Retail 2010: ECW Press and Tightrope Books
We’re moving into shorter lists now, so I’m going to start doubling up. It’s a finite world we live in, kids, and it’s important to save on paper. ECW Press is based here in Toronto and runs the oddly original business model of Books about Pro Wrestling + Poetry + the occasional novel = Skyrocketing Profits and Market Domination. Or something. Anyway, they’re in that minority of poetry publishers who like to put stuff out in the fall too, so be on the lookout for new titles round about October or November. And these two, coming out in April.
Author: David Donnell
Title: Watermelon Kindness
Collection Number: Eighth (give or take the odd poetry/fiction hybrid)
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Detailing a point of view that is both contentious and genial—somewhere between the outlooks of Archie Bunker and Dale Peck—the wide-ranging poems in this honest collection ponder questions concerning art, history, and psychology while reveling in the sensory experiences of everyday life. Whether exploring the modus operandi of other writers or paralleling the trajectory of a satellite with a badly ended love affair, these conversational and intellectual poems present a unique voice with a comprehensive worldview.”
Other Notes: It’s been six years since Donnell’s last collection (Sometimes a Great Notion) and a full 27 since the career-high accolades of his Governor General’s Award wining Settlements. I have never read a book by David Donnell. Does anyone have a specific recommendation? (UPDATE: Apparently Donnell’s last book was edited by someone who lives in my house. So I’ll read that. I am so horrifically embarassed when I come across an author with an impressive CV that I’ve simply never read before. For me, philistine’s remorse feels like heartburn, except in the brain.)
Author: matt robinson
Title: Against the Hard Angle
Collection Number: Fourth
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Against the Hard Angle uses some of Halifax’s most and least famous places as jumping off points for a stop-and-start lyrical tour of eastern Canada’s largest urban centre, a sometimes fraught journey that leaves us “all tendon-tensed, / against impact, near white-knuckled to / breakage.”
Other Notes: This is a book in two sections, the first being the full text of Robinson’s 2009 Malahat Review Long Poem Contest winner, and the second being a collection of mostly Haligonian place-poems. Several years back, robinson wrote a book called how we play at it that I enjoyed for its text, though said text was defeated handily by perhaps the single greatest cover image in the history of Canadian poetry. I know I gave shit to the last guy with no capital letters in his name, but robinson’s been around for a little while now, and has begun to earn his affectations.
We’ll move on now to Tightrope Books and their trio of new releases. Tightrope’s major contribution to Canadian letters is always going to be their Best Canadian Poetry series, edited this past year by A.F. Moritz (though the series editor is Molly Peacock, who also edited my first book. Oh, Canadian poetry, you remind me of this). As a publisher of individual titles, I’ve found their work a little hit and miss. Though I guess if half of your titles are any good, you’re doing well in this poetry stuff. Anyway, here’s what’s new.
Author: Suzanne Bowness
Title: The Days You’ve Spent
Collection Number: Le Debut!
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Part private reflection, part love letter to the metropolis, The Days You’ve Spent pulls back the curtain on city life, finding beauty in neon signs and profundity in laundromats. In these poems, the individual and the city interweave, and urban immersion becomes an essential element in personal growth.”
Other Notes: Bowness works by day as a journalist and tech writer, so surely she’s earned her reward in poetry. It’s strange that, across two separate Toronto publishers, we’ve now seen a love letter to Halifax in the robinson book, and now a second urbanist manifesto from an author based in Ottawa.
Author: Ian Burgham
Title: The Grammar of Distance
Collection Number: Second
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “His imagery is, by turns, sensuous and rough-hewn, soft and hard. The poems crackle with sonic energy; they whinny and stamp. They whistle in the dark. His poetic landscapes frequent the windswept coasts of Scotland; but in this collection, we also find him doing terribly Canadian things like snowshoeing, surveying, chopping wood. Sometimes Al Purdy can be heard in Burgham’s voice and, occasionally, Patrick Lane.”
Other Notes: Burgham’s debut full-length collection, Skipping Stones, scored a ReLit nomination and the appreciation of literary figures both in this country (Di Brandt) and beyond (Alexander McCall Smith).If you’d like more information, you can consult his suspiciously well-researched Wikipedia entry, if you catch my drift.
Author: Anna Swanson
Title: The Nights, Also
Collection Number: Le Debut!
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Her writing is as honest as it is complex, and it attempts to reconcile an identity that has been distorted by illness through a profound analysis of memory and individual meaning. With poems that run the gamut from fearful to the absurd, that are at once deep and pithy, Anna Swanson proves in The Nights Also that she is a brave new voice in Canadian poetry.”
Other Notes: I was pretty excited to hear about this book. Anna Swanson was in the room during my first creative writing class back in the earlier half of the last decade, and I quickly identified her as the person who I should steal the opinions of until I got practiced enough to have my own. Most of these poems will be pre-published on the magazine circuit. I’m surprised it’s taken this long for her debut to be published, but am hopeful that this long a wait will pay off in the final product. Here’s a poem of Swanson’s about the weather which, unlike most poems about the weather, is fun to read.