Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bywords Spring Celebration, Sunday April 1

To celebrate the start of the fifth year of the Bywords Quarterly Journal, this event will feature our Ottawa-based editors, plus contributors to the spring BQJ. We'll also hear the music of Kristin Bell Murray.

Sunday, April 1, 2007, 2pm

Chapters, 47 Rideau Street (inquire at info desk if you can't find us)

Contact: Amanda Earl,; (613) 868-1364

We'll have copies of the Bywords Quarterly Journal, Ottawa Arts Review and other goodies on hand. Afterwards come join us as we toast year 5 with a pint or six at the Highlander Pub.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Arc Poetry Magazine Launches Portage: A Map to the Poetry Ecosystem

Today, March 21st, is World Poetry Day, as championed by UNESCO.

A day for poetry daring. What will you do? Looking for ideas? The online home of Arc: Canada's Poetry Magazine, has added a new window onto the world of poetry. Portage, on preview since December, is a routes map to the poetry ecosystem in Canada and around the world.

Through over 500 online links, the Portage map outlines educational resources, professional tracks, academic debates, underground movements, historical and/or indigenous legacies, book and magazine trades, new media innovations, and grassroots community initiatives. By no means comprehensive, this map attempts to offer a cross-section of the players advancing the craft, the critical discourse, and the public appreciation of poetry in its many forms, written or performed.

Portage points out the sometimes tucked away, and sometimes wide open, profusion of poetry and spoken word happening in Canada and in other countries. The emphasis is on poetry in English or translated into English. But as with traditional portage routes where explorers, traders, and indigenous people carried their canoes over obstacles to new waters, the goal is exchange.

Visitors can start their journey by picking one of the navigation routes listed on the right-hand side of the page. These include bookstores, fairs and festivals, poet websites, publishers, reading series, and workshops and writing groups. Regional links allow users to explore by country or by Canadian province. The National Capital Region, home to Arc, has its own list, and we are scouting for links with a bioregional emphasis. Visitors may also navigate by using tags, which indicate the poetry form, style, theme, subject matter or medium to be found in a certain site.

Try out the selective search to find, say, bookstores or workshops in a given area. Arc webmistress and Portage designer Stacey Munro admits the Portage map met its current shape in "a somewhat adhoc way, routes improvised from personal experience and finds from the Internet with the inkling of a 'poetry ecology' as beacon." As such, the map is designed to be interactive. Some routes have been linked to interactive forums or polls open for comment. Thoughts on this project, cartographic suggestions, additions, corrections, and recommendations for web traces to poetry heartlands are welcome at our guestbook or through our Portage contact form.

Tell us how you put Portage to use. It's no accident that World Poetry Day is celebrated on the same day as the day for the elimination of racial discrimination. How's the progress since the 1999 proclamation? Tell us, if you like, what you propose for the future or what you dared to do on World Poetry Day.

Tip the canoe. Enter the conversation. Rewrite this map.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Four Horsemen Project at the Great Canadian Theatre Company

Settling into your theatre seat at GCTC (910 Gladstone, Ottawa), you notice that the set design is minimal. More than minimal - the backdrop and floor are as white as two blank sheets of paper. A writer's nightmare? Relax. As the performance begins, words on film flit across the stage, interacting with the four performers who, in the multi-media spirit of the show, dance and sing as they recite poetry, singly or as an ensemble. And the poetry? Sometimes it is simply one phrase repeated over an over (like the opener, "a drum and a wheel"), or a list of words, spoken in chorus or all at once in a whirl of sound and light. Sometimes, it's a song written by the late bpNichol for the 80s TV show Fraggle Rock. A recurring motif throughout the show is bp's classic piece "What is a poem (is inside of your body)."

All the poems, in fact, were written and/or performed by Nichol and his fellow members of the Toronto sound-poetry group The Four Horsemen. The group had a great run, creating both new work and a climate of experimentation that helped many other innovative writers flourish. But in the two decades since the death of bpNichol their work has been somewhat neglected, so that when the creators of the show staged at GCTC first heard one of their pieces played on CBC radio, they assumed it was "A) brand new; and B) created elsewhere." In fact they had been listening to a 30-year-old recording made in their home base, Toronto.

Ross Manson, director of Volcano theatre, and Kate Alton, director of the Crooked Figure dance company, set about to revive interest in the Four Horsemen, and sound poetry generally, by creating this visual feast. They enlisted the animation company Global Mechanic to take the Horsemen's visual poetry and set it in motion on stage, and found four dancers from the Crooked Figure company who bring vocal talents as well as grace and beauty into the intermedia mix. This shouldn't be surprising, since the Crooked Figure company says that it "exists to create absorbing and socially relevant text-based dance creations."

Of course, the four performers - Jennifer Dahl, Graham McKelvie, Naoko Murakoshi and Andrea Nann - don't play the roles of Horsemen Paul Dutton, Steve McCaffery, Rafael Barreto-Rivera and bpNichol. They bring their own charm and the directors' interpretations to the word-fair. Nearly everything about the performance is slick and professional. Yet there's something missing - the raw energy that the original Four Horsemen brought to their improvisations. The second-by-second edginess of poets exploring the resources of the language, and of their bodies, always innovating, always on the verge of some new discovery that might set off new ideas among the four collaborators. As Kate Alton says, "I don't know that anyone other than the poets themselves could truly do justice to this work, but my choreographic interpretations are all created in the spirit of play, admiration and tribute."

The Four Horsemen Project is not so much a reasonable fascimile as an admiring tribute, and it is a lot of fun. It may well succeed in bringing sound poetry and intermedia performance to the attention of audiences and artists in a variety of media. To fully appreciate the Four Horsemen's work and its aesthetic underpinnings, poets will need to go back to the original sources, or go talk to Paul Dutton who continues to work as a solo sound poet in Toronto. More likely, poets will leave the theatre thinking, "Just imagine what dancers could do with my poems."

The Four Horsemen Project continues in Ottawa until April 1. And if you can't get there, the production is prepared to travel to your town.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

poetry month in ottawa; the league of canadian poets

Ottawa's national poetry month reading will be:

7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, at Cube Gallery, 7 Hamilton North, near the Parkdale market, featuring Michelle Desbarats, Michael Dennis, Laura Farina, Colin Morton and David O'Meara.

Unlike the Toronto reading, we will require a metaphor as the price of admission (although the poets will not be required to use them).

Info: Colin Morton at

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ottawa's Plan 99 Reading Series, End of Winter Schedule

Ottawa's renowned Plan 99 Reading Series announces its End of Winter Schedule 2007

In April of 2001, Peter Schneider of the Ottawa Xpress wrote that the Plan 99 Reading Series had "established itself as the local gold standard.In a few years, it's likely members of the literary set will be bragging of being present at the Manx when a celebrated author took the microphone."

Now in its seventh year, the Plan 99 Reading series continues to bring the best of Canadian writing to the Manx Pub. Our alumni readers have won or been shortlisted for Giller Awards, Governor General Awards, Griffin Poetry Prizes, Trillium Awards, Atlantic Poetry Awards and many others, but awards or not, the Plan 99 Series prides itself on choosing the best writers across the country.

Located in the cozy Manx Pub, well-known for its connection and sponsorship to culture and arts (not to mention its great food and single-malt scotch list), the Plan 99 series is pleased to announce its End of Winter line-up of five great readings. This series is especially exciting as we will be hosting the book launches of three local authors.

*Sunday, March 18th: Roy Miki
Saturday, April 14th: Book Launch-Shane Rhodes and Steven Ross Smith
Saturday, April 28th: Book Launch-Ian Roy
Saturday, May 12th: Mark Frutkin
Saturday, May 26th: Book Launch-Joanne Proulx

All readings take place at the Manx Pub (370 Elgin St; 613-231-2070) on Saturdays (*note exception) at 5:00 pm. Seating is not guaranteed. Sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts, Alexander Keiths Pale Ale, and the Manx Pub.

Readers' Biographies:

Roy Miki is a poet and critic, and the editor of West Coast Line. His books include Surrender (winner of the 2002 Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry), Broken Entries: Race, Writing, Subjectivity (Mercury), Random Access File (Red Deer College Press), Saving Face: Poems Selected 1976-1988 (Turnstone) and Justice in Our Time: The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement (with Cassandra Kobayashi; Talonbooks). Miki lives in Vancouver, B.C., and teaches at Simon Fraser University. There, the follow-up to the award-winning Surrender, extends Miki's exploration of the margins joining social and individual language.

Shane Rhodes is the author of The Wireless Room, which won the Alberta Book Award for poetry, and Holding Pattern, which won the Archibald Lampman Award. He has published chapbooks, poetry, reviews, articles, and essays in magazines, anthologies, and newspapers across Canada. He has also worked as an editor with filling Station, The Fiddlehead, and Qwerty. His third poetry collection is The Bindery. Rhodes lives in Ottawa. An interview with Rhodes appears in the third issue of ottawater.

Steven Ross Smith was born in Toronto and raised in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto. Smith's previous books of poetry include blind zone, Transient Light, Sleepwalkers, which was co-authored by Richard Truhlar, and Reading My Father's Book. Smith has also published fiction and non-fiction, and has written for many periodicals and anthologies. In addition to this, Smith creates, records, and performs sound poetry. This is the fourth book in Smith's fluttertongue series. He currently lives in Saskatoon, SK.

Ian Roy was born in the province of Quebec in 1972. His last book, People Leaving, was short-listed for both the Upper Canada Writers' Craft Award and the City of Ottawa Book Award. Red Bird is Ian's third book. Ian currently lives in the province of Ontario.

Mark Frutkin has published seven books of fiction and three books of poetry, including Atmospheres Apollinaire (shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award (fiction) and Trillium Book Award), Iron Mountain, and Fabrizio's Return (recently shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book ). His work has appeared in Canada, the U.S., England, Russia, Poland, Holland and India. He has written on art and books for The Globe and Mail,, Harper's, The Ottawa Citizen, and others. His poetry and fiction have been published in numerous Canadian and foreign journals. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and son.

Joanne Proulx, a graduate of Humber College's creative writing mentorship program, has had short stories published in literary journals on both sides of the Atlantic, including Exile: The Literary Quarterly, and Upstairs at Duroc, a literary magazine out of Paris. Her debut novel, Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet, will be published by Penguin Canada in May 2007, and by Picador (UK) and Soho Press (USA) in early 2008. Joanne currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

For more information on the series, email Chris Swail at

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Making Tracks-A University of Ottawa Anthology

Making Tracks, A University of Ottawa Anthology, Friday Circle, 2007 is the eleventh in a series of class anthologies by participants in Seymour Mayne’s Creative Writing Poetry Workshop at the University of Ottawa (ENG 3264).

To my knowledge this marks the final ENG 3264 poetry class to be taught by Seymour Mayne. Let’s hope I’m wrong. This year Professor Mayne is teaching the advanced workshop, ENG 4398.

Making Tracks features the poetry of Kelly Clarke, Wojtek Copija, Marley Davidson, Isabella Drzemczewska Hodson, Andrew Faulkner, Lindsay Foran, Joe Hickey, Adam Maloney, Shanthi Minor and Janice Thurston.

This year is the first of Friday Circle’s perfect bound publications. The design and layout by Ottawa Arts Review editor Andrew Falkner is clean and literary journalish rather than ziney.

Here’s some stuff about some of the poems:

Clarke’s writing is a mix of sensuality, heartfelt confession and humour. There’s a hint of surrealism in lines like: “She sings little sounds that drip like honey,/ and I stir them into my wine for one.” Little Sounds

Copija’s pieces are lyrical and passionate with references to mythology and the Spanish poet, Neruda. Nocturnes has a delicate and subtle eroticism.

Davidson writes in a spare style and gets to the point with a minimal of histrionics. The poem “happy-hour” opens with force: “pour me something dark/that curdles the blood.

Hickey’s poems contain strong and original imagery. The poems are lyrical and spare. There’s a seductive rhythm to lines like “I was rolling the rocks all day.” and “my arms are stuffed with embers/and my eyelashes have become/little lead sinkers.” from The Best Sleep There Is.

Minor’s poems vary from light-hearted humour in Cowboy Hate to sadness in her prose piece “it’s a fallen world that cries at the sight of a second blue line”

Previous folk in these anthologies have won awards, are working on their first poetry collections or are taking creative writing, doing PhDs or involved in publishing. Let’s hope the writers in this collection make tracks in the literary limelight. The potential is definitely there.