25 April 2007

Post-launch, pre-Kootenays

LThe Toronto launch of my new book, I Cut My Finger, and Kate Sutherland's All In Together Girls was a packed and sweltering success. All my anxiety for the days leading up to it was wasted energy.

The backroom of Clinton's is a great venue, but it was a warm night and a lot of people spilled out onto the patio. So many people there — Kate's musician and lawyer friends, my writing friends, some friends from decades past, people whose books and manuscripts I've edited, students from my workshops, dear neighbours from my housing co-op, and five of my parents' best friends showed up, too. That really blew me away: four of them I hadn't seen since my dad's unveiling in 2002. I dedicated my reading of "I Cut My Finger," the title poem, to them. I only wish I'd had more time to talk with them.


Beside me are Norma, Teddy and Eve, Stan and Anne. I really like all these people, but I also like that I have a connection to my parents through them. I sure was conscious of how strange some of my poetry was, as they sat looking up at me from a table in front of the stage. But I made sure to read two Razovsky poems, and I think they connected with those.

Launches, for me, are these blurs of interrupted conversations, moments that disappear, and a profound feeling of responsibility to be hostly with everyone who comes to celebrate with me. But I later found there were people there I never even saw at all! But I'm told that people understand that: they realize I'm working.

I did get dragged outside to the patio for about half an hour, which made me feel really conflicted: Seb Agnello, who I met on the Randy Newman listserv, brought along Bob Segarini, who was a local new-wave pop star in the late '70s. He's an older Bob now, and looks more like a grizzled blues singer than the pop star of my youth; but then I'm a fat old hunchback myself. Anyway, he'd brought me CDs of his three records from 78/79 and it was sorta exciting, and also I felt like, geez, I really ought to have a beer with him. Here are Seb and Segarini in recent years performing Bob's Randy Newmanesque "Love Story."

Another treat at the launch was a reunion with my friend from long ago, Gary Clement, who did the cover for I Cut My Finger. This guy is such a relentlessly brilliant artist and good guy. Also, we are döppelgangers, apparently.


As for the readings, Kate and I both got very warm receptions and we sold heaps of books (I broke my own record!). Kate has this amazing way of reading almost by memory: usually that puts me off, but she was so relaxed about it, and every page or two she'd glance at the book, which connected her utterances to bookness, which I liked. The story was great, laced with good humour and heavy human stuff, and I look forward to reading the whole book. (I don't know why I don't have a photo of me and Kate at the launch! Nor do I have a pic of me and Jen LoveGrove, who did a great job of hosting. Anybody?)

Kate's boyfriend Eric Bridenbaker performed after we both read. In bands he performs really loud heavy metal stuff. On his own, just him and acoustic guitar, he was gentle and sweet and heartfelt. Fantastic voice. After the launch, when a bunch of us moved to the front room of Clinton's, I found myself talking at length with his musician friends Paul Brennan and Lindy. They were funny as hell. And it's just great to know that non-writers sat through a whole literary event. Here's Lindy. What a great singer.

As for writers, there was a broad range of 'em there for me and Kate, crossing the boundaries of various communities and cliques. It was really, really gratifying. Rachel Zolf, Sandra Alland, Kevin Connolly, Howard Akler, Lillian Necakov, Alana Wilcox, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Alexandra Leggat, Angela Rawlings, Bill Kennedy, Susan Kernohan, Paul Vermeersch, Mark Truscott, Elyse Friedman, Lisa Heggum, John Barlow, Lynn McClory, David McFadden, Maria Erskine, Gary Barwin, and on and on. Geez. Please don't kill me for not listing you.

And with Charlie from This Ain't the Rosedale Library cheerfully selling books, it felt almost like a family affair.

And Rosalie Sharp came to the launch, just a few days after her extravagant blowout at the Four Seasons. She bought Dana and me a carafe of wine and was wonderfully supportive. Jack David, her publisher and once mine, when I was with ECW, was also there: a great gesture, too, since here I was publishing my poetry with Anvil. But it seems we've all gotten past the rough waters that followed the publication of Hey, Crumbling Balcony! Onstage, I had already planned to thank both Jack and Michael Holmes, who put out my first four spiney books of poems.

The day after the launch, I writhed in remorse, as always. I felt so bad about the people I hadn't really had the opportunity to talk much with. And I was maybe a little hungover.

And now I'm scrambling to get stuff together for my coming glorious stretch in the Kootenays, where I'll be teaching elementary school kids for a week, and then high school kids. And then my Vancouver launch, with good ol' Clint Burnham.

Over and out.

2 Comments:

At April 26, 2007 12:25 am , Anonymous rox. said...

thanks for taking me there via your description stu. by the way, for you (and me), anxiety isn't wasted energy, it's what helps keep the heart pumping. perhaps if we didn't didn't imagine the worst, the best case scenario wouldn't taste as sweet. safe journeys out west.

 
At April 26, 2007 11:56 am , Blogger j-love said...

Bryan and I took lots of pix, and I'm sure there are ones of you and Kate, you and I, and all the shoes... I just haven't been at home enough to upload them and send them to you and Kate and Dana but I will soon! Promise!

Congratulations on breaking your book sales record and having one of the best launches ever!

 

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