Monday, May 22, 2006

Radiant danse uv readingz

This was the sign outside Vancouver's Ironworks Gallery that greeted the many 'frenz uv bill bissett' who came to participate in the launch of the wondrous new book, radiant danse uv being. Edited by Jeff Pew and Steve Roxborough (aka rox n pew), the book presents a set of riffs and reminiscences for and about Canada's true poet laureate, bill bissett.

The Vancouver event was hosted by CBC's Sheryl MacKay. For those who've never heard her show, North by Northwest, it's a showcase of BC artists. The only bad part about her show is that it's broadcast at the bizarre (and non-artist-friendly) hour of 6am on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Like, ouch.

The 150-or-so performers and attendees had themselves a raging good time, and even got to browse several walls of brand new paintings by his billness. Beyond even the paintings was the sense of tribal connections -- old friends (or should that be 'frenz'?) reunited. Truly, it was one grand celebrayshun.

The best part of all (of course) was that bill was part of it all. Here he is, reading a poem to close the Vancouver event, accompanied by the inspired tootlings of Tim Lander.

But the raging went on. On to the ferry on Friday where I got to listen to some of the history behind the book. Lucky me, getting to spend a few hours with the editors behind the project. That's Jeff on the left, along with Rox and his elegant blond locks. I won't give away too much, beyond noting that Victoria's Cadboro Bay makes a swell spot to while away an afternoon, especially when accompanied by a few cold beers. I suspect that one of these years, Rox n Pew will be coming out with some sort of 'green-rumoury' behind-the-scenes project. If my time with them was any indication, they wouldn't have any trouble filling such a volume.

And at last on to the Solstice Cafe, for the Victoria launch. A few of the same faces, but a whole different scene -- and hosted by the always gracious Linda Rogers. What a way to start a long weekend in May.

But enough of these ramblings. Get thee out, I say -- and buy the raging book! Just be sure, for premium pleasure, to read it out loud.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Putting White Rock back on the literary map

During the '80s and early '90s, White Rock Public Library played host to a number of fine readings -- Robert Priest, Joe Rosenblatt, Lorna Crozier, Sharon Thesen -- and many more. But mandates seemed to change. Even though there'd been good attendance, the library veered away from readings they deemed 'too literary.'

But enough of grimy history; it seems time for a new page.

Last night saw a visit from Diana Hartog, promoting her new book, Ink Monkey from Brick Books. She read love poems, desert poems, explained the significance of the title creature, but really hit her stride when she started reading from 'Jellyfish Suite.' The poems in this section were magical, transporting us to undersea kingdoms where "...millions of jellyfish pulse...ghostly parachutes, dangling empty harnesses as they rise...".

In a longer prose poem, Notes to the Composer:, she read one of those lines I'm so famous for mis-hearing. "(They seem to invite metaphor.)" I remembered the word as the more active incite. But that's one of those little miracles that happen at a reading. We get a new window into the poem -- an experience the printed page (wondrous though it is) doesn't always offer.

It felt good to have White Rock be part of such a far-reaching tour: Montreal, Toronto, New York, Ottawa, Seattle, Bellingham, Vancouver, Victoria. The event felt like the beginning of some kind of renaissance for 'literary' readings out here. Let's just hope the powers-that-be at the library live up to all the promise that was in the air last night.

And hey, all you writers with new books: people in the audience even bought books! Here's a picture of Diana, signing a copy she sold.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I'm having a problem with "no problem."

Maybe I'm a person who says "thank you" too much. Maybe that's the reason I keep hearing "no problem." Whatever, what it comes down to is I'd like to hear a "you're welcome."

Or even nicer, the phrase I got spoiled to in Australia, the always-so-gracious sounding, "my pleasure." Wow, as if the person who'd done me the favour might have actually enjoyed doing so.

I'm not counting on anyone to start saying "my pleasure," but gosh, I'd be thrilled to get something but a mumbled "no problem" -- a phrase that usually makes it sound as if it is a problem.

And if you've been feeling this too and would maybe like to thank me, I'll say it in advance, "you're very welcome."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The End of the World As We Know It (with apologies to REM)

Okay, once again, I exaggerate. Still, as someone who comes from a line of crossword addicts (the gene for this from my grandma, Mayme), I must point out some serious end-time omens.

The first was two weeks ago, the last time I did a puzzle (see, I'm doing pretty well, having cut back from daily doses).

The editor in me complains when I find things misspelled in the newspaper. It complains a little louder when those mistakes are in the crossword. When the error's not in the clues, but in the puzzle grid itself, that inner editor just plain howls!

So this morning, when I decided to have a paperwork clean-up day, the crossword seemed the perfect excuse for more procrastination. Only what did I find, but yet another of what I deemed as an error.

The clue was something about running ______, which I took to call for amok. But there were five squares not four, so it worked out to have to be the much-uglier amuck.

A dictionary search informed me that this is an acceptable spelling. Grudgingly, I have come to accept such things.

But I still can't find an excuse for the error from that other puzzle, the inexplicable acquistions. To me, its definition, purchases, suggests a word with another 'i' in its midst, acquisitions. See why I'm in such a sweat?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Making history

Okay, just in a small way, but still. On April 28th, I was one of two writers who made history with the very first poetry reading at City Hall in Surrey, B.C.

When we first approached them, early in February, we were told in no uncertain terms, "City Hall doesn't do that sort of thing." As if it might be something they'd get arrested for.

Luckily, my partner for this reading was Ashok Bhargava, and he wouldn't give in so easily. He insisted we find another contact -- that we should try Councillor Judy Villeneuve.

Like they say, networking pays. Next thing we knew we were helping two of the Events Co-ordinators to fill out the application forms that had to go to The League of Canadian Poets.
Here's a shot of Ashok and Sheenam (one of those terrific Events women), going over some last minute detail before the reading.

We had a terrific noon-hour crowd of about 30 enthusiastic listeners. I was able to make them laugh with my poems about kids and messy houses. Ashok touched their hearts with his more-thoughtful pieces, especially a wonderful one about the difficulties of learning English.

I can't help think we did more than make a bit of history. I think we might have opened some doors and minds to the idea of poetry.