Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Beautiful Outlaw: Phil Hall and Mark Goldstein

Phil Hall and Mark Goldstein were recently in Ottawa to launch new titles with Goldstein’s own Beautiful Outlaw Press, a publishing house known for beautiful chapbooks produced in small editions that are gracefully designed, thrilling to read, and difficult to find copies of (unless you can find via publisher and/or an author). Phil Hall’s latest is Essay on Legend (2014), produced in an edition of 52 copies “in commemoration of the second annual Purdy Picnic at the A-frame, Roblin Lake, Ameliasburgh, July 26, 2014.” For some decades now, the late poet Al Purdy has been one of Phil Hall’s touchstones, starting, as he said, as a good Ontario “son of Al Purdy” poet, since shifting towards Louis Zukofsky’s 80 Flowers (1978); from stories and the anecdote to “that purse sound of the vowel.” And yet, this short sequence, cobbled and stitched together from a variety of threads, found and salvaged lines and objects, begins with an anecdote about a dog, utilizing such as a starting-point for a sequence of observations on poetry, anecdote and violence, each circling around the very idea of “legend”:

  Most days Al Purdy

wrote poems as good as Alden Nowlan
  but maybe 30 times Al wrote a poem we now call      a Purdy poem

as if some days his name were All     not Al

  Nowlan also     at times     sawdust flying     achieved a wider name
All-Done-Now Land     or Old In No Land

  they both wrote a lot of friendly crap that sounds the same

if read now     but who can stand to read them exhaustively now
  they were drinkers     & that will get a soul above itself some

as the booze digs under eloquence like surf

  but Purdy seems to have     seen & heard     his over-self
he caricatured Al as All     or was that us

  while Nowlan just kept writing down memories & impressions

without distinguishing small town talk from the bull moose secret life
  so we tend to forget him

What is evident over the past few years is just how fluid Phil Hall’s stunning meditative poems have become, and how he refuses to remain static; most likely, if any of this were to find their way into a trade collection, they would be completely reworked, edited, reshuffled and pared down. Nothing is fixed.

Schwarzmaut was inscribed by Paul Celan sometime after January 30, 1967, the date on which he first tried to kill himself “with a knife (or a letter-opener) that missed his heart by an inch.” The suspected cause, among many forces, was a “chance encounter at a literary event at the Paris Goethe Institute on January 25 with Claire Goll, the widow of the poet Yvan Goll, who some years earlier had wrongly accused him of plagiarizing her husband’s poetry, causing Celan’s first psychic collapse.” At the time of his suicide attempt Celan was “saved by his wife in extremis, and transported to Hôpital Coucicaut where he was operated on immediately” as his left lung was severely damaged. From mid-February until mid-October he was interned at the Sainte-Anne psychiatric hospital, where Schwarzmaut was written. Subsequently, it was first published by Brunidor, along with engravings by Gisèle Celan-Lestrange, in a limited edition of 85 copies under the title “Schwarzmaut” in March 1969. In 1970, published by Suhrkamp Verlag, it became the opening cycle of Lichtzwang just three months after Celan’s death.
Blacktoll is a continuation of my transtranslational experiments first begun in After Rilke (BookThug 2008) and continued in Tracelanguage (BookThug 2010). Where Tracelanguage exemplifies a “shared breath” that seeks to break with tired translational orthodoxies, Blacktoll attempts to embrace both old and new methodologies as singular. Whether one approach is wider or deeper than the other, I’ll leave to the reader to decide in full knowledge that there’s no “poem” there. By this I mean that words are encampments around an absence – a field of energy beyond description. (“A Note on the Text”)

Paul Celan’s Blacktoll Schwarzmaut, translated by Mark Goldstein (2013) continues, as Goldstein himself writes, his engagement with what Erín Moure refers to as “transelation”—a poetic translation that openly admits that there is no such thing as the possibility of direct translation, especially for poetry, and runs a gradient of directly including the translator as co-author of the newly-created text. I’m curious about Goldstein’s repeated return to the texts of Paul Celan, specifically, and if this might be an ongoing project of transelation, Goldstein writing himself through the cover of Celan’s own poems. Either way, the short, untitled, meditative poem-fragments, presented in the original on the left, and transelation on the right, are absolutely stunning. One could live inside them, fully.

HE RODE THE NIGHT, coming to himself,
an orphan’s smock as flag,

no more running astray,
he rode straight –

It is, it is, as if the oranges stood in the privet,
as if the thus ridden wore nothing
but his
mothermarked, se-

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Factory Reading Series pre-small press book fair reading, November 7, 2014: Baker, Dolman, Boyle, Currie + Ross

span-o (the small press action network - ottawa) presents:

The Factory Reading Series

pre-small press book fair reading

featuring readings by:

Jennifer Baker (Ottawa)
Anita Dolman (Ottawa)
Frances Boyle (Ottawa)
Dave Currie (Ottawa)
+ Stuart Ross (Coburg)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan
Friday, November 7, 2014;
doors 7pm; reading 7:30pm
The Carleton Tavern,
223 Armstrong Street (at Parkdale; upstairs)

Jennifer Baker
was raised in Exeter, Ontario, where she divided her time between town and her grandparents' farm. She is currently a part-time professor and PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa. Her new chapbook, her first, is Abject Lessons (above/ground press).

Anita Dolman is an Ottawa-based writer and editor. Her poetry and fiction have appeared throughout Canada and the United States, including, most recently, in On Spec: the Canadian magazine of the fantastic, Grain, Bywords.ca, The Antigonish Review, ottawater and Geist. Her short story “Happy Enough” is available as an e-novella from Morning Rain Publishing (2014). Follow Anita on Twitter @ajdolman. Her second poetry chapbook is Where No One Can See You (AngelHousePress, 2014).

Frances Boyle [photo credit: John W. MacDonald] is originally from Regina, and maintains a yearning for both the prairies and the west coast where she lived for a number of years. She is the author of Light-carved Passages (BuschekBooks, 2014) and the chapbook Portal Stones, winner of Tree Press’s chapbook contest. Among other awards, she’s received the Diana Brebner Prize, and first place in This Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt for poetry (with third place for fiction in the same year). Her poetry and short stories have appeared in Canadian and American literary magazines, both print and online, and anthologies on subjects from Hitchcock to form poetry to mother/daughter relationships. She serves on Arc Poetry Magazine’s editorial board.

Dave Currie’s Birds Facts is forthcoming from Apt. 9 Press, a sentence that fill him with bashful joy and quiet disbelief. His plays have been produced at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, Carleton University, Algonquin College and at small venues across the province. His origins in theatre transitioned into opportunities in television and film, most of which he accepted, performed adequately and then squandered.

He is currently working on a new play entitled “Clone-Hitler Goes To The Beach” set to be performed in 2015 and a film script simply entitled “Women.” His fiction will be available in magazines – some day.

Dave Currie is not now nor has he ever been a dog.

Stuart Ross published his first literary pamphlet on the photocopier in his dad’s office one night in 1979. Through the 1980s, he stood on Toronto’s Yonge Street wearing signs like “Writer Going To Hell,” selling over 7,000 poetry and fiction chapbooks. He is a founding member of the Meet the Presses collective, and is editor at Mansfield Press. He is the author of two collaborative novels, two story collections, eight poetry books, and the novel Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew. He has also published an essay collection, Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer, and co-edited Rogue Stimulus: The Stephen Harper Holiday Anthology for a Prorogued Parliament. His most recent poetry book is Our Days in Vaudeville (Mansfield Press), collaborations with 29 other poets from across Canada. Stuart has had three chapbooks published this year: Nice Haircut, Fiddlehead (Puddles of Sky Press), A Pretty Good Year (Nose in Book Publishing) and In In My Dream (Bookthug). Stuart is a member of the improvisational noise trio Donkey Lopez, whose first CD is Juan Lonely Night. He lives in Cobourg, Ontario.

[And don’t forget the 20th anniversary of the ottawa small press book fair, being held the following day at the Jack Purcell Community Centre]

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Chaudiere Books Launch with Roland Prevost, Amanda Earl and Monty Reid

Chaudiere Books Launch with Roland Prevost, Amanda Earl and Monty Reid
Hosted by rob mclennan
Ottawa International Writers Festival

Monday October 27, 8pm
Free event
Fox and Feather, 2nd Floor • 283 Elgin St.

For further information on this event, and other events in this year's Ottawa International Writers Festival, click here:
Ottawa’s Chaudiere Books was recently relaunched by rob mclennan and new co-publisher Christine McNair, and the Writers Festival is proud to be launching their 2014 poetry titles.

A riotous assemblage of long poems focusing on the crazy years of 1920s Montparnasse—a melting pot of artists and poets. Amanda Earl’s Kiki plays with language and form, taking the familiar first-person format of journaling to streams of language to snippets of visual imagery to present the wildness of those years, focusing on the persona of Kiki de Montparnasse, a maverick who—much like the poems presented here—cut across intellectual and artistic boundaries. Sexy and smart. Read more...  

An incisive and playful first book exploring language and space, Singular Plurals presents us with fictive—often surreal—images encapsulated in text that is layered in meaning, playful with language and polyphonous in tone. The poems explore the irregular spaces and tangential lines that separate and connect us, sometimes by gazing from a great distance, then zooming in for the close-up shot. Roland Prevost is a winner of Bywords’ John Newlove Poetry Award and a self-described “explorer of here/now’s edge.” Singular Plurals is his first full-length book of poetry.  Read more...

Garden is a cycling and recycling meditation on the garden, its edges and ecologies, throughout an entire calendar year. Award-winning poet and under-performing gardener Monty Reid explores and reinvigorates the possibilities of poetic meditation over twelve full months of his home garden in Ottawa’s east end. Read more...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Kate Hargreaves, Leak


Windsor splints me. Splints shins—feet bat-battering asphalt cracks thud thud thwack thwack thwack thwack shoelace plastic tip clipping concrete. thfooooo—exhale fast against damp armpit air. Pause one foot on pavement, other shoe rolling over ants and grass and woodchips two feet from dog shit sizzle in the haze. thhoooo—exhale re-tie loop over around and through, tie the ears together and tap toe towards sneaker end. Stand. Sweat slips between vertebrae, over spine juts like waterfall rocks—slish slide slim. On feet and level with horse heads over sparse hedge over-pruned by ninety-five degree weeks and days, nights of dry roots, brown branches, crisp. Rind warming in racer-back lines, heat-dying Friday afternoon onto shoulders arms and calves. Out and back: laterals around perambulator pushers and camera couples pausing to snap the elephant and her babies. thfoooooothfoooooooo—hard breaths in time with glitter on the wet streets calves and quads suck blood and O2 from head spinning and concrete clumps cling to clay soles. Windsor sticks to my sneakers, sod, cement, gum, cast-iron eggs and birds catch on my laces. thfooooooo—exhale, and scuff rubber on road, to scrape off stones, cedar chips, Tim Horton’s cups and spare change. Shin splints. Cable-knit air chokes my out-breath. thf—bronze base casts over my shoes. Drags me toward river railings and drills toes into sod. Headphones pumping dance dance dance till your dead at path-side. Playlist over. Riverside runner: artist unknown. Bronze, textile and sports tape. Splint into the soil.

Windsor, Ontario poet Kate Hargreaves’ first trade poetry collection, Leak (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2014), is striking for the sounds she generates, allowing the language to roll and toss and spin in a fantastic display of gymnastic aural play so strong one can’t help but hear the words leap off the page. Utilizing repetition, a variety of rhythms and homonyms, Hargreaves’ poems mine the relationship between language and the body, and rush and bounce like water through seven suite-sections: “Heap,” “Chew,” “Skim,” “Pore,” “Chip,” and “Peel.” As she writes to open the poem “HIP TO BE SQUARE”: “Her hips sink ships. Her hips just don’t swing. Her hips fit snugly in skinny jeans. Her calves won’t squeeze in. Her hips check.” She manages to make the clumsy, awkward and graceful tweaks and movements of the body into an entirely physical act of language, bouncing across the page as a rich sequence of gestures. Given the fact that she also published a collection of short fiction, Talking Derby: Stories from a Life on Eight Wheels (Windsor ON: Black Moss Press, 2012), “a collection of prose vignettes inspired by women’s flat-track roller derby,” this writer and roller derby skater’s ability to articulate text in such an inspired and physical way shouldn’t be entirely unexpected, but the fact that it is done so well is something of a marvel.


She pores.
She pores over her psychology textbook.
She pores over the late-night pita menu.
She pours water over tea steeps and pours.
She pore-reduces. She scours.
She scrubs.
She pores over her blackheads in the mirror.
She skins.
She skins her ankle with a dollar-store pink plastic razor.
She nicks.
She grazes.
She snacks at half-hour intervals throughout the day: trail-mix,
      dried cranberries, arugula, celery.
She scans the fridge for leftover spinach.
She pours olive oil and vinegar on lima bean salad.
She pours oil on troubled waters.
She waters the daffodils.
She never rains.
She showers.
She buzzes her head.
She hums.
She drones.
She counts. She sorts.
She: out of sorts.
She’s out on a limb.
She limps.
She wilts.
She droops.
She drips coffee on the floor.
She sips.
She slips on wet tiles.
She sinks.

Friday, October 17, 2014

'Poet pushes together fragments in new book'

I had a little article on my Ottawa book launch for If suppose we are a fragment (BuschekBooks) in Carleton University's weekly paper, The Charletan, recently.

For the sake of full disclosure, I include the text of the little interview the writer of the article, Phelisha Cassup, conducted with me, via email:

1. How did you chose the title? What inspired it? Is there any specific moment or story that it was derived from?

I’m not completely sure where the title of If suppose we are a fragment originated. It sounded good when rolled off the tongue, and on the page as well. Given that it was composed during a very early period in my relationship with my now-wife, the poet Christine McNair, one might make speculations on the nature of the fragment, and how relationships are about pieces slowly fitting together into each other.

2. What advice do you have to aspiring writers/journalists?

Just write. To aspire means nothing until you do.

Also, read as much and as widely as possible. Edits and revision are essential, but only after the first draft. Be fearless, but never reckless. Listen to the parts of you that aren’t often acknowledged. Be open to ideas that might not make sense at first, or at all to anyone else. And be patient: any craft takes years and some thousands of hours to perfect. You don’t have to solve it all in one day, or even one year.

3. Do you have any current projects on the go?

Multiple. I’m currently attempting to complete a manuscript of short stories, as well as a poetry collection. I’m also editing a selected poems by the Perth, Ontario poet Phil Hall, who is currently writer-in-residence at the University of Ottawa.

4. What was the hardest part of creating this work?

After twenty-plus years of writing full time, the work ethic is there, the patience is there, and the attention is there. The hardest part? Often, the hardest part is attempting to find a home for completed manuscripts. Publishing has shifted over the past decade or so, away from taking chances on riskier works and seriously reducing the possibilities for sales across the country (the reduction in bookstores and reviewing meaning fewer books are receiving any attention at all). It is making it hard for a great many of us to find publishers.

5. Is it hard to balance family, your new baby (Congrats again!!), with writing?

Thanks much! Balance is always a tricky thing, whether considering relationships, employment, schooling or anything else. This past year has been an enormous shift, certainly, going from full days of work to half-days, trading time with Christine until her maternity leave ends. Once she goes back to work, I’ll be attempting to carve writing spaces over the next few years around the occasional childcare, the uncertainty of naps and my own exhaustion.

6. What makes this piece unique from others?


7. Where can your works be purchased?

I’ve a number of works available for online sale at https://alllitup.ca, and most of my publishers each have websites where one can purchase books. Failing that, one can simply visit my table at the semi-annual Ottawa small press book fair in November. The twentieth anniversary edition of the fair occurs on Saturday, November 8, 2014 on the second floor of the Jack Purcell Community Centre on Elgin Street. Otherwise, one can always send me an email at rob_mclennan@hotmail.com and we can do something more directly.

8. Any other things you want the students of Carleton to know/ read?

The In/Words Reading Series, run through Carleton University’s In/Words Magazine and Press, is perhaps the most fun reading series currently in town. For information on any and all Ottawa literary information, including readings, book fairs, calls for submissions and other such notices, one should constantly be paying attention to www.bywords.ca