Sunday, August 20, 2006

ottawa report: lucky thirteen, above/ground press


On the word poem write the word page
on the word page write the word table

on the word table write the word room
on the word room—bored yet?

the point dulling as it moves

or on the word poem write the word word
on the word word—bored yet?

the move dulling as it points (Phil Hall)

Friday night was the above/ground press lucky thirteen event at The Mercury Lounge in Ottawa, celebrating thirteen years of making chapbooks, as well as two new chapbooks by Toronto/Perth poet Phil Hall, and Cornwall/Ottawa poet (just about to move to Fredericton, New Brunswick for his PhD) Jesse Ferguson (it also included a launch, finally, of the physical chapbook he did with Friday Circle, moons after the same has been on their website…). A good crowd, the readings were absolutely spectacular, with Phil Hall (currently at their cabin near Perth) closing out the evening with one of the finest presentations of writing I've seen in a very long time; it probably has some of the audience still stunned.

Unfortunately Wanda O'Connor, scheduled to read as well, couldn’t make it from Montreal because part of her car broke; I'm hoping that I can convince her (with pre-sent chapbook manuscript) to attempt another go, for my reading series through the Ottawa Art Gallery (will she ever make her way back home?).

I still find it strange and even surprising in so many ways that I've managed to keep the damn thing going this long, producing chapbook after broadside after chapbook (with so many more on the way; I'm plenty bad backlogged; subscribe so I can make more!); I'm still hoping I can put together a 20th anniversary anthology in a few years, much the way Joe Blades let me put together one for the 10th a few years ago, the anthology Groundswell: best of above/ground press 1993-2003 (2003). The current queue includes publications by Margaret Christakos, Jill Hartman, Barry McKinnon, derek beaulieu, Karen Clavelle, Cath Morris, Stephen Brockwell, Jeanette Lynes and hopeful attempts at forthcoming publications by Mari-Lou Rowley, Andrew Suknaski, Jennifer Mulligan, Wanda O'Connor and William Hawkins.

Audience at The Mercury Lounge included Ottawa superblogger (and new dad) John W. MacDonald, Fredericton poet/math professor Hugh Thomas, Murderous Signs publisher Grant Wilkins, as well as Amanda and Charles Earl, Monty Reid, jwcurry, Max Middle, Carmel Purkis, Marcus McCann, James Moran, Wes Smiderle, Tina Trineer, Nicholas Lea, Clare Latremouille, Sarah Ruffolo, Vivian Vavassis, Pearl Pirie, Heather MacLeod & plenty of others.

Being a birthday party, the lovely Mercury Lounge bartendress, Cindy, said it couldn't exist without cake, so she slipped out during the readings to pick up a small cake that she presented me with at the end; how sweet! Thanks, too, to Lance Baptiste, who helped make the event what it was; without whom, etcetera. You know.

During his part of the opening set, Stephen Brockwell read a poem specifically written for the event (during a particularly dreadful conference call he had earlier in the day):

13 Congratulations for Things Above Ground

To the starlings on the lawns of Hampton Avenue,
congratulations for your appetite for grubs;
you divet the green without iron or wood!

To crickets in the grass and the cicadas in the pines,
congratulations for your syncopated summer symphonies!

To the jittery groundhogs on the cloverleaf of the Nicholas off-ramp,
congratulations for your excessive copulation,
compensation for the brevity of your existence!

To the snapping turtle crossing the 138 on my way to St Elmo,
congratulations for the hundred rank summers of your stench!

To the geese among the husks of the Experimental Farm’s new strains of corn,
congratulations for the relative safety of your flight plans
and the ecology of your pre-flight meals!

To my cat whose long lost front claws make a backyard hunt impossible,
congratulations for your courage to target the smaller but
no less dangerous bumblebees and wasps!

To my neighbour’s ten-year-old coonhound found on a Mountain in Japan,
congratulations for howling your Buddhist hound haiku!

To the postal workers who make more money delivering poetry
than the poets make writing it,
congratulations for finding at least one profitable niche!

To the typewriters in the campfire behind a Somerset St apartment,
congratulations for your slowly rusting silent poetry!

To the poets who scribble and scrawl with their hands the
impossible articulations of intransigent tongues, well,

To the audience, yes, you, and you, and you,
whose ears have heard more poetry than speeches,
congratulations for your reckless attentiveness!

To the bartenders who pour clover-dashed Guinness with panache and smiles
congratulations for accepting a poet’s pathetic tips!

To the paper-and-ink-stained fingers of the publisher surviving on lettuce and beer,
congratulations for folding three hundred thousand pages
without shedding more than a barrel of blood and sweat!

See also: Amanda Earl's posting on such here; a photo by Charles Earl; subscription info; a photo & note by John W. MacDonald; Pearl Pirie's post;

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