amongst books

amongst books

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here Comes the Ottawa International Writers Festival

here are the events i’m looking forward to; get thee to the beautifully designed festival site designed by Brian Pirie for all the deets, peeps.


Mike Blouin’s launch of Wore Down Trust. in preparation i am reading Alden Nowlan’s Selected. i’m already very familiar with Johnny Cash and vodka.


Elizabeth Hay, Alone in the Classroom; i loved Late Nights on Air and this book sounds intriguing. the Citizen had a good review of it in the Sunday Books section. and it concerns happenings in the Ottawa Valley. i like to read about Ottawa.


The Art of the Short Story with Clark Blaise and John Metcalf. (may have to miss, but hoping). i always enjoy what the festival calls masterclasses. they’re basically one on one talks between host and writer who attempts to impart a few words of advice about writing. i’m not writing short stories these days, but i find all of these instructional and you never know when i might decide to take up the short fiction pencil again. i’m embarrassed to say i’ve never heard of Clark Blaise, another reason to attend.

PRAIRIE SCENE with David Carpenter, Connie Gault, Alissa York. apparently a discussion of place in prairie writing. i would have loved to have seen Robert Kroetsch and Dennis Cooley at this event. read a review of York’s book in the Citizen last weekend and sounded interesting. Fauna i don’t think it is a prairie book though, set in Toronto’s Don Valley. i spent a lot of my childhood hanging around the Riverdale Zoo. i lived off Keele for a few months in my early 20s and wandered the river, the bridges of Toronto and i often write about vagabonds. this is why i’m interested. the others i don’t know about, haven’t heard about. let them sing.


Coach House Books with Sean Dixon, Suzette Mayr, Helen Guri and Gabe Forman
two poets reading : Guri and Foreman. i don’t know either and i’ve heard a wee bit about Foreman’s book, so we’ll see. and this event takes place at Collected Works, which is so lovely now with all its open space. and for you folks with budget constraints (and don’t we all have them), this event’s free as is the Anansi event happening later.

Michael Winter and Steven Hayward read at the Manx at 5pm, but there’s no way i can get there in time. i will not be late for events and disrupt readings. that’s a rule. plus the next event is back over at Collected Works on Wellington, a wee bit west. i take the bus, i walk, so looks like a stint at a Wellington St. pub between Coach House and Anansi. i’m sad to miss Michael Winter though. i always enjoy his readings at the festival.

House of Anansi Poetry Bash with Sharon Thesen, Matt Rader and Ken Babstock. have never heard Thesen or Rader but have heard great things about both, and Babstock is a festival fav.


Messagio Galore Take VIII with jwcurry, Christine McNair, Alastair Larwill and Grant Wilkins; had to miss Take VII because i was just out of surgery so am very keen on this one.

Poetry Cabaret with Pearl Pirie, Gillian Sze and Lorna Crozier
after rob’s review, am interested in Sze’s new work. plus i liked Fish Bones. always good to hear my dear friend Pearl read. and another dear friend Sandra Ridley is hosting. i haven’t really engaged with Crozier’s work for many years now, but i credit her with being one of the poets whose works turned me on to contemporary poetry in my mid-30 and made me realize i actually wrote poetry. i’ll be interested to hear her read her latest work. and the Q&A with these four women will be interesting, i’m sure.

i am sad to miss Mike Carey and Andrew Pyper at Plan 99 at the Manx at 5pm. see above. Carey was at the festival last year, i believe. i enjoyed hearing him talk about his graphic comics.

Madeleine Thien, Hisham Matar and Johanna Skibsrud
haven’t read any of these authors in full, but am enjoying Skibsrud’s Late Nights with Wild Cowboys from Gaspereau.

Michael V. Smith, Teju Cole and Timothy Taylor
Smith’s book Cambridge is a favourite of mine. i haven’t heard a thing about his new novel Progress and why is that? his Book Thug book body of text with David Ellingson is great fun and whimsical.

THE VOICE OF POETRY with Robert Pinksy and Stephen Brockwell
another masterclass at the Ottawa Public Library. my copy of Pinksy’s the Sounds of Poetry is dog-eared and for some unknown reason, stained. will i be too embarrassed to bring it in for an inscription? i hope not. i haven’t read any of his poetry, and am not easily impressed by a cartoon rendering on the Simpsons, but i am looking forward to hearing him read and hearing his answers to questions by the brilliant and talented Mr. Stephen Brockwell. on a side note if you haven’t yet read Brockwell’s the Real Made Up, you should get it and read it now.

Joyner’s Dream with Sylvia Tyson
i’m a folkie, i admit it. this book is fiction. um, maybe. and also music by Ms. Tyson. yes, please. i want to grow my hair long again, find someone to sing Four Strong Winds with. i mean wow. Sylvia Tyson.

Ghazal Concert with Lorna Crozier, Rob Winger, Sandra Ridley, Robert Pinksy
when i read excerpts from John Thompson’s Stilt Jack, i was hooked on this form. and then a dear friend sent me his ghazals and i was even more hooked. i’ve read others too and most recently Rob Winger’s the Chimney Stone, which pleased me with its humour, the way he incorporated contemporary stuff, music, icons. so of course now i’m writing my own. wouldn’t miss this one.

i find the writers festival to be a form of school for me. it’s a chance to be immersed in good writing and ask and hear questions about good writing. as a writer, i realize what i should be attending are the political events, the big idea events, but i am lured by fiction and poetry, which are these ideas filtered through the observations and emotions of literature. in literature i find influences of other writers: Hemingway, Baudelaire, Stein, etc. literature is what turns me on.

if you’re a writer and you’re in Ottawa or a voracious reader, don’t miss this festival. passes are available thru the festival site and other places. and on a (more) personal note, this is my first whole body festival experience since before the great health crisis of 2009. when i went last year, i wasn’t in full form yet, still waiting for my surgery and having to deal with issues related to my health, but this year, i’m in fine fettle. i intend to immerse myself. come join me.

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