Thursday, July 18, 2024

new from above/ground press: footnotes after Lorca, by Carlos A. Pittella

Carlos A. Pittella
footnotes after Lorca
$5


Voices of hollow-point bullets
resounded near Thames at three-
second intervals, tin laughter
ten times heard bonecrackingly.
Old fearful voices surrounding
brown voice of carnation seed.1







__________________________
1 The first time I saw Piccadilly Circus
daring its neons to burn our retinas
of course I thought of my sins
my cindery little sins—a peccadillo
circus—all of them performing
a surprise party like it’s judgment day.
But who’s overseeing the party/trial?
Who’s the lil devil, who’s the tunicked angel
& more importantly which one plays lawyer?
Am I judge, juror, innocent
till proven guilty or dead?
Save your sweaty taxpounds—I’m guilty
of every peccadillo. The only question:
who’ll punish
given their own circuses
given that “Piccadilly” means punctured.

(Menezes &/or Pittella, upon arrival)

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
July 2024
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Cover art: detail from Lorca’s “Autorretrato en Nueva York,” c. 1930, public domain.

Carlos A. Pittella (he/him) is a Latinx poet & the recipient of a Frontier 2022 Global Poetry Prize. Born on traditional lands of the Tupi & Goitacá (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), he lives in Montréal/Tiohtià:ke. While completing his MA in English/Creative Writing at Concordia University, he co-edited Headlight Anthology with the team who won the 2023 Forces AVENIR award. His writing is haunted by borders, having appeared in places such as Shō, Jacket2, Glyphöria, & The Capilano Review. footnotes after Lorca is his first chapbook in English.

[Carlos A. Pittella will be launching footnotes after Lorca on August 10 as part of the above/ground press 31st anniversary reading, alongside Mahaila Smith, Gil McElroy, Chris Banks, Pearl Pirie and Shane Rhodes; tickets available here]

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at rob_mclennan (at) hotmail.com or the PayPal button at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

new from above/ground press: Rushing Dusk, by Pearl Pirie

Pearl Pirie
Rushing Dusk
$5

tromping

along cedar fence lines
the rails, punky, grey and mossed

against my mud-spattered boot
any pause is a footrest.

what stands bleak on the rise
of ground, against unsettled clouds?

crusted lines not quite
darkened into a silhouette,

tangled in long grasses—
a model of use and hope —

the rusted plow no longer turns soil
but didn't risk turning into a sword

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
July 2024
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy


cover illustration: Rose McLennan

Pearl Pirie lives slowly in rural Quebec. A queer, seemingly permanently concussed, settler on unceded land of the Anishnaabe, she is the author of footlights (Radiant Press, 2020) and a few other books and many chapbooks. This chapbook is a second published part of a full length collection that hopefully will be looking to move out soon. You can find her on a bunch of socials— Instagram, X, blueskies, Patreon, Substack and at www.pearlpirie.com.

This is Pirie’s sixth chapbook with above/ground press, after the oath in the boathouse (2008), vertigoheel for the dilly (2014), today’s woods (2014), sex in sevens (2016), and Eldon, letters (2019). Report from the Pirie Society, Vol. 1 No. 1, appeared in 2023.

[Pearl Pirie will be launching Rushing Dusk in Ottawa on August 10 as part of the above/ground press 31st anniversary reading, alongside Mahaila Smith, Gil McElroy, Chris Banks, Carlos A. Pittella and Shane Rhodes; tickets available here]

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at rob_mclennan (at) hotmail.com or the PayPal button at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Friday, July 12, 2024

new from above/ground press: Tiny Grass Is Dreaming, by Chris Banks

Tiny Grass Is Dreaming
Chris Banks
$5

Tiny Grass Is Dreaming

says the sign on the lawn of the Buddhist temple,
in English, a few words lost in translation,
but something else found, a capacity for hope,
a little wonder, like saying another day, another holler
over the rooftops of the world. Yawp!
Come hither. No? I shall go thither, then.
I shall write my own sign and plant it on the lawn
of your house. It is meant to tell you
how much I envy you. The real you. The you you.
Not the Internet you. The you out there
posting selfies while the inner you just wants
what we all want: affirmation. My sign reads
Love me. I am dying. My teenage kids
are in the basement playing Truth or Dare?
Truth is a Dare in an age of neoliberal bullshit.
The Environmental Protection Act simply
another name for deforestation passed by a Senate
full of white, elderly men. The kind who hate
grandchildren. The future. Life occurs by accident.
In the midst of accidents. Penicillin was mold
in a petri dish. Coca-cola, a painkiller.
Matchsticks, an unexpected spark of ingenuity.
Like poetry, all things have stretch marks.
Something to make you think, and smile
as you lie in the warm sun— the green grass
dreaming the earth, dreaming life, dreaming even you,
and why, exactly? Because. The sign says so.

published in Ottawa by above/ground press

July 2024
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Chris Banks
is an award-winning, Pushcart-nominated Canadian poet and author of seven collections of poems, most recently Alternator with Nightwood Editions (Fall 2023). His first full-length collection, Bonfires, was awarded the Jack Chalmers Award for poetry by the Canadian Authors’ Association in 2004. Bonfires was also a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in Canada.  His poetry has appeared in The New Quarterly, Arc Magazine, The Antigonish Review, Event, The Malahat Review, The Walrus, American Poetry Journal, The Glacier, Best American Poetry (blog), Prism International, among other publications. Chris was an associate editor with The New Quarterly, and is Editor in Chief of The Woodlot – A Canadian Poetry Reviews & Essays website. He lives with dual disorders–chronic major depression and generalized anxiety disorder–and writes in Kitchener, Ontario.

[Chris Banks will be launching Tiny Grass is Dreaming in Ottawa on August 10 as part of the above/ground press 31st anniversary reading, alongside Mahaila Smith, Gil McElroy, Pearl Pirie, Carlos A. Pittella and Shane Rhodes; tickets available here]

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at rob_mclennan (at) hotmail.com or the PayPal button at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

De Villo Sloan reviews Angela Caporaso's Wars (2024) at Asemic Front 2

Visual poet De Villo Sloan was good enough to provide the first review for Angela Caporaso's Wars (2024) over at Asemic Front 2. Thanks so much! You can read the original post here (with a bunch of accompanying visuals, also).
Visual artist Angela Caporaso (Caserta, Italy) has been exploring visual poetry. rob mclennan’s above/ground press in Ottawa, Canada, has given us a chapbook of this recent work.

I am set at ease when exploring Wars by the no-frills approach of above/ground press that highlights the work and makes a soft allusion to the gritty, underground visual poetry that took shape in the formerly industrial Great Lakes cities of the USA and Canada.

Caporaso’s emphasis on language materiality, dimensionality and cut-up makes her text an ideal match for mclennan’s editorial eye.  

In Wars, Caporaso tells us the visual poems in the edition are inspired by "some short poems by Wystan Hugh Auden." Contemporary visual poets seem to enjoy anchoring their new work to older literary tradition.

The repetition of cut-up/concrete forms, shifting in constructs of opposing dark and light, suggests to me various configurations of battling armies, military maps. I find myself considering the phenomenon of binary opposition in nature and the human compulsion to warfare. Wars can be read as a visual-linguistic anti-war sequence. The book has much more to offer as well.

Recently John Richard McConnochie, the Australian visual poet and asemic writer, well-known for his diligent admin work at the great Facebook Post-literate group, has been using the term "neo-glyphic" to identify certain asemic forms that he is observing. This brings me to explain why I chose to place my review of Angela's book on Asemic Front2.

Aspects of asemic writing are merging with the new concrete (or neo-concrete). In Angela Caporaso's War is a series of evolving neo-glyphs that move from binary oppositional structures to pieces that are far more non-binary.

Congratulation to Angela Caporaso and to rob mclennan for his keen editorial eye recognizing this great book.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

today is the thirty-first anniversary of above/ground press, (and we're having a big sale,

Happy birthday, above/ground press! In case you hadn’t heard, today is the THIRTY-FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF above/ground press (with more than 1,325 publications to date) and to celebrate such, I thought, why not offer a huge summer sale?

$35 (plus shipping) for any eight 2023/2024 titles! Or, if you are feeling particularly brave, $40 for any ten 2023/2024 titles! (until August 31, 2024)! braver still? $80 for any twenty-five 2023/2024 titles!

with options including plenty of 2024 titles so far: I wanted to say something, : an elegy, for Barry McKinnon (1944-2023), by rob mclennan ; Unsovereign, by Kacper Bartczak, translated from the Polish by Mark Tardi ; Broken River, by Ken Norris ; Un-Composed, Poetry by Saba Pakdel ; Family Chronicles from Muffin Land, by Hope Anderson ; Perverse Density, by Sacha Archer ; BRADE LANDS, by Peter Myers ; Process, by Julia Polyck-O’Neill ; DAWN’S FOOL, by Kyla Houbolt ; Gnomics, by Dale Tracy ; The Green Rose, in collaboration, Steven Ross Smith + Phil Hall ; The Peter F Yacht Club #33/2024 VERSeFest Special, lovingly hand-crafted, folded, stapled, edited and carried around in bags of envelopes by rob mclennan ; Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal] #41 [TENTH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE] featuring new poems by Gil McElroy, ryan fitzpatrick, John Barlow, Amanda Earl, Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Conyer Clayton, rob mclennan, Julie Carr and Pattie McCarthy ; abject sutures, melissa eleftherion ; From Desire Without Expectation, Jacob Wren ; HYSTERICAL PREGNANCY, Katie Ebbitt ; new york ironweed, Amanda Deutch ; Alternate histories, Kyle Flemmer ; Some Failed Eternity, Pete Smith ; In The Margins. . . . . .of french translations found and remixed by russell carisse, russell carisse ; BUSY SECRET, Micah Ballard ; The Old Man: new stories, Clint Burnham ; Wars, by Angela Caporaso ; Fifty-Two Lines About Henry, by Cary Fagan ; The Pig’s Valise, by BLUNT RESEARCH GROUP ; Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal] #40 featuring new poems by Ryan Eckes, Dennis Cooley, Michael Harman, Terri Witek and Laynie Browne ; MY STRUGGLE WITH NOUNS, by Gary Barwin ; These Steady Bulbs, by Lydia Unsworth ;

as well as the plethora of 2023 chapbook titles: But Then I Thought, by Kyla Houbolt ; A PANDEMIC INVENTORY, SPRING-SUMMER 2020, BROOKLYN NY, by Zane Koss ; Between the Lakes, by Ben Robinson ; with the lakes, by Colin Dardis ; The Last Horse / Prologue, by Aaron Tucker ; Misremembered Proverbs, by Adriana Oniță ; river / estuaries, by Julie Carr and rob mclennan ; Gardens in Motion, by Stephen Collis ; STORY LINE, by Rae Armantrout ; glass / language / untitled / exaltation (second printing; bpNichol Chapbook Award Winner, by Jason Christie ; Dinosaurs of Glory, by Nikki Reimer ; Send $19.99 for Supplements and Freedom, Collages and Uncreative Writing, by Noah Berlatsky ; Unconsciousness Raising, by Miranda Mellis ; ESTRO FLUNKY: FIELD NOTES, by MLA Chernoff ; ashes, by Marita Dachsel ; Report from the [ryan] fitzpatrick Society, Vol 1. No. 1, edited by rob mclennan ; AGALMA, by Kevin Stebner ; THINGS TO BUY IN NEW BRUNSWICK, by Meghan Kemp-Gee ; Cartesian Wells, by Gil McElroy ; This Folded Path, by Robert van Vliet ; Mayday, by Stephen Cain ; LIVID REMAINDERS, by Geoffrey Olsen ; How to, by Heather Cadsby ; An Extremely Well-Funded Study of Doors, by Evan Williams ; Poetic Constructions: Poems written for the Enriched Bread Artists’ 2020 Open Studio, by Grant Wilkins ; missing matrilineal, by nina jane drystek ; Girl gives long-fingered self-portrait, by Sophia Magliocca ; The Baroness and her Ex Read Orgasmic Toast: To Whom It May Concern, by Grant Wilkins ; Groundling: On Apology, by Jennifer Baker ; SONGS FROM THE DEMENTIA SUITCASE, Karen Massey ; edgeless : letters, by rob mclennan ; Bridges under the Water, by Jérôme Melançon ; Where there's smoke, by Monty Reid ; {NANCY} [an essay on Nancy Shaw], by Jamie Hilder ; LALIQUE, by George Bowering and Artie Gold ; Bits and Bobs, two stories by Ryan Stearne ; Report from the (Pearl) Pirie Society, Vol. 1 No. 1 ; errand : towards, by Brad Vogler ; Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal] #38 ; Simple Location, by Andrew Gorin ; “Almost Alive” by Julia Drescher ; ECHOES, by Ken Norris ; Toothache, by Joseph Donato ; What started / this mess, Samuel Ace ; BIRD SNOW ON HARD TRACKS, Stuart Ross ; Apogee/Perigee, Leesa Dean ; Report from the (Nikki) Reimer Society, Vol 1. No. 1, edited by rob mclennan ; When a Folk, When a Sprawl, Jessi MacEachern ; Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal] #37, with new poems by Micah Ballard, Robert Hogg, Ben Meyerson, Leigh Chadwick, Junie Désil, Devon Rae, kevin mcpherson eckhoff and Kimberly Dyck, Benjamin Niespodziany and Barbara Tomash ; G U E S T [a journal of guest editors] #26, guest-edited by Adam Katz, with new work by alex benedict, Marc E. Christmas, Adam Katz and Ron Silliman ; NOISE, Jordan Davis ; Report from the (Jessica) Smith Society, Vol 1. No. 1, edited by rob mclennan ; LEARNING HOW TO TALK, Nick Chhoeun ; Night Protest, Ben Jahn ; Poor Rutebeuf, Translated by William Vallières ; tattered sails (after un coup de des), second printing, Derek Beaulieu ; WAVE 1.0, Isabel Sobral Campos ; P E S T / (Zion Offramp 65-70), Mark Scroggins ; The Alta Vista Improvements, rob mclennan ; Report from the (Brenda) Iijima Society, Vol 1. No. 1, edited by rob mclennan ; genesis, Laura Walker ; In Which Archibald Lampman / Translates Arthur Rimbaud, Grant Wilkins ; Report from the (Amish) Trivedi Society, Vol 1. No. 1, edited by rob mclennan ; DEAR NOSTALGIA, Nathanael O’Reilly ; Perfumer’s Organ, by Lindsey Webb ; Something or Other, by Jason Heroux ; TAKE IT DOWN, by Barbara Henning ; G U E S T #25, edited by Laurie Anne Fuhr ; Touch the Donkey #36 ; The Peter F Yacht Club #31 "The Factory Reading Series 30th anniversary" issue / edited by rob mclennan ; ONTARIO HYDRO, by Derek Beaulieu ;

That’s more than one hundred titles! This list obviously includes issues of the quarterly Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal], the occasional and guest-edited G U E S T [a journal of guest editors], the Report from the Society festschrift titles, and chapbooks in the above/ground press prose/naut series; all titles available while supplies last (obviously), although everything listed above is (at this point of writing, at least) all still very much in print; and you know I’m also completely open to backdating a 2024 above/ground press subscription, yes? I mean, that's a pretty remarkable deal.

To order, send cheques (as well as your list of preferred titles; add $3 for postage; in US, add $5; outside North America, add $11) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at at rob_mclennan (at) hotmail.com or the PayPal button at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

and don't forget to order copies of groundwork: The best of the third decade of above/ground press: 2013–2023 (Invisible Publishing, 2023)! and tickets are already available for the 31st anniversary reading/launch/party at RedBird on August 10, 2024! a full list of readers will be announced soon!


with further forthcoming 2024 titles by Carter Mckenzie, Maxwell Gontarek, Carlos A. Pittella, Conal Smiley, Ian FitzGerald, Nate Logan, Peter Jaeger, Noah Berlatsky, ryan fitzpatrick, russell carisse, JoAnna Novak, Chris Banks, Julia Cohen, Carlos A. Pittella, Mahaila Smith, Andrew Brenza, Mckenzie Strath, John Levy, alex benedict, Helen Hajnoczky, Ryan Skrabalak, MAC Farrant, Terri Witek and David Phillips! Oh, and Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal] #42 lands soon as well! Gadzooks! that is very exciting, yes?

Monday, July 8, 2024

new from above/ground press: The Literary Cow Festival, by M.A.C. Farrant

The Literary Cow Festival
M.A.C. Farrant
$5

1.    Cow Satori

We believe cows experience eternity by living in a perpetual now.  Doing so, they achieve a kind of grace, an unintended cow satori.  
           And they are so unlike ourselves today, driving through rain to get the weekly eggs while worrying about Barbara.  Will she invite us to her annual party, which is catered and includes live music and clowns on stilts?  Or will we, once again, be left off the list?  
           We know it is remiss of us to dwell on Barbara and allow our well being to be tied to her in this way. We know there is the whole of life to inhabit, one that includes people who are not Barbara, and also the “myriad things” that are rumoured to be out there—blades of grass, tree bark, small bugs, worms, clouds, and the like.
           But if by some miracle we are invited to Barbara’s party, I will wear my sequined dress and matching neon red lipstick.  You, your pink and yellow dancing shoes.
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
as the twenty-fifth title in above/ground’s prose/naut imprint
July 2024
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

M.A.C. Farrant
is the author of over twenty books (fiction, non-fiction, prose miniatures, memoirs), chapbooks and plays. She has published nine books with Talon; the tenth, the Expanded 20th Anniversary Edition of her memoir, My Turquoise Years, will appear in the late summer of 2024. She lives on Vancouver Island.

https://talonbooks.com/authors/mac-farrant

This is Farrant's second title with above/ground press, after SOME OF THE PUZZLES (2021).

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at rob_mclennan (at) hotmail.com or the PayPal button at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Cary Fagan reviews Lydia Unsworth's These Steady Bulbs (2024) at Word Music


Toronto writer (and above/ground press author) Cary Fagan was good enough to provide the first review for Lydia Unsworth's These Steady Bulbs (2024) over at his Word Music blog. Thanks so much! You can read the original post here.
When I was a kid, so long ago now, we played unsupervised from evening into dark. We hid in back yards, ran from garden to garden, picked up fallen pears from a neighbour’s tree and hurled them at the rare passing car. That time came back to me as I read These Steady Bulbs, a text that both offers and withholds meaning–somewhat in the manner of childhood itself.

The English poet Lydia Unsworth (above/ground is a rare Canadian chapbook press to have an international list of authors) has an interesting premise here. Her book, as she explains in a note, is a response to Ian Waite’s Middlefield: A postwar council estate in time, which I gather is a sociological/cultural study of British subsidized housing. She tells us that “the concerns and nostalgia are in part abstracted,” although I admit to being uncertain as to what exactly this means. The sequence of prose poemns is presented as a looking backwards into childhood, as a visit to places once intimately known, as an attempt to find and understand the past. It is certainly nostalgic, if not warmly so. It is as much exhumation as recollection.

Can anyone else see these streets, their buried gods, the blood from our shins like shadows in gravel, these graves?

Somewhere out-of-focus were the adults, uninterested in such spaces as the empty lot that drew them:

And the adults, they didn’t disobey the signage or peek over walls designed expressly to keep them out. Nothing for them to see but their imagination, creased and left to rot. Wild fear, rumour, grey flowing capes half-seen and blinked away. We lied and camped wherever it looked soft enough. Metal bridges, leftover streams, fat wet furniture, mossy and bright. We wanted rain in our shoes, we wanted to smell damp like the soil of the planet.

This is rather overwrought language, appropriate for an adult reliving the intensity of collective childhood experience. These were places were the dangers were felt, if vague and unnamed, making them all the more exciting. When the poet says “We didn’t want to go home (we never wanted to go home)” it isn’t hard to wonder whether home is now, for the adult looking back, a place that simply can’t be entered anymore.

The voice of these poems is oddly passionate and alienated at the same time. It isn’t always easy to say why one sentences follows another. Near the end we are told that “Everything is here for the taking” but this feels more like a past, a memory, a fiction that has us in its grip whether we like it or not.


Friday, July 5, 2024

new from above/ground press: By the Shores of Issyk-Kul, by Helen Hajnoczky

By the Shores of Issyk-Kul
Helen Hajnoczky
$5


What use is faith
for a faithful woman?
What use is belief
for the believer?

Taken from the valley
where they last laid down their heads—

Taken from the valley
where the pestilence consumed them—

Where they took their final breaths.



In the shadow of the foothills—
exhumed from their graves—

With what regard
for their mourners,
their friends, their kin?

With what regard for
whoever it was who so carefully
carved their names?

With what regard for
whoever carved
their last confession of faith?
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
July 2024
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy


cover image: Holbein d. J.; Danse Macabre. XXXII. The Count

Helen Hajnoczky is the author of the poetry books Frost & Pollen, Magyarázni, and Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising. She can be found on Instagram @ateacozyisasometimes and online at ateacozyisasometimes.com.

This is Hajnoczky’s fifth chapbook with above/ground press, after A history of button collecting (2010), The Double Bind Dictionary (2013), No Right on Red (2017) and a grain of sand (2021). Report from the Hajnoczky Society, Vol 1. No. 1, appeared in 2022.

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at rob_mclennan (at) hotmail.com or the PayPal button at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 4, 2024

The Factory Reading Series, July 22, 2024: Clint Burnham + Chris Turnbull,

The Factory Reading Series Presents:
readings by:
Clint Burnham (Vancouver)
+
Chris Turnbull (Kemptville)
lovingly hosted by rob mclennan
Monday, July 22, 2024
Doors 6:30pm / Reading 7:00pm

Ten Toes Coffee House and Laundry
837 Somerset Street West (at Rochester Street,


Clint Burnham was born in Comox and lives in Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish territories. Recent books include The Goldberg Variations (New Star, 2024), White Lie (Anvil, 2021), and Pound @ Guantánamo (Talon, 2016). He teaches at Simon Fraser University and just got back from a hike. above/ground press recently published The Old Man: new stories (2024) in the "prose/naut" series.

Chris Turnbull is the author of cipher (Beautiful Outlaw Press 2024), [ untitled ] in o w n (CUE Books 2014), and Continua (Chaudiere Books 2015). Her poetry chapbooks, collaborations, and installation pieces are in print, online, and within landscapes. She curates a footpress, rout/e, whereby poetry can be found on trails (www.etuor.wordpress.com).

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Catherine Marcotte reviews Cary Fagan's Fifty-Two Lines About Henry (2024) at The Miramichi Reader

Kingston, Ontario-based reader, editor and writer Catherine Marcotte was good enough to provide the first review for Cary Fagan's Fifty-Two Lines About Henry (2024) over at The Miramichi Reader. Thanks so much! You can read the original post here.
Mourning favourite colours, cooking for dachshunds, and feeding birds gummi-worms: these are the kind of adventures that animate Cary Fagan’s charming new chapbook, Fifty-Two Lines About Henry.

Faithful to its title, this fifty-two-line collection is a fragmented look into the strange and whimsical life of a man named Henry. His is a tale of misplaced energies, unlikely luck, and lasting anxieties about anything from flag-raising and hat-wearing to door-slamming.

And as these small, out of context stories multiply and expand, clarifying our sense of our protagonist, the book ultimately reminds that no one line can aptly convey the absurdity of human life.

Although Henry contemplates dancing to calm an enraged bear, orders enough sardines to fill two bedrooms – I hope they’re canned – and writes an 861-page chapter to a novel, his unlikely battles remain rooted in a world well-recognized where neighbours are suspicious, dinner parties are taxing, and things learned at school are revealed to be alternately fateful (the sousaphone, surprisingly) and superfluous (trigonometry).

Punctuated by unexpected guests like a thorn-ridden lion and existential questions about littering, Fagan’s work engages the surreal and the hyperreal to lay bare the unknowability of life’s many moments. And as these small, out of context stories multiply and expand, clarifying our sense of our protagonist, the book ultimately reminds that no one line can aptly convey the absurdity of human life: “My life, he said into the dark, can’t be reduced to a single line.” A funny, heartfelt ride, Fifty-Two Lines About Henry is a fast-paced, witty, and undeniably charming meditation on the many thoughts and feelings that populate our strange, unknowable days.