Checking In: With AJ Dolman

AJ Dolman had a flutterbook Glass Studio in 2015 with phafours. She used to be a regular on the Ottawa scene, pre-Covid like all of us.

AJ Dolman (she/they) is the author of Lost Enough: A collection of short stories and three poetry chapbooks, and was co-editor of Motherhood in Precarious Times. Her poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Arc Poetry Magazine, QT Literary MagazineThe Quarantine ReviewImaginary Safe HouseGrainCanadian GingerOn SpecPrism international, The FiddleheadUtneCrush and The Antigonish Review. They are a bi/pan+ rights advocate living on unceded Anishinaabe Algonquin territory. Twitter @ajdolman

PP: What have you read lately that knocked it out of the park?

AJD: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey was innovative in a particularly fun and brilliant way, as well as suspenseful, witty and fantastically queer in every direction. Alternative history with hippos might be my new favourite genre. I’m waiting to read Taste of Marrow, the follow-up, as a treat once I’ve finished my current editing project.

I’m also slowly reading Roxanna Bennett’s Unmeaningable. I say slowly because it’s so intimate in its visceral exploration of mental illness, and I’m overcome by both the poetic, scathing beauty of her poetry and the pain of recognition. So I’m only managing a few poems at a time before I have to put it down again.

In novels, I finally read an older work by Christian Baines (a friend whose delightfully wicked Arcadia vampire series I really enjoy). His book Puppet Boy blew me away. Suspenseful, subversive, queer, YA(ish), I’ve described it as a much more gripping, smarter and insightful When Everything Feels Like the Movies. I wish more people knew about it.

Finally, I can’t say enough good things about Isabella Wang’s Pebble Swing, which impressed me so deeply both in the quality of her poetics and in her approach to her content. It’s given me faith in the next generation of poets in Canada.

PP: Thanks. A lot of great recommendations. What has been life lately, literarily or not?
AJD: My life’s focus lately has been on recovery and revision, in all areas. It was a terrible year for me and my family, as I know it was for many others. In addition to the effects of the pandemic, we lost my sister-in-law Kim to cancer in November, and my dad passed away at 89 this spring. We’re all trying to figure out how to move forward now in a world so full of danger and strife.

For me, the best way is to lift others up as best I can. I’m fortunate that I also have writing, reading and my fellow writers and artists to turn to. Far from feeling futile in the face of the world’s climate and ethical breakdowns, creating, imagining, communicating feels absolutely crucial right now to ensure we have a future (and acknowledgements of the past) worth saving at all.

PP: My sympathies to you, with this year. Making connection and good for all is the best case. What are you in the midst of, for writing?
AJD: I am currently working on revisions for my first novel, tentatively titled Take, about a young bisexual man who falls in love with an icon of sorts, and everything, both good and bad, he discovers as a result. I’m also thrilled to say that Gordon Hill Press will be releasing my poetry book Crazy/Mad in spring 2024. In the meantime, I’ve started crawling slowly out into the world again to do some readings. The next one up will be at the Riverbed Reading Series in Ottawa (and livestreamed via Zoom) on Wednesday, August 17, at 7:30 eastern.

PP: Awesome. Congratulations! What can people read right now to hold them over until your next?
AJD: Lost Enough is currently available via Amazon.

Lost Enough: A collection of short stories by AJ Dolman

Poems of mine have fairly recently been published in QT Literary Magazine, Pocket Lint, These Days, The Pi Review, Ottawater, The Quarantine Review and Guest 9. And, my essays and nonfiction have most recently appeared on the League of Canadian Poets site and in Hamilton Arts and Letters. I also regularly review poetry for Arc Poetry Magazine

PP: Any author site people should be watching?
AJD: I admit I’m awful about remembering to update my blog,, except for my annual favourite books I read this year list. I’m much better (for better or worse) at showing up on Twitter @ajdolman, both to support writers and the bi+ community. If you’d rather see what I’ve baked recently than hear about my writing (or, more accurately, if you’d like both), I’m also on Instagram as dolman_aj.   

PP: Noted. Super. Thanks for your time.