On Sunday I went to Ottawa to do a poetry reading at the Sasquatch series.
As we drove up (my partner & I), we listened to Michael Enright interview Nancy Huston at the Metropolis Blue festival -- an interview we had been seriously considering going to hear live. It was excellent: Mr. Enright is clearly a devoted reader of Nancy Huston, and asked many pertinent questions about her latest book, Fault Lines -- which sounds like it would be a very interesting read -- as well as other things she had written, her relationship to the English and French languages, living in Paris, etc. She didn't read from the book, and that was absolutely fine.
Which made me reflect upon an obvious point related to my foregoing complaint about the lack of actual poems in the poetry coverage on the CBC. Talking to a fiction writer (or non-fiction prose writer) about his or her book without actually having them read from it is OK, because the writer can give an adequate sense of the book by talking about its story and central issues & main characters. But when a poet is interviewed the same way, it's hard to get that adequate sense of what his or her poetry is like. And since poetry is compact & soundbite friendly, as I put it, it seems evasive (particularly during a long interview) not to actually read from it, or, in the case of a print review or interview, to show or link to some of it. Especially as one can't count on picking it up during ones' next bookstore browse. That's all I'll say on the matter for the next while.
The Sasquatch reading turned out to be a remarkable experience. I'd recommend that venue to any poet who could be featured there. At first, though, it seemed auspicious, then terribly inauspicious: here it was the first truly warm and beautiful day of the spring, and the restaurant/pub where it takes place is quite classy, until -- after filing past an outdoor terrace of couples sipping their daiquiris, one discovers that the poetry reading takes place in the damp basement barroom of the place. How symbolic. Poetry as "hairy beast, hidden in the forest" indeed. Today, there were about ten there, including the hosts and me -- about half the usual number, they told me, and all but my girlfriend had come to read their creations (of varying levels of quality of course) at the open mike -- if I don't include the blowzy man who interrupted the proceedings by clomping down the stairs and bursting in with, "Where's the washroom?" Ah well... But the host was gracious, and as I was the "star attraction", they gave me plenty of time -- I read more poems than I'd planned + translations of Francisco Santos and Gabriel Celaya + 4 songs -- maybe an hour of reading and music. And in the end, sold four books and a CD -- amazing sales for such a small group. I think I made some personal friends in Ottawa with this reading. Without a doubt, League funding did what it was designed to do this time.