Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Factory Reading Series: Quinn, Clayton + Bandukwala, June 13, 2018

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

with readings by:
Shannon Quinn (Toronto)
Conyer Clayton (Ottawa)
+ Manahil Bandukwala (Ottawa)

lovingly hosted by rob mclennan
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
doors 7pm/reading 7:30pm
The Carleton Tavern,
223 Armstrong Street (at Parkdale; upstairs)

Shannon Quinn was born in Kanata. Her formative years were spent in the Hazeldean Mall. She has lived in Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Thunder Bay and Iqaluit. She now calls Toronto home. She works in mental health and previously worked for CBC Radio. Her first book, Questions for Wolf, was published by Thistledown Press. Her work has most recently appeared in CV2, ARC, Grain, Prairie Fire and Geez. Nightlight for Children of Insomniacs (Mansfield Press) is her second full length collection.

Conyer Clayton [pictured] is an Ottawa based writer who aims to live with compassion, gratitude, and awe. She has 2 chapbooks forthcoming: Undergrowth (bird, buried press, June 2018), and Mitosis (In/Words Magazine and Press, August 2018). For the Birds. For the Humans. was released with battleaxe press in February 2018. Her work appears in Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead, The Maynard, In/Words, Bywords, Transom, and others. She won Arc's 2017 Diana Brebner Prize, 3rd place in Prairie Fire's 2017 Poetry Contest, and honourable mention in The Fiddlehead's 2018 poetry prize. She is a member of the sound poetry ensemble Quatour Gualour. Check out for updates on her endeavours.

Manahil Bandukwala is a Pakistani poet and artist currently living in Ottawa. She is an editor for In/Words Magazine & Press and is on the editorial board of canthius. Her work has appeared in, the Puritan, In/Words, Coven Editions, Room Magazine and others. You can find her work on her website at

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Michael Dennis

This is the eighteenth in a series of short essays/reminiscences by a variety of authors and friends of the press to help mark the quarter century mark of above/ground. See links to the whole series here.

above/ground press.

rob is someone I’ve known for over 25 years, a quarter of a century.  When I first met rob he was literally bursting at the seams with poetry energy and ideas.

I don’t remember exactly when he started above/ground but I know he was kind enough to publish at least two chapbooks for me, and include me a few of his magazines/anthologies. That’s what I remember. Not the press itself but rob’s energetic enthusiasm for poetry. above/ground just feels like it has always been here and I feel very lucky to have participated in a minor way.
For me it was a big deal when rob asked me for a chapbook. It meant that my work would see the light of day when there was no one else who had any interest and it meant quite a lot to me that rob – above/ground press – was willing to put their neck out.
The sheer volume of production is astounding. When you take a closer look you’ll find that above/ground has published an entire generation of Canadian poets. And that’s something to be very proud of. When above/ground started it had all the appearances of a short term and small time publishing deal. Now, many years later, you could make an entirely decent poetry library out of the chapbooks that above/ground has produced.
My big project in recent years has been “Today’s book of poetry” and it was influenced in no small way by rob mclennan’s example.  above/ground press is the Honey Badger of Canadian poetry.  A vision made real.
Michael Dennis published his first chapbook, quarter on its edge, in 1979. Since then he has published several books and over a dozen chapbooks, his work has appeared in numerous magazine and journals. In April of 2017, Anvil Press published Bad EngineNew and Selected Poems, edited by Stuart Ross.
Dennis was born in London, Ontario, grew up mostly in Peterborough, Ontario and has resided in Ottawa, Ontario for the last thirty years. He lived in P.E.I. for year in the mid-80s and Czechoslovakia in 1989–90.
For the past few years Dennis has been producing a blog, Today’s book of poetry where he writes about books of poetry he admires. He posts a new blog every two or three days. So far Dennis has written blogs about 509 contemporary books of poetry.
Dennis is semi-retired from a career of varied employment. Dennis has installed public art for the Canada Council Art Bank, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Ottawa Art Gallery and numerous other arts organizations. He ran a small boutique hotel, The Cartier Inn. He drove taxi and trucks, worked in an ice-cream factory, worked on the motor line at Ford in Windsor, Ontario for a couple of years, a copper mine in northern Ontario. Dennis opened his own non-profit English as a second language school in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czechoslovakia and so on. Now he is supported by his wife and lives the life of luxury afforded most poets.
Dennis is the author of two above/ground press chapbooks, including the on-going dilemma of small change (1995) and what we pass over in silence (1996).


Friday, May 25, 2018

“poem” broadside #344 : “Lifeboat” by Emily Baird

Home is a riverbed. It is the squelch of my toes burrowing into mud like clams, and the suction refusal of that mud to let my feet go. It is the wildflower laughter springing full-bellied from moist earth, and the maps I trace in the wrinkles of my fingertips. For me, river water can feel so smooth that it becomes a second skin and I can’t tell which parts of me are submerged. Once, I sliced my foot open on a rock while swimming and watched my blood cloud the water. When I lifted my foot, the crooked wound leaked clear and the river became a part of me.

Now home is invisible on my horizon. I feel not like I’m wading in the river but like I’m lost at sea. I fear the unknown planets and creatures miles beneath, afraid they’ll brush my suspended toes, afraid to discover them, afraid not to. This saltwater can’t quench my thirst for shore.

But before I learned to swim, I learned to float. It can save your life.

The trick is to lie on your back and let go of every tendon-clenching, muscle-tightened twist in your body. To unravel the knots in your own spine and allow the water to lap at your cheeks, run through your veins. In order to float, you have to let go of your fear of sinking.

From the river, I learned to make a lifeboat of myself. So maybe home isn’t a fixed destination slipping from my grasp like the rope of an anchor.

Maybe home is floating. 

Lifeboat, by Emily Baird
produced in part as a handout during the second
Arc Poetry Walk, curated and hosted by rob mclennan,
walking around Glebe, May 25, 2018
above/ground press broadside #344

Emily Baird recently completed her third year at Carleton University in a Combined Honors English and Human Rights degree. Hailing from the small town of Deep River, Ontario, she has been thrilled with the many opportunities to write and share her poetry since moving to Ottawa. Emily is the winner of this year’s George Johnson Poetry Prize (for her poem “Lifeboat”) and has previously been published in Carleton’s In/Words magazine for her poem “Les Cloches D’Is.”

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Michael Dennis reviews Amanda Earl's Lady Lazarus Redux (2017)

Michael Dennis was good enough to review Amanda Earl's Lady Lazarus Redux (2017) on his blog. Thanks so much! This is actually the second review of Lady Lazarus Redux, after Greg Bem reviewed the same over at Goodreads. You can see Dennis' whole review here, but it includes:

Amanda Earl has gone to the source, the deep pool, and come up smoking.  Today's book of poetry won't bother explaining how and what Earl borrowed from these giants, Earl explains it clearly enough in an "Afterword."  The technique doesn't matter that much to Today's book of poetry although it is an amazing and diligent feat, all that matters to us is what Earl does with the tools she has manufactured. 

Amanda Earl's Lady Lazarus Redux burns.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Scott Bryson reviews Sarah Cook's SOMEWHERE THE / SHAKING (2017) in Broken Pencil

Scott Bryson was good enough to provide the first review of Sarah Cook's SOMEWHERE THE / SHAKING (2017) in Broken Pencil. Thanks so much! You can see the original review here. As Bryson writes:
Somewhere The / Shaking
Chapbook, Sarah Cook, 26 pgs, above/ground press,, $5

Poetry that marks the end of a relationship is rarely refreshing; a considerable amount of detachment is required to prevent a slide from introspection into lamentation.

Sarah Cook ably manages that vital objectivity while inside her head, or inside her house (or a house she built with her words). She coins a term early in Somewhere The / Shaking that describes her starting point: “the ingrained estate of being.”

Locations and items in the house act as emissaries for her moods, memories and failures. Each poem is titled with one: “Door,” “Front Porch,” “Bed Frame.” The desk is an especially ominous presence — a constant reminder of a failure to accomplish. Cook’s lack of motivation is evident and she acknowledges it: “i pretend to not have questions, to be a fan of waiting… Googled the definition of the word, ‘eager.’”

This is a claustrophobic collection; there’s a pervading feeling of emptiness in Cook’s house. She’s the only one present — though she often refers to an unnamed other — and we spend as much time in her thoughts as we do in the physical space. Much of this is cryptic, but some of Cook’s enigmatic questions come across as profound (and ultimately rhetorical): “what is a moment when it’s more than the word? … why do I confuse bodies with answers?”

Friday, May 4, 2018

new from above/ground press: 1962 - 2018, by Tim Atkins

1962 - 2018
Tim Atkins

Poem 217



which is


to effect


in the world

usually printed in

editions of

less than

500 &


only by poets

Oh how I love it

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
for the sake of the author’s participation in KANADA KONCRETE, verbi-voco-visual poetries in the multimedia age conference at the University of Ottawa, May 4-6, 2018.
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Tim Atkins has been a member of the summer faculty at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, and a member of Carla Harryman’s Poets’ Theatre in San Francisco. He is the author of many books, including On Fathers < On Daughtyrs (Boiler House Press), Atkins Collected Petrarch (a Times Literary Supplement book of the year), Koto Y Yo (both from Crater Press), 25 Sonnets (The Figures), Petrarch (Book Thug), and Horace (O Books). He is currently developing an MFA at the University of Roehampton with a focus on radical, experimental, LGBTQ, and BAME poetics and practice.

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

Thursday, May 3, 2018

new from above/ground press: Signs of Our Discontent, by Arnold McBay and Gregory Betts

Signs of Our Discontent
Arnold McBay and Gregory Betts

The Texture of our Solitudes

In a period of significant cultural flux, change means displacement as much as advancement. Marshall McLuhan notes that once a technology gets displaced, it becomes a source of art for the next technology. Rust-belted St. Catharines, Ontario bears the trace of many such displacements, evident in the ghost advertisements that haunt the sides of downtown buildings, promoting stores and products that no longer exist; failed claims on some kind of happiness. The relentless optimism of all advertising, with their promise of contentment by a simple purchase, presages a darker discontent of a life without those new goods or a life always bereft of the next new thing. In this way, the fetish value of goods in capitalism signals a discomfort with the cultural landscape that is always on the edge of euphoria and despair. Our project stands back from the relentless optimism of advertising and technological advancement by looking at these ‘Signs of Our Discontent’, by taking displaced technologies and products as this projective content. The texts in this book are stored inside defunct, displaced bulbs, and will be hung around the city as reflective echoes. Thus, an incandescent light bulb (lit up by LEDs, of course) is filled with a sheet of birch bark (the oldest form of local printing) decorated with slogans built from the ghost advertisements in the downtown. The electric age meets the Mad Men of a lost corporate world bent on a global pillage. These signs of our discontent, tossed like so many bottled messages against hope, are a series of LetraSet aphorisms for such atomistic times.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
for the sake of the authors’ participation in KANADA KONCRETE, verbi-voco-visual poetries in the multimedia age conference at the University of Ottawa, May 4-6, 2018
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Arnold McBay
is a mixed-media artist working in drawing, sculpture and installation. He teaches studio courses at Brock University and has led art workshops in public art galleries and high schools across Ontario. Gregory Betts is a poet and professor who works on experimental language and literature, and has published many books of various kinds. Together, they have performed sound poetry and improvisational music as Slanger (a duo), the Shiteaters (a four-piece group, previously featured at In the Soil), and, more recently, as TZT (a 5 or 6 piece outfit).

This is Gregory Betts’ fourth above/ground press title, after The Cult of David Thompson (2005), The Curse of Canada (2008) and Who Let the Mice in Brion Gysin (2014). He also appeared in the four poet anthology READ YORK (2004).

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, May 2, 2018

new from above/ground press: The Book of Mark, by Amanda Earl

The Book of Mark
Amanda Earl

The Vispo Bible: Mark

Each piece represents one chapter from the Book of Mark, New Testament. The text is taken from, King James Version. The Vispo Bible is a life’s work to translate every chapter, every book of the Bible into visual poetry. As of time of printing, Amanda has completed from the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Esther and, from the New Testament: Jude, Revelation and Mark. The work began in June, 2015.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
for the sake of the author’s participation in KANADA KONCRETE, verbi-voco-visual poetries in the multimedia age conference at the University of Ottawa, May 4-6, 2018
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Amanda Earl’s
visual poetry has been exhibited in Canada, Brazil and Russia, and published in the last vispo: anthology: visual poetry 1998-2008 (Fantagraphics, 2012), The Book of Esther, The Vispo Bible, (Puddles of Sky Press, 2017), Leviticus XII (Penteract Press, 2017), Revelation 20 from The Vispo Bible, (No Press, 2017), Of the Body, (Puddles of Sky Press, 2012), Bone Sapling, a collaboration with Gary Barwin, (AngelHousePress, 2014), a field guide to fanciful bugs, (avantacular press, 2010),  Montparnasse: this is visual poetry, (chapbook publisher, 2010) and in the magazines, untethered (2017) and dreamland (2016). Amanda's visual poetry also appears in online journals, Brave New Word, Angry Old Man, Ustanga, h&, Our Teeth, otoliths, tip of the knifeffooom, the new post literate,, DrunkenBoat, and the Bleed. Gary Barwin gave a lovely write up of Amanda's visual poetry on Jacket2, "What kind of [sic] sense is that?: Amanda Earl & the synaesthesia of reading" (June, 2013). For more vispo, please visit

This is Earl’s sixth chapbook with above/ground press, after Eleanor (2007), The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman (2008), Sex First & Then A Sandwich (2012), A Book of Saints (2015) and Lady Lazarus Redux (2017).

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, May 1, 2018

new from above/ground press: tattered sails (after un coup de des), by Derek Beaulieu

Derek Beaulieu
tattered sails (after un coup de des)



“Tattered Sails” is a visual interpretation of Marcel Broodthaers’s response to Stephane Mallarme’s “Un coup de Dés jamais n'abolira le Hasard.” In 1969, Broodthaers published an edition in which he replaced all of the text in Mallarme’s poem with black bars the size and shape of the original’s writing. The resultant text highlights the radical layout of Mallarme’s poem, with reading across 2-page spreads, shifting type sizes and a shifting reading diction. Broodthaers’ version of “Un coup de Dés” elevates layout and structure to the level of writing itself; content becomes secondary to decisions of the tactile treatment of text.

With “Tattered Sails”, I have continued the tactile treatment of this poem by folding the double-sized pages of Broodthaers’ poem (suggesting the hang and fold of sails on the mast) , shifting Broodthaers’  bars in to the heaving beams and broken masts of a ship-wreck of meaning.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
for the sake of the author’s participation in KANADA KONCRETE, verbi-voco-visual poetries in the multimedia age conference at the University of Ottawa, May 4-6, 2018
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Derek Beaulieu
is the author / editor of 20 collections of poetry, prose and criticism including two volumes of his selected work Please No More Poetry: the poetry of derek beaulieu (2013) and Konzeptuelle Arbeiten (2017). His most recent volume of fiction, a, A Novel was published by Paris’s Jean Boîte Editions. Beaulieu has exhibited his visual work across Canada, the United States and Europe and has won multiple awards for his teaching and dedication to students. Derek Beaulieu was the 2014–2016 Poet Laureate of Calgary, Canada.

This is Beaulieu’s eighth above/ground press chapbook, after an issue of the long poem magazine STANZAS (“calcite gours 1-19,” issue no. 38), the interview chapbook ECONOMIES OF SCALE: rob mclennan interviews derek beaulieu on NO PRESS / derek beaulieu interviews rob mclennan on above/ground press (2012) and single-author chapbooks “A? any questions? (1998), [Dear Fred] (2004), HOW TO EDIT, Chapter A. (ALBERTA SERIES #8; 2008), transcend transcribe transfigure transform transgress (2014) and a a novel: 1-20 (2017).

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