Best essay on aging in the lit game I’ve read in forever. Highly recommend.
“Back when I was wise I had a whole diatribe to lay out about writing toward an ending. It had crocuses in it, and snowdrops. Being from rural Michigan I know the names of flowers. My diatribe was also a bit bitchy about the state of contemporary American poetry. The marketing angle. The crowdsourcing. The hairdos and eyebrows. The celebrity. The social media posts by young poets saying, “Fuck Keats. Fuck Shakespeare.” One more round of make it new. How tedious that essay would have been. How mean-spirited. Witchy. Not a cool, green, voluminous witch, but a dried-up hag of a witch who doesn’t want to be replaced. Who fears a mass grave. Not just filled with bodies but with poems judged passé by the young. This is no country for old (wo)men (Yeats, me).”
above/ground press in Ottawa has begun a series of prose chapbooks and I’m happy to say that publisher/editor Rob Mclennan chose one of my stories, ‘Would You Like a Little Gramma On Those,” to join several other wonderful stories by the following authors in his initial run. Despite all my books, this is only my second chapbook ever (the first being ‘Going Santa Fe’ from League of Cdn Poets)! I’m very excited!
Here is the press release and following that a link to above/ground’s blog:
Leaning up to the press’ twenty-eighth year of production, Ottawa’s above/ground press launches a prose imprint, “prose/naut,” and announces its first four chapbook titles, which will each become available over the next few weeks:
Amanda Earl, Sessions from the DreamHouse Aria (September 2020)
Jane Eaton Hamilton, Would You Like a Little Gramma On Those? (September 2020)
rob mclennan, Twenty-one stories, (September 2020)
Keith Waldrop, from THE LOSS FOR WORDS (October 2020)
Why a prose imprint? With more than one thousand poetry-specific publications produced over the past nearly thirty years, why branch out into prose? I suppose the straightforward answer is that there appear to be fewer possibilities for publication for lyric prose than even there were five ago, despite the wealth of materials being produced. There is some incredible work being done, and my own frustrations as a reader has brought us, one might say, to this.
The series hopes to include single-author chapbooks of prose, from fiction to other forms, all of which will be included as part of the regular above/ground press annual subscription package. Review/media copies will also be available upon request (while supplies last).
If you wish to pre-order all four titles, I would be open to that: $20 for all four (add $3 postage for American orders; add $10 for international).
If you would rather, you could simply subscribe to above/ground press RIGHT NOW and all four would be included: 2021 annual subscriptions (and resubscriptions) to above/ground press are available: $75 (CAN; American subscribers, $75 US; $100 international) for everything above/ground press makes from the moment you subscribe through to the end of 2021, including chapbooks, broadsheets, The Peter F. Yacht Club and G U E S T [a journal of guest editors] and quarterly poetry journal Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal].
Just what else might happen? Currently and forthcoming items also include new poetry chapbooks by Julia Drescher (two this year!), Billy Mavreas, ryan fitzpatrick, Sarah Burgoyne and Susan Burgoyne, Paul Perry, Jérôme Melançon, Ava Hofmann, Alexander Joseph, David Miller, Sa’eed Tavana’ee Marvi (trans. Khashayar Mohammadi), katie o’brien, Nathanael O’Reilly, Amelia Does, Andrew Brenza, Genevieve Kaplan, Geoffrey Olsen, Franco Cortese (four over the next few months), Zane Koss, Dennis Cooley, Barry McKinnon and Cecilia Tamburri Stuart as well as a whole slew of publications that haven’t even been decided on yet.
Why wait? You can either send a cheque (payable to rob mclennan) to 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 7M9, or send money via PayPal or e-transfer to rob_mclennan (at) hotmail.com (or through the PayPal button at robmclennan.blogspot.com).
Stay safe! Stay home! Wear a mask! Wash your damned hands!
Happy to say that a poem of mine, “Game Show,” which was published at The Puritan has been chosen for Best Canadian Poetry 2020, edited by Marilyn Dumont and published by Biblioasis. Thank you and congrats to everyone!
Here are some reviews for the series:
“The wide range of writers, forms and themes represented here make it a great jumping-off point for readers who might be interested in Canadian poetry but are unsure about where to start.”—Globe and Mail
“Buy it, or borrow it, but do read it.”—Arc Poetry Magazine
“A magnet, I think, for the many people who would like to know contemporary poetry.”—A.F. Moritz, Griffin Poetry Prize winner
“The Best Canadian Poetry series offers an annual sampling of voices and experiences—a little slice of Canadiana that may be appreciated beyond borders as well.”—Examiner.com
“An eclectic and diverse collection of Canadian poetry . . . a wonderful addition to anyone’s bookshelf.”—Toronto Quarterly
“Bits of eternity, arranged alphabetically.”—Merilyn Simonds
“Canada’s most eloquent, profound, humorous and meditative writers, ranging from the seasoned and well known to the new and upcoming.”—Broken Pencil
The World Trade Center burns
We all want to know how to handle the horror that is, it seems, always around us now, haunting us all like a shadow we can’t shake. Poet (and director of the NYU Creative Writing Program) Deborah Landau has been thinking and writing about terror, and terrorism, and how to live in our unsafe world, for her new book.
“That Tuesday morning,” writes Fran Bigman, “September 11, Landau told me, she was pregnant with her second child and dropping her three-year-old son off at nursery school downtown; they were on a bus and people started screaming, and they saw a plane hit the tower. Scenes of disaster, both remembered and imagined, run through her head, but she isn’t a narrative poet who retells a story. “I am not a depicter, not any more. I’m never writing about something,” she tells me, “I’m always writing out of something—or into something.”
“Landau finished these poems, which make up Soft Targets [her upcoming collection], after the attack on Bastille Day 2016, in an intense 12-day burst—not her usual working method. These are poems for a world in which there is no safety. It opens with Landau’s fears for herself, familiar fears. But then the poem rushes outward—we, the innocent, are soft targets, but even bin Laden was a soft target to his attackers. The poems in Soft Targets keep sweeping outward, dizzyingly, from the intimacy of Landau and her “you” to the entire city to the entire world. Another of the book’s early poems follows this same trajectory:
I’m a soft target, you’re a soft target
and the city has a hundred hundred thousand softs;
the pervious skin, the softness of the face
the wrist inners, the hips, the lips, the tongue,
the global body,
its infinite permutable softnesses—”
Here is a poem from my second collection, Steam-Cleaning Love:
I know you are reading this poem
I said to Liz I want to understand the trees
I was speaking of eucalyptus in particular
When I met you I said Hello
You said Maybe it will sound ridiculous
but I pray for rain every day here
On the television I saw a woman
I watched her forearms
how she tried to hold herself together
by pressing her elbows on her knees
her face in her hands
Everything else was a still photograph
the still hush of smoke
You are reading this poem
You are rolling a cigarette, or Sharon is
putting flame against your lips
I meant to ask the names of what grows
I said The vegetation is so different
You said I love thunderstorms
Once I passed a burning house
I was safe but I was scared anyway
I didn’t understand
how loud, how hot, how big
Later a woman interviewed
standing in the rubble said
It’s like being dead then coming back
I’m scared now, I said
You are reading this poem in Berkeley
You said Is it raining?
You can order Steam-Cleaning Love through Brick Books here.
Poet Wendy Xu over at Lit Hub and this passage about learning to parse literature:
“My father was my first poetry teacher in all of these ways—he paused to let us wonder together at the power of words. Why was this part so vivid and easy to picture in your head? Why did you cry at this part? Why did you fall in love with this phrase and repeat it over and over? Back then I was just happy to be spending time with my father, but the gift he gave me will last a lifetime.”
I can’t get it out of my head how helpful this training would be for a child who would later become a poet.
“Xu is the author of Phrasis (Fence, 2017, winner of the Ottoline Prize), and You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013). The recipient of a 2014 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, her poetry has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Boston Review, Poetry, A Public Space, and elsewhere, with fiction and essays appearing in BOMB and BuzzFeed. Born in Shandong, China, in 1987, she currently teaches in the Creative Writing MFA Program at Columbia University, and is poetry editor for Hyperallergic.”
Her poem, Notes for an Opening, is here.
The interview with her from which I pulled this quote is here.
“…The next section of the collection following the one focused on artists is “Our Terrible Good Luck,” an apt oxymoron that encompasses the devastation that populates these poems on topics not often associated that kind of horror: motherhood and children. Oh boy, was this part of the collection hard for me. They’re just shattering to read: domestic abuse, the death of children, gun violence, mass murderers, the dark sides of motherhood, the physicality and sometimes grotesqueness of child birth. For me, they were painful and difficult to read, despite their being beautifully written. When I say devastating, this is what I mean:
In the month before they find your son’s body
downstream, you wake imagining
his fist clutching the spent elastic
of his pyjama bottoms, the pair with sailboats riding them
He’s swimming past your room toward milk and Cheerios
his cowlick alive on his small head, swimming
toward cartoons and baseballs, toward his skateboard
paddling his feet like flippers. You’re surprised
by how light he is, how his lips shimmer like water
how his eyes glow green as algae
He amazes you again and again, how he breathes
through water. Every morning you almost drown
fighting the undertow, the wild summer runoff
coughing into air exhausted, but your son is happy
He’s learning the language of gills and fins
of minnows and fry. That’s what he says
when you try to pull him to safety; he says he’s a stuntman
riding the waterfall down its awful lengths
to the log jam at the bottom pool
He’s cool to the touch; his beauty has you by the throat
He’s translucent, you can see his heart under
his young boy’s ribs, beating
as it once beat under the stretched skin of your belly
blue as airlessness, primed for vertical dive
HOLY FUCK, Jane Eaton Hamilton. I don’t remember the last time I read a poem so fucking sad and heartbreaking.” -Casey Stepaniuk
We’re lucky when we get a more or less up-to-date list of what’s happening on the contest scene. Here we are for fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry:
I wrote a new poem. I’m sure you can guess whose voice I wrote it in. Louis CK has been accused of showing his penis and masturbating to colleagues. I watched Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi Season 2 reference to one of his assaults recently, as it happens, and I wondered about the male privilege and disregard for others you’d have to experience to commit assaults like these. What relationship would you have to have to your penis? I bet you’d have to think it was pretty great, at least superficially, wouldn’t you?
I Show My Dick
I carry my dick in front of me
It’s an easy-glide dick
It’s a strong dick
It’s a big dick
a stand-up dick
It’s a straight dick, it doesn’t bend
My dick’s a trophy dick
My dick’s a race car dick
It’s a stallion dick
an elephant dick
a blue whale dick
In a bag of dicks, my dick perks up
In a bag of dicks, my dick’s a fountain
In a bag of dicks, my dick’s Dick of the Bag
-Jane Eaton Hamilton
photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton
Out presenting at Surrey International Writer’s Festival this past weekend, I popped into a workshop held by Meg Tilly to help improve writers’ reading skills. Here she is sitting on a participant’s feet. There’s probably a great story behind that, but I’m not whispering it.
photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton
Yonder at Terrible Minds, here’s the not-so-terrible truth about finishing your novel, by Chuck Wendig.
In this talk and reading at Barnard College, the Canadian poet, speaks to our questing, wanting hearts.
“I don’t believe in the notion of justice, since it presumes a state of affairs that is somehow formerly good but for certain anomalies is legitimate. In our case, I think that we live in a state of tyranny and to ask a tyranny to dismantle itself, to claim, to ask for, to invoke justice is to present our bodies, already consigned in that tyranny to the status of non-being, to ask that tyranny to bring us into being and that is impossible and it won’t.” -Dionne Brand
This talk is an excerpt from “Poetics of Justice: A Conversation Between Claudia Rankine and Dionne Brand,” part of the series Caribbean Feminisms.
I didn’t win this new prize for emerging writers–I am far from an emerging writer–but I am glad thinking so caused someone to read and enjoy my latest poetry book Love Will Burst Into a Thousand Shapes and All Lit Up to report on it.