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Open Book Toronto’s Profile of Majlinda Bashllari

love is a very long word coverOpen Book Toronto recently interviewed Majlinda Bashllari as part of their “Poets in Profile” series. The article for this interview begins with a description of Majlinda’s poetry collection entitled Love is a very long word, stating “the collection draws on both the lyrical nature of the Albanian poetry tradition as well as modern, innovative techniques, to explore the tension between love and freedom”.

Majlinda discusses her various sources of inspiration during the interview. When Majlinda is asked “Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?” She replies, “Two separate things contributed to this: experiencing the beauty of Albanian weddings and facing the sorrow of leaving my country. During my childhood, I was in love with weddings. They were true spectacles — a combination of lyricism and drama. Ordinary men and women that I knew — family friends or cousins — instantly became transformed into great artists. A magic thing. I was dreaming of making up lyrics and rhymes, and becoming one of them. The second experience took place many years later. As cliché as it may sound, it was the sorrow of leaving my country and adjusting to a new life — a process which was very emotional and difficult for me”.

She also states that the first poem she remembers being affected by is “Andrra e jetës” — (The dream of life) by Ndre Mjeda”. She calls this poem “a very deep, philosophical poem from one of the Albanian National Awakening poets. A true masterpiece”. When asked which poem she wishes that she had written, she replies by stating “I wish I had written ‘A man in his life’ by Yehuda Amichai and ‘True love’ by Wislawa Szymborska”. Although Majlinda’s poems are inspired by the work of these poets, she also states that her most unlikely source of inspiration is the daily morning news on CBC radio.

Love is a very long word explores the parallel, ambiguous realms of freedom and love – much coveted yet unnatural states of the human mind. Combining the tradition of Balkan lyricism with narrative modernist techniques, these bold poems witness the cross-cultural world of their subjects – from wounds to hope, struggle to wry triumph.

Born in Albania, Majlinda Bashllari’s first poetry collection, Një udhë për në shtëpi (A road to home), was published in Tirana, Albania (Morava, 2007). Bashllari’s work has appeared in numerous Albanian art and literature magazines and in Albanian anthologies of essays and short stories. Love is a very long word is her first English-language collection of poems. She lives with her family in Toronto.


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Trailer for “Love is a very long word”

love is a very long word coverWe’re excited to present our first book trailer of 2016!

Love is a very long word explores the parallel, ambiguous realms of freedom and love – much coveted yet unnatural states of the human mind. Combining the tradition of Balkan lyricism with narrative modernist techniques, these bold poems witness the cross-cultural world of their subjects – from wounds to hope, struggle to wry triumph.

Born in Albania, Majlinda Bashllari’s first poetry collection, Një udhë për në shtëpi (A road to home), was published in Tirana, Albania (Morava, 2007). Bashllari’s work has appeared in numerous Albanian art and literature magazines and in Albanian anthologies of essays and short stories. Love is a very long word is her first English-language collection of poems. She lives with her family in Toronto.

Click here to watch the video trailer for Majlinda Bashllari’s poetry collection Love is a very long word!

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Profile of Poet Steve Meagher by Open Book Toronto

steve meagher photoAs part of the “Poets in Profile” series, Open Book Toronto recently interviewed Guernica author Steve Meagher, whose collection of poems Navy Blue will be released by Guernica Editions this spring.

The article begins by stating, “the poems in Steve Meagher’s Navy Blue (Guernica Editions) capture the late night colouring of its title – exhilarating, sharp, urban and smart. It’s an insightful debut that takes on everything from tabloid news to childhood heroes, tipping its hat to Ray Souster, Irving Layton and others”.

Steve is asked several questions about the experiences that contributed to him becoming a poet and about his sources of inspiration. When asked, “What is the first poem you remember being affected by?” Steve replies, “I’m not sure if this qualifies, but when I was around 14 or 15 years old I got really into hip-hop music. Artists like The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, All Natural, Nas and Talib Kweli were a big deal for me. It was the early 2000s, right before digital music really took off, and I was always making mixtapes to listen to at lunch and after school with my friends. Some of that music definitely opened me up to the power of verse. The way these emcees could stack words and images on top of each other to paint a picture or convey a message. It was a great discovery”.

Steve also describes how much of an influence other poets have had on his writing. He states that if he had to pick a poem that he wished he’d written, he would likely choose a poem by Roque Dalton or Roberto Bolaño. He explains, “There’s something about those two poets that draws me in. I think it’s the way they always seemed to write it in blood. Reading them, I walk away with the feeling that poetry isn’t just a creative exercise or form of expression. It’s a weapon to go to war with. Since I can only choose one, I’ll go with ‘Lupe’ by Roberto Bolaño. That’s one of my favourites of his”.

Currently, Steve has been reading Thomas Merton’s Collected Poems as well as Ian Williams’ Personals. He states, “[Williams’] poem ‘Rings’ is so damn good. I read it over Christmas and it’s been running through my head ever since”.

Steve Meagher grew up in Oakville, Ontario and now lives in Toronto. His poems have appeared in Carousel, The Nashwaak Review and Ottawa Arts Review. Navy Blue is his first book.

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Nancy Anne Miller on Exilic Writing

Nancy Anne MillerIn a recent article by Afshan Shafi for The Missing Slate’s Poet of the Month series, Shafi interviews Guernica poet Nancy Anne Miller, drawing on Miller’s relationship with her birthplace, Bermuda. Although Miller has lived in Connecticut and England, her poetry is heavily inspired by her time spent in Bermuda. She states: ““I am certain being surrounded by an ocean, on an island where one could never be more than half a mile from the sea, gave me this profuse and profound sense of the force and power of a cyclical movement”.

This “cyclical movement” that Miller identifies with her experience of Bermuda informs her approach towards writing. Shafi states that Miller’s “work uses that cyclical force and power to disrupt traditional assumptions about the linearity of the lyric poem, challenging the domination of ‘what Woolf would refer to as the masculine sentence’”. In the interview, Miller explains that her poems are motivated by an impulse to resist the uniformity of meaning that exists in much of today’s poetry. Instead, Miller’s use of metaphors “make the poem radiate out across the page, shimmer with many meanings”.

Speaking on her relationship with transnationalism, Miller identifies as one who writes from exile. She states: “as Peter Strirr said, every poet writes from exile. For myself, it took me a long time to acknowledge I was an immigrant. The experience of moving from Bermuda to Farmington CT looked quite seamless on the outside…only after I realized the profound difference of growing up on a British Colonial semitropical isle almost seven hundred miles out at sea, versus the Northeast in America, did I know who I was and what I had to write about”.

As such a poet, Miller has an attentive understanding of language – in particular the differences between English and Bermudian dialect. She states: “Bermudian dialect was my first language, the words I used to create my world with and I think that first naming remains very deep within my body. My saying loquat in an accent resides in me at a physical level that a recently acquired word such as apps never will. Again those first words opened the world to me, gave me entrance into it and an ownership of it. It is where I created my Eden, become a part of the landscape.”

Nancy Anne Miller is the author of Somersault. She is also a MacDowell Fellow whose work has been published in Edinburgh Review, Agenda, New Welsh Review, The Fiddlehead, The Moth, The Caribbean Writer, Poetry Salzburg Review and Journal of Postcolonial Writing. She makes her home in the town of Washington, Connecticut.

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All Lit Up on Pietro Corsi’s “Halifax: The Other Door to America”

halifaxA recent article for All Lit Up’s “Where in Canada” blog showcases Guernica author Pietro Corsi’s Halifax: The Other Door to America in relation to the historic Pier 21.

Halifax: The Other Door to America focuses on the “combination of immigrants, war brides, British children escaping the war, and refugees totaled nearly 1,500,000” who passed through Halifax’s Pier 21 between 1928 and 1971. By giving thorough and well-researched descriptions, Corsi weaves together a very human portrait of this historic entry point. As the blog states, “Corsi details the trials and joys of this journey for so many immigrants who named Canada their new home, as well as the ‘door’ they used to enter: that of Pier 21”.

Corsi’s book tells of “arriving immigrants [who] brought their most precious items from home: work tools, sewing machines, stoves, jewelry. One family even brought a dismantled fireplace from home, intended for rebuilding once settled in their new country”. One section of Corsi’s book describes how a young boy waiting in line managed to make a sandwich out of the seized breads and salamis!

All Lit Up’s “Where in Canada” blog concludes by mentioning the reopening of Pier 21, which “reopened its doors thanks to the efforts of the Pier 21 Society, a group that strove to raise public and political awareness about Canadian immigrant stories that began after their ships docked there”. The blog continues to explain, “the site is now home to a museum celebrating Canadian immigration from every route and coast”.

Pietro Corsi was born in the region of Molise, Italy in 1937. In the mid-50s he moved to Rome, where he worked as a translator while co-creating radio programs for RAI, the official Italian radio organization. He was visiting Canada in 1959, when he was offered a job by the Italian weekly newspaper ‘Il Cittadino Canadese’. During that time, he wrote his first work of fiction (La Giobba, or Winter in Montreal in English, published by Guernica Editions and winner of the G.B. Bressani Prize of 2002). After becoming involved with the Italian cruise industry, effectively pioneering service standards for Princess Cruises, Pietro decided to retire in 1992 and chose to focus on his writing career. His latest book, The light of the soul: Neruda, the white raven, the black cat was released by Guernica Editions in 2015.

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George Elliot Clarke Appointed Parliamentary Poet Laureate!

george elliot clarkeWe are thrilled to announce that George Elliot Clarke has been appointed Canada’s new parliamentary poet laureate! Congratulations, George!

George Elliot Clarke is the seventh person to hold the position and was appointed by Senate Speaker George Furey and the Speaker of the House of Commons, Geoff Regan. The parliamentary poet laureate is responsible for promoting the importance of poetry, literature, culture, and language in Canada. Regan has stated the following about George Elliot Clarke, “his talent as poet, playwright and literary critic is undeniable…he is an immensely versatile and engaging writer and will bring great honour to the position”.

George Elliot Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia. He has published numerous groundbreaking verse and dramatic poetry collections and anthologies, including Illicit Sonnets. He has won the Governor General Literary Award, the Portia White Prize, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award, and he is the E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. His book Canticles will be released by Guernica Editions in the Fall of 2016.

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Another Review in The Ottawa Review of Books! Timothy Niedermann on Geza Tatrallyay’s “The Expo Affair”

the expo affairTimothy Niedermann states in his review of The Expo Affair that Geza Tatrallyay’s book is “a very personal and affecting window on the confusion and desperation of the Cold War era”.

Niedermann begins his review by giving the background of Tatrallyay’s memoir, stating “the Berlin Wall fell over 25 years ago and since then, the Cold War has sunk into memory, the anxieties of those times being gradually supplanted by new fears – 9/11, Islamic terrorism, climate change”.

Niedermann explains that Tatrallyay’s book is “a memoir of his involvement in a very minor, yet affecting event during this time: the attempted defection of two Czech women during the Expo ’70 world’s fair in Osaka, Japan”. While at the Ontario Pavilion at the Expo, Tatrallyay became involved “with a Czech girl, Sasha. It was clear that the KGB was watching, but who cared? That is, until Sasha’s friends and Zozana and Helena approached him, seeking asylum in Canada”. The Expo Affair describes the involvement of Canadian diplomats and other compatriots at the Ontario pavilion who tried to arrange safe passage for the girls to Canada. Regarding whether or not Sasha was a spy, Niedermann states, “instead of reaching clarity, everything became more and more murky”.

Niedermann concludes his review by stating, “the descriptions and dialogue [Tatrallyay] has set down create a convincing atmosphere. He does not embellish with extraneous history or analysis, but lets the story unfold naturally”.

Geza Tatrallyay was born in Budapest and escaped with his family in 1956. After graduating with his BA from Harvard University, Geza was selected as a Rhodes Scholar and graduated with his BA/MA from Oxford University. Geza has written several thrillers, memoirs, and a collection of poetry.

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Mary Melfi’s “Via Roma” Reviewed in The Ottawa Review of Books

We’re delighted to announce that the latest edition of The Ottawa Review of Books features reviews of two Guernica releases, Via Roma by Mary Melfi and The Expo Affair by Geza Tatrallyay!

via roma Caroline Vu begins her review of Via Roma by asking “is it still possible, in this day and age, for respected female writers to portray women as hopelessly dependent on the affection of men?” Vu answers, “yes, if they are gutsy enough to buck trends”.

Vu explains that Melfi’s newest novel “revisits themes found in her earlier works…Love-equals-bondage, sex-equals death”. Vu refers to Melfi’s earlier works, such as A Dialogue with Masks, in which she states “let’s face it: sex and death are married to each other. They have to be…Adam and Eve decided that sex was worth dying for”.

Via Roma tells the story of Sophie Wolfe, who Vu describes as “a young Anglo Montrealer struggling with her insecurities”. As a woman who does not know her father and was raised by an independent and sexually-liberated mother, Sophie develops a “childhood fixation on a 1950’s style family [that] eventually transforms Sophie, a Generation X kid, into a woman of the last century…Subconsciously rejecting her mother’s values, Sophie becomes what feminists loath: a happily dependent woman”. Once Sophie’s husband dies, she transforms “into a morbid, self-flagellating creature obsessed with ghosts and the underworld” – that is, until she meets a new love to become dependent on.

As to whether Via Roma is a feminist novel, Vu explains that the book “transcends such simple discourse”. Instead, Vu explains how the book borrows from Freudian psychoanalytic theories, especially the Electra Complex.

Vu concludes her review by stating that Via Roma “is fun to read. The voice is original, the novel full of witty one-liners and quirky insights into the lives of Italian Canadians…Besides entertaining us with her sardonic humour, Melfi also informs us with her meticulous research on death, religion and the ins and outs of Quebec politics”.

Mary Melfi is the author of over a dozen critically-acclaimed books of poetry, prose, and drama. These works have been translated into many different languages, including her first novel Infertility Rites, which was translated into French and Italian. Her memoir, Italy Revisited: Conversations with my Mother, was also translated into Italian, and a French edition under the title La-bas, en Italie, will soon be available from Les Editions Triptyque. Her works have also inspired William Anselmi’s Mary Melfi, Essays on Her Works, released by Guernica Editions in 2007. Her newest book, Via Roma has just been released by Guernica Editions this fall.

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Lisa Pike and Stan Rogal Shortlisted for ReLit Awards!

lisa pikeWstan rogale are very proud to announce that two Guernica authors have been shortlisted for the ReLit Awards! Congratulations Lisa Pike and Stan Rogal!

Lisa Pike has been shortlisted for a ReLit award for her novel, My Grandmother’s Pill. Described as “a story of mean drunks and happy ones, and of the women who outlive them, My Grandmother’s Pill is a rollercoaster ride through three generations of abuse and addiction”. Nino Ricci has stated, “My Grandmother’s Pill weaves a compelling tale of the pasts we carry with us across the generations and of the mistakes we learn from and those we seem doomed to repeat. Lisa Pike writes with humour, with insight, and with grace”.

Lisa Pike was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario. After completing her M.A. in English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor, Lisa completed her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Women & Gender Studies at the University of Toronto. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, she is also the author of a poetry chapbook entitled Policeman’s Alley.

Stan Rogal has been shortlisted for a ReLit award for his poetry collection, after words. The collection pulls together poems that acknowledge the people whose lives and/or works have influenced the author, where each piece is forwarded by a short background story as well as an epigram. Karl Jirgens has stated the following about after words, “throughout these meta-poetic portrayals, Rogal’s autobiographical narrator inhabits the realms of literary and artistic precursors including Artaud, Atwood, Bogart, Burroughs, Calvino, Cohen, Eliot, Nin, and Shakespeare. A series of brilliant tours-de-force while providing an inspirational tour of the art of words”.

Stan Rogal was born in Vancouver and has lived in Toronto for 25 years. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies in Canada, the US and Europe, some in translation. He has published 19 books, including four novels, four story and 11 poetry collections. He is also a produced playwright and the artistic director of Bulletproof Theatre.

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F.G. Paci on Writing Short Stories

f.g. paciIn a recent article for the Sault Star, Brian Kelly states that “when author Frank Paci needs a break, he keeps writing”. Kelly describes Paci’s newest collection of short stories entitled Talk About God and Other Stories as “’an eclectic collection’ with characters including a celebrity chef, a billionaire who teaches inner peace and ‘losers in life’ who gather for a final film binge. Most of the eight stories told over 300 pages are set in the Toronto area”.

Kelly also refers to remarks that Paci made in a recent telephone interview with the Sault Star, in which he states the following about short story writing: “it’s an antidote to the serious stuff that I’m doing in my novels…I go to the short stories for a change of pace. I’m not restrained by the reality and all the constraints that come from that. In the short stories, I can burst the boundaries of common sense. It’s fun”.

Paci later explains, “people don’t usually like to read serious stuff as much as fun stuff. But the stories have a serious element to them as well. They use humour and whimsy in order to draw people into some serious themes”. Paci achieves this with such short stories as the title work, “Talk About God”, which tells the story about how “a teacher, who is an atheist, reappraises his life after having a near-death experience”.

F.G. Paci was born in Italy and grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He was the Elia Chair writer-in-residence at York University and has an honorary degree from Laurentian University. He is the author of more than a dozen novels. A book of essays on his work was released by Guernica Editions in 2003.

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