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Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover Stowaways

Behind the Poem: Ariel Gordon and the How-To Poems

[August 1, 2014] | By [Kerry Clare]

"Have I studied enough? Have I read enough? How DO you write a poem?"

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Book Cover How Does a Single Blade

On Our Radar

[July 31, 2014] | By [Kerry Clare]

New books by Doretta Lau, Dani Couture, George Murray and Michael Pittman, and Kathryn Palmateer and Martha Solomon.

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Gary Barwin's Red Letter Day

Gary Barwin's Red Letter Day

[July 28, 2014] | By [Kiley Turner]

Gary Barwin has trouble limiting his reads on his imagined perfect day, or for that matter, the ones he'd love to put in …

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Book Cover Flex Appeal

Summer Eats: Thai Slaw from Flex Appeal

[July 24, 2014] | By [Kerry Clare]

This refreshing Thai salad from Pat Crocker and Nettie Cronish's Flex Appeal combines zest and tang for a veritable deli …

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The Interruption: Sean Cranbury Interviews Zsuzsi Gartner

The Interruption: Sean Cranbury Interviews Zsuzsi Gartner

[July 21, 2014] | By [Sean Cranbury]

Today's The Interruption is with Zsuzsi Gartner, author of Better Living Through Plastic Explosives and All the Anxious …

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Book Cover A Siege of Bitterns

Steve Burrows on Birds and Books: The Stuff of Life

[July 21, 2014] | By [Kerry Clare]

There aren’t many things you can do for free while sitting in a chair that will transport you to another world. Readin …

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Book Cover Hoopla

Chilling With Cool DIY Culture

[July 17, 2014] | By [Kerry Clare]

Want to get crafty? Hook a rug? Whittle a whistle? Build a canoe? Here are some books to show you how. 

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Book Cover This One Summer

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Graphic Novels for Summer

[July 16, 2014] | By [Kerry Clare]

Bliss is a hammock in summer and a stack of graphic novels.

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The Interruption: Sean Cranbury Interviews Avi Silberstein

The Interruption: Sean Cranbury Interviews Avi Silberstein

[July 15, 2014] | By [Sean Cranbury]

Today's The Interruption is with Avi Silberstein, author of the political thriller Human Solutions. Avi talks about bask …

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Behind the Scenes: How We Discover Great Canadian Books

[July 14, 2014] | By [Kerry Clare]

Understanding how we find books at 49th Shelf can better help you understand how to make our site work for you.

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Behind the Poem: Ariel Gordon and the How-To Poems

Book Cover Stowaways

Governor-General's Award-winning poet Julie Bruck writes of Ariel Gordon's second collection, Stowaways, "These are nervy poems that refuse to behave themselves. They are something to celebrate." Throughout the collection, the wild and the domestic intersect (and misbehave!) in surprising and illuminating ways. A particular highlight of the book are Gordon's "How-To" poems. In this guest post, Gordon gives us their background, and shares "How to Write a Poem." 

*****

I’ve spent a lot of my life as a passenger.

Sitting with a notebook and a pencil dug from the gritty bottom of my bag while someone else navigated, writing because I’d “seen something.”

We’d arrive somewhere and I’d have no idea where we were. And I’d just shrug, because I’d be hauled home, too. And I had the beginnings of a poem in my notebook, humming to itself smugly.

When I finally got my own car, I was in my mid-30s. And my mental map of Winnipeg was all elaborate bus routes and jaywalking.

But I had to be present when driving my little Prius. I had to monitor the process of getting from A to B, where before I would park my body and just monitor my thoughts, fingers moving over the marked-up pages. 

I mourned a little when I no longer had a long bus ride to university—and a bust-proof y …

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On Our Radar

"On Our Radar" is a monthly 49th Shelf series featuring books with buzz worth sharing. We bring you links to features and reviews about great new books in a multitude of genres from all around the Internet.

*****

How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? by Doretta Lau

From Mark Sampson's review at Free Range Reading

"While the marketing bumpf promises a 'whimsical new take on what it means to be Canadian,' what we actually get is a wild, smash-mouth array of wholly original pieces, a deliberate hodgepodge that puts us an entire galaxy away from the staid 'immigrant-as-nationalism' narrative that is so overdone in our country’s literature. Lau’s pieces run the gamut from the violent and vulgar to the tender and touching. Yes, most of her characters are Asian Canadians struggling to find their way in the world, but each tale stands on its own as a singular thing, carefully wrought with an eye toward pristine originality."

*****

Yaw, by Dani Couture

From Maisonneuve's "Two Poets Discuss" feature

"YAW, as a title, isn’t just appropriate because boat …

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Gary Barwin's Red Letter Day

moonbabooncanoe
redletter

Red Letter Day is the 49th Shelf series originated by George Murray where Canadian authors tell us about a dream day where all pleasures are possible, thanks to a combination of extraordinary talent and mad cash.

Today that day is envisioned by Gary Barwin, author of the poetry collection Moon Baboon Canoe and current writer-in-residence at Western University. Utne Reader cited Barwin, along with filmmaker Guy Maddin, in their assertion that "Canada is producing some of the most innovative creative works of our time."

Here is the premise: It’s been a good year. Things are looking up. You’ve sold your book, some lucrative foreign rights, and won a few prizes. AND it’s your birthday. It’s time to treat yourself. For once, money is no object. It’s time to go live a little.

And so ...

*****

49th Shelf: You walk (or fly!) to your favourite bookstore (GB: Bryan Prince, Bookseller or else Epic Books on Locke, both in Hamilton, Ontario) and browse the shelves for three books you’ve been meaning to buy. What are they?

GB:

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Summer Eats: Thai Slaw from Flex Appeal

Book Cover Flex Appeal

Just as much as summer is all about throwing meat on a grill, summer is also about salad. This refreshing Thai salad from Pat Crocker and Nettie Cronish's Flex Appeal combines zest and tang for a veritable delight, plus it's from a cookbook that provides happy opportunities for meat eaters and herbivores to gather around the table together.  

*****

Thai Slaw

Cabbage and daikon radish are combined with flavours of Asia. Add an exotic fruit for an extra boost of the Orient. —Pat

MAKES 4 SERVINGS

3 cups (750 mL) shredded green cabbage

1 cup (250 mL) shredded daikon radish

1 carrot, shredded

1/4 cup (60 mL) shredded rutabaga

3/4 cup (185 mL) Thai Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

1/4 cup (60 mL) pumpkin seeds, for garnish

 

Thai Slaw

Photo by Pat Crocker, from Flex Appeal (Whitecap Books)

In a salad bowl, combine the cabbage, daikon, carrot and rutabaga. Drizzle the vinaigrette over and toss to combine.

Divide among 4 salad plates or bowls and garnish with pumpkin seeds.

 

Thai Vinaigrette 

MAKES 3/4 CUP (185 mL)

1/2 cup (125 …

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The Interruption: Sean Cranbury Interviews Zsuzsi Gartner

betterlivingthroughplasticexplosives

Welcome to The Interruption, a 49th Shelf–Books on the Radio collaboration in which I interview Canadian writers about the surprising things that inform, inspire, and even interrupt their creative process.

The Interruption is generously sponsored by The UBC Creative Writing Program, celebrating 50 years of excellence in creative writing. Programs include undergraduate minor and major degrees, Masters of Fine Arts in Vancouver or by distance education from anywhere in the world! For more information visit creativewriting.ubc.ca.

Today, I chat with Zsuzsi Gartner, the author of the short fiction collections Better Living Through Plastic Explosives and All the Anxious Girls on Earth, and the editor of Darwin’s Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow. Her stories have been widely anthologized, and broadcast on CBC and NPR’s Selected Shorts. Better Living Through Plastic Explosives was shortlisted for the 2011 Giller Prize.

In the first podcast, Sean and Zsuzsi explore the idea of what can be a productive interruption in a writer's life, as well as the questions Zsuzsi thinks are essential to ask when considering what book one wants to put out in the world. In the second podcast, Zsuzsi reads from a new, unfinished short story, "The Secret Life of Plants."

*****

 

 

  …
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