canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

TDR Profile: Cumulus Press

TDR's Nathaniel G. Moore caught up with David Widgington, proprietor of that other mysterious micropress from Montreal that starts with C. (The first one being: ... Conundrum, of course.)


December 2006



Widgington says Cumulus Press came by accident. After working at a local publisher/book packager as map editor for an 18-volume travel series for US Reader's Digest, the contract ended but not Widgington’s interest in the creation of books. 

Widgington: "I decided to write a walking guide about the architecture, public art and historical art of Old Montreal and its downtown. I thought I'd give my newfound skills of editing, typesetting and layout a try on my own. After publishing the book, which was initially a single project, my friend, Kirk Johnson--who I met during the production of Montreal Up Close, and who co-wrote it with me--asked if I wanted to publish his first book of poetry. With this second title, Cumulus Press was born into existence beyond the publication of the single title. I'm now working on book #15 and counting."


The growth of Cumulus Press has been slow but steady. 

"At first," says Widgington, "I didn't know what I was doing regarding distribution, promotion, so I took a two week intensive workshop at Simon Fraser University's Studies in Publishing Program. I learned what seems like everything I needed to know." 

Widgington says his interactions with those in the publishing community assisted in his confidence to run the press. Now in its seventh year, Widgington admits the development of the presses’ persona has taken a long time to develop. A diversity in focus for what exactly the press aims to publish might have something to do with that. 

Widgington: "I've gone from travel book, to poetry to youth oriented anthology series, to activist nonfiction to political fiction. It has only recently become clear to me that Cumulus' specialty, based on my interests, my network, is activism and social justice issues whichever way they are presented: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, whatever. This focus has regularly been present in our list of titles but I had not, until recently, realised that it should be the focus of the press. I think that is the most important growth spurt so far for Cumulus."


"I shouldn't really answer this question because I'm one of the founding organisers," says Widgington, "so of course I think it is awesome. And it is! Just ask anyone else who has been whether as exhibitor or visitor. But I've been to lots of fairs: Canzine and Small Press Bookfair in Toronto, Small Press Bookfair in Ottawa, Anarchist Bookfair and Expozine in Montreal and a few smaller ad hoc gigs. 

"In the 5 years of its existence, Expozine (WWW.EXPOZINE.CA) has become the largest of them all with over 240 exhibitors in 2006. I don't always sell as many books as I think I should, but the place is buzzing with creativity all day and ideas have always sprung form there as have collaborations, which has been less prevalent from the other fairs."

Expozine specialises in comics, zines and the small press and since Montreal is often considered the artist capital of Canada, there is a lot of zine activity, and for anyone who did not know this, Montreal is an important city in the comics world too, so there is always lots of great underground and aboveground comics available at Expozine that cannot be easily found anywhere else. The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair is the largest of its kind in North America and is great for finding hard-to-find books on leftist political. Each bookfair has its specialty. (TDR note: Expozine is actually awesome.)


There are plans for four books in 2007. First on the block is the third book in the Tendrill anthology series for writers under the age of 25. Navigating Customs will anthologize short travel stories, including a chapbook integrated into the flap of the front cover by award-winning travel writer Cleo Paskal. Cumulus also plans on publishing a collection of poetry by Naila Keleta Mae, a well-known performance poet who "provides a resistant
perspective of life as a black woman." 

In the fall, Cumulus will re-publish (for the first time) a second edition of Autonomous Media: activating resistance and dissent. "The book has been translated into French so we will be adding the two chapters that were added to the French edition for the English second edition. It's an important book because it is the only Canadian perspective of how activists use the media, (or become the media) to inform about social ills and propose positive change." 

Also to look forward to in 2007, in the fall "I and I" by renowned poet George Elliott Clarke. 

Widgington: "To me this is like a coup d'état because he is a well-established poet, and I am honoured to be publishing work from such respected wordsmith."

Nathaniel G. Moore is TDR’s features editor.







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