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Guernica’s Book of the Month: September

we are no longer the smart kids in classWe’ve decided to restart our Book of the Month program at Guernica Editions, which means that each month we’ll be showcasing one of our recent releases and we’ll also be giving away copies of our books on Goodreads starting September 8th! Check back each month for our take on new releases!

It’s now September 1st, which means for many people the summer is coming to a close and school is about to begin. In keeping with a “back to school” theme, we’ve decided to spotlight David Huebert’s first poetry collection We Are No Longer the Smart Kids in Class.

Don’t be fooled by the title. David Huebert’s collection isn’t about school per se, despite its recollections of high school love affairs and adolescent ambitions, but it is about a certain kind of learning. Huebert’s poetry also demonstrates that he is still very smart, dabbing his poems with allusions to existentialist philosophers and Greek myths, and moreover that he is still a “kid” for whom adulthood (with all of its sex, drinking, and driving cars) inspires wide-eyed and witty inquiry.

Huebert’s classroom is a roving one, and his poems are courses that take place in cities across Canada. The titles of his poems refer to cities like Louisbourg and Fernie, and more mysterious landmarks like Greenwood Station, Crowsnest Pass, Sailors Memorial Walk, or Bloor Street. Huebert guides us on a journey from place to place, dropping by Nova Scotia for a family Christmas celebration, returning to Toronto from Montreal to reattach a blown roof, and along the way we learn a little about car repair, pubic hair, and how to have sex when there’s company over. We also learn a lot about love, which is a sweet and sticky business, vividly rendered by the last stanza of “what I will remember most about christmas 2011”,

But what I will remember most is you,

naked in the full light of the bedroom,

raising the spoon to your mouth.

Your whole body squirming

against the taste.

Indeed, love and traveling seem to share a mystic connection,

They say the coyotes walked

all the way to Newfoundland.

They followed the moose

across the ice

and if that’s not love

love probably doesn’t exist.

Huebert’s poems also showcase an intelligent wit that is expressed in diverse contexts, from talking about a worrying genital development in “growth”, to the writer’s process in “twenty-four abandoned attempts at the beginning of my first novel”, to the contradictions of nonconformity in “radicals”. This wit is clearly built on top of a good arts education, with requests to “Let us, like good/ Heideggerians, tape our mouths/ and cultivate the ring of stillness”, to mourning a rusty bicycle on Bloor with an uncanny resemblance to “Polynices/ on the battlefield of Thebes./ O, Bicycle, where is your Antigone?”

Yet Huebert’s poems aren’t all fun and games. In “To a Beer-Swillin’ Poet”, one of Huebert’s many poems that engage in conversation with the work of other poets (in this case, Al Purdy’s “The Drunk Tank.”), the experience of being in a drunk tank is given full-frontal exposure,

they’re both face-down in the piss, bleeding.

He bounds over to skinny guy,

starts pummeling his ribcage.

I cringe in the corner, feet on the bench,

flinching with the swings and splashes of piss and blood.

David Huebert’s We Are No Longer the Smart Kids in Class brings the reader in and carries them along. Huebert’s collection is a field trip, one where we fall in love, meet the parents, and watch pornography for the first time, a field trip that takes us from “The cold severity of the Atlantic/ hanging thick as slabs of bacon fat” to “the big, yawning salad/ bowl of Osoyoos Valley.” As the title suggests, Huebert achieves this all with signature modesty, as he explains,

I’m just reaching into

the great refrigerator of existence,

checking for leftovers.

Posted in Contests, News, Poetry, Promotions.

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Joseph Maviglia Reading at Book Show in CA

Joseph Maviglia ReadingOn Saturday, September 12th, 2015, Joseph Maviglia will be doing a reading and performance of Critics Who Know Jack at Book Show in Highland Park, CA.

Time: 8-10 PM
Address: 5503 N Figueroa St, LA CA 90042

Critics Who Know Jack: Urban Myths, Media and Rock & Roll
 is a collection of essays, memoirs and critiques on subjects ranging from TV programming, film and literature to rock journalism, with commentary on the interpretation of artistic expression across conventional and social media. From Feng-Shui to conspiracy theory, Maviglia debunks the rise of faddishness and new age trends that undervalue primary sources in music, literature, theatre, film, and urban living.

For more information, visit:
http://www.josephmaviglia.com
http://bookshowla.com/event/critics-who-know-jack-reading/

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Veena Gokhale interviews H. Nigel Thomas about his recent book “No Safeguards”, African Canadian literature, and the experiences that made him a writer

H. Nigel Thomas

Veena Gokhale’s recent interview with Guernica writer H. Nigel Thomas touches on a variety of topics: the place of African Canadian writing in Canadian literature, homosexuality in West Indian culture, and the motivations behind his various books – No Safeguards, to be released by Guernica Editions this fall, the most recent among them. His responses to Gokhale’s questions refer to his previous experiences as a teacher in the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal, and as a mental health worker at Montreal’s Douglas Hospital. These experiences produced many of Thomas’ writings, including Return to Arcadia which focuses on a patient at Douglas Hospital, as well as Behind the Face of Winter which was inspired by encounters of racist behaviour towards West Indian students in Montreal high schools during the ‘70s.

When asking about the place of African Canadian writing in Canadian literature, Gokhale refers to a statement that Thomas makes in the introduction of Why We Write, his anthology of interviews with African Canadian poets and novelists, “These conversations came about for several reasons, most important of which was my need to meet and chat with fellow Black writers living across Canada”. Thomas points out how “as late as the mid-seventies African Canadians found themselves invisible not only in well-paying jobs but also on library shelves”. Thomas emphasizes that the exclusion of black writers from the Canadian literary establishment is still an issue, stating “Literary agents tell us that major publishers are loathe to take on our books because books by Blacks don’t sell”, especially books which use Caribbean dialects or other languages that aren’t “being valorized”. Thomas has organized a reading series in order to combat this, which is “aimed largely, but not exclusively, at encouraging African-Canadian communities to engage more fully in Montreal’s literary culture”. The Kola Readings/Lectures Kola take place on the second Monday of every month at UNIA, 2741 Notre-Dame West from 7-9 PM.

Thomas also discusses the persecution of homosexuals in Caribbean culture. In response to Veena’s question about the persecution of black homosexuals, which also points out how Thomas is “among the first West Indian writers to feature homosexual protagonists in [his] books”, Thomas replies by explaining that “the persecution of gays in the Caribbean is framed as resisting the corrupting morality of Europe and North America”. This persecution is closely linked to religious influences, “the Judeo-Christian Bible is invoked at every turn to justify such persecution…Until gays here won the marriage battle, anti-gay sentiment in the African Canadian community was very vocal. It’s worth mentioning that it was stoked by the teachings of the Evangelical churches where most Blacks worship”. Thomas has given voice to this issue in many of his works, including his short story “Percy’s Illness”, which focuses on the “’self-hatred’ resulting from the persecutions gays endure”.

Thomas states, “I write because reality mystifies me, and my temperament pushes me to explore it via my imagination. I know that my senses apprehend little more than the masks of reality. My desire, then, is to strip away the mask and send probes into the darkness beyond”. His books achieve this in various ways, focusing on the negotiation of Western and West African identity in Spirits in the Dark and Return to Arcadia, and the experience of West Indian youth immigrating to Montreal in Behind the Face of Winter. Thomas explains that his most recent work No Safeguards is “a corrective to much of my writing, which is mostly about ‘the wretched of the earth.’…The novel is as much about the making of the middle-class in St Vincent (not Isabella Island) as it is about middle-class West Indian immigrants to Canada”.

No Safeguards is the first in a trilogy of novels focusing on Jay and his brother Paul from childhood to young adulthood. The book deals with the impact of fundamentalist Christianity on their family, the ways that this becomes even more poignant when they leave their grandmother’s home in St. Vincent to join their mother in Montreal, and the further oppression that the brothers encounter when it is revealed that they are gay.

Nigel Thomas was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and has been living in Montreal since 1986. He has written three other novels, Spirits in the Dark, Behind the Face of Winter, and Return to Arcadia, along with three collections of short stories, How Loud Can the Village Cock Crow, Lives: Whole and Otherwise (translated into French as Des vies cassées), and When the Bottom Falls Out and Other Stories. He has also written a collection of poems, Moving through Darkness, and two scholarly texts.

Veena Gokhale began her career in print journalism in Bombay during the 1980’s and first came to Canada on a journalism fellowship. She has worked in communications for non-profit organizations, and has had her fiction and poetry published in anthologies and literary journals. She is also the writer of Bombay Wali & Other Stories, released by Guernica Editions in 2013.

Posted in Fiction, Interviews, News.

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Elana Wolff: B.W. Powe’s Poems “feel oracular”

poweelana wolff

 

Writing for Brick Books, Elana Wolff praises Guernica writer B.W. Powe as a poet who is “oceanic – in intellectual breadth and interest, spiritual vision, and in pure unshielded feeling”. Wolff describes Powe as a radically eclectic writer, “billed as a philosopher, poet, scholar, and novelist. He calls himself a neo-romantic, hyper-modern transcendentalist, and the mouthful fits”. Powe’s poetry expresses this eclecticism by borrowing from an extensive range of writers including Baudelaire, Neruda, Beckett, and Proust, but also from aspects of “the wired world of global connectivity and vibrational ESP” (demonstrating Powe’s early tutelage under Marshall McLuhan) as well as “a clearing in the woods the pages of a fable”. Wolff recalls how she first encountered Powe in two poems that appeared in Exile Quarterly that struck Wolff for being “rapturous, self-revealing, un-ironic”. Wolff compares Powe to thinker William Irwin Thompson, especially in terms of Thompson’s The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light. Powe’s poetry articulates the ways that Thompson’s philosophical, transcendentalist thought resonated with Wolff in such lines as “Some books crack you open so that you’re the one who’s read”. Powe’s poems demonstrate that “power comes from candour and ardour”, and in the vein of Thompson, “spirit-light – imagination”. His poems contain “a truthfulness…I want to glean from and believe”.

B.W. Powe’s newest collection, Where Seas and Fables Meet: Parables, Aphorisms, Fragments, Thought was released by Guernica Editions in Spring 2015. This book blends parables, aphorisms, dreams, fantasies, witticisms, puns, vignettes, and prose poems in a meditative and often passionate way.

B.W. Powe is also the author of A Climate Charged, The Solitary Outlaw, A Tremendous Canada of Light, Outage, These Shadows Remain, Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy and Light Onwords, Light Onwards. His book The Unsaid Passing was a finalist for the ReLit Prize.

Elana Wolff has written four collections of poetry including the F.G. Bressani Prize-winning You Speak to Me in Trees, and the bilingual Helleborus & Alchémille, which was awarded the John Glassco Prize for Translation in 2014 (translator: Stéphanie Roesler).

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“Sterling work” by Guernica Translators Thor Polson, Elana Wolff, and Menachem Wolff

kafka langer

The collection of Franz Kafka’s writings and Georg Mordechai Langer’s poetry entitled A Hunger Artist & Other Stories; Poems and Songs of Love, which was translated by Thor Polson, Elana Wolff, and Menachem Wolff, was described in a recent review as “sterling work”. The review, which was posted on the Goodreads website, points out how this translation “shows how varied and diverse Kafka’s output could be”. The review also draws on the basis for the collection of Kafka and Langer’s work, “attached to these works are poems, more or less long lost and hardly ever (if at all) translated into English, from a man Kafka’s letters and diaries mention a few times each, but one who perhaps was secretly in love with him”. The book evokes “mentions of secrets, lost loves and more…alongside the eulogy to Kafka that the translators based their biographical search around”. The review concludes by stating “this book is unusual, and completely necessary”.

A Hunger Artist & Other Stories; Poems and Songs of Love was released by Guernica in Fall 2014, and brings together Kafka’s writings with those of Georg Mordechai Langer. The book combines the translations of Kafka by Thor Polson with translations of Langer done collaboratively by Elana and Menachem Wolff. Polson has a master’s degree in German literature from Middlebury College and is also the writer of Childsong. While this translation is Menachem Wolff’s first literary work, Elana Wolff has written four collections of poetry including the F.G. Bressani Prize-winning You Speak to Me in Trees, and the bilingual Helleborus & Alchémille, which was awarded the John Glassco Prize for Translation in 2014 (translator: Stéphanie Roesler).

Posted in Fiction, News, Poetry, Reviews.

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Italian Week Readings and Events

This weekend, Guernica Editions will be participating in literary events as part of Montreal’s Italian Week.

Friday August 14th:
Michael Mirolla will be discussing the ins and outs of book publishing today along with other Montreal publishers and published authors. Topics to be discussed: how to submit manuscripts, e-books, digital publishing, self-publishing, translations. The event will take place at the Casa D’Italia (505 Jean-Talon East) at 7 PM.

Sunday August 16th:
Author readings by both Guernica and AICW authors. The readings will take place at the St Zotique Park Gazebo, Little Italy at 3 PM, and will include the following authors:

Mary Melfi
H. Nigel Thomas
Veena Gokhale
Patrick Balzamo
Annalisa Panati
Francis Catalano
Antonio D’Alfonso
Anthony D’Addese
Connie McParland
Michael Mirolla

August 15th and 16th:
Authors will be at the AICW-Guernica tent to sign books, chat with the public and do short readings.

For more information on Italian Week literary events, visit the AICW website: http://www.aicw.ca/aicw-events

For more information on other Italian Week events, visit the Italian Week website: http://italianweek.ca/en/main-events/

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The Star Phoenix Reviews Lynda Monahan’s Verge

vergeIn a recent article for The Star Phoenix, Bill Robertson reviews Lynda Monahan’s Verge and Leah Horlick’s For Your Own Good: two collections in which poets write about “getting past traumas in their lives and moving into healing and acceptance.”

In his discussion of Verge, Robertson draws parallels between the poet herself and the metaphor of the fox which reappears throughout the collection and “attempts to swim across a river, either to escape or explore new territory.” He explains that in Verge 3, the speaker asks: “what is it holds you there/lingering on that verge/what is it keeps you/from finding the other side,” just as Monahan lingers on the verge in her actual life:

“for Monahan, a wife, mother, daughter, sister, she is talking to herself and knows part of what holds her is duty, fear, various senses of responsibility, and basic inertia.”

Robertson explains how the metaphor of the verge, to which both the fox and the speaker keep returning, unfolds thematically in the collection:

“Monahan tells of a life that threads carefully between small joys, dark memories, and very real fears based on abuses in the past and threats in the present.”

Furthermore, he stresses the importance of location in the collection, which focuses the poems and grounds the speaker as she learns to move past trauma:

“Monahan gets full marks for locating her work in a very definite place: she is of Prince Albert, the Nisbet Forest around parts of it, and the north beyond. Whether it’s her father’s hunting trips, her mother’s garden, the woods beyond the house in which she grew up, or very much living the rural life in all four seasons, her area of the country both grounds her and helps her get over the traumas she has suffered.”

He explains that Monahan strikes a balance in the collection between “these poems of locating, as well as the ones in which Monahan accepts and grows comfortable with herself as a full-feeling woman… [and] the poems of fear, foreboding, and darkness in the past.”

Lynda Monahan’s Verge was published by Guernica Editions in Spring 2015.

Posted in Poetry, Reviews.

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Lucky Seven Interview: Irene Marques Chats with Open Book Toronto

irene marques 2In a recent Lucky Seven Interview with Open Book Toronto, poet and novelist Irene Marques talks about her newest book, My House is a Mansion. She discusses how the book came to be, the central questions it addresses, and offers her thoughts on the purpose of writing.

Irene Marques’ The Circular Incantation was published by Guernica Editions in Fall 2013.

Marques begins by explaining that she wrote My House is a Mansion right after her PhD disseration.

“I think after I finished my dissertation I wanted to engage in a type of writing that would step away from the restrictions of academic style and experiment with the literary form. Academic writing can be stifling and quite limiting… the novel allowed me to escape the rigidity of academic style and exercise my ability with the word and there is a beautiful freedom in this endeavour — a freedom that leads to growth and a certain spiritual vision and ontological expansion because we live and know and feel through language.”

She explains how the novel was put in motion for her by one phrase: “Ever since I remember being a woman, who thought of herself as a woman, and who was thought of as a woman, I have always felt that marriage was not something I would ever enter.”

She elaborates on how this is often the case in her writing: a single phrase or word acts as the starting point.

“I remember that I had in my mind a phrase, the first phrase of the novel that kept coming to me and I knew I had to take that phrase to places, explore it, give it what it was asking for… And then the second phrase came… And then the deluge could not be stopped… In fact, writing for me often starts this way: I have a phrase or a word that is constantly coming to me and I know that it wants to be fed, to become something bigger…”

Furthermore, Marques delves into the thematic concerns of the book, and explains how they developed.

“When I started writing the novel, I knew I wanted to explore issues related to love, feminism and women’s and men’s expectations in relationships — matters related to societal impositions and constructions of womanhood and manhood and how that can limit both men and women and the very experience of love, of what I envisage and imagine as love (I am an idealist, a romantic at heart). I also knew that I wanted to explore these themes through a transcultural approach by juxtaposing different societies, from Christian to Muslim to Buddhist, bringing in experiences from different continents… and also discuss issues related to race, class and colonization, matters that I also explored in my PhD dissertation and in my academic life.”

Nevertheless, she stresses that other ideas and themes did make their way into the book, and that “the very act of writing also took [her] into directions that [she] did not envisage at the beginning, which is always the case in writing… for many of us.”

 

She goes on to offer her opinion about what constitutes a great book, and what threatens great writing:

“I think a good book is a book that goes beyond what you already know and for that to happen you need experimentation with form and language, you need to get confused and you need to confuse. You need to engage yourself in an act of discovery, of discomfort, of entering and exploring the unknown. Toni Morrison said recently, in an interview given to CBC, that writing is an act of resolving something, an act that shows the growth of characters, it is a process of enlightenment. I agree with that. I will say though that there is (and especially in the Anglo-American world) an over-preoccupation with a writing that is tamed, comfortable and literal, and with a form and language that are easy to the reader and that is detrimental to writing and creates a sameness and a mono-culture that leads to literary poverty.”

Irene Marques is currently working on a piece of poetic prose that discusses the issue of love and a second novel in Portuguese about the Portuguese colonial wars in Africa.

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Graham Jensen reviews Max Layton’s When the Rapture Comes in The Bull Calf

when the rapture comesGraham Jensen’s review of Max Layton’s debut poetry collection When the Rapture Comes was recently published in The Bull Calf. Here, Jensen discusses the central themes of the collection and points out what the collection is really about.

When the Rapture Comes was published by Guernica Editions in Fall 2012.

Jensen begins by describing the collection as “a carnivalesque exploration of highly personal but also shared human concerns, a constellation of interrelated reflections in which the eschatological often meets the mildly scatological.”

He explains that Layton repeats the title of the book in each poem’s first line, and while doing so, “meditates on the subject of the apocalypse from a variety of perspectives”.

Furthermore, Jensen comments on two recurrent themes in the collection: inversion and family.

He explains:

“To Sing Another Villanelle,”… foregrounds the book’s preoccupations with repetition and formal control as well as its recurrent theme of inversion. In this poem, the rapture is represented as a time of great upheaval, a temporary disruption of the usual order of things… For Layton, this kind of carnivalesque inversion allows for exciting new experiences and possibilities—after all, the word “rapture” does have multiple meanings, one of which corresponds to the poet’s enthusiastic responses to the world around him.”

Similarly, he elaborates on the way in which Layton’s “emphasis on memories and the past” gives rise to the theme of family in his work.

“Poems such as “Remembering,” “Life Work,” “Intimations of Mortality,” and “Alzheimer’s” feature frequent references to Layton’s mother and father.”

Nevertheless, Jensen explains that the poems create their own poetic legacy rather than serving as a mere “Oedipal enterprise”.

“Layton seems content to create his own poetic legacy rather than attempt to usurp the father figure that he goes to such lengths to humanize in these pages.”

He stresses that despite the central role that Irving Layton plays in the poems, it is ultimately Max Layton’s voice that brings life to the poems.

“Although Irving Layton is one of the collection’s many protagonists and focal points, it is ultimately Max Layton’s sense of humour and use of clever turns or surprises that play the starring roles here.”

Jensen points out that Layton’s poetic debut is both captivating and powerful.

“Layton leaves little room for criticism in this captivating debut. Even when he doubts the power of his own poetry, he seems to invent increasingly witty and confident ways to dramatize his insecurities.”

He concludes by stressing that, despite being about endings, Layton’s first book is really about “the start of something else”:

“As the recent publication of Layton’s second collection of poetry indicates, this first book, about endings, is really about the start of something else: it marks the big-bang beginning of a gifted poet’s career, not his untimely demise.”

Posted in Poetry, Reviews.

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GEC’s Review of Len Gasparini’s Collected Poems in The Chronicle Herald: “Gasparini is Rock n’ Roll’s Offspring”

collected poemsIn a recent issue of the Chronicle Herald, George Elliott Clarke reviews Len Gasparini’s Collected Poems (Guernica Editions, Fall 2015).

Clarke begins by addressing the daunting process of compiling a Collected.

“A Collected Poems is a daunting work, for it is the poet taking a long view of his work and trying to position its best showing in the even longer view of posterity.”

He explains that Gasparini’s collection is a “striking read in this regard” as he manages to stray away from the pretentiousness that can arise with the format.

“His work studiously avoids any pretentiousness or ivory tower (poison) ivy. If these verses are his bones — entombed metaphorically here — they are dancing”

Furthermore, Clarke points to Gasparini’s writing influences: the rock n’ roll figures of the 50s and 60s.

“Indeed, Gasparini is rock ’n’ roll’s offspring: “I had … an exciting adolescence. My teachers were Elvis Presley, James Dean, and Jack Kerouac.” It’s easy to read these epigrams (generally short poems treating poignantly or wittily a theme) as lost liner notes to a classic Dylan album or as spontaneous footnotes to Kerouac’s On the Road.”

Clarke also comments on Gasparini’s “superb poem-studies (akin to a fine cartoonist suddenly offering a capacious, breathtaking, landscape painting),” such as Elegy, After the Divorce, and Knisteresque.

He stresses the overall quality of the collection — “an excellent read, and convicted in its themes — sex, cities, song, plus liquor, ’ligion and livin’, ” and expresses his thoughts on which poems from the collection are the strongest:

“The poems that are consistently strongest are, arguably — mysteriously — those that brood on Nature. Gasparini is the hipster as naturalist.”

Posted in Poetry, Reviews.

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