12 May 2007

Kootenay Katch-up #1: the students

Been a bit of a whirlwind this past week in New Denver (downtown pictured below).

The four-day workshop with the high-school kids at Lucerne was a success in the end, but after the first two poetry days, I was feeling a bit like I couldn't really connect. A fresh start, with fiction, on day 3 seemed to energize things: although most of them said they preferred poetry, they really dug into the fiction projects and things began to feel way more positive. At the end of day 4, they were going crazy getting their poems online in the e-zine that Terry set up for them, and bugging me for editing help, and choosing with pieces they would read at Thursday evening's coffeehouse at the Silverton Gallery.

The coffeehouse was packed: standing room only. Not only were the student writers presenting their work, but we were going to see the animated films that came out of Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby's four-day residency. And lots of parents were there, too, and younger siblings.

My students, on the most part, acquitted themselves really well, especially considering we didn't have time to practice. They read confidently, if even they didn't all feel confident, and there was a lot of good work. The audience seemed really impressed and the poetry and fiction got a warm reception. I was pretty darn proud of my brood: I gave them each one of my ECW poetry books afterwards and a lot of them had very nice things to say about the residency: it was especially heartening to hear from a few of them who said that they never knew they could write before, or that they thought poetry was this really difficult thing, but now they had a new way to express themselves and to play around with words.

In my MC'ing, I said how impressed I was by the support for arts in this small community. And teachers Terry and Katrina obviously give a lot of value to writing, and so New Denver treasures and rewards its young writers. It's a tradition here!

The student films were amazing: I couldn't believe Wendy and Amanda could get all that stuff out of their students in just four days, particularly considering all the technical stuff involved. There were pixilations, drawing-on-films, cut-out animation, and other techniques. Most of the films were really funny and really imaginative. The audience went pretty crazy over them.

After the student films screened, we got to watch Wendy and Amanda's award-winning When the Day Breaks, which I'd never seen before. It was sublime and beautiful, a little funny and a lot sad. And very thoughtful. It demands a lot of viewings.

I ended the readings with a few of my poems, mainly the various Kootenay pieces from I Cut My Finger. Got a nice response again, particularly for "One Fine Afternoon in New Denver, B.C." Alas, no one bought one of my books, but obviously that wasn't the point of it.

With all the work done here, all that was left to do was enjoy my last few days in New Denver.

Over and out.


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