Saturday, December 23, 2023

rob's year in review! writing, books, chapbooks, travel etc

I’m usually so focused on reviewing, publishing, interviewing and actual writing that I tend to forget to broadcast elements of my actual literary work in this particular forum, so why not an overview? This past year saw an array of events, activity and chaos, although most of my actual literary production this past calendar year has been focused on non-fiction (book-length lyric essay) projects: the first half of the year, attempting to complete the manuscript of “Lecture for an Empty Room,” and, since June, pushing this new non-fiction project, “the genealogy book,” both of which I’ve been posting excerpts of on my enormously clever substack (among other prose-specific projects and threads, including a potential book of short essays on prose writers, and a handful of short stories, both from what might be a second manuscript of very very short stories, “Little arguments,” and a second manuscript of actual short stories, “Very suddenly, all at once”).

Oh, and my poetry title World’s End, came out with ARP Books in October, and it is lovely. This is the collection that immediately precedes the book of smaller (University of Calgary Press, 2022). And Invisible Publishing produced groundworks: the best of the third decade of above/ground press 2013-2023 a few weeks later, and it is gorgeous (see my introduction for such here). They hold the best of the second decade volume in their catalogue as well, if you’re looking for copies (I have a few of the first volume in storage, so prod me if you’re looking for that).

I spent a month across January-February working a poem sequence, “edgeless : letters,” that was produced as a chapbook through above/ground press in July. Honestly, I spent the year even saying to myself that I wasn’t really writing poems, and certainly, the bulk of my 2023 was working on prose projects, but I think I now have the core of another poetry manuscript, “edgeless,” that just needs a couple further items to be complete. Around the same time that “edgeless : letters,” was composed, I was also putting what became the finishing touches on a further poetry manuscript, “Autobiography,” some of which has appeared in the online chapbook Poems for Frank O'Hara's birthday (Palabrosa, 2023) and the print chapbook The Alta Vista Improvements (above/ground press, 2023), as well as through Horseshoe Literary Journal and the Chaudiere Books blog (and my own website, naturally), and issues of Arc Poetry Magazine, Event magazine, Grain magazine, periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics, Qwerty magazine, Stride magazine, South Dakota Review, The Peter F. Yacht Club and Volt: A Literary Magazine. Oh, and that call-and-response chapbook-length Covid-era collaboration Denver poet Julie Carr and I were working also appeared as a chapbook through above/ground press! I have a few excerpts of the writing diary I composed around such posted as part of my substack, by the way.

Summer saw the thirtieth anniversary event celebrating three continuous decades (and nearly thirteen hundred titles) published through my above/ground press; it was a great event! I posted a report on the reading, naturally, which you should read here. There were some other readings I organized across the year, as The Factory Reading Series slowly returns to life [Pearl Pirie was good enough to even post a report on one of those events this past year]. the ottawa small press fair, which I co-founded and organize, landing at the thirty year mark next fall, may have moved over to Tom Brown Arena permanently, by the way.

I even got interviewed a bunch this year! Including: by Hollay Ghadery for River Street Writing, November 2023 : by RC Weslowski and Kevin Spenst for Wax Poetic, August 2023 : by Erin Bedford for Pinhole Poetry, July 2023 : by Susan Johnston, CKCU, May 2023 : by Valerie Coulton, Palabrosa, May 2023 : by Sam Szanto, 20 Questions, February 2023 : and by Lori Hettler, The 40 but 10 interview series, January 2023. I keep a running list of links of various interviews with me over here. And did you see I finally added a page to a variety of links to reviews of my work on my author page? After years of complaining that no-one takes my work seriously, I thought that perhaps I should maybe give folk the opportunity to attend to those who actually had?

This year had a bunch of travel as well, which has been a huge relief, after that period of Covid-lockdown. I like posting reports on these travels, if for no other reason to recall what it is I’ve actually been doing (and for folk outside these events, a bit more knowledge of what various corners and communities might be up to), across the whirlwind of other activities, and you can catch reports on my readings at the Horseshoe Literary Festival in Corner Brook, Newfoundland in October, for ARP Books in Winnipeg in October and at the Art Bar in December. I was solo with the kids back in January, when Christine was at Banff Writing Studios, we went to Picton to visit father-in-law and his wife in July, did a big ridiculous drive with the kids a bit later [parts one, two and three], attended a two-day Adams Family (birth mother's family) reunion in August and went to Disneyland in November. Without these reports, how to keep track of it all? The Disney jaunt was interesting, although the three months prior to that was completely overloaded, including two book deadlines (for On Beauty and groundwork), with Corner Brook and Winnipeg thrown into the mix, so everything since that time did involve a bit of a collapse (although now that I've a collection of short stories accepted and forthcoming, it is a bit more of a push to further this novel I began during those early months of Covid; the story actually continues the thread of a couple of the stories in that particular book, which themselves follow a particular thread from my second published novel, missing persons, that The Mercury Press produced back in 2009...).

Christine and I are slowly working to think about fall 2024 touring, by the way. She has her third full-length title, Toxemia, a lyric/non-fiction hybrid memoir, out in the fall with Book*hug, and my collection of short stories, On Beauty, lands around the same time with University of Alberta Press, so we're thinking a bit of a tour might be in order. We've not done such a thing together, and my last really big bout of extended touring (beyond one-off readings here and there) was back in 2006 [part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, part seven, part eight, part nine, part ten], before I landed my year as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta; since Christine and the kids, there really hasn't been the opportunity to repeat such a thing, especially together, so we're finally taking it. We're currently seeking options that might have funding attached, so we can afford to travel around a bit? Would be good to get to Fredericton, Montreal, St. Catharines, Peterborough, Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Hamilton, Victoria, etcetera. Very exciting, yes?

And keep in mind I'm still working on my thirteenth annual 'best of' Canadian poetry titles list for the dusie blog, which most likely lands on January 1st over there. See last year's list here! In case you aren't aware, I have been writing and posting some one hundred and fifty book reviews online (between blog and periodicities) over the past few years (I have yet to do a proper 2023 count, but I will include such as part of my 'best of' list), so it is good to get a handful of 'worth repeating' reviews out every year. Oh, and I'm reading in January in London, Ontario with Karen Schindler for Antler River Poetry: might we see you at that? Don't worry if you are unable, naturally; I'll most likely post a report.

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