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.

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