Canisia Lubrin

Episode 54: Interview with Monty Reid, director of VERSeFest

The Small Machine Talks with a.m kozak and Amanda Earl

Monty Reid was born in Saskatchewan, worked for many years in Alberta, and now lives in Ottawa. His books include Garden (Chaudiere), The Luskville Reductions (Brick), and CrawlSpace(Anansi). Recent chapbooks include the nipple variations (postghost press), Seam (above/ground) and Site Conditions (Apt. 9). He has won Alberta’s Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry on three occasions, the Lampman Award, National Magazine Awards, and is a three-time nominee for the Governor General’s Award. He was one of the founders of the Writers Guild of Alberta and was for many years the Managing Editor for Arc Poetry Magazine.  He is currently the Director of VerseFest, Ottawa’s international poetry festival. Photo taken by Grant Savage.

We talk about the origins of the festival with former director, Rod Pederson, the role of the artistic director and the way in which VERSeFEST works with the city’s various literary organizations taking part.

We discuss companion activities such as Laureate City, which brings together poets laureate from across Canada to celebrate Ottawa getting a poet laureate program again, and has taken place in Ottawa for its first two years, and the possibility of a video poem festival sometime in the future.

We learn about some of the poets who will be participating in at the festival this year, which will take place from March 24 to 29, 2020 and include 80 poets from all over the world. Some of the poets will be Adele Barclay, Gwen Benaway, Canisia Lubrin, Karen Solie, Robin Richardson, Kaie Kellough, Monica Rink, and more.

Monty talks about the need to have a diverse festival that includes BIPOC and francophone poets. He mentions some of his fondest memories, including Lenelle Moise, Mary Ruefle’s demonstration of how to fold a fitted sheet. Amanda remembers a spoken word duo from BC, the 2 Dope Boys.

Monty explains that the whole festival is run by volunteers. They work with the Ottawa International Writers Festival, there’s a new program with Carleton University and their poetry from prisons initiative. Amanda talks about her favourite aspects, the talks from the Factory Reading Series, the panel on translation.

We discuss Monty’s acoustic trio band, Call Me Katie, and also his gardening.

In the future VERSeFest will be doing more collaborations. It has some with the Library of Congress, the Festival de Poésie in Trois Rivières, there are collaborations planned with the Edmonton Poetry Festival, the idea being to have a circuit for poets who travel from one festival to another, which is especially important for poets travelling from overseas.

Amanda mentions the bookseller Perfect Books, and the great selection of books at the festival. Monty also mentions the indie table for chapbooks and ephemeral material, and French books from Coin du Livre.

Monty talks about additional things at the festival such as a concrete poetry exhibit that happened last year, and musical acts.

Go to to pick up passes and tickets and find out about the upcoming festival.

We asked Monty about his own poetry. He’s working on two manuscripts, one on our surveillance society, the other on the parasites that live in our bodies.

Amanda asked Monty about his gardening. He has acquired a small greenhouse. Aaron asks about the relationship between poets and gardening. Monty suggests the relationship may be hope.

Amanda mentions Arial Gordon’s book, Treed: Amanda wishes she would read at the Arboretum.

Thanks to Monty Reid for being our guest on the Small Machine Talks, and thanks to you, for listening.

Please share our episodes with fellow poetry fans. Next episode will be sometime in February, all being well.

Episode 46 – 4th Season Opener

The Small Machine Talks

with a.m. kozak and Amanda Earl

Episode 46, Season 4 Opener

Recorded at Occo’s Kitchen and Bar on July 30, 2019

Season 3 Highlights and Season 4 & Beyond Plans

Overview of Season 3

12 episodes

most played – 38 – Bad Nudes with Thomas Molander and Fawn Parker with 153 plays (October)

9 interviews and 3 topics episodes: Small Press Fair, Book Review, Visual Poetry

Statistics as of July 30, 2019

SEASON 3 July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 had 1,513  plays

OVERALL May 15, 2016 to July 30, 2019 had 4,122 plays

Top Played Episodes: Dalton Derkson interview – Episode 6 with 174 plays, Bad Nudes 38 with 153 plays and 9 with Sarah MacDonell with 151 plays


Aaron talks about why he enjoys interviews and their importance for research for contemporary writers;  We mull over the idea of number of plays and ratings.

Amanda talks about craft and process, the discussion with Cameron Anstee on minimalism and ephemera, books as objects and materiality from episode 34, the opener was quite interesting. Aram Saroyan’s Complete Minimalist Poems.

The Visual Poetry episodes 41 and 42 gave us a chance to go into a bit of depth about a subject, do a little research and discuss.

Amanda also particularly enjoyed episode 43 with Danielle K.L. Gregoire was so much fun because we went all over the place and because Danielle is such a great storyteller with a sexy radio voice.

We talk about the importance of a flexible format. The balance with over and underpreparing. We talk about doing interviews without our co-host.

Plans and Dreams for Season 4 and Beyond

More episodes like A Moveable Podcast with Jennifer LoveGrove, Episode 29, poets in the wild, perhaps a pub crawl or coffee crawl episode where we meet poets at different cafes and pubs and chat with them.

Go to a particular city, such as Toronto or Montreal and set up a space for a few days with interviews with poets we haven’t had the chance to talk to yet. Doyali Islam, Canisia Lubrin, Dionne Brand, Dorothy Palmer, for example.

Interview with Shery Alexander Heinis and Mailyne Morena about the BIPOC reading series they’re creating in the fall.

Interview with Christine McNair about her current manuscript, motherhood and preeclampsia.

Interviews with Jason Christie and Nina Jane Drystek.

To interview long term friends or couples. We interviewed Conyer and Nathanael Larochette in Episode 36. I have plans to visit James Moran and Anita Dolman for an interview.

Aaron talks about revisiting those who were writing together in a group some time ago and interviewing them to talk about that experience and how it influenced their writing. Example is the creative writing workshops with Seymour Mayne at U of Ottawa.

Guest hosts/curators. Decide who you want to interview.

More episodes focused on a specific theme, such as places and spaces.

A bunch of people talking about a single book, such as the podcast On the Line by Rusty Toque:

To expand our interviews to other genres, such as the interview with Mariah Horner which focused a bit more on the theatre. Would love to add music and musicians, but that would mean paying for a SOCAN license, so maybe not.

Interviews over Skype, Youtube, Messenger.  Technical advice needed!

Panel discussions, such as a queer poetry panel, and maybe a live episode somehow.

We talk about how we figure out who to interview. Depends on poet’s interest, availability and also publishers sometimes send us books for poets coming to town. Invisible Publishing, Wolsak and Wynn, for example.

We invite suggestions for podcast episodes.

People could send us mp3s or mp4s of to 10 minutes and we’ll include them in the podcast, especially if you’re out of town and haven’t been on the podcast. Possible topics include places that you like to write at, places that appear in your poems or that you feel connected with, a poetry book or chapbook that you’ve recently enjoyed.

Aaron invites people to submit photo essays to the blog he co-runs with Justin Labelle:


Thanks to everyone who’s listened and shared the episodes. Thanks to those we’ve interviewed, the publishers for sending books, thanks to Charles Earl for processing and Jennifer Pederson for intros and outros. Thanks to a.m. kozak. thanks to the reading series and event organizers who make this town and others damn interesting by organizing and applying for grants and keeping these things running. thanks to poets for continuing to write engaging work that gives us something interesting to discuss.

Stay tuned for the next episode!

Episode 28

a.m. kozak and Amanda Earl talk poetry in Ottawa …