Jordon Chevalier had poems of urbane subjects, such as girls who love jazz too much or cocaine too much, “Gillespie blows up like a bullfrog and you blow up like a white girl”. In another line “he made reservations Chez Regrets”. He had a story about a father’s desire to build himself a lathe at home.
[Incidentally the gender count of audience for all male readers as opposed to all female readers was still about even. Presenting male 32. Presenting female, 27. Other, 3.]
I could be wrong – it has happened before – but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Chris Jennings read before. I’ve talked with him but never encountered a poem. I missed that he had a book at all. Last night corrected that. Amanda Earl describes the texts.
Some lines particularly struck me in a poem that I believe was entitled, “Garden of Delights” where he said something close to I want to compliment her on the way she accessorized his colostomy bag…you know what I mean/ by the things I keep to myself both of which are gestures towards where we avert eyes, omissions and what they imply.
He also had a poem about a coral island which sells the seabird guano. Thinking I could reconstruct which island, I learned there are 1000s of coral islands. (Who knew.) The poem ended on a twist to profound; “Nothing fertile is endless. But the birds still do their part.”
By being fertile and organic, is one tethered to mortality in a way inert things aren’t? But to move forward in time is the only option until we find a portal thru ribbed dimensions, animate or not.
There was a grafting of the gesture to the timeless and the nitty gritty details contemporary in his poems such as in a poem (perhaps entitled Quiet?) which looked into “the black space, where the stars – too weak to fight the light pollution – hide”.
Raising consciousness about light pollution was an appreciated touch. Between that and sonars we bumble along disrupting the majority of lives on our little wet ball.
The next reader took that sense of our shared planet to a different direction. he pointed out that as we elect politicians who choose to use drone planes to kill, and send people out to kill other people, that collective choice creates an impact. The voices of veterans are not individual stories but a collective wound, a communal problem.
Matt Jones mixed heavy subject and a light touch. His reading had an arc to it, feeling like a whole piece more than a scrapbook of samples the way readings sometimes can. If he was nervous he didn’t show it, simply laying words out to people without posturing. He related how he’s done harder things than this after all. Dating again comes to mind.
He described poetry as a means for storytelling, catharsis, laughter and healing, from reconciling what life has dealt so far, from death of his father in a bar, his last act reaching for his glass, to learning how to date, which he described humourously.
With poems and prefaces he described the journey and the culture shock of being back from war and studying with youth doing his Master’s degree. “I saw a man reeling his guts back in like fishing line. From the back it looked like he was praying. You think that you’re out there because you fucked a stranger.”
It’s a different scale of intensity and story. It’s synthesizing. As Nicole Brossard said a few days ago, “when meaning is destroyed, you have to reconstruct meaning and what comes out of that is powerful poetry.” She said as poets, we are often in comfortable, spoiled lives so we forget out there, the politics that comes from here.
The photo that go away would be the crowd applauding Matt’s reading, the fastest applause to start, the loudest and the longest of the festival so far. This was no polite applause. I would have got a picture of it but I was too busy applauding.
His poems characteristically go for a deep reach. His first piece transitioned from Matt’s, starting from the 50s romantic spy era where glamorous lives never get seriously hurt to today’s strafe, where children’s critical care hospital may be under deliberate or accidental bombing, but the nurses and doctors have already evacuated leaving patients to their own devices anyway.
He ended on a softer piece reminding that what exists exists is what we remember from either direct experience or what we’ve been told. We remember the people who the people we know remember. [I hope I don't misquote but it is close to this:] We know the roots and pollen and stamens of her scent, even though she’s been dead 200 years. And she says here is my father. You’ve never met him. He’s been gone a long time.
We are all terra-formers with our choices, our words, our imaginations. Emilie Zoey Baker has in a piece in her cook Bombora on p. 21, called “Dark Matter”.
“4. With our thoughts we make the world ~ Buddha
Once upon a time a man accidentally wandered into Paradise and fell asleep under a big oak tree. When he awoke he felt so hungry he wished for food and in Paradise anything you desire appears, so magically a delicious meal came out of nowhere. The man ate. He was too hungry to question its origin. (When your stomach is empty, you are not too philosophical.) After his hunger abated, he felt thirst and thought a drink would be nice. Suddenly precious wine appeared before him and he grew suspicious – what was this place? Why are things materializing? It must be haunted! And instantly ghosts appeared. Ghosts, he thought, are bad news. So the ghosts became ferocious and horrible. Surely I will die! he thought, and, with that, he was gone.”
Non-VERSeFest: Rachel Lebowitz & Sandra Ridley at Raw Sugar, 692 Somerset W. at 5:30 pm.
7 pm: Tree Sponsored poets: Catherine Owen, Stuart Ross & Don McKay
9 pm: Women’s Slam Champs: Kay’la Fraser, Missaralee (aka Sara Steeves), Kimbit, V (aka VNessa Ballerz)
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