Saturday, November 23, 2013

The "Impermanence, Ontario" Diaries | #4

It’s one thing to write organically for two years, recognizing and developing a theme over time without burdening it with too much focus. It’s another challenge entirely to fit those resulting puzzle pieces into a satisfying whole. After a few easy preliminary cuts, I had twenty-some-odd bones in need of connective tissue. Around this time I also received word that, according to the UNESCO definition, chapbooks can consist of up to 27 poems – here I was, believing I was confined to 10 or 12! (Thanks for the heads-up, Amanda; clearly I’d been immersed in my share of above/ground chapbooks at the time…)

My next course of action looked pretty straightforward: pinpoint where those gaps are and remedy them. But instead I’ve continued deconstructing Impermanence, Ontario as I knew it into ever-changing vignettes that analyze notions of home. One of the reasons I love chapbooks so much is that their smaller scale demands that each component act as a pillar. There's no room for missteps; the relationship between poems must form some sort of webbing. And the more I hone in on small clusters of related poems, the more my manuscript embraces its fault-lines. 

Poems written about the Niagara region, which operate as an important hinge in Impermanence, Ontario, also work as a separate, more concise chapbook. That realization encouraged me to tackle another short chapbook about five days I recently spent in New Hampshire. The latter one's completely unattached to my original manuscript but still surveys a strayed sense of belonging. Although it's the youngest project I have on the go, it'll be the first one I pitch come January. Lesson: it's easier to carve and fit puzzle pieces together when you have a crystal clear idea of the finished image.

So in short, I've switched gears. Yes, each of these projects lends thematically to the ambition of constructing one inflexible, full-length collection but my current whim lies more in snapshot focuses. Maybe that’s my subconscious telling me to start small or expect less. I’m motivated by both.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Curious things for November 2013...

1) I’m constantly trying to flex my objectivity toward above/ground press but Ground Rules: the Best of the Second Decade of above/ground press, 2003 – 2013 is a cause for celebration. I’ve been privy to a peek of the final draft and it’s a vast compendium of fine selections, many of them I missed the first time around. For details on the collection as well as the launch (also serving as a re-launch for publisher Chaudiere Books), visit Ottawa’s Writers Festival event page.

2.) This Town Crier article, written by Jess Taylor, reads like a personal fantasy of sorts: cute couple Mat Laporte and Brenda Whiteway contribute to their local writing community by hosting house-readings that routinely end up as dance-parties. You’re killing me. Poets should be taking on this initiative in every city. I know I’m tempted…

3.) Lit Reactor scribe Christopher Shultz taps a great topic by discussing the music writers choose when committing to certain projects. The possibilities are endless but Shultz offers some clever starting-points. And although he delegates albums according to fiction genres as a guide, Shultz’s picks have just as much potential to help one’s poetry manuscript along. I’ve used two of these myself!

4.) Grey Borders Reading Series’ 2013 program will wrap up November 29th with readings by David Dowker, Jacqueline Valencia, Gary Barwin and Liz Worth. That’s right: Black Friday isn’t all rampant materialism, it has poetry too! Be sure to check out GBRS’ Facebook page for particulars!

5.) The Ottawa Poetry Newsletter has been busy keeping track of Ottawa’s creative forces and displaced offshoots. The "On Writing" series continues to thrive with revealing entries by Aaron Tucker and Roland Prevost while the latest "Recent Reads" include reviews of chapbooks by Marcus McCann as well as the poetic partnership of Christine McNair and rob mclennan.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Phafours Press readies squirrel chapbook!

Earlier this year, Ottawa-based poet and publisher Pearl Pirie circulated a call through Phafours Press with the working title Squirrels in Stetsons Take Over Earth. An entire chapbook about squirrels; it seemed almost too intriguing to pan out. A consideration of the little critters’ way of life, their survival tactics, how they’re perceived and how they might feel about it. Which poets would raise their hands to the squirrel-call and what would they have to say?

Those answers have arrived. On Tuesday, Pearl announced via Twitter that the squirrel chapbook – now entitled our hircine, murine doppelgangers, mars – would feature contributions by Gary Barwin, Vivian Vavassis, Phil Hall, Janet Hepburn, Lori Anderson Moseman, Carol A Stephen, Shai Ben-Shalom and myself. Better yet, today we have photos and details straight from the desk of the editor/publisher. There also appears to be some talk of goats on mars... a secondary theme? Anyway, a glimpse: 

Image courtesy of Pesbo Poetry Journal
Looks wonderful! Now available from the Phafours website!