Wednesday, November 30, 2016

dusie kollektiv #8 : curated by rob mclennan : now online,

The 8th “dusie kollektiv,” as curated by myself, is now online! Pdfs of chapbooks produced and mailed last year as part of this 8th curated kollektiv. See the link here to read all sorts of dusie goodness from across North America (and occasionally beyond!). The list of titles online include:

Gary Barwin, A History of Awkward Silences
Hugh Behm-Steinberg, The Sound of Music
Joe Blades, november poems
Rob Budde, TESTES
Amanda Chiado, prime cuts
Jason Christie, night
Michelle Detorie, the primitive undreamed
Amanda Earl, a book of miracles
kevin mcpherson eckhoff, Laughing Text
Jon Henson, Brittle Bit
Hailey Higdon, yes & what happens
Larkin Higgins, comb- ing mine- ings
Jen Hofer and franciszka voeltz, i copy your copy
Paul Klinger, mouth piece
Megan Kaminski and Anne Yoder, SIGIL & SIGH
Bob Marcacci, skyn otsk ying
James Maughn, Dialogue of Crane and Snake
Nicole Mauro, SUPERZER0IC (Wonder Woman and Superman, an Anti-Romance)
rob mclennan, Texture: Louisiana,
Marci Nelligan, NASCENT
Marthe Reed, a transparent reality
Elizabeth Robinson, ON SILENCE
Michael Ruby, Coastal Elements
Sarah Sarai, The Risen Barbie
Michael Sikkema, light seed
Jessica Smith, TRAUMA MOUTH
Chris Turnbull, Candid
Stalina Villarreal, Pinko App & So-Called Ring
annie won, did the wind blow it
Elisabeth Workman, In the Event of Not Having an Answer


In spring 2015, Dusie Emperor Susana Gardner allowed me to curate the eighth “dusie kollektiv,” the results of which we are finally able to present to you here.

Organized and fueled by Gardner, a poet and American expat (she has since returned to the continental United States), the “dusie kollektiv” is a series of curated lists of poets who each self-produce a small publication in a large enough quantity to send copies to everyone else in their specific “kollektiv.” With eight “kollektivs” completed so far, it was originally produced as an extension of her work through the online pdf poetry journal dusie, founded after Gardner moved to Switzerland as a way to keep in contact with her American poet-friends, but it might just have developed a life of its own.

What I’ve admired about the gift-economy structure of the “kollektiv” is in its simple ambition: allowing a group of engaged writers to interact with each other across vast distances. When I participated in the fifth kollektiv a few years back, it involved sending chapbooks out to a list of ninety other participants; chapbooks appeared in my mailbox for weeks, many by poets I wasn’t previously aware of. For my part, I mailed six to Europe and the remainder to the United States, which cost a small fortune, given I was the only Canadian resident, and but one of two Canadian participants (the other being Frances Kruk in London, England).

For my “kollektiv,” I offered an open invitation to previous participants (most of whom are poets scattered across the United States), as well as solicitations to a whole swath of Canadian poets engaged with small and micro-press, attempting to connect a series of communities and individuals that otherwise might never have met. The results have been intriguing, knowing that there were multiple poets being introduced to each other for the first time. Some cross-pollination has already occurred, with familiar names appearing at Amanda Earl’s, for example. One hopes that such cross-overs continue, are many, and wide-ranging.

And now you, too, can see what all the fuss was about. Read on:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

On beauty

I wonder if it is possible to compose my biography solely through the objects that surround me. I wonder what kind of portrait this might present. Meaning so often gets stripped away the moment I am removed from the equation. It just won’t add up. Books and toys and trinkets and photos and small items rich with personal histories and consequence, unknown to anyone else. Must I annotate my office for the sake of posterity? It sounds like nonsense, but then. Twitter asks, what are you watching? I haven’t an answer.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

12 or 20 (second series) questions with D.A. Lockhart

Born in Chatham, ON and raised in Windsor, ON, D.A. Lockhart holds degrees from Trent University, Montana State University, and Indiana University. He is a graduate of the Indiana University - Bloomington MFA in Creative Writing program where he held a Neal-Marshall Graduate Fellowship in Creative Writing. His work has appeared in the Windsor Review, Sugar House Review, Hawk and Whipporwill, Vinyl Poetry and Prose, and Contemporary Verse 2 among others. He is a recipient of Canada Council for the Arts grant for Aboriginal People and Ontario Arts Council grants for his poetry. He is author of Big Medicine Comes to Erie (Black Moss Press 2016) He is a research consultant and is editor-in-chief for Urban Farmhouse Press based out of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He is a member of the Moravian of the Thames First Nation.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Oddly enough, the concept of the first book hasn’t exactly had this massive effect on me. I feel like it should, but things sort of feel, well, the same. Having that first book is important, I won’t lie on that accord. As a professional it’s an absolute critical step in the process of one’s career. Because of that I feel deeply thankful to Black Moss Press and Marty Gervais for taking on chance on my work. But I’m still just focusing on the other work I’m still trying to wrap up. And that feels pretty normal. So you could say that there is a change internally, in the day-to-day of what I’m doing. But externally it’s an important and big change because it’s the physical thing that people can see about me.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
Funny on this one because I actually majored in fiction in graduate school. I did write some rather amateurism poems when I was doing my undergraduate in Montana, but on the whole I first came to fiction. My thesis was actually in fiction and the majority of my studies focused on fiction. But my success has come mainly in poetry. It has always seemed more natural, in a very personal way, to construct. You could say that I just find something that is more me in poetry. It’s a more natural way for me to do the work I often find myself wanting to do. But let’s be honest, I did have excellent poets as instructors at IU with Catherine Bowman and Maura Stanton. They probably helped me straighten out those amateurism poetics.

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?
Easy answer is as long it takes. But that’s a bit of a cop-out. So let’s go on with some nuance. Some writing projects are quick, others take a considerable amount of time. One of the shortest poems I’ve ever written took me about seven months to get to a place I wanted it to be. An exception, yeah, but I think you get the point about “as long it takes” because I rarely get that amount of time with a single poem anymore. Typically it takes about a month of pretty focused work to get a given individual piece to a place I would want it to be before submitting to a journal or magazine. My thesis director and Indiana University was Tony Ardizzone. He’s known for teaching the “waxing-the-floor” method. In it you lay down a rough “floor” of a piece (poetry or fiction) and you then you keeping smoothing the piece with successive layers of revisions until it gets to the place you need it to be. The very process is rather indicative of the length it takes me to get through stuff.

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?
Oddly enough, a lot of poems start with the friction between two ideas or items or places. There is a lot of Richard Hugo in where my work starts. For me, The Triggering Town, is just about all you need to know to get going on writing a poem. But they are organic. Meaning what you see is the end process. The basic concept is that you come up with something, say an image, an event, a place, and then find something else that haunts you about it and put them down on the page and see how they play out. It’s the whole chorus girls in the silo thing that Hugo talks about in his essay. That is the manner in which I explore individual pieces. But a lot of my recent work has actually been envisioned as larger works first. Take for example the “Devil in the Woods” manuscript I’ve been working away at. The over-arching concept of the collection is craft an indigenous consciousness in the heart of Ontario’s physical being that then reacts, both spiritually and vocally, to the key figures and events in Canada’s consciousness and self-identity. With that framework, I then crafted the individual pieces in the collection. But the individual pieces, I construct my poems organically.  

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
Public readings are definitely part of what I do. They aren’t necessarily central in any way to the creative process of the world. As I write the pieces I definitely consider the sounds and the musicality that goes into the way the poem reads. I see even an individual reading a poem on the page or screen as an event that must take into account the sound of the poems. But what I read, by the time I do so in a public reading is already past the creative process. I generally don’t read unfinished work in pubic readings. I enjoy reading as much as the next poet. Thing is that once I’m there and reading I feel as though I’ve already crafted the piece and am performing what I’ve come to know as my work.

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 interested in the manner in which land defines us. My characters and poems ride heavy on that. There is a spirituality in my work that explores that connection. Although I am profoundly interested in the manner in which the land shapes and defines everything from our emotions to our choices to the very types of creatures we are. I do have to admit to a slight Marxist bend on things on top of that. But to a certain extent perhaps every working class poet must claim a connection to Marxist ideology if not even just tangentially.

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?
We have a duty that extends beyond how much we can get paid for our work. We’re fortunate enough to be a given a voice that rises up for the masses. Our words should and must be measured. Because writers are people and every person must serve a certain role (I’m thinking about the clan system in many First Nations traditions) we all writing a tad bit different. But we do have an obligation to be engaged with the world, aid in the addition of voices that we know to be required, respond to things that need to be responded. 

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Working with an outside editor can be both rewarding and difficult. Editors are people too and you can’t possibly get along with everybody you meet. I was lucky enough to have a very good one when I lived in Indianapolis. Stephen Fox, he did some essential work on my manuscript back then. But generally, I don’t work with an editor.  Not recently anyways. Maybe that’ll change.   

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Fail. A lot. Learn from those. Be ok with those failures. Grow from what you learn.

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 have to write every day or I go a little batty. Although as a dad that works from home it means that I generally have to organically find the time to work. This means I usually end up doing most my work after well into the night. I spend a lot of time with headphones on and writing rough drafts in my journals to CBC (I do love Laurie Brown’s the Signal) and a good deal of 1950s and 60s jazz or Phish concerts.  After I spend some time working through new stuff I generally give a few hours to revisions and transcribing my journals to computer.  It all depends where I am with given work. Recently, it’s been more about creation. This means a lot more journal writing. Which I tend to enjoy a great deal.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I read. And then I often make notes, sort of talk to the works I’m reading. If I’m ever really stuck, I’ll sit down and copy out work I’ve really been digging. It’s how I get down to the technical framework of the pieces. I like to see the act of creation on a word-by-word, line-by-line manner. So you could say that I turn to the work of other writers to help me break through. Although, on occasion I can say a good walk along the waterfront here helps, too. But that is when things get a little too unhinged.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
White sage, Sweetgrass, Cedar, Lillacs.

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?
I listen to music a lot when I work. I do have to admit to a great affinity for Phish and Grateful Dead.  They are a very heavy rotation for me. But a lot of classic jazz, Monk, Dizzy, Freddie Hubbard, makes it on to my playlists. To an extent photographs do influence me. Robert Frank’s work most definitely has over the years, as has Paul Strand’s work.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I’m huge on Seamus Heaney’s work. Simon Ortiz is one of my cannon. I mentioned him before, but Richard Hugo. I would say that poets of substantial influence would be Catherine Bowman, Campbell McGrath, Maurice Manning, Maura Stanton, and Greg Keeler. If studied under almost all of them or I was simply around them enough to know them before I knew their work. It really helped me to sort of back-engineer their work to understand how a poet comes through on the things they writer.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Finish the novel I’m still working on.  Visit Nunavut and Yellowknife. Well, maybe as much of the Canadian Arctic as I can. Norway and Iceland, too. So, plenty.

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 might have been a sports journalist. Like I said, I have to write. It drives me crazy not to. Plus, I’m a sports junkie. So that would make it at least passion drive. If I couldn’t write at all, maybe something in farming. Who doesn’t have dreams about going back to the land? It would be a very good failed or retire poet thing to do. Raising goats and chickens, some heirloom okra and bean crops, all that sort of stuff that super cool folks in Indiana and Montana were up to while I was out there. Maybe the farm thing should be an answer to question 15, too.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
It was something I had to do. As have, really can’t explain why. I sort of get up every day and know that I have to write something. It’s been that way since I was teenager. It’s hard not be what you are supposed to be.  

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
It’s not a recent release, but I’ve read it recently and it’s a great book. Bob Earl Stewart’s Something Burned along the Southern Border was a great read. The pieces are gritty and real and just feel like the city I grew up in. In Windsor had a Richard Hugo, it was Stewart. Film’s a little tougher. I read a lot more than I watch films. So maybe I’ll just promise to find some great films in the near future.

19 - What are you currently working on?
I’m just finishing up the first draft of a historical fiction novel set in southwestern Ontario in 1849 called “The Waters that Divide.” The book explores the aftermath of the burning a Jesuit mission on Walpole Island and sort of powder keg this frontier region of Upper Canada was at the time. All of this is done through the viewpoint of an “urban” Indigenous protagonist as he explores conceptions of culture and self in the face of an ever-burning conflict between those in power and those without. I’ve also just received an Aboriginal Arts grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to finish up a poetry manuscript entitled “Devil in the Woods.” It’s a collection of letter and prayer poems loosely based on Richard Hugo’s 33 Letters and 13Dreams. Major difference is the viewpoint is from an Anishnaabe man in Central Ontario and he is addressing famous real and fictional figures in Canadian society.  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ongoing notes: Meet the Presses (part two,

[view from my table]

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the first part already, but here are some further items I picked up at the recent Meet the Presses fair in Toronto last weekend; might we see you today at the ottawa small press book fair? I mean, there might even be cookies!

Toronto ON/Vancouver Island BC: Vancouver Island poet and critic Sonnet L’Abbé’s latest title, produced through Carleton Wilson’s Junction Books, is the beautifully designed and bound poetry chapbook Anima Canadensis (2016). Composed as part of a “larger project,” Anima Canadensis opens with the sequence, “PERMANENT RESIDENTS’ TEST,” a poem that speaks to Canadian cultural and historical contexts, referencing Indigenous displacements and European settlement through, among other means, discussing flowers (“Identify the native species in this passage.”) and other “agricultural products.”

Answer the following questions.

In order to stay in what form? In order. In order to keep the nuclear grazing, the gentle seep? In order to keep? To keep order. The way and flow and the way of things. The order of things. The will to keep, to keep on, to go on, to sustain. To keep out of trouble. To maintain. Love your ability to sustain. In order to sustain in what form? Please complete this human form. This formal question. How will you stay? Is the order complete? What form sustains? Where there is will some will remains. How will you sustain order? Prove your ability to sustain. Please fill out this shape. Take a new form. Prove your ability to love.

I’ve been utterly fascinated to see the shift in L’Abbé’s work since the publication of her first trade collection, expanding outwards from metaphor-driven lyric to more experimental works that attempt to navigate and explore issues around race, identity and colonization [see her recent Touch the Donkey interview that touches on some of the same]. Her work, in both form and content, has become more socially and politically engaged, more open to alternate forms and, to my mind, has become far more compelling, putting her on a Canadian poet shortlist of required reading. As she writes to open the poem “LOVE AMID THE ANGLOCULTURE” : “Is it not of the same gravity / as going to war, / the decision to love?”


Strong neck the channel through which your roots become branches. Strong neck the trunk through which your impulses flow, tides of perception and reaction. You are a battery of cells, positive of material, anti-positive of nervous potential. You, a dyad of bunches of waving branches and bundled branches, of bunches of searching roots and rooting roots. The spine of your decision-making: a flexible tension between head and heart. The moving tree grows in more dimensions than knowledge: in its reach, yes, in its span, but also, if it is lucky, in its rootedness, in its density, in the neck’s rough skin thickened to injury, that lifts above its heart a head of power—ever spring-fond, ever fall-wise—a tender, leafy power to love light.

Toronto/Picton ON: New from Leigh Nash and Andrew Faulkner’s The Emergency Response Unit is Toronto poet Phoebe Ka-Ir Wang’s chapbook HANGING EXHIBITS (2016), a title constructed of poems that respond, predominantly, to visual art. Obviously, ekphrastic poems (poems that respond to other creative works, including poems, visual art, etcetera) have been around forever (works by Diana Brebner, Stephanie Bolster and Robert Creeley come to mind), and far too often simply describe or explain the artworks they claim to be “responding” to, but the narratives of Wang’s poems seem to respond sideways to the original works. She seems to compose intriguing little narratives that emerge from, or are even influenced by, the originals. As she writes at the end of the poem “STILL LIFE WITH ANCESTORS”: “She’ll tell us there’s more to the story.” Wang’s poems do seem to suggest far more than what they say, offering both alternate considerations and even addendums to their source materials.


after Matisse, Goldfish and Sculpture, 1912

She’s gone in ahead of us, testing
the bathwater. When she winces
we feel it too. The heat applies
its deep vermilion to her knees,
her thighs, the tract of her tummy,
forcing them to bloom.
We slough off cotton
socks and tank tops, climb in
as if into a second skin,
first my sister, then me.
we’re slippery as fins.
The light amniotic, rinsing us
in cerulean, and even when
we’re clean and we don’t emerge.
Outside, the air is frigid
and hostile. We’d rather live here,
inside the dance of chiaroscuro,
where the hour’s tropical.
Mom passes something to us—
a scrap of cloth, a white pill of soap
(her impulsiveness, her innate talents)
gives us no choice but to use them.