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Celebrating Canadian Poetry: Brick Books Turns 40

Kate Cayley: "Sometimes a poem becomes a way of living..."

Brick Books Postcard

Sometimes when it seems like we're smack in the middle of publishing doom-and-gloom, it's worth noting that amazing Canadian indie publishers including Biblioasis, Goose Lane and ECW all celebrated monumental birthdays last year, and now in 2015, the venerable Brick Books is turning 40.

Brick Books was founded by Stan Dragland and Don McKay in 1975 (and you can find out here how their history is tangled up with that of Brick Magazine). Dragland tells the story of Brick Books here, ending with a question and an answer: "Why are we moonlighting in this demanding, non-paying job? I’m not sure we’d all have the same answer, but a composite response would have to stress the deep satisfaction of being members of a thoroughly professional body with an amateur heart. We do it for love."

Also worth checking out is Don McKay's address on the press's 25th anniversary on all the reasons such an endeavour as Brick Books shouldn't work

It won’t work because they once perpetrated a cover featuring shocking pink letters on a background of wonderful cerise.

It won’t work because they once rejected a poet so gently he thought he’d been accepted and wrote back grateful thanks.

It won’t work because idealism.

It won’t work because foolishness.

It won’t work because nobody reads poetry.

But it does work, for four decades now, the only press in Canada specializing in publishing poetry, its authors truly coast-to-coast. Among these authors are such notables as Stephanie Bolster, Roo Borson, Julie Bruck, Phil Hall, Robert Kroetsch, Tim Lilburn, P.K. Page, Karen Solie, John Steffler, and Jan Zwicky. Brick Books titles have been awarded major awards, and have gone on to become classics. The press has published the first books of some of Canada's most established poets. Truly, their reach has been huge. 

And to celebrate that hugeness, Brick Books is marking their anniversary by fostering a broad conversation about Canadian poetry (published by Brick Books and beyond) to last throughout the year. Every week on their website, they're featuring an article about a Canadian poem or poet, written by poets, novelists, teachers, publishers, booksellers, musicians, readers, doctors, media people, artists and more. 

"Sometimes a poem becomes a way of living: not a model for life, but a thing you carry afterwards, that keeps echoing for years," writes Kate Cayley in her appreciation for Gwendolyn MacEwen's The TE Lawrence Poems.  These echoes are articulated over and over in these beautiful pieces, including:

And so many more... Exploring these has been a pleasure and I urge you to do the same. How lovely that it's only April and we've got so much more celebration to look forward to. 

Hooray for foolishness. Hooray for idealism. Hooray for reading poetry.

Happy Birthday, Brick Books. 

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