Saturday, June 10, 2006

Ongoing notes: The Toronto Small Press Book Fair (chapbook/ephemera edition)

Any part of the Toronto Small Press Book Fair (which I have been participating in since 1995 or 1994, I can't remember which) is the fact of its size; first come, first served, there are always too many publishers & not enough space, so the "I wonder where they are?" question is frequently asked. Where was The Gig? Insomniac? BookThug? Nightwood? LyricalMyrical? Serif of Nottingham? Wood & Coal? There are so many things I haven't seen yet I was hoping to. (& did you see what Amanda Earl wrote while I was gone? Or Jessica Smith (did you know that Ottawa author Chris Turnbull just had her baby?)? Or ryan fitzpatrick?) Or John W. MacDonald's plunder of a plunderverse? Here, at least, a list of some of the things I picked up that excited me.

Twaddle Magazine, Toronto: Produced by um, yeah press is the first issue of the chapbook-sized Twaddle Magazine (as well as various knockoffs of the above/ground press "poem" format, something people seem to have been doing for years…), with contributions by Sandra Alland, Gary Barwin, Daniel F. Bradley, Elyse Friedman, Donald Illich, Tao Lin, Matthew Rohrer and Stuart Ross, among others. A graceful little production, I like the tastes of the editor, such as this poem, by Bob Hicok:


Like everyone else I'm trying to understand what human is.
I look at cats to do so or try to avoid the word it
all day. "Not sun" I call the night as an experiment
to its face. Telling people not to die is ineffective poker.
The notion of being taken apart by the lawn mower
in my head. There are so many good things
to put on the list for Christmas and wait up
for Jesus to be a year older and still on the cross
looking ouch. But then you shake the rattle of pills
that make your smile a crooked disposition
and the coffee comes too cold for your liking
and you cry over this brokenness and I want
a blankey so much to be all there was before the Big Bang.
A guy down the street used mine to clean his engine
is how I grew up any day now. It was blue and I rub
against air all morning until I know how matches feel
but sometimes people gather their mouths and sing badly,
who doesn't, but with the spiritual purity of not caring
any longer how they appear to the moon. Once,
touching the head of a child, I wanted to crush it
because it was warm and beautiful and I could.
Yet I'm an excellent baby sitter, call me. (p 15)

For information on how to get a copy, check out their website, or email them at; apparently the next deadline is December 1st, 2006.

Carousel 19, Guelph ON: Rejuvenated over the past few years both in format & design, the spring-summer issue of Carousel includes work by Brian Joseph Davis, Billy Mavreas, gustave morin, Marc Ngui, Wanda O'Connor, Gary Panter, Emily Schultz, Seth & piles of others. It's interesting how so many magazines (lit journals, specifically) have taken to publishing the work of various comic artists over the past few years, with regular appearances by Ngui, Mavreas, Seth & others in such corners as Calgary's filling Station magazine, or Montreal's Matrix magazine. Sliding the line between design & over-design (much like the early days of Insomniac Press, for example; sorry fellas), the issue includes an interview with Seth, & one of the few (so far) journal appearances by our own Wanda O'Connor, the ten part "knowing everything but the language," that ends with:

a woman holds back her dogs
and then is walked by them

a meal of fish from the basement
wafts up

and a boy returns
to his home

there are answers here

They still haven’t decided if they're going to make the ottawa fair; if they do, you can get a copy of the new issue there.

Laurel Reed Books, Mt. Pleasant ON: It's always good to see things by poet & publisher kemeny babineau, editor of such things as that Broken Jaw Press anthology Mentor’s Canon: poems about / for / after writers. New from his small & smaller press are various items including 3 POEMS by Alice Burdick, from) DESCRIPTIVE SKETCHES by Rob Read, & babineau's own ThE FUrthEr AdvEntUrEs Of HAIry TrAgUs And thE Ork DrOw. It will be interesting to see what he can do with such, when babineau finally (if his goals include such at all) publishes a trade collection of his poetry, made up of the disconnects of what he has produced so far. Influenced by Gerry Gilbert, bill bissett & other luminaries, he seems very much to move from sound to sound as much as from word to work or idea to idea; here is the first page of his small assortment of poems/pages:

up until wednesday he'd heard enough, but the ork drow in speaking to the hairy
tragus suggests a guestfulness. where the going go round. over ground, at dawn. a
whisper ring. the ork drow of now. noun of how. namely the ork drow. in
speaking to the hairy tragus triggers an earfulness. but no foundering. hairy tragus
knows the ork drow. nose of boing un pomme. is the off or on? de terre.

Former Toronto poet currently in Halifax, Alice Burdick has been quiet for some time, since the publication of her trade poetry collection Simple Master (Toronto ON: Pedlar Press, 2002) & chapbook The Human About Us (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2002) [see my review of both here], as well as her inclusion in the anthology Surreal Estate (Toronto ON: The Mercury Press, ). Is she working up to something further?

A plan

Butterfly on the convex screen,
so unfortunate,
little being.
Not this season, the next,
we'll invent you
and a pill
to swallow.

SPIRE! Poetry Poster, Edmonton AB: Former Ottawa resident K.L. McKay mailed a whole slew of copies of her SPIRE! to the Toronto Small Press Book Fair for free distribution. It's funny how things come out of other things: back in 1992 (a year before the summer of above/ground press), I was producing poetry posters that appeared somewhat regularly throughout the year in Ottawa, gracing (or, dis-gracing) telephone poles, construction sites, & the large window of Richard Fitzpatrick Books. A few University of Ottawa students, including Maria Scala & b. stephen harding saw them, decided they were terrible & that they could do better, thus was born the monthly graffito: the poetry poster. Free publications certainly weren't new in the City of Ottawa, or even forgotten, with Bywords still producing a monthly poetry publication including calendar of events distributed free throughout the city (since folded & reborn as the online version & print quarterly by Amanda & Charles Earl). All of this ramble to background poet Kristy McKay's SPIRE!, created to fill the void left when graffito: the poetry poster (& subsequent electronic graffito) finally decided to fold. A single page folded, the issues usually feature works by two or three writers from different points of Canada, but this current issue features a single author, with "Five Works" by Calgary poet/editor/publisher derek beaulieu. If you want to find out more about this fine little publication, contact her at or through her website. (

semanti$ press, Toronto: The first publication by Gregory Betts' semanti$ press is MOST UNIQUE SAVAGES (2006), a small handout produced out of a journal kept by a. rawlings, Mark Truscott, Rob Read & Betts during the time they went down to Buffalo, New York to launch the Shift & Switch anthology. At the end of the trip, the process was a matter of selecting (perhaps even editing?) from the lemon-covered notebook & producing a small chapbook of their experiences. Part of the entertainment (the authors as listed as SCRAWLINGS, TRUSCROTCH, BRATS & RAWBREAD) is in (mostly) not knowing who produced what. If you want to know if it's even possible to get a copy, just ask Gregory.

i was supposed to take that um way to pop
back on follow signs what we're i think
i see it's possible we have to otherwise
pro-woman, i don’t think so
hopefully i don’t know
what direction it seems like we're not
didn’t it — link that lane, yes that's right
he's not letting us on just going through
about the detour

oh. sure. sure.

is there a sign for something?

Thirteenth Tiger Press, Toronto: Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg may be shutting down (slowly) her chapbook press, Thirteenth Tiger, but there were still things to be found on her table, including my friend Kate Harding's Too Much Of A Good Thing (2005). What's going on that Harding, who moved to Chicago, didn’t even tell me this existed? A former editor at Insomniac Press, I know she's working on a novel (self-described as "chick-lit"), & had poems somewhere in the can, but didn’t know that they had actually appeared. As far as the rest of the publications by Thirteenth Tiger, everything on Shelagh's table was priced down at the fair, which means there are probably piles of things she still has copies of that you should at least browse through.


A word I loved like anything
unfamiliar and welcoming
third cousin in Europe after two hostel months;
bored upperclass girl paid to help you find the dining hall:
that thing that says you belong here at this moment,
no matter the logic that says this isn't love,
just what people do for each other in strange lands.

But then it was familiar, then habit, then home.
A word that knew me too well to bother with truth.
And I mean, I know I wouldn't believe it if he
cross your heart pinky swear mama's grave meant it,

which he might. Which I think he thinks he does,
being a poet and a Scorpio
and more bald, less buff than he used to be, himself.

But I'm wary of any word said too often.
Reminds me too much
of an old prof with a crippling stutter,
who kept colliding with the same stupid syllable
again and again and again and again
until his face writhed like mustard gas wafted from his coffee,
and we'd all shout guesses like charades, always wrong,
and the doorman at his throat would keep bouncing his point,
until meaning gave up and went home in his party clothes,

and the lesson left was just a false start, repeated.

Cubicle Press / grey borders, St. Catharines / Niagara Falls, ON: A strange fellow, Jordan Fry has been producing chapbooks, poems, readings, magazines & sundry other literary variables down there just a bit below the City of Toronto for a couple of years now. Politically incorrect at the best of times, Fry recently released two chapbooks, This book is not a toy & Partially Frozen Grass, both of which he declared "failures" (embracing fully the Jon Paul Fiorentino notion of failure, but far less poetical, & with much more of a self-destructive bent). Organizer/host of the grey borders reading series (the only reading series in the area), his strange & surreal (even) poetry is a wonder to behold, & improves with every collection. Utilizing a sense of humour that is often counter-productive, he took great pleasure in handing out a poem at the fair that a number of people handed back:

Under the shade of my umbrella

it's four in the afternoon
and im drinking ice cold vodka
pours like motor oil
the cigar im smoking
ash white as desert salt
fucking fantastic
in two hours
i'll be passed out
dreaming something
probably how the sun
seems hotter today than yesterday
and right now
there's nothing
that can convince me otherwise

He's even working to put together a book fair &/or kiosk of some sort down in Niagara Falls, to catch some of the million billion tourists that walk through the area during the summer (where have you gone, Marilyn Monroe?). If he gets that going, I want in for sure.

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