The sublime joy of the Paris launch
Yesterday, we kicked off the Mansfield-and-Stuart Ontario launch tour at Green Heron Books, in Paris, Ontario, the home of poet and small-press legend Nelson Ball. I was expecting a tiny crowd and a warm little event, but the store was packed and tons of books sold.
Amazingly affable bookseller Roy Skuce hosted the afternoon event, and I kicked things off with a brief reading from You Exist. Details Follow., my new poetry book from Anvil Press. Among the three poems I read was "Late," a longer piece that hinges on a couple of appearances by Nelson Ball.
Then, as the Mansfield Press portion of the afternoon started, Roy introduced Denis De Klerck, who waved from the audience, relieved, I think, that he didn't have to get up and speak. First up for Mansfield was Jaime Forsythe, reading from her debut collection, Sympathy Loophole. She was gentle and funny and wise, reading several of my favourite poems in that book. Well, I'd be hard-pressed to identify any poem in there that isn't a favourite. As happened when each of the Mansfield poets read, I was hearing the works as if for the first time, even though I had edited all the books and read each of those poems at least half a dozen times.
David W. McFadden took the podium next, holding his copy of What's the Score?, and he is the consummate pro. He did something pretty brave, which was to read one long poem. I mean, you do that and there's no turning back! The poem was the first the book's 99, "Stimulation Galore," which takes place in Italy. The poem is a pretty astonishing journey, packed with more surprises than you get in your average entire book of good poetry. I started learning from Dave's work when I was a teenager, and I continue to learn.
Alice Burdick, who, like Jaime, came in for this week's launches all the way from Nova Scotia, read next, from her third full collection, Holler. I love Alice's challenging work on the page, but she's one of those poets, like John Ashbery, who seems to show you a really beautiful way through her work as she reads. She ended off with the book's last poem, "Body House," and when she read the title aloud, she laughed: she hadn't ever noticed the pun.
The Mansfield readings finished off with a selection of poems from In This Thin Rain, by Nelson Ball, read by Nelson's friend, the poet and Laurel Reed publisher Kemeny Babineau. Nelson doesn't do readings, but he sat way back from the podium and smiled with pure pleasure as Kemeny read his poems, interlacing them with brief excerpts from Jorge Carrera Andrade's essay from Micrograms, a book recently published by Wave.
The readings finished, Roy and his partner, Ann, brought out coffee, bottled water and Girl Guide cookies, and the animated post-reading conversations went on for another hour.
This event was a dream for me. There was a certain beauty in kicking off our tour in this tiny town of fewer than 12,000. And the town that Nelson Ball, another of my literary heroes, has called home for at least a couple decades now.
Looking forward to tonight's launch at the Monarch Tavern in Toronto, population 2.6 million; tomorrow's at the Grad Club in Kingston, population 160,000; and Wednesday's at Raw Sugar in Ottawa, population 883,000.
Denis De Klerck dreams a launch in Paris. From left: Stuart Ross, Alice Burdick, Jaime Forsythe, Denis De Klerck, Nelson Ball, David W. McFadden, Roy Skuce.
Over and out.