Thursday, March 6, 2014

Oscar What? A Report on March 2nd's LitLive Reading

Recently-moved-to-Hamilton writer Ryan Pratt reviews 
March 2nd's LitLive reading where no Oscar results were mentioned.

Lit Live Reading Series
Homegrown Hamilton
Featuring: Angie Abdou, Christine McNair, Jim Smith, 
Lynn Davies, Andrew Faulkner and Marcus McCann.

Hosted by Jeff Mahoney

March 2, 2014.

by Ryan Pratt @deadletterbirds

If my first Lit Live encounter, during which I barely managed to get a chair, taught me the advantages of arriving early, Sunday’s stacked bill illustrated the drawback of planning too far ahead: I showed up before Homegrown Hamilton had even opened. Oops. Luckily, Christine McNair and rob mclennan (with baby Rose on shoulder) were just behind me, as well as a steady stream of enthusiasts looking for words and warmth. As it turned out, seats weren’t quite as hard to come by this time – I suspect the amount of Oscars’ chatter had something to do with it – but I counted at least thirty in attendance before Hamilton Spectator columnist and host Jeff Mahoney took the stage.

For her first time reading in Hamilton, Angie Abdou read a hallucinogenic excerpt from her ski-culture adventure The Canterbury Trail (Brindle & Glass). The book takes apart many west coast stereotypes while revealing, in Abdou’s words, the “debauchery behind a spiritual façade”. Exploring the divide between a seven-month-pregnant woman and her high-as-a-kite partner as they scale a wintry mountain, the British Columbia novelist was poignant and funny – looking at the enormity of relationships and wilderness through an increasingly narcotic lens.

As Ottawa’s Christine McNair followed, the extent of the evening’s variety slowly began to dawn on me. Picking selections from her Archibald Lampman-nominated Conflict (BookThug) and pleasantries and other misdemeanors (Apt 9 Press), McNair’s performance held the café enraptured. In the absence of any histrionics, the word “performance” may seem ill fitted but McNair’s velocity at the mic was exacting; a feverish mix of breathing technique and cadences that cleared hills of raw material. An assortment of hums and nods from the crowd greeted McNair’s final poems, which included “Mythology”, “This Is What I Meant” (evocative in its pigments, prisms and gasoline rainbows) as well as the memorably dysfunctional relationship of “Problem With Orchids.”

If you can imagine the next poet somehow meeting that level of professionalism while simultaneously subverting it with toilet humour, you’re probably familiar with Jim Smith. Believe me: by the time he’d read a list poem about nature expelling the Conservative elite and an entry from his work-in-process, A Thousand Fascinating Things About Me, I was wondering how I could’ve missed him. Smith was entirely at home at the microphone, selecting from Happy Birthday, Nicanor Parra (Mansfield Press) and at one point exclaiming, “What the hell did that mean?” to his own poem. His cheerful irreverence even neutralized the stigma of politics, using the Criminal Code of Canada as inspiration for an erasure poetry project. By straining the superfluous filler from each law, Smith tantalized the audience with silly and scary facts about our legislature. “Everyone who is large is punishable,” is one example I managed to copy down.

Our second writer from out of province, New Brunswick native Lynn Davies, reinstated a sense of quiet with readings from How the gods pour tea (Goose Lane) that surveyed nature in its unapologetic instincts and hunger. Davies began with “a strawberry poem” that, in the midst of a protest against razing acres of strawberry fields, overhears fellow confessions and hardships of a community’s delicate stitches. Her gentle delivery and effective pauses gave added heft to “The Swan” and “How Much”, two poems that view death in the wild with an unblinking eye. (I snuck a peek at a few extra pages of How the gods pour tea during intermission and promptly added it to my wish-list. Great stuff.)

So far the evening had thrived on a seesawing rhythm of humour and depth but with the last two readers, humour would win out. Andrew Faulkner, suffering from a lost watch and a head cold, persevered with edgy readings from Need Machine (Coach House Books). “Rats”, a poem about living with the threat of vermin, embodied his obsessive approach to grinding many poetic avenues out of one focus. “Notes on a Theme” spun an assortment of potential party themes – utilizing pop-culture, political and sexual taboos into his tongue-in-cheek repetition – until the accumulation warranted no party at all. Faulkner’s work was biting, often weaving dark humour through darker circumstances, although his delivery did justice in separating Need Machine’s shades.

Those self-deprecating and sharp qualities apply just as well to fellow Torontonian Marcus McCann, representing The Hard Return (Insomnia Press), whose satirical views on the downfalls of modern life were playful and clever. Opening with faux enthusiasm on “Cover Letter” and closing with a “cement-mixer of restraint” for “Resignation Letter,” McCann’s inquiry into depressing jobs struck a jovial chord with the crowd. He pushed on with quirkier focuses, including receiving random penis photos from strangers, frustrations with the ‘chance of sun/rain/cloudiness’ pictogram – the sort of material comedians look for. The ultimate highlight for me was hearing McCann tackle some poems from Labradoodle, An Essay on David McGimpsey (above/ground press), one of my favourite chapbooks from last year.

As the program wrapped up, I didn’t hear a word about the Oscars. Who’d won, who’d lost – it could wait. The assortment of nearby and far-off writers who made the trip to Hamilton made for an unpredictable but thoroughly engaging night. And we can expect more of that energy next month when Lit Live Reading Series combines with Hamilton’s literary festival GritLit for a special line-up of events. Check here for details.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

April Powers Literary with gritLIT @ Lit Live!

On Sunday, April 6th, you'll witness the event collaboration of the year between gritLIT, Hamilton's Literary Festival and Lit Live, Hamilton's monthly reading series. Homegrown Hamilton on King William Street will host a dynamic line-up of seven outstanding writers in the closing event of the gritLIT weekend. (April 3-6).

The authors we will have that night are:

Chris Pannell: A Nervous City (Wolsak and Wynn)

Marilyn Gear Pilling: A Bee Garden (Cormorant)

John Terpstra: Brilliant Falls (Gaspereau)

Amanda Jernigan: All the Daylight Hours (Cormorant)

Jeffrey Donaldson: Slack Action (Porcupine's Quill)

Amanda Leduc: The Miracles of Ordinary Men (ECW)

David Haskins: This House is Condemned (Wolsak and Wynn)

More details about the authors can be found at the GritLit website.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Reading: March 2nd: Angie Abdou, Christine McNair, Lynn Davies, Andrew Faulkner, Marcus McCann and Jim Smith

Andrew Faulkner co-curates The Emergency Response Unit, a chapbook press. His poems have been published in The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2011, and his chapbook Useful Knots and How to Tie Them was shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Award. He lives in Toronto. His latest book Need Machine "clamours through the brain like an unruly marching band. Both caustic and thoughtful, these poems offer a topography of modern life writ large in twitchy, neon splendour, in a voice as sure as a surgeon and as trustworthy as a rumour."

Angie Abdou lives in the Canadian Rockies where she writes, teaches, mothers, and recreates. BC BookWorld called her first book, a story collection titled Anything Boys Can Do (Thistledown 2006), an "extraordinary literary debut" and Victoria Times Colonist praised its original take on female sexuality. Her first novel, The Bone Cage (NeWest Press 2007), was the inaugural One Book One Kootenay selection, a Canada Reads 2011finalist, and the 2012 MacEwan book of the year. Her most recent novel, The Canterbury Trail (Brindle & Glass 2011), is a tragicomedy about mountain life, small-town identity politics, and our relationship with the environment. It won a 2012 IPPY gold medal for Canada West and was a finalist for the Banff Mountain Book of the Year. Angie will also read from her forthcoming novel, a satire about international nannies and hot yoga (Arsenal Pulp Press 2014). 

Christine McNair's work has appeared in The Antigonish Review, ottawater, Misunderstandings magazine, The Bywords Quarterly Journal and a few other places including a recent above/ground press broadside. She won second prize (poetry) in the Atlantic Canadian Writing Competition and an honourable mention in the Eden Mills Literary competition. Her new book is Conflict (BookThug). She tries to pay the bills working as a book conservator in Ottawa.

Jim Smith is the author of fifteen books and chapbooks published between 1979 and 2012, including One Hundred Most Frightening Things (blewointmentpress, 1985), Convincing Americans (Proper Tales Press, 1986), The Schwarzenegger Poems (Surrealist Poets Gardening Association, 1988), Translating Sleep (Wolsak & Wynn, 1989), Leonel/Roque (Coteau Books, 1998), Back Off, Assassin! New and Selected Poems (Mansfield Press, 2009) and his newest collection, Happy Birthday, Nicanor Parra (Mansfield Press, 2012).  Jim’s Back Off, Assassin: New and Selected Poems was long-listed (leaked list) for the 2010 Governor General’s Award for Poetry.  Jim finally visited his poetic hero, Nicanor Parra, in Chile in February 2012.

Lynn Davies was born in Moncton, New Brunswick. She lived in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia for 16 years and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Honours English from the University of King's College. She now lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick. She's taught creative writing at the University of New Brunswick, through Continuing Education in Halifax and Fredericton, and has taught poetry at the Maritime Writer's Workshop. Lynn now works as a private tutor for children with reading and writing problems and as an ESL teacher. She also conducts workshops on creative writing and book making for children at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and in schools.

Marcus McCann is a poet and journalist. He is the author of Soft Where (2009, Chaudiere Books) and The Hard Return (2012, Insomniac) and a number of chapbooks, including Labradoodle, The Glass Jaw and Force Quit. A former artistic director of the Transgress! Festival and the Naughty Thoughts Book Club, he is a part-owner of Toronto's Glad Day Bookshop. He has won the John Newlove Award and the EJ Pratt Medal. Born and raised in Hamilton, he now lives an hour northeast.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tell me something about who is reading on Feb 2? Ok, here!

But before we get to who is reading at LitLive tonight (and what they look like -- and, yes, we do, Lena Dunham-like, have a $10,000 bounty for the unretouched photos of these writers), let's talk about Groundhogs.

Tonight's reading falls on Groundhog Day (Pennsylvania German: Grundsaudaag, Murmeltiertag) but it also falls on the less well known, Writers' Day (Pennsylvania German: Grumblesdaag, Mumurtag) According to folklore and the Paris Review, if it is cloudy on this day when a poet or novelist emerges from their crumpled paper-strewn burrow, their latte-cluttered coffeeshop, or even the gong-infested sea, then spring publication will come early and the miserable bitterness of life will recede if only for a brief moment, enough to get married in Vegas, maybe, pen a haiku about buttercups, or to stop weeping. Really. If it is sunny, the writer will supposedly see her or her shadow (cf. Carl Jung or how to make dog shapes with your fingers) and retreat back into his or her burrow, and the winter weather, existential alienation, bittersweet longing, and interminable darkness will continue for six more weeks.

Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the writer emerging from his/her burrow, but these are ridiculous. Writers never emerge in the morning. Unless they've been up all night, in which case, approach with caution.

Born in the US to Dutch immigrant parents, Patricia Westerhof moved to Amsterdam shortly after birth and then to Canada at age four. She spent her school years in Alberta and Ontario. Westerhof now lives in Toronto, Canada, where she writes fiction and teaches English and creative writing. Westerhof is the author of The Dove in Bathurst Station, a novel, and Catch Me When I Fall, a collection of linked stories.  She also co-authored The Writer’s Craft, a textbook. Her stories have been published in The Dalhousie Review, Room, and the anthology Trees Running Backward. Along with fiction, Westerhof writes curriculum, and she has presented at education conferences in Canada and the U.S.

Born in Thunder Bay in 1947, Gordon Johnston taught poetry among other things at Trent University for forty years, until he retired in 2011. He co-ordinated the very successful Writers Reading Series at the university for a number of years. He served for more than a decade on the Advisory Board of House of Anansi Press. He published a poetic fiction, Inscription Rock, in 1981 with Penumbra Press and a poetry collection, Small Wonder, with littlefishcartrpress in 2006. His most recent book is But for Now, published last September by McGill-Queen’s Press in the Hugh MacLennan Poetry Series.

Natalee Caple is the author of five books of fiction and two books of poetry, including the novel The Plight of Happy People in an Ordinary World; the short story collection The Heart Is Its Own Reason, which has been optioned for film; the poetry collection A More Tender Ocean, which was nominated for a Gerald Lampert Award; and the novel Mackerel Sky. Her most recent novel is In Calamity’s Wake published by Harper Collins in Canada and Bloomsbury in the US. She is an assistant professor in the English Department at Brock University.

Shane Neilson is a writer and a family physician. His previous books include Meniscus, Gunmetal Blue, and Complete Physical, which was short listed for the Trillium Poetry Award. Neilson has published essays and reviews in many Canadian literary magazines and newspapers. He lives in Guelph, Ontario.

Paul Sutherland, Canadian-British poet, immigrated to the UK in 1973. He has seven collections and has edited seven others. He is the founding editor of Dream Catcher, a distinguished national-international journal in its 23rd issue. A notable performer, he’s read his poetry in public over a hundred fifty times including twice at Lit Live. He attends festivals and leads workshops in creative writing for all ages and abilities. His poems have appeared in journals and newspapers and anthologies.

Despite being advised as a teenager to pursue office work rather than writing, Janet Turpin Myers has been writing all her life.  Her début novel, Nightswimming, published by Seraphim Editions, was released  September, 2013. Her second novel, The Last Year of Confusion, will be released in  the spring of 2015, also by Seraphim Editions. Her short story, Crashing, recently won 3rd place in the 2013 gritLit Short Fiction competition, and her poems have been published in Hammered Out and Tower Poetry. Currently, she is 168 pages into her next book, UnPredator—a genre-bending, three-planet dystopian/utopian sci/fi fantasy about the end of the world, vegetarians, and Genesis.


Our host for the evening is Laura Lukasik from the Hamilton Public Library. We've heard they know something about books and writing over there!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A look at upcoming readings this year

February 2nd
Host: Laura Lukasik

Paul Sutherland
Journeying (Valley Press)

Janet Turpin Myers
Nightswimming (Seraphim Editions)
Shane Neilson
short stories
Will (Great Plains Publications)

Gordon Johnston
But for Now (McGill-Queen's)

Natalee Caple
In Calamity's Wake (Harper Collins)

Patricia Westerhof
The Dove in Bathurst Station (Brindle & Glass Press)

March 2nd
MC Jeff Mahoney

Angie Abadou
The Canterbury Trail (Brindle & Glass Press)

Christine McNair
Conflict (BookThug)

Lynn Davies
How the Gods Pour Tea (Goose Lane Editions)

Andrew Faulkner
Need Machine (Coach House Books)

Jim Smith
Happy Birthday Nicanor Parra (Mansfield Press)

Marcus McCann
The Hard Return (Insomniac Press)

We have a combined gritLIT/LitLive event, hosted by Chris Pannell.
(stay tuned for details!) 

May 4th
MC Jeanie Macfarlane

Susan McCaslin
The Disarmed Heart (St. Thomas Poetry Series)

Lisa Moore
February (House of Anansi)

Don McKay
Paradoxides (McClelland and Stewart)

Aaron Giovannone
The Loneliness Machine (Insomniac Press)

Catherine Owen
Designated Mourner (ECW Press)

Waheed Rabbani
The Rani's Doctor (You write on-Legend Press)

June 1st
MC Chris Pannell

Erin Mouré
Secession/Insession (with Chus Pato, BookThug)

Aisha Sasha John
Thou (BookThug)
Rona Shaffran
Ignite (Signature Editions)
Christian McPherson
Cube Squared (Nightwood Editions)
Christine Miscione
short fiction
Auxilary Skins (Exile Editions)
Joanna Lawson
Perspectives (Serengeti Press)

Monday, January 6, 2014