LCP shortlists


Bertrand Bickersteth – The Response of Weeds (NeWest Press, 2020), Jillian Christmas – the gospel of breaking (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020), Valerie Mason-John – I Am Still Your Negro (University of Alberta Press, 2020), Bahar Orang – Where Things Touch (Book*hug Press, 2020), Tyler Pennock – Bones (Brick Books, 2020), and Natasha Ramoutar – Bittersweet (Mawenzi House, 2020)

For Raymond Souster:

Sadiqa de Meijer – The Outer Wards (Véhicule Press/Signal Poetry, 2020), Klara du Plessis – Hell Light Flesh (Palimpsest Press, 2020), Jessie Jones – The Fool (Goose Lane Editions, 2020), Michael Prior – Burning Province (McClelland & Stewart, 2020), John Elizabeth Stintzi – Junebat (House of Anansi Press, 2020), and Ian Williams – Word Problems (Coach House Books, 2020)

Pat Lowther:

Cicely Belle Blain – Burning Sugar (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020), Jody Chan – Sick (Black Lawrence Press, 2020), Jillian Christmas – the gospel of breaking (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020), Kyla Jamieson – Body Count (Nightwood Editions, 2020), shalan joudry – Waking Ground (Gaspereau Press, 2020) and Noor Naga – Washes, Prays (McClelland & Stewart, 2020)

It was sweet to hope footlights would make it further but 4 books in, it was my first time to make it that far. Next books, other contests.

Books read, haiku & tanka mostly

70. Mayfly, issue 70, winter issue (Brooks Books, 2021). What an excellent magazine. No slag or baggy poems in here. I heard good things about it and it bears out. I’ll be buying back issues.

71. Wrecking Ball and Other Urban Haiku by Barry George (Accents Publishing, 2010). I nearly bought this book a few times at conferences, being one of the stand-out books of modern classics, but then a friend gifted me it. Solid, tight poems. first trick or treat–/the child reaches/for her mother’s face (.p21)

72. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (Penguin, 1955) is something we read in high school. Husband nor I recalled anything. We read it aloud. It probably lands differently than it did at first but it is still effective indictment of human nature.

73. Haiku Canada Review (Vol 15, #1, Feb 2021) is a chunky issue this time at 94 pages with more French than usual. Book reviews are among my favourite parts but some lovely haiku like Nola Obee’s cedar waxwing/in the saskatoon bush/my irrelevance but the main delight was Maxianne Berger’s article analyzing the caesura in haiku over 878 haiku and the hinge structure (where the middle line reads with L1 or L3, pivoting the meaning, subverting the expectation) by looking at 1025 haiku across 6 journals. For example Rachel Sutcliffe’s hill walking/I reach the halfway mark/in my flask. Barry George has a new haiku: even the cars/in the junkyard gleam–/spring sun

74. Me then you then me then by Gary Barwin & Kathryn Mockler (Knife Fork Book, 2020) was a title I was curious about but seeing a review at the Pamphleteer I tipped into buying it. It’s really grave humour. There’s no assignment of who in the collaboration wrote which but I have my guesses. The whimsy is even chiaroscuro, such as in Combination where with a nipple twist, there was a safe inside the chest “I twirled my nipple/L32-R47-L19/And opened it.WTF. Inside me was hope//No bigger than/a grain of sand”

75. Rabbit by Claudia Coutu Radmore (Aeolus House, 2020) is a collection in a true sense, collecting up various chapbooks. I missed when her Fogo poems were published with Alfred Gustav Press. Good to get a chance to read them. Each chapter is a distinct style and density. I found myself more fond of her lorikeet Desi with reading a section of poem on her. The title poem was also a moving meditation on a wild rabbit.

76. In the Company of Crows: Haiku and Tanka between the tides by Carole MacRury, Sumi-e by Ion Codrescu (Black Cat Press, 2008) was a book I’d intended to get a decade or so ago. Luckily books are conversations you can catch much later than when they happened. Even in the frame of haiku, they are gentle poems, but in hard times, the heart need gentle. caterpillar/leaving enough of the lead/to sleep on (p. 25) or the soft humour of observation: drought—/weeds sprout/under the sprinkler (p.7) or spring tea—/through the bone china/her thin hand (p. 100)

77. Gusts: Contemporary Tanka, no 33, spring/summer 2021. Getting my issue is always a treat. This issue John Quinnett’s and Keitha Keyes poems stood out to me as names to watch. I haven’t seen Jeff Seffinga or Louisa Howerow in person in years. Good assurance to see them writing. I like the concretely observant, more than the expansive and philosophical. One here from Carole MacRury: a bowl/of beach stones—/how the rain/ brings out their/ true colours. I wish I could google my brain where I recently read of black beetles in full sun showing their colours.

Links to not miss

Jamaal Jackson has a look at the future of spoken word in Ottawa at Apt613. Rising star to watch for? Shayan Saddiq.

Future of small press Ottawa poetry at seen at Apt 613 by rob mclennan points at two thousand pages of the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater and calls for a literary book publisher to rise to complement the reading series and small press.

Future of small press Ottawa with Ellen Chang-Richardson, an organizer of Riverbed, points out all the amazing resources. The future is in the hands of who? “Anyone with the courage to write and perform it.”

Another In Our Tongues is coming soon. (Second Tuesday of each month.

An Ottawa poet, Lana Crossman has a striking poem up on Feral.

Have you seen this Misha Solomon poem on lead? He has a dial-a-poem too.

Don’t forget about the news link and mid-month submission for

Poetry Read

64. A Sonic Boom of Stars: 2020 Southern California Haiku Study Group Anthology, edited by Beki Reese & Susan Rogers Southern California (2020) is a set of haiku, then a “foreign language” section including Spanish, a few haibun and then a chapter of haiku in a theme of windows. There are several outstanding poets but the haibun outshone the haiku in appeal for me. I seem to be on a storytelling kick.
65. The Ouroboros by Jim Johnstone (Knife Fork Book, 2021) is a really tight 5-page poem of the dystopia of the body of a city, what it confines and permits, and the walls within it between groups of people.
66. Peter Mark Roget: The Man who Became the Thesaurus: A biography by Nick Rennison (Pocket Series, 2007) is not a biography nor poetry. Roget is maybe 20% of the book, the rest being a James Burkian leap around the context and backgrounds of people and organizations tangentially related to him. It could be trimmed by 10% for long sentences and repetition. Interesting enough but not as billed.
67. Their Queer Tenderness by Neil Surkan (Knife Fork Book, 2020) is a gorgeous attentive little collection that I’ve already re-read twice. The lines pick their way carefully and surprise in their turns. For example, “a cumulous of blackberries” or “the wounded/ smell of clipped grass. Chemical/defence. Distress signal//to other grass” followed after a few lines by “Poetry//is such a wounded smell.”
68. The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas (Arsenal, 2020) is part anthem, part confession and rather exhilarating from her call out to the bike thief “canoe-douche” to aching love poems to a refrain of attending to her aged mother. Compassion and humour in a good ratio from “stealthy as a fledging emu who has had a touch too much mike’s hard lemonade” to a call out if those who spoke against robin williams who went though life despite depression when “every room you enter fills itself with/sharp objects pointed in your direction.” And poems of quiet reflection, considering how “the promise of possibility is a trap that has kept me from the joys of my own life.”
69. Undiscovered Country: new poems by Al Rempel (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2018) I have been trying not to read too fast and have largely been failing. They work in the long form build and reveal, in accumulation of quiet details so not very excerptible. It’s a quiet slow patio with tea, conversation without performance, but conferring how we’re orphans now, how funerals take up so much headspace, how “we should wait and see what comes after” in a world “lidded with a ceiling of leaves” where “our adult lives are gyroscopic, and by this I mean, we’ll do anything not to fall.”

Undiscovered Country
Undiscovered Country by Al Rempel
The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas

Pat Lowther

footlights is on the 2021 longlist for Pat Lowther Award, for Canadian women poets.  The award carries a $2000 prize, and is sponsored by the LCP.


See the rest of the dozen excellent books at the League site. Some of these are my favourites of the year, including Burning Sugar, the Gospel of Breaking, & Sick.

Phil Hall’s Niagara & Government (Pedlar Press, 2020) is on the list for the Raymond Souster.

Buy footlights from Radiant.

Shortlists will be announced on April 15. The winning titles are announced May 6.

Online reading Coming soon

Pictured in the before-times, Ilse Turnsen & I at a Woman’s Day reading.

Ilse Turnsen and Pearl Pirie
Ilse Turnsen (left), a whirlwind of good from Grannies to Water protector to Friends of Wakefield Library and myself.

Soon Ilse will host the inaugural of the Heart of The Library Reading Series, Wakefield.

I’m chuffed to be the guest reader for a digital reading of footlights and a Q&A at the series launch, as a part of the 100-Mile-Artist Network.

Watch this space for time and place details over the next few weeks.

Novellas etc read

59. Purple Springs: A novel by Nellie L McClung (University of Toronto, 1921, 1992) was a wonderful read. I’ve had it on my shelf for years and we finally read it all aloud. So many great set ups of suspense of what’s going to hit the fan and yet the character Pearl brings out the best in people and finds common ground for people wanting to make the right decision for their own selfish reasons. It is the last chunky book in a series but it stands well alone.
60. The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley (The Experiment Publishing, 2014) has a great deal of unique information but jumps around like James Burke. The section detailing navigating by stars might fascinate some. He tries to cover the planet not just England but weather clues and lichen news are interesting. For all its fascinating bits, a bit of slog to get through.
61. Empire of the Wild by Cherie Dimaline (Random House, 2019) should have been top billed as paranormal. The cover of green chair makes sense after you read but didn’t exactly hook. The marvel of it zooms once I got past the first chapter. How it all fits together makes me gibbering and jaw-dropped. So interesting.
62. The Black God’s Drums by P. Djéli Clark (2018, Tor) is all male villains and all female heroes but written by a man. It is rapid and short, feeling like a short story at 92 pages, but is delightful in being a steampunk version of U.S. history where a slave uprising caused New Orleans to be a Switzerland of the U.S. during the civil war.
63. Finna by Nino Cipri (Tor, 2020) is a novella of pointed comedy for anyone who ever worked retail. The store is a knock off of Ikea and the characters timeslip through the multiverse.

Empire of the Wild
Purple Springs

Chapbooks read

55. for the love of Black girls by Tatiana M.R. Johnson (Indie, 2017) is earlier poems than what we got graced with an audience at Tree Reading Series and these are grrrl power: “grow into everything you have never been told you could be.” It urges thriving despite. “Maybe survival starts in a root deep in trauma’s soil that it funnels through generations of seeds like fire until the entire tree is burning.”
56. Prairie Interludes by Debbie Strange (Snapshot Press, 2020) is tiny. Each digital page is the space of a third of an 8 1/2 by 11 so the chapbook is 24 haiku long, a summing of award winning, honorable mentions and editor’s choice poems of the 5 previous years. The most moving I found was this, “dandelion seeds/I smooth mother’s hair/across the pillow”
57. One Bowl by Penny Harter (Snapshot Press, 2012) is 20 standard-sized pages but moves quickly in haibun. They are stories from her life as a new widow, touching and worthwhile and a free download from the press.
58. Degrees of Acquaintance by Glenn G. Coats (Snapshot Press, 2019) is a 30-page haibun of autobiographical reflections, from childhood awareness of father to a cow having trouble delivering. They are lovely articulate moments.