Two From Billy Mavreas : “drop”

Next up on our mini “tour” of recent published projects by Montreal’s unofficial ambassador of the avant garde, Billy Mavreas, we come to 2020’s drop, another nicely done chapbook-style ‘zine from Ottawa-based above/ground press that has a tight focus thematically, conceptually, and even visually, but nevertheless feels like an innately expansive experience rather than a limiting, or worse yet limited, one.

Droplets of water constructed from text, clippings, and various and sundry found materials are the de facto “protagonists” here, either by themselves, in small “groups,” or as part of veritable torrential downpours, and as with other Mavreas works, each page can be taken as a discrete “concrete poem” (albeit in liquid form, ha!) on its own, but in succession the effect they have is cumulative at the very least, exponentially multiplied if you’re really picking up what he’s laying down. A visual poem with each page representing a stanza that can also, if need be, stand on its own, then, might be the most practical way of both interpreting and subsequently parsing this one.

Since when, though, does practicality have much to do with how one absorbs — pun only slightly intended — poetry of any sort? One of the things I appreciate most about Mavreas’ art is his inherently practical approach to its creation and execution, sure, but the concepts and themes he explores lend themselves to the kind of wide open interpretations that often belie the admirably workaday methodology at their core. Nothing, then, is ever so simple as it seems — rather like how the ocean is made up of hundreds of trillions of droplets of water, but just isolating one of them is, of course, physically impossible.

Ditto for the amorphous, transitory, dare I say fluid nature of this particular ‘zine, where what we’re looking at is never in question, but what it all means when considered both individually and in its totality is. I don’t care to be beholden to any single interpretation of work that is multi-faceted on its face, it’s true, but the conceptually exciting thing about this project is that your understanding and analysis of it needn’t be singular in nature at any point along the way.

All of which is to say that, yes, it is what it is — but what that is could be many different things, and then many other different things as soon as you turn the page forward. Or back. The literal-minded among you may find this an inherently frustrating thing to try to pin down, but my advice would be to not even seek to pin it down to begin with. Let it be what it is on the one hand, what it means to you on the other, and then come to grips with the fact that both are one and the same, but neither are fixed. Thinking about a work like this sure can’t hurt, but feeling about it is infinitely more rewarding.
In a pinch, then, I don’t mind classifying this is a challenging piece, but even while invoking that term I’m absolutely aware that it doesn’t need to be. It may not, in fact, need to be anything at all — it just is. Unless I’ve utterly missed the point, that’s the most beautiful thing about it — and even if I have, I get the feeling that’s okay, too. I can go ahead and make up my own point and it works just as well as anything else.


drop is available for $4.00 from the above/ground press website at

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