Ottawa Small Press Book Fair (October 2013)

Some very preliminary notes on a few of the items I brought home from the recent small press book fair. I haven’t had much time to devote to reading through all of this yet, but I wanted to post some initial thoughts and responses while the fair was fresh in my mind. So:


Grow & Grow (Toronto)

Jessica Bebenek came to town with her brand new Toronto-based small press, Grow & Grow. Apt. 9 traded some of our books for the three new titles Bebenek published: Infiltration by Ben Groh, Consanguinity from S.E. Chaves, and Novella: A Short Story by Kaz Adam Mason. Benebek read from Novella at the pre-fair reading. The story was actually written by Bebenek’s partner, Mark Jordan Manner. It describes a love story between its supposed author, Kaz Adam Mason, and fictional poet, Novella Ebony Danger, charting the imagined life of Novella and quoting from her poems. The chapbook includes a smaller chapbook in a flap on the back cover of Novella’s poems, written by Bebenek. It’s a captivating read, despite how confusing my description is. The story feels to me as though Wes Anderson retold Paul Hiebert’s Sarah Binks, though more earnest than Hiebert. I have not yet had time to read the Chaves or Groh titles (Grow & Grow published Groh? The review would write itself), but it is always exciting to discover new communities of young writers that are finding ways to publish each other. Grow & Grow are working hard to push themselves as book makers, and the time and care invested are evident in these productions. Support them! I’m looking forward to seeing where the press goes.




Puddles of Sky (Kingston)

The best item I picked up last weekend was issue three of Illiterature from Michael Casteels’ Puddles of Sky. Casteels has been making interesting books in interesting ways for a couple years now, but this is far and away the best thing his press has done (and one of the best little magazine issues I’ve seen in years). This issue is focused on minimalist poetry, presenting new work from Nelson Ball, Gary Barwin, Judith Copithorne, jwcurry, Amanda Earl, Aram Saroyan, Mark Truscott, and others. In a nod to bpNichol’s The Cosmic Chef, authors are not identified beside their work, but rather only at the back where their bios include notes about who wrote what. This gesture makes for a fun reading experience. I was surprised by who I guessed correctly, and who I was completely wrong about. There are concrete poems here, minimal lyrics, drawings, letraset experiments, and photographs of graffiti from jwcurry’s ongoing Welcome to Concrete anthology (at least I think that is what the photographs are from). There is even a tiny chapbook of visual work by Amanda Earl tucked into an envelope at the back. Only 100 copies were made, so don’t hesitate. You want this on your shelf.




Jarvis, Jenna. The Tiger with the Crooked Mouth. Ottawa: Bywords, 2013.

Jenna Jarvis, winner of 2012 John Newlove Poetry Award, will be launching her winning chapbook next Friday at the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival. The good folks at Bywords brought along copies of the chapbook to sell in advance at the book fair. I’ve only been able to dip in and out of this one a bit so far, but it is wonderful as we have all come to expect from Jarvis. The production is gorgeous, and continues the Bywords trend of producing beautiful chapbooks. I remember hearing Jarvis read “Plathitude” (published in the chapbook) years ago at an In/Words open-mic, and it is incredibly exciting to see her beginning to move into the broader community. She is a poet to keep an eye on, and Bywords, as ever, is there being supportive at the very start.



Derkson, Dalton and Mason Krawczyk. Winter Sway / / Ottawa Dreary. Mortlach, SK: Hurtin’ Crue Press, 2013.

Though the press is supposedly located in the prairies, Derkson and Krawczyk are students at Carleton University. I’ve got a soft spot for student writers on that campus, and I was thrilled to find this chapbook at the fair. I’m one of the biggest In/Words fans out there, but I’m excited to find work being published outside of the In/Words machine on the campus. The clean, minimal production on this one is great, and the poems show a lot of promise. The nature of the collaboration is not identified in the book, so it is anyone’s guess if the two trade off poems or lines, or worked more closely than that, but I like the move to allow their voices to mix. I hope they keep at it, and I hope Hurtin’ Crue Press publishes more.



Hunter, Claire Pattison and Chris Johnson. Snail Shell. Ottawa: In/Words, 2013.

This collaboration between Hunter and Johnson feels like an extension of Hunter’s 2013 chapbook GCI-YOW (From Guernsey to Ottawa), also published by In/Words. The movement between cities, and across an ocean, is again taken up, only this time in an almost epistolary dialogue. The poems are identified on each page by the poet’s initial, but the “CRJ” and “CPH” are printed in a small font, out of the way, resulting in a reading experience where the author is moved to the margins and the poems emphasize their internal relations to one another. It was published for Ottawa’s recent zine-off, an event I was sad to miss, so I was really happy to be able to grab this at the fair. The cover was printed with the same rubber stamps In/Words used years ago to produce Chapbook Series 8 (discussed in detail by Ben Ladouceur here), creating a neat material continuity with In/Words’ past. Johnson read recently at Plan 99, and lived up to the stakes of the billing. Claire Pattison Hunter recently left Ottawa after completing her degree at Carleton, and our scene is sorry to lose her, but we all know that she’ll make great contributions to whatever new community she finds. If they’re not all gone by now, buy this one.



Radmore, Claudia. Desiree / nude in sunlight. Ottawa: Editions des petits nuages, 2013.

I’ve had the great joy of working with Claudia Coutu Radmore in the past, publishing her 2011 bpNichol Chapbook Award winning title Accidentals through Apt. 9. I’m an avid follower of her work, and was thrilled to see that she was publishing a selection of her poems about Desiree, the “Green-Naped Rainbow Lorikeet” that has been living with her since 2001. These are lovely and personal poems from Radmore, a welcome addition to her published work. Two similar poems, “wild” and “sacrament”, also about Desiree, were published in 2010 in Pith & Wry: Canadian Poetry (ed. Susan McMaster). I was lucky enough to be in that anthology as well, and remember those as some of the first poems from Claudia that caught my eye. Editions des petits nuages is new to me (and I can’t find a formal web presence yet), but are evidently doing great work.



Published by Cameron Anstee

Cameron Anstee lives and writes in Ottawa ON where he runs Apt. 9 Press and is pursuing a PhD in English Literature at the University of Ottawa.

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