Wednesday, May 31, 2023

new from above/ground press: ECHOES, by Ken Norris

Ken Norris


O call it what it is.

Call out anything
that occurs to you.

The air’s gone out of everything,
and life flattens.

So you try for a

I just can’t keep jazz chords
out of the blues.

Not any longer.

And I’m winding it down
to the point where
it almost breaks.

But it doesn’t,
cos it can’t.

So you go round
and around in the endless
cycles of life,

trying to jump the wheel
you can’t get off of.
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
May 2023
as part of above/ground press’ thirtieth anniversary
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Ken Norris
was born in New York City in 1951. He came to Canada in the early 1970s, to escape Nixon-era America and to pursue his graduate education. He completed an M.A. at Concordia University and a Ph.D. in Canadian Literature at McGill University. He became a Canadian citizen in 1985. Norris is Professor Emeritus at the University of Maine, where he taught Canadian Literature and Creative Writing for thirty-three years. He currently resides in Toronto.

This is Ken Norris’ eleventh above/ground press chapbook, after Windward – St. Lucia Poems (1995), The Commentaries (1999), Songs For Isabella (2000), Green Wind (2010), Looking Into It (2011), Hong Kong Blues (2019), Hawaiian Sunrise (2021), Stray Dog Café (2021), The Traveling Wilburys Collection (2021) and False Narratives (2022).

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, May 24, 2023

new from above/ground press: Toothache, by Joseph Donato

Joseph Donato

I’m Scared of the Tooth Fairy
Dentist in the orchard
trades pennies for apples,
plucks the branches bare
Liquorice gums and
milk teeth,
burnt matches
on latex fingers
Caramel leaks
through gaps in my smile,
pillowcase stained
My treasure chest empties
but its ghost weight lingers,
candies and apple seeds
in my mouth
I want my cavities back.
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
May 2023
as part of above/ground press’ thirtieth anniversary
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Joseph Donato’s Toothache yanks sense by the root. In this collection of taut, imagistic poems, Donato laces things tight, wiggling short character studies out of drippy cavities. Toothache pours the surrealism of Richard Brautigan or Stuart Ross through their own caramel. Toothache leaves your cheeks stuffed.  
    — ryan fitzpatrick, publisher of Model Press
as someone with teeth, i can say that toothache hurts just as it should.
    — Isla McLaughlin, author of girl, online

Toothache is a hit, a masterpiece. The author should be praised and adored and given money.
    — Joseph Donato, author of Toothache
Joseph Donato is super cool and popular. He is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Block Party, a Toronto-based magazine and press. Apart from writing, Joseph enjoys illustrating, buying CDs, and Tic Tacs. Toothache is his debut chapbook publication. 

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, May 23, 2023

ANNOUNCING: the above/ground press 30th anniversary fundraiser

Across the thirty years-to-date of my poetry chapbook publisher above/ground press (b. July 9, 1993) I’ve worked hard to engage with numerous threads of literary activity, from multiple elements of poetic form (prose poems, long poems, visual poems, lyric forms, etcetera) to different geographies and communities, and a whole slew of individual writers across North American and beyond in their ongoing works. Centred in the Ottawa literary community, above/ground press publishes single-author poetry chapbooks as well as a handful of ongoing journals (Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal], GUEST [a journal of guest editors] and The Peter F. Yacht Club), and has published chapbook debuts alongside works by award-winning authors and produced works in translation and collaborative efforts, running the gamut between wildly experimental works and more traditional forms. Last year, above/ground press started producing a series of festschrifts, celebrating the works of individual poets from across North America, attempting to find a spark of positive throughout the weight of the Covid-era.

The very nature of chapbook publishing is both ephemeral and immediate, and able to take a particular kind of risk that almost refuses anything commercial. Unfortunately, of course, publishing is an expensive enterprise, and subscriptions alone provide far less than half of publishing costs. I’ve long resisted increasing my subscription rates, precisely due to not wishing to outprice anyone who wishes to engage with the work.

While the pandemic years managed with roughly the same amount of annual above/ground press subscribers overall, the press saw severely reduced individual sales, as well as wiping out in-person readings and small press fair possibilities (from the ottawa small press book fair to Toronto’s Meet the Presses), so there hasn’t been the same ability to replenish the financial coffers to feed back into production. My personal Public Lending Rights and Access Copyright monies have also fed directly into the press, but it still hasn’t been enough to not worry about how one might keep the lights on. Given the enormous backlist the press holds, much of which is still in print (although half of the titles I’m listing include some of the final copies), I thought this might be an opportunity to offer a series of curated packages of titles, many of which highlight a variety of threads the press has deliberately attended.

Fully aware that chapbook publishing, especially poetry chapbook publishing, is inherently a not-for-profit enterprise, I’d like to keep moving forward, otherwise I might have to seriously reassess how best to keep publishing, if at all.

The opening salvo of available perks have been posted, and I’m aiming to announce further perks over the following weeks, including more bundles (a second Brooklyn Poets bundle, for example), as well as bundles featuring the work of Amanda Earl, Derek Beaulieu and Ken Norris. There will probably be others, naturally.

The goals for this fundraiser are to keep going. See the link to the campaign here.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Poetry at the Avant-Garde (Ottawa, June 1st): Jessi MacEachern, Stuart Ross, & William Vallières

Join us at the Avant-Garde Bar to see Stuart Ross (Cobourg), Jessi MacEachern (Montréal), and William Vallières (Montréal) read from their new poetry chapbooks from above/ground press.
Hosted by Bardia Sinaee.

Thursday, June 1, 2023 : Avant-Garde Bar, 135 Besserer Street, Ottawa
Event starts at 7:30pm.
Admission is free.
Chapbooks will be available for sale.
See the Eventbrite link here

About the readers:

Jessi MacEachern
is a poet who lives in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal where she teaches English literature. She is the author of A Number of Stunning Attacks. Her chapbook When a Folk, When a Sprawl is her second chapbook with above/ground press.

Stuart Ross, winner of the 2019 Harbourfront Festival Prize, is the author of over twenty full-length books of poetry, fiction, and essays. Bird Snow on Hard Tracks is his third above/ground press chapbook. Stuart’s work has been translated into French, Norwegian, Slovene, Russian, Spanish, and Estonian. He lives in Cobourg, Ontario.

William Vallières is a Montreal poet. His work has appeared in The Walrus, Best Canadian Poetry, Event, Grain, and Plenitude. His first book of poetry, Versus (2019), is out with Véhicule Press. His chapbook, Poor Rutebeuf (2023), a translation of the French medieval poet Rutebeuf, is out now with above/ground press.

Event banner artwork by Barbara Caruso.