Recent Reads: Ottawa's Poets & Presses

Any writer who has spent time in Ottawa can attest to its reputation for literary excellence. For my part, shopping at the biannual Small Press Book Fair and attending readings around town have resulted in the cozy “local section” of my home library. Among the manifold stapled spines that jut out in all colours and sizes, I’ve collected publications from Bywords (their Quarterly Journals plus two chapbooks from John Newlove Poetry Award winners), Apt. 9 Press, AngelHouse Press and above/ground press.

The two titles I’d purchased from above/ground, a press created and operated by rob mclennan, were totally unique to one another: Green Wind, by Ken Norris, details the foreign and domestic sides of a trip abroad with straightforward yet poetic prose, whereas mclennan’s own 16 Yonge presents a long-form poem that analyzes Toronto’s concrete edge at the docks.

On account of someone’s generosity and kindness, I’ve wandered into a deluge of above/ground press chapbooks to further clutter my reading nook. There’s Stephen Brockwell’s Excerpts from Impossible Books, The Crawdad Cantos, a compilation that should be of particular interest given that Stephen will be hosting a writing workshop in Ottawa July 7th, and several of rob mclennan’s recent titles to choose from. I’m taking them in one at a time but it doesn’t help when Goldfish: studies in fine thread, a kaleidoscopic look at happenstances that reveal a relationship beyond the fish tank, rewards constant revisiting.

Besides above/ground, I’ve been introduced to a smattering of other authors and presses: Monty Reid’s Contributor’s Notes (Gaspereau Press), some unarmed chapbooks (journal #64: Unwanted Unarmed includes a crowd of wonderful writers), and poems working in conjunction with the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (featuring Sandra Ridley and Pearl Pirie, among others).

Needless to say, I haven’t had the opportunity to dive into most of these works with the attention they deserve, but what I’ve read so far, even in passing, warrants mention. Support these chapbook presses by seeking out their treasures online or by checking out your local Small Press Book Fair (I know Ottawa’s Spring Edition will be happening June 30thdetails here).


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