Friday, February 9, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: derek beaulieu

This is the second 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. 

“Extra, extra!” 

I first met rob mclennan in 1998, I think. I had been publishing my own press for only a few months and rob was in town for a reading; one of his many cross-Canada tours of the time. Had he arrived by bus? I think so – and, as I soon discovered was the usual for him, was laden with not only a small suitcase, but several boxes of books, leaflets, chapbooks – both from his own above/ground press, but also the news from every stop on his tour.

Over the years our conversation has built to mutual respect and friendship. We don’t always see eye to eye on aesthetics, but we have published each other several times over – and always reach out for the news.

For 25 years, above/ground has been the news.

above/ground is inclusivist, seeing the potential in the exploration of voice – giving space to writing emerging and established. Here we look for the “breaking news”, the “developing news” and the “ongoing story.” As bpNichol wrote: “Get it done and get it out; it’s news.”

Obviously a writer-run press, above/ground maps rob’s reading, his communities, his curiosities and his passions – the ebb and flow of conversation. Once again, to quote Nichol, “if, as writers, we aren’t going to get out there to publish the writing we believe in, writers whose work pushes in a positive direction, then who else is going to?”

Its easy to think that rob’s editions are slipshod, rushed – they’re not. The above/ground aesthetic – photocopied pages, cut-and-paste composition, copy-shop paper and covers, long-neck stapling is right out of the DIY scene; figger it out as you do, learn on the spot, put it together, talk to people. Each edition is an introduction, a handshake, a “check this out” – look through the paper, find the news you want to hear more about, the pages are all there.

I’ve been reading rob’s paper for decades, every edition continues to bring the news.

Derek Beaulieu is the author of 8 collections of poetry including with wax, fractal economies, ascender / descender, kern, frogments from the frag pool (co-written with Gary Barwin) and Please no more poetry: the poetry of derek beaulieu (Ed. Kit Dobson). He has also written 6 collections of conceptual fiction, the most recent of which are a, A Novel (Paris: Jean Boîte Editions, 2017) and Konzeptuelle Arbeiten (Bern: edition taberna kritika, 2017). He is the author of two collections of essays: Seen of the Crime and The Unbearable Contact with Poets. Beaulieu co-edited bill bissett’s RUSH: what fuckan theory (with Gregory Betts), Writing Surfaces: fiction of John Riddell (with Lori Emerson) and The Calgary Renaissance (with rob mclennan). He is the publisher of the acclaimed no press and is the visual poetry editor at UBUWeb. Beaulieu has exhibited his work across Canada, the United States and Europe and is an award-winning creative writing instructor. Derek Beaulieu was the 2014–2016 Poet Laureate of Calgary, Canada.

Beaulieu is the author of seven above/ground press chapbooks (as well as numerous "poem" broadsides), including an issue of the long poem magazine STANZAS (“calcite gours 1-19,” issue no. 38), the interview chapbook ECONOMIES OF SCALE: rob mclennan interviews derek beaulieu on NO PRESS / derek beaulieu interviews rob mclennan on above/ground press (2012) and single-author chapbooks “A? any questions? (1998), [Dear Fred] (2004), HOW TO EDIT, Chapter A. (ALBERTA SERIES #8; 2008), transcend transcribe transfigure transform transgress (2014) and a a novel: 1-20 (2017).

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