A Short History of Cormorant Books
Preface to Fall 2006 catalogue
Twenty years ago, Jan and Gary Geddes started Cormorant Books on their farm outside of Dunvegan in Eastern Ontario. Each of them had a reason for naming the company for this particular bird. According to Gary, the cormorant is such a good fisher that humans use it, with a wooden ring to prevent it from swallowing its catch. Gary enjoyed being of use to Canadian writers briefly, then passing the responsibility and the glory to Jan, who had heard a rumour that the cormorant was a voiceless bird. She endeavoured to give that bird a voice by introducing new writers to readers across Canada. Both Gary and Jan succeeded in acquiring the good catches, the new writers, and providing a foundation for a company that has introduced many significant voices.
Where are they now? Gary claims not to have swallowed all the manuscripts sent to him, however slick or fishy, but to have published some great Canadian books. He is now living in his favourite spot, the West Coast, and doing what he loves best, writing. His recent books include the acclaimed Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things and Sailing Home. Jan Geddes now lives in Victoria and is working on a novel and is studying Latin. The hallmark of Cormorant’s twenty years of publishing is the discovery and promotion of new writing talent; in this time, the company has had ten books nominated for the various incarnations of the Books in Canada First Novel Award. The company’s fiction and translations have been nominated for many national, regional, and civic book awards and prizes.
Now in Toronto, keeping the Cormorant tradition established in 1986 alive has, at times, been difficult. At other times, it’s been relatively easy – finding a narrative voice of character and distinction, the new author with something to say that’s not been said before, rescuing the out-of-print authors whose reputations have tarnished with age and neglect. Publishing books, such as those in the pages of this catalogue, is an adventure; it’s an intellectual pursuit without parallel. When a new book arrives from the printer, when an author receives her first glowing review, the hardest of times are forgot. We all live for these moments. The company’s dedication to publishing a diversity of voices from across the country continues, along with the belief that these voices are worth hearing. They are worth reading, not just for a small and select audience, but for the largest possible one, which is why we rely on booksellers and librarians, and why we rely on book reviewers and the media, who play as important a role in this endeavour as do we, the staff and authors of Cormorant Books.
In spring 2011, Cormorant inaugurated a new poetry line. We publish between two and four poetry titles a year (currently two). We seek excellent new collections by poets both established and new; anthologies and reissues by solicitation only.
The kinds of poetry editor Robyn Sarah will be looking for are best summed up in her statement about the new poetry line: “I look for poetry that is poetry before it is anything else, whatever its subject matter, style or form. I like poems that have lasting resonance, that invite re-reading and reading aloud, that balance sound with sense, and that go beyond mere personal biography or the topicalities of the day to evoke universal human questions and emotions. I am not interested in the trendy. I look for honesty in poetry. I look for language that is original, surprising, playful, yet also disciplined. I look for poems that rise above their own surface “aboutness” to a higher plane, whether of metaphor, myth, or sheer melody—poems that deliver truth beautifully and beauty truthfully. In short, the values I look for in contemporary poetry are the same ones that have allowed great poems to survive centuries and to transcend languages and cultures.”