amongst books

amongst books

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mike Blouin and Naomi Guttman

read last night at the Factory Reading Series hosted (in rob's absentia) by Monty Reid.

Mike read first from his new poetry collection “I’m not going to lie to you” (Pedlar Press, 2007) and then from a novel in progress that no one had heard until last night.

One of the things I enjoyed about his poetry was the way in which he combined the sacred with the ordinary, the way in which while we’re living through the small and seemingly unimportant moments of life, somehow there is beauty. For more on his poetry collection, go here.

The novel excerpt Mike read from was so compelling that I didn’t want him to stop reading. What I enjoyed about the excerpt was the voice of the main character/narrator, Raymond, a young boy growing up with a father who takes him out to the driving range where the father “hits a bucket of beer” and a mother who is in a coma. It was the exquisite details of the novel that linger: the description of the yellow and orange golf balls in the red wire basket, looking like Easter eggs, the crazy t-shirt slogans his father invented and his own: “Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop...reading my shirt.” I like the way Mike weaved this detail into something sad later in the novel. He is able to make us feel compassion for Raymond and for his father.

Former Montrealer Naomi Guttman read next. The pairing of these two writers was an inspired choice on organizer rob mclennan’s part. they both dealt with the ordinary and the sacred in their work and also with family.

Naomi read from her second book of poetry “Wet Apples, White Blood” (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007). I have to mention the cover of this book, which was particularly striking: completely red except for one white drop representing milk. The milk represents breast-feeding, the subject of a number of the poems in the book. I loved the inventiveness of these poems: a poem about the creation of the Milky Way, another about the wet nurse of King Tut. Naomi also read stanzas from a long poem about a baby in hospital with pneumonia. She was able to articulate the helpless feeling of that situation for a mother with details such as watching the IV man trying to find the vein on the tiny baby’s arm or coming in to find the doctor thumping on the baby’s chest to help him breathe, calling him buddy, its association with the bud of a flower. i was reading recently that one shouldn’t use the word poignant, but here i go using it again. Naomi’s poems were poignant.

Through the use of exquisite detail, both Naomi and Mike were able to translate their words into feelings and experiences the reader can empathize with, turning the central figures in their books into people we could feel compassion for.

The main thing I took away from the reading is something that Naomi talks about in her interview with rob when she says that readings are part of an ongoing conversation and also that poetry is an emotional history of the world. I walked away from that reading feeling moved by the work of both of these writers.

While I missed Alberta rob and temporarily Nova Scotia Emily, Monty and the two organizers from the Ottawa Art Gallery (sorry I didn’t get their names) did a terrific job. I have to mention also how wonderful it was to be back in the Contemporary Art Gallery. The current exhibit, Buildup is amazing. See Charles’ photo of Naomi Guttman, with one of the pieces in the background for a wee taste.

Upcoming readings this weekend: the A B Series tonight featuring Ottawa's spoken wordsters, Sunday's Dusty Owl featuring Bywords' 2007 John Newlove Award winner, Sean Moreland.

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