Thursday, July 04, 2024

ongoing notes: the ottawa small press book fair (part two : Jason Heroux + Moez Surani,

[see part one of these notes here] Might we see you at the ottawa small press fair this fall? The event will be turning thirty years old, don’t you know.

Kingston ON: The latest by Kingston writer (and former Kingston Poet Laureate) Jason Heroux is the small Blizzard of None (2024), published through Michael e. Casteels’ Puddles of Sky Press. Heroux’s lyrics emerge as short, narrative sketches, short lines carved as gestures into stone. “The old broken fence,” the two-line “Damage Report” reads, “loves its brokenness.” Unlike the brevity of a poet such as the pointillist mode of, say, Ottawa poet Cameron Anstee, Heroux works a short form across these eight small poems, but one that still retains a structure of narrative, working with clear delineations of beginning, middle and end. “One definition of darkness is that it doesn’t exist / by itself as a unique physical entity but is simply / the total or near total absence of light.” the poem “Black Lamp” begins. According to the author biography at the back of this small collection, also, he has a collection of prose poems, Like a Trophy from the Sun, due out this fall with Guernica Editions, which I am very much curious about, and looking forward to.

Blizzard of None

Blizzard of none

you remind me
of something I’ve never seen.

Snowflake drifting from one
nowhere to another,
where is your home?


Michael e. Casteels, Puddles of Sky Press

Ottawa ON: I was fascinated by Moez Surani’s latest [see my review of his fourth full-length collection here], the chapbook The First Thousand Questions (Ottawa ON: Apt. 9 Press, 2024), a title that opens with this introductory note:

For about a year, I tracked the questions that my daughter, Zara, asked. I tried to record them exactly as she said them—with her grammar, omissions, nicknames, and diction. In the editing, I culled some of the redundant question, and I added referents or context in square brackets.

I had the idea for this work when my daughter was born, and waited as her brain, senses and identity developed. It was then that these inquiries began.

Set as an ongoing list of questions, there is something quite delightful in the narrative of these pieces, offering a trajectory of development that begins with Zara and circles out into the larger world. At the offset, Zara’s world is intimate, small (self, toys, parents) and moves with a wide-eyed and open-hearted curiosity through the simplest of inquiries that become, through the process, increasingly aware and increasingly complex. As the parent of three (and a former child as well, if you can imagine), it is very familiar to watch as Zara, through her father’s hand, works from “Mama say goodnight? // Did you play soccer ball? Did you win? // I peed in my bed and in my shirt. Why? // Where’s me? [Stuck in a sweater.] // Oh no, where’s my bath fruit?” into “Can I do it [plunge the Bodum]? // Who left it [newspaper] on the ground [driveway]? // Do you have any grapes Why [not]? // Will there be penalty shots? Where’s Jack Grealish? // How many fingers do you have? How many does Laiq have? // Are we going to Montreal next week? Gosh. I love Montreal-y.”


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