Sunday, January 31, 2016

Rachel Moritz, Borrowed Wave

Your Nana was ironing sheets
      in her Lemon Joy kitchen.

Wings without body, linen snagged on the lip
      of her board. Was she a bird?

‘I can smell the rubbers in the front entry
      as I sat on the hall-tree seat and hunted
      for my galoshes,’ she wrote,

remembering how an object locates –

You were drinking milk from her blue Delft tea-
      cup. By the slice of window you lifted up
      her teacup, left a rim of white on blue flowers.

Little moths or butterflies, parting waves. (“BORROWED WAVE”)

After five poetry chapbooks under her belt (published through New Michigan Press, Albion Books, above/ground press and MIEL Press), Minneapolis poet Rachel Moritz’s long-awaited first full-length poetry collection is Borrowed Wave (Tucson AZ: Kore Press, 2015). Constructed out of three sections and an opening poem, the meditative precisions and flow of Borrowed Wave are grounded in a narration of place, self and body, attempting a cohesion and clarity against constant distraction, and the possibility of being swept away. Her poems are deeply felt, concerned with the important questions, and inherent paradoxes, of intimacy, human interaction and the landscapes of memory. In the poem “ASSEMBLY NOTES,” she writes: “I peered within the body of our house // where a simple blue ornament, // nailed below the eaves, /// made recognition of our lives / a little easier.”


The face of the child, or how I said my motherhood was only metaphoric. How it rose against our unmade hill, kept turning to look where you said there was no one where sumac wizened on standing branches, we were pulled, you said, or how we found phrasing. Two paths traveling parallel, media of air following like an absent man. And what is a nearness like ours if we each remain, in our own way, concealed?

The narrative of her poems present an enormous density of information, allusion and reference in small spaces, built with such a remarkable pacing. “I’d believe the past is fragment,” she writes, to open “ANIMATE SONG,” “but for its narrow intimation of a door, // and the house waiting, all stucco and wet // where hummingbirds catch still // inside our kitchen tiles, and time // has no shape, in stasis; [.]” The narrative of her lyrics are built as sketches placed in open space, writing out short, accumulative bursts across a wide canvas, something evident in both her longer and shorter pieces, such as the opening poem “EMPATHIC OUTLINE,” a piece that suggests so much, as it opens: “Branches of the pine trees sway in this other season // like our apartment in the seventies, back and forth, typhoon – // Grapevines wearing cardboard shields, diagonal across a field [.]”

Saturday, January 30, 2016

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Marcela Sulak

Marcela Sulak is the author of the poetry collections Decency (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), Immigrant (BLP 2010), and a chapbook. With Jacqueline Kolosov she’s edited Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres (Rose Metal Press, 2015) and has translated Orit Gidali (Hebrew), Karel Hynek Macha (Czech), K. J. Erben (Czech) and Mutombu Nkulu-N’Sengha (French). She directs the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University, hosts the radio show Israel in Translation (TLV.1) and edits The Ilanot Review.

1 - How did your first book change your life? My first book made it possible for me to teach creative writing at university. I was lucky enough to land an academic job after finishing my academic Ph.D. but I had an M.F.A., too. Since my book (though not because of it) I’ve moved into a new university and now have a primarily creative teaching position with academic research as secondary. Publication also cast an aura of legitimacy over my writing practice.

How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Immigrant, my first book, focuses on the history of fruits and vegetables to get at how we, as individuals, create ourselves and the world around us. Decency began as an examination of manuals of etiquette and politeness which were most popular starting in the 18th century, when many people of the world were governed by rulers who did not speak their language, were of a different ethnicity, and sometimes a different religion. So Decency works through how the individual functions in relationship to history’s harms and mores, the terrible and the beautiful things people do to one another.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction? I began writing regularly when I was about 12, and my attempts at novels sucked. A local poet took me in hand, recommended books & exercises. I am grateful that she had me learn prosody, and asked me to be aware that poems need to be framed and grounded to give the reader access.  I think nearly everyone writes poetry in adolescence, when particular kinds of emotions and experiences are new, as a way of ordering chaos and making sense of themselves. Because of my itinerate lifestyle as an adult, and my tendency to say yes to things before understanding the ramifications of yes, I’ve prolonged my sense of newness. These days, I write nonfiction, too.

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 keep a daily journal, and most of my poems occur when I’m journaling. Writing poems for me is largely shaping them and cutting. When I impose an outside constraint, such as syllabics or ottava rima, it helps me determine what is essential and what can go. Then I can let the constraint go, if I need to. Sometimes the piece might turn into an essay.

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 daily journal allows me to shape a long-term project through the minutia of the quotidian; it allows unexpected insights to coalesce into something bigger, until I realize what I am writing towards. At that point, I might begin to write poems that are thematically or formally cohesive because my obsession has built up momentum. I keep “outlier” poems, too—you never know. Some of my recent poems were begun years ago; every few years I’d take another stab at them, until one day, it worked.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings? Public readings allow me to articulate what, before, I had only implicitly stated to myself. This helps me think more carefully about future work. Mainly readings are a time to see friends and exchange ideas in real life in real time—I love collaborative readings especially.

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? I am most interested, these days, in observing, not what people say they believe, but in how they act when presented with very mundane choices. Also, I am interested in what people notice about each other and their environment—this, I believe, reveals more about a person than anything else—what they notice.

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? To think clearly and authentically for oneself in all the contradictions that one must straddle, to be informed about what one writes, and to understand one’s limits. Maybe the role of the writer is and has always been to listen. Especially to people you feel the urge to “enlighten.” 

Otherwise, the role of the writer in a larger culture depends greatly on the culture to which you belong, and it seems to work best if a writer focuses on his or her own culture, and avoid trying to be a gatekeeper. (Unless you’re a translator—then you are, in fact, introducing new voices and new cultures into your native one).

In the eleven years I’ve been living outside the USA, in Venezuela, Germany, the Czech Republic, and now Israel, working locally, it is increasingly obvious to me that if you do not understand the local languages of the cultures you have opinions about, if you’ve not spent time there, you should probably assume you don’t really know what’s going on no matter who “some of your best friends” are, and it’s probably not a good idea to spend your cultural currency there. I’ve seen enough to know how biased and unreliable our most “reliable” English-language news sources are.

I see art as a communal act; to be in communion requires a rigorous conversation, not with sanctioned political opinion, but with oneself and the people one encounters in daily life. It’s important to encounter other people randomly and in the flesh in daily life. To me, this is the only ethical way to produce art.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)? Outside editors contribute in essential and under-appreciated ways to making one’s work the best it can be. I’d like to thank all mine profusely all right now.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)? “To thine own self be true.”

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to translation to non-fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
I first began translation when I was living in south Bohemia in 1994; my friends assured me I understood nothing about them unless I read Karel Hynek Macha’s Maj, the first book-length poem written in Czech. Reading it was so difficult (it was responsible for re-vitalizing the Czech language at a time when the language had been officially repressed, so its vocabulary wasn’t completely current anymore) that reading it was translating it for myself. They were right; that work is vital—my translation is used to subtitle avant-garde ballet performances (420 People), and my translations of a second book, K.J. Erben’s Kytice, are used in film and folk festival performances. These two texts are absolutely transformative to Czech culture and remain a part of it, as Shakespeare does for English. I’ve since gone on to translate two other books from French (the Congo) and Hebrew; this activity has made me see how vital poetry is to a culture and nation—how it can be a medium of radical expression. I also learned that translation is the most intimate form of close reading I know of.

But I see translation as a completely distinct activity from writing poetry. In the former, I erase my ego, and in the latter, I let it have free reign. Though both activities need a certain element of surprise.

I see the greatest overlap between nonfiction and poetry. In fact, sometimes I don’t know if what I am writing is nonfiction or poetry. And that’s okay. Maybe the difference between the two is ultimately the value one places on emotional truth and factual accuracy—though there are times I revise a poem for factual accuracy, but these days I often write “documentary” poetry. I’m a huge fan of hybridity.

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? I get my child out the door for school, then I journal on the bus on the way to university. When I work at home, I try to carve time to journal, but I have to have a loose definition of this activity. I try to set aside a day or half day or two each week to revise, etc. Sometimes I can use entire weeks for that, depending on if the poems demand it, or if other writing and teaching projects do.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration? Translation, academic work, or simply being more present in my world. I have several projects in different genres going at once, and I don’t stress about being stalled in poetry—often I’m grateful because I have deadlines in other things.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Marigolds, lantana, and the smell of the air after rain, or ploughed earth in sun  are the smells of my childhood home in Texas. The smell of my daughter’s head is home everywhere else.

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? The streets of the cities in which I live, and archaeology, nowadays.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work? Since I’m living away from home, I read like crazy all the new works of poetry and nonfiction from the States (In this last half year I’ve loved Maggie Nelson, Eula Biss, Andrea Baker, Idra Novey, Claudia Rankine, Jericho Brown, Natalie Diaz, Joy Harjo, Daisy Fried). But because I live in a place that is not (yet) my home, and I’m a single mother, I can’t leap into any scenes with the ease I once did. So I host a weekly radio podcast on local literature in translation [Israel in Translation:]. I feed a lot of writers, and have informal gatherings in my home (saves money on babysitting so I can buy more books), and have been fortunate to meet in print and person Israeli writers whose work I adore, such as Sharron Hass, Orit Gidali (whom I’ve translated), Assaf Gavron, Shimon Adaf, and Etgar Keret.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done? Learn flamenco dance—it seems the anti-yoga, and a fabulous way of releasing stress. In fact, I already bought the shoes—I couldn’t resist the glittery nail heads in the heel. I’d love to learn print photography and renew my acquaintance with ceramics.

Also, I’d like to see Iceland, or at least the Northern Lights from Scandinavia, and a glacier before they all melt.

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? Writing poetry is certainly an occupation. It simply does not pay. So you ALWAYS have to do something else.  I grew up working on a rice farm and taking care of our farm animals; I’ve taught English and Spanish in Czech and German schools, to children aged 9-19; I’ve free-lanced in Venezuela, and now teach literature and creative writing and translation to university students in Israel (having done so in Washington, DC, before that). I’ve waited tables and worked in bookstores and babysat. It might be fun to be a spy, but I’m prone to getting lost and I blush when I lie, so I would probably not make a good one.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else? But I do do something else. I also write because I get cranky and upset if I don’t.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film? Elana Ferrante’s Neapolitan series. I’m a single mother in a land without Netflix, so I don’t get to see many films, but my daughter and I’ve been watching anything by Hayao Miyazaki, and together we’re reading the fabulous The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making series by Catherynne M. Valente. Those are both terrific for adults, too.

20 - What are you currently working on? A series of poems that began on my bus commute to work from Tel Aviv to Ramat-Gan, and my bike and walk commute to bring my young daughter to school, in a span of time that has included two wars and, currently, daily acts of terrorism, as well as gorgeous acts of kindness and bravery.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Friday, January 29, 2016

U of Alberta writers-in-residence interviews: Leona Gom (1987-88)

For the sake of the fortieth anniversary of the writer-in-residence program (the longest lasting of its kind in Canada) at the University of Alberta, I have taken it upon myself to interview as many former University of Alberta writers-in-residence as possible [see the ongoing list of writers, as well as information on the upcoming anniversary event, here]. See the link to the entire series of interviews (updating weekly) here.

Leona Gom (born 1946) is a Canadian poet and novelist. Born on an isolated farm in northern Alberta, she received her B.Ed. and M.A. from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. She has published six books of poetry and eight novels and has won both the CAAAward for her poetry collection Land of the Peace in 1980 and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for her novel Housebroken in 1986.

She taught for many years at Douglas College, Kwantlen College, the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia. For about ten years she edited the award-winning magazine Event. She held writer-in-residencies at the University of Alberta, the University of Lethbridge and the University of Winnipeg.

Her work has been included in many journals and over fifty anthologies, and five of her books have been translated into other languages. Her novel The Y Chromosome has been optioned for a movie and has been used as a text in both women’s studies and sociology courses in Canada and the U.S. Her latest novel is The Exclusion Principle (Sumach Press, 2009).

She was writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta during the 1987-88 academic year.

Q: When you began your residency, you’d been publishing books for more than a decade. Where did you feel you were in your writing? What did the opportunity mean to you?

A: I was at a good place in my writing, though teaching at college left me chronically short of time. The first two novels had done well and gave me the confidence to try one a bit more experimental, and this, The Y Chromosome, was the one I completed during my U of A year. It required some research into genetics, and the university libraries were a great resource which I would not have had at home. I loved my year there. My office was a perfect place to work. And it was a constant reminder of how much I owed U of A for how, in the early 1960’s, it welcomed students like me for whom a university education had been an almost impossible dream.

Q: How did your experience there compare to other residencies you’ve done?

A: My U of A residency was by far the best I have done. But that is in part because it was for a year and the others I had were for shorter periods (6 months, 2 or 3 weeks), and of course then it was much harder to settle into a routine and balance other demands of visiting classes and holding office hours. At U of A I did as much writing as I needed to and also had more than enough time for office hours.

Q: How did you engage with students and the community during your residency?

A: I kept regular office hours two or three times a week and accepted manuscripts to read and evaluate, though I learned quickly to put a limit on the number of pages. A surprising number of people were from off-campus, and it was nice to see the program had this outreach. I visited some classrooms, did a few guest lectures, met with a book club or two, judged three or four writing contests, wrote some reference letters, got to know some of Edmonton’s new writers with whom I am still in touch.

Q: What do you see as your biggest accomplishment while there? What had you been hoping to achieve?

A: I was able to start and finish a first draft for my third novel, The Y Chromosome, which became my most popular and well-reviewed novel. This was certainly what I had been hoping to achieve, but I had also been eager to return to U of A and to Alberta, where I was born and grew up and where my writing had been so strongly rooted.

Q: The bulk of writers-in-residence at the University of Alberta have been writers from outside the province. How did it feel as a University of Alberta graduate, to be acknowledged locally through the position? Given you were returning to familiar grounds, were you influenced at all by the landscape, or the writing or writers you interacted with while in Edmonton? What was your sense of the literary community?

A: I was very pleased to have had this opportunity to return to U of A, of course. I grew up on an isolated farm in the north Peace country, and being able to attend U of A in the 1960’s was predictably life-changing.  So, twenty years after I left Alberta looking for work, it was a treat to be invited back for a year. The campus and the English Department were still familiar enough for me to re-meet some of my former professors, fellow students, and writers I had known at the beginning of their careers. During my writer-in-residency I was envious of the writing community that seemed to be flourishing in Edmonton, because where I lived, in a suburb of Vancouver, I had relatively little contact with such a close-knit group. As for being influenced by the landscape, yes, all of my poetry books have a strong Alberta origin, especially the pioneering farm poems. The futurist novel I worked on during my residency was also set both on a northern Alberta farm and at a southern Alberta university, so it was fun to revisit both those parts of my life.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Queen Mob's Teahouse: Lyndsay Kirkham interviews Drew Shannon and Nathan Page

As my tenure of interviews editor at Queen Mob's Teahouse continues, the third interview is now online: an interview with Drew Shannon and Nathan Page, conducted by Lyndsay Kirkham. The first was an interview with poet, curator and art critic Gil McElroy, conducted by Ottawa poet Roland Prevost, and the second was an interview with Toronto poet Jacqueline Valencia, conducted by Lyndsay Kirkham.

Some of the interviews I've conducted myself over at Queen Mob's Teahouse include conversations with Allison Green, Andy Weaver, N.W Lea and Rachel Loden.

If you are interested in sending a pitch for an interview my way, contact me via rob_mclennan (at)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

12 or 20 (small press) questions with William Kemp and Nicole Brewer on words(on)pages

About William Kemp:
William Kemp is one of the founding editors and poetry editor at words(on)pages, a Toronto-based micropress. He has been published in In/Words Magazine and online at The Hart House Review. He has an illustrated book entitled The ABCs of 20-Something Anxieties and likes dogs of all shapes and sizes.

About Nicole Brewer:
Nicole Brewer is a writer, editor, and micropress publisher in Toronto, Ontario. She is the co-founder of and fiction editor at the micropress words(on)pages. She is passionate about emerging writers, small press culture, short fat dogs, and tea.

words(on)pages was created to be a centralized location through which we do pretty much any of the creative things you associate with literature, some for ourselves, some for others, some for money. These include, but are not limited to creating, designing, editing, and publishing poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. We are also open to suggestions.

We are an organization created by emerging writers for emerging writers. We know that, without a big name to put in your byline, it can be nearly impossible to get recognition for work that may well deserve accolades. We know that getting rejected by publishers and literary magazines gets frustrating. We know that doing open mics week after week for no apparent reason can be disheartening. We know that sometimes it sucks to have a passion so hopelessly non-lucrative as writing, and we want to remind you that your work is valuable.  We want to give you something you can put on a bookshelf, something you can peddle at readings, something you can sell to kind friends and curious strangers. We want to give you proof that your years of late nights and awful jobs and first drafts and rewrites are worth it. Think of our work as tangible proof that hey, your shit’s pretty rad.

1 – When did words(on)pages 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?
Officially, words(on)pages was started in March 2014, when we launched our “first” three chapbooks—they were by us and a friend, and we were essentially self-publishing under the name “words(on)pages.” Shortly after that, we started taking it seriously as a micropress, figuring out what we we wanted to produce, and how to produce it. The first step was our bi-monthly literary magazine, (parenthetical), which launched its first issue in May 2014. As we produced more issues and booked more readers at our reading series, we were overwhelmed by the amount of talented writers who still hadn’t had the opportunity to be published in a collection of any length, so we decided to open ourselves up to chapbook submissions. Just this April, we launched our first official words(on)pages chapbooks, by Domenica Martinello, Daniel Scott Tysdal, Simina Banu, and philip gordon, and then in October, to round out our first year of chapbooks, we published JC Bouchard, Susie Berg, Astoria Felix, and philip miletic.

Our original goals haven’t exactly shifted since we started—they’re more sharpened, as we learn more about what else is out there and where we belong in the community, what we can do to make ourselves unique as a press and as educators, how much production costs at different levels, who’s being acknowledged and who’s being regularly overlooked in the Canadian literary scene. More than anything, we’ve learned what our “for emerging artists, by emerging artists” mission statement really means, and how we can best stay true to it.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?
In September 2013, we attended the Small Press Fair at the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, and that was our first real exposure to what small presses were doing. We’d been aware of the small press community before this, and picked up small press books here and there, but it was incredibly inspiring to meet presses like BookThug, Thee Hellbox Press, and above/ground press and see all these beautiful and varied books and chapbooks in person. Nicole had just finished a graduate publishing program and Will was in the last year of his publishing program, and we were becoming increasingly aware of how difficult it was to get paid internship or work opportunities in the industry—particularly anywhere cool, like the presses at the fair. So we said, “Fuck it. Let’s start something.” And we did.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
The number one responsibility of small publishing, we believe, is to take chances. One aspect of that is publishing authors that will probably never be on the bestseller lists for one reason or another, but are doing important work and contributing to the ever-growing canon of Canadian literature. Another is taking chances on new or debut authors, who might someday end up being poached by a larger press, but right now you’re the only publisher in their corner. It’s kind of a shitty responsibility, sometimes, because it might mean not selling a ton of books, or getting a ton of press, but we really believe that small press publishing makes up the pillars of literary culture in Canada—by doing the difficult, important work of fostering new and different voices.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
There’s no one thing that sets us apart from anyone else—so many people and presses are doing great, original work that overlaps with ours in many ways, but we do feel that a combination of things we’re doing helps set us apart. We have a real focus on community-building and education for young, new, and emerging writers, which means we’ve run workshops about the behind-the-scenes of small press and literary magazine culture, as well as the ins and outs of being an emerging writer, and in June of 2016, we'll be running our first ever multi-week, multi-part workshop (you can find more details here: We also provide feedback on all submissions (the writing itself and the actual submission) to try to help writers improve on their submission process. Essentially, we want to make our process transparent, because even after four (or more) years of schooling, we realized there was so much we were never taught about both writing and publishing—stuff we didn’t learn until we were on the other side of it. Another aspect of community-building is going out of our way to find other publications, events, launches, writers, and so on that we appreciate, and sharing their events, or new issues, or new publications, etc.—not because we feel like we need to, but just because it’s cool shit, that we want people to know about, and it helps connect writers, publishers, and publications with one another.

On a more material side, we think publishing a bi-monthly literary magazine sets our press apart (many are quarterly or biannual), and having that literary magazine be hand-bound is also sort of different. Everything we make is hand-bound, which isn’t unique in the small press community, but we haven’t seen a lot of hand-bound literary journals. In addition to that, 100% of the content we publish—chapbooks and literary magazine—is from submissions. We don’t solicit any work, so that we can always find room to publish writers with few or no publication credits. Again, it may not be entirely unique, but we’re a part of a small group of small presses and literary magazines that highly values emerging writers.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new chapbooks out into the world?
Oh gosh. Well, we’re only one year into “real” chapbook publishing, and so far we’ve sold chapbooks in person at our launch, through our online store front, and we're in the process of slowly getting them in local book stores, boutiques, and art stores that will stock them. So we’re no experts. But the number one way seems to be by handselling them: having a launch (and having more than one chapbook at that launch), tabling at fairs of all sizes (art fairs! craft fairs! literary fairs!), booking readings and bringing the chapbook along, etc. Because of that, it goes a long way to have a chapbook that can stand out for how it’s made: to us, the materiality (as in the actual feel and aesthetics) of the chapbook is as important as the content, and a good-looking (and -feeling) chapbook will find its way into the hands of passers-by. Things like having excerpts available online may help, or having a kind of marketing one-sheet to bring or send to indie bookstores or niche boutiques might also help. But for us, so far, the reality has been that most sales happen in person, or through word of mouth about either the author or us as a press.

It sounds simple, but being passionate about what you’re producing, and who you’re publishing goes a long way, and that shows in not only how you produce the chapbook—giving them the respect they deserve by publishing a chapbook you’d want to spend money on yourself—but how you talk about it.

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
With (parenthetical), we do almost no editing whatsoever, partly because of time constraints, and partly because we get tons of amazing submissions that don’t even need any editing—they’re immediately publishable. With our chapbooks, it varies a bit more. We feel we get a lot of work that has already clearly been edited multiple times and polished to near perfection. We received lots of great submissions for our 2015 chapbooks and that trend continued with our submissions for 2016, and some of the manuscripts didn’t need any work at all, other than proofreading and some copy editing for house style. Others we ran through lightly a few times. A few others we worked with more closely, whether it was structural or editorial or both. If, down the road, we get to devote more time to words(on)pages than our current day jobs allow, we’re open to working with authors on polishing and shaping manuscripts from their fledgling states.

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
So far we’ve simply held launches for our chapbooks and our literary magazine, sold them online, and have (parenthetical) in a select few stores in Toronto—huge props to Book City, TKVO, Art Metropole, and the TCAF store for stocking (parenthetical), btw! Our usual print runs are about 40 to 60 copies, and we print on demand from there.

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?
We’re the only editors for all of it, and we essentially split the tasks: Will is, officially, the poetry editor, and Nicole is the fiction editor. We both read everything and each get a say in both areas, but defer to the “official” in any disagreements. The main reason we don’t work with other editors is because we’re not into taking work for free, and currently don’t have the budget to pay anyone. We're also pretty passionate about our vision and editorial mandate when it comes to both our chapbooks and (parenthetical), which makes giving up editorial control a bit hard. This is the closest we have to a real, breathing, human baby aside from a pet, and our landlord is allergic to cats and we're too broke for a dog, so giving up control of (parenthetical) or our chapbooks is hard.

In terms of production, we print (parenthetical) covers and our chapbook contents, along with some covers, with an outside source, Swimmers Group. The contents of (parenthetical) we print at home simply for the sake of convenience. We also have an awesome friend that has provided us with their screenprinting abilities for chapbooks. The only drawbacks to these outsourced production aspects are that they increase the production timeline by a few days. And that’s hardly a drawback.

9– How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
Perhaps the most positive change has been that we really understand, now, that rejection isn’t personal. Rejection isn’t even always a reflection of the work you submitted. There are so many reasons that a piece could get rejected, and “it sucked” is definitely towards the bottom of that list. It’s helped us realize that a “good” story or poem isn’t always a “publishable” story or poem, either because of how it jives (or doesn’t) with the rest of an issue, or maybe because it just doesn’t stand on its own very well. And that a “catchy” story or poem isn’t always “good.” It’s helped our own submission process as writers, because we realized how much a good submission e-mail can put a positive spin on the work you’re submitting. And finally, we get to read so much amazing writing that it’s helped us really pin down what works and what doesn’t in terms of literary techniques and style and presentation—and what works for certain publications.

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?
Well, that’s how words(on)pages started, was by us publishing our own work. So we’re certainly not against it. But we also probably wouldn’t do it again any time soon, because we don’t want to take our meagre resources away from the incredible work we receive from other people. We receive enough of it to have a full publishing schedule, so we just don’t see a reason to publish our own work. That said, we each write a review in almost every issue of (parenthetical)—although that’s less about publishing our own writing, and more about the fact that we want to include non-fiction, but don’t get too may non-fiction submissions. It’s not that we feel the question is irrelevant, just not exceptionally important (to us) in the grand scheme of small publishing.

11– How do you see words(on)pages evolving?
Wow. Geez. A lot of ways, rob. Big dreams, small wallets. We would really love to continue to expand our online reach, both for our blog and for the online version of (parenthetical). We love what we publish, so obviously we want more people to read it. That means putting more time and more resources into building that online platform, creating a beautiful, effective, interactive online platform for online reading. But we also want to stay true to what makes us unique right now: handmade, artisan, limited edition products. So we could see ourselves producing a limited print run of our products for contributors, collectors, and local supporters, while continuing to build an online presence. We would also like to continue building on our presence in bookstores—to reach not only more in Toronto, but other bookstores that promote awesome Canadian work. Perhaps, someday, we could see ourselves producing one or two special edition “real” books, with spines, per year. Maybe from there, if the time allows it, we publish more “real” books with spines, but that starts to bring about a whole mess of questions about staying true to what makes words(on)pages words(on)pages. And maybe we start a different press for “real” books. Or maybe we don’t. That’s for the future to decide.

We would also really like to keep pushing the community-building and education aspects of words(on)pages—and that means we really hope our first multi-week, open to the public workshop goes well. And it means not only do we grow in our readership, but we bring in new and diverse readers with new and diverse voices from emerging writers. “Getting big” is nice, obviously, but we hope it's never at the expense of our mandate to promote emerging writers and engage with and foster a big ol' loving community of rad writers and publishers doing rad work.

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?
It’s impossible to choose between our children, so our proudest accomplishment is twofold. We are incredibly proud to have produced eleven issues of a literary magazine, and to have an issue practically always at the ready, we’re not stopping any time soon. We’re proud because we’ve published over 100 writers, and that group is so diverse: from conceptual and visual poetry to narrative or formal poetry to flash fiction to magic realist short stories, and everywhere in between and beyond. Because we’ve published a previously unpublished fifteen-year-old, and we’ve also published people “with a name”—people like Jay MillAr. So that’s one of the things we’re most proud of.

The other was our two successful chapbook launches We poured everything into producing those first four chapbooks, and the day of the launch, we were nervous wrecks. And then it went better than we ever could have expected—great turnout, unbelievable sales, and everyone we talked to seemed to have had a great time. And we thought we couldn't recreate that with our fall launch, but we ended up somehow way under budget and things went off without a hitch again and it was absolutely staggering. More than anything, that’s what we want: we want to make things, and host things, that make people feel good about buying them, or going to them. And our launch was the perfect example of the perfect execution of that goal.

We don’t really feel like anyone has necessarily “overlooked” anything about our publications, but we do lament that not as many people are looking as we would hope. And that ties in with the biggest frustration: because of our inherent small-ness and our focus on emerging writers, we haven’t really gotten a lot of “notice” so far. That’s not to say we don’t have support. We have an amazing group of people who have supported us from the get go, and that group does seem to grow with every new issue or chapbook we produce, but it’s a slow burn. We don’t often have those “big names” that garner big attention, and when we do, they’re alongside half a dozen other writers with just one or two publishing credits. And we love that about ourselves, but it does mean that our reach has built slowly. It’s only in the past few months that we feel like we’re starting to make an impact and reach a new audience, while we’ve seen other publications start with a wider audience “built in” because of solicited work from bigger names, or connections that we simply didn’t have.

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
Ferno House and BookThug were our two main inspirations starting out. Ferno House made the most beautiful chapbooks we’d ever seen, from the shape to the paper to the design to the typesetting—everything was amazing. Those chapbooks were what made us say, “Hot damn, let’s learn to bookbind.” (At our spring chapbook launch, a few people compared our chapbooks to Ferno’s, and we swooned.) Jay and Hazel at BookThug were inspirations in every way: as mentors, as people, as a couple, as publishers, as a team—in addition to loving every single thing they publish, their work ethic is unbelievable, and their conviction is inspiring.

14– How does words(on)pages work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see words(on)pages in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?
We try to engage with the immediate literary community in every way possible: in person by attending shows, events, and launches, as well as online by sharing news or deadlines or events. And buying books and journals because we know first-hand that these publications and publishers don't exist without monetary support. For the community at large, that goes back to our education-based initiatives like workshops and presentations. As well, we work really hard to sort of break down any perceived barriers between different “kinds” of writing and performance—in Toronto especially, the literary community can seem quite clique-y, and it’s created a number of divides, whether that’s between spoken word and page poetry, or between poetry and fiction, or playwriting and “other” writing, and so on. We want to encourage writers and readers from all backgrounds to be open to new forms of writing and performance, both from an audience’s perspective, and a creator’s perspective. To us, good writing is good writing is good writing, and we just want to create a space for showcasing it, whether that's on a stage or in print.

We also try to create a dialogue with as many presses and magazines as possible, but in particular we have strong dialogues with The Puritan, The Quilliad, untethered, In/Words Magazine and Press, Anstruther Press, Meat Locker Editions, Desert Pets Press, and BookThug. These dialogues take shape in a few forms, to us. For example, with The Puritan, Anstruther Press, and BookThug, not only do we admire the work they publish and aspire to a lot of their editorial sensibilities, but we share their new issues/books online, and go out to their events to show our appreciation in person and show some solidarity to them as friends and admirers of what they do. For places like The Quilliad, untethered, In/Words, and Meat Locker Editions, we feel like they all very much share the sentiment of “for emerging artists”—they’re all willing to take risks on virtually unknown writers and showcase them like we do.

Another kind of engagement comes from meeting, knowing, and publishing people who are involved with other literary magazines and presses. For instance, in one of our early issues we published a few writers who had been heavily involved with In/Words Magazine and Press in Ottawa—the next issue, we had over a dozen submissions from people who were involved with or had been published in In/Words, and we published a ton of them. Something similar happened with untethered as well, and it’s also happened in reverse: we’ll publish a writer with just one or two previous publications, then see them pop up in two or three or four more magazines whose submissions calls we’ve shared. Through a combination of sharing each other’s new issues and deadlines, as well as writers sharing the issues they’ve been published in, we create a kind of collaborative way of building new writers’ portfolios and extending the reach of each press or magazine—without even really meaning to. We’re all just really interested in getting good, previously under-appreciated writing out into the world.

15– Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?
We host a reading series, words(on)stages. For the first year, we held it monthly and featured 2-3 readers each month. Every second installation would double as a launch for (parenthetical). As of our second year, and continuing on into 2016, we are only hosting words(on)stages bi-monthly, to coincide with (parenthetical) launches. In part, it was a financial decision, but we also didn’t want readers in non-launch months to feel like they weren’t drawing a big enough audience, compared to launch months. For our chapbooks, we have spring and fall launches in April and October respectively, where we launch a handful of our chapbooks—and sometimes collaborate with other chapbook presses and have a co-launch, what with community being so important to us.

We feel public readings (and such) are the lifeblood of the small press community. Whether it’s a launch or a reading series or a reading at a festival or a one-off event, these public readings are the best opportunity to show not only other people in the literary community, but the public how passionate you (the publisher, the author, the bookseller) are about the literature. But beyond that, beyond the sales aspect of it, it’s an opportunity to meet other people in the community, the people behind the presses or the books, or even just other people who like what you like. They are, literally, the community.

16– How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?
We use Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and our website to promote all the work we publish, as well as to spread the word about our events—as any publisher ought to do. More than that, though, we’re all about building our community outside of those we can see and talk to in person. That means we not only showcase work and events from other presses and writers we like, but we try to share things like readings and launches, as well as submission deadlines for other literary magazines or contests to get people involved with presses we respect and bring communities around the country together. We are, after all, a part of Canadian literature, and not only do we publish work from around Canada; we love work from a lot of publishers around Canada too.

17– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?
We do, indeed—for both (parenthetical) and words(on)stages we’re always accepting submissions; for chapbooks we have a time window that we announce on our website and social media and all that good stuff. All of the info for submissions can be found here:

As for what we aren’t looking for: manuscripts longer than thirty pages, genre fiction (nothing personal, just not for us as a publication), and submissions that don’t follow our guidelines. Anything else we’re totally up for.

18– Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
WOOL WATER by JC Bouchard: WOOL WATER, JC Bouchard's second chapbook (his first the fantastic “Portraits” from In/Words) is the culmination of ten days spent (mostly) in isolation in Reykjavik, Iceland, and several more months wittling the experience down to a sparse, stark long poem broken up into parts. JC distilled his experience in Iceland into this fantastic manuscript of bite-sized sections that immediately grab you, then linger, that get under your skin and form a narrative that not only stays with you, but you want to share, that you insist on sharing by reading pieces to anyone who will listen and forcing the pocket-sized little collection into their hands. JC's parts form a narrative that's just as serene and calm as it is dark and manic, and it does so in such a way that we've never seen JC play with language and form.

MOTHER2EARTH: an instruction booklet by philip miletic: Though quite the motherfucker to lay out, MOTHER2EARTH: an instruction booklet was a fantastic, weird, eclectic manuscript about the seminal JRPG Earthbound and its Japanese counterpart, Mother 2. The chapbook goes beyond exploring mistranslation. It revels in the translation and mistranslation of the script not only in its story and dialogue, but the actual script of the game's code, and experiments with form, style, reader, and player expectations in such a way that only an awesome, funny, risk-taking, and talented dude like philip miletic can.

meat//machine by Astoria Felix: Encountering Astoria's work first in (parenthetical), we were staggered by how talented she was, and then she sent us a smattering of her work that came together as meat//machine, her debut chapbook that's a culmination of several years of working through trauma and identity. Divided into three parts informally entitled "summer sheets," "circuit board: an interlude," and "meat//machine," this chapbook works through notions of beauty and identity. There's a constant feeling hat something isn't quite right, that somehow the words don't sit easy with the speaker—or the reader for that matter. And what we love is that Astoria was so willing to explore and subvert notions of beauty and identity, and do so in such a stunning and honest way.