Amber McMillan published two poems in The Puritan Issue 16. Her first book, We Can’t Ever Do This Again, came out with Wolsak & Wynn in April 2015. Puritan editor Spencer Gordon asked her about teaching at Humber, composing this book, and how to break a line.
Spencer Gordon: Some people say that you have your whole life to write your first book; in other words, your first collection or novel or whatever is a byproduct of decades of thinking, suffering, working, and dreaming. How long have you been writing poetry? What are the surprise satisfactions of holding a full-length collection with your dang name on it? How has the experience differed from your expectations?
Amber McMillan: The idea that a first book is a culmination of decades of experience and thinking is a nice thought, but I don’t agree with the principal. One could say that about a lot of things, and I don’t necessarily believe in culminations in the first place. I think all things are a work in progress, rife with challenges, joys, and most of all, learning opportunities. All jobs, relationships, all changes in one’s locale, school, whatever. To say arrivals are culminations of experience coming together in a single moment of resolve is to miss the ongoing processes we are tangled up in, always. So, I don’t feel like holding my first book represents decades of thinking and so on. Continue reading →
A Review of Liz Howard’s Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent // Domenica Martinello
Patriarchal European settlers were shocked by the egalitarian nature of many First Nations peoples, mistaking a lack of hierarchal structure for primitiveness and chaos. One of the epigraphs to Liz Howard’s debut collection, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent—simply, “so violent an ecstasy”—is a quote from Paul LeJeune, a 17th century Jesuit missionary who travelled from France to what is now known as Québec to begin his religious and educational work among the First Nations. Mapping out a text the way a missionary might map out community structures is a tempting practice. To disassemble a work’s inner mechanisms and rearrange them piece by piece in a way that plays at cohesiveness can make for an effective review. But for digesting a work like Howard’s, which casts a hand over geographies, cartographies, and Cartesian coordinate systems alike, this approach proves oddly futile. Neural/natural landscapes, navigated with a compass whose needle is pulled by the magnetisms of intersecting identities, are explored organically throughout Howard’s collection. Howard lays the groundwork for a feminist ecosystem sown with seeds from several verdant spaces: colonial, ecological, cerebral, and emotional. Continue reading →
Bad Jokes, Plautdietsch, and Unreadable Writing // Julienne Isaacs
The Town Crier’s Julienne Isaacs sat down with Nathan Dueck, author of king’s(mère), a poetic interpretation of the life of William Lyon Mackenzie King.
Julienne Isaacs: What are you working on these days?
Nathan Dueck: I’m working on some poems so revolutionary they’ve turned the avant-garde into the après-garde. Maybe I’m working post-après poetry? I really can’t tell you. (To be honest, I’m not really comfortable bragging about my work, so I hide behind my grade-school français—such a vantard.)
I’m a little nervous to confess that I’m writing lyrical poetry with old-school rhythm and rhyme, but I’m doing it for the most new-school reason I can think of. Constraint poetry is the flavour au courant in this country, so I’ve chosen to reiterate the conventions of some canonical poems. This sort of constraint is really a close reading practice because I have to interpret poetic forms, etc. So I’m rewriting a few poems from the canon as though they took pop culture from the late 1980s as their subject. For example, because an example is probably clearer than this lengthy explanation, I’ve rewritten “Kubla Khan” with references to The Real Ghostbusters. Continue reading →
A small press revolution, one handbound book at a time // Jasmine Gui
If bookselling is an increasingly difficult endeavour, the art and business of bookmaking is an even riskier undertaking. Yet, the D.I.Y literary scene continues to survive in various forms, and adapt in various ways, occupying space at fairs, and festivals. One such small press is words(on)pages, run from a basement apartment by a dedicated 2-person team: Nicole Brewer and Will Kemp. They publish and bind all their exquisite chapbooks, and a limited print run of their bi-monthly online literary magazine, (parenthetical).
This interview was conducted over email, and has been edited for clarity and rhythm. Continue reading →
kevin mcpherson eckhoff and Jake Kennedy Have the Antidote // André Forget
About a month ago, I went to the Pivotreading series and saw self-described best friends kevin mcpherson eckhoff and Jake Kennedy. They … well, read would be the word, I suppose, but it seems like an awfully pedestrian term for what they were actually doing.
It was Pivot’s first run at its new venue, The Steady on Bloor Street, and the room was, unsurprisingly, packed. I suspect a lot of people, like me, were there as much to see the new venue and what it had to offer as to hear any particular poet. Although I missed the first reader, I quickly became very glad I hadn’t missed the reading altogether when mcpherson eckhoff and Kennedy took the stage. Continue reading →
The Literature of Imaginary Cities // Jason Freure
From King’s Landing to Mos Eisley, the most compelling aspect of fantasy and sci-fi genres has always been, for me, the creation of place—especially when that place is a city. All it takes is a bridge, a palace, a cantina, or any hint of urban civilization, and I start to wonder about the names of the streets and the seediest place to get a beer. When an author persuades his readers to fall in love with an imaginary city, and when he lets that place evolve from one novel to the next into a vital, changeable city, he’s made his readers citizens. I may not be the fantasy buff I once was, but no author I’ve ever read has created an imaginary city as exciting as Terry Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork. Continue reading →
Puritan Author on China, Sarah Slean, and Nervousness // Michelle Brown
Michelle Brown published her two poems, “Kite Festival” and “My student has her foot amputated / I meet you on the platform in Beijing,” in The PuritanIssue 28. In the following interview, she answers four questions posed to her by The Town Crier.
Town Crier: Do your poems have an origin story, or a compositional history that you’d like to share?
Michelle Brown: These poems were written while I was living and teaching in China. I was a really nervous person before moving there, and I think China, being a nervous, jittery country, really forced me to come to terms with my own mind. It pulled me out of myself. These poems are very much about my brain in China, not about China as a country. They’re about how weird it was to be having an experience—a tangible, weird, continual experience—that is just normal life to everyone else around you. Continue reading →
A Non-Exhaustive Account of My Move From the Irish to the Toronto Publishing Scene // Aoife Walsh
It’s been 13 months since I left Ireland for Toronto to further my career in publishing. Since then, I’ve toyed with writing about my experience. From very early on, I’ve been urged, encouraged, and cajoled by those closest to me into documenting an account of the experience—so they can see how I’m getting on, I have no doubt. But I have also come to think that this invitation stems from a curiosity about the way Toronto, and in particular the Toronto publishing scene appears to outsiders. The result is in no way meant to be comprehensive. And I can promise you that by the time you have read it, I will feel differently about some of what I’ve given you here. There is nothing cohesive, nothing consistent, and nothing finitely true about living in a country not your own. This is an attempt to make sense of what I’ve found here, how Toronto has changed me, and what I may do next. It begins a process of investigation, on my part, into what it means to leave the country I love for greater opportunities elsewhere. Continue reading →
Interview with Co-Director Simon Bloom // E Martin Nolan
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play is set in a future in which electricity is no more. Instead of gathering around the tube with dinner trays, people gather around the fire and tell stories of times past. Where do these stories come from? The Simpsons, of course. If the Beatles are the world’s most listened-to poets, then The Simpsons have to at least be among the most-watched theatre. And I would argue the world is much better for it.
The show may not be, in its 26th season, what it once was as a cultural phenomenon and as a show, but there is no denying the show’s influence. Who among us doesn’t remember the summer of waiting to find out who shot Mr. Burns? Who hasn’t had “Baby on Board” stuck in their head after re-watching (speaking of the Beatles) “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet”? Then there are the Halloween specials, the Silent Bob episodes (Mr Burns riffs heavily off of “Cape Feare”), the time Selma married Troy McClure. Despite its reputation, the movie was good, too. What I’m trying to say is that The Simpsons is a great show. You know this.
And now, theatre company Outside the March has brought Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play to Toronto. For the rest of May, OTM has taken over Big Pictures Cinemas, and turned it into the Aztec Theatre (Simpson’s heads will get the reference) for the duration of the play’s run. The play follows citizens of the post-electric world as they (mis)remember and perform old Simpsons episodes around the campfire. Eventually, a travelling troupe develops to put on the performances. Continue reading →
Puritan Authors Discuss Their Craft // Natalia Panzer
Natalia Panzer contributed poems to The Puritan:Issue 28. The Town Crier asked Panzer several questions about her work and its origins.She answered them here.
These poems were written in New York during an addiction to Gertrude Stein. My life was dominated by my domestic living space. I did not have money to go out, so I spent much of my four years in New York in my apartment, a badly renovated 3 bedroom in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. I lived in what was meant to be an office. The room was tiny and oddly shaped. There were seven walls, a water pipe running up one wall, and a small window. It was dark and cold in the winter and insufferably hot in the summer because the window was too small for an air conditioner or fan. I did not have room for a desk, so I did all of my writing in bed. I remember reading an interview with Alice Notley during this time. She described how she wrote The Descent of Alette exclusively in bed, which gave me some solace. I did not spend too much time in the living room. I moved from the kitchen to the bathroom and back to my room where I did all of my eating. At the time: chicken flavoured ramen with sautéed onions, garlic mashed potatoes with kale, chickpea salad, pancakes from a box, tuna salad and crackers, tomato soup, salad, coconut rice with vegetables. I worked at a stuffy, bohemian cafe that left my clothes smelling like a mixture of espresso and pan spray. They stunk up my room. My room was an embarrassment. Continue reading →