Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rebecca Anne Banks reviews rob mclennan's from Hark: a journal (2014) and N.W. Lea's Present! (2014)

Rebecca Anne Banks was good enough to post a review of rob mclennan's from Hark: a journal (2014) and N.W. Lea's Present! (2014) over at Subterranean Blue Poetry. Thanks, Rebecca! This makes the second review of from Hark: a journal, after Jack Goodall's review over at the Flat Singles Press blog, and the second review of Present! after Ryan Pratt's review over at the ottawa poetry newsletter.
Byline: Subterranean Blue Poetry
Title of Book: from Hark: a journal
Author: Rob McLennan
Publisher: above/ground press
Date of Publication: 2014
Page Count: 13

from Hark: a journal is a fantastical Chapbook of poetry, some of the poems have been published previously in Canadian Literature (Vancouver, British Columbia) and at Rob McLennan is a Canadian Poetry icon, editor, publisher, poet he operates above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, ottawater, The Garneau Review, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics and posts everything poetry on He is the celebrated author of more than 20 books of poetry.

This was one of a number of Chapbooks sent to me from above/ground press and of all the tomes, this Writer was captivated. In the Chapbook is an introduction that describes the history of the series of poems. The poems were written when Rob’s relationship with Christine was new, they later married. They wrote postcards and letters to each other in their dance of courtship.

“These were small, secret missives, slipped into luggage, pockets or purses before trips, to be deliberately discovered later. On a Greyhound Bus, I reached into my jacket pocket to find three new postcards; halfway between Ottawa and Toronto, little gifts she’d tucked away without my knowledge. Christine’s notes to me were usually composed on postcards she’d picked up years earlier, and written as though from not only the postcard’s point-of-origin, but that time as well, dated months or even years before we’d met . . . I was fascinated by the idea of letters written from foreign geographical and temporal places, sketched out as short postcard pieces.”

The title of the Chapbook is taken from a comic strip by Kate Beaton, “Hark, a vagrant” and at the time he was reading an anthology “Crosscut Universe: Writing on Writing from France” translated and edited by Norma Cole. Four quotes from this book are included in the Chapbook.

The short poetic prose pieces composed by poet Mclennan are titled with a city and a date, reaching various and esoteric global climes and the dates going as far back as 1422, introducing the idea of landscape and history or the temporal. Each poetry vignette includes elements of the essence of the city, perhaps events in the city at that time and weaves in the idea of romance (global and personal) and its antithesis of war, the push and pull of here not here, home not home and violence, the war economy N.A., as someone who has been on a journey and perhaps is traveling:

“London, 1820

In a measure of circling. This is an actual letter. The poem, I should say. Response is so simple. Words point out sediment. Rising moon, the Thames are a-changing. Sooting deep, thick industrial smog. Touch, but more muscular. Victoria, princess. A tower, a namesake. This unknown, hiatus. In what available field. The lives of the past. Leave poets be. Betray to her an abacus.”

The poetry reads like a butterfly entranced by the flame of a candle, as if he is reading the missives from his wife and writing responses weaving, weaving:

“Toronto, 1837

When talks, are we writing it. A roughhousing passage. To summarize: elegy, bonfire, speech. King’s Tavern, old hat. She rinses a teacup, sews stitch to the blade. Call out your anguish, astonishment. The currency inherent in blasphemous buildings. Hairsplitting. I am no further thickness. Forever is quite a long time. The body is present.”


“Tokyo, 1868

Edo, a meaning. Open, her soft voice. Each fold of the city, prefecture. When I claim I am present.. Rails of meaning, undamaged. A blossom, a wonderful scribe. Eaten. This death, microscopic. Sending best wishes. What can you tell me. Illuminate, earth and white powder. The mind meditates, fishing. A castle of wonders. I hold two family portraits. A resident plum.”

In cinematic, the Chapbook could be blown up into a book with coloured postcards of the places in the titles of the poems. As if the Oracle in the time of Spring the poetry is enigmatic and definitive captivating romance in history and within the overconstructed politics of the times. from Hark: a journal, a brilliant read from Rob McLennan.

Byline: Subterranean Blue Poetry
Title of Book: Present!
Author: N.W. Lea
Publisher: above/ground press
Date of Publication: 2014
Page Count: 11

Present! is a fascinating truth-telling of love/life N.A. Written by N.W. Lea who resides in Ottawa, Canada, he has published a book of poetry Everything is Movies, this is his third published Chapbook.

Present! reveals and revels the love diaspora N.A. Written in a post-modern narrative style, the poetry writes as if coming in on the middle of a story/conversation and also ends as if leaving in the middle of a story/conversation. It is a secret dialogue, telling a story without telling a story and secret wordplay, playing with the use of language.

“we were culture-born

then we were enculturated

then we were inculcated

then, indoctrinated



The theme of love is entangled, as if someone lost in the miasma of where is my love affair heart?

“the swans of hurt
burn circles in the snow”


“I wonder toward
your darker travails
part your mirth
like legs

what religious tissue!

estranging beneath the gawking satellites”


“your bunched sun-
dress lays somewhere
between cyberspace
and the mixed orchard”

The theme of parted loves, perhaps serial lovers is mixed with the last throws of the industrial society and coming into the cyberspace of the New Age, using surreal images of technology. Perhaps a reflection of the disembodiement of the “sex as service machine” phenomena feeding the economy, breaking with the love Spiritus and the Holy Spirit.

“there is circuitry
behind the basement wall

this I know …..

so we bash the veneer
with our amped up bodies

and start tearing out
the wires and chips

we’re blurring
but so
so glad”

“and all our appliances
grow real hearts”

with elements of activism and truthtelling

“what an honour
it is to be killed


by your government’s

A rich post-modern impression of a love/death story in poetry, some dark soma of the night. In the words and music of the Poet Leonard Cohen, “Everybody knows”. Present! a great read from N.W. Lea.

Monday, March 24, 2014

new from above/ground press: The Peter F Yacht Club #20; VERSeFest special!

The Peter F Yacht Club #20
VERSeFest 2014 special
edited by rob mclennan
[see the link here for information on the previous issue]
[see the links here for information on the 2013 VERSeFest special issue, the 2012 VERSeFest special issue and 2011 VERSeFest special issue]
[see the link here for a history of the publication]

With new writing by a host of Peter F Yacht Club regulars, irregulars and VERSeFest 2014 participants, including Cameron Anstee, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Sarah de Leeuw, Anita Dolman, Amanda Earl, m erskine, JM Francheteau, Marilyn Irwin, Ben Ladouceur, rob mclennan, Pearl Pirie, Roland Prevost, Monty Reid, Peter Richardson and Vivian Vavassis.

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

[a small stack of copies will be distributed free as part of the fourth annual VERSeFest, March 25-30, 2013]

above/ground press 2014 subscriptions still available!

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, March 23, 2014

various above/ground press authors (and others) in a month-long display of visual poetry : beaulieu, Martin, Hajnoczky, Schmaltz, Betts, Pirie, Smith, Harris + Barwin,

T E X T ual A R T ivity T E X T ual A R T ivity T E X T ual A R T ivi
a month-long display of * visual poetry *
Official Opening / Reception / poetry reading / open mike
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
7:30 p.m. - doors open 7 p.m.
The Human Bean, King Street, downtown Cobourg, Ontario
FREE admission

T E X T ual A R T ivity T E X T ual A R T ivity T E X T ual A R T ivi
April is National Poetry Month
"lay your WORD down!"
moves to Tuesday from our usual Thursday
for April only because {poetry in Cobourg spaces}
opens this month-long display of * visual poetry *
our poetry open mike is part of this * official opening *
T E X T ual A R T ivity T E X T ual A R T ivity T E X T ual A R T ivi
Usually poetry is delivered by reading but
this is a *poetry show*
it is an art show.
It is a collection of graphics meant for wall display.
However, the show is all about reading.
Each piece is based on text.
T E X T ual A R T ivity T E X T ual A R T ivity T E X T ual A R T ivi
Angela Rawlings, Derek Beaulieu, Camille Martin, Bill Bissett, Helen Hajnoczky, Robert Zend, Lindsay Cahill, Mark Laliberte, Jenny Sampirisi, Eric Schmaltz, Angela Szczepaniak, Gregory Betts & Neil Hennessy, Pearl Pirie, Eric Winter, Jessica Smith, Ted Amsden, Sharon Harris, Cliff Bell-Smith, Mary McKenzie, Wally Keeler, Katriona Dean, Gary Barwin, Judith Copithorne, michael j. casteels, Alixandra Bamford, Em Lawrence and Dan Waber
T E X T ual A R T ivity T E X T ual A R T ivity T E X T ual A R T ivi

see the facebook invitation here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

"poem" broadsheet #325: Routes we take, by Rachael Simpson

I reach for the words I’ve used before.
I tell you the same things over and over.

Such watery talk.

I touch you in the places I know to find.
You respond in your old way.

We have our weather;

routes we take
to take again.

And as the slope of your shoulders
borders mine,

I look for a range of words
outlined in the distance.

Routes we take
by Rachael Simpson
above/ground press broadside #325
Rachael Simpson’s poetry has been published in Canada, the United States and abroad. Her debut chapbook, Eiderdown, was released in 2012 out of Apt 9 Press. She lives in Ottawa and blogs at

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

new from above/ground press: vertigoheel for the dilly, by Pearl Pirie

vertigoheel for the dilly
Pearl Pirie

that shed snakeskin in display case thru 13 homes together.
garter snake lifespan: 2 years in the wild and 6 to 10 years in captivity

existed under your thumb, swam all nerves to that stroke
was silk flared from the pinch, pulled thru a ring, am smoke.

frost-slapped cheeks applied via Avon, ‘talk to him’ you instructed,
rub his hands, keep him with us. (we never had touched.)

sanguine sans glum, stand-up, wipe sebum, beach bum,
I've been dead to you for 4 changes of addresses.

the exponential decay. scapolite turns yellow under black light.
press the button for glow over and over.

duckie, you are wedged inside my defenses causing a short.
rest. head on my chest.  breath’s the centre of all the best dervishes.


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

Pearl Pirie
has a few chapbooks, a micro press, several blogs, a gig as literary radio host and irregular gigs to teach poetry. She has two poetry collections, and a third forthcoming with BookThug in 2015. None of these poems are in them so you have to buy them both.

This is Pearl Pirie’s fourth above/ground press publication and second chapbook, after oath in the boathouse (2008).

The author wishes to thank the City of Ottawa for a grant in 2012.

Produced, in part, as a handout for the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, Buffalo NY, April 5-6, 2014. Thanks much to Chris Fritton for his help and support.

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, March 17, 2014

new from above/ground press: LIME KILN QUAY ROAD, by Ben Ladouceur (second printing!

Ben Ladouceur
second printing!

There was a rock rumoured to grow
one inch every year.

It was a letdown.

The heath once housed
a witch

but then they built the church
so she became some nightjars
and took off.

It’s something we do
in the countryside.

We don’t grow a great deal

and depart
when the birds we’re made of
have had enough.

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

Ben Ladouceur
is the recipient of the 2013 Earle Birney Poetry Prize. His work has been featured in The Walrus, The Fiddlehead, Dragnet, Best Canadian Poetry 2013, and many other magazines and anthologies. Other chapbooks include: Nuuk, In/Words, 2008; Mutt, Odourless Press, 2011; Impossibly Handsome, Ferno House, 2013; and Poem About The Train, Apt. 9 Press, forthcoming in 2014.

The first printing of LIME KILN QUAY ROAD was in 2011.

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, March 11, 2014

"poem" broadsheet #324: FRIDAY’S CRYPTIC, FRIDAY’S QUICK: LINDY ON THE RADIO, by m erskine

Down, rumpus lurcher — ungainly rayon!
Watch, in the wind,
gin, cup of tea,
knit —
location: poker face...
Hungary, come clean;
multiple-halfwit rookie,
necessary ear. 

by m erskine
above/ground press broadside #324
Produced for a reading in Ottawa as part of The Factory Reading Series.

m erskine is a long-time corrupter of words. The poetry condition is responding well to treatment, thanks for asking. This is her second above/ground press broadsheet.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lea Graham is this week's Guest Author on The Best American Poetry blog!

above/ground press author and amazing human being Lea Graham (author of the 2006 chapbook Calendar Girl and co-author of the 2011 chapbook Metric) is the "guest author" on The Best American Poetry blog this week. Congratulations, Lea! Does this mean we might even see a new book and/or chapbook out of her at some point, soon?

As they write on their site:

Lea Graham Guest Author March 11-15

This week we welcome Lea Graham as our guest author. Lea is the author of the poetry book, Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You (No Tell Books, 2011). Her poems, translations and reviews have been published in Notre Dame Review, Southern Humanities Review and Fifth Wednesday. She is a contributing editor for Atticus Review’s feature, “Boo’s Hollow,” which showcases poets writing on place. She is an Associate Professor of English at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Welcome, Lea.

-- sdh