Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Peter F. Yacht Club Christmas party/reading/regatta : a report,

Friday night was our annual Peter F. Yacht Club Christmas party/reading/regatta, once again in our usual space in Parkdale Market's Carleton Tavern [see last year's report here], held as the "office Christmas party" for our informal writer's grouping.

The evening held a myriad of short readings by PFYC regulars, including Amanda Earl, Monty Reid, Frances Boyle, Pearl Pirie and myself, as well as special guests Stuart Ross and PFYC founding member Laurie Anne Fuhr, launching her first trade collection! As with an event like this, there were absences a-plenty, as Jason Christie, Chris Turnbull, Anita Dolman, James Moran, Cameron Anstee, Vivian Vavassis, D.S. Stymiest, Roland Prevost and Janice Tokar simply couldn't make it. And of course, Marilyn Irwin had put herself down as a "maybe" to read, and then I completely forgot to put her on the set list (dammit!). (I'll just have her read twice next year.)

Originally, natalie hanna and Chris Johnson were also on the bill, but natalie had to send her regrets (Chris was simply a no-show; where did he go?).

Christine and our young ladies had been there as well, but just up to the point of the readings, when they wandered home for bedtime, which meant, among other things, Christine wasn't able to read. Given the day allowed me to get to the tavern for 3pm for the sake of some writing time, Christine and the wee girls came by around 5pm to join me for dinner, before we headed upstairs to prepare for the event (and the girls danced/ran laps around the room). They also spent a great deal of time attempting to eat further of the lemon icebox cookies I had made that morning.

The house was packed! A crowd that included Robert Hogg, Stephen Brockwell, Michael Dennis, Avonlea Fotheringham, Jenna Jarvis (all the way from the east), Claire Farley, Craig Simon, Grant Savage (who most likely took photos far superior to these), allison calvern, jesslyn delia smith, Steve Zytveld + Cathy MacDonald-Zytveld, Grant Wilkins, Brian Pirie, Kees Kapteyn, jwcurry and plenty of others. Huzzah!

Amanda Earl was good enough to read from her broadside produced as part of the above/ground press 25th anniversary; Pearl Pirie read from two new chapbooks, including one self-produced as a give-away for the event; Monty Reid read from his new above/ground press title, produced as the final item of 2018, composing a sequence on the underground seams of coal throughout Alberta that occasionally catch fire; Frances Boyle read an excerpt from her recently-published novella; and Stuart Ross, who originally hadn't planned on reading, was convinced (with some slight prompting) to read a couple of pieces, including the handout he made for the event. Pearl, as well, was good enough to provide a hat for readers (most of whom declined), a hat she'd only been meaning to bring to the event for years.

It was very cool to be able to host Calgary-based Laurie Anne Fuhr and the launch of her first full-length poetry collection. A founding member of The Peter F. Yacht Club, way back in 1999 when all of this nonsense began [see the short history I posted on the group back in 2010 here], it was grand to be able to hear her read (and an impressive reading it was! she even managed to slip a drink order to bartender Derek mid-poem, in the most casual way), especially given she isn't able to make it back this way as often as she'd like.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas, holiday, season, festivus and/or whatever you celebrate!

That magical time of year when, once again, we put our myriad of gigantic children to work, whether in the kitchen or the skies.

For whatever you celebrate, we hope it is healthy and happy. Merry! And wishing your 2019 far better than 2018 (ugh, I know, right?

And we shall see you at our big seasonal gathering on Friday, yes? Instead of baking multiple smaller items this year, I'm thinking of preparing a single, massive confection for everyone to enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

new from above/ground press: Seam, by Monty Reid

Monty Reid

                               your body is dispersed

the secondary metabolism of a world burnt without your approval
rifted without your approval, you cannot remember how to leave

you cannot remember if you have ever been the fire

the seams of old coal smoulder
                                                               no one stops them.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
December 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Monty Reid
was born in Saskatchewan, lived for many years in the Alberta badlands, and moved to the Ottawa area in 1999 to work at the Canadian Museum of Nature. His books include Karst Means Stone (NeWest), Crawlspace (Anansi), The Alternate Guide (rdc) and Garden (Chaudiere) – his most recent collection is 2016’s Meditatio Placentae (Brick). His chapbooks have appeared from many small publishers in Canada and abroad, including four from above/ground. A mini chapbook, nipple variations, is forthcoming from postghost press. A three-time GG nominee, he was Arc Poetry Magazine’s Managing Editor for many years and is currently the Director of VerseFest, Ottawa’s international poetry festival.

This is Reid’s fifth chapbook with above/ground press chapbooks, after Six Songs for the Mammoth Steppe (2000), cuba A book (2005), In the Garden (sept series) (2011) and Moan Coach (2013).

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at at rob_mclennan (at) or the PayPal button at

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Amanda Earl reviews four (more) 2018 titles: Jenna Jarvis' year of pulses, Jason Christie's glass language, Billy Mavreas' A Mercy of Signs and Stephen Brockwell's Immune to the Sacred

For the second year in a row, the esteemed and muchly generous poet, editor, publisher and reviewer (and above/ground press author) Amanda Earl provides further reviews of her favourite above/ground press titles of the past year (see her 2017 lists here, here and here; and the first part of her 2018 list here), providing a first review of Jenna Jarvis' year of pulses, a first review of Jason Christie's glass language, a second review of Billy Mavreas' A Mercy of Signs (after Greg Bem reviewed such over at Goodreads) and a first review of Stephen Brockwell's Immune to the Sacred. Thanks so much! And of course, all of these titles are still in print! Madness, really. You can see Amanda's full review here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

new from above/ground press: Danse Macabre, by Anthony Etherin

Danse Macabre
Anthony Etherin

THE FOG (Sonnet)

This fog: It spills
through light and ferns.
The dead return
to walk these hills;
their whispers chill
the air. As stern
as gods that yearn
for songs to fill
the nothingness,
their steps are out
of time. You sight
them, as they bless
the earth, but doubt
they have the right.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
December 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Some of the poems in this chapbook are palindromes by letter, while some consist of lines that are perfect anagrams of each other. Others are triolets or small sonnets. One is a palindrome by pairs of letters and one is a palindrome by word. The remaining poem is an aelindrome, whose unit of palindromism varies according to the repeated, premeditated sequence 1-2-3-4… (i.e. [M]1[el]2[ody]3[ablo-]4 reverses as [a blo]4[ody]3[el]2[m]1).

Cover: Woodcut from “Danse Macabre”, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1538.

Anthony Etherin is an experimental formalist poet. He founded Penteract Press ( and he invented the aelindrome. For more of his poetry, find him on Twitter, @Anthony_Etherin, and via his website:

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at at rob_mclennan (at) or the PayPal button at

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Pearl Pirie's Best Reads of 2018 so far: Marshall, hanna + Ross,

Ottawa poet, editor, publisher, critic and blogger (and above/ground press author) Pearl Pirie was good enough to include three above/ground press titles in her extensive "Best Reads of 2018 so far" list. Thanks so much! She included Sara Renee Marshall's The Landscapes were in my arms (figure 2) (2018), natalie hanna's Concealed Weapons/Animal Survivors (2018) and Stuart Ross' Espesantes (2018). You can read the full list of her "Best Reads of 2018 so far" here. And did I mention that all three titles are still available? Hooray!

Friday, December 14, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Marilyn Irwin

This is the thirty-seventh 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: a quarter century of community and paper cuts

It is hard to consider above/ground press without considering the man who created it and has kept it the well-oiled machine it has been for 25 years now.

The first time I heard about rob was at a book store in Alexandria, Ontario, about 12 years ago. I randomly picked up one of his books off the shelf in the poetry section after a five year hiatus from writing post-high school. The cashier gushed how rob was from the area and looked just like he did in the photo on the back of the book. I bought the book.

The first time I met rob was at a reading of his when I first moved to Ottawa in 2007. He was launching his novel white and about to move out west for a year as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Alberta. I purchased a copy of his book and someone (Ottawa poet Amanda Earl?) told me he would be happy to sign it. I was (still can be) debilitatingly shy but managed to approach him. He inscribed it as follows: “for Marilyn, who I do not know”. As he was packing up the book table, he handed me “a thing,” as he put it. Truth be told, I don’t remember if it was a broadside or a chapbook but it was an above/ground press publication. After the reading, a handful of people went out for drinks at the Dom (Dominion Tavern); Amanda, husband Charles, Pearl and Brian Pirie, Max Middle, Joshua Massey, rob and me. It would be the first of many shenanigans centred around poetry, around this person, a personified nexus, who seemed to know everyone in the local and farther reaching community and who had the stories to prove it. Soon after, rob started handing me envelopes at literary events stuffed to the gills with above/ground press goodies. This was how I came to know the Ottawa poetry community and beyond.

I have lost count of the number of Factory Reading Series events rob has organized in the 10ish years I’ve been going to them but they are usually like family reunions. rob brings people together. rob has and continues to make things easy for us all to find one another – even in this digital age – to trade or buy each other’s books and, often, has been the catalyst for new acquaintances, friendships and lovers (for better or worse). Without rob’s efforts; his publishing, events, encouragement/coaxing of new, emerging and established poets to put new work out into the world, without his workshops (which I’ve taken a few times and totally recommend) and the ottawa small press book fair and reviews and essays, etc., etc., etc., the Ottawa and Canadian poetry communities would look very differently. Personally, my knowledge of the literary landscape would be much less informed. And he has made it all look easy, though I can only imagine how many long-armed staplers he’s been through in the past quarter century or how many paper cuts he’s had or grocery bills he’s tightened to subsidize putting poetry goodness into the world.

rob was kind enough to reprint my first (self-published) chapbook in 2010, shortly after he invited me to read at a Factory event – my first official reading alongside stellar poets Marcus McCann and Cameron Anstee. I have since had seven more chapbooks, two published through above/ground, in no small part due to his gentle nagging for new work from me.

I owe a debt of gratitude to you, rob, for helping me get this far despite my mountains of reservations. So, thanks, rob, who I know, for all that you do and congratulations on such a fine achievement!

I have often heard rob say something to the effect of “I enjoy what I do so why would I stop?” Here’s hoping he continues to enjoy doing what he does; I can’t wait to see what the next 25 years bring.

Shortlisted for the 2016 bpNichol Award and winner of the 2013 Diana Brebner Prize, Marilyn Irwin’s [photo credit: John W. MacDonald] work has been published by Apt. 9 Press, Arc Poetry Magazine,, In/Words, Puddles of Sky, and The Steel Chisel, among others. north, her eighth chapbook, and third published by above/ground press, was released in 2017. She runs shreeking violet press in Ottawa.

Irwins three chapbooks through above/ground press include for when you pick daisies (2010), flicker (2012) and north (2017).

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Renée Sarojini Saklikar

This is the thirty-sixth 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/ & grounded: looking back on a fine press

When did you first hear of and/or interact with the press?

XRSS:  Somewhere back in 2009/2010, enrolled in the Writer’s Studio, I attended a presentation by Anne Stone: we were up in the Diamond Lounge on the third floor of SFU Vancouver, the light from the harbour drifting in on a June evening.  We exchanged stories about making little books of poetry and Anne said something like, “if you are ever in Ottawa, look up a guy called rob mclennan” and that’s how it all started. Once I graduated from the Studio, immersed in the wayward path that become the process that became my first book length poem, children of air indiaun/authorized exhibits and interjections (Nightwood Editions, 2018), I would visit all the “rob” websites: I spent lots of time online, fascinated onlooker, situated on The Outside, peering longingly Inside, to the world of small presses, all those poets, their work. I learned so much and still do by reading the poets published by above/ground press: all the ways a poem can be and become―

What did it mean for you to have titles through the press?

XRSS: Oh, everything! As if a door in a stone gate, locked for years, slowly swung open. Tribe/less, and as always, not really feeling too comfy with that word, and nevertheless wanting to belong to a cadre, a circle, a network of poets, from Outside to Inside, that helped me gain confidence in writing. I should have liked, looking back, to have not been needy for Belonging and yet—and so, when above/ground published After the Battle of Kingsway, the bees, a sequence of poems from my much larger work, THOT-J-BAP (a sci-fi epic), and the chapbook: sweet yellow paper—

―that was restorative, because the generation of those poems happened during the summer of 2013, a difficult time in my life. I remember writing After the Battle of Kingsway the bees, out of grief, and despair, the taste of aloes in my mouth. To see the book then bring delight to others: I am smiling my slow slant smile as I type these words—

Have you a story of something around the press? An event that was particularly good?

XRSS: Ottawa. Summer, circa 2014: Factory Reading Series. Upstairs in “The Tavern”.  With rob and the late Marthe Reed, both generously interested in seeking out and publishing those of us on the Outside, bringing us Inside. And Marthe invited me to submit work for DUSIE. These invitations by above/ground press, leading to other invitations, vital to a long poem writer, helping to keep me on the path of the epic, following that thread that pulls—I still cannot believe Marthe is gone, at least from this planetary orbit.

How did you see the press comparing to what else was around when you first heard of it?

XRSS: Everything that Jason Christie says!! There’s this sense of community, of work made on the margins, for the love of what is in us to make, to bring forth, despite seeming indifference from anyone else. Outside of the low misery of grasping for achievement, there abides the makers: crafting, stitching, folding, stapling, paper between our thumbs. Fragments pressed to our lips.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar recently completed her term as the first Poet Laureate for the City of Surrey, British Columbia. Her latest book is a B.C. bestseller: Listening to the Bees (Nightwood Editions, 2018). Renée’s first book, children of air india (Nightwood Editions, 2013), won the 2014 Canadian Authors Association Award for poetry. Renée co-edited The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them (Anvil Press/SFU Public Square, 2015,) a City of Vancouver book award finalist. Renée’s chapbook, After the Battle of Kingsway, the bees, (above/ground press, 2016), was a finalist for the 2017 bpNichol award. Her poetry has been made into musical and visual installations, including the opera, air india [redacted].  Renée was called to the BC Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor, served as a director for youth employment programs in the BC public service, and now teaches law and ethics for Simon Fraser University in addition to teaching creative writing at both SFU and Vancouver Community College. She curates the popular poetry reading series, Lunch Poems at SFU and serves on the boards of Event magazine and The Capilano Review and is a director for the board of the Surrey International Writers Conference.   Renée belongs to the League of Canadian Poets and The Writer’s Union of Canada (TWUC) and is active on the TWUC Equity Committee. She is currently working on an epic-length sci-fic poem that appears in journals, anthologies and chapbooks.