Well, after a week of sitting in my apartment with my computer writing, reading and thinking about community, I was more than happy to step outside and actually interact with my realworld community. And there’s no better place to do this than Montréal’s annual small press, comic and zine fair, Expozine. Every November, artists, writers, zinesters and eccentrics from Montréal and beyond gather to celebrate the creative and independent spirit. This time, for the 8th year in a row, over 300 exhibitors set up tables in the basement of the Église Saint-Enfant Jésus (that’s right – the Church of the Baby Jesus), and thousands more came to soak it all up.

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The view from the front entrance ~ somewhere in there are tables of art & literature!

Many of my favourite Montréal creators, zinemakers and publishers were there, including Conundrum Press, Matrix Magazine, Snare Books, Sherwin Tjia, Billy Mavreas/Monastiraki, Aimée van Drimmelen, Lickety Split, Todd Stewart and Drawn & Quarterly. While it was lovely to see all these familiar peeps, I also made some great new discoveries. And so I present my oddest and most yogic finds from Expozine 2009!

Bhagavad GoalieBhagavad Goalie – Yep, it’s the classic yogic scripture, rewritten and adapted for a modern audience by Ian Christopher Goodman. Only the battlefield has been replaced by a hockey rink, and the protagonist, Arthur Parcel, is being coached by Krishna (who remains the same) before he plays his smalltown family and neighbours. Within this text, we find such wonderous lines as:

No need to peek at the scoreboard
nor get dusty on the bench
You are a man of action.
The game, you play.

And one of the joys of Expozine is that the authors are present, so I was able to talk to Ian (whom I had incidentally met earlier in the day at a zen centre opening ceremony ~ of course) about his project. I love this concept and will give it a full review soon!

Studiotaro magnetsIndian collage magnets – Krishna caught my eye again while I was talking to friends at another table. This guy Carl David Ruttan has spent some time in India, where he collaged found and purchased papers. I went for the most yogic, obv (Krishna, chakras), but he also played with ticket stubs, flyers, advertising and photographs. I love Indian kitsch and bright colours, so these magnets will have a special place on my fridge door. I’m also in love with Carl’s little illustrations and baseball trading card-sized collages of non-Indian subject matter.

Jesse Staniforth“At the Gates of Hell” and Other Music Stories – This is the latest zine by one of my favourite Montréal underground writers, Jesse Staniforth. This is the only one of my Expozine purchases which I’ve read in its entirety, and that’s because I couldn’t put it down. Jesse expertly blends music criticism with heartwrenchingly honest memoir. His introduction documents the role that music plays in his life, but only after he details his painful childhood. His album reviews read like little vignettes of his life, records of bad jobs and lost friends. The title essay is a history of an old punk venue and an incisive account of crust punk culture. In Jesse’s world, great music makes for excellent writing and deep reflections on life.

shapeimage_2You and the Pirates – I had actually taken an adorable picture of the Workhorsery table and the founder/co-publisher of this little start-up press, but alas, it didn’t download properly. So this generic cover pic, stolen from the Workhorsery website, will have to suffice. The bright cover design and title (pirates!) of the book caught my eye, so I stopped to check it out. This novel –  which is written mostly in the second person (“you”) – contains many things I love: Japan! Cats! And of course, pirates! Todd, the guy behind the table, compared it to Haruki Murakami, one of my all-time favourite writers, and I just had to buy it. Not only do I love to read about Japan, but I’ve also lived there and written extensively about the culture (some of my stories were published in this anthology of emerging writers – click “read an excerpt” to sample my best story in the collection). This new little publisher, with only one book and a slick website under it’s belt, wants to be Canada’s answer to McSweeney’s. From what I saw at the table, they have enough enthusiasm and smarts to do it.

Every year, Expozine affirms my faith in the creative potential of people. It’s an experience more intimate and human than purchasing creative products in box stores. There’s nothing like being able to actually engage with the creators and get the story behind their stories. I’m already counting the days until Expozine 2010…

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