Tuesday, April 30, 2013

above/ground press authors Amanda Earl + Phil Hall at Layton Reloaded!

Layton Reloaded is an evening of poetry readings presented as part of Whatever Else: An Irving Layton Symposium, the 41st Annual Canadian Literature Symposium in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa. Full symposium information is available here: http://www.canlit-symposium.ca/index.html

Readings will be inspired by the work and life of Irving Layton. Come out and listen to creative reconstructions, reimaginings, and reloadings of Layton’s source material.


Amanda Earl
Amatoritsero Ede
Phil Hall
Seymour Mayne
Sandra Ridley
David Solway
Saturday, May 4, 2013 ; The Mercury Lounge, Ottawa
Doors at 8:00 ; Readings at 8:30 ; No cover

Monday, April 29, 2013

new from above/ground press: tether, by Jill Stengel

by Jill Stengel

something to do with a red ball
and bouncing
in order
something about not missing
and rotating

Poet and publisher Jill Stengel founded a+bend press in 1999 as the print component of her poetry reading and publication series held in San Francisco’s historically-rich North Beach, producing a chapbook for each reader. Later she added a journal, mem, featuring writing by poet-mothers raising young children.

Dear Jack, Jill’s first full-length collection, will be available this Spring from Black Radish Books. Nearly a dozen of her chapbooks have been published, some of which can be viewed online at dusie.org and other sites. Her writing has also appeared in print and online journals and anthologies, including Boog CityKindergarde, OtolithsTry, and Touched by Adoption. She has taught poetry and book arts, participates in poetry collectives, and is active in the Poet-Moms listserv community.

Jill currently lives in Davis, CA with her family of one husband, three children, and an oft-changing number of non-human animals.

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

To pick up a free copy (while supplies last) at the festival, find the dusie table.

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 www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ryan Pratt on Amanda Earl's The Sad Phoenician's Other Woman

Ryan Pratt talks about Ottawa, and Amanda Earl's (still available!) The Sad Phoenician's Other Woman (2008), the second of her three above/ground press chapbooks, over at his blog. See the original piece here. Thanks, Ryan!
Emotional geography & a trip to Ottawa!
Rainy chatter, droplets peppering the glass and deep breezes moaning through the sliver. Beyond the odd exchange between my cat and I, the day has been especially still, spent reading, reviewing and writing poetry. Pretty great.

It began with re-reading The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman by Amanda Earl, which responds to a Robert Kroetsch poem by recollecting a decade's worth of relationships with men. Casual flings, extramarital affairs, threesomes and one-night-stands digress and converge as fluently as tales involving long-term companionships and marriage. And given Earl’s inclinations to the erotic genre – her ability to resurrect the bones of something real but leave readers to the task of filling in some x-rated blanks – it’s salaciously good fun. (300 copies were published. See if you can still snag a copy right here!)

Afterwards, when I turned to work on a manuscript of my own, I realized that one of the main things I enjoy about The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman – how Earl roots so many unique and intimate stories to Ottawa’s restaurants, hotels, apartments and familiar landmarks – is that sense of emotional geography, so to speak: the intersections and surroundings that stain our memory, and/or vice versa. It’s something I cannot help but do myself when I write, calling upon a sense of place to make sense of the place. A hotel may be just a room with a bed and bath but anyone who has stayed in one likely attaches its memory to something deeper, fed by criteria including (but not exclusive to): their company or lack thereof, their feelings toward being there, toward themselves, the city, the room-service, and onward.

My manuscript began in Ottawa about Ottawa. Over time it curled around the idea of feeling a sense of home with the knowledge of eventually abandoning it. I think this manuscript sharpened in scope when I did move away, creating a contrast of space and belonging that I never would've written from one committed postal code, but now my home’s drifting again. Sure I’m sitting on nearly forty poems now (which for a single, unfinished project, is a lot to me) but, as my focus tightens, certain poems fall out of the greater theme, becoming solo poems to shop around. And hopefully, leaving space for future ones to slide in.

We’re all influenced by our surroundings, for better or worse. For years I moved from city to city and let my muse roll with the hand it was dealt. But lately, I feel as though the trajectory of this collection is beginning to lead me, as if I’m teaching myself subconsciously where I want to exist.

So it’s with equal parts excitement and trepidation to tack on that I’ll be returning to Ottawa next weekend, Saturday through Tuesday, with nothing planned outside of seeing friends and places I’ve gone several months without. Maybe a few days writing in Ottawa again will finally knot this manuscript shut. Or maybe it’ll spill all over the place. When it lets me know, I’ll let you know.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Lauren Turner's Factory Reading in the Kitchissippi Times

Pearl Pirie was good enough to send along this clipping from the April 11th issue of the Kitchissippi Times, with a small write-up and photo of recent Factory Reading Series reader and Kitchissippi resident Lauren Turner.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ryan Pratt reviews Jordan Abel and Abby Paige over at the ottawa poetry newsletter blog

Thanks, Ryan! See the original review here.
Scientia by Jordan Abel
Other Brief Discourses by Abby Paige

Both titles published by above/ground press, 2013.

Last spring I attended a talk on contemporary poetry styles given by rob mclennan and Pearl Pirie. In my full account of that Ottawa Independent Writers event, I mentioned an instance when some of the group’s most vocal members took exception to the merits of visual poetry. For the purposes of that review, I referred to the incident as little more than a hiccup amidst the flow of discourse. In the heat of it, however, that hiccup persisted for over twenty minutes. Several attendees brashly refused to see substance in visual poetry while the two guest-speakers defended the form as yet another approach to language and expression.

Keep in mind: nobody had been close enough to read the text in question. The chapbook hadn’t even left the guest-speakers’ table. Nevertheless that flash example of chaotic and non-linear displays resulted in a prolonged back-and-forth, as if unearthing insecurities in the writers’ own private works. That thought-provoking debate springs to mind when I read Jordan Abel’s Scientia because, aside from the fact that I’m also a tad intimidated by visual poetry, I think naysayers would gain some insight via Abel’s sharp approach.

Scientia’s lead poem reads like a testing of organic matter, the accumulation and reductions that eventually balance in the creation of life:
“All colour terms are reduced, cut short, not the usual length. Acephalous: without a head. Those muscid additions that give the glandular structure that branching apex. Abrupt or hidden. Rubbed or scraped. The third abductor extending past the honeycomb of the optic tract. The tapering surface made white like a siphon.”
As pointed and sensory as schoolbook directives, Abel’s language unfurls on the adjoining page, exploring its subject in wide-open parameters without losing the text’s core meaning. Such is the twofold approach of Scientia, a study of insect anatomy and miniscule advances that help to shape a greater understanding alongside Abel’s visual accompaniments.

Of these eight poems fully immersed in the working gears of insect species and their visual re-interpretations (in which insect outlines blot the swarm of off-shooting words), neither approach feels the dominant one. Instead they’re co-dependent on a singular focus that succeeds in drawing the reader to parallel the base instincts of these complex creatures against our own. With particularly stunning presentation by above/ground press, Scientia’s findings can behave like Rorschach tests just as convincingly as they look the part.

Very few experiences inspire me, both as a writer and overall life-enthusiast, to the degree that discovering a new city does. Whether I’m grabbing life by the horns or trying to flee from its expectations, a new city promises that clean slate the restless crave and the committed can only dream about. Abby Paige’s Other Brief Discourses, a sequence of poems centered on a trip to Quebec, instinctively reminds me of the raw drifter muses I’d pore onto pages during countless Greyhound bus trips.

But Paige finds a unique lens beyond the escapist reverie: ‘translating’ Samuel Champlain de Brouage’s encounters in New France “during the early years of the new millennium”. In this fantasy memoir, the explorer wrestles to integrate himself amidst post-millennial Montreal’s “pox of pavement”, the outer banks of the Saint Lawrence River and citizens who illustrate modern life as secular and money-driven (compared to the late 1500s, of course). Excerpt from "VII. The metro":
“and he is gone in the earthquake of sound
that rushes past, sucking air from
the station like a succubus – and people

in the belly of the snake!  A blur of faces,
hundreds, two kissing. The doors gasp
open, we step over the threshold

and in. Inside the beast, we swim through the inside
of the earth as the dead swim, treading soil
like water, ghosts breathing without gills.”
Although fully aware he has lost four centuries, Paige’s Champlain rarely engages old-world wonderment as much as in the above excerpt. In fact many observations feel symptomatic of a far less lengthy absence; the sprouting big-box outlets in Montreal, the zoned-out travelers and junkies at the bus station. This is as much Paige’s poetic retelling as it is a fictional what-if tale and Other Brief Discourses thrives on the duality of its yearning protagonist(s).

By its very premise, this sequence of poems is charming. (A poem chronicling Champlain’s irritation while waiting at the American border keeps springing to mind.) Paige doesn’t settle for situational, fish-out-of-water commentary though, instead touching on shades of nostalgia and belonging that gather additional traction for her narrative. From cramped, urban tunnels and hostel quarters to Champlain’s soiled, waterway haunts; through the flurry of morning commuters to downtown’s late-night pub-crawls; Other Brief Discourses strikes a natural ebb and flow that frees the reader from feeling stuck in one place for too long.

Friday, April 5, 2013

“poem” broadside #318: King Kong Meets Godzilla, by William Hawkins

From primordial depths, from God knows what muck,

His hideous form slumbered, or was simply stuck.

As me & mine swung from trees, grabbing fruit

Whilst I grew & grew into a hairy brute.

Was it man’s bombs made the sea’s floor break?

& did that cause Godzilla to awake?

As surely as they slotted me into a cage,

Inciting King Kong’s murderous rage.

So now we both monsters must hide

In furtive dank places on earth’s seamy side,

Where waters do flow but are seldom clean,

And a better life comes only when we dream.

King Kong Meets Godzilla

William Hawkins

above/ground press broadside #318

Ottawa poet and songwriter William Hawkins was considered Ottawa’s most dangerous poet from 1964 to 1974, and is one of two inductees into VERSe Ottawa’s first annual Hall of Honour. His Dancing Alone: Selected Poems appeared with Broken Jaw Press in 2005, and a double cd of the same name appeared a year later. Since then, he has released the chapbooks The Black Prince of Bank Street (above/ground press, 2007) and Sweet & Sour Nothings (Apt 9. Press, 2010); the latter was reissued in March, 2013 for Hawkins’ appearance at VERSeFest.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

North of Intention: Stewart, Quartermain, Betts, L'Abbe, echoff + others,

Various Canadian authors (and above/ground press authors) participate in North of Intention over at Jacket2, including Christine Stewart and Meredith Quartermain on Fred Wah, Gregory Betts on M. NorbeSe Philip, Sonnet L'Abbe on Stephen Collis, kevin mcpherson eckhoff and Jake Kennedy (collaboratively) on Jordan Scott, all curated by Sarah Dowling.