Friday, November 26, 2021

James Yeary, Vanessa Jimenez Gabb, Monica Mody, Jenny Drai + Ben Robinson : virtual reading series #27

a series of video recordings of contemporary poets reading from their work, originally prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent cancellations, shut-downs and isolations; a reading series you can enjoy in the safety of your own protected space,

Ben Robinson : “Low Vacancy”

Ben Robinson is a poet, musician and librarian. His most recent publication is Without Form from The Blasted Tree. He has only ever lived in Hamilton, Ontario on the traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas. You can find him online at

Jenny Drai : “Wulf and Eadwacer” (translated from the Old English) and “Wide Tracks”

Jenny Drai is the author of three collections of poetry, including Wine Dark and The History Worker from Black Lawrence Press and [the door] from Trembling Pillow Press. More recently, her short fiction has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review and Pleiades, where she was awarded the Agnes B. Crump Prize for Experimental Fiction, as well as other journals. She is online at and lives in Dortmund, Germany.

Monica Mody : “Ordinary Annals”

Monica Mody is the author of Kala Pani (1913 Press), the forthcoming Bright Parallel (Copper Coin), and three chapbooks including Ordinary Annals (above/ground). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in anthologies including Extinction Violin: The Penguin Book of Modern Indian Poets, What is Time: An Anthology of New Indian Writing, Hibiscus: Poems that Heal and Empower, and &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing. Her poetry also appears in Poetry International, Indian Quarterly, Almost Island, Boston Review, and other lit magazines. She has been a recipient of the Sparks Prize Fellowship (Notre Dame), the Zora Neale Hurston Award (Naropa), and a Toto Award for Creative Writing. Monica was born in Ranchi, India, and lives right now in San Francisco – Ohlone territory.

James Yeary : “The Fishes”, “Neptune’s Back”, “The Sky at her Furthest”

James Yeary is a Portland-based poet, artist and publisher. Since 2008, he has collaborated with Nate Orton and Chris Ashby on the long-running site-based zine series My Day, which is approaching its fiftieth installment. He has published a number of books and objects under the names c_L books and spitch, the latter of which will be issuing a career-spanning collection by Sotere Torregian. The chapbook The 66,512 (written under the nomdegwar Urie V-J) is forthcoming from above/ground. 

Vanessa Jimenez Gabb : an excerpt from the “You and Me, Forever” section from Basic Needs

Vanessa Jimenez Gabb is the author of the poetry collections, Basic Needs (forthcoming October 26, 2021, Rescue Press) and Images for Radical Politics (2016, Rescue Press). She is from and lives in Brooklyn, NY. More at

Monday, November 22, 2021

2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award shortlist interviews: Matthew James Weigel

It Was Treaty / It Was Me, Matthew James Weigel
Vallum Chapbooks, 2020
2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award Shortlist

The 2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award will be announced on Thursday,November 25, 2021.

Matthew James Weigel is a Dene and Métis poet and artist pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Alberta and holds a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences. He is the designer for Moon Jelly House press and his words and art have been published by people like Arc Poetry Magazine, Book*Hug, The Polyglot, and The Mamawi Project. Matthew is a National Magazine Award finalist, Cécile E. Mactaggart award winner, and winner of the 2020 Vallum Chapbook Award. His debut full-length collection Whitemud Walking is forthcoming in early 2022 with Coach House Books. His chapbook It Was Treaty / It Was Me has been shortlisted for both the bpnichol Chapbook Award and the Nelson Ball Prize and is available now.

It Was Treaty / It Was Me is your poetry debut. How did the project begin, and how did the form of the poems emerge? How were the poems formed?

There were two starting points. One was how, as a kid, my dad would always tell me how grandpa signed treaty. It was really important to him that I know and be proud that our ancestors were involved in that process. And the second was February 2019 when I first saw the University of Alberta's copy of the Treaty 6 parchment in our library and archives special collections. There is this big mystery about how and when it was printed and how it was never delivered to the signatories as promised. I was drawn to this mystery because as a kid I had that connection to treaty but those kinds of connections had been disrupted in this case. If the stories are sequestered, the connections inherent in these living agreements can be relegated to the past and manipulated. The government's obligations can be ignored and that can go unchallenged. It just so happens that in the course of my work those disruptions continued to take a personal toll as I would find family connections to items in the collections. So the themes of the chapbook are built around this idea that I was being gradually collected by the university and other institutions. The poems are about the interconnected relationships of treaty, the land, and the body, and how archival violence is a special type of colonial violence. In terms of form, my work often blurs boundaries between visual art and writing, and with a background in science I have a fondness for figures and diagrams that can be quite poetic in how complex ideas are explained elegantly and succinctly. It's important to tell these stories in ways that resist 'conventional' methods and poetics, it's a form of resistance in its own way.

Part of what is so compelling about the chapbook is the way it exists as a form of resistance. Had you any specific models when you were putting together this work? Were there any other poets or works in your head as you wrote?

Oh definitely! I think there's a lot of conversation between the works of Indigenous poets writing today. Folks are all reading each other's books and I'm no different. Marilyn Dumont is someone I really look up to, and her work is so critical to revisit and sit with. Especially The Pemmican Eaters. Lisa Bird-Wilson's The Red Files is especially vital as a work that parses archive and documentation. Layli Long Soldier's Whereas might be a book I would call a model, it's an extremely complex and powerful text that is also very wide-ranging in its sources and forms. Joshua Whitehead's Full Metal Indigiqueer is a book that always makes me immediately want to write something. Billy-Ray Belcourt's writing in general is also so layered, generous, joyous. Liz Howard's work always makes me push how I think about language. I'm  definitely always trying to think through Jordan Abel's work. As a visual poet, he's just at another level in how sharply he creates work about the land. Other writers I was reading a lot were folks like Claudia Rankine, Mercedes Eng, Douglas Kearney. But the storytelling and spoken word aspects of my work are really important to me as well, so some of these poems had their start at the microphone. In that regard, poets and performers I really look up to are folks like Hanif Abdurraqib, Titilope Sonuga, and of course my partner: Nisha Patel. I hear Nisha's work more than anyone's, she's continuously amazing me.

It Was Treaty / It Was Me feels very much like it could potentially be part of something larger, potentially book-length. Do you see this work self-contained, or has it a shape larger than what we’ve seen so far?

That's interesting you see that! It's definitely not self-contained and is absolutely part of larger works. Something I've struggled with in my work is considering it finished enough to present to others. But I have to get over that! When the work I do is so intertwined with treaty – which is a concept fundamentally boundless, eternal, multi-faceted and multi-layered – so it's not the type of creative work that can be ever finished. That work often takes the form of writing, but I've done some complex visual art as well. I even make multimedia artist's books, pop-up books, and glass etchings. I'm always looking for new ways to tell these stories. Also my creative work is just one part of the work I do in telling stories about this place, and about treaty. I love doing classroom visits because people often have a lot of questions about these topics that are not talked about in school and university. That sort of outreach work I do is always ongoing and I'm always learning and refining. Each interaction with a person, each reader or each listener, is a new connection. As that happens new perspectives on the work emerge, new layers, new elements. When I started on this project Janet Rogers actually said to me "you know this is your life's work now, right?" and I take that very seriously. It's not work that I can ever finish. I have to keep honoring the relationships by sharing the stories and knowledge I have. Treaty is about reciprocity and obligation, I take that very seriously.

You’ve a full-length debut scheduled for the spring with Coach House Books. How do the poems in It Was Treaty / It Was Me relate to the work in the forthcoming Whitemud Walking?

Whitemud Walking builds on this work and pushes it in a lot of different directions. I expand on my relationship with the University of Alberta, the city of Edmonton and the Strathcona neighborhood. The chapbook is an entry-point into a lot of complicated conversations about how Canada attempts to extinguish Indigenous title to land, and how that's a multi-layered and ongoing process. That's a process that's tied up in resource extraction projects like the fur trade, the railroad, the archives, and academia. So a lot of the threads in the chapbook are followed a lot further in Whitemud Walking. And I suppose I shouldn't be, but I keep being surprised at how those threads so often wrap around my family history.


Thursday, November 18, 2021

2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award shortlist interviews: MA|DE

A Trip to the Zzoo, MA|DE
Collusion Books, 2020
2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award Shortlist

The 2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award will be announced on Thursday, November 25, 2021.

MA|DE is a collaborative writing entity that was co-founded in 2018 by artist/designer/poet Mark Laliberte and writer Jade Wallace. MA|DE's work has appeared in dozens of journals including Vallum, Poetry is Dead and PRISM International, and has been collected in three chapbooks. With the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, MA|DE is currently at work developing their Collusion Books chapbook A Trip to the ZZOO into a full-length poetry manuscript, to be titled ZZOO. Visit us at:

Twitter and Instragram.

A Trip to the ZZOO is the second of three published collaborative chapbooks. How did the project begin, and how did the form of the poems emerge? How were the poems formed? 

A Trip to the ZZOO was born out of our earliest writing together as MA|DE. That was a time when we wrote quickly, exuberantly and without much of a plan, other than to explicitly frame everything we produced under a blended moniker that represented our joint authorship.

We worked on several poems at one time: one of us would write a line or two to begin, the other would add to take it further along, and then it would be returned, an oscillation; we broke our patterns as often as we adhered to them, interjecting lines wherever they fit or forcing them in to complicate things, to avoid a sense of strict pattern. Basically, it was a kind of chaotic, back-and-forth building. When we had nothing else to say, we would stop and move on to new poems.

Many of these early poems were picked up by literary journals, and we dimly thought we might one day try to make a book, but with no specific plan to do so. It wasn’t until Collusion Books came into being, with its collaboration-focused mandate, that we first thought seriously about how we might turn our growing pile of disparate works into a cohesive chapbook. Reading through the dozens of poems we had written to that point, we noticed a certain creaturely motif in high concentration (perhaps one of every four works in the archive) that we hadn’t been aware of as we were writing. We brought all of those animal-adjacent poems together and found we had enough for a small collection, A Trip to the ZZOO, and thankfully Collusion took it on.

I know you’re working towards a full-length manuscript, but do you approach each chapbook as a self-contained work, or are you excerpting from your manuscript-in-process to create chapbook-length manuscripts? What is your unit of composition? 

We feel there are two reasons to publish a chapbook: to capture something self-contained — Test Centre (ZED Press, 2019) falls into this category — and to concretize a moment along the path to a larger work. A Barely Concealed Design (Puddles of Sky, 2020) and A Trip to the ZZOO both represent this latter kind of thinking.

In the case of the animal poems, once they had been accepted for publication as a chapbook, we thought, well, why not a book? We realized we wanted this chapbook to be a gate that would lead somewhere bigger, so we titled it in a way that hinted at a larger whole. The full ZZOO manuscript is still in progress at the moment, and we were deeply fortunate (and surprised!) to receive a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts a few months ago to complete the project. Currently, we are collecting articles & ephemera related to animals to give us some jumping-off points into new poems … the writing is more territorially defined now, and so we’re trying to wander a bit less. As we work to complete the book, we feel we know where we’re going.

We have never envisioned the poems as animal-gazing spectacles. The odd spelling of ZZOO is a signal to the reader that this is not your traditional zoo; instead, what we are trying to do is find new ways of looking at animals. Our gaze might always be human, but that doesn’t mean it has to be voyeuristic or exploitative. Instead, these are poems about perceiving humans & animals as integrated parts of the same world. We are all living in the ZZOO.

How does this collaborative project interplay, if at all, with your individual works? 

Our individual works take us to completely different places most times. Mark makes experimental comics, visual poetry; he’s recently been exploring haiku. Jade just wrote a novel! While the ZZOO project may overlap thematically with some abiding concerns in our individual works — Jade, for instance, explores ecocriticism and ecopoetics in fiction as part of their solo practice — it really is a body of work that decisively belongs to MA|DE. We have always seen MA|DE as an entity unto itself. If you read the poems, we suspect you will be hard-pressed to identify which lines were written by Mark and which were written by Jade; sometimes we can’t even look back and identify our own paths through the writing accurately. Our poems are not a dialogue between two voices; MA|DE has a voice of its own. And this is not a one-off collaboration between two solo practitioners, but an organism we intend to sustain long-term.

Having said that, the pandemic has opened up some surprising individual/collective overlaps here at our home base. We’ve had a lot of time on our hands to contemplate, rationalize, explore; and ironically, even though ZZOO remains a pressing work-in-progress, at the start of 2021 we also began to develop our next major body of writing.

Waste Not the Marrow is a hybrid manuscript that fuses visual & textual elements and blurs the lines between our solo & collaborative work. The visual side of things focuses on presenting complicated, vertically stacked collage-sculptures, some of which Mark was working on long before MA|DE existed; these artworks were accumulating in the studio, but never really had a raison d’etre (for whatever reason, he’s never felt comfortable showing these particular works in gallery scenarios) until we decided MA|DE could/should/would write to them. So they function both as his solo works and as our starting point: strange objects that we are exploring & animating through language, kind of an exercise in self-ekphrasis but also a real push into hybrid territory.

Have you any models for the kinds of work you’ve been attempting?

Collaborative writing, while being a time-honoured practice (consider, for example, the Japanese collaborative form renga, which likely dates back to the sixth century), remains a rapidly-expanding field, which is thrilling both to watch and to be a part of.

In terms of what we’re attempting with MA|DE, we sometimes feel positioned at a somewhat odd angle when comparing ourselves to other writers interested in literary collaboration. We love what someone like Gary Barwin is doing for the scene; he seems eager to collaborate with multiple writers within his circle — recent projects have popped up with derek beaulieu, Gregory Betts, Penn Kemp, Tom Prime — and the publications he produces through these collaborations have a playful, inventive streak that always excites. There is an element of jazz/improv to what he pursues, the literary equivalent of getting a few talented people into a studio, pressing record and then seeing what happens (at least that’s our take on the writing). This seems representative of the most common approach to collaboration at the moment, which is to compose as a duet where the individual voices are left clear, willingly exposed. We understand the joy in that approach.

By contrast, however, we are most crucially looking to establish a singular voice for MA|DE, to seek what William S. Burroughs called (in relation to his collaborations with Brion Gysin) a third mind — “the complete fusion in a praxis of two subjectivities, two subjectivities that metamorphose into a third”. This is something that’s hard to manifest, and it can only be nurtured over time.

From that vantage point, many of the models that we most admire seem to exist outside of the field of literature, long-form collaborations that seem to be more common in the art world. For some excellent Canadian examples, we look to the bodies of work developed by General Idea (active from 1967 to 1994, comprised of AA Bronson, Felix Partz & Jorge Zontal), Public Studio (the multidisciplinary, collaborative practice of filmmaker Elle Flanders & architect Tamira Sawatzky) and FASTWÜRMS (the cultural project, trademark and shared authorship of Kim Kozzi & Dai Skuse — who, incidentally and influentially, were Mark’s MFA thesis advisors at the University of Guelph).

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award shortlist interviews: Terese Mason Pierre

Manifest, Terese Mason Pierre
Gap Riot Press, 2020
2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award Shortlist

The 2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award will be announced on Thursday, November 25, 2021.

Terese Mason Pierre is writer and editor whose work has appeared in Hobart, The Walrus, Quill & Quire, and Fantasy Magazine, among others. Her work has been nominated for the SFPA’s Elgin and Rhysling Awards, the bpNichol Chapbook Award, and Best of the Net. She is the co-Editor-in-Chief of Augur Magazine, a Canadian speculative literature journal. Terese has also co-hosted poetry reading series, organized literary events, facilitated creative writing workshops, and spoken at conferences. She is the author of chapbooks, Surface Area (Anstruther Press, 2019) and Manifest (Gap Riot Press, 2020). Terese lives and works in Toronto, Canada. Visit her website at:

Manifest is your chapbook debut. What was the process of putting it together into a manuscript? How did the manuscript find shape?

Manifest is not my debut chapbook (Surface Area, with Anstruther Press, in 2019, is). But Manifest feels like a debut because these were poems that I’d never really published in earnest before, and I was quite nervous to release them. I had joined Augur Magazine in 2017 as their poetry editor, but hadn’t written any speculative poetry of my own, even though that’s what I was editing. So, in 2019, I decided to start writing in that genre. It was very freeing, in a way. I think I had a lot of hangups about what poetry was supposed to be about, and writing speculative poetry let me explore a lot more. The poems in Manifest were all the speculative ones I’d written over the course of 2019. I tried to find a way to connect them, as these poems weren't purposefully written with a chapbook in mind, but I feel readers need to tell me if I’ve succeeded.

My apologies! Frustrating to realize that I reviewed both your chapbooks, referring to each in my reviews as debuts, so I’ve clearly not been paying proper attention. I am curious of your shift into more speculative writing: does this constitute a shift away from the kinds of other writing you were doing before, or is this simply one thread of multiple you see yourself moving in and through, as you move forward?

I definitely see this as one thread of multiple. I write in many genres: literary and speculative poetry, literary and speculative fiction, short fiction, novels, as well as creative nonfiction and book reviews. I see myself writing fantasy novels as well as poetry chapbooks. I am interested in many things, so I write many things. Writing so broadly means I have a lot of “homework” to do as a writer, but it’s a responsibility I am happy to take on. My to-be-read pile is miles long.

What I appreciate about the collection is how the poems appear to hold deep influence from performance and storytelling traditions, as well as how the lyric is held on the page. Do you see your work as blending traditions, or is this simply how your poems emerge?

Speculative poetry is still new to me, and I’m still experimenting. But I’m not doing so with any tradition or strategy in mind; I’m not writing toward a specific method. I’m writing what I like, and what appeals to me, what gets me excited. I believe these poems are just emerging from that mindset. However, when others tell me that I’ve written my way into a particular mode, I am inspired to research, and learn.

What first brought you to poetry?

I have been reading poetry since childhood (my favourite book of poetry as child was Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends). I took a poetry-reading hiatus during high school—as I was heading towards a Life Science degree and could only handle fiction—and in university, as I learned more and more about the writing community around me. I’ve been writing poetry since the age of 12, and as I read more of the poetry of others, I discover new ways to express the desired themes and emotions in my own work. What I like about poetry is how fluid it is, how amenable it is to the writer’s mind. It is, in my opinion, the perfect form to explore the speculative.

I’m curious: how do you define the speculative, and what does writing in this vein allow for you to do or explore that might not have been possible otherwise?

“Speculative” is an umbrella term for anything pertaining to the unreal or imagined. It encompasses fantasy, science fiction, magical realism, the supernatural, alternate histories, superhero fiction, and much, much more. I think the speculative is further broadened by metaphor (the dreamy, the surreal, the absurd, etc.). In poetry, the speculative appears in the literal as well as the metaphorical, which makes it excellent to write about, in my opinion. For me, writing in the speculative genre is a fun challenge. It allows me to find new ways to express my ideas, to defamiliarize my settings and themes, to try to get readers to see beyond what they are used to. What defines speculative poetry is a conversation (what defines poetry is conversation, too, sometimes), but I tend to focus on what the genre can do for me, what it can allow for me to learn and experiment with.

Have you been writing much in the way of poetry since Manifest was completed? What have you been working on since?

I’m working on a full-length collection, but it’s slow going—very slow. I’m also thinking about writing a third chapbook, but I’m not sure how that's going to take shape yet. I’ve learned that I can’t force poetry.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award shortlist interviews: Manahil Bandukwala and Conyer Clayton

Sprawl, Manahil Bandukwala and Conyer Clayton
Collusion Books, 2020
2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award Shortlist

The 2021 bpNichol Chapbook Award will be announced on Thursday, November 25, 2021.

Conyer Clayton is a writer, musician, editor, and gymnastics coach living on unceded Algonquin Anishinaabe land. Her debut collection, We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Guernica Editions, 2020), won an Ottawa Book Award and was a Relit Award finalist. She's released 2 albums and many chapbooks; recently, Towers (Collusion Books, 2021) by VII, of which she is a member, and Sprawl (Collusion Books, 2020) written with Manahil Bandukwala, shortlisted for the bpNichol Award.  

Manahil Bandukwala is a visual artist and writer. Her most recent forthcoming work is a collaborative piece with Liam Burke titled Orbital Cultivation, and is out with Collusion Books in 2021. She is Coordinating Editor for Arc Poetry, and Digital Content Editor for Canthius. She is a member of VII, an Ottawa-based creative writing collective. See her work at

Sprawl is your collaborative debut. How did the project begin, and how did the form of the poems emerge? How were the poems formed?

MB: Sprawl began with Collusion Books’ call for chapbook submissions right when they first launched at the start of the pandemic! We didn’t really have a plan for how we envisioned the chapbook unfolding — it just kind of did. Connie wrote the first poem and sent it over to me, with our only plan being for me to respond to her poem in some way. I took the last line she wrote and continued the narrative from there. The entire process was very organic, and more importantly, fun! I’ve been a huge fan of Connie’s work since we both arrived in Ottawa (around the same time, I think). We’ve collaborated on projects before, when I published and illustrated her chapbook Mitosis in 2018. I guess Sprawl was our next step. From writing to editing to creating a sort of mini-film set to music for the launch, the entire journey of Sprawl has been fun, invigorating, and rejuvenating — everything writing should be.

CC: Agreed! Writing and collaborating with Manahil feels easy and natural, just like being her friend! Manahil’s art and writing really inspires me (as evidenced by her visual art covering my walls), so it is such fun to get to create with her. I was so excited to work with her on Mitosis a few years back, and writing Sprawl together was a wonderful evolution of our shared creative practice, which I feel mirrors the deepening of our friendship. 

Do you see this work as self-contained, or part of something potentially larger?

CC: Because Sprawl was born out of such an intense moment (the beginning of COVID lockdowns in Ontario in March 2020), it feels quite self-contained. It was clear to us as we went when it was complete, and that it was a single unified piece. That being said, we have since written some new poems together with a different prompt/structure in mind, so I am very open to what may or may not happen in the future, as far as future chapbooks, or potentially incorporating Sprawl into something larger, but, time will tell!

How does this collaborative project interplay, if at all, with your individual works, or even your work as part of the collaborative group VII?

MB: We’re both interested in writing to and from within the ecological in our individual works, and that really comes through with Sprawl. So much of the imagery is what we were both witnessing from our lockdown spaces as being the tangible results of the beginnings of a global pandemic. In my personal writing practice, I’m heavily influenced by what I read. One source of poetic inspiration for me is to have lines from another poem as an epigraph, and then riff off from there until a new poem emerges. Our collaboration was interesting because we riffed off each other, bringing a cyclicality to this practice. As for our writing with VII, the voice we have with VII feels very different from our individual voices. While Sprawl brings together and elevates existing elements of our writing practice, writing with VII creates a new voice entirely.

Were there any models for this kind of writing that you were conscious of while working on this project?  

CC: Honestly, not really. We weren't working off any kind of theoretical and inspirational framework for this, at least on a conscious level. The writing just happened very quickly and lovingly via our email correspondence. Though, once the poems were complete, we realized we had sort of mimicked a crown of sonnets, and so we ran with that, and made a final page (now the first in the chapbook) composed of all the repeating lines. A crown of sonnets actually happens to be the (deconstructed) form of my ecologically focused first chapbook, For the Birds. For the Humans. which came out with battleaxe press in 2018 (shout-out to Natalie Hanna, the best of the best in the human category). But that wasn't an intentional call-back, more just a coincidence.

I think more importantly, we just wanted each other's images and lines to continue ringing and repeat in the next poem, and to somehow blend our voices while still maintaining our own.

How long did the poems in Sprawl take to compose? One interesting element of any collaboration is often in seeing the unexpected places the poems might go. Were there any surprises during the process? 

MB: We wrote the first draft of Sprawl from March 18th to March 26th 2020, which is a very quick time to produce a chapbook! The back and forth of the writing opened up a lot of freedom. Rather than having to come up with ideas for an entire chapbook’s worth of poems, we just had to write the one poem. Whenever Connie sent back a poem, my mind would buzz with ideas of where the poem’s narrative and journey could go.

Also, cows became a very important part of the chapbook.

CC: Cows!

Have you been writing much in the way of poetry since Sprawl was completed? What have you been working on since?

MB: Collaboration has become a huge part of my writing since Sprawl. The two chapbooks I’ve published since, Towers with VII and Orbital Cultivation with Liam Burke, are both collaborative. Orbital Cultivation is my most recent writing project, launching in late November. The chapbook is a golden shovel of Phyllis Webb’s poem, “And in Our Time,” and is a sci-fi love story of growth after catastrophic destruction. Liam and I are also working on a companion game made in RPG Maker, where you play as a pair of lovers exploring a spaceship and collecting poems.

CC: Like Manahil, the next project I released was more collaborative writing with VII, via Towers (Collusion Books, 2021). Sprawl definitely opened my mind up to the possibilities collaborative writing contains, and I've since casually written some poems with a few other friends and peers, and I am quite excited to see how those may expand!

I've continued writing my own stuff as well — I tend to have several projects on the go at once, and the time from Sprawl to now is no different, though I am not quite prepared to talk about any of them in public detail just yet. ;)

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Meredith Quartermain : Tribute to Doug Barbour (1940-2021)





In the spring of 2018, Smaro Kamboureli organized a Celebration for Doug, and I was honoured when she invited me to speak. It was a wonderful gathering at the university in Edmonton where Doug did so much to build the Canadian literary community. The following is what I said to that gathering:

I can remember clear as sunshine back in 1977 or ’78 standing in the apartment I shared with Peter, light pouring in the big picture window on our wall of poetry books and the beat-up couch. Doug was in town teaching summer school at UBC. He’d come for a beer or a meal, and he was standing between the couch and Peter’s big oak desk, probably looking at some bookshop find of Peter’s. And I screwed up my courage to ask him the question Peter had suggested Doug might help me with.

I was ashamed to be asking. I was a grad student. I was Canadian. But I didn’t know the first thing about Canadian writers. But I did ask, then, who to read. And right away Doug insisted on Rudy Wiebe and Sheila Watson, bp Nichol and Phyllis Webb.

I didn’t have any inkling then that I would one day publish poetry. About a decade later, in the 80s, I started some creative ventures. When Doug came to town we sometimes connected. He was so easy-going, so warm, so comfortable talking about a host of writers I’d barely heard of. Try as I might, I knew I’d never catch up. He was also a living breathing Canadian poet, unlike the Americans I met through Peter. And Doug was from the west, as I was.

Plus he did not write confessional poetry, which was a sin in the 80s. He worked with sound and texture, and my love of Gertrude Stein had taken me in that direction too. Years went by, more than 25 after our first meeting, but he remained for me the most approachable of editors when, in 2003, I tentatively sent him the manuscript of Vancouver Walking. I felt hesitant that it wasn’t languagey enough, maybe too confessional, as it recorded my walks around the city and places I’d seen on a train journey. I felt, as well, out of synch with younger writers like Lisa Robertson, unsure of my ground.

So it meant the world to me when NeWest Press accepted the manuscript, and Doug wrote: “This is a major work, & I am damn proud to be involved with its publication.”

Doug is the gentlest of editors, preferring to, as he said in a letter to me, “take the complexity of the work for what it is.” Open to the whole gamut of literary endeavor, he makes me think of Creeley’s lines: “Mind’s a form/ of taking/ it all.” From one horizon to the other, like the sky.

He is also the gentlest of editors to get a rejection from, which is what happened in 2006 with my second NeWest book, Nightmarker. But Doug’s patience and confidence kept me revising until the book was right.

In 2012 he again sent the warmest possible encouragement about my first novel Rupert’s Land: “I’m writing,” he says, “as first (& really wowed) reader . . . to say how much we at NeWest would like you to let us publish it”; saying as well that he’d be the editor. Doug’s vision as both an avid reader of fiction and a poet led to the most helpful of revisions for that novel.

So I want to thank you, Doug, for taking me across that most awesome of thresholds from private person to published author with a public voice. That crossing led me to live, actually live, in a way I was meant to: creatively with language.

You, with a full-time teaching position and your own writing practice, nevertheless gave some of your own writing time to welcome me into the world of Canadian letters, and to see me securely grounded in it. And you did this for dozens of others like me, both as a literary mentor and through NeWest Press which you founded.

I think you did that because you know very well how much it means to a writer, working alone, to hear a voice coming back at ya from the dark unknown out there. Flowers don’t bloom in the dark. I did because of you, and I am so very grateful. And I hope that as editor, publisher, teacher, and literary friend, I too can pass on to other writers what you have given me.





Meredith Quartermain’s Lullabies in the Real World (2020) was shortlisted for the Alberta Book Publishers’ Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry. Vancouver Walking won a BC Book Award for Poetry, and Nightmarker was a finalist for a Vancouver Book Award. Other books include Recipes from the Red Planet (finalist for a BC Book Award in fiction); I, Bartleby; and U Girl.

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