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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Games

It's not Christmas without... Jenga!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas!

I temporarily lost my mind, high on PHP, and redesigned my home page, (PHP is not a drug but a web scripting language: "PHP is a recursive acronym for "PHP Hypertext Preprocessor". It is an open source, interpretive, HTML centric, server side scripting language. PHP is especially suited for Web development and can be embedded into HTML pages.".)

I like the blinky things and the Hello Kitty doo-dads. Thanks to the PHP tools, I put up new uselss sub-domains like a calendar, a bulletin board, and a survey tool. Why? 'Cause I can, since my domain provider had these new and nifty programs available for free. But I did also put up my own photo gallery, so that's not as useless (I hope). If it's all seems confusing to you, it is to me as well. Sort of intentional - but fun. And in case I do not see you till all the beer, wine and rum bottles are empty, Happy New Year!

(Don't drink and drive - especially on PHP.) (update: those links above are not in service anymore.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

McGill Education Alumni

I made it into the McGill E-ducation bulletin which is the electronic newsletter for Faculty of Education alumni. Yes, it really is spelled 'e-ducation'... There is a group photo in which I appear, and my face is about 1.5 mm x 1.5 mm, so look hard. The caption reads, "Who says Ottawa is boring?"

Really? People think Ottawa is boring? Naw...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Harry Howith Info Requested

I have just started a bio page on Wikipedia for the poet, Harry Howith. I have come to the conclusion that there is next to nothing online about him. If you have any other info about this poet please update the Harry Howith page:

Monday, December 19, 2005

Today is Shelagh Rogers Day

I'll use Ms. Rogers comments as my 'get-out-of-the-doghouse-pass' (not that I need one...yet) My wife has been sooo understanding when I go out to the late evening literary events. Thanks!

"Dear Julie, You have great taste in husbands. Love Shelagh"

Sunday, December 18, 2005

'Saint' Steven of the Dusty Owl

Be a 'saint' like Steven Zytveld of the Dusty Owl Reading Series and come out this evening to the annual Dusty Owl Chocolate House.

From their website:
Each holiday season we raise money and food donations for the Ottawa Food Bank to mark the holdiays. This year we're doing it with the help of Dave Lauzon, guitarist from Ottawa jam band Nero, who will be coming in to play a solo acoustic show, featuring new songs, multiple instruments, loop tracks, and more - it's going to be great. There will be hot chocolate (and other drinks of course), cool music, and our ever-popular open mike and Object of Desire contest, so if you have music or words you want to share, bring them along! We'll be accepting donations of food and money for the Food Bank, and anyone who brings in 10 items or more of (preferably, but not necessarily, organic) food for the donation box will get a free limited-edition, hand-printed poster made by Catherine MacDonald-Zytveld. This is a family-friendly event, so kids are welcome, although parents should be aware, Swizzles is a bar and grill, so alcohol will be served, and it's a bias-free venue. There's no cover charge - just come in, bring your taste for music and poetry and your good will. Free will donations will be collected for the Ottawa Food Bank.

View the large portrait of Steven here on Flikr.

Christmas Book Picks

I'll be the first to admit it. Buying books for someone else can be like picking out that special electric toothbrush that you know they will just love. Exclaiming when they open their gift, "Hey! It even comes with it's own batteries!" only goes so far. Also, I figure that after getting my lion's share of socks for the first half of my life, I would not mind receiving books the last half. Here are my suggested titles I spotted at the Ottawa Independent Writers Christmas Book Fair last month. This event was a fantastic opportunity to support Ottawa area writers. More information about this event and the group can be found online at

1. Mimi The Angel Gets Her Wings, Story by Sylvie Brûlé and Jennifer Clark - Illustrations by Julie Lefebvre [$10] For ages 3 and up, this book is for the little ones in your life. It is an inspiring story created as a way for young children to relate to a positive role model. More info:

2. Sing, Girls, Sing! A novel by Bobbie Smith [$12.85] This recently published book is aimed at a teen audience. It's an inspirational tale of how four Canadian twelve-year-old girls get together in Ottawa to form their own all-girl group. More Info:

3. Along Nature's Path: A Collection of Photographs by Wendy Booth [$42.75] One of my coffee table picks for the holiday season, Wendy's book will remind you that Summer is just around the corner. More info:

4. A Theatre Near You: 150 Years of Going to the Show in Ottawa-Gatineau, by Alain Miguelez [$40, Penumbra Press] My second choice of coffee table type book, especially for film buffs, presents a history of movie theatres in and around the nation's capital. It's profusely illustrated with 315 vintage photographs which will bring back memories of years gone by. More Info:

5. The Ottawa Sharpshooters, Edited by John D. Reid [$24, British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa] The story of the individuals who made up the Ottawa Sharpshooters is told based on new research. This is one my historical picks for those who want to know more about the monument in Confederation Park of a soldier with a bearskin headdress and the their compatriots. More Info:

6. The Mother-In-Law Book, by Rosaleen Leslie Dickson [$20, General Store Publishing House] A compilation of the fifty best questions posed to "Ask Great Granny" and her thoughtful replies. "The age-old dilemma of two possessive women both loving the same man, one being his mother, the other his wife." Give this gift as a gentle reminder or for pure entertainment. More info:

7. Guides to Exploring England Independently: Preplanning Your Trip, by Linda Loder [$8] Going abroad soon? Feeling overwhelmed at planning your first trip? Want to surprise your loved one with a trip to England? This slim book is all you need to know to start the process of travelling to specific areas in England. More info:

8. Pucks, Pablum & Pingos: More Fascinating Facts and Quirky Quizzes, by Mark Kearney and Randy Ray [$18, Dundurn Press] Everyone loves trivia. This book is ideal for those hard to buy for - of any age. The quizzes in this book are both fun and informative. More info:

9. Spring Garland, text and poetry by E. Russell Smith, engravings by Gerard Brender à Brandis [$10, Buschek Books] My book of poetry pick is a lovely produced book. The wood engravings are spectacular. The accompanying poems will please any reader or gardener of spring flowers. More info:

10. Shoplifting.....The Funnier Side, by Gary Miles [$20, Baico Publishing] Humour books make easy gifts. This one does not disappoint. Mr. Miles, a private investigator and security expert, shares hundreds of his on-the-job anecdotes in a fun to read collection.

11. Yesterday's Shadows, and A Walking Shadow by Jo-Anne Southern [$10 each, Bookman Publishing] Originally from Lancashire England, Jo-Anne spent many years in the entertainment industry and was known as both Diamond Lil and the Pearly Queen with the Skyline Hotel chain in Canada. I had to get both of her books - at ten dollars a piece they were hard to resist. Yesterday's Shadows recounts the "bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil" and in A Walking Shadow, Jo-Anne writes speculatively of what may have happened following this battle. More info:

Best of 2005

As 2005 is quickly coming to an end, I wanted to share some of Ottawa's more memorable literary moments. Perhaps you, too, were at these same events and saw me but had no idea who I was. I was the one with the camera. This is my 'directors cut' so to speak from the original column that appeared in the Citizen today.

It was near 30 below the night Douglas Coupland drew a decent-sized crowd of mainly 20 somethings. Scruffy lot I must say. The spirit (and clothing) of Che Guevera is alive and well in Ottawa it seemed. My impression of Douglas Coupland? He looked, well, haggard. And talked similarly. After waiting over an hour in line for him to sign, rather, 'stamp' my book I did the readerly thing and asked him an impromptu question. I asked who was his favourite Canadian author of the 20th century. He cautiously replied that he didn't much like Canadian literature at all. What was I expecting? It was a dumb question. He went on lamenting, in a whiny way, the typical Canadian (immigrant) stories or growing up in a small town and so on. He did admit to liking Gord Downie's Coke Machine Glow and that he thinks Alice Munro is the best writer Canada has. However, in mid-response, I gather he liked my Kanuk winter coat, as he fondled the distinctive owl patch on my lapel. I felt uneasy. He then signed my book, gave it the obligatory stamp 'with warmest personal regards douglas coupland' (the irony benumbs me).

I bought my first Digital SLR camera and photographed Anne Giardini when she came to Ottawa to launch her first novel, The Sad Truth About Happiness. Though I didn't sell the photograph for publication, it gave me a neat idea to start to photograph authors who were reading in Ottawa.

I read David Gilmour's new novel, A Perfect Night To Go To China, and was impressed with its story (and surprised in a good way) that it went on to win a Governor General's Literary Award.

Another story that doesn't really have an Ottawa connection but I blogged about it was Hunter S. Thompson's suicide. Oddly, his last column he wrote was about his newly invented game of "shotgun golf". How odd.

Frances Itani, talking from Hurst, Ontario, was on CBC Radio one afternoon with Brent Bambury expressing her happiness about being on the shortlist for the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. She also had doubly-happy news in that the film rights have been sold so that a movie may be made from her first novel, Deafening.

John Metcalf was awarded the Order of Canada. John Metcalf can frequently be spotted at the Elgin Street Diner taking a break from all the editing work he has yet to do.

Ray Robertson, the man with the sharpest sideburns in Canadian literature, came to the Manx Pub as part of the Plan 99 Reading Series for the Canadian premiere of Gently Down the Stream.

This month was a defining moment for me: Barry Callaghan, who was in town for the spring edition of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, was in my kitchen. Here's how I imaginatively recall that special day in April:

I could take a cue from the late Hunter S. Thompson and do some gonzo journalism in this blog piece and insert more of myself into the story. Like tell you about how Barry and I, in a bourbon-flavoured cigar haze, pinched the waitress's butt, got chased out of the off-track betting lounge while debating the merits of which nag to bet on at the Aqueduct Races, or whether Tokyo's Fuchu track had the best odds that evening, and how I eventually out-maneuvered the local cops as we sped through their failed speed trap on Albion Road with Barry cursing out the window. Alas, the truth always eludes us when we seek it. I will concede to Dr. Gonzo when he once said, "I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours."Barry spent the last sober hours of his Ottawa visit at the National Gallery of Canada with Claire, where I dropped them off, checking out The Sixties in Canada exhibit. Needless to say, I was amazed to be in his presence. A highlight, for sure, for any fan of Callaghan, junior or senior.

Despite being overwhelmed at the photo opportunities of tulips, I managed to get out to a few readings. The talented Anthony Bansfield a.k.a. the nth digri was a headline reader at one of the events hosted by the Tree Reading Series. This man is amazingly talented and as equally passionate about showcasing writers in Ottawa. He left an indelible impression on me two years ago when I first heard him perform his signature poem, Sugarcane. I picked up his 2003 CD, Tales of the North Coast and play it loud and frequently in my drives to work.

For those fans smart (or lucky) enough to be at the Library and Archives for the John Ralston Saul book launch were also treated to be in the presence of British actor Alan Rickman. The fact that he made headline news in that morning's Citizen tickled my curiosity to see if he would make a showing at Ralston Saul's reading. He did. With my camera at the ready I got some great photographs. To this day I still get emails thanking me for posting photos of Rickman, however, not so for my photos of John Ralston Saul for some reason.

What an awesome month. Ottawa author John Geddes launched his first novel and had one of the most delicious promo items: a huge basket of cookies from isobel & company. They had baked the cookies with the image of the book's cover incorporated on the white icing. Informative and delicious.

With the sunburn of Westboro's annual WestFEST barely fading, Jose Saramago, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, came into town with a bevy of VIPs in attendance: Don McKellar, Niv Fichman, former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. I sold my first photos to Quill and Quire Magazine from this event and another of Ottawa's Thomas Rendell Curran's book launch.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of photographer Sam Tata in July. His photographs of Canadian authors have been an influence, and his work reinforces my thought that there is artistic value to record reading events photographically.

Once again, Harry Potter mania swept through the city this summer. Though I did not buy the book, I did go to my local bookstore at midnight to catch the wizardly spectacle. Yes, I still have to remind myself that despite the marketing madness, that the promotion of reading is a good thing.

The Rolling Stones may have rocked Ottawa but sadly, one of my favourite bookstores in the downtown core closed. John Hatfield, the proprietor of Place Bell Books retired.
Awaiting the fall literary season, the War of the Poets exhibit by Steven Artelle at the Nepean Museum, held my book lust in check for another month.

For the second time this year, another Nobel Prize winner, Elie Wiesel came to Ottawa for Jewish Federation of Ottawa's 2006 Campaign Kickoff. Dr. Wiesel won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986. What and honour it was to be in the same room as I attended my first official press conference.

The Dusty Owl Reading Series coordinators, Catherine MacDonald-Zytveld and Steven Zytveld work diligently behind the scenes to bring to light the most talented poets and writers Ottawa has to offer. Listening to the various members of the Capital Poetry Collective is always a entertaining treat, along with Anthony Bansfield's reading series, The Golden Star Lounge, Ottawa's original urban poetry series. Highly recommended.

Despite my physical preparation, the fall literary season overwhelmed me with an onslaught of events. There are too many moments to write at length here, so I will list some names that stood out: Mystery writer Anthony Bidulka's door prizes were cool, author Paul Glennon's new book was innovative,'s John Newlove Award winner Melissa Upfold is perhaps a budding Margaret Atwood / Jane Urquhart, and the poetically reclusive jwcurry continually surprises.

Three words: Ottawa Storytelling Festival. Finally, I can just sit, close my eyes, and be entertained with stories. I am a kid again. But not for long: The Tree Reading Series and the Sasquatch Reading Series both turned 25 years old this year. There was a also first of sorts as the Talented Tongues night of erotic reading proved to be a huge draw where the venue reached and surpassed the maximum seating (fire) capacity. Poet Archibald Lampman turned 144 years old and was duly celebrated in a Beechwood Cemetery reading, Dead Poets Live!

The Poems of War, Poets for Peace reading event with Marie Clements, Goran Simic, Amatoritsero Ede, Steven Heighton, and Serge Patrice Thibodeau and Joseph Boyden serve to remind us that in certain countries it is a crime to be a writer with independent ideas. They were part of a PEN reading at the Canadian War Museum.

On a lighter note, Alistair MacLeod made an appearance in Ottawa as part of the 70th birthday of the Canadian Film Institute where acclaimed Canadian filmmaker William D. MacGillivray screened his latest feature documentary, READING ALISTAIR MACLEOD.

Merry Christmas and remember, books make great gifts any time of the year.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Blog About Town...Best of 2005

Be sure to check out my column in the Citizen on Sunday. It's my take on the best literary events in Ottawa over the past year. The article got pared down - a lot - due to its original size. Later, I'll post it in its original, magnificent entirety. I believe there will also be my pick of Christmas books from the Ottawa's Independent Writers Christmas Book Fair last month.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Alistair & Me

Alistair MacLeod inscribed my copy of his first collection of short stories, The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976). Thanks to Jean-Marc Carisse, the only other photographer present at the 70th anniversary of the Canadian Film Institute last evening. Mrs. Anita MacLeod looks on.

Jeremy Mercer: Time Was Soft There

Author Jeremy Mercer reads from Time Was Soft There at Collected Works - 7:30 p.m.

Time Was Soft There tells the story of a crime reporter who flees to France after a threat from a gang source. In Paris, he discovers the wondrous world of Shakespeare and Company and is invited to live among the creaking shelves of this revered bookstore. During his five months under the wing of the store's quixotic 89-year-old owner, the author experiences adventure, mystery and ultimately redemption.

Jeremy shows off on his laptop computer the cheapest way to stylishly cut one's hair. With a lit candle. God forbid you use scissors for that 'straight' cut. Well, the frugal George Whitman did pay $800 for his first bookstore way back when...That sounds pretty cheap.

Mr. Mercer obviously picked some lessons in frugality in France as he explained that he paid several Euros for the clothes he wore this evening. He does look stylish with his loose fitting sweater, dress shirt and oddly knotted tie. However, his stature is made for his rakish authorial look and this attire undoubtedly would look ill-fitting on my robust belly.

I do have to say that Mercer's reading was a textbook example of how to give one. He called the bookstore ahead of time to ensure there was a carafe of hot mulled wine available for the store's patrons. Nice and spicy. He arrived on time, which is to say after most of his friends and family had arrived, giving him a deserved welcome home. His presentation did require a modest set up as he had to gather his papers and power up his computer which he did quickly and efficiently - all the while signing books. I have not seen such a well-organized multimedia presentation since Paul Anderson's Hunger's Brides extravaganza last October 2004 at the OWIF. (And that's a good thing). He passed around the room many bits of culled ephemera ranging from news clippings, geneological data, and photos. Impressive. More information on Jeremy Mercer can be found on his website: He even has his own blog about his book tour.

View more of my photos of Jeremy Mercer's visit of his hometown of Ottawa on my Flikr account:

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Happy 70th Birthday Canadian Film Institute!

from CFI webpage:

On the eve of its eighth decade of presenting the best of classic and contemporary international and Canadian cinema, the Canadian Film Institute is honoured to celebrate its 70th birthday with a very special premiere presentation of acclaimed Canadian filmmaker William D. MacGillivray’s latest feature documentary, READING ALISTAIR MACLEOD. A perceptive, passionate, and personal portrait of one of Canada’s greatest writers, READING ALISTAIR MACLEOD explores the mysteries of MacLeod’s creative process, his deep and abiding connection to Cape Breton, his explosion onto the international literary scene with his first novel, No Great Mischief, and his love of family. Woven into the documentary are commentaries on MacLeod’s work by literary luminaries such as fellow Canadians David Adams Richards, Margaret Atwood, Wayne Johnston, and Lisa Moore, as well as American novelist Russell Banks, and Ireland’s Colm Toibin. As quiet, complex, and thoughtful as its subject, READING ALISTAIR MACLEOD is engaging, amusing, and illuminating.

Director William D. MacGillivray, producer Terry Greenlaw, and internationally acclaimed author Alistair MacLeod will attend this very special event to introduce and discuss the film.

A special 70th CFI birthday party will follow the screening in the Foyer. Come join us!
Wed. Dec. 14, 19:00
Special thanks to Picture Plant Ltd., the National Film Board of Canada, Alistair MacLeod, and the Library and Archives Canada. General Admission: $10.00

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Beat Winter Blues Writing Workshop

Want to develop your short stories, novels, poetry, and travel and memoir writing?

Richard Taylor the author of the travel memoir HOUSE INSIDE THE WAVES: Domesticity, Art and the Surfing Life has published a novel, a collection ofshort stories, and articles on subjects as diverse as Lord Byron, open waterswimming, surfing and the perils of being a househusband. He has taught creative writing in Hong Kong, Australia and Tuscany, and teaches in the English department of Carleton University.

He will be offering 7 workshops designed for anyone who needs feedback andencouragement from a group. Monday evenings, January 16 - February. 27, 7:00 - 9:30 p.m. Ruth E. Dickinson Branch Ottawa Public Library, Barrhaven, Nepean. For more information call 786-1422.


Christmas Tree Reading

Tonight, All Open Mic Night. Jennifer and James's final reading as organizers.
Time and Place: 7:30 pm. The second and fourth Tuesday, Royal Oak II, 161 Laurier Ave. East

Monday, December 12, 2005

Beale's Lifetime Listening Plan

Nigel Beale finally launched his CKCU radio show this morning. It's simply called the Biblio File, a nice play on words. Okay, it's not on the 'best' time for some listeners, but for others who are commuting in from the outskirts of Ottawa's hinterland (like Kanata or Orleans), it's the perfect time to tune into 93.1 FM.

The show which plays live on Mondays between 6 and 7 am, promises to feature talk of books from the writing of, the reading of, collection of, and any other 'of' that one can think. The first section of the hour long show started with a reading of Clifton Fadiman's seminal work, The Lifetime Reading Plan. The sound quality of this portion was a little low, leaving me reaching for the volume knob of my radio in the early morning, then only to hear Abba's "Waterloo" blasting me fully awake.

I did enjoy listening to his charming interview with former Ottawa native, Anne DeGrace (now living in Nelson, BC). She was in town as part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival this past October where she read from her first novel, Treading Water. She being a librarian, I became an instant fan. It was nice listening to her voice again. Her story of being a single mother when she opened her used bookstore was inspiring. I did enjoy listening to the interview with all the background noise of clinking cups and saucers from the Chateau Laurier's kitchen restaurant. It lent a nice touch of atmosphere of the on-the-spot interview.

I loved the fact that Nigel also featured one of Ottawa's booksellers. He interviewed Richard Fitzpatrick of the eponymously named Dalhousie St. bookstore, Richard Fitzpatrick Books, just a few days ago and he was featured on this morning's show. Rick has a collection of books that cater to my taste in books. His collection of Can Lit, among other genres, is wide and I constantly see certain books sitting in plain view leaving me wonder why people have passed them up. One example was a signed limited edition of Irving Layton's A Selection of Poems, Number 19 of 30, published by John Metcalf's Magnum Readings (no. 11). Also, taken home recently was a signed copy of Terry Grigg's The Lusty Man (1995) with its awesome cover. Yoink! Off the shelf for me.

Next up was an interview with yours truly. My debut on radio as well. Nigel interviewed me a few weeks ago and we talked for hours, most of which we caught on tape. I hope that you can tune in and listen. The Biblio File is yet another great medium for promoting the literary events that take place in our nation's capital.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry

Time and Place: December 11 at 7:30 pm. Arts Court, 2 Daly Avenue Phone: 564-7240 Readings by Andrew Steinmetz, Steve Heighton, Anita Lahey, Asa Boxer, Geoff Cook, Susan Gillis, and David O'Meara.

I was looking at my thesaurus tonight. I think I found a word to describe the book being launched tonight. I came up with 'portentous'. You might come up with other words. I like portentous. It sounds important. With a title like The New Canon, it behooves one to at least buy the book, and even more so, attend its Ottawa launch. I did. I still haven't read all of the twenty-two pages of its introduction. This will take some time. In general, I don't like long introductions, especially ones that are apologetic. I have reservations about any author included as part of a literary canon who was only born in 1975. Good God, I had my first sip of beer that year! However, any anthology of Canadian poetry is good if only as a way of stimulating conversation and showing our poetic talent on the international stage.

On my bookshelf beside me sits several anthologies. One is A Book of Canadian Prose and Verse by Edmund and Eleanor Broadus. Compared with The New Canon, their introduction was of a different era when it was first published in 1923. I have the revised and enlarged edition of 1934. In the preface to the first edition on the first two paragraphs of the first page the word Canadian or Canada appears a whopping ten times! Even the word 'patriotic was used, albeit, they aptly point out that some of its inclusions of verse "is to be more patriotism more than poetry". Still, the contents are divided along similar lines "Canada and the Canadian Spirit"; "The People"; "The Nation Builders". The introduction weighs in just over a mere three pages.

Likewise, A New Canadian Anthology edited by Alan Creighton (assisted by Hilda M. Ridley) in 1938 also provides a brief three pages of introduction. This was Canadian poetry in its infancy. They allude to another anthology that preceded their book by John Garvin that was published in 1926. Though I never read this book, I bet you the introduction is short. Anyway, in Creighton's foreword, it is explained,

"Until quite recently, the average Canadian knew little or nothing of Canadian poetry. He had a traditional regard for Burns, Longfellow and Tennyson, but, as he had heard of no Canadian writer of similar standing, he assumed that the national mind did not rise above farming, lumbering, fishing, hydro-power and pulp. The preponderance of American and British magazines on the newsstand further convinced him that the Canadian voice was too frail to warrant his attention. So he developed a distrust, an almost studied disregard, toward the feeling and thinking of his own people. This attitude, although less marked in recent years, still persists."

I am lucky own a first edition copy of New Provinces -- the 1936 copy signed by the late Canadian poet Leo Kennedy no less. New Provinces was published when hardly any poetry was being published at all, in the height of the depression and on the brink of a second world war. But it's important to point out the book's sub-title, Poems of Several Authors. The slim book was not meant to be comprehensive by any stretch.

Ralph Gustafson even apologizes in his poetic contribution, Anthology of Canadian Poetry, which came out in 1942: "Most non-Canadians will be surprised to learn that Canadian Poetry exists at all." But his preface reads just over one page. Succinct. Just the way I like it.

And with the publication of Unit of 5 edited by Ronald Hambleton, the forward is delightfully short, and again very apologetic. This taken from the two paragraph introduction: "The appearance within two years of a third collection of poetry by Canadian writers needs some justification, if not an apology, especially when no relation between poetry and the social revolution can be immediately discerned." This was the first appearance in book form of all five of its authors. Inicidentally, Unit of 5 was published in 1944, not in 1943 as noted in Carmine Starnino's introduction (pg. 15).

Time will tell how this 'new cannon' of fifty poets, that Starnino provides us, will stand up to criticism (if any?). Until then, we await inevitable next anthology of 'Canadian' poetry. Let the debate begin.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

December 10

Alfred Nobel's deathday... John's birthday: coincidence?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Derek McCormack

Time and Place: December 9 at 7:30 pm. Collected Works, 1242 Wellington Street

Derek McCormak gave a brief slide show presentation, historical in nature, to a small but interested group in the back of Collected Works bookstore. Christmas, for Derek, is purely secular is seems. From the first slide he shares a family photo of baby Derek interested from the age of three in everything 'Christmas' - from the tinseled trees, the fake snowy window panes, Santa's castles and workshops (in all their incarnations) to sitting on Santa's lap.

Derek laments that sitting on Santa's lap is becoming a thing of the past due to the lurid side of Christmas... that Santa today is often portrayed as a corrupter of children, sexually speaking or that he's portrayed as a drunkard. (Movie: Badder Santa with Billy Bob Thornton, for example.) Today no kids are allowed to sit on the lap in the malls; there is no more throne - just a bench. Santa's in malls even, are becoming a thing of the past. Photos of your kids with Santa, he speculates, will probably be a photoshopped creation. Of course, this is the cheaper option. Santa settings are usually custom created and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to create.

He explained the history, with a Canadian bent, of these Santalands (more properly called Santa settings). I found it extremely informative and we also found his anecdotes quite humorous, especially how Santa was introduced to the people in stores. In one instance in Boston, during the 20s(?), where Santa was parachuted in to the awaiting city. Unfortunately, a gust of wind blew him out to sea where he duly drowned in all his regalia. He was also once flown into one town in a bi-plane and upon his landing was found to be frozen and frostbitten. Ouch! Lesson learned: have two Santas; one seen in the plane for the spectators, and one "warm" Santa covertly awaiting below in a car where the switch was made. Santa and fire, he laughs, also often do not mix and was the big enemy. McCormack tells a story to the rapt audience about how Santa was burned alive when an errant candle set him ablaze, in front of the kids. How traumatic!

Ottawa was the last stop on Derek's tour. Aren't you sad you missed him? Christmas Days, published by Anansi for $24.95 makes a great gift for those interested in the gaudy glitter of Christmas and not so much for those interested the more profound spiritual and religious aspect of the season.

Another day another murder

Outside Fullhouse Karaoke and Bubble Tea on Somerset Street West December 8, 2005.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Poems of War, Poets for Peace

Time and Place: December 8 at 7:00 pm at the Canadian War Museum
Guests: Marie Clements, Goran Simic, Amatoritsero Ede, Steven Heighton, and Serge Patrice Thibodeau, Joseph Boyden.

Goran Simic was to appear at the Plan 99 Reading Series a couple of weeks ago but cancelled due to illness.

Tamara Podemski is an actor, singer, songwriter, dancer and choreographer who is best known for her roles in the film Dance Me Outside, and in the TV series The Rez, and North of 60.

Harold Pinter's Nobel Lecture

"our beginnings never know our ends."
"A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician."
"The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain."


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

River with Lights Book Launch

John Bart Gerald & Julie Maas
Time and Place: December 7 at 4:00 pm. 206 Saint Patrick Street
Phone: 241-1312
Book launch of RIVER WITH LIGHTS

Start early to instill in your students awareness that they are on this earth to help and serve others;
that is as important to pass on to them as knowledge. (Albert Schweitzer)

At the Gerald and Maas launch, Nigel Beale chats with Aviva Cohen about her book Sex and Sublimation which she published this past July. Along with Bart's book, I also took home Julie Maas's (Artist Proof) etching that hangs on the wall behind Aviva.

After the book launch, Mr. Beale and I walked over to Richard Fitzpatrick's bookstore where Nigel interviewed Richard for an upcoming radio show on CKCU.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sidney Crosby

I recently learned that superstar hockey guy Sidney Crosby is my fourth cousin.
My grandmother on my dad's side was Mary Bridget McCarron. She was born 9 April 1893. Her father, William E. McCarron had a smallish family of ten children. A good Irish Catholic family - God bless 'em. Mary's older brother, Gregory, himself had three children. His daughter, Katherine (Katie) McCarron, married Harry Forbes and, in turn, they had six children. One of them, a daughter, Trina Forbes married Troy Crosby ('Tracy' according to the geneology website). Subsequently, Sidney Crosby was born with a hockey stick in 1987. Sidney was the first overall pick in the 2005 NHL entry draft and has a way cooler website than mine.

How Yah Doon?

I think John Stiles is a kindred spirit.

Mr. Stiles is a Canadian expatriate writer living in England. Unlike me, he was born and raised in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. And unlike me, he has a London-based poetry magazine called How Yah Doon?. They do reviews and publish a little poetry.

Mr. Stiles stumbled on my web site while researching the writer Mordecai Richler and was impressed by the information I had about his first novel, The Acrobats. Anyone who googles Richler and read Morley Callaghan's Strange Fugitive is cool in my books.

In addition to his nifty blog, which every writer should have these days, he did a superb (yet unfinished) review of Chris Robinson's newest book, Stole This From a Hockey Card. Chris Robinson is an author, freelance writer and the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

You can visit John Stiles' web page is In addition to his current writing, he has published a novel called The Insolent Boy (Insomniac Press, Toronto, 2001) and a book of poetry called Scouts are Cancelled (Insomniac Press, Toronto, 2002). Thanks to Mr. Stiles' maritime generosity, I am a proud owner of the two books which are written with a down-home Nova Scotian feel to them. Oh-my-jumpins, de best way I coud describe his writen is dat he's like de William Henry Drummond uv Nova Scotia. Now I gots ta git back ta warshen ma dishus or sumpinerudder.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Dusty Owl Portraits

Jim Larwill, poet

John Akpata, poet

John Geddes, author

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Blogs About Town

Consider picking up today's Ottawa Citizen for some gift giving idea's and reading my Blog About Town column on page C6. It's about blogging and I mention some Ottawans who write online with their own weblogs or photo blogs such as Lana Stewart, Alex Cairncross, Pearl Pirie, and Stephen Rowntree.
I also compiled my top books that caught my eye at the Ottawa Independent Writers Christmas Book Fair last week. I hope to share my picks so you can go out and purchase some local Ottawa talent that's in our backyard.

Lit events this weekend

Yesterday at the Manx Pub: Indy Writers Relay featured Megan Butcher, Colin Vincent, Jessica Carfagnini, and Jennifer Whiteford.

Today, I also suggest going out to see author John Geddes at the Dusty Owl reading series. I saw his reading earlier this summer at Collected Works Bookstore where he launched his first novel, The Sundog Season. What else are you going to do this cloudy Sunday anyway? You have loads of time to shop...later.

Gallery 101 Silent Auction

GALLERY 101 FRAMES - SILENT ART AUCTION AND PARTY Saturday Evening. Roll your mouse over the picture to see them laugh and talk! (May not work with all the newest web browsers.)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Mega Best-Of Lists

Best Books lists among others... read with glee.
(via waterboro library blog)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Folka Voca

December 3 Update
Ottawa, Ontario. -- In a comfortable pew with the horror of the 417 behind me, it is already beginning to seem unreal. If it wasn't for Ottawa writer JC Sulzenko, whom I bumped into at rob mclennan's Fall Small Press Book Fair last October 15th, I would have missed a chance to catch Lee Hayes in performance again last evening. I told her that I enjoyed Lee Hayes' singing at the Bywords John Newlove reading that took place ten days earlier at the Ottawa International Writers Festival. Lee was playing piano while singing with her daughter, Charlotte. You would swear they were sisters. (Corny comment, I know.)

JC told me to look out for this thing called 'Folka Voca' happening in December. I am glad I put it on the calendar. The church pews were full at The Sunnyside Wesleyan Church and the choir's folky performance was eclectic as they sang a bit of everything from a Christmas song, a Stevie Nicks tune, a Joe Jackson classic, Gloria Gaynor's 'I will Survive', several Lee Hayes compositions, something in Swahili, and even a Swedish number. If you can believe it, she even jazzed up the national anthem, O Canada. Wow.

I finally have another CD to put into rotation in my car, until at least when the nth digri gets his next CD released. I bought one of three CDs offered for sale by Lee last night, The Secret Life (2002). I remember that Lee played the first track, Beautiful Girl (listen to sample here), at the Bywords reading, so I was glad to get the opportunity to listen to it again last evening in the car on the ride home. I paid $20 for it last night, but you can get it cheaper online, $15 plus shipping...I found out minutes ago while writing this entry. :-( The photos of Lee (bonus) on the back of the CD liner more than make up for it, however.

Twelve bucks, I thought, was a tad expensive for Folka Voka but all proceeds went to Ottawa's Bruce House, so I can't really complain. It was a nice way to spend a Friday evening despite the icy conditions outside. I was also glad to get a chance to meet up with Ottawa poet and blogger, Stephen Rowntree who lent me a copy of By-Line: Ernest Hemingway Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades. So, if I start writing like Hemingway (HA! HA!) you'll know who to blame... like this classic opener (sound familiar?) :

SOFIA, BULGARIA. -- In a comfortable train with the horror of
the Thracian evacuation behind me, it is already beginning to seem unreal.
That is the boon to our memories.

(Toronto Daily Star, November 14, 1922. E.H.)

Friday, 2 December 2005
Ottawa Folklore Centre Presents: Folka Voca in Concert Directed by Lee Hayes
Opening act: The Redemption Choir X-Treme
Sunnyside Wesleyan Church 58 Grosvenor
$12 (All proceeds to go to Bruce House.)
Tickets available at the Ottawa Folklore Centre

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fortner Anderson's Verses

The Golden Star Lounge presented Ottawa with bilingual night of spoken word poetry.
Outaouais poet, Eddy Garnier read a briefly after one open mic participant. The poet Marcel Joseph then recited a powerful rhythmic piece entitled "Rien qui ne reste", loosely translated into English, titled "Scraps" (Nothing remains). "What do we have left? Nothing but scraps..."

To finish the evening with just as much a strong political message was Fortner Anderson. He read numerous poems including "Vegas", of which you can be read on his website. By far the most moving of his poems was "His Song", about the sixteen (?) year old "prisoner of war", Omar Khadar and his brother Abdul (but whose family [grandmother] lives in Toronto.) The poem is Anderson's poetic protest against the US military who justified the 'torture' of Khadar in the "heinous and montrous" secret and not-so-secret prisons to torture others gained from his confession under duress. Bush said " he sang like a canary", hence the title of the poem, "He Sings".

Some lines includes:
He is a boy who sings of his single weeping eye.
He sings while hanging
He sings while hanging from his wrists
He sings while hanging from his wrists for 21 days - 16 hours a day
He sings a song stiff with silence

Fortner finished of his set on a less political note with a new poem, "There is a Quiet" (2003) from his recently released CD. The poem is dedicated to Paul Dutton. It starts out, "There is false quiet in the place where you have come to rest." The last poem talked to the 'problem of identity'. After a false start, he then remembered the words to "Who I am". Fortner Anderson is a really good idea is line that stuck out to me. A thoughtful autobiographical poem.

Allan Wigney of the Ottawa Sun ran a brief column on this literary event a few days ago on Fortner Anderson. Check it out.


Look, Wow!

Ottawa band, The HILOTRONS are releasing their second CD at Barrymore's Music Hall this Saturday. The Citizen has featured the band today in Fateema Sayani's column, Nightlife. You can listen to a few sample tunes for free on, where I listened to the track, Look, Wow which I wrote this small post to.
Also mentioned in Nightlife is another Ottawa group, Books on Books, a new band which has a "haunting, spacy vibe". Ironically, this is just how I feel when I read books about books.