The cast of Argo reads an early draft of Odourless Press poet Phoebe Wang’s “Historical Drama.”
One of the greatest pleasures involved with being a Publicity Agent for The Puritan is constant exposure to the new generation of writers that is slowly marking its literary territory. On November 20th I attended the Odourless Press launch at No One Writes to the Colonel to see what the up-and-coming publishing house—established just two years ago—had to offer. Bardia Sinaee is a publisher at Odourless and his work has appeared in Issues XX, XV, and XII of The Puritan. He was the Master of Ceremonies on cold Wednesday night and assembled a stellar set-list to celebrate the fall launch of Odourless Press’s poetical pamphlets, chapbooks, and broadsides.
Stevie Howell read first from her pamphlet Looting the Museum. Sinaee described Howell’s poetry as “intricate” and “funny” and I was excited to hear that she will release her first collection with Goose Lane Editions next year. Her poem “The Guard” traverses a wide number of themes and subjects including King Tut (lying “supine on mole-flecked cotton”), pop culture, and her personal life. Her diction is musical and in “The Last Dollar Store” Howell successfully incorporated rhyme, which I find to be uncommon among young writers who are likely skeptical of a style that can be potentially archaic-sounding if executed incorrectly.
Mat Laporte is one of the co-founding publishers of Ferno House, another young micropress that is churning out hand-made chapbooks and anthologies. His work has appeared in The Puritan’s Issue XII and he’s one of our very own Associate Editors. He read from his new chapbook Life Savings, which I definitely recommend to people who are interested in daring and experimental poetry that confronts our “moment” head-on. Laporte’s work sounds as though he has sifted through our culture’s junk yard and extricated buzz-words and icons only to turn them upside down, shake them about, re-work them to create poems that are striking, fast-paced, and sharp in their construction. One of his lines from “Token Change” aptly sums up Laporte’s somewhat cynical and comedic approach to our unique, technology-saturated mode of interaction: “Click here for integrity and contorted bliss.”
Jeramy Dodds also has a knack for combining dark imagery with (what usually would be) moments of levity. He read the title poem from his pamphlet Long Winter Farm where he complicates the simplicity of country life with clever plays on words (“my dog and I were like two peas in an escape pod”) and sinister visions (“I’ve seen albino elves harvest the guano that smoke bats have left in my lungs”) lurking at the edges of his beloved farm.
The penultimate reader of the night was The Puritan’s very own Spencer Gordon, who also publishes with Laporte at Ferno House. He read from his chapbook Conservative Majority, published by another young company: Apt. 9 Press out of Ottawa. Bardia joked that Conservative Majority includes a lot of “horrible shit” that shouldn’t be in poetry but the audience could not have been happier with Gordon’s rambunctious collection that satirizes and adores the contemporary writing scene and isn’t afraid to talk about its less than “inspired” moments. (“I tagged poetry on Facebook in Canada then deleted my post.”) The title poem, “Conservative Majority”, and “Why Can’t I Read at the IFOA?” were all high-momentum pieces that relied on repetition and variations on a theme to create building comedic effect.
The final reader of the night was Phoebe Wang who has also appeared in The Puritan, in Issue XX, XXI, and our Current Issue as well as on the Town Crier blog. Bardia is an especially large fan of Phoebe’s and they worked together on her latest chapbook Occasional Emergencies, which is a collection of ekphrastic poems. Wang’s poetry is very sophisticated and complex as she writes pieces in dialogue with works of art, many of which are installation pieces. “The Tower” had some stirring lines, including “Pithy as a tire splitting on its last mile” and “the crowd is a black raft inflating the risk.” Phoebe’s collection is exciting for its broadness and compelling for its wealth of intriguing images, gleaned and developed out of a number of sources. “Historical Drama”—the only poem not about a work of fine art—is about the film Argo, “On the Next Episode of” deals with Mad Men, and “Feedback Loop” offers an interesting response to Janet Cardiff’s “The Forty Part Motet.” Although her poems are ekphrastic, Phoebe is not afraid to imbue her pieces with more personal or political nuances. In “Feedback Loop” she writes, “The parliament of voices no longer sovereign rehearses its next action” and the reader participates in Phoebe’s perceptive activities as she traces the multifarious intersections between art, culture, politics, and lived experience.
Odourless Press, Ferno House, and Apt. 9 Press all represent a very exciting trend in Canadian literature. Young authors that are not afraid to publish as well as be published are putting in a lot of entrepreneurial energy to make sure that the newest generation of writers is receiving well-deserved attention and outlets for their work. This Friday, November 29th Bardia will read at our second annual Black Friday party and we hope to see you all there as we celebrate The Puritan’s stellar year and the writers who have made it possible.