Friday, August 29, 2014

new from above/ground press: Weaver, Kaminski + mclennan,

Andy Weaver
for more information, click here

Megan Kaminski
Wintering Prairie
for more information, click here

How the alphabet was made,
[an instructional]
rob mclennan
for more information, click here 
produced, in part, as a handout for Philalalia: the three-day book and art fair, September 25-27, Philadelphia PA

keep an eye on the above/ground press blog for author interviews, new writing, reviews, upcoming readings and tons of other material;

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
August 2014

a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy of each

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal (above). Scroll down here to see various backlist titles (many, many things are still in print).

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Amy Lawless

Amy Lawless is the author of two collections of poems, most recently My Dead (Octopus Books, 2013).  An audio chapbook, from BROADAX is just out from Black Cake Records.  Some prose has recently appeared in Poor Claudia's Ten Sources and Literary Mothers. She grew up in Boston, and lives in Manhattan where she teaches writing.

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

I always like my own newest work better than my older work. My most recent work and manuscript causes more agony, more than ever before, because it is more personal. This manuscript, BROADAX, is killing me.  My last book, My Dead, brought up sad feelings when I wrote it, but I felt invigorated by the process of writing it and its concerns. Its arrival and existence as an object in the world was a symbol for my own continued living and survival, its author.  This new work is eating me, and it tastes like me.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
My personal journey is not unique. My lovely mother encouraged my writing when I was a girl and read poems aloud to me from an anthology of poems geared toward the youth.  I write prose as well, but writing prose requires the kind of patience that I associate with the superhuman.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
I take notes on trains and during conversations with friends and people I meet.  These notes usually remain as notes. 

I write a lot because it staves off feelings of dying and loneliness. Things happen extremely quickly, tumultuously, emotionally, and aggressively. Then nothing happens.  Then something happens. Then, if I’m lucky, I will allow time to pass and the document is again opened and investigated and altered. My editing process consists of grumpiness, anger, indecision, laziness, avoidance, staring off into space nowhere near my manuscript, going to the beach, followed by a few adult decisions. Then disgust.  Then mute adoration. The more I spend on a piece of writing, the better.  That is all.  I have written many poems that do not fit into manuscripts. 

I think it depends on the project.  My Dead took like three years.  My new manuscript took about fourteen or sixteen months, or many years as it is on certain pages about being the little girl Amy Lawless who I used to be and sometimes still am.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I have no idea where it begins. I am not a neurologist or a deity or a mind scientist. However, once some poems exist in a document using a copy/paste function in Microsoft Word, I call the document a name or will think that the poems are in the same family as one another.  Suddenly it will be 80 pages and live as an untamed family of children who want what they want, and one must feed them. One’s time is no longer one’s own.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I love attention and find it hard to say no to opportunities to stand in front of an audience who will listen to my words. I don’t think that they are part of my creative process as much as part of the role of poet/writer that I am living in New York City and the United States. It is a chance to share my work, and I like sharing my work because I live in the world and I am not writing for myself. I need to intersect with others, but as a poet there are other ways to do that: friendships with poets. I have many of those.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I am really interested in myself (there-I said it). Concerns at present include but are not limited to the following questions: What is the point? How can I be a good person? What’s funny? What is death? Why is it so hard to be a person? Why is it so alienating? How do I reconcile the weird things that I experienced as a child with the present person that I am today? What’s the deal with sibling rivalry? What kinds of violence (social, physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.) do people inflict upon one another? How do myths and media and tales intersect with history (both personal and geographical) in a meaningful way? How can the stories drawn from my own phenomenological experiences of being a woman and its shaming be included in my poems in a way that is not the same ol’ way? What does it mean to be a poet?

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?
The role of the writer is not limited.  There is room for everyone at this sick party.  However, not all of these roles are interesting to me.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I am in some ways an extremely disciplined writer and in other ways I am not—that’s how it is with Amy Lawless. So, I have found it helpful to work with really brilliant editors.  I think every writer is different, but given the fact that writing is a form of communication, it is extremely helpful to have at least one other person intersect with one’s work at some pre-publication stage in order to experience a person human’s reaction and poetic and editorial expertise to one’s words. If your deodorant doesn’t work you need someone to tell you or you’ll keep smelling for a long time.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Don’t be an asshole.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?
Often I like to write in a way in which my intended meaning remains intact.  And more often than not, my poems are written in a form that does not verbally obfuscate; therefore, the transition itself is not challenging.  It is guileless in that sense, and it is possible to obfuscate in other ways like with the description of complicated ideas and images.  An appeal of writing critical prose is to be part of the rich conversation about poetry and writing.  It’s also possible to wage war on the conversation in one’s own poems.  There are always new things to write about.  I just need more time during which to do so, and that is in no way unique to my experience as a writer. One sometimes can be strangled by the time spent working in order to pay rent.

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?
A typical day begins in bed.  First, I wake up. I will leave my bed and start to think about coffee. I build in energy. If I write prose, I must begin in the morning and I work three hours.  When I write poems, I am unable to dictate how and when I will begin work. I need to be doing something at all times or I fall asleep from boredom. I write on subways, offices, home, couches, bed, on my phone walking down the sidewalk. I do many things that are not categorized as ‘writing.’  I find when my physical setting shifts to a trusted and familiar place, I am often overwhelmed with memories or ideas.  When I occasionally visit my parents in Boston, I can write a great deal and sleep a great deal due to the womb-like safety feelings that accompany being in my childhood home. I find that Sundays are great for writing as I am not concerned with obligations or a schedule.  I teach at two colleges so I must either teach each day, or at least have it in my mind that I must read or grade something. Over a few years, I have attempted to train my mind to ease and relax regardless of my schedule in order to open up to the idea of being receptive to writing words at the end of a day – if not to actually write.  However, this whole paragraph is kind of bullshit—when ideas come they flood and receptivity is just a mindset.

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

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Christmas tree.

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?
The poem “Elephants in Mourning,” which appeared in My Dead sourced National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, the film Dude Where’s My Car?, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Chandra Levy’s body in the news in my memory, my uncle’s coffin, and three deaths.  I am often secretly and not secretly an ekphrastic poet. Recently I wrote an ekphrastic poem while watching the film Dazed and Confused.  Life is a source.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Unfortunately, I can’t find it within myself this morning to make a list of all my friends and all the books I’ve read that live in my mind—there are so many! A cognitive mapping of that sort would have such a wide emotional and creatively sweat-inducing breadth it would completely spend me and some names would be left off accidentally and that would lead to emotional distress.  I assure you I have friends whose work I love and am inspired by and I also read diversely throughout history to the present moment and the internet, both prose and poetry, criticism and philosophy, and I am also inspired by non-writers and their friendships and conversations both virtual and in person.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I want to write a book of essays.  Someday I will write a memoir. But more than either of those things I would like to fall in love.

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 enjoy the water, so something involving that.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
There was something to be expressed, so I tried it.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Book: How Should a Person Be by Sheila Heti.  

Film:  I tend to return to the same films over and over again. Yesterday I re-watched Idiocracy.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I just kind of finished writing my latest manuscript of poems, BROADAX.  An audio chapbook from it was just released from Black Cake Records and you can listen to it on Bandcamp.  Go to to listen to it.  I had so much fun working with Kelly Schirmann on the recording of it.  Black Cake is everything.  I’m also working on an essay about The Incredible Hulk.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

6x6 #30 : Words


Right after the birth of our red baby we shared a room with another couple & their blue baby. What’s her name, they asked. Rosy, I said, what about yours? This is baby Dusky, they said, like the sun going down. The world was generous that day; we all took turns holding Dusky & Rosy & watched through the doorway as green or orange or more red babies went by, swaddled in white hospital towels. When do they lose their color, I asked a nurse. After forty-eight hours, normally, she said, except for the blue ones, of course. (Jon Boisvert)

The poetry journal 6x6, produced by Brooklyn, New York’s Ugly Duckling Presse, as usual, showcases the work of six poets (none of whom I’ve previously heard of), with this new issue (#30, Summer 2014) featuring the work of Ana Martins Marques, Jon Boisvert, Jeffrey Joe Nelson, Anzhelina Polonskaya, Denise Newman and Hirato Renkichi (translated from the Japanese by Sho Sugita). Absent of author biographies (which I always consider frustrating), one works through the issue by virtue of the writing alone (which might entirely be their point), and I was immediately struck by the subversive, surreal and downright odd prose-pieces by Jon Boisvert, and his pieces in this issue are reminiscent of poems by Canadian poets Stuart Ross and Gary Barwin for their twists and turns in and out of surrealism and strange wisdom. His small handful of poems included here delight, confound, confuse and are even slightly troubling. Where, exactly, did Jon Boisvert come from?


The cows have all died in their field & now the dogs are herding the sunset. The corn is pondering graduate school. The farmer says through his tears, let’s hold a vigil, light candles & write poetry for the cows everyone, let’s hold hands around a burning bale of hay & praise the order of the world for once. (Jon Boisvert)

Another highlight of the issue was in the small poems of Denise Newman, each composed as a single, explored moment, akin to the breath held before a blow.

Take up thin sticks and sit pressed together
picking grains of sand from a crevice of a boulder
with a little girl whose head down total
absorption is an image of grass growing.
The satisfaction of watching her
is the seduction of film.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014) reviewed at Necessary Fiction

Sheldon Lee Compton was good enough to review The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (2014) over at Necessary Fiction. Thanks, Sheldon! This is actually the fifth review of my first short story collection, after a small write-up by Pearl Pirie (here), and more formal reviews by Ryan Pratt (here), Ryan Pratt (here) and Paul Rocca (here). See Sheldon's review in full here.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Matthea Harvey, If The Tabloids Are True What Are You?


The Straightforward Mermaid starts every sentence with “Look…” This comes from being raised in a sea full of hooks. She wants to get points 1, 2 and 3 across, doesn’t want to disappear like a river into the ocean. When she is feeling despairing, she goes to eddies at the mouth of the river and tries to comb the water apart with her fingers. The Straightforward Mermaid has already said to five sailors, “Look, I don’t think this is going to work,” before sinking like a sullen stone. She’s supposed to teach Rock Impersonation to the younger mermaids, but every beach field trip devolves into them trying to find shells to match their tail scales. They really love braiding, “Look,” says the Straightforward Mermaid, “Your high ponytails make you look like fountains, not rocks.” Sometimes she feels like a third gender, preferring primary colors to pastels, the radio to singing. At least she’s all mermaid: never gets tired of swimming, hates the thought of socks.

Brooklyn poet Matthea Harvey’s remarkable new poetry collection is If The Tabloids Are True What Are You? (Graywolf Press, 2014), a work thick with full-colour photographs and artworks throughout by the author. One of the smarter and more playful of American poets I’ve seen playing within the structure of lyric narrative, Harvey’s previous books of poetry include Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form (Alice James Books, 2000), Sad Little Breathing Machine (Graywolf, 2004), Modern Life (Graywolf, 2007) and Of Lamb (with illustrations by Amy Jean Porter; McSweeney’s, 2011). The poems in If The Tabloids Are True What Are You? are witty and whimsical, displaying a pop culture sensibility and wink to the camera, each composed in that nebulous boundary between lyric prose poem and postcard story. There is something of the pop culture sensibility in Harvey’s poetry similar to works by Montreal poet David McGimpsey, Toronto writer Lynn Crosbie, or even American writer and filmmaker Miranda July, pushing an earnest and knowing irony through tales of the hilarious, fantastic and impossible (and sometimes, perversely and desperately sad), especially in poems with titles such as “CHEAP CLONING PROCESS LETS YOU / HAVE YOUR OWN LITTLE ELVIS,” or “PROM KING AND QUEEN SEEK / U.N. RECOGNITION OF THEIR OWN COUNTRY… / PROMVANIA!”


We’ve never taken anyone
buttoned up and trotting from point A
to point B—subway to office, office to
lunch, fretting over the credit crunch.
Not the ones carefully maneuvering their
whatchamacallits alongside broken white lines,
not the Leash-holders who take their Furries
to the park three point five times per day.
If you’re an integer in that kind of
equation, you belong with your Far-bits
on the ground. We’re seven Star-years
past calculus, so it’s the dreamy ones
who want to go somewhere they don’t know
how to get to that interest us, the ones
who will stare all day at a blank piece of paper
or square of canvas, then peer searchingly into
their herbal tea. It’s true that hula hoops
resemble the rings around Firsthome, and that
when you spin, we chime softly, remembering
Oursummer, Ourspring and our twelve Otherseasons.
But that’s not the only reason. (Do we like rhyme?
Yes we do. Also your snow, your moss, your tofu—
our sticky hands make it hard for us to put
things down.) Don’t fret, dreaming spinning ones
with water falling from your faces.
It’s us you’re waiting for and we’re coming.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Harvey’s If The Tabloids Are True What Are You? is the way she has intricately blended and incorporated her poems into her wide array of artworks—including photographs, collage, erasures, needlepoint and tiny installations—into the collection. The artwork is an integral part of the work (making up more than half the book), and blend intricately with the poems, as opposed to being merely decorative or added-on (which so often happens, unfortunately, when artists/designers attempt to blend writing and art). There is almost a coffee-table book sensibility to what Graywolf has done with this book, if coffee-table books could be stunningly brilliant, smart, subversive and strikingly original (which, predominantly, they are not).

Sunday, August 24, 2014

12 or 20 (small press) questions with Ken Hunt on SPACECRAFT

SPACECRAFT is a micro-press that publishes printed chapbooks of experimental poetry and prose inspired by science and technology. All titles published by Spacecraft are available exclusively from SPACECRAFT  seeks submissions of experimental prose and poetry inspired by science and technology. Whether this means that the work was generated using an automated procedure of some sort, operates under a science or technology inspired constraint, engages with scientific or technological language, emerged from a discourse happening within or between certain scientific fields, or some combination of these aspects, SPACECRAFT is interested, so long as the work is experimental, compelling, and evocative. Email submissions to To make a purchase, please email Ken Hunt at

Ken Hunt is the author of Space Administration, a book of conceptual poetry created by plundering NASA’s voice transcription of the first day of the Apollo 11 moon mission. Space Administration is published by the LUMA Foundation, as part of Kenneth Goldsmith and Hans Ulrich’s 89+ Project. Excerpts from the book have been published in NoD Magazineand in derek beaulieu’s No Press.

For three years, Ken served as editor of NoD Magazine, the University of Calgary English Department’s publication of prose, poetry, and visual art. In 2010, Ken co-founded The Scribe and Muse, a University of Calgary club that promotes writing and literacy, offering a free peer-editing service to students across all faculties. Ken lives in Calgary.

1 – When did SPACECRAFT first start? How have your original goals as a publisher shifted since you started, if at all? And what have you learned through the process?
SPACECRAFT began a few weeks ago, during a meeting with a friend of mine, visual poet and Calgary Poet Laureate derek beaulieu. Beaulieu, who runs his own small press called No Press, suggested that I start my own, since I have a moderate obsession with formatting and typesetting. My original goal was for SPACECRAFT to emulate No Press, in terms of acting as a compact venue for both emerging and established experimental writing to flourish. This goal has not changed. Throughout the process of establishing the press, I have learned, to my pleasant surprise, that there are more writers looking to publish experimental writing inspired by science and technology than I had expected.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?
My affair with publishing began in 2011, when I became the editor of NōD Magazine, a small press publication that has operated out of the English Department at the University of Calgary since 2006. Working for NōD introduced me to a program called Adobe InDesign. Formatting the issues of NōD published during my three years as editor taught me how to use InDesign, which I was consequently able to use to typeset and format my first published book of poetry, Space Administration.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
Small publishers should be primarily concerned with presenting the work they choose to promote in the most appropriate way possible. This means maintaining attention to detail, and making formatting choices that accentuate the content of published works in as many ways as possible, whether by reflecting or complementing said content.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
I founded SPACECRAFT because I wanted to see more experimental poetry and prose that engages with, or responds to, science and technology. SPACECRAFT exists to provide the authors of such works with a venue uniquely attentive to the nuances of such works. The uniqueness of SPACECRAFT’s publications stems from this attentiveness, from my personal goal to bring out the uniqueness of each work by accentuating content through compelling formatting choices.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new chapbooks out into the world?
Spreading the word about small presses using social media is an excellent way to promote the publication of chapbooks, especially when groups of creative writers, in both academic and broader communities, learn about these presses while browsing.

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
As an editor, I prefer as light a touch as possible. If I ever find what I suspect might be an unintentional departure from grammatical or syntactical consistency in a text, I contact the author of that work before altering the text. In terms of the formatting of the text, I find that the content of a given work usually compels me to make whatever choices I think would best suit that work.

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
SPACECRAFT prints either 40 or 50 copies of each chapbook (a single run), depending upon the length of said chapbook (for lengthier prose works, perhaps 30 copies). In any case, the author of a given work receives half of the printed copies of that work, while the remaining copies are sold on SPACECRAFT’s website. This model is based on the way beaulieu conducts print runs with No Press.

8 – How many other people are involved with editing or production? Do you work with other editors, and if so, how effective do you find it? What are the benefits, drawbacks?
I work alone, but often consult my partner Nicole (a graphic design student). The benefits of acting as sole editor include the flexibility of the work, as well as the ability to maintain a consistent vision with respect to how the press formats and publishes chapbooks.

9– How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
Learning how to use digital formatting and typesetting software has completely changed how I view my work. This knowledge adds another layer of editing to the process of refining written work. While this often lengthens the process of refinement, it expands writers’ opportunities to not only enhance the evocative effects of their texts, but also to present themselves as individuals whose familiarity with formatting and typesetting can be a positive trait for publishers considering their work.

10– How do you approach the idea of publishing your own writing? Some, such as Gary Geddes when he still ran Cormorant, refused such, yet various Coach House Press’ editors had titles during their tenures as editors for the press, including Victor Coleman and bpNichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?
Refusal to self-publish does not necessarily constitute integrity or virtue, nor does it imply anxiety or reticence. If a publisher puts forth the effort to promote their own work, and that work turns out to lack the compelling or evocative merits that the press advertises, then the embarrassment falls on the self-publishing author rather than the press. If the author is confident that their work will reflect the standards of quality established by the press they run, as well as the personal standards they set for themselves, and they are willing to put forth the effort necessary to promote their work using their press, then then question becomes irrelevant.

11– How do you see SPACECRAFT evolving?
I see SPACECRAFT becoming a hub for experimental writing similar to No Press, the kind of venue that generates shared publicity for its founder and the authors it publishes. I envision SPACECRAFT providing experimental authors interested in writing science and technology with a home for their work, in the same way that No Press does for authors of visual and other genres of experimental poetry and prose.

12– What, as a publisher, are you most proud of accomplishing? What do you think people have overlooked about your publications? What is your biggest frustration?
I am most proud of the consistency, the evocative strength, and the formatting of my first book of poetry, Space Administration, and of the print quality of the most recent edition. The print quality of the first few copies of the previous edition was frustratingly low, since the original high quality .pdf had to be converted to a word document, which resulted in a significant loss of image quality. I would encourage anyone interested in experimental poetry inspired by science and technology, or in erasure poetry, not to overlook this publication, a free .pdf of which can be obtained here.

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
I based SPACECRAFT on derek beaulieu’s No Press.

14– How does SPACECRAFT work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see SPACECRAFT in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?
I can see SPACECRAFT engaging with No Press, as well as other Calgary-based presses, such as NōD Magazine and Filling Station. These kinds of dialogues are integral to the survival of small presses. When we cooperate, we combine the networks of authors and publishers we have established, creating a larger network that authors and publishers can collectively access.

15– Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?
SPACECRAFT does not currently host readings or launches, however I plan to collaborate with presses such as NōD Magazine and Filling Station to promote SPACECRAFT at local readings organized by Flywheel and Single Onion. Regular public readings are important for both authors and publishers, since they provide a form of community engagement that the internet cannot.
16– How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?
SPACECRAFT sells its publications online, and also solicits submissions online. We are an online publisher of printed chapbooks.

17– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?
SPACECRAFT is always seeking submissions of experimental prose and poetry inspired by science and technology. Whether this means that the work was generated using an automated procedure of some sort, operates under a science or technology inspired constraint, engages with scientific or technological language, emerged from a discourse happening within or between certain scientific fields, or some combination of these aspects, SPACECRAFT is interested, so long as the work is experimental, compelling, and evocative.

18– Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
Three of SPACECRAFT’s upcoming titles are Jade McGregor’s Psychiatric Update: May 10th, an excerpt from Ian Whistle’s Anomaly, and Kevin McPherson Eckhoff’s Time Machine. McGregor’s Psychiatric Update explores the internalized objectification facilitated by technical, clinical discourse, in order to experiment with blurring the distinctions between the disciplines of Creative Writing and Psychology, and between the genres of poetry and prose. Whistle’s excerpt from Anomaly dissects aspects of literary theory using scientific and technical terminology. The consistent strength of the Anomaly series is in Whistle’s use of collage, in the mercurial manner with which the poems wend their way across disparate language, reassembling a rigorous attention to language in order to reflect on and investigate the roles of structure and meaning, even as the order works to deliberately trouble and unsettle. Finally, Eckhoff’s Time Machine is a hot-wiring of The Time Machine by H.G Wells. Eckhoff used an online randomizing program to reorder the sentences in the first chapter of Wells’s canonical text, so that the jumbled sentences of the resulting text perform the act of temporal teleportation central to the original tale.