In 2015 Brick Books marks a big milestone – their 40th anniversary (We talked a little bit about this in our Brick Books In House feature). Over those 40 years Brick has published such well-known poets as Michael Ondaatje, Anne Carson, Dennis Lee, Robert Kroetsch, and P.K. Page. They have also helped launch the career of many new CanLit voices, publishing the first books of poets Karen Solie, Julie Bruck, Adam Dickinson, Sue Sinclair, Jan Zwicky, Phil Hall, Sue Goyette, and Steven Price.
To celebrate general manager Kitty Lewis, with support from Jen Hale, has instigated a broad conversation about Canadian poetry. Calling on colleagues, poets, friends, and readers gathered throughout her twenty-five year career in Canadian publishing in this grassroots endeavour, Lewis has been collecting responses to share with us during their year-long 40th anniversary celebrations.
Since January 1st Brick Books has been posting articles about a Canadian poet or a specific poem or a meeting with a Canadian poet on their website. Presenters are poets, novelists, teachers, publishers, booksellers, musicians, readers, doctors, media people, artists etc, and have provided a variety of different responses from new poems to personal memories to more academic commentary.
You can read about long-gone poets such as Margaret Avison, Dorothy Livesay, P.K. Page, Earle Birney, Anne Szumigalski, Wilfred Watson, Colleen Thibaudeau, and James Reaney. Or well-known poets such as Karen Solie, Don McKay, Anne Carson, Julie Bruck, Barry Dempster, and Anne Simpson. Or newer voices such as Anne-Marie Turza and Kateri Lanthier. There are poems for Gordon Lightfoot from a recent anthology, lots of reminiscences about when the presenters encountered the poet and their work, essays about the history of haiku in Canada or teaching poetry at the university level. There’s something for everyone.
Our very own Christen Thomas was featured in week 31 commenting on her own discovery of Canadian poetry: “Canadian poetry has a lot on offer for every interest. I’m pleased and surprised every time I encounter a baseball poem, delight in a collection about a woman weightlifting, am intrigued by a poet inspired by roller derby.”
Hazel Millar, managing editor at BookThug, was featured on week 29 sharing her experiences on first reading Ocean by Sue Goyette: “From the first poem on, I could not put the book down. Nor did I want it to end though. I deliberately read each poem over and over, savouring each word, each line, each couplet.”
Kate Edwards, from the Association of Canadian Publishers, shares an early memory of reading Dennis Lee’s poetry and the teacher who introduced them to her on week 13: “He [her teacher-librarian] made the sharing and celebration of poetry an everyday thing, though we may not have recognized it at the time. Sharing those poems meant time away from our classroom, and permission to be a little bit silly. It was fun. This poetry was for us.”
These are just a few examples of the over 131 articles posted to date. While it started out as an idea to celebrate and discuss, it has now become a great learning resource for anyone wanting to know more about Canadian poetry!
To learn more about the Brick Books project, check out a recent interview on thecanadaproject ( part 1) ( part 2) or this feature on the OMDC website. If you're interested in contributing to the project, you can get in touch with Kitty Lewis via email.