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. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An interview with Pearl Pirie in The Puritan


May 2014: I was sitting in The Brain on James Street North, making notes on Pearl Pirie’s Vertigoheel for the Dilly (above/ground press, 2014), when a quick inventory of my critical guesswork revealed how invaluable Pirie’s insights would be. Perhaps an interview? Pearl said “sure, thanks, shoot” and so began an email exchange that went back and forth – sometimes leisurely, other times intensely – for twenty days.

The resulting conversation, entitled "I Aim to Work at the Level of Idea: An Interview with Pearl Pirie", is now live in The Puritan’s new Summer Issue. This is their biggest issue yet and bursting at the seams with poetry, essays, reviews and more. A big thanks to Pearl Pirie, the Puritan editors and above/ground press for the opportunity. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

New essay posted at Town Crier blog



I wrote the majority of this essay Forest For the Trees; Navigating a Space for Landscape Poetry in Canada in July but the inspiration came to fruition over a handful of months. In interviews and comments shared via social media, I became aware of a persistent tension surrounding the subject of landscape poetry. Some poets face it with scorn and consider it a dead form of expression. But none of these declarations have kept me from being deeply affected by landscape poetry, whether it’s written by a favourite author or shared in a journal launch for Hamilton’s own Tower Poetry Society. In this paper I walk loose circles around CanLit’s past glory as well as the Hamilton landscape itself. Interspersed along the way is a one-sided review of Tower Poetry Society’s summer issue, which I recommend checking out here. (Special thanks to Janet Turpin Myers for inviting me to the launch!) 

Word of warning: said circles are extremely loose. This essay originally dived into an even bigger pool, discussing how by fragmenting poetry into forms (concrete, avant-garde, landscape, etc.), we may’ve designed an easy method of identification but we’ve also enabled prejudices that malign one style (and its practitioners) in favour of others. Completely out of my league, I know. With these paragraphs cut, the title loses its intended meaning but oh well. Always trust your editors! It’s my hope to follow this social temperature-read with a hearty, critical examination in the future. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Curious links for August 2014...


1) Sure to resist the macabre humour that'll riff off a headline like Is Poetry Dead?, the New York Times instead published an op-ed extravaganza entitled Does Poetry Matter?. Among the debaters who’ve shared their own essays are Sandra Beasley, David Biespiel and Paul B. Muldoon, whose Is Poetry Popular? Who’s Counting? contribution proves wonderfully concise as a last word.

... & yet: Days later, Kate Angus wrote a piece for The Millions called Americans Love Poetry But Not Poetry Books, which acknowledges that "poetry's audience might be greater now than ever", even if book sales tell a very different story. The debate carries on.

2) It’s always heartening to see poets compiling their own #CanLit histories. Apt. 9 Press publisher Cameron Anstee has picked up his blogging pace of late with two posts of thorough insight; one an appreciation for Brantford, Ontario writer and publisher Kemeny Babineau, the other collecting over two decades’ worth of Ottawa poetry anthologies. The post on Babineau, which served as an introduction for me, is particularly enlightening as it leafs through many of his Laurel Reed chapbooks while offering personal insights about the author.

3) After announcing their return in late 2013, Chaudiere Books is set to unveil a promising string of titles by authors Amanda Earl, Monty Reid and Roland Prevost this fall. In the meantime, co-runners Christine McNair and rob mclennan are throwing a fundraiser to ensure that forthcoming lineups in 2015 and beyond offer the same stirring potential. Add a brick to Chaudiere Books' rebuilding year by contributing to their Indiegogo campaign. There are great books and memorabilia to be had!

4) This is a late-edition news brief: BookThug has taken 30% off their entire backlist but only for two more days. Do not delay!