Wednesday, March 21, 2018

“poem” broadside #343 : “IT'S WINTER IN OTTAWA” by John Newlove


The streets are full of overweight corporals,
of sad grey computer captains, the impedimentia
of a capital city, struggling through the snow.

There is a cold gel on my belly, an instrument
is stroking it incisively, the machine
in the half-lit room is scribbling my future.

It is not illegal to be unhappy.
A shadowy technician says alternately,
Breathe, and, You may stop now.
It is not illegal to be unhappy.

by John Newlove
produced in part as a handout during the first
Arc Poetry Walk, curated and hosted by rob mclennan,
walking around Centretown as part of WORLD POETRY DAY,
March 21, 2018
above/ground press broadside #343

Canadian lyric poet John Newlove (1938-2003) has been called a “powerfully influential presence” in the Canadian poetry scene, and is respected for the scrupulous honestly of his bare-bones poetics. And although Newlove lived in BC and Ontario for much of his life, he was always considered a Saskatchewan poet. He lived in Ottawa for seventeen years, longer than he lived anywhere, residing at 105 Rochester Street in Chinatown until his death.

edited by Robert McTavish; Ottawa ON: Chaudiere Books, 2007
Courtesy of Chaudiere Books

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

new from above/ground press: The Peter F Yacht Club #26; VERSeFest special!

The Peter F Yacht Club #26
VERSeFest 2018 special
edited by rob mclennan

With new writing by a host of Peter F Yacht Club regulars, irregulars and VERSeFest 2018 participants, including Manahil Bandukwala, Gary Barwin, Frances Boyle, Stephen Brockwell, Jason Christie, Sergio Coddou (trans. Lea Graham), Anita Dolman, Klara du Plessis, Amanda Earl, natalie hanna, Gonzalo Hermo (trans. Ivan Barreiro and Erín Moure), Major Jackson, Sneha Madhavan-Reese, Alex Manley, Steve McCaffery, Gil McElroy, rob mclennan, Peter Norman, Carolyn Marie Souaid, D.S. Stymeist and Janice Tokar

published in Ottawa by above/ground press

celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
March 2018
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy
[a small stack of copies will be distributed free as part of the eighth annual VERSeFest, March 20-25, 2018]

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at

Monday, March 19, 2018

new from above/ground press: CERTAIN WORDS, by Steve McCaffery

a septipartite structure investing the seven ideas of Hermogenes
Steve McCaffery

The boredom of snow
which always falls
about your steps
each time you write
the word “flake”

and language greets its
philosophical  counterpart
to make up the terms
that science steals away
from each example.

Can you think
as far as simile
allows you and think
while metaphor
is pushing facts
into substitutions ?

Is this another way
to write about writing ?
to write when outside
an idea or as a subject
with a different direction
one to whom relating
phrases to neighborhoods
by using mirrors for doors
takes you back to where
you started ?

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
March 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Steve McCaffery
is the author of over 40 books and chapbooks of poetry and criticism and his work has been translated into a dozen or so languages. A founding member of the sound poetry ensemble Four Horsemen, TRG (Toronto Research Group), Grand Satrap of the College of Canadian ”Pataphysics, and long-time resident of Toronto, he is now David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters at the University at Buffalo.

[Steve McCaffery launches CERTAIN WORDS in Ottawa as part of his performance at the 8th annual VERSeFest, March 24, 2018]

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at

Friday, March 16, 2018

new from above/ground press: gravitynipplemilk anthroposcenesters, by Gary Barwin and Tom Prime

by Gary Barwin and Tom Prime

The Dinosaur-Boned Ate Lump-Light

if clouds are made of dinosaur
bones, how do you hug them?
the dinosaur-boned
eat volcano lumplight. They are
prickled heat-lakes, but they care

when I jumped off the windmill
I fell like a clam falls from the mouth

I like centrally heated air, it smells
of dinosaur bones. It is made of dinosaur

like suicide and clouds, hot-dogs have
bits of ground-up bone in them

he was a vapid
reality tv housewife-Christ. My infant
father, whom I was legally responsible for,
the glandless cities of Godspeak
Christstethoscopes to the starfish inverted

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
March 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Tom Prime is a student in the MFA program in Fine Arts at the University of Victoria (Specializing in Poetry). He writes poetry, prose, and music. His first chapbook, A Strange Hospital, was published by Proper Tales Press last year. His poems have also been published in Carousel, Ditch, Fjords Review, The Northern Testicle, The Rusty Toque, The Week Shall Inherit the Verse, and Vallum.

Gary Barwin is a writer, musician and multimedia artist and the author of 21 books. His bestselling novel, Yiddish for Pirates won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, the Canadian Jewish Literary Award, and the Hamilton Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award. His latest book is No TV for Woodpeckers. His latest chapbooks are Broken Light (Penteract Press, 2017) and Quantum Typography (Timglaset Editions, 2018.) He is currently Writer in Residence at McMaster University and the Hamilton Public Library.

This is Barwins’s fourth above/ground press chapbook, after “SYNONYMS FOR FISH,” STANZAS #26 (March, 2001), Seedpod, Microfiche (2013) and the collaborative PLEASURE BRISTLES (with Alice Burdick; 2018).

[Gary Barwin appears in Ottawa at the 8th annual VERSeFest Poetry Festival on March 24, 2018]

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Aaron Tucker

This is the tenth in a series of short essays/reminiscences by a variety of authors and friends of the press to help mark the quarter century mark of above/ground. See links to the whole series here.

I love getting mail, slipping the tiny key into the lock and seeing the contents spill towards me. The above/ground envelopes bear a trademark size and colour, the light brown and rob’s arching printing, my name with an extra 3 or 4 “a”s happily sprawled. I love getting mail, but these envelopes bear particularly special weight. I’ll take the few flights up to my apartment, settle my keys and wallet, carefully tear them open and look to see whose chapbooks are peeking back at me. I can’t pretend that I make my way through the works right away; as a reflection of rob’s constant and tremendously prodigious output, those chapbooks come fast and often, but are always considered reflections of the individual projects. I will stockpile a few envelopes and dedicate an evening to going through them, reading and enjoying, marking most for follow-up emails, always amazed at the astounding variety of writing that rob publishes. There are lyric works, concrete pieces, conceptual works, illustrations, found text, letters, long poems and minimalist sculptings, each working through their own poetic questions along their own individual paths, the questions of their communities, the issues of their worlds. And they come from mid-career writers, people I’ve long read and admired, they come from across Canada and into the States, beyond. These more familiar writers are friends, and receiving their chapbooks is like a letter checking in, explaining how they are, where they are, their works-in-progress, what they care enough about to dedicate words to. As extensions of rob’s publishing, he has a wealth of online tendrils that publish across a variety of websites (including DUSIE (, many gendered mothers (, and my (small press) writing day ( to name just three), and of course he is an active and energetic social media presence. But the physical missives that show up at my home allow me the joy of seeing my friends make a thing, for me to hold that work, and consider it in a different way. There is a lot of generosity in that writing and in rob’s distribution, a network that moves a little slower than Twitter or Facebook, but is no less valuable for it.  

Most exciting, those envelopes include writers who are early-career who I have yet to be familiar with, and I then have the pleasure of working through their poems, thinking and delighting. Over the years, that is one of the things I’ve grown to appreciate most: rob takes extra special care to search out writers who are working towards a larger, longer work, but would appreciate the opportunity to publish, and think through their writing, at a scale larger than just a poem. I can read the care in the crafting of those chapbooks, the sequencing and inclusions, the flourishes that will eventually become that writer’s fingerprints in the pages of their first manuscript. rob’s dedication and support to early career writers is then further deepened by all of the opportunities he gives to writers to talk about their own craft. This includes the interviews that he does as a supplement to Touch the Donkey (, those in On Writing (, but also the aforementioned my (small press) writing day, spaces in which writers can be reflexive and think through the trouble-spots of their own craft, the inflection points of their own interests and goals. Again, for someone starting out, these opportunities are sparse, and the earlier they happen, the better overall their writing is for it.   

I think then of when I first moved to Toronto and was trying to meet other writers and imagining how I might sustain a career, rob was kind enough to encourage me to submit, publishing apartments ( As I flip through it now, a time-capsule, I am teleported back to that specific apartment, the specific books I was reading, the specific late-night conversations and performances that shaped those first steps towards a larger collection, included in the above/ground 20 year anthology Ground Rules (, and I am still incredibly grateful for all of that encouragement and the initial exposure to publishing professionally, his giving me that space to learn. My second chapbook with rob, punchlines (, actually did end up being expanded into a full-length collection with Mansfield Press ( That I was unpublished and struggling to spread my work didn’t matter: like so many of the writers rob publishes, he simply read and enjoyed the work and wanted it out into the world, the core of above/ground and a gesture that remains essential to the development of poetry and writing in Canada.

Aaron Tucker is the author of the forthcoming novel Y: Oppenheimer, Horseman of Los Alamos (Coach House Books) as well as two books of poetry, Irresponsible Mediums: The Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp (Bookthug Press) and punchlines (Mansfield Press), and two scholarly cinema studies monographs, Virtual Weaponry: The Militarized Internet in Hollywood War Films and Interfacing with the Internet in Popular Cinema (both published by Palgrave Macmillan).

His current collaborative project, Loss Sets, translates poems into sculptures which are then 3D printed (; he is also the co-creator of The ChessBard, an app that transforms chess games into poems (

An earlier version of punchlines was released by above/ground in the summer of 2013. His poetic works and reviews have been published across Canada. His previous chapbook, apartments, was shortlisted for the 2010 bpNichol Chapbook award.

Currently, he is an uninvited guest on the Dish with One Spoon Territory, where he is a lecturer in the English department at Ryerson University (Toronto), teaching creative and academic writing. You can reach him atucker[at]ryerson[dot]ca

Tucker is the author of three above/ground press chapbooks, including the aforementioned apartments, section three (2010), punchlines (2013) and the forthcoming Catalogue d’Oiseaux (2018).