Friday, April 4, 2008

Maureen Medved, Teresa McWhirter, Sachiko Murakami

Rachel and I went to the Robson Reading Series last night.

First reader was Maureen Medved, who read from her now-film-adapted novel The Tracey Fragments. I had trouble getting into the excerpt she read, but it built momentum as she went and was on the whole pretty persuasive. Couldn't help thinking, tho, that it would work better as a film. It was interesting to learn in the Q&A that followed that Meved, who is also a screenwriter, adapted the book herself and initially conceived of it as both novel and screenplay. She also read a scene from a novel-in-progress, which I couldn't get into at all.

Teresa McWhirter next read from her new novel Dirtbags. The writing was pedestrian and the reading too short to tell if the story had any more redeeming features.

The last reading was by Sachiko Murakami. I first met Sachi back in 2004, I think, in Montreal, after the Unsettled launch I posted recently. She told me she appreciated the references to Vancouver's downtown eastside in my poem "Jake." And now her own book about that much-maligned and oft-benighted borough, The Invisibility Exhibit, is out with Talonbooks. The book works around the story of the missing women from the downtown East Hastings area that has of course been a major national news item for some time now.

I wrote recently about the ham-handed political poetry of another Vancouverite, Rita Wong. A backchannel email I got interpreted this as a general dismissal of political poetry as art. Which it wasn't. But the most common problem with political poetry is an imbalance in the rhetoric and artistry, resulting in poems that have, in Keats' phrase, "a palpable design" on the reader, and I felt that Wong strayed repeatedly over the line between art and propaganda. What I've seen and heard of Sachi's book so far suggests she is aware of this as a potential problem, and has done her best to avoid it. I bought the book last night and look forward to seeing for myself--even if Sachi jokingly asked me not to review her!

1 comment:

sm said...

Aren't reviews like, so passe these days? How terribly they struggle for the claim for the heteronomous principle in the field of art, oh yawn, yawn, yawn, darling.

Let's ban reviews as a method of creating a national dialogue and spend our efforts throwing fabulous poetry picnics instead.