Friday, March 30, 2018

above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Gil McElroy

This is the thirteenth 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.

above/ground press, in the guise of a magazine entitled Stanzas, came into my life in the mid-1990s when I was living in Halifax, and of course this was my introduction to rob (whom I wouldn’t actually meet until 2001 when we did a poetry reading together at York University).

Here’s where I might embrace one of the most overused and hackneyed clichés and tell you that it changed my life. But the thing is: it did, actually.

This, of course, was in the days before the advent of social media, and connecting with other writers, others of your own ilk, was more difficult, especially if you’re an introvert with a penchant for aloneness who still wants some kind of connection.


rob and above/ground became that for me. To say he and it were supportive doesn’t quite capture it. At the time of our introduction I was on a bit of precipice, finding myself nearing the literary edge where I was going to call it quits, though not sure at all how that would happen when the need to put the words together was such a fundamental part of who I was (and am). Difficult times.

above/ground and rob ensured I wouldn’t have to figure out what going over the edge would actually feel like. They gave me community, and community, as I learned, is everything. Here was a world of others, the like-minded, the bloody-minded… the minded, all shaping worlds I was given access to, no questions asked. And rob generously fed me into that cauldron of shape-shifting, publishing my work in magazines, chapbooks and broadsheets, and recommending it to others. The myriad forms of what he was doing changed my life.

Can’t of course speak for anyone else, but for me it was akin to a miracle. And each package of newly shape-shifted pieces I find stuffed in my mailbox continues to push the margins of what I know and sometimes become overly comfortable with. Social media now (virtually) connects me, but rob and above/ground materially included me, a fistful of chapbooks and broadsheets in my greedy little hands giving me entry unto other worlds that bump and collide with mine own, reshaping and reconfiguring things.

Sometimes that’s not comfortable, and sometimes it’s even unwanted. But it’s always necessary.

-Gil McElroy, March 2018

Gil McElroy is a writer living in Colborne, Ontario.

Gil McElroy is the author of six above/ground press chapbooks, including “Echolocations” (½ of STANZAS #5, April 1995), Some Julian Days (March, 1999) “Meteor Showers” (STANZAS #31, 2002), (The Work of Art) In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (November, 2005), Twentieth (February, 2013) and The Doxologies (2014). His Some Julian Days is scheduled for a reissue in 2019 as a “Twentieth Anniversary Edition.”

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