23 June 2007

Of launches, lunches, lurches, leavings, and lynchings

Things get busy. I don't blog. I fall behind. It seems overwhelming.

Start again.

I'm going to meet Dave McFadden for lunch today. I haven't seen him since his launch, so it'll be nice to reconnect.

David's launch (and Roseanne Carrara's! it was a pleasure to meet Roseanne!): it's weeks ago now, but it was a great event. David gave what I can only call a masterful reading. He was at the top of his form as he went through a half-hour set of mostly the earliest-written poems from Why Are You So Sad? For a guy who seems to be shy about readings and being in the spotlight, he really seemed to be in his element. I could've listened to him for hours. Yup, he is Canada's best poet, no doubt. And some of his greatest work hasn't even yet been published.

What disappointed was the turnout. I mean, it was respectable. But this is David McFadden, fergoshsakes. Where were all his contemporaries? And where were the younger poets? There were some of each there, but that room should have been overflowing, given Dave's contribution to this country's contemporary poetry.

Well, the book is huge and cheap and everyone should go out and buy a copy or order one online and read the thing from cover to cover. This book is an adventure.

* * *

And there is no better music than that of Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins. At least for certain moods. I hear there's a new Nick Lowe out now and I've gotta be sure to get that in the next 24 hours. Because there is no better music than that of Nick Lowe. At least for certain moods. Most moods.

David McFadden is the Nick Lowe of Canadian poetry.

* * *

Spent a very good and very busy weekend in Ottawa last weekend. Stayed with Michael Dennis, which is always a great pleasure. Great to yammer on for hours with him, great to be amidst the art in his and Kirsty's house, great to look through his fantastic poetry collection. I brought him a box of poetry books that I decided I could live without, and that made him a happy fellow. And on the final morning of the visit, before I left, I suggested we write a collaborative poem, one word at a time. Now, Michael and I — our poetry is very, very different. And that can make for some of the most enjoyable collaborating. So the poem had some great things going, and I was surprised that the most surreal elements arose from Michael's contribution.

So we wrote that first poem, and then we wrote a poem two words at time. And then three. I was just about spent, but Michael wanted to see what would happen if we wrote four words at a time. And then five. And every one of those poems had great stuff in them. We pitched different pseudonyms back and forth, but I think I'd like to try to publish a few under our actual names.

Friday night's reading at the Carleton Tavern was a lot of fun. This was the pre-Small Press Fair reading, curated and hosted by Max Middle. It was me, Jennifer Hill Kaucher, and Dab Waber. Jennifer and Dan drove all the way from Pennsylvania. I was first up, and I had decided to concentrate on things I'd never read aloud before, and things that were more obviously challenging. It felt good, it went over well, I was pretty happy with it. I especially enjoyed reading my chapter from the Richard Truhlar-curated collaborative novel/anthology The Closets of Time (when is that coming out anyway?).

Next up was Jennifer. I had expected far more "experimental" work from her, but that's not to see I was in any way disappointed. She had great presentation and proved herself unashamed of reading both conventional and sort of whackier stuff. It was a lovely set and I look forward to reading her book, which I bought the next day at the Fair. Last onstage was Dan. He was exasperating, hilarious, and many other good things. It seemed at times like I was watching the Three Stooges do sound poetry. I liked his lack of pretension, his goofy persona. I bought some of his stuff at the Fair the next day, too.

I hope all our paths cross again. I love these random meetings when you end up on the reading bill with someone you wind up admiring and enjoying.

What was not enjoyable was the frat-boy chatter and attention-baiting between poems. I think there can be a certain amount of reader-audience banter to keep things friendly and human, and to communicate a little during a reading, but there were a cluster of boys there who occasionally would drown out a reader during the moment of the introduction to a piece. And what it was was "Hey! Look at me! Don't look at the reader!"

Anyway, it didn't ruin the night, just irritated me during a few moments.


When will I ever learn that I should request a hat be passed, especially when a reading takes place in a bar? Entrance to the event was free, which was nice, and so I had agreed to read for free. But then I get to the reading: I see all the people packed into the space; I see the bar making all sorts of money it woudn't otherwise have made. No free drinks for the readers, though. And in the end, I wished I had asked that someone pass a hat, so the readers could be tipped. Because I think it's a good thing for audiences to have the (optional) opportunity to show their appreciation in the way of our capitalist society.

I vow never to let this happen again. I gotta keep on my toes.

I did sell four or five books after the reading, and the next day at the Fair I did some excellent business and met some great people and saw some fine old friends. I would've liked a little more traffic in there (some sandwich boards on Elgin Street would perhaps draw in some passersby to the off-the-beaten-path Jack Purcell Community Centre), but it was a thoroughly satisfying experience. If I can dig up the batch of stuff I bought, I'll put up a listing here in the next day or two.

After-Fair drinks over on Bank Street were nice. I sat at one end of a long table, chatting with Michael, with the excellent Jason Camlot from Montreal, and Monty Reid, a real nice guy who I'd never met. And surly Joe Blades was there, but he's not really all that surly.

Love that Ottawa.

Over and out.


At June 24, 2007 2:52 am , Blogger Linda Crosfield said...

My copy of Why Are You So Sad arrived in yesterday's mail. So far I've just skimmed, but am looking forward to settling down with it. And today I happened to see a copy of last Wednesday's Nelson Daily News, and there was a front page article about poets in Nelson (there's a monthly open mic reading at the Vienna Café) and one of the pictures was of a hand holding a book, and near as I could tell that book was (drum roll, please) I Cut My Finger!

Happy first day of summer. And happy birthday to Owen, too.


At June 24, 2007 12:56 pm , Blogger Max Middle said...

Thanks for your impressions of the reading in Ottawa, Stuart. The event was a co-production: jointly organized by the small press action network -- ottawa & Griddle Grin Productions. If I host such an event in the future, I'll certainly heed your advice & pass a hat for the readers.

At June 24, 2007 6:51 pm , Blogger Kate S. said...

I bought a copy of Why Are You So Sad? last week at Another Story on Roncesvalles. I've been dipping into the book daily and I'm loving it. Thanks for doing your bit to get these poems readily available out in the world again!

At June 27, 2007 2:56 pm , Blogger Weldon Gardner Hunter said...

I so would've been at the reading if I was in Toronto. I bought "Why Are You Sad" in a Waterloo bookstore & took it with me on a trip to the States. It's good reading on the Greyhound, but I should've also taken along the Great Lakes Suite!

But thanks to you & David for all the work -- you're both 2 of my faves ...

At July 01, 2007 11:22 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...


At July 02, 2007 12:01 pm , Blogger Brenda Schmidt said...

Is hat-passing at readings common practice? I've never seen it done.


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