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First Edition Reading Series

We trekked out to Perth to see the new reading series around. It started in March. Johnny Pigeau moved from Kingston to Perth and decided to bring the literature to him and to his new community. He started the First Edition Reading Series. It’s out of Backbeat Books although there are also Special Edition Series at other venues. The next one on July 24th will be at the EcoTay Center just west out of town on the Scotch Line Road.


Perth just lost a bookstore recently. It’s good to see another come. Backbeat is a cozy niche.

Backbeat Books
It has old books, new books, CDs, vinyl and crafts made from saris, and cards made from vintage collaged texts. There’s hand creams and pillows of letters of the alphabet. All kinds of goodies.

Speaking of goodies, Lynes read what she describes as her first successful poem in a set as a tribute to the underappreciated 1800s British poet John Clare. He is comparable to Robert Frost. It is about a drunken man besotted and up a tree to watch a lovely heifer (in the best possible sense) of a potential wife go by.

I’m not quite sure how I missed knowing about it but Jeanette Lynes had a novel out in 2009, long-listed for the Giller, called Factory Voice. (Sometimes I get waylaid in poetry I suppose.) The voices in this story of a 1940s aircraft factory and women who work there are distinct. It sounds like a story I’ll have to hunt up.

Jeanette Lynes
Here she was talking about how the cover of the novel came from her idea that it should look vintage, like something in a dollar bin novel of that era. The shoes on the cover came from a rummage shop, as did the sign in her hand.

Jennifer Londry
She and Jennifer Londry read from a variety of their books and projects. Londry wrote After the Words (Hagios Press, 2010), a poetry collection about the Alzheimer’s journey. In 2009 she co-authored Life & Death in Cheap Motels (Hidden Brook Press) with R. D. Roy. She also read from new things, including a novel of being in the Hell’s Angel’s scene in Gatineau in the 80s.

It made for an interesting evening, a sampling buffet, mixing up poetry and prose. It begs the question, how much more often would people read from what they feel like reading if they were invited to read like this, not sponsored on a reading tour by a particular publisher but just invited to a nearby town?

There was a Q&A with questions after each reader in a conversational style. A good idea rather than saving everything up to the end if time permits. Too much time passes and questions fall out of the head as new material comes.

Somehow whenever there is a Q&A at some series around town, there isn’t this level of engagement as there was in Perth. I suppose part of it is because all the readers know one another, are comfortable around each other, and with a small space and about 15 or 16 people in the room, it encourages the sense of conversation rather than panel on stage. No mikes. Just a warm gathering.

Phil Hall
Phil Hall gave a characteristically good reading. He has a wonderful way of owning a room and casting a spell. But if you missed it, don’t feel too bad because he’s doing the Tree series July 26th. And if you miss the Tree reading, you can hear him read a sample poem from Killdeer at the BookThug launch this spring.

He read from a range. He has had 16 books out over the last 30 years. He read prose and poetry and what he calls poem-essays. If you don’t like poetry, they’re essays. If you don’t like essays, they’re poetry. Reminds me of what Kroetsch said, “This is a journal that wants to be a poem. Or visa versa.”

In the Q&A Hall was asked, when he mentors what does he most want the newer poets to pick up on. He said, if you can stop writing, do. There should be an inner push. You often have to have rescued yourself in some way to have that push, to have your voice pushed down to have to now speak your voice. If you don’t need to say it, set it aside and say what you need to.

His words brings back to mind the centrality of core principles. When you are disoriented, unsure of what to say, collect yourself, assess, be quiet, wait and orient to what are first principles you’ve identified when your head was clear.

It’s easy to let one element of poetry overtake the others, sound prevail over sense or the storyline run roughshod over the music, or the idea and form and act of making of a poem become stronger than having an idea to express, or having an idea to express being a blunt instrument under the surgical lights of language.

The basic principle of poem or story is the listening circle. Come closer, I have something to say. Poems that sike and deke away and refuse to say, avoid the speaker’s story and the audience’s payoff, what does that do? On some deeper level something is got just as a building that is put together with craft for a use not your own communicates a respect and caring and how poor craftsmanship tells another physical story. It’s a human compulsion to make salience and sail it.

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3 Responses

  1. like. Will read more in depth later

  2. check last two paragraphs. Writers’ workshop in a nutshell

  3. agreed

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