amongst books

amongst books

Monday, October 29, 2012

OIWF Day 5

The Manx Pub was packed to the ledges for yesterday's Plan 99/Writers Festival poetry reading featuring Nyla Matuk, Marcus McCann & Matthew Tierney. The Manx is what you dream of when you imagine a literary pub with its dark basement location, red booths, copper tables, excellent offering of whiskey & beer with many a writer & musician lurking about or bar tending or waiting on your table. The beauty of David O'Meara's Plan 99 is that the kitchen is closed during the reading so that people who are there for any other reason don't want to stay. the audience is quiet & attentive during the readings. David even oils the door with WD40 so it won't creak. & there are no big screen tvs. hallelujah! & take a look this month at Ross Proulx's excellent gig posters. my favourites were Timber Timbre, a red guitar with a pitchfork behind the readers at the mic & a very Gary Barwinesque quotation mark with a noose hanging down.

I have to say that the selection of these three poets was inspired. All of their work included precise attention to language & a sense of play & imagination. it was a joy to be there. Nyla Matuk's Sumptuary Laws simply sang with eclectic language & zany imagery. The title comes from "the feudal rules that once enforced social rank by legislating what a person was permitted to wear and eat."
One of the poems she read was "Anthropology of the Peanut" which begins "Rattling old soldier, minor mortsafe,/scar-scratch skin, the fascination of ancient map aficionados/whose vague leanings are still best preserved under the stars and stripes…"

My dear friend Marcus McCann bookended his reading from the Hard Return, his second poetry collection, with two poems regarding employment, "Cover Letter" & "Resignation." Both of these poems were powerful & hilarious with universal appeal. The image of a good tooth leaving a bad mouth, for example, had the audience regaling with laughter. Charles was trying to take photos & laughing so hard the camera was shaking. I sincerely hope these poems are part of a new collection Marcus is working on. They're brilliant & demonstrative of his trademark linguistic prowess. Knowing the audience would be made up of ardent fans & friends, since Marcus lived in Ottawa for several years before moving to Toronto (& here I'd like to say abandoning us, ahem)…Marcus read a poem that he rarely reads entitled "Documents," which begins with the following lines: "The very caricature of the new Canadian/Novel, with its homage to anxiety strain,/its epithets on office longing, Linda under a row of shotgun/keys runs her finger Z-X-C-V-B-N-" Come back, Marcus....we miss you.
Matthew Tierney finished off the reading with selections from Probably Inevitable. in reference to the title he talked about the fact that such expressions although not strictly correct because such concepts as inevitability are absolute, still remain part of everyday speech because the qualification serves a purpose other than semantic. he described this much better than I have, alas. he likened some of the longer poems in the collection as teeth running up a zipper. I enjoyed the way his poems linked together unlike images & concepts. Here's the opening to Seldom Rarely Never: "When she wakes/she wakes having dreamt/she's had a bad sleep./East-lit window ajar,/bushes bright as ash,/beds of jostling swans." His poems had a dream-like painterly feel. This is his third book & I have to say, I'm a fan & have all three of his poetry books now.

The Long Story Short with Steven Heighton, Nadine McInnis & Miranda Hill, hosted by Stephen Brockwell, took place back at the Knox Church. the three short story collections, Heighton's "The Dead Are More Visible," Hill's "Sleeping Funny" & McInnis' "Blood Secrets" couldn't have been more diverse. Heighton read a story that was intense with tension; Hill's story was eccentric with a surprise twist & visually descriptive film-like imagery; McInnis's story was quirky & painterly, very dreamlike. I enjoyed all three very much. & might I say that all three were resplendent: Heighton in his blue fractal shirt, McInnis in her elegant midnight blue dress & Hill in her vivid red frock & matching red glasses.
Stephen Brockwell, no slouch in the sartorial taste department, wore a royal purple striped shirt. yes, I notice these things. he guided the Q&A session skillfully, focussing quite a bit on process. I wanted to hug Hill when she said that her process was to write in great quantities in order to achieve what she was looking for in terms of the sentence, the image, etc. for a long time she thought this was the wrong approach; however, it worked for her, so she decided this was how she had to proceed. I have this same issue. I write a lot before I get to the actual story or poem, pages & pages of dreck. I wish I could give you more details from the Q&A, (Heighton quoted a wonderful line by Randal Jarrell on the novel that i can't remember at all & can't find on line) but this morning, my brain is too foggy. I've had only one cup of Irish Breakfast tea & the caffeine has not yet entered my bloodstream enough to evoke memory, if it ever does.

I look forward to tonight's ReLit awards at the Bank Street Octopus Books. Kenneth Harvey, instigator of the award, gives out free books generously supplied by the small press publishers. this is book lust made manifest. I am as book lusty as the next guy.
I'd dearly love to attend the international fiction event at 8:30pm, but I fear I'll have run out of steam.

No comments: