Last night at the Blink Gallery in Major’s Hill Park, literary enthusiasts braved the cold wind coming from Parliament Hill to meet and hear poets from Wave Books' 50-day Poetry Bus Tour. The tour is an opportunity for the poets of Wave Books to read their work across the States and Canada, and make contact with new friends, readers and fellow writers. The Ottawa stop is Day 21 of the tour. Some of the poets have been on the tour from its start in Seattle, while others are on for a few stops near where they live. Matthew Zapruder, one of the organizers and an editor at Wave Books said that many of the poets wanted to go to places they’d never been, rather than just read in their hometowns.
The local organizers in Ottawa were the Ottawa International Writers Festival and David O-Meara. The Writers Festival had its own cross Canada tour by train a number of years ago. Last night’s performers/readers were Typing Explosion, David O’Meara, Betsy Wheeler, Damian Rogers, Monica Youn, Joshua Beckman, Monica Fambrough, Travis Nichols, Matthew Zapruder, Kate Hall, and Kevin Connolly.
The unusual circumstances of the reading made for a magical night.
Unusual circumstance #1: deep blue winter sky, heavy wind
UC # 2: the Blink Gallery-inside a tiny house (known for some reason as Header House) on Parliament Hill, where artwork was stolen this past summer.
UC # 3:Typing Explosion: Rachel LaRue Kessler, Sarah Paul Ocampo and Sierra Nelson dressed in colourful vintage 1960s secretarial clothing receive cards from the audience and then proceed to type out poems, the paper passing from one typist, to the next, to the next, then stamped with the union local number 898. Read their press kit on the site, it's very interesting. Cathy MacDonald-Zytveld of the Dusty Owl Reading Series showed me hers, an erotic poem inspired by the moon.
UC # 4: Little chairs, a mic and sound system….outside! Many of the audience and readers weren’t prepared for the onset of early winter (a plot by Canadians to stay unpopular for tourists, we press the winter button whenever we know a group of people are coming to town), so shivering was the order of the day. And the readers had to squint in the darkness. Later on a low spotlight helped them read, giving them lugubrious profiles. I expected to hear someone read the Highway Man or the Raven.
It’s hard to list all the highlights of the evening. It was too dark to take notes and my memory retention grows weaker as I approach my middle years. I’m hoping other bloggers will fill in my wretched memory blanks. I can’t really do justice to the wonderful evening and all the great poetry I heard. This is merely a start. Here’s what has stayed with me this morning:
Betsy Wheeler's Non Sonnet with the line "To the waitress I said wondermeat meaning
Monica Youn’s poems about Ignatz, a character in an old comic strip called Krazy Kat;
the crowd’s humour and attentiveness while listening to Joshua Beckman read a long poem about what happened on the day a poet died (can’t remember the name of the poet, can’t find the poem on line, alas! Someone who remembers, please comment.) There was this bit about trees that was beautiful.
Monica Fambrough's telling us she was from Atlanta, and then feeling guilty because she's really from Mableton.
Kate Hall’s amazing dream poem Insomnia;
the friendliness and warmth of Matthew Zapruder and Travis Nichols, both of whose books I bought from a plethora of books on the table; In retrospect I should have bought something of Beckman’s too and Monica Farnborough's chapbook...I didn't see anything by Monica Youn on the table.
Kevin Connolly’s mesmerizing sestina about a yellow umbrella; Connolly is growing on me. I haven’t always enjoyed his work, but last night I must say that I did. Now I want to hear a full reading of his again.
Wave Books recounts their day-to-day experiences on line thru podcasts, videos and journal entries. I recommend taking a listen.
When I asked Matthew to sign a copy of his book, the wonderfully titled “The Pajamaist” for me, I said that I might never see him again, and he replied that he definitely wanted to come back. I hope he and the others do manage to come back, but I didn’t want to miss the potentially one chance to hear and meet these poets. (And yes, there were as usual a couple of extremely sexy men I would have loved to have warmed up chez moi-it’s hard to look sexy in a red fleece jacket).
It was lovely to see so many Ottawa folk at the reading, lending their support to this innovative enterprise. It was cold but a wave of warmth rolled through Ottawa last night. This morning I’m still basking in its afterglow.