Thursday, November 26, 2015

Odd Sundays Reading Series Presents Local NaNoWriMo Particpants

Odd Sundays is meeting at Corked Wine Bar (83 Regent St.) this Sunday, November 29th at 2 pm. The featured readers will be from the local NaNoWriMo group.

For those who don’t recognize it, NaNoWriMo, is short for National Novel Writing Month. It's an annual fun challenge where writers work to complete a full novel during the month of November. This Sunday's event will showcase works created by local writers during this year's NaNoWriMo. It promises to be an enjoyable and interesting afternoon.

As usual, you'll be able buy something to drink, settle back and listen to the readers, put your name into the book draw, and, if you wish, sign up and participate in the open mic reading set.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Frances Firth Gammon, 1918-2015

Frances Firth Gammon, one of the founding members of The Fiddlehead, has passed away at the age of 97. There will be a memorial at the Alumni Memorial Building (3 Bailey Dr.) on the UNB campus on November 29th at 4.30 p.m.

In addition to being a founding member of The Fiddlehead, Frances Firth Gammon was UNB's first archivist and was commissioned as a researcher for an early biography of Lord Beaverbrook. You can read a full biographical entry, written by her daughter Carolyn Gammon, in The New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Fiddlehead Autumn Issue is Now Out!

The autumn issue of The Fiddlehead is now out — it should be showing up in your mailbox soon! — and culminates the celebration of our 70th year of publishing. No. 266 is bursting at its seams with a harvest of wonderful stories and poems from established and emerging authors from across Canada as well as from the USA and Northern Ireland. It features "Sleeping (2015)," a wonderful oil painting by Stephanie Weirathmueller on the cover. 

We have stories by Steven Heighton, Lorna Jackson, Paul Carlucci, and Wayne Yetman. 

We have poems from Rachel Rose, Dan O'Brien, Nick Thran, Annick MacAskill, Allison LaSorda, John Terpstra, Jane Spavold Tims, Lenea Grace, Sean Howard, John Barton, Elizabeth Hoover, Howard Wright, Michelle Barker, Nathan Mader, Mike Caesar, Conor Mc Donnell, Sarah B, Wiseman, and Bert Almon.

There are also five stellar book reviews: Shane Neilson on Kerry-Lee Powell's Inheritance,  Richard Kelly Kemick on Kayla Czaga's For Your Safety Please Hold On, M. Travis Lane on Gillian Wigmore's Orient, Rebecca Geleyn on Kim Aubrey's What We Hold in Our Hands, and Mark Dickinson on Andrew Forbes' What You Need.

Not a subscriber? Rush to your local magazine stand and grab a copy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Qwerty Reads at Wilser's Room on Thursday, November 19

Join Qwerty, UNB's graduate student creative writing magazine, at the Wilser's Room (366 Queen Street) this Thursday, November 19, for the first Qwerty Reads event of the year! They have an impressive lineup of readers, including current UNB Writer-in-Residence Gerard Beirne, poet extraordinaire Triny Finlay, current UNB students Reid Lodge, Rebecca Salazar and Noah Page, plus musical performance from Mark Jarman's band.

Music starts at 6:30. Readings begin at 7:00.


Triny Finlay is the author of the poetry collections Splitting Off (Nightwood, 2004), Histories Haunt Us (Nightwood, 2010), and the chapbook Phobic (Gaspereau, 2006). Her writing has appeared in various publications, including ARC, Breathing Fire 2: Canada’s New Poets, The Fiddlehead, and University of Toronto Quarterly. She lives with her family in Fredericton, where she teaches English and Creative Writing at the UNB.

Gerard Beirne is an Irish writer now living in Canada. He has published three novels and two collections of poetry. His collection of short stories, In A Time Of Drought And Hunger, is forthcoming from Oberon Press this Fall. He is a past recipient of The Sunday Tribune/Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year Award. His novel The Eskimo in the Net (Marion Boyars Publishers, London) was short-listed for The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award 2004. His collection of poetry Digging My Own Grave (Dedalus Press) was runner-up in The Patrick Kavanagh Award. His short story “Sightings of Bono” was adapted for a film featuring Bono (U2).

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Odd Sundays Reading Series presents M. Travis Lane and Roger Moore on November 15

Fredericton's longest-running, poetry-and-more reading series, ODD SUNDAYS, meets this coming Sunday, November 15 at Corked Wine Bar, 83 Regent St. at 2pm. 

Our readers for that afternoon will be two local poets: Roger Moore, and M. Travis Lane, who was recently short-listed for the 2015 Governor General’s Award for Poetry. 

Roger Moore is a poet, short story writer, novelist, critic, and a creative artist in various forms of multi-media. He has more than 130 poems published in over 25 Canadian Literary Magazines and has so far published 10 poetry books, 11 poetry chapbooks, and 1 collection of short stories. He lives in Island View, New Brunswick.  But, since he lives on the other side of the hill from the river, there is not an island in sight! 

M. Travis Lane, B. A. Vassar,  M.A., PhD, Cornell,  has published fifteen collections of poetry. She has won numerous honours, among them the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the Banff Centre Bliss Carman Award,  the Atlantic Poetry Prize,  the Alden Nowlan Prize for Literary Excellence, and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Awards for Poetry in 2015.. Canadian by choice, she has lived in Fredericton, New Brunswick since 1960.

Don’t forget the open mic session and the usual book draws.

Please come and have a wine, beer, tea or coffee, and enjoy the work of two of our very own poets. And remember that we will meet at Corked, 83 Regent St.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Welcoming Winter with John Thompson’s At the Edge of the Chopping there are no Secrets

Dear Reader,

John Thompson on the Tantramar Marshes, 1971
While on the cusp of the cold season, the dreaded (dare I say it?) — winter — the way I see it, we have two options: we can gripe and groan, stomp our muklukked feet, wave our wind-chapped fists and curse these northern latitudes, OR, we can treat ourselves to the brilliant, brumal poems of the inimitable John Thompson. Thompson was, in the words of Michael Ondaatje, “our bright, brief star." For those unfamiliar with him, John Thompson was an English-born poet that spent the latter years of his life teaching at Mount Allison University while living in the rural village of Jolicure, northeast of Sackville. Thompson wrote two books of poetry before he died at the age of 38 in 1976. His first book, At the Edge of the Chopping there are no Secrets, was published in 1973 and was followed by Stilt Jack, published posthumously in 1978. Stilt Jack is widely referred to as one of the finest books of poetry written in Canada. However, the majority of Thompson’s winter poems are from At the Edge of the Chopping; the perfect guide to embracing winter as a time of intense reflection, fierce creativity, and uncanny beauty.


First Day of Winter

I step out in the air, it is almost
                  blue, the cold
folds around my wrists;

crusty scabs on grey
         maple trunks, the last
faded gold tamarack needles.

John Thompson


At the Edge of the Chopping largely unfolds within a hibernal world of surreal domesticity and rural imagery, where everyday life is strikingly transformed: “in the dark / of the oven,” winter bread becomes a moon that “gleams” and “fattens.” This wintry world is, at times, severe: “I raise my red arm against the wall of the woods: / salute,  / it is eaten / into flashes of snow, catspruce needles, shreds.” Its cold is penetrating and meddlesome, “it is that hour when winter, a knife / clean / as the salt wind / probes those wounds we no longer disguise.”  But for the most part, winter in Thompson’s poems is a season of vivid, other-worldly beauty; where “deep below the ice the trout / are perfect,” and “the Great Bear” glitters, “dipped, rooting for berries / under the snow in the next meadow.”  Life in these poems does not cease, but alters and deepens.


It’s in winter I hear you, breathing
          under the snow, weeping
behind a wall of frost.

Is it weeping?

from, “Norman Tower’s”


Winter with its dark cold days, draws us inward — physically and figuratively. In the words of Thompson, it is the season “of woolen socks, and wine,” when we “build a fierce fire,” and “sip whiskey chilled in the snow.” Yes, you heard the man, winter can be the perfect opportunity to indulge in Dionysian pleasures of drinking and slipping slowly into poetic madness: “It’s in the dark we approach / our energies, that instant / the tide is all fury, still,  / at the full.” But in order to foster a deep, authentic appreciation of winter, believe it or not, you’re going to need more than whiskey and wine. The key to savouring this season is learning to be mindful of, and responsive to, the everyday understated moments of grace: “I am content / to reach into the still cold, without dreams, / listening to the voices fading / on the narrow road.” To echo a line from Stilt Jack, absence, in Thompson’s winter poems, makes presence.


gone behind days of snow;

through the crook of your arm
I catch the moon
broken with frost

in shadow
bones persist.

from, “Winter is By Far the Oldest Season”


Looking back now at our two options of how to deal with the immanent icy weather, I think it’s safe to say that reading John Thompson is the far more rewarding. In fact, Goose Lane Editions has recently reissued John Thompson: Collected Poems & Translations, edited by Peter Sanger, so if you don’t already have a copy, buy yourself two — one for yourself, and one for that bizarro relative of yours (who you suspect has a closeted love of poetry). As I’m writing, my own copy of this book is falling apart from extensive use, a bittersweet testimony to its excellence.

There’s really no point in holding a grudge against winter since, let’s face it, it’s the prevailing season here in New Brunswick. So the next time the snow flies, resist the urge to curse and clench your jaw — sit back, pour yourself a glass of something dark and spirituous, and immerse yourself in Thompson’s magnetizing winter world: “this place suddenly yours.”


in the waking of our marrow, now
the call
of this first bird,

the breath of our white voices.

from, “Day Without Omens”


With warmest regards,

Emily Skov-Nielsen
Editorial Assistant

** P.S ** For all you die-hard fans out there, it’s about time you revisit Janna Graham's audio documentary, Four Houses of John Thompson, which includes a rare recording of Thompson reading from Stilt Jack — and from all of you first-time listeners, I’ll be expecting your heartfelt thanks in the form of Christmas cards.

[Thanks to Janna Graham for granting permission to include her documentary. Contributions were made by the late poet Douglas Lochhead, as well as poets Peter Sanger and Allen Cooper, and Thompson's former students Cheri Croft-Wilson and Jane Irwin. Photo below by Cheri Croft-Wilson.]

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Defense of Stuart McLean

I have a confession. A deep and disturbing confession — twisted and sick, some might say. As a graduate student in English Literature, it may shock some. It might offend others, and a few might even call for my immediate academic termination. But I don’t want to hide it any longer. For too long, I’ve shivered in shame, knock-kneed and flustered. I’ve wished it wasn’t so, and yet it was. It is. But I will hide no longer. I’ll climb to the top of an ivory tower and I will shout my secret, and I will defend it like a thesis.

My favourite Canadian writer is Stuart McLean.

Image of Stuart McLean
I say this with no irony, either. I’m not trying to be any sort of Canadiana hipster (eh). I mean this, fully and completely. I really truly dig Mr. McLean.

You may be staring at your screen now, wide-eyed and wide-mouthed. You may have slapped your forehead, dumbed and disbelieving, and at the very least, I bet you’ve probably snickered. I’m used to it. One time, I was at a Writers’ Circle meeting, back in my hometown, and someone told me that when I read, I almost sound like Stuart himself.

“Ugh,” said one of the other members, an old grey-haired guy, with a posh accent. “Don’t insult the poor kid!”

Insult me? I didn’t understand. As a Vinyl Café fan, I was flattered by the sweet-nuthins being whispered in my ear; the old guy reacted like I’d been branded by some sorta scarlet (maple?) letter. I figured he was just a curmudgeon — he was probably the kinda guy who, if 'tis the season, hates Santa Claus, too — and so, exhibiting trademark Canadian pacifism, I shrugged it off. And Sunday mornings, I continued to spin my radio dial 'till I found the CBC, and when I did, I’d listen to Stuart, and I’d smile.

The anti-Stu sentiments started striking me, most significantly, when I got to UNB. I noticed it first in a bookstore downtown. I walked into the shop and I heard a familiar narrator coming from the store’s speakers.

“Are you listening to the Vinyl Café?!” I asked the clerk, eagerly.

He rolled his eyes. “Unfortunately.”

I’ve noticed the same sort of reactions from my classmates, colleagues and profs. Whenever someone mentions Stuart McLean, it’s always with a hint of holier-than-thou deprecation, the way a pair of proud parents might dismiss their daughter’s now-ex-husband. I grew intellectually insecure. I figured they were right and I was wrong, and I was ready to take my dunce cap into the corner and try to wrap my head around “worthier writing.”

But I won’t sit silently anymore. Stuart McLean: I will stand on guard for thee.

I’ve thought a lot about why so many lit-lovers are so quick to put the guy down, and I think there are many possible reasons. I think some people hate the distinctly Stuart McLean way Stuart McLean reads. I think they think it’s a put-on voice, and maybe it is. But we’re all stylists in some way, aren’t we? I’m sure, from time to time, Kerouac’s stuff is a bit Kerou-whackier than it had to be. So Stu hams it up — that’s just show biz, baby. And I think maybe others think his stories are too “Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul,” and I’ll admit: they can be as saccharine and sweet as maple syrup. But thinking that this is a fault of his stories is slightly problematic, if only because I think such thinking forgets the reason we fell in love with stories in the first place.

Last year, I started working on a podcast. In it, I read a story that I wrote; it was indebted, innately and entirely, to Stuart’s own show. I put out a story that the writer in me was slightly embarrassed by, though my sensitive soul dug. It was about a guy whose wife dies tragically, and he’s gotta try to raise 3 young kids on his own. I wanted it to tug on people’s heartstrings; depending on your temperament, it was either hopeful and human, or Hallmark and hokey. Not even I knew how I felt about it.

Anyways, I put the thing out, and it got a lot of positive feedback. Some people told me they were so moved they cried. A girl even wrote me a letter from Mexico. At a family function, my aunt and my father — who’d never read a book unless it was the biography of a Toronto Maple Leaf — debated its ending with the bright-eyed zest of a first-year undergrad (before they’re all burnt-out and bitter from too much theory and oh-so-many –isms) The point is, it affected people. It moved them, probably more than anything else I’d ever written.

Seeing I had now hooked an audience, I decided I’d drop something the writer in me was proud of. This sucker was a “serious piece.” It was “literary,” and was the kind of thing I’d think about submitting to The Fiddlehead. It had metaphors and cryptic lines, and somewhere deep down in it, if you dug far enough, were some grandiose themes. It was “art,” man.

I put it out. People felt nothing.

Perhaps the problem was the wrong people heard it. Perhaps the piece just sucks. But it made me think about my writing, and why I bother doing it at all.

Art is a means of self-expression, obviously, but it’s also — perhaps most importantly — a way of making sense of our world. At its most basic, it is meant to entertain, enlighten, and enrich our lives. I think as upper-level arts students/critics/appreciators, we can sometimes forget this basic intention. Art does not need to be complex, challenging, heady, abstract, and deep to be “art.” It can be, but it doesn’t have to be — and in fact, art that is those things, like my second piece desperately hoped to be, runs the risk of being elitist and exclusionary. Art that is those things runs the risk of failing to do the very things we turn to art for.

I think this is what makes Stuart McLean my favourite. His stuff is simple and accessible, and I don’t see this as its weakness, but its strength. His tales of Dave and Morley are heartfelt and humorous; in any episode of The Vinyl Café, you might laugh or you might cry or you might likely do both. His audience is varied and diverse — as is our national population. I know children who dig the show, and I know seniors who do, too, and once, at a party, I met a guy who told me he’d spent the summer driving across Canada, getting stoned and listening to tapes of The Vinyl Café. As art often can, it brought us together; because of Stu, we became pals. Stuart McLean’s show unites Canadians, and this may sound idealistic and naïve — and maybe it is — but in a nation so fractured by the political lines recently drawn across our soil by an endless election campaign, it’s a welcome notion.

It’s one of the reasons we turn to art in the first place, isn’t it?

I’m not saying all artists need to sell themselves out to a mass audience. We needn’t all be teenybopper pop stars with trendy hairdos and silly slogans. I’m also not even saying I think Stuart McLean is “the best” Canadian writer (whatever that even means). But I am saying he’s my favourite, and I think that’s a distinction that too often gets forgotten. It seems to me, too, that throughout my post-secondary education, I’ve been nudged towards works of art that profoundly affect the head, and have been discouraged away from works that profoundly affect the heart. Maybe the best works do both — probably the best works do both — but I’m not sure it’s fair to prioritize one effect over the other. What I do know is I’ve walked around this city, listening to Stuart McLean read the words he’s written, and have had tears roll down my cheeks. That is a more pronounced effect than any of the texts on any of my course syllabi have had on me. Just like Springsteen once sang: “We learned more from a three-minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school.” Can’t argue with that. He is The Boss.

The motto of the fictitious Vinyl Café says “We may not be big, but we’re small.” It’s a pretty great motto for a record shop, but I think it’s even better as a defense of Stuart McLean. His stories may not be big, but they’re small — and that’s exactly what I want from them.

Ryan Gaio 
Editorial Assistant