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  • Melanie Janisse-Barlow

An unexpected visit to Coach House Press

Today Toronto becomes a mystical place paved in poems. I wheel my old bike out for the first time, it having unearthed from its winter stay on Toronto Island. I notice that the handlebars are gummy, but that Andrew has filled the tires and tweaked a few things. I imagine that it sat under a tree over the fall, and that the sap of that tree coated the handlebars. No matter. I ride up Bathurst away from the enclave of my boat, past wild roses and humming bees. I ride through the band of green space along the water, and enter the city harshly. It is always a sudden kind of feeling to hit the Lakeshore, with its tangle of traffic. To ride, fragile, under the Gardener's concrete, the vibration of traffic deafening. From here, the city unfolds a little less intensely, with one climb up the Bathurst bridge, where a vista can be found just before one drops in, concentrating more on the minutia of the city grid.


I park my bike on King Street, and within moments I am sitting with my editor Jim Johnstone. We speak of poems and poem like things, or the things that happen around poems or for poems to make their way. I am immersed in a world of poems or things poem adjacent. We were planning on a visit to Knife Fork Book to say hello to Kirby, and as Jim could not go, I press along alone to Kensington market after our visit.


How I love the climb up the steps into Kirby's world, where at the top of the stairs, I take off my shoes and enter the space of the dance studio—kfb tucked into the corner like a miracle. My visits here are always divine. I get to see Kirby's new book in person. 'This is Where I Get Off' is a beautiful object. I love how the cover is simply a photograph of urinals, with no titling or type at all. The spine is also blank, and Kirby explains to me how he wished to evoke a sense of anonymity, which, is very successful. The book is a beautiful mystery from the get go. Here is a link to the shop: https://knifeforkbook.com/


Near the end of the visit, Kirby encourages me to head up to Coach House Press to check on the printing of my book. The thought had not ever crossed my mind. I mean, I knew my book was there, but I hadn't thought of going to actually see it. Wow. Kirby was so definite about this side trip, that I suddenly felt an urgency to make it there. I bike out of Kensington in a flurry, following Kirby's directions, and within minutes, deep in the heart of the U of T campus, I find bp nichol lane. As I approach Coach House, I notice the door ajar to the printing area, and after locking up my bike, I slide in the open door. At once, I am in the midst of stacks of sheafs. John is the first person that I see, and I explain who I am and why I am there. I tell him the title of my book, so that he can check to see if it is already underway, and mid conversation, I look down to see a stack of my book's covers. Literally, she was the first thing I ran into, all stacked and ready to go, her pages lined up in neat piles in a sort of cart with wire baskets—her guts so beautifully tended to. I am awestruck immediately. I am humbled.


Many thanks to Sarah and John for the special bits of ephemera I was able to take away.

A stack of uncut and folded pages and a one of a kind mock up of 'Thicket'


tenderly tucked in my backpack. They seemed puzzled when I asked them to sign my book, but I explained that I felt them to be the artists of this object. They are sculptors in their own right. I especially love the hand cut out circle on the cover where the die cut will be. I am really excited to have this one of a kind object that firmly plants 'Thicket' into the realm of the material. A conjuring.


What a moment.


A very Canadian moment it is to roll one’s old bike up bp nichol lane to all of this.

It is a day I daydreamed about when I penned my first poems.

A day I will never forget and almost didn't get to have.

Thanks to Kirby for the push in the right direction. I am more than grateful.


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