i'm working on organizing the June book fair for the Small Press of Toronto. i was recently talking with a couple of the interns (who fabulously are helping with the Fair, thank you!)...and i realized my first real connection with the small press was in Vancouver in the 90s, when i was starting to seriously write poetry, and i wrote 21 poems about blackjack.
one night, i was at one of the nondescript downtown casinos--a very tame enterprise, in Vancouver, because you couldn't drink in the casino & mostly the clientele was made up of elderly men wearing cardigans. i'm not much of a gambler, and roulette was the only game whose rules i understood back then...so i sat down at the roulette table and played around with $20. i lost most of it, and was down to the last couple of dollars, which i placed in a single chip on the central number...the 20. because it was in the middle.
the weird thing is, my number came up, winning me a couple of hundred dollars. and then i tried another $20 bet & won a bit more. and then i cashed out, because even though the elderly Chinese guys at the table were encouraging me to keep on the winning streak, i wasn't convinced it was going to last.
so i left the casino & logically thought HEY i can put this money into producing a chapbook! because that's what everybody thinks when they win "big" at roulette, right? surely that was Sean Connery's first thought, too, when he used to win in Monte Carlo. (okay, maybe not.)
so that's how i initially got involved in the small press...i took my $320 of roulette winnings and spent most of that money on paper & printing & staples, and then my long-suffering gambling partner and i spent several rather lovely hours folding and trimming and stapling chapbooks on the kitchen table. those 21 poems about blackjack, titled 'green as the three of diamonds', had found a way into the world.
and i thought HEY this is fun. i like this. this is WAY more fun than roulette.