28 November 2006

Owen and Riley and fiction in between

My brother Owen, who was really into wrestling (back in the days of the Sheik, the Fabulous Kangeroos, and Haystack Calhoun), used to do this thing where he'd pretend to slap me in the face and I'd fling my head to the appropriate side, and he'd slap again and I'd fling my head back the other way, and with each "slap" Owen would somehow make a slapping sound, presumably with his other hand. Back and forth, forth and back. It's nice to have a memory of playfulness with Owen.

What brings it to mind, though, is getting Writers' Reserve rejections back in the mail. I sent out a heap of them, and I've received two nixes so far, each like a slap in the face. I expect a whole bunch more slaps, and then hopefully at least one of the publishers out there will pinch my cheek affectionately and tell me I'm a mench and I'll get $1,500.

But let's back up a couple of days. The Fictitious Reading on Sunday night at the gallery above This Ain't the Rosedale Library featured very strong readings of fiction by John Degen and Jennifer LoveGrove, both perhaps better known as poets. The readings were followed by a really interesting onstage chat conducted by Kate Sutherland. My favourite part was when John said writing poetry and writing fiction were equally difficult, and they were both about writing sentences.

The audience was pretty small — maybe about 10 aside from readers and organizers. That never prevents it from being a good Fictitious night, and the featured writers always have a great time in our intimate little setting above Church Street. But it's a struggle to get audience out each time: each time it's largely a different audience. I continue to be surprised how few people from the various poetry series come out for Fictitious. Do most poets not read fiction? Are they unable to? Well, the lesson has been, reading after reading, that, while some writers do come out to Fictitious, it's readers of fiction that we have to reach to create audience.

Still, a good time, as they say, was had by all who attended. And most attendees were very generous when it came time to pass the hat and show appreciation for the two hours of art offered up.

I bought John's novel and look forward to reading it. I look forward equally to reading Jen's novel when she finishes it.

Tonight, Dana and I are going to see Adam Seelig's production of Thomas Bernhard's Ritter, Dene, Voss. Judging by Barlow's prediction, we'll miss the Lex stampede on Sunday's final PWYC.

And in Ottawa, Riley Tench has died. I met Riley for the first time just a few years ago at the Ottawa International Writers Festival. He was an old friend of Michael Dennis, Ian David Arlett, Ward Maxwell, and the sadly also late Dennis Tourbin' they all met up, I think, in Peterborough in the late seventies/early eighties. Didn't know Riley well, but liked him. I think he had been away from poetry for a couple of decades and was just coming back to it and was glad to have other writers to talk with. His funeral is this weekend. Michael tells me that bill bissett will be making the trip to Ottawa to lead a chant at the service, at the request of Riley's family. That's a beautiful idea.

Over and out.


At November 29, 2006 2:56 pm , Blogger melmoth said...

The phenomenon of the writer you speak of (i.e. the poet and/or fiction writer) and their proclivity towards poetry or prose is an interesting one. Some writers are comfortable moving between the two, while others are strictly devoted to the one art form. I think of Joyce and Stein who began as poets but developed into fiction pioneers, yet their 'prose' could hardly be said to be prosaic. In fact, their work in poetry gave them a greater and more flexible facility with language when it came to create fiction.
It was only later in his career that bpNichol actually began writing anything resembling extended fiction; and while his poetry drew on North American sources of expression, his fiction had a more European flavour (might make a good exploratory thesis). Whereas, there are writers who are strictly poets and see fiction as a lesser language art, and there are also fictioneers who (as far as I know) didn't write poetry but whose fiction towers above most poetry - I'm thinking of writers like Pynchon here.
As far as John Degen's assertion that poetry and fiction are the same in that they both are sentence-based, nothing could be farther from the truth, except of course for those poets who write poetry as if it were prose; and then I question whether it is poetry at all. Case in point: most of the haiku I've read do not have any sentence structure, but rather rely on juxtaposed phrases without grammatical sequitur.

At December 03, 2006 2:05 pm , Blogger roxword said...

the old wrestling days...lemme see...i remember sweet daddy seekie and maurice the magnificent and my personal fave, white owl...way back in the day when the audience decided whether or not a "wrestler" would fake elbow hammer his opponent when he got him wrapped up in the turnbuckle. they were our TV superheroes (besides roy rogers and superman)...today we watch fake reality shows and comicbook movies with multi-million dollar special effects, but pretend fighting between brothers is best.


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