I have been poetry editor for the Punchy Writers Series, an imprint of the Montreal-based literary press DC Books since April 2007. During that period I have edited and brought to press the titles that appear below. It has been an incredibly creative and rewarding experience to work with these amazing writers.
Poetry books I have edited since April 2007:
Stuart Ross, Dead Cars in Managua (2008): Stuart Ross’s sixth poetry collection is both an experimental departure for Ross and an offering of some of his most accurate surrealistic observations to date. Dead Cars in Managua gathers into one volume three discrete poetry projects—an absurdist Baedeker of image-driven prose poems about Managua accompanied by his original photos, a formally various sequence of personal, narrative poems about the claustrophobic spaces and amorphous moods of hospitals, and a selection of cubist and abstract poems where Ross shows his experimental New York School cards like never before. All of the poems in this book are touched by Ross’s unique ability to dissolve our common-sense understanding of the world, and then distill a more potent truth from the remains of sense and reason.
Angela Szczepaniak, Unisex Love Poems (2008): Angela Szczepaniak’s debut poetry collection Unisex Love Poems sutures swatches of fiction, poetry, typeface cartoons, etiquette advice, slapstick legal antics, and gruesomely illustrated recipes for sweetbreads and love letters into a parody of manners and conduct. An autopsy of language, it makes you savour the visceral, tangible quality of the word. As it satirizes the language and conventions of love, food, courtship, and sexuality, this novel-in-poems will pluck your heart out and teach you how to prepare it as an intimate dinner for two.
Gillian Sze, Fish Bones (2009): in her debut collection, Gillian Sze takes a random walk through the art museum and finds the drama of life framed in a series of powerful and precise artefact poems. Sze’s ekphrastic verse is unrelenting in its commitment to action. each poem follows its own impetus, the origin of which is always a deeply felt encounter, whether aesthetic, familial, erotic, or exotic. vacillating deftly between the suspended space-time of a museum exhibit and the charged urgency of the lives she imagines, Fish Bones is a collection at once stirring and arresting, tender and coolly true.
Nathaniel G. Moore, Pastels are Pretty Much the Opposite of Chalk (2009) is about the syntax of distinction, unlikely comparison and the colorful drama that comes with choosing between actions, people and things. Scenarios of rupture are set in shopping lines, bedrooms, tawdry boardwalks, train stations and hospitals, as tinsel rains down slowly in the background. Nathaniel G. Moore’s poetry bears witness to staged altercations between previously unimagined oppositions, and asks the strangest questions: Do I like pretzels? What kind of pretzels do I prefer? How do I feel? Would I rather watch a car chase or be in one? What is Golden Flint? Do they sell that at the grocery store? Have I told you the story of when I fell in love with you? Like a sensitive psycho surrealist, Moore provides answers to all the questions in his wonderfully wrought and affecting poetic riddles.
Ian Goodman, Generator (Snare Books, 2009): This is the one non-Punchy poetry title I have edited. It was published by Jon Paul Fiorentino’s Montreal-based press, Snare Books. In this title, Ian Goodman explores the parameters of bardic cybernetics and robot love. Morphing forms of digital interface with traditional poetry, Goodman creates new media out of archaic lyric artifacts. Generator shows us the world through the reality-twisted lens of Goodman’s eye-pod goggle. The result is a poetics of sensitive observation for the seriously insane.Whether generating interplanetary ballads, cyber chatroom conversation poems or spam-filtered versions of Pale Fire, Goodman makes the world strange for us again.
Larissa Andrusyshyn, Mammoth (2010): Larissa Andrusyshyn’s debut collection, Mammoth, confronts loss and mourning by exploring the lyric science behind keeping things alive in a world where technology is at work reviving extinct species. This exciting and wide ranging collection of poems about family and memory in the context of human bio-intervention pushes our thinking about the relationship between parts (fragments, shards, things washed up in pieces) and wholes (cohering personal narratives and stories, ecosystems and other contextualizing frameworks, The Universe) through strikingly innovative uses of metaphor, personification, and surrealistic leaps of narrative imagination.
Greg Santos, The Emperor’s Sofa (2010): Here is how Todd Swift describes Greg Santos’s debut collection: The Emperor’s Sofa is a sprawling gift of audacious artifice, a world of Mad Magazine intensity enriched by Ashberyian ironies and McGimpseyian pleasures. Santos imagines a poetic land of deranged heroes, and anti-heroic marvels – funny, astonishing and, unmasked – poignant and profound. Behind the facade of the Emperor’s restless opulence stands this collection’s insight: a new poetics has landed, after the wars – a copious Montreal Style of styles, where, from its royal mount, ‘ the view is indeed magnificent’. This marks the spot where a brilliant poet debuts – fully cognizant of the clash between the trashy new and the zany old, and all the useless beauty between; which he puts to great use
Louise Bak, Syzygy (2011): Louise Bak’s third collection of poetry continues to reinvent the English language as a sharp and challenging post-modern argot that combines terminology ranging from Cantonese and Mandarin to Latin, Korean, punk and Klingon. Bak’s poetry exploits the lyrics’ foundational status as riddle rooted in metaphor and synecdoche by showing us how language itself consists of a string of riddle terms. In contrast to her previous books, the glossary appendix we have come to expect with her work has migrated to the site of the poems themselves, and now creep up from the bottom of the page like another representational tide of potential explanation and meaning. Bak’s poems present a concentrated and often hyper-visual manner of conveying sexual and traumatic experience in a language of extreme metaphor. Many of her most tender poems are also her most violent. Syzygy, a term that means either conjunction or opposition, especially in reference to the moon and the sun, characterises Bak’s explorations in language as simultaneously extreme in precision and intense in mediated opacity. Reversals of gaze and gender are a favourite and effective tactic in Bak’s book. They are not always performed as a means of undermining an objectifying, ethnocentric position but often to celebrate positions of subjective and sexual ambiguity. Bak shows us how much there is to learn from figures who embody ambivalence, and she writes poems of gratitude for this state of linguistic and corporeal existence. For these people, who are the heroes of Bak’s book, and who function as the material truth behind the linguistic contortionism found in her poetry, she offers prayers of eternal residence in “Syzygy”. The collection gives new poetic form to the rich language of a multi-racial sex-culture that defines our new century.
Todd Swift, England is Mine (2011), Todd Swift’s seventh collection of poems, takes on the foreign coolness, tone and lingo of London in the present, while the poet’s Montreal past arrives in waves of defiance, solace and reverie. In poems that demonstrate Swift’s abilities as a poet to out-move The Movement (out bicycle-clip Larkin), on the one hand, and revive the British Revival, on the other, this collection pushes old, droll Mr. Poetic Persona to the brink of discovering an urgent, idealistic youthful self within. Public, intimate, clever, and heartbreakingly sad, the poems in England is Mine reveal a poet at the height of his engagement with the lyric idiom.
John McAuley, All I Can Say for Sure (2013), The poems in McAuley’s All I Can Say for Sure range from personal archaeology and elegiac fictions of free translations to grammar wordplay for the initiated to a compassionately ironic look at the passing of life to rewired material extensions of our inner and outer spaces. McAuley’s meditations upon the details of quotidian life and historical personae are rendered with the syntactical precision of a linguist and the metaphorical density of a riddler.
Greg Santos, Rabbit Punch! (2014), In Rabbit Punch!, Marco Polo reminisces on his friendship with Kublai Khan over deli sandwiches, Wilfred Owen and Ernest Hemingway trade war stories at Hooters, and Senator John McCain remembers that fateful day when his father took him to eat bubble gum ice cream. With punchy poems that are intimate, dark, enigmatic, playful, and surreal, peppered with pop culture figures ranging from Batman, to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Paris Hilton to “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Rabbit Punch! delivers a poetic KO.
Larissa Andrusyshyn, Proof (2014), Proof explores the worlds of entomology, memory and mathematics. What can be proven with empirical evidence and what demands reason. The poems examine the means of observation from the entomologist to the grief stricken mathematician. From break-ups to Dung Beetles, these poems move from microscope to recollection and from the abstract math proof to the visceral sting of the wasp’s barbed quill.
Stuart Ross, A Hamburger in a Gallery (2015), Stuart Ross’s eighth collection of poems delivers a gallery of emotionally charged poetry experiments along with a series of philosophical meditations on the aesthetically contrived and sometimes downright quirky poetic processes that were followed to generate the poems in this book. A Hamburger in a Gallery is deeply engaged in demonstrating how art happens, especially through a poet’s immediate aesthetic engagement with other works of art. Comprised of poems written “after” the lines and language of other artists‘ works, “during” sessions of listening to other poets reading their poems, or constructed “from” the parts and pieces of other artists’ words, A Hamburger in a Gallery provides a distinctive experience of the relationship between the finished poem and the process that informed its creation. Blurring the boundaries between creative writing and creative reading, Ross has once again created an utterly original, accessible, moving, and avant-garde classic.
John Emil Vincent, Excitement Tax (2017), Today’s book of poetry was only eight or nine poems into John Emil Vincent’s Excitement Tax and we knew that Vincent should drop his other misadventures and write poetry full time. Of course it won’t feed the cat, but. But, Vincent can seriously burn. Excitement Tax starts off sprinting and never pauses for breath. We get introduced to “Weaselbird” who seems both a symbol and a foil, but mostly a tool for the spontaneous glee that comes bounding out of every line in these poems. Weaselbird is quite the character. So was Gulley Jimson. John Emil isn’t showing all of his cards all of the time, no good gambler would. Today’s book of poetry isn’t suggesting Vincent is borrowing anything from Mr. Cary but rather his Weaselbird is a bird cut from the same cloth as Mr. Gimson.
Eleni Zisimatos, Nearly Terminal (2019), How can we know what is the self? This long-awaited first book from Eleni Zisimatos is a gem of–dare I say it–piezoelectricity. Faceted glints of sound pull off each word surface. Opacity here is a linguistics of nurture, and necessary. Each small kernel of diction counts…absorbs… projects as nervature. Knowing human sadness and difficulty, this poet does not howl. Rather, Zisimatos deftly micro-charges the tune and impasse of her intensely contemplative semantic surfaces into powerful choral actuators of possibility.” – ERÍN MOURE.