11 January 2008

Vancouver time draws nearly to a close...

My time in Vancouver has just about come to an end. Last weekend's Poetry Boot Camps — my first in this city — were a lot of fun, and each was distinctly different: the participants of the first session were mainly published writers who knew each other; the participants of the second were mostly unpublished writers who didn't know each other. Both sets of dynamics worked well in their own ways. A lot of good writing came out of these sessions, and I wrote a fair amount myself. Plus I earned almost enough to pay for my plane fare.

Had a great visit week with Elizabeth Bachinsky and her partner, Blake, in their live/work studio, where Liz has installed a 1912 letter press and a wall's length of font cases. She gave me a tour through her collection of handmade and letter-press books, and I had a snoop through the regular shelves, too. Amazing stuff, and really nice to get to know Liz and Blake a little more.

Yesterday was a busy one: first I joined Ameen Merchant for brunch. I met Ameen, the author of The Silent Raga, a couple months back at Banff/Calgary WordFest. He's a first-time novelist whose book has met with a lot of success, and is about to be released in seven other countries, including India and Pakistan, all in English. Ameen's a swell cat.

Later in the afternoon, I met Brian Dedora again, on Main, and got a little preview of his work-in-progress (excellent and surprising), and then had a farewell beer with Brian Kaufman just a couple blocks down. Really nice to get stories of the early Pulp Press gang, and to learn more about the strange and nearly arbitrary beginnings of Anvil Press (nearly two decades old!).

A couple days before, Michael Boyce and I finally found a couple hours to meet up, at Joe's on Davie Street. Michael was one of the very early Proper Tales Press authors; he sold his prose-poetry chapbook Hit by a Rock out on Yonge Street for a while in the '80s. A few years ago, Beth Follett of Pedlar Press published his beautiful novel Monkey. Michael moved to Vancouver about a year ago, as did April Cuffy, who I had coffee with a little later, and who I met in Castlegar in 2005 (I think) when I did some readings and workshops at Selkirk College.

I like Vancouver a lot. And I wish I'd had more time to meet with people. Had a brief hello with Judith Copithorne on Brian Dedora's porch a couple of weeks ago, but we've never really sat down to talk much. I did finally get to meet Weldon Gardner Hunter, who I've had a little e-correspondence with for a few years.

A great surprise bonus was an afternoon tea with Alice Burdick and her partner, Zane, and their child, Hazel. Like Lance La Rocque, they were in the area on a trip from Nova Scotia. Short but very sweet visit. I can't wait for some publisher to snap up Alice's new poetry collection so's I can read it.

I find this city sprawling and bewildering, and I find the literary community the same. Because I was only here a month, and most of that month was over the holidays, I couldn't get a sense of what this city would be like for a writer who goes to stuff. Toronto is jam-packed with reading series; I don't think it's quite like that here, and I think, while there is some crossover, there are still distinct camps of writers: spoken word, KSW, other. Maybe someone can correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, it all seems pretty friendly, regardless.

I want to expand my connection with this city, which stretches back to my first visit here around 1982, when I stayed with Tom Walmsley and hung with the Pulp gang. I hope I'll have another book with Anvil sometime in the future.

Great bookstores here, too: my favourite used place is Brigid's on West Broadway; my favourite new store is Duthie's on West 4th — really great poetry section, with lots of stuff seeping up from the States that I don't find in Toronto. Never made it to Spartacus or People's Co-op.

Some of the publications I've picked up while here:

- the very first issue of The Capilano Review, featuring Bowering, Webb, Newlove, bissett, UU, Voznesensky, Birney, Newlove, and others
- Hello, La Jolla, by Edward Dorn
- Hopper, by Mark Strand
- Beatitudes, by Herménigile Chiasson
- The Marvelous Bones of Time, by Brenda Coultas
- Broken World, by Joseph Lease
- The Relative Minor, by Deanna Ferguson
- Ink Monkey, by Diana Hartog
- Rattlesnake Plantain, by Heidi Greco
- The Bindery, by Shane Rhodes

There's more, too. Too much to carry home.

Well, I expect to be back here this spring. I'll bury them somewhere and pick them up later.

Over and out.


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