Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Ongoing notes: the ottawa small press book fair (part one,

You might have noticed I’ve been sketching out short reviews of a variety of items gathered at Toronto’s Meet the Presses [see my most recent post on such here], but a week later, we had our own fair as well, the twenty-fourth anniversary of the semi-annual ottawa small press book fair (and, given it wasn’t actually semi-annual until the third event, it means I’ve now organized forty-seven of these events, forty-six of them solo). What the? If you wish to keep informed on the next fair, most likely in later June, I would recommend joining the Facebook group.

Kingston ON: From Puddles of Sky Press comes the wee chapbook To My Beloved Puppy (2018), by Brady Kumpf, described in the author biography at the back of the collection as “a 14 year old who loves his dog, living in Toronto, Ontario. He enjoys video games and wearing bow ties.” A very charming small collection, it is made up of eight short untitled poems that include “To my beloved puppy / You soon settled in / And went flippin’ insane / To this day / You are still on a leash [.]” The poems are brief, and relatively straightforward, but offer intriguing insight, striking lines and occasional wisdom, such as the short couplet that ends the collection, writing:

To my beloved puppy
You are a Daisy in a field of weeds

Ottawa ON: I was pleased to see the existence of the Sawdust Reading Series 4th Anniversary Collection 2017-2018 (2018) from natalie hanna’s battleaxe, an anthology celebrating an ongoing reading series organized by Jennifer Pederson, hanna and Liam Burke. The anthology features work (as one might suspect) by featured readers throughout that particular year’s worth of monthly readings, as well as their contest winners (submitted poems are entered into a contest, to read alongside the curated readers at the following month’s event; contests are judged by the prior feature)), and include a wealth of writers and spoken word performers, from emerging to established (most of whom are Ottawa situated): Apollo the Child, Barâa Arar, Manahil Bandukwala, Mike Blouin, Frances Boyle, Ayesha Chatterjee, Conyer Clayton, Anita Dolman, Allie Duff, Sanita Fejzić, Avonlea Fotheringham, Sarah Kabamba, Margo Lapierre, Nathanaël Larochette, Alastair Larwill, Namitha Rathinapillai, Shane Rhodes, Sandra Ridley, Jean Van Loon and Fatima Zahra.

The day after

Too much sky. Too much. A few
leaves in a corner, insouciant
as a painting. Be careful
what you wish for. There is
always a price. No grief can turn it
back now, the careless lust
that caused this gentle,
ungendered thing,
dead, yet still greenly,
evenly breathing. (Ayesha Chatterjee)

One element that Sawdust has been attentive to, along with engaging with numerous emerging authors, is their ability to engage with a far more diverse group of writers than most, part of a larger and really interesting shift across Ottawa’s literature (it’s about damned time, really). Some of the highlights in this short anthology include the poems by Ridley, Boyle, Kabamba, Lapierre and Chatterjee as well as this striking piece by Ottawa community organizer, writer and The Watering Hole podcast co-host Barâa Arar:

in the sun

you know only how to hesitate how to fill blank spaces with ums and bad sports analogies how to pretend to fill suits how to be who you thought you would be at 27 I know only how to be head first how to be fast and too much how to be caught in the rain in this poetry in this love this is not something beautiful this is something else something that creeps up behind you out of left field keeps you on your toes we find ourselves at brunch in the sun or at parks in the sun eating gelato from waffle cones we paid too much for speaking of something and everything and nothing this is not something extraordinary this is boring this is routine this is too many almosts not enough curveballs to keep you on your toes so you hesitate and fill the blank spaces with ums and bad poetry you fell head first too fast and too slow all at once

this is not something beautiful but this this is something

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