On Wednesday night, my wife and I attended the Ottawa launch of Mansfield Press’s newest titles. As expected, it was an absolute blast! Stuart Ross, hands-down one of the best MCs for these types of events, was in excellent form. Unfortunately the Raw Sugar Cafe was totally packed – standing-room-only packed, actually – and so I couldn’t get close enough to take any photos without disturbing a bunch of people. But below are some of the highlights.
Unlike the fall launch, which featured five new books, there were only three new publications being presented on Wednesday. The first was YAW, Dani Couture’s third book of poetry. Couture unfortunately couldn’t attend the event, but the talented Sandra Ridley stood in to read some of Couture’s work; you might remember that I mentioned Sandra’s collaborative poem “Footnotes” with Stuart Ross in Our Days in Vaudeville. Despite Couture not being there, her poetry really shone, and my wife and I really enjoyed her work. I particularly liked “Back Check,” which is laid out as a series of questions that hint at a relationship that has gone badly.
Second up was Gary Barwin, with his poetry collection Moon Baboon Canoe. The thing that impressed me the most about Barwin was his ability to present; public readings are difficult for a lot of writers, including myself, but Barwin’s combination of honesty, quirkiness, humor and a naturally-relaxed air make him one of the best I’ve ever seen. The fact that his poetry is so insightful, funny and weird made it even better. If I had to pick a favorite, though, it would be “Inside Stephen Harper,” for its witty and unique criticism of our Prime Minister.
Finally, it was an honor to be in the presence of an actual legend of Canadian literature, David W. McFadden, who according to Stuart has been writing and publishing since the 1950s. His book, Shouting Your Name Down the Well, is a collection of about 500 tankas and haikus that were written over the last four decades. The selections that McFadden provided spanned a variety of topics, but his quick wit and solemn remembrance of the past resonated throughout them all. It was a pleasure to listen to, and I agree that McFadden’s recent recognition should have come much sooner.
For more information about the launch’s authors: