I have never seen so many people at the Factory Reading Series. Turns out most were there to see Thompson, who has a large (and obviously quite supportive) extended family in the area.
Both writers came to read from works published by Snare Books of Montreal. Snare is a Matrix Magazine spin off. Carr and Thompson payed homage to the editor of their books, recently deceased writer Robert Allen.
I already had a copy of Carr’s poetry collection, ropewalk, which I purchased from Expozine last fall. When she introduced the book, Carr talked about the subject in the main section, Louise Labé, a French sonnet writer in the sixteen century. The section on Labé is built around acrostics, with the name Louise cleverly sewn in to the centre of the poems. Carr likened the creation of these pieces to sewing together pieces of a textile.
The tone and style of section one of ropewalk is older, perhaps reminiscent of the writing of the period Carr is describing. She refers to ropewalk as intertextual because it refers to Labé’s texts. This conjured for me the concept of a continuous line through generations of writers pointing back to the past and into the future.
The other two sections of the book: empty cups and mountenance of a dream are more modern in their subjects and less constrained in form. I don’t believe she read from the other two sections, but I could be mistaken. Some things were lost in the rather poor acoustics alas.
I have to say that I enjoyed the book and was inclined to find the last two sections more interesting than the first section. I admired what Carr was doing in the first section, but the other two were free form and stylistically I simply prefer that. Carr has a sense of whimsy that suits my scattered brain:
For the first year there was a party. Take red weddings and bland weddings
because a man rents an elk. His two eyes appear black stars see the elks
shine them palpate them re-light them. The air is a species a ghost.
For a real review of ropewalk, it is better to head over to Sina Queyras’ blog.
Thompson started her reading with a poem to Robert Allen from Matrix Magazine’s tribute issue.
The main part of Thompson’s reading was from her first novel, Dreadful Paris. She read the first section and I enjoyed it immensely.
It seemed apt that since Thompson’s book was about a woman who takes photographs, that Charles was taking photos at the same time. His lovely photo of Thompson appears here.
The characters of Dreadful Paris are compelling and well-developed, the situations absurd and the language exquisite.
“Gran pulled her eyes out of the wallpaper and leaned over to pour some very stiff coffee into a tea cup. She set the silver coffee pot back very carefully and began plucking the currants out of a tray of scones. She did this not with the passion of someone who hates currants, but with the impatience of someone who no longer smokes and is having second thoughts.”
I jumped up and purchased the novel as soon as the reading was over, getting a chance to have a lovely chat with Ms. Thompson. I didn’t have an opportunity to speak to Ms. Carr alas. What I really wanted to do was to sit down with both of these women over pots of tea. (Irish breakfast is my favourite.)
Both books are beautifully designed: Carr’s by Jon Paul Fiorentino and Thompson’s aptly by herself and her husband Gerard Cleal. The two run a design company.
I’m sure we’ll see more innovative books from Snare in the future and more from these two very talented young women. As usual rob mclennan’s Factory Reading Series continues to deliver the good stuff.
The next FRS on April 12 features Mark Abley, Blaine Marchand & Nadine McInnis for the launch of "When Earth Leaps Up", selected poems of prairie poet Anne Szumigalski. (I have her book, A Game of Angels (Winnipeg, Turnstone Press, 1980. I love it :)