12 May 2006

Reading hat trick

Did my third reading of the week last night at the Toronto WordStage series, at Cervejeria on College Street. It's a relatively new series, but it draws a big crowd, though last night's rain and perhaps some lit-crap overload kept the audience a little smaller than usual.

This series presents three "established" writers, preceded by a student or emerging writer. The night was kicked off with a reading of poetry and theatre monologues by Alison Chung. I was a little too anxious about figuring out what I was going to read (I was next in the lineup) to pay enough attention. A bad habit I have of not deciding what to read until I'm at the venue and see the audience and feel the space and the mood. But Alison took on some heavy issues in her reading, and delivered them with passion.

I was up next, and Luciano Iacobelli gave me one of the weirdest intros I've ever gotten, but it was pretty neat. He talked about my street-selling days, so as I walked to the stage, I jettisoned my plans and started off with an essay from Confessions about that decade I spent on Yonge Street selling my chapbooks. It was fun to read that aloud; brought me back to those much-missed days (I mean, I miss them, but I'm not going back out there!). I followed up with mainly new poems, some of which I'd never read before, a very short story, and finally my lovelorn letter to Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. I got a great response from a very attentive audience (no chair-scraping 8-year-olds this time), and ended up selling about 8 books, which is a pretty good take.

Next onstage was Afua Cooper, who read some very long poems steeped in black North American history about which I knew very little, and some of which I'd really like to get up to speed on. She's an amazing performer, and though her words are simple and direct, her ideas are complex. It was great to hear her read.

While she was reading, though, Chris Dewdney plunked himself down beside me. Commenting on the enthusiastic applause Afua was getting after each poem, he whispered, "How can I follow this?" I assured him that he'd be soothing, that we'd all need some soothing after Afua's energized and sometimes angry set. Chris read better than I'd ever seen him before: a lot of lyric poems, monkey poems, sci-fi poems. Obviously not the Chris Dewdney of The Paleozoic Geology of London Ontario, but thankfully not the Demon Pond Dewdney. There was something of hearing the master read, as when David Gilmour read at this same series a couple months back.

Nice to share a table with Dana (who helped fold my poetry leaflets while I was deciding what to read) and with Camille Martin and Lynn McClory. Camille had read at the Art Bar Tuesday night with George Bowering, and if I hadn't been in St. Catherines, I'd'a been at that.

The afterparty at Luc's was real nice. I didn't realize, somehow, that he was a painter, though I suspect lots of his paintings grace the covers of LyricalMyrical books. I sure liked a lot of what was on his walls. Not a bad book collection, either. Camille and I examined the poetry pretty carefully.

And then, a nice long walk home in the gentle rain and cool air.

Over and out.


At May 13, 2006 9:07 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

must be i'm a little too canadacentric...always assumed tossing hats onto the ice (in an era when almost all men wore hats) was exclusively for three hockey goals by one player within one period (or three poetry readings within a week), but here it is, the true derivation of hat trick: originally from cricket, c.1877. Taking three wickets on three bowls allegedly entitled the bowler to receive a hat from his club commemorating the feat. By 1909 it was being used in other sports.


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