22 December 2016

Talk Hunkamooga — I'd forgotten about it!!

I was doing some excavations in my study — digging into a box of press clippings, old stationery, press releases, posters — and I came across this poster for Alice Burdick's 2003 reading at my short-lived Talk Hunkamooga series in Toronto's Annex neighbourhood. I'd forgotten that series ever happened! But now it's coming back to me.

Talk Hunkamooga took place at the soon-to-be-demolished Victory Café on Markham Street. Not upstairs, where most literary events took place, and not in the main bar, but in the little snug to the left as you came in the front door. I remember we could fit about 20 people in there, and for all three installments of Talk Hunkamooga it was a major squeeze; in at least one case, people left because there was simply no room for them.

Alice Burdick read around the time her first book, Simple Master, was released by Beth Follett's Pedlar Press. Beth had me edit that book for the press, and I remember what an exciting thing it was to be holding the manuscript for Alice's first-ever full-length poetry book. Even back then, in 2003, Alice already gave such good readings: so conversational, so matter-of-fact, with a sort of "didn't you already know this?" tone to her voice. One of Canada's greats, and it feels lately that she's finally getting some long-overdue recognition.

Mark Laba also read at Talk Hunkamooga, from his 2002 debut book-length collection, Dummy Spit. If you can dig up a copy of that book, you will be holding a very bizarre gem. Mark is uncompromising. That was a book that Mercury Press publisher Bev Daurio let me bring to her press. I'm sure it was a commercial disaster. But there is no book like it in the history of Canadian publishing. Mark continues to be a mad literary genius. We met when we were four years old and both lived on Pannahill Road in Bathurst Manor.

I believe the only other reading in the Talk Hunkamooga series was that given by David W. McFadden. His collection Five Star Planet had come out from Talonbooks in 2002 and there hadn't been a Toronto launch, so I invited him to the snug for what turned out to be a kind of intimate, fireside-chat-style reading. Dave, like Alice, was a master of the conversational reading back then. He did not disappoint the overflow crowd. I later went on to edit seven books by Dave.

I'm pretty sure I did a little leaflet for each reading by that evening's author. And I also held a little chat with them, and opened it up to audience questions. I know that my old friend Mako Funasaka, who is a videographer, documented one or two of the Talk Hunkamooga events. Sometime, in some further excavation, I will dig that — or those — up.

Over and out.


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