For the second year in a row, the Factory Reading Series hosted talks by poets. Last year it was Monty Reid & Marcus McCann, this year Paige Ackerson-Kiely & Barry McKinnon. Essays are later posted on Seventeen Seconds. I think these talks are fine opportunities to see what kind of emphasis poets put on aspects of their own work, to hear about influences, & for fellow writers, to find kindreds, motivation, inspiration.
Ackerson-Kiely talked about eating pemmican (kind of like beef jerky with cranberries), wearing the same polar dress for a year, isolating herself from friends & family...which were all part of her preparations for her latest book, "My Love is a Dead Arctic Explorer" about or motivated by the exploits & character of Richard E. Byrd, a polar explorer. she also spoke of the illness of glancing, a fascinating idea to me, which i need to see in writing before i can say more about for now, but it piqued my interest. she talked about wanting to be consoled & how literature has helped to fill this need. I simply loved this talk & shall be glad to read it when it comes out on line. I felt an affinity with Ackerson-Kiely's aesthetic, her world view, which was not absolute, but forgiving. This affinity began for me with Ackerson-Kiely's above/ground press chapbook, "A Book About A Candle Burning In A Shed," its intensity & immediacy.
McKinnon read the Afterword from his above/ground press chapbook "Into the Blind World" & talked about how the corporeal has influenced his work. in this new life of mine, I seek out poems of the body, from the body. there was a bit of a diatribe against some review of derek beaulieu's of his work, which was less interesting to me. But I appreciated his candour & what he read.
Hall's approach to the Summit reading was a humble one & I appreciated that. Hall integrated his appreciation for being part of the festival, part of this reading, in his poetry, so that the poems felt very much in the now for me. I wish I had the retention to remember specific lines of his reading, one in particular about being quirky or the work being quirky spoke to me. & when he talked about poetry as a way for him to choose family. yes, exactly.
López-Colomé read in both English & Spanish, which was a pleasure to hear. The musicality of her poetry in Spanish seemed to be matched by Forrest Gander's translation. I saw without much bias at all (as a former translator), how thankful I am for translators, for making it possible for me to read work I wouldn't have access to due to my sad lack of fluency or knowledge of other languages. I enjoyed the mix of abstract & concrete in the poetry López-Colomé read. I have read a wee bit of Mexican poetry in translation as part of my Call and Response project & I heard echoes of Octavio Paz & possibly even the Pre-Columbian poets.
Levine was charming & funny. I should say that all three poets were understated rather than lofty or unapproachable in any way. I particularly liked his poem "the History of Chalk." & then of course, there was a very skilful sonnet, the rhymes subtle, syllabic.
During a brief q&a session, the poets were asked about their mentors. It was fascinating to hear Levine speak of both Robert Lowell & John Berryman. I am not one for mentors per se; however, if I had to answer this question, I would say Anne Carson, Gwendolyn MacEwen, French writers & artists between the wars…for starters…
The whole festival has been a great opportunity for an apprentice poet like me to learn & to listen. Inspiration, the movement of air into the lungs, breathing in…that's what VERSeFest has been for me. The vast variety of styles & the range of voices demonstrated possibility & re entrenched or re ignited my own poetic mandate to explore & to play, to not take no for an answer (that small but insistent inner voice) when it comes to writing what I want to write.
I applaud the vision and hard work of the organizers. VERSeFest, my dear, you have become indispensable.