amongst books

amongst books

Monday, June 23, 2008

Shenanigans, Shenanigans

this weekend, i caught only two out of three planned literary activities, missed the Fringe Festival, missed the Dragon Boat Racing and a whole pile of other stuff, but here’s a bit about what i did manage to take in...

the pre-fair reading at the Carleton Tavern upstairs featured Mike Spry, Stuart Ross, Jon Paul Fiorentino and David McGimpsey.

the room was packed and very warm. Mike Spry opened the reading with some fun poems from an upcoming collection called Jack (Snare Books, 2008). i really enjoyed his humour, the witty word play and comically preposterous scenarios. i especially liked ""Calculated Distractions in the Absence of Someone Named Jane," which was available as a broadside by Snare Books. In his reading Mike mentioned Jesus so much, I drank another swig of weak Keith’s beer every time I heard the word.

no one else mentioned Jesus that night alas, so i didn’t get even a mild buzz on.

Stuart Ross read from his latest book Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books, 2008). and also some other new poems, i believe. i particularly enjoyed “Questionnaire” from the section “Hospitality Suite.” Stuart was the lone Torontonian in the midst of all the Montreal readers and Ottawa audience. his poems are definitely funny but there’s always something so awkwardly human about them, so conversational and so imaginative at the same time. I can’t deny that Stuart is one of my favourite writers. I was really glad he came for the reading and the fair.

after a longish break, someone (perhaps Jon Paul, perhaps jwcurry) suggested we move out to the roof to hold the second half. it was still a warm night, but at least we had some circulation out there.

Jon Paul read from a story published in This Magazine called "It's Easy To Be A Moralist When You're Ugly." it was a funny and sad story about disfunctional relationships that reminded me very much of a less beautiful, more real people version of Young People Fucking, a movie i saw on Sunday. especially the threesome talk.

[i have to complain a bit here about the way sex is portrayed in Canada’s literary publications. why oh why is the only time you ever hear about sex in fiction in Canada disfunctional? why can’t we have arousing sex stories in literature? we can have portrayals of anger, grief, pain, laughter and anger, joy through any means but sexual ecstasy. we can have death, but no little deaths.]

all that venting aside, i enjoyed Jon Paul’s story and his presence very much. i’m a big fan of Jon Paul’s, especially The Theory of the Loser Class (Coach House Books, 2006) and transcona fragments (Cyclops Press, 2002). if you were at the reading, you would have had the opportunity to pick up a sample from Stripmalling (ECW Press, 2009) with its Archie Comic book like illustrations by Coach House publicist Evan Munday.

Dave McGimpsey was the final reader. he read from his wonderful poetry collection Sitcom (Coach House Books, 2007). the highlight of his reading for me was “Architeuthis” his poem featuring Dr. Miracle’s academic focus on the giant squid. i love David’s mix of intelligence, pop culture and form. he’s brilliant and uproariously humourous.

what i enjoyed about all the readers on friday was their ability to write with humour. of late i feel like there are a lot of male writers, particularly poets, working with humour, particularly satire and parody, but i don’t feel like i know of many Canadian female writers doing the same. i queried fellow audience members who are much more well read than I am and they came up with a couple of women: British writer Wendy Cope and Lynn Crosbie. i still don’t think a lot of women are playing around much with humour in their poetry today. if you can think of any examples, please pass them on to me. i’m starting to believe that the only way to respond to all the war and right wing nonsense is to laugh like hell.

laughing was pretty much what i did at the ottawa small press book fair the next day. i got to chat to numerous wonderful folk. i didn’t have much time to peruse the tables because business at the bywords table was brisk. Charles says we did better this time around than we’ve done in our previous seven years at the fair (six years representing bywords and one representing Friday Circle). i did manage to pick up an issue of the grocery list inspired Aisle 7, some very cool tidbits by Matt Payne, hand made paper from Grant Wilkins of the Grunge Papers, Peter O’Toole #4 and #1, a magazine of one-line poems put out by Stuart Ross’s Proper Tales Press, postcards / works of art by jwcurry through his curvd h&7 imprint, the latest Guerrilla magazine put out by Tony Martins with really interesting profiles of local Ottawa tattoo artists by Tony, Sylvie Hill and Nicole Shanowsky; i also got “How To Edit: Chapter A” by derek beaulieu, # 8 in the above/ground press Alberta Series. we sold a lot of the current issue of the Bywords Quarterly Journal, numerous copies of Marcus McCann’s petty illness leaflet, an assortment of stuff by various small presses, including pooka press and all the copies of Whack of Clouds that i brought with me. i only have a few left myself and plan on offering them up at Tree this Tuesday if i still have copies left.

the afterbit was once again held at the James Street (former feeding company, now) bar and it was great fun to chat with everyone there. but what happens at the James Street Pub stays at the James Street Pub, so i won’t say anything about the lime flinging, the amazing lettraset art i saw, cell phone hijinx and young publishers whose eyes look like astroboy’s after a pint...

the next fair is in october...hope to see you there. for other canadian small press fairs, go here.


Razovsky said...

Thanks for your kind words about my work, Amanda. It was an excellent weekend in Ottawa.

Canadian women poets who sometimes employ humour in their poetry?

Alice Burdick
Susan Musgrave
Ally Fleming
Laura Farina
Lillian Necakov
Agnes Walsh

Those come immediately to mind. Must be others, too.

I regret not reading the most dire and serious material I have last Friday night. Just for contrast. Interestingly, the poems that people mentioned most often to me after I read were the most serious ones. That was a nice change.

Amanda Earl said...

thanks, Stuart. i haven't read humourous poems by these women but i've read some of their work. i will look out for them.