amongst books

amongst books

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Arjun Basu and Joshaua Auerbach

[no links added today, blame it on Mojitos]

read at Sasquatch today. It was cool to have Steve Luxton, the publisher of DC Books from Montreal out to introduce the readers. The room was packed, mostly with Joshua’s friends and family, but also with a few ardent fans of literature who skipped the beautiful almost-spring weather to sit in a smelly basement (rotting shellfish says Lynne Alsford, raw sewage says I) and listen to the literary stylings of Arjun & Joshua.

I talked to a couple of people, who, like me, received little cards announcing the reading from DC Books. Aside from being weirded out that the DC Books folk had our addresses, we went mostly because we got these cards, and they looked beautiful and red. Never underestimate the power of the mail, folks.

The open mic set was really fun, especially a poem by Rona Shaffran about ice and Susan McMaster’s reading from her memoir The Gargoyle’s Left Ear about a CBC poetry face off where she dared to read a poem about sex. Was nice to hear mention of folks like Kris Northey and Anthony Bansfield, who has one of the sexiest voices of Ottawa's spoken word poetry scene. Also of note, a rising poetry star, Pearl Pirie whose language play made for a memorable poetic adventure.

After the break, the room filled with Joshua’s family and friends, which was nice to see.

I have to admit that I’m always torn about going to Sasquatch. I still see my friend and Ottawa’s friend Juan O’Neill there at the front table, with his kindly introductions of those of us who read during the open mic and his own voice, singing a Spanish love song. So it’s hard to be there.

I enjoyed Arjun’s story Johnson’s Johnson about a baseball player who gets to the major leagues and ends up on a baseball card with a hole in his pants and his cock showing. Of course Arjun was much more polite about it than I would have been. Fun story. Will be great to read his short story book in April when it comes out. He’ll be at the Ottawa International Writers Festival too.

Joshua Auerbach, who is also co-editor of Vallum, one of Montreal’s literary journals, read from his poetry book Radius of Light. I was happy to hear translations of poems by the surrealist Paul Eluard. Steve Luxton introduced him (Joshua, not Paul Eluard) explaining that his work was outdoorsy and how much he liked that himself.

I watched Steve close his eyes during some of the open mic readers’ poems and also during both the featured prose and poetry, but with Joshua, I also saw Steve counting on his fingers, perhaps syllables. The most interesting poem for me was one that Joshua described as difficult. I’ve had my fill of nature poems frankly. It’s really hard for me to get into them anymore. But Joshua wasn’t writing with the same cliche reverence that tires me. I liked his repetition of sounds, his imagery, which sounded very much like a painting and the way he glanced up and looked at the audience. He had a strong presence. I wanted to him hear without interruptions though. Why do people order fries during readings? Why do they come late? Why do they read their own papers? Ugh. I need silence to hear someone read their work. I felt like I could have been immersed in some sort of green dream with Joshua’s work. It had that potential, but real life in the form of fidgeting humans kept getting in the way. Still though, there was something there. When he read the difficult poem he said that it’s important to be challenged. He also said clarity is important. I guess that is my problem with a lot of poetry these days. I don’t care about clarity as much as I care about being lost in the spell of sound and imagery. I feel that Joshua’s work had some of that.

On Sunday, March 9, Sasquatch is having a founders’ reading and they are honouring the spirit of the poetry cafe, the beatnik poetry of the 60s. Might be a fun time to go there and celebrate the dream spirit of getting lost on the road to poetry and honouring those who made that spirit happen in Ottawa, including folks like Jane Jordan and Juan O’Neill.

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