Shelf Life

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RAHILA’S GHOST: A GROWING FAMILY OF POETS

author
Judah Schulte
photography
Coltrane Yan
illustration
Matthew Lim

 

Since its conception in May 2017, Rahila’s Ghost Press has published six chapbooks. The Vancouver-based press publishes poetry exclusively, taking submissions from emerging or established writers, and strongly encouraging women, writers of colour, LGBTQIA2S+ writers, Indigenous writers and writers with disabilities to submit.

Founder and publisher, Mallory Tater, got the name of the press from her great-great grandmother. Curious about her heritage, Tater and with her fiancé, who is also RGP’s Managing Editor, Curtis Leblanc, made a trip out to Saskatewan to investigate her family’s beginning in Canada. As RGP’s website states, they learned that “Rahila Corches [was a] mother of three, [who] immigrated from Campeni, Romania with her husband Samson.” Rahila’s interest in reading and her untimely death made an impression on Tater. It seemed a fateful coincidence that at the time she learned this information, Tater had been planning on starting a press. It wasn’t only homage that inspired the name, but its ties to the concept of family. “I’m a firm believer in chosen family,” says Mallory, “and looking backwards to forwards on the relationships in my life links the idea of chosen family to the press.” And a family she made.

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Mallory Tater and Curtis Leblanc || Photography by Coltrane Yan for Discorder Magazine

The RGP team is made up of seven editors, all of them decorated with published work of their own and awards or nominations. Tater met her team through university and the Vancouver poetry scene. Together the group reads submissions, fundraises and attends book launches. As a family performs labours of love, the team (Tater included) labours for free; only the contributors receive honorariums. “One of the nice things about having such a big group is that we can pair the writer with an editor that fits them properly — in terms of interest, personality and aesthetic,” explains Tater. This intentional pairing is indicative of the passion with which the press is run and the identity that it maintains.

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Illustration by Matthew Lim for Discorder Magazine

For the cover of each chapbook, Rahila’s Ghost solicits a different local artist and converses at length with the poets to make certain they feel their work is accurately represented. Tater cites the time this back and forth takes as one of the greatest hurdles in the process of publishing, but one that is worth the struggle. “When writers are submitting and want their work to be taken care of, I take that seriously,” says Mallory. “It’s such a privilege and an honour to take on that role.”

Having published a collection of poems and signed a novel with major Canadian publisher, HarperCollins, Tater is versed in the challenges of the industry. With poetry not being as lucrative as some other forms of writing, it can be a trial for poets find platforms for their work. And Vancouver, with its high cost of living and a younger art scene than major city centres, can add to that difficulty. Inspired by other chapbook presses like Metatron, Tater saw a way of leveraging these problems into opportunity. “I had the time and energy to provide a platform for the voices in my community and across the country.”

The poetry in their list of published titles is clear and contemporary. Much like the press itself, Rahila’s Ghost seeks out work that is accessible and thoughtful. “To me personally, the best poetry is the kind that takes the internal into the external smoothly and in a way that everyone can connect to,” Tater explains. Submissions go through the hands of all the editors for consideration. The ones that resonate with the most members of the team get accepted. “I don’t like doing the rejection part, but that process needs to exist. If we could publish 40 manuscripts a year, we would do it.”

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Mallory Tater and Curtis Leblanc || Photography by Coltrane Yan for Discorder Magazine

RGP is a press that views itself as a home for poetry. It was founded by a local poet who saw a need and is maintained by local poets who see the same. Projecting the voices of emerging artists, Rahilia’s Ghosts understands as well as anyone that any community is a family and family sticks together.

 

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For a list of releases and submission information, visit rahilasghostpress.com and follow Rahila’s Ghost Press on social media for upcoming events.

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MASSY BOOKS

author
Esmée Colbourne
photography
Geraldine Pinzon
illustration
Emily Valente

Massy Books is an independent bookstore located in Chinatown on East Georgia Street, owned and run by its namesake, Patricia Massy. Massy’s bookstore is a labour of love. Open for almost a year now, Massy has used the space not just to sell books, but also host readings and build community.

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Illustration by Emily Valente for Discorder Magazine

The entrance is easy to miss. This, in combination with its clubhouse-meets-library feel makes for a cool and welcoming oasis from the hot summer. There’s no trace of that musty odour normally associated with secondhand books, yet the main space is laden, floor to ceiling, with stocked shelves.

Massy and her staff are approachable and knowledgeable. While watching her talk to the people coming and going, it was easy to see the pleasure she gains from small exchanges with new faces and her dedication to finding niche books for customers. Her personal love of books stems from the learning that can be gleaned from them, for example “a sensical kind of rabbit hole that books can take you down and lead to other books and other histories and other works.” She also enjoys dense or complex novels because they enable her to emotionally connect with and learn about characters’ lives: “It’s like travelling without going anywhere. Sometimes when a book is challenging I literally feel my brain working hard […] It feels good, kind of like weightlifting, but with words and ideas.”

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Illustration by Emily Valente for Discorder Magazine

Owning a business and living in Vancouver comes with issues of affordability and precarity. Luckily, the building that houses Massy is relatively new and there’s co-op housing above the store, decreasing the likelihood that redevelopment will affect them during their current five-year lease. Massy believes that the lack of affordability is what makes Vancouver so unwelcoming to small businesses and residents. “[Vancouver] really caters to developers. I was asked by the City […] to sit on a panel on how to support the promotion of Indigenous culture and I didn’t go. […] I basically said, ‘We should be talking about how to make spaces more affordable so [Indigenous-oriented] events and cultural things can exist.’”

Massy Books is fast becoming the go-to place for discovering Indigenous literature. “A lot of great fiction by Indigenous people exists. It’s just a matter of finding them used. People hold onto their books or there weren’t enough printed in the past,” explained Massy. The sheer quantity of Indigenous books as well as Indigenous-focused events, such as the Indigenous Brilliance Reading Series in partnership with Room Magazine, or the shop’s willingness to host book launches for Indigenous authors, have cemented Massy Books as a cultural centre. In fact, thanks to an anonymous donor through Room Magazine, Indigenous Brilliance Reading Series will continue with more resources. “Now we can pay the readers for their work. So often Indigenous people are asked to work for nothing, so it is really great to be able to offer an honorarium,” explained Massy.

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Massy Books || Photography by Geraldine Pinzon for Discorder Magazine

Massy’s support for the community extends to the artists shown in the bookstore’s upstairs gallery. “We are always looking for artists. […] We have a link on our website, a call for artists […] and a call for Indigenous artists. It would be great if people started applying to utilize the space. […] It’s for established artists and emerging artists that have never had a show before.” Currently, photography by Laura Noonan and Tara Paget of Meet Me at the Lamppost (MMATLP) is on display until mid-July. For the entire month of September, there will be a showcase of different Indigenous art forms featuring Northwest Coast Indigenous Women/2SQ artists.

Massy Books is a quiet haven for Vancouver book lovers. Patricia Massy’s commitment to stocking enriching books and her engagement with customers and artists is what makes Massy Books such a lovely place to be in. The shop is a joy to wander through and a prime example of what a good independent bookstore should be: community and identity driven, supportive of artists and welcoming to visitors.

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Massy Books is located at 229 East Georgia Street. You can follow them on social media or visit their website for news and upcoming events: massybooks.com.

For a Summer Reading List of recommendations from the staff at Massy Books, find a print copy of Discorder around town, or keep an eye out on our social media channels.