Meet the Presses 2014; a recap

Residential or reading area?
Upon entering the Tranzac and veering left as per the signage, I was stricken by an acute pang of disappointment. The half dozen press tables, corralling three or four wanderers around a quiet semi-circle, had me temporarily blanking on the details of Meet the Pressesnot to mention the layout of this art-space I’d visited only once before. Did I seriously blow this out of proportion in my mind? Luckily, that first small room – which I happened to catch on a lull – led into an impressive T-shaped hall full of local and far-off Canadian presses. Yes, Meet the Presses was happening!

It kills me that I continue posting photos from...
I'd arrived at 1:30, meaning we were about thirty minutes shy of discovering this year’s bpNichol Chapbook Award winner, and chatter from the main hall was beginning to travel. Still I hung back in the smaller room, talking with Nicole Brewer and William Kemp of words(on)pages about their growing number of projects, including (parenthetical), already on issue #4. Really good vibes from the start. I also met Terence Go from OUTwrites and got a peek at his 2007 title UNgh, the first of many items I tried to mentally bookmark but failed to come back for.

Wading into the Indie Literary Market’s deep end, I spent some time marveling at BookThug’s glossy and limited chapbooks written by the likes of Lisa Robertson and Nelson Ball. (My plan to snag these titles also went amiss, although I hear they’re throwing quite the sale for Black Friday…) Mansfield Press’ table had its share of surprises as well, brandishing new titles that had arrived just two days prior. In a moment of psychic connection, Stuart Ross handed me a micro-chapbook I’d been curious about, called 4 Tiny Poems I Wrote on March 15, 2014. The immediacy of this two-fold sheet of paper, with its concealed (and yes, tiny) abstractions, resonated my own urge to publish on impulse!

After a series of introductions that had Hazel Millar, Paul Dutton and Jim Smith grace the podium, the bpNichol Chapbook Award went to Christine Leclerc’s Oilywood (as well as its publisher, Nomados Press). Onlookers around me seemed to support the decision. I’d wager a bit of excitement was lost on account of neither author nor publisher making the unreasonable trip from British Columbia, but Leclerc’s friend and fellow author Liz Ross accepted on their behalf. After a thoughtful speech, some applause and photos, the crowds returned to their rooting ways. iPhone when you can barely discern faces..
One of the day’s highlights was checking out serif of nottingham editions and Gary Barwin’s visual poetry. We discussed the limitations of language, or perhaps just a collective inexperience, when attempting to verbalize the ideas that vispo can conjure. I picked up an issue of Xerolage dedicated to Barwin’s the wild & unfathomable always. (You can watch visuals from the project here.)

Almost as curious is why I’m still so fascinated with the above/ground press table, manned by rob mclennan, when I can recreate much of his display at home. It isn’t just the visual appeal of seeing a rainbow of chapbooks draped over the table like a quilt, but picking out squares and revisiting favourites, unknowns. Arguably the most eye-catching of the latter category was mclennan's new book of poetry, If suppose we are a fragment (Buschek Books, 2014), which had me hooked within a few pages.

Across the room from above/ground press sat two other Ottawa outfits: phafours press and Apt. 9 Press. Pearl Pirie’s phafoursprofiled recently in Open Book Ontario, had Fall 2014 sets of micro chapbooks ready for sale, bundling brief, new titles by Phil Hall, Sanita Fejzic, Avonlea Fotheringham and Pirie herself at the no-brainer price of $4. I also caught a look at the much-talked-about design of Monty Reid’s Kissing Bug, its cover a decorated shaving of wood. (It felt as much like wood as it did paper, giving the chapbook a nice presence without much weight.) Next door, Cameron Anstee (whom I finally, formally met) sold me his first trade collection Five (shared between the five poets who toured in October as “An Accord of Poets”) and kindly offered me a chapbook of my choosing to review. Despite the Audubon-esque art that graces Dave Currie’s Bird Facts, I went with my gut and my gut said Ben Ladouceur’s Poem About the Train.

...or a crisp sense of environment beyond the haze...
If the occasion felt lacking in one regard, it was the absence of a reading attached before or after the market itself. As much fun as it is to network and leaf through each other’s hard work, it would’ve been special to have each press elect one of their authors, put their names in a hat, and draw a shortlist of ten or so readers. I’d be surprised if most presses didn’t have at least a few writers living in the GTA and willing to participate. Having said that, it’s clear that a lot of labour went into Meet the Presses as it was, and I’m sure the publishers who carried boxes and drove various distances were more than happy to call it a day.

Meet the Presses added a heaping of poetry and imaginative fiction to an otherwise rainy, windy Saturday. And although most of my purchases were planned in advance from a pool of already admired presses, I became familiar with other publishers I'd heard of only in passing. All of this is to say, the event more than lived up to its name.



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