Thursday, June 17, 2021

Ongoing notes: mid-June, 2021: Dani Spinosa + Cameron Anstee

Oh, I know. Remember when this would have been the time of year when we’d be gearing up for the spring edition of the ottawa small press book fair? I’m hoping we can return to such by the fall, but until then, did you see the interviews I posted with an array of book fair exhibitors? And of course, you should be keeping a regular eye on what is appearing at periodicities: ajournal of poetry and poetics. Further to that, the lifting of current provincial lockdown means I’ve been able to get back into the printers (for the first time since the end of April), so above/ground press titles are beginning to emerge once more. We are slowly beginning to emerge from the dark.

Toronto ON: Toronto poet, editor and publisher Dani Spinosa’s latest is the chapbook-length Visual Poetry for Women, produced as number 8 in Anstruther Press’ “Manifesto Series (2021), a prose manifesto that really furthers and examines some incredible activity not only happening (including Amanda Earl’s remarkable Judith, which I have yet to properly discuss), but being discussed in a larger way for possibly the very first time. Spinosa argues fully for women to “seize the means of literary production,” including digital production, hand-printing and other means of production, editorial and distribution. She argues heavily for seizing one’s own digital space, and in many ways, this work is an updated and forceful counterpoint to Virginia Woolf’s request for a “Room of One’s Own.” As visual poet and producer of visual works by others, this is a matter-of-fact reminder that women need to create their own spaces to work, publish, critique and be seen, instead of simply waiting for someone else to do it for them. This is a glorious manifesto, and I look forward to seeing how readers might respond. As her manifesto opens:

This is not a manifesto urging us to remedy the persistent gender gap in visual poetics. I’ve done that work already. And other, more thorough historians have done that work better. Alex Balgiu and Mónica de la Torre’s Women in Concrete Poetry 1959-1979 is illuminating for the gaps it reveals even in my knowledge. Other writers like Amanda Earl and Jessica Smith have done brilliant work collecting and highlighting more recent work by women and gender non-conforming poets and language artists. That work is important. It serves to remedy several decades of neglect. But I arrive here with a hunger for overwriting, a desire to stop revision, and present instead this voice louder than the story that’s already been told, that’s still telling. I want to carve several new names into the concrete.

Welcome, ladies. Now we’re writing like we own the place.

Ottawa ON: It is lovely to both see that Ottawa poet, editor, publisher (Apt. 9 Press) and critic Cameron Anstee, after a short pause, has begun producing chapbooks again, with his own LINES (St. Andrew Books, June 2021), a collection of nineteen short, sharp poems. The author of a handful of chapbooks over the years, I think this might be the first chapbook of his that has appeared since before the publication of his full-length debut, Book of Annotations (Picton ON: Invisible Publishing, 2018) [see my review of such here], so clearly he’s been slowly, quietly, writing again as well. Produced in a numbered edition of fifty-one copies, LINES furthers Anstee’s exploration into the miniature, exploring the smallest moments and movements, heavily influenced by the work of Nelson Ball, as well as works by jwcurry, Mark Truscott and Stuart Ross. His poems explore structure and landscape, moments and examinations, and writing out only what is essential. It is incredible to realize just how much time one could spend getting lost in his few, perfectly-placed words.


cover the warm bread
with a small towel

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