Kemeny Babineau | “A Poem of Days”

I received a package in the mail from poet, bookseller, and publisher of Laurel Reed Books Kemeny Babineau yesterday. It contained a new publication of his, A Poem of Days, “a cycle of journal entries” written between January 7 2013 and January 15 2014. It is a lovely production, with a handstamped cover in the jwcurry-vein and the typical Laurel Reed habit of stapling loose pages on the top of the book.

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The book is a series of short poems, dedicated to “Nelson and you” (Nelson Ball, presumably, a close friend, mentor, and almost-neighbour of Babineau’s), that ruminate on changing seasons, language, poetry, the landscape of farmland surrounding Babineau’s home in Mt. Pleasant ON, gardening, time, and other pieces of daily minutiae.

Late in the book, one finds the following poem:

What is

the social value in this

:

Solitary musings

made quietly public?

A Poem of Days follows Babineau’s tendency to produce small editions of his own work, seemingly when the mood strikes, and distributing that work to peers in the small press world. This poem struck me immediately. It articulates the insecurity faced by all artists at some point (at many points, really) in a writing life (or whatever chosen medium). It also reflects the specifics of Babineau’s small press practice, the act of making something “quietly public” by printing a small edition (A Poem of Days is numbered /33), and distributing it in the great gift-economy tradition of the small press to those who you think will take the time to read it closely and carefully and engage with it.

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It prompted me to pull my other Kemeny Babineau items off the shelf, a small number of chapbooks, the majority published by Laurel Reed, as well as one from above/ground and a trade collection from BookThug. Reading through them, it occurred to me that the only one that I paid for was as part of my subscription to above/ground press (subscribe!). The rest, Kemeny simply sent to me. I have sent him some of my work over the years, as well as the work of others I published through Apt. 9 Press, and have similarly received back books by others that he published through Laurel Reed. I have met Kemeny at book fairs, and visited his beautiful, book-and-art-filled home once with Nelson Ball.

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Sitting with my small stack of his work, I’m left feeling that I have never adequately expressed to him my admiration for his writing, his publishing, and his book selling labour (another matter altogether beyond the scope of this right now; but go buy some of his books! He has great small press stuff!). He was supportive and encouraging when I was starting out, and treats me today as a peer. His writing is loose and experimental, ranging across lyrics, narratives, concrete, constraint-based work, erasure, and on and on.

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Training for Hell (Laurel Reed Books, 2012) is in the tradition of poets documenting train journeys, in this case as an outlet for the frustration of the poet listening to the people around him, driving him to despair. His trade collection, After the 6ix O’Clock News (BookThug, 2009), demonstrates the range of his work describes above, including concrete poems, deeply-affecting lyrics, the erasure project “VDB Wordlist,” and plenty of other things. Shortcuts (Laurel Reed, 2010) is a set of minimal poems that delight in individual words and sounds. After Progress (above/ground press, 2012) includes this lovely poem for Barbara Caruso:

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He publishes the occasional little magazine The New Chief Tongue that is as varied and exciting as his own work (recent issues published David Groulx, Nelson Ball, Gregory Betts, Derek Beaulieu, John Barlow, Louise Bak, bill bissett and others).

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The authors he publishes through Laurel Reed are similarly wide-ranging. Daniel f. Bradley’s Chortling American Show Goo is a book of flarf poems. He published work that will be included in two of the upcoming Fall trade titles from Chaudiere Books, including Amanda Earl’s Kiki (2010), and Monty Reid’s In the Garden (2010). (Speaking of which, have you donated to their indiegogo campaign yet? Go do that!). I have Laurel Reed items from Nelson Ball, George Bowering, Jay MillAr, and others. He also recently published A Christmas Foible by bpNichol. His backlist is deep and is worth a look. The Laurel Reed website that used to be up seems to be down now, which is a shame, but I bet he has a list available if you write to him.

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Perhaps I am betraying the personal basis of the small press gift-economy by saying these things publicly. I hope not. Little comes up when you search for Kemeny, and I wanted to leave a small mark. Buy his stuff when you see it, and send him some of your own. Maybe you’ll get a package back with a nice note, and you’ll be keeping the whole ungainly-but-satisfying enterprise going for at least a few more days.

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Kemeny, thanks for all the books! I read them, and enjoy them tremendously, and I’ll keep sending you books as I make them.

Roman Feuilleton | Michèle Provost

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I am delighted to be taking part in Michèle Provost’s upcoming show, Roman Feuilleton, a “promotional campaign for a series of literary works” based on “a surrealist text which Provost herself has composed out of lines from four of Québec’s literary landmarks; Anne Hébert’s Kamouraska, Michel Tremblay’s La grosse femme d’à côté est enceinte, Réjean Ducharme’s L’avalée des avalés, and Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel, by Marie-Claire Blais.”

The show opens on Friday June 13, 2014, at Centre d’exposition L’Imagier in Gatineau, with a vernissage at 6pm followed by a poetry reading at 8pm. I will be a part of the poetry reading, reading new work based on Michèle’s text. It was a fun challenge to work solely with Michèle’s words, which were themselves taken and translated from the initial four novels. My set of poems, titled “Elsewhere”, take their cue from Barbara Godard’s argument that “the partial inclusion of Quebec literary works within the field of English-Canadian cultural production decontextualizes and refracts them: a few works are admitted to inoculate the field against difference, against alterity, but not enough to effect real change” (“A Literature in the Making: Rewriting and the Dynamism of the Cultural Field”).

Other poets reading include Christian Bouchard, Monique Desnoyers, Amanda Earl, Guy Jean, Glenn Nuotio, Pearl Pirie, Carmel Purkis, Sandra Ridley & Grant Wilkins.

Hope to see you there!

ROMAN FEUILLETON Press Release

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William Hawkins Bibliography | Happy Birthday, Bill!

Happy Birthday, William Hawkins! 74 years old today!

In honour, I am attaching a bibliography that I have been compiling gradually over the last few years. It expands on the descriptive bibliography published through Apt. 9 Press a few years ago. This includes a number of individual items not included in that first effort, as well as a comprehensive bibliography of magazine publications (well, “comprehensive”; undoubtedly things are missing).

William Hawkins – Bibliography – May 2014

Bill’s bibliography is rich with interesting visuals. To expand a bit on the file posted above, I am including photographs of a number of these items below.

Books

Shoot Low Sheriff, They’re Riding Shetland Ponies! with Roy MacSkimming. Ottawa: [n.p.], 1964.

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Two Longer Poems: the Seasons of Miss Nicky by Harry Howith and Louis Riel by William Hawkins. Toronto: Patrician Press, 1965.

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Hawkins: Poems 1963-1965. Ottawa: Nil Press, 1966.

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Ottawa Poems. Kitchener: Weed/Flower Press, 1966.

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The Gift of Space: Selected Poems 1960/1970. Toronto: new press, 1971.

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The Madman’s War. Ottawa: S.A.W. Publication, 1974.

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Dancing Alone: Selected Poems. Fredericton: Broken Jaw Press (Cauldron Books 5), 2005.

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the black prince of bank street. Ottawa: above/ground press, 2007.

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Sweet & Sour Nothings. Ottawa: Apt. 9 Press, 2010.

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Broadsides

“Postage Stamps.” Ottawa: Nil Press, [1962].

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“Thinking of Cobwebs, for Nelson Ball.” Ottawa: 1cent #362, 2005.

“King Kong Meets Godzilla.” Ottawa: above/ground press broadside #318, 2013.

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Anthologies

New Wave Canada: The New Explosion in Canadian Poetry. Toronto: Contact Press, 1966.

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Modern Canadian Verse. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1967.

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Poetry of Relevance. Toronto: Methuen, 1970.

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Northern Comfort. Ottawa: Commoner’s Press, 1973.

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Ground Rules: the best of the second decade of above/ground press. Ottawa: Chaudiere Books, 2013.

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Other Items

Christopher’s Movie Matinee. National Film Board of Canada, 1968.

Dancing Alone: The Songs of William Hawkins. True North Records, 2008.

The Children. Time Capsule: The Unreleased 1960’s Masters. True North Records, 2013.

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Some Further [1960s & 1970s] Coach House

Some further titles not included on last week’s list.

Coleman, Victor. Light Verse. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1969.

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Colour photographs tipped in throughout.

Gist, T. Kenneth. Night. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1972.

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“Printed in Canada on Canadian Paper.”

Nations, Opal L. Stabbed to Death with Artificial Respiration. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1977.

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“A Surrealist Detective Story.”

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Ondaatje, Michael. Rat Jelly. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1973.

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Webb, Phyllis. Wilson’s Bowl. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1980.

This one is less radical in terms of design (and we’re into 1980 now), but I love the blue wrappers hidden under the dust jacket repeating the image from the cover.

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Some [1960s & 1970s] Coach House

Photos of a selection of visually-interesting Coach House items from the first decade or so of the life of the press that I am lucky enough to have copies of, in alphabetical order.

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Proof of Barbara Caruso print from the cover of Nelson Ball’s The Pre-Linguistic Heights in the background.

Some history of the renowned press can be found here, including a video tour of the space with Stan Bevington. There is little I can say about the accomplishments of Coach House in terms of the aesthetic book-objects that they produced in the early years that hasn’t already been said by someone more articulate than I. This post is a simple visual acknowledgement of the beauty of the work they brought into the world of Canadian small press.

Ball, Nelson. The Pre-Linguistic Heights. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1970.

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Coleman, Victor. One Eye Love. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1967.

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“PRINTED IN CANADA BY MINDLESS ACID FREAKS”

Cull, David. Cancer Rising. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1970.

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Drawings by Elizabeth Cull.

Davey, Frank. Weeds. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1970.

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McCaffery, Steve. Ow’s Waif. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1975.

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Endpapers.

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McFadden, David. Poems Worth Knowing. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1971.

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bpNichol. Two Novels. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1969. [Second Edition Pictured].

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Ondaatje, Michael. The Dainty Monsters. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1967.

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Phillips, David. The Dream Outside. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1967.

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Rosenblatt, Joe. The LSD Leacock. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1966. [Second Printing pictured]

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Wah, Fred. Among. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1972.

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A pair of international writers:

cobbing, bob. bill jubobe: selected texts of bob cobbing 1942-1975. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1976.

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Warsh, Lewis. Part of My History. Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1972.

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Cover by Joe Brainard.

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And as a little bonus, two House of Anansi titles (both of which one the Governor General’s Award) that were designed and printed at Coach House (see Stephen Cain’s dissertation, “Imprinting Identities: An Examination of the Emergence and Developing Identities of Coach House Press and House of Anansi Press (1967-1982) for further discussion of the relation between the two operations).

Bowering, George. The Gangs of Cosmos. Toronto: House of Anansi, 1969.

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Ondaatje, Michael. The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-Handed Poems. Toronto: House of Anansi, 1970.

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Like many, I buy these when I see them. It is striking today, pulling them down from the shelves all together, to note that each of these titles is by a male writer. I don’t see too many women listed in the early years from Coach House in Tweny/20. I’m not sure how Anansi fared along these lines.

 

Crad Kilodney (1948-2014)

Crad Kilodney, (in)famous Canadian fiction writer and street-bookseller, died yesterday. I know Crad’s work, and I know stories about Crad, but I never knew him personally and never made direct contact with him.

Like many of my generation (I suspect), I first encountered his name in Stuart Ross’s Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer. While describing his own adventures selling self-published books on the streets of Toronto, Ross invoked Crad: “Crad Kilodney, the grandfather of literary street vendors, got me into this. During his 15 years on a the street, he sold 35,000 books of his demented fiction, making him one of Canada’s top-selling literary writers. A misanthrope to begin with, he became increasingly bitter and angry over those years” (34).

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News that Crad was unwell spread over the past few months, and some that knew him well began posting short memoirs of Crad. Stuart Ross and Jay MillAr posted two that were particularly thoughtful and honest about Crad’s influence and legacy. [Update: There is now a new post by Lorette C. Luzajic who was with Crad at the end. Lorette is responsible for The Crad Kilodney Literary Foundation and has written on him in two of her books.]

In December, a story was posted on Crad’s website, announced on his Facebook page with the following note: “”Thank you to all my readers, old and new, for your support. This is the last piece I will publish in my lifetime.” The story, “Dreaming With Kay”, is touching and sad and deeply moving.

I am in the process of planning my dissertation chapters. When all is said and done, Crad will make an appearance in chapter five. It is very possible that Crad would have disapproved of this. I can’t find the passage at the moment, but somewhere in one of his books on my shelf Crad wonders if someday an academic will attempt to make a name for him or herself off of his work, while he suffers and dies in poverty. This is a contradiction I will confront when I arrive at it.

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What I do know is that Crad did something remarkable standing on the street with his books and with his placards. His critical gesture was emphatically public. For close to two decades he subsisted on a minuscule income garnered from selling a handful of his own books each day. In Putrid Scum, one of his two novels based on his street-bookselling experiences, he writes, “The whole premise of standing on the street was to be accessible to anyone who was interested, and to find my readers one at a time by letting them find me” (148). There is an openness and generosity and courage embodied in this, even though the experience itself often gave way to bitterness and frustration. In Excrement, the other novel about his experiences, he describes standing with his books in public, “bodily before a passing population of nitwits, illiterates, snobs, degenerates, mental cases, stiffs, creeps, assholes, phones, scumbags, cheapskates, and self-styled critics [understanding] my true position in the world, as well as the inconsequentiality of the poor little bundle of wood pulp into which [I had] poured all that I was humanly capable of!” (44).

The small press in Canada is richer for Crad Kilodney’s contributions to it.

Update: Moments after posting this, The Crad Kilodney Literary Foundation was launched.

Kilodney