Friday, December 04, 2009



John Barlow & Pearl Pirie read in The A B Series -- December 11, 2009

The A B Series hosts, on the same bill, a rare reading by Toronto poet John Barlow and a reading by beloved Ottawa poet Pearl Pirie.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Doors open at 7:30pm
Readings at 8 and 9pm

The Mercury Lounge
56 ByWard Market Square (upstairs)
Ottawa, Ont.

$7 admission ($5 students/seniors)

JOHN BARLOW began publishing poetry in magazines and journals in the 1980s. Barlow has authored three collections of poetry, each published by Exile Editions, Safe Telepathy, ASHINEoVSUN and ASHINEoVSUN II. He published a CD/booklet with Balmer Press titled The UFOs of South Toronto and a chapbook with Laurel Reed titled Minus 45: Some Days in Winter and a LYRICALMYRICAL Editions book, Poems and Films.

PEARL PIRIE has been writing for a couple decades, mostly in or around Ottawa. She does haiku and visual, corpus-based poetry, form and formless. She has been published at ditch,, Ottawater and by AngelHouse Press. Her last chapbook bOATHouse came out from above/ground press in 2008. She blogs for the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter and for herself at pesbo and Humanyms. 


As part of the event, there will be a raffle draw with prizes that include copies of 'The Wrong World: Selected Stories & Essays by Bertram Brooker' edited and with an introduction by Gregory Betts/published by The University of Ottawa Press.

We'll be accepting book donations at this event for Ottawa's Booth Centre and the programs they run to assist homeless and other underprivileged people. Books will be accepted at the door for later distribution at the Booth Centre.

Monday, October 26, 2009

JOE ROSENBLATT in The A B Series / 2 Readings

The A B Series presents two readings by Governor General's Award winning poet, Joe Rosenblatt.

Doors open 7:30pm
Reading at 8pm

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Gallery 101
301 1/2 Bank Street (upstairs)
Ottawa, Ont.

$5 admission

Books by Joe Rosenblatt will be available for sale and signing
Cash bar

Over the course of a literary career spanning more than four decades, Rosenblatt has authored twenty books and his poems have appeared in over thirty anthologies of Canadian poetry. He has received major awards such as the Governor General's Award in 1976 and the BC Book Award in 1986.

JOE ROSENBLATT reads in The A B Series at Gatineau gallery Art-image.

And joining Rosenblatt in performance, Ottawa poet Andree Christensen reads in French from her translations of Rosenblatt's work that appear in the book 'Parrot Fever / Le perroquet fâcheux' (Les Editions du Vermillon).

Copies of 'Parrot Fever / Le perroquet fâcheux' available on site for sale and signing.

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Doors open 6:30pm
Reading at 7pm

855 boul. de la Gappe
Gatineau, Québec
t: 819-243-2345 ext. 2528

Free (a hat will be passed)

Bilingual presentation

For more information on this and other events in The A B Series, please visit:


Max Middle
Artistic Director
The A B Series
Tel: (613) 237 4309
director at abseries dot org

The A B Series gratefully acknowledges the support of The Canada Council for these events.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

SOIRÉE POÉSIE de AB Series à Art-image avec Joe ROSENBLATT, récipiendaire du Prix du Gouverneur Général

Également en performance, la poète ottavienne Andrée CHRISTENSEN qui fera la lecture en français de ses traductions du travail de ROSENBLATT, se retrouvant dans le livre « Parrot Fever / Le perroquet fâcheux » aux Éditions du Vermillon. Des copies du livre seront disponible sur place pour vente et dédicace.

QUAND : Le samedi 14 novembre 2009
HEURE : Les portes ouvriront à 18 h 30
La lecture commencera à 19 h
OÙ : Centre d'exposition Art-image
Maison de la culture de Gatineau
855, boul. de la Gappe
Gatineau, Qc
COÛT : Gratuit (un chapeau sera passé)

Présentation bilingue

Joe Rosenblatt est l'auteur de plus de 20 recueils de poésie et de plusieurs ouvrages autobiographiques. Au cours de ses 40 ans de carrière, ses poèmes ont figuré dans plus de 30 anthologies de poésie canadienne. Il a reçu d'importantes récompenses telles que le Prix du Gouverneur Général de poésie en 1976 et le BC Book Prize en 1986.

Pour plus d'information sur cette soirée et les autres événements de AB Series, veuillez visiter le site web :


Max Middle
Directeur artistique
la série A B
Tel: (613) 237 4309

The A B Series remercie le Conseil des Arts du Canada pour ces événements.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Congratulations Marcus McCann

Marcus is the winner of Bywords' 2009 John Newlove Poetry Award for his poem Noise (from "Busy") published on in February, 2009.

Congratulations also to the three honourable mentions:

A House with the Door Never Locked by Sylvia Adams
My Youth Machine-rolled, Smoked to Its Stub by Leanne Averbach
What I Remember of The Wars by Spencer Gordon

This year's judge was Stephanie Bolster.

For further information on the John Newlove Poetry Award, please go to and click on Newlove Award.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Poetry highlights at the Ottawa International Writers Festival Fall Edition

October 20, 2009 (not part of the festival but close enough), 8pm

City of Ottawa Book Awards and Arc Magazine’s Lampman-Scott Prize
Library and Archives Canada

Two poetry books are up for the Book Awards:
Colin Morton, The Local Cluster (Pecan Grove Press)
David O’Meara, Noble Gas, Penny Black (Brick Books)

Lampman-Scott Award Finalists are Brenda Leifso for Daughters of Men (London, ON: Brick Books, 2008), David O’Meara for Noble Gas Penny Black (London, ON: Brick Books, 2008), and Monty Reid for The Luskville Reductions (London, ON: Brick Books, 2008).

The Writers Festival events take place at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts and Humanities, 314 St. Patrick St.

October 21, 2009, 8:30 pm
6th Annual Bywords John Newlove Poetry Award
Launch of Rob Friday’s chapbook, “One Man Parade”
Announcement of winner and honourable mentions with readings.
Music by Call Me Katie

October 22, 2009
2pm-MASTERCLASS: THE POETRY OF COLLISION With Sina Queyras Hosted by Rob Winger ;
Join Sina Queyras for a Masterclass session on tradition and innovation in poetry.
6:30pm -•POETRY CABARET #1: Sina Queyras, Colin Morton, Christian Bök and Paul Durcan;Hosted by Rob Winger.
10:30pm-LATE NIGHT AT THE FESTIVAL -Featuring sound poetry by Christian Bök and music by John Lavery

October 26, 2009
6:30pm-POETRY CABARET #2: John Barton, Barbara Myers, Maurice Mierau and Karen Solie

10:30pm-LATE NIGHT AT THE FESTIVAL-In/Words Open Mic

There are many other excellent events and you’ll find poetry in those too. I’m sure there will be something poetic in David Byrne’s talk on his experiences cycling through New York City or Bram Stoker’s great-grand nephew’s book, Dracula, the Undead. Blood after all is a key poetic theme. There’s also lots of music this year with Call Me Katie, Glenn Nuotio and Sadie Hell playing the late night segments of the festival. I suspect the poetry will flow as well as the wine this year. Santé!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Poetry Past and Soon

Share some poems randomly this week. This is Random Acts of Poetry Week in Canada. At their blog check out how it unfolds...TA Carter is spreading the poetry at the NAC.

Dusty Owl
Dusty Owl hosted Danielle Gregoire's CD release. She was assisted by Steve and by her daughter at the mic.

When Steve and Cathy passed the hat, this time a portion went for jwcurry (see a previous post). Capital Slam October 3rd raised $150 to pass along as well.

For more news on Capital Slam, Rusty Priske's journal can keep you up to date. Teaser of news...? 5 female slammers were out the last time.

Recently we had some sound poetry with 5 local writers jumping in with The Be Blank Consort.
AB Series
Max has some photos here. The Be Blank Consort was at Gallery 101 where the next event will also unfold with Margaret Christakos October 14th. The venue isn't well-signed so if you haven't been before, look for Atomic Rooster on Bank Street. Catch Daphne Marlatt in town on the 21st.

.ism(e):performance cabaret will be Thursday October 8 at Club SAW. Sometimes poetry, sometimes, indefinable, this time will have Living Statues and Chinese instruments among other things. Barry Dempster will be hosted at Tree on the 13th.

Jessica Ruano will read at New Stalgica October 19th.

Shortly after Writers Fest is upon us. Pre-events have started. One is the 14th, one the 20th and then the 21st to 27th, it's 12 hour days of literary goodness. Watch for the John Newlove Awards, Masterclass hosted by Sina Queyras interviewing Colin Morton, Christian Bok and Dublin's Paul Durcan. There will also be a poetry cabaret with John Barton, Barbara Myers, Maurice Mierau and Karen Solie.

The Tree series will bring Erin Moure on the 27th.

For all the events around town, check out

Friday, October 02, 2009



performs ensemble


+ surprise guests!

Doors open at 7pm
Performance at 8pm

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

Gallery 101
301 1/2 Bank Street (upstairs)
Ottawa, Ont.

$15 admission

cash bar
book table


After completing two very successful seasons of readings, The A B Series is set to launch its third season. The A B Series began life and its first season with a reading on November 1st, 2007. That first season culminated with a performance by Dutch sound poetry sensation, Jaap Blonk. The A B Series second season, which ran from fall 2008 to spring 2009, was equally auspicious. We witnessed the staging of 'MESSAGIO GALORE', a locally produced sound poetry spectacular. On February 6th, four Australian poets rocked The National Arts Centre's Fourth Stage. And we welcomed, amongst others, poets Clifton Joseph, Penn Kemp, bill bissett, Robert Priest and Christian Bok to The A B Series stage. We're looking forward to continuing this spirited tradition with readings in the third season, which will run between October 3rd and early June 2010.

THE A B SERIES LAUNCHES ITS THIRD SEASON with a performance by American sound poetry ensemble THE BE BLANK CONSORT on OCTOBER 3rd. It takes place in Ottawa's own and very dynamic artist-run centre, GALLERY 101. During the performance, The Be Blankers will call invited local artists to the stage for performance of select works from the Be Blank repertoire.


THE BE BLANK CONSORT was born in June 2001 at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (New Smyrna Beach, Florida) when all of its core members were part of a literary residency convened by Richard Kostelanetz. Each member is a writer using language in greatly expanded and often completely new ways and contexts. THE CONSORT was formed to perform various kinds of texts and visual texts, many of them created collaboratively, in ways that would reveal new resonances and possibilities. Some pieces in their repertoire are poems written by an individual member and scored for multiple voices by another. A few are entirely written and scored by one person. Many more were written in collaboration between two or more of the performers + others. Scott Helmes, in January 2002, initiated the first poems specifically designed for performance by THE CONSORT and many have followed since, created by all the members. In 2003, they released a CD, SOUND MESS: + OTHER POEMS.

THE CONSORT has performed numerous times with past engagements in Miami, New York, Columbus, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Boston, Roanoke, Prescott and elsewhere in The USA.

October 3rd, 2009 marks THE CONSORT'S first Canadian performance!


CONSORT members performing on October 3rd, 2009:

JOHN M. BENNETT has exhibited and performed his word art worldwide, and has published over 300 books of poetry; among the most recent are LA M AL (Blue Lion Press), CANTAR DEL HUFF (Luna Bisonte Prods), LENTES, (Blue Lion Press), and SPITTING DDREAMS (Blue Lion Press). He is Curator of the Avant Writing Collection at the Ohio State University Libraries.

SCOTT HELMES' professional activities have been mainly in the fields of architecture and education. Starting in 1972, he began writing experimental poetry and pursuing mail art activities and artistic printmaking/drawings. His writing archive from 1972 to 1997 is in the Avant Writing Collection of the Ohio State University Libraries.

MICHAEL PETERS is the author of Vaast Bin (Calamari 2007). Various manifestations of his written images have appeared in journals like SleepingFish, Word for/Word and Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, among others. With Poem Rocket and the Be Blank Consort, various manifestations of his recorded sounds have appeared on labels such as Atavistic and Luna Bisonte Prods. His visual-poetic manifestations can be found in various libraries and special collections, as well as appearing in both galleries and sound-image anthologies.


For more information on The Be Blank Consort and other upcoming events in The A B Series 3rd season, please refer to:


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An urgent note from Roland Prevost: save jwcurry & Room 302 Books!

john curry, certainly a world class poet living in our community, is
presently facing almost certain eviction.

Stephen Brockwell alerted me of this precarious situation, by phone, and asked if I would get the word out, most recently at the TREE Reading Series on September 22, where we were able to scare up enough to cover one of his 5 months owed rent & save his telephone service.

currys been in constant production of his own and hundreds of others work since 1979. hes mainly ineligible for grants. His bookstore is mainly an unused resource. His archive documenting the growth of avant-garde writing in Canada is one of the key collections in the country. Nicky Drumbolis has said: curry and his work are the best-kept secret in Canada.

Since time is of the essence, if currys to avoid eviction, there are a few ways you can help:

Start to use his goddamn store!

Room 302 Books is the only bookstore in Canada ever to focusspecifically on the avant-garde and overlooked outsiders, specializing in concrete/visual/sound poetries (mainly Canadian) with a stock of over 20,000 mainly rare titles, including elusive ephemera, and probably the only source of most of jwcurrys various imprints and titles (which number
in the thousands). currys current lists finally focus on his own work as artist & publisher, virtually the first time everything thats (still) available has been made commonly available. You can purchase bookstore IOUs (or set up an account) today in any amount for those whod like to do that.

Subscribe to Curvd H&z, currys serial imprint. donor subscriptions (please indicate) of $100 or more get « the stash in a sampling of available titles from various of his imprints immediately, the remaining « put on account for forthcoming titles.

Donate outright.

I would like to encourage you to donate something so as to keep this excellent bookstore, publisher, archive and artist alive, and at the same time help prevent currys eviction from his apartment. For those whod like to purchase bookstore IOUs, Id ask you to write (#302-880 Somerset Street West, Ottawa Canada K1R 6R7) or call him at (613) 233 0417. Please
contribute as you can.

Roland Prevost (with collusions with curry)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

August among Ottawa people

Some reports on Haiku North America happenings are up including Hexagram launch including a new title from Ottawa poet Grant Savage, a talk on anti-story by Jim Kacian, Patricia Donegan in town talking about peace and haiku and meditation practice, an Painting Project by Claudia Coutu Radmore with music, dramatic monologue and sound poetry by Dorothy Howard as a response to the paintings which were a response to haiku.

A number of Ottawa poets made it to Purdyfest #3. There'll be a new intensive fall workshop series by rob mclennan this fall. His above/ground press is 16 years old now and was celebrated with the launch of new chapbooks by Phil Hall and Roland Prevost.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Haiku North America

If you write haiku, are curious about it, or fond of it or other short forms like haiga, tanka and senyru, you have an opportunity to explore it.

Coming to Ottawa August 5th to 9th is the 2009 Haiku North America conference. The conference only happens every 2 years and this time will be at the National Library. It was last held in Canada in 1995. This is a rare chance in our own backyard.

As Garry Gay points out,
"This conference is a real opportunity to meet some of the very best of the world’s haiku writers. These are the poets who are at the top of their game. [...] Many of the attending poets will bring poems to share in the form of new books. So if you’re a lover of books as much as I am, you want to bring an empty bag to bring home all the new volumes of poetry.

There will be readings, publishers, book tables, writing workshop, talks on epiphanies, haiku experience, an observation/poetry-writing (ginko) walk as well as an Ottawa River cruise among many other things. People who have practiced the craft locally, nationally and from around the world will be participating. Here is a schedule of events. This blog has posters and will follow the conference with updates.

For those who want to whet their haiku appetites, there will be a Purdyfest will have a haiku day the week before.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bywords Summer Reading

Sunday, July 19, 2009, 2pm
the Dusty Owl Reading Series
Swizzles Bar, 246-B Queen St.
Launch of the summer issue of the Bywords Quarterly Journal. Featuring the poetry of Stephanie Farrington, Shawn MacMillan, Kerri Power, Mark Sokolowski and Dean Steadman and the music of John Gillies.
Followed by the Dusty Owl's open mic.
Contact info: amanda at bywords dot ca
Cover photo by Caroline Gommersall.
Bywords gratefully thanks the City of Ottawa for a 2009 Arts Project Funding grant.
Hope to see everyone at the reading.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Congratulations to Sandra Ridley and Gary Barwin

who split this year's bpNichol Chapbook Award. Both Sandra and Gary have Ottawa connections in that Sandra is an Ottawa resident and Gary has family here.

The winning chapbooks were Sandra Ridley's Lift: Ghazals for C., Jack Pine Press and Gary Barwin's Inverting the Deer, serifofnottingham.

The award is sponsored by the Phoenix Community Works Foundation. The Chapbook Award was established in 1984, under the guidance of noted Canadian poet bpNichol who was also one of the founding members of PCWF. The award was created in order to inspire, encourage and support Canadian poets and the smaller Canadian presses that publish chapbooks. In 1988, after the tragic death of bpNichol, the award was renamed in memory of the prolific writer and performer. This year, $2000 is awarded to the best poetry chapbook written in English, published in Canada [in this case, the award is split between the two recipients.]

Congratulations to Sandra and Gary and to those shortlisted: John Barlow, Andrew Faulkner and Daphne Marlatt. Further info at Phoenix Community Works Foundation and

Thanks to the Phoenix Community Works Foundation for encouraging and supporting the publication of chapbooks and thanks to the small press industry for bravely continuing to publish and disseminate engaging and original voices.

Friday, June 19, 2009

12 or 20 questions: with Anita Dolman

Anita Dolman is a writer and editor whose poetry and/or short short fiction has appeared in numerous journals, websites, chapbooks and magazines, and in the anthology Decalogue: ten Ottawa poets (Chaudiere Books, Ottawa, 2006).

1 - How did your first chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My first chapbook felt like it validated my efforts as a poet. I had long considered myself a writer, but that chapbook, and the spate of poems accepted for publication in journals around the same time, made me feel that my efforts were warranted, and encouraged me to continue. I would like to think that my work has become subtler, more nuanced since then. I came out of the gate wanting to clobber people with meaning, but now I'm much more interested in the poem as a layered work inviting conversation with the reader, the idea that a single poem, as a single work of art, can, if successful, mean many things to many people.

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

In high school and the start of university, I was interested far more in both reading and writing fiction, which was a sort of choice by default. I had been taught by a number of teachers who believed that if their students did not interpret a poem the way the teacher's edition said was the only correct and justifiable interpretation, they had somehow managed to fundamentally get the poem "wrong." Poetry as a test of one's ability to see it through the exact same lens as someone with no doubt a very different perspective and background did not surpisingly completely fail to appeal to me, much as it completely fails to appeal to most other kids whose initial reaction of "Hey, that sounds cool" is almost immediately crushed into the resignation of "Okay, well, I guess I'm just never going to get it" by teaching that will likely keep them from approaching poetry again for most of their lives. I actually had a university English teacher start the poetry section of her curriculum with a warning to the effect that "I never understood poetry, and I imagine you don't either, so I promise to try to get through this section as quickly as possible."

In my third year at the University of Victoria I switched to a writing major. One third of the introductory class was dedicated to poetry, taught by Patrick Lane, and something just clicked for me in that class. I started to read Gwendolyn McEwen, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, to start, and many others after that, with an open approach, thinking more in terms of what the reader brings to a poem to make it the poem that they perceive, rather than dedicating myself to what I still believe to be the largely useless pursuit of trying to figure out what the poet meant to say based on their religion, family situation, house size and what they'd had for breakfast that day. Once I felt that liberation, I was hooked on poetry, on the possibility of it, the infinite opportunity a single poem can hold in a way that fiction, weighed down by its sheer size and need for consistency, can never have.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing intitially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

I usually don't know I've started a writing "project" until I'm well into it. I start dozens of projects that never lead anywhere and I tend to only realize I'm on the right track with one when I notice that I keep coming back to it over and over. Then, I can't leave it alone. I become addicted to it. I worry away at it, compulsively editing and re-editing and then taking that bit out anyway because it obviously wasn't any good in the first place, and then moving on to fight with another bit that isn't doing at all what I want it to. The problem for me is not the writing or the editing, it's knowing when it's done and walking away.

4 - 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 never start with the idea of "This is going to be a book." I set off down a path and when I look back and notice that it's now covered in poems I think "Huh, well if there are that many of them here, I suppose I ought to see if they want to come live together in a book."

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

I love readings. I love to go to them and I love to read at them, although I don't get to go to them nearly as much as I used to. For me, readings inspire and motivate me far more than actually reading poems in books, much as I love the words there, too. There's an energy that comes from a group of people together in one place just wanting so very much to communicate, to be heard, to connect with each other using this fascinating device, that I find it impossible to go home after that and not write, not want to keep that dialogue going.

I used to be immensely shy, both in general and specifically about sharing my work, but you just can't watch other people, especially the ones who don't necessarily have any background in it or the tools they really need, get up there and just give it their all and then allow yourself to not contribute, too.

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 don't go into my writing setting out to tackle a certain issue or to approach the work from a particular theoretical perspective or with a certain style in mind. All of these tend to emerge based on what the poem wants to be, what it requires as it begins to take shape, either on the page or in my imagination. The result, though, is often narrative poetry that, for better or worse, has, for wont of a better word, a moral. And those stem from whatever is of concern to me, conciously or subconciously, at the time.

I can't speak to what the current questions are for everyone else, because that depends on individual perspective, the expression of which is the very thing that makes poetry so fascinating to me. My own work lately has been full of the idea of personal happiness and personal responsibility, how these things get lost along the way and how we can get back to them, for our own and for the greater good.

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?

A writer is an interpreter of reality and the voice of possibility. The role of the writer, like the role of any artist, should be, to my mind, to offer up one more perspective through which to view the world, and with this offering, provide one more way that we could move ahead. The artist is the articulator of human imagination, and we as a society can't go anywhere without him, since he's the one holding the map.

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

As an editor, I'd say editors are absolutely essential to the writing process, to ensure that the writer doesn't, in knowing so fully the meaning or the sound they meant to articulate, become blind to whether they have actually effectively conveyed it. As a writer, I'd say editors are a scourge on society, the level of irritation they create matched only by an episode of Oprah's book club, classics edition, and their usefulness roughly on par with that of telephone cleaning crews.

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

Lighten up.

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

I normally have the approximate attention span of a rabid squirrel, so poetry and postcard-length fiction tend to be more satisfying for me, simply because they're bite-sized. I'm also a compulsive editor; I keep going back to and fiddling with my work, which makes longer fiction a challenge, because the first thing I want to do when I sit down to continue a story is go back to what I wrote last time and spend the whole day tinkering with it instead of moving ahead.

That said, fiction is very attractive to me, because it allows for a greater scope, the opportunity to delve more fully into a multiplicity of perspectives and ideas within one work. I'm starting to move towards fiction now because of that. Much of my poetry to date has been very short, and my fiction tends to be of the under-500-word variety, so I'm setting myself the challenge of just seeing what happens when I pan out a bit and tell the broader story around the story. There's an element in that of giving up my obsession with the perfection of individual lines and words, in exchange for the ability to convey a wider story. Of course, this means buckling my inner squirrel firmly into her seat, hiding all the shiny objects and giving her a good tallking to before I get started each time.

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 be regimented, and then I got a day job, and then I had a baby, so now I grab writing time where and when I can. My son is just over a year old now, and I'm finally starting to come back to writing with more consistency (so far just a quick writing session at about 6 a.m. on the weekends, before everyone is up, and then again on a week night or two), but I find the return daunting. I feel much more obligated to have something significant to show for the time I've taken away from my family, my chores, my sleep, etc. I feel I need to be accountable for that time.

I've been asked before why there aren't as many publishing female poets, particularly older female poets, as there are male poets (although I'd be curious to know the actual percentages), but I believe it's because women are far quicker to be convinced that the world will end if they don't do the dishes, or the laundry, or the dusting, instead of writing (or painting or entering politics, for that matter) than most men could ever be. As compelling and addictive as writing is for me, I will always feel I'm cheating someone else out of something I should be doing for them (regardless of whether they tell me I'm an idiot for thinking this) by doing something that really isn't for anyone else. Writing is an immensely selfish act. And it takes a significant amount of ego to think that what's in your head is so bloody important that you should stop everything and write it down before the world is forever robbed of your singularly genius observation.

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

Music, poetry, galleries, readings. Anything that calls me out to play. I used to return to specific favourites (Michael Ondaatje and Anne Sexton, for example, or Nina Simone and Billie Holliday), but any type of art that gets a reaction from me will make me want to grab a pen or my computer and return the favour.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

Freesias trigger the strongest childhood memories for me, although they remind me of my grandmother's house in Amersfoort, rather than of my own home. She seemed to have a vase full of them every time we stayed with her, and in my mind's eye they imbued her otherwise dark little house with light as well as fragrance.

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?

Music has a deep and motivating effect on me, especially blues and jazz. A few minutes of listening to Nina Simone do her thing and I feel an overwhelming urge to go write something, anything, just to play along.

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

I've mentioned a few of the poets already, although the list could go on and on. I'm a sponge when it comes to writing and my influences would include everyone from Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Michael Ondaatje to e.e.cummings to Atwood, Sexton, Plath, Woolf (now that would be a dinner party!) to Douglas Adams and all stops in between and beyond.

More directly, you, rob, have been endlessly influencial in your encouragement of my work, and inspiring in your constant encouragement of other writers. Stephen Brockwell has been enormously helpful and encouraging to me, as well, as was Patrick Lane when I took his poetry workshops at UVic. jwcurry, too, of course, as well as so many of the poets in Ottawa's writing scene. My husband, fiction writer James Moran, started out as my editor (and I as his) and his support is the main reason I'm still writing today. I have been enormously fortunate in the places and people to which poetry in particular has led me.

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

Learn to let go of things, including my writing. And travel more.

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?

My other job is as an editor, but if I hadn't become either of these things, I imagine I most likely would have become a real estate developer, or at least someone who refurbishes old buildings. I love building things. If it hadn't been poems and stories, I think it likely would have been actual buildings.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
It was the first saleable skill I realized I had. Isn't that romantic? Why I kept doing it, though, is an absolute, fundamental need to express the thing that's just behind the thing we normally talk about.

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

I'm reading and very much enjoying Gore Vidal's Lincoln right now, and I recently read A Room of One's Own for the first time, which was a lot more fun than I would have thought. I've seen a lot of rather awful films recently, but I did like Revolutionary Road, and the new Star Trek. The last film I saw that really stuck with me for a long time after, though, was a Quebec film called C.R.A.Z.Y.

20 - What are you currently working on?

Fiction, which doesn't come as naturally to me but which I'm finding a lot of fun to explore nonetheless.

Monday, June 08, 2009

When Poetry Leads to Poetry: New Stalgica Launches Dalhousie Blues Tonight

Tonight the Newstalgica Reading Series at Café Nostalgica will be hosting the launch of a new book entitled Dalhousie Blues. It’s a stunning and compelling poetry collection published by a collective of unique voices --Jamie Bradley, Caleb Brassett, Christine McNair and Sean Moreland and skilfully designed by Christine McNair with artwork by local artists. I’m particularly excited and happy about the existence of this book for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that all of these authors have been published by Bywords and by my small press, AngelHousePress.

I’m not suggesting that Bywords is the instigator of the collaboration, but I have to say that this is the main reason that Bywords exists and also the main reason why I launched AngelHousePress: to help and to promote talented emerging writers on their path and to act as an impetus for more poetry. Bywords is not the only local press or organization that encourages and supports an active writers community. There is rob mclennan, of course, the dynamo promoter of the small press world. There are the fantastic reading series, other local journals and creative writing workshops, the Ottawa Writers Festival and more. The point is that when you have a good and strong active literary community, creativity and collaboration will ensue.

Since this is my main mandate with Bywords, I can’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction when our published authors spread their wings and fly. I would say all this tonight at the reading itself, but I’ll be too choked up. I do plan on drinking copious toasts to these talented and enterprising writers. These are brilliant young writers and I hold them in the highest esteem. I urge you to come to the launch and buy at least one copy of this excellent book.

Bywords may have books available through our on line store if the books haven't sold out yet.

Monday, June 8, 2009, 8pm
Cafe Nostalgica, 603 Cumberland St.
Open Mic followed by featured readers with music by Tia Akhse

Monday, June 01, 2009

Ottawa Open Mic Ops & Tips

Whether you write poetry or prose, tell stories or perform spoken word, there’s a place for your words to be heard in Ottawa.

To read at an open mic, you usually have to arrive early and sign up.
Look for a list by the door or ask someone where the sign up sheet is.
Usually there’s a maximum amount of time allotted per open mic reader.
Make sure you know what it is and don’t go over the time limit; that includes any intro.
Remember if you need a long intro to describe a poem, it's probably not the right poem to read.
If you have merch: poetry chapbooks, cds etc, see if you can put them out on a merch table or let the audience know.
Open mics are usually followed by a feature reader, or sometimes preceded by.
If you come to share your work at the open mic, also be respectful of the feature. Don't yack thru their set.

Here’s a list of reading series that include an open mic. Further information about the series, including contact information, times and web sites can be found on the calendar of literary events or by clicking on the links below.


2nd Monday of the month-but not during summer: the New Stalgica, 603 Cumberland, 8pm. Hosts Sean Moreland and JF Lafleche-sign up sheet is at the bar.


2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month-Tree Reading Series, Arts Court, 2 Daly Avenue, hosted by Rod Pederson-sign up sheet is by the door. one of Ottawa’s longest running reading series.

2nd Tuesday of the month-Voices of Venus, Umi Café, 610 Somerset St. W. Hosted by Amazon Syren and Faye Estrella, a series to celebrate the spoken word and women writers, but not exclusive to women.


Every Thursday-Café Nostalgica Poetry and Music Open Stage-603 Cumberland, 8pm. Hosted by Kevin Grant. Primarily a music open stage, but amenable to poetry and prose.

1st Thursday of the month- the Creative Act, Cuppedia, 97 Main Street. Hosted by Christopher.

1st Thursday of the month; 7:30 pm. Story Swap-hosted by the Ottawa Storytellers Association.

Last Thursday of the month-In/words open mic, Montgomery Legion (downstairs Hall), 330 Kent Street-hosted by an In/Words editor


1st Saturday of the month-Capital Slam, 56 Byward Market, spoken word poetry-those who participate get free admission. Hosted by Capital Slam.


2nd and 4th Sunday of the month, except July and August, Sasquatch Writers Performance Series, Royal Oak II, 161 Laurier East, downstairs-sign up sheet on a table by the fireplace. Hosted by Lynne Alsford. one of Ottawa’s longest running reading series.

two Sundays a month and sometimes more!: the Dusty Owl Reading Series, Swizzles Bar and Grill, 246-B Queen Street-sign up sheet on a clipboard by the door. open mic follows feature.

For other literary events taking place in Ottawa and area, please consult and click on events; for literary news, contests, workshops, conferences and more consult the news section of the site.

If you are involved in an open mic or a reading series that you don't see on the calendar of events, please contact me at amanda at bywords dot ca

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Completion of The A B Series Second Season & Looking Ahead to Season Three

Four upcoming events promise to make for a very exciting completion to The A B Series second season (autumn 2008 to spring 2009). The first is a reading by Christian Bök taking place today at 5pm in The Canadian Tulip Festival's beautiful Mirror Tent.

bill bissett reads on May 23rd at The Mercury Lounge. On the evening's program is a set of readings by a varied cast of performers to be given in bill's honour.

Paul Dutton reads on June 6th at The University of Ottawa and on June 7th at Galerie Montcalm in Gatineau, Quebec.

Following a pause for the summer, The A B Series is back on October 3rd for the commencement of season three (autumn 2009 to spring 2010) with a performance by American sound poetry ensemble, The Be Blank Consort.



Presented in association with The Canadian Tulip Festival
Saturday May 16 at 5pm
Host: Max Middle

Tulip Festival - Mirror Tent
Festival Plaza
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario


On Saturday, May 16th, The A B Series presents CHRISTIAN BÖK's first reading to take place in Ottawa since 2002! Produced in association with The Canadian Tulip Festival, the event starts at 5pm in The Festival's beautiful Mirror Tent.

BÖK is the author of Eunoia, Coach House Books' bestselling work of experimental literature, and winner of the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence. The book is a is a five-chapter book in which each chapter is a univocal lipogram – the first chapter has A as its only vowel, the second chapter E, etc. Each vowel takes on a distinct personality: the I is egotistical and romantic, the O jocular and obscene, the E elegiac and epic (including a retelling of the Iliad!). Last year, Eunoia was published in the UK where it quickly went to the top of best selling lists for poetry. His first book, Crystallography, was published by Coach House Press in 1994 and was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award.

BÖK has created artificial languages for two television shows, Gene Roddenberry’s 'Earth: Final Conflict' and Peter Benchley’s 'Amazon'. Bök has earned many accolades for his virtuoso performances of sound poetry (particularly the ‘Ursonate’ by Kurt Schwitters). His conceptual artworks have appeared at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York City as part of the exhibit 'Poetry Plastique'. He is working with scientist, Stuart Kaufmann, to compose "living poetry" whereby short verse is encoded into a sequence of DNA to be implanted into a bacterium. He plans to document the progress of the publishing experiment and make related artwork for subsequent exhibition in galleries. Bök is Professor of English at the University of Calgary.

BÖK's reading will be followed by a brief Q&A.

The A B Series gratefully acknowledges the support of The City of Ottawa and The Canada Council for the Arts.


For more information, see The A B Series web site at ABSERIES dot ORG or contact A B Series Artistic Director, Max Middle, by telephone (613) 237 4309 or email: director at abseries dot org.


TICKETS available at the Mirror Tent Box Office

Adult $16

Student $12

Reserved Section $28


Doors open 7:00pm
Performance at 8:00pm
Venue: The Mercury Lounge
Cost: $10 at the door
Host: Max Middle

originalee from lunaria a far distant planet way past venus 312 bill came 2 eryh on th first childrns shuttul from ther ovr 400 yeers ago in lunarian space time kontsrukts hes bin sent as an impressyunist onlee altho he wud love 2 undrstand erthling wayze he askd wudint yu 2 ths end he has alwayze wantid 2 xploor langwage in all its wayze at leest in poetree n wantid alwayze 2 spell mor n mor closelee on th page how each word sounds in that pomes ear a life time at leest devosyun most recent book sublingual 2nd most recent book ths is erth thees ar peopul both from talonbooks n from red deer press deth interrupts th dansing a cd with pete dako followd by ths is erth thees ar peopul also with pete dako musician extraordinaire n luddites 86- 91 remix cd just releesd also a paintr most recent show upstares galleree toronto summr 09 now a doktor from tru universitee n resipient uv th george woodcock life time acheevment award hes working now on nu book n nu paintings evree 6 months or sew th lunarian assemblee remoovs th filld tapes uv impressyuns from bills hed n he starts agen emptee hedid 4 a whil

"I know who the great poets are. William Bissette of Vancouver. An Indian boy. Bill Bissette, or Bissonnette." (Jack Kerouac, 1967)

Margaret Atwood's "astral twin" and James Reaney's "one-man civilization", living legend bill bissett comes to Ottawa for a feature reading in The A B Series.

bill's READING WILL BE FOLLOWED BY A POETIC TRIBUTE to be made BY SEVERAL SPECIAL GUESTS READING FROM bill's OEUVRE and from the anthology, 'radiant danse uv being: A Poetic Portrait of bill bissett' edited by Jeff Pew and Stephen Roxborough.

radiant danse uv being and books by bill bissett will be available for sale.

The A B Series gratefully acknowledges the support of The Canada Council for this event. This event is also made possible by The Writers' Union of Canada.

Writers Union of Canada Logo


The A B Series is looking forward to hosting two performances by Paul Dutton. The first performance will take place on the evening of June 6th, and will be presented in association with The University of Ottawa English Department.

Paul Dutton evening performance
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Doors open 7:30pm / Performance at 9:00pm
Venue: 1848 - University of Ottawa Campus Bar
$10 at the door (free for U of O English Dept students)

Paul Dutton matinee
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Free (a hat will be passed)

Paul Dutton is a poet, novelist, essayist, and oral sound artist who is internationally renowned for both his literary and musical performances. Throughout the last four decades he has published, recorded, and performed his work in various contexts, solo and collaborative, in print and film, on TV, radio, and the Web. He has taken his art to festivals, clubs, concert halls, and classrooms throughout Canada and across the United States, Europe, and South America. Dutton’s artistic focus continues to be the exploration of consciousness and perception through the creation of multisensory works, employing written poetry and prose, visual poetry, and the sonic dimensions of language and oral expression. He was a member of the legendary Four Horsemen sound poetry quartet (1970–1988), along with Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Steve McCaffery, and the late bpNichol. He joins his soundsinging oralities to John Oswald’s alto sax and Michael Snow’s piano and synthesizer in the free-improvisation band CCMC (1989 to the present). He recently formed Quintet à Bras in company with two French poets and two French instrumentalists. The most recent of his six books is a novel, Several Women Dancing (Mercury Press, 2002), the latest of his five solo recordings is the CD Oralizations (DAME Records, 2005).

For a taste of what they might expect of at the performance, the following Web sites provide samples of Paul's published writing and of his sound recordings, plus commentary on other of his published works:

The A B Series gratefully acknowledges the support of The Canada Council for this event.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The incomparable Robin Blaser

ROBIN BLASER 1925-2009. One of the progenitors of the "open form," an ongoing poem sequence not necessarily written with specific end-boundaries in mind, Robin Blaser first came to a wider public attention through editor Don Allen's seminal anthology, The New American Poetry, 1945-60 (1960). Quoted in his early 1960s "Vancouver Lectures" from The House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan, 1998), the late Jack Spicer said that "Robin Blaser once said in talking about a serial poem that it's as if you go into a room, a dark room, the light is turned on for a minute, then it's turned off again, and then you go into a different room where a light is turned on and off."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some Notes on the Print History of William Hawkins’ Ottawa Poems

"Give this meaning as you may, or must,"

William Hawkins, #27 (from Ottawa Poems)

I’m a newcomer to Ottawa poetry, but by no means a newcomer to Ottawa. I was born here, and raised, and am presently on the verge of completing my “higher” education in the city. I’ve been working to catch up on our literary history, as well as present, and am fascinated by anything that makes an effort to write Ottawa in the way that other cities seem to have been written with greater regularity. Naturally, the first time I came across the title, Ottawa Poems, I set out to find and read it. I’m not going to attempt a critical reading of the poems here. Suffice to say, I love the book and think its poems wonderful. My concern here is with the bibliographic history of the book, and the various incarnations of the poems in Hawkins’ published books. I think that these are fascinating notes from the perspective of book history, and I will resist drawing conclusions from them. I think the print journey of the poems themselves more than justifies a brief account here.

The book was published by Nelson Ball’s Weed/Flower Press in July 1966 (and reprinted in 1967). Weed/Flower had been created the previous year, 1965, and ran for the following eight. Jack David wrote an annotated, descriptive bibliography of the press that was published in Essays on Canadian Writing (Number 4, Spring 1976). According to David, Ball purchased a “pre-WW II mimeograph machine [...] for $35” (34), and proceeded to mimeograph everything produced under the name. Along with Hawkins, Ball published the likes of George Bowering, bp Nichol, John Robert Colombo, Victor Coleman, John Newlove, himself, and a score of others.

Like many others produced by Weed/Flower, Ottawa Poems has a wonderful cover design by Barbara Caruso. A series of overlapping, thick black lines look like poorly laid out streets, and two hands offer the only recognizable point of reference on a thick, brown cover stock. The interior pages are mimeographed from a typewriter proof onto brown paper. Hawkins is credited simply as WM HAWKINS.

The book is a set of twenty-eight relatively brief lyrics in a mere thirty six pages. Roy MacSkimming, in his introductory essay to 2004’s Dancing Alone: Selected Poems, writes “because they belong to a loosely linked sequence, these are more abstracted and discursive poems than the tighter, imagistic, self-contained pieces in Hawkins. And perhaps because they often look outward to the surrounding society, they’re also more anxious and fearful, occasionally a touch paranoid” (15). This sequence is disrupted and broken differently in all future appearances of parts of the book.

His first selected poems, The Gift of Space (new press, Toronto, 1971), would reprint only twenty four pieces from the book. The twenty four retained would be renumbered sequentially, suggesting a new, coherent and complete edit. The pieces removed were #8 (POEM IN RED INK), #20 (THE LAST POEM FOR PEOPLE), #24 (CHARACTEROLOGY), and #26 (ALMOST A POEM). Interesting, if accidental, #21 (SORRY, THIS IS IT) in the Weed/Flower edition is printed 19th in The Gift of Space, but numbered 21, only to be succeeded by a second #21 (HELLO FROM THE SHADOWS), #23 originally.

A further iteration of the poems comes in 2004 in Dancing Alone: Selected Poems (Broken Jaw Press, Fredericton, Cauldron Books 5). In this edition the original numbers are restored, and the excised poems are left as gaps. This time twenty two poems are printed, removing six. Those cut are: #8 (POEM IN RED INK), #9 (A STUPID CANASTA POEM), #13 (So much of me is not), #20 (THE LAST POEM FOR PEOPLE), #24 (CHARACTEROLOGY), #26 (ALMOST A POEM). The four removed in The Gift of Space are still absent, #9 and #13 have been freshly cut.

As has been widely documented, 1966-67 were landmark years in Hawkins’ publishing career. On top of Hawkins (Nil Press) and Ottawa Poems, he was anthologized in Raymond Souster’s seminal New Wave Canada: The New Explosion in Canadian Poetry (Contact Press) as well as in the A.J.M. Smith edited Modern Canadian Verse (Oxford University Press).

New Wave Canada came first in 1966. Hawkins appeared in its pages alongside early work from Michael Ondaatje, Daphne Marlatt (then still Daphne Buckle), Robert Hogg, bp Nichol, Fred Wah and Victor Coleman among others. Hawkins' biography in New Wave Canada appeared in quotation marks, and is reproduced in its totality below:

What’s to say in a biography? All my life I’ve worried about the propriety of our definitions. Because the times are as they are I’ve lived in fear, movies my only escape, economics keeping me from more drugs, booze & girlies than I was able (meagre, really) to steal. I have stolen every single idea I have heard, transposing them into my own terms. A wife & two children share my scene & seem happy. I write poems because I like to.

Living now in Ottawa. (171)

Whether selected by Souster or by Coleman (who aided Souster in the editorial choices of the anthology), Hawkins is afforded 11 pages in the book. The poems included are drawn from Hawkins and Ottawa Poems. However, reproductions from both are marked by changes in numbering. For example, from Hawkins, “Mysteriensonaten” #1, #3 and #4 are reprinted as #6, #10 and #7 respectively. In the case of Ottawa Poems, #5 (how can I describe the anger) is reprinted as #7, #11 (your hair electric) is reprinted as #17, #13 (so much of me is not) is reprinted as #24, and #16 (“BEAUTY WILL NOT WAIT”) is reprinted as #25.

New Wave Canada itself has a convoluted print history (see Bruce Whiteman’s “Raymond Souster’s New Wave Canada: A Bibliographical Note”). His appearance in New Wave CanadaModern Canadian Verse did not reprint any of the Ottawa Poems, but did print three from Hawkins; “Spring Rain”, “A New Light” and “The Wall.” directly resulted in his appearance in Modern Canadian Verse, when A.J.M. Smith “happened upon the page proofs [of the book]” (MacSkimming 15) as a result of Coleman’s work at Oxford UP at the time. These poems are listed as “uncollected” (xxi) in the acknowledgements.

Some of the poems also saw periodical publication before the book proper. #24 (CHARACTEROLOGY), often excised from later versions, was printed in 1966 in IS one, edited by Victor Coleman in Toronto, and signed “William Hawkins, ‘WM’ ”. #26 (ALMOST A POEM) was printed in Volume 63 (edited by Nelson Ball), number 5 (Summer 1966). This is approximately coincident with the publication of the book. Interestingly, in both these cases, the poems are not numbered but rather stand alone, resisting any allusion to the larger sequence. Volume 63 also printed 5 of the “Mysteriensonaten” poems in the Winter of 1965, numbered up to 8, suggesting that a larger sequence existed prior to the edited four poem set that appeared in Hawkins; this potentially solves the problems posed by the “Mysteriosonaten” poems in New Wave Canada discussed earlier.

#5 (how can I describe the anger) was printed as #7 in issue 19 (July 1966) of the magazine El Corno Emplumado, published out of Mexico City. It appeared in a group of thirteen Canadian poets in the issue (alongside George Bowering, Fred Wah, John Newlove, Nelson Ball, Daphne Buckle and Red Lane among others).

Alphabet, edited by James Reaney, apparently printed one, or some, of the poems according to the credit in the book itself, though I have not been able to find the excerpt(s) in question. However, I did find the wonderful ad below for “Poster Poems by the Fabulous WM. Hawkins” that appeared in Alphabet number 5 (December 1962) before a selection of four “King Kong” poems.

I do not have access to WEED magazine, stopping me from chasing down that reference as well. If you do have a set, or know which poems appeared, and when, sent me a note ( and I will amend these notes. Equally, any information relating to other editions of these poems would be very much appreciated (for example, did any of the Ottawa Poems appear as Poster Poems?)

I think that these sorts of incongruities and inconsistencies make a strong case for the need to pursue bibliographic work on modern Canadian poetry. I think that they make clear the greater arc of a poem, or book’s, life. Certainly, the Weed/Flower Press edition of 1966 is the authoritative printing, but later editorial choices, as well as earlier little magazine publication help to illuminate the development of the poems over a span of forty years. I think that this is especially true in the case of book-length sequences, or longpoems, where small changes alter the whole. The Ottawa Poems did not end conclusively with their first collected appearance. Hopefully they’ll continue to be read and won’t end anytime soon.


Works Cited

David, Jack. “Weed Flower Press.” Essays on Canadian Writing 4 (Spring 1976): 34-41.

Hawkins, William. Dancing Alone: Selected Poems. Fredericton: Broken Jaw, 2004.

--. The Gift of Space: Selected Poems 1960-1970. Toronto: new press, 1971.

--. Hawkins. Ottawa: Nil Press, 1966.

--. Ottawa Poems. Kitchener: Weed/Flower Press, 1966.

Smith, A.J.M. Modern Canadian Verse. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1967.

Souster, Raymond. New Wave Canada: The New Explosion in Canadian Poetry. Toronto:

Contact Press, 1966.

Whiteman, Bruce. “Raymond Souster’s New Wave Canada: A Bibliographical Note.” Papers of

the Bibliographic Society of Canada XX (1981): 63-65.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

(Mostly Poetry) Highlights of the Ottawa International Festival

Here’s what stood out for me as the most unique, bold and memorable:

Garry Thomas Morse, Death in Vancouver (Talonbooks, 2009), a selection of short prose bits with crazy compelling characters, tight, precise and breathtaking language and imagery and opera! The man can sing. call what he brought to the festival stories, call them poems. i don’t really care. they’re just damn good. i’ve started his book and am enthralled by its originality. His writing reminds me of local writer John Lavery’s work; they both are adept at linguistic acrobatics and are skilled in painting memorable and unusual characters.

Martha Baille, The Incident Report (Pedlar Press, 2009)-Baille presents a series of stories from the point of view of a librarian about the eccentric dramatic personae who frequent a library, including Rigoletto. the prose is tight and precise with lovely arcs and rhythms that sounded like poetry to me.

Jeremy Dodds, Crabwise to the Hounds (Coach House Books, 2009)-Dodds is someone who can play adeptly with language. In his first poetry collection he contorts everyday expressions much in the way Robert Priest does with his aphorisms in Time Release Poems (Ekstasis Editions, 1997.)

Matthew Tierney, the Hayflick Limit (Coach House Books, 2009)-inventive and to see the relationship between science and the everyday in Tierney’s poems. the poetry masterclass that Dodds and Tierney participated in was interesting in that there were physicists in the audience and people who wanted definitions of terms like anti-matter. the whole thing was as wonderfully absurd as poetry events should be.

rob mclennan, Gifts (Talonbooks, 2009)-i’ve read these poems as drafts and also there’s one in there for me so i’m clearly biased, but i always enjoy hearing rob read. his poems have a delicious cadence and wonderful images.

Adeena Karasick-Amuse Bouche (Talonbooks, 2009)-a friend told me i would enjoy her language play and punnery and i did, so much so that i wanted to claim one of the poems as my own. i wish i’d written it. the subtitle of this book is “Tasty Treats for the Mouth” and i concur heartily. i enjoyed every bite. the book is a joy with colourful bits clipped from those air flight safety cards. i love all the linguistic twists and turns in this book and in Karasick’s reading.

Marcus McCann, Soft Where (Chaudiere Books, 2009)-once again, i am very biased here. not only is Marcus a dear friend but we are also in a poetry group together; however, i am not the only one who is gaga over the wit and language shenanigans McCann uses in his work.

The main thing all of the above writers had in common in their work is that they seem to be willing to take risks, to push a line beyond predictability. They aren’t sentimental; they don’t wax poetic over the heart or a white horse or a big mangy dog or say condescending things about the working class. Their rhythms are their own and not evocative of Edgar Allen Poe.

I found their presence and their work inspiring and appreciated the opportunity to hear them and to meet them. This is what I love about the Ottawa International Writers Festival…it exposes audiences to new and bold writing.