Monday, January 16, 2017

A visit to The Printed Word

Image courtesy of Google.
Sometime last summer, word reached me that a new bookstore had opened in the heart of Dundas, specializing in poetry and philosophy (among other genres). Notwithstanding the time before Christmas when I took a ten-minute break from holiday shopping to poke my head inside, this weekend marked my first intentional trip to The Printed WordAnd, wow.

As I remarked on Twitter following that first stop-in, the sight of small press titles as I entered was pretty exciting. And that sense of discovery deepened as I walked further into the store’s large, rectangular footprint. With its high ceiling and relaxed quiet, allowing the muted sounds of King Street to drift through, The Printed Word offers a peaceful reading atmosphere with adequate room for conversation. Now I’m not the most outgoing person in the world but, within minutes, I found myself asking James McDonald, the shoppe’s owner, just how he came into possession of some of these titles... Like the copy of Dreams Surround Us, a collaborative collection by John Newlove and John Metcalf (that I didn’t know existed), signed by both authors.

Wide, 8-foot shelves made up the store’s perimeter, with each on the eastern-facing side dedicated to poetics from different areas of the globe. I confined myself to the Canadian shelves in order to keep focussed. But the selection was overwhelming, so much so I wish I’d brought my camera to document the many titles that stopped me cold at various points. Luckily, some of the best examples are items I brought home:

Consider Each Possibility by Cameron Anstee (Baseline Press)

A shared appreciation for the poetry of Cameron Anstee got James and I chatting about Nelson Ball and minimal poetry in general. As it turns out, James is also a publisher and issued Ball’s first children’s book, A Vole On a Roll, through his Shapes & Sounds Press. How did I miss this?

Of Light by Robert Hogg (Coach House Press)

Beautiful, hardcover collection I'd never seen before.

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu and Stephen Mitchell (translation) (Harper and Row)

Religion is another subject close to James' heart, as The Printed Word’s Religion section makes clear. He showed me at least four different translations of this ancient Chinese text to ensure I was getting the right one.

Landfall by Roo Borson (Fiddlehead Poetry Books)

Her first book! 1977!

In this light by Guy Ewing (Puddles of Sky Press)

On the way to the register, James picked out this chapbook and said, simply, “you need this”. Following our conversations about poetry and religion, I pretty much took him at his word. But glancing inside, I could see how Ewing, by using just a handful of words per poem, creates abrupt but transient collisions that leave a larger shadow in the reader’s imagination.

Hamilton has many noteworthy, independent bookstores and each maintains a consistent impression. They're all “eclectic” in what they carry but the scope of that descriptor expands or shrinks on a case by case basis. The city’s new-only bookstores tend to lean on a handful of trendy genres (like young adult and biography) without much regard for other subjects. Conversely, used-only bookstores get bogged down in stock of all sorts (a lot in “bargain condition”) and become treasure-hunts. I usually spend fifteen minutes in the former type and two-plus hours in the latter.

The Printed Word is unique on at least three counts: 1) it seamlessly integrates both new and used books, 2) feels richly curated as a single collection, and 3) doubles as a children’s bookstore (a partitioned back-room is dedicated to kids’ books). Having left behind at least twice the number of books I purchased, I know any time spent rooting in good faith for something will be rewarded. Tidy but charmingly rustic, airy but brimming, The Printed Word cannot be pinned to a single strength. And that's why it has instantly become one of the best bookstores in Hamilton.

Further reading: An interview with James and great photos can be found at urbanicity Magazine. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Three poems in Great Lakes Review

Only a few hours remain in 2016, so it’s fitting that Great Lakes Review chose today to unveil their seventh issue, which is dedicated to the best writing of this calendar year. The issue is available to order right now on Amazon.

Included are “Residuals”, “The Middle Lane” and “Resurface; a bellwether”, poems that, as previously noted, spent about two years in submission limbo. They’re older, immersed in the fifty-odd kilometres that separate Hamilton from St. Catharines, and curious to reread now. (One poem even had a stanza stolen and repurposed for this year's chapbook, Rabbit months.) But having just marked my third anniversary of living in Hamilton, I’m happy to see “Resurface; a bellwether” get its due – a poem about my first spring wandering this city's streets. 

Big thanks to the entire Great Lakes Review team!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Overdue; new address, publications & reviews

Last fall I paced a west Hamilton neighbourhood, waiting for the right time to enter a nearby poetry reading. I never ended up making it inside. Walking home and feeling defeated, I wrote down some rough lines that would eventually become "Light disorder", the first poem in Rabbit months. Those small streets referenced -- Reginald, Alexander -- I now see intersect from my new apartment's balcony.

Like New Year's Day, a new apartment affords that brief bout of amnesia where we reconsider who we are, what we want. My goal has been pretty practical: to shape this living space in ways that'll push me creatively. And I'm off to an okay start. That minimal poem manuscript continues in fits, although it still leaves more of a footprint than I'd like. "Cannot transform myth" needs two more pieces to be finished; I know what they involve but rarely feel like I'm in the right energy to get them done. Two other manuscripts exist in my head as daydreams, both tiny and manageable once I make time for them. As for other projects: 

The University of Toronto's Hart House Review will publish "Turkey Pond" in their 2017 winter supplement. I'm very excited to have a page in this storied journal. The poem is from a chapbook manuscript that continues to fine-tune, despite my efforts to let it go. Lord, I hope I get it right.

The Michigan-based Great Lakes Review accepted a submission I placed way back in the summer of 2014, meaning three poems from the transitional manuscript "A green horseshoe," will hit lit mag racks sometime in 2017. Few journals have a thematic focus that so readily compliments the work I undertook after leaving Ottawa as GLR; being included in their upcoming issue further validates that unsure period for me.

Lastly, I'm still posting occasional reviews on Ottawa Poetry Newsletter, the latest being for Robert Hogg's from Lamentations and Bronwen Tate's Vesper Vigil. (Speaking of which, do yourself a favour and get a 2017 subscription to above/ground press for the holidays. Every chapbook, issue of Touch the Donkey and broadside, directly to your mailbox.)