By Jane Litchfield
A poetry collection published by Guelph’s Gordon Hill Press has won multiple accolades this month. Unmeaningable by Roxanna Bennett is an “uncanny collection of ‘crippled’ sonnets [that] features a thrilling display of cannibals, chimeras, and the crucial question: What meaning can be made of a life lived in pain and isolation?”
The book won The Raymond Souster Award (national) and was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award (also national) and the Ontario Trillium Book Award. (The Trillium award winner will be announced at the end of June.) That’s a lot of success for Guelph’s self-branded “feisty upstart publisher.”
We checked in by email with Jeremy Luke Hill, the founder and publisher of Gordon Hill Press. A fixture of the Guelph literary scene, Hill is also founder of Vocamus Press, “a local-centric micro-publisher,” and Vocamus Writers Community, a non-profit organization that promotes book culture in the Guelph area.
A poetry collection published by Guelph’s Roxanna Bennett
Gordon Hill Press. Cover design by Gordon Hill Press
GAC: Congratulations! Tell us a bit about Unmeaningable and what makes it an award winner.
JLH: Unmeaningable is collection of sonnets by Roxanna Bennett. It’s a sonnet crown, where the last line of one poem leads into the first line of the next, but this sequence is sometimes broken by very different and less structured poems as a way of representing the themes of chronic pain and disability that form the collection’s subject matter. It’s attracting so much award attention, I think, because it’s both so technically strong and so emotionally powerful. It’s a beautiful book.
GAC: How did Roxanna Bennett come to Gordon Hill Press?
JLH: I first encountered Roxanna’s work at a poetry reading at Knife|Fork|Book, a bookstore and chapbook publisher in Toronto. Roxanna wasn’t actually reading there, because her disabilities make public readings difficult, but Kirby, the owner of Knife|Fork|Book, gave me a copy of her chapbook, Unseen Garden, which they’d just published. I was deeply impressed with the book, so I reviewed it, and I contacted Roxanna to say how much I loved it, and when we founded GHP, she was the first person we contacted.
GAC: How are GHP and your community coping with COVID shutdowns?
JLH: It’s hard for a small press and for poetry authors when they can’t do launches and readings and festivals. That’s where we make our sales. People aren’t very likely to pick our books off a shelf or stumble onto them by searching an online bookstore. I really feel for the authors who are launching books right now. It’s tough for them.
GAC: How can people get this book or learn more about Gordon Hill Press?
JLH: The way people can support us best is by buying the book through our website. People in the Guelph area can save themselves the shipping by emailing me at [email protected] and arranging a drop off. You can also buy our books through The Bookshelf and through any of the major bookstores.
If people would like to keep up to date with what we’re doing, they can check the news feed on our site and sign up for our mailing list there as well. They can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter @gordonhillpress.