Monday, June 18, 2007

ongoing notes: the ottawa small press book fair (part one)

This past weekend the ottawa small press book fair, the last one before I head out west (although they will still happen in fall and next spring, I'll just have to organize from a distance and fly out for it). Finally made that broadsheet by Richard Harrison, a poem for the late Riley Tench [see my note on him here]; if you want a copy of the poem, send me an s.a.s.e. to 858 Somerset Street West, main floor, Ottawa Ontario K1R 6R7 and I'll send you a copy, and maybe a copy or two of other broadsheets, including recent ones by Monty Reid, Amanda Earl [see her entry on the book fair here, and post on the reading the night before] and myself. Were you even at the fair? Did you see the little postcard freebie that Bywords was handing out to promote Roland Prevost's chapbook this fall, last year's Newlove Award winner?

Can you believe, Ottawa: The Unknown City is almost finished? I can't really believe it myself. Check out here for a photo of myself and Amanda Earl at the Ottawa Art Gallery art auction.

Vancouver BC: After not being in Ottawa for fourteen years, Pooka Press publisher Warren Fulton showed up in town with a whole slew of chapbooks he's been making over the years, including a new edition of George Bowering's Autobiology (2006) and a new small chapbook of his, U.S. Sonnets (2007). Autobiology originally appeared as Georgia Straight Writing Supplement, Vancouver Series #7 back in 1972, and reprinted in his trade collection The Catch (Toronto ON: McClelland & Stewart, 1976), reissued here by Pooka in an edition photocopied from the original (to keep the typeface and spacing) in an edition of 52 copies, and written as a series of forty-eight prose sections, writing his biology, writing his autobiography; as they said in Walt Kelly's Pogo comic, I'm gonna write my autobiology. You'd have to check with the publisher to even know if there are any copies left.


I broke my note on a girl's heel. I broke my foot under a ladder. I broke my nose on a baseball. I broke my finger under a wagon. I broke my nose on a man's fist. I broke my hand against a concrete wall. I wisht my nose did not turn up & I broke it. Has the cat got your tongue? I wisht my nose did not have a hump in it & I broke it. Who told you to hold your tongue? I wisht my nose was not pusht to one side & I broke it & it was pusht over to the side. Investigate him. Seek the vestiges of his movement. Look for footprints. Gumshoe investigator, break the case.

He wants to know why the bones are broken & why they are not stronger where they broke him. He calls a strike on you if you break your wrists. I broke my nose again on a baseball. I struck the wall behind burlap & broke my fist.

Birney broke his fast thru a wired shut jaw. Jerry broke across the street & a car hit him now he's in traction. Lionel was hit by a car that left him broken on the street. The wagon was free from the tractor & it broke my finger. Jesus Christ, I said. They broke the back of my car on the wet dark street.

I got too close & the foot broke my nose. It was the first. It was right in front of my brain. (Autobiology)

The newest small George Bowering publication is U.S. Sonnets, published in an edition of 100 copies. How does this book compare, say, to his previous small collection At War With The U.S. (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 1974)? How does this compare to a cover image of George W. Bush giving a thumbs-up in the centre of a Confederate flag? Written from newspaper stories, and various other quoted sources, these poems move through the medias version of our neighbour to the south, and all the implications there.

14. Unless the

Unless the UFO is surrounded by a force field to
vaporize the slugs, you are going to cause some serious

damage to the craft and its inhabitants. Maybe if
we shoot up a few of them, they (whoever they are)

will rethink their game plan. Don't let anyone or
anything take you inside a craft that has landed.

You aren’t required to follow. Think and act as
the aggressor rather than as a prisoner. You don't

have to give any of your body parts to anyone if
you don’t want to. You don’t have to give your

planet to anyone if you don’t want to. Shoot first
and ask questions later. At this stage of the game

I believe we shoot, shoot them down. The more
damage you can cause, the better for our side.

Bowering has been working for some time on a chapbook a month, attempting to write twelve in a row all working a particular and different construct, others of which out recently with Calgary's No Press and Toronto's BookThug [see my review of one here]. Where is this all going? And what, pray tell, is the glue that might hold all twelve of these together?

23. It's a

It's a hot summer's day somewhere; everyone is
wearing shorts. There's a kid in that uniform, tee

shirt, yellow shorts, white socks, sneakers. There's a guy
beside him, fat legs between white socks and shorts.

Behind him there's a USAmerican flag, a woman
taking a picture, another woman with her hands on her

hips. She's wearing tee shirt and shorts. She's overweight.
In the middle, up front, is the center of this picture,

a guy in shorts and a St. Louis Cardinals tee shirt.
He's wearing the stars and stripes around his head, long

hair hanging down in thin twists. He's got narrow sun-
glasses and a thin moustache. He is carrying two hand-lettered

signs. The one held low says GO USA. In his other hand
he holds up a sign that says Get A BRAIN! MORANS.

Toronto ON: Proper Tales Press editor/publisher Stuart Ross was at the fair again this year, and he brought with him two new publications, his newest trade poetry collection I Cut My Finger (Vancouver BC: Anvil Press, 2007) and his PETER O'TOOLE: A MAGAZINE OF ONE-LINE POEMS (Proper Tales Press, 2007). How do you make a whole magazine of one-line poems? With the cover bearing an image of legendary actor O'Toole (looking very much like Montreal's own William Shatner) smoking a cigarette, the issue contains work by Sandra Alland, Gary Barwin, Kim Bernstein, Joel Dailey, Michael Dennis, Paul Dutton, Lance La Rocque, Camille Martin, Stuart Ross, Jim Smith, Hugh Thomas and Bill Zavatsky.


Skin as thick as rubber running down the street (Lance La Rocque)


The convent has been converted into condos. (Hugh Thomas)


She knows me as an old man now (Michael Dennis)


Oh Velveeta, oh Jos. Louis, oh still-digesting Maraschinos of youth (Sandra Alland)

Vancouver's Anvil Press has been a supporter of Ross' work for a while now, from publishing his column in sub-Terrain magazine (formerly held in WORD: The Literary Calendar) and even producing his "grumpy collection of personal essays," Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer (2005). One of my favourite aspects of this new poetry collection has to be the cover artwork and design by illustrator Gary Clement; just who is this guy? Ross gave a magnificent reading on Friday night at the Carleton Tavern surrounded by friends and admirers, providing his usual surreal commentary on the world around and inside him, from the absolutely bizarre to the downright disturbing, including a businessman with flippers and the U.S. military following a trail of ants.


Oh right, that time
he caught a fish, a fish
so big it ate his car,
his family, his
cottage. A thing of
sleek beauty, it gleamed
and twinkled in the
police spotlight. The
bullet it caught
lodged behind its left
gill, and Jesus
wept, the fish
wept, we all fell
to the ground
and wept, sweet fish.

There is something about how Ross shows, in but a bare few lines, how the real world actually works. By starting out with the appearance of saying something of little consequence, you can somehow get the permission to get deeper into saying how the world works, whether television comedians being the best at cutting through political jibber-jabber, or cartoon animals allowed to get away on television with things that dramatic actors never would. It's as though Ross not only regularly crosses the line into pure sanity regularly, but that for him, it simply doesn’t exist. And it becomes interesting, that after his collection Razovsky at Peace (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 2001) [see my review of such here] and Hey, Crumbling Balcony! Poems New & Selected (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 2003) that spoke much of fathers and even brothers, he has moved on to referencing children in this most recent collection; is this simply a matter of natural progression?


It was at that exact moment, when
I began to empty my pockets,
which were empty to begin with,
except for a bent paperclip
and a tennis court oeuf (an
athletic and popular omlette,
sprinkled with pocket lint),
that my children returned from the future,
from long after my sorry death,
where they were quite comfortable and,
I was happy to hear,
saw each other often and spoke of me
not unkindly, if infrequently.
"I was just emptying my pockets,"
I told them, "liberating myself
from all things material, but look,
let's go to the zoo!" "The zoo!" they cried.
As we ambled amongst the apes,
my eldest, whose name I no longer
remember, gone from my noggin
along with my own, said to me,
"Everything's different later on.
A guy got shot
and hubbub ensued,
but when the dust settled, Dad,
it was a whole other thing."
Flanked by lemurs and ostriches,
I gathered my children
within the arc
of my fatherly arms.
I knew now that after I croaked,
a guy would get shot
and all would be better.
With the penguins looking on,
and under the gaze of giant turtles,
I kissed each of my children
(it took nearly an hour) upon
their foreheads, and I set off
for home. I had children
to conceive, a blender to fix,
rectangular books
to return to the library.

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