27 October 2007

Back through the Rockies... to the Fictitious Reading Series

Stopping again in Inveremere on the way from Kimberley to the Calgary Airport. Great to spend a couple days with Jeff and his family, and work in Selkirk Secondary again. The first day there, I did hour-long workshops with three different English classes, which went really well. On Friday, a local hotel, the Chateau Kimberley, donated their modest downstairs breakfast room and next semester's Creative Writing students congregated there with me for about four hours. An incredible group.

The room was so nice, sunlight flooding in, the occasional little spider strolling by on the ceiling, an overall friendly atmosphere. And the notel folks kept coming in to refresh the water and tea and fruit they donated to us. The kids were so open-minded about my crazy poetry exercises and they produced so much fantastic work. Some of them had never met each other, and the experience was sort of like summer camp, but just a four-hour summer camp. They left chomping at the bit for the new semester, when Jeff'll take them further into Creative Writing.

After the class, Jeff and I visited the offices of Kootenay Karnival, a really neat glossy arts mag, but very grass-roots, that serves all of the Kootenays. As always, Brian, the editor, was very welcoming, and he invited me to submit some work for the mag. Which I'll do.

Friday night, Jeff organized a living-room reading for me, but with a workshop component. We did some collaborations, translations, and a poem based on Joe Brianard's "Still Lifes." When the local jock wrote this really sensitive smart poem about his dad, jaws dropped. We wound up the evening with a reading by me, and time trickled by till 2 a.m.

Tomorrow night, in Toronto, the Fictitious Reading Series:

Derek McCormack, author of The Haunted Hillbilly and Wish Book, will be reading, along with Trevor Strong, a member of the musical comedy trio the Arrogant Worms; Trevor's been writing demented little fairy tales, as well as a novel.

7:30 pm on Sunday night, at This Ain't the Rosedale Library, 483 Church Street, Toronto.
Admission is by pass-the-hat. Feel free to bring something to drink.

Over and out.

25 October 2007

Two days in Invermere

Driving into Invermere from Radium in the morning is glorious. Invermere is set in a valley, with great mountains all around, and as the car winds down from the main highway, the town is simply a mass of fog. It's like riding a plane down through the clouds. It's amazing to think that in that fog, people are driving to work, walking to school, opening shops. And then I enter the fog and become part of all that hidden activity.

My two days at the high school there were a great experience. On each day, I met with the Grade 12 creative writing class for a period. A really talented group of kids, and game for new writing experiences and new points of view. They've got a great teacher there, and I think they know it. On Tuesday I spent two periods with a huge group — a too-huge group: Grades 11 and 12 English. In situations like that, I just have to have faith that there are a few kids in the crowd who are really, really keen, and for the rest of them, well, it's good to be exposed to a strange poet like myself at least once in their lives.

Wednesday I had two periods with the Grade 9 English class. Again, they are blessed with a really creative, open teacher. Few of them expressed any enthusiasm for poetry at the beginning, but they were full of fabulous questions. I really like the slightly disdainful, aloof students who ask amazing questions while gazing disinterestedly in the other direction. And the slovenly rebel guy who sits way in the back corner of the room, and then reads aloud these brilliant pieces. The Grade 9s were a great pleasure to work with. I made them jump through all sorts of crazy writing hoops, and they increasingly enjoyed themselves, and I increasingly gave them challenges that I would've thought were too sophisticated for their age.

A lot of really exciting poems were written in that school this week. It frustrates me a bit that some of those poems will never be shared beyond their writers, because sometimes the kids think they've written trash and are shy to read aloud. No way around that. But I try to wander the aisles and sneak peeks at what they're writing, so at least I know that there is hidden brilliance in the room.

Some of the kids and some of the teachers didn't make it to school this morning. A logging truck hit a deer and slipped its cargo across the highway north of Radium. Everything was closed down, until an alternative route was found when a farmer opened up his property so that cars could stream across fields and through a garbage dump to avoid the logjam.

That's life in the East Kootenays.

Each day, after the classes were over, I popped down to Kinsmen Beach and gazed into the lake and up into the surrounding mountains. Do you get used to living in such a beautiful place? Do you take these sights for granted?

Over and out.

23 October 2007

He tries to blog again.

The swimming pool empty except for dolphins. In Radium, BC. The water was freezing. A magnificent car trip through the rockies. The winds on the Kootenay Plains shoved my red cube of a car all over the road; it was like handling a boat in choppy waters. Bow Glacier. Kootenay Park. Lake Louise.

Sid and Cleo are llamas on my cousin's farm outside of Edmonton.

Now I go to sleep, and when I wake up: four days of working with students in the Kootenays.

Over and out.

09 October 2007

Go west, old man

Crazy week or two. And now I'm off to Calgary, Banff, Edmonton, Stony Lake, Invermere and Kimberley. Events at the Banff-Calgary WordFest on Wednesday and Thursday. Then a lot of writing at the Banff Arts Centre. All sorts of great writers at the festival, some of whom I'll be reacquainting with and others I've never met. And scarey famous writers who I will not be famous enough to talk with.

OK, off to the airport.

Over and out.