Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Remembering Ottawa



I’m in the early weeks of withdrawal that stretch out like months. Over May, June and July I tried to ignore the outcome; watching my city skyline bend shakily out of view from the passenger seat of some noisy U-Haul. I found it easier to pretend our move was another false start than to accumulate an elegy of all of the ways my two years in Ottawa shaped me – creatively, emotionally, you name it.

At the close of June and still deep in denial, I brought my wife to Ottawa’s Small Press Book Fair. The gymnasium-sized room, reorganized into a familiar, rectangular path and lined with tables stationed by poets, publishers, entrepreneurs and all sorts of crafty lit-lovers, greeted us like the Fall fair before, the Spring fair before that. Where I had once felt like an outcast, I now felt at home, fumbling through conversation with poets I admire and buying from tables I wish I had a title on. Within the browsing circuit, I was happy to run into poet and publisher Amanda Earl (Bywords & Angel House Press), who was feeling better after a bout of pneumonia. I met and had a nice chat with Monty Reid, who was proud as punch to have Arc Magazine’s 2012 Poems of the Year issue on display. Pearl Pirie sold me the copy of Thirsts (Snare Books) I’d been eyeing for months and rob mclennan (above/ground press) sold me his brand new chapbook, Miss Canada (Corrupt Press); I said goodbye with fine print attached. We returned to our apartment of boxes scaling blank walls. Still, the momentum of irreversible gears didn’t feel real.

Six weeks later, I unearth a box amongst the packing-paper wreckage of our new apartment in Saint Catharines. Encased in cardboard since the end of June and oblivious to both the job in Hamilton and the housing inspection that collapsed, are two chapbooks and a literary journal I bought a short lifetime before. I flip the ottoman over, read Pirie’s “Chewing Each Other” and sink into this new chapter grateful to have been there, writing and reading in Canada’s literary kingdom. Elegies can wait.