Posts filed under ‘News’

Patternicity transforms the mundane into the otherworldly.

In case you missed it in print, here’s a link to Mark Callanan’s review of Patternicity in Quill and Quire.

September 4, 2010 at 7:51 pm Leave a comment

Straight from the horse’s mouth

Zach Wells’ dismantling of Andre Alexis’ critical essay “The Long Decline” (published a recent issue of The Walrus) on the Canadian Notes and Queries blog has been the talk of Canadian literary community of late. While the debate has been thoroughly discussed here and here, I’d like to focus on AA’s response to Wells (and others) in the CNQ comments stream. 

The original Wells’ piece, written as a faux rejection letter from CNQ, is insightful and revealing while also being mean-spirited and overly concerned with being right. It’s a fun read however, and I’m never against critical analysis – however Mr. Alexis seems to be. Here’s one of his responses, a full out personal attack:

“wonderful, all of metcalf’s least talented sycophants at once. nathan “i am so clever i ape the book writer’s style in my reviews” whitlock. no, nathan, dearie, the short alexis response would be:

– a polemic is not a scholarly article, fool.
– your inability to follow my arguments is your problem.
– kissing john metcalf’s arse is YOUR job, not mine.

oh, and there’s alex good, witless blogger.

– hey, good, i’ll hide my literary shortcomings if you’ll agree to show anything approaching the ability to understand a text, any text. (i would accept commentary on colouring books, maybe you can get whitlock to help you with the crayons.) that your local bookstore has my book as a remainder (ouch! how terribly painful!) while displaying CN&Q would of course be a major victory in your cloudy mind. keep farming, son, maybe some day you’ll actually publish a book.

as to bad reviews: to publish a book in canada is to play “bozo roulette”. every once in an unpredictable while, you get reviewed by a clown. that would be you, good, when it isn’t you and the red noses you gather to blog so eloquently about how little you know.

as to the “substantiating material” in my book. no, mr good. there are no “substantiating” quotes or notes in my book. i took them out so that pretentious bullies like you would drop dead at the insult done your guru.”

Earlier in the year I wrote a short summary of Linda Rogers’ attempt to throw her status around in response to a bad review. Publishing a few books doesn’t make an author immune to critical analysis – if anything, establishing a reputation takes critical attention and debate, so why shy away from it? 

Andre Alexis is guilty of trying to use his reputation to intimidate  younger writers in response to a well written and clearly thought out piece of criticism. Most of the counter-arguments in AA’s original response to Wells come off as “I didn’t really mean the stupid parts” as Alex Good accurately describes them. Andre is entitled to his rebuttal of course, however the personal vitrol he shows in repose to Good and Nathan Whitlock (peripherals in this debate no less) have no place in a literary discussion.

Mr. Alexis, you’re a bully. Zach Wells 1 – Andre Alexis 0. 

August 2, 2010 at 12:23 am Leave a comment

Toronto launchswap for Ray Hsu’s Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon

Nightwood Editions presents the Toronto launch of Ray Hsu’s Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon, with special guests performers:

Adam Getty – Repose (Nightwood Editions, 2008)
Jim Johnstone – Patternicity (Nightwood Editions, 2010)
Andrew McEwan – Input / Output (Cactus Press, 2010)
Shane Neilson – Complete Physical (Porcupine’s Quill, 2010)

Join us for a night of readings headlined by a collaborative performance between Ray Hsu and Pheobe Tsang!

Ray says, “Can we start an alternative economy? Both Jim and I are interested swapping our books for anything you’d be interested in bartering with us. Money sucks. Unless you actually want to buy our books, which is fine too.”

Hosted by Blair Trewartha.

Monday, July 26
7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
The Piston (937 Bloor St. West)

July 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm Leave a comment

Andrew McEwan’s Input/Output Available Now!

I’d like to thank everyone who came out in support of Andrew McEwan on Thursday night at the Black Swan Tavern, where he launched his first chapbook, Input/Output (Cactus Press, 2010). Input/Output is now available for $5.00 online – just send me an email at and I’ll hook you up!

Photo: Erica Smith 

July 24, 2010 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment

People Reading Stuff

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a busy week for me, one that will include the Misunderstandings Magazine Issue 14 launch on Thursday July 22 and a reading with Ray Hsu at The Piston on Monday July 26. First up however, I’m hosting a reading at The Painted Lady featuring Evie Christie, Basil Papademos and Tom Wamsley. The details:

People Reading Stuff @ The Painted Lady (218 Ossington Ave., Toronto) – July 20, 2010, 8pm.


July 19, 2010 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

Patternicity Reviews

Of late, Patternicity has been receiving a little bit of love. You can find a review by Mark Callanan (whose own Sea Legend was recently shortlisted for the bp Nichol Chapbook Award) in the current issue of Quill & Quire. I’ll be sure to post a link when it shows up online.

Also, the Midwest Book Review was kind enough to post a small review/recommendation writing “…Jim Johnstone brings readers a fresh experience with Patternicity. Seeking to explore language and how it often fails to truly get the message across, Patternicity is a read that shouldn’t be missed by any poetry lover.” Check out the post here.

July 15, 2010 at 12:38 am Leave a comment

Jacob McArthur Mooney on the accountability of the Canadian avant garde

Over at Vox Populism, Jacob McArthur Mooney asks some poigniant (if not altogether new) questions of the Canadian avant garde confederacy. Here’s a taste, wherein Jake reiterates a question he asked at the Scream Literary Festival’s annual panel event:

“I was amused by Sampirisi’s image of the “Difficult Texts bin”, a place on the periphery of the mainstream bookstore (and, by extension, mainstream readership) where many avant garde books are relegated, thus presenting an obstacle to their readership. When Bill found my hand in the crowd, I asked Jenny about this bin, and offered the suggestion that while this label might be an obstacle to a wider readership for some texts, for others it might act as a crutch, and even something wilfully pursued by the texts’ authors. The rationale for this question came out of an earlier discussion about understanding and misunderstanding. I feel, as a reader and fan of a lot of avant garde work, that misunderstanding is often enlisted as a defence mechanism to deflect criticism of unliked books. Essentially, if I say that I didn’t understand a text, I’m volunteering the position of failed reader, and therefore negating any negative criticism attached to this perceived failure.”

You can read the entire post here. Make sure to check out the comments section – it’s where things get interesting. 


July 13, 2010 at 2:03 am Leave a comment

In Conversation: Michael Lista and Damian Rogers

A few days back, The National Post published a terrific conversation between Michael Lista and Damian Rogers in The Afterward. Respectively, Michael and Damian have written two of the most compelling collections of Canadian poetry published in the past year – Bloom and Paper Radio – and their back-and-forth is well worth reading. Here’s an excerpt I found particularly enjoyable, where Damian talks about colour:

“I worked with a woman at a chocolate shop in Ann Arbor who had a theory about colour I still think about sometimes. This would have been in the early 1990s—I was a senior studying English Lit at a Big Ten American College and she was a 19-year-old townie who played bass in a local punk band with her best girlfriend from high school. She challenged me in a lot of ways and I liked being around her, loved listening to her talk. Anyway, I remember she had a theory that when you find yourself attracted to a certain colour, what you are experiencing is actually a physical craving. At that time, she’d noticed that she was falling in love with the colour orange, and so, in response, she was making an effort to eat a lot of orange foods: tangerines, yams, sweet potatoes, carrots, canteloupe, butternut squash. She interpreted her pull towards orange as a literal hunger, not only for the specific nutrients found in these foods (such as beta-carotene) but also for something more mysterious contained in the colour that she wanted or needed to consume.”

You can find the entire conversation here.  Or you can catch both Michael and Damian reading on the High Park main stage tomorrow (July 12, 2010) at 7:00 pm.


July 12, 2010 at 1:45 am Leave a comment

Help save This Ain’t The Rosedale Library!

On Saturday, June 19, Natalie Zina Walschots broke the news that one of Canada’s most beloved independent bookstores, This Ain’t The Rosedale Library, had been locked / threatened with closure due to unpaid back rent. Responding to public outcry within the Toronto literary community, the store’s owners, Charlie and Jesse Huisken, have weighed in on the situation:

“Our situation, which could be told as a long story about the plight of bookstores in Toronto and in many North American cities, is really quite a simple one. At our new location in Kensington Market we found a space with lower rent and overheads which thus represented an enticing solution to the difficulty of inflated rents facing many stores of our kind. For a year we worked in this space happily, until the recession hit with full force and we began to fall behind with our rent. Our response to this situation was similar to that of any small retail business. We bought shrewdly, held regular events, did book tables for small press launches, conferences and author appearances, did not invest in advertising, fixtures, signage or renovations, kept only minimal staff (the store has one part-time staff person), and most importantly worked full-time or more with long store hours, while drawing the absolute minimum for our own rent and expenses. In this way we were able, albeit very gradually, to pay our back-rent, and maintain an amicable relationship with out landlord. While the space presented a number of challenges, including our basement flooding whenever there was heavy rain, and though we heard many stories of rent reductions in our own neighborhood we were not offered this option, but continued none-the-less to enjoy working at the store and feel inspired by our customers’ enthusiasm for the books that we were selling. Quite suddenly this changed. Our landlord became impatient with the rate at which we were able to pay her and made demands for large repayments, without providing a precise accounting of what was owing. In light of our workload and the proliferation of other causes in this city, a fundraiser remained only an idea. Instead we responded to these unrealistic demands with an informal proposal which would not have been profitable to us, but to our landlord. We received only further demands which we attempted to meet within our resources until the locks were changed on Friday June 19th. We are once again offering our landlord a choice which would be beneficial to her and allow us to re-open our doors, and are hoping that the outpouring of encouragement from the public might influence our situation. Along with this we are seeking help with organizing a fundraiser, and we are accepting PayPal donations. As we were living day-to-day, as many small business owners do for years after opening or relocating, our own livelihood has been erased, and our present situation is very uncertain. None-the-less we have seen that many people value what we do and are eager to help us, and thus remain hopeful that a resolution is around the corner.

To donate to This Ain’t The Rosedale Library, visit their blog here.  It’s a worthy cause, as This Ain’t is truly a Canadian literary institution.

June 24, 2010 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

2010 Lampert and Lowther Award Winners Announced!

The 2010 winners of the Gerald Lampert  and Pat Lowther Awards have been announced, and it looks like The House of Anansi is cleaning up. The victorious books are:

James Langer‘s Gun Dogs (Gerald Lampert Award)


Karen Solie‘s Pigeon (Pat Lowther Award)

Of course, Pigeon also took home the $75000 Griffin Poetry Prize last week, so it’s been a great year for Karen. My congrats to both, and to all the nominees.

June 14, 2010 at 2:07 am Leave a comment

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