amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Susan Elmslie and Barry Dempster at Tree

last night. it was hot in the basement of the royal oak II. the air conditioning was kaput. the event was well attended, which added to the heat production.

and know what? the reading was so good, i didn’t care.

open mic was excellent. i can’t remember the names of all the readers on the set list, but some that stood out in particular...

Max Middle with his poem featuring a few lyrics from a David Bowie song (i was probably the only one to notice that... “look at those cave men go” from life on mars, hunky dory, 1971. my sis had the album. also a bit of ziggy stardust and the spiders from mars in there too.

Michelle Desbarats and her humorous poem about catholicism.

rob mclennan’s poem for some of the closer planets, the title of which illicited a laugh from the audience.

Peter Richardson, who i rarely get to hear read since he was a feature at Tree some years back. something silky at the end of his poem. lots of rich, sensuality and humour to boot.

there were three other readers and me i’m forgetting about at the moment. i can use the heat as an excuse, can't i?

after the break, first feature up was Susan Elmslie, who read from her debut poetry collection I, Nadja and Other Poems, (Brick Books,2006). the main focus of the book is about André Breton’s muse. the most memorable poem of her set for me was "Forecast: Nadja," a pantoum. i loved the rhythms of this poem and the repetition, the way Elmslie seems to become Nadja in these poems. for a really interesting essay by Elmslie on all the coincidences surrounding the creation of these poems, go here.

next up was Barry Dempster, who read from The Burning Alphabet (Brick Books, 2005) and Letters from a Long Illness with the World...the D.H. Lawrence Poems (Brick Books, 2nd Printing 2003).

i really enjoyed Dempster’s sense of humour and the sensuousness of his writing. the rich and sensuous imagery reminded me somewhat of Métis poet, Gregory Scofield, particularly the book Singing Home the Bones (Polestar, 2005).

Two of the poems that really stood out for me at the reading were “Suburban Poet” about what happens when a male poet spends his days at home and how the neighborhood and he reactions:
“Ah, but you should never have let a poet in / lonely all those weekday mornings / nothing to do but describe.” and “The Man Who Won’t Play Poetry” about Dempster’s relationship with his now-deceased father.

after this, there was a brief discussion concerning writing about real people. both Elmslie and Dempster’s books dealt with historical figures who actually existed. here are a few snippets from the discussion

“I let myself go and allowed myself to be obsessed by him” Barry Dempster

Elmslie realized after the book was published that Nadja’s story resonated with her because it made her think of her mother.

Dempster found emphathy in Lawrence’s lifelong battle with consomption when he had to deal with a long-term illness. Lawrence was a model of strength and possibility who pulled it off longer than he possibly could. Dempster says that in some ways working on these poems saved his life.

there was more but i can’t read my handwriting.

Rhonda and Dean continue to impress me with their fervour and inspired creativity when it comes to Tree. they could have simply done exactly what their predecessors did, which was excellent. but they don’t do that. they try different things, such as this panel discussion. they’re thinking of changing the venue. they’ve tightened the open mic format, they’ve added a few themed readings, such as July 10th’s Hot Ottawa Voices, they’ve held readings in the National Library. from strength to strength.

it was a great evening. take a look at ottawa’s literary paparazzi’s photos today:

charles earl and john w. macdonald

next up is the Max Middle Sound Project on june 26, featuring Max Middle, John Lavery, Jason Sonier and Anne Davidson. it will take place at the Tin House Courtyard in the Byward Market followed by an open set at Chez Lucien. Max suggests that we all take the rest of the week off in celebration and exuberance recovery.

get thee to the small press fair on saturday! get thee to the pre-fair reading on friday night. get thee to the Dusty Owl’s Midsummer Night’s reading, fundraiser and booksale on sunday. (go to events for more info)

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