Poetry speaks phallic directionAnyone who knows anything about small press living in or around Toronto the past two decades or so should already know the name Nicky Drumbolis, considered (I've been told) to hold the second largest collection of small press in the country (if Nelson Ball is first, and jwcurry is third). Active as one of the Toronto informal group of "outsiders" (jwcurry, Daniel f. Bradley, David Owen, John Barlow, the late Daniel Jones, etcetera), Drumbolis has been collecting, compiling, producing and giving away books and chapbooks longer than most writers have been around to pay attention to them (consider that, as a book collector/seller, this is the man who sold the Coach House Press collection to the National Archives of Canada). Hand delivered at my very door two nights ago by neighbour jwcurry, after he returned from Toronto and the small press fair, was a little envelope Nicky had made up for me of a few publications he'd made over the past year or so.
Song keeps the word forever
Sound is moulded to mean this
And the measure moulds sound
Somebody had to stay in the back and ride
with the piano, and as the truck pulled out
into the streets…
In the middle of the Golden Gate seagulls
glided and dove into wisps of fog above the cables –
I craned my neck around the upright instrument
and searched for his eyes in the mirror.
The chains had loosened and the piano was creeping
toward the edge. Sliding hammers and wires
laid down reverberations entering the arms
wrapped partways around the son of a bitch.
I found the eyes. He yelled something silenced
in the wind. A few inches to the left,
a few to the right. I lost faith in my arms
to contain it. The door over the keyboard
banged up and down – Chopin? Monk!
Into the right lane. Fast, up ahead – the semi.
More weight to the treadle! Hold on (Unchained Melody)
The quote in italics that opens this piece is from Ezra Pound, produced by Drumbolis in a little pamphlet that writes: "THIS EXCERPT from his monumental exegesis The Pound Era is here broadcast in a signal plait of 99 leaflets to share in Hugh Kenner's indelible delight in letters." Rarely sold, but given away to deserving hands and eyes, the package also included t.l. kryss' Unchained Melody, produced "to celebrate publication of The Search for the Reason Why: New & Selected Poems by Tom Kryss, BOTTOM DOG PRESS, BOX 425, HURON, OHIO 44839" and Telluric & Magnetic, A SIFT OF THIRTEEN POEMS FROM THE COMPLETE POETRY OF CÉSAR VALLEJO translated by CLAYTON ESHLEMAN, with colophon that reads "THREE HUNDRED COPIES ISSUED TO HERALD THE IMPENDING RELEASE OF THE COMPLETE POETRY OF CÉSAR VALLEJO" with the University of California Press in fall 2006. Through the years of being involved in bookmaking, printing and working at Coach House Printing, Nicky Drumbolis knows more about the process of bookmaking than most people that actually make a living producing books, making his publications some of the most graceful, elegant and enviable publications around (for those that have even seen them).
Until the day that I return, from this stone
my definitive heel will be born,
with its game of crimes, its ivy,
its dramatic obstinacy, its olive tree.
Until the day that I return, continuing,
with the frank uprightness of a bitter cripple,
from well to well, my wandering, I understand
that man has to be good, all the same.
Until the day that I return and until
the animal that I am walks, among his judges,
our brave little finger will be big,
worthy, an infinite finger among the fingers. (Telluric & Magnetic)
A few years ago, he produced the seven poem chapbook crab cakes w/ blueberries (1995) by Toronto writer David Donnell, someone who, at that point, hadn't been heard from in a while. Produced for possibly the last Toronto small press book fair that Drumbolis exhibited at (let alone was seen at, for years after), the colophon claims “293 copies produced for the occasions of the Toronto smallpress & Antiquarian bookfairs 27 May 1995” (numbered, mine is #136). Despite its strength as a whole, only two of the poems in this appeared in Donnell’s later collection Sometimes A Great Notion (Toronto ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2004), which make me wonder if in fact Nicky has a better eye than Donnell has (or McClelland & Stewart). There was something so directly wonderful about this small collection (I simply can't go on about it enough) that transcended, and somehow didn’t come across in his subsequent trade collection. I directly attribute this small collection of seven poems of Donnell’s with beginning to teach me that poems don’t need beginnings or endings; they can simply begin, and they can simply end. Donnell floats more into the notion that if you want a specific narrative, go read a story, that isn’t the point here. Instead, it flows like a river or a long silk scarf, colour blending into colour, caught in the air.
In fact, back in 1997 or so, it was from Nicky Drumbolis that I first heard the name William Hawkins, famed Ottawa poet, formed as a question of "do you see this guy?" when I visited Nicky in his warehouse space in the Parkdale area. Nicky's eyes all aglow, presuming that everyone in Ottawa would and should have known the name William Hawkins; behind where I was sitting, one of Hawkins' own poetry posters framed, writing post offices and the Sparks Street Mall.
To find out more about Nicky Drumbolis' LETTERS publications, write him at the above address, or you can write jwcurry's Room 302 Books, #302-880 Somerset Street West, Ottawa K1R 6R7