Monday, June 19, 2006

Ongoing notes: the ottawa small press book fair, spring 2006

Another season, another session of the ottawa small press book fair. Can you believe I've been running this thing now twice a year since 1994? A number of the usual suspects were there, including three generations of Wilsons, Monty Reid, Susan Newlove and Railroad Bill Hawkins, as well as Jan Allen from Kingston, who I got to not only finally meet, but get her first trade poetry collection from Buschek Books (review to come). A highly entertaining day (and then Edmonton pushed the game into game seven, even better…). And check out this piece I just posted on John Newlove. Amanda Earl also wrote a piece on the book fair, as well as an entry on the manuscript of essays ECW Press is publishing in fall 2007. And did you see the link to the interview with Ottawa comic illustrator etc. Tom Fowler at his most recent blog post?

There are some other things lately, as I discover blog entries by Corey Frost and this kid and Mel Upfold. And can anyone read this? I got a few very interesting (all positive) responses to my post on The League of Canadian Poets, but Joe Blades is the only one who made his public.

I have been all over this song lately. I have been all over.

Ottawa ON: The Dusty Owl Reading Series, run lovingly by married couple Steve Zytveld and Kathy MacDonald-Zytveld, may not be the best reading series in town, but it is easily the most fun (they recently hosted a spectacular reading by Canadian poet Suzanne Buffam, opened by local poet David O'Meara). Producing small chapbooks intermittently for a while now, as well as their small journal The Dusty Owl Quarterly, one of their more recent chapbooks is New York State poet DeAnne Lyn Smith's The Unrequited Giant & Other Freaks (2006). The idea of writing poems on the circus certainly isn't a new one; even Toronto writer (since returned to Winnipeg) A.J. Levin wrote about such in his poetry chapbook Freak Show (Ottawa ON: above/ground press, 2001), later included in his first trade collection Monk's Fruit (Vancouver BC: Nightwood Editions, 2004). The chapbook as a whole didn’t do much for me, but there are some interesting moments in it, here and there.

The Tattooed Lady

My body will follow its own design,
a decision until the end of ink.
There's no reason to look between the lines.

It's all right here: snake crawling up my spine,
tongue stuck tasting air, unable to blink.
My body follows its own damn design.

It does. There's nothing here that isn't mine.
See this heart over my heart? Don't you think
there's reason in the red between the lines?

Fire pulses from within my skin, a sign
of my ferocity, licking the brink
of my body, following my design.

I'm easy to interpret, just assign
meanings to symbols and the symbols shrink
my reasons down to ink between the lines.

Tattoos chronicle my body's decline
as years suck colors from me, one long drink.
My body knows death follows its design—
the reason I choose life between these lines.

The Dusty Owl folks have even been planning an evening around a "Shakespeare Shatner-off" on this coming Sunday, where participants have to (do I need to explain it?) do their best/worst William Shatner impression while performing the works of William Shakespeare. I've been practicing mine for some time now, in preparation.

Ottawa ON: I meant to pick up the new issue of INDUSTRIAL SABOTAGE #62 from jwcurry at the BookThug event some weeks ago, but only managed to on Saturday at the fair. A lovely little gestetnered product from his Room 302 Books for only $4, everything smells like mom's high school; included are a number of the usual suspects, including Sam Andreyev, Nelson Ball, Guy R. Beining, bill bissett, b.a. carver, Jon Cone, Judith Copithorne, MB Duggan, David Fujino, Krafty Karnal, Billy Little, Michael Mann, Jamie Reid, Hans Jewinski, Lynn McClory and bpNichol, with artworks by Richard Beland, R. Giii and Arthur Craven.









the breeze (Nelson Ball)

Published as Curvd h&z #458, 26apr2006 in an edition of 250 orso. Copies from #302-880 Somerset Street West, Ottawa Ontario K1R 6R7. As he says, subscriptions: ask. jwcurry also had a number of other interesting items, including some of his own collaborative works, some older bpNichol pieces, and the anthology GUESSED BOOK, which he produced a few years ago in the hospitality suite of the ottawa international writers festival; anyone moving through the room during the week was invited to produce something on a stencil for him to produce, working (often and usually) through the night. He was amazed that folk not only looked at the collection, but even bought both the copies he brought with him to the fair. Are people in Ottawa finally getting it?

Ottawa ON: Produced by John Newlove Poetry Award winner Melissa Upfold (who keeps vascillating between Ottawa and Sarnia; the Newlove Award means that Bywords will be producing a chapbook of Upfold's work hopefully in time for the fall edition of the ottawa international writers festival) is the small zine variations vol II. A strange little publication on the Bywords table, it includes text, smears of paint and other bits, in an edition of forty copies. It's hard to tell who produced what, but here's a bit from her editorial:
In this months issue of VARIATIONS, angst; this
utter hallucinogenic state from the carbons, is
investigated. This sickness has made people
diluted, fearful to express concerns and
anxieties-- so willingly complacent, numb. So
I say WHY with this issue. If you hurt, if you are
scared of the downfall of society, or the Death
Valley we live next to (in), maybe you should
"If you want to submit, help out in any way shape or form, send donations or just ask general questions, email:"

Ottawa ON: If you can ever find a copy (I rarely do), its worth finding out about In/Words, produced by the good folk as an in-house creative writing (etcetera) handout literary zine at Carleton University (filling a small part of the void left by those who couldn’t figure out how to run The Carleton Arts Review). They appear to produce a couple of issues a year, and even have launches for the things (apparently on the last Thursday of every month they hold spoken word events at the Avant-Garde Bar, 135 1/2 Besserer Street), with readers with very little experience with the world outside of literature and universities (open sets, people). The most recent issue, with a cover photo of the recently-late Montreal poet Irving Layton, is Volume 5, Number 3, with poetry and fiction by a whole pile of folks, including Jamie Bradley, Matthew Walthert, Phil Caron, Aaron Clark, Ben Ladouceur, Rhea Wilson and our very own Amanda Earl (who has been publishing more and more lately).

Learning the Slide

her fingers pluck moon glow
from catgut and steel

rosewood heat caressed
between thumb and forefinger

the neck of a bottle
cherry wine still flowing
slides along the frets

she sings of forgetting
of how James from Kahnawake
taught her slide guitar

calling her
from the bus depot
that new year's eve

she watched his pudgy finger
enter the glass bottle slide

as his practiced right hand
stroked out Muddy and Eric's

then gave her a try

that night
the last time
she'd stayed up all night
on new years eve (Amanda Earl)

Saltspring Island BC: Not Ottawa-bookfair related, but still; one small item I got at the recent League of Canadian Poets AGM in Ottawa was a little poem by poet and beloved League matron Cathy Ford, pasted inside a card with an envelope that read #38 of 52 copies, and published for the feminist caucus, 24th meeting at the 40th anniversary of the league of canadian poets, June 9-11, 2006, Ottawa.


secrets of the dead series, everybody knows
crematoria fires bloom blossom like blown poppies
the true meaning of fictions

intellectual property knife sharpened controls
life perpetuating medicare drugs dispensed beyond affordability
developed for treating AIDS world wide, already seventy million

this earth, this earth, marrying all hope against reason
some dreams break open in sleep, some end in nightmare vision
the paper of record, trial subscription

undertaking all the days life living edge is
indistinguishable from dying, painfree at last the soul lifts silent
icily skate the women and children, and men, orphaned, abandoned

into the nearest next holocaust jaws of death
steel trap spectre mouth gaped wide open
chewing off its own paws, is this how the living go on

desperately printing in a childish hand
all the incantational words for snow
will not save us

my breaking heart, love
my broken english
my english
breaking, braking

"who is going to look
after these children"

An actively published poet in the 1970s and 1980s, Cathy Ford hasn’t had a trade book or even a chapbook out in some time. Will there be something soon, I wonder?

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