Sunday, November 30, 2014

above/ground press participates in The Capilano Review's epic kickstarter!

above/ground press has donated a mound of chapbooks for The Capilano Review's epic fundraiser! For a donation for $50 or more, you can pick up a set of fourteen above/ground press chapbooks. Only three sets available!

Each set includes: Gregory Betts, Who Let the Mice in Brion Gysin (2014), rob mclennan, How the alphabet was made (2014), Rae Armantrout, Rituals (2013), Fenn Stewart, An OK Organ Man (2012), Robert Manery, Richter-Rauzer Variations (2012), Mark Cochrane, Cat. (2012), Shannon Maguire, Vowel Wolves & Other Knots (2011), Ken Norris, GREEN WIND (2010), Natalie Simpson, The writing that should enter into conversation (2005), ryan fitzpatrick, Adolesce (2005), George Bowering (as "Ellen Field"), A, You're Adorable (2004), Meredith Quartermain, "Highway 99" (STANZAS #35) (2003), Donato Mancini, @phabet (2003), bpNichol, KON 66 & 67 (for jiri valoch (2002).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Jason Christie reads an excerpt of Government (2013)

Jason Christie recently posted this short video/reading from Government (2013), his above/ground press title shortlisted for this year's bpNichol Chapbook Award (which is still available, as is his new title, Cursed Objects). You can see the entire shortlist here, by the by. We offer our congratulations to Christine Leclerc, who won for Oilywood (Nomados, 2013)!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Frank Davey reviews Pearl Pirie's today's woods (2014)

Poet and critic Frank Davey was good enough to review Pearl Pirie's today's woods (2014) over at his blog. Thanks much, Frank! Usually we have to wait weeks or months for a review, and he posted one before I even finished sending out subscriber copies!

See his original post here.
Today’s Woods, by Pearl Pirie. Ottawa: above/ground press, 2014. 6 pp.

This very small chapbook came in the mail yesterday along with several other subscription items from rob mclennan’s also small but many-windowed publishing emporium. Once past the cryptic title, this one is more than worth the price of subscription.

The long lines of Today’s Woods retell the story of the Three Bears’ apocryphal encounter with Goldilocks – including several non-Goldilocks versions that preceded the 1918 one that turned out to be “just right.” And Pirie’s lines are long – editor mclennan works hard to confine them to their pages, reducing all four margins, and in one case running a line across the gutter onto the adjacent page. So there's a lot of words for only 4 pages.

The retelling filters the familiar Eurobear story through the “woods” of both current cultural politics and the physical and behavioral attributes of Canadian grizzly bears. Who cooked the porridge, she asks – was it mom or dad? – which do the details of the story imply? Why did the bears go for a walk and allow their bowls of porridge to reach their varying temperatures? Would bears so skillful as to be able to cook porridge be unwise enough to let it cool? Why is each bear “oblivious to all but own distress. no apparent care about tampering with child’s objects, only each to self, my chair! my bed!”? Is Goldilocks a runaway? Does her occupation of baby-grrrl bear's bed constitute a symbolic sexual assault? Is she a colonial home-invader in a house of indigenous non-white bears? “side note: these are not polar bears in cultural transference to Canada. culturally coded against dark-toned dark-haired bears to be threatening.” The bear parents use the incident to teach their daughter that “she must be self-reliant because humans are running feral”. Like a reality-TV star, Goldilocks labours to believe her own implausible excuses. “Goldy went to therapy to talk about” taking “refuge in good conscience in what she thought / was an abandoned cottage, / despite the fresh cooking scent / and fresh bouquets on table”.

But Goldy cannot get out of the woods in this skillfully and amusingly critical parable -- because those woods were darker and more complicated even back in 1918 than we readers first noted. Dark and complicated woods, which in Pirie's interrogative narrative become fresh woods too.

On the last page of the chapbook is a note that Pirie has a larger book coming from Toronto’s BookThug next spring. Could be interesting.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Factory Reading Series : Massey, Pirie + Irwin, December 12, 2014;

span-o (the small press action network - ottawa) presents:

The Factory Reading Series presents
three readings and chapbook launches by:

Karen Massey (Ottawa)
Pearl Pirie (Ottawa)
+ Marilyn Irwin (Ottawa)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan
Friday, December 12, 2014;
doors 7pm; reading 7:30pm
The Carleton Tavern,
223 Armstrong Street (at Parkdale; upstairs)

Karen Massey
[pictured] lives in Ottawa, between the canal and the river. Her poetry has won numerous prizes and been published in literary journals and anthologies including Decalogue: Ten Ottawa Poets (Chaudiere Books). Her erasure poetry has appeared in anthologies including Bukowski Erasure Poetry Anthology (Silver Birch Press, 2014) and online at, ottawater, Bukowski on Wry, and in Là Bloom, special Bloomsday issue of the Found Poetry Review featuring poetry sourced from James Joyce’s Ulysses.

She will be launching the chapbook Strange Fits of Beauty & Light (above/ground press, 2014), her second above/ground press chapbook, after Bullet (1999).

Pearl Pirie’s next collection, Pet Radish, Shrunken is with BookThug, Spring 2015. Host of Literary Landscape on, she has organized Ottawa’s Tree Seed Workshops since 2009 and gives workshops and talks on poetry for various organizations. She blogs and photographs Ottawa’s rich, amazing literary scene.

She will be launching the chapbook today's woods (above/ground press, 2014), her fifth above/ground press publication and third chapbook, after vertigoheel for the dilly (2014) and oath in the boathouse (2008).

Marilyn Irwin’s work has been published by above/ground press, Arc Poetry Magazine (where she is a Contributing Editor), Bywords, Dusie, In/Words, and New American Writing, among others.
A graduate of Algonquin College’s Creative Writing program and winner of Arc’s 2013 Diana Brebner Prize, she has three chapbooks: for when you pick daisies (2010), flicker (2012), and little nothings (2012). for when you pick daisies was reprinted in the Chaudiere Books collection Ground rules: the best of the second decade of above/ground press 2003-2013.

She will be launching the chapbook tiny (In/Words, 2014).

Monday, November 17, 2014

Neal Armstrong reviews Eric Schmaltz's Mitsumi Elec. Co. Ltd.: Keyboard Poems (2014) and Stephen Cain's ZOOM (2013) in Broken Pencil #65

Neal Armstrong was good enough to review Eric Schmaltz's Mitsumi Elec. Co. Ltd.: Keyboard Poems (2014) and Stephen Cain's ZOOM (2013) (both of which are still available) in Broken Pencil #65. Thanks, Neal!

This is actually the second review of Mitsumi Elec. Co. Ltd.: Keyboard Poems, after Ryan Pratt was good enough to review such over at the ottawa poetry newsletter.
Mitsumi Elec. Co. Ltd.: Keyboard Poems
Eric Schmaltz

This chapbook is kind of boring, but in an interesting way. Maybe that's not a good way to start a review, but it's true.
    The poems in this collection are actually little visual art pieces made with a disassembled keyboard and black paint. Calling them poems is even a stretch, because there is very little that can be read; a few words and a few letters. This process violently brings the digital world into physical space, reminding us of the abstract visual quality of printed language. The page becomes a field, a space ripe for exploration.
    Schmaltz plays with chaos and order, alternately presenting Dionysian smudges and intricate latticework mandalas in an Apollonian mode.
    These pages are wry works of minimalism and the book contains no semantic content besides an ironic little note about safe typing posture and practices, hence why I called it boring. But maybe that's the wrong way to go into it -- these are meditations on the ambience of language and the tools we use to express ourselves.
    This zine should be approached with a mindset of contemplation, like a poet yogi waiting for the dance of the cosmos, perfect in its imperfections, to reveal itself in a quiet moment. It is compulsively re-readable, hypnotic like looking at a fire or the stars at night.

Stephen Cain

This is an excellent collection of poetry for people who don't care if the words make sense. Cain plays with sound, sight, and meaning in a chapbook that harkens back to the Dada days of early modernism. He engages with sound poems by the likes of Kurt Schwitters and Claude Gauvreau in a process of reverse-homophonic translation. He listens to poems that lack semantic meaning and finds words in them. It's all quite fun.
    Compare Hugo Ball's lines "zitti kitillabi billabi billabi / zikko di zakkobam / fisch kitti bisch" with Cain's "city kitty liable billy's bi billy's bi / sicko the psycho man / fish kitty bisque." The transfer from meaningless sounds into words with definitions pits sense against nonsense. Cain is a man drunk on word splitting and hollering joyful absurdities. His joxtapositions are rapid and twitchy and unexpected. The work demands to be read aloud.
    Cain is a professor at York University, where he has initiated many a student into the secrets of Dada, Surrealism, and the avant-garde. This guy is deep in the history of experimental poetry, and thus finds himself in line with innovative Canadians like The Four Horsemen, Chris Dewdney, and Christian Bok. His work strikes a balance between thoughtfulness and playfulness that is appealing even when it doesn't make a lick of sense. Highly recommended to weirdos.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

new from above/ground press: THE BLACKBURN FILES, by Kemeny Babineau

Kemeny Babineau

The House Next Door

You need another
text to work of off.

is a building of a building
building a building.

A tenement
square. Attended
attending, intent
& sediment.

The windows, with ovals
Line upon line
moving meant.


published in Ottawa by above/ground press
November 2014
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Cover image by R.B. Kitaj

Kemeny Babineau is a bookseller, micro-presser, and poet living in Brantford Ontario.

This is Kemeny Babineau’s second above/ground press chapbook after AFTER PROGRESS (2012).

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, November 10, 2014

above/ground press at Meet the Presses' 2014 Indie Market!

Saturday, November 22, 11:30 am – 5 pm

The Tranzac Club, Toronto

The Meet the Presses collective presents the 2014 Indie Literary Market, where handpicked literary presses and magazines stand behind their work!
The Market will also feature the announcement of the winner of the 2014 bpNichol Chapbook Award! See the shortlist for 2014 here.

Participating publishers and mags tentatively include:
above/ground press (Ottawa) • Mansfield Press (Toronto) • Proper Tales Press (Cobourg) • Pedlar Press (St. John’s) • Rampike (Windsor) • Apt. 9 Press (Ottawa) • Porcupine’s Quill (Erin) • Cough (Toronto) • Baseline Press (London) • Serif of Nottingham (Hamilton) • Frog Hollow (Victoria) • Coach House Books (Toronto) • Laurel Reed Books (Mt. Pleasant) • Gesture Press (Toronto) • Thee Hellbox Press (Kingston) • BookThug (Toronto) • Taddle Creek  (Toronto) • Sunnyoutside Press (Buffalo) • Little Brother Magazine (Toronto) • Biblioasis (Windsor) • Wolsak and Wynn (Hamilton) • Underwhich Editions (Toronto) • Imago/Red Iron (Toronto) • Junction Books (Toronto) • Phafours (Ottawa) • words(on)pages (Toronto) • OutWrites (Toronto)

Facebook event page here.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Scott Bryson reviews Marthe Reed's After Swann (2013) and Rosmarie Waldrop's Otherwise Smooth (2013) in Broken Pencil #65

Scott Bryson was good enough to review Marthe Reed's After Swann (2013) and Rosmarie Waldrop's Otherwise Smooth (2013) (both of which are still available) in Broken Pencil #65. Thanks, Scott!

This is actually the second review of After Swann, after Ryan Pratt was good enough to review such, and the third for Otherwise Smooth, following reviews by Ryan Pratt and Pearl Pirie.

We might not agree with Bryson's take on these works (apparently he's never heard of "constraint-driven poetry" before), but very much appreciate his attention. But the poetry chapbook reviews in Broken Pencil always make me wonder: if the reviewers don't seem to really understand poetry at all (there seems a tone of dismissal in much of Bryson's comments on the work in these chapbooks), why do they bother to write reviews?

After Swann
Marthe Reed

The words and phrases that constitute this series of poems were culled and collaged from Swann's Way, the first volume of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time series of novels. Repurposing text from what Encyclopedia Britannica describes as "one of the supreme achievements of modern fiction," is never a bad way to start a poetry collection.
    The way Marthe Reed -- New York resident and chapbook publisher -- uses that text, however, may appear peculiar at first glance. She makes no attempt to vary the style of the verse she presents in After Swann; each entry consists of 10-12 three-line stanzas, and lines rarely go on for more than four words. These restrictions are more an indication of a singular vision, than a lack of creativity; she refers to her verse as "constraint-driven poetry" -- a style in which the author voluntarily applies limitations or rules, in an effort to spark inspiration.
    As a result of the succinct nature of Reed's lines, the segments of an individual poem never completely coalesce into a definable event. From time to time, you're awarded a brief flash of comprehension. A vague scene forms, then quickly fades into the next: "she suggested / my dress wasn't ready / some excuse // charming / she would jump in / and hold him in her arms." After Swann, in this way, pays homage to a crucial element of Proust's Swann's Way: involuntary memory -- when a particular cue evokes an unexpected recollection of a past event.
    A decent chunk of this, thematically, appears to deal with femininity and the tribulations and desires at play in the lives of women, 100 (or more) years ago. Those who've read Swann's Way will likely see more substance in this than those who haven't

Otherwise Smooth
Rosmarie Waldrop

The tone of a written work has likely never been set as quickly as it is in the first sentence of this collection: "How daily my life."
    Otherwise Smooth, an assemblage of nine prose fragments, rarely strays from that initial promise of despondency. There are tangible losses -- "a sister's death, a friend's," and the resulting funerals -- but Rosmarie Waldrop is more interested in the passing of what could be called the now-component of time, or what she describes as "the immediate between the ticks of the watch." Events and chances constantly evade her grasp; everything is instantly history: "A cosmic storm slips between my fingers... only once it's past I latch on."
    Language and cognition are to blame for the loss of immediate perception, Waldrop suggests: "Only once we've said 'I' with all that follows do we become aware of pure experience... But then it's already over... pronouns do not refer to anything in space and time except the utterance that contains them." This clearly isn't cheery material, but a nugget of hope does creep in to lighten the closing paragraph: "And yet. Already so many pear trees blossom."
    Otherwise Smooth reads as a complete cycle, with no loose ends, and Waldrop stays loyal to her theme throughout. It tends to wallow into heady territory, but always manages a tactful balance between poetic language and comprehensibility.

Friday, November 7, 2014

new from above/ground press: Cursed Objects, by Jason Christie

Cursed Objects
Jason Christie

Bell, book and candle

ringing or unrung
a bell announces
the wilderness

rhythmic unbounding
of tone to source
an unhinged spillage
echoing without
what sounded deep
from within

paging or unpaged
a book announces
an interiority

covers flung askance
as though darkness
itself acted a doorway
as if patience guaranteed
a solipsistic frame
of mind or beams and lintel
as if waiting accrued pages
dust gathering time
with each mote latching
one second to the next

waxing or waning
a candle announces
darkness, only darkness

closed book, silent bell
unlit candle and doorway
silent page, muted metal
wax with no wick and
waste accumulates
under the nails
between the teeth
waiting until the flash
of light ignites each
page, melts wax, sets
a vacuum to ringing
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
November 2014
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Author’s Note:
The poems in Cursed Objects take our involvement with objects across the line of usability into a realm where objects reach back and affect us in ways we can neither foresee nor control. These objects are cursed in that they deviate from the use we prescribed for them and have achieved an uncomfortable new role, namely that of reflecting our twisted sense of dominion.

Jason Christie is the author of i Robot, Canada Post, and Unknown Actor. His chapbook, Government, published by above/ground press, was shortlisted for the 2014 bpNichol Chapbook Award. Jason lives in Ottawa with his wife and their one-year old son.

This is Jason Christie’s third above/ground press chapbook, after 8th Ave 15th St NW. (2004) and Government (2013).

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

new from above/ground press: today’s woods, by Pearl Pirie

today’s woods
Pearl Pirie

the male is usually bigger with a head proportionally smaller.
females grizzlies usually have a shorter "wheel base”

in the mating season, May and June, the males (boars) often walk
with their hind legs farther apart than normal, a bow-legged sway

while the females (sows) are more likely riverside digging clams.
Robert Southey’s three bears were originally bachelors

    a Little, Small, Wee Bear,
    a Middle-sized Bear,
    and a Great, Huge Bear

invaded by a cussing old trespassing vagrant woman.
before that, it was Eleanor Mure’s tale of 3 friendly bears

and an invading vixen, meaning mea vulpes, not woman.
18 years after her published 1831 tale—

    about which Robert said
    he’s been telling it since 1813
    and his uncle told it to him,

but who can tell once the fairies have taken a tale for their uses—
the fox lost its tail and silver hair was shed to reveal a little girl.

since then the fox has a conservation status of safe but a sub-species
of bear has gone extinct. and at risk. iterations ran with sis & bro bear

and little bear friend then parents and boy bear. in 1918
Flora Annie Steel dubbed the child something that stuck: Goldilocks

a feminization of history: the baby bear became a girl too.
and that is where I entered the tale. proto-grrrl era.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
November 2014
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Pearl Pirie’s next collection, Pet Radish, Shrunken is with BookThug, Spring 2015. Host of Literary Landscape on, she has organized Ottawa’s Tree Seed Workshops since 2009 and gives workshops and talks on poetry for various organizations. She blogs and photographs Ottawa’s rich, amazing literary scene.

This is Pearl Pirie’s fifth above/ground press publication and third chapbook, after vertigoheel for the dilly (2014) and oath in the boathouse (2008).

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, November 3, 2014

new from above/ground press: Who Let the Mice in Brion Gysin, by Gregory Betts

Who Let the Mice in Brion Gysin
Gregory Betts


one can be generous, one can give things to people, and sometimes this is called teaching

turn the boys over is one way of teaching

knowledge is stolen

I assassinate You
I Hassan-i-Sabbah
nothing is true everything is permitted
permitted is true nothing is everything
nothing is permitted everything is true
permitted is true everything is nothing
nothing is true permitted is everything
permitted is everything true is nothing
nothing is permitted true is everything
permitted true is everything is nothing
nothing everything is is permitted true
nothing everything is true is permitted
knowledge is stolen
the desert is stolen

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
November 2014
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Gregory Betts is a poet-professor in St. Catharines, Ontario. His most recent book is Boycott (Make Now Books), available through

This is Gregory Betts’s third above/ground press chapbook, after curse of canada (2008) and The Cult of David Thompson (2005).

Produced in part for the Avant Canada: Artists, Prophets, Revolutionaries conference in St. Catharines, Ontario, November 5-7, 2014.

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