Wednesday, February 27, 2013

“poem” broadside #317: Rosarose, by Jeremy Colangelo

For Gertrude Stein

A rose
A rose
A rose a rose a rose a
Rose a rose a
Rose arosea
Rosa Rose arose
Rosa, rose
Rosa Rose rose Rose
Rose, a rose, arose a Rosa Rose

Jeremy Colangelo
above/ground press broadside #317

Work by Jeremy Colangelo has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, Popshot Magazine, ditch, Steel Bananas, and elsewhere. He has also published two poetry chapbooks with Grey Borders Books, and a prose chapbook with Ribbon Pig. Jeremy lives in London, Ontario, and is currently working on an MA in English.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

William Hawkins inducted into the VERSeOttawa Hall of Honour

Ottawa poet and above/ground press author William Hawkins is one of the first two inductees (along with Greg "Ritalin" Frankson) in the VERSeOttawa Hall of Honour, to be held towards the end of this year's third annual VERSeFest, on March 17.

above/ground press published William Hawkins' poetry chapbook the black prince of bank street (2007) as part of our fourteenth anniversary reading/launch, and new poems have appeared in various issues of The Peter F Yacht Club, including #4 and #11.

Other items have appeared with Cameron Anstee's Apt. 9 Press; he writes his own note on Hawkins, here.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Amy Dennis

Rauschenberg – even his blankness 
couldn’t stay sacred; the panels’ ashen trinity
not spoken of in a church although one couldn’t
be more immaculate than those vacuous

Chaste spaces invite shadows invite art. Mirrors

of air licked
by many. Frames for chance
theatre. Airports

for dust

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
February 2013
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

In addition to publications in England and France, Amy Dennis poetry has appeared in more than a dozen Canadian literary publications, such as CV2, Event, Queen’s Quarterly, and Prairie Fire. Her poetry has been nominated for two National Magazine Awards and a Random House Creative Writing Award. She placed second in the UK’s National Bedford Open Poetry Competition. She now lives in the UK where she is completing her PhD.

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, February 24, 2013

Christine McNair's spring readings: Wolfville, Ottawa, Toronto, St. Catharines, Calgary, Regina, Vancouver + Hamilton

above/ground press author Christine McNair is doing a spring tour, with dates across Canada throughout the next four months. You should totally go hear her, if you are able.

She's touring predominantly for her first trade poetry collection, Conflict (BookThug, 2012), but copies of her collaborative chapbook with rob mclennan, Prelude: selections from a collaboration (2012) are still available. You can also check out an above/ground press broadside of hers, here.

WOLFVILLE, NS: Friday March 1, 2013
Where: Acadia University, Wolfville, NS
Vaughan Memorial Library, 4pm

OTTAWA, ON: Sunday March 17, 2013
VerseFest: A World of Poetry in Ottawa
Christine McNair, Ken Babstock and Anne Simpson
Where: Mercury Lounge, 56 Byward Market Sq, Ottawa, 4:00 PM

TORONTO, ON: Wednesday April 10, 2013

Pivot Reading Series
Christine McNair with Roseanne Carrara and Jessica Hiemstra.
Where: The Press Club, 850 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON, 8:00 PM
Hosted by Jacob McArthur Mooney.

ST CATHARINES, ON: Friday April 26, 2013
In The Soil Arts Festival Presents Christine McNair and Mark Goldstein with other readers and musical guests: TBA
Where: Niagara Artists Centre, 354 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines, ON, 8:00 PM
Hosted by: Eric Schmaltz

CALGARY, AB: Thursday May 9, 2013

filling Station’s Flywheel Reading Series presents Christine McNair, author of Conflict and Sandra Ridley with other readers TBA.
Where: Pages Books on Kensington, 1135 Kensington Road NW, Calgary, AB, 7:30 PM

REGINA, SK: Monday May 13, 2013
Vertigo Reading Series presents Christine McNair, author of Conflict and Sandra Ridley with other readers TBA.
Where: Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar, 1925 Victoria Avenue, Regina, SK, 7:30 PM
Hosted by: Tara Dawn Solheim

VANCOUVER, BC: Tuesday May 14, 2013
Real Vancouver Writers’ Reading Series presents Christine McNair and Sandra Ridley with other readers TBA.
Where: TBA, Vancouver, BC, 8:00 PM
Hosted by: Sean Cranbury

ST. CATHARINES, ON: Saturday June 29, 2013
Niagara Literary Arts Festival Presents BookThug Author Night
Featuring readings by: Mark Goldstein, Beatriz Hausner, Christine McNair, Shannon Maguire, David Dowker, bill bissett, Head Thug Jay Millar and more
Where: Mahtay Cafe, 241 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines, ON
Time: TBA PM

HAMILTON, ON: Sunday November 3, 2013

The LitLive Reading Series presents Christine McNair with other readers TBA
Where: The Homegrown Hamilton Cafe, on the 1st Floor of the Skydragon Centre, 27 King William Street, Hamilton, ON, 7:30 PM

Friday, February 22, 2013

Brecken Hancock and Abby Paige at Open Book: Ontario

above/ground press authors Brecken Hancock and Abby Paige participate in Open Book: Ontario, to help promote their chapbook launch tonight in Ottawa. Hancock participates in the Poets in Profile series, and Paige provides the first of a new series, The War Series: Writers as Readers.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Factory Reading Series @ VERSeFest: Nicole Markotić and Gil McElroy, March 16, 2013

The Factory Reading Series
as part of the third annual VERSeFest poetry festival

The Factory Reading Series Lecture Series, two talks and readings by:

Nicole Markotić (Windsor ON)
and Gil McElroy (Colborne ON)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan,
Saturday, March 16, 2013
1:30pm at The Mercury Lounge, 56 Byward Market Square, Ottawa
check the VERSeFest link for the full schedule of events!
March 12-17, 2013

Nicole Markotić is a poet, critic, and novelist in Windsor, Ontario. She has published three books of poetry: Connect the Dots, Minotaurs & Other Alphabets (Wolsak & Wynn), and Bent at the Spine (BookThug). She has published two novels: Yellow Pages (Red Deer Press) and Scrapbook of My Years as a Zealot (Arsenal Press), edited a collection of poetry by Dennis Cooley: By Word of Mouth (Wilfrid Laurier University Press), and co-edited (with Sally Chivers) an anthology concerning representations of disability, The Problem Body: Projecting Disability on Film (Ohio State UP). She has published her poetry in numerous literary journals in Canada, the USA, Australia, and Europe. Currently, Nicole Markotić teaches Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor, where she also edits the poetry chapbook series, Wrinkle Press.

Gil McElroy is a poet, independent curator, art critic, and visual artist. He has published four books of poetry, most recently Ordinary Time (Talonbooks, 2011), and numerous chapbooks that include Ordinary Time: The Merton Lake Propers (Baseline Press, 2012). He is also author of Gravity & Grace: Selected Writing on Contemporary Canadian Art (Gaspereau Press, 2001) and the memoir Cold Comfort: Growing Up Cold War (Talonbooks, 2012). McElroy writes about visual art for publications in Canada and the United States, and is a regular correspondent for Akimblog. As a practicing visual artist, he has recently been collaborating with Halifax-based artist Peter Dykhuis on a series of site-specific gallery exhibitions based on abandoned Cold War military installations in Canada.

He lives in the village of Colborne, Ontario with his wife Heather.

At this event, he will be launching the chapbook Twentieth (above/ground press, 2013).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ryan Pratt reviews recent Brecken Hancock and Seth Landman titles

See the original post here, over at the ottawa poetry newsletter. Thank, Ryan!
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":

    "I'm having
    a drunk sense of
    past all over
    calling it out
    all night
    I'm surprised
    you can walk
    the woods
    without panic
    what's the point
    though we are
    in panic
    we might not know
    the hunting
    situation orange
    panic forest
    green gradient"

Thursday, February 14, 2013

new from above/ground press: Twentieth, by Gil McElroy

Gil McElroy


in Europe. You’re
tired, & you’re
reading poetry all day. You’re
very pompous
& still confessing a
hole here, a world
there, a heart, a
wretched heart.

life. Wherever you go I’m sick of hearing
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.
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
February 2013
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Gil McElroy is a poet, independent curator, art critic, and visual artist. He has published four books of poetry, most recently Ordinary Time (Talonbooks, 2011), and numerous chapbooks that include Ordinary Time: The Merton Lake Propers (Baseline Press, 2012). He is also author of Gravity & Grace: Selected Writing on Contemporary Canadian Art (Gaspereau Press, 2001) and the memoir Cold Comfort: Growing Up Cold War (Talonbooks, 2012). McElroy writes about visual art for publications in Canada and the United States, and is a regular correspondent for Akimblog. As a practicing visual artist, he has recently been collaborating with Halifax-based artist Peter Dykhuis on a series of site-specific gallery exhibitions based on abandoned Cold War military installations in Canada.

He lives in the village of Colborne, Ontario with his wife Heather.

This is Gil McElroy’s fourth above/ground press chapbook, after “Echolocations” (1/2 of STANZAS #5, April 1995), “Meteor Showers” (STANZAS #31, 2002) and (The Work of Art) In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (November, 2005). See his 2007 “12 or 20 questions” here.

[Gil McElroy launches Twentieth alongside Nicole Markotić as part of The Factory Reading Series’ event at the third annual VERSeFest, Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 1:30pm, The Mercury Lounge, Ottawa]

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, February 13, 2013

Support the VERSeFest '13 : Indiegogo campaign!

VERSeFest ’13, Ottawa’s annual international poetry festival, starts on 12 March. We need your help to make the festival even better than last year!

VERSeFest is Ottawa’s annual international poetry festival.  It is managed by a collective of Ottawa poetry groups called VERSe Ottawa.  The festival is going into its third year and has been a great artistic success.  Last year’s festival brought spoken word poets of the calibre of C.R. Avery and Ursula Rucker, and written word poets such as Philip Levine and Rae Armantrout.  We’re looking forward to VERSeFest ’13, which will feature poets from Australia, Ireland and the Netherlands.  The Factory Reading Series' annual lecture this year will be by Canadian poets Gil McElroy and Nicole Markotic. The festival promises to be even better than its predecessors.  But we need your help.

Staging an international poetry festival is a much more expensive operation than ‘keeping it Canadian’.  Travel costs are very much higher, as you might imagine; even the costs of accommodation and hospitality rise above those for Canadian nationals.  We have sought and obtained some funding from several Canadian funding agencies, but it isn’t enough to offset costs.

We need $5,000 to break even on VERSeFest ’13.  If we don’t manage to raise that amount, we will have to start cancelling international and Canadian poets.  We need $2,500 to bring two Irish and three Dutch poets to Ottawa, and we need $1,500 to bring Canadian poets from western Canada.  A further $1,000 will go toward accommodations and hospitality for other festival participants.

Your contributions will go directly to funding the artists’ appearances.  VERSeFest is run completely by volunteers, so 100% of every donation goes toward making the festival happen.  Please give what you can.

You can help even if you can’t contribute financially.  Please pass the word about our campaign to friends and acquaintances.  Make some noise about VERSeFest and Indiegogo.  Use the Indiegogo share tools to get the word out.

Thank you!

Monday, February 11, 2013

new from above/ground press: A Little Slash at the Meadow, by Joshua Marie Wilkinson

A Little Slash at the Meadow
Joshua Marie Wilkinson

Get the tape cued so I can

betray somebody in here.

What surfaces

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.
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
February 2013
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Joshua Marie Wilkinson
(b. 1977, Seattle) is the author of six books, the editor of two anthologies, and codirected a movie about Califone called Made a Machine by Describing the Landscape. He lives in Tucson, Arizona, where he teaches, and edits Letter Machine Editions and The Volta.

Cover artwork: Noah Saterstrom

See Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s “12 or 20 questions” interview here.

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, February 10, 2013

Ryan Pratt reviews Allison Grayhurst and Shannon Maguire

Ryan Pratt was good enough to review recent above/ground press titles by Allison Grayhurst and Shannon Maguire over at the ottawa poetry newsletter.

See the original post here:
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
    dodecahedron kiss
    in with clock and guests
    climbing desire
    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”

Friday, February 8, 2013

"poem" broadside #316: "Influence" by Sonnet L'Abbé

by Sonnet L'Abbé
above/ground press broadside #316
Sonnet 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.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Q & A: 20 Years of above/ground press / an interview with rob mclennan on the Broken Pencil blog

Alison Lang, Assistant Editor of Broken Pencil magazine, was good enough to interview me recently on the above/ground press twentieth anniversary [photo by Deborah Poe], posted on the Broken Pencil blog. Thanks so much, Alison!

You can find the original post here.
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 This fall, Chaudiere Books will publish his collection of short, short stories, The Uncertainty Principle.

Monday, February 4, 2013

new from above/ground press: The Double Bind Dictionary, by Helen Hajnoczky

The Double Bind Dictionary
Helen Hajnoczky


check if you’re ready
roll and tighten your neckerchief—
roll your stockings, stand at attention,
sing songs with conviction
even if you don’t understand them,
you’ll be a more personable person for it
a more malleable hungarian.

paint eggs, throw rosewater
go a week without a shower.
dodge balls, weave leather—
serve mashed potatoes to your elders,
get on stage and recite your lines
with your practiced intonation,
with your shaky understanding.

wonder how well you know friends
who you cannot express yourself to—
who you cannot understand.

when you can, savour elicit snippets of english
together, hiding in the church parking lot.
if nothing else, you’re learning to keep secrets.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
February 2013
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

This is Helen Hajnoczky’s second above/ground press chapbook, after A history of button collecting (2010).

Helen Hajnoczky's first book Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising was published in 2010 by Snare Books, an imprint of Invisible Publishing. She blogs and tweets @helenhajnoczky.

The Double Bind Dictionary is excerpted from the book-length project Magyarazni, which is generously supported by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts

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