All stories relating to poetry
Canzine, the country’s largest festival dedicated to zines and independent culture, happens this Sunday in Toronto (the Vancouver edition is scheduled for Nov. 17). Following the success of last year’s event, writer Jason Spencer spoke to several independent publishers about the importance of zine fairs to building readership. This article appeared in the Jan./Feb. issue of Q&Q.
Last October, publisher Beth Follett decided to try a new method of connecting with readers: she signed up her company, Pedlar Press, as a vendor at Canzine Toronto, a daylong celebration of indie culture presented by Broken Pencil magazine. Not knowing what to expect, Follett carefully arranged a selection of Pedlar titles on her display table just inside the front doors of the 918 Bathurst Centre, including ReLit Award winners Sweet by Dani Couture and Blood Relatives by Craig Francis Power. As hundreds of misfits, hipsters, and readers began crossing the threshold, she realized she had come to the right place.
“It’s very difficult these days to find an audience and reach new customers,” says Follett, who understands the need to build new alliances as more independent bookstores close down. “It’s very important for me to be here and not in some ivory tower, where only a slice of the populace knows about Canadian literature.”
With nearly 200 vendors, 2010’s Canzine was one of the biggest in its 15-year-plus history. Likewise, thousands of people showed up at Montreal’s Expozine, a two-day event held in November that celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2011. “What does this mean for small presses? It’s a motivation to keep publishing,” says organizer Louis Rastelli. He adds that attending alternative gatherings can be eye-opening for people in the established book industry. “If the industry doesn’t get involved in what the new generation is doing, similar to the music [business], they [will] have some catching up to do.”
For some small presses, zine fairs perform a similar function to book launches. “You can do direct sales, so it’s a little cash boost, especially around the holidays when the [printer’s] bills are coming in,” says Nic Boshart, co-publisher of Invisible Publishing, which has had a presence at recent gatherings in Toronto, Halifax, and Montreal. But for many, such events are not so much about sales as they are about building relationships with new readers. Brett Savory, co-publisher of ChiZine Publications, says he attended Canzine Toronto in the hopes of accumulating social-media followers and promoting the press’s monthly Chiaroscuro reading series. Boshart adds that zine fairs are a good place to scout talent and network with presses one wouldn’t otherwise meet.
Not only do zine fairs bring scores of cultural artifacts to the public, they also provide a venue for interesting side events. In an effort to trump the previous year’s Puppet Slam, Canzine organized the Typewriter Orchestra Room, a cacophonous installation featuring a dozen poets attempting to channel Shakespeare. Canzine also hosted more conventional readings from authors such as Jonah Campbell, who read from his essay collection Food and Trembling (Invisible), and Expozine welcomed author Jonathan Goldstein, host of CBC Radio’s WireTap.
Such inventive programming can be an opportunity for authors who don’t fit in elsewhere. “If you can’t get a reading, make your own show,” says first-time Canzine Toronto vendor and seasoned attendee Liz Worth, author of Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond (Bongo Beat/ECW Press) and the poetry collection Amphetamine Heart (Guernica Editions). “You really have to get creative and you have to push really hard.”
Still, publishers who want to succeed at zine fairs need to adapt in order to stand out. Given the number of exhibitors at Expozine – more than 270 – Rastelli recommends that publishers avoid selling titles at list price. “A lot of customers would like a bit of everything instead of spending all their money at one table, so we encourage people to have inexpensive books,” he says. “Even a publisher of perfect-bound books can produce a small zine worth $2, and at least if someone doesn’t buy a $20 book, they can go home with a sampler.” For her part, Follett, who plans to attend Canzine Toronto again in 2012, says she doesn’t advertise prices, in order to encourage discussion with interested readers.
Follett suggests potential vendors should think twice before dismissing zine fairs as lowbrow. “[T]here is a lot of ignorance, some of it willful, about who is producing art in Canada,” she says. “This is the ground where seeds are being planted for future excellence.”
New Brunswick author David Adams Richards was the big winner at this year’s Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Awards, which were presented Oct. 12 at a ceremony in Halifax.
Richards received the $20,000 Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award for his novel Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul (Doubleday Canada). Richards was up against two debut novelists: Valerie Compton (Tide Road, Goose Lane Editions) and Heather Jessup (The Lightning Field, Gaspereau Press).
Harry Thurston, who hails from Amherst, Nova Scotia, won the $2,000 Evelyn Richardson Memorial Non-Fiction Award for The Atlantic Coast: A Natural History (Greystone Books), which recently won a Lane Anderson Award for science writing.
Halifax writer Sue Goyette won the $2,000 Atlantic Poetry Prize for outskirts (Brick Books), which received the Pat Lowther Memorial Award in June.
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Icehouse is run by a multi-city editorial board, led by Goose Lane poetry editor Ross Leckie, who is joined by Montreal writer and editor Katia Grubisic, St. John’s poet James Langer, and Toronto poet and filmmaker David Seymour.
The first two Icehouse titles, Patrick Warner’s Perfection and Stewart Cole’s debut, Questions in Bed, were celebrated at a launch in Fredericton on Sept. 29. A Toronto launch takes place tonight at the Magpie Taproom.
In advance of tonight’s festivities, co-editor David Seymour spoke to Quillblog about what Icehouse will bring to Goose Lane and Canadian poetry in general.
How did the imprint come to be?
Last winter, Ross Leckie, in conjunction with Goose Lane’s assistant poetry editor, Ian LeTourneau, appointed Katia Grubisic, James Langer, and myself to an acquisitions board in hopes of creating a more substantial presence and readership in centres outside of the Maritime region. Ross’s selection of the board members (aside from our other qualifications), was very deliberate, geographically speaking, as we all encounter writers with whom he doesn’t regularly come into contact. Ideally, we’d like to add a member who lives on the West Coast.
Goose Lane publisher Susanne Alexander has supported the imprint by improving the quality of the books themselves, which are now being printed at Coach House Books here in Toronto.
As an editorial board, what are you looking for?
We have an extremely enthusiastic, discursive, fractious board that wants to educate itself beyond the limited viewpoint of each of its constituents. We all have fairly different tastes and writing styles. We’re not entirely single-minded about anything other than our desire to publish strong work.
So I guess what we’re looking for is exceptional poetry – be it avant-garde, lyric, experimental, formalist, conceptual, cross-genre, you name it. I don’t think I’m being naive with this open-armed posture. Like any reader, I’m continually trying to move away from prejudices or resistance to certain poetic genres, and move toward a finer discernment between the good and bad within those genres. I want the poetry we publish to take the top of your head off, regardless of how it was conceived or constructed.
Were you striving for variety by launching with a seasoned writer and a debut?
It was circumstance and a bit of luck that our inaugural books consist of an established poet’s fourth collection alongside a debut. They’re quite different books, too, in their style and tone, and we’re very pleased about that.
We had less than half the time usually required to prepare a manuscript for publication. As a result of that squeeze we sought out writers we knew were at a final, or finishing, stage of their manuscripts. This is not to say they went to press unedited, only that the process was intensified.
For the spring season, the configuration’s the same, though for different reasons. We’ll be publishing Carmelita McGrath’s third book of poetry and Adrienne Barrett’s first.
Are you soliciting manuscripts?
Our choices will be determined to a large extent by what gets submitted. For that reason we’ve decided to accept submissions year round, but we’ve also decided to solicit manuscripts from poets whose work we know and appreciate, or would like to learn more about. Solicitation accomplishes a two-fold purpose: it circumvents the slush pile for those poets who have caught our attention and it generates a word-of-mouth interest among poets we don’t yet know. Hopefully this will lead to more varied submissions.
Will you continue to produce two books a season?
Yes, we’ll continue publishing two books for the fall and spring seasons for the foreseeable future. That said, we’re already entertaining the possibility of publishing collected works and anthologies, so you can expect exceptions to the rule in the coming years.
Canadians have the chance to meet and see some of their favourite writers, artists, and poets up close and personal at this weekend’s readings and festivals, featured on Q&Q’s events calendar.
The August Sonata on Aug. 25 offers readings galore from the likes of Ken Chisholm, Julie Curwin, Russell Colman, Sandra Dunn, and several others. The event takes place in Boularderie Island, Cape Breton. Attendees are encouraged reserve seating, and bring four books for the annual book exchange.
The annual Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival kicks off in Vancouver on Aug. 25. The celebration fuses dance, theatre, and music with literary events, including storytelling, panel discussions on writing, and poetry readings.
Dan Parent, creator of Archie Comics’ first gay character Kevin Keller, will appear at Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop on Aug. 26. The free event includes an interview, question period, and book signing.
Some of Alberta’s finest poets and writers will gather in Calgary on Aug. 26 for Get Literary: Prose and Poetry. Local poet laureate Kris Demeanor will lead an afternoon of readings from Alberta’s literary magazines. Shannon Lee Bennett, Marcello Di Cintio, Jon R. Flieger, Barb Howard, Naomi K. Lewis, and Fred Stenson are set to attend.
Patrick Lane hosts a poetry reading that includes works spanning his half-century career. The event takes place on Aug. 24 in South Frontenac, Ontario. Admission is $40.
Who knows how much longer summer’s warmth will hang over us, so get outside and enjoy it at the Summer When it Sizzles Festival in Ottawa on Aug. 26. The free event invites the public to hear poets share their work over an afternoon of book launches, readings and open mics.
On the other side of the country, Vancouverites can head over to Comix & Stories for Vancouver ComicCon at Heritage Hall. The event puts the spotlight on alternative and small press comics, zines, and artwork; featuring Simon Roy, Brandon Graham, James Stokoe, and Marley Zarcone.
Be sure to check out Q&Q‘s events calendar for more of this weekend’s literary happenings.
Want to add an event to Q&Q‘s calendar? Send your literary event listings to Quill & Quire. Please include the event name, date, time, location, cost, and a brief description.
Canadians can celebrate the fusion of fiction and poetry with history, science, and other art forms at events across the country this weekend, featured on Q&Q’s events calendar:
Experience 1912 – from vaudeville to horse-and-buggie rides – at the Sunshine City Festival from Aug. 17–19 in Orillia, Ontario. The city will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town at Couchiching Beach Park.
Speaking of sunshine, Canada’s longest-running summer literary gathering, the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, takes place Aug. 16–19 in Sechelt, B.C. This year, the festival plays host to the world premiere of Northwords, a documentary about a literary expedition through Northern Labrador. Camilla Gibb, Ami McKay, and Douglas Gibson are set to appear.
For those who like poetry against the backdrop of nature, Marlene Creates’ Boreal Poetry Garden event on Aug. 18 may be time well spent. The artist gives a tour of her home in Portugal Cove-St. Philips, Newfoundland – complete with readings of site-specific poems, commentary by geologist Paul Dean, and a performance by Don McKay. Pre-registration is required.
The People’s Poetry Festival launches in Calgary this weekend, and there’s no shortage of poetry, spoken word, visual arts, and various other workshops on the itinerary. The free event begins Aug. 17 and runs until Aug. 19.
Artists from the Italian-Canadian community will gather in Sarnia, Ontario for a Book and Biscotti event on Aug. 19. Drop in to the Dante Club for readings, music, and discussion about Italian-Canadian internment, featuring Jim Zucchero, Delia De Santis, Venera Fazio, Norma West Linder, James Deahl, Di Cocco, and Elena Feick.
The Fish Quill Poetry Boat Tour makes several stops along the Grand River this weekend before coming to a halt on Aug. 19 at the Chiefswood Museum in Oshweken, Ontario. The closing ceremony features special guests Shelley Clark, Dawn, and Marra, who will help mark the end of a 10-day canoe tour comprised of poets Moez Surani, Kevin MacPherson Eckhoff, Leigh Kotsilidis, Linda Besner, and Darryl Whetter, and Toronto musician Jack Marks. Don’t miss out on the last chance to catch scheduled performances, outlined on the festival itinerary. Plus, check out Q&Q‘s events calendar for more of this weekend’s literary gatherings.
Want to add an event to Q&Q’s calendar? Send your literary event listings to Quill & Quire. Please include the event name, date, time, location, cost, and a brief description.
Lit lovers who spent the long weekend in cottage country needn’t fear they’ve missed out. There’s plenty of bookish happenings across the country this weekend, like these ones selected from Q&Q’s events calendar:
The Fish Quill Poetry Boat Tour gets underway Aug. 9 at 8 p.m. at the Tranzac Club in Toronto. Tonight’s kick-off will be the first of 10 stops on the canoe tour, which sees a group of Canadian poets and musicians paddling from Elora to Chiefswood on Six Nations of the Grand River territory, performing in various venues along the way.
Albertans still have time to register for this weekend’s When Words Collide festival, which takes place from Aug. 10–12 in Calgary, and includes readings and talks by Anthony Bidulka, Kelley Armstrong, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Adrienne Kerr, and Vanessa Cardui.
Authors at the Harbourfront Centre pairs with Planet IndigenUS for a reading and discussion featuring Thomas King, Drew Hayden Taylor, and Brian Wright-McLeod. The free event takes place Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.
The nominees for the Evelyn Richardson Award for Non-fiction will be gathering for a reading and discussion at the Osprey Arts Centre in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. The free event kicks off at 7 p.m. on Aug. 11, and boasts Chris Benjamin, Ray MacLeod and Harry Thurston. They will be joined by a live saw-whet owl from animal rehab facility Hope for Wildlife. (Should be a hoot!)
Fantasy enthusiasts hailing from Orillia, Ontario may want to check out Here Be Dragons, part of the photography exhibit Look. Magic! at the Leacock Museum. The Aug. 11 event starts at 8 p.m., and writers Julie Czerneda, Adrienne Kress, Anne Bishop and Mark Leslie will be in attendance.
If gritty crime stories are more your thing, check out the Wolfe Island Scene of the Crime Festival, which takes place on Aug. 11 in Wolfe Island, Ontario. The Ladies Killing Circle, D.J. McIntosh, John Moss, Y.S. Lee, and Thomas Rendell Curran are set to appear. Full-day passes are $65.
The annual Winterset in Summer Festival starts up Aug. 10 and runs until Aug. 12. Events for the Peril at the Sea–themed festival will take place at various locales across Eastport, Newfoundland. This year’s lineup includes Daniel Allen Butler, Paul Butler, Simon Winchester, Nancy Earle, Bernice Morgan, Bert Riggs, Danielle Devereaux, Jamie Fitzpatrick, and Bob Hallett, as well as 2012 Winterset Award finalists Mark Callanan, Don McKay, and Edward Riche. Tickets start at $15.
Q&Q’s events calendar has even more listings for this weekend’s readings, poetry shows, book signings, and festivals.
Want to add an event to Q&Q’s calendar? Send your literary event listings to Quill & Quire. Please include the event name, date, time, location, cost, and a brief description.
The season of high-profile literary awards and author festivals is on its way, and there’s no shortage of new releases from marquee names. In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the fall’s biggest books.
In 2009, police discovered a car in the Rideau Canal just outside of Kingston, Ontario. The car contained the bodies of three sisters – Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti Shafia – and 50-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad. Authorities later arrested the girls’ father, brother, and mother, all of whom were convicted of first-degree murder for their roles in the honour killings. Paul Schliesmann’s Honour on Trial (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $19.95 pa., Oct.) examines the facts behind the case that horrified Canadians.
BUSINESS & FINANCE
He’s been a dragon in his den and gone to prison for his reality-television show, Redemption Inc. Now, Kevin O’Leary, businessman, pundit, and author of the hybrid memoir/business guide Cold Hard Truth, returns with The Cold Hard Truth about Men, Women and Money (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Dec.), a guide to avoiding common financial mistakes. • O’Leary’s left-leaning opponent on CBC’s The Lang and O’Leary Exchange, Amanda Lang, has a leadership book out this season. The Power of Why: Simple Questions that Lead to Success (HarperCollins Canada, $33.99 cl., Oct.) postulates that asking the right questions leads to increased productivity.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
From the internal combustion engine and cold fusion to the Internet and the artificial heart, all scientific discoveries and technological advancements are the product of human ingenuity. In the 2012 CBC Massey Lectures, Neil Turok argues that science represents humanity’s best hope for progress and peace. The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos (House of Anansi Press, $19.95 pa.) appears in September. • Terence Dickinson is editor of the Canadian astronomy magazine Sky News and author of the bestseller NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. His new book, Hubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Images (Firefly Books, $49.95 cl., Sept.), is a visually sumptuous compendium of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
CULTURE & CRITICISM
Novelist and short-story writer Thomas King, who was also the first native person to deliver the prestigious CBC Massey Lectures, has long been a committed advocate for native rights. In The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada, $34.95 cl., Nov.), King examines the way European settlers and natives have viewed each other via pop culture, treaties, and legislation. • Poet and critic Kathleen McConnell explores the portrayal of women in pop culture through the ages in Pain, Porn and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight (Wolsak & Wynn, $19 pa., Nov.).
In A Civil Tongue, philosophy professor and public intellectual Mark Kingwell predicted the devolution of political discourse into a schoolyard-like shouting match. His new collection, Unruly Voices: Essays on Democracy, Civility, and the Human Imagination (Biblioasis, $21.95 pa., Sept.), is about how incivility and bad behaviour prevent us from achieving the kind of society we desire.
Poet, publisher, and critic Carmine Starnino turns his incisive and cutting attention to CanLit in his new collection of essays, Lazy Bastardism (Gaspereau Press, Sept.). • James Pollock believes that Canadian poetry lacks an authentic relationship with poetry from the rest of the world. His new book, You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada (The Porcupine’s Quill, $22.95 pa., Nov.), attempts to situate Canadian poetry in a global context, through examinations of the work of writers such as Anne Carson, Eric Ormsby, and Karen Solie.
A new anthology from Women’s Press brings together essays addressing specific concerns of LGBT communities and individuals across the country. Edited by Maureen FitzGerald and Scott Rayter, Queerly Canadian: An Introductory Reader in Sexuality Studies ($64.95 pa., Sept.) takes up issues of education, law, and religion, among others. • For a brief moment in the 1960s, Montreal became a hotbed of Civil Rights activism, radically challenging traditional conceptions of racial hierarchies. The 1968 Congress of Black Writers included activists and spokespeople such as Stokely Carmichael, C.L.R. James, and Harry Edwards. David Austin chronicles this important gathering in Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal (Between the Lines, $24.95 pa., Nov.).
Belles Lettres (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Nov.) is a collection of postcards from authors such as Baudelaire, Flaubert, Proust, and Charlotte Brontë, collated and annotated by Greg Gatenby, the founding artistic director of Toronto’s International
Festival of Authors. • In The Other Side of Midnight: Taxi Cab Stories (Creative Book Publishing, $19.95 pa., Oct.), writer and anthologist Mike Heffernan chronicles the experiences of St. John’s cab drivers and their clients.
In the years following Liz Worth’s Treat Me Like Dirt, the market for books about the Canadian punk music scene has been as frenzied as the audience at a Fucked Up concert. In Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk, (ECW, $22.95 pa., Oct.), Sam Sutherland looks at the historical context for Canadian punk progenitors such as D.O.A., the Viletones, and Teenage Head. • One early Canadian punk band – Victoria’s NoMeansNo – is the subject of the latest book in the Bibliophonic series from Invisible Publishing. NoMeansNo: Going Nowhere ($12.95 pa.), by Halifax author Mark Black, is due out in October.
Marc Strange, who died in May, was known for mystery novels such as Body Blows and Follow Me Down. He was also the co-creator (with L.S. Strange) of the seminal Canadian television series The Beachcombers. Bruno and the Beach: The Beachcombers at 40 (Harbour Publishing, $26.95 pa., Sept.), co-written with Jackson Davies, the actor who played Constable John Constable in the series, chronicles the iconic show and its equally iconic lead actor.
Since its release in 1971, Ken Russell’s notoriously blasphemous film, The Devils, has been the subject of heavy censorship in both the U.S. and the U.K. Canadian film scholar Richard Crouse examines the history of this cult classic in Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils (ECW, $19.95 pa., Oct.), which includes an interview with the film’s director, who died in 2011.
Former model and current stay-at-home mom Kelly Oxford has found her largest measure of fame as a result of her sarcastic Twitter feed (@kellyoxford), which features such Oscar Wildean witticisms as “IDEA: ‘Bless This Mess’ novelty period panties” and “Some parents in China get their kids to work in factories and I can’t get my kid to pass me some Twizzlers.” The essays in Everything’s Perfect When You’re a Liar (HarperCollins Canada, $24.99 cl., Sept.) promise more of the same. • If you prefer your humour with a larger dollop of political satire, you’ll be pleased to know that Rick Mercer has a collection of brand new rants on the way. A Nation Worth Ranting About (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Oct.) includes the author’s description of bungee jumping with Rick Hansen, and a more serious piece about Jamie Hubley, a gay teen who committed suicide after being bullied.
If you want to know whether you might be a redneck, ask Jeff Foxworthy. If you want to know whether you might be a native of Saskatchewan, check your birth certificate or consult the new book from author Carson Demmans and illustrator Jason Sylvestre. You Might Be from Saskatchewan If … (MacIntyre Purcell/Canadian Manda Group, $12.95 pa.) appears in September.
FOOD & DRINK
Rob Feenie is the latest Food Network Canada celebrity chef with a new cookbook. The host of New Classics with Chef Rob Feenie, who famously defeated Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America, offers innovative approaches to classic, family-friendly fare in Rob Feenie’s Casual Classics: Everyday Recipes for Family and Friends (D&M, $29.95 pa., Sept.). The recipes have undergone stringent quality control, each one having been approved by Feenie’s children, aged 3, 6, and 7.
Camilla V. Saulsbury’s 500 Best Quinoa Recipes: Using Nature’s Superfood for Gluten-free Breakfasts, Mains, Desserts and More (Robert Rose, $27.95 pa., Oct.) provides more healthy recipes based on the reigning superstar ingredient. • Aaron Ash, founder of Gorilla Food, a Vancouver restaurant that features vegan, organic, and raw cuisine, has achieved popularity among celebrity fans including Woody Harrelson and Katie Holmes. His new book, Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw (Arsenal Pulp, $24.95 pa., Oct.), collects 150 recipes, all of which are made without a heat source.
Rocker Dave Bidini returns to his other passion – hockey – in A Wild Stab for It: This Is Game Eight from Russia (ECW, $22.95 cl., Sept.), in which the author talks to various Canadians about the influence of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series. The release of the book is timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the iconic series. • The man who made that series so memorable also has a book out this fall. Co-written with sports commentator Roger Lajoie, The Goal of My Life (Fenn/M&S, $32.99 cl., Sept.) traces Paul Henderson’s route through the OHL and the NHL, on his way to scoring “the goal of the century.”
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, ex–CFL quarterback and coach Frank Cosentino has penned the appropriately titled The Grey Cup 100th Anniversary (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Oct.). • Crime fiction writer Michael Januska offers his own take on 100 years of Canadian football history in Grey Cup Century (Dundurn, $14.99 pa., Sept.).
Q&Q’s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2012. • All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.
For the third year in a row, Linda Besner and Leigh Kotsilidis will lead a group of poets and one musician on a canoe tour down the Grand River in Southwestern Ontario. The lineup for this year’s Fish Quill Poetry Boat Tour includes Kevin McPherson Eckhoff, Moez Surani, Darryl Whetter, and singer-songwriter Jack Marks.
The 10-day, three-canoe author tour launches on Aug. 9 in Toronto, with readings scheduled in Elora, West Montrose, Bridgeport, Cambridge, Paris, Brantford, and Ohsweken, plus a campfire poetry night at Brant Conservation Area.
Besner spoke with Quillblog about the challenges and rewards of marrying poetry with paddling.
What can people expect from your tour?
The towns we’ve chosen to go through often don’t get a lot of [author] tours going through. Like West Montrose, where we’ll read next to Kissing Bridge, the only remaining covered bridge in Ontario.
Because we’re coming by canoe there’s a kind of informal air to the proceedings. Once you get up there in your canoeing clothes and you’re sunburnt and mosquito-bitten, you’ve been paddling through people’s back yards, we’ve already got something to talk about with [the audience].
The people who come out for it aren’t always necessarily the kind of people who come to poetry readings. But because somebody is making the effort to come to them, and doing it in a way that has a connection to the place, people come out.
People come and talk to us after. Last year, this woman came up with her daughter and husband. She told us she had had a boyfriend who wrote her this poem. “I still have it memorized. Do you want to hear it?” she said. And of course I did want to hear this poem. She recited it by heart. Her daughter was like, “Mom, you never told me this story.” Her mom said, “Well, it never came up.”
What’s different this time around?
Last year, most people knew at least one other person on the trip well.
This year there are a couple of people I haven’t met at all – Darryl Whetter is coming up from Nova Scotia, and I haven’t met Kevin McPherson Eckhoff, or Jack Marks.
How did the trip go last year? Can you describe what it was like for you?
The organizing had been so stressful that I was actually surprised and pleased by how smoothly everything wound up going. Once you’re out on the water, once everybody’s together, I feel like it really brings out people’s teamwork skills. Everybody was nice to each other and took care of each other. On that river, because it’s so shallow and rocky, the person in front really has to call to the person in back to tell them what to do to find a channel through the rocks that won’t tip you.
For a lot of us, because we live in the city, it’s not often that we’re able to be out in the country for so long and spend days on the river. You spend day after day in the canoe and then when you’re going to sleep, you have this hallucinatory sense that you’re still moving from side to side and following the bends of the river. It really gets a physical grip on you.
What are some of the highlights of paddling through a community rather than embarking on a more traditional tour?
We link up with a lot of local organizations and try to incorporate local talent. We invite guest performers to join us at each location. Last year, we had Shelley Clark from the Six Nations of the Grand River community read with us, and she’ll read again this year.
One of the coolest places we’ll be going back to this year is our final stop at Chiefswood National Historic Site, which is the birth place of E. Pauline Johnson. She was sort of the first Mohawk poet in Canada to be taken seriously. Her house is still standing [as a museum] in the Six Nations’ territory. Going out there, learning about its history, getting to know the curator and the volunteers is amazing. You really do see how vibrant the culture is.
What kind of fundraising have you undertaken to cover the trip?
We do this trip on such a shoestring budget. We grocery shop and cook [at camp] as a group. We have gotten all of our camping sponsored by the Grand River Conservation Authority, which manages the campsites we’ll be staying on.
We have another really wonderful sponsor, Treks in the Wild. They’re a canoe company in Paris, Ontario, and they’re really who make this trip possible. They lend us the canoes and waterproof barrels for our merch for free, they shuttle us around, they come and get us when our campsite is too far from our reading venue for us to walk.
We’ve also been given some funding from our publishers: Véhicule Press, Coach House Books, Wolsak & Wynn, Palimpsest Press, and Brick Books.
Wattpad, a Toronto-based online community for international writers and readers, has put out a call for submissions for its first ever Atty Awards recognizing work by undiscovered poets. Winning entries will be selected by Margaret Atwood, the prize’s namesake, who in July began posting a new series of poems to the site under the title Thriller Suite.
“We want to create a digital-first opportunity for poets to share their work and for audiences to discover the genre. Poems can be submitted from anywhere, and we anticipate that some entries will be written on mobile devices,” says Wattpad CEO and co-founder Allen Lau in a press release.
Award hopefuls are encouraged to enter their English-language work as either a competitor or an enthusiast. Competitors are to put forward a collection of 10 poems, each one following a different poetic form. Prizes for the competitor category include $1,000 (U.S.), feedback sessions with Atwood via Fanado, copies of The 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology (House of Anansi Press), subscriptions to Sarah Selecky’s Story is a State of Mind online writing courses, and participation certificates signed by Atwood.
Enthusiasts are required to submit one poem, and will be entered in a draw for prizes such as a Nexus 7 tablet and a special-edition Atty Award t-shirt signed by Atwood. All entries in both categories will be considered for a draw to name a character in Atwood’s upcoming novel, MaddAddam.
The deadline for entries is Oct. 31. Details can be found via Wattpad.
In addition to the Attys, Wattpad offers more than $10,000 worth of prizes through its annual Watty Awards, which celebrate the most popular and well-liked stories posted to the online community.