Thursday, August 19, 2010

ALECC 2010, literary gala

Admittedly, it wasn't billed as a gala, and it was run casually enough that it really couldn't be considered one -- I mean, what sort of gala serves only chili and vegetable soup as the main food attractions?

But a poetry reading containing these figures can't be considered much less than a gala: big names Nancy Holmes, Brian Bartlett, Di Brandt, and Don McKay. And that's not taking into account less prominent writers who are producing very good work, namely Vivian Demuth, Brian Braganza, Katherine McAdam, Jessica Marion Barr, and Anita Lahey. The four major writers, all of whom are speaking or reading at more length on Saturday at our Sydney ALECC conference, performed admirably, with Holmes even reading unpublished work (a protest poem against Tolko's logging in an Okanagan community watershed), and Brandt reading two from her forthcoming book (which may or may not be Walking to Mojacar, but in any case look for the powerful "Apocalypso").

The thus-far-non-major poets were warmly received as well:
  • Demuth offered a "true narrative poem" about her encounter with a family of black bears during her work as a forest fire spotter
  • Braganza commented on his family's ongoing construction of a longterm home near Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, on a farm that'd been in a single family for more than three generations that they'd bought in 2002, in a poem featuring the near-80-year-old former owner's arrival as they were disassembling his childhood home
  • in her first public reading, McAdam recalled a visit to Scotland in which she honoured her ancestors' lives during the Clearances
  • in an in-progress poem called "The Hawk," Barr told of seeing hawks along the 401 in southern Ontario, as well as seeing a dead hawk lying in the Toronto snow, and
  • local rock star Lahey won over the crowd with three quite distinct poems, ranging from one mocking the fizzling out of Hurricane Bill, to one which left her fighting off tears in detailing a wildly inappropriate care package for her partner who's on active duty in Afghanistan. (Her book will be out in late 2011, and I'll be ordering it.)
A great night, capped off by local playwright and musician Ken Chisholm's post-poetry set on guitar, capped off for me by his own song "Muggah Creek":
All along the wild untamed Muggah Creek.
there's one thing we're all dreamers for:
what was once will be once more....

Muggah Creek, of course, is now better known as the Sydney Tar Ponds. Sobering, but ringing nonetheless.

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