Saturday, September 6, 2014

Upcoming: YOW! A Zine About Ottawa

The poster that got people talking... (Photo credit: Lily Pepper)

When word started spreading about Lily Pepper’s upcoming YOW! A Zine About Ottawa, I felt like handpicking a chapbook-sized manuscript of poems for her. Then I restrained myself and sent two, one of which – “Monday night at Georgetown Pub” – will be included in the inaugural issue. I'm happy to be involved and grateful the zine gave me a push, as "Monday night at Georgetown Pub" had been in an unfinished state since 2011!

Until YOW! launches, bide your time with the rather impressive range of attention (both grassroots and media-wise) that Lily has been garnering: her call for submissions in Metro News, another in the always trusty Apt 613 and, finally, her interview on CBC Radio.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Curious links for September 2014...

1) Lit Live, Hamilton's foremost reading series, is preparing to kick-off its 2014/2015 season on Sunday, September 7th at Homegrown Hamilton. Details are here. Those of you living in Toronto, Niagara or other southern Ontario locales might like to plan a day-trip some Sunday soon, as the full line-up promises to bring writers from all over Canada. I followed the second half of last year’s series and wrote about it here, here and here.

2) 49th Shelf has compiled a “Most Anticipated” list of poetry books that will hit shelves in September and October. It features new titles by the likes of Ken Babstock, Clare Caldwell, Nelson Ball, Laura Farina, and so many more. (For some Lit Live crossover anticipation, it also includes forthcoming books by John Terpstra and Ellen Jaffe!)

3) Ottawa poet Sandra Ridley is writer-in-residence at Open Book Toronto for the month of September, and already it's mesmerizing. In her first two posts, entitled "Hello, My Name is Diane", Ridley details her relationship with anxiety and how it has shaped her performances and social life. As someone who occasionally shames his own intense anxiety (hence the impetus for my outsider status), I find it downright exciting to read Ridley’s brave accounts of actions and thought-patterns that casual onlookers might see as flighty or distracted. Bringing awareness to mental health is as important in the writing community as anywhere else, so the more sharp and observant voices, the better.

4) I have several Puritan related hi-jinx to share in the space of a paragraph. Besides releasing their crazy-big Summer Issue and counting down the days until the Thomas Morton Memorial Prize deadline (September 23rd), most Puritan writers are hard at work on their own essays, interviews and projects. Caryn Cathcart interviewed The Darcys’ bassist Dave Hurlow for his first collection of short stories, Hate Letters From Buddhists. Jess Taylor wrote a stunning essay on the state of Toronto’s literary union. And Phoebe Wang will bring her micropress workshop back to Artscape Youngplace for a second run beginning September 24th.

5) Chaudiere Books’ Indiegogo campaign might end in two weeks but not before rob mclennan and Christine McNair dish up an assortment of new, tantalizing perks! Late-breaking collectibles include signed, out-of-print Stephanie Bolster books and rare, complete runs of STANZAS magazine (1993-2006). As further incentive to support this revived press, we're getting fresh hints about future releases such as The Complete Poems of William Hawkins, edited by Cameron Anstee, and Chris Turnbull’s Continua. As of post-time, Chaudiere's within $1000 of their goal; let’s help get them through the homestretch

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Owl Book obituary

This was likely gifted to me sometime in 2010 but it’s hard to say with certainty. I’ve received a lot of blank-paged books over the years and taken a ritualistic stance regarding when a fresh one can be opened. That said, I can pinpoint the first entry – a quick impression of Sauble Beach’s dull roar – to October 1st, 2012. Ever since, the "Owl Book" has covered readings and reviews, all the while surviving its share of bad stanzas.

I see frantic scribbles following Grey Borders Reading Series’ 2012/2013 season, Lit Live’s recent gatherings and some gritLIT activity. I see rough drafts for Ottawa Poetry Newsletter and articles for Town Crier, not to mention point-form pages on Anita Lahey’s The Mystery Shopping Cart, Chris Pannell’s A Nervous City and the last few issues of Broken Pencil – all of which have yet to culminate into worthwhile examinations. Notes from my poetry course with Catherine Graham collect in the back-end while crib notes from Eli Mandel’s lectures on literary criticism sit bookmarked in the middle. So many plans inching or in stasis. Somewhere in here is the first sonnet I’ve ever written (just two weeks ago!) but certain pages are tougher to find.

Even though I moved to Hamilton eight months ago, the Owl Book has maintained its Niagara connection on account of my job there. Before and after work each day, scribbled notes and schemes. With that long-running business, as of yesterday, closed up for good, it’s fitting that the last fully vacant page I write in should serve as an obituary – to idle time in St Catharines and my steady companion throughout. But now that the book feels twice its weight in ink, what are my responsibilities? Do I wring the book of every unused idea, or stack it unseen in a shoebox of old chapbooks?

Suddenly I’m overprotective. This Owl Book is a page-by-page retelling of my thoughts in clumsy disorder; what I’m reading and writing but also phone numbers with no associated names, lists of favourite records in a given year or season, manifestos on philosophical or cultural ideas I wanted to clarify (if only for myself), and so on. It maps out my brain-patterns with alarming precision. Is this my mourning period? I make the necessary arrangements, choosing archive over cremation, and wonder when the right occasion will permit me to face the crisp white of a new beginning. Given that I'm now a full-time Hamiltonian, let's say that occasion is now.