Thursday, March 28, 2019

new from above/ground press: Some Julian Days: Twentieth Anniversary Edition, by Gil McElroy

Some Julian Days : Twentieth Anniversary Edition
Gil McElroy
with a new afterword by the author

Julian Day 2448254

So we reach a level
of particularity, & such acts of
motion as are prior to hindsights
are, on their own,
largely erased.  We face
the inevitable need
for rooms & the stuff
of homes.

religion is needed, one
avenue & form of literature - happy
English words, useful
in the distant study
of the dead.

I lack
all the right words
for instincts. Have we
completely acceptable senses?
Or is the formation
of successive days but one tiny occasion
of senses newly dead?

such a place in myself
is built
with appropriate names.

Light & desire
generate words
in my heart.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
March 2019
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Some Julian Days was originally produced by above/ground press in an edition of 300 copies, March 1999.

Gil McElroy is a poet, visual artist, curator, and visual arts critic. He has published four books of poetry with Talonbooks, a collection of art writing with Gaspereau Press, and a memoir about his father and what it was like growing up a military brat during the height of the Cold War that was also published by Talonbooks. His visual art has been exhibited in galleries across Canada, and he has curated exhibitions for numerous art galleries.

He’s also published numerous chapbooks, and in 2013, was co-winner of the bpNichol Chapbook Award for The Merton Lake Propers published by Baseline Press in London, Ontario.

He currently lives in Colborne.

Gil McElroy is the author of seven previous above/ground press chapbooks, including “Echolocations” (½ of STANZAS #5, April 1995), Some Julian Days (1999), “Meteor Showers” (STANZAS #31, 2002), (The Work of Art) In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (2005), Twentieth (2013), The Doxologies (2014) and LAOS (Some Julian Days) (2018). He also had a poem in the above/ground press twenty-fifth anniversary broadside series (2018).

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

Thursday, March 21, 2019

new from above/ground press: The Peter F Yacht Club #27; VERSeFest special!

The Peter F Yacht Club #27
VERSeFest 2019 special
edited by rob mclennan

With new writing by a host of Peter F Yacht Club regulars, irregulars and VERSeFest 2019 participants, including Manahil Bandukwala, Frances Boyle, Klara du Plessis, Amanda Earl, Avonlea Fotheringham, Lea Graham, natalie hanna, Richard Harrison, Harold Hoefle, Bob Hogg, Gil McElroy, rob mclennan, David O’Meara, Roland Prevost, Claudia Coutu Radmore, Armand Garnet Ruffo and Renée Sarojini Saklikar

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
March 2019
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy
[a small stack of copies will be distributed free as part of the eighth annual VERSeFest, March 26-31, 2019]

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

new from above/ground press: from The Book of Bramah, by Renée Sarojini Saklikar

from The Book of Bramah
Renée Sarojini Saklikar

Bramah’s Grandmother & Other Tales

Finder of the lost: keys, rings, lockets, chains
builder of the last Revival Network:
She brought warmth to cold friendships, crescent moon
winter morning that star shone―
healer of the broken: she mended clocks
devices rarely seen, moving parts oiled
no one to say the word soul or look up—
Bare trees, aquamarine sky, dark towers
pressed, her messages retrieved, factory bound
delivery routes disrupted by migrants
Geneva to Tokyo, great councils met
oil prices, the flow of capital, trade—
never lose your sight, she would say, half blind
Years later, in rags, her fingers, still kind.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
March 2019
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

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), reprinted earlier this month, 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-fi poem, THOT-J-BAP, that appears in journals, anthologies and chapbooks.

[produced, in part, for the sake of the author’s appearance at Ottawa’s VERSeFest Poetry Festival, March 2019]

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Touch the Donkey : fifth anniversary sale,

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the quarterly Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal] this April: anyone who subscribes (or resubscribes) anytime between now and the end of April 2019 has the bonus option of three (3) items: three Touch the Donkey back issues of your choice, OR three above/ground press (2018 or 2019) titles of your choice (while supplies last) OR any combination thereof.

Issue #21 of Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal] lands on April 15, 2019. See the website for more than one hundred interviews with a variety of contributors (with more to come).

2018-19 above/ground press titles include chapbooks by: Chris Johnson, Conyer Clayton, Simina Banu, Frances Boyle, Hawad (trans. Jake Syersak), Susanne Dyckman, Jane Virginia Rohrer, Dennis Cooley, Ben Meyerson, Isabel Sobral Campos, Mary Kasimor, Andrew K Peterson, Natalie Lyalin, Kemeny Babineau, Michael Sikkema, Kimberly Campanello, Stephen Cain, kyle kinaschuk, Paul Perry, Gregory Betts, Billy Mavreas, Claudia Coutu Radmore, Stephanie Grey, Alice Burdick, Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Heather Sweeney, Ralph Kolewe, Franco Cortese, Evan Gray, Dale Smith, Virginia Konchan, Joshua James Collis, Laura Farina, Jennifer Stella, Monty Reid, Anthony Etherin, Sarah Mangold, Cole Swensen, MC Hyland, Jamie Townsend, Sacha Archer, Megan Kaminski, Gil McElroy, Emily Izsak, rob mclennan, Sara Renee Marshall, Mark Laliberte, Lisa Rawn, Sean Braune, Michael Martin Shea, Melissa Eleftherion, Ian Dreiblatt, Kyle Flemmer, Uxío Novoneyra (trans. Erín Moure), Stephen Brockwell, Phil Hall / Stuart Kinmond, Billy Mavreas, Stuart Ross, natalie hanna, Miguel E. Ortiz Rodríguez, Natalee Caple, Julia Polyck-O'Neill, Jason Christie, Travis Sharp, Beth Ayer, Jon Boisvert, Jenna Jarvis, Lise Downe, Allison Cardon, Lea Graham, Tim Atkins, Gregory Betts + Arnold McBay, Amanda Earl, Derek Beaulieu, Aaron Tucker, Dani Spinosa, Andrew Wessels, Marthe Reed, Kate Siklosi, Edward Smallfield, Amish Trivedi, Steve McCaffery, Gary Barwin and Tom Prime, Gary Barwin and Alice Burdick, Alice Notley, Stan Rogal, Rachel Mindell, Eleni Zisimatos, Adrienne Gruber, Andrew Cantrell, kevin martins mcpherson eckhoff and Anna Gurton-Wachter. 

Canadian subscriptions $35 for five issues / American subscriptions $40 / International subscriptions $50 / All prices in Canadian dollars /

To order, e-transfer or PayPal at at rob_mclennan (at) or the PayPal button at or 

Issues are also available as part of the above/ground press annual subscription.

Because everybody loves a birthday. Who doesn’t love a birthday?

Touch the Donkey. Everywhere you want to be.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Jay Miller reviews Stuart Ross' ESPESANTES (2018) at

Jay Miller was good enough to provide the first review of Stuart Ross' ESPESANTES (2018) over at Thanks so much! Although while this is the first official review of Ross' above/ground press title, Pearl Pirie did include the chapbook in her list of 'Best Reads of 2018 so far.' You can see Miller's original review here.
Ross, Stuart, Espesantes. Ottawa, above/ground press, August 2018.
ISBN 978-1-988495-80-4. 41 pages, $5.
Espesantes contains three dozen poems, each beginning with a line or word from Sarah Moses’s equally minimalist chapbook as they say, released in 2016 by Socios Fundadores publishing house, which has the following titular homage in Stuart Ross:
as they say:
demolish the temple
to save the pebble
it’s a pretty
good pebble

This pebble serves well as a symbol in conveying the common sense stoicism of Stuart Ross’s verse. With a bit of imagination, it speaks to the idea of reinvention. It’s a cool line (demolish the temple/to save the pebble), sure, but specifically because its confidence is unassuming (it’s a pretty/good pebble); the lack of comma splices and capitalization lending themselves here as a form of anti-establishmentarianism.
There’s a palpable sense of delinquency at play that engages the reader to reflect on his words as though they were nothing more than Torontonian graffiti. However, the poem speaks for itself and the engagement is inevitable – reading Stuart Ross really requires you to engage with your self.
One stunning component of the poems in this chapbook is the rhyme, appearing here and there, giving them lyricism and conviction, in spite of their generally surreal and minimalist nature:
I did not know Schmitt.
The roots of a birch tree
strangled my shapely ankles,
pulled buffalo nickels
from my nostrils before
licking gnats off my
handsome lapels
as per his orders.

There’s resonance in the imagery here: the birch perhaps signifying earthly wisdom; ankles, a weak spot; buffalo nickels, easy for counterfeiters to alter and pass off as five-dollar coins, a rare numismatic joy; and, the nostrils and lapels drawing the visual up from the feet to the head, where gnats have gathered, a symbol of torment to bison and Ontarians alike. In fact, the blackfly of Ontario is in other parts known as the “buffalo gnat”.
The rhymes here exist between ankles, nickels, nostrils, lapels, and even orders, because each iamb ends in a liquid consonant (four laterals and a rhotic). This leads to a deeper sense of credence, each rhyme in succession rolling off the tongue when enunciated like a solid aphorism. This literary device is easy to grasp, which makes the next part of the analysis of this poem emphatically more resistant to interpretation.
I do not know who Schmitt is or what he could possibly represent. Being, as it is, the opening line of this page’s poem, he is something that requires Sarah Moses’s chapbook perhaps to deconstruct further. This sort of hard and fast irony playing against the reader’s sensibilities to deduce the identity of the character Schmitt is one of those elements characteristic of Stuart Ross’s work that intrigues me most.
Perhaps this vague personage appears intermittently throughout the rest of Sarah’s and/or Stuart’s poems in order to provide a reasonable understanding of agency for what’s going on in the sparse narrative taking place between the lines. The name appears a few times throughout his collection without fully incorporating the man with the role of protagonist nor antagonist.
The obscurity of meaning is a deceptive kind of style that I appreciate when reading Stuart Ross. It not only keeps the engaged reader on their toes, seeking out textual hints, but defies conventional goals of reading.
With any sort of novel or short story, you might expect it to conclude with a moral to the story, a message, a lasting anecdote or final scene to fulfill your appreciation or comprehension of the text. On the contrary, with Stuart Ross’s poetry, and sometimes his prose, too, you come to realize that meaning, signifiers and signified, symbols and rhymes, all this may amount to nothing more than the evidence of form.
Yes, the use of language is certainly poetic, but its surrealistic integrity belies this poetry, reinventing meaning. To put it another way, undermining meaning itself is one of the chief successes of his particular brand of surrealism, leaving the reader to their own devices to understand his work, on a deeply personal, individual level.
At times, there’s an unmistakable implication that as much as we like to read into literature, talk about literature, and pride ourselves on it, each reader has to lead their own private life, that’s got nothing to do with politics, nationality, or education.
I smear myself a lot
with colloquial sentiments,
climb into a shopping cart,
and wait for someone
to cash me out.

That’s exactly the kind of phrase I’m referring to, colloquial sentiments. Taking it back one line break to unbox the word choice smear, you get the metaphorical sense of smearing a reputation, if not the literal interpretation that the narrator is covering his (or her) body with these vulgar, everyday feelings.
Sentimentality sells and the I of this poem isn’t shopping. Instead, the narrator commodifies himself for the consumer, climbing into the shopping cart and waiting for them to cash him out.
The agency (or valency) within the word choice here is significant, since the author himself used to joke about “selling out” despite dedicating his talents and efforts to the small press industry. You can’t buy that kind of irony. Perhaps I’ve gotten lost in reflection, but after reading this poem, it’s clear to me which is more meaningful for the artist between selling out, willingly, and getting cashed out, subject to the whims of a buyer’s market.
Stuart Ross, poet, novelist, essayist, editor, publisher, educator, mentor, organizer, collaborator, and so much more, has been on the scene in Toronto since the eighties, renowned for having hawked his poetry in the streets. He’s also known for his editorial work at Mansfield Press, with imprint a stuart ross book, between 2009 and 2016, and at Anvil Press since 2017, where he launched his imprint A Feed Dog Book. His own micropress, Proper Tales Press, will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2019. His 2016 poetry collection A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent, published by Wolsak & Wynn, won the Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Poetry in 2017; likewise, his 2012 collection You Exist. Details Follow., by Anvil Press, was celebrated in 2013 with the Exit Through the Giftshop Award from l’Académie de la vie littéraire au tournant du 21e siècle in Montreal. The list of accolades and roles he’s filled goes on; most noteworthy, above all perhaps, is his co-founding the Meet the Presses Collective in ’08 which hosts the Indie Literary Market and gives out the bpNichol Chapbook Award every year in Toronto. Nowadays, Stuart lives in Cobourg, Ontario.

Friday, March 15, 2019

“poem” broadside #347 : “Four poems for my forty-ninth birthday” by rob mclennan


A seismic accumulation. Words as slow as paint.

This memory, pastoral. My father: a handrail,
new against the homestead,

his unsteady gait. A shoal
in his head.

If this a fixed point: I have felt this age
forever. Surroundings swirl, and shift.


The O-Train as it snakes, construction. Timetables,
walked and walking. Wherewithal.

They aim to build this

needlessly slow. I kid, of course. But then:
the concrete

does nothing to absorb the water. Floodplain,
streets. The carved precision

of caged liquid. But,

the clouds. The lightest rail.


Bang on: the texture of
an instant. Letters patent, by which

we mark such passing. Year
against idiot year. Simultaneous,

this miniature,

unpremeditated. How to defend
the little beasts of wear. Would rather

this than otherwise, long
in my death-bed.


Disorienting: just how large is forty-nine?

are numbers, really? What a year? I can’t
wrap my head around, mid-

century clatter. Resist! Old enough
to have a daughter

who marks her milestones. The pages
flip, flip back. A wooded terrain

of pineapples, sage. A hand-
carved dream.

We are all born free

of history, until. I set my age
to airplane mode. Hold on.

Four poems for my forty-ninth birthday
by rob mclennan
produced for the sake of the author’s forty-ninth
birthday, March 15, 2019. sigh.
above/ground press broadside #347

Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012 and 2017. His most recent titles include the poetry collection How the alphabet was made (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018) and the forthcoming Household items (Salmon Poetry, 2019) and A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019). 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