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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Reclusive Authors

According to the NY Times, the famously reclusive Harper Lee came out and signed books a few days ago in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at an awards ceremony for an essay contest on the subject of To Kill a Mockingbird.

So, where's Thomas Pynchon? Or J.D. Salinger? When are they coming out of the woodworks?

More Photos

Just got word that Vancouver Public Library is intending to use my photo of poet Zachariah Wells for promoting his upcoming Vancouver reading.

Also saw on Daniel f. Bradley's blog that his FHOLE magazine will include some of my jwcurry event photos from last September.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The War for John's Mind

It rages on. I could have read boring ol' books but instead I watched Skating With Celebrities. Somehow it's not as funny when celebrities fall on the ice - it's just sad. The battle continues.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

poetical political

Blog About Town
by John W. MacDonald

This winter has been distressing on a number of levels. We saw the passing of three poets, Candis Graham, Marianne Bluger, and Irving Layton. However, this season has been quite good for fans of poetry as two important anthologies of Canadian poetry have been published. With the election over and only dreams of skating on the Rideau Canal, you may be wondering which one to read. 'Both' is as fair and diplomatic answer that any politician could be quoted as saying. Ultimately, that decision is up to you.

Donald Marquis is quoted infamously as stating that "publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo." I believe this truism is becoming a thing of the past - online anyway. The internet's blogosphere, as big as it is, is continually resounding with echoes of feedback. It has forever changed the way people can read, write, and comment on what's published. Whether the public at large (i.e. non-poets) actually participate in the ongoing debates is another matter entirely. The immediacy of feedback greatly surpasses that which can be found in printed review journals, and especially newspapers. The opportunity for comment, thoughtful and sometimes spiteful, can be overwhelming at times. Yet, it's always fun to read.

I might venture to say that whichever book you decided to buy would tell much about your political (poetical?) personality. Are you a dynamic, liberal, reader of "cutting-edge authors who have been acclaimed internationally as some of the most important innovators of the 20th and 21st centuries"? Then Shift & Switch may be for you. Or would you rather read some "of the most interesting Canadian poets born between 1955 and 1975"? Then the conservative The New Canon is up your alley.

There are a number of similarities aside from the two words, 'Canadian Poetry', in the sub-title. Both books are paperback, possess rather bland white covers, and don't really jump of the shelf, visually speaking. Each claim to include numerous references to 'innovative' writing. Covers aside, they are really two very different books internally.

The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry, edited by Carmine Starnino, was launched in Ottawa in December, and Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry made its Ottawa debut in January. Combined, these two anthologies present to the poetry-reading world a whopping 91 poets. Fifty from The New Canon and 41 in Shift & Switch. It truly is a lot to digest, especially if your knowledge of poetry is gleaned from greeting cards or scribblings on public washroom walls.

The New Canon's rear cover, rather militaristically, proclaims that the 326 page book concentrates "on poets who have launched innovative attacks on traditional verse modes..." But flipping through its pages the impression I get is the poems are all very much traditional-looking in a linear way: densely-packed pages of text broken into familiar stanzas. It looks like poetry. On the other hand, you will be surprised as you flip through the smaller 192 pages of Shift & Switch, edited by Derek Beaulieu, Jason Christie and Angela Rawlings. It certainly lives up to its rear cover blurb stating that its "avant-garde poets challenge the reading and writing status quo, and question what a poem may be." Every page catches my eye with an abundance of striking visual images and words.

Zachariah Wells comments on his web site,, that Starnino's The New Canon is "a provocative and highly readable anthology of younger Canadian poets. Naturally enough, I question some of Carmine's inclusions and exclusions, but on the whole this book is so much more exciting and varied than the standard fare out there. But most of all, I question his decision to cut off the junior end at a 1975 birthdate because...had it been otherwise, I would've been in!"

You will have two opportunities to see the poet, Zachariah Wells read from his 'first full-length collection of poems, distilled from seven-plus years of work as a cargo handler, agent and coordinator in Canada's Eastern Arctic'. His first appearance will be at Collected Works Bookstore this afternoon at 2:00 pm, and again this evening at The Dusty Owl Reading Series, starting at 6:00pm at Swizzles Bar and Grill.

originally appeared in the Ottawa a slightly modified form.

Unsettled Poetry

Zachariah Wells, an up-and-coming poet who has a couple of readings in town today. Wells will be reading from his first full-length collection of poems, “distilled from seven-plus years of work as a cargo handler, agent and co-ordinator in Canada's Eastern Arctic.” Catch him at Collected Works Bookstore at 2 p.m. or tonight at 6 p.m. at The Dusty Owl Reading Series at Swizzles Bar and Grill.

View photos of the event at Collected Works Bookstore. John and Myrna Metcalf and William Hawkins were also in there to see Zachariah read from Unsettled and his new chapbook, Ludicrous Parole.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Artvoice Photo

Buffalo's Alternative Newsweekly, ARTVOICE, has used one of my photos of in their magazine from the recent Ottawa launch of Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry.

FYI, the Buffalo, NY launch of the book is tonight: Friday, January 27 at 7pm. @ Rust Belt Books, 202 Allen St.

[P.S. I also posted three photos from the Ottawater 2006 launch here.]

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hosta for Sale

Not really, but I do have books for sale on eBay.
And just a brief note to say that Ottawa poet, performer, bookseller, publisher, jwcurry put out another postcard this week as part of his Curvd H&Z imprint. Here's what they look like:

The postcard (#98) was inspired by my photograph of a hosta in my front yard last summer, and bp Nichol's beloved letter "H". On a lark last July, I printed and sent curry a similar homemade postcard thinking he might enjoy it and the caption. He did. So much so he told me that he wanted to publish a 120 of them! The back of the cardstock is a mauve colour which curry glued onto the photo which measures 3.75in x 5.75in.

The other day he gave me the artist's cut of 25% of the print run...which makes that...uhh...carry the two... 30 of them. The cards get mailed out to his Room 302 subscriber base. Otherwise, he's selling the remainder for $2.00 each, and so will I. Drop curry or I a note if you would like a card. The photo below shows the card's actual colours.

Friday, January 20, 2006

This Space Reserved

...for bill bissett's what fuckan theory: a study uv language. Brought to us by jwcurry's Room 302 Books Hit'N' Run Lecture Series #2. Friday, 7pm(ish). "To be accompanied by small display of work for sale & not."

The piece was originally published in 1971 under the title Rush: what fuckan theory (GrOnk Press / Blewointmentpress). Book Thug, Jay MillAr has a copy for sale at his online shop Apollinaire's Bookshoppe for those inclined (link may not work). The description provided by Jay reads, "One of bissett's most interesting and original works, including sound poems, drawings, fragments of essays on Joyce and Shakespeare, concrete poetry, collage, spirit werk: the full bissett kaleidoscope, all under one roof. "

Some photos of the event can be viewed here:

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Richard Fitzpatrick Books Moving Sale

Richard Fitzpatrick Books 242 1/2 Dalhousie at St. Patrick (Byward Market area).
Richard is being squeezed out of his premises by the landlord and he's having a huge... and I do mean a huge 60% discount on his books starting Thursday.
Here's a list of books I picked up from Rick's shop... hope you don't mind if I share the list with you. I don't get a chance to brag that much. Don't worry, I left tons of other cherries for ya to take home. The books I took home are all Can Lit, and as we all know, no one buys this stuff anyway, right? Ha! The sale is one till around the end of there's lots of time left.

One-Way Street, Marian Engel. (Signed, paperback.)
Larry's Party, Carol Shields. (First, Signed/Inscribed.)
Anthony Minghella, The English Patient: A Screenplay. (Signed by Michael Ondaatje.)
Portraits of Canadian Writers, Sam Tata. (Signed, softcover ed. by John Metcalf. A complement to my other 1st ed. copy, also signed by the late Sam Tata.)
125 Companions of the Order of Canada: Portraits by Harry Palmer. (The book nicely accompanies my original photo of Morley Callaghan that Mr. Palmer printed for me several years ago.)
Maclean's Magazine April 16, 1955. Complete in this issue a Maclean's $5000 novel award The Man with the Coat by Morley Callaghan.
Behind the Log, E.J. Pratt. (Signed, 1st.)
Alden Nowlan: Early Poems, Alden Nowlan. (Inscribed/Signed and annotated by book's photographer R.E. (Reg) Balch.)
Sixty Billion Humans, Hugh Hood. (Signed/Limited ed. #26 of 26 copies, Magnum Readings #3 (John Metcalf). And here I thought I had everything by Hugh Hood... My best 'find' of the day.)
Poems for Jessica-Flynn, Michael Dennis. (Signed. Early 4th book of poetry.)
Portrait, Michael Dennis. (Just because it was there.)
The Hole That Must Be Filled, Kenneth J. Harvey. (Signed.)
A Drifting Year, Dany Laferriere. (Signed/Inscribed. English translation by David Homel.)
Woman Reading in Bath, Poems by Anne Szumigalski. (Signed by poet / from personal library of John Newlove, also with his signature.)
Sometimes All Over, poems by Don Coles. (First published volume of poetry, author of the recently published Doctor Bloom's Story.)
Unit of 5, edited by Ronald Hambleton. 1st ed. (Early publications of poetry by Louis Dudek, P.K. Page, and Raymond Souster... in 1944! This was the first appearance in book form of all five of its authors. This copy was loved by its former owner as it is still in Near Fine condition with DJ.)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sunday's Stuff

This is one of those be-sure-to kind of posts. So here goes... Be sure to pick up today's Sunday Ottawa Citizen. The first 'Blog About Town' column of 2006! It's good. Well, at least it's as good as The Beat of My Heart by Hillary Duff, and not quite as good as Fergie in the My Humps video by the Black Eyed Peas. In my opinion anyway. I wrote about the Ottawa-Area Utne Reader Salon. It's on tomorrow (every 3rd Monday of each month 7:30pm Hintonburg Community Centre 1064 Wellington Street).

However, thanks to Search Engine Optimization and Google Page Ranks, Duff and Fergie will help in drawing a few more hits to this web page. From my web stats, I can now see a strong trend emerging. It's simple: People-love-Mike-Holmes. The HGTV guru. They can't get enough of him on TV I suppose. They have to google him and search out pics. I posted one of him a few months back from his tour to Ottawa.

Another thing this page is known for, I am discovering, is the renaissance painting, Birth of Venus. I did a 'separated at birth' gag on my weblog last summer where I placed two photos beside one another: Kalan Porter and Botticelli's Birth of Venus. Now it seems that I am in the top four image search results for the detail head shot of the Birth of Venus on Google. I thought it would be for Kalan, but Bottecelli has the edge on him -- for now. I guess my weblog could be known for other less-savoury search engine surprises. (Right Stephen?)

At the Shift & Switch book launch, Amanda tooted her horn, figuratively speaking, in that she had a nice surprise. One of her stories was selected for The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, 2006, published by Carroll and Graf. Way to go, Amanda!

Now, my turn to toot, literally speaking. Toot! Toot! Jennifer Whiteford recently informed me, in a comment on this page, that a blurb on the back of her forthcoming novel, Grrrl, will be from me. Neat, eh?

Two events not to miss today: Bywords poetry reading at Chapters Bookstore Rideau and Dusty Owl Reading tonight at Swizzles: author, Phil Jenkins (photo).

Friday, January 13, 2006

Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry

The launch of the new anthology is tonight at Mother Tongue Books. Past experience dictates from the readers slated to appear, this intimate venue is already packed. See you there.

Angela Rawlings introduces Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry to the audience.

Max Middle (see my other photo of max here) Ben Walker is holding video camera.

Rob Read

Mark Truscott

"Cool woman, hot words"

Taqralik Partridge is on a roll. Check out the recent article in Nunatsiaq News:

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Fabrizio's Return

Mark your calendars: Mark Frutkin's forthcoming novel, Fabrizio's Return, is being launched March 22, 7:30pm at the National Library in Ottawa. Stay tuned for more details. Anyone who was in the audience a few years back (in the Library and Archives audiorium) when Frutkin interviewed Yann Martel, witnessed one of the best author interviews of all time. More information on Fabrizio's Return can be found on the publisher's website.

The Short Story 101: readers list

(via bookninja) "The Short Story 101" as seen on The Danforth Reveiw:
TDR asked 27 writers what curriculum they would bring to class, if they were asked to teach an introductory level course on 'the short story'.

What?! None of Hugh Hood's stories are included? ;-)

Yashin Blake - God bless him - mentions a story by Morley Callaghan, "Hello America!" This story shows a manipulative older man taking advantage of an impressionable youth set back in the days of hobos wandering the rails, wandering the nation.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Goran Simic in Quill & Quire

Got a nice surprise in the mailbox today as Quill & Quire published my photo of poet Goran Simic, who appeared with other writers at the PEN reading in December. Quill and Quire has a new magazine format as of this issue.

Grrrl for sale

Ottawa writer, Jennifer Whiteford's first novel, Grrrl, is now available for pre-ordering on

Sunday, January 08, 2006

upcoming lit events

STORIES FROM THE AGES welcomes listeners to its twelfth season of Sunday evening tellings of epic, myth and romance. On Sunday January 8 you will hear the first of four evenings devoted to The King of Ireland’s Son, a tapestry of Irish folk tales woven into a grand adventure by the master tale-spinner, Padraic Colum. The tellers are on January 8 are Catherine Sheehan and Gail Anglin. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for food, drink and conversation, and the telling begins at 7:00 Admittance is free. Donations ($7.00 suggested) are welcomed.
Tree Reading Series 7:30 pm. Royal Oak II, 161 Laurier Ave. East January 10 - Jon Paul Fiorentino
OTTAWA LAUNCH: Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry edited by derek bealieu, Jason Christie, and Angela Rawlings, Mercury Press
Join host, Shift & Switch editor, Angela Rawlings for an evening of readings from Shift & Switch contributors including: Jon Paul Fiorentino, Max Middle, a. rawlings, Rob Read, and Mark Truscott. 7:30 PM 13 JANUARY 2006 Mother Tongue Books 1067 Bank Street Ottawa
Admission free. Seating limited. info:
Bywords Warms The Night III Time and Place: January 15 at 2:00 pm. Chapters, 47 Rideau StreetPhone: 230-4045 Web: Email: annual fundraiser for Cornerstone Shelter-bring woolens to warm the nights of the homeless; readers from the winter BQJ and the winter quarter of; with musical guest
Reading – Phil Jenkins When: Sunday, January 15, 2006 Location: Swizzles Bar & Grill, 246-B Queen St., Between Kent and Bank Streets Time: 5:00-8:00 p.m. What we often forget about when we walk about this city is the vistas we look out upon were created by remarkable men and women. Award winning historian, playwright, columnist, and nationally bestselling writer Phil Jenkins comes to Dusty Owl to share his love and passion for Ottawa. On Sunday, January 15th he will move us through his chosen spaces, making characters and events rise up from the mists to tell their stories.
The Golden Star Lounge continues to feature world-class artists who represent the very best in spoken word poetry.
At the end of January, as we lead into Black History Month, the Golden Star Lounge brings you an outstanding artist whose razor-sharp perspectives from the point of view of African Canadian youth have rocked the Canadian cultural scene. A spell-binding performer, whose poetry is characterized by his straight-speaking grassroots style, witty turns-of-phrase, sizzling erotic verse, and scathing social commentary, our feature performer, from Toronto DWAYNE MORGAN Saturday, January 28, 2006 THE MERCURY LOUNGE 56 Byward Street 7:30 PM - 10:00PM Admission $8.00

Ottawa Area Utne Reader Salon

Blog About Town
By John W. MacDonald

The Ottawa-Area Utne Reader Salon is a thinking person’s evening out. The salon is a discussion group which meets the 3rd Monday of every month at the Hintonburg Community Centre (1064 Wellington St.) at 7:30pm to discuss a pre-selected topic from a random list. (By the way, Utne rhymes with chutney.)

Over the holidays I read Clifton Fadiman’s The Lifetime Reading Plan. In his introduction he advises, “that part of the pleasure you get from this kind of reading depends on the attitude with which you approach it.”

Like Fadiman, I like to think that I provide my readers a listing of book-related events that, as Fadiman suggests “be of more than transient interest and value.” The Utne Reader Salon is just one of those activities in Ottawa.

A recent addition to Ottawa’s airwaves is Nigel Beale’s “The Biblio File”. The one hour radio show has author interviews, conversations with book collectors, sellers, and experts; literary gossip and readings. It debuted last month and, incidentally, a segment from each show features a reading from Fadiman’s book. The show airs every Monday at 6:00am on CKCU, 93.1 FM.

At the Utne Salon there are surely enough topics to merit a varied and wide audience participation. The range of topics does vary wildly – some appearing more interesting than others at first glance. However, even the most esoteric subject matter can make for entertaining and lively discussion. Andrew Drake has been hosting this event for thirteen years. He and his partner, Sheree Johnston, have of database collection of 2000 topics of which seven are chosen at random. These seven topics are then put on a ballot which the members rank which ever one they like the best for the next meeting’s topic of discussion.

A monthly email is sent out a week before the meeting reminding people the evening’s topic. Also people are told the topics two months in advance so they have plenty of lead time to mark their calendar.

In the past year the group has discussed a number of topics: “The Nature of Genius, Escape, What's Funny?, The Soul, What Bugs You the Most?, and Personal Control.“ As a member, there is no requirement to attend each and every salon, though there are plenty that do. You may only want to attend those topics of interest, but after one meeting, be forewarned, you may be hooked.

“It’s a disarmingly simple idea”, says Andrew Drake. I asked him what makes a good participant of the salon. “Listening is a key skill. For example, with twelve people in attendance you need twelve times as much listening time to allow the others to participate in speaking.”

I also asked him what the greatest thing you’ve learned in the past 13 years? I was initially surprised when he said, “Nothing really.” But I now understand that picking out that one moment is not the point of the salon. For him to sum up the past 13 years is difficult to do. “The meeting’s purpose is not conclusionary, it’s experiential,” he says.

Similarly, Sheree Johnston had always wanted to be involved in a discussion group like this and has loved it ever since her first meeting. Like others interested in the dynamics of conversation, the main appeal for her is to hear other people’s opinions on the various topics.

One of the aspects she enjoys about the Utne Reader Salon is that “we have had members of all ages, from teens to people in their eighties, attend. It’s just very interesting to hear all the varied opinions. It’s just magnificent. There really is no generation gap when talking about a specific topic.”

Founded in 1984 by Eric Utne, Utne Magazine reprints the best articles from over 2,000 alternative media sources. And in 1992, the Ottawa-Area Utne Reader Salon was founded by Brian Harris. It turned out that there were about thirty people from the Ottawa area who wanted to join up for the salon experience. Brian called everyone together and he ran the series for a year when Andrew Drake assumed the organizing duties in 1993. One other thing that Andrew has introduced is a magazine exchange on top of the salon discussion. You can pick up a magazine or two and bring in some to swap.

Andrew told me that they experimented with the concept of the “talking stick” about ten years ago to organize the discussion. You had to have a token to take the floor. But he thought it stifled the conversation so he abandoned the idea. I went to the December salon and very much enjoyed my first time and was surprised at the how polite and erudite the discussion played out. The night’s topic was "When did I become an adult? Or when will I?” Coming up next Monday, 16 January, the topic will be “Deeply Moving Events”. Remember, that part of the pleasure depends on the attitude with which you approach it.
column originally appeared in the Ottawa Citizen

Friday, January 06, 2006

2005 weblog archive complete

and the page is huge...
(sorry to those of you without high-speed internet access.)

Speaking of the blog thing, I installed a sitemeter counter recently on my weblog. With my domain host's stats I see many hits as result of an 'image' search. However, I cannot see the search terms you curious folks are using. With the new counter via sitemeter, I now know.

Don't worry, I won't tell.

The Rideau Canal Skateway Opens Tomorrow!

From the NCC Website:
We are pleased to announce that the 36th season of skating on
the Rideau Canal Skateway will begin tomorrow. As of 9 a.m., Saturday, January
7, 2006, residents and visitors are invited to skate in the heart of Canada’s
Capital on the “World’s Largest Naturally Frozen Ice Rink”, as officially
recognized by Guinness World Records™. Until then, the NCC urges the public to
refrain from venturing onto the Skateway in order to prevent damage to the ice
surface, and to allow maintenance crews to complete their work in preparation
for the opening.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Thursday Storytellers

The first Thursday of the month. That means it was the Ottawa Storytellers Story Swap at the Library and Archives. Pretty good stories told all around. John (yes another John) told a story from his youth (1973ish) about his family and the time his uncle and cousins came in from Red Deer, Alberta. He called his story, "The Good Old Days". He was moved to silence at certain points when he shared his memories. It was nice, in a familial way, to listen to him recount the day of celebration with his mom, uncle and older sisters and brothers. He told his story with obvious pride.
I have talked to some people who don't particularly like going to the storytellers because there is sometimes an element of the 'fantasy' or 'fairy' story that certain people like to tell. Sure, you can't escape from this genre. There was indeed one or two like this tonight: The ogre who lived nearby who needed to be chased away, and ultimately done in a skillfully sly way. Not my cup of tea really, but done well it, too, can be enjoyable.
Ruth-Ann told one moving story called 'The Mustard Seed'. It's essentially about one mother's grief and how she comes to a self-realization moment. You may have heard it before. Here it is in a nut-shell (or mustard seed if you will):
As her son is near death in her arms, the poor mother desperately seeks help from anyone willing to listen and help out with some medicine. Some take pity, some ignore her pleas. It's all to no avail. Finally, she sought an ultimate solution from the local Buddha. He tells the distraught mother whose child was seriously ill, dead really, to gather some mustard seed from a house and bring it back to him - but she was to gather only seed from a house that had not experienced grief. She then goes from house to house, town to town, finds the mustard seed everywhere but, unfortunately, she is frustrated in that all the people have experienced grief. She finally realizes the point of the Buddha's lesson and returns to him without any mustard seed. She explains that she now understands his lesson in that she is not alone and finally buries her son to get on with her own life.
I googled the mustard seed story and came up with this link which is waaay better than my hack-job of a summary. You'll see it's quite a very short story anyway. The title is Skinny Gotami and the Mustard Seed.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Very Short Coming-of-Age Poem For Two Voices

rob mclennan just got word that Irving Layton died today. From his email:

I just got an email from Ottawa poet Seymour Mayne that Montreal poet Irving Layton passed away today, two months shy of his 94th birthday. Information on Layton can be found at:


also you can read the tribute weblog that Tara has set up here:
So, in commemoration on my weblog here on, I have written two poems that Layton would probably approve of... or not.

A Very Short Coming-of-Age Poem For Two Voices

I'm lonely.
You're stupid.

I'm horny.
Yeah, me too.

I love you.
You stink bad.

See you then?
Go to hell.

Young Layton in my bathroom
[Ahh... read "car pet" for the son.]

Posing as did Rodin's Thinker
I thought it was Jesus at first read

But then they looked more like Lenin
Only with longer hair

At second sight it's a young Layton in my bathroom
His bust mystically etched on 121 mottled floor tiles

In varying angular positions of incongruous clarity
Framed as an accidental mosaic

You have to witness these poetic portraits for yourself
Sitting with fist against chin

An Irving Layton inspired poem can be found here as well: