Monthly Archives: April 2012

April 2012 New Issue!


Check out our new Theatre Section, brought to you by Life With More Cowbell!

Below are just snippets, for the full reviews click on the see more link.

Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival – Week three program

Week three was the strongest program of the festival – with sold-out houses for the end of the week and weekend. My pal Kerri MacDonald (one of the NIF co-founders) and I went to the Saturday matinée and had a blast.  see more.

Nightwood Theatre’s FemCab 2012 – strong, proud women inspire & entertain

I had not been to Nightwood Theatre’s annual FemCab (Feminist Cabaret) for many years – and I was so glad I went last night. see more

Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival – Week Two program

Good morning!

What do Auste-esque intruigue with puppets, magic realism in a life or death situation, an emotionally tortured biologist and a Brit romance novelist visiting Bali have in common? They’re the plays in Alumnae Theatre’s NIF Week Two program! see more

New Ideas – Week One reading & program

So now that we’re all recovering from St. Patrick’s Day festivities, here’s a run-down of Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival Week One reading and program from yesterday afternoon. see more

Reviewed by Anne. F. Walker

The QWERTY Institute of Cosmetic Typographical Enhancements
Author: Angela Szczepaniak
Publisher:  BookThug 2012
Cost: $25 CDN
Where to buy:

The Apothecary
Author: Lisa Robertson
Publisher:  BookThug 2007
Cost: $12 CDN
Where to buy:

FIELDNOTES, a forensic
Author: Kate Eichhorn
Publisher:  BookThug 2010
Cost: $18 CDN
Where to buy:

Recently Laura Moriarty, Deputy Director of Small Press Distribution in Berkeley, California, noted that Canadian poets seem to demonstrate an internalized idea that everyday people might read their work, and that this is different from Americans.  I like this idea.  It compliments my sense that Canadian poets as a whole are interested in avant-garde form, and yet remain invested in something tangible, sensual and/or concrete.  Canadian work seems located to me.  Three books which each maintain some of this particular aesthetic are FIELDNOTES, a forensic by Kate Eichhorn (BookThug 2010), The Apothecary by Lisa Robertson (BookThug 2007), and The QWERTY Institute of Cosmetic Typographical Enhancements by Angela Szczepaniak (BookThug 2012).

bpNichol was my first poetry teacher.  I studied with him at York University, and he mentored my poetry before his passing. Once I had asked him what a concrete poem (pond/frog) on his office door meant.  He had me figured out I think.  He said that when one writes in perfect syntax, with correct punctuation, one is working with the established power norms.  He said “fucking with language IS fucking with power.”  I understood.  I began to appreciate why we fuck with language, particularly in ways that invite readers to experience story and song differently.  It is part of a strong Canadian literary tradition, shifting things, exploring shifts.  All of these books work innovatively with form. Two of them open the alphabet into poetry sequences.

In FIELDNOTES, a forensic Kate Eichhorn’s film-script/poetry appears printed inside the cover in gray and black.  The title page on page three of the book is crowded by the prose poetry script that concludes with the lines: “SMASH TO END OF TEASER, ROLL TITLE CREDITS.”  Inside the pages are lyric poems in traditional left-justified form (“skin slippage / gloving / remains in a holding pattern” (16),) prose poems, bits of script. There are words and lines lined out.  A sense of the body and of place, of pattern, seem key.  The decomposition and re-composition we read in the structure appears over and over in the images: “Therapy can include drink.  Complete isolation. Knotted strings around necks. Blood boiled for steam.  Childbirth.  Thrashing.  Counteragents.  Coins” (51). Lists often indicate abundance, overage, too much to examine individually, thus the list.  This known use of the convention of lists in poetry makes heavier this collection’s specific content. FIELDNOTES, a forensic concludes on the inside of the back cover with a transforming list:

DOE, JANE you point and nod
DOE, JANE using a crowbar
DOE, JANE another coroner
DOE, JANE a set of bones
DOE, JANE the examining table
DOE, JANE forensics
label side of DOE, JANE
formalin-fixed DOE, JANE
no traces of Ecstasy DOE, JANE
chloral hydrate DOE, JANE
morphology DOE, JANE
toe tag on table dials skeletal remains

Lisa Robertson starts out The Apothecary with:

Tersely I find myself beginning with the letters gl instead of grass undeniably to found a presumption of intimacy and station upon myself which would seem to speak not of that scission but of the really normal beauty still floundering between my teeth just as within the wilder dominion urges entertain and puddle seeming to offer proof that weekends once so drowsily couched and now algebraically supplied attach tenderness to symmetrical and embroiled vocabularies.

It’s a train ride that shifts tracks and doubles back.  What first caught me was that Robertson locates herself in language first, finding herself beginning with letters. She assigns emotion to this process, and negotiates how these letters are an “instead of” the very tangible “grass.”    Most of the prose poems use this technique of no periods in the stanza, or poem.  Aligned with bpNichol’s sense of disturbing syntactic norms, this practice pushes my expectation of closure at any given point.  Instead I find a turn replaces a stop. On page thirteen she begins an articulation of “the shimmying throat of an alphabet.”  For nine pages alphabetized titles and short prose poems roam. One italicized lyric poem pulls pages thirty-one and thirty-two, after that poem the prose poems do contain periods internally.  These poems work with the invisible rhythmic turns and twists of the (almost) period-less often-squared double-justified.

The QWERTY Institute of Cosmetic Typographical Enhancements by Angela Szczepaniak invites us into a contextual tone, ironic against the backdrop of this collection, in  “Normal”:

The QWERTY Institute recently put out a citywide call for characters who describe themselves—quite comfortably and without irony—as “normal.” The overwhelming number of candidates who met The Institute’s rigorous normalcy background check were asked a series of identical questions on topics ranging from current events, to art and politics, to the weather. Participants were urged to give their absolutely honest first responses—“the more naked the better” was, in fact, their only instruction. The results of this landmark study remain inconclusive, though its significance can hardly be disputed. The following represents a sampling of the compelling responses that colour the spectrum of “Normal.” The full study may be obtained from The QWERTY Institute for a small processing fee.

This tone is reminiscent to me of the film-script opening of FIELDNOTES, a forensic.  Not in a derivative sense, but in the sense that it instructs the reader on a manner with which to engage with the text.  This is poetry.  It is visual on-the-page.  It is slides, script fragments, large letters, small letters, letters replacing currency and buying bread, “trivia will take the place of paper currency—a loaf of bread will cost roughly 2 scientific facts & an obscure literary quotation” (10), imagined historic journals, comedy sequences, “This is a font comedian. Look at him. Observe him in his natural habitat, the deserted airport bar…” (16), security and passport documents, and and and…

The first eight-six pages are alphabetic concrete and “found” poems.  This pattern resonates with The Apothecary’s nine pages alphabetized prose poems.  It takes the idea in a completely different manner.  The sense, though, of exploring the alphabet through a series of intricately considered parts, is a common element. There is a section “Normal,” that starts on page eight, another on page 28, and on pages 87, 92, 155 and 225.  This is some playful, insane, off the map, narrative-infused, concrete, language poetry.  It forms surprising bridges, between ideas phrased in unexpected forms.  It messes with language in a quite bpNichol-esk tradition.

Already terrified of clowns and big yellow birds, Jeff Cottrill has now added weird green people who live in garbage can’s to my growing list of those to avoid on my journey into the ether-world.  Jeff Cottrill’s one man play, Grouch on a Couch has proven my theory about Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch that one should never judge a Grouch until they have heard their tales of woe.

Revealing life lessons with the help of a Bob Newhartesque therapist, the real Grouch surfaces, putting an end to Hollywood myths about his real image, history and resolve.  Grouch on a Couch reminds us that even when covered with the filth of the world, there is always a deeper, underlying story to be heard.

Written in the edgy, biting, realistic humour of Jeff Cottrill, Grouch on the Couch is a dark, gripping satire that should be both read and seen on a stage. After seeing Jeff perform live many times in the last few years, it’s hard not to love Grouch on a Couch and regain sympathy for the stinky man in the garbage can.

Pick up a copy and when the play is back on a stage near you, check it out.

You can also see Jeff at these upcoming shows:

Upcoming shows are listed on Jeff’s site,
In a nutshell:

Storytelling at Caplansky’s
April 22, 8:00
Caplansky’s, 356 College

Jammin’ on the One
May 11, 7:30
Arts and Letter Club, 14 Elm

Also doing Plasticine again in August.

First introduced to  Andrea Machett’s music at an open mic, and most recently hearing her play during the weekly songwriters series called Tumultuous Tuesdays, I’m familiar with this song writers storytelling lyrical stylings.  The sounds of a tasty acoustic guitar and the smooth tones of a beautiful voice make Words and Letters a delight to listen to.

Indie with a dash of Jann Arden, a pinch of Sarah Slean and good helping of acoustic vibrations, Andrea Matchett brings a light touch to a heavy world with gritty lyrics and vibrant riffs. The five song album is filled with great storytelling and a beautiful voice. If the listener can visualize a music video to accompany the music, the songwriter has done their job. Andrea Matchett’s music is a music video being played on a continuous loop.

As mentioned in the review, Tumultuous Tuesdays ( is a weekly songwriters series held at Graffiti’s in Kensington Market.  To see other outstanding performers such as Andrea, you should go check it out.

I look forward to hearing more from this amazing artist.

Andrea’s other links:
Facebook Fan Page:

One Day
Right Where I Began
A Series of Unfortunate Events
The Electric Man

Upcoming shows:
Kincardine on April 12th at the Walker House at 7 pm

April 28th at Kincardine Arts Center at 9 pm

July 14th somewhere on mainstreet Kincardine at 11:30 am (it’s for the Lighthouse Blues Festival)

CJ Sleez’s music is nostalgic of a crazy 90’s house party. Music cranked to eleven, speakers vibrating off the wall, neighbours pounding on the walls.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I loaded Valley of the Shadow into iTunes.  The album cover art is of a sexy blonde wearing corsets and stilettos.  I truly wasn’t expecting to hear high energy metal blasting out of my speakers when I hit play.  A proven case of don’t judge a book by it’s cover, as what is inside the jewel case is a helluvah good time.

Produced by well known Toronto music producer Rob Sanzo, this album has a powerful heavy metal edge.  A band like CJ Sleez would be a fanatically fun, rock your ass off, sweaty night in a live music venue.  I am very curious to hear them live and hope they book an upcoming show soon.  According to their website they play quite regular at The Bovine, hoping to catch them there soon.

Valley of the Shadow is CJ Sleez’s third album and they are about to release a special edition CD with the Italian Indie label Lunatic Asylum, that will be for sale in Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  If music isn’t keeping her busy enough, she is also working on my second book.

My only complaint is the CD is only 7 songs long.  With the heavy cost of production, I fully understand independent musicians limitations, but I was left wanting to hear more.

In the meantime, check out their website for bios on the band and merchandise.

CJ Sleez – vocals
Errol H – guitar
Stacy Stray – guitar
Norelle – bass
Danni Action – drums

Track List:
Back to Nowhere
Between Our Hate
In The Flesh
Burn Out
Cut & Pasted
Dirty Looks
Lowest Low

Upcoming shows:
Friday May 18th @ The Bovine.