23 April 2016

4 exciting new books under the "a stuart ross book" imprint

I'm pretty proud of the books I've ushered through Mansfield Press since 2007, when publisher Denis De Klerck let me aboard on a trial basis. That year I worked on new books with Lillian Necakov and Steve Venright. In all, I've brought about 45 books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction to Mansfield.

For this spring's list, I've worked with Montreal poet Sarah Burgoyne on her first book, with Kingston's Jason Heroux and Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia's Alice Burdick on their respective fourth collections, and with Paris, Ontario, poet Nelson Ball on his … well, he's got a lot of books.

Those books are launching next week in Montreal, Kingston, Toronto, and St. George, Ontario. I haven't seen them yet, but can't wait to hold them in my hands.

Denis did send me a photo of them, though, as well as the new book by Toronto's Eva HD that he saw through the press this season.

What particularly excites me about this season's crop are the challenges inherent in each book. Writers challenging readers, and also challenging themselves.

Saint Twin is Sarah Burgoyne debut, and it is as challenging as it is moving and powerful. This 160-page volume is comprised of nine sequences, a couple of which even have subsequences. Mostly, these amazing sequences are interwoven through each other throughout the book. It makes for a read that can be disorienting, but also exciting and rich, and it allows the echoes — and the distinctions — between the sequences to really stand out. It was a brave decision by Sarah — and a beautifully outrageous one — to order the book that way. I don't know of any other book of Canadian poetry that is structured quite like Saint Twin. I am immensely proud to have helped bring it into the world. I think readers are going to find extraordinary things in this glorious and hefty book.

Chewing Water is the fourth full-length collection (including next fall's Certain Details: The Poems of Nelson Ball, from WLU Press) I've worked on with Canadian poetry and publishing legend Nelson Ball. Nelson is often thought of as primarily a writer of minimalist nature poems, though people have been part of his poems for decades. Since the death of his wife, the artist and writer Barbara Caruso, in late 2009, it seems that Nelson's books are becoming increasingly "social" — lots of friends appear in the poems, as well as Barbara. Chewing Water is almost evenly divided between nature poems and people poems. At least, that's my impression. I haven't really counted the poems in each category. But it made for an interesting challenge when it came to ordering the pieces in the book. Divide it into sections, separating the different kinds of poems? Alternate? In the end, I decided to kick off with a rare childhood poem (Nelson's childhood, that is), and let intuition guide me. After a particularly emotional people poem, it seemed apt to insert a nature poem to allow for some peace and meditation. And certain nature poems suggested others, as certain people poems also suggested others. When I was done, Nelson shifted half a dozen poems around, and then we were both happy. To me, the book seems to have an almost emotional narrative. But really, with Nelson's poems, I could have thrown the pages into the air at random and ordered them how they landed and it still would have been a brilliant book.

It has been a blast to work with Jason Heroux for the third time, on his fourth collection with Mansfield. For the last book, Natural Capital, I really encouraged Jason to push himself in new directions, and he did a fantastic job. It didn't take any convincing to see Jason go even further with Hard Work Cheering Up Sad Machines. The title alone is a great departure for him. But look: there are quasi-flarf poems in this book! And about half a dozen long poems and sequences, where Jason explores different forms and different relations between the sequences' elements. This is the Kingston poet's most exciting collection so far, and his longest, by a long shot. The other thing that I could feel in this new manuscript was all the deep and close readings he has done over the years of works by poets from around the world. There is homage and respect and influence herein. Jason is a poet's poet.

And finally, it's been an intense pleasure to work with Alice Burdick on four full-length books, the first for Beth Follett's amazing Pedlar Press, and the next three with Mansfield. Again, like Nelson and Jason, Alice has been pushing herself to expand her palette ever further. Book of Short Sentences is Alice's longest and most acrobatic book yet. And it also has some very long poems, both of the prose and the linear variety. Alice's poetry is always challenging, in that very pleasurable way that John Ashbery's work is challenging. And comparisons have been made between Burdick and Ashbery, and I think they're valid to a point. Alice's work is much more deeply personal, though. And her wordplay is nearly constant (in a best-of-Nabokov/Burgess sort of way). I feel like Canadian poetry might finally be catching up to Alice Burdick, and this might be the book that brings her the recognition she so deeply deserves.

The fifth book out this season from Mansfield is Toronto poet Eva HD's follow-up to Rotten Perfect Teeth, her twice-reprinted debut from spring 2015. Shiner is the new book. This one is Denis De Klerck's project, and it is an often belligerent, often beautiful collection.

I'm on the train right now for Montreal, where we launch tomorrow (April 24) at 7 pm at the Copacabana on St. Laurent (where Nick Papaxanthos drew a huge crowd to launch his debut, Love Me Tender, this past fall). On April 25, 7 pm, we will be in Kingston at the brilliant indie bookstore Novel Idea. And then on April 26, we're in Mansfield's home turf of Toronto, at the Monarch Tavern at 7 pm. After a few days' break, we head to St. George, Ontario, Nelson Ball's neck of the woods, to launch Nelson and Alice at 2 pm at the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead.

Then, on June 16, Alice launches her book in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, at Box of Delights Bookshop, 6 pm. Joining her will be Darren Greer, launching his novel Advocate.

As always, I am grateful to Denis De Klerck for the privilege of working with such fine authors.

Come join us at a launch!

Over and out.