Friday, November 23, 2007

Edmonton readings; the past few days

Friday November 16, fait acomplit reading/launch

I don’t know too much about this thing, a regular magazine produced by students in the Comparative Literature Program at the University of Alberta; the readings were of poetry and fiction by younger folk, which was pretty interesting (I was there for Trisia Eddy, who had also just launched her first poetry chapbook through her brand-new chapbook publishing company). Not a bad little magazine, but I don’t understand any magazine that tries to charge the people they publish; apparently the journal was $10 for regular folk, and $7 for contributors. Damn tacky, if you asked me; I would rather have paid a $5 cover to go to a reading, just so the contributors would get a couple copies for free. Is that so much to ask? There must be a way for some of the buckets of money that seem to be free-flowing around campus and around the province to get into their hands and coffers, to allow for such a thing.

Saturday November 17, Snaring the NeWest

Unfortunately, Calgary poet Natalie Zina Walschots had to cancel her part of the trio for the sake of a family emergency, but NeWest Press was still able to host two other Calgary authors, ryan fitzpatrick launching his first poetry book with Montreal’s Snare Books, and William Neil Scott, launching his first novel, published by NeWest [see a report or two on the Ottawa leg of the same tour here and here and here]. Jon Paul Fiorentino’s Snare Books is producing some really lovely and compelling titles lately, from fitzpatrick’s FAKE MATH and Walschots’s Thumbscrews to (I’ve heard tell) a new title from Toronto poet/publisher Jay MillAr that I haven’t seen yet. Part of what I’m finding interesting with fitzpatrick’s first collection is in the way he’s working out a particular series of rhythms, working his own social-political theory through language (echoes of Peter Culley and Jeff Derksen), and his instance on the statement.


Here is eating me alive for my close
friend and boyfriend want fries with that.

When people dogging my face I take
pills for taking stuff and some shit.

Because they think I’m fucked up
is leaving you – for good nobody.

That I’m bipolar and I don’t want be
wit man scratch that never mind.

Since I’m through caring about fuck
and that’s wait for you for ever.

Both authors gave extremely funny and engaging readings to (unfortunately) a small crowd. I’m intrigued by William Neil Scott (read this rather dim review of his book here), and was impressed by his use of dialogue in Wonderful, a novel (NeWest Press), edited by Edmonton writer and NeWest Press board member Thomas Wharton. Unless you really know what it is you’re doing, dialogue can very easily come off as false, but Scott doesn’t seem to make a single wrong move.
“This is amazing,” he confided.
“It is,” she agreed. “It truly is. I should have done this from the beginning.”
“Would you like to dance? It’s not right that you’re off by your own here.”
She looked up at him. “I’m a little bit old for dancing.”
“Nonsense,” he said, extending his arm.
Laughing, Ester Anson reached up and took my father’s arm.
For the rest of the evening, the people of Garfax laughed and danced, drank and told stories. When the morning blue came, they extinguished the fires, turned off the lights, and moved through the silent pines back to their cars. One of them men from the moving company had been left to drive Ester to Benning. They found him asleep in the front seat.
“I want you to have my house,” Ester told Cadmus in the blue.
“That’s extremely generous,” my father said, a little drunk.
“I’m serious. I’m leaving it behind me, Cadmus. The rest of it is yours.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’ve decided.”
Cadmus opened the door for her and woke up the driver. Before getting in, she stood on her tiptoes and pulled him down to kiss him on the cheek. “Thank you,” she said.
“You’re absolutely welcome.” (p 60)
Tuesday November 20; George Bowering at the Olive Reading Series

Vancouver writer and troublemaker George Bowering [see my review of his most recent poetry collection here; see the section I edited in Jacket on him here] read to a packed house at Hulbert’s, reading only from chapbooks he’d had published recently, including ones by No Press (Calgary), Rubican Press (Edmonton), Pooka Press (Vancouver), above/ground press (Edmonton/Ottawa) and BookThug (Toronto). Apparently in 2006, Bowering decided to write a chapbook a month using a different structure, with a poem a day, making some chapbooks 31 pages/pieces long, some 30 and one 28. Launching two of the chapbooks at the event, his Horizontal Surfaces produced as an Olive give-away and Eggs In There produced by Jenna Butler’s Rubicon Press, he dipped into the entire range of published months, slightly less than a dozen (the one published by kemeny babineau’s Laurel Reed Books hadn’t arrived yet). The pieces in Horizontal Surfaces are quite amazing, and, as Bowering said during the reading, end up being short essays on writing instead of what they suggest they might otherwise be.

In reading we use our eyes and imagination. With radio we used our ears and imagination. With television we use our eyes and ears. Some of us watch television with our mouths hanging open. Television reaches us. It covers us with light. Any poetry that tries to appear on television sounds all wrong. When producers bring poetry onto the set they try to make it act like television. In poetry there is no laugh track and no suspenseful string music. Imagination doesn’t have a chance; there is no imagination in that light. A man holds a handgun. A popular consultant ridicules a book-buying husband. At first they told us that microwave ovens were for cooking meals. At first there were people who thought that television would be for the arts. Once a long time ago, you would see an author as the last guest on a late night talk show. These days we see the young walking around with wires hanging from their ears. How long will it be until the inventors sell them wires to hang from their eyes? My blind buddy rides the buses, his fingers reading a large book, the young all around him, staring into nowhere, wires hanging from their ears. He uses the fingers of his right hand and his imagination, farther away and more in place than they’ll ever be. (Horizontal Surfaces, Olive)
His chapbook Eggs In There is a book about his parents, written in the “I remember” style he started with his book on Greg Curnoe, The Moustache (Coach House Press, 1993), an idea he borrowed from a couple of folk who’d done their own version, including New York School poet/artist Joe Brainard, but suggesting, too, previous collections of his own including Autobiology (1972) and even His Life: A Poem (2000).

I REMEMBER that my parents drank coffee all day long, and until recently, so did I. So did my late wife and I. So does my sister, a year younger than I; she has a pot on all day. But she still smokes cigarettes. About the time I stopped smoking cigarettes, I cut my coffee down to about three cups a day. Uncle Gerry and Auntie Pam downed it all day and night. I have always known that coffee is a family habit, but my daughter didn’t get it. What I really liked was getting old enough to have coffee with my parents, and smoke cigarettes with them. My father always put one drop of milk into his coffee. He hated milk.
coming up: Thursday November 29; 44th Avenue Troubadour

Apparently Edmonton poet Catherine Owen has been hosting small gatherings in her house on a monthly basis for some time, and she asked me to participate in this moons ago, quietly promoting this event as “rob mclennan recites, michelle boudreau plays, paul saturley talks about photography. we laugh. we cry a little. we eat pretzels.” How could anything go wrong with that?

also coming up: I launch my first novel in Edmonton at Audrey’s on December 4; Yann Martel reads on December 5 at the Stanley A Milner Library Theatre; the Calgary launch of nearly a dozen books by Calgary authors; I launch my first novel in Ottawa at the Ottawa Art Gallery on December 13; we launch the Edmonton issue of The Peter F. Yacht Club in Ottawa on December 22 at the Carleton Tavern;

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