Sunday, July 30, 2017

Rebecca Anne Banks reviews Sarah Fox's Invisible Wife (2017)

Rebecca Anne Banks was good enough to review Sarah Fox's Invisible Wife (2017) over at Subterranean Blue Poetry. Thanks, Rebecca! This is actually the second review of Invisible Wife, after Greg Bem's review over at Yellow Rabbit. You can see Banks' original review here.
A dance with the carousel, Invisible Wife, a symbolist dance that lives on the edge of ecstatic experience, a woman’s scream that bangs in the New Age Renaissance Republic of poetry. Sarah Fox (Poet, writer, teacher, astrologer, worker, placenta encapsulator, artist, grandmother, resister) lives and writes in Minneapolis. She has published two books with Coffee House Press.

The cover of this Chapbook is an excellent introduction, an art nouveau piece, the head of a woman seems to be screaming over enlarged legs, and if you look again, in a trick of the light, it looks like she is a dancer with arms in an arc over her head. Both states are intertwined in this Art Nouveau poetry Chapbook, at once a protest at the state of power conundrums that hurt us and at the same time a dance with darkness, light and the state of serial relationships.

The poetry begins with a poem about Frida Kahlo, as if spinning mythologies and stories, about the Symbolist painter who was in a severe trolley accident and spent a lot of time in a body cast, painting from her bed. A controversial relationship with the painter Diego, Frida Kahlo did not have any children although she had several miscarriages.
“Don’t take the bus. Order burritos.

In Mexico City and Chiapas, women’s

rights. In Frida Kahlo, Diego. In Diego,

Marxism and a few babies.”
Poet Fox is spinning a symbolist poetry confection with edge, a blue rendition of a song.

The title itself, Invisible Wife, touches on the lost woman inside the darkness of her husband’s psyche, his power and his disconnect, someone not fully in her power, at the behest of the patriarchy. He is represented by snake imagery and as someone lost in a forest, suggesting violence. The wife is redemption, “My heart is also invisible, to me. But it sings in tune.”

Symbolist imagery of the goddess, the crone, nature, the body, birth, death and dancing, this poetry sings. Cadence is achieved through repetition, and spins into dialectic, spins into wholeness, spins into magic. A truthtelling, that haunts the nature of intimate relationships, serial marriages, the old school advice from Good Housekeeping magazine in 1955, the reality of power conundrums in intimate relationships and the effects of broken marriages on the body and the psyche. From First Aid Kit
“Radical lying is an unimaginable violence –

a violence now imprinting in psyche everywhere:

I hear the leader speak or see his words and I bleed

through my outerwear. I bleed all the way

back through my wedding day. I wore

blue velvet. Lol.”

“I’m imagining a tail on the wedding dress.

A whip. Something ugly like driftwood.

Something like a deer climbing out

of driftwood. Someone lifting

the driftwood up out of the river

they were crying into. Someone

lifting medicine out of the bride and

lifting the bride out of the ghost.

Someone exorcising the ghost from the truth.”
Enigmatic, as if clothed in mystery, a story is being told in broken thought forms, sometimes in narrative, a one-sided conversation. The story itself lives in symbols and pictures.

In Save Me – for Worldwide Discotheque, it as if the poem is set in a dance hall, people are dancing, the lines of poetry are people dancing and saying “Save Me”. An ingenue poetica of truth and protest,
“We need to think up better endings for our stories.

These tears of mine are justified. To be honest, every Jesus

is terrible. What’s another word for dance? Mother’s milk.

Save me. Endless darkness that is not darkness.”
A brilliant invocation against the violence of the war economy society, the brokenness in ended intimate relationships, the poetry spinning mythologies into dance. A brilliant read. Invisible Wife by Sarah Fox.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

new from above/ground press: the hack of heaven, by Buck Downs

the hack of heaven
Buck Downs

the hack of heaven

                                                baby got
                                her biggest
                                                smile on

                                watching out
                with either eye

                I am not here
to know what it means

                it all goes fast
when I just listen

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
July 2017
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

A native of Jones County, Miss., Buck Downs lives in Washington D.C. where he works as a book doctor and executive writing coach. Poems can be found online at The Brooklyn Rail and in print at The Chill (Australia).

This is Downs’ second chapbook with above/ground press, after Shiftless(Harvester) (2016).

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, July 26, 2017

Greg Bem reviews Brenda Iijima's SWAMP / SWAMP (2017) and Carrie Hunter's Series out of Sequence (2017) at Yellow Rabbits

Seattle WA poet and reviewer Greg Bem was good enough to provide the first reviews of Brenda Iijima's SWAMP / SWAMP (2017) and Carrie Hunter's Series out of Sequence (2017) over at Yellow Rabbits. Thanks so much! You can see the original review here. It reads:
A mid-weekend review session: two new books by above/ground press.

“Advancing negligible inches, the reeds are porous barriers, beige poles sharp tall, we are not soldiers, this is not a battlefield at present, but was it?” In Brenda Iijima’s SWAMP SWAMP, a response to the 1971 film SWAMP by Robert Smithson, concepts of terraforming and terra-informing lead to better knowing the form of humans. Feminist, postcolonial, journalistic, what starts at the beginning of the swamp leads through it, the element of the surprise, the unexpected, and the unpredictable binding us to new relationships with knowledge, besieged by and through white settler imperialists, entire systems of militaries, and the shadows of society that rear their head through and through by a revisiting of recent and subconscious representations. Released in 2017.

“If you cannot be honest with yourself, how can you get the truth out of anyone else?” Life’s ride’s most enjoyable moments are enjoying the moments of life. Livelihood and the inclusion of experience is a theme erupting from the strands of language threaded together in Carrie Hunter’s Series out of Sequence, which collages together lines from at least a handful of contemporary and nearly-contemporary films and television shows, from Minority Report to Daredevil. The result is a book of poetry that feels as alive as the maximalist culture we live within, an ecology of its own. Here, in this anti-sequence, there is the sense of the ecological, but also the sense of the chaotic, as contexts morph and blend and merge into one another. And yet via Hunter as the peripheral artist of the craft, the language feels universal and total, allowing an experience wholly unique and of itself, but beyond itself, magnetically envisioning the limits (and limitlessness the same) of our world. Released in 2017.

Recommended listening: "Endangered Species" by Pat Metheny and Ornette Coleman.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

new from above/ground press: Entering Sappho, by Sarah Dowling

Entering Sappho
Sarah Dowling

IN Ninety-seven Troys
Eighty-three Eurekas
Fifty-seven Etnas
Fifty-six Antiochs
Fifty-four Athenses
Fifty-four Romes
Fifty-one Albions
And fifty Arcadias

In forty-nine Palmyras
Forty-eight Spartas
Forty-five Senecas
Thirty-nine Phoenixes
Thirty-nine Alphas
Thirty-seven Homers
Thirty-six Caledonias
Thirty-six Carthages
Thirty-five Macedonias
Thirty-three Uticas
And thirty-one Corinths

In thirty Milos
Twenty-nine Omegas
Twenty-seven Smyrnas
Twenty-five Argoses
Twenty-five Adrians
And twenty-four Olympias

I wake up and disappear

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
July 2017
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Sarah Dowling is the author of DOWN (Coach House, 2014) and Security Posture (Snare, 2009) which received the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. She has previously published one chapbook, Birds & Bees (TrollThread, 2012), as well as numerous shorter works in literary journals. Sarah teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics at the University of Washington Bothell.

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, July 24, 2017

Karen Massey interviewed/featured in Arc Poetry Magazine #83

above/ground press author Karen Massey (author of the chapbooks Bullet from 1999 and Strange Fits of Beauty & Light from 2014) is Arc Poetry Magazine's first "Emerging Writer Feature," which includes five new poems, as well as a short interview conducted by Arc editor Rhonda Douglas. You have to pick up a copy of the issue to see the full interview, but a fragment of it reads:
RD: Tell me a little about what occupies you as a writer... do you feel like ou are addressing any central thematic concerns?

KM: I think there are some of the same central concerns. I'm mostly interested in form right now. In my earlier work, in my first chapbook for example, there are some conversations with other writers. I would start with a title, like "Sylvia Plath in Heaven Does Tie-Dye," and then riff on that. Then I found an old textbook, of the time my mother would have been in school, and I realized there was all this older Canadian poetry that they would have studied and I hadn't read any of it, and so as a way to get into them I started to make erasure poems from the originals. And that's how the chapbook I did with rob mclennan (Strange Fits of Beauty & Light) came about... I'm trying to bring some of those ideas into the now. A lot of my stuff comes from titles and I'll go back from there. I hvae one poem recently where I had the title for two years but I had to do some research and the poems sit there for a while, percolating or fermenting, and then they write themselves. And then I edit them. For me, that's the fun part, going back over and editing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Nikki Sheppy reviews Julia Polyck-O'Neill's Femme (2016) in Arc Poetry Magazine #83

Calgary poet and critic Nikki Sheppy was good enough to post the first review of Julia Polyck-O'Neill's Femme (2016) in the new issue of Arc Poetry Magazine. Thanks so much! You have to pick up a copy of the issue to see the full review, but a fragment of it reads:
In this collection, the room is a feminist forum inhabited by poet Sylvia Plath, conceptual artist Gillian Wearing, literary theorist Hélène Cixous, and postcolonial queer theorist Sara Ahmed, among others. These lines of influence are named and engaged: Polyck O’Neill invokes several titles that absorb her attention: Plath’s “Elm,” Cixous’ Stigmata, and Ahmed’s “Affective Economies.” The effect is to expand the subject, the body and its language to surrounding feminist genealogies, engendering an inquisitive dialogue that is genuinely rhizomatic. In the matter of communication, “Hers is a field model.”

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Factory Reading Series: Irwin, Rhodes + Landers, August 12, 2017

span-o (the small press action network - ottawa) presents:
The Factory Reading Series:

with readings by:

Marilyn Irwin (Ottawa)
Shane Rhodes (Ottawa)
+ Sue Landers (Brooklyn NY)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan
Saturday, August 12, 2017
doors 7pm; reading 7:30pm
The Carleton Tavern,
223 Armstrong Street (at Parkdale; upstairs)

Shortlisted for the 2016 bpNichol Award and winner of the 2013 Diana Brebner Prize, Marilyn Irwin’s [pictured] work has been published by Apt. 9 Press, Arc Poetry Magazine, Matrix Magazine, Puddles of Sky, and The Steel Chisel, among others. north, her eighth chapbook, and third published by above/ground press, was released earlier this year. She runs shreeking violet press in Ottawa.

See her 2015 Jacket2 interview here:

Shane Rhodes is the author of six books of poetry, including his most recent Dead White Men (2017, Coach House Books). Other titles include Err, which was nominated for the City of Ottawa Book Award in 2012, X, which created poetry out of Canada’s post-Confederation treaties, and The Wireless Room, which won the Alberta Book Award. Shane’s poetry has also been featured in the anthologies Best Canadian Poetry in 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014, Breathing Fire II, and was awarded the National Magazine Gold Award for Poetry.

See his recent Touch the Donkey interview here:

Sue Landers is a poet from Brooklyn. She is author of Franklinstein, which tells the story of one Philadelphia neighborhood wrestling with the legacies of colonialism, racism, and capitalism. She is also the author of two books of poetry, 248 mgs., a panic picnic and Covers, as well as two chapbooks, 15: A Poetic Engagement with the Chicago Manual of Style and What I Was Tweeting While You Were on Facebook. She is currently writing about riding every New York City subway line from end to end.

See her recent Touch the Donkey interview here:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Greg Bem reviews rob mclennan's King Kong (2016) on Goodreads

Greg Bem was good enough to post the first review of my chapbook King Kong (2016) over at Goodreads. Thanks so much! You can see the whole review here. It reads:
This is a whacky pamphlet of poems that will leave you astounded at the canonization of North American poetry extended into such an array of strange and baffling contexts and contents. Enjoyable within the realm of quirks, King Kong reiterates the play and pride of Mclennan and his knack for the limp and romp of contemporary writ.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

the above/ground press summer sale! and today is the press' 24th birthday!

Where do the years go? Thanks to Alexander Monker back in 2013, I rediscovered that today is the anniversary of the first above/ground press reading and launch, way way back in 1993 (I'd spent years presuming the anniversary was in August, for some reason), so I thought we should celebrate twenty-four years (and more than eight hundred publications) with a glorious summer sale!

$25 for any 6 2017 chapbook titles! (until August 15, 2017

including: Domestica, by Sarah Swan ; Series out of Sequence, by Carrie Hunter ; random_lines = random.choice, by Jason Christie ; THIRTY-THREE, by Geoffrey Young ; marginal prints, by philip miletic ; ASTRAL PROJECTION, by Kyle Flemmer ; a a novel 1-20, by Derek Beaulieu ; No Right on Red, by Helen Hajnoczky ; These Ghosts / This Compost: An Aubadeclogue, by Jake Syersak ; SWAMP / SWAMP, by Brenda Iijima ; INVISIBLE WIFE, by Sarah Fox ; from: Sunny girls, by Sandra Moussempès (translated by Eléna Rivera ; Stephen Collis, FIRST SKETCH OF A POEM I WILL NOT HAVE WRITTEN ; Jordan Abel, TIMELESS AMERICAN CLASSIC ; poorsong one, by Lisa Robertson ; Marilyn Irwin, north ; Open Island, by Faizal Deen ; Inaccuracies, by Ian Whistle ; The Lover is Absent, by Jessica Smith ; SOMEWHERE THE / SHAKING, by Sarah Cook ; CANCON, by nathan dueck

while supplies last (like, obviously,

To order, send cheques (US orders, add $2 for postage; outside Canada/US, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at

with forthcoming titles from: Alyssa Bridgman, Geoffrey Nilson, Matthew Johnstone, Adele Graf, N.W. Lea, Sacha Archer, Stephanie Bolster, Buck Downs, Valerie Coulton, Katy Lederer and Sarah Dowling. but if you were a subscriber, you wouldn't even need to be scrolling through names, right? 2018 subscriptions will become available beginning October 1, 2017 (there are a lot of cool things already in the works for our twenty-fifth year...).

and keep an eye out on the annual above/ground press anniversary reading/launch/party! most likely to occur in August; there is so much to come I can't even,

Friday, July 7, 2017

Scott Bryson reviews Sarah Swan's Domestica (2017) in Broken Pencil

Not the most gushing of reviews (and he seems to acknowledge a nuance he also completely misses), Scott Bryson has provided the first review of Sarah Swan's Domestica (2017) in Broken Pencil. You can see the original review here.
Domestica Chapbook, Sarah Swan, 24 pgs, above/ground press,, $4

Domestica is a title that manages to conjure elegance and tedium at the same time, and that dichotomy is mirrored in Sarah Swan’s verse. In subsequent breaths, she compares her children’s “clear and clean” faces to icebergs in a Lawren Harris painting, then finds herself swept up by a wave of monotony as she pulls them down the sidewalk in a wagon, “grey square after grey square / after / solemn / grey / square.”

This collection is only half homebody musings; the riskiest — and most rewarding — section of Domestica is a numbered series of poems, all titled “Childhood.” Each does little more than list items, scenes or events that are presumably all from Swan’s youth. It’s a recipe for idiosyncrasy, but that line is never crossed; Swan’s choices for the lists consistently breed familiarity, at least for this reader: “The squat green / rotary telephone. // Porridge and / molasses. // Burrs / stuck / on my / sweater.”

If you’re looking for uncomplicated, mater-of-fact poetry, this one’s a safe bet. There’s nothing veiled, here — what you see is what you get — but Swan doesn’t sacrifice subtlety or nuance.