On Writing and Parenting

I have been following admiringly the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter’s occasional series On Writing. Amanda Earl’s piece on using poetry to shepherd herself through a major health crisis lingered with me for weeks, and I identified with Faizel Deen’s thoughts on the writer’s isolation. Mostly, I have coveted the opportunity to contemplate why I write, too.

My young son makes most contemplation difficult these days. I started to write about writing in brief bursts, as thoughts occurred to me, trying to trace my writerly lineage and articulate where I came from as a writer. But always my son intruded, figuratively where not literally. And so I let him. I started from the present rather than the past, from his words rather than my own.

I’m proud to say that my essay on writing (and parenting) is #11 in the series, and is up now on the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter.

“Other Brief Discourses” Out Now!

It’s a big day here at Abby Paige HQ.

First, the Piecework: When We Were French DVD fundraising campaign rolls on, and just a couple of days into our second week, I am very happy to report that we have reached 50% of our overall goal. This is immensely encouraging! With 39 days remaining, we have under $3,500 left to raise. To learn more about how you can support this grassroots initiative, please visit our Indiegogo fundraising page and continue to spread the word among friends, family, and Franco-Americans!

Second, I am downright giddy to announce that my new poetry chapbook, Other Brief Discourses, was released today by Ottawa’s above/ground press. (I like the image of it being released, as if into the wild.) It’s especially exciting for the chapbook to appear now, when the press is celebrating its twentieth year, and also while I’m neck-deep in Franco-Americana. The poems in this chapbook imagine the return of Samuel de Champlain to the territory of New France in the present day, accompanied by a Franco-American guide. I’m grateful to above/ground editor (or, as I like to refer to him, The Man Who Read Too Much), rob mclennan for his generosity and tirelessness.

I’ll be launching the chapbook at a reading with Brecken Hancock, Michael Blouin, and Hugh Thomas on February 22nd. Go here for all the details.

Ottawater – Issue 9

Normally I would not urge to you download a PDF. Usually, when I download a PDF, it’s because I’m dealing with some kind of bureaucratic bullshit. Most likely there’s a form that needs to be filled out. I will probably end up cursing Jason Kenney under my breath and uttering the phrase, “How does anyone without an advanced degree figure this shit out?”

But this is not that kind of PDF.

Ottawater is an on-line annual of poetry and poetics from my new home base of Ottawa. If you’ve ever doubted that Ottawa has a thriving arts community (I have), this lovely publication will persuade you. I’m so pleased to have four of my poems among the work of so many wonderful writers. Ottawater makes such elegant use of the PDF, you’ll remember those days when we thought the internet might set us free instead of just sell us things. Please download and enjoy.

David Budbill’s “Park Songs”

David Budbill’s Judevine had a singular effect on me. Budbill is a Vermont writer, and growing up in Vermont, a writer seemed like a foreign species. When I attended a performance of the play Judevine (adapted from a book of poems by the same name) at Burlington’s Flynn Theater in my teens, it was (or has been recorded in my memory, anyway, as) the first time I saw art that wasn’t from away, the first time I saw characters on stage who seemed familiar to me. It wounded me a little, in my inherited, teenaged xenophobia, to learn that Budbill was from away, but I grew to forgive him that, as his work expanded my notion of literature to include people like me and my family.

Budbill’s new poem/play, Park Songs, is one of his few books set somewhere other than Vermont, and it is something of an urban counterpart to Judevine. My review is up now on The Bakery.

And while you’re there, please do explore The Bakery’s amazing selection of poetry, assembled by able editor Albert Albonado!

New reviews at mRb

There’s been much discussion of late about the book review — its pitfalls, its merits, its relevance. Does it hurt to be too negative? Too positive? (Here’s a bit of a round-up.) I have enjoyed reading others’ thoughts on the topic, because this is also a discussion ongoing between my ears. My personal considerations are a bit different because I tend to review mostly poetry, and poetry has such a small readership that I feel part of my duty as a reviewer is to be an ambassador for the art form. I’m way more interested in attracting more people to the poetry shelf in their bookstore (and these days, it is often a single shelf) than in scolding or stroking the people who are already there.

I do have a new batch of reviews in the latest issue of the Montreal Review of Books, and while I didn’t love all of the books in question, I would be delighted if you were interested enough to pick up any of them.

The WRUV READER book launch is coming

Abby Paige:

No matter where I live, I will always consider myself a Vermont writer, so I’m deeply excited to be included in this anthology. I’m also looking forward to attending the book launch on September 20th at UVM. If you’re in Burlington come by! Listen to some great local writers read their work and pick up your own copy of this anthology, assembled by WRUV.

Originally posted on Writers@WRUV:

On Sept. 20, WRUV-FM will release its first-ever book, a collection of stories and poems by the many Vermont writers heard on Writers@WRUV.

The WRUV Readerwill premiere Thursday, Sept. 20, in the John Dewey Lounge, on the third floor of UVM’s Old Mill. Reading their own work from the book will be Major Jackson, Suzi Wizowaty, Greg Bottoms, Philip Baruth and more. Reception begins at 6:30 with snacks, followed by readings at 7 p.m.

Questions? Answers can be found by writing to Writers@wruv.org.

We hope to see you there.

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Something about seeing Ottawa blanketed in snow has helped me to feel more at home here. I’m also excited to be doing my first poetry reading in my new hometown, courtesy of local poetry outfit, Bywords. I was excited to have my poem, Confessional, featured on their site in December, and I’m now looking forward to having other work included in the upcoming issue of the Bywords Quarterly Journal.

To launch the issue, Bywords is hosting its ninth annual fundraiser for Cornerstone Women’s Shelter, where I’ll read with Jamie Bradley and Luminita Suse. Please brave the beautiful snow to listen to some poetry and support a great cause!

Bywords Warms the Night XIV: A Benefit for Cornerstone
Sunday, January 15, 2012 – 2:00pm
Collected Works Bookstore
1242 Wellington Street West, Ottawa
More information here.

“After The Mountain”

McGill-Queen’s University Press recently released Failure’s Opposite, a collection of essays on the work of Canadian poet A.M. Klein, edited by Sherry Simon and Norman Ravvin. Klein was ahead of his time, using his mixed Jewish/francophone/anglophone background to develop a hybrid poetic language that Quebec English-language poets are just beginning to pay tribute to today. I’m excited to get my hands on a copy. Klein opened a creative door for me when I immigrated to Quebec a few years ago. His poems invited me to develop my own sense of identity in Montreal’s diverse linguistic landscape. I look forward to reading more about him and his work.

I’m also excited to be included in a chapbook compiled in conjunction with the book’s release. Poet Jason Camlot invited rewritings of Klein’s iconic poem The Mountain and collected the resulting work into a handsome little volume called, “After The Mountain: The A.M. Klein Poetry Reboot Project”. I was so delighted that my poem was selected, and since only 125 versions of the chapbook were created, I thought I’d share it here:


The collision of tectonic plates
folds the Earth upon itself.

Blocks of rock slide along
and, lifted or tilted, pile up.

Magma pours over the Earth’s surface
then cools and hardens, or rises
from its mantle and lifts the overlying
layers of dirt to make a dome.

An uplifted plateau erodes.

The Earth’s crust erupts into a meadow,
a pebbly brook, buttercups. The bronze
tits of Justice.

The easy threes of trilliums thread dark
green, green, and white through the Earth,
beside bloodroots — Chokecherry black!
Terror, holiday!

To make a mountain bleed cross light
over streetcars, pissabed dandelions,
coolie acorns, green prickly husks of chestnuts
and, beneath a mat of grass, root
all the Os and amber afternoons.

Find a single sentimental bench, soften
the brass of a band with dark and distant
mood. Tell the loved girl
you love her. In the layers of a mountain
make a man a kind of history.

By Abby Paige
From “After The Mountain: The A.M. Klein Poetry Reboot Project Anthology”, Jason Camlot, Ed., Synapse Chapbook Series, 2011.

Gabe Foreman’s “Complete Encyclopedia…”

Poetry doesn’t have to tell a story, but I must admit, I like it better when it does. It doesn’t have to be a linear story; the story doesn’t need to have characters or an ending. But I always enjoy a poetry collection more if I feel that the poems are somehow knitted together.

Gabe Foreman’s “A Complete Encyclopedia of Different Types of People” seemed likely to be held together by a thread. I look for it in my review, up on Rover now.