Friday, November 09, 2007

readings in edmonton (again); the past few days

Part of what I’m really enjoying about my time in Edmonton is the fact that author readings are happening pretty regularly, and usually just a floor above my office, where I seem to spend most of my time.

Tuesday, October 30; Elizabeth Bachinsky

It’s been quite a while since I’ve heard Vancouver poet Elizabeth Bachinsky read [see my review of her book; see my review of her second book]; part of her trip to Edmonton was to interact with Jars Balan and Myrna Kostash [see my note on Myrna Kostash here], to do research and ask questions about a non-fiction project she’s working on regarding her Ukrainian background. She read from both her published collections and some new work as well, which was pretty entertaining, and talked about working her poems within constraint, whether the structural procedures from her bookthug collection, or the more traditionally formal models from her nightwood edition book.

And then we had dinner and talked about absolutely everything (but I couldn’t get her to come out to the Garneau Pub after).

Tuesday, November 6; Gary Geddes

When I was seventeen years old, growing up in that old Glengarry, Gary Geddes was the first “real writer” I’d ever met, and now, here I am, writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta some thirty years after he did the same (he was the second, after Matt Cohen). It was very good, admittedly, to see him again, since he was quite good to me in my late teens and early twenties, back before I knew what the hell was going on (now I’m pretty sure I have no idea; back then, I still thought I could figure it all out).

While here, Geddes read from his new collection falsework (Fredericton NB: Goose Lane Editions, 2007), a “documentary poem” about a bridge disaster in Vancouver in 1958, when the “Second Narrows Bridge collapsed while under construction.” Geddes’ book writes the story of the ironworkers who were killed, and of those who were left behind to deal with the mess.
Widow’s Talk

Saints, onions, synaptic leaps, the expression
of grief impossible. Accusatory looks.

I disappear into the woodwork, incapable
of playing the stricken widow. Anger

looks back at me from the bathroom
mirror, a patina of toothpaste, tiny

food particles. Bastard, how dare you?
You’re not Christ, you can’t walk

on water. I’m at the counter peeling onions,
asking the blessed Virgin, my hand

shaking, to forgive me. Male bonding,
shit! Beers at the Cecil. I’d rather

be married to a live plumber than a dead
ironworker. Freckles, halo, summer.
After the reading, I asked him why, since he seems to like narrative, story and doing research, he hasn’t written fiction or more non-fiction (the book was even performed by actors around the time it was released)? He talked about how he doesn’t understand why writers keep wanting to remove story from the poem; it wasn’t like that for the epic poems of Chaucer!

I bit my tongue, knowing I had plenty of things to say about that; Chaucer certainly didn’t have CNN, fiction, non-fiction, daily newspapers, all the outlets that now provide for what used to all be part of and the function of poetry. With all those things stripped away, poetry must do something else; I mean, how could it not be otherwise?

Tuesday, November 6; Paul Pearson, Marita Dachsel, Jonathan Meakin + Christine A. Stewart

You know you missed a good reading, the first in a series of events I’ve got planned at the “underdog,” the space underneath The Black Dog on Whyte Avenue. Scheduled as the Edmonton launch of the newest issue of The Peter F. Yacht Club, each reader managed to give the audience something that they might not have otherwise been expecting [see Marita’s 12 or 20 interview here; see my review of her first book]. Pearson gave a couple of pieces for his late mother and his late mother-in-law, and the first one was magnificent (even if he read it a bit too quickly); there was something there I wanted to savour. And I’m amazed at the almost matter-of-fact deliberateness of Christine Stewart’s poems [see her 12 or 20 here]. As she said, her poems have moved from definition to description, and the poems she read, come out of her daily commute through the Mill Creek Ravine, were utterly magnificent. She reads again, apparently, at the Olive Reading Series on December 11th at Hulbert’s.

Mundis is abandoning function. Seductive, it does not know. Seen, unseen. It is dream-shit. Dream delicate war repeating actual as event. As if ridiculous. But suffering. Furnish this present, furnish those who murder with place. Research of acceptance in place.
Mundis is flat, unflattened, un-flat. Automatic: an incurious close and worldly work. Mundis is blind release, but familiar. Lovely. Stasis and intimate in Mundis thousands dead and filling. Not minding suffering. Not minding being. In also suffering. Minding. Wanting. (from TAXONOMY)
With Black Dog manager Chad’s help, now toying with doing something potentially monthly down there, which would be pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 7; Cara Hedley + Jessica Westhead

The two Coach House girls are floating around the country doing readings for their first novels (they went to Calgary the following morning); was good to finally hear them both read, especially since they read in Ottawa the same day as the small press book fair! A block away, and I couldn’t hear them read (cuz I was still at the fair); am looking forward to getting into their books. The narratives for both seem pretty straight, but funny in parts.

And then at the bar afterwards on 104th Avenue, to see a photo of Cara Hedleys’ great-great grandfather on the wall? Apparently he was part of the Canadian hockey team outta Winnipeg (made up all of Icelandic immigrants) who ended up winning the first Olympic gold medal for hockey for Canada! How bizarre; how does one drink in a bar under that? Even more that Hedley’s novel was about women’s hockey; in hindsight, everyone agreed it would have been pretty cool to have had her novel launch there instead of at the bookstore…

And now: I’m off to Toronto for my novel launch; will I see you there? Although it means I’ll be missing the Michael Trussler reading here in the department the next day (I’ll still be on an airplane)

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