Thursday, October 8, 2009

Belated Poetry Weekend Post Mortem

As promised, a belated report on the Poetry Weekend.

First off, I have to admit that when I got the schedule for the readings, my heart sunk a bit. Over fifty readings in six sets over two days sounds, in the abstract, rather more like something out of Dante's vision of hell than a pleasant way to spend a weekend. The Poetry Weekend started spontaneously in 2004 and remains "the most disorganised literary festival in Canada," but it has certainly grown into a popular destination for poets from all over the country. My chagrin at the epic size of the event proved to be ill-founded, but more on that anon.

When I arrived at Shane Neilson's parents' house--where I was crashing for the weekend--I got my first look at Track & Trace as a printed and bound book. I was not disappointed. I can't say how lucky I am to have a publisher like Biblioasis, without whom I would probably never have had the privilege of a book designed by Seth.

I also got my first look at Meniscus, Shane's first trade collection, which I had the honour and pleasure of editing for the press. It's a helluva book. There aren't many poets out there with the combination of sheer guts and craft to be found in Shane's poems.

Friday night, we met up with Sharon McCartney, Karen Schindler (in town for the festivities from London, ON) and Mark Jarman, then headed out for Goose Lane Editions' fall launch. Quite the do. I was amazed how many townsfolk turn out for a book launch in Fredericton. I think it really speaks to that publisher's strong roots in the community. There, met up with several folks, including Brent MacLaine--who was launching his new book, Athena Becomes a Swallow--, my good friend Wayne Clifford and Goose Lane poetry editor and host of the festival Ross Leckie.

On Saturday morning, we got down to the serious business of listening to people read poems. To make a long story short, I was very pleasantly surprised. Not only were there a helluva lot of good readings of good poems, but, most importantly for such epic bouts of sitting and listening, the pace was brisk throughout the weekend. Some highlights that stood out for me: Brent MacLaine doing a very theatrical reading in the voice of an indignant Greek mendicant; Sharon McCartney's "uplifting" poem of praise for Fredericton; Shane Neilson's reading of his "Love Poem," which gave me that much sought-after spinal tingle; ditto for Peter Norman's reading of "Up Near Wawa"; Jeffery Donaldson's on-the-spot cento, incorporating lines from every single poet who read prior to him; much else that was very good to excellent.

The Saturday night party was great fun, too, as always. Shane, a much more sober and sensible soul than I, left relatively early, so I had to find a place to catch a few winks before the Sunday readings. I snuck into Mark Jarman's house and slept on his couch. He never even knew I was there. Till I told him.

I read on Sunday night as part of an outstanding set of readers. If you want to hear the whole thing, see my earlier post or head over to Branta, where Eric Hill has itemized things far more nicely than I did. If you just want to hear my reading, here it is:

The sun was breaking out as I left Oromocto Monday morning, but most of my 450 km ride was wet. Fortunately, I had my books in a rubbermaid box, but my leathers are still damp and crusted with road salt. Last long ride I'll be taking before the bike goes into storage for the winter.

The rest of October's quiet for me in terms of readings, but I've got some things coming up next month in Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto, which should be good fun.

It's looking like I'll be getting no more work on the railroad this year. Normally, I love this point of the year, but I worked so little this year, that I'm left in a precarious spot now: I didn't get enough hours to open a new EI claim, so I'm going to have to figure out how to generate sufficient income to eke out the winter. If anyone needs some editing done, I'm your man, eh.

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