Thursday, November 28, 2013

Odd Sundays at Molly's presents Kerry-Lee Powell and Fiddlehead Fiction Editor Mark Jarman

Join us Sunday, December 1 at 2pm for a literary afternoon featuring Fredericton novelist, Mark Anthony Jarman, and Moncton poet, Kerry-Lee Powell. The event includes a book draw for everybody in attendance, and an open set, for those among us who wish to share their writing at the mic (three minutes each).

We meet at 2pm on the odd sundays of the month — first, third, and sometimes fifth — at Molly’s Coffee House (554 Queen Street). Buy a drink and/or lunch from our eclectic hosts Molly and Daryl, settle in at one of our friendly tables, and enjoy an afternoon dedicated to writing.

Kerry-Lee Powell was born in Montreal and has lived in Antigua, Australia and the United Kingdom, where she received a BA in Medieval and Renaissance Literature and an MA in Writing and Literature from Cardiff University. Her poetry has appeared in The Spectator, Ambit and MAGMA. Her fiction has been published in The Boston Review, The Malahat Review and the Virago Press Writing Women series. She has been nominated for a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart Prize. In 2013 she won The Boston Review fiction contest, The Malahat Review’s Far Horizons award for short fiction and the Alfred G. Bailey manuscript prize. Her debut collection of poetry is forthcoming from Biblioasis Press. A chapbook entitled The Wreckage will be published in the United Kingdom by Grey Suit Editions in 2014.

(Photo credit: Emmanuel Albert)
Mark Anthony Jarman is the author of 19 Knives, My White Planet, New Orleans Is Sinking, Dancing Nightly in the Tavern, and the travel book Ireland’s Eye.  His novel, Salvage King Ya!, is on’s list of 50 Essential Canadian Books and is the number one book on Amazon’s list of best hockey fiction.

Jarman has won a Gold National Magazine Award in nonfiction, has twice won the Maclean-Hunter Endowment Award, won the Jack Hodgins Fiction Prize, and has been included in The Journey Prize Anthology and Best Canadian Stories and short-listed for the O. Henry Prize and Best American Essays. He has published recently in Walrus, Canadian Geographic, Hobart, The Barcelona Review, Vrij Nederland, and reviews for The Globe & Mail. He is a graduate of The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a Yaddo fellow, has taught at the University of Victoria, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and now teaches at the University of New Brunswick, where he is fiction editor of The Fiddlehead literary journal.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Breakwater Newfoundland Poetry Series: Susan Gillis Responds to Sue Sinclair

Sue Sinclair
It’s a rainy night and the street lamps’ orange light streaks the wet pavement. I’ve just come from a reading where Sue Sinclair led discussion of two poems by the featured poets before they read. This project – congenial inquiry into the shape and directions of a poem, essentially an act of spirited appreciation – is part of the work Sue has been doing as Critic in Residence for CWILA (Canadian Women in the Literary Arts). On this occasion, Sue has just finished a major work of her own and begun something new, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the questions and insights she leads us toward are articulate thresholds.

Rereading the poems collected here, it strikes me that this kind of liminal space is one Sue occupies regularly, at least in poetry. In Collarbones, for example, “desire//rises, hinged at the throat” and “we glimpse one another.” A red bell pepper, its awkward shape is “the size/of your heart. Which may look/like this… growing in ways you never/predicted.” Paddling as the sun goes down, “gateway/to nowhere, the beginning of imagining you aren’t.” The dark reversal of the romance of death, a magician’s trick in “Forever.”

And there’s more, much more, when we read on; as in “Breaker,” it could be any of us whose “mind is gathered/like a horse about to take a hurdle, ready to take a leap.”

Susan Gillis is a poet and teacher who divides her time between Montreal and rural Ontario. The Rapids (Brick, 2012) is her most recent book. She keeps a blog on poetry and the writing life at Concrete & River.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Breakwater Newfoundland Poetry Series: Lynn Davies Responds to Mary Dalton

In my late teens, I hitchhiked with a friend from Moncton, NB to St. John’s, NL to stay with my grandparents and visit relatives. We noticed how my cousins, many close in age to us, talked among their friends using words and rhythms new to us, often uttered so quickly that we frequently asked, could you say that again?

Some of Mary Dalton’s poems in the Breakwater anthology are brief stories or monologues informed by a vocabulary that also speeds up the telling. Reading “Bridesboys” and “Merrybegot” out loud to myself is a bit like being read to as a child; I hear strange words — brindy bough, upsot, nuzzle-tripe. I’m carried and grounded in sound and rhythm.  A favourite, “The Doctor,” tells the story, in seventeen short lines, of two premature babies born in a November gale; an indifferent doctor; the efforts of the parents with wood, wool, thick flannel, a dropper, and the final perfect image, “Six long months they captained / That kitchen, steered those / Two little moon men to shore.” This is the kind of poetry — rich and weird in the details of the world — I love to read and reread.

Her poem “The Boat” reminds me of Wistawa Szymborska’s “Funeral” (II) in which Szymborska simply lists the comments of people attending a funeral. I can’t help smiling at the end. How pragmatic but vulnerable we are around death. In “The Boat”, Dalton describes the broken boat that sails down from the heavens and lands in a bed of petunias, and then she lists the people trying to use or make sense of the miraculous boat. In the “ballyhoo” at the end, as the people are arguing among themselves, the boat simply takes off into the blue again, “battered planks clanking.” It’s a noisier, more colourful poem, but I hear a similar vulnerability and pragmatism in response to mystery. Dalton makes me laugh here, as she often does in her poems.

Some of these poems echo the colour and vigour of my mother’s Newfoundland childhood; she is 86, and those memories are vivid, sometimes more real than present time. Dalton often writes about people who simply work with what they’ve got. Her poems embrace strangeness and are full of words that fill our mouths with sound. Spantickles, rigamarole, devil-ma-click. Her book Merrybegot has been on my shelf for years, but now I’ve ordered Red Ledger. Thank you, Mary Dalton.

Lynn Davies is the poet of three books, most recently How the Gods Pour Tea (Goose Lane, 2013). She lives in Fredericton.

Monday, November 18, 2013

UNB Reading Series Presents Catherine Bush

The University of New Brunswick would like to invite you to hear a reading by the acclaimed writer, Catherine Bush. She will be reading from her latest novel, Accusation, published by Goose Lane, 2013.

This novel tells the story of Sara Wheeler, a Toronto journalist, who happens upon Cirkus Mirak, a touring Ethiopian children’s circus. She later meets and is convinced to drive the circus founder, Raymond Renaud, through the night from Toronto to Montreal. Such chance beginnings lead to later fateful encounters, as renowned novelist Catherine Bush artfully confronts the destructive power of allegations.

Catherine Bush is also the author of Claire’s Head, The Rules of Engagement, and Minus Time. Her books have been published internationally and short-listed for literary awards, including Ontario’s Trillium Award and the City of Toronto Book Award. A former writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick, Bush is currently the Coordinator of the Creative Writing MFA at the University of Guelph, and has taught Creative Writing at Concordia University in Montreal, Humber School for Writers, in UBC’s low-residency Creative Writing MFA, and for the Summer Literary Seminars in Kenya.  She has also been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

Her reading will be held on Tuesday, November 19 at 8:00 pm in the Lounge of the Alumni Memorial Building (next to Memorial Hall) on the UNB Fredericton Campus.

Admission is free and all are welcome to attend.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Breakwater Newfoundland Poetry Series: Katia Grubisic Responds to Ken Babstock

Ken Babstock
The town of Burin, Newfoundland is home to the Tidal Wave Museum, which commemorates the earthquake and tsunami that upended the place in 1929. The seism originated on the edge of the Grand Banks, and was felt as far away as New York and Montreal, yet Burin, population a handful, was the place to remember the loss and legend of the tidal wave that swept the peninsula hours afterwards.

Ken Babstock is not the largest earthquake in Canadian history, but this boy from Burin has also shaken things up, made waves. Pick your cliché; it’s easy to understand why Mark Callanan and James Langer wanted to include Babstock in their anthology of Newfoundland poets, waaay prodigal though he is, having grown up and lived in fairly the opposite of Newfoundland. With the publication of the 1999 Mean, from which two of the poems in the Breakwater book are taken, Babstock stood at the cusp of a new Canadian poetics — post-nationalist but snapped in place; as easily confessional as prevaricating, and sometimes simultaneously; and demanding such acrobatics of language. Among his contemporaries, at that threshold, Babstock was fairly picking the lock. 

The Breakwater selection shows both Babstock’s preoccupation with handwork, and his evolving, wilful, playful estrangement with (not from) language. “Finishing,” one of the early inclusions, reveals the young poet’s skill at associative metaphor and subtle rhyme—the speaker takes pride in trim “from the bathroom door / right down the corridor’s // parade route.” The later poems ease us into the linguistic tangles (tangos?) that have become a Babstockian trademark: “Carrying Someone Else’s Infant Past a Cow in a Field Somewhere Near Marmora, Ont.,” from Days Into Flatspin, Babstock’s second collection, ends at the “empty, unrecoverable / hour of your early and strange.”

The material from Babstock’s 2006 Airstream Land Yacht cracks open both the man and the way his mind works. From the recounted family lore of “Pragmatist,” to the sun that makes “a cracking sound and resume[s] breathing” to the post-structuralistic bad trip of “The Minds of The Higher Animals,” Babstock manages at once to keep his readers at anchor and to push them off the plank. In the title inclusion from his most recent book, Methodist Hatchet, meanwhile, the poet jumps between apostrophe and absurdism, from concatenation to easy charm. Part elf, part eddy — “I still talk like I’m from nowhere, or Ontario,” he quips, but maybe there’s more Newfoundland left than we thought. The self is in there; it’s “secular self-grown peninsulaic,” and you better have got your ticket early.

Katia Grubisic is a writer, editor and translator. Her work has appeared in various Canadian and international publications, and her collection of poems What if red ran out won the Gerald Lampert award.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Breakwater Newfoundland Poetry Series: John Steffler Responds to Al Pittman

Al Pittman
Courtesy of Newfoundland Heritage
   Al loved fellowship and improvised social occasions.  He
   had a way of  making ordinary shared experience a kind of
   celebration, something memorable.  Inside him there was a
   bright-lit house party going on in the midst of endless
   night.  Newfoundlanders, especially those from outport
   and small island communities, have (or had) a special
   awareness of the bottomless darkness surrounding us and
   the need to counter it with courage, wit, skill and

   I was fortunate to meet Al shortly
   after moving  to Newfoundland in
   1975.  My whole experience of
   Newfoundland opened through him and his family, through his parents, their stories and the times I spent in their generous company.  I can’t separate these poems of Al’s from my memory of Al himself and the times when I first read them or heard them.  They’re all charged with emotion for me, my own nostalgia, pleasure and sorrow now added to the nostalgia, pleasure and sorrow that Al wove into them.  In “Boxing the Compass” there’s Al’s father, tanned and bare-chested in his captain’s cap at the wheel of the Kyran.  And later, there are the Kyran’s timbers rotting in the grass.

Al looks back on his childhood, on the vestiges of his ancestral home in the same way that he looks at last evening’s party in Crawley’s Cove — both romantically and honestly.  He’s not trying to forge either a heroic cultural myth or a personal myth.  He’s celebrating life, living it as fully and attentively as he can, while it passes.

The music of Al’s language and his eye for the captured moment are as fresh and alive as ever.  Music, fellowship, briefly captured time.  Our fleeting-legendary selves.

John Steffler was the Poet Laureate of Canada (2006-2008) and taught for years in the English Department at Memorial University's Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.  His poetry works include That Night We Were Ravenous and Lookout.