This beautiful chapbook from Baseline Press in London, Ontario was waiting for me in the mail pile when I got back from Mexico. And I have to be honest, I can’t remember what prompted me to order it. Karen Schindler, who started Baseline in 2011, sent a personal acknowledgement of the order on December 1st. I sent back a note saying I was looking forward to reading it. No amount of Google searching is solving this mystery for me. rob mclennan reviewed it on his blog, but not until after I’d ordered it. London poet and cyber-acquaintance for several years, Andreas Gripp blogged about it, too, but I don’t remember reading it until today.
Given that a few of the elderly on my dad’s side of things went over to the dark side of senility, I sometimes worry about myself. I mean, I know why Holley Rubinsky’s South of Elfrida was in the pile. I know why I wanted The Making of a Poem, ANorton Anthology of Poetic Forms, edited by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland. I’m already enjoying the Beryl Bainbridge and definitely remembering ordering it—such a succinct storyteller, she is. This one’s Every Man For Himself, about the Titanic.
But this little chapbook? I’m stumped. Probably it was mentioned on one of the several literary list-serves I’m on. Yeah, that’s it. Or perhaps I was looking for a potential publisher and figured I’d have a look at Baseline’s work. Ah well. No matter. I collect chapbooks, and this one’s a beauty. The cover is St. Armand Canal paper. The flyleaf, which complements the cover perfectly, is Thai Unryu Chiri. Personally, I don’t like working with that stuff as it’s so flimsy, but I appreciate it when someone else does. I have # 27 of a 60 copy print run.
So obviously I read it. Small Hallows is the work of a young poet who already displays a deft facility with language. The dedication to his late grandparents, “their wisdom and their dusty house”, sets the tone, as does the Ted Hughes quotation at the beginning which asks “Who’ll toll the bell?” The ten poems that follow explore some of the things most poets seem to examine sooner or later, and often sooner: seasons and how they change; birds; death.
“Does anyone want to say a few words for the bird?”
asked dad. “I can’t think of any,”
said my brother. I couldn’t
think of any.
Actually, Gabriel Wainio-Théberge thinks of quite a few, in that poet way where you can’t think of what to say at the time, but oh boy, later, when you get your hands on a pen…