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The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman by Amanda Earl

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The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman by Amanda Earl
published in an edition of 300 copies, March 1st, 2008
above/ground press, 30pp, $4 (CAN)

Reviewed by Mark McCawley

This particular review is as much about one’s literary influences as it is about the two long poems in question. Growing up and becoming a writer in Alberta, in the early 1980s, one could not help but be influenced by the writings of Robert Kroetsch. His influence was on the wind and in the words of so many writers, it would impossible to name them all in this review. Lest to say, generations of Alberta and Western Canadian poets and fiction writers have been influenced by his works. That he has become a fully fledged Canadian literary icon is really no surprise, either, considering his wide influence upon Canadian Literature, in general. On a more personal level, though, Robert Kroetsch came to my personal rescue in September of 1990, rescuing my then Canada Council sponsored reading (at the last minute) by swearing to the CC jury the validity of the press that had published my book. Indeed, a unique gesture from a poet and writer, who up until that time, I had never once met face-to-face. Thus the unique tapestry of literary influences in the overall Canadian mosiac – the closer one looks, the more one examines, the more intriguing are the literary influences.

Case in point – Amanda Earl’s The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman. In her homage to Robert Kroetsch’s “The Sad Phoenician”, Earl’s long poem reminisces about the exploits and romantic conquests of a woman who loved adverbs (in as much as she loved men) marks a striking contrast to Kroetsch’s poem:

“love hurt him; don’t I know how he felt; just ask me”, “I, The Sad Phoenician of Love, slighted by the woman”

The poet in “The Sad Phoenician” takes on the role of cuckold, lamenting his cuckolding by the women he has known: the girl from Swift Current, the woman from Montreal, yet not once in the poem is there such a word as it applies to women. No wonder the woman from Swift Current had a thing for adverbs, like Amanda Earl. It’s at this point that these two long poems begin to depart, allegorically.
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To the Dogs by Thea Bowering

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To the Dogs by Thea Bowering
published in an edition of 100 copies, 2010
privately printed, 52pp, price unknown

Reviewed by Mark McCawley

Thea Bowering has worked in Edmonton as a bartender, freelance writer, and Film Studies and Creative Writing instructor. Her fiction involves a female flâneur – one who wanders through the streets and avenues, evoking the history of a place, past and present, visiting its bookshops and boutiques, monuments; providing gossip and background to each, all the while looking through blank walls and past mundane edifices glimpsing the human dramas behind and beneath. It is to the conflicting backdrop of Alberta’s Oil Sector and Edmonton’s University culture that Bowering has set her postrealist novelette, To the Dogs.

Bowering’s narrative circles around the female protagonist, narrator, bartender and flâneur, Riel (after Louis Riel) and the romantic love triangle she finds herself a part of with the emotional and psychological grifter and conman, Billy, and the quintessential other woman: Jasmine. In her search for meaning and love, Riel wrestles with concepts of truth and self knowledge throughout To the Dogs, evoking “a hell of the mind” in as much as the possibility of the existence of any potential future:

After living with The Poor, he [Orwell] concluded that: the great redeeming feature of poverty is that it annihilates the future.

That was it. This was the key to Billy and Jasmine’s world that I couldn’t go down into. Somehow Billy and Jasmine had escaped tragedy by staying in the middle of it. They could stand anything. For them, happiness was merely a series of moral lessons missed. Jasmine would forever continue her theatrics in front of her camera, and her eyes would shine with the excitement of love renewed, over and over again; and Billy, he would continue to operate and rot under the guise of union. In the ongoing present there are no sins, only actions, and nobody dies from them. Well, if they do, it’s only another action. Something for all those oil professionals, with their 50 thousand dollar trucks, to run over and obliterate. (To the Dogs, p.44)

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Will the Real Matthew Firth Step Forward, Please?

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Shag Carpet Action
by Matthew Firth
Publisher: Anvil Press
Price: $18.00 paper
ISBN: 978-1-89753-584-4

One of the major difficulties of writing transgressive, post-realist urban fiction in Canada is how that writing, by and large, is received by reviewers. Largely lacking the critical wherewithal to appropriately interpret transgressive, post-realist urban fiction, reviewers simply regurgitate publisher press releases — often verbatim — then proceed to act as spoilers by giving up what the book is about, story by story, along with a few pithy interpretations.

Matthew Firth, born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, and now living in Ottawa where he works by day for a national trade union has experienced these haphazard literary reviews ever since the publication of his first three collections of transgressive, post-realist short stories: Fresh Meat (Rush Hour Revisions, 1997), Can You Take Me There, Now? (Alley Cat Editions, 2001), and Suburban Pornography and Other Stories (Anvil Press, 2006).
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Electronic Church Muzik by ANT-BEE

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Just about anyone familiar with underground, avant-garde music over the last 30 years is bound to be familiar with the name ANT-BEE, aka Billy James, a North Carolina native and Berklee College of Music graduate who first came to prominence in the late 1980s when signed to the notorious Los Angeles record label, Voxx/Bomp.

Rumoured about for quite some time among long-time fans, ANT-BEE’s Electronic Church Muzik is James’ mini-opus, his homage to the late sixties, early seventies psychedelic freak scene.
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Front&Centre Magazine — Special Edition #25: edited by Matthew Firth, Bill Brown

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“Matthew Firth’s seminal, wonderful, creme-de-la-creme lit mag is a must for anyone remotely interested in bold new writing. Each issue is full of the cream of new, ballsy, international writing and should be devoured, cherished and held onto as gold-dust for when the painstakingly selected talent on offer make it inevitably massive. One of the very best which I heartily recommend you subscribe to.” ~Laura Hird

The latest Special Edition of Front&Centre, Issue 25, is a collection of riveting new short fiction from:

Zsolt Alapi, David Burdett, Christine Catalano, Julie McArthur, David Rose, Daniel MacIsaac, Chelsea Novak, Jeremy Hanson-Finger, Stacey Madden and Zachery Alapi.
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