Saturday, June 29, 2024

ongoing notes: the ottawa small press book fair (part one : Cameron Anstee + John Levy,

[see last fall’s similar notes here]

Ottawa ON/Kentville NS: It is good to see a new publication by Ottawa poet Cameron Anstee, who is famously working at his own pace, in his own time [see my review of his second collection here], and good to see a chapbook of his produced through Gaspereau Press: Sky Every Day (2024), produced as Devil’s Whim Chapbook No. 53. It is almost a surprise to think that Anstee hadn’t published with Gaspereau prior to this, as there does seem a similar aesthetic of tone, of production, between the two (remember Anstee’s work through his own Apt. 9 Press, for example). Across seventeen poems in this very lovely chapbook, Anstee extends his exploration of poems that take up the smallest space possible, yet each one packed with enormous resonance and scale. One can point to the work of the late Nelson Ball, titles by Mark Truscott or certain works by the late Toronto poet bpNichol, but Anstee is working something entirely evolving into his own direction with these pieces. There are echoes of Ball’s attentions to nature, but one that blends Nichol’s own attentions to pure language, somehow meeting in the middle, establishing the stretch of his own, ongoing space. Anstee’s poems are aware of physical space, of physical place and of a space of attention that wraps itself around all the above. There are enormous amounts that go into these poems, and one could spent hours, not lost, but comfortably settled into a suite of curiosities, within them.




Jay MillAr of Bookhug Press, hiding underneath his table,

Cobourg ON/Tucson AZ: It is very nice to see a new chapbook by Arizona poet John Levy [see my review of his recent selected here] through Stuart Ross’ Proper Tales Press, Guest Book for People in my Dreams (2024). It is interesting in how Levy returns to composition-as-response, directly riffing off or responding to particular poets or particular lines, sentences or phrases, allowing for a wider opening of where it is his own lines might extend. “That’s something to look forward to,” the sprawling opening sentence of the prose poem “Sisyphus at Noon” begins, “no shadows, though it was marvellous before noon and afterwards, finding all sorts of colours in even the smallest shadows he rolled the boulder past—a pebble’s oblong shadow with blues and greys (a little yellow at one edge), or a dead bird’s longer wider shadow with a greenish-grey stroke close to the feathered rise of folded wings.” Each meditative poem begins with a line or a thought or a moment and then furthers, the poet working one step and then a further step, curious to see, it seems, where it all might end up, as eager to discover as the reader. Produced in an edition of 150 copies, you should certainly try to pick one up from Stuart Ross when next you see him.

Poem Beginning with a Sentence
by Elizabeth Robinson

The essence of nature is to be always borrowing.

I borrow my thoughts and rarely repay anyone or
anything, it’s part of my nature, is second nature

and third, and so on. Always, so on. There’s no Polonius

telling me what to do—or instructing nature
to stop lending nature more nature. Dust

lends dust to the dust

that is always borrowing and returning the dust.
Bats chase bugs at dusk, what isn’t

dust at the moment

is taking its time.

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