Monday, September 26, 2022

new from above/ground press: twenty-two new/recent (April-September 2022) titles,

Happy September! What! How did we get here? And we'll see you at the ottawa small press book fair on Novmeber 12th, yes?

TWENTY-TWO NEW TITLES: Light Makes a Ruin, by Geoffrey Nilson $5 ; Felines, which sounds like feelings, by Genevieve Kaplan $5 ; Motion & Force, by Melissa Spohr Weiss $5 ; too many words, by Lori Anderson Moseman $5 ; GLITCH APPLE, by Christopher Patton $5 ; Dating Pete Davidson, by Leigh Chadwick $5 ; Report from the (Sarah) Mangold Society, Vol. 1 No. 1 $7 ; Report from the (Gregory) Betts Society, Vol. 1 No. 1 $7 ; Report from the (Phil) Hall Society, Vol. 1 No. 1 $7 ; FALSE NARRATIVES, by Ken Norris $5 ; Report from the (Cameron) Anstee Society, Vol. 1 No. 1 $7 ; Reading The Great Classics Of Canlit through Book 5 of bpNichol’s The Martyrology, by Grant Wilkins $5 ; Natural Man, by N.W. Lea $5 ; Silts, by Jed Munson $5 ; AN ENVELOPE OF SILENCE, Some Short Fiction 1977-1989, by David Miller $5 ; looping climate, by Matthew Gwathmey $5 ; Report from the (Monty) Reid Society, Vol. 1 No. 1 $7 ; in the shadows, by Michael Boughn $5 ; west coast shorts, by Laura Kelsey $5 ; English Garden Bondage, by Russell Carisse $5 ; In-Between, by Saba Pakdel $5 ; Tomorrow's Going to be Bright, by Jérôme Melançon $5 ; (see the prior list of 2022 titles here

keep an eye on the above/ground press blog for author interviews, new writing, reviews, upcoming readings and tons of other material; and 2023 subscriptions (THE PRESS' THIRTIETH YEAR) announce at the end of the week! (although at the same rates as last year, if you want to get in on the action early,

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
April - September 2022
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy of each

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at at rob_mclennan (at) or the PayPal button (above). Scroll down the extensive list of names on the sidebar (many, many things are still in print).

Review copies of any title (while supplies last) also available, upon request.

Forthcoming chapbooks by: George Bowering, Joseph Donato, Chris Johnson, Ben Jahn, Leesa Dean, Lindsey Webb, Jason Heroux, Nick Chhoeun, Grant Wilkins, Isabel Sobral Campos, Mark Scroggins, Laura Walker, Adrienne Adams, Jordan Davis, Jason Christie, Andrew Gorin, Marita Dachsel, Stuart Ross, Angela Caporaso and Isabella Wang, an issue of G U E S T [a journal of guest editors] edited by Sara Lefsyk and issue thirty-five of Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal]! (and probably a bunch of other things, honestly).

and can you believe the press turns THIRTY YEARS OLD next year? gadzooks!

stay healthy! be safe! be nice to each other,

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Sophie Crocker, Brat



self-portrait in aries

i have been so alive. 

in an open shirt i set mint sprigs on fire.

we brush each other’s teeth in the speckled mirror.

my limbs made yours in watercolor.

you can bow a cherry stem with your tongue;

i can keep a chick alive in the slickness of my cheek.

yes, i am a pet for care.

little body all skeletal with rain.

it’s so easy not to break me once you know that i am breakable.

you were hungry.

i was hungry.

& the thing to eat was me.

The full-length poetry debut by Sophie Crocker, “a writer and performance artist based on stolen Songhees, Esquimalt and WSANEC land,” is Brat (Guelph ON: Gordon Hill Press, 2022), a scattering of poems that work to explore and feel out a variety of self-definitions and self-determinations, through which to see which one or ones best fit. “i don’t want to miss anything before i have to.” they write, as part of the opening poem, “venus in cancer.” “i / can’t even finish a podcast, can’t even keep a middle name.” There is such delightful and open uncertainty infused in Crocker’s narratives, and their expositions flick at a moment’s notice between meditation and flailing, wild exuberance and cool wisdoms, so many of which seem hard-won. The same poem, after weaving and bobbing a meandering pace, ends with the clarity of such a wonderfully-paced and slightly-open conclusion: “actually, my last meal will be breakfast. / after breakfast i will take a long, / long walk.”

Crocker engages with numerous poems around situating, composing multiple portraits-within-moments across an immediate self, including “self-portrait as angel baby,” “self-portrait in leo,” “self-portrait in virgo,” “neptune in capricorn,” “self-portrait in aquarius” and “the best thing about me.” They offer moments and morsels of and around perspective, and portraits around all twelve astrological signs. “i should like to be dismantled.” they write, to open “self-portrait of the obsessive compulsive / in isolation,” “a white onion. / my skull still soft. the apartment half-moved-out.” The ways through which Crocker constructs a book-length in-process portrait, working line by line, poem by poem, is fascinating; and Crocker’s staccato-accumulations are, at times, combative, meditative, lyric, self-depreciating, self-aware, sly, hilarious and deeply curious, seeking answers to impossible questions that are still, in themselves, to find their final form. “there were too many corners / in too many rooms.” they write, near the end of “that summer i thought i was gautama buddha,” “my rage monsooned / into every flesh i had.”

Saturday, September 24, 2022

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Brendan McLeod

Brendan McLeod is the author of a novel, a poetry collection, five theatre shows, and is the founder of the Juno-nominated folk group The Fugitives. His latest book is the poetry debut Friends Without Bodies.

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 novel was published in 2007. Since then I’ve focussed on music and theatre, so I don’t know how my new book compares because I haven’t gone back and read my old one. Should I? To be honest, I’m too scared. 15 years is a long time.

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

I came to fiction first, but I did this project as poetry because the world was changing so rapidly every day (even though we were just sitting alone in our houses) that I needed a form that was good for wrestling with different subjects one by one by one. I couldn’t have written a novel in the state I was in – it was too chaotic. I needed to be able to jump between emotions quickly, so it was either poetry or songwriting. I don’t know why poetry won out, but I’m glad I didn’t overthink it.

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?

My first drafts are all garbage. I’m a spewer. Just get it out. Then try to make something coherent out of it, or give up, or, eventually, both.

4 - Where does a poem or work of prose 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?

In this case, I wasn’t working on a book. One of the last poems is titled Day 533. If I’d known I was going to write that long about the pandemic I wouldn’t have started, so thank God for ignorance.

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

I come from a spoken word background so I’ve always thought it was helpful to the editing process to see the looks on people’s faces and gauge their reactions to the words. It definitely helps for humour, at least.

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’m interested in how to discuss mental illness openly and in a nuanced fashion that lessens stigmas around it in a manner that broader things like the Twitter “Let’s Talk” campaign cannot. I’m interested in how and why we grieve what we do and how power structures inform that. Currently, I’m interested in how to do art about climate change that is realistic without being nihilistic.   

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?

I think about that a lot, but I don’t know.

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

My editor was Alessandra Naccarato and I can’t imagine this book without her. Actually, I can, and it would have sucked. I think the writer’s brain is important, but of equal importance is to have a different brain interrogate the writer’s intention/motivation/expertise/purpose. Since the writer is in their own brain they often take these things for granted, and they’re some of the most important questions.

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

Work without hope or despair.

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

Mainly it’s a monetary appeal. I’ve diversified so that I can live full-time as an artist. I wish my aesthetic forms overlapped more because it would be less work, but they rarely do. Each form is a whole thing onto itself and I think when I’ve made assumptions about things in one form and tried to cut and paste that assumption onto the next form it hasn’t worked out for me.

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

I used to work like a banker from 9-5. I wrote a lot, but it wasn’t very good, so I tried to switch it up in the last 5 years and become more of a hippie and just do what needs doing when it feels right to do it. As you can tell from that sentence, that might not be working either.

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

Music, walking, having a drink with a friend, researching cool UFO stuff.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

I suck at stuff like that. Nothing comes to mind. For some reason I thought of a banana, but that’s not right.

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

I’m big into history and science, but I think only in the way that someone with limited capacity in those subjects can be. I love quantum mechanics and consciousness and the nature of reality and space, but I’d be hard-pressed to explain how a vacuum works, unless I had a few drinks, and then I would try. I think I’m good at learning, getting inspired, synthesizing information, and then forgetting what I just learned. 

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

It’s close, but I think Mary Karr is the best writer to re-read. So I go back to her often because there’s always something new in her work no matter how many times I’ve read it.

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

Go to Greece.

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

I think it would be fun to be a lawyer, but only because I like courtroom dramas. I don’t really know what their work entails on a day-to-day basis.

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

I’m not sure!

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

Film: I really enjoyed The Father. Book: Don’t Call Us Dead. 

20 - What are you currently working on?

A new album with The Fugitives and a theatre show about capitalism and a middle grade heist novel!

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Friday, September 23, 2022

back to school : returning to in-person learning,

After some nine hundred days of home-ness (and two years of virtual learning, beyond the half-year of virtual flailing Rose's class did after initial lockdown), our young lades have returned to in-person schooling once more. What might it be like? Aoife managed both years of kindergarten online, and Rose went through grades two and three, all of which went far better than we might have imagined, honestly (see my variety of reports, including our recent summer stretch, in reverse order, here, here and here). By their second year into such, the virtual teachers had a pretty good idea of what they were doing, as did our young ladies. They didn't require nearly as much attention (although Rose still required an assist with homework). And Rose was provided far more support through the virtual space than she might have been offered had she been in-person.

We've sent Aoife over to where Rose had been, the school some four hundred metres from our front door, but Rose is off to another school entirely, hoping that she can spend grades four through six collecting some tools to help her progress, before potentially returning her to the public system (and both children in the same school at the same time, finally) for grade seven. Did I mention that Rose's drop-off is 8am with a twenty minute drive? And Aoife an 8:55am drop-off. Pick-up is near-simultaneous, so we've yet to figure out the logistics of that one (a perfect world would allow for the same person to collect both children, but we aren't quite there yet). We're still masking in public, so we're hoping our young ladies might be masking their school-days as well, which has gone mostly well so far.

And of course, the return of in-person school means, naturally, the return of the sick-days (we've already had Aoife home briefly due to a cough and runny nose, although repeat negative Covid tests; and Rose was home yesterday with a sore throat). Might the snow days return as well?