amongst books

amongst books

Saturday, October 24, 2015

public literary readings & aesthetics

I haven’t been attending a lot of readings these days, but now that the Ottawa International Writers Festival is on, I’m experiencing full immersion once more & i'm enjoying being steeped in fine literature. I’ve also attended a few poetry readings in the past month or so. This has led to a contemplation about what I find appealing about public readings.

A lot of writers are introverted; they have a hard time reading in front of an audience; perhaps they struggle with the  microphone or stumble with their words. As an audience member, I understand that for them to read puts them out of their comfort zone. Perhaps because they are reading something very personal. I admire them and I pay special heed to their words.

Poets are particularly noted for introversion & all of the above. As an audience member I value smooth delivery much less than I do the ability to overcome discomfort & fear of sharing personal revelations. I appreciate the stumble & the trouble with the microphone. I relate to readers whose nervousness is reflected in the tremble of their pages. 

I don’t want loud, I don’t want music accompanying the work. I don’t want the work to come with a beat or a lot of alliterative gimmicks. I don’t want speedy, jumbled up, filling all the space, telling me what I should think performances. I don’t want performance at all. I just want the quiet reader’s voice filling me with stories, words, feeling. To me, literature is an introspective stumbly art. Being human is stumbly. I like to see that stumble reflected in the work as it is read aloud.

This, of course, is my personal aesthetic. I can enjoy all kinds of entertainment; although seldom anything particularly loud & obnoxious that comes with a laugh track. I like my literature subtle & accompanied by a peaty scotch or a strong cup of smoky lapsang souchong tea. I like to be able to be quiet on my own for a while after listening to an author’s words. To take them in & mull them over.

This is what I’m experiencing at this year’s writers fest & this is what I’m looking forward to as we head into the weekend, a weekend where there’s an opportunity to hear poetry as well as fiction & nonfiction. I hope to see you there. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Picks for the Fest

The fall edition of the 2015 Ottawa International Writers Festival begins this week. Here are my planned events, with probably a bit of divergence, depending on my mood.

I’m excited, as always, that the festival includes fiction in its programme. I have to say that Ottawa’s literary scene has for the past several years been low on fiction. This is our chance to feast. At the same time, there are some great poetry events taking place. I don’t attend most of the politics, sciency stuff, but if you’re into those, there’s a lot to attend also. I only have so much stamina.

If you’re a writer, you simply must find a way to attend this festival. If you can’t afford it, see if it’s not too late to volunteer. If you're at Carleton U or U of Ottawa, you can get in for free. I find the discussions to be of great value & the chance to chat with the writers too. 

Also great for book enthusiasts…It’s a party for nerds who love reading. There’s also great food and drinks available. Last spring, I believe, saw the introduction of Bicycle Craft Brewery’s wonderful craft beers. I’m very partial to their oatmeal porter. Come buy me a drink.

As a side note, there are lots of events happening on Wednesday, October 21, but I highly recommend, no, I insist, that you come to the Sawdust Reading Series at Pour Boy, 7pm to hear the poetry of Sandra Ridley. you will be surprised, delighted & mesmerized. I promise. Oh, I should also say that tonight Chris Johnson is reading at Blue Mondays over at Café Nostalgica, 8:30pm. I’ll do my damndest to be there & so should you.  

Thursday, October 22
6:30pm – First People’s, First Stories with Lee Maracle, Bev Sellars and Joseph Boyden.
8:30pm – Spotlight on Irish Fiction with Gavin Corbett, Claire Louise Bennett and Colin Barrett

Friday, October 23
6:30pm – Lost (and found) in translation with Samuel Archibald, Larry Tremblay and Kim Thuy

Saturday, October 24
2pm – All Out with Kevin and Alex Newman
Or also at 2pm: Meaning, Schmeaning, a poetry workshop with Stuart Ross
8:30pm Condemned to be free with James Grainger, Karim Alrawi, Owen Sheers, Anakana Shofield

Sunday, October 25
6:30pm Poetry Cabaret with Nick Papaxanthos, Tara Azzopardi and Stuart Ross
8:30pm The Al Purdy A-Frame Celebration with George Bowering and John Steffler; the inaugural writer-in-residence Katherine Leyton; Rob Thomas, last year’s winner of the Newlove Prize; and a host of other writers, including Susan Gillis, Charlotte Gray, David O’Meara, Sandra Ridley and Stuart Ross.

Monday, October 26
12:00pm A Writing Life-One on One with George Bowering
6:30pm the Bywords 2015 John Newlove Poetry Award with Marie-Josée Houle, the honourable mentions and the award recipient, plus a reading from Matthew Walsh’s chapbook, Heel.
8:30pm Arc Poetry Magazine’s Spoken Word Celebration with Tana Evanson, Cat Kidd, Ian Keteku and Kevin Matthews

Tuesday, October 27
6:30pm The Reason You Walk with Wab Kinew (sold out, alas)
8:30pm Sweet Emotion with Nino Ricci, David Constantine and Terry Fallis

& post festival, I’m looking forward to Margaret Atwood’s launch of “The Heart Goes Last” on November 16 & John Irving’s Avenue of Mysteries on November 30.

Get tickets, buy passes, but most importantly, come! & I think I already suggested you buy me a drink. ahem. it’s going to be fun. we’re going to have a party…

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I'm now a member of the teahouse

i'm chuffed to have part of my series Jazz up at Queen Mob's Teahouse, particularly as it is in the Misfit Doc section, where most of my work belongs these days. so raise your chipped china cup, unwrap your chocolate beetle & celebrate with me. this is a magazine i've been enjoying a lot this year. take a look around. you'll find all kinds of hijinx. thanks Rev Livingston over at QMT & anyone else who was involved in the selection, layout & design. woot!

Monday, September 14, 2015

September Readings - your invitation

I'm one lucky ducky. The Ottawa literary community has been so incredibly supportive of my work.
I have two forthcoming readings with writers who I respect & like a helluva lot.

1. Ottawa Launch: Mouthquake by Daniel Allen Cox, September 20, 6:30pm, Venus Envy

Please spread the word. It's going to be a great night

Sunday, September 20, 2015, 6:30pm: Mouthquake by Daniel Allen Cox with special guests Amanda Earl, Marcus McCann, Billeh Nickerson. Venus Envy, 226 Bank Street. Free.
 Quick & dirty fiction & poetry readings by the fabulous four.

Written with a poetic bravado and in a structure that mimics a stutter, the elegiac Mouthquake is speech therapy for the bent: the signal is perverted and the sounds are thrilling.

For bios etc please visit

I'll be reading from two new works: Big Cock Attitude - a series of short smutty genre busters & Queen Christina, poems about well known & obscure creative folk & fictional characters who flouted genre & sex conventions.

Sept 20 is also Charles' birthday, so we'll be celebrating afterward with libations & conversation. You're invited to that too, of course, my darlings.

2. Tuesday, Tree Reading Series presents Amanda Earl & Roland Prevost, Black Squirrel Books, 1073 Bank Street
Workshop with Claudia Coutu Radmore at 6:45pm on Little Literary Haibun;
Open mic at 8pm: bring your poems. especially the dirty ones. 
Featured readers sometime after that. This will not be a PG reading. Nothing too fucked up, but fucked up enough...

I'll be reading from two new works that were written under the influence of Jeff Buckley, Djuna Barnes, Helene Cixous, early morning walks & gin.

For both events i'll have copies of Kiki & A Book of Saints on hand for your purchase.

Thanks to Venus Envy & to Black Squirrel Books. Thanks to the Tree Reading Series & to my darling fellow readers. Both of these events are going to be a heck of a good time. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

One Thing: Kemeny Babineau

Duck Talk 

 In the world of ducks, there is much to learn, but maybe not so much to emulate. Sexually, they are odd. Humans have that too, sexual oddity. Our peculiarities may be the result of an overloaded charge, or in its attempted repression. Humans are practically always in heat, even in the sunless cold, or when starving to death. The sexual world of the duck, though fully primed, is not the constant red light of humanity.

Duck fucking goes like this. They seem to prefer mating in the water, but are equally capable of accomplishing the task on land. In large flocks the drakes are serial rapists. They don’t woo, or court, or connive, they gang up. The drakes will cooperatively rape the hens, each having a turn or stealing another’s entrance. This is made possible by the structure of the penis; it uncoils when erect and can penetrate the vagina from any angle. It is an elasticized, prehensile, tentacle with a groove running along the top of it to convey the semen. Erection and orgasm occur quickly. The contraction of the penis in its initial phase is like a rubber band, it snaps back into a massy dangly ball. After copulation ducks will often do a victory lap. When the drake does this you can see the penis dragging through the grass or dirt, or afloat like a pale worm in brief incoherence before being fully rewound. In smaller flocks the mating is less riotous but still involves chases, alarms, and forced entry.

 But the hens strike back. They reserve the right to choice. The vagina is a labyrinth and the penis a blind serpent thrashing about. If the hen favours the drake she will allow his semen to fertilize her eggs, if she does not, then the sperm is cast into an infertile crease and wasted. The sperm, once deposited, is potent for up to 10 days. There may be multiple fathers in any brood.

When the hen’s egg production goes into dormancy the male’s penis will drop off, leaving but a nub, when the hen’s next egg cycle begins the drakes grow a new penis the size of which is much determined by the competition. In this manner these disposable dicks can reach up to 12 inches. So there is an arms race backing every duck dynasty.

Kemeny Babineau

Your Invitation: 

tell me or show me one thing. it doesn’t have to be profound. it could be visual or written or a combo of both.  it could be about your work; it could be about some film or tv show you’ve watched or a coffee place you like. it could be short or long. i’ll post it along with a link of your choice to your work or somewhere else. disclaimer: i might choose not to post if it doesn’t suit me.
your reward? send me your mailing address & i’ll send you something whimsical…
it’s getting a tad quiet out there this summer & i think we need an injection of whimsy.
so fire away. svp. amanda at angelhousepress dot com

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Book of Saints now available

my latest chapbook is now available through above/ground press. A Book of Saints is an excerpt from a longer work entitled Saint Ursula’s Commonplace BookIt is the third  chapbook from the work to be published. After Ursula (AngelHousePress, 2008 – limited edition 26 copies) (expanded from a single poem published by Vancouver's Pooka Press) and A Book of Miracles (Dusie Press, 2015), which was published in a limited edition of 60 copies for Dusie Kollektiv 8.

I offer my heartfelt thanks to rob mclennan of above/ground press for publishing A Book of Saints, my fourth chapbook with the press after Eleanor (2007), The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman (2008), Sex First and Then A Sandwich (2012).

What rob does with above/ground press & his other initiatives is heroic, publishing the unheard of, the established and the obscure in large quantities, sending these copies to all and sundry, and giving poets an opportunity to read our work at launches in Ottawa, promoting the work tirelessly and supporting us with fervour.

A Book of Saints is part of a journal or commonplace book, a type of scrapbook where people compiled information such as recipes, observations about life, quotations and poetry.

The Breton princess Ursula lived in the fourth or fifth century. There are variations of her story. In one version, she was travelling by ship with eleven thousand virgins before meeting her groom, a Pagan. The ship was attacked by Huns, who killed all the virgins, including Ursula.

One day I encountered a homeless woman who was speaking to herself in the form of what sounded to me very much like religious prophesies. Thoughts of this homeless woman stayed with me. For some reason I thought of Ursula.

When I was hospitalized in 2009 in the Intensive Care Unit, I developed ICU psychosis. It was a frightening experience that led to severe delusion and paranoia. It made me concerned for those who have to go through such experiences as part of their daily lives. Part of the scope of this work is to explore and incorporate the delusions I experienced into the poetry.

In the manuscript, a woman prone to wandering finds the journal of the homeless woman, who believes that she is Saint Ursula. The journal is full of art, poems and descriptions of her dreams and quotations, bits of detritus and flowers she has gathered…

In A Book of Saints, our modern day Ursula writes her journal entries as poetry on saints days.

My sources for the saints days were the online Catholic encyclopedia and Saints, a Year in Faith and Art by Rosa Giorgi (Abrams, New York, 2005). Both of these rely on the Catholic Church's liturgical calendar. Names of feast days are taken directly from these sources. In some cases there were differences. I chose the ones that resonated the most for Ursula.

My process was straight-forward. On a particular day when I was writing the work, I opened up Saints to the day and used the saint of that day to inspire the work, to inspire Ursula’s preoccupations. I have been fascinated with this imaginary woman, my homeless character for seven years. She haunts me in the way that she herself is haunted by the saint.

Saint Ursula’s Commonplace Book consists of six sections: INTERSTICES, these are poems written by the wandering woman; A BOOK OF SAINTS; A BOOK OF MAGIC; A BOOK OF MIRACLES; A BOOK OF HOURS; and A BOOK OF URSULA.

Some of the poems have appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, the Peter F. Yacht Club, , and Jacket2, an online magazine from Australia.

The patron saint of this work is bpNichol. In the course of writing the manuscript, I read and was influenced by his master work, The Martyrology, a long poem in 9 volumes published by Coach House Books. 

I am grateful (not at all a strong enough word to describe what joy I felt) for funding received by the City of Ottawa in 2014 for the creation of Saint Ursula’s Commonplace Book.