05 October 2006

Ottawa Daze

Been in Ottawa since Tuesday for the Ottawa International Writers Festival. Nice drive up, listening to Bill Maher's When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden. Then a Juliana Hatfield CD and a Ben Walker CD. Never noticed the Georgie Fame sound in Ben's stuff before, at least in some of the piano-based songs.

As for the Festival, I was skeptical that anyone would show up for my solo event, "Hunkamooga's Return: Coffee-Stained Notes from the Underground." And things have been so hectic lately, I hadn't made proper time to prepare for the 40-minute reading (followed by onstage interview). Just before I left Toronto, though, I decided to kick off with "The Ape Play," so I was able to load the cardboard ape house and the whole ape cast into my trunk. Well, about 30 or 40 people turned out for the event, instead of the six I was expecting. Especially neat to see Michael Dennis there, and John Lavery, Lorraine Filyer, and Sarah Dearing. The apes went over well, then I read "I Duck for Poetry," my essay about selling my books in the streets from Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer, then a bunch of new poems, plus "Laundry" from Hey, Crumbling Balcony!. I had a huge heap of stuff to read, but I was surprised at how quickly 40 minutes was going by. I read a chapter from my unpublished novel The Snowball, which was really exciting to read aloud for the first time, and finished off with my current "Hunkamooga" column from sub-Terrain.

The Q&A came next, conducted by Stephen Brockwell, with some questions from the audience (including a couple of questions about himself by rob mclennan and some persistent questioning about my personal life from a crazy person). (mclennan and I are keeping things civil, though I'm beginning to crack. You know, he really does put a lot of energy into the poetry world, I gotta say.)

After that, signed some books, caught Daphne Marlatt reading, and spent too much time in the hospitality suite, before heading back to my own suite (larger than any apartment I've lived in!).

I missed a couple of Ottawa festivals, and it's great to be back at this one. Great, too, to see Sean and Kira and Neil and Thea, who I first met when they invited me to the first OIWF a decade ago.

Wednesday I made some time for a walk around Ottawa, a city I love, and then met with the first of my manuscript-evaluation takers, which went really really well. Headed off the Library & Archives to catch writer/artist Bernice Eisenstein do a reading (with projected visuals) from her book I Was A Child of Holocaust Survivors. Very moving, some lovely anecdotes, great drawings.

Next up I went into the big studio where poet/biographer Rosemary Sullivan read from her new book, Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape, and a House in Marseille, about the risky efforts to save, from Vichy France, a couple hundred writers, philosophers, and artists, including André Breton, Benjamin Péret, Max Ernst, Walter Benjamin, and Marc Chagall. Sullivan kicked it off by screening a 15-minute film made by her husband, Juan Opitz, in France while she was researching the book. An amazing film, it gave context to the onstage interview, conducted by Charlotte Gray, that followed.

It was a really inspiring session. Made me want to do nothing but write. I mean, I was really fired up. So I went back to the hotel ... and hung out too long in the hospitality suite.

Over and out.


At October 05, 2006 1:36 pm , Blogger roxword said...

free hospitality suite is hard to turn down. it's the poet in you, man. it's in your genes. glad you're back home safe and in one piece.


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