Thursday, February 27, 2014

new from above/ground press: THE STREAM and other poems, by Dennis Tourbin

THE STREAM and other poems
Dennis Tourbin

We fish in a stream
near Millbrook,
for brown trout.
The stream ambles through
a beautiful countryside,
twisting and turning,
creating pools and holes
and wonderful homes
for fish...

And every year
the stream changes.
A tree falls in a forest;
it makes a great sound,
it splashes in the water
of the stream,
it alters the current,
changes the way
the water flows,
the way a fish,
a brown trout,
receives its food,
defends its territory.

We hunt for brown trout;
we do not fish for them.
It has been said before.
How do we hunt...
This is what I am interested
in now. How do we hunt
for fish; how do we hunt
for the elusive brown trout... ("THE STREAM")
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
February 2014
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Co-published with Carleton University Art Gallery, as an extension of “Dennis Tourbin: The Language of Visual Poetry,” curated by Marcie Bronson; organized and circulated by Rodman Hall Art Centre / Brock University, 3 February – 27 April 2014.

Born in St. Catharines, May 8, 1946, and the eldest of five siblings, Dennis Tourbin grew up in Port Dalhousie, lived in Toronto, Peterborough, Paris (France), and in Ottawa, where he died of a stroke, aged 51. Poet, painter, performance and video artist, novelist, magazine publisher, artist-rights activist, and angler, Dennis Tourbin was a key part of the development of the lively regional art scene since the seventies.

A drummer in a rock-and-roll band with a growing reputation in Ontario in the sixties, Dennis Tourbin began publishing poems and stories in 20 Cents magazine in 1969. Ten books of poetry and fiction were published during his life. To name a few: The Port Dalhousie Stories (Coach House Books, 1987), the coming to age autobiographical story of a young boy; the poetry books, In Hitler’s Window (The Tellem Press, 1991), and Thinking of America (above/ground press, 1995); The Complete TV Angler (vol. 1 and 2, Penumbra Press, 1995, 1996), the reproduction of his hand-written fishing journal.

Dennis Tourbin painted words in vivid colours and referred to his paintings as visual poetry. He explored the area between painting and literature and moved the word beyond the printed page. He also had developed a multi-media form, which he called a painted play. He created five painted plays: The Writing of Painting of Martha, commissioned and performed at the Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto, 1976; FLC/CBC on the 1970 October Crisis, also performed at Theatre Passe Muraille in 1981, to name a few.

Dennis Tourbin was best known for his work on the 1970 October Crisis, which is a subject that inspired him throughout his life. In 1982, Dennis Tourbin was awarded the Canada Council studio in Paris, where he met his wife Nadia Laham, and which had a major influence on the development of his collage-like art works.  His works can be found in the National Gallery of Canada, the Canada Council Art Bank, the National Archives of Canada, and in private and public collections throughout Canada.

This is Tourbin’s second above/ground press chapbook, after Thinking of America (1995).

[THE STREAM and other poems launches as part of a poetry reading at Carleton University Art Gallery, 7pm on March 10, 2014 by Michael Dennis, Catherine Jenkins and rob mclennan. A limited number of copies of the chapbook will be available free at the door.]

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

above/ground press at AWP: Marthe Reed, Sarah Rosenthal + Jill Stengel, etc

above/ground press has (at least) three authors reading at this year's AWP in Seattle: Marthe Reed, Sarah Rosenthal and Jill Stengel, all part of an off-site reading hosted by Black Radish Books and the Dusie Kollektiv, Friday, February 28, 7:30pm at The Pike Brewing Company, 1415 First Avenue, Seattle. Even if I can't be there directly, maybe you can? See the Facebook invitation here.

Monday, February 24, 2014

new from above/ground press: Estelle Meaning Star, by Sarah Rosenthal

Estelle Meaning Star
Sarah Rosenthal

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
February 2014
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Produced, in part, as a handout for the 2014 AWP Conference and Bookfair, Washington State Convention Center & Sheraton Seattle Hotel, Seattle WA, February 26 - March 1, 2014. Thanks much to Susana Gardner for her (ongoing) help and support.

To pick up a free copy at AWP, head over to the combined Black Radish / Dusie booth.

Sarah Rosenthal is the editor of A Community Writing Itself: Conversations with Vanguard Writers of the Bay Area (Dalkey, 2010) and the author of Manhatten (Spuyten Duyvil, 2009) as well as several chapbooks: The Animal (Dusie, 2011), How I Wrote This Story (Margin to Margin, 2001), sitings (a+bend, 2000), and not-chicago (Melodeon, 1998). Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Dusie, Eleven Eleven, Sidebrow, Zen Monster, ecolinguistics, and Little Red Leaves, and is anthologized in Kindergarde: Avant-garde Poems, Plays, and Stories for Children (Black Radish, 2013), Building is a Process / Light is an Element: essays and excursions for Myung Mi Kim (P-Queue, 2008), Bay Poetics (Faux, 2006), The Other Side of the Postcard (City Lights, 2004), and hinge (Crack, 2002). Her book Lizard is forthcoming from Chax Press. She serves on the California Book Awards jury and manages programs for the Developmental Studies Center.

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

new from above/ground press: from Hark: a journal, rob mclennan

from Hark: a journal
rob mclennan


Bytown, 1832

This watershed moment. Indexing. Her name, not in cards. First raft of squared timber, sweet. Spent evenings in character. Head stuck in asphyxia. Claimed territorial. Leave deposits in shadow, aureole. Lot deformations, discoloured. Stood their ground by the stream. Imagine, canal. Thirteen crops to sustain. Tributaries, a molten shape. Suddenly, naked. Will the path never rosy. I will not be barren.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
Febuary 2014
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

To pick up a free copy at AWP, head over to the combined Black Radish / Dusie booth.

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, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. His most recent titles include the forthcoming notes and dispatches: essays (Insomniac press, 2014) and The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014), as well as the poetry collection Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, 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

rob mclennan has published a ton of chapbooks over the entire two decade stretch of above/ground press, most recently The creeks, (2013), The Laurentian Book of Movement (with Christine McNair; 2013), Trace, (2013), Poem beginning with a line by Pinder (2012), goldfish: studies in fine thread, (2012), Notes, on the subject of marriage (2012), Prelude: selections from a collaboration (with Christine McNair; 2012), This, circular tower (2012), Sextex: six poems from Songs for little sleep, (2012), The underside of the line, (2011), metric: a collaboration (with Lea Graham; 2011) and First you know, and then so ordinary (2010).

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

new from above/ground press: MITSUMI ELEC. CO. LTD.: keyboard poems, by Eric Schmaltz

MITSUMI ELEC. CO. LTD.: keyboard poems
Eric Schmaltz

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
February 2014
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Produced, in part, for the Celebrate Paul Dutton at 70 event in Toronto, March 4, 2014. See the Facebook invitation here.

Eric Schmaltz is a writer, reviewer, curator, and editor. His work has appeared in various places online and in print including Open Letter, Rampike, Poetry is Dead, dead (g)end(er), and ditch. Eric lives in Toronto where he co-curates the AvantGarden reading series.

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

Monday, February 17, 2014

new from above/ground press: OVERHEARD WHILE HIDING FROM THE SUN, by Kate Schapira

Kate Schapira

#21: Subject: I Am a Thief

“You have a plot here?” To sprout
is to push. Materials come to
light sooner or later. “No,
I just like to walk through it,”
keeping herself in straws. Two
red and green apples form tiny
balls for a lamppost phallus; in elementary
school you learn about the Pilgrims,
the gold rush … Old documents look
like what you do with them to “age” them.
Leafing with gravitas, you say, “Mm.”

When is “house” apt? When it’s time
to pay your window tax, wearing
a chandelier drop for a pendant at
the end of the lax year. More
mattresses than anyone. More windows.

“I am a thief and would make
sure I deal with you financially.”
For love or money, taking Humanitarian
Architecture classes: “Guess who’s in it?
The boy who broke my heart,”
the heart a dolled-up woman who
can’t walk fast; how often does it compound?
The dump truck’s asphalt attachment

leaves a hot trail, a band of flaws.
Soak them in tea. Bake them in the oven.
The storyteller, she of the terrible
beauty and spandex patterns, says, “Mm.”
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
February 2014
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Kate Schapira
is the author of four full-length books of poetry, most recently The Soft Place (Horse Less Press), and eight other chapbooks, most recently The Ground / The Pass / The Wave (Grey Book Press). She lives in Providence, RI, USA, where she co-organizes the Publicly Complex Reading Series.

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

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Scott Bryson reviews Marcus McCann’s Labradoodle: A Essay on David McGimpsey (2013), Wanda O’Connor’s damascene road passaggio, selections (2013), Carrie Olivia Adams’ An Overture in the Key of F (2013) and Gary Barwin’s Seedpod, Microfiche (2013) in Broken Pencil #62

Scott Bryson was good enough to review Marcus McCann’s Labradoodle: A Essay on David McGimpsey (2013), Wanda O’Connor’s damascene road passaggio, selections (2013), Carrie Olivia Adams’ An Overture in the Key of F (2013) and Gary Barwin’s Seedpod, Microfiche (2013) (copies of all of which are still very much available) in Broken Pencil #62. Thanks, Scott! This is actually the second review of Adams' book (by Joseph LeBine), as well as the second for McCann's title and Barwin's title (by Ryan Pratt). Who knew our books would be garnering so much attention?

This is an enormous amount of generous attention he has paid to some worthy publications, and we thank him for it. Although I’m not entirely sure why most of his qualitative judgements upon the works he chose to discuss are based upon how well he was able to comprehend the poems; as though figuring out the poem in a particular way (ie -- solving the puzzle of a poem) is more important than attempting to approach each work on its own terms. Is comprehension, at least in the way Bryson suggests, the first and foremost goal of reading poems? It reminds me of a response Gertrude Stein gave to an interview, suggesting that if the reader enjoyed the piece, then that is, by itself, understanding or “getting it.”
Labradoodle: A Essay on David McGimpsey

Marcus McCann

Labradoodle’s subtitle, An Essay on David McGimpsey, may be accurate from a certain perspective, but it’s a tad misleading from most angles. This is certainly more of a poetry collection than an essay – Marcus McCann calls these “chubby sonnets” – and it’s more in the style of comedic writer David McGimpsey, than “on” David McGimpsey (save one biographical poem).
            Anyone familiar with McGimpsey’s poetry, or his “Self-Esteem Workout” column in Matrix Magazine, will know his jokes are typically a smokescreen for discussions on insecurities and tragic flaws. It’s a distinction that McCann suggests readers tend to miss: “People say, / Oh, David McGimpsey, he’s the guy who writes / funny poems. Which is a little like saying, / Hey, he’s the guy with the really funny cancer” (from “A primer on David McGimpsey for those who have never heard of David McGimpsey”).
            McCann’s collection straddles the same border between levity and tragedy. He finds a one-word note to himself on his Blackberry, for example, that reads “Cocktapus, and spends the greater part of a poem (“Three years ago, I was not quite ready to use the word labradoodle in a poem”) struggling to remember what it means, invoking Transformers and coming to terms with his immaturity. “Every day is a David McGimpsey poem,” he concludes, “and it’s half golden lab, and half whatever / ‘doodle’ stands for. It is not good news.”
            Labradoodle is a quick read – there’s little in the way of subtext – but its bemused attitude justifies multiple reads.

damascene road passaggio, selections

Wanda O’Connor

Not many chapbooks require an explanatory essay (“subtext/pretext,” the author calls it), but the one Wanda O’Connor includes as an afterword to damascene road passaggio is definitely warranted, even if it’s somewhat obtuse.
            In her afterword, O’Connor describes this fragmented long poem as “a sequence of asides and sides that take as their companions letters addressed to no one… This project takes up Kafka’s intercourse with ghosts” (an “intercourse” Kafka once likened writing letters to). One would assume there’s also something opera-related happening here – passaggio is a term used to describe pitch ranges in classical singing. Another handy definition: a damascene road – better known as a road to Damascus experience – is a religious conversion, or a revelation about one’s self.
            A reasonable amount of research is clearly recommended before tackling this chapbook, though the above falls short of providing anything near complete comprehension. O’Connor’s writing isn’t necessarily highbrow – most of these words, lines and stanzas are completely graspable. What’s challenging is attempting to decipher how the fragments of this poem are all related, if they even are. O’Connor does call this “asides and sides,” so it’s probably best to read these verses without an expectation of interconnectedness.
            The text in damascene road passaggio echoes that fragmentation. Words and stanzas are scattered to the left, right and centre, and handwritten notes mingle with phrases, full sentences and typed correspondence. In spite of this fractured presentation, O’Connor’s verse is surprisingly fluid, which suggests that full understanding will come, eventually (after more research). Let it be said, at least, that this is poetry that teaches.

An Overture in the Key of F

Carrie Olivia Adams

It’s amusing how blind we can be to the obvious. I was nearly all the way through this Carrie Olivia Adams collection (it’s best described as a lyric essay in parts) before I realized the significance of its title: every paragraph contains a word – often several – that starts with the letter F, and there isn’t a great deal of duplication.
            This device is a double-edged sword. The alliteration makes for a pleasurable read, but Adams quickly runs out of commonplace F words and resorts to atypical terms like “fungible” (having a dictionary handy while reading this is recommended). As a consequence of this forced use of F words, An Overture in the Key of F tends to provide impressions more than concrete details. Many of Adams’ lines are lists of items that suggest something unmentioned, or that operate as intricate metaphors: “Payment, ransom, bunting, linnet, find… A finger wave, utterly and finally. The scandal of pine.” There’s also definitely an atmosphere of remembering and forgetting present – of trying to put your finger on something fleeting: “The pernicious sound of something familiar, a grief in the breath-filled fading consonant of a lost name.”
            The air of mystery surrounding this text will be enticing for some – who doesn’t keep returning to a mystery, searching for answers? – but it runs the risk of alienating others. Whether you like or dislike An Overture in the Key of F will likely depend on how easily and quickly you give up. If there’s a detective in you, you’ll keep coming back.

Seedpod, Microfiche

Gary Barwin

Chapbooks with gimmicks can be a risky enterprise, but Gary Barwin is no stranger to themed works. His Franzlations (2011), for example, was a collection built on Franz Kafka-isms.
            The six selections in Seedpod, Microfiche could either be viewed as the poetic version of a word ladder puzzle (the type of brain-teaser that asks you to change one word into another, in a certain number of steps, by altering a letter at a time) or a written game of Broken Telephone. Barwin is changing more than one letter at a time in these poems – he adds, removes and rearranges several words from poem to poem – but the effect is similar: the opening poem (titled “1”) is transformed, bit by bit over six pages, into a wholly different verse, while retaining a glimmer of its original meaning.
            This could be considered a safe approach to writing poetry, but it also provides some desirable security for the reader. There’s an extra level of satisfaction to be garnered from a set of poems that are intimately connected, and Seedpod, Microfiche delivers that gratification.
            The connectedness of these poems is of course assured by their shared foundation, but it’s also enhanced by the repetition of particularly imagery: the power of dew drops to magnify, fish swimming silently, and a stethoscope (used literally and metaphorically) that pops up in the closing stanza of each poem. The titular Microfiche appears repeatedly, as well, and the sentiments it generates are apt: zooming in; many from one; shining a light on part of a whole.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Factory Reading Series @ VERSeFest: Marilyn Irwin and Margaret Christakos, March 29, 2014!

The Factory Reading Series
as part of the fourth annual VERSeFest poetry festival presents:

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

    Marilyn Irwin (Ottawa ON)
    and Margaret Christakos (Toronto ON)

lovingly hosted by rob mclennan,
Saturday, March 29, 2014
4pm at The Mercury Lounge, 56 Byward Market Square, Ottawa
check the VERSeFest link for the full schedule of events!
March 25-30, 2013

The winner of Arc Poetry Magazine’s 2013 Diana Brebner Prize, Marilyn Irwin’s work has been published by above/ground press, Arc, Bywords, and New American Writing. A graduate of Algonquin College’s Creative Writing program, she has three chapbooks: for when you pick daisies (2010), flicker (2012), and little nothings (2012).

Margaret Christakos [pictured] is an accomplished Canadian poet and fiction writer who has published nine collections of poetry and a novel. Her most recent collections are Multitudes, from Coach House Books in Fall 2013, and Welling, Your Scrivener Press (2010, a Globe 100 Book). Previous books include What Stirs (2008) and Sooner (2005), from Coach House, both nominated for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award; Excessive Love Prostheses, winner of the ReLit Award (Coach House, 2002); and Charisma, a novel from Pedlar in 2000, shortlisted for the Ontario Trillium Book Award. She has also been the recipient of the Bliss Carman Award for Poetry. Christakos is anthologized in Prismatic Publics: Innovative Canadian Women’s Poetry and Poetics (Coach House, 2009), White Ink: Poems on Mothers and Motherhood (Demeter Press, 2007), Plural Desires: Writing Bisexual Women’s Realities (Sister Vision, 1995) and ditch: the anthology (online at Her chapbooks include My Girlish Feast (Belladonna, 2007), Retreat Diary (Book Thug, 2007), Adult Video (Nomados, 2008) and Something Inside Me (in case of emergency press, 2008). She was CC Writer in Residence at the University of Windsor in 2004-05 and has delivered poetry seminars, workshops and readings across Canada and in the U.S. as a visiting poet and speaker since 1989. She has received significant arts grant support from provincial and federal arts councils, and, in 2012, she was the recipient of a major Chalmers Arts Fellowship. Born and raised in Sudbury, she lives in Toronto.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ottawater #10 : Anstee, Barton, Bolster, Clarke, Dolman, Lea, Massey, Prevost + Young,

The tenth issue of the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater is now online at, featuring new work by above/ground press authors Cameron Anstee, John Barton, Stephanie Bolster, George Elliott Clarke, Anita Dolman, N.L. Lea, Karen Massey, Roland Prevost and Deanna Young, as well as numerous others. Happy tenth anniversary!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Rebecca Anne Banks reviews Lary Timewell's tones employed as loss (2013)

Rebecca Anne Banks was good enough to review Lary Timewell's tones employed as loss (2013) over at Subterranean Blue Poetry. Thanks, Rebecca! See the original review here.
An exciting Poetry Chapbook, avant-garde poetry bangs in the dance. Lary Timewell finds himself in Vancouver after living for 25 years in Fukushima. He is one of the co-founders and publisher of Tsunami Editions press, currently publishing through the venture obvious epiphanies press.

The Poetry Chapbook begins with a citation by Rosemary [sic] Waldrop, “If we could just go on walking through these woods” sets the stage for high camp and trepidation in a story of love lost. A new treatise on the twisted cultural landscape, North America.

This poetry is blow speak. Bullet line delivery within a poetic prose type style, it is a new post-modern twist on poetic form. Inconsistent capitalization and punctuation in a violent milieu that protests, tones employed as loss weaves the story of love lost/conflicted love with the love of poetry that saves. The two themes are interwoven in the theater of the absurd that includes inane humour mixed with masculine imagery/energy not unlike someone shouting at a wall. “I-vow-my troth recurring dream/hung on for dear laugh, went eventually/belly dancing out of the room, much to the dismay of/poets in their/heated nests”; “waiting in the envelope of the cave/ like chloroformed squirrel, ecstatic”; “the name of your country is not America. Please/ to be stopping sending Coco-Puffs to Rumania”; “the sky swallowing the garage, sap” and “just more earthworms slathered in agnostic marmalade; the chanting”.

Juxtaposed with the theme of poetry/salvation is the theme of love lost and/or conflicted love, “out on the highway, toss milky sandals/ from the salmon-pink bedspread where “I”/ loves “you” and even the far blue/ hills understand it is only a dream” and “I’m just another/ born loser in/ an ordinary act/ of desperation/ the awkward/ decisive punch/ line having/ some fun at/ the expense of/ the expansive/ (homesick or assimilated)/ how/ now”.

Interspersed throughout the long poem the word Poetry appears at the left hand margin with a series of lines begun by a colon.

“Poetry        : throat-red staccato under stucco archway
                      : bickering microbes in the blood
                      : mold-speckled tent pitched in the topography of dream
                      : empathic accidents out to the radius of the real world
                      : gauge of the exchange
                      : the electronic distance between speech & song
                      : the asynchronous knowledge of clues that hold their breath
                      : the mannequin and his young brood
                      : shopping for subliminals in the general store
                      : gleaning the meaning of a depot along the highway
                      : the real landscape of a fictional street
                      : the sound a baby deity makes
                      : the oxygen of music out the open window
                      : the disappearing episode
                      : hands that make wings
                      : an echo losing insistence
                      : exhalation of the unthinkable
                      : baroque repertoire of the mimic in the mirror
                      : obituary vernacular of fastidious trivia“

In a celebration of the written form of poetry, “The path is the poem overgrown, each letter/ an illuminated leaf inscribed, living/ excursion of the swans one notices and stops,/ feeling an urge to be/ similarly taken away, lifted up into/ the sweet capsule of a paragraph/ of unselfconscious cloud. Ragged din, see/ and hear through walls of/ chacun a son gout thunder/ kicking out in knowledge and joy. Alas,“

In the play with language, the dislocated images that lends a punch drawn feel, the imaginative definitions of the word Poetry are an exhaustive constant celebration and not without angst. That poetry could be so evocative is at once spellbinding and full of light.

In the exploration of the defining poetry is the defining Poet. Reading good poetry is a wonderment, that often makes this Writer think in tangents about the relation of the Poet to their writing and the act of writing. How the education of the Poet, intellect and life experience interacts with the Poet’s soul essence, the rhythm of the soul and the Muse to produce fantastical works.

tones employed as loss, a study in absurdist poetry, lightening and light.