If It Gets Quiet Later on, I Will Make a Display by Nick Thran

Florescent are the pages of Nick Thran’s If It Gets Quiet Later on, I Will Make a Display (Nightwood Editions, 2023). Here is a book driven by the “desire to feel inside the vascular tissue” of cities, bookstores, books, and those who labour—pouring drinks, parking cars, crafting words, selling books, etc.—for subsistence and art.

If a book about bookstores, books, and writing contains an imperative to include trees, then Thran accomplishes that “in something of the procession of tree mourners” by bringing into the conversation recent books such as Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees (Greystone Books, 2016) and Suzanne Simard’s Finding the Mother Tree (Penguin Canada, 2022). With their mycorrhizal network, a copse of trees is analogous to a community of readers who congregate around bookstores and books. Like trees, brick-and-mortar bookstores form a nexus and safe space to share information, make connections, strengthen bonds, and trade food (for thought).

Along with “omnivorous reader[s]” and “bookish pirates,” Thran focuses on “working classes” who make a living and persistent writers who get to the page despite “a number of obstacles.” I was particularly taken by the fictional stories that center on women in nature—a tree-planter, of course!—and “in literature.” The story “Librería Gloria Fuertes” brings together Fuertes, “the most well-regarded female poet from the post-war generation of 1950” and “C,” “an American, a generalist, a feminist, a lover of chocolate and a person with antiquated tastes in literature.” If this story were a dream, “C” would be a tendril of Thran; references to Spain, speaking, writing, and translating Spanish sprout throughout the multi-genre collection as Thran makes something in words out of his reading, especially the anthology Roots & Wings: Poetry from Spain, 1900 – 1975 (Harper & Row, 1976), edited by Hardie St. Martin and translated by Philip Levine.

Thran’s stories, essays, and poems are “broadly associative,” offering readers a map of the “odd angles from which the bookstore” and books facilitate connections to ideas and between people. For example, one of the six poems, “A John Ashbery Remembrance Day,” links a bookstore patron who phones the store, “looking for Ashbery’s” long, narrative poem Girls on the Run (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999)—a story about a group of young women making a utopia for themselves—with Thran, who happens to be wearing a t-shirt with “a crude drawing of” Ashbery’s face on it, while he is talking to the customer on the phone.

The spotlight on Ashbery, and fellow New York School poet Frank O’Hara, orients readers to both Thran’s associative compositional mode and his “range of influences.” Henry David Thoreau’s writings on nature and Thaddeus Holownia’s photographs of trees form a background thicket of inspiration, “the ways a forest is layered.”

Thran’s writing is “dense, but turning suddenly from leaf to stem to light,” creating an essay, fiction, and poetry rhythm that unites the book’s three sections. The half-dozen poems lean toward the prose forms and offer well-timed clearings in the forest canopy, chances to bathe in space and light.

Throughout the collection, Thran’s writing is “colourful, textured,” his interests “eccentric.” As an example of the slightly strange: “Collected Trout,” the book’s centerpiece essay, presents the history of Calgary’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop. Readers interested in artistic community and collaboration, especially those who happily dive into rabbit holes in pursuit of their interests, will be especially appreciative of Thran’s thorough account of the Workshop’s name’s origin, founding artists, carved puppets, performance methods, and alt-theatre projects.  

Thran’s “diverse forest of information” never loses sight of marvellous individual trees of “interests, passion projects, side hustles.” These stems and buds sustained my curiosity, especially in relation to Thran’s aspiration “to cultivate an understanding / of the movements of a browser’s voice and eyes”—his eyes, and ours, dear reader—“somewhere right between belonging and desire.”

Jami Macarty gratefully recognizes the Coast Salish as the traditional and rightful owners of lands where Jami has the privilege to live and learn—as a teacher at Simon Fraser University, as an independent editor, and as a writer of essays, reviews, and poetry. Jami is the author of The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award - Poetry Arizona, and three chapbooks, including Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Jami’s writing has been honored by the British Columbia Arts Council, the Writer’s Studio at Banff Centre, and by editors at Canadian magazines such as Arc Poetry Magazine, The Capilano Review, CV2, EVENT, Grain, and Vallum Magazine.

Nick Thran is the author of three collections of poems. His second collection, Earworm (2011), won the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. After stops in New York, Calgary, Madrid and Montreal, he now lives in Fredericton, NB, on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Wolastoqiyik, where, in addition to writing, he works as an editor and bookseller.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nightwood Editions (April 29 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 136 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0889714487
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0889714489