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Joan Sullivan: Four lovely offerings from Running the Goat Press

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Running the Goat Press has four new releases; as usual with this publisher, they are all lovely curations. First is a chapbook:

Waste Ground
Poetry by Mary Dalton
Engravings by Abigail Rorer
$35.00  24 pages handsewn

A new release from Mary Dalton is always poetry news. She’s produced a half dozen acclaimed volumes and, most recently, “Edge,” a hefty collection of (mostly) non-fiction including interviews and essays. “Waste Ground” (a nod to Eliot’s “The Waste Land”?) is a slim, tactile artwork; with cut pages and thick impressed cover. To read it is to feel it; hands are important to reading. It includes 13 poems, and 4 engravings. The poems are titled for flora, such as “Goldenrod” or “Stinging Nettle,” and these are echoed with the delicate, interpretative monochrome prints.

 

Dog Rose

I look daggers–
but it’s all a pose.
I’m the old nanny, the fat cook
with my jams and jellies,
my syrups and teas.
You sneeze, and I’m
bustling, tut-tutting.

Daggers, jellies: what tart delicious language. It’s impossible to wrest Dalton’s employment of words from the term “vernacular.” Like its subject the text is seeded and grown here, steeped in a lived history and then setting off on some literary rambles.

 

Yarrow

I was Achilles’ pal,
patched up his men.
My stalks counselled Druids.
I slept in muslin
under many a pillow.
Daisy troops
in my pearly roofs,
my furrowed stems feathery.
Inside my shelter
you chase after
bright eyes, a still belly.
Your gall:
so much to beg
of one you dub
thousand weed
mother-die
bad-man’s plaything.

Dalton assembles the elements of poetry, meter, sound cadences of. assonance and consonance, (“troop” and “roofs,” “beg” and “dub”) and then deploys them with a vital and characteristic discipline. There is a nimble compactness of the sentences, some perhaps six words long (“You sneeze, and I’m/bustling, tut-tutting.”) The work is material to the eye, and luscious in the mouth.

 

Capelin Weather
by Lori Doody
$11.95  32 pages with 26 colour illustrations


On its surface this is a children’s book, but who can’t use some reassurance about the Newfoundland and Labrador “spring”? Lori Doody’s protagonist is Kate, “excited for the start of summer” so she can enjoy picnics and chalk drawings and pure simple sunshine. “But the weather wasn’t very good.” Kate, like the rest of us, finds herself staring at that familiar national weather map, with it yellow suns dotted everywhere but here; instead there is an unmoving grey cloud over us.

Which can be kind of depressing – but that’s not the spirit of Doody’s book. Her illustrations are full of fun patterns, and they glow, even as she replicates the RDF palette on the pages, grey on silver. The lively amusement continues with her second book release:

 

The Puffin Problem
$12.95  44 pages with 39 colour illustration
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What to do when puffins invade St. John’s? It’s hard to get irked at puffins, as they are as a cute as all get-out, but they do glom up the works. They turn up at art galleries, flock along downtown sidewalks, monopolize the slides in playgrounds.

This makes for some comic drawings, and on top of that Doody has built a sweetly alternative capital city (love the fanciful made up names, like “The Chocolate Lab,” “Luh Boutique,” and “Anyfin Goes” seafood shop), shown alongside recognizable iconography like an Anne Meredith Barry landscape, or the exterior of Moo Moo’s.

All inundated with our official bird (as a “Fun Puffin Facts” end page attests), an environmental quandary that can only be solved by (of course!) “someone small and smart.”

 

Polly MacCauley’s Finest Divinest Woolliest Gift of All
by Sheree Fitch with illustrations Darka Erdelji
68 pages with 66 colour illustrations


This is “a yarn for all ages,” about magic and greed, knitted together by wool. Author Sheree Fitch has crafted narrative that directly addresses the reader, and comments on itself: “And anywhere else you’d like to guess or imagine. Paris? Oui! Oui! Ecum Secum? Wherever your imagination takes you. A tale can’t be tall if you keep dreaming small.”

Which she does not, peopling it with lambs and countesses, the beguiling Polly MacCauley, and ships and hummingbirds and farmers and coffee-drinking men named Buddy. It all pinwheels into a tale of the enveloping warmth of generousity, but with some real losses felt along the way.

And it unfolds in a spool of playful vocabulary: “Even with all that discombobulating bobble, that rambunctious riot/the burble and yapple/the bizz and the whirr/the worry and stir/the clatter and clang/the busyness and buzz.” The very layout is a dance. Visual artist Darka Erdelji is inimitable, with her Chagall-dreamy, evocative, unstrained, sophisticated imagery. There’s a quicksilver sketchiness to them – some forms are just outlines. Her work aptly and beautifully upholds and underscores the characters and action.

 

Joan Sullivan is editor of Newfoundland Quarterly magazine. She reviews both fiction and non-fiction for The Telegram. Her column returns

 

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