Friday, December 30, 2016

The Peter F. Yacht Club Christmas party/reading/regatta : a report,

Last night we held our annual PFYC Christmas party/reading/regatta [see the report from last year's event here] at the Carleton Tavern, our "office Christmas party," if you will, for those of us in our informal writer's group [see a history of PFYC here].

Stephen Brockwell provided some fine co-hosting duties, as well as an array of photos (all of these pictures were taken by him). There were short readings by Amanda Earl, Stephen Brockwell, Frances Boyle, Pearl Pirie, Marilyn Irwin, Janice Tokar, myself, Gwendolyn Guth and Roland Prevost, with an array of audience that included Monty Reid, Brian Pirie, jwcurry, Rachel Zavitz, Steve Zytveld, Jason Wiens (Christmassing here from Calgary) and Robert Stacey [pictured at the end, with me]. Most read short selections of new pieces and/or works-in-progress, but for myself, who could only manage a poem or two from the new book (all my works-in-progress aren't yet ready for public consumption).
It was good to hear some new work from Gwendolyn Guth, including a poem since that has been accepted for a forthcoming anthology on motherhood via Demeter Press. Congratulations, Gwen!

Really, much of the enjoyment of the PFYC Christmas event is in hearing new work from poet-friends that perhaps don't read as often as they should, whether Gwendolyn Guth, author of the 2010 chapbook Good People, or Janice Tokar, author of the 2014 chapbook ARRHYTHMIA.
Some of us, including Marilyn, Pearl and myself, even provided some baked goods, with an array of chocolate goodness brought in by Roland and Jan. There was also much merriment! I also brought along copies of a variety of above/ground press items not set to release until January, including the new issue of Touch the Donkey, and above/ground press' 800th item! (What could it be? Stay tuned!)

Unfortunately, weather and circumstance kept a few readers away, including Jason Christie, Claire Farley, Chris Turnbull, Chris Johnston, Christine McNair and Vivian Vavassis. But hey, there's always next year, right?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas, holiday, season and/or whatever you celebrate!

For whatever you celebrate, we hope it is satisfactory, and beyond. Merry!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Katie L. Price interviewed at Speaking at Marvels

Katie L. Price is interviewed over at Speaking at Marvels around her second above/ground press title, Sickly (2015) [while referencing her first, BRCA: Birth of a Patient (2015)]. See the full interview here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Klara du Plessis reviews Stephanie Bolster's Three Bloody Words (2016) at Broken Pencil

Montreal poet Klara du Plessis was good enough to provide the first review of Stephanie Bolster's Three Bloody Words: Twentieth Anniversary Edition (2016) over at Broken Pencil. Thanks so much! You can see the original review here.
Three Bloody Words
Stephanie Bolster, 23 pgs, above/ground press,, $5

This is an anniversary publication, a reissue twenty years after the original release, celebrating Stephanie Bolster’s chapbook Three Bloody Words—a sequence of poems and short paragraphs aiming to rewrite well-known fairytales from the perspective of the princess. In an new afterword, Bolster describes her feminist project and her desire “to reclaim women’s narratives … I was, simply and sincerely, claiming identity as a writer. In giving these women a voice, I was giving myself one.”

Modeled as retellings of fairytales, these pieces are thematically linked by their consistent exposure of the latent violence inherent to so-called children’s stories—“To think they read these stories to children” being one of the poem’s titles. While the fairytales are never named, the narratives are presumably so familiar to most readers that select elements are enough to clue in reader that, for example, a man lurking in the forest, threatening a girl dressed in red, is most probably based on Little Red Riding Hood. Similarly, a girl with “snow-white skin/ blood-red cheeks, hair as black as ebony” is sufficient to position the under-aged, coerced and subsequently vengeful child bride as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

What sets Bolster’s retellings apart from similar work by, for instance, Anne Sexton, is her insistence on the contemporaneous nature of the narratives. When “this guy in a suit comes & asks what’s it like being in fairytales he’s doing his thesis,” it becomes clear that the entitled, patriarchal, often aggressive and nonconsensual archetype of the Disney prince has just changed his guise for modern times; “it was the same old story.” The legendary “happily ever after” postures as the continuity of fairytale violence and inequality into the present day.

Monday, December 12, 2016

dusie kollektiv #8, curated by rob mclennan, now online

The 8th “dusie kollektiv” is now online, with pdfs of a variety of chapbooks by multiple current and former above/ground press authors (among a long list of others).

above/ground press authors in the 8th kollektiv include: Gary Barwin, Joe Blades, Rob Budde, Jason Christie, Amanda Earl, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, Hailey Higdon, Megan Kaminski, Marcus McCann, rob mclennan, Marthe Reed, Elizabeth Robinson, Jessica Smith and Chris Turnbull.

See the link here to read all sorts of dusie goodness from across North America (and occasionally beyond!).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ryan Pratt reviews Bronwen Tate's Vesper Vigil (2016)

Our pal Ryan Pratt was good enough to provide the first review for Bronwen Tate's Vesper Vigil (2016) over at the ottawa poetry newsletter. Thanks much! You can see Pratt's post here. As he writes:
Vesper Vigil by Bronwen Tate
Published by above/ground press, 2016.

"You sleep, I sigh, we mingle breath like lovers –
I reach a stealthy hand, adjust the sheet.
Somewhere between sentiment and complaint
are words to name the child sleeping here"

So begins Vesper Vigil, a collection of sonnets which chronicle the last weeks of Bronwen Tate’s pregnancy with this perfectly succinct ambiguity – how it feels to be pinned down by what we love most. True to her intent, Tate records both the daily parenting of her young son and the approaching birth of her daughter without getting precious or irate. Instead, she employs a tenderness that seesaws between love and pain, gentle yet sore to touch.

“Will this lumpy baby ever come out?”
Owen considers, replies “I don’t know”.
So we measure days in peaches, bruises,
bruised peaches, it’s the body that chooses."

Tate explores the fragile limits of our bodies – how we feed, grow and injure them – within the framework of domesticated routines that gauge her excruciating wait. Every seemingly casual digression probes one of two spectres, the impending pain or joy. They’re a package deal, of course, and her bittersweet tone acknowledges it. Like the development of a fetus, these sonnets mature in nerves that feel deeply rooted thanks to the sing-song rhyme scheme. Each page can encapsulate hours or weeks. Her choice of form allows that compression rate without sacrificing a fluid rhythm, though – as is common with the sonnet – rhymes occasionally raise an eyebrow. (Did she really play disco, or does it just rhyme with San Francisco, etc.?) In any case, by the time she’s admitted to her hospital room, the anxiety and loneliness of third-trimester pregnancy is palpable:

"I’ve taken Misoprostol, Cervidil,
now sitting, watch contraction numbers rise,
one hand to hold the heart monitor still,
slight lag between the pain and peaking highs.
We left with early fog but found no bed,
paced corridors and watched the shifting crane,
took Owen to a playground, sat and read,
called only to be postponed again.
At two at last they showed me to my room,
this prison of uncertain duration,
can’t leave these walls till baby quits the womb,
perch on window bench, await dilation.
Alone now, I breathe through pains, try to sleep.
The road to you be gentle, dark, and steep."

Reading the above selection, I realize how little I’ve contemplated the psychological effects of pregnancy and childbirth. (Just analyzing Tate's thought that, once admitted, she cannot leave the hospital without first enduring an unknown pain gives my pulse a race.) As someone who looks in on parenthood from the outside, that’s my biggest takeaway from this chapbook. Tate manages to imbue archetypal family dynamics with a memorable dose of personal details, creating an unguarded glance at motherhood in transition.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Peter F. Yacht Club regatta/reading/christmas party!

lovingly co-hosted by Stephen Brockwell 
+ rob mclennan;

The Peter F. Yacht Club annual regatta/christmas party/reading

at The Carleton Tavern (upstairs)
233 Armstrong Avenue (at Parkdale Market)
Thursday, December 29, 2016
doors 7pm, reading 7:30pm

with readings from yacht club regulars and irregulars alike, including Claire Farley, Amanda Earl, Frances Boyle, Pearl Pirie, rob mclennan, Roland Prevost, Marilyn Irwin, Chris Turnbull, etc.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cary Fagan reviews Carrie Olivia Adam's Grapple (2016)

Toronto writer Cary Fagan was good enough to provide the first review for Carrie Olivia Adam's Grapple (2016) over at his new Bodies and Words. Thanks much! You can see Fagan's post here. As he writes:
Carrie Olivia Adams, Grapple.  Ottawa: above/ground press, 2016.
It is notoriously difficult to capture one art form in another; can one do more than search for clumsy equivalents, fractured reflections?  And yet when I read Carrie Olivia Adams’ Grapple for the first time, it was if I could see the movement and struggle of bodies in my mind.  Not only the words themselves but the placement of the lines, fragments across a wide page, evoked extension and constriction, stillness and action.
My first reading was without benefit of the “Notes on the Composition” which comes after the eight-page poem.  I did have the image on the cover, and two inside, to know this was a dance in words.  And the epigraph by Nawal El Saadawi told me that the poem was about movement and passivity, surrender and resistance.  But it was only upon reading the notes that I understood the poem to actually be a text that had accompanied a dance performance–a performance inspired (if that’s the right term) by the arrest of “a young African American man during a protest as part of Moral Mondays Illinois in Chicago in November 2015.”
The poem begins with two definitions of the title–“to stop the progress or movement of / (something)” and “to attract and hold the attention of / (someone or something).”  This apparent contradiction, or mirror-imaging, is carried on throughout, with “strength” linked to “vulnerability” and going “limp” being an “act of resistance / …an act of / strength”.  There is a particularly telling moment when
We cannot see your face                              you cannot see ours                                                                                                              pressed

                                                      But we are so close
These words seem to me both powerful, frightening, and almost beautiful.  On the poem’s next page, however, the poet becomes somewhat less nimble, writing in true, if sloganeering fashion, of a city that “forgets / the backs on which it is built”.  But then the poet becomes more suggestive again:
Tell us again how you know
how you submerged us
how we re-wrote the movement of sidewalk and street
how it bent up to meet us
These words were spoken to a dance created by Chicago choreographers Jamie Corliss and Lydia Feuerhelm, who were also the performers.  According to the “Notes,” the dance and the words were intended to “work with and against each other,” echoing the tension within the poem itself.  I certainly would have liked to see this performance in which “intimacy and aggression overlap” but the poem works well on its own, especially with the accompanying photographs.  It is a work that, while for the most part not allowing its political purpose to diminish its artistry, never forgets that purpose.