Poetry Month Interviews are here!

Like last year, my recent silence on this blog can be explained: I've been hard at work preparing a deluge of Poetry Month content over at Read Local BC.

A new interview with a BC poet will go up on the site every Tuesday and Thursday all month long. First up is an interview with Francine Cunningham about her debut collection, On/me, which came out last fall with Caitlin Press.

All of the interviews will eventually make their way over to this here blog, to join the 60+ interviews currently on this blog (you can read all of my 2019 Read Local BC interviews here). But if you like your interviews hot and fresh (and who likes cold, soggy interviews?) keep an eye on ReadLocalBC.ca, and the Read Local BC "#NPM2020" hashtag, all month long!


Some quarantine content from me to you

The release of three of my promotional efforts for Best Canadian Poetry 2019 have conveniently coincided with the worst pandemic to hit our planet in over a century. So if your quarantine could be spiced up with a little "Rob Taylor yammering on aimlessly," do I have some links for you.

Page Fright Podcast, Episode 26: Rob Taylor

Following up on Page Fright's Best Canadian Poetry special episode, I sat down with the podcast's host, Andrew French, to discuss writing and editing (and grounds-keeping, and Cuban crabs, and former Canucks coaches, and...)

Page Fright is doing a wonderful job of providing an online platform for Vancouver poets, established and "up-and-coming" alike. Do check it out if you haven't yet.

A Different Rhythm: Editing Against the Clock, Literary Review of Canada

I wrote a fun little essay for LRC about editing Best Canadian Poetry 2019. I focused on all the silly ways I made space/time to read 2,133 poems on top of my normal hectic schedule. The essay features my favourite sentence I've ever written: "Joggers rubbernecked."

Elm & Ampersand Podcast, Episode 14: Amanda Jernigan and Rob Taylor

Recorded during my recent trip through the Maritimes, this podcast features Amanda Jernigan, Douglas Walbourne-Gough and me talking with hosts Rebecca Salazar and Jenna Lyn Albert about our experiences with Best Canadian Poetry 2019 and What the Poets Are Doing. Poetry Power Couples, and my tip for young writers re: poetry power couples, make an appearance, too.

Elm & Ampersand is the Maritimes' premiere poetry podcast, so be sure to subscribe and give some of their previous episodes a listen.


Maritimes Readings Report

I managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the Maritimes just before the end of the world. We gathered in large rooms and shook hands and even hugged occasionally. It was truly a different world (early March, that is, not the Maritimes, which were basically Vancouver cosplaying as England?).

The trip started with a week-long residency at Saint Mary's University, which included a public reading celebrating both Best Canadian Poetry 2019 and What the Poets Are Doing. Absurdly, this meant my opening acts were art gallery curator Robin Metcalfe, BCP contributor Annick MacAskill, and WTPAD contributor Sue Goyette. And to top it off, the event was hosted by Amanda Jernigan. Needless to say, it was a hell of an honour to be a part of the show.

Robin Metcalfe, Amanda Jernigan, me, Annick MacAskill and Sue Goyette

My reading at the event, in the SMU Art Gallery
Amanda and I then went on a quick blitz of New Brunswick, a blitz which was slowed considerably by a busted gear shift on the outskirts of Petitcodiac, NB:

I think this photo kinda speaks for itself?

Avid readers of the blog will remember that, while racing between What the Poets Are Doing launches in BC, Amanda and I came very close to missing a ferry. (It turned out I couldn't tell Victoria highways apart.) Well, this time it was Amanda's turn (well, her truck's turn) to nearly cost us a reading.

But we were rescued, with minutes to spare, by Petitcodiac's librarian, the poet and essayist Danny Jacobs, who taped a "Back in 10 minutes" sign on the door and drove out to the highway off-ramp to rescue us. We made the reading, which was lovely, and I even managed to match my sweater with the official Petitcodiac Library reading chair!

Danny, Amanda and me

After the reading, Danny taped the sign back on the door (I valiantly assisted) and deposited us back on the highway to await the tow truck:

It arrived soon enough and after a bit of backtracking we secured another vehicle and were on our way to Fredericton, arriving only 13 hours after we left Halifax (which horrified everyone we told in New Brunswick, but honestly, for a BC boy, felt kind of average).

Amanda Jernigan, meet Corey's Towing. Corey's Towing, Amanda Jernigan.
The next day we took part in the "Poetry Pile On," an event whose name I settled on because "Poetry Pile Up" felt too violent (and almost prescient, given how we lurched off the highway on the way there.)
Real posters! On real event boards around the city! For poetry!
Similar to the Halifax event, this one featured BCP 2019 and WTPAD contributors (Douglas Walbourne-Gough and Rebecca Salazar, and Amanda Jernigan, Sue Sinclair and Nick Thran, respectively). 

The event was a hit, with a full room and excellent readings all around. Sue and Nick, in particular, gave some of the most interesting readings from WTPAD that I've heard to date, pulling out select quotes from a wide range of interviews that cohered to particular themes. The Fredericton event marked the last formal "launch" for both anthologies, and I couldn't think of a better group to wrap things up with.

After the reading, Amanda, Douglas, Rebecca and I skidded over to Jenna Lyn Albert's apartment to record an episode of her and Rebecca's Elm & Ampersand podcast. You can listen to that here.

Early the next morning I was on my flight home, utterly unaware that getting in a plane would come to seem reckless in just a week's time. It made me all the more aware of all the connections we're missing out on, as writers and readers, during this self-isolation. Here's hoping we make up for it with gusto once we're released back into the world.

And at least we can still read books! I came home with a bundle. It must be hard to live in Nova Scotia, surrounded by Gaspereau Press temptations every time you walk into a bookstore... 

Here's a photo of some of the books I came home with, which I shared on Twitter with the hashtag #socialdistancereadinglist. Please consider joining in!

Only six of these are Gaspereau books, because I have restraint.

Much thanks to Amanda Jernigan and everyone at Saint Mary's for making the trip possible, and to everyone who helped fund, transport, feed and house me along the way. It was a joyful blur.


no stonecutter more obstinate

Without intending to, without even knowing it, he demonstrated with his life that his father had been right when he repeated until his dying day that there was no one with more common sense, no stonecutter more obstinate, no manager more lucid or dangerous, than a poet."

- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, from Love in a Time of Cholera


Maritimes Mini-Tour

For the first time in my life I'm voyaging to those fabled verdant lands beyond Quebec. I'll be spending a week at Saint Mary's University as Writer-in-Residence, then popping over into New Brunswick with Amanda Jernigan. I'll have three public events, each celebrating the poets in Best Canadian Poetry 2019 and/or What the Poets Are Doing: Canadian Poets in Conversation (I'll be reading a poem of my own here or there, too). I'd love if any and all in the area could make it!

The details:

SMU Reading Series
Wednesday, March 4th, 7 PM
St. Mary’s University Art Gallery
5865 Gorsebrook Avenue
Loyola Building, 1st Floor
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Featuring: Sue Goyette, Robin Metcalfe, Amanda Jernigan, Annick MacAskill, Rob Taylor

Writers on the River
Saturday, March 7, 3 PM
Petitcodiac Public Library
6 Kay Street, suite 101
Petitcodiac, N.B.
Featuring: Amanda Jernigan and Rob Taylor

Poetry Pile On: A Celebration of Best Canadian Poetry 2019 and What the Poets Are Doing
Sunday, March 8th, 2 PM
Westminster Books
88 York St, Fredericton
Featuring: Amanda Jernigan, Rebecca Salazar, Sue Sinclair, Rob Taylor, Nick Thran, Douglas Walbourne-Gough


BCP 2019 + Green Waves Coverage

Best Canadian Poetry 2019
and The Green Waves: Poems from Roblin Lake have both been out in the world for a few months now, and feedback is starting to trickle in.

First off is this lovely review of The Green Waves by Andrew French over at PRISM international:

“The content itself speaking volumes, Taylor’s language employs a musical colloquialism that would have made Purdy proud for its ability to let the events of the poems shine brightest. Taylor’s language allows the things he experiences to speak for themselves, a task much easier described than accomplished, and much more effective than the alternative in this instance. With moments of flourishing descriptive skill, it is the subtlety of Taylor’s voice that is most astounding in this collection.

The Green Waves is a strong, careful consideration of the complex history tied up in the Al Purdy A-frame and the ways in which it intersects with the poet’s personal life within that space. Regardless of one’s knowledge of or interest in Purdy’s life and work, this is a short collection that is certainly worth picking up for its honest consideration of the difficult moments we encounter in our lives. Taylor poses important questions to which nobody has the same answer, though it seems as if all of us ask them. How do we remember the people we have lost? What about those who came before us? How can we move forward in light of the past? Taylor won’t give you his answer in The Green Waves, but the chapbook might help to illuminate your own."

Andrew also provided some coverage of Best Canadian Poetry 2019 via his podcast, Page Fright. He recorded a special episode before and after the anthology's Vancouver launch, featuring readings and (equal parts illuminating and funny) mini-interviews with BCP contributors Ellie Sawatzky, Lauara Matwichuk, Dallas Hunt, Shaun Robinson and Sonnet L'Abbé. You can listen to the whole thing here.

BCP 2019 has also received reviews in both Quill & Quire and The Toronto Star. It's wonderful to see the book consider alongside major anthologies in other genres.

Thank you to everyone above who provided coverage for these little books (especially Andrew French, working double-duty!). It means a great deal to me.

If you're interested in either book, you can learn more about them (including purchasing info) here and here.


Best Canadian Poetry 2019 - Victoria Launch

The Best Canadian Poetry 2019 tour is coming to Victoria!

The details:

Best Canadian Poetry 2019 Victoria Launch
Thursday, January 23rd, 7 PM
Bolen Books
111 – 1644 Hillside Avenue (Hillside Centre), Victoria
Featuring: John Barton, Ali Blythe, Marilyn Bowering, Sara Cassidy, Kayla Czaga, Dallas Hunt and Sonnet L’Abbé
Hosted by: Rob Taylor


I'd love to see you there!


I have never been here before

One Sunday in Halifax some years ago, Ted and I were walking a bending street, along which the stores etc. were closed. We were in the city for some literary purpose and headed for the site of same. We peered into some closed pizzeria or other food emporium and saw a big oven upon which was to be seen the word BLODGETT. A few steps later, we looked through the plate glass next door and saw a single word on a large card: POETRY. I looked accusingly at the person with me. He looked back and said, “I have never been here before.”

- George Bowering, reminiscing as part of a very lovely tribute to E.D. Blodgett published in the Ormsby Review. Other contributors include Heidi Greco, Christopher Levenson, Susan McCaslin, Daniela Elza and Ted's family members. You can read the whole thing here.


a roll of nickels year in review

Year 13 here at Roll of Nickels was low in quantity and hopefully high in quality?

It featured less than half as many posts (24), as the previously lowest total (51 in 2013). What can I say? I finished launching What the Poets Are Doing with an Ontario tour in March, then in October launched Best Canadian Poetry 2019 in both Vancouver and Toronto a mere 24 hrs apart. That's right, a two-Toronto year. How lucky can a girl get?

Oh, and somewhere in there, my wife and I had a baby. And a chapbook arrived. So, yes, a little busy. The quotes on writing section of this blog suffered most accutely, as I managed only one this year (though I have 64 interviews unread and waiting for me - thanks, rob mclennan...)

My major blog-related activity this year was the launch of my Poetry Month interview series over at Read Local BC, which is my new initiative replacing the "BC Poetry" series I ran from 2016-2018. The good folk at Read Local BC gave me the space and support to publish eight interviews in four weeks. I added three more later in the year, to push this year's interview total to eleven (a new Roll of Nickels record!). I also managed to archive four old interviews which had appeared over at PRISM international but had been lost during their recent web redesign.

Here are the year's highlights:

April 2019: Laughing is great and people like doing it: An Interview with Dina Del Bucchia

"This city is rough. The good and the bad are one and the same and I can’t see it another way. The city wants us to make their coffees in the business district and not have homes, but we’re always finding funding or pockets of space for art. I am hopeful on some level that we can all survive here—artists, people in the service industry, single parents, disabled people, etc.—and that the city won’t turn us all out. Occupy Shaughnessy, burn something down, build a barge out of craft beer cans and dock it in front of the fanciest yachts." - Dina Del Bucchia

April 2019: What's not included is as essential as what is: An Interview with Chantal Gibson

"I believe in books, good books. They can help us become more thoughtful, more reflective, more empathetic citizens. You asked what we need to do better? We can become better listeners. That means actively seeking out new voices that may be unsettling and unfamiliar. That means being open to different ways of learning and challenging ourselves to sit in the discomfort of not knowing, of not having all the answers." - Chantal Gibson

April 2019: The mystery of where you come from: An Interview with Russell Thornton

"I’d say that in a way all poets are part and parcel of a single composite anonymous poet. I think the irony is that this “poet” is alone. And I think the natural state of individual mortal poets both is and isn’t one of aloneness. Most monumental artistic human expression is for me a cry or wail or howl of aloneness, an address to whatever is out there, or in there—and is other, totally other than ourselves." - Russell Thornton

April 2019: Looking at the consciousness of people: An Interview with Garry Gottfriedson

"In many of my poems, I make points regarding the “Truth and Reconciliation” attempts in Canada. One of the major issues I see with that process is that it uses the colonizer’s language to attempt to reconcile major historical and present issues in this country. Similar to the approach French Canadians have taken, Canada cannot truly expect a decent relationship with First Nations in Canada if the language that is used is only the colonizer’s." - Garry Gottfriedson

April 2019: A big work presented to all: An Interview with George Bowering and George Stanley

"I’m reminded of a joke that George [Bowering] told when we were in Seattle. Before he started reading he said, “This is my prayer, oh Lord. If I have only one life to live I hope this is not it.” - George Stanley

April 2019: Therapy for me and an education for others: An Interview with Cassandra Blanchard

"I absolutely believe that poetry can be a kind of therapy for people. It was for me. Releasing all those feelings through writing helped to relieve a lot pent up emotion. Reading my poems makes me feel so glad that I have changed my life around." - Cassandra Blanchard

April 2019: Getting closer to the truth: An Interview with Jennica Harper

"The conclusion I’m coming to is I’m not as interested in narrative truth as I am in authentic emotion (including ugly ones). My goal is to get closer to that truth: finding something raw and real. I don’t think I’m perfect at this. It’s just a goal." - Jennica Harper

April 2019: Love is not all: An Interview with Ruth Daniell

"“Love is not all” is a recurring thought behind much of my poetry, although any direct reference to Millay left the book many revisions ago. We have other needs—food, water, shelter, medicine—that are arguably more important than love, but we tend to treat love, especially romantic love, as if it can cure anything that’s wrong in our lives." - Ruth Daniell

October 2019: A very real and open window: An Interview with Emily Davidson

"The making of the book was one of concentric circles of vulnerability for me: I started with subjects I was content to share, and then I ran out of safe things to talk about and had to wade into the next layer of exposure, and so on. Lift feels like a very real and open window to some of the parts of myself I’m still learning to like, but if someone were to climb through to their own discoveries—then the discomfort would be worth it." - Emily Davidson

October 2019: A little retreat in myself: An Interview with Matthew Walsh

"I would absolutely fuck the moon." - Matthew Walsh

October 2019: Best Canadian Poetry 2019 is here!

Some thoughts on editing the latest incarnation in the Best Canadian Poetry series, including a list of contributors and "notable" poems.

November 2019: Photographing a black hole: Adrienne Gruber and Elizabeth Ross in Conversation

In the spirit of What the Poets Are Doing, I paired up two amazing poets who recently published books on childbirth and motherhood. The result was a lot of fun!

2020 will be my first year since 2015 without a book being published. Hopefully that will mean more blog shenanigans (though it will likely just mean more baby and pre-K shenanigans). I'll be back working with Read Local in 2020, and hope to break my interview record yet again (you can read all my past interviews here). Thank you to Read Local BC, EVENT and PRISM international for their ongoing support of my interviews and other online schemes.

Happy New Year, all!


Best Canadian Poetry 2019 - Vancouver Launch

While Best Canadian Poetry 2019 technically "launched" at the Vancouver Writers Fest back in October, only one Vancouver-based poet participated in that launch! As this was the first edition edited by a Vancouver-based poet (which means they didn't have to fly anyone out ;), it made sense to have a proper launch to celebrate all the local contributors.

And what a celebration it will be! The details:

Best Canadian Poetry 2019 Vancouver Launch 
Thursday, January 16th, 7 PM
Massy Books
229 Georgia Street, Vancouver
Featuring: Christopher Evans, Dallas Hunt, Laura Matwichuk, Sonnet L'Abbé, Marion Quednau, Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Shaun Robinson, Ellie Sawatzky, Kevin Spenst, Mallory Tater and Ian Williams
Hosted by: Rob Taylor and Fiona Tinwei Lam

It's going to be a heck of an evening. I'd love to see you there!