Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Factory Reading Series @ VERSeFest: Hoa Nguyen + Klara du Plessis, March 24, 2018!

The Factory Reading Series
as part of the eighth annual VERSeFest poetry festival presents:

The Factory Reading Series Lecture Series, two talks and readings by:

Hoa Nguyen (Toronto)
Klara du Plessis (Montreal)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan
Saturday, March 24, 2018
1pm at Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar St. Ottawa
$10 at the door / check link for info on passes:
and check the VERSeFest link for the full schedule of readers and events!
March 20-25, 2018

Born in the Mekong Delta and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Hoa Nguyen [pictured] lives in Toronto where she teaches creative writing in multiple settings. Her books include As Long As Trees Last, Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008, and Violet Energy Ingots, nominated for a 2017 Griffin Prize for poetry.

Klara du Plessis is a poet and critic residing in Montreal. Her debut collection, Ekke, has just been released from Palimpsest Press; and her chapbook, Wax Lyrical—shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Award—was published by Anstruther Press, 2015. Klara curates the Resonance Reading Series, and is the editor for carte blanche. Follow her @ToMakePoesis

Friday, February 16, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Stan Rogal

This is the fourth in a series of short essays/reminiscences by a variety of authors and friends of the press to help mark the quarter century mark of above/ground. See links to the whole series here.

I have known rob since before Jesus was a boy scout. I’ve always wanted to use that phrase and find it somewhat apropos in this situation, noting a certain physical resemblance in comparison to several of the iconic portraits available, as well as the religious zeal with which rob has pursued the elusive muse of poetry. We’ll leave out the (metaphorical) crown of thorns and stigmata for the time. After all, this is meant to be a celebration of above/ground press, right?

How many years ago did we meet? I don’t remember exactly. I do know I was still writing with an electric computer and the Internet was someone’s wet pipe dream.

I met rob when he was an editor for the Carleton Arts Review magazine. I’d make the odd jaunt from Toronto to Ottawa and take part in a launch at the university, raise a few glasses (more than a few) and crash for the night on some student’s couch (or floor) – lots of fun and very Bohemian. At some point rob started (or helped start) a reading series as well as began putting out poetry magazines of his own, and then he was somehow editing and/or judging work in other established lit mags, and being writer-in-res around the country, and blogging, and somewhere along the line there was above/ground press and, lo and behold! he was become a big wheel in the poetry biz, earning himself fame and fortune and…

Sorry, I got a bit carried away for second. Cancel the fame and fortune bit, this is poetry we’re talking about, after all (which brings me back to the crown of thorns, et al…). At any rate, we kept in touch (still keep in touch) and he has been kind enough to print/publish my work – and many, many others -- as well as promote it through invitations to readings, and so on, in his various capacities, for which I am deeply thankful. The man is a force and, more remarkably, has managed to maintain a sense of humour through it all.

Due to him and the press, I have also made the acquaintance of other Ottawa movers and shakers, such as Pearl Pirie and Amanda Earl, who give generously of themselves and their time (and likely their finances) to continue to bang a gong for poetry, even when most of the world doesn’t give a rat’s ass.

That said, I’d like to raise a toast to rob and those other stalwarts who – in the words of Samuel Beckett -- continue to “kick against the pricks” and provide a forum for those of us who rabidly believe that, in a society that is more and more run by bean counters, poetry somehow matters.          

Stan Rogal lives and writes in Toronto. He is the author of 23 books, including 12 poetry collections. He is left-handed and has never owned a cell phone, placing him among the less than 8% of the North American population. Is this final fact either interesting, meaningful or relevant? No, which is precisely why he mentions it.    

Rogal is the author of four above/ground press chapbooks, including In Search of the Emerald City (1997), “THE CELEBRITY RAG: Opá” (STANZAS #44, March 2006) and All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace (2004), as well as the forthcoming muscle memory (2018).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Eleni Zisimatos

This is the third in a series of short essays/reminiscences by a variety of authors and friends of the press to help celebrate the first quarter century of above/ground. See links to the whole series here.

Up until 2006, above/ground produced around forty-five long-poem sequence chapbooks under the title, Stanzas. My chapbook, Summations: travels through Italy, was published as a Stanzas title in 2001. It was an exciting time for me as I was just starting to take poetry seriously, and it was also the time Vallum came into being. I later went on to read this long poem on the CKUT radio station in Montreal. So, while I was publishing poems in Canadian journals, my first real, not self-published, chapbook was by above/ground.

above/ground press has produced exceptional titles throughout the past 25 years and has supported poets across Canada fervently. Running a press for so many years is mostly a labour of love, as most of the titles were given away for free over the years, and it is mostly by subscription that the press stays in operation. above/ground press is a huge achievement in the sustenance of Canadian poetry and poets, and deserves our support on a grand scale. 25 years is a long time. Hopefully, there will be many more to come.

Eleni Zisimatos is a poet and editor of Vallum Magazine, based in Montreal.

Zisimatos’ is the author of two above/ground press titles, including summations : travels through Italy, produced as STANZAS magazine, volume 1, issue #27 (April 2001) and the chapbook SEARCHING FOR A SPECIES, scheduled to appear sometime over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Greg Bem reviews Valerie Coulton's small bed & field guide (2017)

Our pal Greg Bem was good enough to provide the first review for Valerie Coulton's small bed & field guide (2017) at Goodreads. Thanks so much! You can see the original review here.
Valerie Coulton's language is shockingly clear and found within the fringes of the contemporary. From the digital landscapes to the contours of intimacy, Coulton's chronicles, appearing serial and diaristic, charm, mesmerize, and paralyze the readership. The two poems in this book, "small bed," and "field guide," read very similarly, divided into four columns upon the page-spread. The fragments (the stanzas) within each are blinks of Coulton's very personal reality. Though there is joy and pain, comfort and suffering, within these pages, the tone is fairly optimistic and reads as a sort of triumph-through-documentation. I found the book truly marvelous to read, especially displacing having never read Coulton's work before.

Monday, February 12, 2018

new from above/ground press: Gestational Trail, by Adrienne Gruber

Gestational Trail
Adrienne Gruber

Bamfield to Darling

Nausea jerks. Muscles stiff
rebellious. Swallow the last
refrigerated food.
Yoghurt drink, bagels and
cream cheese, fruit.
Boat leaves at 6 a.m.
battles an impenetrable fog.

We are the only people
in the ocean.

We bundle in greasy wool blankets
watch California Grays breech
vapor bullets from blowholes.
Sea Lions yawp at our vessel.

Dock at Bamfield. Eggs Benny
a hotcake each. Coffee.
One last flush toilet.
Dropped at the trailhead
clean and crisp.

Total evacuations to date: 53

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
February 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Adrienne Gruber
is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Buoyancy Control (BookThug) and This is the Nightmare (Thistledown Press), and four chapbooks, The Rope (Jack Pine Press), Intertidal Zones (Jack Pine Press), Mimic (Leaf Press) and Everything Water (Cactus Press). She lives in Vancouver with her family.

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at