May 9th, 2012 § § permalink
The Music Makers
Short lyrics and sketches of emergence, whose signatures are a startling precocity of taste, judgment and reticence. The poems are organized in four sections or cantos under headings of musical direction, here indicating narrative markings and precise emotional and intellectual registers: Da Capo, from the head; Lontano, as from a distance; Adagio, at ease; Cadence, a falling. These are urban poems, poems of streetscapes and street people, of movement and light, of the anonymous and disinterested gaze, variously reminiscent of Baudelaire, Eliot, St Vincent Millay. A first collection of surprising strength and authority.
Cristina Rizzuto holds a BA in English literature and Italian studies, and a Certificate in Creative Book Publishing from Humber College. Her writing has appeared in Dragnet Magazine, Inquire Publication, and The Savvy Reader. Cristina was the 2006 recipient of the La Rocca Bursary Award for outstanding and extraordinary achievements in the community. She lives in Vaughan, ON.
Book design by Christian Snyder. Cover art by Kathryn Cucullo.
March 8th, 2012 § § permalink
Every Second Weekend
Nine linked and overlapping narratives in the voices of Liz and Katie, mother and daughter. We come to know Katie’s brother Michael, her feckless father, her half-brother Kent, in a family saga of tragedy and disappointment, of growing estrangement and isolation. As though mirroring this inner emotional landscape, the setting is a Canada of far distances, stunted forests, remote cabins, transitory accommodations. Both Katie and Liz must finally make choices about commitment, escape, desire and dignity. There are no easy answers in this austere tale, but a sense of the values of maturity and intelligence affirmed.
Rebecca Babcock, born in Cold Lake, Alberta, holds a PHD in English from Dalhousie University where she is currently working as an English Literature instructor. She has published short stories in Room of One’s Own and Fait AcCompLit, and, in 2004, adapted several of her stories to the stage, performing in the one-woman show Everysecondweekend at the Edmonton Fringe Festival. She lives in Halifax with her husband.
Book design by Christian Snyder. Cover art by Jennifer Johannesen.
May 31st, 2011 § § permalink
With You the Moments of my Life are Fading
In thirty-seven short movements of mixed verse, prose and dialogue, the poem chronicles the death of a love, and the ensuing struggles for understanding and dignity. A modern Psalm, an elegy or lamentation, it is steeped in the Bible, the ancient and modern classics, in rich West Indian-inflected cadences. Interlocutors hound the speaker, in the manner of Job’s friends. Bitter reminders of other days, of the extent of his loss, tempt him to self-pity, despair, violence. Then, unexpectedly, a provisional calm descends as the speaker, reflecting on the lives of his immigrant parents, learns something of grace and stoicism, survivorship and redemption.
Roy Lewis was born in West Bromwich, Birmingham. He has been writing poetry for as far back as he can remember. He has worked as an actor on film radio and television and has been a long time member of the Stratford Festival Company.
Book design by Christian Snyder. Cover art by Aron Tager.
December 8th, 2010 § § permalink
“My real name is Amanda Vrazda and I suppose I owe you a story.” Thus begins an extraordinary narrative. In passage after passage of virtuosic prose, from erotic fantasy to Bible thumping to John Donne, from urban Ontario to hillbilly Tennessee to French Quarter New Orleans, the metaphysical and psychological pressure on the narrator, and on the reader, mounts seamlessly towards an unforgettable and inevitable conclusion, the true identity of the shape-shifting Molasses.
Antonio Michael Downing was born there, grew up here and spent much time elsewhere in between. This is his first novella in years.
Book design by Christian Snyder. Cover photo by Ilia.
“Masked as a revenge tale, Molasses patty-cakes perspectives from chapter to chapter as characters identities are exposed and discovered. A mysterious Le Downing propels the plot while Molasses – a performance pseudonym Downing uses – is the man everyone wants, but can’t understand. Bordering a line between a gritty exploitation film-like storyline and post-modern text, this novella is a high-speed chase through the American south. This may be Downing’s ‘first novella in years,’ as his bio states, but let’s hope it’s not his last.” —Telegraph Journal, Canada
“Downing, who was born in Trinidad, drew heavily from his family’s history for the framework of Molasses. Loosely explained, it follows the lives of two young women who each face an identity crisis when the man they both love, Molasses, suddenly leaves. “This idea of loss forcing someone into an external odyssey that really is an internal journey is a part of my personal story,” Downing says.
“As a child, the death of my grandmother when I was 12 precipitated my immigration to Canada where suddenly everything that I knew about life was thrown into question. This profoundly shaped the way I engage with the world. I think the journey of (the book’s main characters) Ophelia and Amanda Vrazda are personifications of my own quest to reconcile loss with identity.”
As a writer, Downing describes himself as a sensualist, trying to draw from all five senses. He is also keenly aware of the rhythmic potential of words. “The experience of reading Molasses, I’m told, is very confusing at times but rewarding if you pay close attention to the unfolding sensations. I’m very fond of Michael Ondaatje — another colonial island child-immigrant — Albert Camus and Kathy Acker. But I really think my love of jazz and punk rock music like Miles Davis and the Clash, and the hymns I learned on my grandmother’s lap in Trinidad, has had more influence on how I write.” — The Record, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
November 1st, 2010 § § permalink
Colin and Dwight are on a mission to Los Angeles to find Uncle Skip, who is obsessed by the unsolved 1947 Black Dahlia murder. “She wasn’t some self-loathing skank who turned tricks for drugs and money,” Skip admonishes them, “She was Elizabeth Short. Born twenty-nine July in nineteen and twenty-four in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, and murdered—very, very savagely—on, or around, the fifteenth of January, nineteen hundred and forty-seven . . . I want you to show her the respect she deserves.” A five-pound-burrito-challenge, a near-death curbing and one titty-bar later, a kind of truth emerges. The Dahlia Boyz learn something about respect and dignity.
Andrew Hunt teaches at the University of Waterloo and is the author of two books on the Vietnam era in American History. His next book will be about Ronald Reagan and cold war culture in the 1980s. He writes a regular newspaper column and blogs on veganism and animal rights.
Book design by Christian Snyder.
“The horrific 1947 slaying of a Los Angeles woman named Elizabeth Short caused a news media sensation. And in the decades since, the so-called Black Dahlia case has been the inspiration for books, pop songs, movies and even video games. University of Waterloo history professor Andrew Hunt uses the continuing interest in the unsolved murder as a backdrop for this darkly funny novella, published by Blaurock Press of Kitchener. As the story opens, young Colin Ellis, owner of the struggling Bazooka Video & Media shop in Atlanta, is summoned by his Aunt Harriet who begs him to cross the country to track down his Uncle Gordon, the estranged younger brother of Colin’s father, Melvyn. Melvyn has Alzheimer’s disease and it’s distressing to Harriet that he is calling out for Gordon, an odd duck who is believed to be in Los Angeles leading guided tours of sites with connections to the Black Dahlia case. Colin’s cousin, Dwight Sperry, agrees to join the mission and together they fly west. Dwight’s a colourful character who speaks in an appropriately colourful way, but he more than meets his match when the two pals finally catch up to Uncle Gordon. Hunt, who was born in Calgary and raised in the United States, has an ear for the spoken word and the lively conversations that he has penned are an entertaining feature of this tale, which is a carefully crafted blend of scenes both funny and forlorn”.— John Fear, May 14, Waterloo Region Record, Ontario, Canada
December 21st, 2009 § § permalink
Like a Road
“My name is Jerry Carson.” And so it begins. All Carson men leave home early, and between departure and return, between flight and reconciliation lies the journey. Trial by water and by fire, trials of betrayal, imprisonment, loneliness and loss. As in all fairy tales there are Helpers and Instructors: canny old men, carny freaks, a pair of hoboes, a miner, a shaman, a fortune-teller, Mary of the yoga class, Marie of the hot-air balloon. New Orleans, Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, Florida, by truck, boxcar, ship, horseback. The final trial, however, is back home in the trailer park, in a letter from the dead.
Colin Fullerton lives and writes in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This is his first novel.
Book design by Christian Snyder. Cover art by Leslie Watts, Long Path (2008).
December 19th, 2009 § § permalink
The Yellow Room
The final days of Jørgen Mikkelsen. A man of no family or property, a disappointed artist and lover, a reluctant Resistance fighter, a man with intolerable burdens of memory and regret. Alone with his thoughts, a curiously lucid madman imprisoned in an attic room, Jørgen conjures out of his past a parade of ghosts. Dominating Jørgen’s disjointed narrative, however, is the haunting, imperious, tragic figure of Anna Hauge, whose circuits ran up and down the seamy streets of Vesterbro in wartime Copenhagen.
S.K.Johannesen is author of Sister Patsy (Pasdeloup Press, 2003), Luggas Wood (Blaurock Press, 2007), and many short stories, essays and memoirs. He is editor of Blaurock Press and lives in Stratford, Ontario.
Book Review by Andrew Hunt, The Record, Friday, April 23, 2010
“Johannesen’s latest, The Yellow Room, shines on all levels. Like his first two works, it is impressionist literature that explores the inner thoughts and experiences of its protagonist. In this case, the first-person narrator is Jørgen Mikkelsen, a man whose life has been all over the map: artist, anti-Nazi resistance fighter, skilled cabinetmaker and a man haunted by the ghosts of his past.
“The richness of the story is found in its memorable vignettes of the people Mikkelsen encounters in his journeys. The time he spends in hiding during the Nazi occupation of Denmark gives him plenty of opportunities to reflect on his past, and his memories are strikingly vivid. Those memories are the subject of his writings while holed up in a room that is “pale yellow. Almost white where the sun is reflected.”
“…every sentence, every word, is beautifully rendered, like a painting.”
“The Yellow Room reminded me of E.L. Doctorow’s Homer and Langley…. The stories are quite different …. But the two books share a powerful narrative voice in which dialogue is spare, yet the descriptions are so vivid that you remember scenes long after you’ve put the book down.”
Book design by Christian Snyder. Cover art by Susan Benson.
October 27th, 2009 § § permalink
Acquainted With Absence. Selected Poems
edited by Douglas Glover
“—a magnificent poet, prolific, protean and deeply, intensely, personal. She is a metaphysical poet, concerned with ends and existence, yet she grounds everything in the specific and the concrete.
“Reading and rereading her, one begins to notice, beyond the narratives of love and death and the concrete references to loved ones and beloved places, insistent recurrences—water, islands, plant lore, horses, seahorses—unfolding into myth, comedy, eros and personal anguish.”
—Douglas Glover, from the Introduction
Karen Mulhallen is Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning magazine Descant. She has published ten books of poetry and authored, co-authored, edited and co-edited magazines, anthologies, columns and critical articles on culture and the arts. She also teaches literature at Ryerson University and lives in Toronto.
Book design by Christian Snyder. Cover art by Virgil Burnett.
October 27th, 2009 § § permalink
A hybrid narrative, different voices, contrasting worlds. One strand—banal, cruel, funny, sentimental by turns—a coming-of-age tale, a middle-class schoolboy awakens to the facts of class and sex in post-war England. The other strand a sordid tale of manipulation, betrayal and murder in Toronto, Kingston and Montreal. These stories are brought together in the narrator’s pursuit of the truth about life in general and his life in particular. Haunted by bad faith, in others and in himself, he nevertheless gropes toward insight into the nature of personal responsibility.
Eric Schachter is a writer and film maker. His previous book Skandalon is an astoundingly candid exercise in personal and family archaeology.
Comments on a very early draft of Dry Bones:
“I think you are probably a good person.”
“A cool investigation of class and crime.”
“The best study of violent crime I have ever read.”
“Everything rings true except for the fact that you actually liked [Bonnie and Ricky].”
“It is not clear as to whether this is fact or fiction.”
“I return this unread, as I have been accused in the past of stealing other people’s material.”
Book design and cover art by Christian Snyder.
October 27th, 2009 § § permalink
Philip Snowcroft’s Finality
A Manhattan fable of talent and mediocrity, ambition and genius, art and commerce, crime and punishment. Owen Higdon, hungry artist’s-agent, likeable chancer and compulsive gambler, has staked everything on selling Philip Snowcroft’s new painting. Finality is his friend’s culminating achievement as an artist, a work of epic scale, raw passion, moral authority—and worth a lot of money. Unfortunately, there are other stakes in play, in an increasingly desperate and dangerous game. Owen must choose. The next roll of the dice will be for his own soul.
Jason Schneider is co-author of Have Not Been The Same: The CanRock Renaissance, author of Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots Of American Music, and one of Canada’s most respected music journalists. His first novel, 3,000 Miles, was published in 2005. He lives in Waterloo, Ontario.
Book design by Christian Snyder. Cover art by Barry Lorne.