IFOA 2016 Blog Tour


This year to continue to spread the word about the great authors and books at the Festival we reached out to Toronto-based bloggers to review some of this year’s lineup. Check them out!

photo-kerry-c-blog-tour-ifoa2016KERRY CLARE is a failed pickler who has been writing about books and reading at Pickle Me This for more than 10 years now. Her debut novel, Mitzi Bytes, will be published in the spring. Read Kerry’s review of Lola Lafon’s The Little Communist Who Never Smiled here.





photo-teena-d-blog-tour-ifoa2016TEENA DAWSON is originally from Nova Scotia and has lived in Toronto for almost thirty years. Her love of culture is broad and she writes about her experiences at Teena in Toronto. Though she has always enjoyed reading, she has a particular fondness for Canadian authors and she has been writing about their works for many years. Teena reviewed Advocate by Darren Greer. You can read her review here.






illus-christine-n-blog-tour-ifoa2016-credit-kelly-duncanCHRISTINE NGUYEN is a 26-year-old bookish blogger, student and occasional-cupcake-eater, who posts about reading and book hauls and other bookish things at Padfoot’s Library. Christine Nguyen reviewed Takashi Hiraide’s The Guest Cat. You can find her review here.





photo-jaclyn-q-blog-tour-ifoa2016JACLYN QUA-HIANSEN is a Filipino-Canadian book blogger passionate about advocating for greater diversity in art and literature. Her work has been published in The Puritan’s Town Crier, Canada Arts Connect Magazine, Spirit of the City Mississauga Life Magazine, Drain Magazine and Blog TO. Find her on Twitter @jacqua83 and at her book blog Literary Treats. Jaclyn reviewed The Parcel by Anosh Irani. You can read it here.




Blog Tour was coordinated by long-time IFOA attendee and book blogger Marcie McCauley.illus-marcie-bip-blog-tour-ifoa2016-credit-greg-hill

MARCIE MCCAULEY lives and writes in Toronto. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Other Voices, Five Fingers Review (US) and Mslexia (UK) and she writes about books and bookishness at Buried In Print.

Granny, Will Your Dog Bite? An Interview with Phil Hall


Photo credit: Mark Goldstein

IFOA: The balance and rhythm between the words and pauses is a big part of your poems. How does music influence your writing?

Phil Hall: I like jazz (Charlie Mingus/David Murray) & old time fiddle tunes (Smiley Bates/Jarvis Benoit).

Against these authenticities, the philosophy of nostalgia crowds its tin-ear into poetry wherever it can.

Louis Zukofsky set the upper limit of language in poetry at music, and the lower limit at talk. It sounds obvious, but isn’t, because words leaving the world and entering poems from high or low become notes.

Following Zukofsky’s A, my tinkering inside poems is increasingly about ways to design my talk as music.

Punctuation is a prose tool—a tool kit for making a manual surface clear & smooth in its argument. But in music, punctuation is timing. So, on my page I now use caesurae to pace the talk. Caesurae as visible scars.

Some of this isn’t Zukofsky; it is Doc Watson. I apprentice to both masters.  Bottom (Zuk) & Deep Water Blues (Doc).

Theory comes down to a hand-skill each day when I play my banjo. Right now I am learning a tune called “Granny, Will Yr Dog Bite?”

Prose logic is so slow the poem falls asleep.  How to make the words bite? Pick up the pace (as Tom Raworth has taught us) by getting the rhetoric out. Dream logic is a better singer.

As Olson says about the musical phrase:  One perception…must MOVE, INSTANTER, ON ANOTHER!

Or as Blossom Dearie says, in her little girl’s voice, Get in there & bash!

IFOA: We read that you once walked Santiago. How did this, and other journeys – physical, mental, emotional – contribute to your creative work?

Phil Hall: Oregano, Lightning, Olive…

Walking the Camino, I wrote only one word a day. I gave each day a name.

Then when I got home, I stamped the names onto 30 cards. A Deck of Days. To look through the deck at each name sets a little pace of its own…

I liked hiking in Spain because the 15 to 20 K a day knocked my chatter-mind out. I became a donkey. Platero!

Predicating this, when I was 15, I ran away to Florida. Eventually, I had to hitch-hike home up the American east coast in February 1968. It took me 2 weeks to get back.  

I remember the pace of hitch-hiking as a discipline of accident akin to writing poems: wait a long time, ride with what stops for you as far as it goes, then wait a long time again…

Fog, Wind, Cathedral…

I love a good walking city too—Vancouver, Lisbon: the inexhaustible abundance, the naming details.

(George Stanley’s Vancouver: A Poem, and Meredith Quartermain’s Walking Vancouver, are both tremendous book-long poetic journeys in that city.)

I work in lengthy forms, so Time becomes almost a character in my poems—they take longer & longer to abandon!

I like the going, which is process, more than I like the arrival, which is death or the published book…

I guess I like being a writer more than I like being an author.

Windmill, Toreador, Blister…


IFOA: Conjugation consists of poems written in the early morning. Are there creative benefits to this?

Phil Hall: Yes, much of Conjugation is about getting up early to write just before or at dawn.

The Spanish word for that early zone, that morning mood, is madrugar. So I call these poems madrugars.

Half asleep writing is pre-logic, dream damp melody, grey, creaking. That’s my littoral.

That’s where the stump of language is. I stand on that stump, with my eyes shut…

I don’t like myself well enough to trust my first thoughts. So I am not all jazz; I revise. Though I wish I didn’t have to…

In my revision, I try to compose an atmosphere of spontaneity by inclusion. It is trickery, but a welcoming trickery.

I think of Ginsberg’s “first thought” (he famously says “first thought, best thought”) as primal not chronological. I like my first thoughts more when I get up early. I like myself best before I’m fully—cognate.

My best words are usually buried under layers of surface crap, which means I have to return again and again to the same page, and wait out the false arrogances lyric is prone to (prose to), until the poem starts to say its own say—and then I have to let it.

Sometimes, a poem will set its own internal rules without me at first noticing. The poem might pick a stanza scheme that is familiar (I’ve used it before) or imitative (even worse) or easy (lazy). My job is to watch for those cheap rules or patterns and destroy them. By this process, the language might get somewhere surprising.

To surprise one’s self—to Pied Piper one’s self out of the Known into the mountainside of doubt. Why else bother?

As I say in one of the poems in Conjugation: “In the morning the poem solves everything / in the afternoon it stinks & I stink too.” (I’ve left out the caesurae.)

Or another metaphor: I used to like being up late, writing, as if I were the lighthouse keeper. But now I like to get up early and swim from the wreck I am. Word as shore…


IFOA: What’s your next creative project?Hall Phil

Phil Hall: Let’s not say “project.” It makes us poets sound like architects.

I am more like a guy who has snuck into a haberdashery at night and can’t get out. But keeps yelling.

The crime of sustaining a voice has brought many half-door-knobs and gizmos and whiz-bangs with it. I’m sorting them.

I am nurturing the amateur impulse however I can—against the times, but not willingly. I can’t help it. This is how I have found to not go silent.

Except for my miraculous kids—and except for a few assemblage art-things I’ve made—my books of poems, despite their failings (or maybe because of them) are the best whole-hog evidence of me attempting citizenry as song…

So I’m working on another book, another wallow: a grab-sing / a vow-try.


Phil Hall @ IFOA:

Re-awaken your love of poetry as you hear celebrated poets Phil Hall, Maureen Hynes, Sylvia Legris and Mark Wagenaar read from their new collections on Wednesday, October 26 at 8pm. For tickets click here!

Five Questions with Cordelia Strube

IFOA: What inspired you to write On the Shores of Darkness There is Light?
Cordelia Strube: I was sitting in a Tim Horton’s, people-watching through the window, and noticed a small boy with an over-sized head. He was gripping his mother’s hand as they walked, both of them ignoring the stares of passersby.  In the mother’s expression I recognized a look all too familiar to mothers a.k.a. if you hurt my child, I will kill you.  There was a grace and nobility about these two seemingly frail people, pushing courageously through their daily grind despite disability.  Once home I googled causes for skull enlargement in children and Irwin was born.  Then I started what if-ing, which I do constantly while writing novels.  What if the sick child has a well sibling?  What love and tenderness is left for the well sibling who will always, in the eyes of the mother devoted to the sick child, get better?  How do the well and sick children feel about one another?  I wanted to reveal this complex sibling connection from both points of view, which resulted in two protagonists in a two part novel.

IFOA: Why did you choose this title?
Cordelia Strube:
It’s a line from the Keats poem dedicated to Homer who is thought to have been blind.  We are blind to many things, and rarely see what we have.  We fear the dark and crave the light, not understanding that we can’t see the light unless we’ve been in the dark.  As Harriet, my eleven year-old protagonist who paints by observing how light interrupts her subject and curves into shadow, puts it, “It seems to her people rarely understand shadows; they forget that they are part of the light.”

IFOA: Tom Thompson is an inspiring figure to Harriet. Who is your favorite visual artist and why?
Cordelia Strube:
I don’t have a favourite, although it’s hard not to love Tom Thompson or Van Gogh 24/7.  But I also need Francis Bacon and Hieronymus Bosch who did not paint pretty.  I have Munch days and Monet days, Picasso days, Henry Moore days, Turner days, Rodin days, it goes on and on.  I made Thompson Harriet’s guiding light because he leads her to Algonquin Park.

IFOA: What amazes you about the work of the aspiring writers you teach at Ryerson?
Cordelia Strube:
Young people who tear themselves away from the endless attractions and distractions of cyber space to construct a strong narrative amaze me.  Writing well does not come easy for most of us.  Students who show the necessary commitment dazzle.

IFOA: What are you currently reading?
Cordelia Strube:
I have got two on the go: Redeployment by Phil Klay, a vet of the Iraq war. His multi-pronged stories jab at that cooked up disaster of a war with humour and clarity.  I’m also loving Nicholson Baker’s Substitute about his year substitute teaching in the Maine public school system. As with Klay, the darkness of Nicholson’s prose is laced with sneaky humour. I need sly wit in what I read and write.

Cordelia Stube @ IFOA:

Peter Geye, Ben Sanders and Cordelia Strube will read from their latest novels and inspire you to discover new narratives. A Taste of Fiction takes place Thursday, October 27 at 8pm. For tickets click here!

Darren Greer, Anosh Irani, and Cordelia Strube present multifaceted and diverse stories about redemption and returning to face the past and/or the truth on Sunday, October 30 at 3:30pm. For tickets click here!





Visit the IFOA Bookstore & Meet the Authors at their Signing!

Searching for an opportunity to buy your next favourite book and get it signed by its creator?
IFOA will be operating a bookstore at the Festival Hub in the Marilyn Brewer Community Space at Harbourfront Centre! Check out the Signing Schedule and come meet the authors you admire!

IFOA Bookstore Hours
Thursday, October 20      5:30pm-9pm
Friday, October 21           5:30pm-9pm
Saturday, October 22       12pm-10pm
Sunday, October 23         11am-7pm
Monday, October 24         7pm-10pm
Tuesday, October 25        1pm-8:30pm
Wednesday, October 26   5pm-10pm
Thursday, October 27       1pm-10pm
Friday, October 28             5:30pm-10pm
Sunday, October 30           10am-7pm




Five questions with Sylvia Legris

Legris SylviaIFOA: Why did you choose this title for your collection?

Sylvia Legris: I have an intensely vivid and visual imagination and a tendency to brood and obsess. I can freak myself out imagining what might be going on inside my own body. Blood streams afloat with islets of fat, bone islands, the recurring skirmish of muscle and bone in my shin-splints’d tibia. I simultaneously wish I had X-ray vision and could see under my own skin and am relieved that I can’t. The title to me is two-edged. Much of The Hideous Hidden is about anatomy—the poems probe into all that gross stuff, innards and viscera, blood and slime, that is largely hidden from sight. However, my intention in these poems is to unearth the music inherent in the body’s icky inner-workings, effectively displacing (or temporarily hiding) the hideous.


IFOA: What elements of anatomy attract and/or inspire you?

Sylvia Legris: Hoo ah!…connective tissue…the glue that holds it all together.


IFOA: Who was the poet that inspired you as a young writer?

Sylvia Legris: While Dr. Seuss basically taught me to read, and certainly attuned my ear and tongue to bendy, nonsensical language, I think that listening had as much—maybe even more—of an influence on the would-be poet in me than reading did (granted, I was a voracious reader from an early age). I was obsessed with cartoons, Mel Blanc’s many voices (my awareness that the Road Runner’s nasally beep was actually a Meep Meep). Even Yogi Bear’s distinctive inflection (“Look’s more/like a sycamore/to me”). Cartoons made me aware of the potential subtleties and nuances of the human voice. I do a pretty good impression of Elmer Fudd singing.

IFOA: What is the ultimate purpose of poetry?

Sylvia Legris: The purpose of poetry, ultimate or otherwise, for a poet writing in North America is no doubt completely different than for a poet writing in a country that doesn’t have the freedom of expression that we do. For me, the purpose of poetry is that it pushes me to pay close attention to everything in as minute detail as possible.

IFOA: What have you learned about language through writing?

Sylvia Legris: I’ve learned how beautifully elastic language is. However, I’ve also learned how kindergartenish my grasp of it is. I’ve learned I’ve got a lot to learn.


Sylvia Legris @ IFOA:

Hear Japanese writer Takashi Hiraide alongside Canadian poets Sylvia Legris and Sarah Pinder read from their latest works on Sunday, October 23 at 5pm. For tickets click here!

Re-awaken your love of poetry as you hear celebrated poets Phil Hall, Maureen Hynes, Sylvia Legris and Mark Wagenaar read from their new collections on Wednesday, October 26 at 8pm. For tickets click here!



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