Wednesday, November 30, 2005

An Innocent in Cuba, David W. McFadden
2005, McClelland & Stewart, $24.99
398 pages, isbn 0-7710-5506-4

The fourth in his recent series of travel books, An Innocent in Cuba, follows the adventures of Toronto writer David W. McFadden as he travels a month around Cuba. Meeting its history and its people, the narrator revels in talking to random people on the street about Castro, Che, Americans, Canadians and racial divides, as well as observations about late London, Ontario artist Greg Curnoe, and Toronto author André Alexis. McFadden brings in a multitude of references and bits of Cuban history from his own reading, and a previous trip a decade earlier by a Toronto friend, A. How many other travel books have the author claim he will record every roadside pee he witnesses? Following his three earlier collections, An Innocent in Ireland (1995), An Innocent in Scotland (1999) and An Innocent in Newfoundland (2003), McFadden must take copious notes and have an unbelievable memory to bring in the things he does, from the detail of the day to day, to the social and the historical references that work their way through the books. An Innocent in Cuba, subtitled “Further Curious Rambles And Singular Encounters,” works thirty-three chapters in thirty-three days, followed by an epilogue.

"When one spends thirty-three days wandering in any country anywhere, one’s impressions will change from day to day. So in a true travel journal we must be prepared for inconsistencies, reversals, perceptual error, and corrections. When I told the Spanish ladies that, they said it sounds like the kind of book they’d like to read."

The books read much different than the travel novels (now called “non-fiction”) he published in the 1980s, the Great Lakes books written as family trips. Originally published by Coach House Press, the three collections, A Trip Around Lake Erie (1981), A Trip Around Lake Huron (1981) and A Trip Around Lake Ontario (1988) were since rewritten, and issued by Talonbooks in one volume, the collection Great Lakes Suite (1997). Much more family oddities than armchair travel novels, they were easily as entertaining as any of his more recent travel volumes, and well worth reading. One of them, A Trip Around Lake Ontario, was even produced as a thirty-minute film by Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald, who also made the rock and roll movies Highway 61, Roadkill and Hard Core Logo (from the Michael Turner poetry collection of the same name). Apparently a film crew followed McFadden and his family during the trip, so each is the telling of the making of the other (at one point, McFadden even playfully “loses” the film crew for a day).

A book filled with observations and opinions, it still makes me wonder: after all this time, how innocent is author/narrator David W. McFadden (when originally writing the earlier books, he didn’t like my suggestions of A Scoundrel in Scotland or A Nitwit in Newfoundland)? Perhaps it means more how he tries to remain open to ideas, facts and conversations wherever he goes in these books, and not have his opinions completely formed before he arrives, no matter how well researched he might be. Any McFadden travelogue tends to get deeper inside the feel of the place he is in through his playful humour, and conversations that would otherwise never occur; McFadden knows how to get inside the things the tourists miss, and is not only a good listener, but knows often who and what to ask. He works hard to record truthfully what he sees, even if some of the stories might make the author appear foolish. Still, whereas the Ireland and Scotland books provided both maps and an index, I’m disappointed that this collection doesn’t provide the same, allowing for a reference to McFadden’s travels. And I think he knows far too much at this point to be innocent of just about anything.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ongoing notes, late November 2005: notes & more notes

Apparently John Barton, former Ottawa poet and Arc editor, who moved to Victoria BC to take over The Malahat Review, has recently been named the new poetry editor for Karen Haughian's Signature Editions out of Winnipeg, replacing outgoing poetry editor George Amabile. It will be interesting to see what books Barton starts with, after years of journal editing.

& I'm sure you already saw the results of the Giller Prize and the Governor Generals Awards? (I was so hoping Erin Mouré would win for poetry, but there you go).

If you look at Calgary writer Larissa Lai's recent blog entries, it appears that she's currently running around China with writers Fred Wah, Rita Wong, Wayde Compton, Glen Lowry and Roy Miki. What do you think they're doing? I'm very much looking forward to the writing that (hopefully) the trip should be instigating. (& why don't I ever get invited? I mean, I'm fun, after all…).

Oh, and I just found out that ECW Press in Toronto (who published my second poetry collection, bury me deep in the green wood back in 1999) is going to publish a collection of my literary essays in 2007, including pieces I wrote on jwcurry, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Barry McKinnon, Margaret Christakos and Breathing Fire II. I can't even remember the last collection of essays they published. Was it that one by John Metcalf in 1995? There must have been something else since.

And check out the piece I wrote on Ottawa writer (born and raised in Kamloops BC) Clare Latremouille, or this interview that someone else did with Gustave Morin. Broken Pencil magazine keeps threatening to post my interview with outgoing Olive chapbook / reading series (Edmonton AB) editor Adam Dickinson, but they didn't say when, exactly. It was meant to be the second in a series of interviews with editor/publisher types of small chapbooks, such as the one I did previously with Jay MillAr, who runs BookThug.

I'm gearing up to make a whole bunch of publications by poets Barry McKinnon (Prince George BC), Stephanie Bolster (Montreal QC), Karen Clavelle (Winnipeg MB), Sharon Harris (Toronto ON) and the late great bpNichol (Toronto ON), among others, so anyone wanting to subscribe (or re-subscribe) to above/ground press should probably do that real soon. makes a great gift.

& does anyone know why I've had a helicopter circling my neighbourhood (Chinatown) the past few mornings?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

a brief note on the poetry of Karen Solie

Karen Solie's first collection of poetry, Short Haul Engine (Brick Books), was certainly a long time coming (although not as long as the wait for Suzanne Buffam, or that I might simply wait forever for Michael Londry to ever publish a book) after her poems appeared in, among others, the 1995 anthology Breathing Fire (Harbour), and Hammer & Tongs (Smoking Lung, 1999). The collection itself was shortlisted for the second Griffin Poetry Prize, the Gerald Lampert Award and the ReLit Award, as well as winner of the Dorothy Livesay Prize (BC Book Prizes) in 2002. Her poems in this collection were thick with thoughtful phrases and muscular layers.

Some of us are eating small sandwiches.
Some of us have taken pills and are swallowing
glass after glass of gin.

We were never intended to view the curve of the earth

so they give us televisions, a film
about a man and his daughter who teach a flock
of Canada geese to fly.

"In-Flight Movie"

Part of what could easily be called a new generation picking up on Don McKay's "pastoral" (others in this loose group are Ken Babstock, David O'Meara, Adam Dickinson, and even, sometimes, Andy Weaver), Solie's poems exist on the back roads, behind Moose Jaw, and radiate darkness and light, as in the poem "In Praise of Grief" or "Three for a Friend in Lieu of Some Help" that writes, "How often will you say grief / before the sinking of that stone / is complete, its gravity, / at last, rest?" Solie's poems mine adolescent awareness and experience, things that stay with you and do not leave; of rural things that city folk just might not know about. Hers is a familiar movie seen late at night, less a memory.

When the body of an animal
is occupied by a hunter lost
in a killing cold,
steam rises as souls do
from that small red room.


Her second collection, new this year, is Modern and Normal (Brick Books). Published during Brick Books' thirtieth anniversary, the poems in Modern and Normal continue the voice of her previous collection, writing poems on the rough parts of speech in a terrible beauty, poems in a stark and pristine detail. Carved out of speech, hers is an art of wood and the knife; approaching each line like a wood-carver, a surgeon, a scientist. The tensions built up between form and content seem even more resonant, in rough poems of madness or sheer accident, constructed in fine lines. I mean, how many poems in the world do you think exist about football players?

Found: Bruce. After Last Call

-- Overheard. Thursday's Bar, Victoria, Feb, 2000

It was fun. Got us out of Lethbridge.
We used to drive to Raymond
to beat up their quarterback.
They have the highest rate of injury. Short,
usually. My girlfriend Leslie was a sweet
Mormon princess. She left me
for the big man. First time I met him
he patted me on the head and said
"You're a good football player."
I spent four years with the NCAA, brought in
as centre. They liked my attitude and ability
to buy weed. If there're 24 jobs in the NFL
there are 34,000 players applying
for each one. You'd never think it.
I'm a little guy now. Coke. Booze.
Steroids. We dropped acid
and went to the dinosaur museum
in Pocatello, Idaho. Otherwise, lots of guns
and buying drugs from Hawaiians.
If there was an asshole alive,
I knew him. People think all jocks
are fucked. I've spent years apologizing
to my mother for the porcupine incident.

Part of a series of found pieces throughout the collection, each one highlighting another aspect of the world that might not easily fall into poems, or with such speech.

To Have and Have Not

To have missed the plane. To have never fit his body
to his name, felt them click, and that slip-knot below her navel
slip. To have not taken his hand, in a strange city,
and been overcome. To have reconsidered,
and meant it. To have not returned, those missing hours
presented like a bad meal, and thought that this
is how it feels to follow night across the world.
To have not lived inside it since. Oh to have taken
the guidance counsellor's advice and become a secretary.
To have done the right thing, or the wrong one,
but with conviction. To have never read Eros and Civilization
and developed a theory. To have asked questions first,
or none at all. To have never gone with him to the basement
and felt his mouth upon her skin. To have worn
not what she did but instead the blouse, the white one,
that with a touch falls away. To have not felt that slip-knot
slip, his body click, placed her hand upon his hip,
and been pushed up hard against the wall.

Karen Solie reads with David Seymour at the Plan 99 End of Autumn Series, Saturday November 26 at The Manx Pub (370 Elgin Street @ Frank) at 5pm. Hosted/co-organized by David O'Meara.

for future readings at the Plan 99 series (and other Ottawa literary events), check out the listings at Bywords.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Some McLennans (McLennan / MacLennan genealogy, Stormont + Glengarry counties, Ontario)

About fifteen years ago, I decided to start working on a genealogy for my own strain of McLennans, since landing in Canada at Lancaster, Glengarry county, Ontario, from Kintail, Ross-Shire, Scotland, somewhere between 1821 and 1840. A few years into my research, I realized that it probably wouldn't be that difficult to just do every branch of McLennan and MacLennan lines throughout both counties, since I was finding out various bits of information anyway. Now, my main document is over two hundred pages long, with thousands of pages of notes, and perhaps even up to forty-five unrelated families (until I find out where a few of them connect), and I know I'm not even a quarter way done. What the hell was I thinking?

In Marianne McLean's book, The People of Glengarry: Highlanders in Tradition, 1745-1820 (1993, McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal), she talks about the main thrust of highland immigration to Glengarry County, Ontario, between 1770 and 1820, calling it the highest concentration of Scottish immigration in Canada. With a number moving up from Mohawk Valley, New York State (arriving in the colonies a few years before the American Revolution) as Loyalists, by the time Sir John Johnston moved north, arriving in Upper Canada, a number of his clansmen had already settled the area, and had saved them some space. Johnston even made time to found New Johnstown (what is now Cornwall) on land he decided was his, no matter how many natives were already living there (a whole other issue). By the time the county had started to fill up, later arrivals from Scotland were willing to rent swampy land in Glengarry just to be near family and friends, rather than get better land for free in Rideau County.

As impressive as the records for Glengarry County are (in the fact that there are a whole pile of them), there are often entries that contradict, names that get changed or shifted, and whole pieces of information that are told through memory much later on, and not fact. Genealogy, as a whole, is bloody frustrating; and only part of it comes from the fact that the Scots only had a handful of first names they used (John, Murdoch, Malcolm, Farquhar, Alexander and Robert), sometimes more than one even in the first generation.

And memory is a tricky thing, after all. After he retired, Glengarry MP John McLennan (1821-1893), wrote whole articles on his grandfather Murdoch's arrival into Canada from Scotland on the Neptune in 1802, and got whole swaths of information skewed. Even my own family bible (given to my great-grandparents as a wedding present) has names and dates slightly off, of relatives not far enough away to have gotten wrong.

Through all the histories I've read of Glengarry county, Montreal (check out the new book The Scots of Montreal, a pictoral album edited by Nancy Marrelli and Simon Dardick, published by Véhicule Press, in collaboration with the McCord Museum of Canadian History and the St. Andrew's Society of Montreal) or the west relating to important characters, very few places actually mention McLennan names or lines. Some names were included as organizers of the Neptune exodus from Kintail, Ross-Shire, Scotland, including Murdoch McLennan, for example, who was supposedly a wealthy landowner, as opposed to most of the rest of the immigrants, who were farmers (Glengarry immigration was also rare in the fact that it wasn't individuals or families but entire boatloads that came over from the Highlands). There were also at least two politicians, a number of lawyers, and at least one carpenter. My great-grandfather's oldest brother John McLennan was a contractor for multiple buildings in Glengarry and beyond, including the Presbyterian Church in Maxville in 1899, and the Bank of Montreal on Sparks Street in Ottawa in 1900; every time he turned around, the weekly Glengarry News was mentioning something he was doing. After moving to Edmonton to find work, he eventually relocated to Earl Grey, Saskatchewan in 1904 with his second wife and four sons.

One of those simple quirks of history, after they arrived to homestead between what is now Earl Grey and Craven, Saskatchewan (just outside of Regina), an "a" was somehow added to their name. It took me five years to find their descendants, all MacLennans living in Regina, who presumed their John had come direct from Scotland, instead of being the first of his family born in Canada in 1851, with two generations behind him and five siblings left behind in Glengarry. They certainly didn't know the name had been changed.

Murdoch's descendants are especially interesting, including his aforementioned grandson, John McLennan (no relation). Known as John McLennan (By the Lake), he became president of the Montreal Board of Trade, vice-president of the Merchant Banks, and a director of other companies, as well as the Conservative M.P. for Glengarry from 1878 to 1882. He built many of the fine homes along the lake. Their own property became known as the “Ridgewood” estate, now made up of the campgrounds at Lancaster, the Ridgewood Church and a part of the 401 highway.

"The Anglican Church of St. John, the Evangelist, (Church in the Wildwood) held its first service on July 21, 1899. This church was erected on the McLennan (Ridgewood) property on the east front of Lancaster township by Mrs. John McLennan in memory of her husband. Though Anglicans in the area at the time were few in number and the church was almost a private chapel, population change in the next three quarters of a century brought more Anglicans to the community and the importance of St. John’s as a place of worship increased with time. There is a small cemetery beside the church."


I have yet to find more information about the church, but it’s a lovely little church off what used to be the highway (before they had constructed the 401), nestled between the woods and the campgrounds. When I first went to visit it last year, there was something sad about the fact that most of this once grand estate was made up of highway, cutting right between what would have been the space between the house and the shore. John's son Duncan sold what was left of it by the 1950s, when it was turned into highway and parkland.

Another relative, John Stewart McLennan, son of the MP's brother Hugh, moved to Chicago and married Louise Ruggles Bradley, the daughter of Frances and Sarah Bradley, eventually moving from Chicago IL to settle in Sydney NS. In 1899, J.S. developed plans for the construction of the estate that would be known as Petersfield, in Nova Scotia. In 1904, he purchased the Sydney Post and became its owner-publisher, amalgamating it in 1933 with its rival, the Sydney Record (a predecessor of today’s Cape Breton Post). In 1916, Prime Minister Borden appointed J.S. to the Canadian Senate. He was the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from McGill University, granted fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Historical Society of Canada, a member of the Boston Tavern Club (an association of people of accomplishment), and of the Champlain Society.

“Hugh McLennan, J.S.’s father, had been very involved in Montreal and this involvement led him to be interested in McGill University. An endowment to the university was funded by the McLennans and in 1969, the McLennan Library was built to house research books for graduate students. The library was named in honour of Isabella McLennan, daughter of Hugh, whose estate helped finance the library. Much earlier, in 1881, Hugh McLennan had given financial aid to McGill. in 1883, Hugh became a governor of the university. Hugh also financed the McLennan Traveling Library of Montreal in 1901. This library was the first of its kind in Canada.”

(from “McLennans of Petersfield”)

Unfortunately, the estate was considered a prime location for the military during the Second World War, but the Canadian government couldn't be bothered to keep it up.

"On her father’s death, the Petersfield estate passed to Katherine. It writes, of January 1941, that 'Katherine discovered that the federal government planned to expropriate Petersfield for use as a naval base [...] Katharine was forced to pack up all her belongings and abandon the estate. For a time, Petersfield was used as a residence for Royal Navy officers and a base for the Free French. After the war, Petersfield was of no further use to the government and the buildings were allowed to deteriorate to the point where they had to be destroyed. Even the oak tree was vandalized and had to be torn down. Katharine had moved her things into a house at 49 Whitney Avenue in Sydney. This would be her home until her death.'”

(from “McLennans of Petersfield”):

It would be, I think, extremely easy to write a book on the history of a few branches of the McLennans, and extremely interesting, given the amount of research I've already done. Far quieter are my branch, generations upon generations of farmers, cheese-makers and carpenters. Apart from the notice of land grant in 1845, the earliest entry I can find on my folk in Canada are in the 1851 census (considered the first complete census):

1851: Lancaster, Glengarry
(head of household) John McLennan (married), Scottish descent, 70 years old, born in Scotland, occupation farmer
2) Christianna McLennan (married), Scottish, 61 years old, born in Scotland
3) John McLennan, Scottish, 36 years old, born in Scotland, occupation carpenter
4) Roderick McLennan, Scottish, 34 years old, born in Scotland, occupation labourer
5) Mary McLennan, Scottish, 26 years old, born in Scotland, occupation spinster
6) Christianna McRae, Scottish, 9 years old, born in Glengarry (granddaughter of head of household)
(Log House)

It seems interesting to me that they're still in Lancaster, where they landed (my great-great grandfather, John, arrived with wife and six children; the last was born in Scotland in 1821), considering they took a land grant in Stormont County, on the "Indian lands" in 1845 (a two-mile swath from the St. Lawrence to the Ottawa, once considered Mohawk Territory; where my parents still live). (I don’t even want to get into the whole "spinster at 26" issue.) There was a rule at the time that if you hadn't cleared the land to live on, after a certain amount of time, you lost your land grant. I am presuming this is why my folk sold their land grant in 1860, and purchased the land right next to it, living there well into the 1900s (my great uncle Scott, childless, sold the land in 1954 and retired to Ottawa). Much earlier, my grandfather, not being the oldest, needed somewhere else than the homestead to live with his wife and small child, and re-purchased the original land in 1942, after moving twice, including a year they spent in a log cabin across the road from his parents and remaining siblings. Imagine: my father's family has been living on the same road for one hundred and fifty years. My sister and her family currently live in the log cabin, in the house where our father was born.

Anyone with related information on any McLennan/MacLennan lines throughout the two counties, drop me a line. I think I'd like to get this thing finished and published sometime before I die. Either through email (rob_mclennan (at) hotmail (dot) com) or post, at 858 Somerset Street West, main floor, Ottawa Ontario Canada K1R 6R7

related entry: McLennan, Alberta; a note on Stephen Brockwell’s Glengarry poems; Clare Latremouille & the moon
related links: MacLennan Family Genealogy Forum

Monday, November 07, 2005

Ongoing notes, early November 2005: some journals & a few unexplored issues

By now you probably know the news about Ottawa poet Marianne Bluger, who died at home on October 29, 2005, after a lengthy illness. A note here with a link to her own obituary.

Otherwise, have you seen the new poems online by Anita Dolman, or this website with pieces by Meredith Quartermain and others? These poems by Steve Ross Smith and others? My friends David Scrimshaw & David Taylor had a Hallowe'en party (I dressed up as a bee; apparently my lovely daughter dressed up as an assassin). Check out Scrimshaw's Scribbles. Super-blogger John W. MacDonald did a piece (with piles of photos) on our one and only (so far) Peter F. Yacht Club reading / regatta (aren't you sorry you missed it?). The TREE Reading Series anthology, Twenty-Five Years of Tree, edited by James Moran and Jennifer Mulligan (BuschekBooks) is finally out. My cousin Lori Anne has a blog now, as does the Toronto writer (moved to Chicago) Kate. Toronto writer Stuart Ross seems to think I have a book out this year Is there something he knows that I don't? And I'm very much this song these days. And maybe this one too. And this one. And my lovely daughter lately has been telling me to listen to Ok-Go.

And did you know that Saturday, November 5th was the 400th anniversary of the gunpowder plot? It was Carmel Purkis' birthday, too (we don't have photos of that), and we never did get around to burning anything in effigy, but we did acknowledge Guy Fawkes Day. Shouldn't we in Canada have a Paul Chartier Day too? Shouldn't we be burning him in effigy on Parliament Hill? We're so polite and unaware in Canada.

Some Canadian online journals worth reading, just so you know, are W (out of the Kootenay School of Writing in Vancouver), Michael Bryson's The Danforth Review (Toronto), Rob Budde's stonestone (Prince George BC), It's Still Winter (Prince George), the late PHU online (Calgary), Meredith Quartermain and Jacqueline Turner's The News, and of course, my own ottawater (a second issue due in January) and There are probably a bunch more, but who can keep track? (hint hint: send links: send emails to me c/o az421 (at) freenet (dot) carleton (dot) ca.) Here are a few of the Canadian literary journals that I (somehow) feel the need to own every issue of.

Calgary AB: I've been a big fan of the new dANDelionmagazine since it was formed from the ashes of the old, phoenix-like, just a few years ago. Originally, the magazine spent about twenty-five or so years publishing more formally conservative work, and for whatever reason, couldn't quite make the sales, and folded (probably not even how it happened). Somehow, a bunch of grad students that then-professor Fred Wah oversaw took over the journal, and all hell broke loose, turning it from Dandelion into the current incarnation of dANDelion (see how with each issue, the type fades on either side, revealing only AND…).

Publishing regularly the work of parts of the ongoing "Calgary Renaissance" (as George Bowering once called it, in his anthology And Other Stories), he past few issues they've been exploring theme issues, including a large issue on the late artist, writer and teacher Roy Kiyooka, and another on "Disaster," pairing it up with not only an art opening or two, but with a series of clever readings. The most recent two issues are the "absurd" issue (Volume 30, issue 2) and the "science fiction" issue (Volume 31, issue 1).

Call it my own geeky weakness, but the best part of the "science fiction" issue has to be Jon Paul Fiorentino's "Sonnet of R2-D2," that reads:

Tweet blip blip doot tweet blip blip doot beewoo
Deep vree wop vreet; vree waap deep beep vreet woo
Twoo beep dee vroop dee vroot vroop vreep buurwaap
Doop deep beewoo burrwaap vreet doop - beewoo!
Beewoo whoot wop eeeet oooo burrwaap burrwaap.
Bwop bwoop blip breeet bip bop beep breeoo, breeoo
breeoo blip doot. Vreet tweet burr waap deep doop
burr waap breeeet vroot vroot beewoo beep braap woo.
Vreet deep! Vreet deep! Vroot bap beewoo breeoo!
Oooo breeet deep. Oooo breeet deep. Beewoo bip bip.
Vroot bap! Vroot beep! Vreet beewoo bap breeoo!
Oooo bip whoot vroot whoot dee tweet waap bip bip.

Whoot whirr eeeet bip tweet blip woo beep breeoo?
Wop woo vreet oooo vroot beewoo braap burrwaap!

The same piece also appears in his chapbook Selected Losses (BookThug, 2005), which I talked about in my "Ongoing notes, late late October" piece. Other highlights include writing by Jason Christie, Steve Venright, paulo da costa and Sharon Harris, as well as a number of other people I've never heard of (which is always interesting). There is also a full colour section in the centre of the magazine showcasing work from Calgary's The New Gallery, including artwork by Clint Wilson, Blair Brennan, Les Newman, Paméla Landry, Jason Christie, Christian Kuras, Ted Hiebert, Robyn Moody, Kay Burns, Sara Graham, Mark Clintberg, Liz Nowatschin and Gem Salsberg.

Montreal QC: Founded way back in 1975, Matrix magazine, currently edited by poet and Concordia professor R.E.N. (Robert) Allen the past few years, and associated with the university, regularly publishes the work of some of the more interesting Montreal-based writers, including Jon Paul Fiorentino (now managing editor), David McGimpsey, Stephanie Bolster, Andy Brown (editor/publisher of Conundrum Press, and also the current Matrix designer) and Corey Frost, among so many others that have emerged over the past decade or so (see also the anthology Brown and I edited, YOU & YOUR BRIGHT IDEAS: NEW MONTREAL WRITING that Vehicule Press was nice enough to publish in 2001).

To acknowledge some of the ongoing work that Matrix has been doing in regards to the author interview, Montreal's DC Books (formerly Delta Can Books, founded by Louis Dudek) even published The Matrix Interviews in 2001 as their annual Moosehead Anthology #8, edited by R.E.N. Allen and Angela Carr. The anthology featured interviews going back a number of years, as far back as 1979 and as late as 2000, with Robert Allen, Martin Amis, Nick Bantock, Neil Bissoondath, Marie-Claire Blais, Stephanie Bolster, Anne Carson, Michael Crummey, David Fennario, Amitav Ghosh, Michael Harris, D.G. Jones, Irving Layton, Robert Majzels, Erin Mouré and Gail Scott.

The most recent issue, number 71, is a special "comics" issue, that also includes a baseball supplement (remember the Expos?). The issue features the comic work of Joe Ollman (a regular to the magazine), Jason Lutes, Howard Chackowicz, the comic genius (so says I) of Billy Mavreas (another regular), among others, and writing by Elizabeth Bachinsky, a. rawlings, derek beaulieu, Andy Brown, Brian Joseph Davis and Elisabeth Belliveau, and an interview with Danzy Senna by Wayde Compton. One of the highlights has to be Montreal writer David McGimpsey's piece "Baseball 2005: Who's Your Daddy Now?" McGimpsey, a gifted poet and fiction writer, has been writing about and loving sports for years (you should read his regular travel pieces in EnRoute magazine), and his knowledge shows, as the piece begins:

"I love the traditions in Major League ballparks: when they sing "Sweet Caroline" at Fenway, the thrilling sausage-mascot races in Milwaukee, hanging out in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium late into the night because you've forgotten where your car is. But, of all the current traditions, the best is at Yankee Stadium, where, when the Yanks win, Frank Sinatra's version of "New York, New York" is played over the loudspeakers and when the Yanks lose they still play "New York, New York" but the version by Liza Minelli."

Another highlight has to be the essay by Patrick R. Burger, "They Say You Never Forget Your First Love: The Avengers #165," on the first comic book he ever owned when he was a kid, and just what the whole thing meant. Who doesn't remember their first comic? (Mine was an early issue of Fantastic Four, with Dragon Man on the cover, bare days before I picked up Amazing Spider-Man #156 and got hooked… arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm with Doctor Octopus!) And of course, how could you not love the "Drunken e-mails!" by Jon Paul Fiorentino?

She Is Blond Sin
(On His Blindness)

Dim, nephritic, yet single (whoosh!)
She's a dandy kid. Why film her drear wilt and
Tease the wanton hidden clit? Oh had I that
Molten loadstone rebel--gum my thighs. She is down
To her panties. Revere her knees. Tada my
Darling! In time he ruts her cunt. My curt
Deus ex machina goads both girl and Delt. Today
Only I partake in neither--devout--but
Soon that rumour (not greed) plies me. Don't
Fight. She's a Norse beast. Now I stroke her.
Baby my every limb seeks this state…hide, eh? His
Deep kiss taunts singly. Ding! Had I shod a bi
Dancer (post Streisand) taut and low--oh
Woo! What a dish! And to yell nasty verse!

-- Elizabeth Bachinsky

Strathroy ON: Recently moved from London, Ontario (where he recently retired from teaching at the University of Western Ontario) to Strathroy, just a bit out of town, is Frank Davey's Open Letter: A Canadian Journal of Writing and Theory. A constant for writing on writing for decades now, Open Letter has featured issues on various explorations of the avant, including issues on notation and visual poetry, the demise of Coach House Press, little magazines in Canada, the long-liners conference at York University in 1996, and even single-author issues, publishing issues of essays by Robert Kroetsch, Victor Coleman, Louis Dudek and Warren Tallman, an issue by the editors of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, an issue of short fiction by Sheila Watson, as well as issues on the work of Kroetsch, Alice Munro, Fred Wah and Pauline Butling, and bpNichol, among so many others. Even the magazine's list of contributing editors reads as a who's who of Canadian non-linear literary theory, including Barbara Godard, Terry Goldie, Smaro Kamboureli, Steve McCaffery, Lola Lemire Tostevin and Fred Wah (previous contributing editors include George Bowering, John Bentley Mays, Stan Persky and bpNichol). Essential reading for anyone interested in ongoing Canadian writing, Davey (every so often) even allows the journal to fall into the hands of guest editors, including recent issues edited by Stephen Cain, derek beaulieu, Jason Christie, Louis Cabri, Susan Rudy, Nicole Markotic, and Jars Balan.

The most recent issue, "New Canadian Fiction," guest-edited by Karis Shearer, focuses on the new slew of fiction writers that have appeared over the past few years, with pieces on Jessica Grant (Jessica Schagerl), Russell Smith (Aaron Schneider), literary awards (Terri Susan Zurbrigg), Lynn Crosbie (Ian Rae), André Alexis (Heather Snell), Lisa Moore (Kaya Fraser), Paul Ficoeur (Marc Morlat) and Gustave Morin (Paul Hegedus), as well as short poems by Rae and Schneider. As editor Shearer writes in the introduction to the issue:

"This special issue of Open Letter was in many ways born out of frustration. It originated in part from my own frustration with what my university-setting considers to be 'contemporary' Canadian fiction: this tends to include work from the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s, but to exclude work by younger writers published in the last fifteen years. Essentially, Canada's 'contemporary' writing continues to be represented by the (often mid-career) work of George Bowering, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, and Michael Ondaatje. […] Our now-canonical writers are of a generation that captured the spotlight in their own youth (in some cases, over forty years ago) and continue to hold it today -- a remarkable longevity. Their early literary success is inevitable. According to the MLA International Bibliography, three years after the publication of their third words of prose fiction, Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood could claim 91 and 82 journal articles on their work, respectively. Applying the same filter to more recent authors (measuring three years after their third prose publication, excluding interviews and book chapters), we find that there are 6 journal articles on Thomas King's work, 5 on Russell Smith's; 4 on Douglas Coupland's; there are 3 articles on the work of Evelyn Lau and Yann Martel, respectively; 2 on M.G. Vassanji; 1 on Lynn Coady; and none on Jane Urquhart. The lack of critical attention has not gone unnoticed by our contemporary writers."

I find it interesting that Open Letter would focus an issue on an issue that is helped further along by journals such as Open Letter, publishing another issue on the writers of the 1960s as recently as two years ago. Such a gesture means volumes, and Shearer is doing important work, highlighting, as one author called it, the "imaginary photograph" taken in 1974: if you weren't in the picture, you got very little (to no) attention as an author for the next few decades. Still, there is much hope for this generation of new writers, as the writers of the 1960s that have worked so hard to shape the landscape of both writing and theory now reach (or already have reached) retirement age (Bowering, Wah, Scobie, Barbour, Davey, Hogg, etcetera). Who do you think will be there, waiting, to take those jobs, and shift the curriculum focus?

Calgary AB: Back to Calgary again, where the ongoing filling Station magazine, founded way back in 1995, has helped the 1990s strain of Calgary renaissance find its own footing, including writers such as Nicole Markotic, Louis Cabri, Larissa Lai, derek beaulieu, Jason Christie and Dean Irvine over the years (many of which appear in the brand new anthology Post-Prairie, published by Talonbooks and edited by Jon Paul Fiorentino and Robert Kroetsch), providing essential links to the more interesting writing coming from other centres such as Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. One of the offshoots of the magazine was beaulieu's own work with his now-defunct housepress, and the reformation of dANDelion.

from Wide slumber for lepidopterists
Hypnic twitch

laid in plant tissues or in narrow slits or crevices. Soft curving of the innocent.

Laid in soft theta tissues or in narrow row innocents.

Laid in narrow tissues or in soft theta curving of the innocence
of narrow tissues; in curves of nonsense lie in no sense in soft curving rows
of tissue curves of innocence narrow soft curves of innocence

laid in soft narrow curves of innocents, of issue,

-- a. rawlings

The current issue, number 33, has a number of interesting pieces in it, including poetry by a. rawlings, Frank Davey, kari Edwards, Natalie Simpson, Natalie Zina Walschots, Tony Tost, Weyman Chan and Jessica Smith, fiction by various folk including Darryl Whetter, Chris Ewart and Jane Chamberlin Grove, and an article by Mark Truscott (the text of his talk from his Speakeasy lecture, curated in Toronto by BookThug editor/publisher Jay MillAr), as well as some visual poetry, visual arts, and the usual stack of book reviews. One of the best parts of this issue has to be the interview between Natalee Caple and Jessica Grant (they both also have fiction in this issue), interviewing each other. Broken in two sections, it moves from "Natalee's Answers to Jessica's Questions" to "Jessica's Answers to Natalee's Questions." (For those who don't know, Calgary fiction writer Jessica Grant is the author of Making Light of Tragedy, published by Porcupine's Quill in 2004, and Toronto author Natalee Caple, last year's writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary, is the author of a collection of poetry, a collection of short fiction and two novels, most recently the novel Mackeral Sky.)

As Natalee's Answers begin:

Jessica: One of my favourite scenes in Mackeral Sky takes place in the lepidopterium. First of all, I loved learning the word lepidopterium. Second of all, I loved the bilingualism of that scene. Science meets poetry, and you make them feel like the same language. Or maybe a new language. Are you aware of poetry informing your fiction? Or perhaps a better question is: Do you think your versatility in other genres (poetry, short fiction, non-fiction) has made you a more daring novelist when it comes to language?

Natalee: Thanks Jessica. Scientific language is very poetic because it is very indulgent. Very, I dub thee! I loved learning the word lepidopterium too. There is no lepidopterium in Montreal. There is an insectarium and it probably has a butterfly section but I just imagined the butterfly world so I could use that word. I wanted the scenes with Jules and Jim to be particularly evocative of films from the French New Wave but with a Canadian twist so "French" becomes French-Canada and I looked through Frommers guides for particularly neat places in and around Montreal to set the killings. I wanted to set the brutal violence against spectacularly beautiful settings to make them more shocking to the sense, but also more surreal. The Upper Laurentians and Eastern townships of my childhood are mysterious and overwhelming in the way that any huge natural landscape is to a child. And my first encounters with that landscape seem very poetic. My young consciousness was absorbing and being absorbed into, the ancient landscape, the mountains and fjords (another word I wrote a scene just to use) and mixed history of French and English Canada. I'm very aware of deliberately incorporating poetry into fiction. I think the two forms inform each other by creating a constant shift in emphasis. Poetry reminds me to stay close to the language and create chaste images that flower in the imagination. And fiction reminds me to keep moving and stay on the action. Poetry is about the fragment for me and fiction is about movement. I went back to Nabakov and his writing on butterflies to find my style for that scene. But I also threw in a few contemporary film references as with the Death's Head Moth, which appears most recently in the film Silence of the Lambs.

Along with dANDelion, filling Station (which also organizes a number of readings and launches throughout Calgary) is one of the anchors of the prairies. Everyone should own copies.

The world is ready to move
on without America

Before this beautiful experiment
that is your face, your eyes,
begins not to see creation--before
you breathe a street in Paris
and send your first postcard back home,
before words break through
liberating the act as it's overtaken,
there will be
sanctioned atrocity behind this walls…

falling plum blossoms in a bamboo flute, listen, like
--just like that.

Fu-sang, the tree of Immortality, burns
celadon Kuan Yin of the navel,
give freely sage tender ming

"the wind brings willow-cotton," he composes
while prepping inkstone dipped tip
heme scepter. "The local poets bore me,"
was another memory, internexus
brushstroke lived, splashed through rice paper
and again visualizes "unrooted water-grass"
sea-saffroning a wide swathe of peace
the dew prevalent in the first aired-out hours
before dark lifts, curved mercy at its post colonial
perestroika, captures the lonely
imbiber, toasting moon-cup-shadow
in rootless hours shadows make of us.

-- Weyman Chan

Friday, November 04, 2005

an interview with Ottawa artist Dave Cooper

Probably the most active writer/artist in underground comics over the past few years, Dave Cooper is the creator of various books and serials, including the Harvey Award-nominated Suckle: The Status of Basil, Crumple, Pip & Norton (with Gavin McInnis), and Dan & Larry in Don’t Do That! His work has appeared in various formats, from publications by Fantagraphic Books to appearances in Montreal’s Vice magazine, Dark Horse Extra, Scatterbrain, and Zero Zero. He has done work for Owl magazine (“Dr. Zed”), and designs for Matt Groening’s Futurama. His current project is the ongoing series Weasel, the new issue of which features Cooper’s fine art oil paintings, with an introduction by David Cross, that has already gone into a second printing. The Weasel serial, Ripple, appeared as a collection in July, 2003, with an introduction by David Cronenberg. Dave Cooper lives in Ottawa with his wife, Julie, and their toddler, Jacob Nathan Parker Cooper, born April 15, 2003. This interview was conducted over email, starting just before Jake’s birth, as Julie was already a week past her due date.

rob mclennan: First off, how the hell did you get an introduction for Weasel #6 (a.k.a. Overbite) by David Cross (from HBO's Mr. Show)?

Dave Cooper: I introduced myself to David in the hotel lobby of the San Diego Comic Book Convention last summer. He's a big comic book enthusiast. I'd seen him and a number of the other "Mr. Show" guys at San Diego in past years. I remember, about 5 or 6 years ago I was at a Fantagraphics Books party in San Diego. I squeezed my way into a circle of people that were listening to Bob Odenkirk recall his days on Saturday Night Live. I was way too shy to let him know how much I loved Mr. Show. During a lull in the chatter, I was frozen staring at him smiling insanely and giggling a little. I must have looked like I wanted to lick him. I’m sure I totally creeped him out. Luckily he had no idea who I was. So when I saw David last year, I resolved to introduce myself like a normal human being. I mean, most people would be excited to see Madonna, or Brad Pitt, or somebody like that, but I couldn't give a shit about them... I guess David IS my Madonna. anyway, he was very friendly and welcoming for somebody who obviously isn't that at ease being accosted by strangers. It turned out he was already familiar with my work. When it came time to put out my first full-colour, coffee table artbook of Paintings, he was the first person who came to mind to write the introduction. especially since I knew he was as good a writer as he is a comedian. His monthly column in Vice magazine kills me.

rm: Your vision in Crumple and parts of Weasel seem both futuristic and post-apocalyptic in an unreal, even surreal way while maintaining a gleeful innocence. How is that balance maintained? As well, it makes the fact that you work for Futurama entirely appropriate. Does one feed off the other?

DC: it's more a case of either one becoming excruciatingly boring to me without the other. in the past I’ve always wanted a lot of that sort of contrast in all my stories. I find it puts the reader off balance a little, puts them in a position where they're not quite sure what to expect. and to me that's the perfect place to be as a reader. I’ve always loved the juxtaposition of cute with savage. like the first time, as a little kid, that you see your nice little kitty tear the head off a mouse and suddenly look like it might tear your fingers off if you interfere... but I’m starting to be able to separate the cute and the savage into their own distinct projects- for instance, "Ripple" is pretty unrelentingly dark and nasty. but to offset that, I’m in the midst making children's books, and comics for kids.

rm: It reads as though you revel in these contradictions, between innocence and desire, and humiliation, degradation and unmentionable sexual fixations, the, as you say, "cute with savage."

DC: Yeah, I do. Come to think of it, it's probably the one driving interest in all of my adult work. the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness as David Cross put it in the introduction. like how a bug or a wound can be sublime in their own way. or how a pretty girl or flower can be almost repellent they're so obvious about their beauty...

rm: What is it about the tensions between the two that fuels your work?

DC: It's just that give and take, I guess. Like your point of reference is always changing or something. I don't know that I'm SUCCESSFUL with that, but certainly that's what I'm AFTER. Maybe it's an attempt to mirror that ambiguity in reality. the pretty things don't always equal good, and the ugly things don't always mean jeopardy. If I could infuse all my work with some of that sentiment I'd be happy.

rm: The anthology format of the first few issues of Weasel had a number of stories running through, and other oddbits, including the five-chapter "Ripple." Why did you go this route instead of the single-story per issue?

DC: Again, it's a way of avoiding tedium. I really love using different drawing styles and techniques, and telling different kinds of stories, but I can only tolerate working in any given style for about a week or two at the most. At that point, I suddenly HATE any style, but I’m ACHING to work in some other style. Then the same thing happens in a week or two. So I’m constantly going from one project to the next. By starting up "Weasel" and forcing myself to serialize 2 or 3 different stories at once, I’m really making my restlessness into a strength rather than a weakness.

rm: It was once said of the London, Ontario artist Greg Curnoe, that he was worth watching (partly) because you didn't know what he'd do next. Is this the same kind of logic you work from?

DC: The combined elements of boredom (multiple projects at once) and keeping a reader guessing? I really hope that's the case. I'm always a bit shy to claim that sort of thing, because the really savvy reader may not find any of my work surprising at all. but yes, to me that would be the ultimate. Often the only visceral reactions I get from art are when either the expected, or the unexpected happen. The former gives me a disappointed, queasy feeling and the latter can make my heart race and make me want to create.

rm: You seem to employ a range of styles of drawing and storytelling, multi-tasking (at one point) three very different serials for various anthologies: "Dan & Larry" in Dark Horse Presents, "Crumple" in Zero Zero, and the all-ages "Pip & Norton" in a slew of publications from Dark Horse, including Scatterbrain, Guff and Dark Horse Extra, as well as Montreal's Vice magazine...

DC: Yeah, that was before I started Weasel. Before I came to the revelation that I needed to find a way of bringing all my different projects under one banner so that people would be aware of what I was doing. I remember during that time being so frustrated because even though I was productive as hell, a lot of people weren't aware of it. They'd only really notice the work once each body of work was collected into their own separate graphic novels. "Dan & Larry" was the most pronounced example of that. The story was serialized in about five 12-page installments, and it was probably the most disturbing, heartfelt story I'd ever done. But there was almost no response to the work because it was serialized in this awful, mainstream comic anthology. The only reason I got that gig in the first place was because an editor at Dark Horse Comics loved my work. When I finally collected all the installments into the "Dan & Larry" graphic novel, people loved it. It was so weirdly gratifying to get that delayed reaction, something like 3 or 4 years after the fact.

rm: When composing, how does the story impact upon the style of artwork, and does one come first, or are they concurrent?

DC: They're pretty concurrent. Usually my stories grow out of a character sketch that I’ve doodled. Then most of the story elements come together when I’m walking. For whatever reason, a particular character or mood will possess me, and that will be all I can think of as I’m walking around town. Everything I see will suddenly start relating to the ideas that are bouncing around in my head. It will become like a snowball rolling down a hill. The actual act of writing is just a necessary evil for me. Getting important dialogue or "stage direction" onto the page so I can start to make drawings. I really hate writing - except maybe for emails and travel journals - but writing fiction takes too much patience and thought. I prefer for my drawings to make their own subtext. it just comes out of nowhere, like I’m an idiot savant.

rm: You seem adept at creating fantastical machines, and odd creatures such as "Larry" (from Dan and Larry in Don't Do That!). Where does this fascination with strange technologies come from?

DC: That almost certainly comes from my Dad. he's a very talented jack of all trades. retired now, but still making all sorts of interesting things. When I was growing up he was the town doctor in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. He's the type of man who always has to be busy. he always built boats when we were in the Maritimes, and also always had a machine shop in the basement where he'd make machine parts and construct little contraptions for fun. Like little cars, or miniature steam engines. I mean steam engines actually worked! As a kid, I was always fascinated with that stuff, but unlike my older brothers, I had absolutely ZERO aptitude for mechanical things. or for anything other than drawing for that matter. I’m the same way now. And I was always a terrible student, a high school drop-out. But that fascination for complex machinery and industrial design just seems to get more and more pronounced over the years. It's become a really important part of my work. it crops up all over the place, even when I don't mean for it to.

rm: Where did the Weasel features "Television program x-32b" and the "Encyclopedia Nonsensica" come from?

DC: The “Television program x-32b" is really like a dream diary for me in a way. Part dream diary, part exercise in non sequitur bullshitting. It's actually one of my favorite parts of Weasel. It's the one thing that I could see myself doing now and again for the rest of my career. It's actually fun to get in that headspace and just be surprised by what I find there. The protagonist is Eddy, and he just lives in this puzzling world where nothing seems to make sense, yet everything is logical in its own way. Usually the stories stem from some snippet of a dream that sticks with me, or a handful of them, but then I treat the snippet like any other story idea, and freely fictionalize it or twist it, then I almost unthinkingly string them together with a bunch of other nonsense and see what happens. The one drawback to that stuff is that it's incredibly draining to illustrate. Drawing even a 7-page story can feel like writing a novel! The "Encyclopedia Nonsensica" stuff is really just messed up eye candy. those contraptions began as sketchbook improvisation. Just sitting and making up the most implausible machines or vegetation that I could come up with, then rendering them as realistically and plausibly as possible. I was obsessed with that for a while. I wanted to finally have a 300-page book out of it. But after five issues of Weasel (about 7 or 8 pages of "Encyclopedia Nonsensica"), I think I’ve had my fill. I suppose that work really stemmed from my childhood fascination with my Dad's crazy machines and also the garden sketching that I used to do with my Mum at a very young age.

rm: How do you think being a father will alter what you do? The need and want has already appeared in places here and there, but do you think this will change anything, or simply focus what has already appeared?

DC: Spoken like a fellow father, rob. I worried about this a lot up until a few days ago- I worried that I might lose interest in work, that all my thoughts would be with my son. But now I know that the love of your offspring isn't taken from some other part of your heart. It appears out of nowhere. It's like blowing more air into a balloon that was only half full to begin with. All my other interests are still there, and they even seem more -yes, "focused" is the perfect word.

rm: I remember being extremely disappointed when Gavin McInnis stopped doing his Pervert Comics...

DC: Me too! but I admired him for the decision. it reminded me of when I quit drums so that I could devote myself to my art rather than dividing my time.

rm: How did the Pip and Norton collaboration begin?

DC: Gavin and I became friends through our comics, it was at a time before email when there was this really healthy community of comic artists who were prolific letter writers. It was at a time when I was beginning to gain a bit of notoriety in the industry- I was beginning to get a lot offers to do really short stories for a number of Dark Horse anthologies. They were all-ages books, so I wanted to do some light, funny pieces. ...light and funny is not my forté... so I called Gavin and suggested that we create some characters together that we could wheel out whenever I was offered that kind of work. I've always preferred to somehow turn any minor gig into a small piece of some future collection- it helps my motivation. So we made all these short stories and strips and mini-serials with a view to collecting them one day. Now, five years later that's happened. A nice little 72-page collection, Completely Pip and Norton.

rm: Will there be any other collaborations on the horizon, whether with Gavin or anyone else?

DC: For now Gavin and I are just concentrating on more possible Pip and Norton projects, but it's certainly possible that we could do something else together. He's just about the funniest person I could imagine, and his imagination is so fertile it's scary. But as far as other collaborators, yeah- I'm thinking about that more and more. I'm thinking of making a series of children’s books eventually, each written by a different author. Also, if I get more deeply into tv or film, that will definitely bring with it lots of collaboration. I welcome that. It's a great way to distinguish between my personal Art and my Artful commercial work.

rm: Do you notice a shift in your work through working with someone else?

DC: yes, it automatically makes me more objective and gives me a healthy distance from the work. which is great for certain things. generally anything that I want to be more accessible in one way or another. the work I do purely for myself is almost defiantly inaccessible at times. and I love that. but there's another part of me that really enjoys the idea of making work that not only a hardcore fan would love.

rm: With Weasel being an umbrella for everything you do, how far do you see the series going?

DC: Barring poor sales or boredom on my part, I can see using the Weasel name forever. It may as well be called, "what's in Dave's head at the moment". I was really gratified by the good response from my latest Weasel, which doesn't even have any COMICS in it. It's just a book of paintings. It's really exciting to think of Weasel as not stubbornly comics, but as absolutely anything.

rm: Does this then become your "main" project?

DC: Yeah, in a way. Certainly for my adult, personal work anyway. It's like an illustrated diary or self-analysis. Not necessarily for consumption by the masses.

rm: What other projects are you currently working on?

DC: Right now I'm taking a short hiatus from work while I look after my wife Julie and newborn, Jake. Jake was just born five days ago by caesarian, so I'm in another world right now. It's interesting to be doing this interview actually because it's the only work-related thing I'm doing right now. It's fun to talk about it while I'm totally disinterested in it. It gives me a bit of objectivity. It's neat.

rm: What would you like to be working on that you haven't yet?

DC: I'm so fortunate to be doing so many of the things I've always wanted to. Mainly I'd just like to continue improving at what I do and getting more and bigger opportunities. But to answer your question; kid's books, animation, and maybe even film one day.

rm: Is there anyone who’s work you've seen lately that you'd recommend?

DC: To be honest I haven't looked at anything in ages. when I finished Weasel #5, I totally dropped out of thinking about or reading fiction. with the exception of hours and hours of bad tv. my brain has needed to be turned off for a while. Now with the new baby, I'm getting totally re-charged in a brand-new way. I can't wait to see what happens next. I may just paint from now on. or maybe some new story will start forming. either way, I'll be happy.

rm: Finally, I’m interested in that question that David Cross posed in his Weasel introduction: what is it about kitchens?

DC: I don't know. They're the first thing I tidy if I want the apartment to feel sane. Like the household equivalent of straightening your hair. They're the most comforting place in the home. They're full of neat contraptions. As a child, they're where you first see a loving female figure going about the job of sustaining you. As an adult, they're where the nourishment is kept. They're warm yet hard. But all that jibberish aside, they're an amazing visual backdrop for the female form; the exact opposite of the tired draped bed or lush pasture. Those are just plain redundant-- soft things on soft things. A hard, almost institutional backdrop for soft pink flesh is what it's all about to my way of thinking. More of that contrast we talked about, I guess.

This interview originally appeared in Broken Pencil

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

some (finally) new poetry chapbooks from above/ground press

I've been so behind lately, so, at last, a few new publications to keep the mind happy:

Natalie Simpson (Vancouver BC). The writing that should enter into conversation. $2.
Gil McElroy (Colborne ON). (The Work of Art) In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. $4.
Shauna McCabe (Charlottetown PEI). land over time. $4. (see also her new first full-length collection from my Broken Jaw Press / cauldron books series, the collection ancient motel landscape)
ryan fitzpatrick (Calgary AB). Adolesce. $4.
Christophe Casamassima (Baltimore MD). Septology. $2.
Max Middle (Ottawa ON). Smthg. $4 (see also the interview + poems in the first issue of ottawater)
rob mclennan (Ottawa ON). nine variations on the fifth muse. price $3.
Monty Reid (Ottawa ON). cuba A book. $4.

as well as recent "poem" broadsides by Shauna McCabe, Wanda O'Connor, George Bowering, Jordan Scott, Jeanette Lynes, Gary Barwin and rob mclennan.

Add $1 per order w/in Canada; $2 international.

above/ground press 2006 subscriptions now available: $30 per calendar year for STANZAS, chapbooks, STANZAS, asides, broadsheets + The Peter F. Yacht Club (in Canada, $30 Can/ outside, $30 US). Send all of your money, payable to rob mclennan, c/o 858 Somerset Street West, Ottawa Ontario Canada, K1R 6R7.

Current and forthcoming publications by Julia Williams (Calgary), donato mancini (Vancouver), Andy Weaver (Edmonton), Rachel Zolf (Toronto), Matthew Holmes (Sackville), Gregory Betts (Toronto), Alessandro Porco (Montreal), Stan Rogal (Toronto), Anita Dolman (Ottawa), Cath Morris (Vancouver), George Bowering (Vancouver), Eric Folsom (Kingston) + others.