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Visible Verse, Vancouver, Nov 4 – 5, 2011-11


ArtsHub, Downtown Edmonton, Summer 2011

(photos by Stuart Adams)


Cafe Leva, Edmonton, Victorian/Early Modernist Night, Summer 2011

(photos by Stuart Adams)


Battle of the Bards, April, Harbourfront, Toronto

(photo by Kooluris Doobs, Toronto)


Canadian Literature Conference, U of Alberta, March, 2011-11

(Photo by Stuart Adams)


Vancouver Festival (November 2010)


Interview With The Toronto Quarterly

Kath MacLean has been recognized as one of Edmonton's most eclectic poets. Her award-winning poetry, prose, and non-fiction has been critically acclaimed across Canada. She is also one of Canada's premier spoken-word performers, recently launching her debut spoken-word CD, "Seed Bone & Hammer," which she collaborated on with musician Lane Arndt.

MacLean's first book of poetry, "For a Cappuccino on Bloor," (Broken Jaw Press, 1998),was praised by the likes of Al Purdy, Judith Fitzgerald, and George Elliot Clarke and captured the New Muse Award. Her poetry and book reviews have been published widely in many prominent Canadian literary journals and magazines such as Grain, Descant, CV2, Fiddlehead, Sub-terrain, and the forthcoming issue of The Toronto Quarterly.

She has previously been the Professor of English at the University of Alberta and currently teaches creative writing at Grant MacEwan College. She is also the Writer-in-Residence for the Canadian Authors Association (Edmonton Branch).

We recently interviewed Kath about the release of "Seed Bone & Hammer."

TTQ- What was the inspiration behind your latest project, the spoken-word CD, "Seed Bone & Hammer" and how did it all start to finally come together?

Kath- I think it began during a reading I was giving at the Arts Bar in TO a few years back. I read the PR blurb on the table about me calling me a “performance poet” and I thought, I wonder where they got that from? After reading that night several people in the audience asked me where my CD was and wanted to buy it. I felt like a loser for not having one since everyone else that night seemed to. So, I began thinking should I? I kept getting billed as a performance poet and even was the headliner for a spoken word fest here in Edmonton. When I mentioned to a colleague I was doing a little recording and really enjoying it she suggested I ask for funding for the project. I did, got some, and the idea for a longer CD was born.

TTQ- How did your collaboration with musician Lane Arndt for "Seed Bone & Hammer" all come about and what was that experience like for you?

Kath- My partner introduced me to Lane who was his guitar teacher at the time. I met with Lane and right off thought he was pretty special. We met again and talked about the project and thought we might try one poem together. After several months we finally recorded the ghazals in Lane’s basement recording studio. More time passed, I ran out of money then was surprised to get funded by the college where I had been teaching creative writing for some time. That money extended the project so that suddenly my little PR package was going to be more than one piece. I then got two more grants from the college and one from Canada Council to finish up the project. The whole process took about two and a half years.

TTQ- Was it somewhat of an arduous task for you trying to incorporate music with each of the poems you planned to use on the CD?

Kath- Many of the poems have been reworked from earlier poems some dating back quite a while. One I had written and performed for Al Purdy out in Victoria and he told me, “kid you’re going to go somewhere.” but I just didn’t know where at the time. I was a print poet, but some of my stuff left me scratching head too. I wasn’t really sure – I’m still not – just what I really had. I know now these poems needed to find another place to live. It just took me a while to figure out where that was.

TTQ- Do you feel with today's "everything is digital world" that the publishing of poetry might be headed more into a spoken word/audio format versus the tradition poetry book, that in most cases sells too few copies?

Kath- No, (can you hear me laughing??), I think they attract two very different audiences and different kinds of writers. Not that many poets are both performers and print poets, although more and more poets have to be performers since we need to promote our own work. YouTube may have pushed this even more to the foreground. Many of us, raised in the academy, were fed print stuff and have tremendous respect for it. For me, it’s more important to have my poetry work on the page. If I can perform it and get more people interested in my work and poetry - great!

TTQ- The launch for "Seed Bone & Hammer" was held at the Kasbar Lounge back in December 2009. Did you perform the CD in its entirety that evening and do you plan on doing a tour to help promote the CD?

Kath- No, I didn’t perform the whole thing – that would have been way too long for any audience to listen to me! I wanted the night to be a celebration of voices – those that I felt had helped me reach this point, those who had travelled with me, and those I might have helped find their own poetic voices. So, I invited my long time mentor, Doug Barbour and his reading partner, Stephen Scobie to open my show. They are amazing and I felt really honoured to have them and to later perform with them. They are masters at what they do and the audience loved them. I also invited other local poets who have shared the stage with me here in AB including Jenna Butler, Kathy Fisher and Lorie Miseck. I also invited Jeff Carpenter, a former student of mine and Doug’s to have a chance to perform some of his sound poetry. My photographer, for the night, Carmen Jarrah, was also a former student and I was thrilled when she volunteered to help me out.

The show couldn’t have happened without Lane of course so I flew him in from Victoria where he now lives. He had some of the sound recorded, but did live improvs too. I wanted that kind of energy and I wanted to include him in the show. He also played a few numbers on his own. For the last number of the night, Ten Ways to Skin a Cat, I invited all of my poets to join me on stage. That was pretty amazing. You can hear some of it on YouTube, but it doesn’t show really how great the group was together. We had a ball rehearsing it.

TTQ- Who helped you with the production of "Seed Bone & Hammer" and was it an expensive project to pull off?

Kath- Yes, this was very expensive – about 13K I think. I had three grants from Grant MacEwan College where I was teaching and one from Canada Council, but it still wasn’t enough to cover all of my expenses. I had to pay for quite a bit on my own so that’s one of the reasons this took as long as it did. Without the grants, it most definitely would not have happened.

Lane composed the music and produced the CD. The man is a genius and I’m very indebted to him.

TTQ- The packaging of the CD is quite nice but I'm wondering why there was no lyric/poetry sheet included?

Kath- Before I got to the stage where I was thinking about design I asked my brother, Doc MacLean, a blues musician who has recorded several CD’s over the years for his advice. He told me how to get my costs down and I tried to keep that in mind when I approached my artist, Cassidy Armstrong. Inserts are expensive and I decided since some of the poetry had already been published (in other forms sometimes), I would be better off using my money for design and colour. Colour is expensive too and was very important to me. Cassidy got that right from the start and understood what it was I was trying to show with this CD. She kept this part well under control & I learned not to mess with her area. She knew what she was doing and I certainly didn’t.

TTQ- Your first book of poetry, "for a Cappuccino on Bloor St." was praised by the likes of Al Purdy, Judith Fitzgerald, and George Elliot Clarke. What have the reviews been like thus far towards "Seed Bone & Hammer"?

Kath- I’ve lots of great verbal reviews, FB reviews, radio reviews, that sort of thing, but you’ll be the first to really review this. I was so busy with the launch – organizing it, setting up my new website (kathmaclean.com) finishing off a manuscript, reading in France, and then writing a new book in Banff oh – and starting a new job as Writer in Res for the CAA that I simply haven’t had time to breathe or send the CD out much yet. The local stations here are playing it. I was having breakfast yesterday and heard Ten Ways to Skin a Cat on CJSR – that was a great way to start my day.

TTQ- Do you plan on writing another poetry book anytime soon and if so when can we expect its release?

Kath- That is the question!! Reminds me of when I was in grad school and everyone used to ask about the thesis. Once I actually finished it and had a defence date no one asked any more! My new book, Kat Among the Tigers, will be coming out with U of A Press in spring 2011. There have been others since Bloor, but I’ve had a hard time letting my babies go – I’m a perfectionist and tend to want to sit on things for a good long while –sometimes until I’m so tired and have long since moved on. I’m glad this didn’t happen with Seed Bone. We rehearsed like crazy, I rewrote and reconfigured poems and got better and more confident about what I was doing in the studio. By the end of it all I felt I’d really learned a lot. We’ve already been asked about the next one, and Lane and I have talked about it jokingly, but hey, we both need some time for other projects. I’ve several other books under my skin that need airing. It all takes time. . .

TTQ- Are there many spoken word artists you enjoy listening to and have they at all inspired you in the making of the CD?

Kath- I don’t see myself as a spoken word artist, but rather a poet who has learned to perform her stuff and to lift it from the page. I spent years as a teenager listening to Gwendolyn MacEwan and Dylan Thomas and the Four Horsemen spinning their records and playing their tapes. I’d follow their poems and study how they read, where the line stopped and the breath came, where the voice went up or down or in the case of the Horsemen, how all the parts fit together. The Beats helped me learn about breath. Today I admire Christian Bok very much for his gutsy performances, but he also has a great deal to say and that’s really important. I’ve also been intrigued by some of Patrick Friesen’s stuff and early on thought some of Earl Birney’s numbers were interesting for their time. I also spent a long while as Doug’s student and learned from him – he passed on his love of Phyllis Webb and Daphne Marlatt both of whom are great readers and performers. & I guess having a background in music has had its affect on me too. Both my mom and oldest brother are professional musicians and at one time I played many instruments and had thoughts about being becoming the next greatest composer. It was the making -- putting all kinds of tones and voices together and making a story that continues to interest me. So, it feels like in creating Seed Bone the cosmos has come together.

CD Release

Seed Bone & Hammer launched at the Kasbar Lounge on Dec. 10th to a full house. Thanks so much to everyone --performers and those that helped behind the scenes either with PR or with a million other jobs. You were all so wonderful and made the show a success. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. & we wouldn't have a show if we didn't have a wonderful audience. Thanks too for all of you coming out and showing your support and your love of poetry and music on a very cold winter night. I think we all had a very good time.

Check out the videos of "There Was a Young Man" and "Language of Desire" here.

Some photos from the event!

Download the poster

Grant MacEwan Article

Prominent Poet Produces First CD - read the article here.

Seed Bone & Hammer CD Booklet

Behind The Scenes of Seed Bone & Hammer

Click here to view the behind the scenes gallery!