amongst books

amongst books

Friday, October 27, 2006

Chaudière Books’ First Launch

last night at the National Library as part of the Writers Festival post festival events.

There’s something satisfying about seeing people you know accomplish their dreams. You’ve heard them talk about it, you understand where their vision comes from, and then you see a table full of books, fresh off the printing press, still smelling of ink and glue, and it’s almost as if you are part of it all.

I couldn’t be happier to see Chaudière Books emersion from dream to reality last night, nor prouder of its creators, rob mclennan and Jennifer Mulligan, both of whom have been long term drivers of literature in Ottawa and beyond. (Note I’m resisting making a pun about log drivers).

Last night three of CB’s published authors read: Monty Reid from Disappointment Island, Meghan Jackson from Movements in Jars and Clare Latremouille from The Desmond Road Book of The Dead.

It is always wonderful to hear Monty read again. He has a low and melodic (damn…ok… I admit…sexy) voice. He read several poems from Disappointment Island, which is actually the name he gave to Pender Island in BC. Some members of the audience thought he was talking about Ottawa (the island is silent). I particularly enjoyed hearing poems from the sequence cuba A book, which has been modified somewhat from the chapbook of the same name published by above/ground press in 2005. These poems are short vignettes of a sad excursion to a sad world. Of the poems Monty read from the section entitled Disappointment Island, particularly memorable for me were the poems Terminal and Wrist. These are very full, lyrical poems compared to Monty’s last publications: Sweetheart of Mine, Bookthug, 2006; and cuba A book, above/ground press, 2005). Both styles work: the minimalist concentrated imagery of the chapbooks and the fuller, lush sensual descriptions of Disappointment Island. Monty is a versatile and skilled poet. If you didn’t attend the reading you missed out on getting a copy of a commemorative poster with a great kids’ poem called The Boss of the Dinosaurs written by Monty and illustrated by Josée Lavigne. I have to reproduce just a stanza here…I can’t resist…it’s too much fun!

I’ve got velociraptors
Coming out my ears
A couple of them work here
But some are volunteers

Meghan Jackson didn’t give us free dinosaur poems, but that’s ok..I wouldn’t have minded a jar of jam though ;) She gave a lovely reading from Movements in Jars. The book has an interesting premise of taking a look at ordinary objects in a new light, capturing the moment of them (a bit like a firefly in a jar, perhaps). The cover art depicts an old-fashioned mason jar, the type used for bottling jams and pickles, with the title text as the label. These poems are spare and minimal. Meghan’s poems worked well for me aloud because of the repetition, accumulation and onomatopoeic devices she used in poems like the Nesting Shelf. In the book itself, I’ve only started to go through it, but have already noticed the sensuous details and mesmerizing rhythms in poems such as breakfast. Here’s just a snippet: “i filled my mouth with frozen / cranberries / wet round colder red”[…].

It’ s not easy to make this kind of language poetry work out loud as well as on the page. The links and syntactical structure readers use to help them orient themselves are missing. Yet Meghan’s writing can handle both the page and the stage.

Last to read was Clare Latremouille. As with any new beginning, Murphy must always play a role. In this case, Clare’s novel, The Desmond Road Book of The Dead was not available for purchase (but will be today; you can either order it through the publishers or pick it up at local independent bookstores like Collected Works and Mother Tongue Books.)

Clare’s book is something I know I will enjoy based on her reading. She is excellent at dialogue, recreating the conversation between a younger and older woman with its many tangents and non-sequitars. I particularly enjoyed the scene with the young girl sitting under the table, colouring and listening in on the adult conversation between her mother and grandmother, told in flashback form, in juxtaposition to the grandmother’s funeral, a very poignant effect. To read this book, I believe, is to adopt an entire family of eccentric and sympathetic personalities.

This is the very first time I’ve had the privilege of knowing anyone embarking on a serious publishing venture and I have to say I’m thrilled. The fact that the publisher is local and has so much passion for the literary community bodes well for its success. If you build it, people will buy. (And I never even saw Field of Dreams!)

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