Wednesday, June 30, 2010

a night above/ground: Irwin, Anstee + McCann

at the Carleton Tavern, 233 Armstrong (at Parkdale)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan
Friday, July 16, 2010; doors 7pm; readings 7:30pm

with readings by:

Marilyn Irwin (Ottawa)
Marcus McCann (Toronto/Ottawa)
+ Cameron Anstee (Ottawa)

A recent graduate of the Winter 2010 edition of rob mclennan’s seasonal poetry workshops and forthcoming graduate of Algonquin’s Creative Writing program, Marilyn Irwin can be seen (mostly) and heard (less) in and around the multi-faceted poetry scene of Ottawa. Published in the sixth issue of the online annual ottawater and almost published elsewhere, she is slowly assembling bits but mostly pieces of her work for something that may resemble a chapbook.

Marcus McCann lived in Ottawa for eight years. Evidence: he published poems in Ottawa-based journals including Bywords, Yawp, the Ottawa Arts Review, The Moose & Pussy, Peter F. Yacht Club and ottawater; performed at the city's reading series, including Dusty Owl, Tree, Factory and the Ottawa International Writers Festival; worked with Ottawa's Chaudiere Books to put out his first trade collection, Soft Where, shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award; won the John Newlove Award; hosted CKCU's Literary Landscapes; organized the Transgress Festival and the Naughty Thoughts Book Club; won the University of Ottawa's 48 hour novella writing contest; worked with local writing grouip Ampers&; sold work at the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair; and shopped at Ottawa's independent bookstores, including After Stonewall, Collected Works, Mother Tongue, Nicholas Hoare and Venus Envy. above/ground press reissued his limited-run self-published Town in a long day of leaving in March 2010.

Cameron Anstee lives in Ottawa ON where he runs Apt. 9 Press and works at Octopus Books. His chapbook Frank St. came out with above/ground press in March 2010.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Salmon Publishing, Ireland; a note,

A little note from lovely Jessie, publisher of Salmon, who published one of my poetry collections last year, possibly publishing a selected poems of mine next; even though everyone is struggling, I still thought this worth posting;
Hello Everyone,

I'm sending this out to everyone in the Salmon address book; if you can pass it on, please do (please spread the word that your book can be purchased postage-free)

As you can imagine, this year is a very difficult one for all poetry presses, certainly we're finding it much harder than last year. Our book agent says that things are picking up, but bookshops are still slow in ordering and paying, and web orders are down. We need to bring in at least 5,000 euro in web sales and donations in the new few weeks.

So, here's the sales pitch: For a limited period we're offering free postage on all our books. This, along with the fall in value of the euro, makes for a great deal for buyers living abroad. Domestic buyers always get a good deal!

Do have a look and choose one, two or a few.
New & Recent Titles:
Current Poetry Titles:
Essays & Memoir:
Drama for schools:

Become a Friend of Salmon:

Thank You and Love,

Monday, June 28, 2010

if i wrote greeting cards

the caption here would read, "I Miss You This Much." A photo provided by neighbours Chantel & Norm, in response to Susan Newlove's query about the Ottawa earthquake; as Chantel wrote, "Ya didn't miss much."

Have I missed my calling in the greeting card industry? Hello, Hallmark!

Friday, June 25, 2010

12 or 20 questions: with Mark Goldstein

Tracelanguage: A Shared Breath, Mark Goldstein's most recent book of poems, was published by BookThug in Spring 2010. It transtranslates poet Paul Celan's seminal 1967 work, “Atemwende.”

In 2008, BookThug issued Goldstein's first book, After Rilke: To Forget You Sang, a series of homophonic translations based on Rilke’s “The Voices.” Accompanying these translations are a set of letters Goldstein wrote in homage to the late American poet, Jack Spicer.
Last fall, Goldstein's Beautiful Outlaw imprint published Handwerk, a slip-cased set of six chapbooks by poets Phil Hall, Erin Moure, Oana Avasilichioaei, Angela Carr, Jay MillAr, and Goldstein. Recently, he facilitated a course on Transtranslation at the Toronto New School of Writing.
He lives in Cabbagetown, Toronto.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My first book was my membership card.

After Rilke was my first trade edition. I originally conceived it as a chapbook until Jay MillAr at BookThug added it to his Spring 2008 list and boosted its print run from 100 to 300 copies. That changed the nature of the book for me and I ended up incorporating a series of Spicer-esque letters throughout the text that added a vital counterpoint to the poems.

Tracelanguage feels like my first proper book because of its scope. It is comprised of nearly one hundred poems compared to the ten poems of “After Rilke.”

That said, “After Rilke” and “Tracelanguage” speak to one another. They’re both transtranslations. I employed a similar methodology when writing both books, although, “Tracelanguage” is elegiac whereas “After Rilke” is more comedic.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

Michael Gelman, an inspirational high school English teacher, led me to poetry. My Grade 10 reading list at Thornlea S.S. included e. e. cummings, Leonard Cohen, Michael Ondaatje, Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, Josef Conrad and Milan Kunderacummings, “Buffalo Bill’s/ Defunct,” was my way in.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

Each project is different. “Tracelanguage” came out of a careful reading and rewriting of Paul Celan’s “Atemwende.” I had a deep need to know that work intimately. I circled around it for three or four years, building up the resolve to take it on. Even as I began writing, I kept telling myself, “Only this poem, just this one poem under hand.” Spicer’s adage – “Write without looking back” – kept me going. Some poems or sections came quickly while others took time. The total draft-manuscript is over 2,500 pages.

4 - 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?

The book is my medium. The poem and the book are one, as are word and letter. One poem extracted from my book is not the book. I hate to lapse into cliché but the book really is greater than the sum of all its parts. In addition, with “Tracelanguage,” I knew I was writing a serial poem because in “Atemwende” there are six cycles.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I enjoy them but they can be distracting. I agree with Philip Levine who said that the trouble with public reading is the return to the desk – there’s no applause.

6 - 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?

Theory is a drag unless it’s useful. Burroughs’ theory of the cut-up is useful because it points us toward a course of action in our writing. The cut-up pushed me to look at other approaches and methodologies: Oulipo; Bernadette Mayer’s Poetry Workshop; Ronald Johnson’s “Radios” (Erasure); and Zukofsky’s “Catullus” which is the granddaddy of post-modern homophonic translation.

Sadly, the bulk of what I hear at poetry readings isn’t poetry at all. It’s stripped of music. It’s blocks of narrative that are warm-ups for the unread novels of the future. Poetry can’t live without a rhythmic throughline. It’s the sounds of words that delight the ear, not their meanings. Meaning is an after effect of the poem. It’s not something in the control of the author.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

Lyn Hejinian said there’s a revolution going on in poetry over the past 30 years. And the affect has been to expand the definition of what poetry is. Without expanding that definition, literature and culture will be left with a number of irrelevant models of poetry as objects of aesthetic reverie but of no relevance to thought or experience or contemporary living.

So our role is to keep the culture alive – create pockets of light amid the malaise and apathy.

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

The editor is essential to my work.

Once the work is written, the poet is dismissed, no longer privy to the poem’s totality. Besides, the poem doesn’t need me. The writer is a kind of midwife: If I don’t deliver the work, someone else will. Another writer might not create an identical work but the works we need and the works we’ll reach for in a time of crisis will be written.

By the time I’m “finished” a work, I’m too close to it. I can’t see it so I rely on a small, trusted group to read the work and suggest changes. Then I look to the poem and see what it requires. I accept some of these changes while I dismiss others. But, ultimately, it’s up to the poem.

And I don’t find the editing part of the process difficult. I find it educational.

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

LISTEN to the sound that it makes -- Pound

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

Have I moved between genres? Outside of journaling and note taking, my work has been exclusively in the poem. Many of my poems were born in my journals. So are my poems journals? Are my journals poems?

Reading is as important to my work as writing. A book is a container full of words. If there are words that I find useful or attractive, I take them and bring them into my poems. As I mentioned earlier, “Tracelanguage” is my reading/re-writing of a work by Paul Celan and yet it is neither “Atemwende” itself nor a pure translation. What is it? Hence the subtitle, “A Shared Breath.”

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?

Three pages every morning, by hand, whether I want to or not, as soon as I wake up. I’ve maintained this practice since 2001. It’s put me in touch with the gestation of a work. At this time of day, I’m more open and less controlling of the word on the page.

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

Books. The Bruce Trail. Friends. Pain.

I have faith in not trying to create. Ebb and flow. It’s important to live. To fill up, to edify myself, so I have something to bring back to the work.

I don’t know if I believe in writer’s block. Just get your ass in the chair.

13 - If there was a fire, what's the first thing you'd grab?

A bucket of water.

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?

All of the above influence me.

Right now, I’m exploring the works of Lucian Freud, Steve Reich, Erik Satie, Mummon (commentaries) and Paul Celan.

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

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

Write a screenplay with my partner.

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?

For the first 15 years of my life, I lived by drawing and making art. For the next 15, I worked as a professional musician. And for the past 10, I’ve dedicated myself to literature. All are one, inseparable. I see myself moving between them. Coming back to art and to music and to the written word, again and again.

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

Fear. Pain. Loneliness. Joy. Loss.

I feel a need to respond to the works that have shaped my mind and my life. As my reading deepened, I felt compelled to reply. The thing that drives me is a total awareness that this is my one trip through.

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

Film: This past winter I watched a documentary called, The Story of Dick Proenneke. Dick lived alone in the wilds of Alaska, for the last 30 years of his life. Luckily for us, he brought along a camera and filmed himself homesteading.

20 - What are you currently working on?

I’m recharging after having written “Tracelanguage.” I have three manuscripts near completion and I’m getting ready to return to these works. But first, time for living.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

fwd: new from AngelHousePress: Pirie & mclennan

Pearl Pirie's over my dead corpus is a feast of sounds, playful and thoughtful poems culled from the corpus of the world. "The main source corpus is over 500 pages of scrap notes that served as fodder for
recombinance. Words or phrases were scraped for letter sequences within syllable or that broke across syllable or word. The other corpus is incidental word combinations from scrabble strung in the mind's insistence for meaning or sound." Pearl Pirie

$5; Limited Edition of 50 copies. ISBN: 978-1-926786-00-1

in house : a (tiny) memoir, rob mclennan
tells us about his childhood in Glengarry County by way of old family photos, his own memories and recollections from family. "Home is a series of recollections, of
distances, as easily remembered as mis-remembered, and a blending of events that can sometimes never be confirmed. "And why write as a 'memoir' instead of calling them 'prose poems'? I want these stories not to be misunderstood; I want them to be seen as what I remember, what I believe to be true, from my vantage point of some three decades later, and thousands of miles. It felt like reclaiming something that had been far away for a very long time, but no longer. It felt like bringing out the good out from underneath all the bad that came later, overshadowing so much of what had happened before."
rob mclennan

$5; Limited Edition of 50 copies. ISBN: 978-0-9783780-7-3

if you are in Ottawa, please attend the launch of over my dead corpus on Friday, June 25 at 7:00pm at the Carleton Tavern, 223 Armstrong St, upstairs. Pearl will be reading as part of the pre-small press fair reading along with Faizal Deen, Mark Goldstein and Myna Wallin.

The chapbooks will be available at the small press fair on Saturday or if you can't make it, at via Paypal or through other means by contacting me directly at

Amanda Earl

the angel is in the house

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

how to save This Ain't the Rosedale Library Bookstore in Toronto; an update

on their situation (in their own words):
Our situation, which could be told as a long story about the plight of bookstores in Toronto and in many North American cities, is really quite a simple one. At our new location in Kensington Market we found a space with lower rent and overheads which thus represented an enticing solution to the difficulty of inflated rents facing many stores of our kind. For a year we worked in this space happily, until the recession hit with full force and we began to fall behind with our rent. Our response to this situation was similar to that of any small retail business. We bought shrewdly, held regular events, did book tables for small press launches, conferences and author appearances, did not invest in advertising, fixtures, signage or renovations, kept only minimal staff (the store has one part-time staff person), and most importantly worked full-time or more with long store hours, while drawing the absolute minimum for our own rent and expenses. In this way we were able, albeit very gradually, to pay our back-rent, and maintain an amicable relationship with out landlord. While the space presented a number of challenges, including our basement flooding whenever there was heavy rain, and though we heard many stories of rent reductions in our own neighborhood we were not offered this option, but continued none-the-less to enjoy working at the store and feel inspired by our customers’ enthusiasm for the books that we were selling. Quite suddenly this changed. Our landlord became impatient with the rate at which we were able to pay her and made demands for large repayments, without providing a precise accounting of what was owing. In light of our workload and the proliferation of other causes in this city, a fundraiser remained only an idea. Instead we responded to these unrealistic demands with an informal proposal which would not have been profitable to us, but to our landlord. We received only further demands which we attempted to meet within our resources until the locks were changed on Friday June 19th. We are once again offering our landlord a choice which would be beneficial to her and allow us to re-open our doors, and are hoping that the outpouring of encouragement from the public might influence our situation. Along with this we are seeking help with organizing a fundraiser, and we are accepting PayPal donations. As we were living day-to-day, as many small business owners do for years after opening or relocating, our own livelihood has been erased, and our present situation is very uncertain. None-the-less we have seen that many people value what we do and are eager to help us, and thus remain hopeful that a resolution is around the corner.

Jesse & Charlie Huisken
check here for link to donate;

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

father's day in yorkville

with a sculpture by Joe Fafard, "Emily Carr and Friends"

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dusie 10: the Canadian issue, edited by rob mclennan, now online

Dusie 10: the Canadian issue
June 20 (solstice), 2010

Guest-edited by rob mclennan

The Swiss online pdf journal Dusie has let me produce an issue of Canadian poetry; an introduction for some, and a further conversation for others. With new writing by: derek beaulieu, Joe Blades, George Bowering, Rob Budde, Emily Carr, Jen Currin, Amanda Earl, Lainna Lane El Jabi, Jesse Patrick Ferguson, Judith Fitzgerald, Asher Ghaffar, Phil Hall, Sharon Harris, Peter Jaeger, Monica Kidd, Anne Le Dressay, Gil McElroy, Barry McKinnon, rob mclennan, Kim Minkus, Pearl Pirie, Monty Reid, Shane Rhodes, Sandra Ridley, Stan Rogal, Natalie Simpson, Christine Stewart, Aaron Tucker and Chris Turnbull. Thanks to Monique Desnoyers for fabulous design.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative

I have to say, I’m pretty much floored by The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative and their first year of publications—Amiri Baraka & Edward Dorn: Selections from The Collected Letters 1959-1960 (series 1, number 1), The Correspondence of Kenneth Koch & Frank O’Hara 1955-1956 Part I and The Correspondence of Kenneth Koch & Frank O’Hara 1955-1956 Part II (series 1, number 2), Darwin & The Writers, Muriel Rukeyser (series 1, number 3), 1957-1977 Selections From The Journals, Part 1 and II, Philip Whalen (series 1, number 4) and The 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference / Robert Creeley’s Contexts of Poetry, with Daphne Marlatt’s Journal Entries (series 1, number 5). As it says in the back of their first volume:
LOST & FOUND: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative emerges from archival work and contemporary textual scholarship being done by students in the English Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, with the generous support of the Center for the Humanities. Forming part of the Living Archives Project, the Initiative will publish work done by students and scholars at the Graduate Center, as well as visiting fellows and guest editors.

By looking in particular at extra-poetic work by writers who have come to be characterized or fall under the rubric of the New American Poetry (correspondence, journals, critical prose, and transcripts of talks), the Initiative can illuminate still largely unexplored terrain of this essential field of 20th-century American literary history and culture.

Given that the availability of archival material proposes alternative versions of literary and cultural history, the Initiative takes the New American rubric writ large, including the affiliated and unaffiliated, precursors and followers, with the eventual aim of opening the Initiative to include ancillary materials that might have been of importance to the writers themselves. The key is for these texts not to be chosen as historical curiosities but for their ability to intervene and intersect with conditions and interpretations of the present.

To anyone interested in the field of “New American Poetry” (a rather open phrase, I’ll admit), there aren’t as many things as you think as required or even essential reading, but this series would certainly fit on that shortlist. Even just for the Creeley/Marlatt book, there have been a number of documents over the years on the importance of the 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference, but very little, it seems, that really move across the border—American works on the Americans, and Canadian works on the Canadians—so it’s impressive to see this cross-border pollination. Just the roughness of Marlatt’s notes alone make the opportunity that much more endearing, for a poet who was very influenced by a number of things (not just Marlatt’s part in the forming of the influential Vancouver poetry newsletter/grouping TISH) happening over that brief period:
Monday, July 29/63

a.m. Charles Olson—Creeley, Ginsberg, Duncan & Whalen

we have to get ourselves back into history thru “now”—how? by “apocalypse” ? by gathering details of location (place more important than self—yet Olson says name is self, name in the scrolls—& book can be place) such as will build us a structure to project us thru event/happening (of self meeting self—of self meeting whole figure of place) to continual orbiting in history/ continual happening

(as the poem continues to happen to the reader as it happened to the poet)

what is crucial: where we are now—like the
only reality for me is my act of perceiving now

The same slim volume also includes “A Letter fromVancouver by A. Fredric Franklyn to El Corno Emplumado” (a Mexican literary journal by Margaret Randall that went on to, among other things, produce one of George Bowering’s early poetry titles); isn’t there something magnificent about all of these writers, readers and publishers making and maintaining these relationships some fifty years back through something as slow-moving (comparatively) as the post office? Charming, even.
… What is happening here is almost indescribable. I can’t tell you what it’s like, just to see them all around the same desk: Margaret Avison, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Dennis Levertov, Charles Olson, and Philip Whalen in the student seats where he has preferred to sit since his second morning…

The second series, scheduled for this coming fall, already include Selections from El Corno Emplumado (ed. Margaret Randall), Umbra Extensions (ed. David Henderson) and Jack Spicer’s Translation of Beowulf: Selections (eds. David Hadbawnik & Sean Reynolds), as well as forthcoming materials by Muriel Rukeyser (ed. Rowena Kennedy-Epstein), Lorine Niedecker (ed. John Harkey) and Gil Ott (ed. Tim Peterson).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

rob reads at Toronto RAMPIKE launch, June 24, Toronto;

rob mclennan reads as part of the Toronto launch of Rampike magazine (vol. 19, #2) at livewords at the Black Swan Tavern, 7pm; 152 Danforth Avenue (just east of Broadview), 2nd floor.

other readers include editor/publisher Karl Jirgens, Claudio Gaudio, Concetta Principe, Clara Blackwood, Babar Khan, Lindsay Tipping, Jim Johnstone, Gary Barwin, Frank Davey and more . . .



Friday, June 18, 2010

nikki reimer, [sic]

Vancouver poet nikki reimer’s [sic] (Calgary AB: Frontenac House, 2010), published as part of ten Frontenac titles new this spring for the press’ tenth anniversary, plays a series of techniques, of narrative skirmishes. reimer, once of Calgary, now Vancouver, moving from a community of filling Station and (orange) to W, West Coast Line and the Kootenay School of Writing writes her first trade poetry collection through four sections that tell their own tales—“illness narratives” (some of which appeared recently as a chapbook through Nicole Markotić’s Wrinkle Press, out of Windsor, Ontario), “corporate whores,” “exurbia” and “gentrified.” For all the years I’ve known reimer, it’s as though she’s been quietly on the sidelines, obviously absorbing more than she has previously let on, as this small piece, the first poem of the “corporate whores” section:
for centuries, Ukrainian bards have sung of a forsaken brother who flees
barefoot across the steppes, holding thorns to his chest to prove to himself
that he is still alive

please respond to the social imperative to martyr oneself;
clutch thorns to chest and march down hastings street
work the job to job the work to job to work to
work the job to job to work to job
we all go to work in the panopticon but some of us are
frillier than others corporate whore says why can’t i wear
pink boots and fishnet stockings to work?
why can’t i flee barefoot across false creek?
trapped inside, under glass:
ignore the cushy union lunchbreak
we like to drive the sidestreets at night blue tv set glow
soothes an earnest canadian actress on a 52-inch screen
are these vitamins or medications?
do you have psychiatric problems?
to co-opt this meat and potatoes monologue, adjust
the satellite dish listen – zombie heads chatter on location

Her subversions are sometimes cutthroat precise, sometimes as subtle as a tire-slash, bloody and prehensile, tearing through to the guts and heart of what language can possibly do. In poems that rough up the past, and terrorize the present, cradling what is important in the strong arms of these lines, reimer is working from the rough edges of cities, population and language itself. Vancouver obviously has been very good to her writing (or perhaps she brought it all with her), her poetry very aware of the immediate social concerns of the city, the downtown eastside, problems with drugs, prostitution, employment, language; her poems follow hard and further works by other writers such as Stephen Collis, Maxine Gadd, Aaron Vidaver, Jeff Derksen, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk and Clint Burnham, writing out anger, politics and language, and language as politic. There are some wonderful blatant and subtle subversions, writing her “[sic]” and writing her “illness narratives,” indirectly writing out the error of her own illness, or this magnificent first part of the two-page poem “subverbia,” writing:
radios blare subverbia sleepless, architects paint-by-numbers
from initial vertigo. coral stucco compound, elements and
nitrate. which left is it? corner venison and fry them up. sizzling
streets suggest “sitcom.” this block squared. or in reverse square
block this. to shut the screen mom i hate yer guts. sliding door
gutsier suits to the bus. hand in hand a yellowjacket. WASPier
than thou. where’s the beef indeed. cornered. think pink.
driveways a crumble rooflines and architects.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New American Writing 28

Apes can mind-read.
Studies show

what makes us human
is our tendency to point. (Rae Armantrout, “Working Models”)

My first experience with the poetry annual New American Writing is the new issue, #28, edited by Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover, and already I’m a fan, with stellar highlights by Rae Armantrout, Liz Waldner, Elizabeth Robinson and Steffi Drewes, each, it seems, exploring different aspects of the length of the poetic line and the sentence; writing poems, each, that bring new life to forms that so often need it. I’ll say it: I believe in the sentences of Steffi Drewes. But why doesn’t such a journal, such an annual, have author bios?
proof that this waltz, these waves, have no destination

having said no to the sound of heavy machinery we traipsed on and
topsy-turvy signatures followed.

do you believe in only one answer when it comes to keeping time?

if she hears the truth and the leaves fall to the floor, she may still be
able to locate the first intersection.
(in math, the focus; in dance, the pivot pointe)

off in the mountains the dust dwellers have begun to chant.

choking sometimes comes out as hocking. later the same day, a child
learns the difference between exhaust and exhalation.

arithmetic. arrhythmia. arabesque. (of course she studied, but not in
that order).

what’s the ultimate conversation-stopper—split skin or a sonic boom?

a portal is forming underneath the floor boards. an ideal audience
measuring our every misstep.

what is your favorite part about spring? is what she asks me. one is
wind. the other is take a wild guess.

the rhythm is born from us, be it falter, dash, fracture or simply good

even a fallen animal startles at the sound of music.

There are some worthy translations here too, from Osip Mandelstam’s “The Voronezh Notebooks” (with introduction) by John High and Matvei Yankelevich, as well as a feature on five contemporary Greek poets; its always interesting when any journal explores alternative points of view. But what really strikes are the other pieces, including Elizabeth Robinson’s “Lorine Niedecker Harmonizing With Paul Celan” and “Jack Spicer’s Frying Pan.” Luxurious; exactly why haven’t I been reading her work earlier?
Jack Spicer’s Frying Pan
For Fran Herndon

A small frying pan results in a small man. Or vice, alchemically,
versa. A pan and a man cook identically each time and
size desires nothing of it.

Cook it again this way, exactly.
Center the heart of the pan on the coil, turn
the handle west to where the sun will someday
set. Pan
and man

exact to the red coil. The game

of feeding ourselves is utmost ritual
and so we win the game.

The smallest frying pan, like a pendant hung
at your sternum, a brand on your breast,
enlarging the want of it, the game of the want
of it, the specimen of the pan, with its magick
handle to the east where someday the sun may rise

exactly as the eating proceeds, red coil, exact, I said, exact.

At nearly two hundred pages (I suppose, if the choice between author biographies and more writing, more writing really is the more interesting choice), there’s enough here for just about any serious reading of contemporary lyric, including some compelling prose by Noah Eli Gordon (a writer I’ve been keeping my eye on the past couple of years), and another by Edward Smallfield that remind of the compact visceral and visual rhythms explored by Jay MillAr’s Sporadic Growth: being a third season of 26 fungal threads (Vancouver BC: Nomados, 2006). I’m also very taken by these three poems all with the same title by Rusty Morrison, these “Commonplace” poems; why does it feel I’ve been missing all sorts of things by not paying attention to this journal earlier?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Writing a process; the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

On June 14, through Theanna Bischoff, author of the novel Cleavage (NeWest Press, 2008), I participated in a study at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto, an hour of small writing exercises provided by the study that were video and audiotaped. After working my version of Gary Barwin's Heine project a few days earlier, it was an interesting extension of talking out the why and the hows of my writing what, asked to vocalize my thought process as it was happening (which goes completely against my Scottish Protestantism). As she wrote in her original email, “You will be given instructions for a poetry writing task and asked to talk about the process of writing. Our research focus is not on the actual pieces of writing, but rather on the process behind the writing.” Apparently such as Allan Briesmaster and Elana Wolff participated as well, allowing the study to use their names (as opposed to the presumed anonymity), and finding the process helpful in identifying parts of their process. I found the exercise interesting, but it did little to highlight what I know I already do, perhaps more a matter of a further clarify of vocalizing what it is that I work towards.
The first writing task, given a box of trinkets to look through, and asked to focus on one of the items, and write on a memory, perhaps, triggered by such; how could I write on a memory box that wasn't mine, memories that wouldn't be mine either? This is what came to mind, and, for some reason, structural resonances of Fanny Howe poems bouncing around in my skull.
There did seem something amusing about a toy horse that was, ahem, gender specific underneath, and, after writing the company name down, I found it on the Schliech website, realizing that the horse in the study was not only tail-less but rider-less as well. When she asked about my writing process, I talked about the specifics of a poem almost never coming through in one sitting, but sometimes requiring specific details that I don't have. At home, I told her, I would have looked up such things (such as “candle snuffer,” presuming that my reference to the piece in the box, “candle snuff,” was functional but incorrect). Here is the poem, reworked, retweaked and researched, after the original session.
Study: memory box

what do you say?
plastic horse

with a broken tail

not a toy but a model,
biologically intact

& male

a lost medieval knight,
red dragons

box of tokens, trinkets
& some,

Disney princess, metal
candle-snuff, chocolate eggs

meant to reflect, back
as a memory, list

not a story retrieved
but thus made,

out of language

the long & the short,
a red rubber ball
A second part of the session included writing a haiku, with the requisite five-seven-five, with two lines in one direction, perhaps including something seasonal, and final line in another direction. Since my thought process was supposed to be out loud, I gave my little spiel about how English-language haiku are a fallacy, how the Japanese five meanings boiled down into English-language five syllables, five sounds, reduces and insults the original form, making a mockery of the entire process. Do I take this stuff too seriously? Perhaps; but there you go. Here are my two quick haiku on the immediate of my Monday morning:
Bloor West in springtime,
construction can't decide rain,
I haven't a phone
Quebec Avenue
sprinkles dandelion fluff,
across schoolbell rings

Monday, June 14, 2010

the toronto small press book fair, june 19 at the great hall, queen west

Come visit me at the Toronto Small Press Fair at the combined Chaudiere Books / above/ground press table on June 19th (with the pre-fair reading the night before, including Chaudiere Books author Michael Bryson); or maybe you want to come to the Ottawa fair the next week instead (with our own pre-fair reading)? I have lots of books and conversation (and even some handouts); why not come by?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

12 or 20 questions: with Julie McArthur

Julie McArthur grew up in Kanata, Ontario. She now writes and resides in Toronto. Her stories have appeared in Front & Centre and Other Voices. Black Bile Press published her chapbook, Men and the Drink in November.

1 - How did your first chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
It gave me confidence and I now feel less awkward talking about my writing with others.
My work has been described as economical, and remains so. I think the ideas behind my stories have become more complex and imaginative. The stories have grown in length, although I still enjoy writing short shorts. I also play around with points of view and different tenses, where as I originally wrote mostly in first person, present tense.

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?
My first writings were in journals and depressing bits of poetry in sketchbooks. I signed up for a short stories class eight years ago. In the first class, the teacher asked us to write one page of dialogue that would be read aloud the next week. I panicked and dropped out. Five years went by, and I signed up again. That time it worked out.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
I do a lot of writing in my head before I put it to paper or the computer. Some ideas develop quickly while others simmer for a long time. My first drafts are often a couple, maybe a few pages with a specific scene or a short version that will expand. I often have trouble reading through the mess of early drafts. There are usually five to ten rewrites. 

4 - Where does 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?
A story usually starts with a seed of dialogue or an emotion. Occasionally, I see connections between separate stories and think about the possibilities of a novel.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
They are not part of, or counter to my creative process. I have never done an official reading, just some impromptus at bars, to a handful of strangers. That phase seems to have passed. I am interested in doing readings in the future, although I may need to be forced to do the first one.

6 - 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?
Not particularly. I try to write honestly.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Writers tell stories. I like to think mine evoke emotions, entertain, and inspire.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Not difficult. I love editing my own work, but always welcome a fresh pair of eyes.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Hal Niedzviecki said to me, “Don’t be afraid to linger in a scene.” 

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?
I prefer to work on new or early drafts in the morning. Later drafts can be done almost anywhere, anytime. Most days start with instant coffee and cold oatmeal. If I’m not working that day, I will write, maybe take a trip to the gym. 

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
When my writing is stalled it is due to a lack of discipline more than anything else. Reading helps get me back to my writer’s mindset. Discussions with other writers can also be inspiring and motivating.

12 - If there was a fire, what's the first thing you'd grab?
My three cats - Annabelle, Harold, and Mona.

13 - 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?
The natural environment, animals, and songwriters influence my work. 

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I read a lot of Bukowski and Vonnegut when I was young. I reread Chekhov, Hemingway, Kennedy, Miller, Dickens, Bronte, and Lawrence. Robertson Davies, Cormac McCarthy, and Raymond Carver are more recent inspirations.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Take my G1 road test. 

16 - 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 have had many occupations before I came to writing, or thought of myself as a writer. I’ve never been ambitious about careers. Time to myself has always been more important than money. The idea of being a writer was lurking inside me for a long time, but I wasn’t ready to acknowledge it, or get on with it for many reasons.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
When I began taking classes a few years back, I knew it was right. It felt natural. I remember learning to print in Grade 1. It was that same excitement. On my Grade two report card, my teacher, Mrs. Hobbs wrote, “In her stories she writes good sentences and expresses interesting ideas.” So, there may have been an inkling of my future then, but with many things, I took the long roundabout route to get here. 

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies. I don’t see movies often, Harold and Maude is a favourite.

19 - What are you currently working on?
A collection of short stories.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

FORWARD; MTLS - Call for Submissions: Issue 7 and Ongoing

MTLS is a quarterly literary journal with a 75% Canadian content. It is mainly an online journal. The goal of the magazine is to promote Canadian writing, both mainstream and the not-so-prominent. There is a special interest in new writing and new writers.  Submit essays, poetry, creative non-fiction, fiction, drama excerpts, and book reviews. You can go online to  We have some of the brightest literary minds on our editorial board like George Elliott Clarke, Olive Senior, Stephen Brockwell, Philip Adams, and more. We do pay an honorarium. Send your submissions in word doc format, with short bio and mailing address to <>. Alternatively you can load up your material directly from the submissions section of the website where there is a form which enables you to upload your material. The submission then gets to us automatically. See :>. to get an idea of what kind of material we like to publish. Browse freely under the “writing” menu on the home page. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

12 or 20 (small press) questions: Dave Proctor on Wooden Rocket Press

Dave Proctor is a freelance writer and publisher whose short stories have appeared in Broken Pencil, Invisible City, and Darling Magazine. His first self-published novella, Blank State volume Zero: Condopocalypse Now! is available through He lives in Church-Wellesley Village and works at a bar on the weekends.

The goal of Wooden Rocket Press is to become so much more than a one-author vanity press by releasing quality stories that experiment with form, whether it be through a serial, like Blank State, or a choose your own adventure, or a children's book, a zine or a pasquinade. 

1 – When did Wooden Rocket Press first start? How have your original goals as a publisher shifted since you started, if at all? And what have you learned through the process?

Wooden Rocket Press started last April as a means for releasing the first book in my series, Blank State, so that it has the credibility of a company name and, honestly, so that I can save a little on the printing process--publishing companies do not have to pay PST, and can save a lot on GST too. But from the get go I did not want the company to be just my own work, and if anything I'm closer to realizing that goal now than I was a year ago... but I'm realizing it is not an easy process at all. Projects do not get done on schedule and they do not get the attention that you think they'll get unless you put every ounce of effort into them. I wanted to be ready to release my 4th installment of my serial by now, as an example, but I haven't yet released the second.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?

The idea to become a publisher came from the ever-present desire to write, and the knowledge that, while it's difficult to write all the time and make a living off of my own writing, it might be more feasible (and ultimately more rewarding) to help other authors get published and build a business on more talent than my own.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?

I believe the goal is to produce works that are outside the realm of conventional or mainstream publishing, either by challenging people through subject matter, or style, or form. I believe it's important to provide another perspective, another alternative to the vast amount of literature that is available and hope that people notice and start to pay attention.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?

Right now the wheels are turning on new projects, but the proudest contribution WRP has made I would say is the straightforward reference to Toronto in the Blank State series. The book is very much about Toronto and the Toronto art scene and unambiguously references landmarks and people that those outside of the city may not understand. This of course is limiting to my readership, but I hope that people come to appreciate the honesty that I'm writing with and get the message I'm delivering.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new books out into the world?

At this level the most effective way to do anything is the old two-feet-and-a-heartbeat model: going store to store and securing consignment deals, putting up a website with the associated marketing tools, going to fairs, tabling for yourself, getting your name out there any way you can. Most importantly, get to know your local book store owners. They are the salt

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?

I have a trusted support system of three very good friends and my mother who are great for finding different problems with my work, but when it comes to editing I believe the onus lies largely on the writer. I would not send anything to even my editors that I have not myself gone over at least twice, so I would expect the same of the people that contribute to WRP. I think my oft-paraphrased quote of Anne Lamott's, that all good writing is based on shitty first drafts, holds true no matter what you're writing. But you want to get past that first draft and write it again before the editing can even start. But once there, I would rather work with the author and produce something that we both like than dismiss them and tell them its not what we're looking for.

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?

I print small runs of 100-150 through University of Toronto Press Print division, because they have the ability to do no minimum runs and, being the small print company that I am, I find it a very attractive selling point to a printer that doesn't need me to order 1000 books right from jump. As for distribution, I am a subscriber to the pound-the-pavement model as I mentioned above. At this level, it's pretty much the best way to do it.

8 – How many other people are involved with editing or production? Do you work with other editors, and if so, how effective do you find it? What are the benefits, drawbacks?

I have a very good friend that does my art and web design for me, simply because he can draw and is very talented and, at least in that area, I absolutely am not. All of my editors work for (thank you thank you thank you) free, or pretty close to nothing have done so since the beginning. This is great to see the many different input styles and to take a lot of the pressure off of me as the sole CEO of the company. The downside here is, obviously, that since my work is done for free (thank you again) it must ride backseat to jobs that pay. That just makes sense. I've learned not to rush them and to be incredibly grateful when things do get done.

9– How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?

It's beneficial to see what people do wrong, and to write things that almost make up for other's mistakes in terms of where someone might have dropped the ball in character development or story arcing. Granted, I inform them of these mistakes, it just helps to know the kind of mistakes you can make.

10– How do you approach the idea of publishing your own writing? Some, such as Gary Geddes when he still ran Cormorant, refused such, yet various Coach House Press’ editors had titles during their tenures as editors for the press, including Victor Coleman and bpNichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?

As I said above, it's most of what I do right now. I don't think there's a problem, so long as you get as much outside feedback as possible. It's very easy to start your own company and release your own work because no one else will, but one must ask the question: why won't anyone else release this? That is where a solid team and support system comes in handy, to edit and read and give honest feedback. I've been blessed with having the editorial input of Sheila Hawks, who also used to run Cormorant, and she helped me come to grips with editing shortfalls I had, as well as the simple fact that no major house would put out an 80 page book (which I've written). Another house may be interested in the Blank State series as a whole when it is all done, and that may be a great way for me to branch out and get other people to put out my writing.

11– How do you see Wooden Rocket Press evolving?

I see this company building like a record label. I would love to get a stable of talented authors and continue to put out their books, throw launch parties and do cross-country tours out of the back of a van. I see this turning into a very big company that still operates out of the back of a van, hand to hand with the real readers.

12– What, as a publisher, are you most proud of accomplishing? What do you think people have overlooked about your publications? What is your biggest frustration?

Breaking even at the first Blank State launch was the greatest moment of my life, as I was quivering thinking that no one would come or read the book right up until the day of the launch. My biggest frustration is that I do not have the means to punch out these books any faster. It hurts to hear people ask "when's the next one coming out?" and want to say to them "Be patient, I'm trying my hardest," but secretly feeling that I too am getting impatient waiting for this next book.

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out?

I mentioned an attraction to the record label model of DIY ethics, pressing things yourself and moving it on the street. I grew up doing the same with music and I saw no reason why it couldn't happen with books. I give away a lot of books. A few publications in Toronto have about 2 copies each and still haven't reviewed Blank State. I believe that it has to start here until I can find a distributor that will make the company a little bit more omnipresent. 

14– How does Wooden Rocket Press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see your books in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?

I am trying to incorporate not only the literary community, but the whole of the Toronto art scene into the fold of at least Blank State, if not all of WRP. Blank State is a send-up of the state of the Toronto art scene, but rather than just complaining, I think it's really important to have events and readings that incorporate other writers, musicians, painters, etc. and make the literary scene something that has clout in Toronto, something that's not just a cloistered-in group of writers reading one another's books, but a celebration of the art that all of us are producing. I work a lot with Sarah Pinder at Bits of String press to plot out zines and future projects. She is an incredibly talented writer and challenges me to make good work and put it out in a simple yet respectable way that will get people's attention. Cross-collaboration is absolutely essential to make your art better and to make this scene less of a disconnected pile of people. I'm also looking for a graphic novelist to start a webcomic.

15– Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?

I believe the launch to be the most important element, right now, beneath the quality of the book itself. From the business standpoint, a book that is sold for a cheap price WITH your cover to get into an event moves a lot of units and gives people twice the reason to actually come out. As I mentioned at great length above, bringing people around to the idea of a book launch as a great thing to do on a friday night is really important to keep people reading. I'm not saying every book launch has to be a punk rock show, but I do believe it helps a lot to never take yourself too seriously. A lot of book readings are where people sit in a quiet room and wait for the author to read, and then leave. There's so much more to literature than that. Margaret Atwood's tour for Year of the Flood is a great example of an experience that deepens the meaning of the book. Everybody reads books. Let's make that fact fun.

16– How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?

So much. Half of my sales are done online and the marketing machine of twitter, Facebook and my own blog at is something that people read to be reminded of the kind of stuff my press is into, and that we are a reputable source of entertainment and information. A lot of talk gets thrown around about how everyone needs to be "aware of your brand" for you to be successful. It's true, it's all true--but I'm not cynical about it. As long as you're offering something people want to see, like a quality book or a great essay on a blog, you shouldn't be ashamed of promoting it or making it known to everyone on the interweb.

17– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?

Right now I'm looking for very specific things. The first project is a call for a short fiction anthology. I will take submissions and I will tell people that I am not looking for anything that's been done before. The submissions I receive have to bleed on the page. They have to be honest, and, ideally, they have to push the boundaries of the book itself. I know that's vague, but that's where the creativity comes in.

18– Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.

Since WRP only has one book out now, I will explain it and it's two successors that are to follow this year. Blank State volume Zero: Condopocalypse Now! is a satire on the Toronto art scene that is slowly working its way into book stores across the city. What's great about it is it's accessibility and length, and the humour with which it accomplishes it's goals. It's written from the perspective of a filmmaker, so the story itself follows a loose screenplay format, with very terse, end-stopped sentences and a lot of flashbacks. This to me is pretty innovative.

Blank State volume One: Death of a Spearholder is going to come out in mid-may, and is a followup to the first book. The great thing about having both books back to back is that the scope of my goal for the series is starting to be realized. The second book is written in a completely different manner, told from the perspective of the Actors in the story in a play format. It is broken down into acts and scenes and is very dialogue heavy. Each book is going to embrace a different artist's perspective and really push how a story can be told.

An Adventure of Your Own Choosing is the project that I am most excited about, and I'm hoping to have it ready for summer. It is a flash fiction anthology written by over a dozen authors. The stories stretch from 50 to 500 words and all deal with the same characters and themes and locations. What sets it apart from other anthologies is that the stories will be sewn together into a choose your own adventure. I can guarantee that they wont necessarily connect, but I think that will be part of the fun.