Retail 2010: House of Anansi Press

Anansi is forty-some years into the game at this point and now, more than ever, seems well-anchored to their occasional status as Canada’s pre-eminent poetry publisher. It’s hard to identify a house style, except that Anansi’s titles tend to work against generalizations. Their experimental stuff tends to be emotive, human, and not shy about epiphany, while their more lyrical or personal work is rich and intensely musical. The yellow A for Anansi is the closest thing Canadian poetry has to a sure-fire mark of quality, a distinctive and reliable brand.

This Spring brings us four new titles. As well, A.F. Moritz is editing the Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology this year. If the trends of recent history continue, the editor of next year’s anthology may be selecting poems from one or more of these titles:

Author: Erin Moure
Title: O Resplandor
Date: February
Collection Number: Thirteenth (written alone, not including selecteds or translations)
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “In unexpected ways — through impossible translation, anachronistic journeys, and a fictional mystery that involves a search for a translator who exists only in the future beyond the book itself — O Resplandor confounds notions of authorship and translation, all while conveying the clamour over love and loss.”
Other Notes: This would appear to be part three in the series that began with O Cididan and continued with O Codoiro. Funfact: If you Google the query O Resplandor (no quotes), the first page that comes up is the IMDb listing for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. I have no idea why this is and, I’m guessing, neither do you. It’s just the kind of thing you find out when you’re a hack blogger using Google and Wikipedia as research tools. The kind of hack blogger who couldn’t be bothered to insert the proper accents this entry has demanded, and thus risks being seen as somehow culturally insensitive. Anyway, searching the page’s text for the same query reveals no further clues. A pat on the back for anyone who can solve this mystery.

Author: Suzanne Buffam
Title: The Irrationalist
Date: April
Collection Number: Second
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “The Irrationalist brilliantly blends the innocent’s egalitarian dispensation of value and attention with fleeting slipstreams of wisdom. Buffam once again proves she’s a poet of considerable range, formal rigour, and imaginative force.”
Other Notes: This is Buffam’s follow-up to the Lampert-winning Past Imperfect (also Anansi, 2006). Here she is jumping through ROB MCLENNAN’s various hoops and detours on his blog. Here’s Anita Lahey’s short appreciation of Imperfect on the Arc poetry site. Buffam, incidentally, is one of the scattering of Iowa Writers Workshop grads that pepper the literary landscape in this country.

Author: Steven Heighton
Title: Patient Frame
Date: April
Collection Number: Fifth
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “From the court of Medici to the My Lai massacre; from love for a daughter and mother to moments of painful acceptance; from erotic passion to situations of deep moral failure, these poems are part of an ongoing search, a scanning of our human horizons for moments of lasting value.”
Other Notes: If you’re counting, it’s been six years since Heighton’s last collection, The Address Book. We’re going from famine to feast this Spring though, as he is also releasing a new novel with another publisher called Every Lost Country. I hope he does what more poet/novelists should do, which is sneak in readings and mentions of the collection when on tour with the better-marketed novel. I can almost hear the fiction writers’ eyes roll into the backs of their heads as they read the words “marketed” and “novel” so close together in the same sentence….Anyway, let’s all gather round and read this tasty little poem on the Poetry Foundation website.

Author: Michael Lista
Title: Bloom
Date: April
Collection Number: Le Debut!
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “On May 21, 1946, the day of a lunar eclipse, a Canadian physicist named Louis Slotin was training his replacement on the Manhattan Project, preparing the bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But Slotin decided to forego the standard safety procedures, and there was an accident: the plutonium went critical, a phenomenon scientists call a “bloom.” Nine days later Slotin died. Michael Lista, a thrilling and wildly engaging new voice in poetry, reimagines this fateful day in a long poem that draws upon the still-mysterious events of May 21, 1946; the connection to Slotin’s ancient predecessor Odysseus, creator of the Trojan Horse, the first weapon of mass destruction; and the link to Slotin’s literary mirror, the cuckolded Leopold Bloom in Joyce’s Ulysses.”
Other Notes: It’s such a many-tentacled beast, this book, with demands placed on it that aren’t even mentioned in those paragraphs (for example, many if not all of the poems are going to be rewrites, or covers, of works by other poets). I think this collection has so many people excited because of the audacity of its conceits, and the risks they present to their author. With all those balanced elements, the book will either stand on its own two feet, or fail. Most books don’t contain such a great breadth of possible results. Most books are written to be mostly enjoyed by most people. But Lista seems to have constricted himself into a binary state, a Pass/Fail grading system for the book that would launch his literary career. People get excited over gutsiness. Myself included, for the record.

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Explore posts in the same categories: 2010, Book Industry, Canadian Literature

2 Comments on “Retail 2010: House of Anansi Press”


  1. NB: Jake, you can find the Heighton poem you’ve already found in his previous collection, The Address Book. It also very nearly made its way into Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets, but its editor, constrained to pick only one poem per poet, chose another Heighton sonnet, ’cause he’s written so damn many good ones.

  2. voxpopulism Says:

    Thanks Zach. Updated in the post…


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