canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

TDR Profile: Joe Blades and Broken Jaw Press

Broken Jaw Press is a Fredericton, New Brunswick, "Poets’ Corner of Canada," independent, one-person publishing house for poetry, fiction, drama, regional, artist, and general nonfiction titles. Broken Jaw Press was founded by, and continues to be operated by, poet/artist Joe Blades. Since 1985, it has published award-winning, established, and new Canadian authors from across Canada and beyond. Broken Jaw Press, Broken Jaw Press eBooks and Maritimes Arts Projects Productions are the main imprints. They also publish the rob mclennan edited cauldron books series, and the R.M. Vaughan edited drama series, Velvet Touch.


TDR conducted this interview with Joe Blades through the use of technology in the fall of 2006.


TDR: What is new at Broken Jaw Press this fall and the spring?

JB: The big book of the autumn season has to be Ottawa poet rob mclennan’s twelfth full-length collection, a long poem composed of long poems. Other autumn releases include: the 2006 winning manuscript in the BS Poetry Society’s Poets’ Corner Award, "Heart’s Cupboard", by Edward Gates of Belleisle Creek, New Brunswick (his second book with Broken Jaw); "Inappropriate Behaviour", the long-awaited second full-length poetry collection by Nanaimo, BC poet Tim Lander; and "Eyes of Water", a novel by Pauline Michel, the until November 2006 Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada, translated into English by Jonathan Kaplansky.

Books in the works include a second edition of Broken Jaw’s first perfect bound trade book, "Dark Seasons: A Selection of Georg Trakl Poems" translated from the Austrian German by Robin Skelton; the bilingual poetry collection "En las noches que desvisten otras noches / Durant les nuits qui déshabillent d’autres nuits" by Argentine-Canadian poet Nela Rio with translation into French by Jill Valéry (several years ago, Broken Jaw published a Spanish-English edition, translated by Elizabeth Gamble Miller); and "Venus Butterfly", an allegorical novel by Pauline Michel translated into English by Jonathan Kaplansky..

TDR: What have been some of your promotional tactics as of late?

JB: Other that the website and some ads in periodicals, Broken Jaw produces full-colour postcards for books and/or authors. Recently, to draw attention to forthcoming books, we have made several promotional chapbooks of excerpts in print and downloadable from our website PDF editions. We’ve also made catchy business card-sized promo items: one had a flash fiction story; another states "Go ahead, ask your local bookseller for a broken jaw today!"

I, members of the Editorial Board, and some Broken Jaw authors work to get Canadian and some international attention for our books and authors by doing in-person presentations at, for example, BookExpo Canada in Toronto, the Beograd Book Fair, and grassroots events such as the ottawa small press book fair, as well as at author festivals and various conferences of writers, translators, and academics in the fields of Canadian and Latin American studies.

TDR: What are you working on in your own personal writing these days?

JB: I am slowly shopping a poetry manuscript out to publishers. I am trying to finish another poetry collection while attempting something close to a sabbatical from Broken Jaw Press. Am also writing short prose than might go somewhere. We shall see if something happens with them. In July, I participated for the third time in four years in a successful short-term public artist residency in Fredericton. One of the poems I wrote there, then embossed in the wet clay of a platter-in-the-works formed by Ursula Sommerer, is currently on display in Fredericton Arts Alliance Casemates Artists-In-Residence Exhibition: Emerging vs. Established Artists in the Fredericton City Hall Gallery. Several other poems are in my limited edition, handmade artist bookwork "Space Station II" commissioned for "A Book Arts Mosaic", "Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild" travelling exhibition.

TDR: What is it like to be a part of the East coast literary circuit, what is the New Brunswick literary community like?

JB: I don't really think of myself as being on an East Coast literary circuit. Certainly, touring authors try to connect an event in Fredericton with ones in Halifax, or Moncton, or Truro, et cetera, but it’s far from easy. Travel times on the ground are longer than anticipated, air travel isn’t really practical, and it can a challenge getting a host and/or venue. In New Brunswick, one can drive a triangle connecting Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton, but Charlottetown, PEI is another direction all together from Moncton off the Trans-Canada Highway to Nova Scotia.

There is, however, a loose network of universities in Atlantic Canada that work together to optionally tour certain authors of interest amongst themselves. The University of New Brunswick-Fredericton campus is particularly active in that circuit which may also include universities in Antigonish, Charlottetown, Halifax, Saint John, St. John’s, Wolfville and possibly elsewhere (like Stephenville and Sydney?) I’m not party to it so I’m not really in the know . . .

New Brunswick is fortunate to have several bomegrown literary festivals which highlight the province’s position as the only officially bilingual province in Canada. Side by Side Festival Côte à Côte, with readings, workshop and panel discussion activities in Fredericton and Moncton, is organized by ellipse magazine, and it is centred around 30 September, International Translation Day. In late April, the annual  Festival littéraire international Northrop Frye International Literary Festival happens in Moncton. The UNB-Fredericton English Department has also hosted an autumn poetry weekend in recent years. Additionally, the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick had organized the Alden Nowlan Literary Festival (which I believe it is currently undergoing a revision).

New Brunswick is blessed to be the centre of Acadian culture. The province is home to a
vibrant Acadian literary community that includes authors Antoinne Maillet, Herménégilde Chaisson (the current Lieutenant Governor of the Province of New Brunswick), France Daigle, Raymond Guy LeBlanc, Serge Patrice Thibobeau, Dyane Léger, Eric Cormier, Marc Arsenault, Léonard Forest, Roméo Savoie, Rose Després, Sonya Malaborza, the late Gerald Leblanc, and a great many others.

TDR: Where else do you take Broken Jaw, and of course, yourself?

JB: Much of my literary travels takes me elsewhere across Canada, or repeatedly during the past two years into Eastern Europe. Serbia in particular as two of my poetry books were published (t)here in translation in October 2005. In fact, I'm in Serbia right now, based in the small town of Senta. The last week of October, I participated, for the third straight year, in the Beograd Book Fair as publisher of Broken Jaw Press and as an author.

Nathaniel G. Moore is TDR’s features editor.







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