amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

OIWF - Final Day

three brilliant short fiction writers graced the stage on the last night of the fest: Spencer Gordon, Anton Piatigorsky & Barry Webster.

Gordon's "Cosmo" is populated with celebrities. He read from "The Land of Plenty" in which L. Cohen writes e-mail to Gary of the fast food franchise Subway to discuss the health & economic benefits of a Subway diet in response to old age, weight gain & declining finances. the story is fast-paced, amusing, absurd & audacious. with powerful language somewhat reminiscent of Cohen's lyric, Gordon takes us through Cohen's personal history of triumph & tragedy: "Today, I think back to those days of pleasure with a psychological, if not scientific interest. If the brain can release the chemicals that make us happiest, who are we to stand and refuse? To instead weather, golem-like and insane, the groin-jabs of life's cruel, steel-toed boots?"
During the Q&A a member of the audience asked Gordon about  whether or not authenticity was a challenge when writing about celebrities. He pointed out that we don't know the celebritiesin real life, that all we see is their persona & the masks they wear. Since they are characters, he felt free to run with his imagination. In other words, fuck authenticity.  to which I raised an imaginary tankard of beer & toasted him.

Anton Piatigorsky gave a different answer when he spoke about his book, "The Iron Bridge", a series of short stories about dictators when they were young. He read a story about a teenage obsessive compulsive bottle cap collecting Rafael Trujillo who was the dictator of the Dominican Republic for thirty years. Piatigorsky's method was to focus on part of the history of these dictators that was little known by the public & to extrapolate, to exagerate their character flaws. there was something both chilling & absurd about the idea of a dictator collecting bottle caps. Piatigorsky's fine attention to small details makes this work highly compelling. He's also a playwright & you can easily imagine the descriptive passages of his fiction as settings for a play. he came to the festival a few years (??) ago to discuss his play "Eternal Hydra" & it was a fascinating talk. he's also written a libretto for an opera. i adore renaissance men.
Barry Webster read from "The Lava in My Bones," a multi-voiced collection of linked short stories influenced by fairy tales. I was rapt as soon as he began to read from the prologue:  "Sam rifled through his lover's drawer and discovered a dog-eared book called Fairy Tales of the Flesh. He flipped the pages hoping to find evidence of himself.//He read long stories about witches with phalluses for teeth, men with breasts for testicles, huge walking elbows, chins, and disjointed body parts who performed elaborate Maypole dances together yet couldn't synchronize themselves enough to form a functioning human body."

I was immediately enchanted by the writer's unconstrained imagination. his work reminded me somewhat of Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox, a book based on the Blue Beard fairytale.
 during the Q&A Webster talked about how realism tends to be a preference in Canadian fiction, but he felt that much truth about a character could come from a more imaginative approach. I'm doing a terrible job of reporting what he said in actuality. yikes.  I apologize for misrepresenting his excellent point. once he started to talk about this idea, I started to think about fairytales & fables told to children & the role of allegory & how allegory has gone out of fashion & how I wanted to write a fairy tale… this is what happens to me at readings…ah…back to the book & the reading.
"The Lava in My Bones" is divided into six sections: rock, air, ice, rock, water, rock. the author is drawn to contradictions. Webster read from two parts: Air & Ice. from Air he told the story of a girl who sweated honey. it was an incredibly imaginative & sensuous tale & I would like to say it was an allegory for coming to terms with one's difference, with not fitting in, but that sounds so trite, I don't want to say it.

you have to read "The Lava in My Bones." I insist on it. he also read from one of the ice sections featuring a dislikeable character named Franz, who is Sam's lover. he said that he found it fun to write this character, but that Franz was not someone you wanted to spend a lot of time with. This is a good reminder of how much a character can become part of both a writer's & a reader's imagination, he becomes very real. I found Franz's persona very enjoyable. he seemed curmudgeonly, persnickety & highly particular. in other words, very realistic. Webster takes joy in writing about contradictions. the language in this book is powerful & poetic, the characters have been drawn with empathy & compassion & the stories are overflowing with fancy.
being told a great story is one of my joys. it takes me back to childhood when I would beg my mother for just one more book please, at bedtime. the festival gave me that opportunity once again. to enjoy such, you must focus (not that i'm always so great at that...see above), you must be an attentive listener. to attend the festival & other literary reading series is to give that gift back to yourself again.

& speaking of which, "Naked Narrative," the Ottawa International Storytelling Festival takes place in November. i won't be there because i am festivaled out til spring, but you should go.

one of the reasons why the Ottawa International Writers Festival is so important to me is because it enables my reading addiction & introduces me to brilliant writing.  "The Lava in My Bones" is a book I'm going to take with me to pubs, notebook by my side, half pint of some unprounceable Belgium wheat beer at my elbow.
I am full of gratitude toward the festival for another exemplary edition of fiction, poetry, music, ideas, whimsy, jubilation & celebration of the imagination. the next edition takes place in the spring at the end of April. be there!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

OIWF Day 6

this morning as I slept, the following sentence came to me: "For facts, go elsewhere." this is my inspiration for today's post. the Writers Festival has a gang of great bloggers on their site.

so last night managed to catch only one event, the ReLit Awards, an initiative founded & carried out by Kenneth J. Harvey. when it first began they had a small party in Newfoundland with a bonfire. for the past few years, the Ottawa International Writers Festival has been its home. it is one of three (four) awards that take place as part of the festival, including the Bywords John Newlove Poetry Award, the City of Ottawa Book Award & Arc's Archibald Lampan Award for Poetry.
the idea behind the ReLits is to celebrate independent Canadian presses. this becomes more & more important as we watch our Canadian publishing industry be gobbled up by monopolies, now that it looks like the Penguin will be Random. just what we need another house penguin.

i go to this event almost purely to obtain free books, that's what a book slut I am. I think my favourite time was a few years back when John Lavery played music for the ReLits at the Barley Mow & Stuart Ross won the short fiction category. the bar was packed, there were snacks.
this time around the ReLits took place in Under One Roof, a space for NGOs & private businesses dedicated to social activism, including Octopus Books, which has opened a second location there. you could feel the good mojo in the room.

Congratulations to the winners : Monoceros, Suzette Mayr (Coach House) - Novel; Jumping in the Asylum, Patrick Friesen (Quattro) - Poetry; Pretty, Greg Kearney (Exile) - Short Fiction.

See the lovely photo taken by the even lovelier John W. MacDonald. I sat between two shutterbugs at the event:  my husband Charles & our dear friend John.
I was blown away by Kearney's fantastic reading from a short story from Pretty in the voice of an aging torch singer. this is the other reason I go to the reading, to discover new (to me ) writers.

The winners get these cool rings which spell out four-letter words. the rings were designed by Christopher Kearney.

During the event Harvey gave the audience challenging questions about the books (I hope you realize I'm kidding when I say challenging) & gave the books to those who answered correctly.
with a few exceptions, I was in a room full of strangers. I'd never seen most of the audience before. glad to see the event attracting new blood, but missing all my literary cronies.  

I was glad to pick up Straight Razor Days from Joel Thomas Hynes (Pedlar Press) & Grunt of the Minotaur by Robin Richardson (Insomniac Press). it's wonderful that the publishers make so many books available for free.
[as an aside, I have a less than sweet, but probably still old-fashioned crush on Joel Thomas Hynes thanks to his first novel Right Away Monday, which had me sitting in bars alone, drinking Guinness in the afternoons, alternately delighting & agonizing over the travails of the main character Clayton Reid. & then there was the second book Down to the Dirt, which became a movie with JTH as the main actor. what a great piece of twisted fuckupery. & then there's the chapbook "God Help Thee: A Manifesto with original engravings by Abigail Rorer from Newfoundland's Running the Goat). gosh I have such a hard on for Newfoundlanders. I expect the same fuck you attitude & edge from Straight Razor Days, which I hear JTH doesn't like to call poetry. yes, it is…JTH, yes…it decidedly is.]

tonight I'm looking forward to the 8:30 fiction event with my old writing pal, Spencer Gordon, not that he's old. I consider him a dear friend, even if he's another one of those who abandoned us for Toronto; Anton Piatigorsky (who came to the fest before to talk about playwright stuff & mesmerized me &amp); Barry Webster, a voice new to me.
last day of the fest, peeps. hope to see you there. buy me chocolate.

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.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

OIWF DAY 4: Jian Ghomeshi

attended only one event yesterday, went to see Jian Ghomeshi read from & talk about his book 1982, the story of his 14-year-old self,  a crush on a girl named Wendy because she looked like David Bowie, eyeliner, androgyny…you know, the 80s. Host Lucy van Oldenbarneveld & Jian had a great rapport. He was funny, charming, self-deprecating & entertaining. he talked about how enriching it was to have had an arts education, going to a school for the arts in Thornhill, how supportive his family was even when they didn't understand why a boy would don eyeliner or wear black boots or not want to be an engineer or doctor.

As a first generation Iranian immigrant to Canada, he had a tough time fitting in during his youth & felt like an outsider. I'm an ardent fan of Q, his CBC Radio show & was a fan of his former band Moxy Fruvous. I was very surprised to learn that someone as poised & confident as he seems to be now, at least in public, felt like an outsider as a teen.  I found adolescence painful as a latch key kid living in an apartment with my working class family in the Toronto burbs not relating to my richer classmates & their fancy houses. I tried hard to blend in, to not be noticed. can only imagine what kind of difficulties someone who was clearly different, being from Iran, at a time when Iran was vilified, would have to go through. Today, as Jian pointed out, once more Iran is seen in a bad light by North Americans. film portrayals of Iranians are often one dimensional & cruel, such as the recent film "Argo."
The event took place in the Knox Presbyterian Church sanctuary & it was sold out. afterward there was a long line up to meet him, but we left. I would have liked to have said hello to Jian, have exchanged the occasional word or two on Twitter with him, but I am not one for long line ups. I could have gone up to the hospitality suite to meet him, but I'm not one for late nights either & I'm shy with strangers anyway. I admire what he does with Q very much. I very much hope that young people get a chance to hear him read from 1982. the issue of conformity & not fitting in are still sources of pain to teens. I think this book would resonate for them.

today I am looking forward to the Plan 99 Poetry event with my dear friend Marcus McCann, Matthew Tierney & Nylan Matuk at 5pm at the Manx Pub, a small but quintessential literary pub, hosted by the handsome poet & playwright David O'Meara. I am also excited about the Long Story Short fiction event with Nadine McInnis, Miranda Hill & Steven Heighton, hosted by the also very handsome poet & dear friend Stephen Brockwell. hope to see you there. please bring me chocolate.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rambly impressions of Day 3 - OIWF

I can do no more than share impressions of last night's John Newlove Poetry Award reading from the point of view of hosting, which is quite different from the point of view of a member of the audience. I was pleased that all participants arrived on time, that the stage was prepared. That my favourite team of sound magicians was in place. That Sean Wilson was there to introduce me, that I didn't have to be overly concerned with time because the event was well choreographed in advance by me & during would be overseen by Sean. He has a wonderfully calming presence.

I was happy that the CBC All in a Day event with Lynn Miles was following ours. It fit well with our event, since ours included music.  I was less pleased that the event at the start didn't look like it was going to be that well-attended, but gratified, in the end, when it was. Traffic difficulties due to the sink hole on Elgin at Laurier caused delays for some people, but they made it. Hurray!

I was pleased to see many friends & supporters of Bywords in the room. I was touched by the generosity of the festival in providing our participants with free passes & festival back packs full of goodies as they have done every year for nine years. & by Neil Gerster's kind gift of his CD to all participants.  

I was thrilled that all the readers gave wonderful readings & I was especially moved to hear the John Newlove poems read. This event is a tribute to his words & I'm glad people participated in the homage. I was glad that Neil Gerster, our musician, sang & played beautifully, so much so that by the end I was so engrossed in his performance, I almost forgot to resume my hosting duties. I was happy that we could publish rob mclennan's Miss Canada (International) & quite pleased at how it turned out. I am grateful to the festival for continuing to be a home for the John Newlove Poetry Award & being so supportive & helpful to our participants & to Bywords. I enjoyed my glass of red wine & chocolate afterward.

Congratulations to Jenna Jarvis, the year's winner & to Abby Paige & Ramesh Dohan, the honourable mentions.

The Lynn Miles show was amazing. Alan Neal had done a great job of gathering together clips from past interviews & messages from people who weren't able to attend, such as former record producers, fellow musicians Murray McLauchlan, Jim Bryson. The performances by Lynn & by the surprise guests were incredible. Of particular excitement for me was hearing Sarah Slean sing Black Flowers, one of my favourite Lynn Miles songs. it was spine shivering. Also Erin Saoirse Adair, the winner of the contest to perform a song based on a lyric of Lynn's was so poised & talented. Her song about a drunken booty call in the wee small  hours, featuring Alan Neal as the drunk caller, in which Lynn sang along, was so much fun. She has a beautiful voice & seemed comfortable on stage. I hope to hear more from this local musician in future. If someone gives me her name, I'll correct my entry.

Another memory, the two people who came up on stage, whose names I sadly can't remember at all, : one who had supported Lynn early on by investing in her CD; another fan who had been given the opportunity to request a song & explain why it was important to her chose Loneliness, explaining that Lynn's lyrics represent what we are all feeling & are cathartic. The very beautiful drummer from Senegal (whose name I didn't catch, so mesmerized by his drumming & stunningly handsome looks )improvising with Lynn on The One You're Waiting For. Lynne Hensen's (sp?) performance too. gosh so many great highlights, hard to pinpoint just a few.
The room was packed with fellow musicians, well known members of the local folk community & more than a few authors. Lynn & Alan's on stage rapport was enjoyable. Lynn is not only a skilled & talented musician, but also has a fine & wonderful sense of humour. I laughed so hard I had to wipe the tears from my eyes. & the poignant music brought tears to my eyes as well.  I was thrilled by the evening. it was a true gift to this ardent fan of Lynn Miles.
please forgive the rambly, barely grammatical or logical impressions today, mes amis.  why do I sense these posts will become more so as the festival continues?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Writers Fest-Day 2: Fiction, Fiction, Fiction!

here are my fleeting impressions, by no means intended to be either accurate or comprehensive.

the fiction omnibus began with The Ever Present Past, an event featuring novelists Linda Spalding, Christine Pountney & M.G Vassanji & hosted by Charlotte Grey.

the three novels had diverse scope, ranging from religion, clowns, slavery, magic, colonialism, ethnicity.
I've added Linda Spalding's novel, the Purchase, to my wish list based on her excellent reading. The scene she chose to read described a slave auction. If I were to give advice to anyone who intends to read fiction at one of these events, it would be to choose a passage with movement or action or humour. Or a series of short passages that introduce a strong & compelling character & avoid passages that are heavy on description or overly internalized first person monologues. Spalding's choice was excellent because she managed to depict a character's complex emotions & compassion, described the auction objectively without imposing contemporary values while still managing to show us the outrageousness of selling humans through precise language & give us a passage that had a beginning, middle & end. It was a masterful reading.

The Question & Answer session with Charlotte Grey was fascinating. All authors & host agreed that history is always with us. Christine Pountney, in particular, said two things that I found quite insightful...forgive the paraphrase:
"Novelists are historians of consciousness."

This was in reference to the idea that even novelists who are writing books set in the current day are still showing the world as it is & as it will be seen by people who read the books later. For example books & stories by Hemingway, Fitzgerald etc depict the Roaring Twenties & today this is where much of our impressions of that era come from.
"To write a novel is to build a world around a question."

The latter was in response to a question from an audience member who wanted to know if the writers wrote their novels for catharsis or any specific purpose. All authors seemed to agree that they began a novel out of curiosity about something. This rang true for me as a writer also.
The second event featured novelists Shauna Singh Baldwin, David Bergen & Annabel Lyon & was hosted by local wunderbar poet Sandra Ridley.

I was fascinated by the voices in Singh Baldwin's novel, The Selector of Souls, & her ability to portray them so effectively. During the Q&A she mentioned when her writers' group responded to her main character, a Hindu woman who'd been the victim of domestic abuse, with pity rather than empathy, she felt the need to change the book & for some reason changed the era in which the book took place. one of the voices was a Hindu man who believed in the idea of Aryan supremacy. his rationale was quite chilling & effectively rendered by Singh Baldwin.
David Bergen is someone I've been fortunate to hear read at the festival before. The couple from his novel were fascinating, quirky & entertaining. The scene he read from sounded like it could have been in a play: Who's Afraid of Virginnia Woolf comes to mind. Bergen mentioned that for t his novel, he wrote from the point of view of a woman. The other readers wondered about the challenges he had to face. He talked about having empathy & said that in the end we really aren't all that different. To which I shouted, "amen, brother!" I related to the obsessions & anxieties of both the male & female characters in his passage. The Age of Hope, is definitely a bookI will pick up soon.

The Sweet Girl is Annabel Lyon's follow up to her novel The Golden Mean a book about Aristotle, Alexander The Great & the world of antiquity. The Sweet Girl continues the story. I  admit that when the Golden Mean came out, it wasn't at the top of my reading list because my knowledge of the classics is so faulty; i felt like i should read more of them before reading her novel, but after hearing Lyon's excellent reading from The Sweet Girl last night, both books have moved to the top of my reading pile. The passage she read was about a midwife & her interaction with people. It was a humorous & intense passage. I loved all the interesting terminology & quirky euphemisms for various sex acts.

It was fascinating when a member of a local book group studying the book asked about its ending. Some of the members had a different interpretation for the ending than Lyons had intended. She was quite interested by this. While it wasn't what she intended, it is a reminder that once a book is in the reader's hands, it travels by imagination. Imagination is the ultimate freedom, wouldn't you say?
Tonight I move to the front of the stage to host the Bywords John Newlove Poetry Award for the ninth year. So wonderful of the festival to continue to let us hold our event as part of their program. I'm excited & pleased for the winner & honourable mentions & for last year's recipient, rob mclennan, who will be reading from Miss Canada (International). I'm also really grateful that we'll have the music of Neil Gerster to start & end the event. He writes songs with brilliant lyrics, often containing literary references, & plays a mean ukulele. I hope you'll come. Even if you aren't a big fan of poetry, I think you'll enjoy this event. It's fast-paced: I discourage rambling; & it's always inspiring. After the event is over, I intend to enjoy a glass of red wine & a few pieces of dark chocolate whilst listening to the beautiful music of Lynn Miles, who will be performing at the CBC All In A Day celebration of her 25 years as a performer & song writer.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

OIWF Screening of Midnight's Children

Midnight's Children is a sweeping epic tale of India's history after its independence & during the stormy days leading up to partition. The story focuses on Saleem, a boy living in a well-to-do family who was switched at birth with a poor boy, Shiva. Both boys are part of a group of midnight's children, babies born within an hour of India's independence from the British Empire. Midnight's children have special powers. Saleem is able to hear the voices of the other midnight's children & gather them together. The film is a screen adaptation of the book with the same title by Salman Rushdie.

Last night as part of the first day of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, there were two screenings of the film, with a brief interview with the director, Deepa Mehta. I attended the second screening. Deepa Mehta explained that she and Rushdie had met six years ago. Over dinner one night she asked him if who owned the rights to the book. He explained that he did. When she asked if she could make a movie from the book, he readily agreed. Rushdie also ended up writing the screen adaptation. He had to reduce the 600 page book to a 130 page script.

During the Q&A, Mehta talked about a method she uses to help her actors which makes use of a grid of nine major emotions. This method takes into account the complex mix of emotions one feels. For example, if the actor has to say I love you, he could do it with hate. I found this particularly interesting from the point of view of writing character development.

Another question concerned the colour palette used in the film. Mehta explained that she wanted blue for calm, green for fertility & red for passion. I noticed that the reds worn by the witch Parvati became more vibrant when she was an adult & involved with Saleem. Colour was an important part of the film, creating the right canvas to set the tone of each scene & to ensure that even though there were many narratives, there would be cohesion.

The film was lush & complex. The first person narrative voice ensured that Rushdi's beautiful language  would be heard in the film. I have never read Rushdi before, but after seeing this film, I need to read his work. There were sentences I wanted to write down, they were so remarkable.

I enjoyed the film. I am fascinated by India, its culture & history. I enjoyed the magic realism in the film also. Mehta said that the magic is meant to represent human potential.

This film is a wonderfully layered depiction of a tumultuous culture, mired in difficulties of language, religion & outdated societal hierarchies. The switch of a rich family's child for the child of paupers asks us to ponder the questions of nature/nurture. & class structure Saleem who is not born of wealth but lives in wealth is kind, considerate; whereas Shiva, who is born of wealth but raised by Wee Willy Winky, a pauper troubadour who sings English songs to make a living by pandering to wealthy colonialists & anglophiles, is a power hungry bully, who becomes instrumental in Pakistan's fight for independence from India.
My only criticism is that the film was quite long. Background story, such as the initial meeting of Saleem's grandfather & grandmother, which probably works beautifully in the novel to set up the story, felt unnecessary except for its entertainment value.

I came out of this first event I attended as part of the festival with an urge to write, inspired by the beautiful language & lush characters of the film. This is why I am so keen on this festival. It gets the creative juices flowing. If you are a writer of contemporary prose or poetry, I recommend that you treat this festival as a week-long university course in learning how to write & to hear & speak with those who have created these works. Of course I am not only a writer, but a reader. You can't really be the former without being the latter. The festival is essential for avoricious readers of contemporary writing.
tonight i am looking forward to an evening steeped in fiction with two events featuring six writers & their novels. hope to see you there. say hello, buy me some chocolate. [last night a woman i do not know gave me her Kit Kat bar...i believe this trend should continue]

Friday, October 19, 2012

2012/2013 writing plan / resolution

finish current manuscript by end of October
finish custom erotica story/flash fiction by end of December
satisfy committments/agreements wrt grants, reading engagements, publication
write poetry grant application

continue work on new poetry manuscript
begin research on Ottawa novel set in Victorian era
take fiction writing workshop in fall, if offered

there will be poetry, there will be short stories, there will be other side trips, obviously, but, I don't see myself submitting poems for publication for some time, or seeking opportunities to read.
I'd like to go underground in 2013. I need to hone & refine my poetry; I need to trust my instincts & not allow the constant stream of rejection e-mails & letters to distract me (therefore I withdraw from the process).
for readings, I need to listen to others, rather than hear the sound of my own voice.  I resolve to be focused, to take on a monastic fervour on work days, & not let myself be distracted by what typically pulls me away. I will seek out society when necessary: dear friends, who are more family to me than just friends.
while I've been very fortunate: I've received funding & publication by those that seem to get what I'm doing, the world outside of this small circle seems harsh, particularly the literary world. I don't need that. I am not a masochist.

I'm starting to believe that the process of sending poetry out for publication is conforming, rather than incentive for experiment & play. since what I need most in order to create is an environment which nurtures such, I can't participate in this process at this time. I feel hemmed in by conformity.
I needed a reminder that it's ok & necessary to break the rules & to not give a rat's ass about approval or validation from the publishing establishment. So this is me, reminding myself. I will continue to show support for literary non conformists, such as above/ground press, Rampike, fillingStation, the vispo scene…insert suggestion here…

Monday, October 15, 2012

the birthday 49

oct 2012 pre-birthday ramble thru the Beechwood Cemetary
1. I am not good at flirting or recognizing when I'm being flirted with.
2. I had cheesecake for breakfast
3. trivialities bore me
4. my imagination is unlimited, but my ability to fulfil it is not
5. I haven't attended a meeting since 2003 & won't
6. I despise bras
7. I make playlists for every occasion
8. I am looking forward to winter
9. I drink 2 litres of water a day
10. my fav activities are sex, conversations & long walks (the latter could also include the first two)
11. my favourite word is "lugubrious"
12. I adore making lists
13. Rollercoasters & ferris wheels & log flumes fill me with terror.
14. As a child, I was buried up to my neck in a hole by the father of my best friend.
15. family lore says I was switched just after birth with a gypsy child.
16. my usual forthright demeanor has turned into shyness since my health crisis.
17. I admire those who have walked great distances.
18. writing about evocative times in the past is not necessarily nostalgia.
19. I am an advocate of love even if it isn't always deployed properly.
20. I dabble but do not perfect my skills in anything, including painting, pottery, poetry, prose, knitting, guitar playing, song writing, photography, cruciverbalism, sophistry.
21. I am sexually demonstrative but don't like platonic hugs.
22. I prefer imaginative leaps to straight narratives.
23. seeing men kiss is among my biggest turn ons.
24. in my heart I am still a slut.
24. I should be working on fiction right now.
25. my favourite xmas carols are In the Bleak Mid Winter & All Through The Night
26. I have developed a fetish for bling in my 40s; I find this worrisome.
27. my adulation of beautiful men continues.
28. I do not own & shall never own a whisk.
29. I prefer unmatched dishware, bedding, accoutrements.
30. I'd rather go to an art show after the vernissage.
32. I will never be prepared for death.
33. Remember when I moved in you, the Holy Dove was moving too & every breath we drew was Hallelujah. (thank you, L. Cohen)
34. I often break the laws of grammatical parallelism.
35. my fav combo is mmf
36. my other birthday is November 12, 2009, when I survived, despite the odds & the angel of death standing by my bedside.
37. I forgot how to ride a bicycle.
38. in my 40s I have finally developed a taste for classical music & opera, but I still loathe ballet.
39. I wish Ottawa had more decent lobby bars.
40. I am not religious, yet admire the rituals & churches of Catholicism, but not the intolerance & pedophilia.
41. my husband is the greatest lover I have ever had, even after being with him for 11 years.
42. my favourite photos are of abandoned buildings, broken glass, dead flowers.
43. I am a sporadic but ardent fan of CBC Radio One; in particular Ideas, Ottawa Morning, All In A Day, Q, the Next Chapter, Writers & Company.
45. I haven't  yet found a good non slip boot or stud to keep me from falling on the ice.
46. I can still float on my back even without my colon, which surprises me.
47. I miss the intensity of people's ardour  for me when I was recuperating from my health crisis.
48. somehow I am living the life I want to live.
49. please let this goodness continue.

Friday, October 05, 2012

a wee note/rant on poetics

forgive the generalizations but to me it seems that literary journals that cross my path (with a few notable exceptions such as Rampike & fillingStation) tend to publish poetry that reflects a homogenized pristine reality. the goal is always for precision in language, smooth rhythms.

I want to read poems that reflect the stumble that life is, the constant struggle, the vagueness of language, its inability to say what we want to say. I write poetry with this same philosophy in mind. I don't want even, predictable rhythms. I want a word to be inexact, to lead to multiple possibilities or ambiguity. I want to reflect tentativeness with hedgewords like rather and perhaps. I eschew absolutes. I refuse requests to perfect the imperfect. I'm not a god, I'm a flawed human who regularly fails. I want this reflected in my poems & poems I read.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

My picks for the Ottawa International Writers Festival

Once again this fall, the Ottawa International Writers Festival has put together a fine program to suit many different tastes with events on topics that range from food, science, film, music, current events, history and literature. The festival takes place from Wednesday, October 24 to Tuesday, October 30, 2012.

While there are many events with writers I will enjoy discovering, here are a few of the events that I am specifically looking forward to at the festival this autumn:
Ottawa Premiere of Midnight’s Children Screening and on-stage conversation with Deepa Mehta at the Empire 7, Wednesday, October 24, 2012 7:30pm

Ms. Mehta fascinates me. I saw a documentary where she talked about her film Water & I was rapt. I have seen a few of her films & enjoyed them. Much to my disgrace, I have not yet read Rushdie's novel or any of his work, but this should make a fine intro. The description sounds enthralling. I saw Mehta's adaptation of Carol Shield's the Republic of Love. It is my opinion that Mehta is exceptional at novel to screen adaptations. I'm pleased that the festival is able to be very creative & stretch the limits of what your typical literary festival might offer. I'm going to be interested to hear what Mehta has to say about her experiences in film, particularly with the adaptation of this novel.
This means, of course, that I will miss the Ottawa Book Awards and ARC's Archibald Lampman Poetry Award taking place way out in Orleans at the Shenkman Centre at 8pm. I admit that I am not overly enthused with this location. If it ain't downtown, it doesn't interest me. However, I am rooting for all three of my amigos Sandra Ridley, Michael Blouin & rob mclennan for the Lampman Award & Shane Rhodes for the Ottawa Book Award. I love it when a poet wins an award dominated by fiction. It feels subversive somehow.

Obviously, I'm looking forward to this one. No further comments are necessary really; however, I will say that the host is beautiful, sexy & intelligent (ahem). More importantly, Neil Gerster's music will be enjoyable. At our summer reading he performed exquisitely on the ukulele & his lyrics contained references to literature, which was great fun. He has a lovely voice & a great demeanour. rob mclennan will be launching his chapbook, Miss Canada (international), a kind of sequel to his Corrupt Press "Miss Canada" chapbook. We will hear from this year's honourable mentions and winner. All of us will remember & celebrate the brilliant poetry of John Newlove, as we do every year. I hope you will help us celebrate, not only John Newlove, but also Bywords as we complete our tenth year. I'm always  so pleased that the festival includes us in their program. It's an honour to be included. Hope to see you there.

CBC All In A Day Songwriters' Circle with Alan Neal, Friday, October 26, 2012
I always enjoy this event. I am a regular listener to All In A Day. Alan Neal always curates a fine collection of musicians, some of whom I've heard of, but many I haven't. As of this blog entry, we don't know yet who the musicians will be. Exciting!

Ok, I admit that I loved the band Moxy Fruvous. They had intelligent & hilarious lyrics, & they even had a song which mentioned Robertson Davies, my favourite novelist, so how could I not be intrigued? Also, I am a sporadic but loyal listener to the CBC Radio Show Q, which Ghomeshi hosts. In 1982 I was just finishing high school & starting at the University of Toronto's Victoria College. It was a frightening time. I wouldn't go back to that era for all the tea in my cupboards, but for Mr. Ghomeshi, I shall revisit. I look forward to his reminiscences of 1982, including the glitter. argh, the glitter.

Firstly I must say that I love Marcus McCann. He is a dear friend of mine & was part of my editing dream team, along with Nicholas Lea, Sandra Ridley, Pearl Pirie & Roland Prevost when we were in a poetry workshop together that some of us called Ampersand. His latest collection, the Hard Return, features poems I remember well from workshopping with him. I heard Matthew Tierney read at the festival before & immediately bought both his books. I have never heard of Ms. Matuk, but her poetry collection sounds delightfully absurd. I always enjoy Plan 99 in large part because of host David O'Meara, who is not only handsome but intelligent. When he hosts a reading, he masterfully keeps it to one hour. No more. I like that in a host. No rambling. No sycophantic intros. Some intro, but no fawning.

I have a sweet old-fashioned crush on the handsome & talented Steven Heighton. I am very fond of his fiction & I look forward to an opportunity to hear him read & to watch him from across the room. I keep meaning to read Miranda Hill's work, so now I finally get the chance to hear her read. I enjoyed Nadine McInnis' last poetry collection & am looking forward to hearing her read from her short fiction. Also this event is hosted by the dashing & talented Stephen Brockwell. His introductions, like David O'Meara's when he hosts at the festival, are legendary essays that should be published. Plus there is something intriguing about the idea of a poet, and I consider Stephen to be a poet's poet, hosting a fiction event. Of course, dear Stephen is brilliant & has  hosted events on scientific topics with intelligence & panache.

Relit Awards: Ideas Not Money, Monday, October 29, 2012
Note that this event is taking place at Octopus Books' new location at 251 Bank, not in the crowded store in the Glebe…so that makes more sense. I always enjoy these awards, mainly because of all the books the organizer of the event, Ken Harvey throws out into the audience. A couple of my pals are shortlisted; other than that I'm torn because while I dearly want Sandra Ridley to win for Post-Apothecary, I would be very excited to meet Joel Thomas Hynes, whose Straight Razor Days is also up for poetry. It's his fiction that turns me on so far…

When he was in Ottawa, Spencer was part of my fiction workshop group along with rob mclennan, Kate Heartfield, Steve Zytveld and Emily Falvey. I remember being blown away by how excellent & unique his short fiction was. After he left, I invited him to be part of the first issue of You can read his story, "Tired But Always Thinking, Thinking,' in the pdf. Spencer dazzled me with his talent & skill.  I look forward to seeing what five years has done to his writing. Anton Piatigorsky gave a talk at the Writers Festival  on plays a number of years ago & it was brilliant. He was mesmerizing. I look forward to hearing him read. I don't know Barry Webster at all, but am looking forward to being introduced to a voice I haven't heard before.

Thanks once again to the Ottawa International Writers Festival for putting together an exciting and varied program. It's a great opportunity to reconnect with friends & be introduced to new (to me) authors & their intriguing books. You can buy tickets and passes here.