Thursday, December 30, 2004

ongoing notes, December 2004

Hamilton ON: I think by the time I knew who or what Gary Barwin was, he was no longer making regular publications through his serif of nottingham editions, usually self-published chapbooks of poetry and/or fiction for the semi-annual Toronto Small Press Book Fair. One of the "Toronto surrealists," Barwin could uneasily be explained if Stuart Ross and David W. McFadden could ever have offspring.

When we read together in September (at an event with at least 2,000,000 readers, he being the first & me being one of the last), he handed me a publication of his strange visuals, the chapbook a periodic table of the alphabet (serif of nottingham editions, 2003). Ranging from clever tricks of formatting to drawings and altered images, Barwin seems to be one of the few Canadians working with concrete and visuals over the years that has really kept with it for some time; somewhere between the work of derek beaulieu and jwcurry.

A prolific writer, he is also included in Stuart Ross’ lovely anthology of Toronto surrealist poets, Surreal Estate: 13 Canadian poets under the influence, newly out from Toronto’s Mercury Press. As Victor Coleman wrote of Barwin in "An Eglected: Writing Toronto in the Eighties" (Open Letter, Eighth Series, Number 9: Summer 1994),

"His work represents a tradition of Southwestern Ontario pixilation that includes David McFadden, Robert Fones, Kurt Swinghammer, Dennis Tourbin, John B. Boyle, the late Greg Curnoe and, stretching it a bit, James Reaney. There’s something significant in his keeping literary company with the aforementioned because, with the exception of McFadden and Reaney, all are interdisciplinary aritsts. In Barwin’s case the other discipline is music (he’s currently working on a music degree from SUNY/Buffalo where he, surprisingly, doesn’t spend much time with the New Poetics/Black Mountain II crowd)."

Other recent works include Frogments from the Frag Pool (poetry with derek beaulieu; The Mercury Press, forthcoming), Doctor Weep and Other Strange Teeth (fiction; The Mercury Press, 2004), Raising Eyebrows (poetry; Coach House Books, 2002), and Outside the Hat (poetry; Coach House Books, 1998). If you want to find out what the hell he’s done lately through his little press, email him at

Mt. Pleasant ON: kemeny babineau, it seems, has been around for some time, even though he hasn’t, really. His most recent package included two of his own chapbooks, Winter’s End and A Collection of Water, as well as his The Theory of Half Truths, and Harold Rhenisch’s Snow. So far, most of what he has produced has been his own work, but he has been branching out into other areas. His small publication, HUE MANITEE (forGer ryGil bert) is pretty fun, and includes this piece:

Trojan Condoms

for when its got
the false gift
inside the walls

and the horse
cock is spilling men
blood and pillage laud

to steal a king’s
daughter for the king
dong, king-
dom cum, for

At least, if nothing else, the boy is reading Gerry Gilbert and Erin Moure poems. His chapbook A Collection of Water has some interesting moments in it too, and it’s fun to watch Babineau try out different things, to see how they fit, and watching him evolve as a writer as he does. Besides, I think it’s been a while since we’ve seen a poet write about that part of the country, between Hamilton and London and Buffalo. History always manages to come back again.

What I want to know is

(what was Simcoe
on his head
when he was paddled
up the Thames
toward where London
Colonel Talbot
at his sleeve
The shore
an unbroken
growing darker
by the hour, what
sort of song
did the paddle sing
as Simcoe concocted
his scheme to defeat)

the american’s Dream

Try him, c/o Laurel Reed Books, 206 Maple Avenue, Mt. Pleasant Ontario N0E 1K0 or via His catalog says that "current titles are available for trade sale barter or beg – send chapbooks, small donations, stamps or good wishes." Done.

Another item in the same package was the first issue of a magazine he’s editing/publishing called The New Chief Tongue, a simple 8 ½ x 11 stapled on the side (reminiscent of two other newer publications, Daniel f. Bradley’s fhole and John Barlow’s Kenetic, but Babineau’s TNCT not as well designed), with some interesting contributions by quite a range of writers, including David Fujino, Penn Kemp, Anne Onimous, Jason Christie, John B. Lee, Brian Babineau, Kathryn Carter, Nelson Ball, Rob Read, Harold Rhenisch, Shane Plante, Mike Clancy, Barbara Caruso, Mary J. Williams and Malcolm Randall. Subtitled "Brantford’s Own Literary Way," I do like the fact that he distributes these for free. How can he afford to do that?

Ottawa ON: Even though she’s only recently moved here, why not call it here. Erin Bidlake, who recently arrived from the west, with her chapbook, SEEDS. Published by JackPine Press in November 2003, the relatively young Saskatoon chapbook press produces limited edition runs of books in unusual formats, whether in cloth bags, or in the case of this one, a seed bag. As she begins, in the poem "INSTRUCTIONS FOR GARDENING," writing:

You must begin with tools,
anything wooden
or older than
your oldest fencepost

Gather seeds.
Look under any bush or tree,
slip your fingers
into the mouth of a lily,
remove its tongue,

plant it.

I’m still new to her work, but am interested to hear her read as part of a new season of the Factory Reading Series at Gallery 101 on Thursday, February 17th, reading with Shane Rhodes and Rob Winger.

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