Excerpts from Impossible Books: The Crawdad Cantos
by Stephen Brockwell
above/ground press, 8.5×5.5, 20pp, $4.00 (CAN)
published, February 2012
Sextet: six poems from Songs for little sleep,
by rob mclennan
above/ground press, 8.5×5.5, 20pp, $4.00 (CAN)
published, January 2012
Reviewed by Mark McCawley
The quintessential poet’s micro-press, above/ground press — founded and published by poet, writer, and editor Rob McLennan out of Ottawa, Ontario — publishes chapbooks by both newly emerging and established poets alike. What makes above/ground press titles stand apart from other micro-press poetry chapbooks (besides their nondescript covers, that is) is that they offer the reader glimpses into collaborations as well as individual works in progress. It’s these glimpses which above/ground gives that makes their titles unique, revealing the process of the poet’s composition, their collaborations, as each waltz’s their muse along the thin razor’s edge of creation.
In let lie\, an excerpt from a collaborative work by Elizabeth Rainer and Michael Blouin, we are given glimpses into pieces which were written over a period of a year and a half and emailed back and forth:
to describe it\ I should not ask you when you touch yourself to think of me as I am there no probably this is the very type of thing I should keep to myself that and this is the failure of poetry to do you any kind of justice at all light tapping of my heart punching holes in the sky.
it would be\ nice for me if you were someone else for a change someone who didn’t know me so well my tremors hopes then when we were making love it would all be different once more your ankles up around and there wouldn’t be that look on your face him, again.
Here, Rainer and Blouin successfully combine masculine and feminine language and metaphor in an ongoing collaboration which mixes and juxtaposes contrasting identities into a string of textual and contextual and allegorical narratives.
Stephen Brockwell’s Excerpts from Impossible Books: The Crawdad Cantos is the latest installment of Brockwell’s ongoing work-in-progress. At times pithy, sometimes brilliant, Brockwell’s poems run the entire gamut in this ongoing project. For instance, both this chapbook and the following poem’s self-deprecating dark humor reveals Brockwell at his poetic height:
“Brockwell, you’re a fool, thrilled by a sunset
‘beyond words.’ The sunset is beyond; but
beyond words? No. Words for it outpace you.
God bless impala words you’ll never speak.”
Here’s what I posted — you can slag it too:
Watched gorgeous sunset from window on flight
to LAX. Beyond words. Tried anyway.
“from Messages from Imaginary Friends: Karikura and the Inarticulate Sunset”
Lastly, there is the controlled musicality and the experimental narrative quality in rob mclennan’s Sextet: six poems from Songs for little sleep, which draws the reader inside by using repeated phrasings of short sentences and brief staccato rhythms:
The gathering place of something, we. I can’t recall. It was I who called, who called, who.
Watch the moon, full, you must. You must, we. We are watching the full moon, full of something. Was full, of only, possibly ourselves. Only full.
We were watching the moon we were.
from “The learning curve that sometimes manages, itself”
All three of these titles offer varying glimpses of excerpts, collaborations, and works-in-progress not found elsewhere by poets just reaching the height of their craft. In these above/ground press chapbooks they practice a high wire literary act. Sometimes failing. More often than not, though, succeeding brilliantly. It takes guts to write without a net, and particularly to publish those early efforts for all to see. Guts, indeed.
To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada add $2)
c/o rob mclennan
402 McLeod St. #3
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1A6
or paypal at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com
For more information, contact rob at:
rob mclennan was born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, and rob currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent titles are the poetry collections Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011), kate street (Moira, 2011), 52 flowers (or, a perth edge) – an essay on Phil Hall – (Obvious Epiphanies Press, 2010) and wild horses (University of Alberta Press, 2010) and a second novel, missing persons (The Mercury Press, 2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review (ottwater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com), and has edited numerous collections for Chaudiere Books, Insomniac Press, Black Moss Press, Broken Jaw Press and Vehicule Press, and, in June 2010, a special “Canadian issue” of the Swiss online pdf poetry journal Dusie. He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com. He is currently working to complete another novel or two, a collection of short short stories, and a post-mother creative non-fiction work entitled The Last Good Year.
Stephen Brockwell runs the small business http://www.brockwellit.com/company/. He spent the first half of his life in Montreal, and the second half in Ottawa. Where he will spend the third half is uncertain. His poetry collections include The Wire in Fences (Balmuir Book Publishing), The Cometology, and Fruitfly Geographic (which won the Archibald Lampman Award), The Real Made Up (ECW Press), and Excerpts from Impossible Books, The Crawdad Cantos (above/ground press).
Michael Blouin‘s critically acclaimed first novel Chase and Haven (Coach House) was a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and won the 2009 ReLit Award. In 2007 his first collected poetry I’m not going to lie to you (Pedlar Press) was a finalist for the Lampman Scott Award. In 2011 Pedlar Press released Wore Down Trust which has garnered excellent national and international reviews. He was a finalist for the 2010 CBC Literary Awards and his work has been published in many literary magazines including Descant, Arc, The Antigonish Review, Event, Queen’s Quarterly, The New Quarterly, and The Fiddlehead. He is currently completing work on his second novel.
Elizabeth Rainer was born in British Columbia but currently makes her home in Kingston, Ontario. She is a visual artist and writer with a degree in Fine Arts. Let Lie\ is her first published chapbook. Her online home and personal gallery of finished work and projects in progress (literary and visual) can be found at www.wordrocket.tumblr.com.