Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Douglas Barbour (1940-2021)

Edmonton poet, editor, publisher, critic and occasional above/ground press author Douglas Barbour has died, after an extended illness [see my full obituary for him, posted yesterday, here]. Barbour appeared in more than a couple of above/ground press publications over the years, including as the chapbook Love’s Fragmented Narrative (2005), and Wednesdays’ (2008), produced as part of the online (since disappeared from the internet) “ALBERTA SERIES,” as well as an issue of STANZAS magazine (issue #30, 2002), which featured the first three sections of his collaborative “Continuations,” with Sheila E. Murphy. He was talented, beloved and kind. He shall be missed.

Monday, September 27, 2021

“poem” broadside #354 : “JD2458624,” by Gil McElroy




I did,
to hear, in air-
conditioned worrying, staying
away from
the amphetamines & ideas
of my passage. What
of building a mid-
sentence apology? What
of it? My
short, un-
ruly shirt saturated
in that Bolivian
summer, until
blood & flesh excluded

Ah, well. I’ll
mouth their
intents, their
funerals, even
their eyes.

There. There’s
my world, which
is harder.

by Gil McElroy
September 2021
above/ground press broadside #354

Gil McElroy
is a poet currently living in Colborne, Ontario. His most recent book is Long Division (University of Calgary Press, 2020). He has published eight chapbooks through above/ground press, most recently Some Julian Days: Twentieth Anniversary Edition (2019).

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Scott Bryson reviews James Hawes' The Hotdog Variations (2021) in Broken Pencil

Scott Bryson was good enough to provide the first review of James Hawes' The Hotdog Variations (2021) over at Broken Pencil. Thanks so much! You can see the original review here.
The Hotdog Variations : Chapbook, James Hawes, 14 pgs, above/ground press,, $4

Never has “a hotdog with mustard & relish” been so elevated. This humble phrase constitutes the entirety of James Hawes’ chapbook. Poem after poem is built by rearranging — and using all of — the 24 characters of that dog description. Each line and stanza is a jumble of the letters in “a hotdog with mustard & relish.”

For some reason, the word “with” is never altered, always appearing as is. The remaining text shifts into a mix of non-sense — such as “do thog & rast / umd with is a rhel” — as well as strange but sensible verse: “a slide with & through stardom.” Some of these poems, viewed individually, evoke tangible feelings regardless of one’s ability to understand the content. When the reassembled words in a poem are all curt, for example (that done on purpose by Hawes, one would assume), they speak with anger or disgust.

Nearly more interesting than these poems is imagining Hawes’ process. Why a hotdog? Did he use some sort of anagram generator or painstakingly rearrange these letters from scratch? Do the seemingly nonsensical lines make sense to him, in some way? Why no ketchup?

Friday, September 24, 2021

new from above/ground press: ALL THAT IS SOLID MELTS IN YOUR MOUTH, by Franklin Bruno

Franklin Bruno



Dripping through a bed of gypsum,
the halo on the Cave of Antiparos
gives information, not equivalence.
We commonly speak of all sorts of things
as being harder or softer than others:
a servantless house, the busiest friends,
tinted coconut, a cursor fitted
with a screw lock.  A scissors dipped
in butter determines the force
at which the tip destroys the couverture,
the "Z"-shaped dab atop the opera cream.
After hours of exertion I found myself
gloved to the elbows in brown, sticky goo.

I blamed it on the fact that I couldn't read French.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
September 2021
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Franklin Bruno
is the author of The Accordion Repertoire (poetry, Edge Books), the chapbooks MF/MA (Seeing Eye) and Policy Instrument (Lame House), and Armed Forces (criticism, in Continuum/Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series). He has released 20 albums of original songs as one-third of Nothing Painted Blue, under his own name, and (currently) as frontman of The Human Hearts. Raised in Southern California’s Inland Empire, he now lives and writes in Jackson Heights, Queens.

This is Bruno’s second chapbook with above/ground press, after Clinging & Grasping (2021).

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 rob_mclennan (at) or the PayPal button at

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

new from above/ground press: SAYING “BOY” IN A WILDERNESS OF SONG, by Gary Barwin

Gary Barwin


Saying “Boy” in a Wilderness of Song was written sometime in the 1980s (I was in my 20s) and was unearthed as part of a project with Alessandro Porco of assembling a collection of my selected short fiction. Alex did amazing work editing my selected poems and since we both bought ourselves yachts with the spoils of that project, we’re mad keen to create another one. This time we’re getting matching castles. Really, it is a remarkable experience revisiting past work, both published and unpublished (like this story, until now) noticing the development of one’s work and the perennial themes and techniques, if only in nascent form, not to mention an entire history of personal computing technology. This story was printed on a dot matrix printer on an Atari 520ST.

Half Monty Python and half postcolonial hijinks, it satirizes a number of different cliches, tropes and genres in its exploration of tone and convention. For example, its parody of the Eurocentric exoticism of Tarzan. I’m delighted to have rescued this story from the bottom of a water-stained banker’s box which moved with me through many different basement storage situations and floods. I’m quite charmed by its soggy, youthful exuberance.
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
as the twelfth title in above/ground’s prose/naut imprint
September 2021
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Gary Barwin
is a writer, composer, musician, and multidisciplinary artist and has published 25 books of fiction, poetry and numerous chapbooks. His latest books include For It is a Pleasure and a Surprise to Breathe: New and Selected Poems, ed. Alessandro Porco, Ampers&thropocene (visuals) and a new novel, Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy. His albums are available at His latest chapbook is Punctum, (Gap Riot Press) a collaboration with Dona Mayoora. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario and at

This is Barwins’s seventh above/ground press chapbook, after “SYNONYMS FOR FISH,” STANZAS #26 (March, 2001), Seedpod, Microfiche (2013) and Dust of the Wren: poems and translations (2019), and the collaborative PLEASURE BRISTLES (with Alice Burdick; 2018), gravitynipplemilk anthroposcenesters (with Tom Prime; 2018) and SOME LEAVES (with rob mclennan; 2020).

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 rob_mclennan (at) or the PayPal button at

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Lantern Review includes Monica Mody's Ordinary Annals (2021) in An Asian American Poetry Companion: Fresh Books for Fall 2021

Lantern Review was good enough to include Monica Mody's above/ground press chapbook debut, Ordinary Annals (August, 2021), in their list of "An Asian American Poetry Companion: Fresh Books for Fall 2021." Thanks so much! As they write to introduce the post: "Even we find ourselves at the close of another challenging summer, Asian American voices continue to shine in print. Earlier this year, we celebrated the proliferation of spring Asian American poetry releases. Today, we’re excited to highlight just a small portion of the new and forthcoming works coming out of the AsAm poetry community this fall." Be sure to check out their full list! As they wrote of Mody's chapbook:
Monica Mody, Ordinary Annals (above/ground, August 2021)

Contributor (and past staff writer) Monica Mody’s newest chapbook, written over the course of the last year, reflects on the tumultuous events of 2020 and 2021 as the poet herself contended with the US’s notoriously thorny visa system. In her signature resonant and deeply grounded poetic style, Mody examines the limits of the body in all its many senses—as creative work, as organism, as site of protest, as political subject, as resident (of community, of nation, of habitat, of ecosystem, of Earth)—resulting in a prescient work that, in the poet’s own words, “falter(s) towards a ripple, a ground of healing.” A beautiful artifact of these difficult times, this lovely little handmade chap is not one to miss.

Friday, September 17, 2021

new from above/ground press: Never Have I Ever, by Emily Izsak

Never Have I Ever
Emily Izsak

Gone Skinny Dipping

        Water striders
                   immovable family
        rose gold charms
        for each third time

        but   leftover flood
        lusts after reproductive

                It’s survival
                of the fishes

        if they scripted   
        a biblical litmus    for naked shapes
        and blue-green algae

        Pessimists cry
                                out   it’s a buoy  
                at the mikveh
                in the middle   of the highlands

I am neither rock
                nor island

        though flagrant waves
        flush Garfunklian noise  wasted
        on next year’s negative

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
September 2021
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Emily Izsak’s
poetry has been published in Arc Poetry Magazine, The Puritan, House Organ, Cough, The Steel Chisel, The Doris, and The Hart House Review. In 2014 she was selected as PEN Canada’s New Voices Award nominee. Her chapbook, Stickup, was published in 2015, and her first full-length collection, Whistle Stops: A Locomotive Serial Poem, was published by Signature Editions in April 2017. She also has an earlier above/ground press chapbook in the archive called Twenty-Five (2018). You should check it out. It’s pretty cool.

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 rob_mclennan (at) or the PayPal button at

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

new from above/ground press: Mushrooms Yearly Planner, by Jen Tynes

Mushrooms Yearly Planner
Jen Tynes

Running late because the moon has been
invisible—it’s easy to cut out some

greens and lower the chest
into others; the feeling of sensors

dead-headed so the brain can tilt
slightly down, express a joy aureole.

Receptive kinks and receptive rain fall,
in the garden only half the rockets put down roots

and on the trail the lower belly of the mustard-
colored amphibian reacts earlier in time

than limbs or oxygen. Even the sky turns baby
blue when the body is ovulating. It’s Memorial

Day, three more months of surplus
firecrackers in the stuck dark.
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
September 2021
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Jen Tynes
is the author of several books and chapbooks, most recently Hunter Monies (Black Radish Books). She edits The Magnificent Field and Horse Less Press, and she teaches and walks in Michigan.

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 rob_mclennan (at) or the PayPal button at

Monday, September 13, 2021

Karen Massey wins the 2020 Diana Brebner Prize

Clearly, I'm behind on my information, having discovered only today through reading Arc Poetry Magazine #95 (summer 2021) that Ottawa poet and above/ground press author Karen Massey won the annual Diana Brebner Prize last October (I'm completely willing to blame Covid-distractions on all of this) for the "best poem written by a National Capital Region poet, who has not yet published in book form." The prize was judged by BC writer Susan Musgrave. A belated congratulations! Musgrave selected Karen's “Mary Oliver in the Hereafter” for the $500 grand prize; Dessa Bayrock’s “What Do You See” was named the honourable mention for this year’s prize.

Here’s what Susan Musgrave had to say about “Mary Oliver in the Hereafter”:
First of all, I loved the title. And then I loved the first line. And then…anon. I like the Big Philosophical Questions the poem asks but doesn’t answer. That’s what a good poem will do. It doesn’t give you any answers, just unanswerable questions. I also love the way the poem uses abstractions — hope, joy — but renders them concrete. By the time I get to the last line, I feel lighter, the grass smells sweeter.
Karen Massey's poetry has been published online and in anthologies and journals in Canada, the United States and the UK, including Aesthetica, Arc, subTerrain and experiment-o. She has two chapbooks-to-date with above/ground press, Bullet (1999) and STRANGE FITS OF BEAUTY & LIGHT: Erasure Poems from Archibald Lampman’s Sonnets (2014), and she was part of the anthology Decalogue: Ten Ottawa Poets (Chaudiere Books, 2006). And Karen isn't the first above/ground press author to win such, as Marilyn Irwin won the same prize back in 2013, and natalie hanna had an honourable mention in 2019!

And if such prompts, they are currently taking poems for this year's competition! Pay attention!