Friday, May 15, 2015

Saskatoon! Reading!

* * *

Three Poets Reading 
An SWG Sponsored Reading  

When: Wednesday, May 20 at 7:00 pm  
Where: Frances Morrison Central Library, 311 - 23rd St East, Saskatoon

Enjoy a reading by Writer-in-Residence of the Saskatoon Public Library John Donlan, Ariel Gordon & Yvonne Blomer.

Yvonne Blomer is the Artistic Director of Planet Earth Poetry, a weekly reading series in Victoria, BC, and recently became Victoria’s fourth Poet Laureate in 2014.

 Award-winning Winnipeg-based Ariel Gordon launched her second collection of urban/nature poems, Stowaways, in 2014.

This reading is sponsored by the SWG.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Out-of-Town-Authors: Elena Johnson

Quill & Quire, WEB EXCLUSIVE
By Ariel Gordon

Elena Johnson is a Vancouver-based poet who recently launched her first book, Field Notes for the Alpine Tundra (Gaspereau Press). The collection was written and researched during a month-long stint in 2008 as writer-in-residence at a remote ecology research station in the Yukon.

It was a unique experience for Johnson, who’s worked as a field ecology researcher and park interpreter, but who currently makes her living as an editor. “I was helicoptered in with the food supplies, and I hiked out at the end of my stay,” she says.

Johnson spoke to Q&Q about the collection.

This book is set in the alpine tundra. What was it like, working so intensely with a landscape?

It seems I’m almost always working intensely with a landscape. I can’t help it – it’s where my focus naturally goes, especially in longer series of poems. And wilderness expeditions are what I would ideally like to be doing all the time. So spending a few weeks solidly immersed in this remote mountain range, with a tent to sleep in, food to eat, scientists to chat with over dinner, and my days fairly free for wandering and writing, was dreamy.

I didn’t find it very different than writing about other landscapes or ecosystems, except that I had such freedom and time in the alpine tundra to focus and observe. The alpine tundra is a very unique biome: it’s above the tree line, it’s sparsely vegetated with tiny plants, and it’s interspersed with stretches of scree and patches of snow. Where I was, in the Ruby Range, if you climb up to the top of a mountain ridge, you see an endless series of mountain ridges in almost every direction.

The deep silence I experienced in that environment was something my brain had to adjust to. There’s a poem in the book called “Silent for the Dry Season” that attempts to describe this silence; it was one of the most difficult poems to try to get right.

To read the rest of the interview, see the Quill & Quire website.

* * *

This interview is part of a National Poetry Month feature on Quill & Quire. Also in the series were interviews with BC poet Bren Simmers & MB writer K. I. Press.

My thanks to Sue Carter for her judicious editing of the interviews. I compiled them over a week and a half and while I originally felt I could have done more—so many good western Canadian writers with books this spring!—in the end, three was plenty.

Thursday, May 07, 2015


(Clockwise from top left): Amber McMillan, me, what the books table looks like, mid-show, Andrew Forbes, Patrick Friesen, and the crowd in Homegrown Hamilton.

* * *

The May 3 Lit Live reading in Hamilton featured me, Amber McMillan, Andrew Forbes, Patrick Friesen, Nick Michael Casteels, Nicholas Papaxanthos, and Valerie Nielsen.

I read first, because our group of poets, dining at the nearby Italian resto Capri, arrived at Homegrown Hamilton last.

But I don't mind where I read in a line-up, really. Not anymore.

And I had so much fun up there. Talking about Winnipeg, about poetry and football and heckling. (The best audience feedback I got was the owner of Homegrown Hamilton, who high-fived me when I went to get a beeeeeeeer at intermission...)

My thanks to Lit Live organizers, to Homegrown Hamilton, and to Gary Barwin for putting me up. 

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Get Lit Cabaret

The Cathedral Village Arts Festival presents:
The Get Lit Cabaret 

Join us for an evening of literary wonderment!

When: Thu, May 21, 7pm –11pm
Where: The Artesian (2627 13th Ave, Regina, SK)
Cost: FREE

7 p.m. Digital Stories from the Neighbourhood Part 1
Examples of the new narrative, a mix of visual and audio, from workshops offered by Evie Ruddy through the Saskatchewan Writers Guild and Cathedral Village Arts Festival.

7:15 p.m. Poets on Tour – Yvonne Blomer and Ariel Gordon
Sponsored by Saskatchewan Writers Guild

Yvonne Blomer, Artistic Director of Planet Earth Poetry, a weekly reading series in Victoria, BC, became Victoria’s fourth Poet Laureate in 2014.

Award-winning Winnipeg-based Ariel Gordon launched her second collection of urban/nature poems, Stowaways, (Palimpsest Press), in 2014.

8 p.m. Digital Stories from the Neighbourhood 2.

8:15 p.m. History in the Making with Anne Lazurko and Allan Safarik

Co-sponsored by Coteau Books.

Fiction writers Anne Lazurko (Weyburn) and Allan Safarik (Dundurn) face off in an animated discussion of historical fiction and read from their most recent books.

In Lazurko's first book Dollybird, (Coteau Books), twenty-year-old Moira, banished to 1906 Saskatchewan due to unwed pregnancy, comes to terms with dodgy acquaintances and employment as a "dolly-bird".

Safarik's Swedes' Ferry, (Coteau Books), a retelling of an international showdown featuring two police forces, robbers, and life along the Canada/US prairie border in the late 1800's, is his 20th book and his first novel.

9 p.m Saskatchewan Book Awards Presents short-listed authors Laurier Gareau and Tracy Hamon

9:30 p.m. The Music in Poetry – Heather Peat Hamm
Co-sponsored by Wild Sage Press

Agricultural and ecological research gave Heather Peat Hamm a keen observational bent and drawing skills honed at the microscope, illustrated in her first book, Blue Grama (Wild Sage Press). Her songs are poetry with banjo and guitar.

* * *

I've heard good things about the Cathedral Village Arts Festival for years, so it'll be nifty to finally be able to check it out.

I'm looking forward to spending time with writer friends, to encountering the work of writers and artists I don't yet know, but after a busy spring, I'm really really looking forward to that drive to Saskatchewan.

The six hours between Winnipeg and Regina is a beloved stretch of highway for me.

It's where I can be gloriously noisy and quiet. And I really need some singing-at-the-top-of-my-lungs. Some time-alone-in-my-car, with endless mugs of tea and the stereo blasting...

My thanks to Bernadette Wagner, CVAF Festival Chair, and the SWG for their support of this event!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Authors for Indies: Epic Books

(Clockwise from top left): Gary Barwin live-writing; Jaime Krakowski, me, Gary & writer Amanda Leduc behind the table of sweets that Epic was providing; the books of all the authors taking part in Authors for Indies; a long-view of Epic, which was all light wood and well-organized shelves.

* * *

I caught a 5:15 am flight to Toronto and then got sort of jammed up, trying to bus & subway to Union Station, where I'd catch a Go Train to Hamilton. (Apparently, one of the major highways had a scheduled maintenance day...)

But I got to Hamilton just in time for my 1 pm shift at Epic Books, having re-read sections of my selected titles—The Studhorse Man by Robert Kroetsch, In the Tiger Park by Alison Calder, and Quivering Land by Roewan Crowe—on the plane.

By the end of Authors for Indies Day, I was largely wordless, powered solely by cupcakes and laughter. Luckily, there was lots of that, given that both the other authors I was hand-selling alongside and the bookstore staff were great fun.

The text that went with this photo, when I posted it to FB, reflects that over-punctuated state:
"Books! Live-writing! Cupcakes!"

So here are a few impressions of the day that are more lucid/considered:

Jaime Krakowski, owner, Epic Books
So I'm still coming down from my earlier sugar high, pixie sticks and bookselling—quite the combination. Anyways, we had a great Authors for Indies Day and would like to thank everyone that visited! It was tons of fun. Of course, we couldn't have done it without the help of all of the amazing authors that volunteered with us. So a great big thanks to Amanda Leduc, Ariel Gordon, Gary Barwin, Gisela Sherman, Sally Cooper, Sylvia McNicoll and Joe Ollmann, who did our fabulous window! Not to get too weepy, the sugar crash is upon me, but thanks also to Lisa my ridiculously energetic staff member that spoils me by being awesome & bringing me yummy treats to start the day with! There, now that wasn't too Oscar-y was it? Maybe a bit, but that's ok.

Authors for Undies, I mean, Indies Interactive Story at Epic Books by Gary Barwin: For Authors for Indies Day I was at Epic Books with Ariel Gordon and Amanda Leduc. I sat in the front of the store and wrote a story. I solicited ideas from customers and the other writers. Some of the content came by asking people to pick a book off the shelf and turn to page 106 and choose the 7th line. For example, there's a line from Lynn Crosbie's new book, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

And here's the end of Gary's story, which is somehow exactly right:
The phone rang raising a nimbus of dust from its ancient pre-cellular receiver. Without thinking, Avigdor lifted the receiver. The mouthpiece was caked in Paleolithic lipstick, discarded insect carapaces and spit. Avigdor gave the mouthpiece a quick theoretically antibacterial swipe with his sleeve and answered it.
“Hello?” he said. “Hello?”
“There’s a book I need. It’s blue. It was on the radio. It was written by rain.”

Friday, May 01, 2015

Out-of-Town-Authors: K.I. Press

Quill & Quire, WEB EXCLUSIVE
By Ariel Gordon

Originally from rural Alberta, poet K.I. Press has lived in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa. She’s now lived in Winnipeg for a decade, long enough, she says, that it “has slowed down the pace at which I can process urban fluster.”

Since moving to Winnipeg, Press has launched her third collection, Types of Canadian Women and of Women Who Are or Have Been Connected with Canada, Volume II (Gaspereau Press), got full-time work as a creative-writing instructor at Red River College, and gave birth to a daughter with fellow poet A.J. Levin.

In her fourth collection, Exquisite Monsters (Turnstone Press), Press turns mothering poems on their ear, while focusing on biomechanical androids and pop culture.

Q&Q talked to Press about her latest collection, which launches May 7 at Winnipeg’s McNally Robinson Booksellers.

What made you choose to write about pregnancy and mothering, but with a slant?

I wrote a lot of mothering poems for the simple reason that I had a baby. Only a few of them have survived into the book.

The pop culture and science-fiction references in Exquisite Monsters started with a Battlestar Galactica obsession. I’ve been a fan of a number of sci-fi and fantasy shows over the course of my life, Battlestar being only one. I was pregnant during the final season, and—this is in the poem—I missed the very last episode because it was on while I was giving birth. I somehow found this

How has teaching creative writing at RRC’s creative communications program affected your writing? 

 I experiment and am more confident in many more styles, genres, forms than I used to be—something I’m trying to hone by working on the multi-genre MFA at University of British Columbia. Getting older and losing fear of failure also helps.

To read the rest of the interview, see the Quill & Quire website.

* * *

This interview is part of a National Poetry Month feature on Quill & Quire. Upcoming: a final interview with Elena Johnson. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Reprint: UM Today

* * *

So UM Today, which is the weekly journal at the University of Manitoba, wrote an article about the Manitoba Book Awards where my Landowne Prize win was the lede.

Also mentioned in the article were Maurice Mierau, Jonathan Ball, GMB Chomichuk, and Brenda Sciberras as well as the two awards won by UMP titles.