Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Anansi and Coach House Spring Books

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By Melanie Janisse

(I would like to dedicate this month’s column to kevin mcpherson eckhoff and his rope letters.)

I met him standing against a wall at the Garrison the night of the Anansi launch. There was a spotlight firing down at us like a checkpoint. I couldn’t hear the authors very well, but assumed that they were there, the reason for the festivities, the premise for the assemblage of folks standing here and there, staring forward, looking around, taking everything in. The Chicago-based poet Suzanne Buffam began her small poem presentation as I leaned there, and by the time she got to "Mount Everest," Julie Wilson was twittering her beautiful metaphors so that they extended beyond the room’s ears. Wilson is always mystifying me with her alchemy of open windows. How many canaries and budgies and parrots have you sent out further into the world because of your mastery?

Buffan’s poetry touched me. Or perhaps it was the first opportunity I gave myself to unplug from the human eye candy surrounding to me long enough to let actual speech filter into my mind. For me, book launches are as much a visual experience as they are auditory. Sometimes the visual captures me (beings, lights, prone at the Garrison facing south, towards the stage, hair halos, pulling this person towards this other person to meet away from this person they are with, the endless dance of the human drama, our careers, social structures moving as a tapestry of color, motion, denim, dresses), and other times the spoken word cries out a request to release my eyes from their duties.


I am on a rural island in the middle of Lake Erie writing this Open Book: Toronto article about spring book launches. I have wandered the island wildly, passing birders in their yearly quest for the most species to be discovered. I am looking for a different thing – a wireless connection that I can get onto to find some threads. We continue to pass by each other, along the road, in the tavern, near the cemetery, all looking for something rare on this strange island. I find the window convex at my friend Annemarie’s house and dive into its depths. I find a Suzanne Buffam poem in this dive that pierces me straight through.

“Two Hands" and I begin a weaving exercise.

SB: One hand flashes a mirror at the sun. The other casts the shadow of a wing.

MJ: My dearest poetess, I am reminded of a Skype conversation earlier in the week, A friend and I are staring at each other through the convex windows of our computers. I notice a off of the shelf and holds it up to his camera. Everything is pixilated and warped. How quickly the concave and the convex meet. How endless the pool of this is.

SB: One hand opens a window. The other hand lowers a lid.

MJ: My dearest poetess. While Julie Wilson is releasing your birds of thought into the ether, I am willing myself to close my eyes and listen to you.

SB: One hand holds a nail. The other hand loses the hammer in the grass.

MJ: Poetess. We try and build spaces to create in. We try and forget to create, lose the edges. I am on a rural island sewing words together. Then suddenly I am in a meadow in a thunderstorm having forgotten my warm shoes in Toronto.

SB: One hand wears a ring. One wears a scar where a ring used to be.

MJ: Poem. How many rings and how many scars? I unbind myself from one to another considering carefully this distance: 6,023 kilometres.

SB: One hand tears up a note. The other hand tapes back the petals on a rose.

MJ: Suzanne. I erase old love from my ‘friends’ list on Facebook. I smell his scent anyhow in the back channels.

SB: One sifts through a box of old photographs for the boy half-buried in sand. One hangs the empty frame back on its hook.

MJ: You. Who are we looking for? Who are we trying to remember? I dance with ghosts, I choose to hold space with the girl in the machine.

SB: One wrenches a nest from the crook of a branch. One finds enough dropped feathers to build a whole bird.

MJ: Letters. May we destroy you and may we find in you again some other form, even a facsimile.

SB: One builds a box. One buries the bird on the ridge.

MJ: Poems. Our boxes of leaves, may we leave you when it is time to stand in a field, cold feet and open to the thunder.

SB: One locks up the cabin. One turns back the hands of a clock.

MJ: Sue. I am turning the cruel key into someone’s heart while remembering Tofino a decade ago, long fingers, earlobes. How do we endbegin? What are memories when held up to a computer image of that memories keeper?

SB: One grips the railing. One drops a silver chain into the lake.

MJ: She. How do you know my lake, my boat ride, my jewelry? I resist the lake. I look around to find my poor lost Echo. I have it in my heart to finally kiss her.

SB: One presses a small yellow bud between the chapter on love and the chapter on desire without an object.

MJ: Me. I only have the pressure of days and distance to hold me in place. Twenty-one days and 6,023 km. I am threatening to collapse within the pages of this.

SB: One leaves the book out in the rain. One hand tests the waters. The other hand traces a name across the waves.

MJ: My dearest poetess. My thunderstorms, my venturing, my disappearing letters. They are for you. They are first yours. Can we meet somewhere and talk? There is a tea to be had out there in the third dimension between two women, hands accounted for.


This evening launch is a series of extensions. Mind of writer, wrestled through thickets of psychic experience brought down onto the page, screen, location of interface. The editor and press, birthing, forging, negotiating the ever-fragile and mired route of said pages into the world for us, the public, to finally discover as object. The book launch, where poets and authors weave together with publishers and public — a band of strange flags and forgers — to watch as spectacle the author engaging with their object (or more precisely not-their object any longer.) The readings at a book launch I always find laced with nostalgia for the works. I remember my launch and even if it is just my projecting onto the authors at the Anansi launch, I remember how strange I found it to look back through mirrors concave at my own experience of penning this object in the first place. That experience in the distance as I negotiate the pages of this new object in front of me in front of audience convex forging forward towards them.


Sitting on Pelee Island as I write this column, I mine the internet for some impressions that are not mine regarding the spring Anansi launch. I find a Facebook post of Erin Mouré’s that I treasure:

I'll be at the launch with gluestick, to glue in the correct last line of the poem on p. 133 of O Resplandor.... if you're there you'll end up with the book I actually wrote instead of the one that screwed up after i'd done the proofs!... Curiously, that the page is scarred here becomes part of the "sense" of the poem, and fits...

Mouré touches at the very thing I try to describe: the interface of genesis and extension. The strange refraction that occurs when we peer into and face of what has come of our thoughts as authors.


I never go to book launches. Why? For fear of what?

I never go.

But my post here at Open Book: Toronto suggests an interface with books and those who make books. I am at the Garrison bar leaning on the wall, wall-flowering with a blonde-haired stranger who will not tell me if he is a poet. He is just a guy with a backpack leaning against the wall, and I am using his head to block the giant spotlight. His hair is a halo and he is a gent for helping me with his head.

I wave. Hihihihihihihi. Kisskiss. I am at a book launch. I am watching the folks who make this whole thing roll up close and personal. Some of them I know, others I have no clue about. The words float all around us. The words, they drift through the air giving us all some purpose, settling into our aural cavities and then disappearing into future moments of recollection. I keep myself going with them. The air is pregnant with words as fetish, performance, as the vein running through all of us this audience. We are all flags and receptors and ears, eyes touch, scent. We will take back from this collision whatever we will and filter it later through further interfaces between our human apparatuses and our future environments. I wave to a birder coming back into Barb the weaver’s Bed and Breakfast. He is alight with the missed hopes of seeing the Yellow Chat that another birder ticked off on the tablets that record their sightings. I sign off to you readers, in order to hear of his quiet-voiced experience.

To be continued....

Melanie Janisse is a native of Windsor, Ontario where she retains memories of old docks jutting out into the Detroit River and the smell of hops. Melanie began her education by leaving home early and wandering around the abandoned houses of inner city Detroit, and then the intense forests of the Canadian West Coast. Formally she holds degrees form Concordia University in Communications and Literature and from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Photography. Melanie has resided in Toronto for the past nine years, keeping active as a visual artist, poet, designer and shop owner. Her work has appeared in Luft Gallery, Common Ground Gallery, Artcite Gallery, Dojo Magazine, Pontiac Quarterly, The Scream Literary Festival, The Southernmost Review, The Northernmost Review and The Windsor Review. Her first poetry book Orioles in the Oranges (Guernica Editions) tells the tale of on old Metis legend, allowing it to dovetail with Detroit's gritty modernity in an unforgettable series of prose poems. Melanie is happy to be a part of Open Book: Toronto ruminating about books and book-like things around Toronto.

Click on any image to start the slideshow of photos by Melanie Janisse

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