Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press, 2011) Mike Spry’s debut collection of fiction revels in his characters’ idiosyncrasies and shortcomings in ten stories filled with wit and reverie.
In Distillery Songs‘ original and compelling narratives, dogs smoke, monkeys pop pills, cats are humourless, and Jesus drinks hot toddies. With a voice that Vallum magazine calls “a more obsessive, quirky, and pop-cultured version of Charles Bukowski,” Spry confronts issues of love, loss, addiction, and desire in a manner that is at once funny, imaginative, and heartbreaking.
“Spry is nimble. Spry is quick. Spry is lively, surprising, fun in a disturbing way and apparently incapable of writing a boring sentence. Distillery Songs sounds exactly like itself and not much like anybody else. These stories feel brand-new and shiny and full of life.” — Kevin Canty, author of Everything
“Distillery Songs are disturbed asymmetries of darkly entertaining weirditude, and if you like darkly entertaining weirditude you should read them. Their author, Mr. Spry, is spry in surprising ways.” — Padgett Powell
JACK (Snare Books, 2008) is a collection about loss, and how its various speakers deal with loss through addiction. Whether that addiction is alcohol, drugs, sex, love, or an inability to deny the past, these are narrative poems that reconsider the method in which the desperate periphery manage the minutiae of existence. Set against the backdrop of a distilled urban landscape, the speakers in JACK find themselves lost in the bars, bottles and back alleys of their narratives. The result is a dark, acerbic, honest, and humorous collection that challenges the way we read poetry.
“…the book emerges into an unexpected maturity…[and] the work evolves into a more knowing set of poems” - Broken Pencil
“These poems aren’t avant-garde exercise routines. They’re funny… A series of meditations involving a breakup, brutal self-mockery, and sardonic moping over imaginary photographs? You mean, there’s unrest in—Ottawa?” - Utne Reader
“…the makings of classic Canadiana.” – Vallum
“…a more obsessive, quirky, and pop-cultured version of Charles Bukowski. Where Bukowski slaps the prostitute, Spry hires her as his therapist. Where Al Purdy conjures yellow flowers and bar fights at the Quinte Hotel, Spry invokes cans of fifty and a tortured libido in a lonely apartment. I don’t make these comparisons lightly; JACK fits into a poetic tradition of epic masculine (and particularly North American) longing, and does so with a deftness of emotion and specificity of image that places Spry on par with such predecessors.” – Vallum
“…a voice that crackles with biting humour and refreshingly straightforward fury…Spry is consistently capable of achieving levels of raw honesty rarely seen in the work of more seasoned poets.” - The Montreal Gazette
“Jack is fiercely anti-poetic, anti-poignant, anti-comfort. You’ll want to hate this book. You’ll think of it as your dirty little secret. The sheer nerve of the writing will prompt you to embarrass yourself, admit to feelings you thought you’d worked through in therapy. There is a bold futility, a stupidity, and in the end an earnestness that makes this book super human…. Rude, rambunctious and abrasive, this is poetry that forgets to be careful, forgets it’s not alone, forgets the polite company that swarms poetic ventures, shouts “BUZZ OFF” the way a best friend might.” - QWF Jurors’ Comments
“…a whip-fast wit that can find the surreal edge of any situation.” - Open Book Toronto