Matthew Stepanic is a writer, a publisher, and a co-founder of Glass Bookshop. // Lindsey Catherine Photography

Poet and publisher Matthew Stepanic is nurturing Edmonton’s poetry scene

By Matthew James Weigel

Matthew Stepanic—poet, editor, well-dressed man about town—has already made his mark on Edmonton’s literary arts scene, and he’s just getting started. Even a non-exhaustive list of this poetic publisher’s current projects seems exhausting.

Stepanic is the Edmonton Public Library’s current writer in residence, has a play he wrote appearing at this year’s Fringe Festival, and runs Glass Buffalo, a literary magazine that has published works by emerging local writers since 2012. The magazine also publishes chapbooks, supports writing contests, and runs three launch events a year.

Stepanic’s latest venture, however, is Glass Bookshop, Edmonton’s newest independent bookstore. Co-founded with Jason Purcell of the Canadian Literature Centre, the shop just wrapped up a successful Indiegogo campaign and is on track to open later this year. Purcell and Stepanic are looking at locating the shop somewhere in The Quarters.

Stepanic is keen for the people of Edmonton to know it is a community space.

“A bookshop needs to be welcoming to everyone,” he says.

To achieve that goal, Stepanic plans to focus on forming partnerships within the community, and ensuring people know that the space is available for them for sharing and collaboration.

But Stepanic doesn’t just see these connections as confined to Edmonton.

“One of the cool things about the bookshop,” he says, “is we’re starting to get some excitement from other major Canadian publishers that are saying, ‘We want to send our authors to your bookshop, that seems like a really cool space.’ And I think that also lends itself to this idea of creating a larger community in Canada and connecting Edmonton with that.”

It is impossible to attend all the regular poetry events in Edmonton, so it seems worth asking if Stepanic thinks the city is at capacity for what can be sustained.

“You can never be certain that you’re at a limit for a market until you test it and you push at it,” he responds. “There’s a market for more voices, always. And there’s a market for different types of poetry.”

For these reasons, curation is a central value for Glass Bookshop. Edmonton’s poets have so much to offer, and it is important for Stepanic that their work is visible to the city’s poetry readers. To do that, Stepanic has been busy engaging with the community before the store even opens. He was recently at the Canadian Literature Centre’s Kreisel Lecture, selling books from behind a neatly curated display table.

When it comes to courting new audiences, Stepanic tells the story of a University of Alberta alumni night, where he brought in a diversity of poets to perform. People at the event were surprised and told him, “Oh, I didn’t realize that was poetry. I really liked that.”

In the end, Stepanic says it is about making sure people are aware of the events that are going on. With that awareness and those connections in place, it becomes a simple equation: A new bookshop will mean more books are sold.

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