Tour Notes, part two
Another range of dates, another range of things. Although I know there’s still a whole swath of things I haven’t covered yet, at least these a small start. There is always more.
Toronto, Ontario. One of the best parts about being in or around any part of Toronto is seeing the odd new bit by Stuart Ross. One of the founders of the Toronto Small Press Fair, he’s been running his Proper Tales Press for probably twenty-five years at least, & publishing books, chapbooks & pamphlets of his own poetry & fiction as well for years. The first thing I got from him on this trip was the leaflet “civilization sonnet,” a small poem “to mark my participation in the OLA conference Big Ideas, Now, in Toronto, April 30-May 1, 2004.”
Out of the flabby sky, water began to leak.
In the synagogue, the gritty plumber slept.
Wet became the new dry. Celebrate.
There was only one bag of Fritos
to share among us, and eternity
was reportedly longer than a week.
I try to eat good,
like lettuce, but
you get hands and they get
dirty. Let’s get organized.
I’m after the lady
with the monkey in her carriage.
I was before, but
I let her go first.
Part of the fun of any Stuart Ross ephemera, is that it is usually event-specific, which make for an interesting tracking method, & reason alone to go over & say hello, trade publications, etcetera. People are still talking about his absolutely lovely selected poems, Hey, Crumbling Balcony! which was published a year or so back by ECW Press. Stuart Ross can be found pretty easily around Toronto, or at email@example.com or at his “online home,” www.hunkamooga.com
At the Toronto Small Press Fair itself (May 15), I wasn’t able to pick up that many things, but what I did get was My Lump in the Bed, Love Poems for George W. Bush (edited by Stuart Ross, published by Dwarf Puppets on Parade, a division of Proper Tales Press), & the 10th issue of Jennifer LoveGrove’s dig magazine. As Ross writes on the back of the anthology, “31 writers from Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. reveal their true feelings about George W. Bush.” Some of the contributors include Gary Barwin, Stephen Brockwell, Alice Burdick, Debby Florence, A.L. Kennedy, David W. McFadden, Victor Coleman, Laurie Fuhr, Renee Rodin, Richard Hell, Michael Dennis & Anne F. Walker. A strange collection to say the least, but highly entertaining. Check out this piece by Toronto writer Chris Kubsch:
you take my breath away
like others knock off an intern
fingers coiled around me as
if my face were a kitten
broken skull leaking between your legs
fists deep inside you
your voice the smooth
twang of a Texas guitar
a drum machine
dig, on the other hand, is lovely & strange but not as strange. She hand-crafts every copy with a different cover, & my contributor copy includes an image of a blender on the front, & the sheet music to “Draw me into your presence” on the back, arranged by Phil Perkins. It’s been quite a while since an issue of dig, which I think used to be twice a year, but is lucky to be annual now. Writing by Stuart Ross, Sandra Alland, Rick Taylor, James Moran, Megan Butcher, myself, Brian Burch, Helen Stathopulos, George Murray & Jonathan Bennett, as well as an interview Bennett did with fiction writer Peter Darbyshire. You can find information on digger Jen, her own writing & her wayward armadillo press at www.jenniferlovegrove.com
St. Catharine’s / Niagara Falls, Ontario. I must admit, I do like that Jordan Fry kid, editor/publisher of the magazine Grey Borders & Cubicle Press (with events to go along with them), as well as an editor for the randomly-appearing Harpweaver magazine, out of Brock University. A new publisher barely into his twenties, he publishes a literary magazine & various chapbooks by himself & others. He has some neat moments himself, as both writer & publisher, although wildly uneven. Still, there are more things in his publications worth reading than not, though, & he is certainly worth sending your poems to, or your dollars, to get copies of the 2nd issue of Grey Borders, which should be out soon. I did a strange reading through him (May 11, built as a Cubicle Press launch party) with Gil McElroy, Shane Neilson, Tanis Rideout & Barry McKinnon which was pretty entertaining. A participant in both the ottawa & toronto small press fairs, he’s considering organizing the same for Niagara Falls for the tourist seasons. His most recent oddbits include single poem pamphlets that he hands out for no particular reason. This is the one he published for the event:
header, back seat of my car,
four am. and our breath makes
patterns in the glass. the
cigarette burns out, leaves
ash and a whole where
it fell; black lip curled
driving home, stopping once
to dump the body. stopping
to find another.
You can find more about him & his various pressings & readings by going to www.greyborders.com
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. I must say, it was extremely cool to read in Charlottetown with Gil McElroy (May 27), as I had not only never read in the province, but was excited to be able to spend time with local writers Joe Sherman & David Helwig (one of my most favorite Helwigs), as well as be able to meet a number of others I hadn’t heard of. With poet & editor Hugh MacDonald, Sherman & Helwig have started producing chapbooks by PEI authors in a series called Sunday Morning Chapbooks. Produced so far in two sets of four chapbooks per (& available only in sets at the launch), the one I picked up was Shawna McCabe’s first chapbook, scene, road. A lovely little book of poems, I quite liked the way her poems moved across the page, but it would be hard to quote from too many of them without throwing off all of the spacing. For the sake of not messing up her poems but still giving a sense of how they flow, here’s the end of the first part of the poem “scene, road,” that reads:
in one ear a river rises
once again a half moon shouts
and the heat misses its mark
to thicken time
Produced in editions of 100 signed & numbered copies, they seem exclusively available from The Reading Well Bookstore, 87A Water Street, Charlottetown PEI, C1A 1A5, or by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Montreal, Quebec: At the League of Canadian Poets AGM (June 4-6), I saw a couple of neat things, including an amazing lecture by Anne Carson on the topic of sleep (as she said, this lecture will last 58 minutes). & to be able to hang out with Winnipeg writer Catherine Hunter is reason enough to go anywhere, isn’t it? From lovely Maxianne Berger, publisher of Over the Moon chapbooks, I got Montreal author Mark Featherstone’s latest chapbook, Mechanicsville. Mechanicsville is the name of an old Ottawa neighbourhood, just five minutes walk (literally) to the west of where I live, & the cover of the publication has a map of the same. As he writes in his introduction, “Mechanicsville was a name later given to those neighbourhoods where blue collar workers were concentrated, with Ottawa’s Mechanicsville being in place since the 1800s. The following poems are inspired by events from my father’s Mechanicsville childhood in the 1930s and 40s, a period bracketing the Great Depression [...] In most of these poems, I adopt my father’s voice as the narrator of Mechanicsville.” Some of the poems have their moments, but are overall pretty straightforward, such as this part of the poem “Rendezvous,” that reads:
I am good at killing rats.
The body relaxed
but at the ready,
so noise is
sounds from the street, hoof
wheels, a woman
yelling at her husband,
or her kids.
Over the Moon has done a number of chapbooks by Montreal poets over the years, including her own & one by Carmine Starnino (I can’t recall any other authors to save my life, for some reason). For more information (backlist & availability), write c/o 417 St-Joseph Ouest #4, Outremont, Quebec H2V 2P3.
Ottawa, Ontario: It wasn’t really part of my trip, but soon after I (finally) arrived home, exhausted from travel. The TREE Reading Series (one of the longest running continuing reading series in the country) featured Ottawa writers Stephen Brockwell & Peter Norman at their most recent event (June 8), where they read the entirety of a collaboration they had been working on for a few months. Producing a chapbook of the same through Brockwell’s The Rideau River Press, the chapbook Wild Clover Honey and The Beehive, 28 Sonnets on the Sonnet ($5) is exactly that, fourteen poems each of fourteen lines, written as response sonnets between Brockwell & Norman over a period of a couple of months. It’s good to see Brockwell producing chapbooks again under his pressname. For a while during the late 1980s, Brockwell was editor & publisher of the chapbook literary magazine The Rideau River Review, featuring poetry & reviews, but producing only three issues before it disappeared (he designed the fourth, but never released it). Lately, he has started again, by producing limited edited poetry broadsides by featured readers at TREE, as well as a couple of other small items. Recently, he produced a chapbook of his own for friends, the six poem Bill McGillivray’s Cap And Other Poems.
One of the strongest TREE readings in some time, they nearly sold out of the chapbook almost immediately. A lovely design, & hilariously funny poems, here’s an example of one of the last pieces in the collection, a sonnet by Peter Norman:
Rain is no miracle. It’s only rain.
It falls, as gravity demands it fall,
As water grinding on a canyon’s wall
Submits to entropy, to the mundane.
True miracle rebels and therefore shocks:
We gasp when the sustaining order bends
And rivers creep uphill, and rain ascends,
And lichen rises from its bed and walks.
Poetry, too, coerces awe
By busting from its own constrains. This isn’t random:
Rule and dissent must move in tandem.
What is defiance if there is no law?
Keep watch: the clouds may shower frogs, or fish, or ears of grain,
And we will gasp, who had expected rain.
For more information on The TREE Reading Series, check out www.treereadingseries.com. For queries on the chapbook or broadsheet series, email Stephen Brockwell at email@example.com.