The experience around the experiments
In French, the word for experiment is expérience, and thus the idea of carrying out an experiment is closely linked with the idea of undergoing an experience. So one may wonder as to what kind of experiments are going on around poetry that help foster not only the poetry itself but also help others experience it. In Canada, some of the more daring and current essays/essais in poetic publishing, poetic mentoring and poetic diffusion include BookThug and The Toronto New School of Writing, Le Quartanier in Montreal, No press in Calgary and Nomados Press in Vancouver.
Run out of Toronto, BookThug is a restless thug! Poet and collaborator Jay MillAr began publishing chapbooks in 1992, under the name Boondoggle Books and eleven years later, transformed Boondoggle Books into BookThug, publishing (and at times re-issuing) tradebooks, chapbooks and other ephemera of poetry, fiction, essays and Danish literature in translation, with a vision to enrich and evolve the tradition and conversation of experimental literature. What I most appreciate about BookThug is not only that they dare to make smart and aesthetically considered books, but also that they are always trying to think of how to evolve the conversation between all those who encounter or could encounter experimental works. One of the ways they are making this possible is through The Toronto New School of Writing, a project founded by MillAr and Jenny Sampirisi (BookThug’s managing editor) in the spring of 2010. Through this school, BookThug writers offer courses, workshops, close readings of poetic movements and even one-on-one manuscript development as “manuscript midwives.”
Le Quartanier, operated by Éric de Larochellière and Karine Denault in Montreal is, in my opinion, BookThug’s French cousin, and is as wild as the wild boar in its name. Focusing on experimental poetry, novels, essays and chapbooks, Le Quartanier has a very similar philosophy in terms of the kinds of works they produce and how the books look and feel. In this digital age, if one is still going to produce a book object, the object needs to make sense as an object and have reasons for it to come into being as an object, and Le Quartanier and BookThug are two presses that keep this in mind.
No press is a one-man operation out of Calgary, handled by visual poet, essayist and writer derek beaulieu. No press, which stands for “no promotions, no advance, no problem” makes handmade chapbooks and leaflets in editions of between 10 and 80 copies of visual poetry, poetics, non-linear writing, conceptual writing, unusual poetry and the occasional fiction. And since beaulieu noticed that book reviews were becoming a scarcity in Canada, he also began a series of pamphlets called “The Minute Review” in which he solicited book reviews from writers across the country.
Another interesting micro-press is Nomados Press run by Meredith and Peter Quartermain in Vancouver. They also print in a chapbook format in editions of between 75 and 150 copies and, as their name implies, they are nomads wandering over the literary landscape and focusing on some of the most adroit and progressive contemporary writing.
Folding Borders: Experimenting in the Canadian Laboratory