** ***** ***** ***** ***** **** ** p o e t ry mo n t h s p e c ia l ** ***** ***** ***** ***** **** ** featuring:
vanessa shields j o h n b . l e e r i n o ´ s k i t c h e n poems by: penny-anne beaudoin
terry ann carter Karen rockwell jess taylor t o t a l l y f r e e $ 0 . 0 0 thank you for choosing offside for all your canlit needs. Please come again!
m a g a z i n e
feature: john b. lee - “Doing It!” 4 penny anne beaudoin 6 karen rockwell 7 terry ann carter 8 jess taylor 10 review: vanessa shields - “I Am That Woman” 12 top Shelf: rino’s kitchen 16
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April is National Poetry Month, so as a matter of course, offSIDE is back and bringing a slate of poetry coverage and new verse from some of our favourite contributors. We’re delighted to spotlight (as ever) poets from all over Canada. We’re also featuring coverage this month on another exciting new Black Moss release. Regular offSIDE contributor Vanessa Shields has made a big splash with her first poetry volume, I Am That Woman. We have a full review plus a special and insightful Q&A with the author. Don’t miss it! Poet John B Lee has released over 40 books, but his release Doing It is unlike any that’s come before it. In the book, Lee unpacks decades of his own writing from adolescence to adulthood and proposes his own inimitable guide for how to write the perfect poem. We’ve also got exclusive details about the release of John’s newest book of poems - Burning My Father - coming soon from Black Moss. For Top Shelf this month, we’re complimenting a buffet of poetry with a feast for the eyes… quite literally. Our good friends at Biblioasis were kind enough to supply sumptuous visuals from their new release, Rino’s Kitchen - a unique cookbook coming from an even more unique establishment. Special thanks are due as well to our contributors Amy Gleeson and Rachel Wing for lending us some of their considerable talent in this issue.
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Publisher Marty Gervais
Managing Editor/ Designer Brad Smith Contributors Amy Gleeson Rachel Wing
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lee “Does It” like few else ‘doing it!: How to Write the Perfect Poem’ by John B. Lee 64 pgs, paperback
---The “how-to-write...” pool of book releases is a deep one, filling up library shelves and second-hand bins, usually with tips that are useful if not original (“avoid cliche” is, in itself, a writing cliche!). John B. Lee’s Doing It!: How to Write the Perfect Poem is the prolific poet’s foray into that crowded genre, though the book’s subtitle certainly belies its essence. Lee has delivered a book that blends instruction and biography, deconstructing his life and his work to try and reveal what lies at the heart of great poetry. As we find out, Lee’s approach to writerly advice
is much like his writing in general: well calculated and uniquely sprawling. It becomes increasingly obvious as the pages turn that Doing It! is not purely an instructive manual on writing. Indeed, the book is Lee’s very personal investigation into what first romanced him and what has continued to make him passionate with impressive fervour about writing poetry. The author provides a portrait of his young self as obsessed with poems and stories but lacking means - something he discovered he could literally cobble together. To the advantage of the enterprising reader, Lee neatly unpacks all the elements that make up the writing of a poem and discusses his feelings and motivations as the process goes. John breaks down his patterns for composing and revising work, explains how to use writer’s groups to the maximum benefit, and includes some of his personal correspondence with other poets and authors. The elements of technique are fully explored as well, with good tips toward everything from to composing great titles and endings to mastering the fusion of style, form, and content. The book’s twofold focus on both the love and the labour in Lee’s writing makes it prioritized reading for aspiring authors and fans of poetry alike. ---
penny anne beaudoin
she buys a gun a box of bullets drives to the cemetery finds his headstone â€˜beloved husbandâ€™
his wife for twenty-seven years his nurse for the last six
fires six rounds into his grave
now beneath her black a secret howling equal parts sorrow relief
a slow untying of knots a long torture of goodbye
poet to poet I arrived naked
heart looped on a toggle
Huffing curses to my aging body
hanging loose from my patchwork coat
I covered myself for a moment
He asked why I write or was it how and my insides threatened to explode all over the windowless cubicle but he caught me with a more current reference Comfort surpassed apprehension and Nice coat
we exchanged dance steps
or was it riffs
till the clock vibrated
he called after me
terry ann carter
blue tuesdays: housebound When I say I want clementines I mean the whole wooden crate full two point three kilos of seedless charm, those skins ready to peel. I mean Casablanca beauties with little black hats and veils silk stockinged legs crossed on a bar stool at Rick’s Americain Cafe. I mean, serve me again, Sam. I’m thinkin’ someone should dress me up, take me out on the town. I’m thinkin’ puckered lips. I’m thinkin’ Moroccan special.
terry ann carter
Where the Poet Speaks to James Joyce on the Breakdown of Memory and Leslie Feist Recalls Nina Simone woodshadows float by the stairwell where he gazed at wavewhite wedded words
she drinks coffee she drinks tea
sea lion woman dressed in green silver lining and golden seams
sea lion woman dressed in blue call on a man/ and he knows what he can do
why did she sing? why did she sing?
inshore and further out, the mirror of watered breast of the dim sea a cloud covers the sun slowly, he tries to remember secrets: old feather fans, tasselled dance cards powdered with musk, amber beads in a locked drawer, a birdcage hung in the sunny window of her old house when she was a girl. what did she sing? she sang
sea lion woman, she line woman, see (the) lyin woman, she lyinâ€™ woman, see-line woman C line woman, a playground song
weighted The sky exploded with hail. My whole mind was full of you. I feel like there should be multiple ways to spell heavy. Nurse said, “Angle your arm down, it’s easier.” Because that hail was HEAVY. You are heavy, blood is heavy. I sleep under too many blankets and kick them aside. She told me, “Sit here for a few minutes pressing on the spot.” I was all taped up. I used to love the word explode. You trembled as you held yourself up over me. In other countries, skies explode with bombs or bullets, people still have time to love. Here the air is so heavy, people run from hail with barely time to speak.
baby invasion The sun was out one more time in September, I reached to it as I rode, having felt a need to be OUT, sang, “Oh sun, last legs of September,” and my feet held balance steady, and the wind pushed against my body, and I was alone with the city. I stopped at a park, propped myself against a tree. Tried not to sweat in the sun. And then came the music and the baby invasion, as if something like that even makes sense. First music, then couples spreading blankets, and then babies in custom strollers and stylish clothes reaching for a mommy or daddy wearing sunglasses. I don’t think it’d be fair to mention all the times I thought a passing biker was you, or even that man on roller blades, somehow climbing a hill. It seemed it wouldn’t be long until you joined us where banjos and acoustic guitars played (even a man on a saw that sang). Two bikers riding up, you in front, lady behind you, safety seat securing new child.
review: ‘I Am That Woman’ story by rachel wing ‘I Am That Woman’ by Vanessa Shields 64 pgs, paperback Available in stores & online today! ---With her new book, I Am That Woman, author Vanessa Shields tells you in no uncertain terms exactly who she is. She is a daughter, a wife, a mother, a woman, and a writer. And unlike so many other authors in this vein, she doesn’t make it look easy. Shields juggles the expectations and contradictions of those roles with lines that are sometimes moving or comedic, but invariably compelling. Her poetry doesn’t hold back the fear, the vulnerability, or the moments of repulsion that can come along with her simultaneous stations of womanhood. From the opening poem - How to Sneeze After You’ve
Given Birth Twice - one detects that this is not by any means a standard collection of motherhood poetry. These poems tell the story of someone who is learning to live the life she has, learning how to write in the stolen moments of the day when telemarketers dare to interrupt her, learning how to drive her kids around and around and around and not kill them, learning to grab her crotch before she sneezes. Her poetry is deeply relatable in a way that surpasses the usual connection of having been there. You do not have to be a mother to understand the emotions and the undertones in a poem like It Doesn’t Stop. You do not have to have lost a parent to feel the pain in The Final Visitation. And you don’t have to love Tom Cruise to appreciate everything about Why I Won’t Meet Tom Cruise For The First Time When I’m In A Coma. Shields’ poetry begs to be read and reread and reread again. It pleads with you to curl up in bed with a bowl of popcorn (preferably buttered) and feel viscerally and vicariously through her poetry. Every word of every poem in this magnificent first volume dares you to peer a little further into the life of the poet. ----
Read on for a special offSIDE Q&A with Vanessa Shields!
Q: Tell us about the book in your words - where it starts in your mind and what you want it to stand for.
A: This book has been writing itself for years, really. I just never stopped to let it out. I had many poems piling up in a document from all the contests and magazines I’d submitted to over the years. I’d say that maybe 2% of what I submit gets accepted. In any case, I had lots of poetry to sift through (and edit and revise), and even more that was bursting out of me when I finally let myself write them down… This book is a direct descendant of ‘me’. And it’s scary to think that it resonates with so many people. It’s like I’m standing for myself...And not in an egotistical or arrogant way, but in a very real, very honest, very raw way. And that, essentially, is my writing voice. I’m terrified to let it out but when it comes out I feel so much better and I realize [the words] are universally human. And I feel very connected and strong standing in the poetry. I want this book to stand for exactly what it is: one woman’s life experience as communicated in poetry. I don’t want people to be afraid of poetry. It’s an amazing way to tell stories.
Q: The title is very evocative and when you dig into the poems, that sense of a very nuanced idea of womanhood is obvious. How do you attempt balancing the different emotions in your writing?
A: I try to balance these emotions in my writing as I try to
balance them in ‘real’ life or off the page. My goodness this parenting thing is extraordinary! And it truly is about finding a balance between how to merge all the parts of yourself into your days. And recognizing that it’s natural to fail and it’s natural to be sad and it’s natural to be elated...I am constantly riding a wicked roller coaster with my words - some days I’m ‘up’ and I have confidence and I feel passion for the writing life, and others I’m in the bell jar, scared, lonely, quiet and the words feel wrong. That’s how I feel about being a mother and life partner too! My writing life mirrors the rest of my life. Always. I wasn’t conscious of how the full collection would end up making some pretty strong statements about womanhood/motherhood. But I’m glad. If it was a conscious thing I don’t think I would have ended up with the same pieces. I am a woman, and therefore my womanhood informs my life. We should talk about what it means to be a woman - but not forget to remember that we’re humans overall. Connections, I feel, need to be made on this wider level.
Q: You’ve tackled other projects in the past, but this is your first poetry collection. Tell me about the process of writing a first poetry book. Did you find old work fitting in with your vision or was it more about creating new poems along these lines?
images courtesy of marty gervais
A: Old work fit very well with the new. I’ve dreamed of hav-
ing a book of poetry published, so this really was a huge accomplishment and dream come true for me. I’m a poet at heart and in the mind..so it felt like I could stop holding my breath about this fact. I still blush when people say, ‘Oh, you’re the poet!’. I always will, but it’s pride and joy fuelling the red! The process was fast and furious. I had very little time to put a manuscript together. I let my family and friends know I was ‘writing’, and I wrote in and around all the other things I do in my life. It was challenging and infuriating and so invigorating. I created many new pieces for this book - and I’m very proud of these. But also, I was gentle with myself on my older work and gave the same attention to revising and editing those pieces.
i still blush when people say, ‘Oh, you’re the poet’. I always will.
` The book had a full launch party in Windsor. What’s it Q: been like to read and perform from a whole new collection?
A: I love reading poetry. And yes, performance plays such an important role for the poet. It’s my chance to lift my words into the energy of the space, and get the audience involved on an emotional level - because I am involved on an emotional level. I laugh. I cry. I eat the mic or trip when I’m walking. I love this ‘live’ part of poetry. It’s so human and exciting. I also love reading pieces that I’m terrified to read. Like the ones with the swearing or that are really sexy or that are about my kids. I can’t not cry when I read certain pieces and so I challenge myself to read these pieces on purpose. And this always brings the reading to a level that affects not just me, but the people who’ve come to listen. Like I said, poetry is powerful and worth paying attention to. It hits us differently than longer forms of writing. And slaps us into ‘pay attention’ mode. I love that. At least, that’s how I write...and I think about performing it when I’m writing it. I practice reading it out loud. The reading-out-loud part of being a writer is as important as the writing part. That’s what I believe, anyway. Plus, it offers a chance to begin a conversation - maybe it’s between me and a person who purchased the book or maybe it’s between people sitting together at
the reading - I want my poetry to spark conversations. To affect people. Maybe that’s a lot to ask? But that’s one of my goals as a writer. To challenge readers to read poetry, laugh, cry, and be affected. ---
top shelf rino’s kitchen --Biblioasis has made their reputation over a number of years with books of all stripes: premier Canadian poetry & fiction, criticism & scholarship, and a well-touted line of international translations. Enter something completely different to that buffet table. Rino’s Kitchen has it’s roots as a bustling bistro in Windsor Ontario, serving up a revolving menu of favourites with a decided focus on ingredients that are fresh, locally raised, and in-season. The first cookbook release from Biblioasis bears the same name as the restaurant. Chef and owner Rino Bortolin teamed up with Biblioasis in late 2013 to give readers both near and far some of that distinct flavour in their own home. Rino’s Kitchen: Cooking in Windsor and Essex County reveals a trove of Bortolin’s personally-crafted recipes using the ingredients he finds and sources from his own community.
It’s a privilege indeed to have these photos on offer from the book as a sort of appetizer, courtesy of Biblioasis. Dig in.
‘rino’s kitchen’ by Rino Bortolin 218 pgs, paperback
For more on Rino’s Kitchen & Chef Rino, visit rinoskitchen.com
Available now at biblioasis.com
No. 14 ISSN 1923-0370