I’ve been at Sage Hill for almost a week now. There’s a little less than a week to go. Given how intense the experience of being at a writer’s colony is, how often you cycle between elated and flat and fearful states, I’m doing well.
But that’s from the vantage point of a transforming afternoon of second-hand shopping, of tea from Tim Horton’s, of good beer and better company at the Bushwakkers microbrewery. I’m not sure how to describe it, exactly, but it felt as though everything I needed was suddenly…available.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me tell you about the ‘experient’ reading on Thursday.
There are two readings for participants (or experients) and two readings for faculty during the ten days of Sage Hill, and the reading on Thursday was the first of these. I was ambivalent early in the week about reading but eventually signed up for a slot late in the evening.
Given how long the evening could have been, what with a dozen readers of all genres, at all stages in their development, I remain astounded at how very good the work we heard was.
As I’ve mentioned before in this space, I’m not always in control of my nerves during my performances. Sometimes I’m perfectly comfortable and can even tell jokes from the podium. Other times, my face flushes, my neck flushes, and I forget to think about inspiration, both in terms of the energy that informed the work and in terms of breathing at appropriate intervals.
But I made sure to spend several stretches on the very end of St. Michael’s lawn that day, re-acquainting msyelf with the pieces I’d chosen to read. It was very nice to read to the Qu’appelle Valley, at the every end of St. Michael’s lawn, but…it was extraordinary to read to the assembled crowd.
I performed two of my How-To poems, working very hard at using my voice to convey the different tone and rhythm of each section, the humour and the not-humour. And…people rolled in the aisles. I had to wait for them to stop laughing, at times, so I could keep reading.
It was the first time I’d performed these pieces, so I wasn’t sure if people would appreciate the humour.
But walking up to the podium was like wading into a warm pool so I took a deep breath…and began.
Afterwards, people said such extraordinarily nice things, and it was a good moment to, well, be alive.
Of course, you can’t inhabit that space for long. And over the next few days, I struggled with my various doubts and insecurities, with the desire to work and the desire to rest, with my need to be social and my need to withdraw.
And by the time the faculty reading on Friday rolled around, I was in a black mood. The readings, by Jeanette Lynes, Terry Jordan, and Colleen Murphy, were very very good. The trip to the bar down in Lumsden, and the 2 am walk back to St. Michael’s, caught in the fretwork of streets and stars and that preserving breeze, was very very good.
But I was still close to tears all the next morning. All the usual stuff, but, but…you still have to get through it.
Saturday was our day off and a group of us had planned a jaunt into Regina after lunch. Even at lunch, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go, but I’d said I would and so I did.
And it was such a good decision, even just for the realization of what exactly my next project was going to be, which emerged off-handedly in conversation.
A part of me listened, surprised, and a part of me said, “But of course...”
But of course I don’t have any of the books I would have brought if I’d conciously known that in the weeks leading up to SH. But I don’t think that matters. I’m going to see if I can start in the material that doesn’t need the research, that doesn’t need the names and numbers.
Another thing that really worked on me was how very communal it was. We squawked at each other from the aisles, we sniffed and slurped from each other’s glasses (such very good beer!), and everyone was somehow lit up.
(I’ll return to my suffering/curmudgeonly self soon, I swear, but…)
Two more things: the first is that upon my return to SH and a few moments at the Internet’s plentiful tit, I learned that the excellent Gillian Wigmore won the ReLit Award for poetry. And I’m so VERY proud of her…
The other is that, just before I went to sleep, I dipped into Denise Levertov’s Some Notes on Organic Form (1965), which my group will use in our discussion tomorrow about form and improvisation. And it was completely familiar and completely right.