Wednesday, December 19, 2007

some (further) Edmonton (and Calgary, and Ottawa) readings;

A note on things that happened before; a lag while Ottawa sinks its claws or fangs or whatever else…

Tuesday, December 4; rob’s Edmonton book launch for white

A good little event, with about twenty people or so, including Barbour, Lemay, Stewart, Hedley, Kostash, El Labi. I read most of the first section (but not all) with the idea that I might never read it in Alberta ever again; going to do the same in Ottawa next week, read about twenty minutes or so of the first section; it’s such a little book that it’s difficult to really read anything less without not giving enough for a sense of it; after Ottawa, will I even pick such a thing up again?

Wednesday, December 5; Yann Martel, presented by Edmonton Cultural Capital

Yann Martel, Man Booker Prize winner and current Saskatoon resident, did a talk to a packed house in the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Room of the Westin Hotel in downtown Edmonton (it was moved some time ago from its original location of the Stanley A Milner Library Theatre for the sake of the crowd). Recorded by CBC Radio (to be aired somewhere over the next few weeks) and hosted by CBC’s Peter Brown, the event was structured around the publication of the new hardcover The Illustrated Pi, a new edition of his third book, Life of Pi, that won the Man Booker Prize in 2002.

The evening was structured into three parts: a talk on the new edition, a talk on his current project, and an on-stage interview on “The Active Artist” by Brown. There is something lovely and even envious about how Martel speaks, with a kind of casual deliberateness that shows how much he thinks about what he is saying, and the obvious craft behind the talk that he gave. Martel talked about the process of finding an artist for this new edition through an international competition, one that brought in 1600 submissions that were eventually boiled down to sixty and then six, into the final winner, Czech artist Tomislav Torjanac. A well-crafted evening, I think I filled about twenty pages of notes (pretty much every second or third line he spoke was quotable); far too much to get into in so short a space as this.

Thursday, December 6; Christine Stewart’s making strange poetry reading

Held at Remedy Café in the middle of the afternoon, Christine Stewart hosted a reading by her 399 class, “Making Strange Poetry Reading,” with Megan Cleaveley, Allie Grande, Natalie Helberg, Carlos Lara, Judy Lin, Victoria Meszaros, Nina Varsava and Erin Weisgerber. Not everyone made it to read (there were one or two missing), but there were certainly some interesting experiments coming out of class projects on the canto, homo-linguistic translation and other poetic structures designed to get these young people moving outside of their own "voice." I was particularly taken with some of the pieces performed by Carlos, Judy and Erin, with some impressive lines coming out of just about everyone; will these be names we should be keeping an eye on?

After it was over, I stayed around for a bit for drinks; should I tell you which one published a Harlequin Romance novel last year?

Saturday, December 8; Calgary extravaganza!

A carload of us—Trisia Eddy, Lainna El Labi and I (delivering Cara Hedley [see her recent feature in The Danforth Review] south as well)—appeared in Calgary for the Calgary Extravaganza, as twelve Calgary authors launched eleven titles; why can't other cities do such as this? One of my crew noted how all of the writers seemed University-related; are there any writers in town in this group that don’t have anything to do with the program at the University of Calgary? With fantastic (albeit brief) readings by Robert Majzels [see his 12 or 20 here], derek beaulieu [see his 12 or 20 here], ryan fitzpatrick, William Neil Scott, Jill Hartman [see her 12 or 20 here] & Brea Burton, Cara Hedley, Natalie Zina Walschots and various others, it was interesting to see the range of publishers represented on stage, from Snare Books (Montreal), Information as Material (England), Oberon Press (Ottawa), The Mercury Press(Toronto), Coach House Books (Toronto) and Nightwood (Gibson's Landing, BC), but only one title from an Albertan publisher, Edmonton's own NeWest Press. Why doesn’t Alberta have more literary publishing?

Starting his tour reading the first part of his novel, Scott decided that, for this final reading on the same tour, ending where he began, he would read the last part of the novel; what made it interesting, particularly, is in what he didn’t give away. And it was good to see some of these folk I haven’t seen in some time, including beaulieu (we traded envelopes) and Christian Bök; an offshoot of our conversation has me reconsidering the last two poetry collections (un and yesno) by Dennis Lee

And then there were the adventures in Red Deer each way, an hour or maybe two.

Tuesday, December 11; Christine Stewart at the Olive Reading Series

I couldn't be happier with the appointment that University of Alberta made of Christine Stewart, doing the job that Douglas Barbour used to in the Department of English and Film Studies; Barbour pretty much said the same thing when he was introducing her reading. The little chapbook is an interesting series of accumulations about Mill Creek Ravine and the bridge she goes under twice daily en route to her office; how does someone from another space conceptualize something that so many locals would otherwise find familiar to the point of unremarkable? It's interesting how she comes from a more socially-aware poetic gaze, coming out of the language writers and various KSW alumni from her years of Vancouver, working critically on Lisa Robertson, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk, Nancy Shaw, Susan Clark and so many others that seem, predominantly, invisible in Canadian crit (but not so in American or other-crit).

Tuesday, December 13; rob's Ottawa book launch for white

With the idea I might never read from the book again (very hard to excerpt from such), I read roughly twenty minutes worth from the novel to a crowd of roughly fifty, which was pretty exciting, and hosted by old pal Monty Reid. A group of us ended up at the Dominion Tavern afterwards, including Max Middle, Megan Hughes, Amanda and Charles Earl, Pearl Pirie, Sean Dowd, Genevieve Wesley and Nicholas Lea, and Josh Massey. A very long night; I think I arrived home around 3am. Is this why I'm tired all the time?

See the photo of such here, by Charles Earl; did you see the review in The Globe and Mail?

Otherwise: check out these reports from Ottawa on Monty Reid’s reading at Dusty Owl (one from Amanda, another from Pearl); read what Shawna Lemay said about Anne Le Dressay's new poetry collection; don't forget the Ottawa launch of the Peter F. Yacht Club or the beginnings of the first of the new Factory (West) Reading Series in Edmonton, or the next Ottawa reading of the Factory Reading Series on January 24 to launch the fourth issue of ottawater!

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