Sunday, December 08, 2019

the ottawa small press book fair (part two,

[jwcurry's Room 302 Books table]

Ottawa ON: I’m charmed by the array of small mini-chapbooks that Dessa Bayrock produces through her post ghost press, with some of her most recent offerings including the wishing well: a suite of found poems (2019) by Rose Hunter, brilliant blooming voices (2019) by mj santiago, Monster (Girl) Theory (2019) by Kanika Lawton, and Blessing (2019) by Victoria Nugent (and did you see they now also have poetry socks?). Producing more chapbooks over the course of a year than most, post ghost press focuses, it would seem, pretty heavily (but not exclusively) upon emerging authors (which is often the case with such enterprises; working to support and produce writing and writers not necessarily being supported otherwise). There is an energy to these small publications that is quite charming, from the DIY cut-up design to the confidence that only comes through from emerging authors. As Kanika Lawton writes in her small chapbook/sequence:

I am good enough to bring to your mother’s house.
I will eat from her china plates and wipe off the crumbs.
I will be the perfect false-daughter.

I am bad enough to show to your friends.
Don’t act so shocked. You know I only look innocent.
I promise I’ll only break your neck with my teeth.

Some of the strongest poems of this assemblage comes from mj santiago; for example, “Anything that emerges from my body / becomes my responsibility / the moment it is visible,” is just stellar. One can see the emergence of something working its way up to some very fine sharpness:

my mom says, this is how we die

For the fourth night in a row
I vomit overcooked meat onto the floor.
It does not slip out easily while I sleep
but is hacked out onto the tile
surrounded by my history made tangible
Through the lining of my esophagus.
Anything that emerges from my body
becomes my responsibility
the moment it is visible.
I dream all of the ways
I will clean up after fate.

Ottawa ON: I’ve been very impressed with the quality and attention of the literary and community work that Canthius journal has been doing over the past few years, whether in print, online (such as Manahil Bandukwala’s recent interview with Baseline Press editor/publisher Karen Schindler) or as part of one of their expansive multi-city launch parties. Managing editor/founder Claire Farley, with a recently-shifted assemblage of writers and editors in the editorial collective, have been working on their semi-annual “feminism and literary arts” journal long enough, now, to have released their seventh issue, featuring the work of Pearl Pirie, Sanna Wani, Jade Wallace, Terese Pierre, Kirby, M. Brett Gaffney, Annick MacAskill, Melanie Power, Kari Teicher, Sanchari Sur, Margaret Christakos, Émilie Kneifel, Karen Schindler, Jane Shi, Barâa Arar, Allie Duff, Natalia Orasani and Jesse Holth, as well as artwork by (and accompanying interview with) Rowan Red Sky. While I am familiar with more than half the names here, I am intrigued to be introduced to the luscious and powerful prose of Émilie Kneifel, such as the second half of the poem “Sharing Again,” that reads:

hanging silence, not even bye. you sit on his bed which holds in a breath. it collapses toward you; it tumbles him down. he of the drowsy hands, dulled-out reaching, pulls you to the peak of him. he clasps your head with the whole of his hand, your hair his veil, rumbling like a rock bed because you unleashed your old braids. he says i’m sorry like he always does like he always sleeps closest to the ground. which is its own kind of pattern. you nod, nod, nod. the dog tucks into the statue that still isn’t yours and you saddle your hand on him because he is just good. pungent as colour. your dad thumbs your steep face. arcs the crag of your nose. like a worry stone. says. “my pounpoun” (your oldest nickname. butchered french) “always so joyful on the outside, always so— thoughtful. on the inside.” he rustles your hair as your head accrues all the room’s static. “so many thoughts.” so he can see the roiling. “i wish i knew what they were” is what he mouths as you think it.

Part of the appeal of Canthius, apart from simply being a journal of some strong writing, is akin to what I mentioned in my notes on post ghost press: their continuing engagement with the work of emerging writers, and there are an enormous amount of writers from across Canada (and, occasionally, beyond) coming up that Canthius has been publishing and championing. The strength of Canthius comes from their ability to provide space for an array of literary voices, moving from the performance lyric to short bursts of prose to the boundaries of language poetry, holding their interest across a range of narratives and narrative lines, as Kari Teicher writes to open her poem “i told raw. –”:

he asks me for a story.

I can tell him anything, new or old
with Easter candy, we lie naked
feet-up, feet-down
and I tell him about the first grade

when Miss Moss sent me
to the principal,
made me show how I twisted
my shirt around, made my
tank top
into a
how to explain

Shania Twain is your idol.

Keep in mind, also, that this is one of the journals affected by Doug Ford’s government deciding to cut a section of funding to the Ontario Arts Council, which left Canthius without necessary funds to continue publishing, so I will suggest that, yes, you should totally subscribe.

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