Wednesday, December 06, 2017


Chapbooks from Nose in Book, so far
This year I've had the honour and pleasure to make two chapbooks: It Hurt, That's All I Know by Nelson poet, Jane Byers; and I just finished packing up and shipping out my latest project, Our Own Stunned Heads, a serial poem chapbook by Victoria, BC poet, 
Stephen Bett.

With Jane Byers and her chapbook, It Hurt, That's All I Know
I operate Nose in Book Publishing out of my basement lair in Ootishenia. Before I get to the putting-together stage in these pictures I've spent some time putting the words into book form. I love that part of the process—where to break a stanza, should the page numbers be up to the right or bottom centre, font size, what to do about the cover—but the last bit, as chronicled here, is so very satisfying. 

Stack of covers and text, ready to go
First cut takes excess paper off the sides. I want a fold, but not too big.
Cut the top and bottom to size. It's important to keep changing the blade.
Score the cover with bone creaser to facilitate folding

Fold in the flaps 
The cover, ready to receive the text

Insert the text block 
Use an awl to punch three holes in the spine 

The actual sewing takes less than a minute

Tie a knot 

Snip off excess thread


Not quite done. Now the books go into the press for at least a day.
They emerge nice and flat
Books everywhere
Last one!


Monday, November 27, 2017



I've been keeping occupied of late making chapbooks and helping a friend move so I didn't get to  much of  the Upstream Benefits: Rural Artist-Run Culture in the Kootenays symposium that took place in Nelson over the last four days, but I wasn't about to miss the panel Saturday afternoon with Tom Wayman, Nancy Holmes and Fred Wah talking about the ways in which they represent the rural in their work, nor the reading that night. 

"Art is Essential", or so it says on the poster, and I know I'm preaching to the converted here, but it really is, isn't it? Art in its many convoluted and wondrous forms keeps us going. Take those days when it's raining, you slept in because you forgot to set the alarm so you haven't time for breakfast and you get in the car, a song comes on the radio and next thing you know you're singing along and the day just got a little bit brighter. Or you're reading a book and something jumps off the page at you, grabs your shoulders and gives you a good shake. Or you're walking down Baker Street and there in the window of a pop-up art gallery are paintings by Sveva Caetani who you've never heard of and you go in and find yourself in tears. Or your kid plays guitar in the Library Lounge at the Hume Hotel, great old songs you mostly know, then surprises patrons with cool renditions of themes from television shows. In Castlegar you can walk around downtown and see sculptures that change every year, and the favourite, as voted on by the public, gets to stay. Dancing. Theatre. Jewellers and blacksmiths. The chefs who concoct the most wonderful edibles—it's all art, capital A Art, and I'm grateful for the small part I play in it.

Miriam Needoba, Oxygen's about-to-depart (she's going back to school to pursue graduate studies) and really-going-to-be-missed Executive Director, introduced the panel. 
Tom Wayman introduced the speakers with a pithy talk about rural vs urban art making.
Nancy Holmes, punctutating a point. She teaches at UBC's Kelowna campus and is very involved with is 2017's winner of the Pollinator Advocate Award for Canada thanks to her involvement with Border Free Bees. A favourite quotation from her talk: "Bees dance to tell us where the honey is." (Robert Duncan)
Fred Wah needs no introduction to Nelsonites, having grown up here. He was Canada's 5th Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2011–2013) and has written many books of poetry. Favourite quotation from him during his talk is one he credited to his wife, Pauline Butling, who said, "Art exists to give the artist news of themselves."
Fred and Nancy sharing a laugh
Another interesting remark came during the Q&A from poet and audience member, Barbara Curry Mulcahy who likened artists to providing "sound" by being the thin skin of a drum the world plays on. Altogether an interesting conversation on a November afternoon.

In the evening we were treated to a wonderful reading with Nancy and Fred who were joined by Jordan Mounteer. 

Tom introduced the poets
I was delighted that Nancy read a few poems from The Flicker Tree: Okanagan Poems as well as from new work. I loved that book enough to blog about it in 2013!
Given that he hails from the Slocan Valley, for no good reason at all I'd not had the pleasure of hearing Jordan Mounteer read until now.  His book, liminal, got to go into an immediate second print run after his publisher, Sono Nis, suffered a fire in 2016 that razed the warehouse where books were kept. It's a wonderful collection of poems about tree-planting, travel, relationships and more. 
Fred Wah took us for a trip down the Columbia River via beholden, a collaborative poem he wrote  with Rita Wong.
Last October I had the honour of doing a reading with Fred, also at Oxygen, and just as he got started the lights went out. He didn't miss a beat, finishing with the help of the flashlight on his phone! Happily, the lights stayed on this time. 

The symposium is over but if you're in Nelson you'll want to take in Upstream Benefits: Artist-Run Culture in the Kootenays at Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History. This is an exhibition of work by ten local artists that endeavours to show how their work is influenced by where they live (ie. rural). The artists involved are Courtney Anderson, Susan Andrews Grace, Amy Bohigian, Brent Bukowski, Boukje Elzinga, Ian Johnston, Maggie Shirley, Natasha Smith, Deborah Thompson and Rachel Yoder. I've only had a chance to go see it briefly (as in, I got there twenty minutes before closing time) but I want to go back and spend more time with it. And you have time, too, as it's on until February 11, 2018!


Sunday, November 05, 2017



Friday night an all but standing room only crowd gathered at Nelson BC's Oxygen Art Centre to bid a fond farewell to Ernest Hekkanen's and Margrith Schraner's lit mag, The New Orphic Review. The NOR began in 1998 in Vancouver. After Ernest and Margrith moved to Nelson three years later, they continued to publish it out of their home/gallery on Mill Street. Two issues a year for twenty years. Scores of writers. So very many words. Writing in the NOR has appeared in a Best American Mystery Stories anthology and twice in Journey Prize anthologies.

I've blogged about the NOR and/or Ernest, it's Editor-in-Chief, quite a few times. Unfortunately I wasn't blogging yet when I attended a Federation of BC Writers' workshop in Kaslo one year when Ernest showed attendees how to construct a book. He was well suited to present the workshop as text blocks of early editions of the NOR were hand sewn and the covers glued on, by Ernest. I was just starting to delve into the ins and outs of bookmaking myself, and that workshop was invaluable to me.

In 2011 I blogged about one of his book launches, in May of 2013 I wrote about the NOR's 16th Birthday party where nine of us read, and in August of 2016 there was another gathering of writers, this time to support the NOR after Ernest's computer got hacked.

Here are a few photos from Friday.

Bobbie Ogletree and Susan Andrews Grace with the big smiles. Verna Relkoff is there, too, and Jude Schmitz and others. Margrith's red hair is a beacon at the book table.
Over the years I've been published in the NOR four times. I am forever grateful as it's always nice to read out of something resembling a book and my poems that have wound up in the NOR are ones I enjoy reading. In the spring of 2012 I was the featured poet. Several poems were published in that issue, as well as a short essay about my relationship with poetry. 
The man of the hour was sporting a medal of distinction he'd just received from Finland!  
As well as being published in the NOR, Margrith Schraner was its Associate and Copy editor. She read from her essay about the NOR's history that was published in the last issue. And now I'm agonizing now over whether "She read from her essay published in the last issue about the NOR's history" would be better. Or "She read about the history of the NOR from her essay that was published in the last issue". And you wonder why I don't blog much!
Bobbie Ogletree read from her creative non-fiction piece that explores her experience as a Jewish woman going to Germany to see her grandchildren.
Jude Schmitz read a mesmerizing braided essay that compared her experience of getting lost in an airport and winding up where she wasn't supposed to be with that of Robert Dziekański who essentially did the same thing and wound up dead.
The last reader was Barbara Curry Mulcahy. She read a delightful selection of poems about people at a cocktail party. 
In addition to his prowess as a writer, Ernest paints and carves. One year, at another Fed event, he donated as a door prize a gorgeous walking stick he'd carved. All (I think all; I don't actually have ALL of them to check) of the covers of the NOR sport images of paintings or collages he's done. Walls in the home he shares with Margrith are covered with his art. Will Johnson, a reporter for the Nelson News, posted several photos of Ernest's art here. (Will's article on the NOR can be found here.)

As always, there was a book table. As always, it did a brisk business.

Margrith got flowers from MC Tom Wayman.
Ernest Hekkanen
Thanks for everything, Ernest and Margrith, but it's not goodbye. I know we'll keep running into each other at all the readings and other literary events this area is famous for. Until then, keep your metaphorical pens moving and those keys tapping. I know you've both got lots more to say.


Friday, September 22, 2017



It's not even noon and I've just read Pockets, Cobourg, Ontario's Stuart Ross' latest published oeuvre. At least, I think it's his latest, but I could be wrong given the rate at which this guy publishes stuff. Something new may have been released in the hour since I closed the book and poured myself another cup of coffee. What was that? Oh, just another Stuartwork in the works: a poem dribbling off the edge of the table; a short story clinging for its life to the overhead fan, where even the fan is a fan, or perhaps a tale of what it's like to survive and survive and survive in an industry that sometimes behaves like a huckster at a country fair, you know the kind, step right up and fire a dart at a balloon and if you pop it you win a prize that is worth less than the cost of admission.

(I know. I don't usually write like this, but you try spending some time in the wonderful world of Stuart and see if it doesn't change your way of looking at and writing down the world.)

Pockets might be called a micro-novel. To begin with, the book itself is small. Hand-friendly, you might say. Perfect, in fact, for a pocket or a purse. 

It's only eighty pages long, and every page contains enough white space to make my poetheart sing. Because it's so small in size every word on each of those pages has to do a lot of heavy-lifting. 

The shortest page

The longest page

So if it's a novel, it tells a story, right? Pockets is a memento mori that's loaded with moments of magic realism, a genre made popular by Latin American writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Canadian ones like Thomas Wharton. It opens with the narrator's brother observed to be floating outside a window and ends with the narrator walking off set, as it were, and into the clouds. In between we're treated to a kaleidoscope of snapshots; Archie and Cowsills comic books, Danny Kaye movies, The Flintstones, Herman's Hermits, the JFK assassination and more all warrant a mention. 

The overall sense I'm left with from the story is one of great tenderness. A mother's hand gentle on a forehead. The narrator and his friend, Marky, playing when they were kids. All the trials and joys that make up a life. And through it all there are observant little gems like, "Back on earth, some people didn't have houses. Meanwhile, some houses didn't have people."

I'm glad there's a house in Cobourg that has a Stuart in it.

Stuart Ross
Pockets is published by ECW Press out of Toronto. ECW stands for Entertainment, Culture and Writing, which pretty much sums up what you'll find in this lovely little book.


Monday, September 18, 2017



2017 Postcard Poems Received
plus this one (Ted just came in with today's mail)

2017 marks eleven years I've been writing poems on cards to strangers. Strangers who have become less (and yes, occasionally more) strange because at the same time I'm on the receiving end. The idea is to write directly onto the card, which I now do without giving it much of a thought. While I'm rarely pleased with the resulting blurt, of the thirty-plus cards I write usually one or two have something worth salvaging. 

I keep track of all these cards, both incoming and outgoing so I know for a fact this is the best year yet for receiving cards from almost everyone on the list—twenty-eight—out of thirty (all but two of which were signed) plus seven or eight  "bonus" cards from people I've been exchanging cards with for years now as well as some of the folk I interact with online (of course there's a Facebook group). 

This year I had to scrounge a bit to find cards to send. I knew for a fact I had hundreds—yes, it's come to that—as I have friends who give me cards and I stop in at The Postcard Place on Granville Island in Vancouver every chance I get (that's where I found the box of Nancy Drew covers I used in 2011 and one of my poems wound up in an anthology

and I culled scores of them from my late aunt's photo albums after she died (she used to both take photos and buy cards when she traveled, and boy, did she travel). But do you think I could find the damn things when August rolled around? Nope. So I drew one

and collaged a couple

and even painstakingly coloured one, which was a lot of fun but took forever, although as my friend and fellow August PoPo person, Judy Wapp (Group 4), pointed out, I could just mail those ones and let the recipient colour them if they wished.

 I bought half-a-dozen or so new ones from Cartolina, a nifty little paper and stuff store in Nelson, BC and the rest I had lying around. 

No sooner had September rolled around when I found my big stash, including more stamps and last-year's list, so I'm definitely all set for next year. 

If you sign up you might get one of these next year!

Soon, very very soon, there's going to be a tenth anniversary anthology of postcard poems called 56 Days of August. Soon as I get my hands on my copy I'll be posting about it here.

Huge, heartfelt thanks to all you wonderful poets in Group 2 and to those who sent bonus cards and to Paul Nelson and Lana Hechtman Ayers for starting this movement. Once again, you made my August!