Trobairitz (Catherine Owen) – Poetry Squee. :-)

So. While I was at VERSeFest, I picked up Catherine Owen’s latest poetry collection, Trobairitz, about-which I will now squee at length. 😀

Book Cover – Trobairitz (Catherine Owen) The author, bespiked and with black hair flying, wailing on her bass. Yes.

Me being me, perhaps its no surprise that I saw the cover and had to at least check it out. 😉
I pulled it off the merch table, and checked the description on the back cover:
Twenty-first century metalheads; twelfth century troubadours and their female counterparts, the trobairitz—what could they possibly have in common? The creation of an often misunderstood and at times reviled genre for one; for another, a kin preoccupation with the questioning of structures set up by class, gender, and religion.
So far, so good. That she got a blurb from Kate Braid (one of my favourite poets – you can listen to some of her poetry here) didn’t hurt, either.
But it was the random sellection – open the book at a random page, and see what’s there – that sold it for me.
I landed on a poem called “Metal Show” – a piece which, the next night, she performed in a spitfire style that would be at home on local slam stages – my heart sundered by the opening words “Tribe is what they are”. So, too, for Tribute (dedicated to RJ Dio), and for Plazer 3, for the Canso of As It Is, for the way she takes old forms and builds them into new situations, reforges those links between one rebelious, heretical musical tradition and another.
I’m biased, I know. I love the subject matter. Love metal, love music history, love this history of women’s voices, too. It’s my kind of book. 🙂
If it sounds like your kind of book, I recommend that you check it out, too. 🙂


Review 2: The Honey Month – Amal El-Mohtar

Hello again.

So, as we wend our way towards the next season of Voices of Venus, I’m spending my time writing, gardening, and – of course – pouring over poetry, in print and in the flesh.

The launch of the Summer edition of the Bywords Quarterly Journal went off well, last Sunday, and was followed by Dusty Owl Presents featuring local poet and playwrite Joanne John — there were a heap of awesome poetry-chicks there, btw, and I’m looking forward to seeing at least some of them at our next show.

Additionally, the latest issue of free, online magazine Goblin Fruit just came out today, so I’ve been enjoying that all afternoon.  (Seriously.  Check out Elizabeth R. McClellan’s “The Sea Witch Talks Show Business” — it’s awesome, and the voice-recording, provided by S.J. Tucker, is gorgeous).

It’s actually with Goblin Fruit in mind that I chose our next book review.  See, Goblin Fruit is co-edited by one Amal El-Mohtar, VoV alumna and quite the delightful poet herself.

A year ago (literally – she was our July 2010 feature performer) a packed house collectively swooned over the poems that comprise The Honey Month.

This book is the written-down equivalent of a live-album.  Each piece takes its inspiration directly from a different vial of honey, each one of them a gift from an equally honey-minded friend.

The result is a slim volume of sensual, whimsical poetry that explores every aspect of honey and human connection.  A smell vaguely remenscent of “sweaty underthings” gives rise to a poem about awakening sexuality and deceptive appearances of innocence.  A taste like lychee conjures up mysterious strangers, desires, and fairy food.  A name brings forth a symbolic language and a promise of ownership.  Thistle Honey, with its complex, playful taste becomes a story about awkward fairy encounters on the moors.  French Chestnut Honey, with its colour like “sunshine in Ottawa”, calls up the tale of a girl who had forgotten how to kiss, and how she is reminded.

Of course, my favourite – me being me – is #27, Leatherwood Honey.  If you are of a kinky turn of mind, this poem alone will make the book worth buying.  If you aren’t, I’m sure there are other pieces in this volume that will speak to you.

– Cheers,

– A.

July 2011 Show in Brief

So.  Our July show was last night, and our Feature Performer was Allison Shaw, a young, Ottawa poet who I chanced to find through one of her pieces, which was published in ARC Poetry magazine.


Before last night, I’d read all of one of Allison Shaw’s poems, and was otherwise unfamiliar with her work.  We took a chance on her, figuring that her publication record and her arts-specialization education were indications of both talent and skill as a writer.  I think the risk paid off.


Allison is a talented poet and, at nineteen, her craft and her stage presence are only going to get better with time.  As for her poems, themselves:  I particularly enjoyed the piece about her grandfather, talking about memory, about what stays and what disappears with age.  I also enjoyed her piece about Odysseus and Calypso, the last lines of which were particularly poignant.  And I loved her Paradise Lost-inspired piece, which talked about the Fall from the perspective of Lucifer.  That one gave me tingles.


I’ve suggested that, as a poet who writes on fantastical themes, she might consider checking out Goblin Fruit magazine and, potentially, submitting something.


I, for one, am looking forward to seeing Allison Shaw at subsequent Voices of Venus events, and hope that she’ll grace us with her talents during the open mic portion of our shows.



Stay tuned.  August’s show brings us the poetic stylings of Sarah Musa (who is competing in the Urban Legends Finals this Friday, the 15th, at the GCTC, FYI).  Come out, take part, and enjoy the show.



– Cheers,

– Allison.

REVIEW 1: Some Days I Think I Know Things – Rhonda Douglas

So. Welcome to the first VoV Book Review Post.

I decided to start with a piece by a local poet. Rhonda Douglas is an Ottawa gal, although she’s originally from Grand Bank, Nfld. She’s won a slew of prizes – from the Gregory J. Power Poetry Contest to the Far Horizons Award for Poetry to the Diana Brebner Prize – and has been published across Canada and also in New Zealand.

The book in question is Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems, which was published by Signature Editions in 2008.

This is the story of the Fall of Troy, but not only the Fall of Troy, as told from the point of view of Cassandra, the prophet-princess to-whom no-one listened.

The poems talk about rape, about denial, about religion, about resolve.

There are a number of pieces presented by the Chorus – found poems and pieces constructed out of clichés, the things random strangers think it’s appropriate to say to a woman, to a girl. These are some of my favourite pieces in the book. “On Gods” and “On Self-Improvement”, in particular.

I also like pieces like “A List of Things Carried by the Women on Their One Allotted Day”, the un/subtle song of what each item means, might mean, might cause, why it’s dangerous for a slave to dress herself well; or “Loneliness of Frogs” and “Water Will Leave You Like a Lover”, two of the prophecy poems that touch on Y2K, environmental degradation, and the scramble to unmake our own mistakes.

I like this book. The poems flow well together, and you get a good sense of the voices of both the characters and the narrator. The first piece in the collection, “Imagining Cassandra”, ends with the words “I’m just saying you might // want to think about it // before you open the door”.

All warnings aside, I encourage you to let this story in.

– Cheers,
– Allison.