Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Five Things Literary: Niagara, with Eric Schmaltz

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Focus On: Niagara brings you the best of Niagara's literary scene — but if you had to only choose five literary hotspots to hit, our Five Things Literary guide is the place to start.

Five Things Literary: Niagara was contributed by poet and critic Eric Schmaltz, who co-curates the region's hottest reading series, Grey Borders Reading Series. Their next reading features Troll-Thread, Ferno House and Avant-Garden on Friday, November 16, 2022. Visit our Events page for details.

Five Things Literary: Niagara

1. Niagara Artists Centre

NAC is by no means a strictly literary establishment; in their own words, the “Niagara Artists Centre is a not-for-profit, charitably registered, member-driven collective formed by and dedicated to serving the working artists and community of Niagara. Founded in 1969 as a collective of working artists, NAC is one of the oldest artist-run organizations in Canada.”

However, NAC is, hands down, the best venue for literary events. Without fail there’s always a great audience, plenty of drinks and a great vinyl collection to browse during breaks. The NAC has housed many literary events, most recently, a night of sound poetry by QUATUOR GUALUOR consisting of jwcurry, Alastair Larwill, Brian Pirie and Georgia Mathewson. The NAC has also hosted events that explore the boundaries of art and literature such as the current Showroom exhibit: Dennis Tourbin’s The Language of Visual Poetry and 2011’s exhibit of concrete and visual poetry and text-art, The Bird is the Word — with featured work by derek beaulieu, bill bissett, Judith Copithorne, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, Marinko Jareb, Travis Kirton, Kelly Mark, Steve McCaffery, a.rawlings, Laurel Woodcock, Hallie Siegel & Matthew Donovan, and Gregory Betts.

2. Grey Borders Reading Series

Craig Dodman and myself currently curate the Grey Borders Reading Series (GBRS). Thanks to its dedicated curators (past and present) and enthusiastic volunteer base, the series has established itself as a cornerstone for Niagara’s literary arts. The series’ reputation and its local historical importance have grown over the years. GBRS prides itself on bringing important, out-of-town authors to the Niagara community, including such artists as Christian Bok, CCMC, Pearl Pirie, Roo Borson, Erin Moure, Donato Mancini, a.rawlings, Jaap Blonk and many, many more.

3. dead (g)end(er)

dead (g)end(er) is an outstanding and timely effort that fills a void in Niagara’s literary culture — the little magazine. Surging beyond the wake of the now sadly defunct PRECIPICe, dg and its fabulous editor, Lindsay Cahill, have put some of Niagara’s finest artists, poets and writers on the international stage. The magazine, with its non-discriminatory editorial mandate, seeks only the most “awesome” writers and artists. Not only is the content top-notch, but the magazine sets itself apart from many other literary publications (with a few notable exceptions) with its top-notch design — dg is glossy, colourful and cool.

I’m very sad to say that this entry is also an obituary: dg has recently announced that its upcoming issue will also be its last. The Niagara region is losing a valuable literary outlet and it will be sorely missed. Who and what will take its place?

4. Hannelore Headley’s Old & Fine Books

Established in 1972, Hannelore’s Bookshop remains one of St. Catharines’ dearest literary gems. In fact, visiting authors are routinely late for events because they've stopped at Hannelore’s on the way to the event.

The shop specializes in used and rare books, holding an array of superb and precious finds, ranging from Ginsberg’s Howl and Franzen’s Freedom to old issues of Canadian Poetry and an array of local rarities. If you visit, you really should set aside an afternoon. You’ll need at least that much time to get through a single floor of books, but Hannelore herself is a living archive. It seems as if she’s known almost every one of Canada’s major poets. One afternoon she shared a story about the day she and her partner found bill bissett, Canada’s most influential poet, performer and publisher, sleeping under a tree shortly after he arrived in British Columbia in the late 1950s.

I’m fairly certain that the structural integrity of Hannelore’s bookshop relies on the stacks piled to the ceiling. Although I’m kidding, I am actually dreading the day when I hear of that patron who has removed one of the store’s copies of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale from under the staircase and collapsed the building.

5. The Alphabet Bookshop

Originally established in 1975 in Toronto, the Alphabet Bookshop now operates an open shop in Port Colborne, Ontario. The shop specializes in used, rare, first editions, ephemera and general stock. While the shop has been around for many years, I’ve only recently had the chance to visit and explore its treasure. The store has an incredible selection of literature including a very early edition of Burrough’s Naked Lunch, rare and signed books by Canadian authors such as bpNichol, Barbara Gowdy, Margaret Atwood, Anne Marie MacDonald and wide array of international authors.

It is a must visit for rare book collectors.

Eric Schmaltz is an experimental poet as well as a reviewer, curator and researcher. His creative work can be found in magazines and journals such as The Economy, filling station, Poetry is Dead, ditch and dead (g)end(er), among other places. His interview with bill bissett was just published in Open Letter’s issue “Convergences, Collaborative Expression,” and he has a literary article forthcoming from Rampike. Eric lives in St. Catharines, Ontario where he co-curates the Grey Borders Reading Series. Follow him on Twitter @eschmaltzzz.

Read about recent Grey Borders Reading Series events in these articles by Open Book's Editorial Intern, Philip Miletic. Click here and here.

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