Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What if the wit ran out...

Last Friday I was back at Paragraphe for another launch -- of Katia Grubisic's first poetry collection, What if the red ran out, and Naomi K. Lewis's first novel, Cricket in a Fist, both published by Goose Lane Editions. Grubisic's poetry is concentrated, steel-trap intelligent, lively and cold; I picked up a copy and will eventually, I think, read it from cover to cover. Lewis's novel simply didn't draw me in -- I felt put off by some clunky phrasing and couldn't get interested in the antics of her hastily summarized cast of characters. Consider that, though, a lazy review. I was really there to hear Katia, whose writing I head read in CV2 and admired, and who I had first met in Edmonton, although we live, like, one street away from each other in Mile End.

Interesting it was to go to the same venue two nights in a row. The previous evening, I arrived ten minutes early and had to stand because the place was already packed; this evening I took care to arrive twenty minutes early and found I was the only person there. The books though were set up, and pretty much an identical spread to the previous evening: finger-sized pizza slices, dip, cut veggies, crackers, cheese, two bottles of wine. I book browsed, bought my copy of Katia's book. A few minutes later, my friend Elise Moser arrived, we kissed hello, surprised but not exactly surprised to find each other there; we took two of the six plush chairs round the reading platform. Only four or five others had arrived before the authors appeared just before 7, the advertised starting time. Mike test and adjustments followed, then the authors introduced themselves and Naomi started reading; I soon tuned out. By the time she finished, though, another 15 or so had arrived, including a few people I knew (always a few people I know at these events.) Katia read; I read along from my copy, which I enjoyed ...

Tracing our steps from the railyard, you'd think we were kids
looking for a place to fuck, or graffiti artists intent
on the highest overlooks

Folding chairs had to be found (they hadn't been set up), and eventually some were. The authors asked if there were any questions. After a moment's silence, someone remarked upon the frequency of olfactory images in Katia's verse, many of dampness, mould, decay; and what, pray tell, would she imagine was the smell of oblivion? That was a hard one for Katia to answer at the drop of a hat. After hesitating, she gave a decorous, if general, answer, thanking the listener for noticing motifs she hadn't really noticed herself in her writing; if I had been in her shoes (an impossible fit) and a quick-witted mood, I might have replied, the smell of one hand clapping, or better still, the smell of your face before it was born. But I was not especially quick-witted that evening; when she asked if anyone had further questions, the room again fell dead silent -- and I thought, what are those cool questions in Here Comes Everybody? But in that instant, couldn't think of a single one.

P.S. Here's a deadly (in the positive sense of the word) poem from the collection and that reading that I found online: Love Song for the End of the World.

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