Eric Volmers, Calgary Herald
calgary-ab-august-28-2015-derek-beaulieu-holds-a-stPublished on: August 30, 2015 | Last Updated: August 30, 2015 6:15 AM MDT

For those who remember the exciting, adventure-filled Choose Your Own Adventure books from their childhood, Inside UFO 54-40 may sound a touch nihilistic.

Judging by the cover of the 1982 book by Edward Packard — No. 12 of the popular series — the tale involves UFOs, spider-like aliens and those famous heads on Easter Island. It apparently has 30 possible resolutions and, according to Calgary’s poet laureate Derek Beaulieu, all but one end badly.

“Oddly enough, it’s the only Choose your Own Adventure book that cannot be solved,” says Beaulieu. “There is one happy ending. All the other endings are unhappy. There is one happy ending and you cannot reach it. It’s in the book, you can see it, but none of the choices you make ever lead there. So it’s fascinating.”

It’s not surprising that Beaulieu, known for challenging orthodoxy as both an experimental poet and instructor at Alberta College of Art and Design, chooses Inside UFO 54-40 when asked his favourite Choose Your Own Adventure book.

It was a recent discovery for Beaulieu, not one of the many books from the series he read as a kid. Like many of a certain vintage, he was obsessed with them as a boy. When his parents unearthed a few that had been buried in a box at Beaulieu’s childhood home, it got him thinking.

On Sept. 9, a new batch of students will be taking Beaulieu’s Introduction to Narrative course at ACAD. By that point, he hopes to have accumulated a collection of Choose Your Own Adventure books, and role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, to use as part of the curriculum. No one is arguing that these books are high art. But they did foreshadow a type of storytelling that is now so ubiquitous that we take it for granted. Take Wikipedia, for instance. It’s a new form of self-directed learning “where you start out reading about Calgary and you end up talking about Elvis just because you followed the various links around,” Beaulieu says.

“A lot of the students in this course are design students,” he says. “These are students who want to get into website design, into commercials, into television and movie design. In a lot of ways, Choose Your Own Adventure books foregrounded the way we understand narrative as working on websites and in video games. This is basically fodder for how we understand how video games work. You can turn this way or that way, in any first-person, shooter-style game and it leads to different branched narratives that go from there. That’s the fun thing for me as a teacher is that my students know more about that than I do. I can start the conversation with these books and they can finish the conversation with these websites and video games.”

Beaulieu, who became Calgary’s Poet Laureate in April of 2014, has often used unusual methods as a teacher. In 2013 he asked the public to donate manual typewriters so his creative writing students could learn “how we interface with the tools we have now” by using “dead technology.”

He is now hoping the public will part with whatever Choose Your Own Adventure books they may have kicking around.

“I’m sure that if I had a few in a box, a lot of other people will as well,” Beaulieu says. “These are mass-produced paperbacks and if we can gather them up and use them for a student base they are something we can use over and over.”

The Choose Your Own Adventure series hit their height of popularity in the 1980s. But, oddly enough, the idea of readers being active participants in the narrative they are reading has not completely died out. Actor Neil Patrick Harris toyed with it in his book Choose Your Own Autobiography. Jonathan Ball’s Ex-Machina and Joey Dubuc’s Neither Either Nor Or follow the formula as well.

Beaulieu stresses that this is not a literature appreciation course. Choose Your Own Adventure books aren’t likely to replace Shakespeare anytime soon.

On the other hand …

“One of my favourite new books is a fabulous Choose Your Own Adventure-style book,” Beaulieu says. “It’s about 600-pages long. It’s title is To Be or Not to Be (by Ryan North.). It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure style retelling of Hamlet. There are thousands of different ways of finishing the book. You can be Ophelia, or Hamlet, or Hamlet Sr., the ghost.”

If you have Choose Your Own Adventure books, role-playing or narrative card games to donate, e-mail Beaulieu at or drop them off at ACAD’s front desk.

No Press is proud to announce the publication of

The Old Man’s Illustrated Library: Issues #36 and #5: Typee & Moby Dick by Johnny Damm

Published in a limited edition of 40 copies (only 20 of which are for sale from the press), The Old Man’s Illustrated Library: Issues #36 and #5: Typee & Moby Dick is available for $5.00 including domestic postage (+ $2 non-Canadian postage). To order please email derek beaulieu.

Featuring 5 beautiful full-colour images, Damm’s chapbook creates a melancholy biography of Herman Melville in miniature through collaged Classic Comics

“Reloaded – Konkrete Tendenzen heute” at Bremen’s Weserburg Museum für Moderne Kunst included Natalie Czech’s “Il pleut by Guillaume Apollinaire” (I20150521_181533 b5a05d1fc0‘m thrilled to have created a piece for Natalie as part of that series … )

kern-derek-beaulieu-cover-front-feature“each poem playfully dares the individual reader to discover different associations, different textual memories from within the jumble of non-semantic, alphabetic elements which constitute these pages” … Pank Magazine‘s Klara du Plessis takes an interest in KERN

11666091_10155750028985704_7003988884045271414_nAugust 4, 2015


This Fall, Calgary’s Poet Laureate, and Alberta College of Art + Design Instructor, Derek Beaulieu will be asking students to tell stories by playing games.

Last year Beaulieu offered a course in Creative Writing using manual typewriters, this year students will study and build games and books.

The entire course will focus on “Choose Your Own Adventure” books with classic 1980s volumes as well as contemporary literary examples (from Canada and around the globe) of novels and poems which are made in the style of games and choose-your-own-adventures. Students will examine tabletop games, narrative dice, shuffle books and card games and more.

These texts and games help students explore written stories that take the form of video games and websites; a form of writing where the story is made – and the adventure had – by combining the efforts of the author and reader. A dynamic way of exploring what it means to write today.

Like many other ACAD courses, this course is fully transferable for credit at other Albertan universities and colleges.

In order to make this course a success, he is seeking the donation of “choose your adventure” paperbacks, basic role-playing games and narrative card games. Donations will be offered to students as a means of focussing on student experience and hands-on learning.


Derek Beaulieu is Calgary’s 2014-2016 Poet Laureate and a multiple award-winning sessional instructor of Creative Writing and Literature. He has taught at ACAD for 5 years and holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Roehampton University (London, UK).
Beaulieu received the 2014 National CCWWP ROBERT KROETSCH TEACHING AWARD for teaching classes that are “intimate and focus on making. Studio courses are balanced with lectures and seminars, enabling students to apply theoretical stances within a creative, hands-on environment.”
He is the author of 8 books of poetry (most recently a volume of his visual poetry entitled KERN), 4 volumes of fiction and a book of essays. Beaulieu’s work is consistently praised as some of the most radical and challenging in contemporary Canadian writing.

Semester: Fall 2015
Department: School of Critical and Creative Studies
Instructor: Derek Beaulieu
Course: English 217B – Introduction to Narrative
Dates / Times / Location: Thursdays from 9:00-11:50, ACAD Room 532, stating Sept 9, 2015.

For more information, or to discuss this unusual course, contact Derek Beaulieu:

For information on how to register

TOTAL RECALL 1 August — 3 October, 2015 


Moss St, Bury, Lancashire BL9 0DR, United Kingdom

How do you remember the people who are important to you? How do you conjure your shared past? Is it in an image, a sound, a smell, a touch? Or do you use words?

We invited world-leading poets and text-artists to make a language-memory for Tony Trehy, who has directed the internationally renowned Text Festival at Bury Art Museum since 2005. This exhibition celebrates a 10-year anniversary of the Festival and a 20-year anniversary of Tony’s time at Bury. Writing on a wall, an Internet search, a diary entry, a flurry of thoughts … what is remembering and who is it for?

Tony Trehy has been the ring-leader of decade-long conversations, new opportunities, challenges and heated debates. Each of his four Text Festivals has added to a continuing dialogue between language and art. Every Text Festival has asked the audience a simple-but-complex question: How do I read?

Into the historic space of Bury Art Museum, Trehy has injected text that is a new ‘language art’ for the 21st Century. Bury was once the centre of paper-making in Britain, now it is a pioneer of language-making, with its Text Archive welcoming readers from all over the world.

TOTAL RECALL is a guerrilla makeover, an A4 invasion of reading into the larger narrative of looking. Unlike the street signs outside, these are not corporate instructions or sales pitches; they are antidotes. Walls, vitrine, archival box—nary a “book” to be found, but a heap of language left in memory.

TOTAL RECALL includes work by local, national and international text-based artists and poets: angela rawlings, Alan Halsey, Barrie Tullett, Carolyn Thompson, Cecilie Bjørgås Jordheim, Darren Marsh, derek beaulieu, Emma Cocker, Eric Zboya, Erica Baum, Jaap Blonk, James Davies, Jayne Dyer, Jesse Glass, Karri Kokko, Kristen Mueller, Lawrence Weiner, Leanne Bridgewater, Liz Collini, Lucy Harvest Clarke, Marco Giovenale, Márton Koppány, Matt Dalby, Mike Chavez-Dawson, Paula Claire, Penny Anderson, Peter Jaeger, Philip Davenport, Rachel Defay-Liautard, Robert Grenier, Ron Silliman, Satu Kaikkonen, Sarah Sanders, Seekers of Lice, Stephen Emmerson, Steve Giasson, Steve Miller, Tom Jenks, and Tony Lopez.

— derek beaulieu and Phil Davenport, Curators


I will be posting installation photographs in the coming weeks (and other exciting announcements), but here are a few excerpts from the exhibition:

a.rawlings - "Nutrition Facts"

a.rawlings – “Nutrition Facts”

Alan Halsey - "Notation" #1

Alan Halsey – “Notation” #1

Cecilie Bjørgås Jordheim - excerpt from "The Great Treatise"

Cecilie Bjørgås Jordheim – excerpt from “The Great Treatise”

Eric Zboya - "Barney 'A Portrait'"

Eric Zboya – “Barney ‘A Portrait'”

Jaap Blonk - "Wind for Tony"

Jaap Blonk – “Wind for Tony”

Steve Emmerson - "Paul Written"

Steve Emmerson – “Paul Written”

Erica Baum "Total Recall" #1

Erica Baum “Total Recall” #1

Barrie Tullett - "Our Memories are Constructed" #2

Barrie Tullett – “Our Memories are Constructed” #2

Saturday July 25th at 3:00pm at The Whitechapel Gallery (London):

The New Concrete is a major new anthology charting the explosion of visual poetry in the 21st century.  Having just been released by Hayward Publishing, the launch of this book promises to be a landmark event in visual poetry.

Join us for an afternoon of film and live performance showcasing some of the most exciting work in this field. The event brings together some of the most celebrated poets and artists working at the intersection of visual art and literature.

Building on the celebrated concrete movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the event reveals how this legacy has been refreshed through digital text and image manipulation, modern print techniques and the rise of self-publishing.

With film screenings by Simon Barraclough, Victoria Bean, Caroline Bergvall, Derek Beaulieu, David Bellingham, Cecilie Bjørgås Jordheim, Augusto de Campos, Francesca Capone, Antonio Claudio Carvalho, Kenneth Goldsmith, Sophie Herxheimer, Liliane Lijn, nick-e melville, Rick Myers, W. Mark Sutherland, André Vallias and Nico Vassilakis.

The event features live performances from: Simon Barraclough, Victoria Bean, Derek Beaulieu, David Bellingham, Cecilie Bjørgås Jordheim, Paula Claire, S.J. Fowler, Daniel Lehan, Henningham Family Press, Sophie Herxheimer, Sarah Kelly, Liliane Lijn, Tony Lopez, Chris McCabe, Barrie Tullet and audio from Tom Comitta. You will also be able to purchase a copy of The New Concrete at the event.

Curated by Victoria Bean and Chris McCabe

On July 23rd, I’ll be reading at Jeff Hilson’s XING THE LINE Reading Series at The Apple Tree in Clerkenwell (45 Mount Pleasant, WC1X 0AE London). I’ll be sharing the bill with Sarah Crewe, Luna Montenegro and Adrian Fisher (Facebook event page) … thanks to Jeff for organizing this great event!

I’m pleased as punch to share the news of a beautiful edition of an excerpt from FLATLAND as published by JS Makkos: a hand-crafted edition of #1-20 of Derek Beaulieu’s visual translation of Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland. For all you paper fetishists out there, this is how the colophon reads: “the covers were hand printed on a 19th century 9”x13” Kelsey Excelsior letterpress on vintage Strathmore laid paper, while the front and end sheets are salvaged ecru felt-finish stock, and the interior pages were pigment printed on 50% cotton Stenocraft English Bond and hand-stitched in a limited edition of ~40.” Due credit goes to Jessica Smith for brokering the project, Gideon Finck for aiding with the design, and Rachel Howard for assisting with production.”11027450_1015587408465154_2920604290306164790_n 11695728_1015587541798474_3403228082866413555_n 11013367_1015587571798471_7629452290755031101_n 11695971_1015587551798473_7792088429721055568_n 11705181_1015589025131659_5900559346225846292_n 11705201_1015587428465152_6959070539971440741_n 11709575_1015587395131822_6689781527903824352_n 11732001_1015587538465141_7681002545985866015_o 11743000_1015587568465138_7836268777080980972_n

FullSizeRenderSince 1997, No press (and its predecessor housepress) has published 550 different editions. In celebration, I am proud to announce the publication of


by Christian Bök

Published in a limited edition of 30 copies (15 of which are Hors De Commerce and not for sale), THE VIRELAY OF THE AMINO ACIDS is available for $15.00 including domestic postage (+$5 for US and international orders). To order please email derek beaulieu.

THE VIRELAY OF THE AMINO ACIDS  is excepted by Bök’s forthcoming The Xenotext (Book 1), forthcoming from Coach House Books. 44 pages, hand-bound.

A longtime freind of the the press, Bök has had 4 publications from the 2 presses: String Variables (housepress / CrO2, 2000), NOYTA CCCP (housepress, 2002), Bazaar of the Bizarre (No press, 2006) and Two Dots over a Vowel (No press, 2008) and has contributed to a number of small press anthologies and magazines. Those editions are long out of print; THE VIRELAY OF THE AMINO ACIDS testifies to No press’s ongoing investment in Bök’s risk-taking writing.

550 editions – leaflets, pamphlets, chapbooks, poetic ephemera, perfect-bound editions – over 18 years. And no plans to stop. no2


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 115 other followers