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book review:

For Crying Out Loud: An Anthology of Poetry & Fiction

Hand-made chapbooks typically vacillate between the shoddy and the over-ornate- in other words, either photocopied booklets of staple-stitched construction paper or precious little darlings laced with gold thread and pasted feathers. Arnaud Brassard, designer and printer of the new Toronto micro-press Ferno House, manages to avoid either extreme with resounding panache, producing with For Crying Out Loud (Ferno House’s premiere release) a surprisingly beautiful, perfect-bound masterstroke of hand-crafted restraint.

For Crying Out Loud is a collection of poetry and fiction by the students and instructors enrolled in the Masters degree in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. It boasts a poem fragment by seasoned veteran George Elliott Clarke, written in his audaciously lyrical, overtly musical hand, and a short story by American-born fiction writer Jeff Parker-a pitch-perfect, hilarious send-up of both presumptuous American ex-patriots holidaying in Canada and a somewhat lesser known, home-grown entity-the French Redneck. The rest of the book is divided between the program’s aspiring writers and students. In terms of poetry, one finds the subtle linguistic play and adventurousness of Catriona Wright; the spare, Biblically-inspired verse of Wendy Prieto; the meditative and sickly sensual lines of Alex Grigorescu, and the morbid, keen-eyed histories of Laura Clarke. As for fiction, Jonathan Simpson writes out the affecting, fragmented history of a father’s love; Andrew MacDonald provides a cheeky, happily-perverse look at voyeurism and crime; and Spencer Gordon (the editor of Ferno House) writes a dark reflection on cigarettes, death and literary ambition, which takes an apt turn for the surreal. If what’s included in this collection is any indication of promise, then we should expect some remarkable work from these bourgeoning, Toronto-based writers.

According to the Ferno House website, the book might still be found at choice locations around the city of Toronto for a reasonable $15. I say go pick it up- it’s a damn fine combination of DIY, entrepreneurial ‘zine-culture, sophisticated and meticulous design craft and ambitious literary writing. (Eddie Leslie)

edited by Spencer Gordon, $15, 76 pgs, Ferno House, 32 Indian Trail, Toronto, ON, M6R 1Z7,

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