Monthly Archives: March 2013

Celebrating the beautiful book object – Seldom Seen Road, by Jenna Butler

Although the calendar says it’s spring tomorrow, Mother Nature is having none of it here in Toronto. As a howling wind swept around my house in the east end yesterday, variously tossing down rain, snow, sleet and hail in succession, a little package arrived from Edmonton’s NeWest Press. When I opened the package, it was as if a warm spring breeze wafted out …

Seldom Seen Road, by Jenna Butler, published by NeWest Press

Flipping through, sampling intriguing dashes of poetry from Jenna Butler’s third collection, I found I was as enamoured by the fresh first impressions of the physical book as I was by the words on the page. No surprise, then, to discover that this book’s design was imagined with the signature subtlety, attention to detail and fidelity to the subject matter that characterizes all of Natalie Olsen’s fine work. (Learn more about her work and creative process at her Kisscut Design blog.)

Seldom Seen Road, by Jenna Butler, published by NeWest Press

Seldom Seen Road, by Jenna Butler, published by NeWest Press

Seldom Seen Road, by Jenna Butler, published by NeWest Press

Seldom Seen Road, by Jenna Butler, published by NeWest Press

The lattice of leaves and tendrils, underpinning the themes and images of nature throughout Butler’s collection, is echoed throughout the book. Swoon … even wee leaves sprout from the page numbers. Spring is in the air!

Just as the book’s epigraph from George Melnyk states, “the visual turns visionary.”

Thank you to NeWest Press for providing a review copy of Seldom Seen Road, by Jenna Butler.

300 poets and poetry translators at a table

Gathered at a table

William Blake and Robin Blaser have a meeting of minds over appetizers, and the rest of the vibrant, clattering table of poets fades into the background. Lucy Maud Montgomery drops her napkin and Jacob Arthur Mooney gallantly picks it up and returns it to her. Kimmy Beach and Brendan Behan plot postprandial mayhem over dessert, and convince Milton Acorn, Helen Adam, Al Purdy and Paul Quarrington to join them. Suzanne Buffam flirts with Charles Bukowski. Margaret Avison has reassuring words for Ken Babstock. Billy Collins and John Cooper Clarke swiftly find they have much in common; Warren Zevon and Jan Zwicky are less certain of that, but are cordial and collegial nonetheless.

I’ve been tweeting a #todayspoem tweet every day since December 26, 2011, inspired by this. In addition to revisiting and going deeper in my own poetry collection, #todayspoem has compelled me to go further afield in print and online, and my daily tweets have reflected both my own explorations and those sparked by other #todayspoem contributors. So, while I’m imagining what this first 300 poets I’ve tweeted would have to say to each other if I sat them at a table … I’m also imagining the new guests who will be joining them in the days, weeks and months to come.

The illustration, added with good-humoured respect for all fine poets and translators, is Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party — Illustration to the fifth chapter of Alice in Wonderland by John Tenniel. Wood-engraving by Thomas Dalziel (from

World Read Aloud Day – March 6, 2013

World Read Aloud Day

March 6, 2013, is World Read Aloud Day, an awareness day advocating for literacy as a human right. The event is championed by LitWorld, a non-profit literacy organization fostering resilience, hope, and joy through the power of story. Since 2010, the organization has been encouraging people worldwide to celebrate by reading aloud, giving away a book, or taking action in any way you can to “Read It Forward” on behalf of the 793 million people who cannot yet read or write.

As LitWorld describes it, World Read Aloud Day creates a community of people who are advocating for every child’s right to learn to read and technology that will make them lifelong readers. Read It Forward creates a ripple effect that resonates around the world with the power of story and shared words.

LitWorld invites everyone to visit them online to join the Read It Forward movement. They offer free downloadable activity kits full of ideas for children, teens, families, educators, and professionals. You can also follow LitWorld on Facebook and Twitter.

Countless articles and studies tout the many benefits of reading aloud – of teachers, parents and caregivers reading to children, children to adults, children to each other, aspiring writers of any age reading aloud to themselves. Less documented, perhaps, but equally enjoyable and potent, is adults celebrating the joys of reading with each other. Here among my book blog reviews, I’ve noted that most satisfying practice as enhancing and even markedly improving upon the reading experience with some books, including:

At our house, we’re enjoying this as our read aloud book du jour:

Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock, by Jesse Jarnow

All pretty varied subjects and subject matter, but what they share and what makes them all great are passionate narrators telling lively, vibrant stories with arresting characters (in these cases, all real life) … which makes it a rewarding experience to bring them to life with your own voice and to share them with others.

However you choose to observe World Read Aloud Day, do it with gusto!