pesbo since 2005.

Pearl Pirie’s book lists, interviews, event write-ups, poems and more.

ottawa small press fair

For the first time in almost 3 years the small press fair was back(!) thanks to rob mclennan. It was like old home week. So many people we haven’t seen for years, catching up with directions lives have moved. Lots of good conversations! (I was more than a little hoarse yesterday as a result. )

I got good table neighbours with Grant Wilkins of Grunge Papers and Catina Noble with her books of non-fiction how-to, short stories and memoirs. She’s also running a monthly poetry publication, Fiddles and Scribbles which is taking submissions.

David and Catina.

I gave Grant a break and didn’t chase him the camera this year. I’ve often gone table to table photographing the exhibitors but I gave that a pass this time on the keep it simple principle. An impression:

All the 40 tables were booked. Lots of new faces and familiar tables. 40-Watt Spotlight, above/ground, Apt 9, Arc, Book*hug, Canthius, Cornelius Designs, Coven Editions, Frontenac House, Seymour Hamilton, Proper Tales, Puddles of Sky, Riverbed Reading Series, Room 3o2, shreeking violet, Stuart Ross/Proper Tales, VII, and a lot of new like Turret House from Montreal, Wyrdsmith Press, Madison McSweeney, and All is Fiction. Some graphic offerings from Chris Lackie and print issues of Ottawa’s flo lit magazine. (Did Cactus Press come? I didn’t see them.)

A few people didn’t budge from their tables or buy from each other, or talk and that’s a opportunity lost.

People I spoke with seemed happy with sales. The crowd was pretty constant all day. That’s good for energies, to not have dead zones. Christian, rob and I put up posters, which generally helps.

As I was postering pre-sale, a group of women crossing the intersection, made a chorus of book sale? book sale? did I see book sale? One beelined to me and got directions. Another good moment was losing my end of the tape and, speaking to no one in particular, is anyone good at this? And a group of three women doubled back, and one said, I am, and found the end. Good Samaritans, they’re everywhere.

masks and coffee and cookies

Thanks to the lovely Christine McNair near the exhibitor catalogues and coffee, and free table, there were masks on hand for those who forgot, an air purifier, and, instead of the usual open boxes of cookies, sealed packages for hygiene. Lovely.

I had my first fruit roll up since I was a kid. How fun is that.

6 tables offered free chocolate. (Great minds.) I gave out wrapped brownies. Riverbed offered Lindt. And Christine Sung came round mid-afternoon as a snack fairy offering free banana muffins. It’s that sort of caring that makes a community.

I veer far into food column here. Books. There were also books. Some I had wanted to see in person. Blurbs and reviews are okay but I need to read a few random lines to see if I can hear something.

As do others. People could flip through the version of this small singing and a bunch enjoyed seeing how it came together.

Grant took a pic of my table. Everyone seemed to pick up Stephen Brockwell’s chapbook. Some sales of back list items but mostly it was the new chapbook that went.

I also think my improv tablecloth from my stash of quilt-materials was more cheerful and fitting than my usual tablecloth, where ever I cached that away.

I look forward to hunkering down with chapbooks and books I picked up.Whenever the cat lets me.

She thinks I should start with Frances Boyle’s book. You heard it here first. Cat-recommended.

A few people had postcards. James Hawes out of Montreal has started a press with a monthly chapbook coming out. Brokeback is already on issue 19 of the zine, which isn’t the one pictured incidentally.
the free table had a lot of treasures
puddles of sky has postcards and a new letter stamp issue that I’m in. Ralph Kolewe had a above/ground chappie that I missed.

Hope you all found some papery treasures lately. A few regulars were missing like a last hurrah from KFB, and Karen Schindler’s press couldn’t make it. Hope that come spring, some people who missed this fair, as exhibitors or browsers will be back.

Loved Then, Loved Now: Recipe for a Sidewalk

Kate Braid as a carpenter, as a capable woman. As a queer woman holding space for herself and others. This poem and poet struck me hard.

Recipe for a Sidewalk 

Pouring concrete is just like baking a cake. The main difference is
that first you build the pans. Call them forms. Think grand.

Mix the batter with a few simple ingredients: one shovel of sand
one shovel of gravel
a pinch of cement.
Add water until it looks right.
Depends how you like it.

Can be mixed by hand or with a beater called a Readi-Mix truck.
Pour into forms and smooth off.
Adjust the heat so it’s not too cold,
not too hot. Protect from rain.
Let cook until tomorrow.
Remove the forms and walk on it.
There is one big difference from cakes. This one will never disappear.
For the rest of your life your kids
will run on the same sidewalk, singing My mom baked this!

Kate Braid

It’s existence opening possibility more than any phrase within blew my 20-something mind.

And as I build a cabin, as we mix concrete, as we build piers, as we frame walls, I think of this poem.

on site, framing walls

It’s like Phil Hall says in The Ash Bell in a poem for Philip Levine there’s something about writing about the lost work glove. Concrete and real. And power in that. In “dried mud falling from the laces” He wrote “I miss what poetry/expected from me then/a hard go of it in silence/among strangers.” p. 84.

Locals Read

Red Bird Livem 1165 Bank St, Ottawa. Thurs Nov 17, 7:30pm

For One Night and One Night Only: 5 Ottawa poets who launched earlier during the pandemic: Susan Atkinson, Jacqueline Bourque, Conyer Clayton, Doris Fiszer and Deborah-Anne Tunney.

Books available for sale on site.

Loved Then, Loved Now: Go to the Limits of Your Longing

I grew up reading Rilke under the assumption that I was reading a woman, Maria. (Ah pre-internet days.)

 Go to the Limits of Your Longing

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.


It’s a hard scary call to action, but useful.