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above/ground 20 years

rob introducing
rob introducing readers to the somewhere over 60 gathered. With admission, people got copies of The Peter F Yacht Club issue #19 which has poems by locals including Janice Tokar an Vivian Vivassis and farthers including Joe Blades, Mark Cochrane, and derek beaulieu. In case you missed the reading, at least you can get some of the poets in print there.

wall cat watches over chapbooks
The cat at the Mercury Lounge guarded the above/ground chapbooks and the calfskin storage boxes made by Christine McNair for the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the press.

Marcus McCann came in from Toronto. He read bits from his previously published, his popular Cover Letter poem of voice which got some chuckles and laughs from the audience at,

[…]Whitney Houston gave up her singing voice

for rock, and who’s to say it was a bad bargain. As for me,
I never had the kind of voice I could barter with.

Voice like a stomped-on harmonica. The little puff of noise
you can squeeze from a rabbit […]

He read one from the chubby sonnets launched that night in the style and subjects of the subject poet: Labradoodle: An Essay on David McGimpsey, the “Patron saint of the dive bars of Montreal”. (That link has another you can read.)

Marthe Reed
Marthe Reed came up from the U.S. to launch her chapbook After Swann. It is a sort of plunderverse of Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust because she said she loved the language but not the upshot of what he did. In her hands,

we imagine
almost ours
that sort of tenderness
the instant of pain
the special pleasure
and seize

the mysterious object
still alive
buried in a couch of grass

She also read from nebulous poem that are an emotional array responding to government abuses that are not stopping in Guantanamo Bay. Instead of it stopping, wrong being admitted, speaking about it is penalized. Our society used to punish property crimes higher than violence against people and now topping property crimes is going against who called dibs of the control of information. Something’s gotta re-jig, with pressure.

Earlier, Reed responded to interview questions about above/ground. Her responses and blog are linked to here.

Like a few readers who have come through town to read, crossing into Canada wasn’t an automatic wave. A tip to anyone travelling to give readings: As normal as it seems to you, or as pumped you may be, avoid the reliable problems at the border; smooth your way and just say you’re coming as a tourist to see friends. Border guards get suspicious when someone says they come on business of reading poems. It messes up their world view. Poets exist? Poets travel to read?

rob pointing
As part of the celebration, for all the poet-and-poem wrangling he does to get events and distribution to happen, rob got thanked, and got a swag bag with pens and a t-shirt with a photo of his broadsheets from reader Wanda O’Connor.

Wanda O'Connor
She preambled and read from damascene road passaggio, selections. Apparently it is in part satiric about opera, which would be part of why I didn’t “get it”. She’s also exploring the physicality of words from phonemes, to handwriting mixed in with pauses. It’s an exploring possibilities kind of thing.

of rope, twisted particularities in the field,
the frayed one, the single one, the one
pulled apart, the
doubled and boundless one.

the anniversary cake decorated with chapbook motif
Would it be anniversary without cake? Maybe, but there was some.

cutting the cake cake
Rob cutting the cake with above/ground pictures on its vanilla-lemon-icing goodness.

Monty Reid
Monty Reid was launching Moan Coach, a poem series about a woman doing Vagina Monologues and trying to moan to expectations, getting a voice coach for her moans. He read with his characteristic comic timing,

It’s getting better, they said at rehearsal.

You’ve changed, said her partner
is there someone new?

Only me, she said
only me
and my cold feet.

Gary Barwin did a few things, a bit from his erasure poems – one where her reads only the punctuation and silence for the time it gets to the next punctuation. He read a sort of Dick and Jane type short story, but with a transcendent difference. That was well-received.

He also read from his above/ground chapbook being launched a surreal suite to good effect. From that, Seedpod, Microfiche,

[…]there is, my love,
a stethoscope whose end
is nowhere
whose earpieces
are everywhere

Gary Barwin
Gary Barwin closed out the night soundly and roundly.

Here’s to another 40 years.

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  1. Looks like a memorable evening. Good of you to post this for the poor folks who couldn’t make it!

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