I don’t know much about poet Riley Tench, who died in November 2006 before I’d heard his name. I know that he was a member of the Peterborough Poets of the 1970s with the likes of Michael Dennis, Maggie Helwig, Dennis Tourbin, Ward Maxwell, Richard Harrison, and others. I know that he became an Ottawa-transplant with contemporary Michael Dennis, and was active in the writing, performing, and small press communities here in the 1980s. There is a Riley Tench Poetry Bursary at Trent, where many of the Peterborough Poets mets. Some further context is available in rob mclennan’s profiles of Michael Dennis here and here. I’d like to know more about him, and hopefully this post will prompt those who knew him to share memories and information.
This post comes from a publication of Tench’s that Michael Dennis gifted to me: Printed Poetry. There is virtually zero bibliographical information on Tench in the world, so I thought I would document Printed Poetry here to rectify this in some small way, and also to document a piece of Ottawa’s literary history that receives little attention.
I should say at this juncture that I am posting photographs of Printed Poetry with respect for Riley Tench’s work, and out of a desire to make available information on at least this one accomplishment of his. I will happily take down these photos immediately should anyone object to my posting them. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any concerns. Also, please accept my apologies for some of the blurrier photos below.
Printed Poetry, printed in 1984 at Parkinson Printing Ottawa, and designed by papyr tiger product (Tench’s publishing operation), is a remarkably ambitious publication. It is contained in a nondescript blue folder, and is comprised of a number of individual items: Popular Misconception (“a booklet of six poems”), Poetry Product (“an assortment of thirteen poems in three sections: Puzzles, Postcards and Paraphernalia”), and Poems in Print (“a folder of six poems”). These items are printed in a number of ways, from traditionally stapled chapbooks, to spiral bound groups of envelopes, to loose pages gathered in another folder. They are printed on paper, receipt paper, envelopes, cards, and stickers. It demands that the reader take it apart in order to gain access to all of its parts.
Popular Misconception is a stapled chapbook of six poems.
Poetry Product is spiral bound and itself contains three sections: Puzzles, Postcards, and Paraphernalia.
Puzzles are printed on and in an envelope.
Calendar poem is a set of stickers to be affixed to the calendar, presumably writing something coherent but I don’t have the heart to peel the stickers.
An untitled piece is printed on piece of paper intended to be torn apart and rearranged into a poem.
The final puzzle has a list of sources, possibly intended to be matched to the lines in the poems contained within?
Small concrete poems occupy the space between Puzzles and Postcards.
Postcards is a set of three individual postcards (in duplicate). The doubles are perhaps to allow you to keep a set and to send one away.
Each includes the note, “Postcard Poetry – Make and Send Your Own.”
Paraphernalia is an envelope that must be torn open. My copy was already torn open, thankfully, or I likely would have done so myself.
There is a small sticker:
A small folded piece of card stock:
A poem printed on transfer receipt paper:
Another concrete poem on what appears to be a window decal:
And two poems that I believe must have had pieces that were torn off in order to read them:
Finally, Poems in Print is a folder containing six poems gathered together loosely.
I recently published a chapbook by Ben Ladouceur through Apt. 9 Press using a similar design idea to this, and realize now that I must have absorbed the idea from Tench’s item when Michael gave it to me a few years ago.
There is also a small card with some acknowledgements.
It is a truly remarkable collection of poem-objects, and makes me curious about what Tench’s other publications might have looked like. What other books, or book-like items, are out there?
I have three large broadsides containing work by a number of poets, also gifted by Michael Dennis, from “papyr tiger product” that show some other dimensions of Tench’s range as a publisher and designer.