The Victory Café provided an intimate setting for this year’s Toronto Small Press Fair and lots of free coffee. I’m often overwhelmed by the Toronto fair and don’t really chat with vendors and visitors as much as I’ve a mind to. This year I got a good chance to peruse, purchase, chat and eavesdrop (four of my top five things to do).
Peruse (Saturday, November 11):
Believe Your Own Press. I would have purchased from them too, but by the time we walked in, they were busy and then packing up. Lots of good stuff there though. Who could resist such books as “The Surly Blondes of Earth” by David Clink or Joel Giroux’s “Larger than Still Life”? I’m just getting these older titles from the site because the books were being put away when I arrived at 3:30 pm. Descant was on sale for $5.00 an issue! Echolocation from U of T looked good enough to submit to. And they want you to submit.
Beth Follett’s novel, Tell It Slant from Coach House Books, just sounded so interesting and had a back blurb by Marie-Claire Blais, who is one of my favourite writers.
Copies of Dig. edited by Jennifer LoveGrove. These are very chewy annual small lit zines with unique handmade collage covers for every copy for the current issue and joyous old fashioned cakes and the lake for previous issues. Dig. 11 features work by derek beaulieu, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Gary Barwin, Kevin Connolly, Ray Succre, Sandra Alland, David McGimpsey, Hugh Thomas and Salvatore Difalco. My favourite bit in the zine was LoveGrove’s interview with Jen Currin about her poetry and latest publication, The Sleep of Four Cities (Anvil Press, 2006). There’s so much wisdom and inspiration in this interview, that as soon as I can, I will rush out and buy the poetry collection. Currin describes herself as a quilt-maker, recording “scraps of language in a notebook all the time, and when I write I sew these fragments together, using whatever else inspires me at the time (overheard conversations, the sunlight on the table, a cup of coffee I’m savouring, a poem I’ve just read…When one is `in the mood’—alive, awake to language—then everything starts to sound like poetry, to take on an importance.” Issue No. 10 featured some Ottawa folk: James Moran, Megan Butcher, rob mclennan, so I had to pick that one up too. Dig. is also looking for submissions, but you have to send them by snail mail, alas, which leaves me out.
I was happy to see TSPF founders Stuart Ross and Nick Power side by each, and it looked like they were working on a piece of writing together. From Nick’s Gesture Press, I picked up “From the Monastery” a pocket-sized chapbook with a peaceful power to it. The drawings by Sharon Etkin are pretty cool too.
Speaking of Mr. Ross, from his table I picked up (and purchased, did not steal) a pylon orange double sided accordion book called “Birds: A City, Some Rain,” Toni Latour/Stuart Ross, published on the occasion of the Artspeak exhibition Perched (2003/2004) in BC. The prose is characteristic Ross and twisty, mouth trippy fun. Kinda reminded me a bit of The Beatles, I am the Walrus. Ross gave me a free copy of one of his books from “the Days of Yore” section of his table, “Wooden Rooster” (Proper Tales Press, 1986), “the tale of Carl Venom, a man caught in a web of tragedy and bewilderment. Venom, whose journey spans three continents, lives in a reality stuck in the wrong frequency,” says the unknown blurbist on the back of the book.
Near the Bywords table, all lit up by the sunshine through our windows, I spotted Laura Murray of Tip of the Tongue. I should have bought her Tree shape poems, but I did end up buying her chapbook, [bouncing off a dandelion crown] because of the very cool flower cover.
The New Pollution Music Review, first printed issue was just $5.00 and includes some really fine music writing with editors who’ve worked on NOW and sang background for the Carebears.
Lovely conversation with Beth Follett to congratulate her on Pedlar Press’s tenth anniversary. When I inquired how Follett manages to keep her press surviving (and thriving by the looks of all the excellent books in two cases on the table), she was very inspiring. She leads a simple life and knows her priorities: books and food. We hear so much pessimism in Ottawa about how difficult and financially risky it is to start a small press, but people like Follett show that it can be done. She reads the manuscripts over and over again herself for editing; she makes sure prospective authors understand what she's able to provide as a small press (look at the great designs on those covers! [not sure the name of designer]; taking a chance on new and unknown writers) and what she's not able to provide (some kind of large ad). Read rob mclennan’s blog for more about some of Pedlar Press’s latest titles.
Charles and I also got the chance to have coffee with fellow Bywordian Sarah Ruffolo, and another member of the Bywords team, Kemisha Newman stopped by our table.
Our table was next to The Grunge Papers, another Ottawa press run by Grant Wilkins. He publishes Murderous Signs which comes from the Iliad in which Glaucus tells the story of his ancestor who was tricked into carrying a message ordering his own death. In Murderous Signs, which Wilkins gives away for free (and therefore “you’re morally obligated to take a copy.”), prose, poetry and commentary by live writers are published. I make the distinction about live writers because Wilkins also uses letter presses to produce beautiful broadsheets by dead folks such as P.B. Shelley and Archibald Lampman on paper he’s made himself. When people stopped by and lingered at his table, he was good enough to bring out type for them to see and hold in their hands. Wilkins goes to a lot of shows and fairs to sell his wares and spread his murderous signs.
What impresses me most about small press fairs is the dedication and idealism of the small press community. Near the venue, were fancy art and architecture bookstores, but I wasn’t tempted to spend my money or time there, not when I had such treasures to choose from at the fair.
John Barlow’s Riverspine Preview Minimagazine # 1 (I’m in this, on a glorious blue page). There was an interesting conversation about drugs and pen names.
Vallum: 4:1 – The Desert. Gosh this is always such a beautiful publication, its pages gleaming I am still perusing this one, but I did enjoy what John Kinsella had to say in his essay about the line break, talking about Australian drum beats, and breaking away from expected rhythms.
Trickle Down Pops, a little yellow booklet by Ryan Bird, Um Yeah Press. Word Sonnets, my gosh.
I would have picked up the Puddleleaf papers, from Max Middle’s new efforts to publish visual and written stuff of quality featuring the likes of derek beaulieu and Sheila Murphy, but I have all these already.
Food & Sidetrips
Toronto is never the same for us unless we dine at our favourite Thai restaurant, the Friendly Thai on Queen Street West. The chicken and shrimp satay, the coconut rice, the curry phad thai, the basil beef, the singha beer…ah heaven.
We went to the Distillery District for the first time. It didn’t exist when I was a wee Toronto Neanderthal. We saw it at night. I think it’s overdone really. The food and beer in the Mill Street Brew thingy place was not that great. The stores were full of kitchy stuff and the studios were crowd pleasers (big leaves, lots of photoshopping), I suppose.
Charles and I indulged our addictions for wool and camera equipment at Romni Wools and Vistec.
We made maybe half as much moolah as we normally do at a Toronto fair, but had more than twice as much fun.
is next. Nov 25. Expozine. Come find us.