Friday, December 7, 2012

Poems in ottawater 9, launch reading

ottawater, the online journal carefully assembled each year by rob mclennan, is set to unveil its ninth issue in January. I’m fortunate enough to have five poems included: "Leaving Garrison Creek", "Wind Chimes In March", "Islanding", "An August Sepia" and "Reset".

The launch for ottawater 9 will be held at Carleton Tavern (223 Armstrong Street) on January 24th. Doors open at 7pm; readings at 7:30.

Despite living pretty far from Ottawa these days, I plan on attending. I’d consider making a trip for five-minutes of reading-time almost anywhere since, well – I need the experience. But I’m all the more compelled to read these poems where they were inspired, in Ottawa, while also getting a chance to hear the latest works from some of my favourite poets. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Upcoming: ottawater 9

Ottawa’s annual pdf poetry journal
edited by rob mclennan

the ninth issue of ottawater will go live in January 2013, featuring new writing by Cameron Anstee, Steven Artelle, Gary Barwin, Jeff Blackman, David Blaikie, Frances Boyle, Ronnie R. Brown, Colin Browne, Murray Citron, George Elliott Clarke, Faizal Deen, Amanda Earl, Laura Farina, Jesse Patrick Ferguson, Mark Frutkin, Brecken Hancock, Carla Hartsfield, a.m. kozak, Ben Ladouceur, Nicholas Lea, Anne Le Dressay, rob mclennan, Cath Morris, Colin Morton, Alcofribas Nasier II, Peter Norman, Abby Paige, Pearl Pirie, Nicholas Power, Wanda Praamsma, Ryan Pratt, Roland Prevost, Monty Reid, Sonia Saikaley, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt, Rob Thomas, Lauren Turner and Vivian Vavassis

Come out to the launch (featuring readings by a number of this issue’s contributors) on Thursday, January 24, upstairs at The Carleton Tavern, Parkdale at Armstrong; doors 7pm, reading 7:30pm. info:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Movember (Chapbook) Update

Given that a lot of my poems are in transaction – the majority bundled in hopeful submissions and a lucky few chosen for publication – I found selecting poems for this project a sly dance. But what I’ve ended up with, I like: a semi-random assortment of newer poems and one glaringly old pick from 2008, from which this humble blog stole its name. O, beginnings!

I see moustaches everywhere. It’s great to see something positive and charitable trending (presuming everyone I’ve seen is growing funds as well as follicles). I'll be putting these chapbooks together over the next two weeks, with the hope they'll arrive during the holidays (update: no chance but stay tuned!)Loving thanks to everyone who has given so far. Only a few days left to give and receive!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In/Words Magazine Features New Poem

Happy to report that my poem “New Drifters V” has been published in the newest issue of In/Words Magazine. It’s an epilogue to American Analog Set’s instrumental suite, which can be heard in this video stream or on their album, The Golden Band.

In/Words Magazine Vol 12 Issue 1 is available to purchase from their website. (Update: You can also read the whole, beautiful thing as part of their archives, right here.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chapbooks For Movember!

2011's moustache, 3 weeks in...

Last fall I took part in Movember, raising funds and awareness for men’s health. By the time December arrived, our small team of friends had collected around $1200. The support was amazing so, with this new campaign, I’d like to give a little something back (or at least make the pledging process more interesting) by subconsciously stealing the approach poet/publisher Amanda Earl conceived of when raising money for Ottawa’s recent AIDS walk.

In short, I’ll be repaying contributors with the gift of poetry. A lot of the details are still up in my head but this much I can confirm: Each donation of $20 Any half-sincere donation ($5 and up) will receive (1) a limited edition chapbook, handmade especially for you, containing 3 – 5 poems and (2) either a painting or photography mini-print by Emily Pascoe. They will be individually assembled, numbered, and shipped to your residence of choice. It's a nice keepsake when that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from being charitable starts to fade...

Visit my 'MoBro' space to donate or join our team:

Moustaches and poetry have much in common – both exist outside the mainstream and both can be quite manly! Support Movember this fall and see how art can heal. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Recap from Grey Borders Reading Series | October 24th, 2012

Instead of retweeting every kind mention of it, I’ll instead post some links here regarding a review I wrote of last week’s Grey Borders Reading Series event featuring Pearl Pirie, Donato Mancini, Beatriz Hausner, Steve Zultanski, and the unforgettable bill bissett. You can relive it / pretend you were there by visiting Ottawa Poetry Newsletter, or by following links set up by Chaudiere Books and GBRS’ Facebook page

I’ve included some more photos from the evening below but if you’re not into fuzzily focused amateurism, check out Pirie’s shots on her poetry journalThere's also a fine write-up on the reading courtesy of Open Book Ontario.

Hosts Eric Schmaltz and Craig Dodman
The second nicest spread in house.
The best one -- the book table -- I forgot to snap a shot of.
Poets, publishers and enthusiasts in attendance.
Pearl Pirie reading.
jw curry's art on the NAC walls.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Masterpiece Anon" Published By Zouch Magazine

A poem entitled “Masterpiece Anon” is currently sitting on the front page of Zouch Magazine. Give it a read right here. Like "&", which Zouch published in December, "Masterpiece Anon" is from the same collection I can't quite tie a bow on yet. Getting closer, though...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thoughts On Arc Poetry Magazine's Poet-In-Residence Mentorship Program

Getting rejection letters is typically a one-note experience, and a sour one at that. So it took a few readings of a rejection letter I received this past spring to realize the veracity of that clich├ęd adage “when a door closes, a window opens”.

As it turns out, Arc Poetry Magazine offers a Poet-In-Residence Mentorship Opportunity to certain declined manuscripts that nevertheless show promise. This proved to be no empty gesture, either. In time I was contacted by Arc’s (now former) Poet-In-Residence Rob Winger – CBC Literary Award winning author of Muybridge’s Horse: a poem in three phases and The Chimney Stone (both published by Nightwood Editions) – who had meticulously critiqued my submissions, identifying problem areas while reinforcing strong points. Rob and I traded a few rounds of revisions over the subsequent months and each set forced me to soul-search at length over the intentions and execution of my poems.

The challenges and headaches have been rewarded, however, with final drafts that we both feel are far superior to my initial submissions. Rob’s advice forced me to confront and destabilize a comfort zone I was only passively aware of, and with his guidance I've gained confidence to branch away from tired impulses.

Over the past week I’ve been catching up on the state of my manuscript, revisiting certain poems for the first time since moving to Saint Catharines in July. And using a critical eye deftly sharpened by that Mentorship experience, I’ve already transformed two poems I thought would surely linger unfinished into pieces that feel tight and purposeful. 

Many thanks to Rob Winger and Arc Poetry Magazine!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Remembering Ottawa

I’m in the early weeks of withdrawal that stretch out like months. Over May, June and July I tried to ignore the outcome; watching my city skyline bend shakily out of view from the passenger seat of some noisy U-Haul. I found it easier to pretend our move was another false start than to accumulate an elegy of all of the ways my two years in Ottawa shaped me – creatively, emotionally, you name it.

At the close of June and still deep in denial, I brought my wife to Ottawa’s Small Press Book Fair. The gymnasium-sized room, reorganized into a familiar, rectangular path and lined with tables stationed by poets, publishers, entrepreneurs and all sorts of crafty lit-lovers, greeted us like the Fall fair before, the Spring fair before that. Where I had once felt like an outcast, I now felt at home, fumbling through conversation with poets I admire and buying from tables I wish I had a title on. Within the browsing circuit, I was happy to run into poet and publisher Amanda Earl (Bywords & Angel House Press), who was feeling better after a bout of pneumonia. I met and had a nice chat with Monty Reid, who was proud as punch to have Arc Magazine’s 2012 Poems of the Year issue on display. Pearl Pirie sold me the copy of Thirsts (Snare Books) I’d been eyeing for months and rob mclennan (above/ground press) sold me his brand new chapbook, Miss Canada (Corrupt Press); I said goodbye with fine print attached. We returned to our apartment of boxes scaling blank walls. Still, the momentum of irreversible gears didn’t feel real.

Six weeks later, I unearth a box amongst the packing-paper wreckage of our new apartment in Saint Catharines. Encased in cardboard since the end of June and oblivious to both the job in Hamilton and the housing inspection that collapsed, are two chapbooks and a literary journal I bought a short lifetime before. I flip the ottoman over, read Pirie’s “Chewing Each Other” and sink into this new chapter grateful to have been there, writing and reading in Canada’s literary kingdom. Elegies can wait.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Recent Reads: Ottawa's Poets & Presses

Any writer who has spent time in Ottawa can attest to its reputation for literary excellence. For my part, shopping at the biannual Small Press Book Fair and attending readings around town have resulted in the cozy “local section” of my home library. Among the manifold stapled spines that jut out in all colours and sizes, I’ve collected publications from Bywords (their Quarterly Journals plus two chapbooks from John Newlove Poetry Award winners), Apt. 9 Press, AngelHouse Press and above/ground press.

The two titles I’d purchased from above/ground, a press created and operated by rob mclennan, were totally unique to one another: Green Wind, by Ken Norris, details the foreign and domestic sides of a trip abroad with straightforward yet poetic prose, whereas mclennan’s own 16 Yonge presents a long-form poem that analyzes Toronto’s concrete edge at the docks.

On account of someone’s generosity and kindness, I’ve wandered into a deluge of above/ground press chapbooks to further clutter my reading nook. There’s Stephen Brockwell’s Excerpts from Impossible Books, The Crawdad Cantos, a compilation that should be of particular interest given that Stephen will be hosting a writing workshop in Ottawa July 7th, and several of rob mclennan’s recent titles to choose from. I’m taking them in one at a time but it doesn’t help when Goldfish: studies in fine thread, a kaleidoscopic look at happenstances that reveal a relationship beyond the fish tank, rewards constant revisiting.

Besides above/ground, I’ve been introduced to a smattering of other authors and presses: Monty Reid’s Contributor’s Notes (Gaspereau Press), some unarmed chapbooks (journal #64: Unwanted Unarmed includes a crowd of wonderful writers), and poems working in conjunction with the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (featuring Sandra Ridley and Pearl Pirie, among others).

Needless to say, I haven’t had the opportunity to dive into most of these works with the attention they deserve, but what I’ve read so far, even in passing, warrants mention. Support these chapbook presses by seeking out their treasures online or by checking out your local Small Press Book Fair (I know Ottawa’s Spring Edition will be happening June 30thdetails here).

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Musical Companion For the Unnamed (Vol. 1)

Never am I more selective about music than when I’m writing. Whether it’s a classical piece, a slab of droning ambience, pop music or, occasionally, the atmosphere of a quiet room, the tones that cast light on my thoughts must also sustain concentration. More often than not, the chosen music should augment whatever memory or understanding I’m trying to sculpt without distracting me; meaning on a productive day, I might play the same song on repeat a dozen or so times while fine-tuning a stanza.

When poet and publisher Amanda Earl discussed a shortlist of artists and albums she’d let breathe beneath her work (on Dani Couture’s Poetry Playlist feature), it dawned on me that perhaps many poets use music to sanctify their writing environments. Why this surprised me, I have no idea.

Now as someone who writes both poetry and music criticism, I realize that mixing my two obsessions into one blog-post runs the risk of boring everyone but myself. Bearing that in mind, Amanda’s words reminded me how a piece of music can entangle itself around some curious pocket of one’s mind in such a way that no passing of time can subdue it. And once a writer has bonded an idea to that particular piece of music, it forever lives on as a souvenir of some half-doctored time and place. Read Amanda Earl’s Poetry Playlist (courtesy of based on her long poem Welcome To Earth and notice how, for this particular piece, she chose predominantly folk-based artists to inspire it.

With over twenty poems completed for my own burgeoning yet chronically untitled poetry book, I thought this might be an ideal time to spotlight some stirring sounds that have guided my work thus far. (Ed. Initially I'd embedded videos for each song within this post -- it's something I do every other day without issue on my music blog -- but, here on DeadLetterBirds, only the code will appear. So instead I've included links within each song title to the music. Sigh...)

"Your House Is My World" – Apparat (The Devil’s Walk, 2011)

"Seidenen Stille" – Jacaszek (Glimmer, 2011)

For two months after I married, I was consistently under the weather. A promotional copy of Jacaszek's album arrived for me during a lengthy bout of bronchitis and became a living soundtrack to my voluntary seclusion. A poem I wrote during this time was inspired by Glimmer's creeping symphony.

"Came So Easy" – The Weather Station (All Of It Was Mine, 2011)

"Alesund" – Sun Kil Moon (Admiral Fell Promises, 2010)

"Girl Nap" - Brian McBride (The Effective Disconnect, 2010)

"Futile Devices" – Sufjan Stevens (The Age Of Adz, 2010) 

Unlike the other albums represented here, The Age Of Adz hasn't, as a whole, inspired my writing. In fact, I'm not a fan of most of the album. But this opening song from Mr. Stevens' last full-length was all I needed to inspire the mood of "Masterpiece Anon.", a poem that is due to be published over the coming months.

"A Land Which Has No End" – Benoit Honore Pioulard (Plays Thelma, 2011) 

"Cardinal Song" – The National (Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, 2003)

"Shenandoah" – Goldmund (All Will Prosper, 2011) 

This song enabled one of those rare moments where I wrote the entire backbone of a poem, unrefined but ready for editing, over the course of an hour.

"I’ve Been Waiting For You" – Toby Burke (Mexico City, 2011)

"11 Generations Of My Fathers" - Christina Vantzou (SMM: Context, 2011) 

This is but one track from a compilation that has collectively inspired a handful of poems - some already published, others not so much. SMM: Context is a yearly pursuit by the label Ghostly International to merge classical composition with electronic instrumentation and vice versa. It's really beautiful stuff.

"One Sunday Morning" – Wilco (The Whole Love, 2011)

Remember what I wrote about songs needing to sustain my concentration? Well it helps when the song in question rolls along - stretching, deconstructing and reassembling - over a solid twelve minutes. Its length is really just a bonus, though.

For additional Poetry Playlists check out largehearted boy, a blog that thrives where music and literature intersect.