Monday, July 13, 2020

the ottawa small press book fair : home edition #8 : Gap Riot Press,

Gap Riot Press is a Toronto-based, wimmin-run small press that publishes experimental, visual, innovative, and genre-blurring work by primarily Canadian poets that push the limits of poetry.

Kate Siklosi lives, writes, and thinks in Toronto. Her recent work includes five chapbooks of poetry: 6 feuilles (nOIR:Z 2019), 1956 (above/ground press 2019), coup (The Blasted Tree, 2018), may day (no press, 2018), and po po poems (above/ground press, 2018). 

Dani Spinosa is a poet of digital and print media. She has published three poetry chapbooks with No Press (Glosas for Tired Eyes, Chant Uhm, and Incessantly) and two with above/ground press (Civilization and Glosas for Tired Eyes Vol. 2) and her first scholarly manuscript, Anarchists in the Academy: Machines and Free Readers in Experimental Poetry, was published by the University of Alberta Press.

Q: Tell me about your press. How long have you been publishing, and what got you started?

A: Ah, this question always makes us a bit sad. We’ve been publishing since the summer of 2017 and what got us started was several months of throwing around the idea, and chatting about it, and thinking up ideas, and then we got one massive push from the late, great, incomparable, and dearly missed Priscila Uppal, who wanted a run of chapbooks made for the poems in her SummerWorks play, What Linda Said. We did those and then three more chapbooks by the most incredible first season we could have asked for: Adeena Karasick, Margaret Christakos, and Canisia Lubrin. And with the support of all these beautiful and fierce women, we grew and grew into the gorgeousity of Gap Riot Press. Our mantra lately is “burn it down, but make it fashion” - we seek to publish work that ignites, dismantles, unsettles, and does it with undeniable style.

Q: How many times have you exhibited at the ottawa small press fair? How do you find the experience?

A: We have only exhibited once at the Ottawa Small Press Fair, and it was awesome. And don’t even get us started on the free coffee! We always get so much energy from doing fairs! The Ottawa one was great too because the fairs we go to tend to be Toronto-centric, so it was great to see how a different geographic area unearths some great presses we’ve heard about but had never met. It was certainly a different experience than the, um, fair we exhibited at in the fall that was senselessly surveilled by the police outside (reason number 1,426,889 to #defundthepolice), but it was splendid and we are looking forward to doing it again!

Q: Would you have made something specific for this spring’s fair? Are you still doing that? How does the lack of spring fair this year affect how or what you might be producing?

A: We don’t tend to make things specifically for fairs, but we just released our fifth season of chapbooks, so it would have been awesome to debut those at the fair! We publish biannually, in the fall and spring-ish, and so fairs don’t have a lot of sway in the way we produce.

Q: How are you, as a small publisher, approaching the myriad shut-downs? Is everything on hold, or are you pushing against the silences, whether in similar or alternate ways than you might have prior to the pandemic? How are you getting your publications out into the world?

A: We are ALWAYS pushing against the silences - Gap Riot was born out of the need for shouty, unapologetic amplification. And, as white women, we’re trying to do that in a way that decentres ourselves; for us, this work is about uplifting other voices and giving space to folks to try stuff on and play. Mostly, things have been business as usual throughout the pandemic: we are announcing our books through social media, and selling our books online through our website. We’re shipping them in big batches and wearing masks to the post office (solidarity, btw, with postal workers who just a few weeks ago, finally got their collective agreement after two freakin’ years of bargaining and arbitration). We’re missing the face-to-face interaction of readings, launches, and markets like the Ottawa Small Press Fair. And, we’re also working on a shipping fee calculation learning curve; in the first few days of our Season Five books being released we grossly under-calculated shipping and lost a ton of money that way. Whoops! You live, you learn, as Alanis says.

Q: Have you done anything in terms of online or virtual launches since the pandemic began? Have you attended or participated in others? How are you attempting to connect to the larger literary community?

A: We’re actually in the planning stages for a virtual launch to celebrate our fifth season right now, but neither of us are the biggest Zoom fans (too many work meetings!) and neither of us has a ton of spare time these days (too many work meetings!). We’re working on other ways to advertise these books and support our authors, particularly because (as we make clear every chance we get), we pay royalties to our authors, and for the month of June we’re donating 20% of our sales to BLM Toronto. Most of our connection to the literary community is on social media.

Q: Has the pandemic forced you to rethink anything in terms of production? Are there supplies or printers you haven’t access to during these times that have forced a shift in what and how you produce?

A: We work with a fabulous printer, David over at Product Photo, and he’s been lovely. There are sometimes stock items he’s not able to get, but because he’s a small printer he’s been able to get our stuff printed beautifully and quickly and we’re so grateful! Other than somewhat limited paper stock, though, we’ve been more or less business as usual. We’ve been pretty happy with our shared production model because it allows us to collaborate with and support other independent folks (this season we also paid an editor and artist to work on Terese Mason Pierre’s luminous chap, Manifest).

Q: What are your most recent publications? How might folk be able to order copies?

A: OH, you are not even ready for this. We just released our fifth season of chapbooks with four stunninggg new works: Franco Cortese’s of faulthers, which is a fabulous experimental work on embodiment and language, on fatherhood and sex and bodies; Ashley Hynd’s Entropy, which is a sprawling merger of visual poetics and confessional lyric poetry that navigates us uneasily through those post-break-up doldrums; Zoey Morris’s A Performance of My Ecstasy, which is a theatrical collection of poems that uses the metaphor of wildlife from the poet’s home state of Kentucky to discuss the complicated tensions of sexual pleasure and sex work; and, Terese Mason Pierre’s Manifest, a stunning work of speculative poetry that insistently inserts afrofuturism into a dystopian future. They are all gorgeous, and they’re all $10.00 each plus shipping, and you can shop them and our previous seasons at

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Breathing. Gardening. We’re taking a bit of a break after releasing our fifth season (though we did just send several books into a second printing) and focusing on supporting our authors and getting the word out. We’re trying to sell out a second run, y’all. But, we’ll start reading for our sixth season in late summer/early fall and we’ve got some other surprises in store. We’re also taking some time to revisit our goals for the press, and make more room for people we all need to hear more from to join us in this work. Follow us on Twitter @GapRiotPress for the latest news from your girls. We’re cooking up some ferocity.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Talking Poetics #22 : Jami Macarty

How poems begin

Nuts and bolts. Which comes first? The answer interests me. Sometimes bolts; almost always nuts! At other times, especially when writing is happening in real time, the question is forgotten…. When a poem is beginning or middling or ending then there’s no need for the question. Questions about how a poem begins seem especially instrumental as points of departure when no poem is forthcoming or beginning. If I can know how a poem begins, then maybe I can begin one. A poem, it seems to me, is always beginning.

From another angle, who knows how a poem gets started? When confronted with this question, I don’t. In so many ways and a lot of the time, the beginning arises out of mystery. Some immaculateness.

If a poem’s a living thing like a plant, then its beginning is a seed. Or, the beginning is a bird that eats and passes the seed on, somewhat fortified, to a locale where conditions are more favorable and growth more likely.

This process may suggest silence, but monitor for heartrate and you’ll hear one. Ah ha! That seems to be the way a poem gets started for me—auditorily. Via a seed sound, word, or phrase. I hear something whispered, overhear speech or a birdsong or a gate creak—flints that spark my mind or serve like a hand shot straight up inquiry.

As I think about these spokens and overheards some qualities emerge. They are typically the most obvious things said: Something is not right here. Often declarative. Ambiguous. A double entendre. Often paratactic: I’ll be mercy if you be a killer whale. Sometimes mishearings: Age of Aquariums. Alliterations. Assonances. Aphorisms given new life. Chiasmic reversals and antimetabolic turn abouts—Let me go, so I can come back, my mother said.  Repetitive echophenonomena like the Gila woodpecker beak-banging the corrugated roof. Syllogistic.

So, there’s a sound, a phrase, a statement, an utterance of varying qualities whose wind thrums my mind. I use a notebook. The words get written down. Often there is more listening and recording on the page. Collages of meaning and tone. If not then, later.

A parallel visual process may also unfold. Instead of hearing the phrase, it’s read or misread. It gets written down. That may lead to an on-the-spot erasure or mining of language, words, word pairings. More phrases written down.

Mood may dictate. Mood of listener, reader. Mood of what’s heard and read. Or, is that intuition talking. Both filter and factor the selection process while ‘I’ stays in the background. One part of the brain is occupied with listening or looking, the other finding. If the spell breaks and self-consciousness or willfulness interrupts this program, then it’s over for that sitting.

There isn’t necessarily sitting to make this happen or even with the intention for it to happen. There’s only openness to happening, then noticing when it does. A going with that.

It has always been like this. Since I was a kid, writing things down as if transcribing the sounded world. Writing things down because of how they sound. The pleasure of sounds coming together in meaning, in a way that interests. Of course, this implies that there’s an awareness of interest. An awakening alertness to sound, to how something sounds.

When considering starting a poem with a “loose structure” it takes a while for an example to arise. It happens, but not often. When it has, the structure is anaphoric: I’ll be… if you be…; I’ll be… if you be… “Ideas” tend not to be my flints either. If ideas, then they tend to reference subject matter. Maybe I’ll write about bees… Honestly, though, I can’t make anything happen in the beginning or ever. If I try or force bees, I get stung. Writing and beginning to write work in flow and flight and if I get out of the way of words. Plenty of sparks from words themselves. Their sounds unbound and bounding.

At the beginning, in it, there’s not the presence of knowing whether it’s the middle, beginning, or end. Order is a thing later discovered. The beginning is often the end, and then writing that proceeds is often writing to a beginning. Knowing where, when, what next, that can be a thing in the revision process. Often what feels satisfying is only so to no one else.

Reading. Reading takes place to sprout language, tone. To get in word mood. To warm up eyes and ears. To see if the conditions for writing arise. It’s the ears again; they have to hear something. When they do, the language boat is underway. Could be a short writing-reading spell or a day or night.

Bits, pieces, get assembled. Reorder can be a thing. What comes out is often disrupted on the way, so attention is given over to discovering what’s backward, diagonal, and sideways. From there line breaks.

At first, when typing from notebooks, assembling fragments onto a screen page, line breaks and lengths are left as is. In subsequent drafts and the more the assemblage is heard, the more apt the breaks and length are to be changed.

There’s a favoring of line as unit of meaning. One that adds to or contradicts the conveyance of the whole. Lines tend to accumulate via caesura and hemistich. All line lengths are to be loved equally. For breath rhythm and visual intrigue, a poem may mix line lengths. Love sentence as much as line, but sentences save themselves for prose poems. Delineated poems tend not to be made up of sentences. When they are the sentence is disrupted, disguised, an intervenor and sometime conscious objector.

Some of this is true. Some contradictory. Unkempt. Am I always excavating language? Not always. I think of relative. I think of instinct. I know that place. You know that place. You’ve been there. We recognize the artifacts.

I like beginnings, but can’t pretend I understand or know them. I think there may be a simple answer to the question how my poems begin—they just begin—but I only just thought of that—at the ending.

Jami Macarty is the author of The Minuses, a Mountain West Poetry Series title (February 2020) published by the Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University, and three chapbooks of poetry: Instinctive Acts (Nomados Literary Publishers, 2018), Mind of Spring (No. 22, Vallum Chapbook Series, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award, and Landscape of The Wait (Finishing Line Press, 2017), a poetic response to her nephew William’s car accident and year-long coma. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in American, Australian, British, and Canadian journals, including Beloit Poetry Journal, The Capilano Review, Otoliths, Orbis, and The Rumpus. She teaches poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University; yoga and meditation privately. As co-founder and editor of The Maynard, she promotes the work of other poets and artists. On Medium, she writes Peerings & Hearings–Occasional Musings on Arts in the City of Glass, a blog series supporting arts and community (begun in 2016 as a featured column for Anomaly/Anomalous Press). Her own work has been supported by Arizona Commission on the Arts and British Columbia Arts Council, among others; by residencies at Mabel Dodge Luhan House and Banff Centre, by Pushcart Prize nominations, by the tireless editors of literary journals and presses, and by beloved readers.