read from his latest book, “The Luskville Reductions” and performed live music with Sarah Hill and Mike Rivoche at Rasputins last night.
Brick Books graciously provided wine and snacks, all prepared lovingly by Dean Verger, Rasputins proprietor, who also hosted the event and knows quite a bit more about Monty than I think even Monty realized. It's always a surprise for those who know Monty from one group to learn that he is involved in music or poetry or that he works at the Canadian Museum of Nature and has hung out with the dinosaurs of Drumheller, Alberta. The cafe was packed full of friends from all three worlds.
The Luskville Reductions is a long poem (or poem series) about Monty’s time living in Luskville, Quebec in the 1990s, where he first moved to the area from out west with his then wife. The relationship ended and Monty wrote these poems. He has been reading off and on from a selection of this work since I first heard him read in the early oughts or 2000s, if memory serves. Some of these poems are in http://www.ottawater.com/ 01 (2001).They are sad, minimalist and deftly wrought. Brick has done a fine job of publishing them too. The cover of a rock formation, “Erosion in Granite” by Adrian R. Searle is beautiful and apt.
I’m looking forward to reading the whole long poem and think I have to go somewhere in nature to do so. What Monty read last night was achingly beautiful, heart-rending, sometimes bitter and deeply personal. Here’s one of my favourite bits from last night's reading:
which is just a filament
is on late
and the moths
always the same
accumulate on the screen.
bend up into the technologies
signals of disaster enrich them
they know the talks have failed
the light that burned so late
is going out
and the visible
has become just another invention.
They close their wings.
This is as close
as they can get.
[p. 33, The Luskville Reductions, Brick Books, 2008]
After that it was wonderful that there was music, not to lighten the mood, but to sustain the beauty. Monty played guitar and sang, Sarah Hill played fiddle and sang, and Mike Rivoche played the cello, an instrument that barely fit on Rasputins intimate stage. Most of the songs were written by Monty, some of them based on the poems in the book, such as the one about the little black dress. Another The Luskville Mud was a wonderful murder ballad and another was about taking the ferry to Quyon. I was really impressed with the lyrics and the way the three performers seemed to work so well together.
The loveliest discovery of the evening for me though was the mesmerizing voice of Sarah Hill. She has an excellent vocal range going from husky lows to sweet highs. The trio performed a song she wrote called “Get up and Go,” which was a lot of fun. Sarah’s voice reminded me quite a bit of that of Margo Timmins and I’d love to hear her perform that old Hank Williams song that Margot covers so well, "Mining for Gold."
The whole evening was a celebration and felt nostalgic to me somehow, to see so many of Monty’s friends and so many of us from the literary community, sharing conversation, poetry, melancholy, music and wine. And to hear Monty read from what is hopefully the end of a grieving period. And then to walk out into the night with good friends....To those of you who would have been there, if you could, like rob, a splash of red wine your way.