Friday, November 03, 2006

Local Scene: Birthday de Poesie/Noches

I just got home from a most delightful birthday party/poetry reading at Fushsia, a tiny epicerie (which translates roughly as delicatessen) on Duluth, just off St-Laurent, that specializes in food prepared with edible flowers. The story goes that when the owner of the shop, a remarkable woman who goes by the name of Binky, asked her boyfriend, Stephane, what he wanted for his birthday, he thought for a moment and said -- poetry. Something, he said, with poetry in it -- a book, whatever. Apparently he doesn't ordinarily read poetry or have much knowledge of the art, but it so happens that when he was in Trois Rivieres one day, he walked into a cafe which had been taken over as one of the venues of Festival International de la Poesie de Trois Rivieres. And who should be on the stage but Raoul Duguay, who although closing on 70 is still one of the most spellbinding poets/performers on the Quebec literary scene. And Stephane was spellbound, and remained impressed. So Binky organized a surprise poetry reading for him as a birthday present, with free food and sangria for all. She told a number of friends and customers to come in this particular night and read a favourite poem or three as part of her birthday gift. What an inspired idea! I was contacted through a writer friend of hers. The nice thing was that as it turned out none of the other readers or listeners there regarded themselves as poets, but simply enjoyed reading and enjoyed poems. This in itself was highly refreshing. Their tastes, as might be expected, tended towards the canonical: poems they read included Frost's The Road Less Chosen, Dylan Thomas's Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Kipling's If, Blake's Infinity in a Grain of Sand (whatever that poem is called -- if anything), a passage from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, some rather poetic quotes from the Zen master Dogen and selections in French by the early surrealist Autremonte (?), Margarite Duras and others. I contributed most of the contemporary work -- Li-Young Lee's From Blossoms, Ilya Kaminsky's Author's Prayer, Ruth Altman's Seventeen Things I Touched Today, some poems/translations of Francisco Santos, + a couple of my own more accessible and entertaining poems. These were met with keen interest and real appreciation -- Stephane took down book titles, etc. Everyone truly enjoyed themselves and proclaimed that this kind of event should be held again. So maybe Fushsia will blossom as Montreal's most intimate poetry venue. Who knows?

Last Wednesday's Las Noches de Poesia was another intimate affair. It was a rather more typical poetry soiree -- poets expressing themselves for each other + a few friends and significant others. I enjoyed all the the poets, their sensibilities and even a number of their poems. Emerson Xavier de Silva turned out to be a particularly dramatic reader. I put on my own little variety show -- poems, translations and a couple of songs.

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