Dear blog readers: my name is Emma Hambly and I’m here this week to give a small recap of my time at BookThug. My master’s program at Ryerson allowed us to complete our degree with a placement at a creative company, and I was lucky enough to intern at BookThug. I spent an engrossing two months learning about experimental literature, the Canadian publishing scene, and how best to entertain Tess, the Milla/Ar’s cat and unofficial BookThug mascot. Jay and Hazel gave me the opportunity to help out in a number of ways, not the least of which was running the book table at some of BookThug’s recent launch events.
Fellow Ryerson student Amy Lost and I spent our first day very much in medias res, at BookThug’s Spring 2015 Book Launch and Party on April 23rd at the Garrison in Toronto. The event was a wonderful introduction to some of the press’ remarkable authors and their punk rock brand of publishing. The night launched eight titles from BookThug’s Spring 2015 season: novels by Carellin Brooks and Mike Steeves, a play by Daniel Karasik, and works of poetry by Jimmy McInnes, Pearl Pirie, Jake Kennedy, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, and Lesley Battler. Each author gave a reading—some were dynamic, others poignant—taken together they spoke to the striking variety and creativity in the Spring Season works. The event had a turnout of 300-350 people, and this made for a vibrant and memorable night.
On May 31st I attended one of the HIJ House Reading Series, at chez Milla/Ar, a.k.a. BookThug headquarters. There were thoughtful readings by Griffin Poetry Prize Finalist Shane Book, poet Dani Couture, and novelist Alexis Von Konigslow. The day included a discussion about boundaries, of all kinds, led by Jay, and the launch of three small chapbooks of each author’s work. People attended despite the rainy, grey afternoon and cozied in for prose, poetry, and a smorgasbord of homemade pie.
The main project I helped with during my time at BookThug was the Summer 2015 chapbook season—I interviewed two of the four authors, made final copyedits, and helped to prep for the launch party. It was exciting to see everything culminate with the chapbook launch party on June 10th at Videofag. The night included three live readings and one audio reading of thought-provoking poetry from the five new chapbooks by Helen Guri, Rachel Rose, Robert Anderson, and Lisa Gordon. BookThug’s chapbooks are both a throwback to its micropress origins and a stellar way to present what’s upcoming in Canadian poetry. The launch again was well attended despite the elements—this time a sweltering night. It was another lively event that showcased Canadian literary talent.
I was sad and surprised to see my time at BookThug end so soon, but the Trillium Award Finalist Readings and Reception evening on June 16th was a beautiful way to spend my last day. The BookThug crew was there to support Aisha Sasha John, shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry for her book THOU. She poured out libations to her ancestors before giving a captivating reading. We spent the night enjoying tiny burgers and donuts in the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon, located in the Toronto Reference Library, while savouring readings in both French and English.
I am so grateful for my time at BookThug. I learned a marvellous amount about publishing, and I was exposed to a unique press that makes good on its promise to publish the “literature of the future.” I’m looking forward to the next event.
Emma Hambly is a Master’s student in the Literatures of Modernity program at Ryerson University, with a degree in English Literature from McGill. It is rare to find her without a book.