16 November 2007

Reading in Ottawa at Swizzles on Sunday! And the Mercury launch and Influency

I'm very pleased to be reading in the esteemed Dusty Owl Reading Series in Ottawa

on November 18 at 5 p.m.

at Swizzles, 246B Queen Street (btwn Bank & Kent, down the stairs on the west side of the building; it all sounds very clandestine, doesn't it?)

Payment is by pass-the-hat, and please be as generous as you're able, because I need it.

I'll be reading from I Cut My Finger, a few pieces from the forthcoming Dead Cars in Managua, and perhaps a chapter from my unpublished novel, whose title you won't know unless you show up!

Afterwards, there will be an open mic, so be sure to bring your crash helmet, goggles, and a good supply of pemmican.


It's been an eventful week, this past one. The Tuesday Mercury Press launch was a lot of fun. I'm thrilled with The Closets of Time, the "anthology" that Richard Truhlar and Bev Daurio edited that includes my weird little story "The Closets of Time" (in this book, all the stories are called "The Closets of Time." I like the look of the book and the size of it. It's a neat-sized book. I do feel like an idiot, though, because at some point, Bev sent me my author bio and suggested it was out of date and would I like to send in a new one.... I think I was travelling then, and a little mentally dishevelled, and I let that slip. So, in the spirit of time travel, one can look at the author bios and see where I was at in 1996.

Other books launched that night included a pretty intriguing anthology of essays called Imagination In Action, edited by Carol Malyon. Little pieces on creativity by writer, sculptors, teachers, and others. My initial sampling showed that this is a real grab bag, whose contents range from the facile to the sublime. I was especially pleased to see a piece in there by Renee Rodin, a very honest and conflicted personal essay about her own love/hate relationship with writing. David Clink has a very neat nuts'n'bolts piece about, well, the nuts'n'bolts of his own creative process: including the exact distance between the rules on the lined paper he writes his first drafts on. It's a lot of fun. Also launched was rob mclennan's first novel, White. It's a nice-looking little book, and I think I might actually like it. I like that it's so short, for sure, because it reassures me about the brevity of my own just-finished novel.

The highlight of the evening, for me, though, was Brian Dedora's short reading from The Closets of Time. It was Brian's first reading in Toronto in 16 years. As he said, he's been very quiet — at least in the writing community — since he moved out to Vancouver, to frame in better weather and amid mountains and large bodies of water. Anyway, Brian always reminds me of a very vital time in Toronto's experimental-writing scene, the mid-80s, when Underwhich was in full swing and the Kontakte reading series was the Test of its day. (Hey, we must be so thankful for Test!). Really, that era was a continuum of 70s projects like David Young's The Story So Far anthology series from Coach House, the bravest fiction around. Anyway, Brian was a pleasure to hear reading: you immediately recognize the care and precision of his prose, the way he sounds like he's painstakingly opening up a package that might contain something painful, but might contain something wonderful. Also, he made a remark up there onstage that made me very weepy.

The next night I returned to Margaret Christakos's Influency class at University of Toronto. I was there early last month to do a talk on Karen Solie's poetry. That was a pretty tough task: I love Solie's stuff; I think she's brilliant; but I'm just no academic and I felt like a bit of a goof. But really, it went over well, and I got a good response, and Karen seemed happy with it (not that I was setting out to please her). My favourite part of the class was the second half, when Karen read. I'd never heard her read before: she was excellent.

On Wednesday night, I returned for Maggie Helwig's talk on my poetry. Through some mix-up, Maggie had received the wrong book to talk on: she had been sent a copy of Hey, Crumbling Balcony! while the class had read I Cut My Finger. Fortunately, she'd also prepared a bit on that latter book. Again, I found myself very weepy while Maggie talked on my stuff. She put a lot of emphasis on the Razovsky poems, and other poems about my family, seeing them as a turning point for me, and a central project in my poetry. I'd jokingly suggested a few weeks back that she talk about religion in my work, and she said that she'd been planning to. But I was so surprised at the context: again, her words on the Jewish content of my stuff was in relation to the Razovsky poems: the naming of things; the idea of books and words; the oblique Holocaust references.

It was a strange and excellent experience to hear someone taking my poetry seriously, giving it so much thought. More on Maggie's talk in a later post.

After a break I read, and felt I could read a lot of more difficult (especially to me) material, not a lot of laughs. Margaret really raises the bar in this class: discussion is pretty sophisticated. I knew I could read some dense shit and hold their interest. The questions that followed were really good, though a couple of them too academic for me to follow. Or maybe too smart. I continued to be moved that people would actually think about my poems in such depth. I told them so.

Margaret's planning a fourth Influency series for the spring. It's a brilliant idea, and Margaret makes the class incredibly affordable, and every student I've bumped into has raved about the experience. Look out for it.

Over and out.


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