Thursday, October 16, 2014

new from above/ground press: Abject Lessons, by Jennifer Baker

Abject Lessons
Jennifer Baker



barn swallow barrel rolls
and phonemic slippages

chase cloud-shadow yokelisms
back to the bush


until I was 15
I believed a crick was different
from a creek

stretched thinner
scraping itself under roads
through aluminum tunnels
populated with turtles
a crick snapped


olfactory archeology
of sawdust, oil and earth
reveals a sitting-room with wood panelling
and that John Wayne clock
his legs tick-tocking

Whaddayasay Pilgrim


the ghost I never met, but imagined
wading among the bones of drowned horses
down by the crick

is missing half his face

he reaches out to me
through his brother's ruined life
& my mother's anxious vigilance

he once followed me to Montreal
and came back to life

he still grips me by the diaphragm
and mocks my unshakeable belief
that I can be ready for anything 


since 10th grade
Del Jordan has been whispering in my ear
forget the lurking idyll
it all comes out gothic

no unicorns but horse bones
swallowed by the quick sand
at the edge of the field


my grandfather's accounts of this
are unconfirmed but by the fact
that I sank thigh-deep in sewage
in the recently harvested field
on Thanksgiving Day when I was 7

my older brother
like so many times since
pulled that screaming child
from the stinking earth
that threatened to swallow her

this is a photograph of me


don't tell my mother

it all comes out gothic
despite the lurking idyll

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

Jennifer Baker
was raised in Exeter, Ontario, where she divided her time between town and her grandparents’ farm. She is currently a part-time professor and PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa.

[Jennifer Baker launches Abject Lessons as part of the pre-ottawa small press book fair reading on November 7, 2014 at The Carleton Tavern, alongside Dave Currie, Frances Boyle, Anita Dolman and Stuart Ross]

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, October 13, 2014

Amanda Earl reviews Sarah Rosenthal's Estelle Morning Star (2014), Hugh Thomas' Albanian Suite (2014), N.W. Lea's Present! (2014), Camille Martin's Sugar Beach (2014), Eric Baus' THE RAIN OF THE ICE (2014) and Rachel Moritz' Many forms in water (2014)

Amanda Earl was good enough to review Sarah Rosenthal's Estelle Morning Star (2014), Hugh Thomas' Albanian Suite (2014), N.W. Lea's Present! (2014), Camille Martin's Sugar Beach (2014), Eric Baus' THE RAIN OF THE ICE (2014) and Rachel Moritz' Many forms in water (2014) as a group post on a variety of above/ground press in 2014 so far over at her enormously clever blog (might this be a time to remind you about the 2015 subscriptions?). Thanks, Amanda! See her original post here, and all of the titles she mentioned are still available (so far). And, for those keeping track, there are three previous reviews of Martin's chapbook here and here and here, a previous review of Baus' chapbook here, a previous review of Lea's chapbook here, and two previous group reviews that include Lea and Thomas here and even here.
hunting for the dark: above/ground press...2014 so far...

on an unseasonably rainy & cold night in mid-August I had an appetite for the above. I wanted to look in less obvious places. I have a stack of above/ground press chapbooks published in 2014, since i am a subscriber…i was curious to see if any of the authors had a penchant for the Gothic, etc. what i found primarily was an overriding tone of anxiety concerning the monotony of 21st century existence. seems scary enough to me...

Sarah Rosenthal’s "Estelle Morning Star" fits the bill nicely with descriptions of women carrying “dying dead things” “emaciated/mangled/animals” I love her turns of phrase & odd juxtapositions, a sense of the macabre amongst business like celebration: “hard core birds in the / ballroom throw themselves/at convention windows/clatter to the table      their/colours running out.” she paints a vivid picture. Estelle wears mary janes.

Hugh Thomas gives us absurd portraits of anxious composers pursued by fierce demons in "Albanian Suite."“When I was with you, the ravens/and milktrucks made such music.” a fun use of black & white. in “Epithalamion” there are bite-marked necks, the monotony of waiting. “It misunderstands today’s poetry/overgrown with wildflowers to forget these sojourners.”  “Poetry is a pagoda, built of friendly embracings, like a square dance complicating society” … a ticket to days of radishes/and saliva” not to discount the beauty in these poems. it’s there between ice-cold moments: “Time, you murderous sun fills my lungs with honey,” there’s something sweetly chilling about that image. & another from “Selfportrait Unwilling to Sit”: “a tramcar apocalypse/on the move/dragging behind dissonance, divine regret.” there’s something Gothic about that image. & in “Metropolitan”: “The two sicknesses frequent in this epoch are heat and isolation.” Thomas’ poems alternate between the tiniest, spot on observations to elaborate, absurd images. I have to say, this is one of my favourite chapbooks this year so far. some of the poems are translations.

In "Present!" N.W. Lea opens with a gangster with rubber extendable arms holding someone up like a baby. an absurd image & not without its horrifying effect…followed later in the next poem in the sequence by “the swans of hurt/burn circles in the snow” there’s lots here about the terror of mundanity, of the burbs…even a littered cough candy is menacing: “a pale pink/half-sucked lozenge/on the pavement/glinting//plus us//have to contend with the teeth of the neighbourhood” you are “snug in your death-sweater.” there are “great swarms/of dusk-bats” "Present!" is a sequence of estrangement.

there are some menacing animals & a kind of helplessness, a monotony in Camille Martin’s "Sugar Beach:" “A leap of leopards under a crescent moon/happens without us, but we’re there/just the same.” “Newfangleness” Sharpshooters are juxtaposed with picnics in “Blind Engine.” In “No Such Identical Horses,” Martin writes, “I was counting on my favourite superstition/to endow the mirage with authority.” There are rotted leaves, wormy fruit, a beast stampeding down a trail, “the chitinous exoskeleton of a locust” & in the title poem a feeling of wasted extravagance in an image of a rusty tanker scooping “mounds of raw sugar.”  “Machine in the Ghost” evokes a cemetery scene. The poems in this chapbook are sound & image collages.

Eric Baus gives us fanciful nightmares of octopi with burned tentacles, ghosts, insects in “The Rain of Ice.” I loved how imaginative & unusual these prose poems were.

In “Many forms in water,” Rachel Moritz gives us white coffins, bitter flowers, gathering storms, “the ribbon of heat rising past digits black in air.” In “The finished forms in the sand record movement that has ceased,” this is a particularly grotesque image: “I carried her through the woods, slept in waterlogged leaves with her body on my chest.” This poem & the others manage to create a tone of melancholy, grief, poignant emotions. I’m quite enamoured of these poems, especially imagery like “How we carried the bell down irrevocable stairs, passed our sentence of doubt and kept moving.” in “Flowing water encounters a widely submerged outside.”

Friday, October 10, 2014

above/ground press author Jason Christie's Government (2013) on the 2014 bpNichol Chapbook Award‏ shortlist!

Congratulations to new Ottawa resident Jason Christie for making the shortlist to the 2014 bpNichol Chapbook Award! Thrilled to see, also, two other above/ground press authors--Christine McNair and Phil Hall--on the shortlist for further titles. Congratulations, all!

This is above/ground press' third and third annual appearance on the bpNichol Chapbook Award shortlist, after Fenn Stewart's An OK Organ Man (2012) made last year's list, and Hugh Thomas' Opening the Dictionary (2011) and Elizabeth Rainer and Michael Blouin's let lie/ (2012) were shortlisted the previous year.

Looking forward to this year's Meet the Presses (our first appearance at such) to hear the winner! The press release for such is below:
Meet the Presses Announces bpNichol Chapbook Award shortlist and Doubling of Award Purse

TORONTO (10 October 2014) — Meet The Presses announced today that, beginning this year, the prize purse of the bpNichol Chapbook Award will double from $2,000 to $4,000, thanks to the generosity of its Anonymous Donor. Meet the Presses is a volunteer collective that organizes public events showcasing books and chapbooks, magazines, recordings and broadsides produced by independent publishers of fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction,

This year’s bpNichol Chapbook Award shortlist consists of six poetry titles:

Government: Jason Christie (above/ground)

Life Savings: Mat Laporte (Odourless)

pleasantries and other misdemeanours: Christine McNair (Apt. 9)

a fist made and then unmade: matt robinson (Gaspereau)

Oilywood: Christine Leclerc (Nomados)

X: Phil Hall (Thee Hellbox)

The winner of this year’s bpNichol Chapbook Award will be announced at Meet the Presses’ fifth Indie Literary Market, on Saturday November 22, at the Tranzac Club in Toronto. The Market is an invitational event focused exclusively on things literary. It provides an opportunity for the public to meet independent literary publishers and purchase publications that may not be readily available (or available at all) in bookstores and other commercial outlets. The collective came together in the spirit of the original Meet the Presses events begun 29 years ago in Toronto by Stuart Ross and Nick Power.


The bpNichol Chapbook Award recognizes excellence in Canadian poetry published in chapbook form. The prize is awarded to a poetry chapbook judged to be the best submitted. This year’s judges are Kevin McPherson Eckhoff and Sandra Ridley. The author now receives $4,000 and, thanks to the largesse of writers Brian Dedora and Jim Smith, the publisher receives $500. Awarded continuously since 1986, the bpNichol Chapbook Award is currently administered by the Meet the Presses collective.

For more information, write or phone 709.738.6702.

Meet the Presses

Gary Barwin, Paul Dutton, Ally Fleming, Beth Follett, Hazel Millar, Leigh Nash, Nicholas Power, Stuart Ross, Eric Schmaltz and Jess Taylor.

[Founding Members Emeritus: Maria Erskine, Maggie Helwig]

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"poem" broadside #329 : "Inarticulate, how," by rob mclennan

            for/after Catherine Wagner,

Scratch that, siege. A greenery. Such teenaged thoughts: familiar thrum. It wasn’t literary. Trembled. First response: collage. For some three weeks a rhythm. Recycled air. The shadow harness, howls. Sexy, in the wrong place. Interrupted. Where one fits. A bolt of coloured fabric. Thwarted, in the undertow. Tracks the train must run on. Freedom, lies. Such romance. Where am all exposed. Unanswered. Trace, an accent. Ultrasonic. Outside, hours. Soft-hearted forms. This is not a game. Maintain. The baby: refuses sleep, refuses crib. Resists. Cohabitating forms. New to the neighbourhood. Cut up shapes and crawling. What would mention, over. How we love matures so slow. I remember only the simplest of forms. This is not a pencil.

Inarticulate, how
by rob mclennan
produced for a drive east with the family,
September 2014
above/ground press broadside #329
The author of nearly thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, Ottawa writer rob mclennan’s most recent titles include notes and dispatches: essays (Insomniac press, 2014), The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and the poetry collection If suppose we are a fragment (BuschekBooks, 2014). 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

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Factory Reading Series pre-small press book fair reading, November 7, 2014: Baker, Dolman, Boyle, Currie + Ross

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

The Factory Reading Series
pre-small press book fair reading
featuring readings by:
Jennifer Baker (Ottawa)
Anita Dolman (Toronto)
Frances Boyle (Ottawa)
Dave Currie (Ottawa)
+ Stuart Ross (Coburg)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan
Friday, November 7, 2014;
doors 7pm; reading 7:30pm
The Carleton Tavern,

223 Armstrong Street (at Parkdale; upstairs)

Jennifer Baker [pictured]
was raised in Exeter, Ontario, where she divided her time between town and her grandparents' farm. She is currently a part-time professor and PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa. Her new chapbook, her first, is Abject Lessons (above/ground press).

Anita Dolman is an Ottawa-based writer and editor. Her poetry and fiction have appeared throughout Canada and the United States, including, most recently, in On Spec: the Canadian magazine of the fantastic, Grain,, The Antigonish Review, ottawater and Geist. Her short story “Happy Enough” is available as an e-novella from Morning Rain Publishing (2014). Follow Anita on Twitter @ajdolman. Her second poetry chapbook is Where No One Can See You (AngelHousePress, 2014).

Frances Boyle is originally from Regina, and maintains a yearning for both the prairies and the west coast where she lived for a number of years. She is the author of Light-carved Passages (BuschekBooks, 2014) and the chapbook Portal Stones, winner of Tree Press’s chapbook contest. Among other awards, she’s received the Diana Brebner Prize, and first place in This Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt for poetry (with third place for fiction in the same year). Her poetry and short stories have appeared in Canadian and American literary magazines, both print and online, and anthologies on subjects from Hitchcock to form poetry to mother/daughter relationships. She serves on Arc Poetry Magazine’s editorial board.

Dave Currie’s Birds Facts is forthcoming from Apt. 9 Press, a sentence that fill him with bashful joy and quiet disbelief. His plays have been produced at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, Carleton University, Algonquin College and at small venues across the province. His origins in theatre transitioned into opportunities in television and film, most of which he accepted, performed adequately and then squandered.

He is currently working on a new play entitled “Clone-Hitler Goes To The Beach” set to be performed in 2015 and a film script simply entitled “Women.” His fiction will be available in magazines – some day.

Dave Currie is not now nor has he ever been a dog.

Stuart Ross published his first literary pamphlet on the photocopier in his dad’s office one night in 1979. Through the 1980s, he stood on Toronto’s Yonge Street wearing signs like “Writer Going To Hell,” selling over 7,000 poetry and fiction chapbooks. He is a founding member of the Meet the Presses collective, and is editor at Mansfield Press. He is the author of two collaborative novels, two story collections, eight poetry books, and the novel Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew. He has also published an essay collection, Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer, and co-edited Rogue Stimulus: The Stephen Harper Holiday Anthology for a Prorogued Parliament. His most recent poetry book is Our Days in Vaudeville (Mansfield Press), collaborations with 29 other poets from across Canada. Stuart has had three chapbooks published this year: Nice Haircut, Fiddlehead (Puddles of Sky Press), A Pretty Good Year (Nose in Book Publishing) and In In My Dream (Bookthug). Stuart is a member of the improvisational noise trio Donkey Lopez, whose first CD is Juan Lonely Night. He lives in Cobourg, Ontario.

[And don’t forget the 20th anniversary of the ottawa small press book fair, being held the following day at the Jack Purcell Community Centre]

Friday, October 3, 2014

new from above/ground press: Images from Declassified Nuclear Test Films, by Stephen Brockwell

Images from Declassified Nuclear Test Films
Stephen Brockwell

No Date,
“Let’s Face It”,

Her hair.
Say that—all the voices

What skin tone
adjustments, I can’t
imagine—who could?
No categories for that
declassification, too much
to see it.

And of the trees,
what survival?
Match stick does not
survival make
as beautiful as sunsets.

There are no creams
for alpha particles.

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

Stephen Brockwell is an Ottawa poet who runs a small IT company from a tiny office in the Chateau Laurier. His collection Fruitfly Geographic won the Archibald Lampman Award in 2004. His most recent collection is Complete Surprising Fragments of Improbable Books.

This is Stephen Brockwell’s fourth above/ground press chapbook, after Excerpts from Impossible Books: The Crawdad Cantos (2012), Impossible Books (the Carleton Installment) (2010) and Marin County Poems (2001).

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