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Tour de blogosphere: A Special Guide to Ottawa’s Literary Blogs (Part 1)

By Catherine Brunelle on May 2, 2015

After an extended hiatus, Tour de blogosphere, Apartment613’s review of blogs from the National Capital Region, is back.  We restart our journey today by looking at the numerous projects involving rob mclennan, our region’s literary jack-of-all trades.  (Note: rob spells his name all lowercase).

This is your tour guide to Ottawa’s online literary world blogosphere style.  In coming posts, expect champions of poetry, stories of small press, writers seeking writers, book clubs to notice, online journals, recaps, reviews and more.

But first things first.  You want to learn more about our Ottawa literary arts scene?  Start here: When searching online for poetry and small press in Ottawa, you are going to, without a doubt, run across rob mclenna’s many projects.  Why does he put so much energy into showcasing the literary online? Firstly because he can.  Secondly, because someone needs to.  And thirdly, for moments like this:

“A lot of what I’ve been more aware of over the last number of years is trying to present Canadian work internationally,” says mclennan.  “If I’m able to edit all of these projects, it means I can share work I’m excited about with other people.  That’s pretty much all of my publishing, has been about being excited about someone else’s work.”

rob mclennan’s blog

This is rob’s own personal literary blog where you’ll find a new post just about every day.  What’s really interesting is that for a personal page, rob constantly turns the spotlight towards other writers, editors, poets, chap book writers and mores.  You’ll find many interview Q&As of local, Canadian and worldwide talent, rob’s latest articles featured in various literary magazines, and snippets of family life (including him, his wife and his daughter touring Washington together – cute!)

above/ground press

Image taken from http://abovegroundpress.blogspot.ca/

Image taken from http://abovegroundpress.blogspot.ca/

above/ground press champions something very cool – the chapbook.  This blog features author news and the latest chapbooks being produced via above/ground, as well as highlighting the Factory Reading Series.  Acting as a tip of the 613/418 chapbook iceberg, it gives just a hint of the scene with a clue of its depth revealed in the sidebar, listing nearly 100 names of fellow chapbook authors, plus “dozens and dozens more.”

Chaudiere Books blog

Chaudiere Books recently held a successful Indiegogo campaign to re-launch the presses, but the small press’ blog has been rolling non-stop for years.  Here you’ll find poet profiles coupled with pieces of their writing, as well as Q & A interviews, titles and author listings, as well as author events. It’s a tight fit on the page, but who can blame them when there’s so much content?  This is a definite resource for the both the local reader and/or writer.

(canadian) small press book fair blog

This blog is used to announce news on the bi-annual small press book fair in Ottawa, as well as other book fairs across Canada.  If you dig small press and chapbooks (and you should, because people are so CREATIVE at these events) it’s well worth adding to the RSS feeder so that you can say ‘oh, look what’s happening’ as the occasional post arrives in your feed.

ottawa poetry newsletter

You can see the evolution of blogger with this poetry newsletter.  The form, unlike earlier blogs established by rob, is far more sleek and readable.  But what hasn’t changed is the quality of articles. The On Writing series give space for writers to discuss any variety of readings, reviews or poetry they’ve encountered.  Mixed between this you’ll find articles and interviews from rob, and reviews by Ryan Pratt.  There’s an opportunity to become involved with the newsletter. “I’d love for someone to do occasional little short interviews,” says mclennan.

DUSIE blog

DUSIE has a good story behind it.  It belongs to a lady named Susana Gardner, who moved to Switzerland and created this publication to stay in touch with her American friends.  She created collective exchanges, where massive groups of people would create chapbooks and send a copy to everyone.  rob was part of DUSIE 4, and mailed about 80 chapbooks out, and received 80 unique chapbooks in return.  When rob learned the DUSIE blog was unused, he took it on to help share Canadian poets with their American neighbours.  “It’s basically introducing people to each other.”

Add to your RSS reader for a weekly Tuesday poem pulled from that chapbook exchange.

Online journal publications created by rob mclennan

Image taken from http://touchthedonkey.blogspot.ca/

Image taken from http://touchthedonkey.blogspot.ca/

ottawater

Founded to celebrate the City of Ottawa’s 150th anniversary, this is an exclusively online, once a year publication.  The anthology – with no surprise considering rob’s advocacy for great talent – offers an impressive array of Ottawa poets and poetics.  Issues date back to 2005 and are available on the website.

Touch the Donkey

This is a small poetry magazine that has a weekly-posted-by-rob literary blog.  The images on Touch the Donkey often feature – surprise! – donkeys.  It’s playfully accessible with fun images and brightly coloured chapbooks.

With each blog post, you’ll find in-depth author features and interview that ground it.  Only a year old, it’s already four issues in.  Copies of Touch the Donkey supplements can be bought online via the website.

seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics

An online journal, seventeen seconds is an extension of Poetics.ca.  “Over the past two decades, the amount of critical writing published in print literary journals on Canadian poetry, specifically, seems to have decreased dramatically, but slowly returned through a number of online journals,” says mclennan.  “seventeen seconds simply wishes to help strengthen the dialogue and the ongoing conversation about writing through publishing new writing, and conversation about new writing.” Issues are available in pdf format through the website.

Poetics

Edited jointly by rob and Stephen Brockwell, this project remains online to be discovered.  It’s last issue was in 2007, and the site holds eight issue available for reading.  “This site expresses not a single poetic, but the collective and frequently divergent poetics of its contributors and editors.”

Why does he do it? 

At this point, you may be asking, why does rob do so much?  For moments like this, and more:

“There was one poet, Damian Lopes, he just became the second poet laureate of Barrie, Ontario,” mclennan tells me.  “He had fallen off the map.  He had three books published around ’98, 2001 – that sort of period, and he’d been active for a decade before that.  Once the book came out, he fell off the planet.  So when I heard he was poet lauret of Barrie, I poked at him.

“I was curious about what he was working on, but didn’t want to say – hey give me a chapbook manuscript and find out his work is terrible.  Then what do I do?  So I figured a profile would open things to feel out what he’s doing.  Through the profile, he said, ‘I’ll send you the manuscript that I’ve been working on.’

“So I go through that manuscript, and there’s some really neat stuff in it.  I’ve spend the last three months writing pieces for Jacket2 Magazine, an online journal US, I just posted my 30th piece today. With the profile I did on Damian, I asked him for work for Touch the Donkey, and I asked him for work on Jacket2.

I’ve sort of allowed him to re-enter, I suppose, literary in a way that he hadn’t been for a little bit more than a decade.  It’s a fun way to get him back out in the world.  Just because I have access to all these weird systems! In a certain way, that feels like the most useful I can be.”


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