Thank you for Four Years! (And a farewell from the Administrative Director)

This September saw Sawdust mark its fourth year shining a light on new and established literary voices in Ottawa! We couldn’t have hoped for a more dynamic group of featured readers, open mic readers (and singer Amanda Earl!), and audience members! It’s always a very special occasion when Sandra Ridley comes to share her work with us, and we were transfixed listening to the thematic chain across her books.

This was also the launch of our Fourth Anniversary Chapbook, featuring poetry from many of the authors who have graced our stage over the past year! You can order it by emailing us at or

Below you’ll find some of the photos from the reading!

On a very personal note, I was happy to have so many familiar faces together for my last show as Administrative Director for Sawdust, having resigned effective the end of September of this year. I have been with Sawdust for two years, and it really feels like a family affair. It was very difficult to step away from the series, and I am proud to have contributed to the excellent work done by our Director, Jennifer Pederson and our Assistant Director, Liam Burke, in running Sawdust. Every month feels like a rich and nurturing environment for creativity!

Here’s to the next four years!



Liam Burke, Assistant Director, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Christine Sung, Volunteer and open mic reader, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Emily Carrigan, open mic reader,, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Ian Martin, open mic reader, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018


Mike Way, open mic reader, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Stephanie Jewel (Bjooji Kwe), open mic reader, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Jennifer Pederson, Director, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Sanita Fejzic, featured Poem-Off author, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Avonlea Fotheringham, featured Poem-Off author, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Natalie Hanna, Administrative Director (outgoing), photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Alastair Larwill, featured Poem-Off author, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Manahil Bandukwala, featured Poem-Off author, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018


Allie Duff, featured Poem-Off author, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Sandra Ridley, Veteran Feature and Special Guest, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Sandra Ridley, Veteran Feature and Special Guest, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Sandra Ridley, Veteran Feature and Special Guest, photo (c) R.B. Fairchild, 2018

Sawdust Reading Series 4th Anniversary Collection

As we prepare to celebrate our 4th anniversary, Sawdust is delighted to announce our first chapbook. This chapbook gathers poetry from our September 2017- September 2018 authors! The anniversary collection (available for $7.00) will launch at the reading on Wednesday, September 19th at 7:00 pm. We can’t wait to share it with you! (After the launch, you can contact us directly or obtain a copy through battleaxe press.)

Welcome to Sawdust’s New Home – Bar Robo!


After two wonderful months being temporarily hosted by our great friends and fine book purveyors at Black Squirrel Books,  Sawdust is pleased to announce our new home at Bar Robo!

Located in Chinatown, steps away from the Arch, at 692 Somerset West, Ottawa, Bar Robo features cocktails, snacks, and non-stop shows in their beautiful and inviting space! (Bus service close-by on Route 11.)

Our first reading at Bar Robo will take place Tuesday, August 22nd at 7:00 pm, and will have a Double Veteran Feature displaying the skill of two of Ottawa’s most powerful spoken word artists, Blue and Apollo the Child!

See you there, Ottawa! Come hear the word!

Sawdust at Black Squirrel Books for Summer Solstice!!!

Ah, Good Poetry Folk, we are delighted to announce that on June 21st, our ninth Sawmill Workshop and poetry reading, with Poem-Off Winner Jean Van Loon and Chris Jennings, will take place at the wonderful Black Squirrel Books and Espresso Bar! (Black Squirrel is located at 1073 Bank Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Tel: 613-422-9050.)

This beautiful venue, aside from holding the literary treasures of your dreams, nestled in its aisles, is the home of our much esteemed and beloved fellow reading series, TREE!  On June 27th, TREE will host Griffin Poetry Prize nominee Hoa Ngyuen as well as Hot Ottawa Voices authors, Nina Jane Drystek, Robin McLachlen, and Sarah Macdonell!

Celebrate the solstice and get your summertime poetic fix at Black Squirrel!

Rockstars of Poetry at Versefest

Sawdust was delighted to participate in Versefest 2017, hosting readers Steven Heighton and Louis Bertholom, a figurative and a literal rockstar of poetry! We were moved by the emotion of Betholom’s recitation and wowed by the punch of Heighton’s work!

An enormous and heartfelt congratulations to Jamaal Jackson Rogers (AKA JustJamaal), and Andrée Lacelle, our freshly inaugurated English and French Poet Laureates of Ottawa!

Thank you to everyone who helped organize this wonderful annual event, from the board and readers, to the volunteers. Thank you to the guests who continue to demonstrate what a thriving literary culture we have in the Nation’s Capital!

Sawdust at Versefest Ottawa 2017!

Sawdust is once again proud to participate as a host reading series at Versefest Ottawa 2017! At 9:00 pm, on Sunday, March 26th, Sawdust will host a bilingual event with Steven Heighton and Louis Bertholom at Knox Presbyterian Church (located at 227 Elgin Street, in Ottawa).

Steven Heighton received the 2016 Governor General’s Award for poetry for The Waking Comes Late. His poetry and fiction have appeared in London Review of Books, Best English Stories, Best American Poetry, Tin House, Zoetrope, Poetry, Arc, and TLR, and have received four gold National Magazine Awards. His new novel, The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep, will appear this spring.

Louis Bertholom, a former rock singer, has published about 15 books (poetry, narratives) in different editions. He was one of the founders of Blanc Silex publishing house in 1995. His autobiographical account Le rivage du cidre was given a warm welcome when it was brought out in 2002. Reports on the local TV channels and interview on France Culture for Amerika blues, a book in which he speaks about Jack Kerouac’s celtic filiation.

He writes for a few poetry magazines and appears in 30 anthologies and collective works.He has recorded two CDs in studio, Ma seule terre and then Vents solaires which was awarded the Télégramme “Coup de Coeur” Record Prize. He has also made two DVDs one of which is recorded live with his musicians. He performs in recitals with professional jazz players who compose their music on his texts. He has contributed to several stage creations since 1979, even in schools with pupils of all ages and levels.

He has participated in international festivals. He has won the Xavier Grall Prize for the whole body of his work, and he is also the second finalist of the Camille Le Mercier d’Erm Prize for his book Mordre le monde and he is first finalist for “Bréviaire de sel”. Since 1982 he has been a member of Sacem and of the Breton writers association. Some of his poems have been translated into Breton, Czech, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), modern Greek and Arab (Morocco and Egypt where he is published).

Louis Bertholom co-organizes literary nights around poetry (“Les rendez-vous de Max”) every first thursday of the month in Quimper (Brittany); they take place at poet Max Jacob’s house (1876-1944) which was transformed into a bar and restaurant. He also co-organizes two book summer festivals in Fouesnant.

Immediately before this reading, Mark Doty will read, and Versefest will announce Ottawa’s two Poet Laureates!

For more information, including ticket purchases, please visit the Versefest website.

Black History Month at the Sawdust Reading Series

Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke and Poem-Off winner Doug Dumais joined the Sawdust reading series for Black History Month on February 15, 2017 and absolutely transfixed the audience.

Clarke performed sections from his newest work Canticles I – monologues focusing on those who fostered the transatlantic slave trade, or who demonized the image of the Negro in the Occident; as well as those who struggled for liberation and/or anti-racism. See George Elliott Clarke perform here, accompanied by Assistant Director, Liam Burke, on guitar.

Thank you to all who participated and listened to this tremendous night!


Happy New Year from the Sawdust Reading Series!

What a whirlwind year it’s been!

Our Second Anniversary Show in September of 2016 saw the return of some of our fantastic features and contest winners, including (now Secretary/Treasurer) Mia Morgan, Robin McLachlan, Rusty Priske, am kozak, Susan J. Atkinson, Sarah MacDonell, and Jason Christie! We were wowed and enchanted by Steven Ross Smith’s reading. (To say nothing of his kindness and grace in discussing his work in sound poetry with us once away from the mic!) We even had a special treat when Steven was joined at the mic by jw curry!

In October, we were joined by the insightful Roland Prevost and Mary Lee Bragg. Mary Lee, enjoying recent publication in Bywords, was both funny and captivating inducing spontaneous applause several times. Roland was, as expected, mesmerising and he could have read to us all night. The warmth was overwhelming. This was a night of terrific energy!

November’s reading saw Gary Barwin join us, fresh off his Giller and Governor General’s nominations, along with Ian Martin! Gary brought us touching laughter, insight, movement and thoughtfulness! Ian’s brand of intelligent, self-deprecating humour never descends into the morose but remains always relatable and soothing. Special farewells were made to the great Leonard Cohen by many of our open mic performers, including a moving song by Director Jennifer Pederson and a breathtakingly beautiful family story generously shared with us by Michelle Debarats.

At our final reading of the year, a fine community spirit held us, indeed! Poem-Off winner David Collins kept us in elegant stitches before gently turning us over to the sublime phrases of the first stirring feature, Marilyn Irwin, who stilled us. (But not before entreating us to curse 2016, with its tragedies, away heartily!) With the honour of being our final feature of the year, Chris Johnson, with his excellent good humour, brought us poetry backdropped by memes, busted translations and a phone call to friend and fellow author, Sanita Fejzic to make sure she didn’t miss a thing (well, not much!)

As we head into 2017, we are so proud to continue to work to merge up and coming voices with well established authors for our literary community. We wish to thank everyone who has made Sawdust feel like a family, from our features, winners, and open mic-readers (many of whom have been our features as well), to our attentive and involved audience, to our stalwart bartender Rhys Desson, and to the friends and families of all of the readers and organizers who have shown their overwhelming support.

In particular, we would like to thank the following authors, community builders, and friends:

Stephen Brockwell
Amanda Earl
Frances Boyle
Pearl Pirie
rob mclennan
Laraine Pederson
Rod Pederson
David Blaikie
Mike Way
Anthony Marko

Sawdust would also like to thank the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts for their valuable assistance in bringing some of our featured readers to the stage this year!

We have some more exciting readers whom we can’t wait to announce to you for 2017, including Guernica Editions’ own Michael Mirolla, who will be joining us on January 18!

Until then, a very happy 2017 to you all, and we’ll see you at the mic!

Jennifer, Liam, Natalie, and Mia.

Sawdust’s Second Anniversary Reading!

Sawdust is delighted to be celebrating our second anniversary with our amazing and diverse literary community! On Wednesday, September 21st, we will start with an open mic, followed by readings from some of our Poem-Off Winners from the Past year, before being joined by Steven Ross Smith!

Our Poem-Off All-Stars will include Mia Morgan, Robin McLachlan, Rusty Priske, am kozak, Susan J. Atkinson, Daniel Mark Patterson, Sarah MacDonell, and Jason Christie!

Steven Ross Smith is a poet, fiction and non-fiction writer, a sound and performance poet, and an editor. He also writes reviews, interviews, and magazine features on the visual and literary arts. He has been publishing books since the 1970s, and was a member of the legendary sound poetry group Owen Sound. His most recent book, his thirteenth, the poetry collection Emanations: Fluttertongue 6, was published in 2015. He has written two librettos, and scripts for documentary television. Smith’s book fluttertongue 3: disarray won the 2005 Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award. The chapbook Pliny’s Knickers, a collaboration, won the 2006 bpNichol Chapbook Award.

Smith was the founding Director of Sage Hill Writing Experience in 1990 and served as Director of Literary Arts at The Banff Centre from 2008 to 2014.

Smith was the resident writer for one week this March at the Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in Oliver, BC. He is the Fall 2016 Writer in Residence in the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture at University of Manitoba. He otherwise lives and writes in Banff, Alberta and on Galiano Island, British Columbia.

( Find him at: Twitter @SonnyBoySmith; )

We can’t wait to see you there!

The Sawdust Series gratefully acknowledges the support of the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts for this reading.
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