Sunday, December 14, 2008

Multiple Selves

I am sitting on a large gone-with-the-wind-type staircase wearing a ball gown, complete with crinoline and corset. It feels rigid and tight and I am uncomfortable. I am also sad, rest my head on my hand like I am waiting for someone. There are horse hoofs beating the ground in the distance and I look up to see a carriage approaching. A footman steps out, who I recognize as my brother-in-law, and he hands me an open-faced sandwich, topped with peanut butter and shredded carrot.

“No thank you,” I say and he walks away. Then he comes back and now a second self is sitting beside me and he offers the same sandwich to her. She also declines. I look at her and she looks at me. We think it curious, but are not alarmed by the duplicity.

“Shall we,” I say, and then take her hand and walk over to our mutual brother-in-law standing by the carriage. It is a warm summer night yet the outside of the carriage is covered in ice.

“Can we look inside?” I ask.

He answers gruffly, “Can if you want.” The carriage is shaped like a large pumpkin, perhaps similar to a drawing in a Cinderella book I saw as a child. I move the heavy fabric curtains to the side. It is so cold I can now see my breath. My other self is standing behind me, also trying to peer inside. I squint to see but it is remarkably dark. As my eyes slowly focus, I make out a woman. She appears frozen solid. On her lap curled is a frozen cat. Her hand is wrapped around it as if cuddling in sleep. I look at her face and recognize that it is me in old age. My other self lets out a gasp. We turn and face each other. Then I wake up.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Great Book Covers

Some of my favorite 2008 book covers.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Being the best is for motivational speakers and seven-step programs

Lately I have become increasingly aware of the controversies surrounding awards and “best of” anthologies. As long as there have been people deciding who is worthy and which texts are valued and for what reasons, there have been other people who disagree. But lately I have become more cognizant of the differing literary camps and the ongoing debates between them. I think critical debate is necessary, if only to resolve one’s own opinion. I don’t understand why it is so hard for people to recognize another perspective and see it as valid. Many have the first part down but they refuse to admit that another’s opinion has any merit. They battle on grounds of prejudice, authority and influence.

I have a friend who said something like, “what is the point of doing something if you don’t want to be the best?” It never occurred to me that as a publisher or writer, that THAT should be my goal. Sure it would be nice to win an award or get a little validation, and as a publisher I have an obligation to submit my authors’ books to award competitions, but in the end, is that what it is about? I’ve always done what I find rewarding and not worry about the rest. The book will find its audience. And to me at least, as a writer, the process is more foundational to artistic merit. Creating art is what matters — not selling it, labeling it, critiquing it, admonishing or praising it. Ego needs to be disassociated from the final work.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

You want to see where?

Shawna Lemay asked me to write something for her "Capacious hold-all" blog. I was a bit reluctant at first, opening up one's purse seems so revealing, but then again I write in a revealing way on this blog quite often. I guess I have fooled myself into thinking that no one besides me even reads what I post. There is, however, no denying that Shawna's blog is well read. So I am being brave and dumping out the contents of my purse for all voyeurs.

"I am a disorganized, cluttery-minded person, and my capacious carry-all is an example of someone failing miserably at trying to compartmentalize her life. When I open my purse, I am not surprised at all by the jammed, wall-to-wall contents — a small coin purse with metal snap closure, business card holder, fold wallet for credit cards and receipts, smaller wallet for cash, notepad but no pen, weekly planner, four months worth of receipts, parking ticket, my daughter’s report card, unopened mail, salt shaker, Canadian Tire flyer to remind me to exchange the ill-formed shaker, a clear plastic pouch for business related items and another for coupons..." Read the entire post at

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Revise, Revise, Revise

I have edited this poem again. Its earlier versions can be found on this blog, dated September 25th 2005, and published in The Windsor Review (Volume 38.2, 2005). I think I have tightened up the verse by removing some explanatory statements. The line lengths had to be changed for this posting.

Elizabeth Paints a Second Self-Portrait

In heaven, paint is free.
God encourages everyone to take art class.
Creative expression should not be underestimated
in its ability to heal old wounds.
He used this therapy himself.

No longer on the path of destruction— floods, fires,
the usual antics of a wrathful god— he now teaches art.
Soothes the spirit with yellow ochre and burnt umber.
Like children, they paint with their fingers,
smear the palest blue into the whitest paper.
This is the sky.

Elizabeth does not participate.
She has other things to work on.
She looks to the clouds, imagines the sun, paints
her face for the second time. There is no hint

of darkness, no deep shading to the side of her nose.
This time, she paints herself smiling,
though no one will see it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Found Poems

The lines used in the first poem have been excerpted from Brown’s record of a visit to the Rossetti studio, dated October 1854. Although the words, and ordering of them, are unchanged, I have chopped the prose text into short lines. The lines in the second poem are excerpted from Rossetti’s letters. The word order remains the same, but I have again broken the prose into shorter lines.

Found Poem — Ford Madox Brown

Everyday she is thinner
& more deathlike
& more beautiful
& more ragged

than ever,
a real artist.

Found Poem – Dante Gabriel Rossetti

I look at her sometimes, working or too ill
to work, think how many without her genius
or greatness of spirit have granted them abundant
health, while perhaps her soul is never to bloom
nor her bright hair to fade…
All she might have been must sink
in that dark house.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Paper Tigers Blog

Sally Ito gave a nod to Rascally Rhymes in her review on the Paper Tigers blog. I thought this was a cute story:

"After we finished reading this book, my daughter and I went through all the names and tried to see if we knew anyone with the same name. That was fun! Palimpsest Press, who publishes this book, is now offering a contest on their blog for children to makes rhymes. Reading this book definitely had an effect on my daughter. While sorting laundry together the other night, she held up a sock and said “Mom, this sock doesn’t have a rhyme!”"

Read the whole review plus reader comments here:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Victorian Architecture

I brought my camera while walking today so I could take some shots of the lovely Victorian architecture we have in Kingsville. Being in an old neighbourhood, there are many Queen Anne style homes close by. Passing these massive buildings I can’t help but think of Jane Austen and her use of interior space — drawing rooms, towers, closets, secret tunnels and chambers, domestic spaces configured in ways that reveal character interiority.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cook Up a Rhyme Contest

Are you a rascally little kid who loves reading and rhymes? Do you love making up silly poems and songs about anything and everything? Think you can cook up your own clever rhymes?

If that's you, then come take part in Cook Up a Rhyme! This is a very special contest that is open to wonderful, creative, and imaginative children!


Simply make up a rhyme or a poem about a person that you think is curious, funny, or just plain strange! Use the person's name in that poem.

Here is an example for you to follow. It comes from the book The Naming Book of Rascally Rhymes

X is for Xavier
Xavier is known
for odd behaviour,
brussel sprouts are
his favourite flavour.

He runs with shoes
on his head,
will only sleep
under his bed.

Despite his quirks,
he causes no harm,
everyone loves
his peculiar charm.

If you live in Canada, you can find the book here.
If you live in the United States, you can find the book here.


That was quick! Send us your poem by email here:
info (at)

In the subject line of the email, say: "Cook Up a Rhyme."

Make sure you include your full name and email address or mailing address with your entry. That way, we can write back to let you know if you won!

If you want to send it by postal mail, send it here:
Palimpsest Press
Att: Cook Up a Rhyme Contest
96 Stewart St.
Kingsville, ON.
N9Y 1X4

Send us your poem before December 25, 2008. We will choose all our winners and send them a very special New Year's gift!


This is the best part!
  • ONE very, very, special winner will get a poem written about them by Jordan D. Troutt -- the author of The Naming Book of Rascally Rhymes.
  • TEN other finalists will get their very own personally autographed copy of The Naming Book of Rascally Rhymes from Mr. Troutt!
  • The winning entry and the 10 finalists will have their poems posted on this blog for everyone to read!

Yes, you are absolutely right. There are rules, but luckily, not too many!
  • This contest is only for young people. By young people, we mean anyone who is over the age of 5 and under the age of 10.
  • Anyone who is over the age of 10 (like your parents) cannot take part in this contest. But they can check your spellings!
  • Make sure that one of your parents has visited this site and that you have their permission to join the contest.
  • And finally, most importantly: this contest is only open to rascals!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Who are the rascals?

Essex County native Jordan D. Troutt has published his first book of children's poetry. The Naming Book of Rascally Rhymes is an alphabetically ordered list of names with whimsical descriptions of each child. Each poem is clever — sometimes satiric, sometimes sweet — and always a delight to read. Influenced by Shel Silverstein, Troutt’s characterizations of children are humorous and irreverent. Troutt’s rascals are eccentric, silly, mischievous, tough, moody, but also sweet, talented, funny and imaginative. Here is the list of rascals:

A is for Abigail
B is for Billy
C is for Caleb
D is for Dylan
E is for Ethan
F is for Frieda
G is for Gillian
H is for Hunter
I is for Ian
J is for Justin
K is for Kalvin
L is for Lisa
M is for Meghan
N is for Ned
O is for Olive
P is for Patricia
Q is for Quinn
R is for Rita
S is for Sara
T is for Theodore
U is for Ursula
V is for Veronica
W is for Winona
X is for Xavier
Y is for Yolanda
Z is for Zach

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Book Launch / Art Exhibition

This evening Shawna Lemay launches her collection of essays, Calm Things, at Audrey's Bookstore in Edmonton, AB.

Here are the details:
Tuesday October 28th from 7-9 pm
Audrey's Bookstore, 10702 Jasper Avenue
Phone 780-423-3487

Shawna has teamed up with her husband, artist Robert Lemay, to have a joint function at the Douglas Udell Gallery, also in Edmonton.

The invitations read:
"Please join Robert Lemay for the opening reception for his exhibition on Thursday October 30th from 5 pm to 7 pm. Also in attendance, Shawna Lemay will be signing copies of her new book of essays about living with still life, Calm Things".

Thursday October 30th from 5-9 pm
The Douglas Udell Gallery
1032-124 Street, Edmonton, AB
Phone 780-488-4445

Friday, October 17, 2008

In Defense of Irreverent Humour for Children

“[Many of the poems] would offend readers who share those names. Despite the intention to be playful, it is unlikely that the Hunters of the world would appreciate being labeled a liar or Calebs being labeled as manipulative. There is no context or story that might soften the harshness of the character descriptions.”
— from a review of The Naming Book of Rascally Rhymes
in The Canadian Review of Materials

Our culture has become increasingly sentimental over children. Although I enjoy reading books to my daughter about good-natured and affectionate children, should love and cuddles be the whole of children’s literature? I have read to her the Gillian poem from The Naming Book of Rascally Rhymes, and she loves the description of the disobedient gorilla-like girl. Nor do I think a boy named Hunter would find this description offensive:

"Poorly named Hunter is timid and meek.
Listen quite closely or you won’t hear him speak.
His whisper might contain messages prudent and wise,
But since you can’t hear him we'll assume they’re all lies."

The irony is in the name. Can children appreciate irony? — I think so. Just as they can appreciate the lines: “Caleb calls to his friends to come see what’s in store./ He can trick all the bullies into doing his menial chores.” Shouldn’t there be something gratifying in tricking a bully? This is a book of rascally rhymes after all. It is not a book called pious poems for well-behaved children. Yes the poems are quirky and sometimes a little off-colour, but why do we need to constantly wrap our children in a protective layer of vapid though well-meaning platitudes. I think this speaks more to what we, as parents, want to imagine about our children then of their own reality.

The rascals in Troutt’s poetry are sometimes rebellious and iconoclastic. They disobey their parents and ridicule social conventions. So much literature for children is characterized by didactic moralizing that I welcome a little rebellion. There is a place for books with homespun family values, but I don’t see why a little irreverence needs to be viewed as a threat. Do you really suspect that a child will roll a classmate into a sandwich like Rita? Or perhaps you think your child, unlike Ethan, never sneaks a cookie from the cookie jar. When I read this poem to my daughter she said with unrestrained delight, “he wasn’t suppose to take a cookie, but HE DID IT ANYWAY!” and then the laughter came. Children must obey their parents’ rules, and a challenge to this power dynamic is immensely appealing to them, even as fantasy.

Celebrated children’s author Shel Silverstein did not put forth a sentimentalized view of children. In his poem “How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes,” the narrator teaches children to break the dishes to get out of washing them again. In “Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony” a girl imagines herself dying and her parents living to regret their refusal to buy her a pony. In Silverstein’s verse, children control adults through remote control, use trickery to get out of household chores, and sell unwanted parents at a yard sale.

Like Silverstein, Troutt’s humour is sometimes dark and edgy. And the children I have read these poems to think they are funny. They may not know what satire is but they understand the humour in the lines:

"Lisa watched the television
all day and all night.
Her hair caught reception,
giving her mother a fright.

It stands like an antenna
straight up from her head.
Now her eyes won’t close,
though she’s been sent to bed."

Troutt’s humour can also be light and absurd. There is fowl Frieda who “has toes that are webbed,/ long and skinny of leg./ If you didn’t know better/ you’d think she’d lay an egg.” In the same tone is the poem:

"Ian ate worms and toads
and rocks and snails a la mode.
His belly was sore and began to ache,
I guess he’ll pass on the mud-pie cake."

Some of the humour is just plain silly, like “Gillian, Gillian, would stomp like a gorillian” and Xavier who “is known/ for odd behaviour, brussel sprouts are/ his favorite flavour.” Troutt’s silliness also incorporates a child’s fascination with bodily functions. There is Ned who refuses to use a potty “preferring to be,/ in his diaper — a good place/ to poop and pee.” And then there is Zach who can be recognized by smell because he “was prone to sudden attach,/ his innards would squeeze/ and then let back.”

The children in Troutt’s book are eccentric, silly, mischievous, tough, moody, but also sweet, talented, funny and imaginative. There is Sarah who fights a sea monster and makes him her pet, “together they practice/ a ballet pirouette”, and Kalvin who collects “things curious and rare.” Indeed, the rascals are not always behaving poorly nor are they always good. If you have spent any time with children, this doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. Children are not idealized miniatures of us. They have complex personalities and we, as adults, should not patronize them with our own sentimentalizations about childhood or with preachy moralizing.

After reading this ridiculous review, I am feeling a lot like Ursula, who

to feel quite a bear.
Sitting quite frumpy
she’d stay in her chair.
When anyone tried
to brighten her mood,
it only intensified
her desire to brood."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Releasing the Rascals

The Naming Book of Rascally Rhymes was released today. It can be purchased on the Palimpsest website, through other on-line chains, or at your local bookstore. If you are interested in reviewing this book on your blog, please contact Dawn at Below is the press release put out by my publicist, Kulsum Merchant.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Palimpsest Press’ first review in the Quill & Quire

Here is a snippet from the Quill’s review…

“Twenty-six precocious youngsters eat, sing, and pirouette their way through Jordan D. Troutt’s first children’s book, The Naming Book of Rascally Rhymes. Troutt features one child for every letter of the alphabet, encapsulating their personality in a couple quirky stanzas. There is Dylan (who has a pet dinosaur named Rex), a timid boy called Hunter, and a TV-obsessed Lisa, to name a few.

The book was definitely designed to be read aloud. Sarah Preston-Bloor’s vivid, full-page illustrations are well-suited to the books’ playful nature. She uses acrylic paints on watercolour paper, giving Abigail, Rita, and the gang a rich, warm depth that will engage kids. The children in the story have little button noses and they’re often surrounded by animal friends, like puppies, cats, and baby chicks. It’s a book children will want to look at after you’re done reading.”

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Raptor Show

The Migration Festival in Kingsville put on an amazing raptor show at Lakeside Park.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Shawna Lemay's Calm Things

Palimpsest Press' first book of non-fiction, Shawna Lemay's Calm Things, is now available.

Calm Things
The term still life did not come into being until 1650. The French adopted the term nature morte, dead nature, around 1750. The painter de Chirico was said to have preferred the Italian term vita silente. The Japanese, however, call still life, calm things. Calm Things is the title essay of this collection of meditations on what it is like to live with still life, and to live poetically. Both an insider’s glimpse into the precarious world of artist and poet, and a long gaze at objects and the calm and silence they hold, these essays prize the ordinary, radiant gift of common things.

Shawna Lemay Book Launch
Tuesday October 23rd/ 08 from 7-9 pm
Audrey’s Bookstore, 10702 Jasper Ave, Edmonton, AB
Phone: 780-423-3487

Robert Lemay Art Exhibition
Thursday October 30th/ 08 from 5-7 pm
Douglas Udell Gallery
10332-124 Street, Edmonton, AB
Phone: 780-488-4445

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Sugar Arts

This morning I was in the midst of a lucid dream when I thought, hey, I might be writing some good shit, I should grab a pen to write down these poems. I was, in fact, composing poems in my dream. This is not the strange part. I frequently create poems while semi-conscious. Not much ever comes of it, since by the time I get up to fetch a pen and some paper, I have usually forgotten the lines and am left with the vague sense that I have lost something worth remembering.

This time I was determined not to forget. So I got up and went into the kitchen. Not long after I was leaning over a large slab of chocolate cake topped in vanilla with an icing bag in hand. Soon I was scribbling lines of pale blue as fast as I could pipe out frosted letters. Every time I changed my mind I had to edit the poem by scrapping the words off with a spatula. Yum… buttercream.

Then I woke up. Nothing like eating your own words.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Arts Cuts – a niche issue?

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people at, you know, a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough, when they know those subsidies have actually gone up – I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people." — Stephen Harper

The arts and cultural sector in Canada makes a significant contribution to the economy and it employs hundreds of thousands of workers. Employment growth in this sector has outpaced the growth of Canada’s other workforces during the last few decades. It is estimated that Canadian arts is an eighty-five billion dollar industry. This money supports not only artists, but so-called “ordinary” people whose own professions are tied to the health of this industry.

Despite Harper’s view that we artsy-types frequently attend ritzy galas, (which by the way, are privately funded and not supported by taxpayers), earnings are generally lower for cultural workers than the rest of the labour force. As Statistics Canada states, “for every successful creative and performing artist there are many with earnings below those of the average Canadian worker.” Artists have never been part of the elite rich. There are a few exceptions, those who have become moderately wealthy, but they don’t receive grants. The grants are there to keep organizations afloat and support individuals who otherwise would be unable to pursue their creative goals.

I can’t help but think that Harper wants to jeopardize an estimated six hundred thousand cultural jobs, and the billions of dollars they create, because artists don’t support him. Of course this is a generalization, but more artists than not are left of centre. Is it a coincidence that the majority of arts related jobs are in Quebec and Ontario? These two provinces, more than any others, have rejected the conservative government and now he is punishing the naughty constituents. No doubt his public spanking will backfire when he realizes that the majority of Canadians, and not just those from Quebec and Ontario, view the arts as an essential part of our heritage and our economy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Navel Gaze Tour

Ariel Gordon is touring with poet Kerry Ryan. Here is their schedule:

Wednesday October 1st/ 08 from 7-9 pm
Aqua Books, 274 Garry St, Winnipeg, MB
Phone: 204-943-7555

October 5th / 08 at 8 pm
Tonight It’s Poetry Series, Flint Bar, 259 2nd Ave S, Saskatoon, SK

October 7th/ 08 at 7 pm
Stanley A. Milne Library, 7 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton, AB

October 9th/ 08 at 7:30 pm
University of Regina, Luther College, Room 208, Regina, SK

Monday, September 22, 2008

Still-Life with Seashells

Inspired by Shawna Lemay's book cover for Calm Things, I thought I'd create my own still life using my seashell collection.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Calm Things Cover Images

Thanks to Shawna for scanning these images of her new book for me. I've had a stream of bad luck concerning all things mechanical. Along with my scanner that is no longer working, is a broken letterpress, a computer virus systematically erasing files, and a car that stalled in the Detroit tunnel. I knew it was bad when a drunken, homeless woman offered me money to get back over the tunnel. I must have looked pathetic walking around in a confused and worrisome state with my daughter's stuffed elephant tucked under my arm.

Well... at least the book looks beautiful.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

Harrow Agricultural Fair

The 154th Harrow Fair took place over labour day weekend — snorting pigs, jersey cows with their long eyelashes, tart rhubarb pie, heavy tractors and fast horses — what fun!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Navel Gaze

Ariel Gordon's chapbook, The Navel Gaze, is finally ready for purchase. Ariel took some lovely photographs of the finished work.

Ariel is touring with poet Kerry Ryan. Their first stop will be Wednesday October 1st at Aqua Books from 7-9 pm (274 Garry Street, Winnipeg, MB).