The Hermit Poet

January 28, 2007

Post Feature Notes

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 3:46 pm

I’m way behind schedule on posting about Friday’s reading at Upstart Crow Books — but I have been thinking about it quite a bit. To be honest, it was probably one of the best readings I’ve been a part of.

Russell Thornton co-featured with me and was fantastic — both in terms of poetry as well as delivery. He read first and shared 6 poems from his newest book of poems, The Human Shore. I found myself quite captivated by the voice in the poems and the way Russell read — slow, deliberate, and with care. In his presentation and his craftsmanship one finds no overly dramatic turns, no excessive showmanship, and no sloppiness. Everything has a place and purpose. The careful resonance of each word in the right place. In some respects, I found his style a bit like Philip Levine’s except driven by an attention to natural rather than urban scenes.

Before the reading began, we toyed briefly with the idea of alternating poems and doing a combined presentation. Although I ultimately decided against it, I appreciated the generousity that his offer reflected — especially given the fact that he had never heard or read my work before. In the future, I think I would like to try an interwoven reading with him — by then I hope to have a better sense of which of my pieces might suit such a presentation.

I read after Russell and decided on a set of which drew partly from the Lost Country of Sight manuscript, partly from Babbage’s Dream, and partly from the new poems in Letters to the Unknown Wife. As usual, I prepared more than I ended up using, but somehow managed to drop poems without too much distraction. I did have to read one poem from my laptop due to an oversight on my part (accidentally left the poem at home), but other than that things worked out. Good audience response — especially to “After Neruda” and some of the Babbage’s Dream poems like “assembly.”

The open mic portion was also a treat — it’s rare to attend an open mic where the readers have books and/or are well-published in their own right (any of them could have been featured that night as well). In particular, I found David Zerioth’s work quite compelling — somewhat akin to Wendell Berry, and yet uniquely his own voice.

All told, I sold several chapbooks, passed out flyers and contact information for both Boxcar Poetry Review and for the VCC courses I’m teaching in February, and made some new friends. The bookstore owners were very pleasant — we ended up chatting for a while after the reading was over.

All in all it was a delightful evening — I came away feeling more at home in Vancouver than I’ve felt before. Sometimes it seems like I’m out here alone, far from poets and people I care for — but then I’m reminded that there are poets here, and that Canadian poetry has its own charms and persuasiveness — its own voice that is emerging and growing stronger with each year.

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