All stories relating to poetry
Original, impassioned, and usually pretty loud, poetry slams offer spoken word artists a chance to present their work and compete in front of a crowd hungry for creativity. And Toronto’s poet laureate, George Elliott Clarke, will be stepping into the arena.
Clarke is lined up as the main attraction at the next Toronto Poetry Slam event on Jan. 26. Slams feature a number of artists competing against each other, whittled down through three rounds by pre-selected participants in the audience. While Clarke won’t be part of the actual competition, he represents an effort to showcase poets with varying styles.
“We haven’t had a ‘literary poet’ featured in a long time. We don’t just want to look insular,” says David Silverberg, artistic director of the Toronto Poetry Slam.
Silverberg adds that one of the goals of the Toronto Poetry Slam – a twice-monthly competition that began seven years ago — is to demonstrate how poetry can relate to everyone’s experiences and is not just “poetry with a capital ‘p’ by dead white guys.”
While poetry slams are nothing new, a recent article in The Telegraph brought to light some controversy surrounding the competitions. Calling slams the new stand-up comedy, the article comments on a “class divide” between written and performed poetry.
For Silverberg, poetry is poetry, regardless of the medium of expression. “Good spoken word is good written poetry. They have the same features and style,” he says. The difference lies in performance poetry being just that: a performance, one that uses body language, movement, beats, and the crowd to enhance the experience.
Clarke’s appearance at the next slam event will provide a blend of the written and the spoken, regardless of its comedic value.
Rumours to the contrary notwithstanding, publishing is alive and well moving into spring. In the January/February issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the spring’s biggest books.
Nancy Jo Cullen’s short fiction collection begins with a well-known admonition: “Gas, grass, or ass: no one rides for free.” The quirky, colourful stories in Canary (Biblioasis, $19.95 pa., April) feature characters who are working class, religious, and itinerant, all searching for answers to life’s myriad questions. • Holley Rubinsky* has won the Journey Prize, and her work has appeared in The Penguin Anthology of Stories by Canadian Women. Her new collection, South of Elfrida (Brindle & Glass, $19.95 pa., March), features a cast of women characters facing up to death, betrayal, and entrapment.
Angolan-born author paulo da costa won the Commonwealth First Book Prize (Canada and the Caribbean) and the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Book Prize for his first collection, The Scent of a Lie (2002). His new collection, The Green and Purple Skin of the World (Freehand, $21.95 pa., April), contains stories about the bonds that hold us together and the forces that tear us apart.
Actress Katie Boland has appeared in more than 40 films and was named one of the Toronto International Film Festival’s rising stars in 2011. Her debut story collection is out from Brindle & Glass in April. Eat Your Heart Out ($19.95 pa.) features characters as varied as a newspaperman who encounters a kindly drifter and a teenaged autistic savant who is having an affair with his best friend’s mother.
A woman is charged with disposing of her dying father’s stash of pornography and a teenage petty criminal gets more than he bargained for in two of the stories from Peter Unwin’s latest collection. Life Without Death (Cormorant, $21 pa., May) is about characters struggling to find a sense of perspective in their messy lives. • Kelly Ward’s story “The Night Shift” won the 2008 Lush Triumphant Award for Fiction. It is among the stories collected in Keep It Beautiful (Tightrope Books, $21.95 pa., May).
Crang is back! The jazz-loving protagonist of Straight No Chaser and Blood Count returns to the mean streets of Toronto, this time to investigate a crime at the Gardiner Ceramics Museum. Biographer, newspaper columnist, and jazz critic Jack Batten’s latest series mystery, Take Five ($15.95 pa.), is due in April from Thomas Allen Publishers. • Ava Lee returns for a fifth adventure in the latest series instalment from Ian Hamilton. In The Scottish Banker of Surabaya (Anansi, $19.95 pa., Feb.), Lee investigates a ponzi scheme that involves an Indonesian bank, money laundering, and the Italian mob.
Author of the popular Russell Quant series of mysteries, Anthony Bidulka has two titles out this season. Sundowner Ubuntu (Insomniac Press, $19.95 pa., April) is a new Quant mystery set in the drug-ridden underworld of a Prairies city and the violence-plagued townships of Africa. Where the Saints Go Marching In (Insomniac, $19.95 pa., April) is the first in a new series. Adam Saint is a disaster-recovery agent who must investigate the death of a colleague in a thriller modelled on Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne novels and Ian Fleming’s James Bond books.
The much beloved Flavia de Luce returns for a new adventure in Speaking from Among the Bones (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Jan.). In the fifth instalment of Alan Bradley’s best-selling mystery series, the opening of a saint’s tomb leads to a shocking discovery that sends Flavia on another intriguing investigation. • Author of the hard-boiled Wilson novels, Mike Knowles is set to debut a new series this spring. In S.O.B. (ECW, $12.95 pa., May), P.I. Frank Sullivan sets out to help an HIV-positive woman who is convinced that the boyfriend who intentionally infected her (and their newborn daughter) is not the man she thought he was.
Welsh-Canadian author Cathy Ace follows up her debut, The Corpse with the Silver Tongue, with another classic cozy featuring Professor Cait Morgan. In The Corpse with the Golden Nose (TouchWood Editions, $14.95 pa., March), Cait must intervene to solve the suspicious death of a world-renowned vintner.
St. John’s resident Michael Crummey is set to publish his first book of poetry since 2002’s Salvage. The poems in Under the Keel (Anansi, $19.95 pa., April) run the gamut from home brewing to embarrassing interactions with babysitters to advice on how not to get laid in Newfoundland. • Billie Holliday, El Greco, Charlie Chaplin, and Dante all inform the new collection from Lorna Goodison, which reimagines Caribbean history and offers new possibilities for interpreting the region’s cultural heritage. Supplying Salt and Light (McClelland & Stewart, $18.99 pa.) appears in March. • Also from M&S is a new work of poetry from best-selling author Anne Michaels, who collaborates with portrait artist Bernice Eisenstein. Correspondences ($34.99 cl. April) will be produced in an accordion format, with Michaels’ verse on one side and Eisenstein’s portraits on the other.
The prolific Leon Rooke follows up his 2012 story collection, Wide World in Celebration and Sorrow, with a new collection of free verse poems centring on the precious, prickly figure of a woman named April. Employing his signature linguistic playfulness, Rooke’s poems examine April’s girlhood, her loves and losses, and the influence she has on the lives she touches. The April Poems (The Porcupine’s Quill, $17.95 pa.) appears in, um, April. • Another prolific veteran has a new collection out this spring. Nicole Brossard’s White Piano (Coach House, $17.95 pa., March) employs musical rhythms and shuttles freely between verse and prose. Robert Majzels and Erín Moure translate.
There is water, water everywhere in Afloat (Brick Books, $20 pa., March), the eighth collection from Toronto poet John Reibetanz. The collection’s centrepiece is a sequence about China’s Three Gorges Dam. • Phil Hall’s previous book of poetry, 2010’s Killdeer, won the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Trillium Book Prize, and was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize. He follows it up with a new work called The Small Nouns Crying Faith (BookThug, $20 pa., May). Between the book’s opening word (“verb”) and its closing word (“blurtip”), the poems investigate conventional tropes and approaches using unconventional means.
Tanis Rideout scored critical acclaim for her 2012 debut novel, Above All Things. She returns to poetry for her follow-up, a book that fictionalizes the rivalry between swimmers Marilyn Bell and Shirley Campbell. Arguments with the Lake ($17 pa.) appears in April from Wolsak and Wynn.
Nightwood Editions has a trio of books from well-respected poets on its spring roster. Tim Bowling follows up his Rogers Writers’ Trust Award–nominated novel The Tinsmith with a selection of his poetry from the past two decades. Selected Poems ($22.95 pa.) is scheduled to appear in February. • Also from Nightwood is the second collection from former Vancouver poet laureate Brad Cran. Ink on Paper ($18.95 pa., Feb.) contains poems that are alternately gritty and pristine, ironic and sincere. • Finally, Elizabeth Bachinsky returns with her sixth collection. In The Hottest Summer in Recorded History ($18.95 pa., Feb.), the B.C. poet brings her signature mix of linguistic experimentation and flair for sensual imagery to poems that straddle the line between youthfulness and maturity.
Halifax poet Sue Goyette’s fourth collection is out this spring with Gaspereau Press. Ocean ($21.95 pa., April) examines humankind’s often fraught relationship with that majestic and mysterious body of water, the Atlantic ocean. • Also from Gaspereau is the latest collection from John Terpstra. Brilliant Falls ($19.95 pa., April) contains poems with surface lightness that conceals a darker, more melancholy aspect.
A Reliquary (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, April) is the final collection from Daryl Hine, completed just before his death in August. The poems examine loss and aging, sickness and death, in a manner that is honest and forthright, but not despairing.
Q&Q’s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 31, 2013. • 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.
*Correction Jan. 11: In the print and an earlier online version of this story Holley Rubinsky’s name is spelled incorrectly.
Given all the political hoopla happening in Hogtown, it would have been easy to miss news that poet, playwright, activist, and critic George Elliott Clarke has been appointed Toronto’s fourth poet laureate. He takes over from Dionne Brand, who has held the position since 2009.
Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Clarke’s East Coast roots are a driver for much of his work around black identity. Clarke, who refers to his African-Canadian and Mi’qmak heritage as “Africadian,” is recognized as one of the top scholars of black-Canadian literature.
Clarke moved to Toronto in 1999, and in 2003 was named the E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. He brings a shelf full of prizes to the position, including the 2001 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry for Execution Poems (Gaspereau Press). In 2008 he received Toronto’s William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations and was made an officer of the Order of Canada.
The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry has announced its judges for the 2013 Griffin Prize.
South African writer, artist, and human rights activist Breyten Breytenbach will be joined by 2011 Griffin finalist Suzanne Buffam and New York City poet Mark Doty in determining shortlists and winners in both the Canadian and international categories.
The finalists will be announced April 9 and the winner on June 13.
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.