08 November 2007

1. Simon Pettet; 2. Small Press Book Fair

Charlie Huisken of This Ain't the Rosedale Library brought New York-based poet Simon Pettet in for a talk, a workshop, and a reading this past week. I made it to the reading up in the bookstore's gallery space. The first time I saw Pettet read was at a particularly notorious installment of Mark Truscott's Test Reading Series, so I knew what I was in for.

In the living-room-like atmosphere of This Ain't's gallery, with a modest, all-male audience (save for Charlie's partner, Sarah), Simon read for nearly 90 absorbing minutes, from his books Selected Poems and More Winnowed Fragments, and from new, unpublished work. Simon, who has a British accent, reads almost every poem twice: the first time spluttering slowly through, seemingly surprising and impressing himself at every third or fourth word of his compressed bursts, and the second time quickly and quietly, as if making sure he really read what he thought he'd just read.

The effect of this echoed reading is nice: there's no desperation to catch everything on the first go, no pressure — because you're going to hear it again right away. Here's one of my favourites:

I'm this dumb schmuck
out buying a bag a
salted peanuts woe there
says my lady.
She's dressed all in
gold scarves and
spinnin' and dancin'
like she's some
kind a dervish and I
better watch my
step. but I'm too
wisely drunk to pay
it any mind and
lately I just get
all wound up.


A note on the audience: with perhaps one or two exceptions, these were not people I see at other readings in Toronto. Where were any of the Art Bar regulars, or the folks who were out to the Insomniac launch the night before? I sometimes get the feeling that, in Toronto, poets mainly go to their friends' readings. Some curiosity about interesting readers from afar would do everyone a lot of good, and would do people's poems a lot of good.

Speaking of a lot of good:

The Toronto Small Press Book Fair happens
this Saturday, November 10, from 11 to 5,
at Trinity St. Paul Centre, 427 Bloor West.

It's 20 years since Nicholas Power and I coordinated the first fair. I'm very happy just to sit behind my Proper Tales Press table and let other organize, though. This Saturday, I'll have a brilliant new haiku chapbook called Concrete Sky, by Tom Walmsley, and a new issue of Peter O'Toole: The Magazine of One-Line Poems. I'll bring a little stack of another recent Proper Tales, If I Were You, by New York poet Ron Padgett and his various collaborators, including Alice Notley, Ted Berrigan, Allen Ginsberg, and Larry Fagin. And I'll have many of my own books, including the almost-out-of-print I Cut My Finger, from Anvil Press.

Drop by my table and say hi. Please.

Over and out.

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