Wednesday, April 25, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Sean Braune


This is the seventeenth in a series of short essays/reminiscences by a variety of authors and friends of the press to help mark the quarter century mark of above/ground. See links to the whole series here.

On above/ground press as it turns 25

Poetry was supposed to be some kind of vanguard. Someone told me this at some point. I’m not sure who it was, but someone told me that. In an alleyway. A long time ago.

When one starts off “being” a poet or going to work at the poetry factory or whatever else, one expects some sort of linguistic subterfuge—to be in it and also a cause of it. Maybe. Ideally? Is this impulse the political in the poetic? Sometimes. I guess it depends.

Poetry is about community or should be and sometimes it isn’t, but the best presses and reading series create communities around them. They induce a sort of communal experience of support and creativity (or they should). Again, this can happen in the best of circumstances and against some of the more awful, patriarchal and misogynistic impulses of CanLit.

Here we all are, standing around the dumpster fire. My feet are cold. Actually, nothing is warming up. In light of all that is negative about CanLit nowadays, there are some bastions of “hope” or whatever in the abyss.

rob mclennan’s above/ground press is one of these bastions. He has fought tirelessly (and I use that word intentionally) to publish adventurous and exciting poetry without reprieve for 25 years.

above/ground was, for me, like some of the more exciting presses when I first got into Canadian poetry a decade ago: presses like BookThug and Coach House and Wolsak and Wynn, etc.; and some chapbook presses like derek beaulieu’s own 13-year-old no press or the wonderful (and far too short-lived) Ferno House Press. rob doesn’t stop though. He’s a poetry machine. And he’s fighting the good fight. And poets notice.

I like above/ground because it hasn’t lost being a bit under/ground and it maintains that most exciting aspect of poetry, which, for me, is finding some new, wonderful gem (of a poem, poetry book, or poet) on a shelf in a bookstore or hearing about an old poet or poem that I hadn’t known about or learning about some new work recently published. above/ground is a kind of laboratory of poetry that keeps pressing out fantastic poetry and it is, 25 years after its inception in 1993, a shining beacon in the darkness of the dumpster fire… 


Sean Braune’s first book of philosophy, Language Parasites: Of Phorontology, appeared in 2017 from Punctum Books. His poetry has appeared in The Puritan, Rampike, Poetry is Dead, and elsewhere. He is currently in the process of editing his first feature-length film called Nuptials.

Braune is the author of two above/ground press chapbooks, including the vitamins of an alphabet (2016) and The Cosmos (2018). A third is scheduled for release this fall.

Monday, April 16, 2018

new from above/ground press: Glosas for Tired Eyes Volume 2, by Dani Spinosa

Glosas for Tired Eyes Volume 2
Dani Spinosa
$5

Judith Copithorne

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
April 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Dani Spinosa
is a poet of digital and print media, an on-again-off-again precarious professor, the Managing Editor of the Electronic Literature Directory, and a co-founding editor of Gap Riot Press. Her first chapbook, Glosas for Tired Eyes, was published in 2017 with No Press and her first scholarly manuscript, Anarchists in the Academy: Machines and Free Readers in Experimental Poetry is forthcoming from University of Alberta Press (Spring 2018).

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Friday, April 13, 2018

above/ground press at Kanada Koncrete, Loud Mouths: Anstee, Atkins, Beaulieu, Betts, Davey, Earl, Spinosa, etc

A cavalcade of above/ground press authors (including Cameron Anstee, Tim Atkins, Derek Beaulieu, Gregory Betts, Frank Davey, Amanda Earl and Dani Spinosa) will be performing Saturday, May 5, 2018 at 8pm at LOUD MOUTHS, an evening of short poetic performances by participants of Kanada Koncrete: Material Poetries in the Digital Age, this year's annual University of Ottawa Literature Symposium. The event will be free! Held at the Happy Goat Coffee Co., 35 Laurel Street, Ottawa.

See the Facebook event here.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

new from above/ground press: From Being Without Substance, by Andrew Wessels

From Being Without Substance
by Andrew Wessels
$5


The motif of a man
imprisoned in a tree:

might time rise stunned
in a region of hell. Lest mind
or “brother” deceive,

the creature—
traditionally the unbaptized
abode— was accustomed
to strange doubt.


    °


The north wind
expresses wandering.

Whether the double being
is used diversely,
which one (of two)
rewards frailty?

Spoil of battle derives from
hazard.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
April 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Andrew Wessels
has lived in Houston, Cambridge, and Las Vegas. Currently, he splits his time between Istanbul and Los Angeles, where he is an editor at Les Figues Press. He has held fellowships from Poets & Writers and the Black Mountain Institute. His writing can be found in VOLT, Witness, Fence, Tammy Journal, Faultline, Los Angeles Review of Books, Jacket2, Literary Hub, and Colorado Review, among others. Semi Circle, a chapbook of his translations of the Turkish poet Nurduran Duman, was published by Goodmorning Menagerie in 2016. His first book, published by 1913 Press, is A Turkish Dictionary.

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Carrie Olivia Adams


This is the sixteenth in a series of short essays/reminiscences by a variety of authors and friends of the press to help mark the quarter century mark of above/ground. See links to the whole series here.

Just as no one becomes a poet to make money, no one becomes a poetry publisher to make money. And so, it is a discipline that inherently attracts those that are drawn to it as a calling and those who believe in poetry for poetry’s sake alone. Yet, even in a discipline composed almost entirely by people who have come to it out of shear desire and admiration, rob mclennan stands out as someone whose commitment to poetry and its potential readership is powerfully unique and true. And as a result, his love and belief in poetry has grown a community that is remarkable for its inclusivity.

Though there are more people studying and writing poetry than ever before, I fear that the readership for poetry has not grown in accordance. Instead, just as we have become enclosed in our own small news media bubbles, many of us poets, myself included, are too often caught in our own incestuous poetry worlds when it comes to the books and journals we read. Through above/ground press and Touch the Donkey, rob offers an anecdote to this. His strength as a publisher and editor is having a wide vision—one that is not tied to any particular geography or region, not tied to any aesthetic or cool cohort, and one that encompasses age and profile. Emerging or established, old school or new—for rob it’s about the work itself. It’s about what poetry can do and the readers it can find and create.

And this takes incredible work and time and attention—to find and solicit writers, to paginate and fold those pages, and to stuff all of those many, many envelopes. It seems like every week at least one of those joyful white envelopes is in my mailbox—a regularity and a productivity unmatched in the publishing community. I feel incredibly lucky that rob reached out to me for an interview after my first book Intervening Absence was published almost ten years ago. It established a creative and encouraging friendship for which I am grateful. We, as poets, are all lucky to have him as our champion and as a champion of the art to which we’ve all devoted large parts of our hearts and lives. Cheers to 25 years! Let’s hope for many more.




Carrie Olivia Adams is a Chicago-based freelance book publicist and the poetry editor for the small press Black Ocean.  She is the author of Grapple (above/ground press 2017) and Overture in the Key of F (above/ground press 2013) as well as the full-length collections Operating Theater (Noctuary Press 2015), Forty-One Jane Doe’s (book and companion DVD, Ahsahta 2013) and Intervening Absence (Ahsahta 2009).

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Marthe Reed : d. April 10, 2018

American poet, editor, publisher and above/ground press author Marthe Reed died earlier today, after suffering a stroke yesterday. I'm rather stunned by it, as so many are (and thank you to Laura Mullen, who gave me a head's up). Condolences to Michael, and their two children. Here's a photo of Marthe with intern Rose, during our family visit to their house in Syracuse, just over a year ago. I'll write up a proper obit soon, on my own blog. But for now, there is this.

Monday, April 9, 2018

new from above/ground press: coastal geometries, by Marthe Reed

coastal geometries
Marthe Reed
$5

threnody

knowing how this will end
such an awkward alliance
an ache that is not pain
magnolia sweet

raising the levees again and again
shelling boiled peanuts
bowing a fiddle
getting there all along

amid the soak and flow
a good life
up and down the coast
barges and rigs

oilfields   
gambling on spring and summer
drilled that hole, toolpushing
and quit come trapping season

boat in the water
boat in the water

it gets away from you
this senseless        thrashing

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
April 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy


Marthe Reed
has published five books: Nights Reading (Lavender Ink, 2014); Pleth, with j hastain (Unlikely Books, 2013); (em)bodied bliss (Moria Books, 2013); Gaze (Black Radish Books, 2010); Tender Box, A Wunderkammer (Lavender Ink, 2007). The author of six chapbooks, her collaborative chapbook thrown, text by j hastain with Reed’s collages, won the 2013 Smoking Glue Gun contest (2016). Her poetry has been published in New American Writing, Golden Handcuffs Review, Entropy, New Orleans Review, HOW2, Fairy Tale Review, Exquisite Corpse, BlazeVOX, and The Offending Adam, among others. Reed lives in Syracuse, NY, and is co-publisher and managing editor for Black Radish Books. Counter-Desecration: A Glossary for Writing in the Anthropocene, edited with Linda Russo, is forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press (August 2018).

This is Reed’s second chapbook with above/ground press, after After Swann (2013).

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Friday, April 6, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Gregory Betts


This is the fifteenth in a series of short essays/reminiscences by a variety of authors and friends of the press to help mark the quarter century mark of above/ground. See links to the whole series here.

Bespoke, Be Spoken

I am likely the last poet in the country who published rob mclennan before being published by him. I was, however, back in Victoria in 1999, already acutely aware of the generative role he played with his publishing venture—the presses, zines, anthologies, and now blogs and more. above/ground (rolled out in 1993) is the hub of a wheel made up of an extraordinary range of poets, each taking a turn as a spoke in its constantly regenerating progress, rolling over the years, now decades. Poets learn to speak in public, to become spoken, through getting published. For 25 years, mclennan has created space for poets to write themselves into authorship, or to become spoken of, often for the first time in one of his constantly appearing reviews or scene surveys. To ride the metaphor to its last spoke, he has carved roads into this country and built vehicles to travel them.
            I was the Managing Editor of a small press zine (Laughing Gland, edited by Lori Emerson, whose issues (I realize in retrospect) suspiciously resemble above/ground), and remember well the meeting when Lori presented work by rob. We were excited to publish those poems, and fascinated by the package of leaflets and chapbooks of other people’s works that he sent with them. We passed them around, read them carefully over coffee and cigarettes. It was the combination that struck me the most — the ethic of creating a space for other writers while finding a place for yourself. Self-expression and other-promotion. It all seemed perfectly positive, generous, and strangely misfit as I dropped copies here and there around the campus and town, watching strangers pick them up read or toss them aside.
            A few years later, above/ground published a chapbook of mine. It was a collection of poems responding to the legacy of the explorer David Thompson, who cut the Canadian/American border. rob mailed a box (Canada Post owes him at least his image on a limited edition stamp for all he has spent on postage), a real Staples box full of folded and stapled chapbooks. I guiltily remembered the short run of zines we had mailed him years before (It was, I confess, my job to balance the budget, and limit, therefore, the print run—but take notice of rob’s method of constant bigheartedness, of overabundance and wildly free circulation, and emulate it freely. He’s doing it right.).
I marveled at the simple, bespoke object filled with my words that he had made. I promptly started handing out copies to ever and whomever crossed my path. I met people by doing so. What a delightful pleasure it is to give your own small book to people you barely know or don’t at all. Christian Bök calls chapbooks and books expensive “business cards” for future services, but they are, really, more like greeting cards: greetings, here I am, this is some kind of record of me and where my mind sometimes strays, come have a conversation. I marvel at the range of rob’s imagination that sees the contours and recognizes the value of each of the imaginary worlds in the almost-a-thousand objects he has made.
            When I first started publishing with above/ground (or should that be, ‘surfacing’?), it never dawned on me that literature could fashion communities, that giving away things brings constant returns. This was my entrance into the gift economy. In the wider literary world in Canada, I was made quickly aware of the fiercely guarded aesthetic and social fiefdoms. But rob, all the while, was creating communities across such pale garrisons. I, one of his minions, have probably handed out thousands of copies of his chapbooks and zines filled with writing by countless authors I have never yet met—except that I feel I have met many of them through his maze of pathways that cross the space above/ground. I don’t know them, but I have met them, and share a common space.
            My first three poetry readings were all with rob, including the very first that happened to be in St. Catharines, where I moved a few years later and have stayed ever since. I even ended up taking over that literary series where we read and curated it for a number of years. I have become in a much, much smaller way, a local bike builder (in the literary sense) here in town, trying to build a space for writers of all types and sorts to speak themselves into authorship. rob sends me messages – whose coming, what can we do? Still carving borders every bit as real and imaginary as the one cut by David Thompson, still extending his hub into all the marvelous worlds one can find above/ground.




Gregory Betts is the author of Avant-Garde Canadian Literature, six books of poetry, and editor of six volumes of experimental Canadian writing. He curates the bpNichol.ca Digital Archive. He is a poet and professor at Brock University in St.Catharines, Ontario (but will be the Craig Dobbin Professor of Canadian Studies at the University College of Dublin next year).

Gregory Betts is the author of four above/ground press titles, including The Cult of David Thompson (2005), The Curse of Canada (2008) and Who Let the Mice in Brion Gysin (2014) as well as another title to release later this month. He also appeared in the four poet anthology READ YORK (2004), and as an above/ground press broadside (#221, 2004).


Thursday, April 5, 2018

new from above/ground press: po po poems, by Kate Siklosi

po po poems
Kate Siklosi
$5

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
April 2018
celebrating twenty-five years of above/ground press
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Kate Siklosi
lives, writes, and thinks in Toronto. Her poetry has been featured in ditch, and is forthcoming in Nod Magazine. This is her first chapbook of poetry. She is the cofounding editor of Gap Riot Press.

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9 or paypal at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Marthe Reed


This is the fourteenth in a series of short essays/reminiscences by a variety of authors and friends of the press to help mark the quarter century mark of above/ground. See links to the whole series here.

Out of the blue, rob mclennan queries whether he could publish a second chap of mine with above / ground press. Let’s put out the work, see how it flies, comes his email. A constant current of activity out of Ottawa, asking, publishing, promoting: what are you up to, what’s new, what have you published, updating the above / ground blog for all of his many published poets, following their work, getting the word out. This is the singular joy of above / ground, of perhaps the most industrious publisher in the poetry business—the gifts of appreciation, of shared endeavor in poetry, of an open and generous spirit.

At above / ground, one finds oneself in-the-midst of an unfolding “conversation” with poets from across Canada, the United States, and beyond. New discoveries—from N.W. Lea, “everything is second-hand, a pedestrian/ bargain. Rummage// in the pitch/ toque” to Rachel Mindell, “Sometimes the only sane answer/ to a senseless world is paranoia./ New clothes, mascara. A wig maybe”; and familiar loves, Alice Notely’s new Undo, "The century or year or night one might bloom a miracle/ A night-blooming cereus white   this could heal you/ Or decorate the new abyss turn the year backwards”—all gathered in a single sweep through above /ground press. Twenty-five years along, rob’s chapbook press delight for its invitations, inclusions, and ambitious reach. How does rob do it all? Chapbooks of both poems and short essays, perfect-bound books, magazines, blogs, Dusie’s poem-a-week, a reading series, book reviews, at least two interview series. He gives us a sense of that creative tumult in his own new chap above / ground chap, snow day:

Anna Gurton-Wachter responds to my email. Monty Reid responds to my email. Nikki Sheppy responds to my email. Stephen Brockwell responds to my email. Neil Flowers responds to my email. Pearl Pirie responds to my email. David O’Meara responds to my email. Annick MacAskill responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email. Sarah Burgoyne responds to my email. Shazia Hafiz Ramji responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email. natalie hanna responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email.
 
Ian Williams responds to a photograph of my home office: “Don’t you feel perpetually overwhelmed?” 
“I saw the photo of your writing desk and wanted to close the door.”

rob’s query to me this time round came in the midst of finalizing a manuscript I had been working on for 10 years, as well as planning for a reading at the New Orleans poetry festival. Could he have the chap ready by then? Of course, he could and did, coastal geographies, an excerpt from my forthcoming Ark Hive: a memoir of South Louisiana (The Operating System, 2019)—bringing the work home to the ground which inspirited it. How lucky to find that email in my inbox, how lucky to be asked for work, how many pleasures and encounters along the way. Gifts and gratitude from/to all the poets, and, most of all, to that “hardest working man in po-biz”, rob mclennan.




Marthe Reed has published five books: Nights Reading (Lavender Ink, 2014); Pleth, with j hastain (Unlikely Books, 2013); (em)bodied bliss (Moria Books, 2013); Gaze (Black Radish Books, 2010); Tender Box, A Wunderkammer (Lavender Ink, 2007). A sixth collection, ARK HIVE will be published by The Operating System (2019). The author of six chapbooks, her collaborative chapbook thrown, text by j hastain with Reed's collages, won the 2013 Smoking Glue Gun contest (2016). Her poetry has been published in BAX2014, New American Writing, Golden Handcuffs Review, Entropy, New Orleans Review, Jacket2, Fairy Tale Review, Exquisite Corpse, The Volta, and The Offending Adam, among others. Desperation: A Glossary for Writing in the Anthropocene, co-edited with Linda Russo, will be published by Wesleyan University Press in 2018. Reed is co-publisher and managing editor for Black Radish Books and lives in Syracuse, NY.

Marthe Reed is the author of two above/ground press titles, including After Swann (2013), and coastal geometries, out later this month.