Retail 2012: Brick Books
We begin our annual round-up with those good Londoners over at Brick Books. Brick is presided over by Kitty Lewis, the bon-bon giving, cheek-pinching, favourite aunty of Canadian poetry. It’s editorial input comes from a committee that has been active, in different incarnations, for many years now. The idea of an editorial committee making the decisions, instead of the singular voice of a poetry editor, has gone from eccentric to totally mainstream over the last year or so, as numerous other presses (Goose Lane, Coach House…) have done the same thing.
Four books in the poetry catalogue for Brick this spring. Here they are.
Title: Omens in the Year of the Ox
Author: Steven Price
Release Date: February
Collection Number: Two
Time Since Last Collection: Six Years
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Steven Price’s second collection is part of a long-lived struggle to address the mysteries that both surround and inhabit us. The book draws together moments both contemporary and historical, ranging from Herodotus to Augustine of Hippo, from a North American childhood to Greek mythology; indeed, the collection is threaded with interjections from a Greek-style chorus of clever-minded, mischievous beings—half-ghost, half-muse—whose commentaries tormentingly egg the writer on. In poems that range from free verse to prose to formal constructions, Price addresses the moral lack in the human heart and the labour of living with such a heart. “
Google Says: Steven Price’s 2006 poetic biography of Harry Houdini, The Anatomy of Keys, was one of that year’s most discussed new books. Well-liked, and well-disliked, depending on the table and bar you chose to sit at to talk about it. I loved the shit out of that book and apparently so did the Gerald Lampert Award jury. The author published a novel last year, called Into That Darkness. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on the list. His partner also published a novel last year that, I’m guessing, won the couple’s informal “Total Domestic Sales” Derby by something like a 20-1 margin. Even people that didn’t love Anatomy of Keys responded to how well-structured it was. It was a highly novelistic book of poems, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Into That Darkness, when I eventually get around to it, will be awesome.
Title: Monkey Ranch
Author: Julie Bruck
Release Date: March
Collection Number: Third
Time Since Last Collection: Thirteen Years
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “Julie Bruck’s third book of poetry is a brilliant and unusual blend of pathos and play, of deep seriousness and wildly veering humour. Though Bruck “does not stammer when it’s time to speak up,” and “will not blink when it’s time to stare directly at the uncomfortable,” as Cornelius Eady says in his blurb for the book, “in Monkey Ranch she celebrates more than she sighs, and she smartly avoids the shallow trap of mere indignation by infusing her lines with bright, nimble turns, the small, yet indelible detail. Bruck sees everything we do; she just seems to see it wiser. Her poems sing and roil with everything complicated and joyous we human monkeys are.”
Blurbs and other Favours: The above-mentioned Eady, author of the too-wonderful-to-even-look-at Brutal Imagination.
Google Says: I always feel like we should be taking up charitable collections for Canadian poets who live abroad. Julie Bruck teaches and lives in San Fransisco now, and despite really classy byline credits like The New Yorker and Ploughshares, I wonder if people are going to read her here. They should. I like this one online at the Valparaiso Poetry Review. A poem of hers gets taken out of Arc magazine and ran through David Godkin’s brain here on his Speaking of Poems blog. The poet’s own website is right here, and I’ve been told it’s kept up to date with readings and whatnot.
Title: Between Dusk and Night
Author: Emily McGiffin
Release Date: May
Collection Number: First
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “There are many journeys encompassed in the pages of this mature and well-crafted first collection; literal travels to different parts of the world, to Europe and Africa, are the outward manifestation of the inward quest, the asking of the old but still essential questions: What is real? What is true? What is honourable? What is right? Yet these questions are new in that the poet is deeply concerned with the need to find a new paradigm, a new way to relate to the earth at this time of ever-heightening environmental crisis. And this seeking for how to be in and of the earth is paralleled by a personal search for intimacy with her fellow humans—with friends and lovers, with a grandfather, with the people she encounters as she ventures into uneasy relationships with people from other cultures.”
Google Says: McGiffin won the 2009 Bronwen Wallace Award over two other poets (Michael Johnson and Jeff Latosik) that are pretty great themselves. I’ll link to a story about it here, by awesomely-professional Globe and Mail employee, Judith Fitzgerald, written in a departure from her usual Proustian diction and style. I’m 90% confident the poet is the same person who wrote this letter to The Walrus in support of Vancouver Island’s forests (scroll down a bit, it’s at the end). As for the book, itself, I’m excited for it. You can read the citation and whatnot from the Writers’ Trust on their website, and there’s an actual poem from the poet up here on the Globe.
Title: I see my love more clearly from a distance
Author: Nora Gould
Release Date: April
Collection Number: First
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “In Nora Gould’s one-of-a-kind debut, the Prairie itself is a central character: muse, mythic persona, the place of deepest solace and of deepest questioning. The poems focus with great firmness and technical command on the facts of daily life on the farm: impregnating cows, the neighbour kid picking off a coyote, cutting hay, getting water to the herd in a drought, dehorning. But Prairie anecdotalism this ain’t. What is breathtaking about this book is the relation between its exactness of observation and the grief, horror, and beauty that it documents. What the voice achieves, in its very gestures, is a kind of transcendence: not with the purpose of avoiding pain, but in order to make all of it—all of it—seeable and feelable by a human being. ”
Google Says: Nora Gould is a veterinarian living on a family ranch in rural Alberta. Take that, monkish Toronto-centric poetry nerds! That idea of “the prairie as a character” is going to be a recurring concern this year. Look for it to be treated politically in the new Tim Lilburn, and geologically in Mathew Henderson’s debut this fall from Coach House. She won the Bliss Carman Award in 2010, thus presenting her with the opportunity to get her fingers photographed by Ariel Gordon. Worth the trip, by itself, I can vouch. It’s neat to think of Brick’s two debuting female poets as coming from different ends of a certain poetry-preparation spectrum. McGiffin younger, Gould older. McGiffin an insider with the big award and the credits, Gould the outsider with her separate interests, independent career, and a whole life spent only indirectly in the service of poems. I’m not making a judgment call, either way. But I know people do. I’m struggling to find a Nora Gould poem to link to here. If anyone sees one online, do let me know….Update: Thanks, Carolyn Smart. Here’s one right here.
That was fun. Let’s do another press very soon.