25th Trillium Award

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The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Jeff Blackman

Jeff Blackman (photo credit: Kate Maxfield)

The WAR Series (Writers As Readers) gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Today we find out about the reading habits of Ottawa poet Jeff Blackman, who is releasing his chapbook So Long As the People Are People with Apt. 9 Press at the Raw Sugar Cafe on Monday, June 17th. He'll be joined by Stephen Brockwell (Excerpts from Improbable Books) and Christine McNair (pleasantries and other misdemeanours). Visit our Events page for details.


The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

A book that made me cry:

Last I remember was What's Bred In Bone by Robertson Davies. He built such a likeable, befriending protagonist that it was a mournful choking up when he goes (not a spoiler; everyone dies!). I don't think I've ever actually wept from reading a book, though I've definitely wept over letters and emails.

The first adult book I read:

I think Animal Farm in Grade 8, thus beginning a long period of not getting the point of Animal Farm and drawing Hammers & Sickles in my margins. I didn't cry for Old Boxer then but I think of him a lot (the horse sent to the glue factory) whenever I read of/encounter exploitation.

A book that made me laugh out loud:

My Grade 13 writers' craft teacher read to us aloud from The Collected Works Billy the Kid by Michael Ondatjee. The story about the shoot-out victim getting a his vein plucked out by a chicken, the image of the man as a kite, and then the man's last words: "Get away from me yer stupid chicken." Prof had the perfect voice for it; used to roll smokes his in class. He (Michael Gelman) and my Grade 12 English teacher (Louise Kee) made me want to come to school everyday.

The book I have re-read many times:

1984, for probably about three to four term papers, and at least once otherwise. It's been five years now, so I'm probably due. It keeps getting funnier every time.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:

Any Irving Layton book. I haven't read one.

The book I would give my 17-year-old self, if I could:

Book of Mercy by Leonard Cohen, to balance all the anthologized Leonard Cohen love stuff I would have been (exclusively) reading then. It's supposed to be a book of psalms written as prose poems, and it's about as far as Cohen gets from song-writing as far I'm aware.

The best book I read in the past six months:

I guess The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut (yes, Kurt's son). In a nutshell it's about a lost boy trying to make a new home for himself and trying to assume the best about the people he meets, and thus reality drives him mad. Or he'd disagree with me completely. It's an autobiography of a man who went suffered through severe mental illness for years. The narrative is deceptive in a way I've never read before. His voice is so lucid, so detail oriented, that suddenly the scene is hallucinogenic and you can't quite tell where reality gave way to fantasy. I loved House of Leaves, but something about this — maybe because it was grounded in 'reality' — worked so well.

The book I plan on reading next:

Day of the Triffids, which my wife insists is way better than The Chyrsalids, which I love. John Wyndham makes concrete telepathy, and I admire that talent, and apparently in 'Triffids he does a mesmerizing account of blindness, so I look forward to having my heart wrenched thusly.

A possible title for my autobiography:

What I Hear. Or, Apparently Those Last Teen Years Won't Shake.

Jeff Blackman works as a research analyst in Ottawa, Ontario. Between 2008 and 2012 Kate Maxfield and he co-founded, co-managed and co-tended The Moose & Pussy, Carleton University's late, great literary sex magazine. Jeff remains to this day anchored by Carleton's eclectic literary collective, "In/ Words." His first full chapbook in three years, So Long As The People Are People (Apt. 9 Press, 2013), has been described as a call for the sanity of the humane and the personal in an increasingly negative and combative world. Visit his website for links to recent publications and performances.

For more information about So Long As the People Are People please visit the Apt. 9 Press website.


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