25 & Counting
I had first stumbled across the small-press world through Peter Finch's extraordinary survey of everything he could lay his hands on in "Small Press Scene" in his mag Second Aeon. The names of the presses signalled their distance from mainstream: Curiously Strong, Strange Faeces, Transgravity Advertiser, Sixpack, Gaberbocchus Press, Baron Samedi. It was to these presses & mags like Grosseteste Review & Great Works that you came to find a living tradition of restless folk wanting to create more than museum exhibits. I was, however, a provincial kid with no contact with poets who was only looking in on that small press world & starting to seek that kind of energy in his writing but was also working on his 'museum' skills.
Somehow I disconnected from all of it. A switch of continents & if you will, of consciousness brought that exploration to a temporary end. Recently I described it to a friend thus: "must have been the late 90s when I'd returned to writing poetry after my 'alien abduction' had kept me away for 15 or so years. They took me to their mothership called the Church of Holy Fingerwagging but eventually my agnostic angel came to my rescue."
The second wind of poetry brought me in touch with poets through readings at the local college, Earl Birney, John Newlove, rob mclennan come to mind, & connection with local poets through Warren Dean Fulton & a fruitful few years of connection to the Kootenay School of Writing in Vancouver. Internet connections took me many places & to publications & readings in England & Ireland in particular but, except for Kamloops Poets' Factory, ksw's W & poems & reviews in The Gig, nothing in Canada.
Enter above/ground. "You'll know quickly if he wants to go with it & then it will appear surprisingly soon after that." It did. Strum of Unseen in 2008. I found rob easy to work with & its 'industrial look' echoed Writers Forum chapbooks in England which was a bonus for me. Connection with above/ground I discovered did not end with the chapbook in hand. The 12 or 20 question interview soon followed (which I treated way too flippantly & would like to see disappear, but I guess that is me some of the time, nervous to acknowledge how vital poetry is to me) & invitations to the Dusie Tuesday poem (not the Rolling Stones song) & to Touch the Donkey. I don't know what took me so long to finally subscribe to above/ground. I'm late to the party but now I have this box containing everything I've received since 2015. I've even read some of them! I regularly grab a couple for my coffee house trip. And feel a bit more connected.
I see the mclennan poetics as L=i=v=i=n=g. All else follows: as simple and as difficult as that.
Smith is the author of two above/ground press chapbooks, including Strum of Unseen (2008) and A New Love/ An Aching Stone (2016). A third is forthcoming.