Thursday, May 12, 2005

Guernica Writers Series, 2005

I may not like everything they select, but I do quite like the Writers Series through Antonio D’Alfonso’s Toronto-based Guernica Editions. Yesterday a package arrived with four of their titles, Alistair MacLeod: Essays on His Works (edited by Irene Guilford), Nicole Brossard: Essays on Her Works (edited by Louise H. Forsyth), David Solway: Essays on His Works (edited by Carmine Starnino) and Kristjana Gunnars: Essays on Her Works (edited by Monique Tschofen), as well as a catalog, announcing twenty-five years of publishing. An interesting selection of titles (and, I might add, not necessarily the ones I suggested he send me), other books in the series include collections on Aritha Van Herk, David Adams Richards, bill bissett, Al Purdy, Linda Rogers, F.G. Paci, Joe Rosenblatt, Gail Scott and Louis Dudek. A range of authors almost bizarre, I still very much appreciate that he is out there producing these books.

Built as small volumes with an interview or two, critical and more informal pieces (the Kristjana Gunnars volume includes a poem by Toronto author K.I. Press), they make graceful little collections on various authors who all need far more talk, in a country that seems almost hell-bent on keeping quiet. I only wish there were more in the series, perhaps, on authors I would certainly like to hear more on, and more from. Barry McKinnon? Erin Mouré? Phil Hall? Dennis Cooley?

With a quarter century of books behind him, Antonio D’Alfonso’s Guernica Editions is far more predominant for publishing fiction and collections of poetry by a slew of authors with more of a European bent than most, publishing authors such as Nicole Brossard, John Calabro, Louise Dupré, Len Gasparini, Antonio Gramsci, Pierre L’Abbé, France Théoret, Pier Giorgio Di Cicco and dozens of others.

After a slow drop in library sales over the past twenty years (among other concerns), numerous literary publishers who more regularly produced books of criticism have slowed down or stopped altogether, whether House of Anansi, Talonbooks, The Mercury Press or NeWest. ECW Press used to more regularly produce folios in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but less regularly than they used to. My particular favorite has to be the series produced by Edmonton’s NeWest Press, the Writer as Critic Series (I’m currently working on something to send them in a few years, to perhaps break the cycle of titles by authors no younger than my parents generation).
The Writer as Critic series is made up of single-author volumes, including titles by George Bowering, Phyllis Webb, Fred Wah, Daphne Marlatt, Douglas Barbour and Stan Dragland, each collection built in whatever combination of essays (or essay), interviews and other meanderings.

I’m currently working on editing three volumes for Guernica’s series: John Newlove: Essays on His Works, Andrew Suknaski: Essays on His Works (to exist as a loose companion to the forthcoming 30th anniversary edition of Wood Mountain Poems appearing in spring 2006 with Paul Wilson’s Hagios Press, and a new selected poems I’m working on to appear with Black Moss Press the following season) and George Bowering: Essays on His Works. If there is anyone out there who either knows of a pre-existing piece I should be considering (over, say, the past twenty years), or would be interested in writing a new piece, please let me know.

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