Thursday, April 10, 2014

Curious things for April 2014 (& beyond)...

Bayfront Park in the thaw
1) National Poetry Month’s kick-off event in Toronto promised a lot of special announcements and I’m happy to report they delivered. Shortlists for the Raymond Souster Award, the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award were announced. As I wasn't able to attend, I appreciate Hazel Millar and LCP for sending the full overview, transcribed below:

    Raymond Souster Award 2014 shortlist includes:

    seldom seen road by Jenna Butler (NeWest Press)
    Alongside by Anne Compton (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
    Her Read Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects by Catherine Graham (Wolsak & Wynn)
    Rebel Women by Vancy Kaspar (Inanna Publications)
    Brilliant Falls by John Terpstra (Gaspereau Press)
    Birds, Metals, Stones & Rain by Russell Thornton (Harbour Publishing)

    Gerald Lampert Memorial Award 2014 shortlist includes:

    the place of scraps by Jordan Abel (Talonbooks)
    Rove by Laurie D. Graham (Hagios Press)
    Light Light by Julie Joosten (BookThug)
    Surge Narrows by Emilia Nielsen (Leaf Press)
    The Survival Rate of Butterflies in the Wild by Murray Reiss (Hagios Press)
    Incarnate by Juleta Severson-Baker (Frontenac House Poetry)

    Pat Lowther Memorial Award 2014 shortlist includes:

    The Hottest Summer in Recorded History by Elizabeth Bachinsky (Nightwood Editions)
    Alongside by Anne Compton (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
    Leaving Howe Island by Sadiqa de Meijer (Oolichan Books)
    Whirr and Click by Micheline Maylor (Frontenac House Poetry)
    Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway by Alexandra Oliver (Biblioasis)
    Status Update by Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang (Oolichan Books)

Congrats to all! Further to that, rob mclennan is interviewing all of those shortlisted authors on his blog over the next few weeks. He has already posted conversations with Anne Compton, Julie Joosten and Elizabeth Bachinsky.

2) BookThug, one of the finest Canadian purveyors of innovative poetry, will launch their Spring 2014 releases on Tuesday, April 15th at Supermarket in Toronto. The evening will feature lots of readings, a special panel on bpNichol, and a musical performance! Details are here.

3) I have a new article up at Town Crier about the panel discussion I attended in March, which featured Anita Lahey, Jason Guriel, Zachariah Wells and was moderated by Amanda Jernigan. If you’re into the merits of criticism or curious about reviewing literature yourself, I also invite you to check it out recordings from the four-night, four-city tour on Zachariah’s blog.

4) A fresh, new batch of "Recent Reads" posted today on Ottawa Poetry Newsletter, with reviews of the late Dennis Tourbin's THE STREAM and other poems and Camille Martin's Sugar Beach. Both are currently available from above/ground press!


Monday, April 7, 2014

#MyWritingProcess Blog Tour


Overlooking Kirkendall, Durand & Central Hamilton
Thanks to David Emery, founder of The Steel Chisel, for extending an invitation to take part in this epic and perhaps endless literary Blog Tour. If you care to drift backwards, you’ll read about David’s current project and, with each successive link, meet so many authors staking a piece of internet for themselves. (Another conduit is through the hashtag #mywritingprocess on Twitter...)

What am I working on?

I’m at a bit of an impasse. In January, I finished two manuscripts: a slim chapbook-sized one called the Dawnlands and a thicker collection under the title Impermanence, Ontario. Besides navigating where and how I might find a publisher for those projects, I’ve been working on a winter-sick cycle of poems that, in gradually wider perimeters, explores my new Hamilton neighbourhood. That, and something for my wife. I try to keep the creative waves steady.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Commentary on my own work won't magnify anything clearly. I can say that my current work differs from poetry I was writing three years ago, seven years ago, ten years ago, sixteen years ago, because it's better. What a relief! 

Why do I write what I do?

Creatively I write to prioritize the unspeakable; those infinitely fine signals that communicate beneath the obvious senses. It's easy to forget your life is a young and vast science of discovery. Poetry is my way of honouring what I find important; the mystery or absurdity of being where we are and doing what it is we do. It’s rich subject matter because I’ll never get close enough to pin it down. And maybe I don’t want to; maybe that’s the dance.

As part of a larger community and specifically to Dead Letter Birds, I write as a way of drawing attention to writers, publishers and articles that, I think, enrich the CanLit discourse. Canada is my target market. Throughout my teens and mid-twenties I was a complete solipsist, convinced that reading the work of others would somehow infect my awakening genius. I’m glad I woke up. It isn’t hard to find an author on Twitter with 75, 000 followers whose sole purpose is to self-promote. But that approach, that non-verbal contract by which writers agree to become polling numbers for one another, isn’t nearly as valuable as someone with ten followers looking to share an unbiased appreciation. 

Shortly before leaving Ottawa, I met some of its talented poets and learned how the community-minded actions of a few can contribute so much. It’s wonderful that, thanks to social media and the occasional reading rendezvous, we’ve been able to deepen some of those relationships. My circumference of interest will always hover over Ottawa (just check out Ottawa Poetry Newsletter – the city’s overpopulated with good poets) but now it’s expanding over Hamilton and Toronto as well. Getting involved with Hamilton’s Lit Live Reading Series, Toronto’s The Puritan and the Town Crier is helping me realize the scope of talent in this region and compounding the challenge of writing better. 

How does my writing process work?

We’ve vacationed in New Hampshire for years and I wanted to explore that relationship during last October’s Indian Summer. So for the Dawnlands, I compiled transient impressions into streams of iPhone notes. After day-trips to Brattleboro, Hampton Beach, Concord and Portsmouth, I’d transcribe elements from those notes into a narrative of transformation. To fully engage with the region’s natural, background happenstances, I took the manuscript home to Canada where, months later and well after temperatures had plummeted, a sharp contrast of contact versus memory of wrapped it up.

While that methodology was in many ways unique to the project, it’s common that most of my poems trace their origins on the backs of receipts, pay stubs, etc. Whatever’s available. And yes, iPhone notes are crucial now; I try to make sure I never have more than 100 running at a given time. Lord knows I don’t call anybody.

I'm honoured to welcome the following writers, who will take up the #MyWritingProcess Blog Tour torch next Monday, April 14th: 

Jordan Abel is a Nisga'a writer from Vancouver. Abel's first book, The Place of Scraps, was published by Talonbooks and is a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award.

Pearl Pirie has a few chapbooks, a micro press, several blogs, a gig as literary radio host and irregular gigs to teach poetry. She has two poetry collections, and a third forthcoming with BookThug in 2015. 

Phoebe Wang has completed an MA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. Her work has appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, Canadian Literature and Descant. She placed second in the 2011 Short Grain with Variations contest and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

SORRY zine launch; noise, psych & a poem?

Heads up Hamilton! On Wednesday, April 9th, Exhale Events and The Casbah will host a new monthly music series called DIVERGENCE. Besides bringing two very respectable bands (Montreal’s Solids and Toronto’s Fresh Snow) to perform, DIVERGENCE will also celebrate the launch of SORRY zine, a tri-annual publication curated by Extreme Nonchalance’s Luke Cummins.

I cannot shed much light on the inaugural issue itself, beyond confirming that I have a poem in there called “On Receiving 'The Suicide of Dorothy Hale' On a Postcard”. But I look forward to exploring the issue as it floats in a projection over the evening’s festivities. Very cool. Have a listen, check the poster and be sure to come support a promising new chapter in Hamilton’s cultural renaissance.