29 May 2011

Jewish Toronto, John Lavery, and poem-mutation

Amy Lavender Harris is writer-in-residence at Open Book Toronto this month and she's written a very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece around my novel, Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew. I like this bit, where she explains the book's title:

And this is the problem at the centre of Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew, whose title alludes to three pivotal circumstances that seem to define its protagonist's life. His mother, a young child growing up in pre-War Toronto, pelted with snowballs for being a Jew and eventually seeking vengeance; her son, trembling and terrified of a dragonfly that lands on his knee, his flight seeming to foreshadow a life of passivity and retreat; and the question of his own Jewishness, summed up in an essay written for school, in which Ben writes, "you really have to struggle to be Jewish so you really believe in it."


She talks also about "Holocaust envy" and about other Jewish Toronto books. Always, I am grateful when people spend time thinking about my writing.

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On Sunday I'm headed to Ottawa for a memorial tribute to John Lavery, who died earlier this month after, as they say, a long battle with cancer. It's still a strange feeling to wake up in the morning and remember that John is no longer in this world, though he's certainly in the thoughts of so many people. The tribute takes place from 4 to 6 pm at the Manx Pub on Elgin Street, and will be hosted by Ottawa poet David O'Meara. Many of John's colleagues will be there to read from his works, and say a few words about him.

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On Saturday, I ran my first writing workshop in Cobourg. A half-dozen of us crammed into a tiny study room in the Cobourg Public Library for a new session I called Walking The Poem. It was a great and eclectic group, with three Cobourgers and two people who drove in from Kingston. I got a lot of writing done, and so did they, and along the way we tried out some really fascinating approaches to poem-mutation.

Over and out.

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