Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lit Live-ing!

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My next reading will be in Hamilton as part of the Lit Live reading series.

I'm excited to read with Patrick Friesen, who is a once and forever Manitoban and a very good poet.

I'm also looking forward to encountering the work of Andrew Forbes, Valerie Nielsen, and Amber McMillan as well as the emerging writers. And rambling around Hamilton a bit more, after my brief stop there in October.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dirty hands

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And, because I'm a charter member of GMB Chomichuk fan club, here's another diptych from last night's ChiSeries reading, both pre- and post-drawing.

Spec-fic poems! Live-drawing!

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So last night was the ChiSeries reading in Winnipeg to celebrate National Poetry Month, which meant a slate lousy with poets but also live-drawing, which is a nice combo.

The event featured myself, Jonathan Ball, Adam Petrash, and GMB Chomichuk (who was the aforementioned live-draw-er...).

And it was fun to spend some time with the work of these writers. How-Tos on how to avoid becoming a horror movie cliche (not mine, shockingly). A poem on Leatherface and his chainsaw-wielding interpretive dance. A clutch of my were-mummy poems, both from Stowaways and newer variants. And a cut-up poem from Greg's Imagination Manifesto, which he handed out after.

It was also fun to go for a good, old-fashioned gossip over beer and buckets-of-bacon after the reading was done.

My thanks to Samantha Beiko and Chadwick Ginther for the organizing and hosting goodness!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Manitoba Book Awards

So the news is two weeks old now, but the shortlists for the 2015 Manitoba Book Awards were released on March 30.

Sixteen awards will be handed out this year at the ceremony April 25th at the Marlborough Hotel. The list includes two new prizes, the Beatrice Mosionier Aboriginal Writer of the Year Award & the Chris Johnson Award for Best Play by a Manitoba Playwright.

And University of Manitoba Press authors got eight Manitoba Book Award nominations in five categories.

I'm proud of that, even though I had very little to do with it in my role as Promotions/Editorial Assistant at the press.

I'm also proud that my poetry collection Stowaways was nominated for the Lansdowne Prize for Poetry / Prix Lansdowne de poésie.

Many thanks to Palimpsest Press for its support of the book & to Toronto poet Jim Johnstone, who edited it.

Also nominated for the Lansdowne are the following books / poets, all of which I recommend you check out:

De l’amuïssement des certitudes by Laurent Poliquin, published by Jacques André Editeur

"Que peut rappeler le poétique au politique, la poésie à la loi ? Que la poésie va vers ce qui résiste. Elle provoque le réel, elle interprète ce que le corps et la voix peuvent tracer de l’espace et du temps. Laurent Poliquin, dans son recueil De l’amuïssement des certitudes, présente sa quête dans laquelle il cherche à structurer sa souveraineté et son opposition à l’asservissement quotidien. C’est dans la musicalité des mots et une certaine sensualité qu’il engage un combat contre la pesanteur de l’existence. Ainsi, les défis cinglants face à la mort, l’aliénation contemporaine, la brume des incertitudes s’atomisent dans ces poèmes épurés, fougueux et sans contredit: amoureux"


In the Tiger Park by Alison Calder, published by Coteau Books

"Alison Calder's poetry is known for shining the light of the poet's curiosity on all manner of 'natural occurrences,' which nevertheless stand out. Again, as with her first book, Wolf Tree, this collection is about what exists at the edges of human experience, what's out there but is largely unseen by the average human being – animals, the line a receiver makes running down a football field, the calligraphy of pheasant wings in the snow. It's about ghosts, how these things operate as ghosts to us now, in this age—things that might have, in another age, occupied a more central place in our lives."


What Lies Behind by Luann Hiebert, published by Turnstone Press

"What Lies Behind, Luann Hiebert’s debut collection of poetry, explodes the notion of the common and everyday. The seductive songs of motherhood and love and springtime on the prairies are confronted with illness, death, and the coldness of time marching on without us. With the weight of history behind her, Hiebert arrests the patterns of daily life and in their place leaves a beautiful truth that is more awesome and delightful than memory could serve."


So: congratulations to all the writers who were nominated. I'm also thinking of all those writers whose books weren't nominated. Here's to all of us!

I'm off to assemble a vaguely-1920s costume...

Friday, April 03, 2015


Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois, USA. April 3, 2015. 

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The only early-April green in the arboretum were these spring wildflowers, which, once you'd notice them, were everywhere in the burnt/razed ash woods.


Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois, USA. April 3, 2015.


Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois, USA. April 3, 2015.


Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois, USA. April 3, 2015.

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The same species of mushroom on the same log. But one was caught in the controlled burn, and the other wasn't...

Blue ash

All photos Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois, USA. April 3, 2015.
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We were in Chicago for a week. Most of it was spent downtown, wandering among buildings and public art, but we devoted one day to the Morton Arboretum.

This was my third arboretum, having visited two in rural Manitoba in the summer of 2013. And while I was impressed with the Skinner Arboretum at the time, it was a large-ish garden compared to the Morton Arboretum, which is both enormous—"its 1,700 acres hold more than 222,000 live plants representing nearly 4,300 taxa from around the world"—and a tourist destination.

Which is quite the accomplishment for a tree museum...

Apparently, it was founded in 1922 by Joy Morton, whose father "Julius Sterling Morton (1832–1902), was the Secretary of Agriculture to President Cleveland and founder of the original Arbor Day" Also, the family motto was "Plant trees."

My family motto is "Take full advantage of any and all free liquor" or maybe "I dare you." (Actually, to be completely precise, the Gordon family motto is "Bydand" or "Remaining.")

It felt good to plunge into the trees, even knowing that the the section of Korean trees or the honeysuckles and viburnums were more akin to exhibits than patches of forest. I wondered what the local birds & insects thought of the strange trees. Had they managed, over the years, to make meals out of seeds and nuts they'd never seen before and weren't adapted for?

The last patch we visited was the plants indigenous to northern Illinois, the volunteer at the desk circling that patch of trees on our map.

It was the most startling of all because the woods were largely razed and burning. And the volunteer hadn't said a thing, maybe because that's what northern Illinois woods look like these days...

There were downed trees everywhere, both fresh and a couple of seasons old. Sawdust and freshly-cut logs and stumps. And there were all-too-familiar orange dots on more than half of the trees that were left.

And, on top of all of that, the underbrush had been freshly burned, so: burnt leaves on the ground & charcoal-ed shrubs.

At first, I thought maybe that Morton horticulturalists were clearing the forest so that they could put in something more exotic. And sighed angrily at the freshly-cut logs while scouting the older ones for mushrooms.

But then we saw a sign, quietly notifying us that the Emerald Ash Borer was in these woods.

Once I reflected on what I'd seen—all the cut trees, how whoever had cut the trees had debarked a log near a trailhead, revealing the galleries of insect activity—I understood.

So: my third arboretum, but my first infested forest.

And I was glad, walking those logged and blasted woods, that the EAB has not yet made it to Winnipeg. We've had enough trouble dealing with Dutch Elm Disease and Black Knot. But experts say it's coming...

Friday, March 20, 2015


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The ChiSeries is back in April with a never-before poetry edition! Each poet has been 'commissioned' to compose a special piece for the evening, plus there will be a live paint spectacular with GMB Chomichuk during the readings. Mark it in your calendars as a means to celebrate the (hopefully) abolished Winter! Chadwick Ginther will be on hand to host, most likely with another famous novelty belt buckle, because of reasons.

As always, the event is FREE to the public and will take place in the Atrium at McNally Robinson Booksellers at 7 PM. The ChiSeries is a non-profit reading series that pays all readers for their time, and is largely donation run.

ARIEL GORDON is a Winnipeg writer. Her first book of poetry, Hump, won the 2011 Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. Most recently, her chapbook How to Make a Collage won Kalamalka Press’ inaugural John Lent Poetry-Prose Award. Her most recent publication is Stowaways (Palimpsest Press). When not being bookish, Ariel likes tromping through the woods and taking macro photographs of mushrooms.

JONATHAN BALL, winner of the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer, teaches English, film and writing at universities in Winnipeg. He is the author of Ex Machina and Clockfire, which was shortlisted for a Manitoba Book Award. Ex Machina considers the relationship between humans, books and machines, and Clockfire contains 77 plays that would be impossible to produces. Both books were published under Creative Commons licenses, so you can remix their contents. Ball's latest collection, The Politics of Knives, won the 2013 Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry (Manitoba Book Awards).

ADAM PETRASH is a writer, poet, and journalist. He's written articles, book reviews, and interviews for Canstar Community News, Drums Etc Magazine, the Uniter, the Winnipeg Free Press, and the Winnipeg Review. His fiction has appeared in journals such as Luna Luna Magazine and Whiskeypaper. He lives and writes in Winnipeg.

GMB CHOMICHUK is the writer and illustrator of The Imagination Manifesto and Raygun Gothic. His writing is featured in Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post Apocalypse and his illustrations in Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. He also collaborated on a children's book with Justin Currie called Cassie and Tonk (2014). 2015 will see the launch of Underworld (with Lovern Kindzierski) from Renegade Arts Entertainment and Infinitum from CZP's new graphic novel imprint. He wants you to make comics too.