- It is always both exciting and terrifying when boxes arrive from the printer. Opening a box always begins with an apprehensive inspection for errors—from the printer, from us, from the shipper—which is normally followed by a sigh of relief and finally the excitement at just how good the final product looks. Such was the case this week when we got a couple batches of advance copies for Original Prin and Be With. Both ended up looking fantastic!
- Now available in bookstores near you: Alison Moore’s The Pre-War House! The MUST READ story in this collection is “Sometimes You Think You Are Alone.” This story is super creepy and without giving anything away, maybe not as obvious as I thought it was when I started reading it. The brilliant Zoe Norvell’s grungy cover suits perfectly the tone of this and other stories in the collection.
- The final installments of door signs (I’m sure we can find more doors, actually) went up this week:
It’s mid-June, which means the Bibliomanse is abuzz from production all the way to publicity. Fall books are being finalized, media coverage continues to roll in, and we’re starting to look ahead to next year’s books. Mid-June also means Gemini season, so in honor of the Twins, please enjoy this pleasantly paired round-up of recent media hits.
And double the love from our friends at Publishers Weekly. Of Ondjaki’s Transparent City, they write: “darkly pretty…peppered with poetry…These disparate stories are woven into a beautiful narrative that touches on government corruption, the privatization of water, the dangers of extracting oil for wealth, and the bastardization of religion for profit.. The novel reads like a love song to a tortured, desperately messed-up city that is undergoing remarkable transformations.” In a second review, PW calls Alex Pheby’s Playthings “intricate and intelligent…effectively transports readers into Schreber’s experience and tragedy.”
- The Children’s War has arrived on my desk finalized and ready to go into production and we are getting an Advance Copy underway. I know I wrote about this book a couple weeks ago but Boyko is a genius and you need to read this as soon as we get it out there!
- The inexhaustible Ellie, has come up with some new t-shirt designs and they should be available by the end of the month, check ’em out!
- We are still getting settled at the new office, but we are finally getting some décor up to make it feel more like home:
It’s Wednesday, which means we’re less than a week out from our biggest summer pub date: June 12, which brings the triple threat of Terry Grigg’s The Iconoclast’s Journal, Alison Moore’s The Pre-War House, and Mauricio Segura’s Oscar. Here’s a quick round-up of some of the press they’ve gotten so far, along with a few sneak peeks of what’s to come.
In addition to a starred review from Foreword, The Iconoclast’s Journal has garnered indieNEXT nominations from booksellers like James Crossley at Island Books, who writes, “From the first lines of The Iconoclast’s Journal, it’s obvious that you’re being carried away by a real writer. That’s the first great pleasure that Terry Griggs gives to her readers. But where is she taking you? Ah, that’s the second great pleasure. Whenever you think you know where this tale of a runaway groom and his vengeful bride is heading, Griggs zigs once and zags at least twice, bringing you to places you never imagined going.”
Both Kirkus and Booklist have raved about Alison Moore’s short story collection The Pre-War House. Kirkus writes: “[There’s] a quiet sense of sadness that dogs these characters. As they navigate their lives, Moore slowly unearths their essential fears, regrets, and unmet desires, producing a subdued and beautiful feeling of yearning that leaves the reader ruminating long after the final page. A masterful collection.” Booklist similarly praises Moore’s skilful restraint, proclaiming in a review that goes live on June 13, “Moore is the real deal.”
Finally, Mauricio Segura’s Oscar has had me humming “Summertime” all week, and the author himself is slated for an upcoming guest post on Largehearted Boy, a US-based music and literature site. In it, Mauricio chooses a playlist to accompany his mesmerizing novel about a young musician named Oscar P., a classic story of artistic struggle inspired by the life of legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. Reader, I have seen his playlist, aka the new soundtrack of my summer months. Make some space in your music library, and in the meantime …
- Original Prin cover has landed. Personally I have to say this one has exceeded my expectations. Michel Vrana really knocked it out of the park. Send along your thoughts in the comments.
- Robert Earl Stewart has sent in the final manuscript for The Running-Shaped Hole. I’ve started typesetting it for Advance Reading Copies. Sometimes when I am typesetting a book I get drawn into the stories and find myself reading chunks of the book. This is one such book that I am looking forward to bringing home to finish reading.
- Work on the next CNQ is still ongoing. The back cover has come together quite well:
Did you know that the cover makes an excellent mask?
We’re thrilled to finally share the news that Pino Coluccio’s Class Clown has been named a finalist for the 2018 Trillium Book Award for Poetry! The award is given annually to a first, second, or third book by a new or emerging poet. Pino’s collection is one of three finalists for the $10,000 prize, the winner of which will be announced June 21.
We couldn’t be more pleased for Pino, whose work has been described by CBC Sunday Edition’s Michael Enright as “short, witty poems about love, death, and the absurdities of modern life … I kept going back to it over and over and over again.” While we wait for the cool days of mid-June (seriously who turned up the sun omg), please enjoy this interview with our favourite class clown. Laughing makes you feel cooler, you know …
A Biblioasis Interview with Pino Coluccio, author of Class Clown.
What do you want readers to know about you? What are your interests outside of poetry?
What do I want readers to know about me? Honestly, as little as possible (laughs). I don’t want no strangers all up in my business.
My interests outside of poetry? They come and go but right now, my job, TV, occasional movies or streams of old favourites. Youtube, Time travel, the 80s. All kinds of music but especially rock.
Languages – I make a point of reading the news in French and Italian as well as English and am currently learning German. But most of this stuff I do in half-asleep dribs and drabs. I spend most of my time at work or recovering from work.
There is occasional resistance/snobbery in contemporary poetry to things like meter, rhyme, capitalization, punctuation, etc. Can you talk a bit about your formal choices in your poems? Do you make these choices before you set out to write a poem (or a collection) or do you simply write what feels right for the work?
I don’t make a whole lot of choices during the initial writing stage. Things will occasionally just hit me, and they pretty much always hit me in meter. I sort of set myself to meter back in my 20s and things just come out that way now. I suppose that was a choice — setting myself to meter. I think I did that on the recommendation of a professor I had for a creative writing course I took, and also in imitation of Seamus Heaney, who I worshipped at the time. Plus, my Italian wasn’t so good back then, so when I read Italian poetry, I didn’t always understand what the heck it meant, but if it rhymed and scanned, I got enjoyment out of it that way, just by the patterns of sound, and decided similarly pleasurable patterns of sound would be good to include in my own work.
I think rhyme and meter make poetry more exuberant and entertaining, more like rock music, and so I keep myself set that way and things come out in meter. And then where choice comes in is when I revise, but that’s just changing words or stanzas, not usually the whole form or style of the poem.
Can you discuss the importance of humour in your writing? Do you think you see the world differently than some writers because you come to writing through a lens of humour?
Ain’t nobody got time for other people’s problems. But make people laugh and they just might stick around. But seriously, I kind of just stumbled into the humour thing, to be honest. People seemed to find some of my first book funny and seemed to like that about it, and so I decided to make that my thing. I was actually trying really hard to be grand and tragic in my first book (laughs). But then it dawned on me, the tragedy market is already saturated and other people do it better. If I move into comedy I’ll have way less competition. Plus, all the TV shows and movies I watch are comedies, I like humour, why act all tragic in my poems? I like rock and it’s fun and lively. Why not write rock poetry?
That said, I don’t think much of what I write is, in the true sense of the term, light verse. Marcus Bales, a poet out of the US, says he tries to be light but not merely light, serious but not merely serious. I really like that, that seriousness can be mere too, and that one should be merely neither. I like to put it this way: it’s not me who’s light, it’s other people who are overweight.
The way I see it, there’s three schools of thought. The “life sucks and isn’t that just terrible” school. The “life does NOT suck, it’s perfectly goddamn wonderful” school. And the “life definitely totally 100% does suck but I ain’t gonna let that stand in the way of me having a good time” school. You can guess which one I’m enrolled in.
What can people do to see more poetry in their day-to-day lives? To find more humour in them?
The absolute 100% best way to see more poetry in your day-to-day life is to read more Philip Larkin, trust me on this one. And to find more humour in your life, watch SCTV, anything by Christopher Guest, Seinfeld, Borat, The US Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Peep Show and just about anything by Woody Allen.
In “Poets” the poetic voice seems to be somewhat…critical about how seriously other poets take themselves, and in “Manifesto” the poem ponders the difference in status between “the fiddler” and “the violinist.” This comparison continues with the between “brew” and “vino” before ending on “not a poet/ but a Pino.” Am I correct in assuming that you’re aligning yourself here with the fiddler and the brew over the violinist and the vino? Is there an aim in your writing to strip away the pomp and get down to the honesty behind poetry?
Well, I’m a fiddler around violinists and a violinist around fiddlers (laughs). But where I was going with that poem is, categories don’t matter, just be yourself and do what honestly gives you pleasure, and to heck with people who say you’re a Philistine or boor or what-have-you.
Some of your poems in Class Clown are based upon writing or stories of Italian writers and performers. Corrado Govoni, Giovanni Pascoli, Domenico Modugno all feature. How does your Italian heritage influence your work or your world view? What draws you specifically to the writers you’ve acknowledged in Class Clown? Are there others of particular importance you would like to mention?
There’s only a handful of Italian poets I’ve read very much of, whole books as opposed to just anthology pieces, Leopardi, Pascoli, Guido Gozzano and Montale. The rest I either find too difficult, like Dante, or I understand them but just don’t like them. So, the poems I adapt in the book are just ones I understand and like. The Govoni I came across in an anthology and easily got and liked. And Modugno is actually a singer – “Volare” is the hit he’s most known for. But “Vecchio Frack” is true poetry, very mysterious, deep and haunting. Plus it’s from my parents’ era so it’s sort of a nod to them. “Benedizione” I first read years ago and it’s stayed with me ever since. A poem I both fully get and truly love. My adaptation of it was inspired by a real priest, Don Augusto, and a pious Italian Catholic girl I met here in Toronto, named Francesca.
I should also mention that I get a lot of inspiration from Neapolitan dialect poets – Libero Bovio, Ferdinando Russo, Rocco Galdieri, Eduardo de Filippo, Edoardo Nicolardi, Armando Gill and Salvatore Di Giacomo to name a few. And for that matter from Neapolitan music and from the actors Toto’ and Massimo Troisi.
My background has for sure had a huge impact on my worldview – whose hasn’t – and Italian culture in general inspires me, gives me models to aspire to and feeds my imagination – gives me ideas, images, details and subjects, the more so because I see Italian culture as legitimately my own, a mighty trunk I’m a tiny twig on a branch of, as opposed to something foreign just randomly borrowed.
Overall, my work has been way more influenced by British, Irish and American poets than by Italian ones. Which only makes sense since, after all, I’m writing in English. Who better to learn the ropes from than fellow English-language poets? The two languages and their respective poetic traditions are much different from each other — more so than, say, Italian and French or English and German. So, there’s not much overlap or much that’s transferable from the one to the other. So, if I’m going to write in English I kind of have to base myself on English examples.
There’s something an Italian-Canadian girl I once knew said that’s always stuck with me: “I think in English, but I feel in Italian.”
Well, one thing I definitely got from Italy is my “life sucks but have fun anyway” attitude. Italy is, after all, the country that, though beaten to a pulp dozens of times by all manner of foreign powers (not to mention Popes, plagues, earthquakes and Madonna), nevertheless managed to invent like 400 different shapes of pasta.
- Dear Evelyn has been typeset and is heading to the printer soon. For this one I chose a classic Garamond type with Garamond Premier pro display for the titles, page numbers and headers. This font pairs nicely with the elegant prose of Kathy Page’s tender love story.
- Biblioasis Merchandise is coming soon to a bookstore near me (The Biblioasis Bookshop down on Wyandotte). Ellie has been working away on new T-shirts designs, plus bringing back a few classics:
She is also working on some other merchandising ideas for the press and shop so keep an eye out for them in the coming weeks.
- Perhaps the best part of my job is working with Seth on the Ghost Stories and CNQ Covers. The new CNQ 102 cover art arrived this week and I have been busy cleaning up and combining all the elements.
Ondjaki’s Transparent City (trans. Stephen Henighan) hit shelves in Canada and the US last week and reviewers are raving. Named a Vanity Fair Hot Type Book in April, May has brought a beautiful bouquet comprised of Times Literary Supplement, Toronto Star, and Globe and Mail blooms.
In a review for TLS, reviewer Alev Adil called the novel “Vibrant” and praised Ondjaki’s bold experimentation: “His prose shifts through a kaledioscope of registers, from the poetic to the political, the erotic to the absurd…Stephen Henighan’s thoughtful translation has an energetic lyricism and is alive to the echoes and vestiges of the African languages that imbue Ondjaki’s text…The novel begins and ends with a raging inferno, and yet it is as full of hope, appetite and libidinal energy as it is of grief and mourning.”
Here at home, Trevor Corkum sang similar praises in the Toronto Star: “a lively and invigorating novel…With Transparent City, Ondjaki takes his place among the great fabulists of the past century…so rich in heart, and so startlingly fresh in structure and delivery, [he] has gifted us with a contemporary masterpiece.”
Finally, for The Globe & Mail, Jade Colbert included Transparent City on their “What’s hot to read in translation” roundup.
A captivating blend of magical realism, scathing political satire, and literary experimentation, Transparent City is a gripping portrait of contemporary urban Southern Africa from Ondjaki, indisputably one of the continent’s most accomplished writers. Originally published as Slow Red, Stephen Henighan’s superb translation brings it to English readers for the first time.
Happy long weekend everyone! I’m about to head to the Pinery for four days of camping, but here’s what is going on at Biblioasis this week:
- CNQ 102 is getting well under way. The genre issue is staring to look pretty exciting as I typeset the pieces. A number of writers tell of their first monsters, sitting alongside pieces on Bruce Lee, Indigenous Sci-Fi, and Jay Stevens’ STUNNING comic adaption of an excerpt from Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. You don’t want to miss it.
- This week I am skipping ahead of announced books to let you know about something coming down the pipeline: Le Plongeur by Stéphane Larue. This is a book about a metalhead artist with a gambling problem who ends up working as a dishwasher. As both a metalhead and ex-kitchen worker, I have to say Larue gets it.
- Finally, my niece was visiting the office, but left Mickey behind, so naturally we put him to work:
New office who dis big pile of boxes
A major perk of our new digs: we now have room to receive shipments of books right here in the place where we make, mail, and shout about them. This is a major upgrade to our previous system, which I fondly call “driving furiously to a storage locker to meet the guy with the big truck because there’s nowhere for him to park at the bookshop and he just called to tell us he’d be there ten minutes ago.”
The first arrival:
A two-for-one of Terry Griggs’ The Iconoclast’s Journal (June 12, 2018), which we’re bringing back into print via ReSet, a series that republishes overlooked Canadian classics. If you click the first link, our web store will display the Canadian edition, designed with its place in the series in mind. US stores will carry a second version, which features a cheeky, purple, partially headless angel that captures the spirit of this madcap picaresque, which wheels effortlessly between ribald slapstick and sharp critique of the Victorian era in which it’s set. It’s an addictive read, the perfect summer getaway from a world that’s sadly lacking in companionable pigs. Or maybe that’s just me?
The Iconoclast’s Journal was first published as Rogues’ Wedding in 2002 and hence it is no stranger to multiple covers: check out this photo, featuring the original hardcover and paperback covers in the top row, and down below from left to right: our 2018 ARC, Canadian, and US editions. You can read more about the unusual experience of republishing a novel over at All Lit Up, where Terry herself takes us behind the scenes and between the covers.
The second arrival:
An ARC run of Harriet Paige’s Man with a Seagull on His Head, and I cannot shut up about it. This book has captivated our entire office with its quiet wisdom and original plot. To wit: on a hot summer day, Ray Eccles, a city clerk “past the age when anything interesting was likely to happen to him,” is struck on the head by a dying seagull, and though he’s never touched a paintbrush in his life, when he wakes he finds himself compelled to obsessively repeat the last thing he saw before he was knocked out: an unknown woman on the beach. As Ray’s paintings take the art world by storm, Paige shifts the novel’s lens to Jennifer, his anonymous muse, who ponders the surprising turns and odd connections that characterize a life. Seagull doesn’t drop until OCTOBER 9 HOW WILL I STAND IT.
Hey, what’s back here…