Saturday, December 01, 2007

mother tongue books OPEN HOUSE and BIRTHDAY PARTY

mother tongue books OPEN HOUSE and BIRTHDAY PARTY,
Celebration of Ottawa women poets; Passed and Present.

Sunday, 2nd December, 2007: 2:00 p.m. ‘Til 6:00 p.m.

There will be short readings throughout the day; A Silent Auction; 50/50 draws every hour; a raffle and, lots of in-between time for shmoozing, celebrating, remembering poets ‘Passed’ and wishing mtb “a very HAPPY 13th BIRTHDAY” and anything else that looks like fun for a passel of poets to be doing while we raise money for mother tongue Scholarships to send young African women to High School in Tanzania.

JC Sulzenko has agreed to start our celebrations off at 2:30 p.m.; reading SYLVIA PLATH and some of her own work. (JC has also agreed to sign copies of her own childrens’ book, “Boot Crazy”).

Below is a tentative list of readers;
JANE JORDAN, Sylvia Adams;
PAT LOWTHER, Barbara Myers;
DIANA BREBNER, Mary Trafford & LM Rochefort;
MARUEEN GLAUDE, Louise Mcdiarmid & Lois A. Wraight;
RUBY SPRIGGS, Michelle Desbarats & Laura Rayner;
CANDIS GRAHAM, Diana R. Windle;
ENID RUTLAND, Susan McMaster & Maureen Korp;

If anyone else would like to participate (this IS an all afternoon party): we welcome more readers; donations of cheese, crackers, cookies, wine, etc.; good used books for re-sale or items for our silent auction will also be appreciated. (among our Silent Auction Items; Project TEMBO African artifacts, we have a small PATRICIA KIRBY watercolour and, The Table Vegetarian Restaurant has given us $100 in Gift Certificates). We are still looking for some high-end item(s) for raffles.

In a village world where $720 will send a young woman to High School for 4 years, $1500 will train a school teacher. $150 will help establish a business and, a mere $10 will buy a chicken - every dollar raised will be put to good use. And, not to be crass, we will accept cash

If you have any ideas, donations, questions or, if you would like to schedule yourself to read; call mtb: 613+730-2346 or Lois: 613+722-6759

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Kurt Schwitters collected fragments of discarded objects, the first almost a century ago, some made into make what we'd call installation art projects today. He also assembled sound and language fragments – coughs, sneezes, stutters, syllables – into poetry.

Froehlich as Schwitters Froehlich as Schwitters Froehlich as Schwitters
Peter Froehlich's one-man-show is a collage of MERZ poems meshed into a context of the anecdotes and legends of this artist. The show ended at Nov 16 at the Cube Gallery

The first part of the show was biographical, a history lesson done in broad black comedy style of grief and repurposing props even so the fishbowl, the watery grave of his beautiful loyal fish, become water to nonchalantly drink, then later the glass becomes wine at the cafe table at a banquet of Hitler. What we think is a coughing fit from drinking the water and him groping forward to the music stand for support, is transformed to him tuning to the next page of notes and that the coughing is sound controlled. Everything expected is turned on its head.

The play with reversals became a subject almost as much as any subject, such as beautiful Anna, "the same from the front as from the back" (A-n-n-a, or a-n-n-A). Anna is so unlike Hannover itself, which in false etymology becomes the forward of what it is in reverse "re von nah" re –back, von – from, nah– near. Therefore it reads and means forwards Hannover – "forward to far". His stepping out into the meta was explicitly explained as well. "I play off sense against nonsense. I prefer nonsense but it doesn't matter. It's a matter of taste."

Timing, pause, variance in rate and tone of voice independant from meaningful words all had an perceptible reality in teased out in isolation. Imposing meaning or letting sound become meaning or meaning disperse from conventional meaning is the core of Metz. It deals with the same sort of reducing sound until it loses meaning and starts to mean again rose occasionally in his syllables as The Four Horseman Project.

How to express the sounds to text is a bit tricky. The whole show is poorly captured in piece or page, being so auditory and interwoven. Does it give any idea of the play with sound expectations of lo la, la lo, lo, la, la lo...da da, da da, and the French alphabet letters in paired sets so that BéDe, BéC BéBé Béah. The refrains of building sound made a sort of narrative arc of coming to expect a pattern of vowels to repeat. They became like chapters of certain vowels, then a page turn and a new set.

He was playing with the expectations of linear narrative of relating a story, losing his place, becoming confused, and starting way back in the story, tangenting, where was I? oh yes and restarting way back in the story again. The audience laughed harder each time yet each time he told it, he pivoted the focus. When he got most of the way thru the story of the crowd gathering to look at a "man who was just standing there", he wrote out one character but left in the discontinuity, saying, this is where the police came for him, except that can't happen now because he no longer exists.

This looped back in the second half when the music stand of pages he was conducting himself from diligently progressing forward for half the notes, he started messing with direction, going backwards thru pages instead of forward or flipping to (seemingly?) random pages forward and back thru the score. This made peals of laughter and started the couple people on their giggle fits again.

An Ottawa Citizen report by Patrick Langston. No one left as Langston related for the performance he saw, but people did ragdoll over with laughter, 4 people in rows ahead were wiping tears from their eyes laughing. The head bobbling he remarked on of people moving in rhythm thru the sounds was there too. Which isn't to say it was non-stop comedy. The build of tension, the play of Nazi movements against the life of the artist were there, the neutral palette of sounds and the dramatic stories against the deliberate tossed in nonsense all kept the tone alive.

As soon as the performance ended a portion of the crowd rushed the stage to get a personal look at those notes that scored the sound. How did he do that. People were flipping thru and peering over and around each other.

You can hear the original recording of Schwitters doing Ursonate at UBU. In the original, he was more playing with notes and musicality it seems. This interpretation used more monotone with sudden leaps up the scale as yelps that broke the pattern in what seemed like falsetto by comparison. You can hear another version of the script at Ubu by Jaap Blonk.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

12 or 20 questions: with Amanda Earl

Amanda Earl’s poetry will appear in upcoming issues of Rampike and the New Chief Tongue Review. Her second chapbook, Eleanor was released this summer by above/ground press. Her poems have appeared most recently in, Holy Beep, launched during Calgary’s bpNichol benefit show with jwcurry,, the Ottawa Arts Review and

Her visual poetry has appeared in the Peter F. Yacht Club, and Her work also appears in the gallery at

Amanda is the managing editor of the Ottawa-based literary site, and the Bywords Quarterly Journal, a journal for poetry by writers with an Ottawa connection.

Amanda also writes fiction. Her stories appear most recently in Lies with Occasional Truth (, Front&Centre Magazine (Black Bile Press), The Puritan and various anthologies published by Alyson Books, Cleis Press, Thunder’s Mouth Press, and Carroll and Graf.

When she blogs, she blogs:

1 - How did your first chapbook change your life?

that was Blood Orange (Friday Circle, 2003); it made me afraid of seeing my words in print because right away i wanted to change some things. i hadn't had much poetry published. it also made me want to get more stuff published and inspired me to want to publish chapbooks. i was weirded out when people asked me to sign it. i felt like an imposter. this still happens.

2 - How long have you lived in Ottawa, and how does geography, if at all, impact on your writing? Does race or gender make any impact on your work?

i've lived in Ottawa for 20 or 21 years depending on whether you use the new math or the old. geography and place inspire my writing. i wrote a poem series called "November" last year that was set in various parts of downtown Ottawa; it was just me walking around and treating myself to an exquisite lunch complete with beer or wine. even my second chapbook, Eleanor (above/ground press, 2007), about Eleanor of Aquitaine, who lived in France and England in the Middle Ages, manages to have bits of Ottawa in it. if i'm in different cities, the place also influences my writing.

race has no affect on my writing so far.

with gender, i'd like the voices i write to reflect whatever gender they are, including no gender if gender isn't relevant; but i want to be blank and not inflict my gender on my writing. i sometimes wish i'd chosen a gender neutral pen name instead of my own and maybe i'll do that sometime.

3 - 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?

a poem begins with a moment, an image, something in freeze frame or a pique of interest about some person. for the first five years of writing poetry with any serious intent to publish, i just wrote small individual poems, but for the past two years i've been writing long poem series and i'm trying to write a book length manuscript right now. i'm on page two. this could take a while.

4 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?

very much part of. i like to try out new work at open mics here in Ottawa, particularly the Tree Reading Series and the Dusty Owl. the closer i get to my time at the mic, the more i revise my work.

5 - 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 was happy to discover Steve McCaffery through one of your workshops, rob. in a Philly Talk between him and Lisa Robertson in 2003 and in an interview, he said that poetry was about playfulness and risk-taking. that loosened me up considerably. i've always thought, and i don't know where i got this idea, that you were supposed to aim for perfection and come at poetry from some kind of lofty place, whereas all i do is stumble and most of the time i fail to translate what's in my head into the equivalent on the page or in the air. i was very frustrated by this until i began to read poetry that played and took risks. i love the idea too that literal meaning can be sacrificed for other meanings, including the musicality of sound. that's another thing that McCaffery said.

Fred Wah has influenced my writing also; i loved what he said in side/lines: A New Canadian Poetics (Insomniac Press, 2002) somewhere that poetry is a kind of drunken tai chi, which i guess means it's a collaboration between instinct and mastery. at a certain point, you have to listen to your body: ""body's recollection, the memory behind the fingers which allows an unearthing of the estranged rhythms and improvisational potential within language." (FW from Music at the Heart of Thinking/as quoted by Rob Budde in Sidelines p. 39.)

when i read Dennis Cooley's the Bentleys (University of Alberta Press, 2006) last December, i became very excited by the line and the breath that can be part of the line. I heard Steven Ross Smith read from his fluttertongue collection at Plan 99 at the Manx Pub last year and was so excited by the way he left space in his reading, space for breath and for thinking. I just read Charles Olson's "Projective Verse" and was excited to see some similar ideas reflected there. I like the idea that a poem can have energy and that this energy can come from the line and the way the line is broken.

i'm not really trying to answer any broad theoretical questions with my work but i do get into that sometimes for individual projects. overall i'm just stumbling along and listening to what's around me and trying to turn it into something that awakens me and maybe connects with others on some level.

i do love to explore though and for particular projects i've had a theoretical concern in mind. with a chapbook i put together and self-published, 8 planets speaking in tongues (AngelHousePress, 2007), i wanted to see how sounds and invented language could work with other languages to create a specific tone or atmosphere without being necessarily comprehensible to the reader, that idea of shifting the pattern of meaning from literal meaning to sound. sometimes i like to play around with various constraints and see how that inspires my writing.

i see some polarization in poetic theory these days (probably was always there, but i'm a neophyte) with various groups dissing one another's styles or attempts and i'm not for that. i try to play with a little bit of everything. there may be narrative elements to my poetry, there may be language play going on, there may be some lyrical stuff too. i like to make use of everything in a palette and hope i don't end up with brown.

the current questions are whatever anyone wants them to be. main thing is not to stop questioning and exploring, no matter what anyone tells you.

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

i haven't had much experience with that. i had fun when i was working on my first chapbook, Blood Orange with my editors. they made great suggestions and i mostly just did what they said. after the fact, there were some changes i regretted a bit, but overall, it was a better piece of writing because of their input and i learned a lot about editing. i have to be the main editor for Bywords when we publish the John Newlove Poetry Award Chapbook Series, and i find that to be a very instructive and rewarding experience. I love working with writers on their work and trying to positively affect their creativity. it's a brainstorming process. when writers get excited about their writing and my input has in some way contributed to this excitement, i feel very happy.

7 - When was the last time you ate a pear?

"a pair of what?" she asks. um....this summer, i remember it was red, and i began at the top, removing the stem and gently biting the tip, letting the juice run down my chin.

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

"The worst piece of advice ever is to write what you know. Write about what you don't know instead." (Shane Rhodes-side/lines, p. 180)

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

i go from poetry to fiction to blog entries, to songs and reviews. sometimes my rhythms are right for prose and other times for poetry or other stuff. i can't write my own stuff when i'm working on a review, because i tend to want to read all of a person's published books in order to gain a deeper insight into the poetry. it takes a lot of work and energy and i tend to be focused exclusively on that when i do a review. sometimes reading a good novel will inspire me to write a poem. it's like i scratch my head and a leg lifts. i have no idea how my wires are crossed up there.

the appeal is that when i get stuck on a poem series, i can move on to a blog entry or a song or even a letter to the editor. my belief is that as long as i'm writing something every day, my creativity is still in motion.

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 start at about 7:00 am and i write until about 1pm. i eat lunch and nap in the afternoons. if i'm working on a particular poetry project that requires research, like my current one, i'll spend some of the afternoon reading and researching and writing bits and pieces which i'll turn into poems in subsequent mornings.

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

when my words aren't coming, i go for walks, hang out with friends, make love...all that.

12 - How does your most recent book compare to your previous work? How does it feel different?

Eleanor, my recent chapbook, is four years after my first one, Blood Orange. it reflects a change in the type of poetry i've been reading; four years ago i had never even heard of Nathalie Stephens, who is my favourite writer right now, or many of the other contemporary writers i've mentioned here. the first chapbook was more imagistic and some said it was haiku-like. this one plays more with long lines and dream like states, interruptions in narrative and chronology.

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?

music is a huge influence on my work, as are nature, particularly weather, also food, alcohol and sex. i can't listen to music while i'm writing usually, except sometimes with fiction; i once had a character who demanded opera and sushi.

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

i've mentioned a few already, also you, rob mclennan, who i've learned so much from in the last two years in your workshops. others include the Surrealists like Antonin Artaud, Andre Breton, Apollinaire, Paul Eluard; playrights such as Ionesco; 19th century French novelists: Victor Hugo, Balzac, Flaubert, Stendhal; 20th Century French writers: Jean-Paul Sartre, Marguerite Duras, Albert Camus; the French Symbolism movement with Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Verlaine; Gwendolyn MacEwen, Sylvia Plath, Lisa Robertson, bpNichol, John Newlove, Nicole Brossard, Daphne Marlatt, Margaret Christakos, a. rawlings, Nathalie Stephens (her name is worth saying again because she's so fantastic). Tish and the New York School of Poetry are just starting to become an interest of mine. I have a lot to read and learn. I should really be just reading and not writing anything.

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

i'd like to have a poetry book published; i'd like to publish someone undiscovered whose poems are exceptional; i'd like to taste something new, have a fling with a musician, have an on-going love affair with a unilingual francophone; have songs of mine recorded by someone who can play guitar and sing better than me.

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?

song writer lounge singer in a hotel lobby bar in Sarasota, Florida, working for rum.

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

i've done a lot of other things, mostly working with French and English as a translator, revisor, editor, lexicographer, and co-owning a business, helping with the administrative and financial ends. i'm hoping i will be able to concentrate on writing for the foreseeable future.

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

19 - What are you currently working on?

i'm working on a series of poems about Kiki of Montparnasse who lived from 1901-1953 in France; i'm focussing particularly on the 1920s in Montparnasse where she had lovers, associated with artists and writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Jean Cocteau, posed for Man Ray and other photographers and painters. if all goes well, i would like to end up with a book length manuscript.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


TDR (The Danforth Review) is now asking publishers, authors, publicists andvideographers to send mpegs (2-3 min clips) of author interviews, rants,vignettes, promo spots, book signings, etc. to be posted at their site in 2008 starting mid-January. So if any author fans out there in the wild worldof CanLit are screening author readings at family functions and not gettingthe response they were hoping for, please send them our way...(not your family the videos.) For specific formatting rules and regulations please emailfeatures editor Mr. Nathaniel G. Moore at

Sunday, November 11, 2007

DC Books at Sasquatch

Sasquatch was a reading featuring DC Books authors.

DC Books, out of Quebec, was founded by Louis Dudek, and for the past several years has been led by Steve Luxton, formerly of Matrix. The press has its 20th anniversary launch at Blue Metropolis this spring.

Since I arrived partway, I missed some. I presume Peter Dubé had read from the "queer in all the best senses of the word" novel he released this fall, At the Bottom of the Sky.

Luxton read from new work, poems with a political, satirical sort of slant, which caused some appreciative chuckles around the room. He also read pieces in consideration of it being Remembrance Day such as one on Eva Braun, as well as ones from his Luna Moth and Other Poems work.

I was there in time for Newfoundlander Angela Hibbs to read from her first book of poetry, Passport. (It's got a review at TDR.)

She also did poems with a nod to Remembrance Day, being from a military family. So far as the angle she approaches from, she mentioned that in taking a workshop from Richard Harrison almost a decade ago, he advised her to not reach so deep for profoundness. She feels it is sound advice still. She says she tries to eschew phrasings in poems that wouldn't come off the tongue normally in speech but that isn't to say she is unread or making her domain the plain-speech or raw-discord or chatty poem.

Much of the book, as sampled by choices of reading, is a walking thru childhood, and teen years. For example, p. 10, Hydrology
I thought I should be allowed inside everyone's homes,
to look at their photos & clippings.
I still do. In dreams
strangers walls are upright streams.

What a fantastic image. I like her use of pause and the thought and line lengths suggesting the very unsteady river that is memory and the uneven nature of us retaining for a while, a dam breaking and much washed away and then a catching sticks in a place again.

In the series of linked poems Hydrology she contemplates a family with the trait of fear of water, how one averts the eyes from the tough veteran uncle whose soldier's hands shake at needing to bathe, using a sponge over sink for fear of water, how this thread pops up thru various people in the family, something which struck home since it runs thru a branch in my family too.

She also did some less linear literal explorations with space on the page and with dream memories such as p. 70, Vision III
music pours into the living room
alters the blank white tiles

First rule of reading: keep cash on hand to pick up books that you'd like to look thru at greater length. First rule of not putting myself in the poorhouse: don't carry cash when books are around.

Monday, November 05, 2007

12 or 20 questions: with Mark Frutkin

Mark Frutkin, an Ottawa writer, editor and journalist, has published seven books of fiction and three books of poetry. His work has appeared in Canada, the US, England, Russia, Poland, Holland, South Korea, Spain and India. In 2007, his novel, Fabrizio’s Return, won the Trillium Prize for Best Book and the Sunburst Award, and was nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Canada/Caribbean region). In 1988, his novel, Atmospheres Apollinaire, was short-listed for the Governor General's Award for fiction and was also short-listed for the Trillium Award, as well as the Ottawa/Carleton Book Award.

As a journalist and critic he has written articles and reviews for The Globe & Mail, Harper's, the Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, and other publications. His poetry and fiction have been published in numerous Canadian and foreign journals including Descant, Canadian Fiction Magazine, Prism International and many others. He has received five major writing grants from the Canada Council and numerous grants from the Ontario Arts Council.

He has also worked as a speechwriter for a Member of Parliament and for various federal ministers and has taught creative writing at all levels. He was formerly the editor of ArtAction Magazine and co-editor of ARC Magazine, a poetry journal. He has taught creative writing at the University of Ottawa, the University of New Brunswick, University of Western Ontario and Naropa Institute in Halifax.

He currently lives with his wife and son in Ottawa.

1 - How did your first book change your life?

It changed my life in the doing of it -- proof that I actually could write a book.

2 - How long have you lived in Ottawa, and how does geography, if at all, impact on your writing? Does race or gender make any impact on your work?

Race and gender, none. I've lived in the Ottawa area since 1970. To steal a phrase and book title from Guy Davenport, I'm most interested in the Geography of the Imagination. I think I could write my books just as easily from southern France or northern Italy. I don't know why I haven't...

3 - Where does a poem or piece of fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

I've done both. The beginning is always a flash of insight and inspiration. Could be from any source: something I've read, seen, heard, etc. Sometimes, I write a series of poems on a subject that later get turned into a novel, but not always.

4 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?

They aren't integral but they are part of an effort to get the word out (literally!)

5 - 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?

There are as many questions as there are writers. I don't write to a theory (I don't think many good writers do). The story is paramount. Of course, one's interests (political, social, artistic) are always interwoven with the language and the tale.

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

It can be difficult. My last novel practically ruined my right shoulder from all the mouse work I had to do. But it can also be enlightening and extremely helpful, as in the case of Fabrizio's Return, which was edited by Diane Martin at Knopf, a very astute editor.

7 - After having published more than a couple of titles over the years, do you find the process of book-making harder or easier?

It's always the most intriguing mix of hard and delightful.

8 - When was the last time you ate a pear?

I've been waiting years for someone to ask me that question. I once saw a line of pears on a tree branch just above a stone wall at Monet's gardens in Giverny -- it was one of most beautiful things I've ever seen. I've always had a thing for pears -- a glass pear rests on my kitchen windowsill. Something about their suggestion of fecundity. Over the years, I guess (like many others I know), I've actually come to resemble the shape of a pear. I don't know -- a couple weeks ago maybe.

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

1) Change your attitude and relax as it is.

2) You can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes you can get what you need.

3) The love you take is equal to the love you make.

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

Very easy. The appeal? Of moving between genres? Or the appeal of each genre? The appeal of poetry is that it's short. The appeal of fiction is that it's long.

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?

No routine, although lately I tend to write a lot in the late afternoon, I don't know why. The day begins with a tumbler of bourbon and a cigar (not really!)

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

What's wrong with the word 'inspiration'? A lovely word, a respectable word, a word that works for a living, and so on. Language itself is always a big inspiration. I don't get stalled (knock wood).

13 - How does your most recent book compare to your previous work? How does it feel different?

My most recent book is exactly 118 pages longer than my previous work and it's on a completely different subject! It feels heavier because it has more pages.

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?

That's a ridiculous comment. Maybe for McFadden books come from books, but they come from lots of other places too -- people you meet, places you've been, art you've viewed, life you've experienced.

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

I read for work and enjoyment. Best novel I've read in the last five years: Seven Lies by James Lasdun. I love the classics (Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes, etc. -- btw, did you know that Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same day same year?)

Also, on my #1 bookshelf are: Joyce, Beckett, Conrad, Marquez, which basically means I've read almost everything by them.

Also, fond of Melville, Rushdie, George Steiner, Julian Barnes, William Boyd, some McEwan (just Black Dogs, really), Nabokov, Durrell, early Ondaatje, travel books, Kapuscinski, the Russians, Japanese novels, etc, etc.

In poetry: Tang and Sung Chinese poets, Japanese poetry, Apollinaire (of course), Eliot, Don McKay, some Beats, many many others.

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

Finish the book I'm presently working on and start the next one.

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'd love to paint or draw but simply cannot. I'd love to be able to play the piano but can't. I'd love to be one of those long-distance runners from Kenya (one with the wind and all that) but my legs are too short.

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

An inner compulsion; the need for the creative to burst out like that scene in Alien.

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

Kapucinski's Travels with Herodotus. Film: enjoyed Avenue Montaigne; not a great film, but delightful. There are only a handful of great films and mountains of trash.

20 - What are you currently working on?

A novel set in present day Toronto, concerning a curator of Chinese art at the ROM, and also set in Sung Dynasty China (1200s).

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A B Series

November 1st the poetry and poetic prose of the NeWest tour triumvirate came to Ottawa as part of their cross-Canada reading. Last in Montreal, next in Toronto, ryan fitzpatrick, Natalie Zina Walschots, and William Neil Scott gathered a crowd in Ottawa at the Ottawa City Hall.

Their readings were the launch of the newest series in town, Max Middle's A B Series.

The #2 in the series was to be held Saturday but has been postponed due to illness of the reader. The #3 reading will be queued up to November 14th's at the Avant-Garde Bar at 135 1/2 Besserer Street. It will be an Ottawa launch for Booty: Hurricane Jane and Typhoon Mary published by the Mercury Press with readings by authors Brea Burton and Jill Hartman.

The readings November 1st stocked up a variety of styles that people enjoyed even if there wasn't heckling in proper Calgary style. Perhaps call a friend?

ryan fitzpatrick, previously of filling station was reading from his newest book Fake Math from Snare books with lines like 2 children are a form of pastorialism or in new poem a series of pivots remarking on our societal ADD obession with newness and change, unequal or unbalanced pairs, such as I could eat some words, or a cinnamon donut which worked some laughter out.

William Neil Scott
Neil Scott was reading from Wonderfull, which was.

Entrancing carry you away...stories such as the narrator's father riffed, the discovery of the new world by a chartered captain and the paying man who end up shipwrecked on a nameless beach at each other's throats, held at bay by an endless game of dominoes. The winner would get the peace of being the last man to use a pistol.

Natalie Zina Walschots
Natalie Zina Walschots was reading from Thumbscrews which has playful poems. What struck me most in their control of sound, reinforcing subject and mood and how sound choice moved from short i sounds and unvoiced consonants to harsher gutterals and voiced plosives. Another overview of the event is here and with excerpts of her work and more.

Some of the readers and hearers moved on to after bits including these folks.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Arc Poetry Magazine Honours Poets of the National Capital Region

Arc Poetry Magazine is pleased to announce the winners of two important competitions that recognize the accomplishments of poets living in the National Capital Region: the Lampman-Scott Award, which recognizes an outstanding book of English-language poetry, and the Diana Brebner prize, which recognizes the work of an emerging poet.

In 2007, the Lampman-Scott Award was inaugurated with the merger of the Archibald Lampman Award and the Duncan Campbell Scott Foundation. This new award honours the poetry and friendship of two great confederation poets--Archibald Lampman and Duncan Campbell Scott. The merger has also allowed Arc to increase the award from $1,000 to $1,500.

This year, 10 titles by local poets contended for the award. The winner of the 2007 award is Monty Reid for his book Disappointment Island (Chaudiere Books). Reid has won the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry three times and is also a three-time Governor General's Award nominee. He spent nearly 20 years working at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, in the heart of the Alberta badlands, before moving to the Ottawa area in 1999 to work at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Jurors Sue Sinclair, Steve Guppy and Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen praised Reid for his "arresting metaphoric insights, which he often delivers in a disarmingly casual voice, the effect being that of an everyday world primed for the unexpected." They characterized his poems as "tinged with an appealing lyric sadness--they are 'drawn to the erotic murmur of material things' but simultaneously concede the ineluctable mystery of the various landscapes into which they travel."

The honourable mention for the Lampman-Scott Award for Poetry goes to Sylvia Adams, for her book Sleeping on the Moon (Hagios Press). Adams is a past winner of Arc Poetry Magazine's Diana Brebner Prize for Poetry.

The 2007 winner of the $500 Diana Brebner prize is Guy Simser for his poem "Withdrawal". Judge Stephen Brockwell writes that "'Withdrawal' proves animportant point about good poetry: much can be said with a few simple words." Brockwell adds that there is "nothing ostentatious or showy about 'Withdrawal'; there's no attempt to draw attention to form or content. The poem confidently speaks for itself having lost all trace of its author. 'Withdrawal' is sparse, careful, political and quietly aware of the presence of the past."

Honourable mention for the 2007 Diana Brebner prize goes to L.M. Rochefort for her poem "(W)hole". Of this work Brockwell writes "'(W)hole' is unapologetically--and pleasantly--ostentatious and showy. It revels in play with negation and affirmation."

Arc wishes to congratulate all winners, judges, and to thank everyone who took part in these competitions. Diana Brebner Prize winning poems will be published in Arc Poetry Magazine Issue #59, Winter 2007, which will be released in December 2007.

For more information:

Diana Brebner Prize

Lampman-Scott Award

Arc Poetry Magazine
P.O. Box 81060
Ottawa, Ontario,
Canada, K1P 1B1

Friday, October 26, 2007

Basement Tapes reviewed in Matrix Magazine

Hello all,
Check out my review of Basement Tapes by Marcus McCann, Andrew Faulkner and Nick Lea, in Montreal mag Matrix. The collaborative chapbook is published by McCann's press The Onion Union.
Stay tuned, too, for my interview with Lea likely appearing in the next issue of QWERTY.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Warren Dean Fulton-Where are you now?

In June of this past year, Ottawa’s prodigal son, Warren Dean Fulton, returned for the Small Press Fair, to sell publications from Pooka Press, founded in Ottawa in the mid-90s, and to enjoy a reunion with old friends.

Warren grew up in Ottawa, went to Immaculata High and Carleton University, and was co-editor of the Carleton Arts Review with rob mclennan in the early 90s.

He instigated and participated in many inspiring and entertaining (literary-related) activities, then he vamoosed to British Columbia.

At the Spring Small Press Fair booze up, I had the great opportunity to hear a few of Warren’s stories and to listen to him and some of his co-conspirators talk about the good old days. It made me nostalgic for a time I’d never had and it also gave some of the history of Ottawa’s strong and vibrant literary community.

I thought it would be fun for those of us who weren’t then part of the Ottawa Literary Environment or OLE (official trademarked title) to find out about what we missed. And for those of you who were sombrero-wearing members of OLE, to hear about what happened to the young man some of you fondly referred to as “poet-boy.”

In our interview, Warren discusses Playdough, his fetish for keeping poets in boxes and the passion behind the pooka. This interview is brought to you buy the letter V.

1. From 1994-1996, you hosted two reading series in Ottawa: Vanilla and Vogon.

Can you talk a bit about each series in terms of why you started them, who the readers/performers were, and why they both started with the letter V? (I find it interesting that you moved to Vancouver, a place starting with the letter V, but haven’t hosted any V-series since. Am thinking you should host an O reading series in Vancouver)


The first; the vanilla reading series, began naturally enough. I was working at Lois n' Frima's Homemade Ice Cream Parlour, on Elgin street, (361 Elgin Street) & at the time was also having somewhat regular meetings w/ rob mclennan, who was co-ordinating editor of the Carleton Arts Review w/ me. He would pop by, we'd talk poetry, poetics, literary gossip, our lives & loves, drink coffee, & I'd give him free ice cream.

It was around this time, that I had mentioned to my then girlfriend Jennifer Amey, that the current reading series & venues around the city, where rather cold, held in closed, out of the way places that didn't seem to welcome & invite new faces & voices. They appeared to me to be inconvenient & isolate & ostracize poets & poetry from the public. No one was going to just wander in & find poetry. It had to be sought out. Discovered. & then, in my case, I went to a number of readings around the city; readings at Magnum Books, The Rainbow Bistro, Octopus Books, Rasputins, Food For Thought Books, Orion, TREE, & readings at the National Library, and no one seemed to take notice of the outsider, those new to the scene, & the general public didn’t seem really invited.

I wished to change that. So w/ a ready made venue in place, & a name, given by Jennifer, as we discussed Vanilla, is the base for most of the other flavours, plus VRS has the verse association. I was sold on the idea. It ran for about a year, & had many fine readers grace this unusual venue. Readers such as; rob mclennan, Colin Morton, Victoria L. Vernell, Jeffrey Mackie, Rocco Paoletti, Kathryn Payne, Catherine Jenkins, Rob Manery, Carole Giangrande, Janyne Holowachuk, Marcel Kopp (from Boston), David Collins, Sylvie M.S. Hill, David Scrimshaw, Sotaro Shibahara, the crowd from MPD (Tamara Fairchild, Grant Wilkins, Pamala Chynn, & others), several of my friends from Carleton University (where I was in a poetry workshop class, taught by Christopher Levenson w/ fellow poets Rocco, Jim Larwill, Brick Billing, Pearl Pirie, Sean Johnston & a few others) & some University of Ottawa students around the Seymour Mayne, Bywords crowd , & then those who just happened upon us.

In the summer months the vanilla reading series took itself, out onto the sidewalk, down in front of the ice cream booth in the byward market at George street. vanilla on the street, which had some great crowds, sometimes, as we competed for audiences w/ street preachers. "The wages of sin is death!" They had, in most cases, better catch phrases, direct lines & performances. They also had backlit paint & other visual aids that we lacked. We did however, get some media attention, the Ottawa Citizen did a piece on rob at vanilla, & the local community TV, did a piece on vanilla, for a phone pole segment (thanks to David Scimshaw) , & CBC radio & CBO Morning did a story on us, as did CKCU & CHUO, all of which was very wonderful.

& news of vanilla spread via the "internet, & the world wide web,”
This was all back when the power of the internet was still pretty new to many of us. Through the National Capital Freenet, (thanks to Nick Tytor for turning me on to email & the internet) I sent out email notices, & posted on the poetry SIG, & alt servers, news of vanilla. I was able to communicate far & wide. The vanilla reading series gathered a sizeable following in the states. I was constantly getting emails & phone messages from poets in the U.S. wishing to be booked for a reading sometime in the not too distant future in our little ice cream shop.

Then came the vogon reading series.
Now vogon came about, thanks to S.R. Morrison. My then roommate. vanilla had grown too big for the tiny space. & I was no longer working there, so Steve & I pitched Eugene
& Randy & the gang at Zaphod's our idea. I remember, them saying "take the ball, & run with it". & we did just that, scoring a few touchdowns along the way. (sorry for the sports metaphor). I was bringing readers to what the Ottawa sun called "Ottawa's hottest reading series" & the Ottawa Xpress they loved us too (thanks rob), & the events editor would email me asking about upcoming readings, & phone my apartment. We played host to the Ottawa launch of Insomniac Press’ THE LAST WORD.

The scene in Ottawa at this time was awesomely fantastic, BARD, TREE, vogon, the again resurrected Sasquatch reading series, the new backroom reading series, readings @ the National Library, readings @ the Saw Galley, the Stone Angel, Friday Circle @ U of O, readings, Carleton, & places like the Globe & Pepper’s.

vogon, was a place to read, some said “The Place" to read. We had many bigger names, alongside the newer names, we saw Joe Blades read here, Robert Craig, b. Stephen Harding, Catherine Jenkins, Gwendolyn Guth, Juan O’Neill, Patrick White, Dorothy Howard, Warren Layberry, Chris Pollard, rob mclennan (a few times) & a number of Insomniac Press writers, Jill Battson, Stan Rogal, Death Waits, etc..., writers from the Hamilton writers' group, some from Montreal, & vogon actually, through the suggestion & encouragement of Marcel Kopp, held Ottawa's first poetry slam. All throughout this time, I had a routine of getting up, going to the po box, then checking email at the library’s computers, writing for a few hours, hanging out in used bookstores (buying books when I could, sometimes instead of eating that day or the next) meeting up w/ friends, drinking, (always someone to buy drinks, or I’d be able to sell chapbooks enough to buy a round or two), going to poetry events, art galleries, film screenings, etc… which I would repeat ad nauseam, day after day after day, each a carbon copy of the day before. I only knew what day it was by the literary events happening & looking at the newspapers as I’d walk by the boxes, quickly reading the daily headlines.

1993-1996 I listened to literally hundreds of poets, hearing 1000’s of poems. Many lines from some of those poems have stayed in my memory, more than any of the lectures in university.

I could write enough to fill a book about these two series. Which is what I was trying to do a while back, but didn't get the interest nor support I was hoping for. Most from then have moved well beyond, I guess some of me is still struck in the 90’s.

Oddly enough, I've been thinking about another "V" series, here in Vancouver, but I'll have to see about a few details first. So I suppose I have a future too, as well as a present.

2. You mentioned MPD. What was that?

MPD was an entertaining Ottawa literary magazine from the mid 90's. It was put out by a group of friends who had organized into a writers group. I remember there was Grant, Tamara, Pam, two Pat(s), Trevor, & some others, who as I'm writing this I've forgotten their names, forgive me. MPD changed its name w/ each issue, & I enjoyed reading what this group was writing & even more hanging out with them after their basketball games at the Dominion Tavern. We joked that there was the MPD gang & the "bearded poets", which was rob, Jeffrey, James Spyker, Steve & myself. At this time, there seemed to be a new literary magazine starting up every few months; there was Hook & Ladder, The Skinny, Hostbox, bywords (which was a great, & still seems to be, resource for what was/is happening), Hole, Box 77, graffitifish, graffitto, Stanzas (which as far as I know, has had the most issues of any indy litmag out there, & is still going strong), & some others I'm sure I've forgotten about, again apologies.

3. Do you have any stories you can share about shenanigans that took place at or surrounding the series or is it a question of what happened during vanilla/vogan stays at vanilla/vogan?

As far as shenanigans,… hmmm. Seems a great deal of misadventures were happening around these series, most involving drinking various beverages of an alcoholic nature. The ones that come to mind involve rob or myself, however my lawyers have advised against me speaking about any of these. Seriously though, just the usual sort of fun. I recall a few times, an evening of drinking, where the events of the night became the basis for a few different poems/stories from a few different pens. I always thought it interesting to see how others remember the same event.

Sometimes Steve, rob & myself, all wrote of the same event in vastly different ways. The other things I remember most about the time, were the news items of the day being reported in poetry, some my own, some others; the OJ trail, Lorena Bobbit, Kurt Cobain, Bukowski, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Unabomber, the Order of the Solar Temple, Ronald Regan & his Alzheimer's, & the alzheimer's the American public suffers from, then & now, & just how crazy the world was, & still is...those crazy, hazy days & nights of memories... some really amazing/frightening/hysterical times, .... flashback aphrodisiacs...nearsighted retrospection... those silly sentimental yearnings…. Oo nostalgia the great narcotic. … an opiate of the all our yesterdays… oh those times...the wayback machine makes me dizzy...

4. Did you come up with the name vogon because it was taking place at Zaphod Beeblebrox? Or since you had a reading series in an ice cream place to ward off the cold, perhaps aliens inspired Vogon to make it more human? Give us a nerdy elaboration if you please.

This will be the shortest answer I give. Yes.

& it fit w/ the VRS, letters I had an attachment to.
& because , oh hell, here comes a longer answer...

I really really liked Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. & the bar Zaphod's, & that both Steve & I knew/ & I still know the title of the poem by poet master Grunthos the Flatulent, who is an Azgoths of Kria, (the second worst poet in the universe) "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning" & his 12-book epic piece entitled "My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles"... nerdy enough for you? ...

When I appeared on Tom Green's Rogers cable show, intoxicated, to promote the vogon reading series...Tom kept poking me & demanding I answer what's a vogon, as he wanted me to say "the 3rd worsst poets in the universe" & then he suggested that that is what is at the vogon reading series, alien poets, reading terrible poetry...however, I was like a skipping record & just kept answering, "a literary reading series that happens every second Sunday, at Zaphod Beeblebrox, at 27 York street in the Byward market", about three or four times in a row.

There you go, nerd factor & 6 degrees of separation of a celebrity too.
* Tom Green was born in Pembroke, just like me.

5. Well we won’t let you keep answering more about vogon now, instead we’ll skip on to Pooka Press. According to my exhaustive research (private investigators, professional stalkers, secret video tapes) you were in your mid 20s when you started Pooka Press. What made you decide to start a small press and what did you have in mind when you started it? Has your philosophy about Pooka and the small press world changed since Pooka Press’s inception?

Great questions. pooka press, lower case, as that seemed in keeping w/ the times, & pooka is so very micro, lower case.

I began pooka press, out of a need to see more of the poets I wished to see in print. I take as pooka's role model, what people like rob mclennan were doing, & jimmy ioannidis, & Joe Blades, & the folks at ga press, & James Whittall & the earlier Insomniac Press stuff, their chapbooks, & those that showed the way before, the Stuart Ross', the michael dennis', the bill bissetts', the small press folks from all over going way way back, & then after launching Jeffrey Mackie's chapbook BIG MIRACLES, & going to New York City w/ him for a beat conference @ NYU, & meeting so many of my influences, & seeing some of their early chapbooks, I was hooked.

The small press bookfairs also helped greatly w/ this addiction. rob & James held the first ottawa small press book fair back in 1994, & that year I also went to the Toronto small press book fair, & the 1st Canzine, & had been invited to a small press book fair event in New York & the 1st Underground Press Conference in Chicago. The small press community opened wide their arms & welcomed pooka press in.

In pooka's 1st listing in a poetry markets book, I stated something along the lines of pooka press, "likes poetry that is the class clown, the class rebel, poems that sit at the back of the classroom & launch spitballs at the teachers", something like that. So I guess, poems that were/are of the outsider. I still embrace outlaw poetics, & those in the mainstream [who??] like [to??] play in the margins. I don't know how much my "philosophy" has evolved.

I do know that I'm less likely to put out 200-300 copies of a single chapbook. less is more, in some ways. Generally, due to economic factors & what I believe the "market" may be for pooka press items, I like print runs of 100 or less. & I won't do reprints any longer. One print run, that's it. It part since it becomes difficult for me to keep tabs on who gets how many, & how to divide up the "profits". I've only twice made the money back on a project, no make that three times.

The very first chapbook, BIG MIRACLES, & the two George Bowering projects I've done, U.S. Sonnets is almost out of print now. I don't know what else to write about, except to say, it has been well worth it, even having boxes & boxes of chapbooks, poetry postcards, broadsides, etc...take up so much room & my $. Oh I should mention, I've never once applied for any funding, for pooka press...I have for the Kamloops Poets' Factory, but as they used to say on Hammy Hamster..."but that's another story..."

6. i’d love to chat about Hammy and the Tales of the River, his buddy the Water Rat, but i’ll confine my questions to your literary activites and avoid rodents in favour of pookas.

pooka press (see how quickly I learn) is still running today, which makes it (...largescale computer math program tabulating...) thirteen years old. What drives you to continue and has it occasionally disappeared or knocked anyone for a loop, like its namesake? What types of stuff do you publish and who? What’s the overriding philosophy of pooka press? (this is the bit where I badger the witness...I mean, interviewee, with a barrage of questions so as to cause confusion and therefore put him under my spell so he will have to answer honestly.)

Yes. Your Honour. Oooo Courtrooms. yikes. So yes, 13 years, pooka press is now that bratty teenager I felt it always wanted to be. I'll answer the questions, as best I can, even if I do feel you are leading the witless, I mean witness.

What drives me to continue? I'd have to say, simply a passion for the poets I publish, both their words & them. A good poem is a great companion. I like the friends I have gathered on my bookshelves, & in boxes. Sounds kinda morbid doesn't it? But some of the poetry, some of the poems remain long after the poets have left. I cherish some poems from Ottawa poets, who have disappeared, as far as the literary world is concerned. & yes pooka press has disappeared a few times too. Mostly due to lack of money. As they say, "there's no money in poetry, but there is poetry in money", yes, just look at a $5 bill w/ a section of Roch Carrier.."The Winters of my childhood were/long long seasons."..

I think at times it may have knocked someone for a loop. More from politically or social messages contained therein, or from when someone thinks they know what style of poetry I publish & then see something that is a little different.

pooka press, publishes, all kinds of poets & poetry, but I have to admit a strong connection to the margins, the outsider, the outlaws, a rejection of the conventional. I have a deep connection to the beat writers & their sensibilities, the dadaists & surrealists, the experimenters. I feel there is plenty of cross-over in art movements, be it literary or visual arts. So for me, I have a love for the Beats (my poetic gods), the San Francisco Renaissance, The Black Mountain poets, the Modernists, the post-modernists, the confessional poets, the TISH poets (my personal pantheon of poets) aboutists, the KSW poets, even some Slam poets... many, & I'd like to think varied voices.

Poetic philosophy? I guess pooka press is more Playdo than Plato.(not sure of the spelling, playdough, playdoe, playdoh...) anyhow, all I can think is I should have paid more attention in University during Literary Criticism classes, I don't recall much of Plato's discussions of rhetoric and poetry, & I do know that there are significant philosophical and interpretive challenges regarding various poetics. Semantically speaking, my overriding philosophy is like a cento of poetic theory. Reader based. Writer based. Poststructuralist theories. Postmodernist. Post-postmodernist. Perhaps, the aesthetic unity of the poem. The poems artistic autonomy. The now not so New Criticism that supposes that poems are things in & of themselves etc... etc...I'm not sure, still working this all out for myself, plenty of poetic overlaps, a blurring of poetics, a comprehensive "feel" not conveniently placed into boxes. I'm confused. Please anyone reading this, help me, tell me what "overriding philosophy" I've been using, if any. I'd like to know.

7. Let us dispense with the Platonic then and wax elastic. You bounced back to Ottawa for the small press fair last June.

a) When you returned what are some of the differences you noticed in the scene (or is it still exactly the same, where no one ever grows old in that funny land called Oz – i mean Ottawa)?

The city has changed. Well more accurately the city I remembered had changed. I recall everything being green, & me on a quest for a brain, w/ some animal & no, no wait, wait.. .Yes, the streets were wider, less traffic, & fewer "big" city buzzing.

The lit scene has some new folks making new discoveries some of the older scenesters continuing. It was amazing, like old home coming week, seeing ELS (English Literature Society from Carleton University) folks like Steve & Cathy Zytveld (then, simply Catherine MacDonald), who run the Dusty Owl (would have loved to have gone to a Dusty Owl reading), & it was great seeing rob again, (although of the scene, he has kept in touch the most, seeing him when he visits Vancouver & when I was in Kamloops), & Jeffrey Mackie & Tamara Fairchild & Grant Wilkins, & Heather Ferguson (whom I never really got to speak w/ very much, then or when I was visiting), meeting the new folks to the scene since my time, jwcurry, Max Middle , Amanda Earl (hey that's you), Jennifer Mulligan, the fellows from In/Words (if there were ladies involved I'm sorry I didn't meet you), the gang that puts out The Puritan, seems like a lot is happening.

b) (because I like to bamboozle my interviewees with complicated multi-part questions):
What were some of the differences you noticed between the Ottawa of 2007 and the Ottawa you left? What were you sad to see gone or happy to see now here?

Ottawa of 2007 isn't as cool, as the Ottawa I left, for one reason, well make that two, & two reasons only; payphones cost way too much now. 50 cents, what country does Ottawa think this is? & there are no where near enough FREE wireless hotspots in the city. Come on Ottawa join the 21st century. In Vancouver, I can get free wireless internet just about everywhere, every coffee shop seems to have it, restaurants, government buildings, libraries, everywhere...& when I lived in Ottawa, in was cutting edge, the freenet was the newest, coolest thing, the internet was all the rage, now it seems as if those without a home with internet service have to fend for themselves. So I'm sad to see those changes.

I also think beer prices need to come down. poets have to drink you know. & I miss the days when people would just walk up to me & hand me $20 bills, yeah that really used to happen...okay only once, but hey it made Ottawa a great place to be. One more thing; Winter. Glad I don't have to live through anymore of those cold things.

8. Winter is a fiction we use to ensure that tourists don’t stay long; once people leave, we go back to our tropical paradise and gold covered sidewalks.

When did you leave Ottawa and what have you been doing since you left?

Oh boy. gold covered sidewalks, all I ever found was fool's gold. So here we go. I left in November of 1995. Moved to Kamloops to live w/ my family. My brother had up & left for Kamloops that summer, at my parents urging, while [at??] my mom's suggestions, & I followed when it got too cold again.

In Kamloops from 1995/6 - 2000, doing some pooka press stuff, started a literary group; The Kamloops Poets' Factory, organized readings, helped put out a literary magazine HUB CITY, & a monthly lit mag called HUB CAP. Worked @ Starbucks, Tony Roma's, & the Other Place Cafe, did a few poetry trips, readings in the interior of B.C. Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, & Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Edmonton, & San Francisco.

Moved to Vancouver. Went to film school @ VFS (Vancouver Film School, close to VRS, so who knows maybe that was the reason), got married, had kids, worked w/ Edgewise ElectroLit Society, was Artistic Director of the 4th Annual Vancouver Videopoem Festival (VVF, close to VRS, but not as close as VFS), worked on a number of film & TV projects, blah, blah, blah... oh & continued to publish poets through pooka press.

Amanda, thanks for this interview. I'd just like you & any readers to know, that during this interview, the phone here rang 12 separate times, each time I attempted to answer only getting 6 actually persons, & 1 of those computer voices saying "congratulations, you've won..." (I hung up quickly), the co-op handyman did repairs in our bathroom around the baseboard heater, I drank 3 cups of coffee, & ate 1/4 of a 1 pound bag of Pretzel Stix (* Low fat, Cholesterol free)

9. Where can people find more information about pooka press and about your own poetry or creative endeavours?

I suppose, since it may be difficult for everyone to simply ask me in person, or come pop by my apartment, I guess the best places to gather more information are via the world wide web. If you google search pooka press, you are likely to come across sites & postings of pooka press information; such as my myspace site, my facebook group, the information at the online guide to canadian writing, I think some bits on rob's blog, & some of the websites of pooka press authors have mention of pooka press. I must mention that is not, I repeat not this pooka press. Seems someone in the UK has also been using this name, & once upon a time I could have had that domain name, but I didn't register it, I later had, but let it expire.

Now oddly enough, a few years back some fine examples of my writing would pop up on web searches, now it seems it is only those silly spam-ku's I did back in 2000, & some lazy experimental pieces from a few years ago. Most of the writing I was doing in Kamloops is lost to the ether streams of the mainframe, something or other computeresque sounding techie talk. Oh, & there is always the movie/film stuff. You see I now work in the film industry, & I try to make my own short film/videos when I can.

10. Is there any truth to the rumours I’ve been reading in the National Enquirer that you may be returning again and might even be hosting a reunion of your old reading series? If so, when, where, how and sometimes why?

Thank you for the interview, Warren. Hope you can make it out to the small press fair on October 27. We’ll try to give you a golden experience.

Yes, I will be in Ottawa for the Ottawa small press book fair, October 27th, 2007, Room 203 of the Jack Purcell Community Centre. Selling pooka press items in order to eat, drink & be a wee bit merry. I’m presently looking into a Reunion reading at Zaphod’s Nov. 11th, yes Remembrance Day. I’ll let you know, if it is happening. Thanks again for this interview, feels really great to have someone take an interest in ever so small role I played in the literary past of Ottawa.
Thanks, Warren for all the great stories and info!

[Warren is travelling by Greyhound to Ottawa as I post...he's likely somewhere in Alberta right now]

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Real Made Up Sitcom Stumbling Towards Muybridge’s Horse

Last night was a feast of poetry, opening with David McGimpsey’s Sitcom (Coach House Books) and ending with the poetry cabaret featuring Stephen Brockwell, John Pass and Rob Winger who read from their books The Real Made Up (ECW Press), Stumbling in the Bloom (Oolichan) and Muybridge’s Horse (Nightwood Editions).

McGimpsey, to me, is a creative genius, gifted at blending completely unlike things for zany effect. In his book Sitcom, he translates the concept of pain by listing the plots of 14 Episodes of Joey Lawrence. He reads an invented voice over for the Tony Danza Show; it is funny, witty and sung to the Beach Boys Wouldn’t It Be Nice. There’s a power and a gentleness to McGimpsey’s work. It’s the second time I’ve heard him read and I look forward to hearing him again on October 27 when he reads at Plan 99 along with Jessica Westhead, Cara Hedley, and Sarah Lang. (at the Manx at 5pm)

He’s responsible for my most favourite quote about poetry: “Why is it nobody ever demands there be a people’s trigonometry?” side / lines: a New Canadian Poetics (Insomniac Press, 2002), which, by the way, is one of the most interesting and informed collections of poetic thought I’ve read. Neil Wilson quoted a bit of this in his introduction to David.

I’m going to quote more because it’s an apt lead in to the ensuing debate that took place in the poetry cabaret featuring Brockwell, Pass and Winger. McGimpsey says “...isn’t the idea of a people’s poetry a sad Marxist will-o-the-wisp? An externalizing shame about poetry’s sensitive complexity and lack of commercial value? Why is it nobody ever demands there be a people’s trigonometry? There’s thousands of wonderful, immediately accessible, uncomplicated, straight-to-the-heart, plain-speaking poems, and these poems are just as ignored by the people as the complicated poems that refer to Antigone and Creon.

Poetry itself is an indulgence and the indulgence of obscurity is, for me, one of its sweetest peaches. The allowance to say complex things, without any apology to dumb-down demands of conventional media and commercial fiction is a rare gift in today’s world, perhaps available only in the literary margins. And poetry need not be embarrassed for those who found the subject too onerous and too poorly taught in High School. Those citizens, attractive and kissable as they can be, have little to no interest in reading poetry and they probably never will. So what? Poetry can’t make you popular, so you couldn’t ask for a better vantage to contemplate the popular.”

It was with this in mind that I listened to the poets at the cabaret. David O’Meara gave each of them elegant introductions that all three would like to use on the blurbs of their book jackets.

Stephen Brockwell’s book The Real Made Up felt like quite a departure from his last book Fruitfly Geographic (ECW Press, 2004) It includes monologues in other voices, made up characters and poetry taken from the translation of words by voice and hand writing recognition systems. I loved the experimental nature of the stuff he read, the delightful humour, his ability to pull ordinary speech and mannerisms into a poem, his exquisite word play and lyricism.

Rob Winger’s reading of Muybridge’s Horse was excellent. I spent a few months going over the book this summer for an upcoming review in, so to hear his interpretation of the work was fantastic. Muybridge’s Horse is such an ambitious undertaking. Not only did Winger successfully translate the compelling plot of nineteenth century photographer Edweard Muybridge’s life into poetic moments, but he also was able to mesmerize with stunning and sustained imagery, and he also he provides various voices real and fabricated to give us perspectives on Muybridge. I think the book is a tour de force that should with the Governor General Awards for which it has been nominated this year.

Last to read was John Pass, with the fourth book in a series, Stumbling in the Bloom. He comes from BC, has 14 books and chapbooks, all kinds of awards including a Governor General’s Award last year for the latest book. In his eloquent introduction David O’Meara told us that Pass’s book is about his garden but it’s no pastoral idyll of trees, flowers and sun-dappled meadows; it includes the encroaching world of cell phones, terrorism and parallel parking. It is an acknowledgement of clumsiness as well as an argument for poise.

The conversation section of the reading was highly engaging. David asked interesting questions concerning theme, the role of form in their work, Stephen mentioned that he is interesting to pursue new ideas in old forms, the voices in the narrative of Rob Winger’s book and how they were created. Rob noted that Muybridge has no poems in his own voice. John spoke of the helpful role of his editors in his work, casting light on the doubt he himself had had about his work. Stephen likes poems best that have a sense of vocal reality; his monologues are based on interviews he did with people and so the monologues are coming not from his own voice. He likes poems that have physical, gut dimensions. John likes the music and composes poems as he’s pacing, walking. He loves internal, half rhymes and musicality. He has recently found that reading his poems makes him get a bit choked up emotionally

This led to a discussion on the role of personal emotion. Stephen said that this takes a great deal of courage because in recent writing we avoid being authentic emotionally in ways that were explored by poets like Robert Lowell. It’s a delicate balance to do this and still get outsideof the poem enough to see it with some objectivity.

Anita Lahey asked Stephen if he was not working from emotion. Stephen brought up Eunoia by Bok and Erin Moure, claiming she lives in language not emotion per se. Stephen doesn’t think living in language is wrong because it’s important to be emotionally circumspect. The subject of painting is paint and the act of painting, Leotarde said, talking about the interplay between absolute discipline of art and authenticity.

What makes a piece authentic without emotion? Anita asked. Stephen talked about a poem he wrote about his daughter, finding it difficult and embarrassing. He’s not satisfied with it yet. He feels he is better at playing with words. A lot of great poems don’t have origins in the poets’ emotions. He talked about Baudelaire’s Albatross where the emotional centre is centred outside, empathy and feeling is translated into a symbol for all kinds of things, including human nature. He talked about the difference between authentic personal emotion and emotion that is grounded in something that is outside what the poet is writing about.

Rob said there is a crafting to the emotion; you have to present the fake real. People self aware of what they’re doing start to play with language in a cerebral process. John said this is part of the craft of living, to handle our emotional lives in a way that respects other people and at the same time fulfills us.

John worried that there is a danger that unless emotion is part of the mix and somewhat recognizable and part of the ground of writing, there’s a danger in losing audience. That’s what’s happened with a lot of contemporary poetry, which has moved off to language and intellect. He feels feeling is part of the dance and we tend to be cerebral and playful lot and should be taken to task for that. Stephen mentioned Shakespeare. What personal emotion is in any work of Shakespeare? It is art.

Anita asked where he thinks that emotion comes from? Did Shakespeare just pick it up off the ground? Stephen replied that what Shakespeare. thinks about anything is irrelevant to the play he produces.

John said can you imagine Shakespeare composing any of those soliloquies without walking around and speaking to himself feeling every emotional nuance and complexity of the characters? Sometimes wearing your heart on your sleeve is effective at other times it is a disaster, but to imagine personal emotion need not be an element in the composition of any kind of art is nonsense.

Rob mentioned the poems that bridge the two worlds are the most effective; poems like Phyllis Webb’s the Naked Poems, which are about writing a poem, but also intensely emotional or John Thompson’s poems which have a balance of intellect and emotion.

Stephen said that it is almost never about my emotions, but often an exploration of emotion. You have to be willing to be distant from your emotions.

John worried that by limiting access to events and moments that are pivotal and incidental, we risk losing touch with things that have direct meaning to people. He says he’s an unrepentant modernist. He believes people feel language is referential. When you talk about a chair, they have in mind a specific chair. They want to feel the poet also has something specific and concrete in mind, companionable to theirs. A lot of people don’t find that in contemporary poetry.

I’m going to end here. I enjoyed the talk, particularly John Pass’s comments because I really disagree with pretty much everything he said. I like poetry that goes against conventional thinking, that questions it, that surprises me. I have no interest in hearing my own ideas, beliefs or chairs repeated in the form of a poem. That’s what non fiction and personal memoirs are for. I'm not saying that the popular shouldn't be represented in poetry; David McGimpsey does an excellent job of that in his poetry. Please go back and read that McGimpsey quote or better yet, buy Side/Lines...and buy the poetry books, of course! It was a wonderfully provocative evening.

ps. see rob mclennan's blog for more thoughts and summary of last night. Gee, it's nice to have him back in town!