Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ongoing notes: the Small Press of Toronto Winter Fair

I’m not entirely sure when or why the Toronto Small Press Fair turned into the Small Press of Toronto (SPoT), but there it is (with the most recent one at University of Toronto's Hart House on December 10th), with the implications continuing to broadcast further and forward from the schism of a few years ago, none of which the current incarnation of fair organizers know anything about, but for second or third-hand reports. Why the continued schism?

Kingston PA: I don’t know if this series exists anymore, but I was recently given a copy of Fredericton poet Hugh Thomas’ heart badly buried by five shovels (Kingston PA: paper kite press, 2009), produced as part of the “Supernova Tadpole Editions” series, edited by Hamilton, Ontario writer and musician Gary Barwin. How many chapbooks were produced? Why did it stop? Thomas, who lives in Fredericton but keeps appearing in Toronto, begins his chapbook with the dedication-line, “The last revision is a glass of water.” I don’t entirely know why, but that might be a line that sticks with me for quite a long time.
In pieces, the lament
of the guitarist.
Romping the scope
of the madrigal.
In pieces, the lament
of the guitarist.
It’s useless to call her.
It’s impossible
to call her.
Laura monotonous,
Laura like water,
Laura like the wind
over Nevada.
It’s impossible
to call her.
Laura for distant
Arena of the South calling her,
paid in white camellias.
Laura, flesh covered in blankness,
Trades in tomorrows,
the first package of mortar
under her arm.
Oh, guitarist!
Heart badly buried
by five shovels.
Unlike much of Thomas’ work that I’ve seen over the years, there is something more emotional about this small collection, something more concrete than his usual-surreal, anchoring the poems in a particular way, even as “THE CITY” (a poem dedicated to Stuart Ross) ends with the lines “Yesterday, this city was named Toronto, / and today, it will be named Toronto.”

Toronto ON: After years of his work at co-founding/editing The Puritan, a fiction journal that moved from Ottawa to Toronto a few years back, as well as the Toronto small press Ferno House, Spencer Gordon has released his first poetry chapbook, FEEL GOOD! LOOK GREAT! HAVE A BLAST! (Toronto ON: Ferno House, 2011). Impressive for a first offering, one might have thought Gordon wrote poems like a fiction writer would (there are so many bad examples of such), but these pieces certainly can’t be mistaken for prose, and Gordon has a good sense of the line, such as in the poem “THE YOUNG BAROQUE PAINTERS,” or “A BILLIE HOLIDAY KINDA SUNDAY.” The poems here might be slightly uneven, but there is a clarity here that comes through, and a humour that allows entry where one might not have been able, otherwise.

Life is a long time grieving, especially the first time.
The second time you try, and it’s alright, there’s less tears;
it’s a reunion you never thought would happen. Then
the call comes back: the hard line in the head that said

don’t kiss, don’t dance, don’t do that. And even drinking
is easier, somehow, like each sip was watered down with
berries and pills and ice. You never dreamed it
would be so easy. But this is your second time around,

and you’re used to feeling used, and you want to see
the people you thought were gone for good, and so you
lean toward the fat neck beside you, and you say kiss me
darling, I’m back for you, and you alone, and the trees

aren’t sad, are they? The air is a calm mourner, you say;
it doesn’t need a wake to drink at. It doesn’t need friends or
family. You’re like the wind, you think. You don’t need a friend.
You don’t need another life. And so it ends.
Gordon also recently announced that his first trade collection of short stories is forthcoming next year with Coach House Books, which is pretty exciting. What might those look like?

No comments: