Sensational Sherri by Nathaniel G. Moore

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Sensational Sherri by Nathaniel G. Moore
Black Bile’s One-off Chapbook Series 3
Black Bile Press, 20pp, $5.00 (CAN)

Reviewed by Mark McCawley

In “Sensational” Sherri Nathaniel G. Moore — Toronto based poet, short fiction writer, cultural activist, and editor of the online cultural magazine Critical Crushes — has written a transgressive, allegorical home-movie-like story of lust, booze, violence, nostalgia, pornography and obsession. In the story, we follow a thirtysomething Ricky Galore, a down and out ex-backyard wrestler in the throes of mediocrity on the verge of tapping out:

“When you tap out, you give up. That’s what it is called: tapping out, he’s tapping out, he just tapped out, surrendering, quitting: he had been giving up each night since the last time he saw Sherri.
Tapping out, counted out, whatever it took to go back through the little curtain backstage, feeling like a total piece of shit.”

By using the media of Wrestling as a virtual substructure for the ongoing relationship between Ricky and Sherri – beautiful, young and sought after – Moore has fashioned a Baudrillardean hyperreality whereby the real and the simulated are as interchangable as the professional wrestlers on pay per view — performances with predetermined outcomes between wrestlers with fictional personalities portrayed as real:

“Everything was fake and did fake things; small moths moved, chomped ice, hot breathing burbled nouns and the go-to: I know . . . I know! I know! trademarked after each utterance TM TM TM, and totally or tots.”

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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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The Music of Monique Ortiz — review by Mark McCawley

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The Music of Monique Ortiz


review by Mark McCawley


I first discovered the music of Monique Ortiz on in 2005, through the music of the late Mark Sandman and his band, Morphine. At once, I was struck by the literary quality of Ortiz’ lyrics. Sandman, whose lyrics had an almost Beat quality to them, or the late Warren Zevon, whose lyrics also shared a dark, satirical, and sardonic literary terrain with those of Ortiz – is very much comparable with that of Jim Morrison, Nick Cave, and Patti Smith. Ortiz unique lyrical abilities, along with her deep, velvety contralto voice – combined with her near hypnotic percussive and sliding instrumental bass style creates a sound that is uniquely and individually her own.
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