Monday, January 15, 2018

the launch of ottawater #14: Ottawa's annual poetry pdf journal

Ottawa’s annual pdf poetry journal
edited by rob mclennan

Come out to the launch of the fourteenth issue of ottawater, featuring new writing by Manahil Bandukwala, Stephanie Bolster, Sara Cassidy, Jason Christie, JM Francheteau, Spencer Gordon, Chris Johnson, N.W. Lea, Leah MacLean-Evans, Christine McNair, Colin Morton, Dani Spinosa, Priscila Uppal, Jean Van Loon, Ian Whistle and Maha Zimmo.

The launch, featuring readings by a number of this issue’s contributors, will be held on Friday, February 2, 2018, upstairs at The Carleton Tavern, Parkdale at Armstrong; doors 7pm, reading 7:30pm.

Lovingly hosted by editor/publisher rob mclennan.

Founded to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the City of Ottawa, Canada's glorious capital city, "ottawater," and its chemical formula/logo "O2(H2O)," is a poetry annual produced exclusively on-line, in both readable and printable pdf formats, and found at An anthology focusing on Ottawa poets and poetics, its first issue appeared in January 2005, 150 years after old Bytown became the City of Ottawa.

The issue itself isn't online yet, but all previous issues remain archived on the site. Thanks to designer Tanya Sprowl, the ottawa international writers festival, and Randy Woods at non-linear creations for their continuing support.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

above/ground press at twenty-five: by the numbers,

As many of you know, 2018 marks TWENTY-FIVE YEARS of above/ground press production. While the official anniversary doesn’t actually occur until July (including the annual launch/reading/party, with launches of at least a couple new titles), I’ve been going through some of the numbers, realizing that the press is well over a combined eight hundred and fifty publications to date (including Touch the Donkey, but not including the two dozen or so forthcoming titles).

That is an ENORMOUS amount of publications. I daresay: there might be one or two chapbook presses that get close to the volume, or the quality, or the longevity, but rarely all three.

With a couple of items produced under different press names (or none at all) over 1992 and into 1993, the above/ground press officially emerged as the press name in July 1993, with the publication of a poetry anthology and a chapbook of my own, soon followed by a chapbook by Ottawa poet David Collins. With a focus on poetry chapbooks and distribution, the press has also produced numerous journals (five issues of Missing Jacket [see a bibliography here], forty-five issues of the long poem magazine STANZAS [see a bibliography here], sixteen of the twenty-five issues (so far) of The Peter F. Yacht Club, six issues of drop and sixteen issues (so far) of Touch the Donkey [see the list of issues + interviews online here]), as well as numerous anthologies, three hundred and forty-two “poem” broadsides [see a bibliography up to #287 here; link to the most recent publications here], occasional pamphlets, and even a single comic book by Greg Kerr in 1996. There have been publications produced for book fairs in Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, Vancouver, New Orleans and Philadelphia, for conferences and AWPs across North America, literary festivals, readings and a variety of tours.

Some items appear quickly, within a day or two of acceptance, and others have been scheduled months in advance. I have folded and stapled every damned one (with the rare exception, of course) myself, usually sitting in front of the television with long-arm stapler (I’m on my third) and worn-down fingerprints. I’ve produced items in runs as low as fifty copies, and as much as twelve hundred. STANZAS held pretty consistently at a print run (distributed gratis) of a thousand, the same number of covers I currently produce for each issue of Touch the Donkey (making more copies of the insides as required). Chapbooks these days are most often in runs of either two hundred and fifty or three hundred (especially given I’ve nearly one hundred subscribers). We only have so much space, after all.

While numerous projects extending and extended from above/ground press (from the “Tuesday poem” series over at the dusie blog to Chaudiere Books to the “On Writing” series at the ottawa poetry newsletter and the “Spotlight” series via Medium, ottawater and seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics, the more recent my (small press) writing day, and even the ottawa small press book fair and The Factory Reading Series), the press remains strong, existing as the ongoing foundation for basically everything.

I suppose I should mention now that there are plans afoot for an anniversary project or two, including one that has already begun work (but won’t be announced or launched until August/September, most likely). Either way, you can certainly still subscribe for 2018. I mean, why haven’t you?

I toyed with building a list of all the authors the press has published over the quarter century – anthologies, chapbooks, broadsides, journals, etcetera – but the list simply became too large and unmanageable. Instead, I’ll focus on the chapbooks: including the two dozen or so forthcoming items (he says, optimistically), the press has produced three hundred and ninety-six chapbooks by two hundred and twenty-nine separate authors (including translators). I feel incredibly fortunate to have been allowed to produce such stellar work by a large array of incredible poets, and the chapbook list of authors includes (alphabetically): Jordan Abel, Paige Ackerson-Kiely, Carrie Olivia Adams, Cameron Anstee, Sacha Archer, Rae Armantrout, Josh Auerbach, Kemeny Babineau, Jennifer Baker, Nelson Ball, Douglas Barbour, John Barton, Gary Barwin, Eric Baus, Derek Beaulieu, Ashley-Elisabeth Best, Gregory Betts, Joe Blades, Michael Blouin, Jon Boisvert, Christian Bök, Stephanie Bolster, George Bowering, Tim Bowling, Jamie Bradley, Shannon Bramer, Sean Braune, Alyssa Bridgman, Ross Brighton, Stephen Brockwell, Sarah Burgoyne, Andrew Burke, Brian Burke, Jenna Butler, Stephen Cain, Natalee Caple, Emily Carr, Christophe Casamassima, Jason Christie, George Elliot Clarke, Dana Claxton, Mark Cochrane, David Collins, Stephen Collis, Sarah Cook, Dennis Cooley, Valerie Coulton, jwcurry, Marita Dachsel, Frank Davey, Faizal Deen, Amy Dennis, Michael Dennis, Michelle Desberats, Jason Dewinetz, Anita Dolman, Rhonda Douglas, Sarah Dowling, Lise Downe, Buck Downs, Kristina Drake, nathan dueck, Susanne Dyckman, Amanda Earl, Kevin McPherson Eckhoff, Sue Elmslie, Lori Emerson, Greg Evason, Tamara Fairchild, Jesse Patrick Ferguson, Ellen Field, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Judith Fitzgerald, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Flemmer, Neil Flowers, Eric Folsom, Sarah Fox, Laurie Fuhr, David Fujino, Hélène Gelèns, Artie Gold, Noah Eli Gordon, Adele Graf, Lea Graham, Allison Grayhurst, Catharina Gripenberg, Kate Greenstreet, Adrienne Gruber, Kristjana Gunnars, Anna Gurton-Wachter, Gwendolyn Guth, Helen Hajnoczky, Phil Hall, Brecken Hancock, Natalie Hanna, Robin Hannah, Sharon Harris, j/j hastain, William Hawkins, Hailey Higdon, Robert Hogg, Matthew Holmes, Michael Holmes, Carrie Hunter, Brenda Iijima, Marilyn Irwin, Roman Ivashkiv, Yuri Izdryk, Dean Irvine, Meghan Jackson (lynes), Matthew Johnstone, D.G. Jones, Megan Kaminski, Stuart Kinmond, Robert Kroetsch, Jennifer Kronovet, Ben Ladouceur, Seth Landman, Patrick Lane, Clare Latremouille, John Lavery, Warren Layberry, N.W. Lea, Katy Lederer, Anne Le Dressay, Jason Le Heup, John B. Lee, A.J. Levin, Sophie Levy, Erik Lindner, damian lopes, Jeanette Lynes, Shannon Maguire, Rob Manery, Donato Mancini, Sarah Mangold, Nicole Markotić, Camille Martin, Karen Massey, Shauna McCabe, Marcus McCann, Una McDonnell, Gil McElroy, Andrew McEwen, David W. McFadden, Barry McKinnon, kath maLean, rob mclennan, Kathryn MacLeod, Christine McNair, Max Middle, philip miletic, Jay MillAr, Rachel Mindell, Rachel Moritz, Erín Moure, Sandra Moussempès, Jennifer Mulligan, Sharon H. Nelson, John Newlove, bpNichol, Geoffrey Nilson, Peter Norman, Ken Norris, Wanda O’Connor, Catherine Owen, Abby Paige, Kathryn Payne, Pearl Pirie, Shane Plante, Deborah Poe, Julia Polyck-O’Neill, Alessandro Porco, K.I. Press, Roland Prevost, Katie L. Price, Elizabeth Ranier, Marthe Reed, Monty Reid, Eléna Rivera, Lisa Robertson, Elizabeth Robinson, Miguel E. Ortiz Rodríguez, Stan Rogal, Sarah Rosenthal, Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Kaia Sand, Larry Sawyer, Kate Schapira, Eric Schmaltz, Michael Martin Shea, Kate Siklosi, Natalie Simpson, Edward Smallfield, Jessica Smith, Pete Smith, Jennifer Stella, Jill Stengel, Fenn Stewart, Christine Stewart, Anne Stone, Sarah Swan, Jake Syersak, Bronwen Tate, Hugh Thomas, lary timewell, Janice Tokar, Dennis Tourbin, Amish Trivedi, Aaron Tucker, Chris Turnbull, Michael Turner, Emily Ursuliak, R.M. Vaughan, Death Waits, Rosmarie Waldrop, Andy Weaver, Andrew Wessels, Ian Whistle, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Julia Williams, Tal Yarkoni, Lesley Yalen, Deanna Young, Geoffrey Young and Eleni Zisimatos.

Thanks to all of them, and to all of you for your attentions! There is so much more still to be done (and so many more authors I would love to be able to produce chapbooks by)…

Saturday, December 30, 2017

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

Last night was our annual Peter F. Yacht Club Christmas party/reading/regatta, once again in our usual space in Parkdale Market's Carleton Tavern [see last year's report here], held as the "office Christmas party" for our informal writer's grouping.

The evening held a myriad of short readings by PFYC regulars and even an irregular, including Anita Dolman, Christine McNair, D.S. Stymiest, Faizal Deen, Amanda Earl, Chris Johnson, Roland Prevost, Frances Boyle and rob mclennan (with absences by Jason Christie, Chris Turnbull, natalie hanna, James Moran, Cameron Anstee, Vivian Vavassis and Claire Farley, all of whom were sorely missed), with an unexpected appearance by new father N.W. Lea (we had a copy of his most recent above/ground press title handy, so managed to convince him to read), and Nova Scotia poet E. Alex Pierce, who gave a short reading as well. Apparently Pierce was in Ottawa for part of the holidays, and Basma Kavanagh sent her an email and told her to get herself down to the tavern, because of all the poets that would be there!

[above, from top: N.W. Lea reading; N.W. Lea listening as Anita Dolman reads; E. Alex Pierce; D.S. Stymiest] Reading to a healthy crowd of friends new and old, the audience included Jennifer Pederson, Grant Wilkins, Janice Tokar, Monty Reid, Josh Massey, Stephen Brockwell, Charles Earl, jwcurry, Marilyn Irwin and Chris Jennings, among others. And we even helped train a new waitress to our shenanigans.

[above: Roland Prevost; crowd scene including Josh Massey; post-reading w jwcurry, Faizal Deen + D.S. Stymiest] Christine and I made a point of reading from works-in-progress (as well as a poem I wrote the day after our prior PFYC Christmas gathering), her from a series of poetry and prose sections on her experience with preaclampsia, and myself a short story in-progress, one of the three I've been actively working on over the past few months. It was good to hear pretty much the entire group reading from new or recent work, from recently-polished poems to completely unfinished works, including a longer piece by Faizal Deen we're hoping will soon make it into an above/ground press chapbook (a section of the same work appeared in the tenth issue of Amanda Earl's experiment-o).

[Monty Reid and Chris Johnston, listening] And yes, I made cookies (lemon icebox and sugar) and everyone loved them. And Frances made cookies also, which were also loved.

Friday, December 29, 2017

new from above/ground press: small bed & field guide, by Valerie Coulton

small bed & field guide
Valerie Coulton

Which up?

Would not have bought this

but other weather.

What streets choose is no one

else’s. Confidently roaming mostly

cotton against surprising

pink ants. Sleep is preventable.

You have only to try. Feet will love you

unbecomingly, as have proven.


Summer’s lease negotiable

Concrete squares

interlaced with grass

and dirt where grass doesn’t

or mud as now why birds

silent in the rain

but maybe hunting

which is really fasting

we can speak

afterwards anyway

hidden as we are in

these middle-aged leaves

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
December 2017
[as the final above/ground press publication of the press' 24th year]
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Valerie Coulton
is the author of Open Book, The Cellar Dreamer, and passing world pictures, all from Apogee Press. She lives in Barcelona with the poet Edward Smallfield, co-author of lirio and anonymous, both from Dancing Girl Press.

Grateful acknowledgement is made to New American Writing, Dusie, and As If It Fell from the Sun (EtherDome), in which these projects first appeared. 

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, December 28, 2017

I. Rattan reviews Jordan Abel’s TIMELESS AMERICAN CLASSIC (2017) in Broken Pencil #77

I. Rattan was good enough to review for Jordan Abel’s TIMELESS AMERICAN CLASSIC (2017) in Broken Pencil #77. Thanks so much! (Although why complain that a conceptual work isn't emotional enough?) This is the second such review after Toronto writer Cary Fagan was good enough to review the same at his Word Music. As Rattan writes:

There are no easy readings of Jordan Abel's collection of conceptual poetry. Like his previous works The Place of Scraps and Injun, Timeless American Classic takes a canonical, colonial text [and] shreds it to pieces.

This time, Abel lifts and reorients passages from James Fenimore Cooper's 19th-century novel The Last of the Mohicans. The result is concrete poems created through a combination of machine reading, visualization and algorithmic allocation. Each piece stubbornly resists traditional interpretations, admittedly making it a frustrating read. But the value of Abel's work lies in its operation.

Timeless American Classic appropriates a timeless American classic. Abel reclaims Cooper's original appropriation and, more critically, disrupts the colonialist mythologizing of the novel. It's a sly and subversive tactic with mixed results. In a series of six poems, which all share the title "Indian," Abel isolates Cooper's use of the term, taking sentences out of context and placing them one after another. Rendered meaningless, Abel deftly weakens Cooper's stereotypical depictions. In the series "Blood Quantum," which features overlapping circles of text, the points where text collides is unreadable. Again, it's an operation that divests the original text of its power.

But appreciating Abel's theoretical moves is largely an intellectual exercise. In its mathematical operation, the work lacks an emotional entryway, which might have gone a long way in combatting a novel whose dramatic thrust (it spawned Hollywood's Daniel Day-Lewis version, after all) and imperialist romanticizing has been key to its staying power.