David James Brock doesn’t actually have any books on my shelf. Yet. He does though, have a few books off my shelf. Namely, two poetry chap books that are stacked on top of one of my book shelves along with other chap books. The first, Gasmask Summer, was published in 2009 and released by The Emergency Response Unit, a chap book press run by Leigh Nash and Andrew Faulkner. The second, Black Metal Melody (featuring illustrations by Patrick Larkin), was published in 2011 by Ferno House Press (run by Spencer Gordon, Mat Laporte, and Arnaud Brassard).
Brock is probably most widely known as a playwright and librettist, whose work (including the super cool Glasgow Pub Operas and the incredibly important Cystic Fibrosis inspired Breath Cycle—both in collaboration with composer Gareth Williams) has been featured in cities across North America and in the UK. However, he’s been quietly publishing poetry over the past few years in a build up to his first full-length collection.
There is a surprising range to his poetry as well, Gasmask Summer focuses on, for lack of a better descriptor, fashion, touching on styles of shorts (cargoes vs. cut offs), thrift store leather jackets and even an exploration of the unfortunate banana hammock (“this brash thong reveals as little as an Italian widow,/ where power lies in brevity”).
In contrast, his second chap book is a series of linked poems that create a kind of coming-of-age story, chronicling one teen’s fascination with black/death metal (“One night in Toronto, the black metal lead wore a Slash t-shirt on stage./ The fans booed him, but forgave when they took it for irony”). It’s actually incredibly readable, with a clear narrative that follows the protagonist’s immersion in “the scene” and an intense relationship with a slightly older woman. It’s also got some very cool illustrations by Patrick Larkin.
David James Brock and I share a lot of life-experience similarities, going all the way back to family/childhood connections to North Bay, Ontario. We also both graduated from the University of Victoria’s BFA and the University of Guelph’s MFA programs (though at different times) and we also both worked at the amazing Russell Books while we were living in Victoria.
Here in Toronto, we find ourselves once again working together, this time teaching at the same college; also, we were both signed to the same press for our first full-length works, and we both appeared in the weirdly excellent (not to mention beautifully crafted) Dinosaur Porn anthology in 2010.
Actually Brock was one of the first people I met in Toronto. Having gone to the wrong place for an interview at the college we now work at, he ended up walking me to the English department just in time for the interview. The rest, as they say, is history.
David James Brock will be launching his first full length work of poetry, Everyone is CO2, at The Gladstone Hotel on April 16th, 2014, at which point his book will be included on my book shelf.