How? Much has fallen through the cracks. Many titles not given their due. My heart to all poets and publishers who continue to maneuver stay afloat these precarious days. Dreams lessened, deferred or lost. One night, we’re welcoming Alice Notley, the next we’re in lockdown. A cherished space of our own, only now to begin anew once things…
This is not how I want to live. Such times.
Am I thrilled two debuts and two new collections that started out as KFB chapbooks made such an enormous splash this year? You bet. That we published our first full-length collection, the first of a new pamphlet series as well as launch two new subscription services and the announcement of a new poetry festival premiering in 2022?
Can she gush over our “Orange Collection?”
Beyond measure. These pockets of inspired joy reach, stir my belly. Cast possible light.
That and your ongoing support, which online continues, such kindnesses, generousities, welcomed and returned.
Want I want to share is what’s been memorable, stayed with me this year, things I’ve returned to, what’s carried me through as you dear poets/readers often do.
No better place to begin than the most memorable read of the year, A. F. Moritz’s As Far As You Know (Anansi Poetry) could it be just a matter of timing? [I think not], a collection reflecting on classic themes of love, loss, aloneness, in search of “O words / of hope and perfecting, forgotten / as soon as made, / reveal your meaning.” A tender forlornness “No word desolate enough / comes to me. No word that cries through the page” still, birds sing “a wonder,” “the world that makes up your body” glimpses of shapes, beauty, “When I lie beside you,” “Dream / dream of the day” the fountain… ceaseless, Al, how your poems meet me here, replenish. Thank you.
Which brings me to another love. C. P. Cavafy, whose longings, dark pleasures and delights are rendered anew in all their brilliant fleshiness by translator/poet Evan P. Jones The Barbarian’s Have Arrived (Carcanet). I will simply restate here what I’ve already said publicly, when first presented with Jones’ translations in an earlier Anstruther Press chapbook, not knowing the source I said, “Who’s channeling Cavafy?” Now, with the full collection, these are the Cavafy I turn to. A sweet thing to fall in love all over again.
An anthology, a first I believe, [and full disclosure, yes, I’m in it] and I know ALL the work that went into putting this together with 15 editors, 85 contributors and 1 visionary publisher (we’ll return to) based upon a online project started/organized by Kathryn Mockler, Watch Your Head is a remarkable [ongoing] achievement, testament of artists responding to the climate crisis. This collection was called into being by Alana Wilcox at Coach House, and anything this ‘big’ could’ve readily skidded off the rails, but the book in hand is a thing of beauty, a mighty sword. [And deserving of far more press/reviews.]
And, may I simply say, “Welcome back, Coach House [poetry]?” Not that you ever really left, but what you managed to put out this year… a must-have Brossard reader, AVANT DESIRE, combined with one of my favourite delights, Sarah Dowling Entering Sappho, along with the much-anticipated [KFB Selects] new Ian Williams Word Problems and a new Babstock (that I simply haven’t gotten to yet, but that cover…) Well done.
Fred Wah‘s essential Music at the Heart of Thinking (Talonbooks) “Improvisations 1 – 170” Marvels every page.
Debuts, a plenty. Topping the list, Stintzi’s Junebat (who along with David Ly know how to promote a book in a pandemic), Jessie Jones The Fool, Cavuto’s Country Poems, Escobar’s Bareback Nightfall, Jessica Abughattas Strip, Benjamin Garcia Thrown in the Throat, along with compelling ‘sophomore’ offerings from Canisia Lubrin, Klara du Plessis, Kate Sutherland, James Lindsay, Annick MacAskill, and Kimberly Alidio. (I’m still in want of a copy of Night Lunch by Mike Chaulk, that, some recent Mawenzi House titles and Dominik Parisien’s Side Effects May Include Strangers).
A few more standouts.
Michael Prior Burning Province (M&S). The most beautiful collection I’ve read this year, in word and deed. “What would you have brought?” the harrowing question that permeates throughout these exquisite elegies. Michael, this book demands a much larger readership and will stay with me forever, thank you.
Similarly, Sachiko Murakami Render (Arsenal Pulp), will never leave me. Deep admiration for a book that accomplishes exactly what it set out to do. Just to be clear. She bows.
Don Mee Choi DMZ COLONY (Wave Poetry) Winner of the National Book Award, brillant follow-up to Hardly War, mixed poetry/prose/photographs/drawings insist/resist.
John Murillo, Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (Four Way Books), “To breathe it in, this boulevard perfume / of beauty shops and roti shacks, to take / in all its funk, calypso, reggaeton, / and soul…”
Two ‘selecteds’ Wanda Coleman Wicked Enchantment “i get scared sometimes / and have to go look into the closet to see if his clothes / are still there” Edited and introduced by Terrance Hayes (Black Sparrow Press). Roxane Gay selecting Lorde (Norton).
Speaking of beauties, (the book in hand kind), Sacha Archer’s Mother’s Milk (Timglaset, you serve the book well), everything published by The Blasted Tree, Kyle Flemmer Purple Rain is a must, and my greatest pleasure, the sublime Dani Spinosa OO: Typewriter Poems (Invisible) never cease to engage/delight.
And John Bevis Letter-Winged Kite (Penteract Press), glorious.
Last, but not least, [simply came of late], Chantal Neveu This Radiant Life translated by Erín Moure (Book*hug) will make for excellent company bedside this winter. That and Neil Surkan Their Queer Tenderness with plenty of room for Gary & Kathryn (it’s a queen). Okay, Cory, we can snuggle.
There. There’s more… of that I’m certain, more will come to mind, (Ayaz Pirani‘s Anstruther reading… Hiemstra‘s Sky “did anything else have to happen?”… our first dinner gathering) like your faces which are my immediate, what keeps me here. Thankful.
Better days, love.
ADDENDUM: Amongst debuts, I meant to note RASIQRA REVULVA’s enchanting CEPHALOPOGRAPHY 2.0 (Wolsak & Wynn)