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.

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