Because I was previously a McClelland & Stewart editorial intern, I was more than happy to have the opportunity to celebrate one of their most recent books, which also happens to be a very engaging collection of poetry. Complicity is, and M&S describes this perfectly, “intimate and lyrical, experimental and outlandish.”
Initially, I was afraid I was going to be late. The event was being held all the way up on Danforth in a little hole-in-the-wall Irish pub called The Dora Keogh Pub. I couldn’t think of a better location though; it was had a down-to-earth vibe and was quaint to behold. I immediately found Ellen Seligman (she is definitely not hard to miss in a crowd—her sheer magnificence as a major leader in Canadian publishing literally radiates around her like a halo). I also saw some other M&S and Random House friends from my brief interlude into the awe-inspiring conglomerate that is Penguin Random House. I caught up with Val Capuani, RHC’s dedicated production coordinator, who is great to work with, especially at volunteer events. She definitely brings the fun. However, I was most grateful to see Anita Chong, who has been a positive influence in my life since my publishing career in the big, bad city took off. Her passion for everything she does and for all the authors she works with is inspirational and without knowing it, she became my coach and mentor throughout my internship and even after the fact. I would not be where I am today without her enduring encouragement and thoughtful advice.
I also became acquainted with some great new faces with amazing lives and careers, however, I’m terrible at names, and I therefore wouldn’t be able to tell you who they were. I can tell you that I did hear about a great event called Pongapalooza held at SPiN in support of First Book Canada where thirty-two ping pong teams will battle it out for the 2014 Scotiabank Pongapalooza Cup. To find out about the event and the cause you can click here, and the event also has its own twitter page @Pongapalooza. I for one am hoping to check it out as it sounds like a great time for players and spectators alike, and it is kind of a publishing industry fiesta of sorts, which makes it even better (publishing people know how to party, if you don’t know that already).
Anyways, back to my main purpose for this post. After a fair bit of time to socialize, the introductions began. Ellen Seligman took the stage first, introducing M&S, its poetry program, and the star of the evening, Adam Sol. With already three other published poetry collections under his belt and a Trillium Book Award, he was a natural in front of an audience. He smiled,cracked a few jokes, and was an all around genuine people person.
Adam read two of his poems from Complicity, and I loved the reactions that reverberated around the room from chuckles of amusement to murmurs of thoughtful agreement. It is amazing what poetry can accomplish in a lot less words than fiction or non-fiction. Adam’s new collection really challenges our perceptions of ourselves and our society and how we interact with it. There are so many hidden messages in each line, in each stanza, that I suggest you read his poems carefully and slowly or you might miss out on some of his ingenious comments that strike both a political and emotional chord.
I think Adam’s choice of poems for the evening were expertly chosen to represent Complicity, especially the poem “Engagement,” which is an incisive look at war and violence and how we are all complicit, those who take part and those who simply observe, and we are also sorely misguided by our assumptions. I can still hear Adam’s expressive tone as he read aloud, “It’s wrong . . . it will be wrong.” There is nothing like hearing the words the way the author wishes them to be heard. This is why book launches are so unique. By attending, you witness the purity of the written word spoken aloud the way the person who wrote it intended.
Mingling and socializing continued after the all too brief reading, although I was told that this is the “new kind of book launch,” as it leaves you wanting more. I have to agree, as I definitely want to delve further into this collection after only getting a taste with those two poems.
I was able to get my personal copy of Complicity signed by Adam later that evening. Anita introduced me to him as M&S’ previous editorial intern. I also told him that I had had the opportunity to see Complicity still in the editorial and typesetting stage, and that I loved how it had all come together so nicely.
In addition to providing me with his signature, Adam also left me a gratifying message: “For Dana — keep up the good work…” For someone where it is a constant struggle to make my mark in the competitive world of publishing (not so different form the life of an author, really), Adam’s words warmed my heart. Once a poet, always a poet (even his autograph says something deep).
Even if you didn’t attend the book launch or didn’t know about it, you should definitely get to know Adam at least through his poetry. It will enrich your life and challenge your mind.