Joseph Blades

Joe BladesPhoto: Brigitte Noel
Joe Blades
Photo: Brigitte Noel

Joseph ("Joe") Blades was born on 29 August 1961 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and died on 22 April 2020 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He was a poet as well as the president of Broken Jaw Press, a publishing company located in Fredericton. He started the company in 1984 when he was living in Banff, Alberta. Its authors under imprint are from around the world.

Late in 1964, Blades moved from Elmsdale to Dartmouth, NS with his parents, Wendell and Phyllis (Pieroway) Blades. His mother is the author of Memories of Sandy Point, St. George’s Bay, Newfoundland (2003). He graduated from Prince Andrew High School in 1979.

After a brief residency in Banff, Alberta, he began his studies in 1984 at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, later attending the Banff Centre for the Arts Writing Program in the summer of 1985.

In 1987, he moved to New York for four months to undertake a Curatorial Internship at the Museum of Contemporary Art. At the time, he was the first Canadian to have been chosen for this internship. While Blades was living in New York, he benefited from the vibrancy of the city, started New Muse of Contempt magazine, and wrote poems later published in a chapbook titled Tribeca (1998).

Blades had always preferred writing workshops to the more formal post-secondary education courses that teach writing. Among his influences, he cited Milton Acorn and Maria Jacobs as being important. Shy by nature, Blades' first public reading was in 1980 in Toronto followed soon after by many such occasions. Just before attending the Maritime Writers’ Workshop in 1988, he graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Halifax, where he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a Studio Major in Intermedia.

In 2004, always on the move, he took part in a Book Publishing Immersion workshop at Simon Fraser University, soon bringing those skills to the University of East Sarajevo, in Pale, Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2008, he received a certificate in Film and Television through the New Brunswick Filmmakers' Co-Operative.

In 2012, Blades moved back to Fredericton, where he earned his Masters in Education at the University of New Brunswick. Up until his death in April 2020 he continued to run Broken Jaw Press, publishing new titles every year.

Also a radio show host, Blades won awards for his radio program on CHSR 97.9 FM, and he won honourable mentions at many of the workshops that he attended over the years.

In the words of preeminent New Brunswick literary critic Tony Tremblay, "he is perhaps best described as the everyman from an earlier era—a poet, publisher, teacher, environmentalist, filmmaker, student, traveller, labour activist, radio show host, and friend to writers everywhere" (3). His legacy, states Tremblay, is a mix of patience, helpfulness, and generosity.

Karla Dunfield, Winter 2009
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Blades, Joe. & Care Electronic. Fredericton, NB: Book Rat, 1990.

---. Aaaaaaab. Fredericton, NB: Dead Sea Physh Products, 1990.

---. The A.B. Dick Colour Story. Halifax, NS: Broken Jaw, 1985.

---. Afterimage / Naknadna Slika. Trans. Bobana Stephens. Fredericton, NB: Spare Time, 2004.

---. Apathy. Toronto, ON: Twobitter, 1995.

---. By(e) the River. Fredericton, NB: Book Rat, 1990.

---. Casemate Poems. Waterloo, ON: Widows & Orphans, 2004.

---. Casemate Poems (Collected). Ottawa, ON: Chaudiere Books, 2011.

---. Cover Makes a Set. London, ON: HMS, 1990.

---. Dawn/astride/estuary. Fredericton, NB: Dead Sea Physh Products, 1990.

---. DEC 31 1988. Los Angeles, CA: Utopic Furnace, 1990.

---. Eurotrip. Kamploops, BC: Pooka, 1996.

---. 4 Eurotrip Postcards. Halifax, NS: Broken Jaw, 1985.

---. For Sha(u)nt Basmajian. Cambridge, ON: Hungry Zipper, 1991.

---. From the Book That Doesn’t Close. Fredericton, NB: Broken Jaw, 2008.

---. Future Now Past. London, ON: SpareTime Editions, 1990.

---. Groundhog Daze 00. Fredericton, NB: Post Haste Card, 2000.

---. Help: You Need It, We Offer It. Fredericton, NB: Book Rat, 1996.

---. In the Valley of the Shadow of Poets’ Corner. Poetry Chapbook Series 5. Maxville, ON: Above/Ground, 1994.

---. Journey through Pink Clouds of Momentary Mentalities. Toronto, ON: Joe Blades, 1980.

---. Open Road West. Fredericton, NB: Broken Jaw, 2000.

---. Paper Bags. Halifax, NS: Dead Sea Physh Products, 1989.

---. Personal interview. 21 Oct. 2009.

---. Poems for Barry Colpitts. Fredericton, NB: Broken Jaw, 2006.

---. Prison Songs and Storefront Poetry. Victoria, BC: Ekstasis Editions, 2010.

---. Reflections. Halifax, NS: Broken Jaw, 1987.

---. River Suite. Toronto, ON: Insomniac, 1998.

---. Rummaging for Rhinos. Ottawa, ON: Pooka, 1995.

---. Solstice. Fredericton, NB: Spare Time, 1994.

---. Space Station I. Fredericton, NB: Broken Jaw, 2003.

---. Space Station II. Fredericton, NB: Broken Jaw, 2005.

---. Stones of my Flesh. Salamanca 11. Fredericton, NB: Wild East, 1992.

---. Stuff, an Artist Book. Fredericton, NB: Spare Time, 1994.

---. Synopsis. Fredericton, NB: Book Rat, 1994.

---. Theatre Department: Cast Care. Fredericton, NB: Mad in Canada, 1995.

---. Trans-Canada Meditation. Fredericton, NB: Spare Time, 2000.

---. Tribeca. Poetry Chapbook Series 14. Maxville, ON: above/ground, 1997.

---. Twist Tie #2. Readcycle 6. Montreal, PQ: Fingerprinting Inkoporated, 1991.

---. Winter Solstice. Fredericton, NB: J. Blades, 1995.

---. Winter Solstice 1997. Fredericton, NB: Post Haste Card, 1995.

---. Wriding. Billet 5, Series 2. Maxville, ON: Above/Ground, 2000.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

Beardsworth, Adam. “Self-Assured Catastrophe.” Rev. of River Suite, by Joe Blades. Canadian Literature 187 (Winter 2005): 103-104.

McGillivary, Mary. “Blades, Joe, River Suite; Steeves, Andrew, Cutting the Devil’s Throat.” Journal of Canadian Poetry 15 (2000): 11-15.

Merlin, Kate. “Joe Blades: Poet, Publisher, Artist-on-Display.” Atlantic Books Today 46 (Winter 2004): 22.

Moulton-Barrett, Donalee. “Joe Blades: An Amazing Journey.” Cross-Canada Writers’ Quarterly 11.1 (1989): 3-4, 7.

Pantzar, Katja. “Inventive Minds, Powerful Stories [Canadian Fiction].” Quill & Quire 64 (1998): 24.

Tremblay, Tony. "Understanding the Legacy of Joe Blades in the COVID-19 Era." Journal of New Brunswick Studies 12 (Fall 2020): 3-5.