close of the day.


In the late thirties there was some discussion relative to the introduction of gas.

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

Cover artwork by Mark Goldstein

Jay MillAr is a Toronto poet, editor, publisher, teacher and virtual bookseller. He is the author of several books, the most recent of which are the small blue (2008), esp : accumulation sonnets (2009) and Other Poems (2010). He is also the author of several privately published editions, such as Lack Lyrics, which tied to win the 2008 bpNichol Chapbook Award. MillAr is the shadowy figure behind BookThug, a publishing house dedicated to exploratory work by well-known and emerging North American writers, as well as Apollinaire's Bookshoppe, a virtual bookstore that specializes in the books that no one wants to buy. Currently Jay teaches creative writing and poetics at George Brown College and Toronto New School of Writing, where he is also the co-director.

This is Jay MillAr’s fourth above/ground press title, after “from COAST ALL JOURN ALL” (STANZAS magazine, volume 1, issue #17, 1998), LET'S CALL THESE POEMS ST. CLAIR AVENUE (2003) and the collaborative Hijinks: A Sequence from Double Helix (with Stephen Cain, 2003).

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, April 18, 2012

Amanda Roth reviews Paige Ackerson-Kiely’s Book About a Candle Burning in a Shed (above/ground) on the dead (g)end(er) blog;

a review of Paige Ackerson-Kiely’s Book About a Candle Burning in a Shed (above/ground press, 2011) by writer and dg associate Amanda Roth (see the original post here). Thanks, Amanda!

Book About a Candle Burning in a Shed is just that, but also so much more.

Paige Ackerson-Kiely, currently of Vermont, has authored the poetry collections My Love is a Dead Arctic Explorer (Ahsahta Press, forthcoming), and In No One’s Land (Ahsahta, 2007)—which won the Sawtooth Poetry Prize—and a limited edition art folio/collaboration, This Landscape (Argos Books, 2010).

Ackerson-Kiely’s first chapbook from above/ground press is a collection of prose poems which combine to produce a memoir dealing with the death of a girl in a small town, and an authority figure’s pursuit of justice amongst internal struggles of his own. It is with fervor and beauty that the author weaves together individual scenes to provide a unique display the whole storyline.

The immediacy of the title bleeds through the pages of this chapbook, displaying context with a certain severity:
Thicket of weeds upon which her body ballooned. Dark dirty water I had to drink once. / There was nothing else around that I could see.
And yet, there are touches of the sporadic and perplexing tendencies of an overactive mind. This inner conflict is a reoccurring theme throughout the collection.
You’re cold again. Her delicate finger pointing to the hall that touches me some nights until I shivered. You’re so far away. You’re an iceberg in the ocean and you will melt and be forgotten.
The intensity of the narrator’s thoughts is overwhelming and enthralling. It is only by understanding each piece of the puzzle arranged by Ackerson-Kiely in this collection of poems that the audience is able to witness the greater narrative within.

Monday, April 16, 2012

new from above/ground press: On Physical Real Beginning and What Happens Next by Lisa Robertson

On Physical Real Beginning and What Happens Next
Lisa Robertson

go Venus go vernal go turning go
darling by folding sky by buoyant kiss

by plenty (I lie in bed and read Marx)
by secret breezes twisting, contriving

by boulevards by cattle by a springle
a springald a springet rise agile from

water, go down modern to the natal
turn by rapacious meetings by luminous

flowers-- take with you the eagerness of
my submission to the proliferate

immaterial discipline also
called speech as the political feeling

lusts for public light by engorged
rivers by populated foliage

by veering campus the cry of desire
a morning blackbird in the city entirely

secular and generative and I
can’t curtail my life.

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

Lisa Robertson was born in Toronto and lives in France. Bookthug has just published her new book of essays, Nilling.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Factory Reading Series pre-small press book fair, June 29: Saikaley, Dunn, Wigmore + Lithgow

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

The Factory Reading Series
pre-small press book fair reading

with readings/launches by:

Sonia Saikaley (Ottawa)
Victoria Dunn (Ottawa)
Gillian Wigmore (Prince George)
+ Michael Lithgow (Ottawa)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan
Friday, June 29, 2012;
doors 7pm; reading 7:30pm
The Carleton Tavern,
223 Armstrong Street (at Parkdale; upstairs)

Sonia Saikaley was born and raised in Ottawa. She grew up in a traditional Lebanese household and much of her writing is influenced by her rich Middle Eastern heritage. She has taught English in Japan. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Still Point Arts Quarterly, Things Japanese: A Collection of Short Stories, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and the anthology Lavandería - A Mixed Load of Women, Wash, and Word. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers and the University of Ottawa. Her first book, The Lebanese Dishwasher (Quattro Books, 2012), was co-winner of the 2012 Ken Klonsky Novella Contest. Her poetry collection Turkish Delight, Montreal Winter (TSAR Publications) will be published in the fall 2012.

When Victoria Dunn, author of Alice Hearts Welsh Zombies, is not busy writing, she's the ultimate Bond girl, intelligent, accomplished and stunningly beautiful. Men of action fall helpless at her feet every day. She doesn't just blow smoke off her pistol—she blows smoke rings. In a parallel universe, Victoria Dunn is the evil hive mind of Victoria Higgins and Meghan Dunn. Victoria has waged a life-long battle against depression and is a recovering perfectionist who performs with Stand Up for Mental Health ( She currently works at the local independent bookstore, because what else can you do with a degree in Religion, Sociology and Anthropology? Meghan spent several years with the Canadian Army Reserve before putting down her rifle to study Classical History. She hated selling frozen yogurt, loved working at a comic book store, and has never met a handcraft she doesn't adore. Meghan is happily married, and the mother of two teenagers who are very impressed by her expertise in zombiology.

Dirt of Ages is Gillian Wigmore’s second book.  Her first, soft geography, won the 2008 Relit award.  Her work has been published in magazines, short listed for prizes, and anthologized.  She lives in Prince George, BC.

Michael Lithgow is a PhD candidate in the School of Journalism and Communication. His poetry has appeared in Arc Magazine, The New Quarterly and Fiddlehead. Selections of his work have been included in Rutting Season (Buffalo Runs Press, 2009) and Undercurrents: New Voices in Canadian Poetry (Cormorant Books, 2010).  His first solo collection, Waking in the Tree House, was published in Spring 2012 by Cormorant Books. He is currently a contributing editor at, research associate with the Canadian Alternative Media Archive project, and director of  His doctoral research explores aesthetics, truth and dissent in digital and performance cultures.

And don't forget the ottawa small press book fair, happening the following day starting at noon at the Jack Purcell Community Centre!