Niki Koulouris Meets Monsieur Porcupine (and Other Poetic Remembrances)

Today’s post is brought to you by guest-blogger and poet Niki Koulouris. Niki published her debut collection of poetry, The sea with no one in it, this past fall, and has been enthusiastically promoting her book at readings and events all over Toronto. Fresh off her recent appearance at the Words Out Loud Reading Series, Niki will be taking part in the Literary Press Group’s celebration of National Poetry Month on Wednesday, April 23rd at Ben McNally Books in Toronto.

What follows is a charming tale of fate and porcupines – and The Porcupine’s Quill as Niki looks back on the publishing process…

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Niki and the porcupine

Catching sight of a slow-moving tuffet on a walking track is a rather exciting affair. Especially if you happen to be on a coastal trail looking out onto the magnificent inland sea of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The creature may be an infant bear. Unless, of course, it turns out to be an adult porcupine. The latter’s exactly what this particular mound happened to be. A denizen of the Gaspé Peninsula, Monsieur Porcupine also proved to be rather portentous; that evening I received a long-awaited email from Tim Inkster, publisher at The Porcupine’s Quill.

Tim’s message was to let me know that PQ was ready to begin the process of publishing The sea with no one in it. As anyone who has ever published a poetry collection before can attest, it’s a long process. Eons seem to pass from the day one’s manuscript has been accepted to the day one’s hands open one’s book for the very first time. It’s also Murphy’s Law that a first-time author, eager to impress one’s publisher with quick-draw replies to emails, is asked for a flurry of documents while bang, smack in the middle of a camping trip.

The first time I had seen a porcupine was when I made the acquaintance of Boris and Natasha at the Melbourne Zoo. These critters were likely named after that pair of no-good spies from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show – a childhood breakfast staple that featured a moose and a squirrel. Natasha permanently wore a purple strapless gown. Dumpy, trench-coated Boris was half her height, reaching her waist by virtue of his fedora.

Monsieur Porcupine

The quilled Boris and Natasha, however, were both Boris-sized. They encircled each other like two peripatetic, entirely impractical oval coffee tables. Well, only impractical unless they were tables expressly designed for a Bondage and Discipline studio of course. I’m pretty sure they were porcupines and not echidnas. Echidnas are egg-laying mammals – monotremes in fact. And they were definitely not hedgehogs. Everyone knows hedgehogs are a type of coconut biscuit.

So when my first batch of books did arrive my natural instinct was to raise a glass to all things quilled. Especially to the little harbinger of good news I encountered at Forillion National Park. Tim and Elke had ingeniously packed a bottle of champagne in the box of books as well. The accompaniment of choice was a packet of Hawkins Cheezies. I had set eyes on them the day before in the supermarket and decided that it was about time I tried them. I emptied the comestible puzzle pieces of Canadiana onto a plate. I’ve since learned that porcupines fancy salty things too.

Salty things.

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Thanks to Niki for sharing her thoughts and photos. Be sure to check out Niki’s book, The sea with no one in it, and don’t miss the National Poetry Month celebration tomorrow at Ben McNally’s! (For more information, visit our events page.)

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.