Off the Page

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

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Book Cover Between Breaths

Books for Earth Day

By [Kerry Clare]

Fantastic books for readers of all ages and across genres, about nature, ecology, and conservation. 

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The Chat With Jessica Westhead

The Chat With Jessica Westhead

By [Trevor Corkum]

Jessica Westhead has an uncanny ability to combine humour and despair in her writing. In her latest collection, Things N …

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Book Cover The Honey Farm

A slow, creeping madness...

By [Kerry Clare]

It seems that Canadian literature is rife with stories of isolated characters and their slow creeping madnesses. And yes …

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Book Cover Yes or Nope

16 Seriously Funny Poets

By [Kerry Clare]

A totally scientific list of the funniest poets in all of Canada.

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Book Cover Surfaces

Eric Schmaltz: Reading at the Intersection of Text and Image

By [Kerry Clare]

"These books highlight the intersection of text and image to create compelling explorations of linguistic meaning-making …

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The Recommend: April 2018

The Recommend: April 2018

By [Kiley Turner]

This month we're pleased to present the picks of Shawna Lemay (The Flower Can Always Be Changing), Andrew Battershill (M …

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Book Cover the Return of Kid Cooper

Reimagining the Old West

By [Kerry Clare]

A recommended reading list by Brad Smith, who (according to Dennis Lehane) is "a writer to watch, a comet on the horizon …

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The Chat With Kevin Chong

The Chat With Kevin Chong

By [Trevor Corkum]

A modern-day story of infectious disease and rising social inequality, The Plague is Kevin Chong’s take on Camus’ cl …

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Logo National Poetry Month

Celebrating 20 Years of National Poetry Month

By [Kerry Clare]

This April, National Poetry Month is all about looking back and moving forward. It’s the twentieth anniversary of Nati …

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Sangria

Say YES to Sangria

By [Kerry Clare]

An excerpt from Emily Lycopolus' new cookbook, Spain: Recipe for Olive Oil and Vinegar Lovers

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Books for Earth Day

A round-up of fantastic books for readers of all ages and across genres, about nature, ecology, and conservation. 

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Between Breaths, by Robert Chafe

About the book: Jon Lien was once a respected researcher and a risk-taker, swimming into dangerous waters to save whales and the fishing gear they were trapped in. But now Jon’s confined to land, living his last years in a wheelchair with brain damage after an accident and illness.

The man who rescued over 500 whales around the world stretches his mind in memories of release and salvation. His powerful story swims backward through time, as he goes from worrying his wife and frustrating his friend, to being a reckless starter and adventurer, to lecturing university classes, to his very first encounter with a whale.

Robert Chafe crafts a raw portrayal of the true story of Dr. Jon Lien, Newfoundland’s “Whale Man,” into a tale of perseverance, control, and compassion.

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Landscape into Eco Art: Articulations of Nature Since the '60s, by Mark Cheetham

About the book: Dedicated to an articulation of the earth f …

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The Chat With Jessica Westhead

JWesthead-Authorphoto-WEB-res
TREVOR CORKUM cropped

Jessica Westhead has an uncanny ability to combine humour and despair in her writing. In her latest collection, Things Not to Do, we meet folks at the end of their rope who still manage to unearth wry and gorgeous moments in their day-to-day lives.

The Toronto Star agrees, stating, “Westhead brings empathy and humour to everyday absurdities with believable and recognizable characters.” Steven Beattie, writing for the Globe and Mail, says her writing “is infused with a generosity that is infectious: It draws a reader in and demands an emotional accounting.”

It’s a pleasure to speak to Jessica about her new work.

Jessica Westhead’s fiction has been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards, selected for the Journey Prize anthology, and nominated for a National Magazine Award. She is the author of the novel Pulpy & Midge and the critically acclaimed short story collection And Also Sharks, which was a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book and a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Short Fiction Prize.

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THE CHAT WITH JESSICA WESTHEAD

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A slow, creeping madness...

The Honey Farm is Harriet Alida Lye's debut novel, billed as "Vintage Margaret Atwood meets Patricia Highsmith" and "a slyly seductive debut set on an eerily beautiful farm teeming with secrets." In this recommended reading list, she shares books that have informed her work and/or make fine companions to The Honey Farm.

It seems that Canadian literature is rife with stories of isolated characters and their slow creeping madnesses. And yes, some of them do end up engaging in intimate relations with bears...

*****

All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews

One of my all-time favourite books that I push onto everyone. The writing is conversational, hilarious, deeply moving; the characters are so vivid I still think of them often. Miriam Toews handles the seriousness of her subject matter with grace and love, and through the curious, fumbling, lovable narrator she is able to explore the many ways in which mental health affects a whole family. The love between the two sisters is so beautifully rendered, and the tragedy of how one wants to die and the other wants her to …

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16 Seriously Funny Poets

Poetry just isn't that funny.

This is the kind of outlandish and generalized subjective-disguised-as-objective statement critics make about poetry all the time, donning their authority as one might don a hat. Critics do the same thing with humour—as though funny can be definitive, as though it wasn't kind of weird that one guy gets to be the definer.

So now I'm going to do that too, and pretend the following list is scientific and totally not subjective and not at all compromised by the list being limited to books I happen to have on my bookshelf. I'm going to put on the hat and OWN my authority: Behold, sixteen seriously funny poets.

Thanks to Dina Del Bucchia for the inspiration. And in the spirit of conversation (and expanding the limits of science) please tweet us YOUR favourite funny Canadian poems and poets @49thShelf

*****

Fake Paul, by Kimmy Beach

What's so funny:

...now he asks if anyone is called Michelle

I could fucking be Michelle

a frumpy woman with grease

in her hair calls, I'm Michelle!

 

she's not even looking at him

she's talking to her friends while he sings

                       to her!

he doesn't even look at me the whole song

I'll tell him I broke the wineglass accidentally 

cut myself a bit but I'm all right

leave my blood on the table

 

I can see the veins …

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Eric Schmaltz: Reading at the Intersection of Text and Image

Book Cover Surfaces

Pushing writing to its limits, Surfaces is Eric Schmaltz’s compelling debut collection, situated at the intersection of language, bodies, and digital culture. In this recommended reading list, he recommends other books where text and image are working together. 

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The list presented here could be much longer than a list of ten books, which also means there are many omissions. However, this list consists of ten books published within the last ten years or so that have struck me as indispensable collections of visually based poems. These books highlight the intersection of text and image to create compelling explorations of linguistic meaning-making through not just reading, but also seeing, gazing, and skimming.

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Un/Inhabited, by Jordan Abel 

Published two years before his Griffin Poetry Prize winning Injun, Jordan Abel’s Un/Inhabited is one of the most striking poetry collections of recent years that fuses text and image. A research-based book that intervenes into the mentality of the settler-colonial Western novel, Abel recasts that genre’s langua …

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