amongst books

amongst books

Saturday, October 24, 2015

public literary readings & aesthetics

I haven’t been attending a lot of readings these days, but now that the Ottawa International Writers Festival is on, I’m experiencing full immersion once more & i'm enjoying being steeped in fine literature. I’ve also attended a few poetry readings in the past month or so. This has led to a contemplation about what I find appealing about public readings.

A lot of writers are introverted; they have a hard time reading in front of an audience; perhaps they struggle with the  microphone or stumble with their words. As an audience member, I understand that for them to read puts them out of their comfort zone. Perhaps because they are reading something very personal. I admire them and I pay special heed to their words.

Poets are particularly noted for introversion & all of the above. As an audience member I value smooth delivery much less than I do the ability to overcome discomfort & fear of sharing personal revelations. I appreciate the stumble & the trouble with the microphone. I relate to readers whose nervousness is reflected in the tremble of their pages. 

I don’t want loud, I don’t want music accompanying the work. I don’t want the work to come with a beat or a lot of alliterative gimmicks. I don’t want speedy, jumbled up, filling all the space, telling me what I should think performances. I don’t want performance at all. I just want the quiet reader’s voice filling me with stories, words, feeling. To me, literature is an introspective stumbly art. Being human is stumbly. I like to see that stumble reflected in the work as it is read aloud.

This, of course, is my personal aesthetic. I can enjoy all kinds of entertainment; although seldom anything particularly loud & obnoxious that comes with a laugh track. I like my literature subtle & accompanied by a peaty scotch or a strong cup of smoky lapsang souchong tea. I like to be able to be quiet on my own for a while after listening to an author’s words. To take them in & mull them over.

This is what I’m experiencing at this year’s writers fest & this is what I’m looking forward to as we head into the weekend, a weekend where there’s an opportunity to hear poetry as well as fiction & nonfiction. I hope to see you there. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Picks for the Fest

The fall edition of the 2015 Ottawa International Writers Festival begins this week. Here are my planned events, with probably a bit of divergence, depending on my mood.

I’m excited, as always, that the festival includes fiction in its programme. I have to say that Ottawa’s literary scene has for the past several years been low on fiction. This is our chance to feast. At the same time, there are some great poetry events taking place. I don’t attend most of the politics, sciency stuff, but if you’re into those, there’s a lot to attend also. I only have so much stamina.

If you’re a writer, you simply must find a way to attend this festival. If you can’t afford it, see if it’s not too late to volunteer. If you're at Carleton U or U of Ottawa, you can get in for free. I find the discussions to be of great value & the chance to chat with the writers too. 

Also great for book enthusiasts…It’s a party for nerds who love reading. There’s also great food and drinks available. Last spring, I believe, saw the introduction of Bicycle Craft Brewery’s wonderful craft beers. I’m very partial to their oatmeal porter. Come buy me a drink.

As a side note, there are lots of events happening on Wednesday, October 21, but I highly recommend, no, I insist, that you come to the Sawdust Reading Series at Pour Boy, 7pm to hear the poetry of Sandra Ridley. you will be surprised, delighted & mesmerized. I promise. Oh, I should also say that tonight Chris Johnson is reading at Blue Mondays over at Café Nostalgica, 8:30pm. I’ll do my damndest to be there & so should you.  

Thursday, October 22
6:30pm – First People’s, First Stories with Lee Maracle, Bev Sellars and Joseph Boyden.
8:30pm – Spotlight on Irish Fiction with Gavin Corbett, Claire Louise Bennett and Colin Barrett

Friday, October 23
6:30pm – Lost (and found) in translation with Samuel Archibald, Larry Tremblay and Kim Thuy

Saturday, October 24
2pm – All Out with Kevin and Alex Newman
Or also at 2pm: Meaning, Schmeaning, a poetry workshop with Stuart Ross
8:30pm Condemned to be free with James Grainger, Karim Alrawi, Owen Sheers, Anakana Shofield

Sunday, October 25
6:30pm Poetry Cabaret with Nick Papaxanthos, Tara Azzopardi and Stuart Ross
8:30pm The Al Purdy A-Frame Celebration with George Bowering and John Steffler; the inaugural writer-in-residence Katherine Leyton; Rob Thomas, last year’s winner of the Newlove Prize; and a host of other writers, including Susan Gillis, Charlotte Gray, David O’Meara, Sandra Ridley and Stuart Ross.

Monday, October 26
12:00pm A Writing Life-One on One with George Bowering
6:30pm the Bywords 2015 John Newlove Poetry Award with Marie-Josée Houle, the honourable mentions and the award recipient, plus a reading from Matthew Walsh’s chapbook, Heel.
8:30pm Arc Poetry Magazine’s Spoken Word Celebration with Tana Evanson, Cat Kidd, Ian Keteku and Kevin Matthews

Tuesday, October 27
6:30pm The Reason You Walk with Wab Kinew (sold out, alas)
8:30pm Sweet Emotion with Nino Ricci, David Constantine and Terry Fallis

& post festival, I’m looking forward to Margaret Atwood’s launch of “The Heart Goes Last” on November 16 & John Irving’s Avenue of Mysteries on November 30.


Get tickets, buy passes, but most importantly, come! & I think I already suggested you buy me a drink. ahem. it’s going to be fun. we’re going to have a party…