Thursday, April 19, 2007

festival notes, day two, maybe three, maybe four

What else to tell you? Another few days of late nights, another few days of festival nonsense, the kind of which only happens twice a year, if you let it. Woke up to a banging on the door & at least fresh coffee, that wonderfully nice Sean Wilson, because we had to move hospitality suites in the hotel from third floor to eleventh; there's something about waking up to a bang on the bedroom door & a "we no longer have this room." Ah, festival...

Last night launching Nicholas Lea's first poetry collection, Everything is movies to a very nice & receptive crowd; sold a small stack of copies, & Nick seemed very happy with how the whole thing went. Now the question is, will we ever sell any more? Hoping to get some review copies out over the next week or two, hoping to get copies into at least mother tongue books & Collected Works Bookstore by the end of the week (where I already took my book the day before yesterday). Missed the 7pm talk on literacy, a whole slew of us went up to the hospitality suite to talk & eat a bit, including jwcurry, Nicholas Lea, Robert Stacey, Monty Reid, Marcus McCann, Andrew Faulkner (from the new Ottawa Arts Review journal [see my review of such here]; Marcus & Nicholas & Stacey tell me he's the new kid to watch…) & a whole slew of others, & even found M.A.C. Farrant waiting for us upstairs, before heading back for the 8:30 show with B.W. Powe, Sandra Alland & bill bissett.

The 2nd poetry cabaret was all over the place; Bruce Powe (a York University prof, he was actually born in Ottawa & lived here until he was about seven years old…), absolutely brilliant in earlier days talking about, for example, "Canada: The Imagination of Place" just a day earlier (I have to get a copy of that book of his), he seemed an unfortunate fit with the other two; if you like what they do, you just won't like what he does. His poetry read like overwrought, over-sentimental and badly written prose in comparison; it might just not be my thing, which I'm more than willing to admit (Stacey said he quite liked it, for example). Alternately, Alland was particularly interesting, since I'd not heard or read or met her before, although I'd heard her name for some time (I have to get copies of those books of hers at some point); a couple of us at the back of the room decided that she reminded us of Coach House author a. rawlings [see my review of her book here] when she read, although less polished & with a wider range. The first third of her reading was particularly interesting, & then less so; her translations from English to English of a poem by Samuel Beckett over & over & over was extremely interesting, & produced some wonderful results. I think this is one of those poets I'm going to have to start paying some real attention to.

Of course, everybody who knows anything about anything can't help but love bill bissett's wild & wandering performances; I'm fascinated by the range of information bill brings into his poetry, including history & religion & politics & complete & utter wonderful nonsense & just walking around. Every time I hear him read & speak I return to that sense of wonder, of how can this man not be more known than he is? In the Q&A (with local CBC personality Alan Neal who kept calling him "bill bissette"), for example, bill showed himself to easily be the most engaged, informed & culturally relevant of the three writers on stage, but simply doing what he does confuses most people (at first) on the page. How can there not be a whole collection of essays on what bill has done, is doing & what he has continued to do since the late 1950s? Imagine: since the late 1960s or so, Talonbooks has done a new bill bissett collection every eighteen months; bill said his books counted well into the 70s. How can he not be wider known, & wider appreciated?

Tonight looking forward to Robert Wright talking about Trudeau; tonight looking forward to Andy Brown & M.A.C. Farrant; tomorrow looking forward to Catherine Kidd [see my review of her first novel here] & the third poetry cabaret, with Dennis Lee, Barbara Nickel & Simon Armitage

related notes: Amanda Earl's entry; Max Middle's entry; John MacDonald's entry; John MacDonald's other entry; John MacDonald's other other entry; Sandra Alland's entries;

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