Friday, December 28, 2012


A bit from an article entitled, "A Vested Interest in Palimpsest". The entire article can be read in the National Post at

"My favourite is 'palimpsest.' When I first noticed it in print, four decades ago, it struck me as odd, beautiful and full of promise. It’s a term that engages many writers and continues to attract new meanings but to some readers it still seems slightly far-fetched, maybe outrageous... Earlier this month, when an art gallery in England opened an exhibition called Love in Palimpsests, a reviewer called the word “an obscure, esoteric term.” Yet it’s now in the titles of more than 200 books in the University of Toronto library catalogue.

Once I spotted it, and fell in love with it, palimpsest began popping up everywhere, as a word will sometimes do. Coleridge used it when trying to recover something from his memory. Conan Doyle, in a late Sherlock Holmes story, had Watson say that he and Holmes were at work, “with a powerful lens deciphering the remains of the original inscription upon a palimpsest.”

Orwell used it as a metaphor in 1984 when describing Big Brother’s way of eliminating memory — “All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary.”

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On being a professional

I think I can now call myself a professional graphic designer. Sure, I received an advanced certificate in graphic through a college, but more importantly, I have designed a dozen or so logos, over 20 book covers, at least 40 interior book layouts, and countless posters, business cards, and pamphlets. And yes, I have charged for the majority of this work. But I have never been great with labels. Calling myself “professional” at anything is always a bit amusing to me. It requires that I (1.) make money at said activity, and (2.) am skilled at said activity. As a publisher I do both of these things, the level and success of which is debatable. As a writer, the same holds true. And for the sake of argument, you could say these things apply to me as a graphic designer. But the word “professional” sticks in my craw. It assumes a certain “authority” I have never believed myself to possess. It is true I know a lot about books, more than the average person, after all I sell them, market them, attend conferences and sales meetings about them, I blog, tweet, and facebook about them, I design them, read them, and even, occasionally, write them. I have studied print history, and took courses on bookbinding and letterpress techniques, but I still don’t feel adequately knowledgeable enough to call myself a book “professional.” The issue is that I know that I still have much more to learn. And when it comes to graphic design, I have merely scratched the surface. Perhaps, I have developed some of the professional idiosyncrasies that go along with being a designer—like having a font collection that would crash most computers, or noticing the typeface first, instead of the food, when I look at a menu—but those are merely trained-in quirks. If these types of habits were all it took to call oneself “professional,” then I would have deemed myself a professional writer when I stopped using the word “final” in my document file names (insert literary laughter here). Regardless, I have decided to call myself a professional writer/ publisher/ designer, because those who depend on me expect that I have more than just a skill set; they presume, rather, that I am an authority on the subject. And even if I am uncertain if this authority exists, I have decided that it does. And it is a choice. It isn’t like one day you finish university, you get a job, and then you start receiving money via instant deposit, and voila, you’re a professional. Well, in some cases, maybe that is the case, but it never was for me. It took me about six years of publishing and learning the trade before I could even think about calling myself a “Publisher!” Years ago, when people asked me what I did, I’d say I was a housewife, mother, or I dabbled in writing and publishing, but I never called it my profession. Given the amount of hours I spend working, thinking about, and stressing about all things book-related, I think I have now earned the right to call myself a professional. After all, I deal with an accountant, have an office, an assistant, a sales force, a graphic design client list, and my own book, soon to be published, so rather than flailing about in my own self-doubt, I have decided to be confident. *Gulp. It may just be that I never labeled myself anything, because if I did, then that meant I could fail at it. After all, you can’t fail at doing something if, technically, you never were a (insert appropriate title here). So I am going to risk it, fake it until it feels real if I have to, and throw all my reticence and cautious philosophizing to the wind—today I declare that I am a professional.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Q&Q Review of Not With a Bang

The entire review from the Quill can be read at

 "Alberta author Gail Sidonie Sobat’s latest offering is the tale of an unlikely pair who discover that age is no barrier to friendship. After being convicted for marijuana possession, Jan is ordered to work in a hospice for seniors. There he spends time playing board games with Al, the resident smart ass. Their initially forced companionship quickly develops into a deep bond as Jan begins to share his past, revealing the emotional scars that have shaped him. Al, a former poet, becomes a father figure to the fatherless Jan, encouraging the teen to write and helping him see life for what it is – painful but punctuated with moments of pure joy. Sobat realistically depicts the hormone-driven teenage mind. There’s an authenticity to Jan that is developed through the frank handling of his sexuality... References to T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” (from which the book’s title is derived) and Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” feature prominently throughout the narrative. Jan and Al frequently discuss the themes contained in the poem and song, which tie in nicely with many of Jan’s epiphanies and moments of self-discovery. This lyricism is also reflected in the book’s structure: in the early chapters, Jan is depicted as an empty, superficial character, and the sentences that form his thoughts and dialogue are short and choppy. As Jan begins to more fully understand himself and what it means to be a true friend, the sentences become longer and his sentiments more meaningful. Not With a Bang accentuates the power of words to heal and connect. This is a genuine, thought-provoking, and poignant novel that should hold wide appeal."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Book Trees

A few creative Christmas ideas for book lovers:

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Buy any two backlist trade books, including 2011 titles (at 20% off), and you will receive a spring 2013 poetry book for FREE. See the flyer for more information. Go to now! Sale ends December 31st.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review of Gunmetal Blue: A Memoir

A section reprinted from a review of Gunmetal Blue in subTerrain (vol. 7.61 2012)

"I could not put Neilson’s work down. I was compelled to finish it—and this alone speaks for its merit. He writes from an unusual place: a doctor-poet saddled with the weight of depression who writes from all these vantage points. He opens his Prologue by finding common ground between doctoring and poetry: The major characteristic of the practice of poetry and medicine is that both can always be done better.” From here, he maps out the ways in which the circumstances of his life traverse each other: how medicine influences poetry and vice versa; how poetry led him into a downward slide, how both doctoring and poetry heal his inner wounds, and how his knowledge of medicine intersects with the healing process."

"In the first two chapters, “Uncle Miltie and the Locked Ward” and “Mental Illness,” Neilson describes his descent into “madness”—his gradual loss of purchase on a life that supposedly offered stability, status, and respect. The first chapter takes us through his attempted suicide—walking off a third-storey balcony because death seemed like the best way to escape the pain. His survival means that he becomes his colleagues’ patient in the hospital where he himself works. He eventually spends six months in a psychiatric ward where he is forced to confront his depressive mood disorder and decide to get better. This is an important distinction that Neilson is careful to make: he decides to forego electroconvulsive therapy, climb out of the cavernous darkness on his own and find wellness in his profession, his marriage, and family life—and as a poet."

"In the second half of the volume, Neilson’s tone changes. He tells stories of doctoring and care-giving, of ethical and internal conflict and of professional conscience. In essence, he looks outward at the mechanics of his calling. This provides some much-needed balance, made innovative by a somewhat academic appreciation of other doctor poets. While in places, Neilson’s writing could have been tighter, his work left me with a sense of completeness, of someone having come full circle through challenge and heartache—back to health."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Reprint: Review of Not With a Bang

CanLit for Little Canadians (Oct. 2012)

While reading Not With a Bang, I felt as if I was holding a cousin of Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat and Wept (1945) — a novella of such intensity and poetic intelligence that it does not spend the time drawing readers towards a climax but simply catapults us to it and keeps us there for the entire book. Although the title of Gail Sidonie Sobat's newest book is derived from a line in the final stanza of T. S. Eliot's poem, The Hollow Men,

"This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper"

suggesting an ending of indifference, Not With a Bang harbours no such apathy, but rather presents its beginning, middle and end with zeal for living.

After he is charged and convicted of a crime, seventeen-year-old Jan is instructed to stay away from Snake, the drug dealer with whom he'd been associating, and given community service at the Glamorrah Seniors' Hospice. Although his community service seems tortuous at first, Jan finds himself curious about his charge, seventy-two-year-old Al Coxworth, a man who seems to know a lot about music, poetry and life in general. More importantly, Al is the man "who bothered to listen to him." (pg. 56) Without even noticing, Jan begins to appreciate and recognize the validity and value of Al's comments and opinions, taking Jan from an angry, self-absorbed teen (still dealing with his father's infidelity and his parents' subsequent and acrimonious divorce) to a compassionate, open-minded young man. It's not surprising that with his growing attachment to Al and the guidance he provides that Jan is determined to help Al when he asks for assistance.

While Not With a Bang has a commanding plot and one that I choose not to give away in this review, it's the characters that drew me to embrace its story. Jan is hard-edged in his vocabulary, his actions, and his relationships and is probably more similar to a typical teen than not. Al sees him as "a kid who coulda." (pg. 8) On the other hand, Al is a man with a poet's heart who lived through the "make love, not war" 1960's but still seems a mix of contradictions. As different as the two are, the emotional guidance and unconditional support that Al provides brings Jan to provide the same for his new confidant.

Gail Sidonie Sobat is an expert in addressing critical issues for teens in uncharacteristic story lines. Her teens are always real (though not always likeable) with authentic voices, likely taken from her vast experiences as a teacher and writing mentor for YouthWrite, a camp for young writers. She eloquently tackled homosexuality and homophobia in Chance to Dance for You (Great Plains, 2011) and anorexia and mental illness in Gravity Journal (Great Plains, 2008) and now suggests readers think about drug use and euthanasia as embedded issues. Without forcing her own ideas on her readers, Gail Sidonie Sobat allows glimpses into worlds that some readers may never experience, thereby increasing awareness, or that some have experienced, thereby providing validation for their realities. Not With a Bang is neither far-fetched nor commonplace but insightful, challenging to views usually long-held, and sublimely powerful. I've learned never to expect less from Gail Sidonie Sobat; I've never been disappointed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Malahat Review of Hummingbird

The Malahat Review (Autumn 2012)

Anyone who writes with the flourish and intensity of John Wall Barger deserves to be read and re-read. His ability to linger over a scene, to ruminate over its history and give himself over to the poetic impulse is complete and genuine. That capacity reaches its apex in the title poem of Hummingbird, a wild subterranean journey into the underbelly of modern Mexico that takes as its model similar descents in the works of Homer, Virgil, and Dante:

…I turn to face Octavio Paz,
eyes broad & generous, he takes
my hand—where are we going? I ask
he smiles, leads me back to market,
now a blueprint of hell, mobs of urban nomads,
lawyers, fishermen, scabby-headed urchins
converge on a man in a straw costume
panting, bleeding at the mouth…

Barger not only asks questions but, in the intemperate fashion of Dante and Virgil, tries to participate in the assault unfolding before him, only to be held back by his guide on the journey, the much loved Mexican poet, Octavio Paz. Unlike his predecessors, however, Paz remains silent and promises nothing beyond what other artists, including Seamus Heaney and painter Frida Kahlo, are pleased to teach Barger going forward. No idealized Beatrice or souls of the dead await Barger by journey’s end, only a communion with great poets, there to invigorate Barger’s art: “blind Akhmatova, powerhouse / bandaged in alpaca, with cane & jar / ploughs her way through these sleepwalkers, / I sing with her of firedogs, blindfolded horses....” Together, Barger and Akhmatova “sing arm in arm of auguries / dead friends” until “exposed, I wake outside my spiral shell / into my real life, the one that’s been waiting / on the El Rosario where slain warriors / return as hummingbirds, where this world / touches the other….”

The swell and roll of images remind me a little of Lowry’s Under the Volcano (also referenced in the poem), a drunken immersion in the chaos of modern Mexico that doesn’t hesitate to link Mexican culture and deadly contemporary politics—witness Barger’s encounter with a murdered Mexican in the street “sneakers blown / off, fly down, temple gashed, eyes open / stomach soft as a broken wing.” Barger’s poem is effective because of its commitment to the brutality of images and to a carefully conceived rhythmic strategy that meshes with that brutality. Comparatively short lines, enjambments, and deep indents drive the poetry forward, give it a wonderful immediacy borne up by an abiding, fearful curiosity very much in keeping with Barger’s predecessors and the subterranean narrative tradition out of which he is writing here. A fascinating poem, and well worth the journey.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Elisabeth Harvor's quotable


What can be retrieved of what’s
lost is this morning’s cool question

as I hurry past Room 19 to see a nurse
part the sky, then turn to untie

the flaps of a hospital gown
exposing skin too old to wince

at the held glint of a needle,
the bed with its crank

to raise a headache up,
to lower a headache down

while in Room 29 the eyes
recall happier turns in the heart’s

mobile weather, in memory’s
bold cargo: leg paint and cigarettes

to ignite the whirl
of dancing the night away

the nights a destroyer
would dock in the harbour,

music floating out over the long shine
of that bay of bays, the Bay of Fundy,

while a long row of pale legs begins stepping
backwards, then in long unison surges

forward to the crash of movie surf,
crash of cymbals, each knee

raised and tipped back, each knee
what’s pulled back for each archer’s arrow

to salute the night’s higher lights,
to aim a kick at tomorrow,

synchronized legs haloed by tilted
feathers, the swivel of lipstick, of hips,

of light on the rim of a glass of stale
Ginger ale while today’s ten o’clock sun

squints under clouds floating
low over a morning whose air,

bright with a chill in it,
carries the pert scent of snow.

From Elisabeth Harvor’s An Open Door in the Landscape
Palimpsest Press 2010
Trade paperback
ISBN 978-1-926794-01-3

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November Events

Suzanne Collins
Saturday Nov. 3rd at 4pm
Book launch of Skinny Dipping
Atrium of High Park Lofts
437 Roncesvalles Ave., Toronto

Ariel Gordon
Thursday, November 1 at 7pm

McNally Robinson Grant Park
1120 Grant Avenue. Winnipeg

Darryl Whetter
November 15 at 8 pm
Reading from Origins
Hot Sauced Words Reading Series
154 Danforth Ave (2nd floor). Toronto

November 20 at 8pm
Reading from Origins
539 Bloor Street West.
Art Bar Poetry Series. Toronto

Gail Sidonie Sobat
November 18th
Pure Speculation Festival
Panelist: What Scares Us?
Grant MacEwan University. Edmonton

Friday, October 26, 2012

Two readings in Winnipeg

TWB Winnipeg!
When: Tuesday, October 30, 7:00 pm
Where: McNally Robinson Grant Park (1120 Grant Avenue)

For 39 years, Toronto Women’s Bookstore has served the community, readers and writers, both in Toronto and further afield. In mid-October TWB owner Victoria Moreno, announced that the store will close its doors at the end of November. Former Winnipegger Tanis MacDonald is planning a celebratory event in Toronto on October 30. And so we’re planning a satellite/sympathy event in Winnipeg for the same day at McNally Robinson, to mark TWB’s passing, to talk about the need for spaces dedicated to women, the need for independent booksellers. What better space than McNally Robinson? And what better community of readers and writers than in Winnipeg?

So far, confirmed readers include Katherine Bitney, Shawna Dempsey, Dora Dueck, Shayla Elizabeth, Joanne Epp, Michelle Forrest, Ariel Gordon, Carolyn Gray, Patti Grayson, Sally Ito, Esme Claire Keith, Sarah Klassen, Sheila McClarty, Christina Penner, Adele Perry, Daria Salamon, Angeline Schellenberg, Deborah Schnitzer, Brenda Sciberras, Melissa Steele, Jennifer Still, Melanie Dennis Unrau, Katherena Vermette, Jessica Woolford. With more to come! Please join us!

Reading and In Conversation 

Nora Gould, Charlene Diehl and Ariel Gordon
When: Thursday, November 1, 7:00 pm

Where: Atrium, McNally Robinson Grant Park (1120 Grant Avenue)

Readings by Nora Gould and Charlene Diehl. Followed by a conversation moderated by fellow Palimpsest poet Ariel Gordon.


An Important Message to the Many Valued Customers, Supporters, and Friends of The Toronto Women’s Bookstore:

It is with a mix of sadness and resignation that I inform you all that The Toronto Women’s Bookstore (TWB) will be closing on Friday, November 30th., 2012. Over the course of its illustrious 39 year history, the TWB has meant many things to many people. It was already steeped in those memories for me, when, two and a half years ago, I decided to try my hand at reviving and re-branding the TWB as the vibrant and viable centre for social justice and women’s issues that has defined its core values for almost four decades. For me and for many like me, it was always a safe, open and welcoming space where ideas were paramount, and where a community was given a voice. I’d like to think that in my relatively brief tenure as owner, I stayed true to the principles that defined this internationally renowned institution over the course of its history.

The fact is book markets have changed radically in the past few years. Ebooks, fierce online competition and a stagnant economy have all contributed to our business model becoming no longer sustainable. I’m closing the bookstore with the bittersweet knowledge that I did my best. I gave everything I had; physically, emotionally, and financially. I’ve learned a great deal about every aspect of the business and I have no regrets.

I’d like to take this opportunity to invite all friends, past and present, to a two day celebration of the Toronto Women's Bookstore, wherein we will honour the legacy of this Toronto landmark. Details of this celebration will be made available as plans coalesce.

Thanks in advance to you all for your support and please spread the word to your friends and colleagues. It’s been a true pleasure working with the community these past few years and I hope to continue to enjoy the fruits of our acquaintance in all of my future endeavors.

Victoria Moreno

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review of A Peepshow

--> Read the whole review in The Winnipeg Review at: 

A Peepshow with Views of the Interior: Paratexts, Aislinn Hunter (Palimpsest Press, 2009)

"I’m reading in my backyard, nearing the end of Aislinn Hunter’s A Peepshow with Views of the Interior. I’ve read this book of essays (or paratexts, as Hunter names them) three times since last November, each time delighted, watching my mind go spinning off in its own several directions as I read. Now, to pull myself together, I’ve put the book down. A power saw whines fretfully somewhere down the block, and somewhere in the yard a young robin practices a squeaky note over and over using varying intonations. The garden is dappled summer green, light shifting and falling through the tree boughs overhead.

Reading Peepshow today I’m getting hold of something beyond the pure pleasure of being carried by Hunter’s thinking and language, her willingness to follow thought and imagination as they roam among books and among things. Now I can almost say what this lovely mix of lyric essay and elegant prose is about … resonance, the shifty quality of experience, engagement with the material world of human-made objects, reading, writing, seeing and illusion, longing, how to use objects in fiction, the thinning sense (and knowledge) of language among her students, lyric thinking, nineteenth-century fiction by women… The list could go on, but taken as a whole Peepshow is a phenomenology of the imagination.

Dedicated “To the Unmoored Imagination,” the book continues overleaf with “and to being cast about by books.” Consider paratexts: Hunter acknowledges Gerard Genette’s thinking about those things—title page, contents list, acknowledgements, dedication, preface, appendices, and so on—that accompany the main text of a book. She is engaged by his notion of the paratext as a threshold, that space between. Peepshow is full of thresholds, things about to happen, spaces about to open, ideas about to flower—and the imagination heads straight for them. What a treat for a reader, these invitations to enter what is unfolding. But Hunter herself puts it this way, and ups the ante: “Paratexts are the edges of the road rutted from summer rain. They are the small stone cairns incised with numbers that sit between villages. They tell travellers how far they’ve come, how far they might be going. … The paratext is what lies outside (para-) the thing we are trying to say.” With the imagination we often get somewhere else than where we thought we were heading—or write/speak something other than what we thought to say.

The robin has given up its voice practice and sits quietly on the fence. The saw has paused its whining and I’ve finished the book. Once again I’ve been thoroughly cast about by a book. I couldn’t ask for any better reading experience."

—Maureen Scott

Monday, October 22, 2012

Not With a Bang Book Launch

Book Launch for Gail Sidonie Sobat's Not With A Bang
Wednesday, October 24th
The Artery. 9535 Jasper Avenue.
Edmonton (7 pm to midnight)

There will be food, drink, music and merriment for ages 14 and older!

Jan is a 17 year-old kid in trouble with the law. Al is a feisty old coot. Paired together because Jan must serve community service hours at a seniors’ residence after pleading guilty to a marijuana possession offense, the two initially resent each other. Gradually, the curmudgeonly Al becomes mentor and father-figure to the young delinquent. Through the old man’s guidance and the boy's re-framing of a series of bad dreams, Jan begins to imagine other possibilities. He learns to value compassion and decency as part of successful human relationships. Making a choice to leave behind his unsavory past, Jan falls in love with young Jodi, with books, with ideas and writing because of Al's influence. When the old man is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Jan resolves to be bodyguard to Al. With this choice, one life ends and another begins.

Gail Sidonie Sobat is an award-winning author for children, teens and young adults. Her novel, Gravity Journal, was a 2009 White Pine Honour Book, a Moonbeam Gold Award winner, and was nominated for the 2011 Stellar Award. Gail is also the creator and coordinator of YouthWrite, camps for kids who love to write, and of SWYC (Spoken Word Youth Choir). Not With a Bang is her ninth book.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halifax Reading

Nicole Dixon and Darryl Whetter will be reading Thursday October 18th at 5:30 at The Company House in Halifax. Details and poster are attached.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Jordan Troutt's quotable


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

From Jordan Troutt’s The Naming Book of Rascally Rhymes
Illustrated by Sarah Preston
Palimpsest Press / Magpie Imprint 2010
Over-sized paperback
ISBN 978-1-926794-03-7

Friday, September 21, 2012

October Readings

October 9th, 6pm—
Cythnia Woodman Kerkham with Yvonne Blomer
Interdisciplinary Centre for Culture & Creativity, Arts Tower 1007
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon

October 10th, 7pm —
Cythnia Woodman Kerkham with Yvonne Blomer
McNally Robinson. 3130 8th St. East, 8th St. at Circle Drive. Saskatoon

October 11th, 7:30pm —
Cythnia Woodman Kerkham with Yvonne Blomer
Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild. Suite 100, 1150 8th Ave. Regina

October 12th, 7:30pm —
Cythnia Woodman Kerkham with Yvonne Blomer
Chapters Indigo. 2625 Gordon Rd.
Regina, Saskatchewan.

October 18, 5:30pm —
Darryl Whetter reading with Nicole Dixon
The Company House. 2202 Gottingen St. Halifax, NS.

October 24 at 7pm—
Gail Sidonie Sobat launching Not With a Bang
The Artery. 9535 Jasper Avenue. Edmonton.

October 25-17th
Laura Lush with be reading at Windsor Bookfest.
Windsor, ON.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cynthia Woodman Kerkham's Pregnant Poem


On the back of bathroom stalls
salacious animal words suddenly delicious.
I waddle to the store, buy erotic magazines,           
read titillating stories in a private corner of the park:
how Rod lusts after what Sylvie does with her dog.
What is wrong with me?
I swell through summer into the third trimester,
swim evenings in the local pool, and after lengths,
soak in the shallow kiddie’s pond,
glowing fecundity. Men try to pick me up
until I rise, my grand womb an inch
from their startled noses.
But I don’t blame them. I want sex all the time,
devour my husband who’s worried but willing
until, at last, the pod bursts
the baby born and I dissolve
into showers of milk.

From Cynthia Woodman Kerkham’s Good Holding Ground  
Palimpsest Press 2011  
Trade paperback $18
ISBN 978-1-926794-05-1

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Canoeing Poetry Tour

From press release:

A floating poetry and music tour sets out by canoe on the Grand River outside Waterloo. From August 9th-19th, six performers in three canoes will paddle from Elora to Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, giving readings and playing music at cafés, arts venues, and local heritage sites along the way.

Toronto, ON, July 16th, 2012 – A group of artists is setting out on a ten-day poetry and music tour by canoe down the Grand River in southwestern Ontario. The group, calling itself Fish Quill Poetry Boat, will be paddling from Elora to the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and performing their work in cafés, arts centres, and heritage sites along the way. Fish Quill Poetry Boat is comprised of poets Moez Surani, Kevin McPherson Eckhoff, Leigh Kotsilidis, Linda Besner, and Darryl Whetter, with Toronto musician Jack Marks. Local guest poets and/or musicians will also be joining them at each venue along the way.

Fish Quill Poetry Boat will kick off the tour with a performance in Toronto on August 9th at 8pm at the TRANZAC Club. Scheduled stops for Fish Quill Poetry Boat are the Elora Farmer’s Market on August 11th, West Montrose Kissing Bridge on August 12th, West Bridgeport’s Gallery on the Grand on August 13th, Cambridge’s 'The Wired Up Pugs' Cafe-Bistro on August 15th, Paris’ Brown Dog Coffee Shoppe on August 16th, Brantford’s Station Coffee House & Gallery on August 17th, Campfire Poetry Night at Brantford’s Brant Conservation Area on August 18th, and Six Nation’s Chiefswood National Historic Site on August 19th. With the exception of the Toronto and Elora performances (8pm and noon), all performances are at 7pm. All performances free of charge. The tour also includes Paddle with the Poets Day, a family activity taking place on August 19th. The public is invited to rent a canoe or bring along their own and join Fish Quill Poetry Boat at noon at Newport Bridge. The group will be paddling to Chiefswood, and guest paddlers will have the opportunity to hear poetry and music en route.

One notable stop on the tour is Chiefswood National Historic Site on August 19th. Chiefswood is the only surviving pre-Confederation Native mansion in Ontario, and is the birthplace and childhood home of celebrated writer and performer Tekahionwake, E. Pauline Johnson, best known for her iconic canoeing poem, “The Song My Paddle Sings.” The year 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of Pauline Johnson’s birth. Curator Karen Dearlove says, “We believe that the Fish Quill Poetry Tour is a great way to feature contemporary poetry and creativity at a site known historically for fostering literary creative dreams.” Fish Quill Poetry Boat will be sharing the stage at Chiefswood with local Six Nations writers and performers.

Leigh Kotsilidis, one of the tour’s organizers, says “Many of these towns and villages are not included on standard Canadian reading tours. But before roads, rivers were the communication systems, and the towns that line Canada’s rivers are rich in history. We hope to give riverside residents a greater sense of ownership of and connectedness to contemporary literary culture."

Fish Quill Poetry Boat is in its third year, and canoes are once again being lent free of charge by Brantford-based outdoor adventure company Treks in the Wild. “A very cool idea,” says Andy Tonkin, canoeing guide and co-owner of Treks in the Wild, who will be coming along for the ride. The Grand River Conservation Authority and rare Charitable Research Reserve also sponsor the tour and will be giving presentations at select venues.

Last year’s tour was featured in local newspapers including The Waterloo Record and The Brant News, and interviews with several of the poets aired on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air and on Monday Night With The Arts on Waterloo’s CKWR.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Not With a Bang

Magpie Books — to be released October 2012

Not With a Bang
by Gail Sidonie Sobat

Jan is a 17 year-old kid in trouble with the law. Al is a feisty old coot. Paired together because Jan must serve community service hours at a seniors’ residence after pleading guilty to a marijuana possession offense, the two initially resent each other. Gradually, the curmudgeonly Al becomes mentor and father figure to the young delinquent. Through the old man’s guidance and the boy’s
re-framing of a series of bad dreams, Jan begins to imagine other possibilities. He learns to value compassion and decency as part of successful human relationships. Making a choice to leave behind
his unsavory past, Jan falls in love with young Jodi, with books, with ideas and writing because of Al’s influence. When the old man is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Jan resolves to be bodyguard
to Al. With this choice, one life ends and another begins.

 Gail Sidonie Sobat is an award-winning author. Her novel, Gravity Journal, was a 2009 White Pine Honour Book, a Moonbeam Gold Award winner, and was nominated for the 2011 Stellar Award.
Gail is also the creator and coordinator of YouthWrite, camps for kids who love to write, and of SWYC (Spoken Word Youth Choir). Not With a Bang is her ninth book.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sea turtles!

A few underwater pics from our trip to Acumel, Mexico. I got to snorkel with sea turtles and sting rays!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Darryl Whetter's Privileged Young Men Who Hate Creativity


why take The Creative Process
(crwr 2000: full year)
if they despise art, literature,
thought and hard work

yuksters in dialled baseball caps
with their tsn, bright sneakers and cheap
pens twirled over stubby fingers.
an aversion to cunnilingus so total
they don’t even notice
Saturday night Jenn rolling her pelvis up,
her ribs, breasts, shoulders
and expectations back

frat boys and date rapists,
hockey fans in designer jeans
paid for by distant parents
who call their slim
and feature-rich cell phones
to be grunted at,
whined to,

as campuses approach
their 2:1 ratio of women to men
the Karens and Rachels seek
permit and enable
these replay barbarians
and future fathers,
tugging off his team T-shirt
before undoing her own
fresh lace

From Darryl Whetter’s Origins
Palimpsest Press 2012
Trade paperback $18
ISBN 978-1-926794-10-5

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Review of Origins

Whetter’s work like a force of nature

WITH a crafted tidal force washing away unnecessary words, Darryl Whetter’s poems stand firm against the driving wind of loose language and (like) unedited drivel that has (like) infected so much of our culture.

If you love the Bay of Fundy, history, science and are fascinated by fossils, this book of poetry will enthrall. Origins is an unusual amalgam of evolution, geological history, cultural change and “the intersection of forces which both create and destroy.” If I may coin a new word, it is ethnoecogeo-science poetry of the highest calibre and may be, like the fossils described, the first of its kind to drag itself out of the tidal water and waddle on this new poetic beach. This, in itself, makes it interesting.

[...] My favourite poems from this section are from Joggins: “Jawbones, skeletons, entire ecosystems / exhumed by the ceaseless strike / and slip of nudged rock.”

From the poems on Darwin: “Your father’s bank account / the wind in your Beagle sails. “ (just to show poets can have a sense of humour) and from Marry, Not Marry the famous Darwinian ledger of the young bachelor scientist trying to decide: “MARRY — better than a dog / anyhow / charms of music / and female / chitchat. NOT MARRY — less money / for books etc / these things good for one’s / health but terrible / loss of time.”

[...] Although I respected and enjoyed the poems of the first Part, I simply loved most of the Counterpart because of this fresh perspective. For example, Burn the House Warm: “Each country house around Joggins / has its annual surrogate of firewood / not just heat but light / radiates from the cooked door / that window into orange / until the very air / erupts / flame chasing smoke / chasing flame for / this sleeping / winter house.” This sense of immediacy makes a stronger impact than history for most readers. Yet the combination of past and present is very powerful.

Origins seems to be part of a new integration of science and poetry that can only enrich our language and culture. For many decades the arts and sciences have been taught in separate university buildings, to the detriment of both. Perhaps this new poetry will shift the tectonic plates of culture. Darryl Whetter has nudged the rock. There will be tremors.

Read the entire review from The Chronicle Herald at

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Writing Workshops offered in Kingsville

Registration forms are available at all Essex County Library Branches or online at

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review of Hummingbird in The Chronicle Herald

"John Wall Barger’s energetic book of poetry is like this in-your-face bird, demanding, hungry, courageous and insistent. I like the Portuguese word for hummingbird he teaches us, beija-flor, or flower kisser, but not so much the horrific Aztec name : Huitzilopochtli, the bloodthirsty god of war “requiring nourishment of constant human sacrifice so the sun will shine again.”Especially not on a foggy day in Nova Scotia. Although Barger currently teaches English at Saint Mary’s University, these poems were crafted during past journeys through Mexico, India, Taiwan and Italy. They evoke the “spirit of the hummingbird’s desire to survive, with the roving spirit of the poet.” While some poets revel in such roving, others illustrate a calm, soulful, stay at home reflection. If you prefer the latter, you may find all this flitting from flower to flower a bit exhausting. I enjoyed it but had to rest often to catch my breath. When this travelling bard stays long enough to kiss one flower thoroughly, the results are exceptional. Many of his poems are striking, original, arresting — and often surprise us with unexpected imagery... gritty, innovative work written with great impact, skill and mastery."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reviews of OSCAR

By Jordan Troutt and Sarah Preston
ISBN: 978-1-926794-09-9
9 x 10 Hardcover, 32 pages
Pub date: April 15th, 2012
$19.95 CDN

Oscar wants milk but his bowl is empty. In order to get some he must travel to outer space and visit the cats on the moon. In anapestic rhyming couplets, the narrative is fun, lively, and easy enough for young children to follow along. Filled with curiosity and a sense of adventure, children will love the illustrations of Oscar and his playful friends who help him on his way.


"The illustrations were fabulous. Big full page pictures with deep bold colors sure to catch any child’s attention and imagination. The quality of the book was definitely top notch. I guess I was felt like I was finally reading a book that was worth the asking price. There are no morals or lessons to be learned within the story but that was fine. Simply put it was a delightful romp" 
Cuzinlogic blog review

"From the lively text to the colorful and whimsical illustrations, it's a book youngsters will want to flip through again and again... Oscar's adventure into outer space and to the moon is fun and his return home to nap is the perfect ending, making this a delightful bedtime story for toddlers and preschoolers. Highly recommended." 
Kid Konnection

"Oscar is so bloated he drifts off into space before returning home, satisfied and sleepy. It’s good, simple fun, and Preston’s bright, stimulating illustrations, full of swirls and strong contrasts, will captivate children as the verses are read... Oscar is bright, jolly, and silly enough that youngsters will love it." 
Quill & Quire