It’s an odd sort of segue from my last entry, but on the schedule for the Vancouver Readers’ and Writers’ Festival, this turned out to be event #42.
Our emcee, Susan Musgrave, established how the evening would work – no mean feat when you have a line-up of 23 poets! Because we were celebrating the fact that poems have been riding around on Vancouver buses for ten years, Susan had asked us to all send bus-riding anecdotes. We’d also been asked to read ‘celebratory’ poems, so not everyone read the poem that had zoomed about on the buses.
The readers, with a tiny note for each – either a line from their poem or an item from their intro – were as follows:
Sandy Shreve, founder of (or certainly prime force behind) TransLink’s Poetry in Transit program. She spoke about the history of program, then read “Appalachian Spring” from her latest book, Suddenly, So Much .
Bill New, who described himself as ‘an ex-English teacher’– way too modest for someone of his accomplishments – proved to be one of the evening’s best readers, bringing a remarkable shape and sound to every word in his poem.
Susan McCaslin made us laugh with the twist of interpretation she offered regarding her poem. It followed a pattern of repetitition, with sections beginning with the word "Like..." She told us that her students had asked, “So, is this your valley girl poem?”
Crystal Hurdle read one of the night’s most beautiful pieces. I loved this wonderful line: “We should have had a school of children.”
Fiona Lam didn’t read from her book, Intimate Distances, dismissing it as ‘too depressing.’ The poem she did read, about taking the bus, included this: “We reach Oak Street / where there are no oaks.” One of those ongoing ironies about our world.
It’s worth a trip to Marilyn Bowering’s website, as this is too small a space to list all that she’s up to. She read a poem called “Night Talk.”
Jamie Reid, always a master of all things related to language at its purest, read a found poem – an alphabetized list of “Stop Words from Perseus”. Really, I say, who else could read a list so delightfully – “No, not now!”
Jenn Currin read a piece called “Usages.” Her transit tale was one of the evening’s funniest, relating her ‘olden days’ – riding the bus and drinking a mix of parental liquor cabinet dregs, then ‘mistaking’ the floor of the bus for a bed.
As if keeping in Jenn’s mode, Miranda Pearson’s transit confession saw her falling off a bus after drinking too much tequila. Her poem, “The Heron” included such treasures as describing the leaves as ‘irritable.’
Kate Braid’s transit story had to do with her days as a labourer, riding the bus, carrying her toolbox. Her poem, from her tribute to Emily Carr, To This Cedar Fountain, transcended toolboxes, lunch kits and buses.
Susan led us from Kate’s steel-toed workboots to a story from Brenda Brooks. A very large cockroach was riding her bus; she was grateful to the steel-toed worker who cleared a path for her. Brenda’s poem got us all going, with its “Honey, you are so….”
Billeh Nickerson closed out the first set with his wildly romantic rendition of “Driving in Adam’s Jeep” – lots and lots of desire: “kiss me, kiss me, kiss me.”
And then we took a break (so may you, O gentle reader).