Checking In: phafours poet: Amanda Earl

Amanda Earl is a powerhouse of Encouragement and of Getting Things Done, through her many arms of publishing including AngelHouse, DevilHouse, Bywords, National Poetry Month, and through individual mentoring and her own writing. She was inducted into the VerseFest Hall of Honour in 2014. She has a flutterbook done by pahfours and was in Air In/Air Out. Read on for leads and links.

PP: What have you read lately that lit you up? why or how?

AE: Bright Spots and Landmines: The Diabetes Guide I Wish Someone Had Handed Me by Adam Brown (The diaTribe Foundation; 1st edition, 2017)

I was diagnosed with diabetes at the end of March. I was overwhelmed and disheartened by the diagnosis, so I began researching, of course. I’m a writer. It’s what I do. I happened upon this book during one of my frantic searches for meal possibilities. Brown runs a site called diaTribe.org which has useful advice and recipes, including 50 Shades of Chia Seed Pudding. Chia seed pudding is a miracle food. It has been around long before the chia pet from the 1970s. It is a grain that was cultivated by the Aztecs. It’s delicious, high in fibre and helps to lower blood sugar levels. As long as I don’t overdo the portion size, my colon-less bowels can handle it. This recipe linked to Bright Spots and Landmines, which is based on Brown’s experiences as a diabetic. The book is positive, practical, and informative, exactly what I needed as a newly diagnosed diabetic and still helpful as the journey continues.

PP: What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?

AE: Managing my diabetes through changes in diet and exercise. I’m writing a poem series about diabetes. As a writer, I am forever curious and need to understand the history, etymology, science and culture in about just about everything I get involved in, I can’t help looking things up in order to learn. My brain doesn’t seem to be built for science, even though I’m fascinated by it, so I’ve been trying to learn more and understand the underpinnings of diabetes, the connection between blood sugar levels to food, exercise and sleep. This leads me down a rabbit hole of wonder and it excites me.  I might as well write about it.

A few days after the diagnosis, I began a blog: the Sexy Diabetic and from there I ended up starting to write poems. I have always written as a form of catharsis, connection, whimsy and exploration. Life and literary pursuits are usually not separate for me.

Paying contributors to AngelHousePress. Getting a new initiative online – the Caring Imagination: a site that will empower those who create, produce and disseminate art to do so with compassion, if they want to. In 2022, I launched our first crowd funding campaign through IndieGoGo, inviting small presses from around the world to contribute publications to offer to supporters of the campaign as perks. It was a hugely successful campaign and is allowing me to pay contributors to NationalPoetryMonth.ca and Experiment-O this year. I’m grateful to all who supported the campaign and by doing so, demonstrated their support of community and caring practice in art. I am baffled by the swaggering smug colonialist of the patriarchy with regard to creating and publishing. I continue to work toward dismantling the patriarchy and amplifying the voices of those who continue to be systematically excluded from canons. That is the most important work any of us can be doing in the literary community today, in my opinion. 

PP: Excellent. We definitely need those efforts. What is underway with you, or forthcoming?

My own writing

  • Trouble, a long poem about a lust affair will be out as a pamphlet by new UK publisher, Hem Press in Autumn 2022. I read an early version of the poem as a feature at an In/Words reading back in 2013, which shows how long some works take to come to fruition.
  • Genesis will be coming out with Timglaset Editions of Sweden sometime this year. This is the first book of the Bible and consequently the first book of the Vispo Bible, which I began in 2015 as a life’s work to translate every book, chapter and verse of the Bible. The Vispo Bible has received support from the Ontario Arts Council (OAC).
  • A video of PURPLE, a long poem about suicide inspired by the Victorian death obsession will be launched in August, thanks to the support of the OAC and the Writers Union of Canada. I started this a year ago.
  • I am going to be self-publishing Beast Body Epic through AngelHousePress in Autumn 2023 when I reach my 60th year and my 14th after my husband was told I would die on the operating table or in ICU. BBE is a series of long poems that address my near-death health crisis of 2009. It’s been edited by at least three people now and revamped completely since I first read part of it to VERSeFest when I was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour in 2014. BBE received City and OAC funding.
  • Fear of Elevators, a chapbook, will be published by Montreal’s Turret House in early 2023. I wrote this long poem in 2012 after my claustrophobia became more extreme, thanks to body memory of intubation and restraints in ICU during my health crisis. I live on the 19th floor, so I had to ride the elevator. Still do. Writing FOE was a way of working through my fear, and it helped, but reader, I’m still afraid of elevators. FOE received OAC funding. 

Publication and curatorial activity through AngelHousePress and Bywords.ca

  • The Caring Imagination site, to be launched later this year or early next.
  • Experiment-O Issue 15 to be published in November or December, 2022.
  • Monthly episodes of the Small Machine Talks, a podcast on poetry, duende, queerness, community and tea, entering its 7th season this year.
  • Ongoing monthly issues of Bywords.ca (est 2003), of which I am the managing editor; the John Newlove Poetry Award in Autumn 2022.

PP: What work do you have out? 

AE: I interpret this question in two ways:
1. What work do I have that is under consideration? 
2. What is published and ready for darling readers to acquire?

PP: I do love your clear mind, and to hear about both.

AE:

Under Consideration

  • Another manuscript involving a key character in my poetry, Ursula, who first appeared in a limited edition self-published chapbook in 2008, and received a grant from the City of Ottawa, is under consideration or possibly not, since I just realized that I never received an acknowledgement e-mail from the publisher, so I’ve resubmitted it.
  • The Seasons, an excerpt from Welcome to Upper Zygonia is currently with an American publisher, but I haven’t had word in some time, so I should probably check on it.

[sidebar – wish these were under consideration]

  • I am looking for a home for Welcome to Upper Zygonia, a series of long poems, visual poems, and doodles about an imaginary world. I am grateful for funding received from the City of Ottawa for this manuscript. 
  • I have to do a revamp and edit of another long poem manuscript, All the Catharines, which began in 2010 and received funding from the Ontario Arts Council. I’d like to turn it into a poetic novel or a novel poem, or something like that.

[another sidebar] I mention the funding sources for my work because I believe it is important for governments to fund arts and culture and I am grateful when they do. 

Publications

  • Kiki, my first and only book of poetry published so far (Chaudiere Books, 2014) is available from Invisible Publishing. Kiki also received support from the City of Ottawa and the Ontario Arts Council.
  • Coming Together Presents Amanda Earl, my collection of short, smutty tales published by Coming Together, a non-profit publisher where all the proceeds go to charity, is on Amazon and can also be found via bookstores like Barnes and Noble and via distributors such as the Book Depository. If you buy one, come find me and I’ll sign it for you.

PP: Awesome range of things! Any author site or social media urls you’d like to drop?

AE: http://amandaearl.com/, https://linktr.ee/amandaearl, http://angelhousepress.com/, on twitter, Kikifolle and https://linktr.ee/angelhousepress

Thanks for the interview, Pearl. I am glad you published cluster of as back in 2013 and I enjoy the work published by phafours.

Checking In: phafours poet: Claudia Coutu Radmore

Claudia Radmore appeared in a group chapbook co-published with Tree Press and phafours over a decade ago as well as with a single author collection of monostitches, Cough of a Sloth (phafours, 2017). She has also published poetry and non-fiction: Rabbit (Aeolus House, 2020), Park Ex Girl: Life with Gasometer (Shoreline Press, 2020), The Business of Isness (Éditions des petits nuages, 2017), fish spine picked clean (Éditions des petits nuages, 2018),  Blackbird’s Throat; and  Three Sets of Literary Haibun, (catkin press, 2015) Accidentals (Apt 9 press, 2011) Your Hands Discover Me / Tes mains me découvrent – poésie et prose poétique (Éditions du tanka francophone, Montréal, 2010), Arctic Twilight: Leornard Budgell and Canada’s Changing North (Blue Butterfly, 2009).

PP: What have you read lately that lit you up?

CCR: Don Domanski, All Our Wonder Unavenged; David Blaikie, A Season in Lowertown. I am fascinated by how I can sit with their poems for hours trying to figure out their magic. With Don Domanski, it only takes a line; with David Blaikie’s poems, each piece is so complete, yet not confining, and gutsy.

PP: What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?

CCR: Words and Art. I am going through Artwork I’ve done, lots of figure drawings, trying to figure out how to lengthen their lives, get them out in the world. I am working on a large painting incorporating some of these drawings. It is not going particularly well, but it’s great fun getting paint all over me again. I still look forward to The Ruby Tuesday Group each week for stimulation and revision of current work.

My small garden.

PP: What is underway or forthcoming?

CCR: I’m working on a book-length poem based on a house I once designed and built, from the wishful idea and childish drawings of it to its completion and what, and who, were necessary to consider it finished, and why I sold it. I’m near the end of writing its parts (fragments). Soon I’ll put them together and see whether a long poem is there. You’ll connect with this theme! 

I’ve just sent a draft of a novel to novelist Diane Schoemperlen in Kingston. We’ll see what comes of that. It’s based on the hunt for my Aunt Wavy, whom I knew as my aunt, but who was most likely my grandmother. She went back to England in 1925 leaving lots of questions but seemed intent on creating more secrets throughout her life. Fun ones! 

My poetry collection Pink Hibiscus: Poems of the South Pacific will be out in a month or so with Éditions des petits nuages.

I am part way into a memoir of my CUSO stint in Vanuatu from 1986 – 1989. I am hoping to convince the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum to put on a small exhibit of the weavings and artifacts I have from Vanuatu. 

PP: What work do you have out? 

CCR: Sweet Vinegars: The Secret Lives of Wildflowers, a collection of lyric poems. 

A query to The University of Manitoba re possible publishing The Fur Trader and The Artist, the sequel to Arctic Twilight: Leonard Budgell and the Changing North (ms ready to go)

PP: Any author site or social media urls you’d like to drop?

CCR: My blog claudiaradmore.com

Checking In: phafours poet: Carol Stephen

Today in Checking In: Where Are They Now: Carol Stephen an active blogger and poet. She was the rep for the Canadian Authors Association and has been on the board for the Tree Reading Series. Although living outside of Ottawa, she often trekked to Ottawa for poetry events. Her previous chapbooks include: Chromatic Beliefs (group chapbooks, phafours, 2011), Above the Hum of Yellow Jackets (2011), Architectural Variations (2012), Ink Dogs in my Shoes (Nose In Book Publishing, 2014), collaborations with fellow poet, JC Sulzenko, Breathing Mutable Air (Nose In Book Publishing, 2015) and Slant of Light (Nose In Book Publishing, 2016), Unhook (Bondi Studios, 2018), Lost Silence of the Small ( Local Gems Poetry Press, Long Island New York, 2018), Winning the Lottery (Crowe Creations, 2019).

PP: What have you read lately that lit you up? why or how?

CS: Things That Join the Sea and Sky, by Mark Nepo. It’s a series of short prose pieces that help “when someone is struggling to keep their head above water”.


PP: What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?

CS: My focus right now is on my health; have just started undergoing dialysis treatments 3 days per week among a few other issues.


PP: Since you have poems born of ICU and Clostridium Difficile as Winning the Lottery, perhaps this too will become fertile poetic ground. What is underway or forthcoming?

CS: I have my first full collection coming out later this year, What I Carry With Me (Friesen Press, 2022)

What I Carry With Me (forthcoming, 2022)

I also have two other manuscripts: one is ready to go, the other is in final process of edits. It’s already been out to beta readers.

PP: Congratulations! Any author site or social media urls you’d like to drop?

Yes, Quillfyre

Mini-interview: Skylar Kay

Skylar Kay is an Albertan poet currently living in Windsor while she completes her MA in English. She has an interest in Japanese poetic forms–namely haiku–but has explored longer forms as of late. Her debut book is Transcribing Moonlight (Frontenac House, April 2022). She is thrilled to see what comes next.

What drew me to this poet: CBC did a profile of a book of haibun(!) and then she read at the Haiku Canada Conference reminding me that the book was out there.

About the book: Transcribing Moonlight is a collection of autobiographical haibun which outlines the life of a trans woman from December 2018 to December 2019. The form of the journal itself is traditional for haibun; while experimental at times, the haibun pay attention to the physical world and are therefore able to capture the changing seasons, moons, and phases of the narrator’s life. The traditional trope of the moon and the traditional form of haibun become more nuanced and modern, as they represent a marginalized group and some of the struggles that trans women face, both externally and internally. These phases and struggles include gender (eu/dys)phoria, coming to terms with sexuality, life after graduation, relationships, and family issues. 

Praise for the book:

As a trans haiku poet, Skylar Kay is breaking ground with her achingly beautiful and monumental collection of haibun in Transcribing (the perfect word) Moonlight. Haibun first appeared as a literary genre in Matsuo Bashō’s Oku No Hosomichi, a journey through Japan’s interior. Kay’s debut, also a journey to the interior, explores identity, the process of becoming self. She writes across, through, and into the body, all the while aware of the moon’s wax and wane, the subtle changes in seasons. And Kay has done her homework. Notable haiku publications include Autumn Moon Haiku, Haiku Canada Review, Presence, Haiku Page, Ephemerae and an honourable mention in the prestigious Betty Drevniok Award. Certainly Bashō would be proud of such an extraordinary gift to the world.
~ Terry Ann Carter, past president of Haiku Canada, author of Tokaido (winner of the Touchstone Distinguished Book Award).

Sample haibun:

Fourteen years ago, Leo sun scorched itself into my skin. Sunburn-blisters shaped like bowties emerged when we cut my shirt off and I puked on the floor. Doc said the blisters were from dehydration. Characteristics of Leo bubbled up, changed me over the summer: determination, generosity, masculine energy. I saw peach fuzz, heard voice cracks. How much still remains in my skin and blood today? 

heat wave–
my stubble back
already

I exorcize the testosterone with little white pills, recite my prayer for surgery: remove this shit once and for all from my veins cut it off please fuck just cut it off like that shirt I couldn’t pull over my head fourteen years ago let me puke out masculine bile a decade and a half too late please Doc just take it away

wishing 
for another body–
dandelion fluff

In recent years, Leo sun heralds forest fire season. British Columbia blazes beneath its fury. Oh dried out pines, how I know that pain. I promise it will get better

smoke obscures
half the valley–
but the blackbird song!

from Transcribing Moonlight (Frontenac House, April 2022).

PP: How did you get first find to haiku and haibun?: 
SK: This is actually kind of a fun story! So the university where I did my undergrad, Mount Royal University, had these events where they would take old books that nobody took out from the library anymore, or books that were being replaced, and would sell them for a dollar. During my second year I stumbled across a copy of Basho’s travelogues. Looking back, the translations were not the best, but it still got me totally hooked! I was just so enthralled with just how much could be captured by such a short and seemingly simple form. I began to view haiku almost more as a philosophy than just a poetic form, and let it take over my life completely.

PP: Wow, that is a cool encounter. How did the form help shape the manuscript?

SK: As with many collections of haibun, Transcribing Moonlight follows a chronological progression through the seasons, through shifting lunar cycles. This was a perfect opportunity to use these poetic tropes to reflect and augment my own experience as a transgender woman, allowing my own phases of transition to kind of be swept up into the changes that one sees throughout the year. Beyond that, however, I felt that I needed more than just haiku. While I love the haiku form, and think it can capture a lot, there are quite a few instances of my life that I could not totally put into a handful of words. The longer length of haibun allowed me to provide a bit more detail and express myself more fully than I could have done otherwise. It took me a while to learn to write the prose, but I think it was a great experience!

PP: What was or will be your favourite moment(s) in making this book?
SK: Oh there are a few! I shall go through them in order haha. So, firstly, getting rejected the first year I submitted this collection to Frontenac House. I knew it wasn’t ready, but a friend told me to submit it anyways. They rejected it, and rightfully so. My editor-to-be, however, Micheline Maylor, gave me a great piece of advice that day that I held onto throughout the course of writing and revising this book; she simply said ‘Work harder.” I loved that and took it to heart. Next, I gotta say that writing a poetry book that hurts to write is also super therapeutic. When I eventually really got into this collection, what it needed to be, it was liberating. The collection almost became therapy for me, as I could do a free-write session and just write out my thoughts and experiences. It made me face a lot of stuff I had been afraid to discuss before, and when I finally took that pain and made it into something beautiful, it meant the world to me. Finally, getting a call the next year to find out that Frontenac accepted the manuscript! I think I had a big grin on my face for the next two days. The whole process has been such a blessing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

PP: That’s awesome. Micheline Maylor has a keen eye and is a great encourager. Thank you for seeing it through. Looking forward to what’s next for you.