Can you believe three decades have come and gone already? As you probably know, I hosted a reading and launch and party on August 12, 2023 at the Clocktower Brew Pub in the Glebe as part of the glorious thirtieth anniversary of above/ground press, with readings by Jennifer Baker, nina jane drystek, Amanda Earl, Sophia Magliocca, Karen Massey, Jérôme Melançon, Monty Reid and Grant Wilkins. Unfortunately, Adrienne Ho Rose was unable to come in from Iowa City, but we all waved at one point to acknowledge her (I wonder if she saw us wave?). Her parents still live here, so I'm hoping there might be further opportunities for her to read in Ottawa at some point.
|David Currie and Christine McNair|
|nina jane drystek [photo credit: Jérôme Melançon]|
|Jennifer Baker [photo credit: David Currie]|
|Chris Johnson [photo credit: Jérôme Melançon]|
|Karen Massey [photo credit: Jérôme Melançon]|
It does seem that every decade or so above/ground press produces a new chapbook by Karen Massey, a poet who is clearly long overdue for a first full-sized collection. When might that happen? If only we were still doing Chaudiere Books, honestly. Karen was one of the first people (and only participant younger than forty) that I met when I first started attending readings via The TREE Reading Series circa 1992. Where has the time gone? Her third chapbook, SONGS FROM THE DEMENTIA SUITCASE, is easily the strongest work I've seen from her so far. Next up was Montreal-based poet Sophia Magliocca, launching her chapbook debut and arriving with her parents in tow, all of whom were deeply supportive and absolutely adorable. Adorable! Sophia (one of a growing list of authors younger than the press) is a poet I first heard about through a recommendation by Montreal poet Sarah Burgoyne, who has offered a handful of poets with chapbook manuscripts my way over the past few years (Misha Solomon, Rose Maloukis and Vivian Lewin being others). Sarah clearly has an interesting eye. I am looking forward to seeing what Sophia does next.
|rob mclennan [photo credit: Jérôme Melançon]|
|Grant Wilkins [photo credit: Jérôme Melançon]|
The final reader of the evening was Ottawa poet and printer Grant Wilkins, who somehow exploded out of the woodwork a few years back, despite being around the Ottawa literary scene since the early 1990s (not long after I emerged). Grant always used to tell folk that he didn't write, no no, but I think it was his work with jwcurry and Messagio Galore that prompted something, whether a newfound interest or confidence, and now he's doing the most interesting combination of sound, visual and conceptual/response work around. We launched not one but two chapbooks of his as part of this event (with a prior above/ground press title earlier this year and even another one last year). What might be next?
Clocktower Brew Pub! It was a pretty nice space. We clearly need to do this again next year.