Mini-interview: Cameron Anstee

Cameron Anstee is the author of Sheets: Typewriter Works (Invisible Publishing, forthcoming 2022) and Book of Annotations (Invisible Publishing, 2018), and the editor of The Collected Poems of William Hawkins (Chaudiere Books, 2015). He is the editor and publisher of Apt. 9 Press and holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Ottawa. He lives and writes in Ottawa on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg people.

What draws me to the writer: Cameron is a pillar of Ottawa’s literary community. He doesn’t organize a reading series or sit on boards that I know of but he shows up to events, he encourages. He is a staple of the small press fair as he sells (and sells out) of his beautiful papery objects. He cares deeply about the history of publishing and the future. He writes extremely brief poems so I’m particularly delighted that a second book is coming out to follow his Book of Annotations. I suspect some of the poems were also in his chappie Baseline Variations that came out last year.

Book: Sheets: Typewriter Works (Invisible Publishing, Oct 2022)

Book Description: Sheets: Typewriter Works extends the minimalist explorations of the Cameron Anstee’s first collection, Book of Annotations. Prompted by receiving the Olivetti Lettera 30 typewriter that belonged to poet William Hawkins after his death in 2016, the works in this book explore how small poems operate through the freedoms and constraints of the typewriter as both a decaying machine and a mode of composition. Through engagement with writers and artists like Jiri Valoch, Barbara Caruso, LeRoy Gorman, Cia Rinne, William Hawkins, Dani Spinosa, Kate Siklosi, and Norman McLaren, Sheets: Typewriter Works re-embeds the minimalist poem in the typewritten page.

Sample poems:

PP: What was your aim with the book?

CA: When I started writing what eventually became this book, my aim was not to write a book at all. After William Hawkins died in 2016, I received his typewriter. I initially began re-typing some of Bill’s poems on his typewriter as a way of re-engaging with his work, before starting to use it to explore how my own minimalist poetics would develop by using the typewriter as the mode of composition. The aim of the manuscript, as it developed, was to dwell in the constraints and freedoms of the typewriter as an object and as a way of writing poems—the way that you can run the same page through the typewriter repeatedly, the grid imposed by the fixed-width type, the way that Bill’s typewriter had decayed and warped over the years, and the relation of my small works to the seemingly enormous visual space of the letter-sized page.

PP: What was or will your favourite moment(s) in making this book?

CA: My favourite part of making this book was spending time with Bill again each time I pulled down the typewriter to try to translate an idea in my brain to the page. I was also delighted and surprised to finish the manuscript and find that I had indeed written a book. This is my second book—the first felt like a fluke, something I had no idea how I had done or how to do again, and so reaching the point where I believed Sheets had become a book manuscript was a lovely surprise.