sex, science and sweet sincerity - "Everything Water" Chapbook Launch

from Everything Water - Adrienne Gruber
Launching upright, I slip into the water.
Black lake tonguing the edges of doubt. Imagine

a held breath, a swirl of milky clarity. The remainder
of days are lonely as a motel ship painting.

Sky stretches; the toffee-flux of time.
Heart jeers; queer as a French Horn.

Moon billows and purges light, a shroud. The roundness
of full-figured flesh against gloomy trunks. I write myself

out onto a late night limb, scrambling
for some truth. I pull myself out.

Plunk these dumb feet into the lake,
wet back smacking against rough boards;

thighs fissured. The words will come
spit-shined and polished.

from Everything Water (Cactus Press, 2011).
Reprinted with permission.

Adrienne Gruber is chapbook-crazy in 2011 (some might say crazy as a cat lady?), publishing two different chapbooks with two top-notch Canadian chapbook publishers: Mimic (Leaf Press, 2011) and Everything Water (Cactus Press, 2011). She's launching the latter here in Vancouver next Thursday, with help from special out-of-townie guests Jim Johnstone (Cactus Press kingpin, from Toronto) and Zach Wells (from Halifax). The details:

(Click to Expand)

Everything Water Chapbook Launch and Reading

Thursday, December 8th, 2011
7:00 PM
Spartacus Books
684 East Hastings Street
Featuring: Adrienne Gruber, Jim Johnstone and Zach Wells

Earlier this week I got a chance to chat with Adrienne about the chapbook and the launch. It was early in the morning, so Adrienne was pounding back the coffees, but that didn't stop her from busting out her interview finest:

You thought I was joking about the cat lady thing...

Ok, the truth is we just corresponded by email. But I had to find a way to get that picture in there! Here's what she had to say:

Rob: Everything Water explores the glosa form, without ever including a "proper" glosa, but often coming close: sometimes two lines are quoted instead of one, sometimes the quote creeps up a few lines and finds a home in the middle of the stanza, sometimes the stanzas are broken up into more-or-less individual poems. I wonder here what inspired you to work with and around the glosa in this way? Was the project driven by the source material, or did your interest in the glosa drive you to seek out a source to play with?

Adrienne: The funny thing is that I never directly intended to write a proper glosa, I just knew I wanted to work with this particular chosen text. I realized once I had the first draft that I was playing with form, but I think I was too caught up with where the text was taking me to get what I was doing. Once I figured it out I tried to stuff some of the poems into proper glosa form, but they were terrible! I guess when you set out without a particular expectation you can’t really force it later on.

The project was definitely driven by the material I was working with. As much as I wished at times that my poems would adhere to official form, I eventually had to let go of that. I’m not usually the kind of writer who thinks of poems as personified and having their own specific form or voice or style that shouldn’t be changed or messed with. This particular collection did not seem to want to conform and I had to recognize that and be okay with letting them be slightly experimental.

Rob: The "glossed" lines in Everything Water are unattributed in the text (though they are sourced in the acknowledgements), leaving the reader to wonder, at first, if they are quotes from another writer, overheard speech, or the voice of one of the characters in the poem. Do you expect the reader to instantly flip to the back to locate the source, or do you want a bit of mystery to loom over the first reading?

Adrienne: It's interesting that you would mention this, as I did find myself hesitating to reveal the source of the "glossed" lines. This was partly because I wanted the lines to intertwine with my work and transform into something substantially different from their original context, but also because I chose the lines from such an odd source; an interview between Lidia Yuknavitch (author of the recently published memoir The Chronology of Water) and "Sugar", the advice columnist who responds to letters for the online newspaper The Rumpus. The interview is really more of a conversation between these two writers about bodies, sexuality, sexual identity and sexual expression. It’s beautiful and inspiring and I fell in love with their dialogue. I had also wanted to move into my own poetic dialogue around sexuality and sexual identity and this text seemed like the perfect jumping off point.

Rob: Considering the date of the source interview, Everything Water must have been gone from composition to publication in around six months. Is that a record for you? And is that expediency one of the things that drew you to publishing chapbooks? Do you think there are any drawbacks to moving at that pace (which seems lightning-quick in the publishing world, but probably glacial to outsiders)?

Adrienne: Ha ha, yeah. Quickest turnaround of all time. Ironically my first chapbook, Mimic, was accepted with Leaf Press in March of 2010 and was only just published in late September of this year, so I think chapbook publishers usually don’t have the time and energy to work at lightening speed, especially since everything they do is done voluntarily.

My experience with Cactus Press was, I think, fairly unique. I had a chapbook that I wanted to submit to Cactus, but ended up abandoning it because it wasn’t really excited about it. I ended up holing myself up at a cottage with writers Matthew J. Trafford and Linda Besner for two weeks and wrote pretty furiously. A rough draft of Everything Water came out of those two weeks. Since then it’s just been editing and revising.

This is definitely a record in terms of speed, but I’m also one of those writers who works in fits and starts. It’s certainly exciting to see the fruits of a more recent labour in published form. I’m still very engaged with the work, whereas by the time my first poetry collection came out in 2008, I was pretty tired of it. I still felt connected to some of the poems, but mostly I wanted to focus on what was new and compelling – with what I was writing at the time, not with work I had written five years earlier. I also have a ridiculously short attention span, so anything I’m working on today is much more interesting than what I was doing yesterday. Or even an hour ago. I think this might be why chapbooks are so engaging to me. I can sit down and read a chapbook in one sitting, but a full-length collection might take me days or weeks to really sink my teeth into.

Rob: You mentioned Mimic, which came out earlier this year from Leaf Press. As you now have recent working knowledge on two of Canada's best chapbook publishers, what have you found to be the major similarities between the two? Any notable differences (beyond, in your case, the publishing timetable)?

Adrienne: I think the similarities would be the quality of the books and the appreciation and encouragement of work that pushes boundaries. Both Leaf Press and Cactus Press produce gorgeous books and I was really excited to have work come out with both presses. Another similarity is how much time and effort both Ursula and Jim put into the final product.

I think the differences might be the chapbook ‘vision’. Cactus Press does not include any text on the cover in the hopes that the cover art will be displayed as its own piece and not simply used as a background for the title and author’s name. I asked my friend Zachari Logan (an incredible visual artist based in Saskatoon), if he would be willing to lend me a detail from one of his drawings for the cover. It’s a gorgeous piece and I’m glad it gets to stand on its own.

Rob: It's rare that three poets will come together from different parts of the country to launch a chapbook. How did the reading at Spartacus Books come together? What can people expect to see and hear if they come out to the reading?

Adrienne: Well, honestly, the whole thing is a bit of a fluke. I was living in Toronto for the past couple of years and got to know Jim fairly well. I moved to Vancouver in July with the intent of coming back to Toronto in the fall for the Cactus Press book launch. By the time the launch came around I was flat broke and there was no way I was making it to Toronto! Jim was invited to read at UBC [December 7th, 5 PM] and he suggested having a Vancouver launch. Jim found out that Zach was going to be in Vancouver at the same time and was looking for an opportunity to read while he was here. And, well... that’s how it happened. This has all been arranged over the past week, so it’s been a lot of emailing back and forth. I think people can expect a pretty eclectic range of content and poetic form. I really respect both Jim and Zach’s work and I think the reading will be well rounded. That sounded super wholesome. People can expect some poems about sex, science and sweet sincerity. Oh, and delicious cheeses.

Everything Water can be ordered by emailing Jim Johnstone at jim.johnstone(at)utoronto.ca, or, if you're in Vancouver, bought in person at the launch on December 8th. I hear there will be cheeses, people. Yes, plural. See you there?

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