My reviews of a handful of new Canadian poetry titles are up now at the Montreal Review of Books. This issue’s poetry coverage includes new collections by Carmine Starnino, Joshua Trotter, Ilona Martonfi, Margo Wheaton, and Michael Prior.
My first goal in writing poetry reviews is always to encourage other people to read poetry. I would respectfully disagree with William Carlos Williams, who said, “It is difficult to get the news from poems”; I think there is plenty of news to be gotten from this crop of new titles.
It’s been a year of upheaval for me and my family. There hasn’t been much space for writing, and so I’ve been relieved to get back to work this fall. I enjoyed reviewing Dao Strom’s hyrid memoir, “We Were Meant To Be A Gentle People,” for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
This is my second review for LARB. In the spring I had the pleasure of reviewing Maggie Nelson’s beautiful new memoir, The Argonauts. I didn’t get the chance to post about it at the time because I was in the midst of a cross-country move with my family. Both books ask fascinating questions about identity, family, and storytelling, and filled my head with possibilities.
In November, I set the goal of writing 50,000 words in conjunction with National Novel Writing Month. I chose to focus on some non-fiction and biographical material that had been simmering for a while, and the discipline required to produce such a quantity of material was a great way to get back into the swing of writing. I’m relieved to have reached my goal, and I look forward to a productive and creative 2016. More posts soon…
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
I recently had the pleasure of reading a delicious crop of new poetry books for the Montreal Review of Books. You can read my reviews in their Spring issue on their flashy new website and blog!
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.