Friday, June 27, 2008

The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine, by Mark Yakich


Anybody can be Noah.
Nobody can be his wife.

Send out the maven, not
The dove. Jump ship and accept

Death. No treasure without
A map. No lap without underlying

Pleasure. Let the mind worry
About the logic. But don’t

Forget to drag the body,
As witness, through the sand.

It's been a long time since I've seen poems as interesting, as different and as unusual as those of New Orleans writer Mark Yakich's The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine (Penguin, 2008), a follow-up to his acclaimed debut collection, Unrelated Individuals Forming a Group Waiting to Cross (2003). Rarely have I seen such well-crafted poems done in such strange and subversive ways, writing about Elvis, 9-11, tourists and the Biblical flood. Who else has attempted a poem about the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. and anal sex, let alone done it so brilliantly well? Even the first couplet alone is enough to smash through concrete. Just where the hell did this kid come from?


for JFK Jr.

You can’t stop the clouds
By crashing an airplane.

And without money to protect
Morale, an elegy does nothing

More than inspire middle-
Finger children. Opium, ecstasy,

Star-fuckers. You have to love
Like an ass before your wife

Will fuck you in it. How true
Is true love when you’re both

In the dark? Know, the compass
Is more humble than the wing,

Or in your mind the image
Of Father, no-handed,

Doing Mother from behind.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


To the Respected Community,

This is our final message regarding Friday's Main Event. Never before have you seen two poets pitted in a no-holds barred, careerending debate - and chances are, you never will again!

Come out to Babylon Nightclub, 317 Bank Street, on Friday June 27th, from 7- 10:30 PM, and you'll be witness to history in the making, as rob mclennan and Nathaniel G. Moore decide the future of publishing.

Come to hear writers Jeffrey Ross, Steve Zytveld, Amanda Earl, Matthew Firth, Kate Heartfield, Darryl Berger, Christina Decarie, rob mclennan, and Nathaniel G. Moore give live readings before the THROWDOWN takes place.

Come to pick up the Spring 2008 issue of The Puritan: Ottawa's Literary Prose Journal, and meet the editors and staff!

This is your one chance to see something unbelievable and completely unexpected in the world of live readings. ON FRIDAY, JUNE 27th, someone's gonna retire as the Babylon explodes!

Catch up on the history of the THROWDOWN by watching these promotional
videos, brought to you by THE PURITAN.

Nathaniel G. Moore calls out rob mclennan - the video that started it all!

rob mclennan and Nathaniel G. Moore sign the official contract for the THROWDOWN - it's now legit!

Toronto CanLit weighs in on rob mclennan's chances of victory - with a special announcement from Nathaniel G. Moore!

rob mclennan finally responds to Nathaniel G. Moore!

Check out the event on facebook:

Spencer Gordon
Tyler Willis
The Puritan

Monday, June 23, 2008

ongoing notes: the ottawa small press book fair

Sure is strange to be home. If you want, check out this podcast of the reading I did recently at the Dusty Owl Reading Series, or these features on me online at Other Voices International and at Poet's Corner - Fieralingue, with recent-ish poems and such, and check out the new fiction chapbook Departures (above/ground press) I'm part of, released for the fair as well. Otherwise, come see me kick Nathaniel G. Moore's ass this Friday at the THROWDOWN IN O-TOWN (check out the youtube links; I still don’t remember agreeing to do any of this…). And don’t forget, if you want to know about small press book fairs happening in Canada, refer regularly to the Canadian small press fair blog; and check out what Amanda Earl wrote, or Charles Earl posted...

Toronto ON: A book fair isn’t a book fair without the presence of Toronto writer/editor/publisher Stuart Ross, one of the inventors of the Toronto Small Press Fair, way back in 1987. He came to Ottawa with a number of publications large and small, including this handout made for the fair, and the pre-fair reading he was part of the night before:


American volanologists often hang their
prey on barbed-wire fences. Only a dozen
or so skeletons are easily recognized by
their roller-coaster flight and clear song.
Migrating birds pass over a smothering
snow of ash and pumice, fish sauce and
wine, severely charred by the glowing
avalanches. One is deeply moved by the
postures and is now a serious pest, a
collective groan across the ages. Pliny's tale
of the catastrophe, on the other hand,
varies its insect diet with bayberries. Thus,
many died at Pompeii, fleeing in a zigzag
path, as they fed on flying insects.

Another publication he appeared in Ottawa with was Toronto writer Tom Walmsley's small poetry chapbook concrete sky (Toronto ON: Proper Tales Press, 2007). Walmsley has been publishing for years, known more for his fiction and plays (including the novels Shades and Kid Stuff, both from Arsenal Pulp Press), his poetry collections also include Rabies and Lexington Hero (Pulp Press), Honeymoon in Berlin (Anvil Press), Sin (Lyricalmyrical) and What Happened (BookThug).


look — a concrete sky

don't tell me not to worry

earth is wet cement.

A small chapbook of a fifteen-part sequence, each poem repeats itself in three line haiku-like stanzas, repeating like a mantra the same first line, enough times that you begin to see the small differences between each piece, and just how powerful they are.


look — a concrete sky

who do i remind you of —

you fucking asshole.

Do you remember that part of the movie Smoke (written by the novelist Paul Auster), where the character who owned the smoke shop showed off his decades of photographs, each from the same position outside his front door at exactly the same minute every morning. After the first few dozen they look exactly the same, but once you keep going, you begin to see the differences and understand their importance. It makes me wonder, should Walmsley have kept going?


look — a concrete sky

and the cosmos upside down —

up is gone for good.

Another Stuart Ross publication was the fourth issue of Peter O'Toole: A Magazine of One-Line Poems [see where I mentioned a previous issue here]. Is Ross actually mailing these to the actor O'Toole? I really think O'Toole should be made aware of such a thing. Would he even submit something? Here are the three lines by east coast writer George Murray:

The head of this pin has left holes in my feet.


Everyday: unremembered anniversaries of eye contact.


The fly owns just enough life to crunch under your shoe.

Ottawa ON: Another publication I picked up at the fair was the seemingly-untitled chapbook of poetry (the publication has a card-deck theme) by Amanda Earl (ice of hurts), Marcus McCann (spleen of demons), Nicholas Lea (whore of spaces), Pearl Pirie (hive of clouds) and Roland Prevost (whack of spaces), produced in an edition of fifty-four by Earl's own AngelHousePress, specifically for the fair.


one sounds cornered
one touches the real
one spends months in concrete
one portends or wars
one found a forest forever
one is cajoled by oddness
one sucker-punches his own landscape
one escapes
one eats many crepes and is glad
one owns nothing and is glad
one listens to ancient music and is glad
one lives with the ultraist
one is survivalist for some reasons
one is trivialist for—who cares
one mutters in an unwierd way
one stumbles
one crumbles
one disassembles the dark room
one resembles every rock
one rocks
one talks and talks
one records the event as it re-folds
one goes home and is glad
one severs ties and is glad
one severs tiers and is glad
one severs tears and is glad
one is expecting expectorating expatriating
one found their guitar-sound
one dishevels the dark room
one experiences the boom
one is heavily in love
one says love
one says one
one said one (Nicholas Lea)

Apparently they started meeting (according to the "afterbit") "to work together on poems in January, 2008 [… and this] chapbook is a small sample of what results, inspired by camaraderie, imagination and wordplay." Considering they all came out of poetry workshops I've been running in town the past few years (something they also acknowledge as their "main commonality," which is neat to see), it's fascinating to watch just where some of their work has gone over the past couple of years. These folk are some of those around Ottawa that prove, yet again, just how much can be accomplished through what is called "community."

5 more hours of economy class

till lunch. it's like standing over a toaster
waiting 500 miles for the pop up

a card deck drawn on lined note page
a dozen per serrated pull from coil

lessons from KD scarcity of scissors
rewards again;

paper licked on the fold
to weaken, tear a strip straight off

heart upside down, flip
scribble in a stick for a spade

realize in dealing what
I don’t remember;

rummy rules and UNO meld
one queen is naked, missing her suit

a laugh, puff a hand
out of hand

light deck
new set of tricks (Pearl Pirie)

related notes: the last fair; the one before;

Sunday, June 22, 2008

new poetry workshops at Collected Works Bookstore, Ottawa

If anyone is interested, I've just booked a series of dates for my new seasonal poetry workshops at Collected Works Bookstore, Wellington & Holland, Ottawa, happening on mostly Mondays and then a Tuesday: Monday July 7, July 14, July 21, July 28, Tuesday August 5 + Monday August 11, August 18 + August 25. $200 for 8 sessions.

7pm to 9pm. for information, contact rob mclennan at or 613 239 0337; an eight week poetry workshop, the course will focus on workshopping writing of the participants, as well as reading various works by contemporary writers, both Canadian & American. participants should be prepared to have a handful of work completed before the beginning of the first class, to be workshopped (roughly ten pages).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

12 or 20 questions: rob mclennan answers his own

[photo by Lainna] rob mclennan lives in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, even though he was born there. He is the author of over a dozen trade books, and has published poetry, fiction, interviews and critical reviews in over two hundred publications in fourteen countries and in three languages. His most recent titles include the poetry collection The Ottawa City Project (Chaudiere Books, 2007), the novel white (The Mercury Press, 2007), the travel title Ottawa: The Unknown City (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008), subverting the lyric: essays (ECW Press, 2008) and Alberta dispatch: interviews and writing from Edmonton (above/ground press, 2008). He has two further poetry collections forthcoming, including a compact of words from Ireland’s Salmon Publishing, and gifts from Vancouver’s Talonbooks, and is currently editing collections on and/or by Andrew Suknaski, John Newlove and George Bowering, as well as books on Ottawa, adoption and Glengarry County, Ontario. He is the editor/publisher of above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, (with Stephen Brockwell, and ottawater (, and co-founder (in 1994) and current organizer of the ottawa small press book fair and the small press action network – ottawa (since 1996). He recently spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays and interviews at, a site that turns five years old in June, 2008.

1 - How did your first book change your life?

rm: Honestly, it didn’t. It wasn’t until the following year, 1999, that I really saw how books could alter one’s own life and writing life when I published three poetry collections throughout the year, and spent a couple of months touring around the country to promote them. It was a hard lesson to learn, seeing just how little the whole thing meant, in certain ways, despite all the ways that the books were, at the same time, allowing me an amount of confidence that I hadn’t earlier.

For whatever reason, I had been writing full-time for a number of years before even the first poetry collection came out, so there were ways in which they didn’t change my life at all, those first couple of books. I think what did change was the way people started regarding me, perhaps taking me slightly more seriously as “writer” because I finally had books. It was as though some of them were finally believing what I had been telling them for years.

2 - How long have you lived in Ottawa, and how does geography, if at all, impact on your writing? Does race or gender make any impact on your work?

rm: Geography, certainly. I think geography can’t help but influence, even if just stylistically. If you are writing a particular kind of genre, style, etcetera, it’s difficult to not be influenced by the writing that is happening around you. The kinds of poems that excite me aren’t necessarily the kinds of poems that Arc magazine publish (being the only trade game in town, it’s impossible to not use them as a kind of “local standard”), but there are certainly aspects there and here that wash over me. Being born here but heading east an hour’s drive, I didn’t actually return to the city until I was nineteen, way back in the fall of 1989. But for my Edmonton year, I’ve remained in the city since, and don’t really feel much need to leave (although a few more writer-in-residence gigs would be pretty cool; I’m kind of amazed at what I can finally accomplish with resources…).

Otherwise, I’m a straight white male of (I’m told) privilege. I don’t think anyone really wants to hear my “story,” as such. It makes me work, hopefully, to do something more.

3 - Where does a poem or piece of fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

rm: I think, back in the early to mid 1990s, I was the author of individual poems and individual pieces. Since having a dozen or two poetry chapbooks before my first trade collection was published, I’ve been thinking in larger units for so long, that even my occasional poems turn out into occasional books. What little I’ve tried in the genre of short story/short fiction even manages to want to work itself larger, into the book as the unit of composition.

4 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?

Completely both, and sometimes at the same time. I never read anything out loud until I’m on stage, since I hear so much of it in my head as I’m working. I really like doing readings and going to readings, but I’m not always in the mood, even if I’m supposed to be doing a reading myself. I think I’ve done so many over the years, that I think I can still manage to read quite well even if I think I’ve managed to butcher everything I have in front of me. I’ve done hundreds of readings over the past near-20 years, but still manage to get completely messed up about them. I have no idea why. They still manage to both build and completely destroy my confidence.

5 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

rm: I’ve been floating around that question for years. I think a poem is what is left after decades and even centuries of stripping away. When the poets were second only to the Scottish Chiefs, they were the historians and storytellers. With the advent of novels, daily newspapers, CNN, creative non-fiction, film, what is the “poem” left with? Language itself.

6 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

rm: Not at all difficult, but not necessarily easy. A good editor is very hard to find, and even harder to become. Over the years, I’ve worked closely with Judith Fitzgerald, Michael Holmes, Bev Daurio and Karl Siegler, who is perhaps one of, if not the, best poetry editors in the country. He knows what I’m working toward and with, and knows how to make me better. Still, I don’t send out anything book-length until I’ve had at least another set of eyes go through it for me, and over the past few months and even years, friends like Amanda Earl [see her 12 or 20 questions here], Sandra Ridley, Stephen Brockwell [see his 12 or 20 questions here], derek beaulieu [see his 12 or 20 questions here], Monty Reid, Catherine Owen [see her 12 or 20 questions here], Lainna El Jabi and Trisia Eddy and others have been essential in helping make what I do just that much better. It was why we originally started The Peter F. Yacht Club (before it was a publication), as an informal writers group. More recently, last spring I think it was, a group of us in Ottawa even started a monthly group to go through short fiction, including Spencer Gordon, Tina Trineer, Amanda Earl, Emily Falvey, Steve Zytveld and Kate Heartfield, which has been pretty entertaining (although I’ve been missing it since August).

7 - After having published more than a couple of titles over the years, do you find the process of book-making harder or easier?

rm: I would have to say both. I have certainly more confidence in trying something that I know might not work unless I really push it, but I’m far harder on myself than I was even five years ago. I have far more work now that never makes it past the notebook, past the first printed draft, past the stack of manuscript pages. If it can’t be better or more than the previous work, why bother?

8 - When was the last time you ate a pear?

rm: I can’t even remember that far back.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

rm: Around 1993 or so, Ottawa poet Michael Dennis [see his 12 or 20 questions here] told me that a good reader sells more books than a bad reader, remembering back to those 1980s Peterborough, Ontario days with Maggie Helwig and others. I spent most of the decade working against my own character (just as Mike Myers once said of himself, I now consider myself a “site-specific extrovert”) and read in as many open sets as possible, to improve my reading skill and general comfort levels.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction to critical/creative non-fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?

rm: When I was a kid, I never really saw much of a division between any of it, whether writing poetry and short stories, playing music or drawing and taking photographs, all of which floated around my high school years. For whatever reason, once Kate was born, I decided to focus on one thing, poetry, and get a handle on that before I tried to move out into anything else. In hindsight, I think anyone else might have tried for the “big novel,” but apparently I’m not like everyone else. I’ve never wanted to simply do one thing, so why not? I think the appeal is that each genre brings its own set of concerns, its own set of problems and its own set of openings, all of which can be twisted around if you work in more than one concern. My poetry, for example, has become less “storytelling” since I’ve been working on fiction, and my reviews have turned into longer and longer essays. Now I’m delving more into memoir/creative non-fiction so I can see where that might take me.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

rm: A typical day begins with waking up.

I’m a big fan of routine, so anyone who knows me can usually find me pretty easily, despite my deliberate lack of cellphone or office or anything like that. I wake up, and go straight to writing desk. In Ottawa, that’s around 10:30am. In Alberta, with the 35-minute walk, it was more of a 10am when I got to my office (roughly), where I checked email, got the day started, and a couple of hours of desk before breakfast/lunch, and wrote longhand in public spaces such as the grad bar, RATT, and/or in the HUB Mall, before a few more hours of office on computer, entering new versions and printing them up, and then at the Garneau Pub on 109th Street by 7pm to scribble all over typed versions, do more longhand, and get random reading done. Now that I’m back in Ottawa, it’s back to writing at home for a few hours with coffee, email on Bank Street around 3pm, and then the Second Cup at Bank and Somerset for a couple of hours before either home to the computer, or to Pubwell’s (or even in the big food court at the Rideau Centre) for a bit more writing time. Although usually in the summer it gets too damn hot in my apartment to get anything done there during the day, so I’m pretty much at that Second Cup within twenty minutes of waking up. My ex-wife has said for years that you can set a watch to my schedule.

And on Saturdays, I hang out with my lovely daughter, with lunch, a movie and then playing cards or wandering around for a while, talking about all the important nothings.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

rm: I usually read, or go through what I’d done before, to get myself started. When I’m working to re-enter writing fiction, it usually takes a couple of days of just reading what I already have before anything new comes out of it, and then I have to keep working on it every day to keep up the momentum. These days I’m reading lots of poetry by Sarah Manguso, Juliana Spahr [see her 12 or 20 questions here], Kate Hall and Lisa Jarnot [see her 12 or 20 questions here].

13 - How does your most recent book compare to your previous work? How does it feel different?

rm: My last few books haven’t been poetry, but fiction, literary essays and a tourist book, so that’s about as different as you can (potentially) think from poetry. I am hoping that all of this movement across various (arbitrary) lines is opening up and expanding my repertoire.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

rm: Whenever I watch a really well-written movie or television series, it makes me want to re-enter fiction. Usually something like MI-5 (known in England as “Spooks”) or Six Feet Under. Even the movies Smoke or Lulu on the Bridge were pretty interesting triggers.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

rm: My god, there are so many of them these days, I don’t think I’d be able to list them all. I get pretty excited when there are new books by fiction writers like Paul Auster, Milan Kundera, Jeanette Winterson, Lisa Moore and Michael Winter. Lately I was really getting excited about a little poem by Stephanie Bolster in the Montreal issue of The New Quarterly. There were some magnificent lines that I think really transcend what she’s accomplished previously. I could mention poets like Gil McElroy [see his 12 or 20 questions here], Cole Swensen [see her 12 or 20 questions here], Jon Paul Fiorentino [see his 12 or 20 questions here], John Newlove, Fanny Howe, Robert Creeley, Robert Kroetsch, Fred Wah, jwcurry, Margaret Christakos [see her 12 or 20 questions here], Christine Stewart [see her 12 or 20 questions here], Lisa Robertson and Monty Reid [see his 12 or 20 questions here], among so many others.

I could even mention a whole slew of comic book writers such as Joss Whedon (not only is his Buffy: Season 8 pretty exciting, his current run on X-Men is mind-blowing), Neil Gaiman (easily the best storyteller I’ve ever read, if The Sandman is any indication; his 1602 was also pretty damn impressive), Mike Carey (check out his Lucifer series, taking a character out of Gaiman’s The Sandman), and Brian Michael Bendis, who has managed to (in my opinion) single-handedly save Marvel Comics from itself. I used to be a big fan of British-born and Calgary-raised writer and artist John Byrne, especially for his run on Uncanny X-Men, Alpha Flight and The Fantastic Four as well as Next Men, but he’s pretty much been a shadow of his former self over the past decade or so, simply repeating past glories.

I also spend a lot of time reading non-fiction, predominantly Canadian history.

Music is also essential. If there isn't a song playing around me, I manage to keep one in my head.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

rm: Pay rent on time. Live in a space where I can see all my books and even swing my arms without knocking something over. Have less guilt. Swimming pools and a house on the moon.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

rm: I’m not sure. When I was ten, I wanted to open a restaurant. I even had the location picked out.

I know my father wanted me to be a farmer. That didn’t quite work out either.

I’ve always wanted to write songs, but haven’t managed yet to figure it out.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

rm: I’ve always made things, even when I was very small. When I was nineteen, I couldn’t afford art supplies, but I could always get my hands on pen and paper. I’ve never really been good at too much of anything else.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

rm: When I was in my early 20s, Milan Kundera’s Immortality changed my life. It was a book that had far greater affect upon me (and I think a far stronger work) than his more famously-known The Unbearable Lightness of Being. More recently, Vancouver writer David Chariandy’s first novel, Soucouyant, was absolutely magnificent. I’m currently reading Sarah Manguso’s small book of fictions, Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape, and thinking much of the same, but for different reasons.

As far as films, sure, I loved Iron Man and Spider-Man 3 and X-Men 3 (despite problems I had with all of them), but the films that stick with me are the ones that also tear all of my insides out, like Lulu on the Bridge (written by Paul Auster, a film that apparently no one else liked), which premiered in Canada at the ottawa international writers festival a few years ago, and Romeo is Bleeding. Utterly heartbreaking. Both films I had to get out of my system by walking around the city a couple of hours. I couldn’t interact with anyone afterwards. I could really mention anything that Wes Anderson has done, including The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. What about Broken Flowers, or even Million Dollar Hotel. Still, my favourite film has to be Wim Wenders’ Until The End of the World. I could watch and re-watch that film forever. A kick-ass soundtrack doesn’t hurt.

20 - What are you currently working on?

Re-entry, I suppose, now that I’m back in Ottawa after my nine Edmonton months. I’m working on a series of ‘unrepentant love poems,’ working to get this ‘big novel’ of mine finished, a memoir of little prose sections called “house: a (tiny) memoir,” as well as my Edmonton creative non-fiction project. I won’t mention all the editorial projects I’m supposed to be working on as well, including a few Andrew Suknaski projects. I’m behind on just about everything these days.

I am currently working on preparing myself for what might happen next.

12 or 20 questions archive

Monday, June 16, 2008

12 or 20 questions: with Susan Holbrook

SUSAN HOLBROOK teaches North American literatures and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor. Recent articles on twentieth-century writing can be found in journals such as differences, Open Letter, American Literature, and tessera. She has just co-edited The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson: Composition as Conversation (Oxford U P, 2008). Her poetry books are misled (Red Deer, 1999), Good Egg Bad Seed (Nomados, 2004), and Joy is So Exhausting (forthcoming from Coach House).

1 - How did your first book change your life?
I liked feeling like a big shot. Even though my parents found the contents appalling, I’m sure they couldn’t help but be proud of that spine in their bookcase – as long as nobody looked inside.

2 - How long have you lived in Windsor, and how does geography, if at all, impact on your writing? Does race or gender make any impact on your work?
Actually I live in Leamington, Tomato Capital of Canada, right next to Point Pelee National Park. I did live in Windsor for a couple of years but pretty much held my breath the whole time. I remember telling George Elliott Clarke that I was becoming paranoid living there, that I was certain the sky over Detroit had gone from yellow to blue in the days preceding the 2000 American election, as if Bush had ordered a smokestack shutdown so people would forget his environmental shortcomings. George (the poet, that is) replied that paranoia was just the beginning of knowledge. So living there, then fleeing to the forest, has definitely heightened an ecological consciousness in me. Point Pelee is an excessive place – the May songbird migrations are absurdly spectacular, with indigo buntings and scarlet tanagers hopping around on the lawn, as are the mayfly and midge populations, cloaking the house so that it looks haunted. Excess is always good for poetry.

Gender, race, sexuality necessarily impact my work, the latter most intentionally in the first book. How identities are registered in language and how language might shift to welcome them are ongoing concerns.

3 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

Usually a turn of phrase occurs to me and something sprouts out of that, like those capsules you drop in water that bloom grotesquely into foam animals. If I sit down to write a poem without such a pill, I usually dream up a formal experiment and go from there. So far I just write short pieces until they add up, but I aspire to having a project idea that might be sustained.

4 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?
A part of. They are the best way to realize a poem blows. Also, the shame of reading the same damn stuff every time is a prod to produce.

5 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I think about the limits of ‘sense’ and how what is sensed in excess of semantic comprehension generates meaning. I continue to be interested in the outdoors of language, the waste, the Kristevan ‘poetic language’, the constitutive outside, the between of translations, what can happen there. And newly interesting to me is how to invite the natural world, whatever that is, in through language. This is, I think, one of the “current questions.” It surprises me that although these are my theoretical interests, much of my work ends up fairly accessible and comedic. I think for me humour is a generative mode; it is often produced out of surprise, a pop of pleasure and knowledge. This is another way outdoors. And if one is attempting to effect the erosion of bigoted ideas, humour is a sly method.

6 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
It’s luxurious. I spend so much of my life editing students’ work, I can’t believe it when someone takes a pencil to mine. I was lucky to have editor extraordinaire Nicole Markotic work on Misled. When one of my poems is half-baked, or I’m not sure if it’s baked, I try to imagine what an editor would suggest.

7 - After having published a couple of titles over the past few years, do you find the process of book-making harder or easier?
The same. Not hard or easy, just takes a long time.

8 - When was the last time you ate a pear?
If you’ve never had a good pear you will think you don’t like pears. If you’ve had good pears in your life, you will suffer an awful lot of mealy, mushy or bland duds, considering them the exceptions to the rule that pears are delicious. But I have had nothing but bad pears for probably three years. At some point this has to stop, doesn’t it? When will I give up and become a person who doesn’t like pears?

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
From Michael Ignatieff to a friend of mine, who gave it to me in the third year of my PhD: Don’t make your dissertation your Viet Nam.

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
No writing routine – poems are written infrequently and haphazardly. A typical day begins with feeding cats and child, and prepping for class.

11 - Where is your favourite place to write?
Hm, I need a favourite place. Maybe that’s my problem.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
To books of writers I admire, for e.g. Harryette Mullen, Fred Wah, Margaret Christakos, Bernadette Mayer.

13 - How does your most recent book compare to your previous work? How does it feel different?
Joy is So Exhausting (2009) is less embarrassing. I’m glad I wrote that sassy Misled, guided by an insistence on an active female sexuality, but I was prepared for neither the outraged young Calgarians and Tuscaloosans nor the leering old men in Nelson, B.C. who took my reading as an invitation to swing.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
I love scientific language – a textbook on evolution is the spark for the libretto in my new book. Not only is science discursively delicious, but the processes of evolution provide such interesting formal methods.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I have a long list of writers I admire, but perhaps I’ll just celebrate two here: Louis Cabri and Nicole Markotic, who recently joined my department at Windsor, so that we have a heavenly Creative Writing program now.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Eat a fantastic pear.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I took a career aptitude test as a young person that slotted me resolutely in the precise category of “translator.”

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Cheaper than paint, equally as exciting, good for introverts.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
The films are blurred under by Dora the Explorer and Shrek. I loved Kenneth Goldsmith’s Fidget, but even that recedes in memory after a hundred recitations of There’s a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss.

20 - What are you currently working on?
Finishing two big projects: the poetry book Joy is So Exhausting and the edition The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson: Composition as Conversation. Starting a book for undergrads about how to read/write about poetry.

12 or 20 questions archive

Sunday, June 15, 2008

ongoing notes: mid-June, 2008
THIS BLOG IS NOW FIVE YEARS OLD [which makes it five years older than my new nephew, Duncan Ian Derochie (above), born at the tail end of May]; What to say after five years? As Amanda Earl reminded me recently, this clever blog of mine turns five years old this month, originally created as a space to post poetry book reviews after my four+ years of writing three weekly reviews for the Ottawa X-Press; I would rather, I told myself at the time, put the energy into writing new pieces than find out-of-date homes for what I've already written. Since then, the blog has become a kind of catch-all, for writing, reviews, essays, interviews and notices; what will the next five years entail?

Obviously, then, I'm home now; will we see you at the ottawa small press book fair, and/or the reading the night before at the Carleton Tavern? The "12 or 20 questions" series will be ending soon, be sure to check around the time of the book fair to see the last interview or two, and even a note on the entire process.

Edmonton AB: Trisia Eddy's new Red Nettle Press had its first chapbook launch at the tail end of May in Edmonton, launching a number of small publications by various authors, including Michael Gravel, Patti Sinclair (also an editor for the press), Jeff Carpenter, Layne L'Heureux as well as a collaboration between myself and Eddy. The creator of a series of lovely little chapbooks published in editions of 100 copies, Eddy is also the new coordinator of The Factory (West) Reading Series, and even a descendant of one of Ottawa's early lumber pioneers, E.B. Eddy (the match factory is mere blocks away from my little Chinatown apartment).

Walking the Dog on Sunday

Red sun in the
hitchpost sky,
red-green fields
stretched out limp,
my feet, hot stumps rasping
in the non-breeze,
my goldenred dog
streaking across the grass,
liquid canine power,
fire-red collar going for the sun,
running over school field
scabs of children,
beside the melting backstop,
back of the ghost rink,
through red dirt of the infield
(like the bloody dew of Utah).
It's a long way up here,
a long way from red,
a long way longer
than the red dog tail. (Michael Gravel, The Fast Places)

One of the most interesting in this first batch (apart from the first title by the press, being Eddy's own, a few months ago [see my review of such here]) has to be Edmonton poet and Olive Reading Series co-organizer Jeff Carpenter's malachi on foot (2008), a short, tight ghazal sequence playing not only off of the late John Thompson's posthumous collection of ghazals, Stiltjack (1976), but off the direct influence of Thompson, citing this line from W.B. Yeats, "Malachi Stilt-Jack am I, whatever I learned has run / wild," as precursor to Thomson's own. Here is the opening poem from Carpenter's seventeen poem sequence:

there are the streets of edmonton old
strathcona there are

city-town-hamlet pearls
dribbled under country

shadow border retreating
sundogs of circumpolarity

compasses swagger & point
as I span map

smoke inhalation my back turns
on book cinders & gutted abode

abide my lumbering lapped by the shine
sun-moon-algol-et al antewest

meridian & crooked archery to glance
off sky skin moon find a d

find a distant relative in a new
glasgow graveyard when we rise around

There are far too many people who have written and published ghazals over the past few decades in Canada, but these are some of the few (along with Andy Weaver [see my note on a ghazal of his here], Douglas Barbour, Eric Folsom, Matthew Holmes [see my review of his book here; see my mention of a ghazal of his here] and some rare others) that really strike. At the back of the collection, Carpenter (who appeared in a recent issue of The Peter F. Yacht Club) also writes:

Put two words together

…likely, John Thompson stood agape between the contingency of naming and the fixity of a name while he wrote his Stilt Jack. Do you have days like that, when random events feel as incontrovertible as the geometry of the Pyramids, when we are neither capable of integrating ugly accidents into our worldview nor capable of avoiding them. The apparent lack of sequence between couplets of the ghazal—the disintegration of homely form—strives to induce an essence out of an accident in the reader's mind. This is the most productive sort of naming a poet can commit. Gazing into chaos, he chooses to bring back some artifact rather than be seduced into oblivion. Naming makes it so; it cannot make it go away. My name is Jeff Carpenter.
It's interesting that he mentions naming, returning to the subject of a talk that expat-Canadian poet Nathalie Stephens [see her 12 or 20 questions here] did at the University of Alberta a few months ago (the paper she delivered apparently comes out this fall in an edition by BookThug), referring to naming as being something that reduces as opposed to making larger or better. I think Carpenter might have been the only person at the talk who really understood what she was talking about, and managed to take that ball and run.

Ottawa ON: For the upcoming ottawa small press book fair, Ottawa poet Marcus McCann has published a new chapbook, petty illness leaflet (The Onion Union, 2008) in a lovely edition of thirty copies. After various chapbooks over the past couple of years, including one by my own above/ground press, and one forthcoming this fall with Jenna Butler's Rubicon Press out of Edmonton, McCann has been managing to write exquisite little poems that twist in on themselves, managing to trouble the language and lay it out fresh, to be heard as much as meant to exist on the page.

Take a breather

A spigot tricked, a spout lousy,
recovery rebuts a passport by turning
tornadic. Or roundly immobile.
A lockpick hatpinned the apiary

but the drones were drowsy.
The detritus — a lengthening queue
of tasks napping — float, pose, flirt.

Padded flaps recounted, then
recanted, grogginess buried,
blurred. A flurry. Here's your
essay's slushpile, sip tidbits.

Hint: the fitted sheet gave up the ghost,
its elastics don’t react to torture.
Or bed is a blast balance, you're
a live ballast that sleep ape-ends.

With rumours of a first poetry manuscript recently completed, it will be extremely interesting to see where McCann moves himself next. For a copy of the chapbook, the best thing to do would either to show up to the ottawa small press book fair, or email him directly through his own clever blog.

Vernon, BC: Produced as the last of the run of chapbooks by Jason Dewinetz and Aaron Peck's greenboathouse books is Toronto poet/publisher Jay MillAr's WOODS│PAGES (2008). [see my review of their previous chapbook here, by Kate Hall]. MillAr, when he is on, is incredibly on, and recently he managed one of the finest pieces of his career so far with a chapbook out with Vancouver's Nomados [see my review of such here], written, as so many of his works are, in sequence. What makes this small meditation particularly intriguing is just how subtle it sits, how it manages to quietly exist without any fireworks or tricks, but on its own quiet strength.

Only as meaningful and only
so when the senses have been blown through
an acorn the size of a human
brain. Silence is the only theory
a seed to the ear reveals. The sound
doesn’t play in a shell's ocean, but
in the wind. Of pauses held against
contours in a sky the grey matter
makes of itself. A receptacle
as spectacle: a moment of self.
Victoria BC: A very nice edition is the new bound chapbook quase flanders, quase extremadura, 14 poems & wombpoems : 3 papages & one a-part by Andr's Ajens, translations from south to north with notes by Erin Moure (Victoria BC: La Mano Izquierda Impresora, 2008).

ii. thesame given, a chance thrown

all and nothing, written down, or method
of i-dentifying recol-lecture (rips)
swung arm over arm, it bestows
what it does not have, name,
the unpardonably given, gift
from ear to ear, implausible,
wheregoeu, thin nightblooms, if you won't give it,
unthanks from the bottom of what's thrown.
Moure has been doing a number of translations lately [see my note on another of her recent translations here], bringing a polyphony not only through her own writing, but the writing she brings from other writers, other languages; this is a poetry of dialogue, although it might not always be clear who is speaking, or who is being addressed. As Moure writes as her "translator's note on the text,"

And quasi-quebec. The notes are the translator's, and intend to create counter-narratives to run in, through and against the translated texts, troubling them. The work of Ajens itself contains and embeds many counter-narratives that act from within his text. In English, whether Canadian or UK, a translator can't reconvey quite those same reverberations without turning them into explanations of a Chilean culture and trajectory that still seem "distant." Explanations can't really account here. So rather than patiently explaining the ingressions and transgressions of the text (and his hemisphere) to northern, non-american readers (as Ajens did to me, his Canadian reader), I created the note texts. They are traitorous notes. And thus, I believe, are honest.
For further information, write c/o Maleea Acker, 860 Melody Pl RR5, Victoria BC V9E 2A2 or check out their website at

UK: I recently read UK author Ali Smith's lovely little novel Girl Meets Boy (Knopf, 2008), a part of the same series of international authors reworking fairy tales [see my note on the Margaret Atwood novella here], as the author of various books of fiction such as (such wonderful titles!) Like, Hotel World and Other Stories and Other Stories reworks Ovid's Metamorphosis. As the beginning of the book writes,

Myths are universal and timeless stories that reflect and shape our lives ― they explore our desires, our fears, our longings and provide narratives that remind us what it means to be human. The Myths series brings together some of the world's finest writers, each of whom has retold a myth in a contemporary and memorable way. Authors in the series include: Chinua Achebe, Karen Armstrong, Margaret Atwood, A.S. Byatt, Michel Faber, David Grossman, Milton Hatoum, Natsuo Kirino, Alexander McCall Smith, Victor Pelevin, Donna Tartt, Su Tong and Jeanette Winterson.
This is a lovely and lyrical little love story, and, apart from wanting to read everything in the entire series, I would certainly like to get my hands on more of her work. Listen to this, from the beginning of the last section, "all together now" (it's not really giving anything away to tell the ending of an already-known myth, is it?) that begins:

Reader, I married him/her.

It's the happy ending. Lo and behold.

I don’t mean we had a civil ceremony. I don’t mean we had a civil partnership. I mean we did what's still impossible after all these centuries. I mean we did the still-miraculous, in this day and age. I mean we got married. I mean we here came the bride. I mean we walked down the aisle. I mean we step we gailied, on we went, we Mendelssohned, we epithalamioned, we raised high the roofbeams, like her. We crowned each other bride, o bridegroom, like her. We crowned each other with the garlands of flowers. We stamped on the wine-glasses wrapped in the linen. We jumped the broom-stick. We lit the candles. We crossed the sticks. We circled the table. We circled each other. We fed each other the honey and the walnuts from the silver spoons; we fed each other the tea and the sake and we sweetened the tea for each other; we fed each other borhani beneath the pretty cloth; we fed each other a taste of lemon, vinegar, cayenne and honey, one for each of the four elements. We handfasted, then we asked for the blessing of the air, the fire, the water and the earth; we tied the knot with grass, with ribbon, with silver rope, with a string of shells; we poured water on the ground in the four directions of the wind and we called on the presence of our ancestors as witnesses, so may it be! We gave each other the kola nuts to symbolise commitment, the eggs and the dates and the chestnuts to symbolise righteousness, plenty, fertility, the thirteen gold coins to symbolise constant unselfishness. With these rings we us wedded. (pp 149-150)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

a sad note from Beth Follett;

James Reaney, 81

National literary icon had 50-year career as playwright, poet and professor

The Canadian Press
June 12, 2008 at 12:34 AM EDT

LONDON, ONT. — James Reaney, a national literary icon who stayed close to his southwestern Ontario roots during a celebrated 50-year career as a playwright, poet and professor, has died.

Reaney died Wednesday night in London following a long illness. He was 81.

“It was a peaceful end to a great life,” his son, journalist James Reaney of London, said. “We know that he will be remembered and his contributions to Canadian culture will be valued.”

Sunday, June 08, 2008

fiction excerpt;

from Don Quixote: a novel

Some critics tend to believe in progress, that one form develops out of another and is appropriate to its place and time.
– Douglas Glover, The Enamoured Knight

It is only traveling takes us home.
– Robert Kroetsch, The Studhorse Man

I would tell you his name but what would it matter.

Don Quixote tilts toward the gutted building; tilts his head the windmill of his joints and kinks. The red brick tavern with two floors of rooms for rent, the building bare bone, empty, stood there three years after the tavern closed. Don Quixote as another man, a younger man, a pint in his hand in the Lockmaster Tavern, watching his afternoons away and Sancho, Sancho, what else he had listened to, the Celtic rock of Jimmy George. Don Quixote, or the man he was, a years ago game of pool and tilting, tilting at corners and the angled green of sorcery and math, the unbelievable deep. But that was past.

Don Quixote tilts outside the building bare and empty and a shell of what it former, almost caved in for lack of structure. Tilts and he tilts. The heritage building nearly torn and even as the intervening courts.

Don Quixote writes his name out on a scrap of paper and folds it into mouth; consumes it.

Don Quixote writes his name out on a scrap of paper; his old name, his previous, almost foreign to him. A name now separate from his body. Removed, as it were. Don Quixote writes his name out on a scrap of paper and he lets it fall from his open fingers, drop from where he stands on the sidewalk to the pavement. He lets it fall like letting go. He has released his former name, his foreign name. He has released it and thus given it permission for a new life. He has allowed it finally to live.


He breaks himself in places. Don Quixote in marble, leaking granite skin. His whole frame veins in cavernous breaks. It is only a matter of time before step upon step will shatter him completely. Don Quixote the joke that he never quite got. Sancho looks at his watch and won’t answer. Where are they now, Don Quixote still asks, and he wonders. Don Quixote and Sancho their long open road and he’s wondering.


Who is Dulcinea del Toboso? She is the most beautiful woman in all Spain. Don Quixote knows, there can be no one else like her. Her soft, olive skin not a scar or a blemish. The water rises, and becomes, but Quixote doesn’t notice. The woman who is Dulcinea del Toboso who is not Dulcinea del Toboso passes by, but Don Quixote doesn’t notice. He is focused on his quest, his prime reason for adventure. He will quest for her, and win. He will do whatever is required of him, all in Dulcinea’s name. He tilts, Don Quixote does. The giants and the villains and the evil king don’t stand a chance.

He thrusts and parries his lance, like Robin Hood and Little John both, warring only with himself. If he knew the difference, this would be how we’d distinguish his frame-of-mind, whether or not he saw himself as the inevitable winner against himself, or the inevitable loser. Is there a difference?

Don Quixote’s story is more than one about errant knights, and the end of chivalry, but about one of books themselves. Of how text caused the world to lose meaning through memory, but replacing oral histories and memories with that of texts that no-one reads. There is the brush-stroke, and there is the white that remains untouched, unblemished. This is the quest, Don Quixote tells himself. Where is his horse? It doesn’t matter. Where is Dulcinea or Sancho? It doesn’t matter. He starts on down the road.


A fire in his belly, Don Quixote in his basement suite, his suite, positioned against the strain of his own self. Positioned against the strain of her hands and his mouth dry, down the length of her spine. Is this Dulcinea? She is not Dulcinea, but she is. More than a distraction, but almost enough to make him forget. I forget, she says out loud. Have forgotten. Isn’t it?

Put her mouth in the rum and the rum around him and the rum was the skin and the silver between her soft mouth and his, her fingers on him working hard and then working, pushing deep into her, again and again. He tilted, pushing open what was ever asleep.

Heart knows what it knows, heart wants what it wants. Don Quixote knows, what it wants. When will these journeys end? But there is something missing, something else. Like a deck of game cards and the missing queen. How does one play incomplete?

Burnt almond her skin and the taste of it almond-salt-soft, the taste of her skin and her mouth, even before all the rum. She runs down his sheets. Is this love? Is this something like?

Stop talking, she says. He didn’t realize he was.

At the end she breathes hard, and deep and quick after the shudder of catch, release. Don Quixote knows. But a ways before dawn, she kisses him deep as the ocean floor, and dresses, back to her own bed and the man that then waits for her. Even his lovers have lovers.

Don Quixote looks for a way out but he can’t. It is never the same as the way he came in.


Don Quixote stands in the middle of the intersection of Bank and Somerset, unaware of the car horns honking, curling around like snakes or water around him. Sancho rushes in, and pulls Quixote off to the corner, to the safety of sidewalk and pedestrian stares.

Where are the windmills? Quixote asks.

Where are the windmills? Don Quixote asks of his Sancho. Where are the trees? Where are the mountains and the footpaths, lined with dust? Where are the maidens, the damsels in distress? Where is the street down to the river? Where are the sheep? Where are the bees? Where are the clouds? Where are the huts all lined up? Where are the villagers? Where is the King? Where are the birds? Where is the cage that could hold them?

They are all here, master, Sancho replies, and reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a flask, handing it to Don Quixote, who takes a quick, healthy swig of an unknown liquid.


There is a sweep that comes over him. A flush. It begins at the pit of his stomach and pushes up to his throat. He flushes, and begins to sweat, feeling it move all across the outside of his body, crawling up along flesh from his feet to his scalp. The beast in his belly, Quixote bites down hard on his will to keep from being sick on the sidewalk. Don Quixote staggers, and retches, but nothing comes. Nothing comes. There is nothing inside to come up.

Don Quixote knows there is no rest. He knows there is a king and a queen, he knows there is a princess too, but not where she lives. Or even where she might be, if she had been kidnapped or otherwise captured. Shouldn’t Sancho be working on information gathering, to help him on his quest? This should be the job of any good companion, but he knows not where Sancho is, either. He feels his information slipping from him, unknown and unknowing. How can he be knight without purpose, an errant fleck on the surface of earth wandering aimless and alone.

Where have all the knights? With the streetlights and lack of stars, it becomes impossible to distinguish dusk from dawn from whatever used to happen in-between. The night. There is no longer darkness, there is only a haze, and the constant trickle of bodies walking up and down these city streets, cars and buses, and shopkeeps willing to sell almost anything to anyone, depending. He pulls a cigarette, and he lets the smoke stay. He pulls a cigarette, and pulls it again. He tilts, he does. Don Quixote. Don Quixote tilts, and he tilts and he sways. He stands still.


Don Quixote wonders about the nature of story. Are these problems that need to be solved, tales told as distractions at the Inn or around the fire as entertainment, before the beginning of what follows, what eventually comes next? Is this mere calm before storm?

Don Quixote wonders if the world has no more use for story; new versions of old, boiled down and cleaned, the Weavers taking the morphine and suicide out of Woody Guthrie’s “Irene, Goodnight.” Do you know what your children are listening to? Do you know where they are?

Don Quixote isn’t sure if he ever wants children. What would he do with them?


There is the rose, and the dream of the rose. Don Quixote wakes up in a haze, and searches the room for his Dulcinea, but she is gone, if she were even there. But the smell. What lingers still is her smell, the slight mixture of vanilla and wildflowers, and the fresh scent of cold. Canadian air, where the freshest still lives, she would tell him. What is this, Canada? Don Quixote is like the smoke at the tip of snuffed candle, still able to fire up, given the line and length flame.


The author knows there are skeletal bones that hold all stories together, shaped and filled out in so many ways that they are bodies in disbelief. There is no way.


What is Don Quixote if not an invention of his own mind, his own place, his own situation, his own time? Sancho holds his joke hands in the air and the conversation stops. All eyes in the tavern fix on him, and through the act of mocking authority, he commands it. He leaves the confines of Don Quixote’s story and opens up into his own. The sole German tavern in the city with its bratwurst and Oktoberfest and every stereotype known to what is not known, and it is his. Sancho lifts his hands and enters fully into his own story, a mere parallel in Don Quixote’s eyes, to his original own.

What is Don Quixote but an invention of his own mind? Too much reading of romantic literatures and superhero comic books, he hears them whisper, looking for what is noble in himself, a Superman searching out his Lois Lane, a Spider-Man searching out his Mary Jane (here, we do not speak of poor Gwendolyn Stacy), an incredible Hulk searching out his Betty Ross. A Paris, his Odysseus, his Tristan.

There is no romantic in what romantic lost; there is no lost. Don Quixote knows, that through whatever else he knows, or won’t or doesn’t yet, that he will find her, still; love is its own inevitability.


Through what else, Don Quixote, transformed by what he somehow lost, in moments of strict inattention. It is not for the tilting he tilts, hands thrusting deep into the thick air. He would make the air itself bleed. Don Quixote tilts and he tilts. He strikes so hard at nothing that it can do nothing else but to respond.

It only breaks because you fix it. If you left it broken, it wouldn’t break anymore.

You’ve got to look after your things.

Why do they leave me, Don Quixote wonders. Where do they go? Why do they not come back?

So much for glory, he thinks.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, Don Quixote tells his Sancho. I know nothing, my master, Sancho responds, about the shape of the world. The sun shapes echoes through saffron.


Sancho the Governor of an island, the leader of no men. If the island were false or abandoned, but the houses. Don Quixote looks sideways for his Dulcinea. Where has she gone? He remembers seeing her there before. It was like that at the beginning. He will find her again, he knows. Where has she gone?

What he had promised him, Quixote had, his own governorship of an island, and Sancho has accepted it. Quixote is saddened, but understands. He will leave him to it. But now what of Don Quixote, how long has it been since he had come upon the noble King, to be knighted by his Royal sword, in his own great glorious Presence?

There is a tavern, and there is a jar of pickled eggs; there is the hardwood floor and the dust of the labourers, working their way through; there is the man at the door keeping watch on them all. There are the squires and the maidens and the free flowing drink from a row of barrels on the far wall; the maidens and barmaids and the stairs down the hall. How he loves the richness of it! The loud music and conversation. He wonders if he should find some poor wretch and bestow upon him the honour of squire, in Sancho’s stead. But he doesn’t. No, he isn’t ready for another companion yet. The time will come.


Don Quixote an accumulation. With the slightest turn, potentially as lost as Orpheus or Biblical Lot’s wife, lost even to her own naming. Lost to her history. Salt is a funny business, Don Quixote thinks, it takes like nothing else. It tastes like itself. Her hand on his hand, her hand on his arm. Keep Heaven on Hold, the sign says, advertising yoghurt. A bacteria cured in a vat. Her almond hands. Is this Heaven, made up as the finest concoctions of toxins? He begins to lose his vision, slips lightheaded only such, and shudders, feels his body lose balance and lance. He is no longer a headlight in the dark.

There is a darkness. Don Quixote finds that dark place in himself, crawls in and just stays there. Isn’t that the song from the movie Midnight Cowboy? He always liked that song, even from when he was young. Does he remember being young? There is a pit and Don Quixote is in it. There is no bottom, it gets only deeper. If joy is infinite, than too, its shadow, engulfed his whole body and made him strong in it, this fallen place. He can already feel the damn of his skin fall away, desert and stripping him dry. His body like a sand dune in sun; he already feels his skin begin to grain and to sweep.


Find me, find me, I am here. I am here, I am here, I am here here here here here here. Dulcinea, can you even hear me? Have I hidden myself too well? How could you not know to find me? Dulcinea, find me. I am here, I am here. I am here. Come find me.

I apparently have no willpower, Don Quixote thinks. And he thinks and he thinks and he dwells and he sets down to rot. He sets down to root.

There is a story Don Quixote remembers about the errant knights, and their passage through history, not realizing the brick wall. Passing into.

Don Quixote stares out the window, waiting for her to walk by, unable to concentrate on anything else. He is constantly staring through windows. He is constantly staring, forever waiting. This is not how it happens in any of his stories.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Friday, June 20, 2008
doors 7pm, readings 7:30pm
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan

The Carleton Tavern (upstairs), 223 Armstrong Avenue (at Parkdale)

with readings by:
Jason Camlot (Montreal)
Jon Paul Fiorentino (Montreal)
David McGimpsey (Montreal)
Stuart Ross (Toronto)
Mike Spry (Montreal)

author bios:

Jason Camlot is the author of three collections of poetry: The Animal Library, Attention All Typewriters and the brand-new The Debaucher (Insomniac Press). His critical works include Language Acts (co-edited with Todd Swift) and Style and the Nineteenth-Century British Critic: Sincere Mannerisms. His poems and critical essays have appeared widely in journals and anthologies including New American Writing, Postmodern Culture and English Literary History. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford and is Associate Professor of English at Concordia University in Montreal.

Jon Paul Fiorentino [see his 12 or 20 questions here] is the author of The Theory of the Loser Class and Asthmatica. He lives in Montreal where he teaches writing at Concordia University and is the Editor of Matrix.

David McGimpsey was born and raised in Montreal. He has a PhD in English Literature and is the author of the award-winning study Imagining Baseball: America's Pastime and Popular Culture. His travel writings frequently appear in the Globe and Mail and he writes the ‘Sandwich of the Month’ column for EnRoute magazine. He teaches at Concordia University. His most recent publication is the poetry collection Sitcom (Coach House), shortlisted for the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry.

Stuart Ross is author of six poetry collections, three works of fiction, a collection of essays, editor of Surreal Estate (anthology of Canadian surrealist poetry), poetry and fiction editor of This Magazine, and a regular columnist for subTerrain, and has long been considered one of the cornerstones of Canadian small press. His most recent title is the poetry collection Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books).

Mike Spry is from Ottawa and now lives in Montreal where he is the Managing Editor of Matrix. Snare Books will publish his first book, Jack, in the fall.

link to information about the ottawa small press book fair:

Friday, June 06, 2008

subverting the lyric: essays

rob mclennan
Toronto: ECW Press, 2008

My book of literary essays is finally out. Here's information from the publisher's catalogue:
One of the most prolific and engaged book reviewers in Canada over the past fifteen years, Ottawa writer rob mclennan has slowly been moving into longer forms, producing essays on the works of such diverse Canadian writers as George Bowering, Jon Paul Fiorentino, jwcurry, Margaret Christakos, and Barry McKinnon.

subverting the lyric: essays works through mclennan’s years of writing, thinking, and blogging through literature, as reader, writer, performer, editor, critic, reviewer, and just plain fan of the art. In these fifteen pieces, mclennan writes about travel, Canadian poets in general — and some very specifically — as well as his own investigations of the writer’s craft. Together, they remap our literary and linguistic landscape, “the contours, rifts, subductions, tectonic plates of the medium in which we exist,” inscribing a poetics of geography, process, and culture that is at once strikingly new and refreshingly communal. The breadth of mclennan’s take on Canadian poetry, alone, is remarkable: his ability to reconcile the concerns, successes, and failures of both the “mainstream” and the “fringe” of our literature urges — and begins — a critical overhaul that’s been long overdue.

table of contents:
1. Dubliners: Irish Utaniki
2. Not Exactly Two Cents' Worth: jwcurry's 1cent
3. What's Love Got to Do with It? Margaret Christakos' and Excessive Love Prostheses
4. Train Journal: Vancouver ― Toronto
5. A Life Built Up in Poems: Intersections with Some of George Bowering's Lines
6. Yes, I Have Published a Lot of Stuff: A Dozen Reasons Why I Will Not Apologize: A Schizophrenic Text for a Talk I Will Probably Not Follow
7. Tads: An Appreciation
8. Sex at Thirty-One, Thirty-Eight, Forty-Five, Fifty-Two, et cetera
9. A Displacement in Reading: Meredith Quartermain's The Eye-Shift of Surface and Other Writing
10. Jon Paul Fiorentino's Transcona, Winnipeg, and the Poetics of Failure
11. The Trouble with Normal: Breathing Fire 2, Pissing Ice, and the State of Canadian Poetry
12. One Selected, Two Selected: Changing on the Fly: The Best Lyric Poems of George Bowering
13. Some Notes on Narrative and the Long Poem: A Sequence of Sequences
14. Barry McKinnon's North: Opening Up The Centre
15. Notes on a day book
16. no more capital capitals: notes on The Ottawa City Project

various of these pieces (much earlier drafts, in some cases) have appeared in, Open Letter, Jacket magazine, RAMPIKE, The Globe & Mail, and on this blog, over the years.

ECW Press link; American link;
note that Nathaniel G. Moore wrote on such;

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Griffin Trust For Excellence in Poetry
John Ashbery's Notes From the Air: Selected Later Poems and Robin Blaser's The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser Win the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize

TORONTO, June 4, 2008 - John Ashbery's Notes From the Air: Selected Later Poems and Robin Blaser's The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser are the International and Canadian winners of the eighth annual Griffin Poetry Prize. The C$100,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, the richest poetry prize in the world for a single volume of poetry, is divided between the two winners. The prize is for first edition books of poetry published in 2007, and submitted from anywhere in the world.

International Winner
Book: Notes From the Air: Selected Later Poems
Poet: John Ashbery
Publisher: HarpersCollins Publishers/Ecco

Canadian Winner
Book: The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser
Poet: Robin Blaser
Publisher: University of California Press

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Headline: Hurry and Register for the Victoria School of Writing's Summer Intensive Program!!

Registration for the Victoria School of Writing's 13th annual intensive summer session, July 20 – 25, 2008, closes on June 15th. We’re proud to introduce the seven accomplished Canadian

authors who will lead our workshops this year:
Steven Galloway— “Fiction and the Truth”
Sarah Leavitt— “Developing a Graphic Narrative” (Graphica)
Curtis Gillespie— “Why Memoir?”
Rita Moir— “Writing Deeply” (Creative Non-Fiction)
Rosemary Neering— “Getting Published: From Idea to Proposal to Manuscript to Book”
Kathy Page— “The Lovely Hybrid” (Short Fiction)
Susan Stenson— “When the Shadows of the Heart Lift” (Poetry)

A first for us in our 13-year history is a workshop on the graphica genre. “Developing a Graphic Narrative” will be led by writer and illustrator Sarah Leavitt. Participants will do daily cartooning exercises and complete a short graphic narrative by the end of the course. Leavitt’s drawings have been published in Modern Dog and Maisonneuve online and appear regularly in Geist. Her prose has been published in Geist, Vancouver Review, the Globe and Mail and a number of anthologies, and she writes a monthly column for Xtra West. Her thesis was the first graphic narrative in the history of UBC’s Creative Writing MFA program.

Graphica course description:
Throughout the week, course participants will examine comics, graphic novels and graphic memoirs by Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, David B, Seth, Lynda Barry and more with these questions in mind: how does graphic narrative work? What makes these books more than just illustrated prose? What techniques does each creator use to make his or her work cohesive and effective?

Also, Steven Galloway will be teaching Fiction and the Truth. Galloway is the author of three novels which have been translated into over twenty languages and optioned for film. His most recent novel is The Cellist of Sarajevo. He teaches Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, and lives in New Westminster, BC.For more information, please visit our website:

For questions, please email: