Monday, November 30, 2015

"poem" broadside #336 : from these actual lines (for William Hawkins), by Cameron Anstee

from these actual lines (for William Hawkins)
by Cameron Antee
above/ground press broadside #336
Cameron Anstee lives and writes in Ottawa ON where he runs Apt. 9 Press and is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa. He has published chapbooks with Baseline Press (London ON), above/ground press (Ottawa ON), The Emergency Response Unit (Marmora ON), and In/Words (Ottawa ON). He is the editor of The Collected Poems of William Hawkins (Chaudiere Books, 2015).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lyndsay Kirkham reviews Kate Schapira’s The Motions (2014) in Broken Pencil #69

Lyndsay Kirkham reviews Kate Schapira’s The Motions (2014) in Broken Pencil #69. Thanks so much! This is actually the first review of Schapira’s second above/ground press chapbook.

The 23 poems of The Motions are untitled, and all sit with a similar stubborn complacency against the edge of the white page. Similar in length and space-taking, these poems, on first glance, are interchangeable, when really, they tell a story when read as a collective tale of home, geography and minutiae.
            Despite a dedication to the verisimilitude of our lives, big themes waves to the reader when reflecting on the collection as a whole. These themes are then expertly whittled down to sharper points within the smaller and more nuanced pieces. The cohesion of Schapira’s work is one of its greatest features and calls one back inside the interior of these small glimpses of reflection.
            A reader is invited into the poet’s imagined spaces, to touch the “white comforters of her place” and linger in the crevices between the “local history” and the ephemera of a life-lived. Attention is paid to exacting an image, of creating perfect dioramas within each and every poem that fill The Motions. These precise snapshots are carried and crafted with a precise use of language that is without pretention or pomposity. They are words; they are doing work.
            Shapira’s collection repeatedly asks questions we are invited to use in disrupting the organized rooms of poetry offered throughout The Motions. It is in the questions – a patterned and obvious motif of the collection – where one detects a quiet but persistent rage; the questions swirl around the rest of the words, filling up the deliberately large white space. Readers feel magically observant, wanting to point toward the slipping mask of the landscapes that come to us as masked quiet and calm. This bubbling disquiet becomes a theme of its own with geographical, political and micro implications.
            The final poem in the 2014 collection doesn’t sew anything up for readers. The questions haven’t been answered and they are left with you in all their petite and crafted beauty: “I who wait/ on the rock hide my/ gravity, fail to remember/ filling with names. Caught/ as the stems of signs, pickets catch/ and resist”.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

launch of ryan fitzpatrick's dealingwithit.gif, November 28 (Vancouver,

Vancouver poet ryan fitzpatrick launches his latest above/ground press chapbook, dealingwithit.gif (2015) in Vancouver! See the facebook invitation here, where they say:
Saturday, November 28
at 7:30pm in PST
The Paper Hound Bookshop
344 West Pender St., Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 1T1

Come by The Paper Hound Bookshop Sat. Nov 28 at 7:30 for the launch of ryan fitzpatrick's dealingwithit.gif, with readings from Danielle LaFrance and Jordan Abel. There'll be free wine!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Michael Lake reviews Roland Prevost’s Parapagus (2012) in Broken Pencil #69

Michael Lake reviews Roland Prevost’s Parapagus (2012) in Broken Pencil #69. Thanks so much! This is actually the first review of Prevost’s second last above/ground press chap (this one has appeared since).

“A backfield dig unearths two gleaming pre-human / Skulls.”
            So begins Roland Prevost’s suite of short poems about an encounter between some archaeologists and the remains of an ancient two-headed woman, the parapagus of the title. The woman’s story emerges delicately through meditations on the life of her anomalous body: “Female adult remains. Survival to maturity / Suggests an acceptance of strangeness.” We catch glimpses of her sex life and the struggle between her two selves, but rather than focus much on the particular deviances of this body, Prevost plays with notions of otherness, exploring how and why it is perpetuated: “Assorted reactions of gawkers, reverencers. / A notoriety: across families, tribes. Across to us, / Three species down evolution’s stream.”
            The perception of otherness goes both ways as Prevost imagines what the two-headed woman would think of us: “They wouldn’t recognize us as kin.” All of this unfolds succinctly in ten swift poems, the titles of which are, at first, frustratingly oblique – [ magical beliefs ] + { meats rendered } or [ passive aggressive ] + { bound } are two such title examples—but upon a second read, they become helpful thematic markers, like an archaeological site, if you will. Parapagus is a short read, but one that will reward an attentive audience.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Michael Lake reviews Gil McElroy’s Twentieth (2013) in Broken Pencil #69

Michael Lake reviews Gil McElroy’s Twentieth (2013) in Broken Pencil #69. Thanks so much! This is actually the first review of McElroy’s second last above/ground press chap (this one has appeared since). And, while we might think that the reviewer might need to read a bit more (why do so many reviewers from Broken Pencil say things like “I don’t get it, therefore the author needs to do more work”?), we very much appreciate his attention.
The eight poems in Gil McElroy’s latest chapbook are each a hazy snapshot of an early-twentieth century French poet or artist. We get Tzara, Picabia, Breton, Apollinaire, and some perhaps less familiar names like Desnos, Eluard, and Aragon. The poems’ titles indicate their subject, but any other reference [to] the artist’s life or work will likely have no entry point for the average reader.
            In “Aragon,” McElroy writes: “Wednesday it happened./ Cushy foreskins, suddenly./ Her breasts/ His marriage/ Broom broom”. Or from “Picabia”: “A dream/ should cure me, a sock in/ one’s pocket that turns/ into salmon outfits”. The writing is always vivid, but the specificity of McElroy’s allusions is lost without a larger conceptual framework in which to understand them. We are left without any indication as to where these poems are rooted: is it biography, interpretation of the artist’s work, or McElroy himself?
            Each poem is in two parts, the second of which is presented as footnotes of sorts. The writing in these sections have a feverish intensity gained through repetition and surreal imagery and is the most compelling part of the collection. From “Breton”: “In my sleep I see Breton in the trees./ Breton will be everything I’ve ever lost./ Breton will be drawing a crowd, Breton all alone./ Breton you notice./ Breton is passing by.”
            Twentieth could have benefitted from an author’s note to better position readers in this unfamiliar terrain. As it is, the handling of a very niche subject will leave many readers feeling on the outside of McElroy’s vision.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Factory Reading Series: Leyton, lopes + Moody-Corbett, December 2, 2015

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

The Factory Reading Series presents:

Katherine Leyton (Ottawa)
damian lopes (Barrie ON)
+ Rod Moody-Corbett (Calgary)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
doors 7pm; reading 7:30pm
Raw Sugar Cafe
692 Somerset St W, Ottawa

Katherine Leyton
[pictured] is a poet and non-fiction writer whose work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Hazlitt, The Malahat Review and Bitch. All the Gold Hurts My Mouth, her first collection of poetry, will be published by Goose Lane in March 2016. She was the inaugural Writer-in-Residence at the Al & Euirthe Purdy A-Frame in the summer of 2014. She recently moved to Ottawa from Toronto.

Currently the Poet Laureate for the City of Barrie, damian lopes is the author of several books of poetry and a former editor at Coach House Books. His most recent publication, yasser arafat is dead, is a poetry chapbook published by Ottawa’s above/ground press. In addition to poetry, damian continues to work on his first novel.

See the recent profile on him at Jacket2, as part of rob mclennan's 'commentaries':

Rod Moody-Corbett holds an MA in creative writing from the University of New Brunswick, and is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Calgary. His short story, “Parse,” was a finalist for the 2013 CBC Short Story Prize, and winner of that prize’s People’s Choice Award. His work has appeared in numerous Canadian journals, and he was recently named a finalist in The Paris Review’s “Windows On the World” contest. His work is forthcoming in The Calgary Renaissance (Ottawa: Chaudiere Books, 2016).

Monday, November 9, 2015

Scott Bryson reviews Jennifer Kronovet’s CASE STUDY: WITH (2015) in Broken Pencil #69

The majority of the prose poems in this collection document – in a decidedly clinical tone – time spent observing a child: “With the Boy, in the House;” “With the Boy, Outside;” “With the Boy, Inside the Museum.” Only near the end of Case Study: With do we come to learn for certain that the boy is Jennifer Kronovet’s son.
            Ambiguity regarding the child’s identity is planted early. From page one, he’s referred to only as “The Boy,” and when Kronovet eventually calls him “my son,” it seems almost like a slip-up – as if the integrity of the case study has been compromised by Kronovet’s momentary inability to maintain an impartial distance as she studies her test subject.
            Case Study: With is more that simple observation; it take a stab at drawing insights from a complex natural system. Kronovet is critically examining a life spent with someone who’s perched on the cusp of grasping speech (“a reckoner of words”) She juxtaposes her anecdotes with explorations of clinical terminology and research into the study of language (including the famous case of a feral child in France) that illuminates the ways in which language develops in a person. Her case study is also sprinkled with poetic hypotheses that illustrate the ways in which our words define us and our relationships: “We use words like a tree uses light.”
            Kronovet, in adopting the role of scientist, necessarily comes off as detached and callous, and it’s commendable – given the subject matter – that she’s able to maintain that tone throughout her case study. Slipping into an expected voice might have ruined what is a consistently pensive and heady read.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Lyndsay Kirkham reviews Pearl Pirie’s today’s woods (2014) in Broken Pencil #69

Lyndsay Kirkham was good enough to review Pearl Pirie’s today’s woods (2014) in Broken Pencil #69. Thanks so much! This is actually the second review of Pirie’s chapbook, after Frank Davey reviewed such over at his blog.
Pearl Pirie weaves together scientific observations on the grizzly bear, barbed critiques of the current Canadian political atmosphere, and ruminations on child psychology laying them bear against a reimagining of Grimm’s classic Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Pirie’s today’s woods is a gorgeous example of experimental poetic collage narrative.
            The texture of her language, thick and dense, is a stunning contrast to the sharp and cutting criticism levelled at the too comfortable white literary landscapes of colonized Canada. Pirie pierces the reader with the knowledge that sometimes we come to poetry in need of something that we weren’t aware we were lacking.
            The reader needs this story to be rewritten: we need Pirie to recast the characters in this flawed fairytale. As she strips down Goldilocks, the poet silently takes to task all other lies that litter our collective childhoods. When we sit down with this chapbook, we are sitting down with our five year old selves; this poet gives us permission to grieve the flawed narrative fed to us by parents, teachers and larger cultural attitudes. That’s a tall order for a chapbook of four pages, but it’s done with such an agile voice that the reader is lulled into this jarring imaginary-real world.
            A particular achievement of this short collection are the dues it pays to revisioned narratives. The poet offers a variety of different possibilities that can account for the Goldilocks story. Pirie explores possibility within reality by laying at our feet the potential of characters.
            “Scenario A, they were called away from the meal on emergency and to add insult to injury they came home to a home invasion…
            Scenario B: so they go for a walk while it cools off, how was it that going for a walk seemed like a good idea?” Isn’t this what so many of us want from and for our childhood memories: a chance to rewrite that scene on the playground, to imagine a new understanding from our parents’ divorce?
            today’s woods would benefit from some further massaging around punctuation and word choice. The core skeleton of the work is its strength, but the mechanics could be made to work a little bit harder.