Friday, March 20, 2015


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The ChiSeries is back in April with a never-before poetry edition! Each poet has been 'commissioned' to compose a special piece for the evening, plus there will be a live paint spectacular with GMB Chomichuk during the readings. Mark it in your calendars as a means to celebrate the (hopefully) abolished Winter! Chadwick Ginther will be on hand to host, most likely with another famous novelty belt buckle, because of reasons.

As always, the event is FREE to the public and will take place in the Atrium at McNally Robinson Booksellers at 7 PM. The ChiSeries is a non-profit reading series that pays all readers for their time, and is largely donation run.

ARIEL GORDON is a Winnipeg writer. Her first book of poetry, Hump, won the 2011 Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. Most recently, her chapbook How to Make a Collage won Kalamalka Press’ inaugural John Lent Poetry-Prose Award. Her most recent publication is Stowaways (Palimpsest Press). When not being bookish, Ariel likes tromping through the woods and taking macro photographs of mushrooms.

JONATHAN BALL, winner of the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer, teaches English, film and writing at universities in Winnipeg. He is the author of Ex Machina and Clockfire, which was shortlisted for a Manitoba Book Award. Ex Machina considers the relationship between humans, books and machines, and Clockfire contains 77 plays that would be impossible to produces. Both books were published under Creative Commons licenses, so you can remix their contents. Ball's latest collection, The Politics of Knives, won the 2013 Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry (Manitoba Book Awards).

ADAM PETRASH is a writer, poet, and journalist. He's written articles, book reviews, and interviews for Canstar Community News, Drums Etc Magazine, the Uniter, the Winnipeg Free Press, and the Winnipeg Review. His fiction has appeared in journals such as Luna Luna Magazine and Whiskeypaper. He lives and writes in Winnipeg.

GMB CHOMICHUK is the writer and illustrator of The Imagination Manifesto and Raygun Gothic. His writing is featured in Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post Apocalypse and his illustrations in Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. He also collaborated on a children's book with Justin Currie called Cassie and Tonk (2014). 2015 will see the launch of Underworld (with Lovern Kindzierski) from Renegade Arts Entertainment and Infinitum from CZP's new graphic novel imprint. He wants you to make comics too.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Out-of-Town-Authors: Claire Caldwell

Winnipeg Free Press—PRINT EDITION
By Ariel Gordon 

Claire Caldwell is a Toronto writer. She writes poems, teaches poetry workshops for kids and edits Harlequin romances. She's currently touring Invasive Species, her first book. She recently took the time to talk to Ariel Gordon.

Q: What do you want people to know about Invasive Species?

A: Well, as the cover and title suggest, the book is populated by both animals and people, including urban cougars, a dead whale, multiple bears, brothers, New Mexican moths, medical students and a psychic. There are some vegetables and minerals, too.

Q: Tell me about that strange object/phenomena called 'the first book.'

A. People keep asking me how long it took me to write the book, and my best answer is, "my whole life." Obviously, none of the poems I wrote in Grade 7 made it into the collection (RIP "Song of the Licorice Tree"), but it does feel like all of my writing efforts from childhood until now led to or culminated in this final product. Which makes writing a second one daunting!

Another thing I've found interesting—though it might not be a first-book phenomenon, exclusively— is that I don't feel done with a lot of the themes I tackled in Invasive Species. I felt like I only truly understood what the book was about in the final phase of writing. I still feel motivated and invigorated by the question of our place in the natural world and what it means to conceive of the "natural" world as separate from humanity/society. I'm still writing poems about the relationships we have with animals and the spectre of climate change.

Q: How do you approach writing poems about animals? Do you start with field guides? With first-hand observations? Do you have an ethics of writing about animals?

A: I tend to start with anecdotes I hear or read about animals and humans coming into contact in bizarre or unusual ways, or sometimes I'll come across snippets of biological/zoological research that will be the jumping-off point for a poem. I'm not sure I have an ethics of writing about animals, but that's really interesting to think about: How do you ethically represent subjects that have no way to access or conceptualize those representations (as far as we know)? I guess my general goal is to interrogate the lines we draw between ourselves and animals, to explore both our fundamental differences and where those lines begin to blur.

Q: Also, can you write about nature these days without talking about climate change?

A: I don't think so. Even if you don't address climate change explicitly, I think any nature writing today is going to have a shadow hanging over it—a sense of loss/dread/urgency that's informed by what's happening all around us.

FP: According to your bio, you edit "wholesome romances and action-adventure novels" at Harlequin. Tell me about the constraints of romances versus poetry. Tell me about moving between commercial and so-not-commercial genres.

A: My approaches to editing and writing are very different to begin with, so it's hard to say how much of the distinction comes from the genre versus the work itself. I'm often asked about the Harlequin "formula," but I swear there is no such thing! There is definitely form and structure, though, and I find it very rewarding to walk that fine line between fulfilling certain promises to readers (the heat level for example, or the happy ending) and developing compelling, motivated characters and fresh plots. I love rolling up my sleeves to help authors shape their stories, and I enjoy how collaborative that process is.

Writing poems is quite solitary, by comparison, and it still feels a bit alchemical to me—so many conditions have to almost magically fall into place for me to feel like I'm really in the writing zone, whereas I can sit down and start editing without a second thought.

FP: To people on the Prairies, who rarely spend more than 30 or 40 minutes in transit, Toronto's hour or more commutes seem like mythical spaces. (People in Toronto talk about their commutes, whereas people in Winnipeg talk about the weather... ). Do you bus-write?

A: My commute is a bit too hectic to write—getting a seat can be dicey, and I have to transfer subway lines/buses. Sometimes I will jot down an idea or image in my phone, though. Commuting is actually my prime reading time. Though we all complain about public transit, I'm grateful that there's a mostly reliable mode of transportation that allows me to get lost in a book every day. Of course, there are moments when the intimacy of reading can be a bit awkward in such a public space—you wonder if people are judging your book choice, or you start crying or laughing at a particular passage.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Poetry in Voice 2015

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So I'm one of the online semifinal judges for Poetry in Voice again this year.

Which is great in and of itself: high school students reciting poetry that they've memorized. High school students reading and listening to poems...

I'm happier still that of the ten judges, four of ten are once and future Manitobans.

(We've taken over! Finally!)

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Half-full reading

(clockwise, from top left): Christine Fischer Guy, Alison Calder, Claire Caldwell read at McNally Robinson on March 5.

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My favourite part of this evening, besides the readings, besides the chance to chat with such smart women, was the fact that McNally Robinson event coordinator John Toews not only set out water for us but labelled the water, so that we wouldn't get confused.

My favourite moment of the evening came when Claire Caldwell read a poem with both moons and elephants in it and Alison Calder leaned back in her chair and flashed me a startled-yet-pleased look, given her tendency towards same.

Thanks to Wolsak & Wynn for setting the thing up, to McNally's for hosting, and to Alison, who read even though she'd never been properly asked. (I maintain that the great majority of poets would be abjectly grateful if they were just scheduled for readings without the bother of being asked beforehand...)

Wednesday, March 04, 2015


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So, February was full of dust and pestilence. We were all sick and the sickness went on and on...

But Feb was also full of walking, specifically walking amidst the slabs of white marble in the Southwood Lands, and immersing myself in my great-grandfather's 1913-1914 Antarctic journal.

I tried to commit to more walking, in all weather. I silvered my eyelashes more than a few times. And when I wasn't doing that, I was stealing an hour here, ninety minutes there, to read and transcribe, to read and think, on the contents of my g-grandfather's journal.

My grandfather was 42 when he died in 1914 on South Georgia. I'm almost 42 now, a hundred years later, reading his impressions on the landscape, on the weather, on the Frigate Birds and the King Penguins and the Leopard Seals. I kind of like that synergy, even while I try to talk back to it, to counter his adventure with my domesticity.