Year in Review | 2016

Following my habit of the previous two years, I’m going to post another round up of things literary and academic from the past year. I suspect these will be interesting documents for me someday, looking back, but don’t expect anyone else to read them. Ignore at will.

On the academic front, I have just about finished my dissertation. “Make Contact: Contributive Bookselling and the Small Press in Canada Following the Second World War” is 28 days from being submitted (January 27, 2017). At four chapters, approximately 260 pages, 79,000 words, 124 footnotes, and 3 appendices all in, it’s just about there.


I was exceedingly quiet otherwise, saying ‘no’ to more things than ever before in an effort to complete the dissertation. I presented at one conference, speaking about “The Small Press Bookstore as Library and Archive” at Reading, Researching, and Using the Private Library at Concordia, and submitted another paper to be presented in 2017 (about the design and print history of Robert Kroetsch’s “Seed Catalogue” and Seed Catalogue, at the upcoming Robert Kroetsch Symposium at the University of Ottawa).


On the literary front, I signed a book contract (!) for my first trade collection: Book of Annotations is forthcoming from Invisible Publishing (!) in Spring 2018. Formal editing to begin soon. My portrait was painted as part of Melanie Janisse Barlow’s The Poets Series, which was an odd but thrilling experience (you can buy a print here, if you’re so inclined). I received my first formal arts funding through the Ontario Arts Council’s Writers’ Reserve Program. I published a tiny and lovingly-designed chapbook, Refrain, with Puddles of Sky Press in their wonderful Chapoems series, and a lovely little poem/bookmark/broadside with shreeking violet press. I placed a poem in NOON | journal of the short poem, something I’m quite proud to have managed. I also made the shortlist again for the John Lent Poetry/Prose Award from Kalamalka Press, two years running now. I read in Kingston and Ottawa. I had the opportunity to help with the typesetting of The Calgary Renaissance (Ottawa: Chaudiere Books, 2016), edited by derek beaulieu and rob mclennan, an experience that taught me a great deal. I hope I’ll be able to do more book design work beyond Apt. 9 Press going forward. As well, something I wrote about Nelson Ball on this very blog showed up as a blurb on the back cover of his 2016 trade collection Chewing Water–something I never expected. Seeing my words on the back of one of my hero’s books is difficult to describe, but I couldn’t be happier.

Apt. 9 Press placed three books on the five-book shortlist for the 2016 bpNichol Chapbook Award: Marilyn Irwin, Lillian Nećakov, and Nelson Ball were shortlisted beside works from Anstruther Press (Klara du Plessis) and Nomados Literary Publishers (Christine Stewart), and Nelson came out the winner! It was an unexpectedly busy end of the year because of the overwhelmingly good news. Apt. 9 had been on hiatus through 2016, but the news was too good to hold that position and I made the trip to the Meet the Presses Indie Literary Market in Toronto to accept the award on Nelson’s behalf at the end of November. I got to speak about Nelson and his chapbook on CBC All in a Day, and Gary Barwin kindly included it in this list over at CBC Books. I published only one new title this year, Lea Graham’s This End of the World: Notes to Robert Kroetsch–despite Lea being in the United States, and our inability to launch it in any formal way, it has gotten a really wonderful reception full of positive reviews. We’re trying to sort out a reading to celebrate the book properly in 2017, details to follow. Apt. 9 has big plans for next year, but I’ll keep quiet about those for the moment.

Bill - Le Hibou_0006


On the literary-personal front, William Hawkins passed away. It still rattles me that he’s gone, but lots of good work is underway to keep his memory alive. Most recently, I had the opportunity to chair a panel about “Ottawa and the Beats” at the Carleton University Art Gallery to coincide with an exhibition of Allen Ginsberg’s photographs. Bill was a subject of discussion by the panel that included Roy MacSkimming, Robert Holton, and Robert Hogg, and the room was full of amazing books, ephemera, posters, and conversation. I also completed my erasures of Bill’s Ottawa Poems using Bill’s own typewriter. Look for a public celebration in 2017.

Apologies for anything I’ve forgotten at this moment. I’ll update as things reoccur to me. Onto 2017.

My birthday present from Jenn, November 2016.

Ottawa Poems #1-28

In September, I very cleverly poured an entire coffee into my laptop. This complicated many much more important things, but it also interrupted my access to this blog thus stopping me from posting more of my erasures of Bill’s work. So, instead of starting again or posting them in smaller pieces, I am just going to put the entire project up in one batch.

Below is a pdf of my complete erasure of William Hawkins’s Ottawa Poems (1966). For some background on the project, you can read this post from August. I had been using the working title “These Actual Lines” throughout the summer, but think I will simply call it “Ottawa Poems” from now on, following Bill’s original title.

Ottawa Poems | Complete Erasure



Nelson Ball wins the 2016 bpNichol Chapbook Award!

Congratulations to Nelson Ball for winning the 2016 bpNichol Chapbook Award for Small Waterways, a book I am deeply proud to have published through Apt. 9 Press in 2015. Congratulations also to Marilyn Irwin and Lillian Nećakov for being shortlisted for the same award for their books published by Apt. 9! Congratulations also to Klara Du Plessis and Anstruther Press, and Christine Stewart and Nomados Literary Publishers for their books on the shortlist, too. We are proud to be listed in such fine company.


Nelson’s win is the second time Apt. 9 has published the winner of the award, after Claudia Coutu Radmore’s win in 2011 for Accidentals.

These Actual Lines: A Book of Erasure #1-4

While editing The Collected Poems of William Hawkins (2015), I began doing  erasures of Bill’s poems. I focused on his 1966 collection Ottawa Poems and completed an erasure of each of the 28 poems in the book. I didn’t begin the work thinking of them as poems that I would share, instead thinking of it as a way to engage more deeply with Bill’s poems and to practice erasure. When they were finished, I liked them as a set more than I expected. I showed them to Bill, and he kindly gave me his blessing. One went on to be published as an above/ground press “poem” broadside (#336),  and selections from the full set were shortlisted for the 2016 John Lent Poetry/Prose Award from Kalamalka Press (Okanagan College) under the title “These Actual Lines: A Book of Erasure.”

The John Lent Award is a prize where the winner’s chapbook manuscript is printed by design students using letterpress. I submitted the erasures because I thought that they would pose an interesting challenge on letterpress. I like erasure when it keeps the words in their original positions on the page and when it does something interesting visually. Letterpress would likely be an excruciating way to print poems of this sort given all their blank space, but I suspect the outcome would have been beautiful.

In any event, I didn’t win, and so have been trying to come up with a more interesting way to present these poems visually.

Following Bill’s death in July, I was gifted his typewriter.


It is an Olivetti Lettera 30 from, I believe, the 1970s (at least according to a rough google search). My plan is to use his typewriter to re-type Ottawa Poems, and subsequently to perform my erasures on the poems directly using the typewriter. I ran some tests on the first few poems today, and I’m happy with the results. I suspect I could use a new ribbon, but I’m enjoying the process so far and think it works for the poems. I’m not sure if the “x” is the best way to block off words, but I used it today.

Given that it is a 1970s typewriter, it comes after the writing and publication of Ottawa Poems (1966), but nonetheless, I feel like I am communing with Bill when I use it. I am now re-typing the book for the second time (I re-typed on the computer for The Collected Poems). The original book was published by Nelson Ball’s Weed/Flower Press using mimeograph, and so Nelson would have typed stencils for the book before printing, re-typing from Bill’s manuscript. Re-typing this book on a typewriter feels particularly relevant given its original print form.

Anyway, I’ll be at it for a while, but below you’ll find Barbara Caruso’s cover for the original edition, followed by my erasures of the first four poems in the book. I’ll post subsequent pages in small groups as I complete them.

Ottawa Poems Cover
William Hawkins. Ottawa Poems. Kitchener: Weed/Flower Press, 1966. Design by Barbara Caruso.

Ottawa Poems #1Ottawa Poems #2Ottawa Poems #3Ottawa Poems #4



Horsebroke Press

Are you following the newly revived (or at least, now more publicly visible) Horsebroke Press, run by Jeff Blackman out of Ottawa? Really happy to see a new collection, The Desert and the Flood, from Amanda Besserer, a-long-time-ago co-editor and ally at In/Words (and classmate at Carleton) who always impressed and intimidated me. She published one previous chapbook close to a decade ago (November 2006 I believe). The new poems are strong and tough and honest and lovely and welcome after so long, and the books are beautifully made. The first printing sold out quickly, so Jeff made a second that is now available to order and will undoubtedly also sell out quickly. Snap it up! And grab Jeff’s own I don’t know what you need while you’re at it.


Show and Tell Poetry Series: Year One Reading

We made the trip to Peterborough to celebrate the first year of the Show and Tell Poetry Series, run by Elisha Rubacha and Justin Million. It was an intimate and compelling reading, performed in their backyard in downtown Peterborough. If you’re nearby, get out to one of the shows, and if you’re not, listen in.

Photo by Jennifer Huzera.