Frankenstorm vs Opal Louis Nations
There's a storm a-comin'. Should arrive here in Cobourg in the next few hours. Will it flood my basement? I've been heaping all the cardboard boxes onto tables and plastic milk crates down there.
But if the storm passes in time, and doesn't leave too much destruction behind, then I'm heading to Toronto tomorrow for the first-anniversary launch of Teksteditions, the sort of heir apparent to The Mercury Press, run by Richard Truhlar and Mercury's Beverley Daurio. Teksteditions has done some very neat things already: uncompromising works by Brian Dedora, Guy Ewing, and — the guy I've come to talk about — Opal Louis Nations.
I've come to talk about him, and I'm going to Toronto to read work by him. Since Opal lives in Oakland, California, Teksteditions needed a stand-in reader, and I'm pretty thrilled that they asked me.
I'm thrilled because Opal Louis Nations is perhaps my ultimate small-press hero. I discovered his work around 1979, when he was living in Toronto and publishing a lot in Victor Coleman's Only Paper Today. I was doing stuff for York University's Excalibur student newspaper, and I did a double of review of a chapbook of Opal's and one by Crad Kilodney. Shortly thereafter, a heavy British accent on the phone identified himself as Opal Nations. He was delighted with the review — his wife, Ellen, who attended York at the time, had seen it — and he wanted me to come for dinner.
And so began my immersion into one of the most exciting and crazy and brilliant small-pressers ever. I began collecting scores of different publications by Opal — issues of his mimeographed Strange Faeces magazine, stand-alone works from the Strange Faeces press, and Opal's books and chapbooks from a huge checklist of tiny and small presses. I eventually added hugely to my collection when used book dealer Larry Wallrich invited me to do some archival work for him in exchange for a spectacular deal on mimeo publications from the '60s and '70s. And a couple of dinners with him and the other Queen West used bookstore guys from the golden era.
Eventually I even published a couple of chapbooks by Opal through my Proper Tales Press — the first was The Hats & Stockings of Great Heroes Who Sang for Six Months, in 1984. And much later, in 1995, I did smaller-format facsimile second edition of 'Meet me at under the elm tree tonight at eight o'clock; tell Tom and Mary to come to'. Looking back after all this time, I can barely believe I had the privilege of publishing these works. They are magnificent.
Anyway, if the weather allows, tomorrow night (October 30, 7:30 pm, the Supermarket, in Kensington Market), I'll be reading from his newest collection from Teksteditions, A Cornucopia. The same press, incidentally, released last year a novel — perhaps one of the weirdest and funniest ever published — called Mr. Body. I remember seeing that manuscript back in the '80s and wishing I could publish it — but it was too big; I couldn't afford it. What I did do was write a poem called "Señor Cuerpo."
Here I am, around 1993, performing the poem with a band called the Angry Shoppers, featuring my buddy Steve "Gongadin" Lederman on drums:
Over and out.