Writer, sound performer, publisher, editor, artist and urban printer jwcurry has lived in Ottawa since 1996, after moving his archive/bookstore, said to be one of the largest collections of small press publications and ephemera in Canada, from his long-time home base in Toronto. His ongoing bibliography of the late Toronto poet bpNichol, a project he’s been working on for a couple of decades, include much that’d been missing even from Nichol’s collection of his own work. His influence in the city as a resource, performer, poet, enthusiast and contrarian has been both subtle and considerable, and his presence alone has encouraged a number of Ottawa writers and publisher to push well beyond their comfort levels and limits, influencing the work and performances of just about anyone who has worked with him.
One thing I’ve long admired about curry is his ability to approach anything he does with an equal attention to detail: hand-printing his 1cent publications, his array of other printing, publishing and bookbinding projects, composing, scoring and performing sound poetry, working on his various archives, photography during freight train runs, cooking or working on outdoor structures—our former shared apartment building in Ottawa’s Chinatown was infamous for his annual snow fort in our back alley, constructed over the course of the winter and large enough to fit a dozen people (with a further, consisting of two storeys, constructed a couple of winters ago on the Ottawa River). His projects are multiple and ongoing, most of which manage to connect, somehow, to everything else he’s working on. Over the past decade, one of these projects has been conducting and arranging performances of MESSAGIO GALORE (fourteen so far), his vocal choir of “sound poetry & similaria.” Performing an array of single and multiple voice arrangements of works by jwcurry, bpNichol, bob cobbing, Frank Zappa, david uu, Four Horsemen, Steve McCaffery, Captain Beefheart and multiple others, some of the voices that have contributed to performances have included Maria Erskine, Max Middle, Jennifer Books, Laurie Fuhr, Ross Priddle, Peter Norman, Rob Read, Nicholas Power, Carmel Purkis, John Lavery, Sandra Ridley, Grant Wilkins, Roland Prévost, Christine McNair, Lesley Marshall, Sheena Mordasiewicz and Zachary Robert, with part-timers and guests including Sierra Prunner, Michael Dean, Gustave Morin and Gary Barwin. The current group is made up of Alastair Larwill, Georgia Mathewson, Brian Pirie, Rachel Lindsey, Robert Rosen and jwcurry.
After spending a decade-plus working on mimeo, and some three-plus decades hand-printing and binding, a few years ago he shifted his production to spray paint, and infiltrated various hidden and secret locations around Ottawa with his artworks, many of which he has been cataloguing online via his flickr account. Given his long reluctance to work with electric technology besides photocopying, the fact that he has embraced flickr whole-heartedly is an unexpected shift, making much of his work available to a far wider audience. Via flickr, he has created an extensive and incredibly-detailed online archive of materials that include albums cataloguing infamously-unknown Toronto graffiti artist “Mr. P. Cob” alongside his own albums of “Graffiti,” “Constructions & Installations,” “Printed Matter,” “Graphics & Collage,” “Photographica,” “Railruns,” “Ottawaän Explorations & Infiltrations,” “Other Raillery,” “Randomage,” “Messagio Galore” (including invitations, programmes, songbooks, scores and related materials), “A Beepliographic Cyclopœdeia: A Gallery of Rectos In Progress” (cataloguing a series of works in his extensive bpNichol bibliography), “Paging Peggy Lefler: a revised bibliography of her work & effects,” “autobibliographicum editorialus” and “am m ss ng someth ng? :an autobibliography in progress.” And, as he points out, some of his current projects-in-process tracked online at his flickr account include: “the tower” (including the first version, constructed in Toronto); a print of a work by Vancouver poet Judith Copithorne, the opening print to the WELCOME TO CONCRETE anthology of Canadian concrete poetry he’ll be printing on concrete around Ottawa; the Quatuor Gualuor, “possibly a sextet this time”; and ongoing work on A BPNICHOL CYCLOPŒDIA and PAGING PEGGY LEFLER.
In December 2013, his housing situation forced him to relocate, and his incredible archive was packaged and prepared for temporary dissemination throughout basements, closets and spare rooms in and around Ottawa (including our own). It is only recently that he has been able to start recompiling his archive and bookstore into a single space, deep in Ottawa’s Hintonburg neighbourhood. If you are interested in small press history, or wish to purchase works by writers such as Judith Copithorne, Nelson Ball, David UU, Peggy Lefler, Steve McCaffery, John Barlow, John M. Bennett, Stan Bevington, Katy Chan, Bob Cobbing, Victor Coleman, Arthur Cravan, jwcurry (including his 1¢ series and newsnotes), Anne Dondertman, Nicky Drumbolis, Daniel f. Bradley, Michael Duquette, K.S. Ernst, a selection of publications and ephemera from the EyeRhymes Conference and Festival (University of Alberta, June 1997), Four Horsemen, D.M. Fraser, Gerry Gilbert, Glenn Goluska, Alan Halsey, Wharton Hood, Mark Laba, D.A. Levy, John Ligoure, R.D. MacPherson, Diane Martin, Janet F. Murchison, Lowell Naeve, Hermann Neutics, bpNichol, R. Murray Schafer, Darrell Schiller, Peter Schuyff, Gio Shanger, John Graves Simcoe, Steven Smith, Raymond Souster, Frank Zappa and literally hundreds upon hundreds of others, one could do worse than write him for one of his Room 302 Books catalogues, c/o #302, 28 Ladouceur Avenue, Ottawa Canada K1Y 2T1.