Dani visits . . .

by Dani Couture

June 2006: http://www.poetryreviews.ca

Close your eyes. I want you to breathe deeply and picture a lush verdant landscape. Bright white daisies and thick clusters of dandelions are everywhere. Can you see the tulips? How about the happy little trees that dot the landscape like the ones in Bob Ross’ paintings? See them? Good. Welcome to poetryreviews.ca.

This nifty little site concentrates solely on reviewing Canadian poetry books. The site itself is set up like a blog—after a review, you can let the reviewer know what you really think of her or his review. Welcome to the new world of instant feedback.

The site seems to be set up with writers in mind. Why else would you have to search for a book review by the publisher? Does your mother tell you over your obligatory Sunday phone call that she just picked up the latest Penguin offering? Not likely. Regardless, I am keen on the categorization. I know which presses publish work I like to read, and if I’m feeling particularly adventurous, I can choose from a number of other presses.

What I respect most about the site is their “bad book” review policy: “If you don’t like a book, can find no redeeming qualities, you can still send it back without reviewing it, and request something else. However, (and this was always implied if never explicitly stated) you can also continue on and review the book.” Now, I believe in an honest review—it’s good for both reader and writer—however, what I don’t agree with is public assassinations, and I think that this is what the editor is trying to avoid.

Finally, if you’re missing the shameless self-promotion topic on Book Ninja’s old message board, you can get your fix at poetryreviews.ca. They have their very own mini-forum that hosts three topics: upcoming readings/events, new releases and award announcements. Fret no more, dear poets. Once again, you can inform your throngs of rabid poetry groupies of your next appearance.



October 2005: http://www.dooneyscafe.com/ 

“Anne of Avonlea -- PEI's most lucrative export, a national treasure or a lesbian costume/soap opera, depending on which washroom walls you're reading. Key Canadian export to Japan.”

--Excerpt from Dooney’s Dictionary

Go for the dictionary, stay for the news. Tired of reading The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun, and the Amherstburg Echo? Well, there’s an alternative and it’s only a click away. Perfectly described on their website, Dooney’s is “a state of mind rooted in several things: a community centred around a café on Toronto’s Bloor Street, a dissatisfaction with conventional news gathering, analysis and dissemination”; however, you don’t have to be from Toronto to appreciate what this website is peddling.

Dooney’s offers space to a limited number of writers “who dislike the current supervisors of culture”. On the site, you’ll find the thoughts and opinions of a diverse lot of folks that include Brian Fawcett, George Bowering, and Dooney’s Northern Ontario correspondent, Wally Hourback. Think you have what it takes to write an article for Dooney’s? Submit your masterpiece to Dooney’s editor, Gordon Lockheed.

While disappointed that there are no reviews posted under the Restaurants and Food section, there are plenty of book reviews, and you could lose a week going through the archived articles. While you’re on the website, be sure to check out Brian Fawcett’s article “Why Canadian Novels Aren’t Selling Anymore” in the Book Publishing section. Just try to ignore the excessive spam in the comments section. I’ve already got my free desktop wallpapers and generic prozac, thanks.


April 2005: http://www.bookninja.com 

"The sky is not falling—Canadians spend twice as much on books as we do on the cockfights. The survey makes no distinction between literature, children's books, Atkins diet manuals or, for that matter, books about cockfights."


Like a razor-sharp shuriken to the heart, bookninja.com entered my life, or at least my lunch half-hour. Instead of eating dry roast beef sandwiches, I can regularly be found reading posts in the discussion forum where everything from fonts to Native literature is discussed at length. With well over one hundred topics, you are bound to find a subject that you have strong feelings about, feelings strong enough that you register and maniacally post away. Whether you use your real name as your handle, or not, is up to you. Many don’t; however, I think that even more create and use multiple identities. Some ninjas even appear to argue with their other identities. Suddenly, figuring out if "ZW" is the same person as "Z" and "zed" seems important. But really, if you’re short on time, stay out of the discussion forum. I’ve heard rumors of folks visiting and never leaving.

Discussion forum aside, there’s enough material on the site to keep a ninja busy for hours. A favorite of mine, though on hiatus for some months now, is the Litterati Caption Contest found on the comics page. George Murray uploads his disembodied heads and hands on the site and invites visitors to submit captions for the single panel cartoons he has penned. Check out the archive section for past cartoons and captions that lampoon the literary world. Another draw to the site is the "inverse omnibus reviews". There, one book is likely to be reviewed by no less than two critics, which is great for those looking for different perspectives on the same work.

While in traditional Japanese culture, a ninja village's purpose is to support ninja and remain unnoticed, I definitely encourage you to check out this site and discuss a wide range of topics. After all, the ninja's specialty was not assassination but rather espionage. What do you know?


February 2005: http://www.cranksandlurkers.com/ 

Have you ever thought that you could select better poems than what you read in various lit journals? Here's your chance. Touted as the "world's first self-edited literary journal,” CRANKS&NDLURCKERS is the Battle Royale of literary journals. Anyone can be an editor, simply sign up on the site for free. Once you have signed up, you are issued two accounts: one for voting and one for submitting. It’s partially up to you what poems get to stay “alive.”

The journal works on a basic points system. As an editor, each week you are given 10 voting points that you can award to poems you like. Four poems are posted online each week. Don’t like a poem? Don’t award it any of your votes. The three poems with the least amount of votes in one week will disappear into oblivion. The poem that is awarded the most points each week gets to move on to the next round of competition. As stated on the site:

Each month, the previous month’s four weekly winners will face another round of voting. The winner of this round will be posted to our archives section and published in our quintennial print anthology.

On joining, you are also issued 50 points for submitting, the exact amount that one needs to submit a poem on C&L. If your poem does not garner at least 50 points, you are banned from submitting to C&L for one full year. So, pull on your thick skins and get ready submit!

For the complete rules, visit http://www.cranksandlurkers.com/. Also, if you sign up, you will receive short weekly updates from C&L founder and moderator, Pino Coluccio. The website design alone is worth a visit.


January 2005: http://stonestone.unbc.ca/ 

So, winter won’t cooperate. A weekend of winter camping in the rain has left me happy to be back home and surfing the net. At the suggestion of a friend, I punched in the URL for UNBC’s online literary journal. Greeted with cool blue tones and a minimalist aesthetic, the site’s unpretentious nature is welcoming. At least it looks as if it’s winter somewhere.

The site’s advisory board is comprised of folks from Prince George, Winnipeg, and Montreal; you can find the culmination of their efforts on the “current” page where all of the latest stonestone lit. is corralled. Want more? Check out the archives section for three back issues of poetry and fiction. Among the archives, I am happily reacquainted with the poetry of Jon Paul Fiorentino, which reminds me to take stock of my post-holiday medicine cabinet. Anyway, there is another point of interest on stonestone’s rails: The Dome Car: Poetry Train Poems.

The link to the Poetry Train Poems is a tunnel to a collection of talented poets such as bill bissett, Jay MillAr, and Deborah Stiles. These poems are, for me, the most provocative on the site. And lo and behold, Mr. Fiorentino again!

So, yes, another cool site to check out on the literary internet map of Canada. However, I wonder at the riddle of the “sound” link. “still sounding...” Indeed.


October 2004: http://www.goodreports.net/

Those who visit the site on a regular basis may instinctively associate goodreports.net with the picture of the barn that graces the top left hand corner of the home page. This barn, engulfed in a perpetual snowstorm, stands sentry through all four seasons, as does the site's founder, Alex Good.

Alex manages to scour the web for interesting reviews, articles, poetry, and fiction which he then links on goodreports.net. Most notable and interesting is the goodreports.net Anthology, an archive of links for poetry and short fiction on the web. While savvy web-browsers are able to discover these poems on their own by visiting literary journal websites, goodreports.net selects a few of the more interesting pieces and then links them.

It’s also important to mention that not all of the material on goodreports.net is skimmed from other sites. There is an extensive archive of essays and reviews written by Alex himself. Whether it’s his A Defense of Reviewing, or an interview with Pierre Berton, Alex’s casual style is welcoming and relaxed. It’s difficult not to feel like the site is maintained by someone you know and maybe have not seem in ages--so long, in fact, that you seem to forget what he looks like.

Dani Couture is poet living in Toronto. Her website is danicouture.com 

"My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music."
- Vladimir Nabokov