The Small Machine Talks – Episode 61 Experiment-O Readers– Part III

Welcome to the Small Machine Talks. I’m Amanda Earl and this is Episode 61 and our third and final for now episode featuring contributors to Experiment-O.

For this last episode on Experiment-O, I thought I would also talk a bit about some of the other work featured in the magazine by highlighting the work of one contributor per issue.

Issue 1 featured the poetry and collages of Camille Martin, who I subsequently interviewed for the AngelHousePress essay series in 2012. I met Camille at her Tree Reading Series reading in 2008 and enjoyed her poetry. I don’t remember how I found out abut her collage making.

5 of  Camille’s collages were published in the issue, along with her poetry. Camille’s collage-making comes in part from synaesthesia, her music background and her work with media such as photographs. One of the most striking collages in issue 1 for me was that of an illustration of a little girl placed on top of a moonscape across from a giant letter R, both the R and the girl are clothed in red/orange. in the essay Camille wrote, “I don’t usually follow rules or constraints when I’m making collages, though I do

sometimes limit the colour palette to give the whole more inner coherence. I try

various juxtapositions until I can feel a spark of attraction among the images, and

play with different uses of space to give that attraction free reign to show me

what it wants to say. It does often feel as though I’m a conduit who facilitates the

dramas that reveal themselves in the collages.”

Local photographer Caroline Gomersoll’s striking photos of open sky and other distorted scenes through broken glass excited me as soon as I saw them, and I asked for them for the second issue. There’s an otherworldly quality to them, one in particular shows glass dividing a murky alien-green background. There are stories in those photographs.

Issue 3 features a story by John Lavery entitled “Small Wonder.” He read the work or a version of it at Tree many years ago and then it was published in his second short story collection, “You, Kwaznievski, You Piss Me Off (ECW Press, 2004). I asked him if I could have it for Experiment-O and he agreed. I adored John and was a huge fan of his writing and of him. He played with language in a way that I’ve never experienced before, inventing hilarious onomatopoeic words, and indulging in extreme punnery. his range of knowledge was exceptional. He was skilled at everything he did, including music, having put out a CD entitled Dignity before he died in 2011. He kindly let me interview him for in 2010 for the 2011 issue and I also wrote an essay in the same issue about his linguistic pyrotechnics. I still miss him and I am very grateful that his work is part of Experiment-O.

For Issue 4, I invited Ottawa poet Jamie Bradley to curate the issue. He included the minimalist visual poetry of Hungarian artist Márton Kopánny. I love the restraint showed in this work and how much it communicates. Márton first sent me work for in 2010 and I’ve had the pleasure of publishing his work several times.

Issue 5’s highlight is the work of Gatineau artist michèle provost, which combines the craft of embroidery with text. I must have met michèle many years ago now. it was clear to me that we were kindreds and her work excited me because of her wild imagination, sense of humour and whimsy, and her energy. When we meet to have tea we can talk for hours. I consider a lot of the work that she has done as visual poetry, and I enjoy the way it dances the line between art and visual poetry.

Issue 5 also features the work of bill dimichele, American writer and artist who died last year. We must have swam in the same circles. He kindly invited me to submit work to his wonderful vispo blog, Tip of the Knife with its slogan, “Draw blood or go home.” He played in many different forms, was a delight to engage with. For this issue he gave me some dreamy experimental prose.

Carlyle Baker sent me work for issue 6, which I was very glad to publish. For these pieces he worked with rubbings, asemics, stencil, type and drawing implements to create free jazz, mixed code and other wondrous and imaginative visual poetry. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting the Peterborough, Ontario artist until recently at an exhibit of visual poetry. He goes by many variations of Carlyle Baker and continues to make intriguing work.

For issue 7, I received an excerpt from a collaborative work by a. rawlings and Sachiko Murikami, two poets whose work I have admired for many years. I was pleased to publish their ecopoetic and sensual work.

I have long been intrigued with the work of Japanese illustrator, poet, photographer and collage artist hiromi suzuki. in 2019, AngelHousePress published her accomplished and beautiful chapbook, Andante. in issue 8 hiromi plays with shadows and light, distance and white space.

Sacha Archer was someone who I didn’t meet in person until a recent visual poetry exhibit in Toronto, but we’d been swimming in the same circles for years. I admire what he does with his press, Simulacrum Press and his own playful experiments with language, sound and motion. He is another kindred whimsical friend. For issue 9, he sent me an experimental text that uses the disruption of auto-correct as an engine. I like this man’s mind.

I read about Alberta artist Candace Makowichuk’s series of photographs of Edmonton cemeteries, many of which were printed in blue cenotype. The work is a study in mourning of death and the celebration of life. Here is an example where I had no connection to the artist and simply sent her an e-mail asking if I could publish her work in issue 10. I do this fairly often and for the most part, I receive affirmative responses. Artists are very generous with their work.

I think I saw some of German artist Ines Seidel’s powerful book alterations on FaceBook. I was so relieved when she agreed to let me have some for Experiment-O’s 11th issue. from her site: “books, news, objects, identities. all are in the process of transforming. what you see is just an intermediate state. word becomes matter. a linear sentence turns into tangible three dimensional form. a story disintegrates, spawns and transcends itself. stories are my material, transforming them is my task.”

Rasiqra Revulva is someone I first encountered only a few years ago. Was the first time at VERSeFest, Ottawa’s annual poetry festival or was it before? She does a lot of really out of the box creative things. For VERSeFest she read poetry using loops and sound effects to evoke an undersea atmosphere. Her reverse ekphrastics, visual poems and illustrations in issue 12 are yet another example of boundless creativity and imagination. I am a great admirer.

Issue 13 will be published in November/December. I’m not going to reveal all the contributors but I’ll give you just one name. I saw FFLEPP’s work in the latest issue of psw’s ToCall magazine, which is published in Germany using a mimeograph machine. I was thrilled by a piece that depicted notes tumbling to the bottom and sought more work by the artist, who has kindly agreed to let me publish some in the next issue.

Obviously I haven’t talked about the work of everyone in all 12 issues. I just wanted to give you the flavour of the magazine. Please visit for the full meal.

I say that Experiment-O celebrates the art of risk. I believe that everyone who contributes is taking a risk in some way: whether their work doesn’t fit into a mainstream genre, or they are writing about something personal that leaves them vulnerable, whether they are attempting to subvert a literary or artistic canon, or just playing for the sake of it. I appreciate every person who is willing to send their work for consideration to Experiment-O, and every contributor whose work is published. Sharing such work isn’t easy. I appreciate those of you who read the publication. I hope it inspires more play, more risk and more subversion of convention.

Our readers in this episode are Volodymyr Bilyk, Joel Chace, Marco Giovanele, Pearl Pirie, James Sanders, and Steve Venright

Volodymyr Bilyk is a poet from Ukraine who writes in English. So he’s basically from another dimension or Parts Unknown.

Long story short: he follows Ezra Pound’s ”Make It New” and considers Pink Fairies song ”Do It” to be quite adequate description of his artistic intentions.

The second edition of his poetry collection ”Roadrage” is available at Zimzalla (

Volodymyr was in issue 7 of Experiment-O.


The source text is the following:

pus sea seal eel elk! 

glumly daisy flavor – shadow fragile


pffft pffft XY? 4:16

La La La La Lo

ayu yu Tsuu A Xie Xie

(“paa”, “fuku”, “chiki”) 

No No No Ha! Ha! Ha! 

Blaze beep chug – tart rictus

– Ever-Roving Eye

jamais vu elk yowl 

Iko Iko – Nzznzzzznnznznnn

Fifi o – Uum Ni-Ni- Budub


Gash, Gloria: 

Ear Spin; Smile

Oww rrrrrrsssssstttttt O

It is not really a poem, rather a piece that was accumulated to showcase different dataset sampling combinations. some parts are missing because there were not enough samples available.  it is made out of tiny slices of sounds mixed together by an algorithm. sounds complicated but the hardest thing was to wait until the model is trained (2 hours per iteration times 5 over a week. 

Joel Chace has published work in print and electronic magazines such as, The Tip of the Knife, Counterexample Poetics, Eratio, Otoliths, Infinity’s Kitchen, and Jacket.  Most recent collections include Sharpsburg, from Cy Gist Press, Blake’s Tree, from Blue & Yellow Dog Press, Whole Cloth, from Avantacular Press, Red Power, from Quarter After Press, Kansoz, from Knives, Forks, and Spoons Press, Web Too, from Tonerworks, War, and After, from BlazeVOX [books], Scorpions, from Unlikely Books, Humors, from Paloma Press, and Threnodies, from Moria Books. Joel was in issue 9 of Experiment-O.

RECORDING 2: Joel Chace


s t o n e s

when the letters are stones

dragged placed abandoned

s n o w

when the letters are snow

packed curved left

y e l l o w c h a l k

when the letters are yellow chalk

up on the blackboard

g r e e n g r a s s

when the letters are green grass

woven placed in shade

b a t

when it brushes arm-hair

in the cave’s deepest black

g a s h

when the glass-slivers

bubble up from the trench of blood

no matter

is this right then    we put

all our ducks in a row    all

our ducks of the under-word    all made

of quarks    which are or are

not matter but certainly are not

meaning    though the ducks

mean    as we line

the ducks up they make

a surface    a surface of

water    surface and water that

are not do not matter but

do mean    the matter then

cannot mean    the meaning is

nothing but    we keep

on lining up the ducks    beneath

the surface of water

is depth the more ducks the more

depth    and dark    and

murk    all of which is no

matter    no matter    not matter    but is

dark murk and deep    story

layered upon story    stories without

matter but with meaning    how

is it possible to live like

this    to make stories that

mean    but are no matter

Marco Giovenale (alias differx) lives in Rome, where he works as an editor and translator, also teaching History of Italian poetry and experimental writing in a poetry center he contributed to establish. He’s founder and editor of (on line since 2006) and (since 2011). Linear texts in English in the books “A gunless tea” (Dusie, 2007), “CDK” (Tir-Aux-Pigeons, 2009), “anachromisms” (Ahsahta Press, 2014), “white while” (Gauss PDF, 2014: He’s also an asemic writer. His (main) site is Marco was in issue 4.

RECORDING 3: Marco Giovenale

Three fragments from $TRING$

 $ 01

Here it was
I wanted it to be well understood
The old traveller said
To the young waitress
If only I was twenty
Was seventy
Was carrying in a heap of forks
Forks are good to travellers
Typed am
Mad @ you
Since it’s in one’s dna to decide not to show that much of one’s anger
The garden was so bright
Silence I presume did not drip down from the sun
It’s cold as it rains
She wears a depressing shadow
Under her red led cloak
Loops of time revolve
They invented it yesterday
She doesn’t find the clue

$ 03

My fingers I took a look at them
While typing
Well I felt a gap in time
So they didn’t seem to me like actually belonging
To me
There’s something weird or a pure delay
All around
I thought it was the shiny screen
One must always find a cause

$ 04

Must unravel it
It’s all on my side
Begging something
Always fix the issues
That occur
The boomerang question time
The hits of the day
Stay tuned pray
The joy
Will last forever

Pearl Pirie’s fourth collection, footlights, comes in the fall 2020 from Radiant Press. Her newest chapbook is Not Quite Dawn(Éditions des petits nuages, March, 2020). Her epistle haibun chapbook, Water loves its bridges: Letters to the dead, is due out in Dec 2020 from The Alfred Gustav Press by subscription.

Pearl was in issue 1 of Experiment-O



we measure life by millimetres 

or by feelings of fullness, or is that dullness, 

or satisfaction 

a stillness as contentment 

or a shutdown 

overloaded by information or calories or energy depletion

walking the forest trail, turning onto Sara’s trail

i had nunca vu

years wiped away

no sense of north or known

I bet if the trees were text

I’d find them and their leaf galls illegible

I’ve been stranded before

struck illiterate for hours, orphaned by memory.

so, senses can get overwhelmed

not only by crowds, lights, ambient 80dB

but by fatigue 

from sustained concentration

by a focus I thought I could never regain

but did

yesterday’s sleep 

didn’t restock me

inside my braincase are early COVID aisles of neurons

like East German grocers 

the demand to think comes at no steady rate

so you can predict when to replace. 

that complicates. spurts the supply chain 

of energies.

I’m bottlenecked

with a surfeit of words then none.

but it’s not my job alone

the red squirrel has many words for me.

he bounces his back legs

then vibrates to his front, goes out on a literal

limb, uses his weight to cantilever a shake

while jays pretend to be innocuous, indifferent.

5 of them around me toss leaves

looking for food but i heard them call others.

I’m the talk of the not-town.

the woodpecker comes to see.  

the chipmunk scolds too,

their words have regrounded me.

them and the ant who insists on my leg

as a log, as a bridge.

James Sanders is a member of the Atlanta Poets Group, a writing and performing collective ( He was included in the 2016 BAX: Best American Experimental Writing anthology. His most recent book, Self-Portrait in Plants, was published in 2015. The University of New Orleans Press also recently published the group’s An Atlanta Poets Group Anthology: The Lattice Inside. James is reading from a visual poem that appeared in Experiment-O issue 11.


Steve Venright is a visual artist and poet whose publications include Straunge Wunder (Tortoiseshell & Black), Spiral Agitator (Coach House Books, 2000), Floors of Enduring Beauty (Mansfield Press, 2007), and The Least You Can Do Is Be Magnificent: Selected & New Writings (Feed Dog imprint of Anvil Press, 2017). Through his Torpor Vigil Records label, he has released several albums by singer-composer Samuel Andreyev and sleeptalker Dion McGregor.

Twitter: @stevevenright

Instagram: steve_venright

Torpor Vigil Records

Twitter: @torporvigil

Instagram: torporvigilart

Steve was in our first issue.


An excerpt from “Manta Ray Jack and the Crew of the Spooner” from The Least You Can Do Is Be Magnificent: Selected and New Writings (A Feed Dog Book from Anvil Press, 2017)

Just then the keeper of the tower—a Mr. Albert Ross—flew in, soaked from the fetid weather and looking much like a tattered bird with wetted feather.

            He was back from the abode of his cousin Drew who was billeting a dozen crew from a ship which had (soon after it was boarded) sunk and with whom our lighthouse codger, as kitehouse lodger, was forced to share a sordid bunk—in company with a creaky old loser they’d found waving a gun around at Crappers’ Tavern shortly after their leaky old cruiser had run aground at Trappers’ Cavern.

            It was to that same tavern that Mr. Ross had repaired, after one last kite nap, for one last nightcap before heading home to his luminous spire. But a single nightcap is such a scrawny bore, and before long the “one” had become a brawny score. The Crappers’ bartender[barmaid {though I wouldn’t like the repetition, as it appears later in the paragraph}]—a spuminous liar but a frisky wench—poured out her hearts to him (she claimed to have been born with a pair) along with glass after glass of whisky (French). Inspired by the Abyssinian barmaid’s ruminating lies (e.g., having once made porn with a bear) as well as the luminating ryes (which she mixed with salt water and called “sailor tea”), he took a perky quill and some sort of quirky pill then made like Samuel Taylor C— a man whose poetic notions, induced by noetic potions, were realized by scribbling while dreaming.

            But barely had his scribbling and dreaming begun when it was interrupted by the untimely intrusion of a wandering Porlock wimp whose sudden and startling appearance—he was dressed rather in the style of a warlock pimp—set the old lighthouse keeper to dribbling and screaming.

            This boisterous oozing drew the attention of two daring shrinks who’d been sharing drinks and now invited him to join their oysterous boozing. (While the duo was acclaimed for treating individuals who experienced shame while fornicating, they had also attained a degree of fame while shucking.) By the time our Mr. Ross, eyes glazed as a dead hawk’s, took his leave of the two head[-]docs, the battered shells of clamorous oysters lay all about him like the shattered bells of amorous cloisters.

            Now back atop his familiar perch, with a belly full of oysterous regret, he burst through the lighthouse door like a roisterous egret.

Thanks to all the readers from this episode and from the previous two Experiment-O episodes. Thanks to Charles for processing and Jennifer Pederson for the intro and outro, and thanks to you for listening and sharing the podcast. Stay tuned for season 5 which begins in July!

Episode 59: Cohost Zoom Reunion

The Small Machine Talks Episode 59 Writing and Reading During Covid-19 etc

with a.m. kozak and Amanda Earl

recorded via Zoom on Sunday, May 24, 2020

Profile by Jamie MacPherson:


how has COVID changed your reading/writing habits?

Amanda: I’ve been trying to save $ so I’m reading up my pile of to be read books and my e-books, including some I’ve set aside. I’m discovering a lot of great reads that I was impatient with, for example – Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, 21st Century American Women Poets, Love in the New Millennium (The Margellos World Republic of Letters) by Can Xue – books I started last fall or earlier.

Aaron: stopped reading during first few weeks but got back into it with more patience and time, returning to work on his to be read list. working on a manuscript. not as productive as he expected.

Amanda points out that we shouldn’t put too much pressure on ourselves to be productive at this time. Aaron feels guilty about his lack of productivity due to his privilege of being able to work from home and have more time and space alone.

We discuss being able to impose structure when working at home.

Aaron wonders how others feel about their writing and reading habits at this time.

what about how you interact with the literary community?

Amanda: i haven’t embraced the concept of the virtual reading alas. I know it’s lovely for many writers to engage this way. instead I’ve been corresponding with fellow writers via e-mail and letter a lot more, which I love.

Aaron wonders how this time is influencing the type and quality of interactions with others, such as reaching out to those we haven’t been in touch with.

Aaron asks how Amanda feels about the change in interaction. Amanda mentions she’s less into going out to readings and hasn’t felt the loss of not having in person readings, enjoying solitude, being more tired in the evenings. She misses one-on-one coffee/lunch dates with friends.

Aaron misses festivals and events in general, and more intimate connections with people. His work is constant e-mail and conversations, so doesn’t crave that in the evenings.

what are some things you’ll take away from these isolated months when movement isn’t so restricted?

Amanda enjoys solitude much more than she realized. Enjoying coffee more. Notices the class hierarchy is still very much in place. She points out the narrative of American dream from 50s still a belief of how things are. Aaron mentions there’s a greater separation between those in blue collar and white collar positions., those who must work outside the home, and those who can stay home. We discuss those with mental health issues and disabled people whose needs have been neglected for years. They muse that the reasons why there have been improvements are due to the fact that we’re all susceptible to Covid-19

Amanda talks about the role of a writer as being to act as a witness. Aaron’s take away is the realization that he probably wouldn’t be more productive as a writer or reader, and is accepting that. Amanda mentions her inability to do research for her writing due to the libraries being closed.

 have you made any new discoveries in the past couple of months?

Amanda mentions – a site for films and reviews, and mumblecore, a type of film.

Aaron’s new discoveries are areas in his neighbourhood he hasn’t been to before. He’s going through old boxes of his writing. We talk about how our writing has changed over the years.

 how many COVID or isolation inspired poems do you think have been written this year? 😉

Aaron wonders if fast turnaround Covid-19 poems would be something a publisher would be interested in now, but he’d rather it just happen naturally as part of his writing.

I wasn’t writing anything but factual pieces on my blog and then Arc came along with a poetry contest, Arc’s Award of Awesomeness and it inspired me. I’ll never win any of their contests but it was fun to be inspired. I have about 20 pages of poetry.

Aaron asks if it’s the duty of a writer or artist to document. Amanda doesn’t like the words “duty” or “should.” Aaron compares poetry of this sort to journalism. Amanda wonders how to articulate the palpable anxiety in the streets.


Aaron – reorganized his shelf into have and have not read books. He’s reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s collected works and Albert Camus’ the Plague. For poetry, most of his day-to-day interaction is thru direct text on social media or being shared to him.


Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

this book is a coming of age story with achingly beautiful sentences. it is a book of grief, pain, love, lust, violence, family, and awakening. We talk about prose written by poets as being meticulous and slow reads.

Isabelle Allende – In the Midst of Winter, The Japanese Lover, Ripper and A Long Petal of the Sea, the latter having a lot that is relevant today.



Attended the Iridescent Robot Storytellling Club hosted by Danielle K.L. Gregoire.

 It is a place for your gentle and hopeful stories and takes place on Zoom every week on Thursday nights, 8pm EST. It’s a virtual extension of Danielle’s performance venue, Curious and Kind. Danielle invites several people to tell stories and also includes a musician who will write a theme song for the show. You have to sign up ahead of time.

The one I went to was the first. The theme song by Benoit Christie was great fun. There were five guest storytellers and a feature, The Mighty Mike McGee. It was an inspiring evening. Mike told a fascinating story about a couple who’d lost each other during the Holocaust but then refound each other very recently at a wedding. All stories are true.

I also attended a Zoom listening party for episode 8 of the SpokenWebcast in May. Spokenwebcast is a really well-made and professional sounding podcast about Canadian literature with funding from academic organizations and participation by a variety of academics and writers. Episode 8 was a fascinating episode which talked about how we are listening during Covid-19 and what has changed, especially in regard to literary events. Jason Camlot and Katherine MacLeod produced the episode and interviewed various guests.

We listened as a group and people wrote comments about the episode via Zoom’s chat feature. Afterward they had a discussion on the episode, which I had to miss unfortunately.

I also had the chance to listen to another episode, The Voice Is Intact: Finding Gwendolyn MacEwen in the Archive from April 6 and produced by Hannah MacGregor who hosts Room Magazine’s wonderful Fainting Couch Feminists podcast.

I was fascinated by the conversation between Hannah, Jen Sookfong Lee and Katherine. They talked about MacEwen’s work, her voice and her relationship with Milton Acorn.

The podcast makes use of archived recordings from literary events in the past.

I was also invited to record three video readings for rob mclennan’s Periodicities virtual reading series, The Dead Poets Reading Series in Vancouver by Isabella Wang and Orchid Tierney’s Distāntia Remote Reading Series, which she set up in March.

There have been several events by Ottawa’s literary community: Riverbed Reading Series had its first online reading on May 21, In Our Tongues celebrated Asian Heritage Month, Tree had a reading and workshop, and has another one coming this Tuesday. Storyteller Jacqui DuToit held regular storytelling events, and Urban Legends also had an open mic and slam as well. Youthspeak Poetry slams are happening via Discord. Susan Johnston has returned to CKCU FM to host a Tuesday afternoon radio show called Asking For A Friend at 3pm weekly. It focuses on performance of music and stories. There’s also NAC Canada Performs.

Aaron wonders whether the virtual readings will take place after the lockdown.

Amanda talks about her awkwardness at readings and virtual readings.

He offers tips to extend Zoom’s free service. Amanda muses about ways in which writers can make money and if these events help with that, it’s a good thing, plus a great way of engaging.

Aaron hasn’t attended any literary virtual events but would prefer not to have to sign up ahead of time. Is curious as to how they go.

Aaron read as part of Prism Magazine’s launch:

and it’s great he could perform at a launch out of town he wouldn’t normally have had the chance to be part of.


2 more episodes from Experiment-O contributors coming up. End of 4th season is coming up. More Zoom episodes coming up.

Aaron notes that 5 seasons might be long for poetry podcasts. Amanda mentions CantLit and Nigel Beale’s podcast.

Danielle K.L. Gregoire and her partner have a podcast on grocery stores. The Kind Nudibranch and the Garbage Witch Explore the World


Stay tuned for upcoming episodes. Thanks to Charles for processing, Jennifer Pederson for intros and outros and to you for listening and sharing the episode.

The Small Machine Talks Episode 57 Trees, Rain, Bicycles, Gardens, Wandering, Spring!

I open the episode with a reading of an excerpt from Samuel Beckett, Watt (Olympia Press, 1953).

Good morning and welcome to the Small Machine Talks Episdoe 57. I’m alone again, recording the episode solo due to Covid-19’s physical distancing requirement. At this time, I find myself seeking out some of my favourite poems about trees, rain, bicycles and spring.

This episode is inspired by Klara Du Plessis’ deep curation practice of organizing readings. I had the pleasure of being at an event at Knife Fork Book in Toronto which Klara organized, based on the idea of deep curation, “placing work by the same and different artists adjacent to one another in order to combine their generative potential.” The event featured Klara, Aaron Boothby and Canisia Lubrin reading their own works but ones that Klara had picked out.

It was a really interesting reading organized in a kind of thematic way. To quote Klara, “The strength of considering how artworks or poems go together, enter into dialogue with another, rub up against one another, contrast and scratch at one another…is endless.”

The poems and prose passages I’m going to read today follow this idea or at least are inspired by it. And instead of others reading, it’s just me.

Doyali Islam, 32nd parallel – on roots

from heft, McClelland and Stewart, 2019 and also Heartwood, Poems for the Love of Trees put out by the League of Canadian Poets in 2018

Variations on Spring – Maggie Helwig, the City on Wednesday, Lowlife Publishing, 1996

MOVIE: Frances Ha

I love Greta Gerwig. I also have a terrible memory for what happens in movies. What I recall about this one was Frances riding her bike and wandering Paris on her own. I have also seen Girl on a Bicycle, which I do not remember at all. Another charming Montreal film called Deux Secondes about a bike courier who wants to compete in the Tour de France is also good. I would like to watch Wadjda, a movie set in Saudi Arabia about a ten-year old girl who wants to ride a bike.

Green by Jeanette Armstrong (originally published in Breath Tracks, Theytus Books, 1990)

Open Field, 30 Contemporary Canadian Poets, edited by Sina Queyras (Persea Books, 2005)

Sadiqa de Meijer


I googled and found this poem on Susan Gillis blog, Concrete and River:

from 2013, republished from Leaving Howe Island, Oolichan Books, 2013 and republished in The Next Wave, An Anthology of 21st Century Poetry, edited by Jim Johnstone and published by Anstruther Press in 2018

Phyllis Webb, Metaphysics of Spring from The Vision Tree, Selected Poems (Talonbooks, 1982) and originally published in Wilson’s Bowl (1980)

Film: Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (the Gleaners and I – Agnes Varda)

Varda’s documentary begins with a glimpse at the French tradition of allowing the remains of the harvest to the hungry and moves on to other objects deemed by society to be without value but used by artists in their creation.


I’m sure there are many poets who garden and who love plants. Two local poets come to mind: Monty Reid who has a lovely garden in the East End of Ottawa. I’ve made zucchini bread from the zucchinis he was kind enough to give me. Conyer Clayton writes a lot about plants in her work and is vocal on social media about her dislike of celery. She also gardens.

Lilac from Undergrowth by Conyer Clayton (bird, buried press, 2018)

Monty Reid’s book of garden poems, Garden (Chaudiere Books, 2014) features poem cycles as seasonal gardening units. In the notes, Monty writes that the book began as a simple gardening day book.

I read 10. June from the first cycle, “Garden (sept unit)

Levin Hunting from The Quiet by Anne-Marie Turza (House of Anansi Press, 2014)

Wandering the City

Every spring I go on a wander to see the first blooms. I always get teary-eyed at the site of the first crocus. I revisit magnolia trees in my neighbourhood every year. I have a favourite on Gilmour. In November, I used to walk through the Beechwood Cemetery to enjoy the brilliant fall colours and scent of autumn. I sometimes take walks in the Central Experimental Farm’s Arboretum as well. The city is full of green spaces, and perhaps now we see how necessary it is for people to be able get out in nature, to breathe and feel the sun.

Last May, I decided to go on an urban foraging walk with Foraged Ottawa’ organizer, Bryan Dowkes. It was a lovely experience. The group learned about trout lilies, we got to sample his spring pesto, and have a bite of Japanese knotwood, which tastes a bit like rhubarb. I love walking and especially walking in nature, but as an urban resident with no car, I tend to forget that there are wild places near me. We walked about 4 kms from Strathcona Park to Hurdman on a trail near the highway, so we were surrounded by evidence of a city. It is possible to find wild within the city. I’m sharing links to my blog entry for the walk and also for Foraged Ottawa on FB and Meet Up

Ottawa Foraging: Wild Plant and Mushroom Walks

Ottawa, ON
877 Members

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The year before a friend and I went on an herbal tea walk with the Ottawa Tea Guild at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, which is part of Ottawa’s Experimental Farm. The guide was herbalist, Amber Westfall of the Wild Garden, a local organization that introduces people to bioregional, edible and medicinal plans through workshops and walks.

She made us nettle tea, which we drank on a hot summer’s day beneath the shade of a tree.

In its summer 2019 issue, Brick Magazine published an interview by Michael Ondaatje and Jason Logan, the founder of the Toronto Ink Company.

After reading this fascinating interview about making ink from natural and nonnatural sources, I obtained the book, “Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking” by Jason Logan (Abrams Books, 2018). The book is full of colourful photos of plants, ink samples, recipes, anecdotes and instructions. It also includes the interview. In his introduction, Jason describes his practice as foraging for colour, which excited me greatly because I adore anything to do with colour.

“You don’t need a huge national park to find natural color. Inkmaking supplies can be found anywhere plants grow. If you expand your palette to include industrial materials and ingredients from your own kitchen and grocery store, the possibilities become endless.”

When I think a book will be of interest to both Charles and me, I read it aloud to him while he cooks breakfast for us on the weekends. This is one of the books I’ve read to him while he makes magical egg, bread, bacon or sausage concoctions.

Many years ago, Charles and I did a walking tour called The Secret Gardens of Sandy Hill, which was a lovely way to get to see gardens in the backyards of Sandy Hill residents. Often at the front of the residence, there was no way of knowing that a lush colourful garden existed.

This brings to mind Sandra Ridley’s book “Post-Apothecary” which came out with Pedlar Press in 2011. It is an incantatory series of long poem sequences featuring a woman whose illness is used against her and the herbal concoctions that keep her docile and dozing.

I am about to brew some nettle tea and before I do, I will read you this excerpt from Witchipedia on its history and folklore.

I have yet to go on one of Jane’s Walks. Jane Jacobs was a magnificent advocate for the creation and sustainment of the liveable city, integrated environments that prioritized people and the environment over cars and consumerism.   Janes Walks take place all over North America in May, including Ottawa. This year, I suspect they will be cancelled, but let’s all plan to attend one in the future. Jane’s Walk Ottawa is planning to have their in-person festival in September:

For the Small Machine Talks, I wanted to start a series within the podcast that featured wandering about with writers. The first of the series was Episode 39 in Season 2 with Toronto poet, Jennifer LoveGrove. We wandered to various second hand clothing stores in Ottawa and enjoyed coffee and conversation at Art House on Somerset. I hope to do more of these types of episodes when the physical distancing requirement has been lifted.

I have a plan one day to visit Toronto again and walk through a ravine with writer and friend Amy Lavender Harris. Her book “Imagining Toronto” (Mansfield Press, 2010) is an exploration of Toronto as seen through fiction, poetry and essays. In a section entitled “The Poetics of Walking” which describes Toronto’s contemporary culture of urban explorers, Amy quotes “Walking Off The Map,” a 2006 essay by John Bentley Mays: “They are all walkers, and their tread along the city’s streets is intent and focused. We see them moving at the pace of dowsers looking for streams buried beneath the pavement; and dowers they are, these seekers for the fugitive urban imaginary in the solid matter of the city.”

Jane meets W.B. Yeats – Tanis MacDonald

Tanis MacDonald’s book, Mobile (Book*Hug Press, 2019) is described as an “uncivil feminist reboot of Dennis Lee’s Civil Elegies and Other Poems; an urban lament about female citizenship and urban culpability; an homage to working and walking women in a love/hate relationship with Toronto, its rivers and creeks, its sidewalks and parks, its history, misogyny and violence.”

In her Notes on Section 2: Jane Walks, Tanis writes that it “picks up the many iterations of the Crazy Jane figure as written by many poets, but most specifically in eight poems by W.B. Yeats. In addition, this section takes as its guiding spirit, Jane Jacobs, the great urban critic who moved to Toronto in 1968 and lived in the Annex Neighbourhood from 1971 to 2006.

Jane meets W.B. Yeats is a rewrite of Yeats “Sailing to Byzantium.”

Flaneur Magazine, Fragments of a Street, is a nomadic independent magazine, focussing on one street per issue. A friend who moved from Ottawa to Montreal introduced me to it. One issue focuses on Montreal’s Rue Bernard with gorgeous, full colour photos of alleyways in the dark, lit by lampligt, poetic fragments of text about wandering, essays about people who live on Berard: barbers, immigrants from Kosovo, Portugal, photo essays with graffiti and fashionable people.

“The act of walking is the act of reflecting. The reflections of the street become fragments of an inner mirror – what seems like a logical linear collection of stones, asphalt and street signs is deconstructed through the mind.” from Confessions by Richard Messner.

Cole Swensen’s wonderful book response to various writers and philosophers, On Walking On is dog-eared to the max. The book was published by one of my favourite American publishers, Nightboat Books in 2017.

When I think of wandering and poetry, I also think of a friend and poet, Chris Turnbull’s wonderful project Rout/e Rout/e has manifested in several iterations over the years but in some way always combines nature with poetry. In her 2015 essay published in AngelHousePress’s essay series, Chris writes “a footpress I use to place poetry on trails, is formally a way of placing poems in the way of people. But not necessarily masses of people. And not necessarily — and no way to really find out — people who necessarily read poetry. Just people. People on ATV’s, people on snowmobiles, people on skis, people in running shoes, hikers, rubber boots, snowshoes and on bike. The poems are also in the way of the various entities that are with us on trails, such as insects, birds, coyotes, foxes, bears, amphibians, plants (in no particular order). The poems are planted in places that they can be encountered — alongside marshlands, edging bridges, bordering “junk” people have dumped, alongside trees in groves — but not obviously. You could consider them another form of a ‘nature note’ — as if about to identify something local, naturalized, introduced, historical, absented, or, even, a perspective from a vantage point. Insects, birds, coyotes, foxes, bears, and plants move around, on, mark, and incorporate them into their travels as an ordinary thing, indistinct from anything else. People use the trails mostly for recreational activities and yet, most of the time, I don’t encounter anyone else — just tracks: tires, footprints, skis, snowshoes, dog, racoon, snowshoe rabbit, squirrel, mouse, bear, fox, bird, deer.”

I’ve included the link to the essay on the site:

John Thomson, Stilt Jack

Nothing made me want to chase storms and sex, hedonism and the wild, wander through tangled gardens and drink whisky more than John Thompson’s ghazals, Stilt Jack. The book was rereleased by House of Anansi in 2019. The poems are such a compelling combination of the still and the wild. I read XVI

To close I will leave you with one of my favourite poems, Irises by Li-Young Lee, which I’m reading from in A Book of Luminous Things, An International Anthology of Poetry, Czeslaw Milosz, Ed. 1996

Consider this Earth, the first of the four elements, I hope to be discussing in subsequent months.

Here’s a 57-song playlist to go with the episode

Additional Resources

My ever blooming list of garden-related films:

My list of bicycle and women films:

The Feminist History of Bicycles

Shawna Lemay’s wonderful Transactions with Beauty blog to listen to the sounds of people in a café, or the rain.

the sounds of a summer forest

For the Love of Trees, A Guide to the Trees of Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm Arboretum (General Store Publishing House, 2007)

From Walk Ups to High-Rise, Ottawa’s Historic Apartment Buildings (Heritage Ottawa, 2017)

Jane Jacobs, The Life and Death of Great American Cities (Vintage Books, Random House, 1992)

Thanks to Charles for processing the recording, thanks to Jennifer Pederson for the intro and outro, thanks to all the poets, musicians, artists, film makers, directors and actors, living and dead who contributed to this episode and thanks to you for listening.

Stay tuned for the next episode in May. I’m not sure what it will be yet, but I’m hoping to post it at the end of the month.

Episode 56: Solo Book Chat – Adele Barclay’s Renaissance Normcore and If I Were In A Cage I’d Reach Out For You

Episode 56: Adele Barclay’s Renaissance Normcore and If I Were In A Cage I’d Reach Out For You

with Amanda Earl

recorded on Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Hello everyone and welcome to episode 56 of the Small Machine Talks. I’m Amanda Earl and I’m recording the episode solo today from my home. My co-host, a.m. kozak is not here because we’re all supposed to stay in our own homes these days.

If you’re a regular listener to the podcast, you may have noticed that Aaron and I have mentioned Adele Barclay a fair bit. We had the chance to meet her and hear her read from If I Were In A Cage I’d Reach Out To You at the Tree Reading Series in 2016.

When I heard Adele was coming to VERSeFest this year, I was excited and invited her to be on the podcast for an interview. Unfortunately, the festival, along with everything else, had to be cancelled. All being well, Adele will return to Ottawa, to the festival another time and we’ll have a chance to do the interview. In the meantime, I thought I’d share my thoughts on Renaissance Normcore.

You’ll notice that I’m reading prepared notes, for the most part. Doing the podcast alone is an odd experience. I always prepare but when I am not alone, it is a conversation as opposed to a monologue. I’ll try to add in some asides and I’ll likely stumble a bit. I’m not going to ask Charles to erase those stumbles. I hope it doesn’t make the listening arduous. This is an experiment. All being well, I won’t be podcasting alone again or if it’s something you don’t mind, perhaps I will. These days it’s all moment by moment.

I first wanted to talk about my practice of reading poetry as both a poetry fan and a writer of the stuff. As someone who enjoys reading poetry, I read for pleasure and interest. If as I’m reading, whether it’s an individual poem, a chapbook or a book, something resonates for me, I become curious and want to engage more deeply with the work. As a writer, I want to understand the craft, look at the metaphors, for example. So I’ll read through the book several times more and if I do that, I’ll usually write about it to share with others and I may even reach out to the poets of the works to share my thoughts. I usually give a shout out on social media and write a small note on GoodReads. Sometimes I’ll write something more detailed for my blog or a site. If they have other books or chapbooks out, I do my best to seek out those works as well to notice commonalities and differences between the works.

When I’m working on a new manuscript, I will often run through my head to see who else has done something similar and revisit it, looking at the way they handled a problem or challenge I’m having with my work. The more I read, the better I can write. I just realized I make it sound quite systematic. It’s not really. It’s more of a write a bit, go back, rummage through my shelves to a book or chapbook or individual poem that I know is doing something similar or perhaps ask folks on Facebook.

Renaissance Normcore by Adele Barclay, published by Nightwood Editions in 2019 is a book of humour and vulnerability, light and dark, grief, rebellion, feminism, queer community, magic, emotional and sexual candour, anthems, shared music, pop culture and literature.

The cover designed by Carleton Wilson and featuring art by Cate Webb is lovely, a vase decorated with flowers and teardrops (or drops of blood) with a door at its centre overlays the front and back covers surrounded by slivers of moon on each side at the top and waves at the bottom, which evokes, for me a woman’s body.

Cate Webb is a tattoo artist, oil painter and owner of the Black Cat, which is located in Fernwood, Victoria, BC. The spirituality and themes of the occult of her aesthetic in her work and  in particular through the cover art of the book align well with the book.

I don’t feel like artists and cover designers get enough credit for the fine work they do. In fact, it would be a cool subject for a podcast episode. I’ve been a fan of Carleton Wilson’s design for many years. Carleton is also the publisher of Junction Books in Toronto.

Back to Renaissance Normcore!

The title “Renaissance Normcore” feels like the first of many contrasts to be found in the book. Renaissance clothing is doublets and vests, waist cinches and corsets, evocative of an earlier era. Normcore is 21st century unisex clothing, or as High Snobiety reports, “So normcore — essentially a joke that got out of hand — is about embracing the mundane and following the crowd, flying in the face of alternative subcultures and more challenging or bold approaches to fashion.”

The book contains five parts with individual poems in each part and one poem series, “Cardinal Signs Just Wanna Have Fun” in part two.

A poem series also occurs in each part, each title beginning with “I’m in an open relationship with

1. the Sun;

2. the Moon;

3. the Ocean;

4. the Fire in My Body That Keeps Me Up at Night

5. the Earth

The elements fire, water, air and earth are repeated throughout the book.

It opens with two epigraphs from songs by Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kelly (Silver Lining) and Fiona Apple (Werewolf). The entire book features so many references to music, that it isn’t surprising that Adele created a Spotify playlist of 33 songs. There are 44 poems in the book and many of the songs or the musicians in the playlist are mentioned in the book. Float On by Modest Mouse is on the playlist but with a cover by Misty Mtn and appears in the poem, “Burn It All Down With Water”: I’d like to float on okay/but then I read about the singer from Modest Mouse” (p. 19). A number of the songs on the playlist are covers, such as Bats for Lashes beautiful rendering of Springsteen’s I’m On Fire. where she changes the lyrics from girl to boy, or Aqua’s Barbie Girl redone in a slow rhythm by Tanae with the gorgeous soulful voice of Thana Fayad. Hole, Fiona Apple, Lana del Ray, Lorde  are all on the soundtrack and many of them are mentioned in the book. I had fun going through the book while listening to the soundtrack, I mean playlist! looking for connections. I listen to the soundtrack a lot. One lovely inclusion on the playlist is One Line by Elissa Barclay, who died after a struggle with concussion and PTSD in November, 2019. Elissa was known in Toronto’s indie music community as Warrior Girl. Adele raised money through a gofund me campaign to pay for the production of Elissa’s second album, Tales of an Underground Compassion Clinic.

I’d like to start first by reading the poem “Live Through This” as an homage to Elissa. p. 29

The opening poem of the book and part 1, “You Don’t Have to Choose But You Do”

feels like it sets up the recurring contrasts that appear throughout the book. The poem explores binaries through pop culture, literary references and nature.

Later in the book, the speaker of the poem mentions their “Veronia-Jughead hybridity.”– transformation from one state to another is also prevalent in the book.


blood /stone

solid (permanent) / not solid (either liquid or ethereal or ephemeral):

tiny / vast (toy boat to super nova in We Are Stupid Little Animals (p. 14-15)

nesting – a cell with a semi-permeable/membrane inside an organism/inside an ecosystem (Burn It All Down with Water, p. 19)

Naming people (first name for friends, full names for literary references) and places

Queerness –

Sexual candour

Power exchange vocabulary

Transformations from one state to another

References to writing and making poems

Elements of dark or wry humour

Vocabulary of therapy

Childhood trauma


Magic and The Occult (astrology, the Tarot)

I’m going to read the first poem which encompasses a lot of the elements I’ve mentioned: You Don’t Have to Choose But You Do (p. 13)

The structure and the repeated imagery of the book is evocative of the Tarot with its opposing card structure.

I could do whole essays on the materiality of the text, the way the weather works in the book to add to/articulate the mood: “autumn knocks a dent/into her depression/that winter packs with ice” How to Enforce Boundaries with Physical Geography -. 17

I could go through the book for its wry humour, a way of dealing with trauma that many of us have, a certain darkness. See Burn It All Down with Water, for example. or The Fish: “if all the queers of East Van/braided their hair together/we’d have to look/sexual tension in the eye”p. 20

I decided to reread If I Were In A Cage, I’d Reach Out For You, Adele’s first poetry collection (Nightwood Editions, 2016) to see if there were commonalities and differences, recurring imagery and themes.

The book also contains five parts with two repeated series throughout the book: Aubade with 4 poems and Dear Sara with 6 poems, which has a continuation in Renaissance Normcore with a seventh poem.

Cage also names specific people and places. Both books give a sense of community, particularly queer community. One of the biggest similarities was the use of opposites, which occurs in both books: “night winces open and light brushes closed” in Aubade I (p. 18), “Sleepwalking I fetch fire out in the rain”

and the contrast between the small and the large is also in both books too. “leashed tigers paraded in to pray/under the great hall’s open lungs” Sara II, p. 27

There are a few specific references to music here too. “Music is architecture, a bridge’s counterweight in the shape/of a horse, the undertow of a harbour pulling a red tide” Aubade II, p. 32

Both books have great and unusual juxtapositions, such as The Gates of Dawn, p. 53 “The city stretches its belly, fills me with wine,/gingersnaps, beetroot, applesauce./Streets steeped in ghost waste and urine/in every water closet.”

and in Renaissance Normcore – Spell for Pisces New Moon “Neptune tells me/this fever is real and imaginary (another contrast) paints my dreams new colours; lilacs on fire, percussive forest, blue that blushes, pepper rose.”

I read from Materials p. 20 of Cage.

If I Were In A Cage I’d Reach Out For You is a feral furry neon film noir earthy collection of desire and melancholy. It’s Coraline at a carnival pulling tarot cards for a wolf in a unicorn costume. It’s darkly sensual. It’s plum sensual. It gave me a craving for pickled herring.

I enjoyed the opportunity to engage with Adele’s poetry and look forward to interviewing her here in Ottawa on the Small Machine Talks, the next time she’s here, possibly at VERSeFest.

I hope you are all taking care of yourselves and your loved ones are safe and healthy too. This is a tough time. I’m glad I have piles of poetry to get me through, and I hope you do too. Thanks for listening.

Thanks to my husband, Charles Earl, for techno wizardry, to Jennifer Pederson for intro and outro musical wizardry.

You can read more about Adele on her site:

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.

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