You never know what treasures you’ll find at the Ottawa’s Small Press Book fair, and an edit

rob mclennan has done it again, put together a collection of books, presses, and artisans that would rival any sales venue.

I’ve played around with the display on the bird, buried / press table, to catch your eye. Here is Elisha Rubacha, in charge of that display, one of the friendliest poets you could be sitting next to.

Here she is, in the flesh, so to speak.

Going around the room to hand out some freebie mini books, I spent time with artist friend Nancy French, here, as usual, with a gorgeous display of hand-marbled papers, and various items made with her Lindenlea Papers, and results of her talents, like bookmarks and notebooks.  Time spent with this smile is time well spent.My wanderings came with surprises: this gentleman with his amazing hand press books and broadsheets, for example. Hugh and I had a conversation in which I bemoaned my lack of sufficient funds with which to purchase his glorious creations, and then he came after me to compliment me on the poems in my freebie, Cyclone Vanuatu. Here he is, is book artist Hugh Walter Barclay, of Kingston with his THEE HELLBOX offerings.

My neighbour on the other side was June M. Coxon with Juhal Publishing’s children’s books in English and French, featuring her book about Ernie the cat.  I saw quite a few cat lovers stop by her collection.

Also showing their wares were rob, with his various press collections, and other Ottawa presses, like Angel House Press and Devil House Press; Stuart Ross with a table that included Mansfield Press titles, who gave me a chapbook, forty-nine cents. Much appreciated Stuart.  Here are a couple of fugitives, Jennifer Baker and Monty Reid, at the Arc table, and  

Here is Sonia Saikely, with her two books, and just as important, some mochi cakes.

 

Pearl Pirie with her Phaphours press…and then a delightful surprise…

This is Colin Knight in his first appearance at the fair. He had his thrillers on display, and when I gave him my freebie, said, “I’ve been to Vanuatu!” Now what are the chances?  Turns out he was there for nine weeks scuba diving all around the little country.  We talked about places like Millionaires’ Point on the island of Santo, and Champagne Beach. “There’s a lot about Vanuatu in my book,” he said, so I bought Some People Deserve To Die, and am chomping at the bit to read it. It was great and we will certainly stay in touch.

And of course, I was there with two presses, Tree Press (featuring all the Tree Chapbook winners and especially

The Binders, by Doris Fiszer) and catkin press,

feeling very professional with the beautiful sign made by Michal Bowie from Algonquin College. Anyone who would like such a gorgeous addition to their presentations, let me know and I’ll put you in touch.

It’s the extras, like the chapbooks in delightful forms like cemantics, with its fold-out visual poems made, and written by Michael Casteels, a gift from Cameron Anstee of Three Knit Hats by Ben Ladouceur, a teeny-tiny chapbook called little baby in a man-made shell, by zinewrimo,  an envelope with a tri-fold of poems by Jason Heroux, created by Michael Casteels, machina/microcosm by Nina Jane Drystek, a copy of PACE, Ottawa’s independent magazine, and two copies of The Ottawa Arts Review, which I hadn’t known existed.

What else do you get from a day at the fair? Great cookies that rob baked. Great cookies. More cookies, chocolate, and cherry at the birds, buried press table, brought to Elisha by a friend. Wonderful visits from

the short-list bpNichol author, Doris Fiszer, and other visitors/book purchasers. A great way to spend a Saturday!

Meet the Presses Indie Literary Market 2017

The Tree Press/ catkin press table

It was the first time Tree Press was specifically invited to this book fair. The occasion was that one of its publications, The Binders, written by Doris Fiszer of Ottawa, was shortlisted for the bpNichol Award. It didn’t win, but it was wonderful to be there with Doris and her husband Bruce Brockington. I should have a better photo of the table, which we also shared with another publisher.  Here is Doris with Deb O’Rourke, who stopped to talk with Doris.  

Congratulations too, to Sonnet L’Abbé on winning the bpNichol Award. Her chapbook, Anima Canadensis, was published by Carleton Wilson’s Junction Books.

How great it was to share the table with Nightwood Editions and Junction Books, and just spend hours in the company of publishers and writers!

And to be able to meet them and see their books. For many poets, the big trade presses seem scary, rather lofty, with similarly distant editors.  When you meet these publishing people in the flesh, so to speak, watch them interacting with others, speak with them yourself, you find they are friendly, fun to talk with, open to questions, and just as ordinary as anyone else.

and not above a little bit of the comic side of the moment. This is the GAP RIOT PRESS TABLE, with, Dani Spinosa, whose antics, as well as serious moments, I enjoyed muchly!

Other people and presses you may recognize: rob mclennan with books from his several presses,

and Cameron Anstee with Apt. 9 Press, in double modes of cheerful publisher and pensive publisher.

Imago and Red Iron Presses from Toronto, with publishers Marshall Hyrciuk and Karen Sohne, with many offerings.

Haiku people will recognize them from Haiku Canada Weekends and Haiku North America, and for their renku presentations at Versefest a couple of years ago.  Remember? Sake was served after link 6 of the renku, as per tradition. Perhaps the cause of that renku being continued in an Ottawa restaurant until the 36 verses were done.

And so it was. We’ll be seeing some of these presses next Saturday at Ottawa’s Small Press Book Fair. See you then!

Writing on Writing and Vanuatu

Cyclone Vanuatu (2015, catkin press) A very small book of tanka about Vanuatu and Cyclones.

draft 2 cyclone coverI was in Vanuatu for several years as a CUSO volunteer and had the opportunity to visit many islands and stay in many villages.  I was there through two major hurricanes as these storms were labelled at the time.

rob mclennan, ottawa publisher and writer, asked me ages ago if I would write a piece for his ongoing On Writing series, and yes, I promised to do that. Yet despite many starts, the thing just wouldn’t get going.  (perhaps this will finally be a start, rob…)

Early this year I started to write poems about Vanuatu. Few had ever heard of this South Pacific country until Cyclone Pam in March.  I think it’s difficult for us, pampered and protected as we are, secure in our technological ‘advanced’ societies, to imagine the devastation in such a country. We are better equipped to understand the destruction in a caribbean country like Haiti, one that we, or someone we know, has visited. A country that is somewhat like ours. After all, a former Governor General of Canada was born there.

Vanuatu is so different from us geologically, societally, linguistically. It is very far away, on the other side of the world. I’ve been in touch with linguists from Tanna, looking for details about the local languages there, to use in a series of prose pieces that, hopefully, will form the structure to the poem series. Vanuatu has over a hundred distinct languages, as well as the three official languages of French, English and Bislama, but it is the indigenous languages that fascinate me. the island of Tanna, known for yasur, its live volcano, itself has very many languages. The more linguists share their knowledge of such languages with me, the more intrigued I am. The more I would be a linguist in another life.  Or not. But speaking this morning with other Canadian poet/linguists, the fascination has been fertilized. Hopefully that garden will prove more productive than my actual gardens this year, will produce words that will produce lines that will have meaning and perhaps understandable syntax…