These Actual Lines: A Book of Erasure #1-4

While editing The Collected Poems of William Hawkins (2015), I began doing  erasures of Bill’s poems. I focused on his 1966 collection Ottawa Poems and completed an erasure of each of the 28 poems in the book. I didn’t begin the work thinking of them as poems that I would share, instead thinking of it as a way to engage more deeply with Bill’s poems and to practice erasure. When they were finished, I liked them as a set more than I expected. I showed them to Bill, and he kindly gave me his blessing. One went on to be published as an above/ground press “poem” broadside (#336),  and selections from the full set were shortlisted for the 2016 John Lent Poetry/Prose Award from Kalamalka Press (Okanagan College) under the title “These Actual Lines: A Book of Erasure.”

The John Lent Award is a prize where the winner’s chapbook manuscript is printed by design students using letterpress. I submitted the erasures because I thought that they would pose an interesting challenge on letterpress. I like erasure when it keeps the words in their original positions on the page and when it does something interesting visually. Letterpress would likely be an excruciating way to print poems of this sort given all their blank space, but I suspect the outcome would have been beautiful.

In any event, I didn’t win, and so have been trying to come up with a more interesting way to present these poems visually.

Following Bill’s death in July, I was gifted his typewriter.


It is an Olivetti Lettera 30 from, I believe, the 1970s (at least according to a rough google search). My plan is to use his typewriter to re-type Ottawa Poems, and subsequently to perform my erasures on the poems directly using the typewriter. I ran some tests on the first few poems today, and I’m happy with the results. I suspect I could use a new ribbon, but I’m enjoying the process so far and think it works for the poems. I’m not sure if the “x” is the best way to block off words, but I used it today.

Given that it is a 1970s typewriter, it comes after the writing and publication of Ottawa Poems (1966), but nonetheless, I feel like I am communing with Bill when I use it. I am now re-typing the book for the second time (I re-typed on the computer for The Collected Poems). The original book was published by Nelson Ball’s Weed/Flower Press using mimeograph, and so Nelson would have typed stencils for the book before printing, re-typing from Bill’s manuscript. Re-typing this book on a typewriter feels particularly relevant given its original print form.

Anyway, I’ll be at it for a while, but below you’ll find Barbara Caruso’s cover for the original edition, followed by my erasures of the first four poems in the book. I’ll post subsequent pages in small groups as I complete them.

Ottawa Poems Cover
William Hawkins. Ottawa Poems. Kitchener: Weed/Flower Press, 1966. Design by Barbara Caruso.

Ottawa Poems #1Ottawa Poems #2Ottawa Poems #3Ottawa Poems #4



Horsebroke Press

Are you following the newly revived (or at least, now more publicly visible) Horsebroke Press, run by Jeff Blackman out of Ottawa? Really happy to see a new collection, The Desert and the Flood, from Amanda Besserer, a-long-time-ago co-editor and ally at In/Words (and classmate at Carleton) who always impressed and intimidated me. She published one previous chapbook close to a decade ago (November 2006 I believe). The new poems are strong and tough and honest and lovely and welcome after so long, and the books are beautifully made. The first printing sold out quickly, so Jeff made a second that is now available to order and will undoubtedly also sell out quickly. Snap it up! And grab Jeff’s own I don’t know what you need while you’re at it.


Show and Tell Poetry Series: Year One Reading

We made the trip to Peterborough to celebrate the first year of the Show and Tell Poetry Series, run by Elisha Rubacha and Justin Million. It was an intimate and compelling reading, performed in their backyard in downtown Peterborough. If you’re nearby, get out to one of the shows, and if you’re not, listen in.

Photo by Jennifer Huzera.


rob mclennan on Bill Hawkins

Another remembrance and tribute to Bill, this time from rob mclennan. Read it here.

Hawkins’ exploits are as legendary as they are apocryphal, including tales of facilitating Jimi Hendrix’ recording of a Joni Mitchell performance at Le Hibou on his reel-to-reel (later recording Hawkins performing a new song on guitar at the after-party), a run-in with Mexican police at the Mexican-American border involving a pick-up truck of weed (and Trudeau’s subsequent interventions on their behalf), and a day-long reading at the site of a former hotel in Ottawa’s LowertownAnother story has Hawkins sitting on stage reading quietly to himself in a rocking chair during a performance of The Children at Maple Leaf Gardens, as they opened for The Lovin’ Spoonful.