Tell us a bit about your press. How did you start? Who are your influences, in Canada and beyond? What is your mission?
Gap Riot started, as the best things always do, in conversation. In the early months of 2017, we were discussing how too often, writers of formal or experimental poetry in Canada (including ourselves) had to go through a white man to publish a chapbook. So, we wanted to change that up a little and provide a space for writers to publish experimental, formal, political, feminist, and/or genre-blurring poetry that wasn’t governed by a dude. We sought out to break down cliques and barriers in the poetic community, and open more spaces for people to practice the poetry we love, with the hopes of bringing a community together in collective action in this work.
So, after months and months of batting the idea of starting a press around, we got one massive push from the late, great, incomparable, and dearly missed poet extraordinaire Priscila Uppal, who wanted a run of chapbooks made for the poems in her SummerWorks play, What Linda Said. We did those and then three more chapbooks by the most incredible first season we could have asked for: Adeena Karasick, Margaret Christakos, and Canisia Lubrin. And with the support of all these beautiful and fierce wimmin, we grew and grew into the unstoppable Gap Riot Press.
We take a lot of influence from bill bissett and his work with Blew Ointment Press; he fought relentlessly for the right to create and sustain communities through uncensored publishing and we owe a lot of our work today to his efforts. We’re also continually astounded at the ingenious creativity of The Blasted Tree, the gorgeous works of Baseline Press, and of course the indefatigable Rob Mclennan and his above/ground press, who has been a tireless mentor, connector, and community-builder for small presses and poets across Canada and beyond.
Our mission is simple: give folx space.
What about small press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
WIMMIN RUNNING THINGS. We love how many wimmins and womens and womyns and femmes and nbs and queer friends are making their own presses and publishing some really groundshaking works. These newer presses are not only addressing the gap in representation in what we read, but in how what we read is produced. There is a longstanding equity problem in publishing, and so we’re seeing a change in that with small presses cropping up who are breaking down traditional white male gatekeepership and shining long overdue light on diverse writers, editors, and producers. We need more of that. We can never have enough of that.
How does your press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large?
Gap Riot has always been a proponent of the small press community, and in and through our work, we honour the ones that came before us and paved the way for us to do this work. We also want to amplify the work of newer presses who are making publishing in Canada more accessible and equitable for more people. So, our work the past two years with the Toronto International Festival of Authors has been to amplify the work of small presses in spaces where they have traditionally been ignored. For too long, the commercial house and university presses have dominated publishing in terms of public awareness and readership. There is so much community, heart, and collaboration in the small press community that is deserving of some spotlight and attention, so we’ve made it part of our mission to amplify and uplift the work and voices of our comrades-in-cardstock.
Over 2022, Gap Riot Press was delighted to return to some in-person events, most specially and importantly as a part of the 2022 Fertile Festival hosted by Kirby at knife|fork|book at KFB East @ the Great Escape Bookstore. This event, shared with KFB and The Blasted Tree, was a celebration of innovation and experimentation in small press publishing. At this festival, we launched our ninth season (!) of chapbooks, including work by Khashyar Mohammadi, Isla McLaughlin, Jessica Bebenek, Claren Grosz, and [sarah] Cavar. You can out more about this season (and all our seasons) and shop the chapbooks at www.gapriotpress.com/shop
How have the current multiple global crises impacted your work with the press?
Mostly, things have been business as usual throughout the pandemic: we are announcing our books through social media, holding virtual launches, and selling our books online through our website. The ongoing, overdue calls for racial equity have laid bare the inequities of publishing, so we are also taking some time to revisit our goals for the press, and make more room for people we all need to hear more from to join us in this work.
Together, these crises have really hit home for us the value and necessity of collectivity and collaboration in our publishing model. We work with a small independent printer, David over at Product Photo, and it’s been great to be able to support him through some tough economic times. We also from time to time work with outside editors and artists on our books. We’ve been pretty happy with our shared production model because it allows us to collaborate with and support other independent folks in this work, and weather the hard times together through creativity
starting with the roof of my mouth
By Claren Grosz
TALK. ABOUT. GORGEOUS. This book from multi-talented super interdisciplinary Toronto-based artists Claren Grosz is going to impress the heck out of you. starting with the roof of my mouth is a long form illustrated poem about being alone. It uses the hobby of noticing as an antidote for being isolated and bored, and invites the reader to participate in the noticing. It measures and documents warping distance and time over the course of 2020, journeying through bed-bound boredom and pining as pastime. The drawings and text feel raw, immediate and deeply personal.
I REMEMBER THE EXORCISM
By Joe Brainard
Jessica Bebenek’s I REMEMBER THE EXORCISM is Joe Brainard’s classic “I Remember” from the perspective of a woman looking back on a formative but toxic relationship. It’s an exorcism of the lasting possessions of old loves, of insecurities and anxieties, of body politics and indie rock. It’s a reminder that sometimes we see what has to be done for a long time before we’re able—in all the ways we need to get able—to do it. It’s Manic Panic and Weezer and thigh-high socks, but with an ethos that’s so contemporary. Every reader should be prepared for moments of identification, but if you’re a Toronto hipster woman in your 30s with at least one douche ex in your emotional baggage, get ready to be seen, and sorry/not sorry ‘bout it.
By Death Toll
Death Toll is Khashyar Mohammadi's translation of Nima Yushij's titular long poem along with a short selection of his most unapologetically socialist poetry, all of which spotlights rebellion against authoritarianism and tyranny, especially through a rural Iranian lens. Although Nima Yushij is the father of Persian free verse, he has remained relatively untranslated due to the complex nature of his poetry. This chapbook aims to highlight a few of his most politically urgent poems that ring truer than ever more than half a century later. Mohammadi’s translation will blow you away — promise! It’s gorgeous, moving, and prescient in all our favourite ways.