Archive for the ‘Book Industry’ category

Retail 2012: Mansfield Press

February 11, 2012

Something of a consistent source of surprise, the little press that is based in Toronto, but does its poetry from Cobourg. The list this season is decidly Atlantic-centric. Which I’m into.

Title: In This Thin Rain
Author: Nelson Ball
Release Date: April
Collection Number: Hard to Quantify. Let’s just go with “many”.
Time Since Last Collection: Eight years
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “In his first full-length poetry collection since 2004, Nelson Ball, Canada’s most renowned minimalist, offers up compressed meditations — ranging from the whimsical to the mournful — on clouds, birds, insects, trees live and dead, water-stained walls, crumbling windmills, and hyphenation in the Globe & Mail. Ball’s poems are meticulously polished gems that move through the seasons, finding beauty and depth in the most banal and simple things.”
Google Says: One of the poems included in the Mansfield Press catalogue for this book is exactly eight words long. You can find something of Mr. Ball’s life work in this detailed CV I found. Nelson is a bookseller by day, and his unique business model can be explored in this little piece on his store. By-appointment. I work the same way. You can catch some selections from Ball’s Mercury Press book, The Concrete Air, in this CanLit.ca three-way review. His stuff comes up somewhere in the middle.

Title: Holler
Author: Alice Burdick
Release Date: April
Collection Number: Third
Time Since Last Collection: Four years
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “In her follow-up to 2008’s Flutter, former big-city-dweller Alice Burdick explores nature and the small town, taking a cue from children learning their voices: “All I see are trucks, / trucks and ducks.” With a blend of playful narrative and a collage approach reminiscent of John Ashbery, Burdick paints a portrait of our world as one of continuous wonder, and full of relationships — between people, and between people and things — that never die but continually transform, even in death.”
Google Says: Alice lives in Mahone Bay. Which is the town next to the town I grew up in. The first time I got drunk, it was on Jack’s Hard Lemonade and we drank it in the playground of the elementary school. The cops showed up because we were being crazy loud and when everyone scattered, I climbed onto the top of a jungle gym and when the officers found me I shouted out something like, “You can’t see me! Your visual acuity’s based on movement!” Well, that’s neither here nor there. Moving on to Alice Burdick, here’s some poems from her last collection on the oddly aggressive “ditch” website. Meanwhile, these three all date from 2009. Meanwhile again, if it’s reviews you’re after you can see one of Burdick’s last collection from one-man review machine and capital letter phobic, rob mclennan or one up on the Northern Poetry Review site. Seems like a well-liked book. I liked it well, too.

Title: Sympathy Loophole
Author: Jaime Forsythe
Release Date: April
Collection Number: First
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “This lively first collection, often both creepy and hilarious, serves up an image-laden universe where contortionists, womanizing ventriloquist dummies and pickled sharks compete with the everyday for airtime. Forsythe’s poetry is full of wit, mystery, and surprise — a contemporary inventory of pop culture and human experience.”
Google Says: While this is Jaime’s first collection, it’s not technically her first book, as she previously edited this really great and criminally under-read book of short fiction for Invisible. Jaime and I did the MFA at Guelph the same time, and new poetry collections from fellow whatever-the-school-mascot-is-at-Guelph-ers always gets my pom poms out of the closet. Jaime took the same poetry workshop as me on a lark, apologized for being a newcomer to the art form on day 1, and by the end of the semester was among the most exciting people in a really talented class. Here’s three poems from her in This Magazine. Here’s a bit on Elisabeth Bishop she wrote for her day job working for The Coast. And here’s her blog, featuring a photo of her cat picking out the poem order in the book. As good as anything, I suppose.

Title: What’s the Score?
Author: David W. McFadden
Release Date: April
Collection Number: Again, as with Nelson Ball, I’m going to say something like “a lot”.
Time Since Last Collection: Four years.
Editor-Approved Bumfspeak: “The often outrageous and always wise follow-up to 2008’s Governor General’s Award–nominated Be Calm, Honey shows David W. McFadden at his most inquisitive and provocative. Here you’ll find ninety-nine poems full of surprises by a Canadian long-distance poet in his sixth decade of writing, a writer who never rests on his laurels or allows himself to become complacent. This is a book full of mystics and Golden Age movie stars, friends of McFadden and long-dead philosophers, and their tales are all told in the poet’s deceptively plainspoken voice.”
Google Says: This is the official follow-up to Be Calm, Honey, the 2009 GG nominee I really loved. You can check out a review of said book right here. Or, if you don’t know how to read, you could just listen to him read from one of his longer pieces right here. There’s six pieces from various points in McFadden’s career branched off of this U of T site. And, as a Griffin nominee, there’s all kinds of archived stuff with Dave’s name on it here at the Griffin Trust site, too.

Retail 2012: Brick Books

February 3, 2012

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.

The Retreating Optimist

January 30, 2012

Hi everyone.

I’m working on those Retail 2012 entries, I promise. I got word that my short-term copywriting gig is ending a little earlier than I had hoped (or my new landlord had hoped) this week. And while this will cause me to look at Craiglist’s office/admin job listings a lot more than I’m comfortable doing, this, as we say, is my shit, and I’ll keep it to myself.

I made a somewhat hasty post online yesterday about this 100 Mile Literary Diet venture that they do over at Wychwood Barns. Anybody been to this? It looks like a lot of fun, and definitely has all the hallmarks of the kind of thing that makes the small press world feel victorious about itself. My concern is, maybe not surprisingly to regular readers of this space, with the name of the thing. It’s riffing off the 100 Mile Diet, which is a lifestyle choice my mother loves where you subscribe to eating only local food. Obviously, ideas work differently than food, and most people who get all their ideas from a strict 100 mile radius are dull and xenophobic.

I’m sure the Literary Diet differs from the Food Diet in its lack of an absolutist’s embrace, I’m not seriously linking them any more than the titler of the Wychwood Barns idea (Pedlar Press, I am told) is doing so. I hear it’s been a pretty successful adventure so far, by the definitions used by the presses involved. Noted necktie enthusiast, and Canada’s greatest book promoter, Evan Munday is quoted in the Quill thusly: “Some days it’s really phenomenal and we sell a lot of stuff. And then [two weeks ago], we probably only sold a little over a dozen books,” Munday says. For her part, Follett [This is Beth, the publisher at Pedlar-Jmm] says she often uses the space to offer early-bird specials and bundles, such as three backlist titles for $5. Last year, she sold roughly 250 books through Wychwood Barns.”

The scene sounds like a pastoral version of Meet the Presses or the Small Press Bookfair. I try to go to both of those, as they appear, and while I’m always happy at the crowds, I rarely see anyone there that I don’t see in a bookstore. That Pedlar sold 250 books over the ten-week run of the original experiment, using a lot of three-for-five-bucks style markdowns, is good in that it allowed 25 books a week to go sold. And some of those Pedlar books are pretty great. I wonder who buys them, though, even in the supposedly novel surroundings of the farm market? Are these 25 new pairs of eyes a week? If so, seems like a big victory. Or are these 25 regular book buyers saving themselves a trip downtown to Type or Ben McNally’s, and thus removing one essential element of the food chain from the mix? Of course, they could be saving themselves a trip to one of the big box superstores instead, and I’m all for that. But, is that who buys Pedlar Books? With their lack of barcodes and anything as corporate as a company website?

I understand that, with the Bertelsmann takeover of McClelland & Stewart, I need to take it easy on any criticism of the small press demeanour. I know what’s happening, I don’t really like it, and I’m not sure what’s next. That’s my partially-informed opinion on the issue. But, I also can’t believe that this kind of aggressively insular action is the saviour of the small press. The people at the 100 Mile Literary Diet are pretty charmed by their idea. There’s money from the OAC to review expansion, and, to quote Follet from the Quill and Quire piece again (a piece written by Natalie Samson, and published today online, to fully credit the source) “We just have to think who the audiences are and how to go about deepening our appreciation for those audiences.” This sounds like someone with a marketing plan based around her new idea.

I wonder if I can cringe at this and still be a good team player in the book community? I’m cringing. I’m cringing because I love. If I’ve stepped the bounds into the world of unattached pessimism, someone feel free to pull me back. But here’s the thing: I don’t want this kind of stuff to be the future of books. If I had my choice between this, and the massively electrolyzed supercorporation Borgfuture, I’d take the Wychwood Barn option, but only after a lot of thought, and a decision to probably just keep my own poems to myself, going forward.

I don’t believe that people who go to buy carrots and organic lettuce will also buy experimental poetry, just because there’s a friendly person at the table next door, selling it. I think that the 25 shoppers who pick up Pedlar books every week have their weekends improved by their purchase, but I’m also willing to believe that the great majority of them are small press buyers anyway, and if they weren’t going to get it from the farm market, they were likely going to get it from a far more permanent, far more invested, and far more important source, like any of our forever-dwindling supply of local bookstores.

Now, even if I’m right, and 21 of the 25 buyers per week are my fellow disheveled accolytes, what I warmly refer to as “my people”, that still leaves four new readers a week. A worthy accomplishment. But not a big one, surely. And we’re hoping to throw OAC money, money that may otherwise go to things like authors instead of things like farm markets, at it? What concerns me here is that we (and I’m throwing myself into the “we” here, when we say “small press”. Because fuck you, all poetry is small press, even if its published from the eighth rung down the ladder of a massive multinational based in some city I’ve never seen–), we tend to jump onto the novelty of small successes, and it blinds us to the larger trends and to the gaze of what’s always been working. And if we rally around such a small flagpole, if that’s where our thoughts go, then we’re distracting ourselves at a too-important time in the reverse osmosis of the culture.

I love Pedlar Press. And Coach House and Brick and all the other houses involved. I’ve been working on future blog posts concerning their upcoming catalogues and I’m really, really, excited. I have fanboy tingles aplenty. But I need there to be a broad and welcoming middle ground, both as a reader, a buyer, and a producer (to use our agrarian metaphor again), between the disenfranchisement of the corporate homogeny, that can’t think in anything as small as 25 books a week, and the disenfranchisement of the benevolent cottage fetishist, who doesn’t need any more than 25 to qualify as enough success.

And that middle ground is bookstores. Real bookstores. Real bookstores that are filled with people (hopefully) thoughtful and competent enough to handsell the right books to the right people, from a selection that may be biased towards the pleasures of home, but has ideas within it from 200, 500, 5,000 miles away. We already have too many new authors here who consider “exotic” literature to be from Whitehorse, or Gander. We can’t shrink like this, and feel good about ourselves in doing it. We can’t retreat, and if we’re going to retreat, let’s at least not puff our chests out with pride as we do it, okay? We can’t clear the the middle ground so Indigo can roll in and make it plain again. They might do it anyway, but we can’t make it this easy.

Bookstores. I want bookstores. Please give me bookstores, and ideas from all of the universe.

Not that I can afford books right now, without a job.. Back to Craiglist I go…

Love to everyone who’s maybe offended by some part of this. I’ll try and get out to see the sales in person.

Jake

Call for Lists: Retail 2012

January 21, 2012

Hi everyone.

It’s thinking-about-this-Springs-books time again, and as per the annual traditions of 2010 and 2011, it’s my intention to use this space to preview the upcoming poetry catalogues many Canadian publishers as possible. Now that I’m all moved into my new headquarters (with the Voxette, out of Parkdale and into Yorkville; I go to the Whole Foods sometimes and write; I work out at the Manulife Centre now; my life is a Billy Joel song) I’m able to get organized for this. Some of you more ambitious publishers out there have already emailed me your lists, or at least a link to your electronic catalogues. Thanks. Good to see you putting those unpaid publishing interns to good work.

If you’d like to be reminded how this little project worked out in past years, here’s the link to last spring’s master list. I’ll start soon with the houses I’ve already received lists from. If I don’t get one from a given house, I’ll go looking for it, and if I can’t find it in a length of time I deem reasonable for someone working on his lunch break, I’ll probably forget about it and move along. Sorry. I’ve got a copywriting gig to attend to, and a social calendar, and the continued uphill rolling of the oft-rumoured Vox Novel, forever being rolled up a hill slick with my own tears and sweat.

So get those lists to me, to be helpful. My email is unchanged and can be found in the contact section. My twitter is @VoxPopulist. My FB is /jmmooney. My mailing address has changed as described above, you can get it from me at either the email, the twitter, or FB. That’s triangulating your means of contact, kids!

Looking forward to finding out what I’ll be spending my money on this Spring. I hope there’s pictures this year.

Yours,

Jake Mooney

a division of Bertelsmann AG

Here Are Two Things You Could Be Reading

September 29, 2011

Hi kids.

I’m busily packing and organizing and generally shrinking my life into a backpack. But, if you’re bored out there, two things you might like:

1. Spencer Gordon’s essay on Nick Thran’s new book, Earworm, in this issue of the Maple Tree Lit Supplement, is a great example of top-level writing about creative matters. It manages to use the same sort of moody, pop-culturally inflected, intellectualism of the book within its discussion of the book. The piece references Mike Lista’s review in the Post and noted ex-VoxPop roommate Jeff’s mention at OBTO. The three pieces are fine to excellent as independents, though I worry that as a trio they sound a touch like a review of hot new bands from a 1993 issue of NME. Lots of talk of cult support and insider knowledge and hipster identifiers, almost as much as the talk of the poems themselves. As a big fan of the book, I don’t want to see it get a “fad” label, you know? And how many of those bands from NME were still being listened to in 1994? Really, really, good poetry books by people who are around 30 are so rare, compared to really good musical albums by the same demographic, that I want to protect that flame long enough to share it with untapped readers for a long time, I don’t want it’s reaction to have the sonorous, and quickly-forgotten, quality of fireworks.

But Spencer’s piece doesn’t do that, and neither did Jeff’s or Mike’s (these things take more than one writer), and I have faith that good poetry can burn fast AND burn long. His review is a thoughtful, exceptionally well-constructed piece of prose for which the author was paid, I believe, thirty bucks.

2. Russell Smith’s column in the Globe today is all about how you’re not a real writer unless you make your thirty bucks and if you don’t hold out for that $1.50-an-hour rate you’re doing a disservice to the older guard among us and are basically a scab. I’ve had this argument with a lot of different people over the years and my position, typically centralist and uninteresting, is this: I don’t feel like my occasional propensity to write public content for free (as I’m doing right now as I type this, and as I’ve done more regularly in the past) undercuts my ability to land the occasional paid gig, because the work I put out for free is a fundamentally different product than the work I get paid for. The latter is written to an editorial standard separate from my own nature and preferences, and the former is unedited, or at best only edited by the original creator.

Obviously, this distinction doesn’t hold water where Smith gets into talking about HuffPo and whatnot, but I would still want to ask, where is the paid market that matches the tone and reach of that unpaid one, that has been shuttered by being undercut by the bloggers? Any comparison between HuffPo and failed magazines I can think of demands a highly selective memory when recalling the magazine’s editorial composition. I wouldn’t want to work for HuffPo because I couldn’t imagine being that bored on purpose. If the rationale offered for doing so is a careerist one, that’s fine, but I’m not a journalist so I don’t feel compelled to put myself through anything in the interest of career. In fact, my major foothold as a writer is as a poet, and being a poet is (by definitions economic, sociological, intellectual, and cultural) the exact opposite of having a career. Maybe this is why my reaction to this whole debate above is to yawn at its mutual preciousness.

-Jake

Griffin Math, 2011 Update

June 2, 2011

I have hangover. I have gritty club-faced hangover. I have dirty, twitchy, turn-the-brightness-down-low-on-the-laptop hangover. I have ShowMeNoFood with a touch of WhereAreMyPants. I have hangover.

That being said, I wanted to update this old Griffin Math post to reflect the winners (Gjertrud Schnackenberg and Dionne! Fucking! Brand!) and shortlistees of the 2011 version of the award. I also want to remind you, dear internet, that on the day the judges were named, I told you that Dionne was going to win this year’s Canadian prize for Ossuaries. I do this not to pat my ego or anything (what’s the value of getting such a thing right?) but to suggest, calmly and supportively, that if a mildly-engaged observer such as myself can correctly guess the winner ten months in advance, the Griffins may have a slight predictability concern. That’s all. Canonization can be boring work I guess, even when the poet being canonized is among your very favourites.

So anyway, here are the breakdowns I brought out last year, broken down anew with the fresh information from the 2011 lists.

Canadian Griffin Awards by Gender
Women: 7 wins off 18 shortlistings
Men: 4 wins off 14 shortlistings
Mixed: 0 wins off 1 shortlisting

The Canadian Griffin Award continues to be (thusfar, anyway) that rare thing, a female-leaning major literary award. The women almost have it a 2-1 ratio at this point, and have returned to their winning streak after a brief three-year period owned by the men, wherein the prize went McKay 07, Blaser 08, and Moritz 09.

International Griffin Awards by Gender
Men: 6 wins off 29 shortlistings
Women: 4 wins off 14 shortlistings
Mixed: 1 win off 1 shortlisting

The international award has skewed male. Or, alternatively put, the international award has skewed in same manner as most international poetry awards. Still, three consecutive women have won it (CD Wright, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, and now Gjertrud Schnackenberg) so perhaps we are in the midst of an evening-out.

Canada Griffin Award Shortlistings by Publisher:
McClelland & Stewart (8)
House of Anansi (7)
Coach House (6)
Brick Books (3)
The Porcupine’s Quill (2)
Vintage Canada (1)
Douglas & McIntyre (1)
Frontenac House (1)
Polestar Books (1)
Exile Editions (1)
Insomniac Press (1)

Canada Griffin Award Wins by Publisher:
McClelland & Stewart (4)
House of Anansi (2)
Coach House (2)
Vintage Canada (1)
Brick Books (1)
University of California Press (1)

The above tables are for the “Anansi always wins, because they’re owned by Scott Griffin” goldfish. Anansi does not always win, though they did the two previous years. Lots of great presses have gone untouched by Griffin benevolence, but if I had to name just two: Hello Vehicule? Hello Nightwood?

International Griffin Awards by Nationality:
USA: 8 wins, from 27 shortlistings
UK: 1 wins, from 11 shortlistings
Ireland: 1 wins, from 2 shortlistings
Australia: 0 wins, from 2 shortlistings
Barbados: 1 win, from 1 shortlisting
Libya: 0 wins, from 1 shortlisting

The above table counts the translator’s, and not the original poet’s, nationality. There’d be a lot more diversity there, otherwise (including an addition this year of rows marked “Belgium” and “Syria”). Still, if we were to take Khaled Mattawa’s adopted homeland as his nation, instead of his birthplace of Libya, we’d see in this year’s shortlist a repetition of the Grffin’s default international shortlist: 3 Americans, 1 European, with the American winning the prize. Those UK/Ireland numbers will look out of whack to some, and to those I’ll issue the reminder that Northern Ireland (home to Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon) is still a part of the former. This is the Griffin’s most significant cultural bias. They like Americans a great deal, even when those Americans are acting as translators and not originators.

Canadian Griffin Awards by Region of Birth:
Ontario: 4 wins, from 12 shortlistings
United States: 3 wins, from 4 shortlistings
Manitoba: 1 win, from 2 shortlistings
Atlantic Canada: 1 win, from 2 shortlistings
Saskatchewan: 1 win, from 2 shortlistings
Trinidad: 1 win, from 2 shortlisting
Alberta: 0 wins, from 4 shortlistings
Quebec: 0 wins, from 3 shortlistings
UK: 0 wins, from 2 shortlistings
BC: 0 wins, from 1 shortlisting

I remember last year when I was making these lists wanted to do something on geography to deal with the perceived Toronto-centricism of the domestic award. It’s tough to do, though, as Canadian poets have a frustrating tendency to not stay still, and most of them file through Toronto at some point in their lives. So the above is very imperfect (for example, it doesn’t list Brand as a Toronto poet, as she was born in Trinidad, but does list Mr. Newfoundland Ruralism, John Steffler, as one). So, don’t take the above too seriously. Still: only three shortlisted authors from Quebec so far, including Suzanne Buffam? Only the one (George Bowering) from BC?

I know this is an imperfect scicence, but here goes: I’d suggest that, of the eleven previous Griffin winners in Canada, six of them could be rationally described as “Toronto poets” at the time of their winning: Bok 02, Avison 03, Borson 05, Moritz 09, Solie 10, Brand 11. So, six out of eleven, and at least two of those (Borson, Solie) were writing poems with a distinct geographic lilt quite distant from Toronto. Whether or not you think 6/11 is evidence of an eccentricity or bias is likely wrapped up in your own eccentricities and biases towards Toronto (as cultural capital, or not) and the country (as federation, or not). I’ll leave you to them.

With that, I’m going out into the repressive, hateful, sunlight, to try and get my day started. I ate some yogurt. I feel okay.

Must Be April

April 27, 2011

Hi kids.

It’s been forever since I’ve updated this self-promotional engine I call Vox Populism. Apologies. I’ve been busy doing things and then not discussing them here. Anyway, I wanted to hop back into it for a quick hitter on two exciting launches this week. Maybe you already know about them?

1. The Coach House Launch is at Revival, on College, tonight at 8. I’ve managed to get my unclean mitts on their two poetry collections (A Complete Encyclopedia of Different Types of People, by Gabe Foreman and Match by Helen Guri). I liked them both, for very different reasons. Coach House once again produces the most purely enjoyable poetry titles of the year, for like the third year in a row, that I can think of (after Sue Holbrook in 2009, and Jonathan Ball last year) Cool on CH for doing two new poets. They surely don’t have to. There’s also prose being launched of course, Sean Dixon has a new book, and the gloriously well-titled Monocerous, by Suzette Mayr.

2. The Anansi Poetry Bash is back this year, and will be at the hipsterific Levack Block (on Ossington) tomorrow at 8pm. I have a reading at The Magpie that night, so might not make it, but I want to. I’ve read the new Babstock and Rader books and enjoyed them both. Haven’t gotten the Thesen yet, but will. I think Methodist Hatchet might be my favourite collection from Ken, I feel like he’s more firmly in control of the wild ontological leaps that characterized Airstream Land Yacht, and that he’s accomplished that magic trick without much slowing down or simplifying of his palette. There’s a couple poems in the second half of the book that take place a couple gears back from his peak (can’t remember titles of the top of my head…), and seem like remnants from earlier collections, but generally speaking, he’s figured out how to move faster through diverse content than any of his peers, and is doing so with a smoking confidence. The joy of metaphor, really, is its life in the unrevealed bloodlines between seemingly disparate objects, and Ken sees that genealogy like nobody else. Call it: The Wikipedia Lyric, and let that be a compliment. It’s a fucking great book. Nice when things live up to your unfairly high expectations.

Of course, this all pales in comparison to THE major Toronto event happening this week, but people get all harrumphy when I talk fights in public, so I’m not going to. Except to say: GSP in 5, Aldo in 2. Machida in a reverent (and boring) 3.

Cheers,
Jake

PS-I almost forgot to mention, my local bookstore, Type on Queen, is turning Five Years Old on Saturday, and I and a number of local authors will be dropping by for impromptu readings throughout the day. It’ll be a blast. Type are good people, noble people. Except for the one of them who is Kyle Buckley.

To Type: