Archive for the ‘2010’ category

Fun with StatsTracker: The Most Incongruous Google Searches that Landed Web Citizens at Vox Pop in 2010

December 30, 2010

This will be my last “end of the year” post, I promise. I’m as burnt out on them as you are. Instead of talking bests, or mosts, or worsts, I thought we’d have some fun by going through the google searches that landed people at Vox Pop over the last twelve months. Most search queries are accompanied by a brief retort, sometimes answering the question asked in the search, sometimes just making fun of the searcher. Okay? As unbelievable as some of these might be, I solemnly swear that I didn’t make any of these up. Even the ones about public intercourse.

zach wells, cage fighter
I like to imagine this search being done in optimism, by a recently dissed poet, in the hopes of a Celebrity Boxing-esque showdown wherein they could acquire their revenge.

the world is more than we can comprehend
I’m with you, buddy. I don’t know how we found each other, but I’m with you

kevin connolly’s glasses brand
I’ll ask him for you, the next time I see him.

brand inventory
There’s a lot like this. All those business students are going to be pissed when they find out my blog post was about this and not this.

my friend was dishonourable to me
That’s unfortunate. You should seek vengeance.
It’s nice to know that even now, at the end of 2010, there are still grandmothers out there who get the search bar and the url bar confused on their copies of Internet Explorer 5.
See above.

behind the bohemian
See above. Also, web addresses don’t have spaces.

“laisha rosnau” + “lousy explorers”
I have no idea what I did to acquire this.

beardy poet from olympics
I’m okay with this moniker. However, if you came for a legal name, it’s Shane something.

different snakes in canada
Some of them write poetry

canadian assholes
See above.

Best Spenser Novel
Ceremony, or Early Autumn. Or, though you’ll need to know the characters pretty well by then to appreciate it, Small Vices.

tired blood john turturro
Geritol cures it. And I should be ashamed of myself?

“mistaken for irony”
I wonder if those quotation marks were meant ironically?

poetry on self pleasuring
There once was a man from Berkoff…

lumberjack porn
It’s not the size of the hatchet, it’s the angle of the axe. Again, no sense of how many google results pages someone has to eagerly scroll through to get to this blog.

“andrew alexis” “jon metcalf” “the walrus”
You know a literary feud has gone mainstream when you get searches in which none of the names of the belligerents are spelled correctly. This came from an IP address suspiciously similar to the one that sends me emails from the Globe and Mail, fyi.

everyone is entitled to their own opinion. it’s just that yours is stupid.
Fine, well, fuck you too.

Mine is manly, thick, and invisible.

inexpressible media
Whoa, what would that look like?

picture that insults assholes
I recommend this one.

campo di fiori czeslaw milosz englisz translation#
I recommend this one.

meanwhile in canada
The beginning of the final, smallest, paragraph in every chapter of every book on North American poetry.

“johanna skibsrud” human being
It’s true, she is.

aughts definition
It’s 2000 to 2009. It’s NOT 2001 to 2010. Don’t let people tell you different.

parker, robert b., 1932-2010.
The saddest day of this young gumshoe’s year, perhaps.

bomb threat checklist karen solie
That should really be online somewhere, but I can’t find it. Can anyone else?

snakes of eastern canada
What is it with all these fucking snakes? When did I ever write about snakes?

fucking in the street
I’m down. Call me.

candace fertile fun run
Is this some sort of annual memorial jog organized after Linda Rogers had her executed last month?

Twelve Merry Months of Voxing

December 14, 2010

Hi kids.

Santa Claus is coming. I’ve got my plane ticket home. It’s as cold as I’ve ever felt it in Toronto. In the continued roll-out of all things “End of the Year”, I thought I’d post a list of the blog’s post popular posts from the past 365 days, as decided by traffic. So take a look through, pull up what you’ve missed, and relive with me the year’s worth of lies, damned lies, and internet talkin’ fights.


10. (it’s a tie) August 25th, 2010
In Defense of Blogging. You’ll notice I have a fairly humble sense of how much this blog matter to anyone, but I will say that this post is the thing I’m most proud of, among everything I’ve slapped up in this space. You should read it and let me know what you think. I’m invested in it. I’m not always invested.
Meanwhile, in more important matters: The Battle of Mogadishu intensifies. Carter arrives in North Korea. Hurricane Danielle strengthens to a Cat. 2 and starts making faces at Bermuda.

November 29th, 2010
Facebook for Writers: A Constitution. On the opposite end of the earnestness spectrum is this throw-away little funsized thingy I did with Alex Boyd last month. At least three people took it way to seriously and emailed me in complaint. It’s a fast-paced world, angry trio, if you can’t read between the lines, then you shouldn’t be reading.
Meanwhile, in more important matters: Picasso’s electrician reveals lost treasures. Kenya plots to arrest its homosexuals. Iran’s top nuclear scientist is killed under mysterious circumstances, but neither Israel nor NATO have any idea what we’re talking about.

9. December 6th, 2010
The Vox List: Jake’s 5 Favourite Canadian Poetry Titles of 2010. You people and your lists. Y’all are a bunch of SEO-infected, HuffPo-linkin’ automatons. Our hero posts his requisite “best-of” list and, in the matter of a week, it cracks this top ten. This list made the list. Oh noes, a list of lists! Internet crashes, roads dissolve. The sun swallows the moon swallows the sky swallows Texas….
Meanwhile, in more important matters: The cholera outbreak in Haiti goes unchecked. The Bush Tax Cuts are extended. Julian Assange says Fuck You to the world.

8. July 10th, 2010
More Provocations for People. Our hero’s public offer of $100 to anyone who used Milton Acorn’s “More Poems for People” as their “avant-garde” text for a Scream Festival event that, to my eyes, obnoxiously and specifically invoked the A word resulted in nobody taking me up on the offer, but did lead to some interesting blog activity. This was something of a foreshadow to the post that followed later that week (scroll down).
Meanwhile, in more important matters: BP tries to refit their oil spill with a larger containment cap. Germany tops Uruguay in the World Cup 3rd Place match. Raoul Moat shoots himself in the UK.

7. October 13th, 2010
Governor General’s Shortlist: English Poetry, 2010. Perhaps as a sign of the blog’s increased weight in this tiny little playpen we all live in, shit got lit up the day I posted this info, which anybody could have found at any of several dozen other places on the internet. It did result in this fun side-project at GoodReports. I feel, in the end, like the right book won, at least the right book from among the five finalists. How often does that happen?
Meanwhile, in more important matters: US drones kill 13 in Pakistan. US drones physically located in the US don’t notice or care. The final Chilean miner hits the surface at 9:56 PM local time.

6. August 15th, 2010
Introducing the ITYNWC. The Vox Pop/Scotiabank International Ten Year Novel-Writing Contest kicks off for another decade. I hear from our some 400 contestants that things are going well. One of them called just yesterday to say that their toddler has potty trained himself (the good news!) using her manuscript as bathroom tissue (the less-good news!). Hang in there, champs!
Meanwhile, in more important matters: Zsa Zsa Gabor falls ill. The Indian PM falls on the grenade re: The Commonwealth Games. Two people are shot at a Brazilian Gay Pride parade.

5. February 9th, 2010
Remember Your Ephemera. In a good day for the credibility of blogging as mind-changing medium, our hero introduces his review of Moez Surani’s Reticent Bodies by way of a push for the lovingly curated Notes section. Everybody disagrees and, looking back on it, they were right. As a result, the size of the Notes section in my upcoming collection is reduced by approximately 75%. As Alanis said, U Learn.
Meanwhile, in more important matters: The Italian Embassy in Iran gets its ass kicked. Simultaneously, a new Filipino election is called and the current President’s allies are charged with murder. Has to be a coincidence….

4. January 12th, 2010
Chattering Classes (def). A one-paragraph post inspired by an insipid provocation by a Tory cabinet minister. One of our hero’s rare overtly political bloggerings. I thought a bit about reposting it as I was listening to Don Cherry go on about “bottom-scraping” leftists this week.
Meanwhile, in more important matters: The Pine Glacier hits its tipping point. The North American Auto show goes green. A man-sized man is eaten by a “dinosaur-sized” shark.

3. March 15th, 2010
Comfort and Commitment. In which our hero takes issue with fellow blogger Alex Boyd’s essay on content in Canadian poetry, and posts a rebuttal. Brief internet skirmish follows. Later, everyone makes up and Boyd brings our hero onboard with his fun little Facebook for Writers idea (see above).
Meanwhile in more important matters: The doomed Dodds Bill for financial regulation enters the Senate. Beckham drops out of the World Cup. Shit goes down in Palestine.

2. May 1st, 2010
Tuturro Week, Part 1. Perhaps the greatest single piece of evidence I’ve seen of the smallness of poetry versus the massiveness of pop culture. Our hero does a jokey series on the topic of poetry-themed movies staring lovable but hardly famous character actor John Tuturro, said post makes both the Imdb’s news wrap-up and the first page of Tuturro’s google results, and becomes the most searched page in the history of the blog. Johnny, I thought no one cared about ya….
Meanwhile, in more important matters: That one guy fails mightily in his attempt to blow up Times Square. Johnson & Johnson recalls half their products. Mayweather beats Mosley by decision.

1. July 11th, 2010.
Jake’s Provoquestion, restated. In which our hero comes back pissed off from an afternoon of stewing in a fog at the Scream Festival’s annual panel discussion, and writes his first and only blog post from under the funky cloud of anger. Fireworks, not surprisingly, occur. Everything eventually peters out into the same old half-hearted posturing. I’m happy to report pretty much everyone is still friends.
Meanwhile, in more important matters: Spain wins the World Cup. There’s a solar eclipse. The “barefoot bandit” is caught. Sixty-four people die in Uganda.


It’s been a good year. Challenges and joys lie ahead. Foremost among those challenges, how to host a discussion of Canadian poetry while simultaneously hawking a book that hopes to be a part of that discussion? Not only, How much self-reference is too much? but How much self-reference is self-consciously too little?


The Vox List: Jake’s Five Favourite Canadian Poetry Titles of 2010

December 6, 2010

Hi kids.

I know there’s three weeks left in the year, but there’s only a dozen or so shopping days til Christmas, and Chanukah is already upon us. So, I’d like to use what little commercial oomph this blog has to state a case for five books that I think of as the best of the year from Vox’s in-house pool of literature (to wit, books of poems written by Canadians). I read beyond that, of course, but I feel like that’s the centre of my reading now. So that’s where I worked from in making this list.

Also, it should be stated that I took a couple books out of consideration on account of sharing an address with their authors. If left to my own devices, I probably would have bumped two of these five collections in favour of Tiny, Frantic, Stronger, by Jeff Latosik, and The Reinvention of the Human Hand, by Paul Vermeersch

It’s kind of a silly list, in the end. Even more so than most lists. For one, it’s entirely made up of first and second collections. This paints the list-maker as something of an ageist fad-hopper. There are veteran authors who put out strong stuff this year (I’m thinking Margaret Christakos and Dionne Brand, among others), but they didn’t quite make it. Maybe I was comparing their new work to their best work, and not comparing it to the other work that came out this year. Unfair, perhaps. Also, I know 2 or 3 of these people personally, which paints me as something of a cliquemaster. Also, it’s only a list of five books, and if I wanted to extend it to ten, I’d cover a lot more aesthetic bases. I had a list of ten, but cut it in half at the last minute. As Popeye said, I yam what I yam. Okay, enough excuses. Here we go, in alphabetical order by title:


Alien, Correspondent, Antony di Nardo, Brick Books
VOX describes it as: Egoless and almost passive in its delivery, seems destined for a beautiful, unfair obscurity. This is the kind of book that makes me glad I have a blog and can publicly suggest things to people. I suggest you read this.
Ideal first-time poetry reader: Your retired uncle who just got back from Borneo and is leaving for Madagascar in the Spring to found a school there.

At the Gates of the Theme Park, Peter Norman, The Mansfield Press
VOX describes it as: Reads like the kind of long-gestated debut collection some bloggers I know (Spoiler alert: It’s a photo of me) wish they had written. Maintains diversity of content, with no real misses to be found.
Ideal first-time poetry reader: The loneliest CBC Radio 2 listener you know.

Bloom, Michael Lista, House of Anansi Press
VOX describes it as: Simultaneously avant garde and old-fashioned. Check that, simultaneously THE MOST avant garde and THE MOST old-fashioned book of the year. So much for the paper tiger of contemporary poetry designations. This kind of book that demands seven more come after it as complimentary or dissenting arguments.
Ideal first-time poetry reader: The engineer in your family who, when you bring up how much you like poetry, makes some half-mumbled wistful reference to enjoying Ted Hughes in high school

Clockfire, Jonathon Ball, Coach House Books
VOX describes it as: High-wire conceptual theatrics that inexplicably don’t get old after ten or twenty pages.
Ideal first-time poetry reader: Your younger sibling who is back from college with the news that s/he is considering transferring into, or out of, the drama program next semester.

[sic], Nikki Reimer, Frontenac Press
VOX describes it as: A rare young poet who can channel the energy given off by her personality into things greater than just MORE personality. Reimer lets it bleed into form, into cadence, into pace. The book wants you to read it cover-to-cover in, like, 30 minutes. A tough trick to pull off.
Ideal first-time poetry reader: That ancillary figure in your life (maybe a video store clerk, or a bartender) who you feel simpatico enough with to want to strike up a more formal friendship.

A pretty groovy year, this 2010. I’d like to know what books I missed. I’m sure there’s a lot of them.


Retail 2010: Gaspereau Press

February 25, 2010

I bet you all thought I forgot about this. Well, I didn’t. I just took something of a break. And then I forgot about it. And then I remembered. And then I got food poisoning. And now it’s Thursday. Today we visit with Gaspereau Press, a miniscule brand with a reputation that far outdistances its budget and its print runs. Gaspereau makes breathtaking books, the kind of objets d’art that you want to put in the safest possible corner of your bookshelf, so as to let the expertly-chosen paper and ink avoid the mortal interference of other titles. Based in Kentville, NS, Gaspereau is also the closest thing this blog has to a hometown poetry press, as Vox Pop’s official mascot, a five-year-old terrier named Toby, lives with his grandmother just a bit further down the Cornwallis River, in Port Williams.

Author: Tim Bowling
Title: The Annotated Bee and Me
Date: April
Collection Number: Eighth
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “A few years ago, while sorting through a box of family mementos, Tim Bowling discovered a slim volume which his Great Aunt Gladys Muttart had privately printed in 1961—a memoir of her family’s beekeeping adventures in Edmonton between 1906 and 1929. As he read and re-read the text of this little book, Bowling felt that “two very different ways of life, the early years of two very different centuries, began to merge, as if the past was something the present gathers from the fields on a summer day.”
Other Notes: Bowling has spent much of the last decade writing novels (The Bone Sharps, 2007) and non-fiction (The Lost Coast, 2007), though he also scored a poetry GG nomination for The Witness Ghost and The Memory Orchard (2003 and 2004). He also received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008.

Author: Johanna Skibsrud
Title: I Do Not Think that I Could Love a Human Being
Date: April
Collection Number: Second
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Poets have always wrestled with the mutability of things (particularly or life and love) and with the problem of conveying the true shape of human emotion and experience through the often inadequate tool of language. The poems in Johanna Skibsrud’s new collection, I Do Not Think that I Could Love a Human Being, employ the tentative and uncertain characteristics of language to their advantage, pulling the reader headlong into the fray as the poet endeavours to give shape to her experience.”
Other Notes: Skibsrud lives in Montreal now but, like a disproportionate number of Gaspereau poets, began life in Nova Scotia. Her first collection, Late Nights with Wild Cowboys, made the Lampert shortlist a few years ago and since then there’s been a novel called The Sentimentalists. Northern Poetry Review has this interesting interview with Alessandro Porco, which deals mostly in Cowboys but also mentions the novel. For those of you who can’t read, here’s the audio of Skibsrud at a recent reading.

Author: Paul Tyler
Title: A Short History of Forgetting
Date: April
Collection Number: Le Debut!
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “As first collections of poems go, Paul Tyler’s A Short History of Forgetting is remarkable for its confidence, maturity of voice and control of form. Its style ranges from the aggressive pace, short measure and muscular language of its tightly-wound object poems, to gentler, more meditative reflections on aging and the loss of identity and language which comes with it.”
Other Notes: A rare first collection from Gaspereau, though as an associate editor with Arc for four years, Tyler has “been around” as we say. Here is a chapbook published through Rubicon Press and here is one of the several reviews he wrote in his Arc days. Tyler lives in Ottawa, which is also, you may know, the capitol of our country.

Retail 2010: Insomniac Press and Palimpsest Press

February 3, 2010

The good times keep on rolling as we pay visits to two Ontario poetry publishers that do good things with the modest patches of cultural ground their berths in our little poetry community allows them. This morning, it’s time for Insomniac Press (London) and Palimpsest Press (Essex County). Alphabetical order says we start with the former.

Author: David McFadden
Title: Why Are You So Long and Sweet?, Collected Long Poems of David W. McFadden
Date: May
Collection Number: Twenty-Second (Editors Note: OMFG!)
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Why Are You So Long and Sweet? finally brings together all of McFadden’s masterful long poems. For some poets, the long poem is an occasion to stretch one’s lyrical legs, try on different stylistic hats, or work out ideas too complex for shorter poems. For David McFadden, the long poem is much more: here is McFadden’s prodigious imagination in overdrive, his language and imagery always mischievous and mesmerizing, spinning yarns both comic and cosmic. ”
Other Notes: It’s hard not to be excited by this volume of collected long poems. McFadded is on a bit of a roll of yet, his last book of new work, Be Calm, Honey, got shortlisted for the G-G, while his recent selected poems called Why Are You So Sad? (for which this new compendium is a wittily titled, companion) found itself on the Griffin shortlist. McFadden is an exciting poet who is able to work in a variety of styles, speeds, and voices. It’ll be neat to watch him work his way through them in the longer form. Whereas Why Are You So Sad? was my McFadden introduction, I’m eager to learn about his approach to the long ones. Stuart Ross edits, as he did for So Sad, which was also an Insomniac title.

Author: Jeff Latosik
Title: Tiny, Frantic, Stronger
Date: May
Collection Number: Le Debut
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Probing the pressure points where notions of physical, psychological, and technological strength continually threaten to erupt into their opposites, these poems ask which aspects of our daily lives might actually last beyond the here and now, beyond their own inherent limitations of time, person, and place.”
Other Notes: This first collection appears on the horizon after its author spent a couple years traipsing through the country, greedily scooping up wins and shortlistings for most of our top poetry prizes. His bouche now sufficiently amused by these wins, Latosik moves on to the main course of his career. It’s been fun watching Jeff (a close friend) grow into a more and more confident poet in the years I’ve known him. Here’s the poem of his The Malahat Review thought was the best they saw of the year. And here’s one from The Walrus. This book is an awesome accomplishment, and gets the full Vox Pop recommendation. Jeff is one of the two people I share an address with who is putting out a book of kick-ass new poems this year. Sigh. I’ll get the pom-poms and bullhorn out, and start practicing my cheers…


The other half of this double bill is brought to us by Palimpsest Press, a tiny little press with a big heart. They’re based in Kingsville, Ontario (Essex Co, pop: 20k). Two books on the slate this year for Palimpsest. Do the right thing, readers, and look into picking up one or both. Shake the little guy’s hand and let him know he’s your friend.

Author: Ariel Gordon
Title: Hump
Date: April
Collection Number: Le Debut!
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Hump is a mash-up of pregnancy-and-mothering poems and urban/nature/love poems that functions as an anti-sentiment manifesto from Winnipeg writer Ariel Gordon. Month by month, stanza by stanza, Gordon attempts to represent adequately the wonder and devilment of being with child. Hump is a love poem written to a father and child, to a lover with a glimmer in his eye, and to a city that is gritty and
faded but still greener than most.”
Other Notes: If you’re paying attention, this’ll be the third love-poems-to-a-city collection in the last two previews (after robinson’s Halifax and Bowness’s Ottawa). We seem to be moving West, manifesting some sort of destiny, as it were. Is there a Calgary or Vancouver writer out there with a love song of their own? Here’s her blog. And, of course, if writing about mothering seems like your kind of thing, your online home should always be Marita Daschel’s blog on the subject.

Author: Alessandro Porco, ed.
Title: Population Me: Essays on David McGimpsey
Date: April
Collection Number: Umm…it’s essays, by multiple authors (I seem to have asked myself an impossible question)
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Population Me: Essays on David McGimpsey gathers together, for the first time, a collection of essays that serve to highlight and explicate the scope and complexity of McGimpsey’s poetic practices. They examine McGimpsey’s positions on literary history, class, nationalism, humour, love, and aesthetics, all of which are celebrated in McGimpsey’s work.”
Other Notes: I know this isn’t a book of poems, per se, but I believe it’ll still be noteworthy to people who read this blog. The essayists are: poets Porco, jason Camlot, Elizabeth Bachinsky, and academics from U of T, UNLV, Texas Christian, U. Sask, and others. The whole thing closes with what I imagine is a fairly involved interview between Porco, Camlot, and McGimspey. As one of the great “nice guys” of Canadian poetry, McGimpsey can include among his many admirers people with only casual interests in contemporary verse. We need more people with that kind of audience. I’m glad the poet and blogger Alessandro Porco has stepped up to solidify the McGimpsey impact.

Retail 2010: ECW Press and Tightrope Books

January 31, 2010

We’re moving into shorter lists now, so I’m going to start doubling up. It’s a finite world we live in, kids, and it’s important to save on paper. ECW Press is based here in Toronto and runs the oddly original business model of Books about Pro Wrestling + Poetry + the occasional novel = Skyrocketing Profits and Market Domination. Or something. Anyway, they’re in that minority of poetry publishers who like to put stuff out in the fall too, so be on the lookout for new titles round about October or November. And these two, coming out in April.

Author: David Donnell
Title: Watermelon Kindness
Date: April
Collection Number: Eighth (give or take the odd poetry/fiction hybrid)
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Detailing a point of view that is both contentious and genial—somewhere between the outlooks of Archie Bunker and Dale Peck—the wide-ranging poems in this honest collection ponder questions concerning art, history, and psychology while reveling in the sensory experiences of everyday life. Whether exploring the modus operandi of other writers or paralleling the trajectory of a satellite with a badly ended love affair, these conversational and intellectual poems present a unique voice with a comprehensive worldview.”
Other Notes: It’s been six years since Donnell’s last collection (Sometimes a Great Notion) and a full 27 since the career-high accolades of his Governor General’s Award wining Settlements. I have never read a book by David Donnell. Does anyone have a specific recommendation? (UPDATE: Apparently Donnell’s last book was edited by someone who lives in my house. So I’ll read that. I am so horrifically embarassed when I come across an author with an impressive CV that I’ve simply never read before. For me, philistine’s remorse feels like heartburn, except in the brain.)

Author: matt robinson
Title: Against the Hard Angle
Date: April
Collection Number: Fourth
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Against the Hard Angle uses some of Halifax’s most and least famous places as jumping off points for a stop-and-start lyrical tour of eastern Canada’s largest urban centre, a sometimes fraught journey that leaves us “all tendon-tensed, / against impact, near white-knuckled to / breakage.”
Other Notes: This is a book in two sections, the first being the full text of Robinson’s 2009 Malahat Review Long Poem Contest winner, and the second being a collection of mostly Haligonian place-poems. Several years back, robinson wrote a book called how we play at it that I enjoyed for its text, though said text was defeated handily by perhaps the single greatest cover image in the history of Canadian poetry. I know I gave shit to the last guy with no capital letters in his name, but robinson’s been around for a little while now, and has begun to earn his affectations.


We’ll move on now to Tightrope Books and their trio of new releases. Tightrope’s major contribution to Canadian letters is always going to be their Best Canadian Poetry series, edited this past year by A.F. Moritz (though the series editor is Molly Peacock, who also edited my first book. Oh, Canadian poetry, you remind me of this). As a publisher of individual titles, I’ve found their work a little hit and miss. Though I guess if half of your titles are any good, you’re doing well in this poetry stuff. Anyway, here’s what’s new.

Author: Suzanne Bowness
Title: The Days You’ve Spent
Date: May
Collection Number: Le Debut!
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Part private reflection, part love letter to the metropolis, The Days You’ve Spent pulls back the curtain on city life, finding beauty in neon signs and profundity in laundromats. In these poems, the individual and the city interweave, and urban immersion becomes an essential element in personal growth.”
Other Notes: Bowness works by day as a journalist and tech writer, so surely she’s earned her reward in poetry. It’s strange that, across two separate Toronto publishers, we’ve now seen a love letter to Halifax in the robinson book, and now a second urbanist manifesto from an author based in Ottawa.

Author: Ian Burgham
Title: The Grammar of Distance
Date: May
Collection Number: Second
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “His imagery is, by turns, sensuous and rough-hewn, soft and hard. The poems crackle with sonic energy; they whinny and stamp. They whistle in the dark. His poetic landscapes frequent the windswept coasts of Scotland; but in this collection, we also find him doing terribly Canadian things like snowshoeing, surveying, chopping wood. Sometimes Al Purdy can be heard in Burgham’s voice and, occasionally, Patrick Lane.”
Other Notes: Burgham’s debut full-length collection, Skipping Stones, scored a ReLit nomination and the appreciation of literary figures both in this country (Di Brandt) and beyond (Alexander McCall Smith).If you’d like more information, you can consult his suspiciously well-researched Wikipedia entry, if you catch my drift.

Author: Anna Swanson
Title: The Nights, Also
Date: May
Collection Number: Le Debut!
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Her writing is as honest as it is complex, and it attempts to reconcile an identity that has been distorted by illness through a profound analysis of memory and individual meaning. With poems that run the gamut from fearful to the absurd, that are at once deep and pithy, Anna Swanson proves in The Nights Also that she is a brave new voice in Canadian poetry.”
Other Notes: I was pretty excited to hear about this book. Anna Swanson was in the room during my first creative writing class back in the earlier half of the last decade, and I quickly identified her as the person who I should steal the opinions of until I got practiced enough to have my own. Most of these poems will be pre-published on the magazine circuit. I’m surprised it’s taken this long for her debut to be published, but am hopeful that this long a wait will pay off in the final product. Here’s a poem of Swanson’s about the weather which, unlike most poems about the weather, is fun to read.

Retail 2010: House of Anansi Press

January 29, 2010

Anansi is forty-some years into the game at this point and now, more than ever, seems well-anchored to their occasional status as Canada’s pre-eminent poetry publisher. It’s hard to identify a house style, except that Anansi’s titles tend to work against generalizations. Their experimental stuff tends to be emotive, human, and not shy about epiphany, while their more lyrical or personal work is rich and intensely musical. The yellow A for Anansi is the closest thing Canadian poetry has to a sure-fire mark of quality, a distinctive and reliable brand.

This Spring brings us four new titles. As well, A.F. Moritz is editing the Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology this year. If the trends of recent history continue, the editor of next year’s anthology may be selecting poems from one or more of these titles:

Author: Erin Moure
Title: O Resplandor
Date: February
Collection Number: Thirteenth (written alone, not including selecteds or translations)
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “In unexpected ways — through impossible translation, anachronistic journeys, and a fictional mystery that involves a search for a translator who exists only in the future beyond the book itself — O Resplandor confounds notions of authorship and translation, all while conveying the clamour over love and loss.”
Other Notes: This would appear to be part three in the series that began with O Cididan and continued with O Codoiro. Funfact: If you Google the query O Resplandor (no quotes), the first page that comes up is the IMDb listing for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. I have no idea why this is and, I’m guessing, neither do you. It’s just the kind of thing you find out when you’re a hack blogger using Google and Wikipedia as research tools. The kind of hack blogger who couldn’t be bothered to insert the proper accents this entry has demanded, and thus risks being seen as somehow culturally insensitive. Anyway, searching the page’s text for the same query reveals no further clues. A pat on the back for anyone who can solve this mystery.

Author: Suzanne Buffam
Title: The Irrationalist
Date: April
Collection Number: Second
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “The Irrationalist brilliantly blends the innocent’s egalitarian dispensation of value and attention with fleeting slipstreams of wisdom. Buffam once again proves she’s a poet of considerable range, formal rigour, and imaginative force.”
Other Notes: This is Buffam’s follow-up to the Lampert-winning Past Imperfect (also Anansi, 2006). Here she is jumping through ROB MCLENNAN’s various hoops and detours on his blog. Here’s Anita Lahey’s short appreciation of Imperfect on the Arc poetry site. Buffam, incidentally, is one of the scattering of Iowa Writers Workshop grads that pepper the literary landscape in this country.

Author: Steven Heighton
Title: Patient Frame
Date: April
Collection Number: Fifth
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “From the court of Medici to the My Lai massacre; from love for a daughter and mother to moments of painful acceptance; from erotic passion to situations of deep moral failure, these poems are part of an ongoing search, a scanning of our human horizons for moments of lasting value.”
Other Notes: If you’re counting, it’s been six years since Heighton’s last collection, The Address Book. We’re going from famine to feast this Spring though, as he is also releasing a new novel with another publisher called Every Lost Country. I hope he does what more poet/novelists should do, which is sneak in readings and mentions of the collection when on tour with the better-marketed novel. I can almost hear the fiction writers’ eyes roll into the backs of their heads as they read the words “marketed” and “novel” so close together in the same sentence….Anyway, let’s all gather round and read this tasty little poem on the Poetry Foundation website.

Author: Michael Lista
Title: Bloom
Date: April
Collection Number: Le Debut!
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “On May 21, 1946, the day of a lunar eclipse, a Canadian physicist named Louis Slotin was training his replacement on the Manhattan Project, preparing the bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But Slotin decided to forego the standard safety procedures, and there was an accident: the plutonium went critical, a phenomenon scientists call a “bloom.” Nine days later Slotin died. Michael Lista, a thrilling and wildly engaging new voice in poetry, reimagines this fateful day in a long poem that draws upon the still-mysterious events of May 21, 1946; the connection to Slotin’s ancient predecessor Odysseus, creator of the Trojan Horse, the first weapon of mass destruction; and the link to Slotin’s literary mirror, the cuckolded Leopold Bloom in Joyce’s Ulysses.”
Other Notes: It’s such a many-tentacled beast, this book, with demands placed on it that aren’t even mentioned in those paragraphs (for example, many if not all of the poems are going to be rewrites, or covers, of works by other poets). I think this collection has so many people excited because of the audacity of its conceits, and the risks they present to their author. With all those balanced elements, the book will either stand on its own two feet, or fail. Most books don’t contain such a great breadth of possible results. Most books are written to be mostly enjoyed by most people. But Lista seems to have constricted himself into a binary state, a Pass/Fail grading system for the book that would launch his literary career. People get excited over gutsiness. Myself included, for the record.

Retail 2010: Nightwood Editions

January 18, 2010

Nightwood is next. Apologies for scheduling them into the “following the Haitian catastrophe” slot on the blog. It had to be somebody…

Always a good mix of exciting voices confidently framed by talented designers, this BC-based publisher is hard to summarize into a specific house style (that’s a compliment). This spring’s theme appears to be “sophomore efforts”, with one fifth collection thrown in to lead the hikes.

Author: Triny Finlay
Title: Histories Haunt Us
Date: March
Collection Number: Second
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Finlay plumbs the depths of family life as she negotiates the territories of ancestry, love, and new motherhood: a great-grandmother who went to bed for seventeen years; a lover caught with somebody else; a son’s critical illness — things that “encroach, they devastate, so that you must decide: you are an anchor or you are not.”
Other Notes: Finlay’s debut collection, Splitting Off, is loved by many. Originally from Austrialia, she now lives in Toronto and is a PhD candidate in English at U of T. I think I’ve seen some of the poems from this collection in recent journals and liked them, however…that title! Is it bad journalism to suggest a title is no good without actually reading the book? It is, isn’t it? I will not judge this book by its title. I will not judge this book by its title. I will not judge this book by its title. I will not judge this book by…

Author: Ray Hsu
Title: Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon
Date: March
Collection Number: Second
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon uses the grammatical concepts of singular and plural as grid-lines to chart contemporary life and concerns both harrowing and humane. Extending from this principal division, Hsu explores the borders between civic engagement and domesticity, dissent and accord, freedom and restriction—each of these are tested against another and framed by the tension between the collective and the individual.”
Other Notes: I haven’t read Antropy, Hsu’s Lampert-winning debut collection, but it’s one of those books—I’ve heard five different opinions from the last five people who brought it up. I’ve commited myself to reading his work ever since my research led me to this interview and his answer to a question about the last “non-literary” book he’s read, “How to Be a Great Boss, a self-help book that uses alliteration to convince you that what it says is true.”

Author: Jim Johnstone
Title: Patternicity
Date: March
Collection Number: Second
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Johnstone’s work is informed by a scientific approach, his own corporeal environment and an exploration of “the unreliability of language, regardless of how it’s relayed.”
Other Notes: I’m not sure how lyric poetry can be “informed by a scientific approach” (what are the variables, I ask? the theory? the hypotheses?) but that’s no matter. I think part of the lesson of this series is that the marketing of poetry can get pretty silly. Some of these poems were part of Johnstone’s CBC Lit. Award Runner-Up manuscript, which may partially explain the rushed release, coming only two years after his first collection, The Velocity of Escape.

Author: Jay MillAr
Title: Other Poems
Date: March
Collection Number: Fifth
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “This book, being a collection of Other Poems, is an assemblage of seemingly disparate materials—the poems are of various lengths, subjects and origins and were composed over the past ten years of this prolific author’s life.”
Other Notes: I got to say, I love thematic collections and will continue to do so, but That Title + That Bumfspeak = Maximum Charming! MillAr is a busy dude, as he also heads up two of Toronto’s better indie-lit staples, BookThug and Apollinaire’s Bookshoppe.

Retail 2010: McClelland & Stewart, Ltd.

January 15, 2010

We continue with our series of previews of new titles from the nation’s armada of erstwhile poetry publishers with a visit to Vox Pop’s own home turf at McClelland & Stewart. M &S is coming back from a year spent publishing only one new book of poetry by a living author with a full slate of four. These books are also available as electronic downloads, though curiously at the same price point as their physical manifestations (thus valuing all extra-textual contributions to the book, including those from printers and typesetters, at $0.00?) Either way, it’s a mighty exciting list. Four must-haves, methinks.

Author: Dionne Brand
Title: Ossuaries
Date: March
Collection Number: Tenth (!)
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “There are multiple strands in Ossuaries–the narrative of a woman fleeing, the sorting of the bones, the museums of spectacle that the poet visits collecting them, and the search for their final place–and always the political urgency and incantatory lyric intensity for which Brand is justly celebrated.”
Other Notes: Regular readers will know that I was something of a fan of Brand’s last book. No sign of specifics on what Ossuaries might contain, though. That bumf above doesn’t give away too much. I did, however, read a pretty great poem that may or may not be from this new collection in the summer (Issue #83) incarnation of Brick. Whatever the content of the new book might be, Toronto’s poet laureate will always have my attention.

Author: Melanie Siebert
Title: Deepwater Vee
Date: March
Collection Number: Le Debut!
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “A stunning poetic debut that explores some of Canada’s most threatened waterways–places both altered and untamed–and tracks their currents of history and myth.”
Other Notes: Siebert had a pretty great poem in a semi-recent issue of The Walrus, and is a product of UVic’s Creative Writing program. Most interestingly, she is a professional river guide and relied on that work history for many of the poems in Deepwater Vee. It’s been a few years now since the West Coast came out with another really great collection of ecopoetry, so I’m eager to hear from new voices.

Author: John Steffler
Title: Lookout
Date: March
Collection Number: Sixth
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “The poems embrace the limestone barrens on Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula and the poet’s personal life, the end of a marriage, the beginnings of new love. There is also a series of poems about his parents’ struggle to deal with his mother’s Alzheimer’s during the last year of her life.”
Other Notes: It’s been twelve big years since That Night We Were Ravenous, and though there hasn’t been any new collections, Steffler’s been busy. He put out a selected volume and served as the country’s poet laureate. This book looks like it’ll be a compendium of his “Newfoundland period”, and I’m excited to see what Steffler can do with it. He makes that personal/anecdotal thing fresher and more memorable than most of the rest of the country. Boy howdy, I can’t believe these books are all coming out on the same day from the same press. Go team.

Author: Paul Vermeersch
Title: The Reinvention of the Human Hand
Date: March
Collection Number: Fourth
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Paul Vermeersch’s new book of poems illuminates the sometimes unexpected yet profound consequences of the collision between technology and the natural world, between the evolutionary process and the human condition.”
Other Notes: One of two new collections we’ll look at in this tour written by somebody who shares an apartment with this blogger, Vermeersch #4 comes boasting an incredible cover design and five years of prep since his last book, Between the Walls. I’ve been lucky to see this puppy dog in manuscript form, and I think it’s the best work of his career. There’s a section of the long poem “Ape” archived online at the Globe and Mail, complete with an introduction from yours truly.

Retail 2010: Coach House Books

January 13, 2010

We continue to peek around the corner at upcoming titles from the nation’s brave and essential poetry publishers, today focusing on the proudly Torontonian Coach House Books. With a reputation for intellectualism that is challenging, energetic, and tied to the corporeal realities of urban life, Coach House can almost always be relied on for books that are difficult, but in a good way. This Spring they hope to bring us three more.

Author: Jen Currin
Title: The Inquisition Yours
Date: April
Collection Number: Third
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “In voices alternately vulnerable, defiant, resigned and hopeful, The Inquisition Yours speaks to the atrocities of our time – war, environmental destruction and the erosion of personal rights– fashioning a tenuous bridge between the political and the personal.”
Other Notes: This is only our second one of these reviews and already we’re seeing a definite trend toward contemporary, politically-charged poetry. Wait, where am I? What country is this? Currin’s last book Hagiography, was either brilliant or immediately forgettable, depending on who you asked. I admit I haven’t read it, though I did stare slack-jawed at its cover for a moment in at least one local book store.

Author: kevin mcpherson eckhoff
Title: Rhapsodomancy
Date: April
Collection Number: Le Debut!
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “In 1837, Sir Isaac Pitman began a sixty-year obsession with producing a system of Shorthand that accurately and swiftly captures voice as evidence of the mind’s movements. Then, in the 1950s, John Malone developed Unifon, a forty-character phonetic alphabet intended for international communication by the airline industry. Both projects reached for artful utility and both have largely been forgotten.”
Other Notes: It took me a moment to get over the all-lower-case name. “Really?” thought, “New poets are still doing this? Still!?” but then i decided i was okay with it when i started looking into the source material and agreed with the diminutive mr. eckhoff that it was ripe for language-poetry. if anybody doesn’t mind losing a solid hour of their lives, i suggest starting your tour of this endlessly interesting world with the wikipedia entries for both pitman and unifon.

Author: Rachel Zolf
Title: Neighbour Procedure
Date: April
Collection Number: Fifth
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: Neighbour Procedure sees Zolf assemble an arsenal of poetic procedures and words borrowed from a cast of unlikely neighbours, including Mark Twain, Dadaist Marcel Janco, blogger-poet Ron Silliman and two women at the gym. The result is a dynamic constellation where humour and horror sit poised at the threshold of ethics and politics.
Other Notes: Hard not to be excited about this. Zolf’s last book (Human Resources) won the Trillium Award and garnered about as much attention beyond the borders of the country as any other book of Canadian experimental poetry, excepting maybe Christian Bök. The words being used to describe this one: polyvocal, public, contemporary, etc., sound like natural extensions of her previous work. There’s a blurb here from Rodrigo Toscano that has me a little worried, though. I won’t reprint it for you, as I don’t want to scare anybody off. Let’s just say that it’s so inchoate and vacuous, it could have quite easily been generated by this machine.

That’s it for CH. I’ve started a master page for this project, which I will continue to add to as new previews are posted.