Checking In: phafours poet: Allison Armstrong

Allison Armstrong appeared in Air Out/Air In (phafours, 2011). She ran the Voices of Venus series. More recently her poems appeared in Long Con magazine, L’Éphémère Review and Yes Poetry.

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

AA: TBH, what’s been lighting me up lately is novels. The Locked Tomb series (Tamsyn Muir) and The Scapegracers (H. August Clarke – Part 2 due out this Summer, iirc). One is gothic science fantasy and one is New England misfit teen drama, but the world building in both is wonderful and the writing itself is so alive. Looking forward to the next instalments in both cases.

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

AA: These days, my focus is on my people. Two partners, plus a close friend with some sudden health problems.

PP: What is underway or forthcoming? 

AA: I have five glosas forthcoming in Bonemilk Volume 2 (Gutslut Press). This is one of the rare times when all of the pieces in a multi-piece submission have been accepted, so I’m pretty excited about that. I’m slowly chipping away at my Femme Glosa Project, polishing and sorting out layout. I’ve got a chapbook on sub, and the beginnings of a microchap in the works.

PP: That all sounds exciting. What’s the Femme Glosa Project?

AA: So, a Glosa is a type of formal poetry that takes 4 sequential lines from a pre-existing poem by a different poet and builds a 40-line, 4-stanza poem around them, using each line in sequence (backwards or forwards) as a line in one of the stanzas. Traditionally, that line is the 10th of each stanza, but other placements are fine too, as long as the lines appear at the same point in each stanza.The idea is to have your glosa be a response to, or exist in conversation with, the original poem that you pulled those four lines from.

I find glosas to be particularly reflective of the ways queer femmes riff on, respond to, promote, and encourage each other so, in the case of my Femme Glosa Project, each of the poems I’ve glossed (60-ish) has been written by another queer femme. Some are poets I know personally, many are poets whose work has shaped my own, some are new-to-me poets whose work I chose just because I happen to like that particular poem when I found it in a magazine or an anthology.

In a number of cases I’ve actively chosen to gloss a glosa that a particular femme poet has written on the work of yet another femme poet, specifically to draw attention to the idea of “femme lineage” and how its reflected in our poetry.

Here’s an example of a glosa:

PP: Cool. What other work do you have out where we can read it?

AA: My most-recent publications are in erotica anthologies (The Big Book of Orgasms: Volume 2 and Scandalous).

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

AA: Follow me on twitter @amazon_syren

PP: Thanks for your time. Look forward to what’s next.

Checking In: phafours poet: Sandra Stephenson

Sandra Stephenson was in the Air In/Air Out anthology over a decade ago. She publishes under the pen name Czandra. If you can’t place the name, maybe you read it here when I did another interview with her this spring. She has a few chapbooks out, as mentioned there.

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

C: I record public domain books for, and recently I’ve worked on two (not complete yet, so not available yet on catalogue). They are both really well done stories about the life of First Nations peoples, including some legends. One is “The Shagganappi” by Tekahionwake (E. Pauline Johnson), and the other is poetry, “Echoes of the Forest,” by William Brown. Both books are from around 1903, giving insight into how storytellers, white and indigenous, thought of First Nations at that time, and it wasn’t all bad!

PP: I remember enjoying The Shagganappi. What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?

C: More literary than ever before. Now that I’ve retired from teaching, my life is taken up by haiku and tanka, a new publication, recording free on-line audiobooks, running a writers’ residence (Muskoka) and an artists’ residence (Parrsboro, Nova Scotia). I can’t foresee a time when I’ll ever get around to sifting through the gentle snows of paper records of past writings! I am entertaining writing a play, though…Two things I’m not doing anymore are organizing poetry events and editing other people’s manuscripts.

PP: What is underway or forthcoming?

C: Priority is, I have to make sense of my Covid journal. I think it’s a stand-alone thing, though if it waits long enough, it may get incorporated into something else, as many people are doing now….  just part of life in the past like any other 2- or 3-year period of study! It didn’t feel like that at the time, but it had elements of an intense, way-too-long workshop with field trips.

PP: What work do you have out? 

C: So glad you asked. Asking for trouble is my 2022 publication from Yarrow Press. A book of tanka in four times. [Watch for that being reviewed at Shohyoran.]

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

also, not mine:  bill bissett’s fundraiser for secret handshake, the only peer support group network devotid 2 peopul with schizophrenia   if yu can help pleez  th banking deposit email  is

Checking In: phafours poet: Catina Noble

Catina Noble, fellow cocoaphile, appeared in Cocoa Cabin (phafours, 2014). She is a busy Ottawa writer with over 200 publication credits. Her work has appeared in Woman’s World Magazine, Y Travel BlogPerceptive TravelBywords and many other places. She has four chapbooks of poetry, a full length poetry book— a total of ten books out.

Three of her books: Vacancy at the Food Court & Other Short StoriesI’m Glad I Didn’t Kill Myself and Everest Base Camp: Close Call won the Reader’s Favorite seal of approval. [PP: Everest Base Camp was quite a ride.]

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

CN: Life is extremely rich and full with working full-time, writing and I am enrolled in the Addictions & Mental Health program through Algonquin College to add another layer to my education. I haven’t really been reading too much for leisure lately.

PP: What is underway or forthcoming? 
CN: I am working on a couple of different books, a collection of short stories and a few new poems. My latest work was just released in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Your 10 Keys to Happiness. However, this seems to be my year because I also have had two books released The Happily Ever After? (poetry) and Finding Evie (fiction). On top of that I have published two travel articles and two article on writing so far this year. 

The Happily Ever After? by Catina Noble (Crowe Creations, 2022)

PP: Any links to plug?
CN: To follow along on my adventures you can check out my website [which also reviews books.] I can also be found on Twitter @CatinaNoble1 and Instagram @cncreate

Checking In: Murray Citron

Ottawa poet Murray Citron won the 2011 Tree Chapbook Award for There is a Tree (shteyt a boim) for which he packed the room with over 120 people. He was published by phafours press in 2018 with Dragonflies and Other Things. He is known for his Itzik Manger translations from Yiddish but writes his own poems with a characteristic wry wit.

PP: Bio?

MC: born young, now old 

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

MC: Adam Gopnik, The End of the Line, it’s long past time to reassess rhyme, New Yorker, May 30, 2022, p 65

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

MC: Survival; also meditating: I was too young for the second world war, didn’t join up for any of the others, including Ukraine, have I missed out?

PP: What is underway or forthcoming?

MC: A translation coming in Pakntreger annual online translation issue (magazine of Yiddish Book Center). Have appeared there for several years.

Checking In: With Kevin Spenst

Kevin Spenst taught ESL, like I and many Canadian poets do or did. I first saw him read at AB Series at a Somerset St. cafe that has changed ownership at least 3 times since. He gave a dynamic performance and passed out poems made on coasters on his flight, if I recall correctly.

In 2011 he was in Air In/Air Out chapbook to benefit the Guatemala Stove Project. Since then he’s been on fire, creating works, full-length poetry books : Hearts Amok: a Memoir in Verse (Anvil Press, 2020), Ignite (Anvil Press, 2015), Jabbering with Bing Bong (Anvil Press, 2014). Also chapbooks of poetry: Upend (Frog Hollow Press, 2018), Ward Notes (the serif of nottingham, 2016), Flip-flops Faces and Unexpurgated Lives! (Jackpine Press, 2016)(collaboratively made with Owen Plumber), Pocket Museum (collaboratively written with Raoul Fernandes/self-published, 2015), Surrey Sonnets (Jackpine Press, 2014), snap (Pooka Press, 2013), Retractable (the serif of nottingham, 2013), What the Frag Meant (100 tetes press, 2013) and Pray Goodbye (Alfred Gustav Press, 2013), Happy Hollow and the Surrey Suite (self-published, 2012). He teaches creative writing at Vancouver Community College and Simon Fraser University and he lives in Vancouver on unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territory.

PP: Hi Kevin. What have you read lately that lit you up? Why or how? 
KS: I’m waist deep in piles of books in my apartment. I’m most excited about some titles I’ll be reviewing for subTerrain, Malahat and Canadian Notes and Queries. I love writing reviews because they involve reading, rereading and thinking about a text in a way that’s beyond a casual read. Reviews provoke an explicit response on the part of the reviewer. Simultaneously, when I’m reading at this level of attention, I can keep a look out for examples of line endings, titles, similes, etc for Creative Writing courses that I’m teaching. To be honest, I’ve been lit up most by reading my students’ work. 

Last year, Joanne Arnott asked me to fill in for her as poetry mentor at SFU’s The Writer’s Studio for 2022. It’s been one of the most exciting and rewarding roles I’ve ever undertaken. I’ve been working with an exaltation of poets since January. We meet every two weeks to workshop their poems and discuss various aspects of craft. It’s exciting to now see, midway through the year, their styles gel, glisten and glint in some stellar ways. I won’t name names, but in 2023 onwards, I know their poetry will be circulating in print and, knowing how much the process of becoming a poet has meant to me, I’m excited for them and their future readers. From a bigger context, my group of poets are part of a larger cohort of writers who are in other genres, but they all meet every other weekend for various talks given by such notables as Jónína Kirton, Elee Kraljii Gardiner and my fellow mentors. Finally, I’ve received so much support from Laura Farina and Andrew Chesham, the administrators behind The Writers Studio. They are both caring, thoughtful and FUN! (and talented authors in their own right.)

I’m also teaching another poetry class online under the auspices of The Writer’s Studio which is called Poetry 2. It’s a ten-week intensive and once again I’m reading students’ poetry, discussions and thoughts on various aspects of craft. It’s a 40,000 word course that I wrote in 2020 and is designed around Adam Sol’s How a Poem Moves and Best Canadian Poetry 2019. This is the third time through the course and as testament to the staying powers of poetry, I still find the material engaging (to mention some poems from BCP2019: Yusuf Saadi’s “Taxi Drivers’ Therapy,” Kayla “Czaga’s Under Construction,” Ali Blythe’s “Transition,” and on and on.) It’s as if the poems want to be reread or have their own unique gravity that keeps pulling me back.

PP: That sounds super-energizing! It’s so exciting to see poets begin to develop and give them imagination’s fodder. What else is life’s focus today, literary or otherwise? 

KS: One of the poets in my group at TWS asked me about palindromes two months ago and it became a bit of an obsession. I’ve since co-written 40 pages of palindromic poems with my nephew in Montreal. The poems range from lyric to experimental (concrete, translational, IPA-rendered, etc.) We just sent it off yesterday for possible publication! 

PP: Ooh, like Anthony Etherin. Fun.

KS: Today, (yes, I’m taking this question very literally) I’m going to start working on an audio version of my last book of poetry Hearts Amok: a Memoir in Verse. It will hopefully be up on bandcamp in July or August. Right now, there’s only one poem available: but soon the whole book should be up along with additional musical treatments of some of the tracks. (My niece Lana Pitre, who records under the name Synthcake, has contributed one.)

My reading focus for this afternoon is Neil Surkan’s Unbecoming.

The broader focus involves personal growth and political change and how those two things overlap. I was listening to an On Being podcast yesterday afternoon while going out to get some groceries. It was brilliant and I’m sure I was beaming over the produce (for no good reason to any onlooker), but then the poet started talking about his work with corporations and I felt a cloud cross my face. It seemed disingenuous for the poet to be talking about helping corporations find language to articulate their needs without once mentioning the problematic dimensions of these large corporations. Yet, his poetry about the self seemed to speak some truth, but there was no truth to power at the larger level. Needless to say, I won’t be reading or recommending his work. 

PP: Hm, quite a departure from GE Clarke wiring against the sugar plantations for his commission by Redpath. What is underway or forthcoming there? 

KS: I’m very excited to have a holm (a small chapbook) coming out through Alfred Gustav Press either at the end of this year or June 2023. (Information about ordering it will be on David Zieroth’s website: Sand in the Bed is the title of the collection and there are nine love poems for my sweetheart. 

PP: Lovely!

KS: I was a runner-up for the Magpie Poetry awards this year and so I will have a poem in issue 36 (Autumn 2022) of Pulp Literature: I usually don’t submit to contests, but I’ve been immersed in teaching poetry this year and so what I’ve written feels like it’s emerged from a pressure-cooker of poetics and I’ve been extra keen to send this poetry out into the world.

In a month’s time all my teaching will be wrapped for the summer and I will focus on resting, reading (and doing readings), and doing a little travelling.

I’ll be reading in Montreal at the Accent Reading Series July 3rd (La Marche à Côté, au 5043, rue Saint-Denis).

I’m performing a poetic response to a Sex Pistols’ song for Mashed Poetics (Vancouver, July 21st at Lanalou’s).

On August 24th, I’ll be reading in New Westminster (just outside of Vancouver) as part of Poetry in the Park.,stories%2C%20and%2For%20music. 

PP: Anything else to plug?

KS: My most recent writing has appeared in the anthologies Event 50: Collected Notes on Writing and Resonance: Essays on the Craft and Life of Writing. My book launch during the pandemic was featured in a book about creative practices: The Creative Instigator’s Handbook. You can find out more at

photo of Kevin Spenst by Clint Burnham at a backyard pandemic reading.