Monday, April 23, 2007

festival notes, day seven & eight, we stay up late (or, "fear & loathing at the ottawa international writers festival")
(thanks to Steve Zytveld for providing the subtitle)

A Saturday of fewer things, & more things; just to be able to get any breathing or sleeping done (& those blog entries I posted), I didn’t get to anything on Saturday until the 4pm film screening of Heard of Poets, a documentary on poets & poetry in/through Ottawa by Josh Massey & Ben Walker. An interesting film [see here the things I cannot say, by Amanda Earl & John W. MacDonald], they filmed readings & interviews with poets over an eighteen month period, including Stephen Brockwell, jwcurry, a. rawlings, Max Middle, George Elliott Clarke, Seymour Mayne, Oni the Haitian Sensation, Mark Frutkin, Pauline Michel, Jim Larwill, A.J. Levin, Paul Muldoon, Michael Dennis, Gus Morin, Gregory Betts, Melissa Upfold, Terry Ann Carter, Christopher Levenson & John Akpata, among others. I quite liked the way the film was structured, almost thematically, weaving through readings & interview clips, & blending fragments of various authors into each other; I would certainly recommend seeing this film, & hope that they can get some airtime on it, somewhere. Seymour Mayne, in part of his interview, said some things that I found particularly interesting, & some other things that were just completely off-base. Certainly an interesting cross-section of some of what has happened in the city & even through the city over the past couple of years, & any documentary that includes jwcurry [see a note I did on him here] working on his gestetner is obviously a pair of boys who get something that most other folk just don't; still, it's interesting to notice that I was probably at almost every single event they filmed, including the infamous BookThug reading at Richard Fitzpatrick Books in Mechanicsville (you can hear my voice in the background when the police arrived), or the TREE Reading Series open set with Middle & Brockwell (you can see my publications in the background of both), or Michael Dennis launching one of his LyricalMyrical books at Invisible Cinema (you can see me at the back of the crowd), or Clarke, Muldoon & Levin at the ottawa international writers festival (you can see me in the crowd there too). I'm not sure exactly how to get a copy (the ottawa small press book fair & Invisible Cinema come to mind), but if you want to know more about their project, you can email Josh Massey at

After that, poets Genni Gunn, Erin Knight & Erin Moure performed at the fourth poetry cabaret, lovingly hosted by our own Stephen Brockwell; another night of three poets, two of which share a name? Who plans these things? Interesting how Sean Wilson deliberately put three poets together who work the translation as part of their writing, working back & forth between languages, & just how their differences matched. Interesting to hear their considerations at the Q&A portion of how the languages meld into each other, & just how their considerations of even English shift through knowing a second or even a third language. Interesting how Erin Moure talked about returning to one of the points of origin of the lyric I away from religious poems in her Galician researches, & how it not only becomes impossible to remove the I, but impossible to even want to. How can one close down the lyric? How does one write without the I? It's always refreshing to see how someone in Moure's "avant" position is so much more open to a variety of ideas & considerations about how things are done or even could be than so many of her counterparts.


I was told I would get my bearings soon.
I wondered when these things would be given to me.

All I watched was a perch at the best window
to watch the snowfall. Which is the best window?

The one that wants to be larger. Don't they all?
Not true. Some never imagine the other exposures.

The best window welcomes shifting angles
of light and so, in its window way, time-zones.

It knows there are those to the north and the west
and that its day has started without them. Oh,

said this other voice, who was really my divided self
created from a specified loneliness held in abeyance,

and who had already taken a perch at the best window
from which to watch the snowfall: as did mine. (Erin Knight, the sweet fuels)

Part of the bonus of the festival was Erin Knight bringing along her partner, former University of Ottawa student & current professor of poetry at Brock University in St. Catharine's, Ontario, the poet Adam Dickinson. He just doesn’t visit us often enough; Edmonton just won't be the same without him, now that he's come back east.

A Body of Too Many Spines

We are, for the most part, on our hands and knees,
like the rain creeping into a house;
thin needles of the hydro-cycle,
the part that begs to come indoors
and implicate each of us.
We come to error with the nudity of benches.
All our summers have the same beginnings,
bright ideas slice themselves open like fruit.
We are horseshoes making blacksmiths.
We are too many fires.
New wood and the old wood;
the past isn’t so much remembered as turned into fuel.
What is opposite of forgetting?
Justice? Swallowing the wrong way?
It can't be remembering.
We are always remembering,
there are very few subjects that tolerate our memory.
We are the aftermath;
treelines driven to drink in the heat.
Resemblance falls to the ground pointing everywhere.
We are not the hardwoods we like to think,
but the more primitive conifer,
its bundle of needles,
a body of too many spines, too many ways to stand. (Adam Dickinson, Kingdom, Phylum)

Yesterday not making it out to most of the afternoon business (including the David Suzuki lecture I really wanted to hear; oh happy earth day, they kept telling me) because I was in the east end, reading at the Gloucester Spoken Arts reading series. He asked me to read over a year ago; by the time I realized it was in the midst of festival, it was too late (I have another reading this coming week somewhere slightly west of me, I think…). A good afternoon with Roland Prevost & his lovely wife Jan, & reading with two young poets part of Colonel By Secondary School; a good afternoon, but one that prevented me from festivaling until the 6pm book launch, hosted by Capital Xtra; over the next few days, I hope to get into reviewing John Barton & Billeh Nickerson's Seminal: The Anthology of Canada's Gay Male Poets (Vancouver BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007) that they launched on Sunday; over the next few days hopefully get posted some photos that we took late late late last night at the hospitality suite, courtesy of Carmel's camera & some donations from Ottawa poet Monty Reid (but more about that later on…). Did you know we sold a small stack of Nicholas Lea's book during the festival? Did you realize he even outsold Dennis Lee?

& now the festival is over, & I have to spend the next few days re-entering into the rest of my life. I just don’t want to see anyone else for a few days; I can't, I don't, I can't, I don’t, I can't

related notes: Amanda Earl's entry; John W. MacDonald's photos of Erin Moure, Erin Knight, David Suzuki, Nicholas Lea, Simon Armitage, Heather Mallick, ; Charles Earl's photos of Erin Moure, John Barton; Pearl Pirie's entry;

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