Ottawa has been awash with new publishing ventures lately, it seems, with Andrew Faulkner starting up his chapbook press The Emergency Response Unit just before heading to Toronto and Amanda Earl starting up her AngelHousePress, mixed in with The Ottawa Arts Review, another recent venture (but it does remind, what happened to Max Middle’s griddle grin or Chris Turnbull’s r/oute?). This most recent venture, Apt.9 Press, comes out of Ottawa poet Cameron Anstee, one of the in/words crew at Carleton University, and begins with the publication and launch of three chapbooks of single-poem sequences by Ottawa poets, each a lovely hand-bound chapbook produced in a limited run: A Poem That Ends With Murder by Monty Reid, Rest Cure by Sandra Ridley and Guzzles by Justin Million.
He is building a narrative with constricted air
and a room abandoned by everyone else.
There is the affectionate fauna of his breath
to keep him company.
He has told the same story before
with its gaps and false starts and under-developed plot
and yet all he can do is keep telling it. (Monty Reid)
Reid, a three-time nominee for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, has only started publishing again after a gap of years, from his Flat Side (1998) all the way to Disappointment Island (2007) and The Luskville Reductions (2008), as well as a few recent chapbooks by BookThug and above/ground press. His ten-part sequence, A Poem That Ends With Murder, continues his propensity for extending the small moment, and stretching it out as wide as possible. This is a poem about sleeping, dreaming, staying awake, snoring and the repercussions of such, all with his sly humour and domestic quietude. For Ridley’s Rest Cure, on the heels of her bpNichol chapbook award co-winner, Lift: Ghazals for C. (Jack Pine Press, 2008), again shows her quietly self as she has been, mastering the inquisitive long line and the long poem stretch, endless as a prairie horizon, including her previous work with ghazals. I have always favoured her long lines to the short couplets, writing out the body as much as the heart, in this, another sequence that continues until it simply ends. Will Ridley ever make her way out of these limited editions into something more, or is this part of some otherwise-deliberate scheme?
Before running on nightshade & wormwood in a topiary maze.
Before hawthorn punctures her arm : poison tipped.
Before a peck of stones, she handpicks or pockets,
she is camphor-doused
by a fold of wool : wet & held tight to her eyes.
Before his screen & clips & the red light & darkening, his hands pressed
to his switchboard & mirror : apparatus of the in-out & charged.
Before her fluoroscopic diapositive &
the smell of two kinds of heat.
Nothing left hidden in her body.
Before & after, there is only this : four corners to a room
& the others pounding at the door. (Sandra Ridley)
Ridley’s is a poem of the body, wrapped in long lines; what intrigues about this piece is how the poem structurally keeps moving, morphing, pushing out on the page from tight ghazal-couplets to using various parts of the page to intricate long lines, a la Sylvia Legris or Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen. At this point, Ridley is perhaps the finest poet I know without a trade book, sitting on at least two if not three collections right now; her first, Downwinders, won the 2008 Alfred G. Baily Prize, and her second, Post-Apothecary, was a finalist for the 2009 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry.
Small tears in the pieces allowing
When we meet
What should I say
Balloon releases a dome
when need is the only word;
This is your line
to quit (Justin Million)
This third poet, Justin Million, is one I haven’t heard of, writing a sequence backwards from twenty-four, guzzling, drinking quick, a play with how ghazal-poet John Thompson pronounced such (as “guzzle”); we already know Million is influenced, including a quote by Thompson at the beginning (along with Phil Hall and Stephen Hawking). He writes too, at the beginning, that “There is a drink I drank I’m drunk / This long minute long day longing.” I wonder, is this another in/words kid come out of Rob Winger’s influence, from his long poem class, talking John Thompson’s ghazals? This is a poem that works to move in all directions, and could certainly be tighter, but otherwise goes easily down. Does it go down too easy?
These first three titles will be launched in Ottawa on Wednesday, August 19 at 8pm at Woody’s, 330 Elgin Street.