We had two readings slated for our second day in Edmonton (and the third day on tour) but, first, we had the morning off.
So, after a pathetic attempt at sleeping in, we headed out to see a bit of Edmonton. Kerry had been here a few years ago for the folk festival and remembered that the Whyte Avenue area was nice, full of cafes and shoppes.
Using her unerring sense of direction, we set out in that general direction on foot, passing a park with a bandshell that I wanted to use for rehearsal purposes on the way back (but, alas & alack, we went home a different route...).
We crossed the river and were immediately rewarded with homemade chai from a café with tinkly Indian music and coolers full of takeaway. They even sprinkled ground pistachio on top, which at various points I mistook for bits of tea and reluctantly bit down on. And then was grateful. (Repeat.)
We noodled in and out of stores and I used the washroom in Chapters while Kerry made the clerk look for her book on the shelves.
They didn’t have it but he proudly pointed out not only the lit journals on the magazine rack but also the specific journal that currently had one of his poems.
While we rambled, I could feel my belly begin to clench with pre-reading anticipation. And while our presentation/reading to poet/prof Kath MacLean’s fiction creative writing class was hours away yet, I think I would have been perfectly happy to sit in the hallway outside the room and wait.
I think I even chirped something about wanting to head back early to Kerry, who very practically looked at her watch and said we hadn’t even had lunch yet.
Calmed down and full of (average) Mexican food an hour or so later, I was glad to be heading back over the river to our hotel and then the Centre for the Arts.
Even so, we were early and got to sit in the cafeteria. We both had just enough to souvenir, fine-arts style...I got a hand manikin, specifically of a right male hand, while Kerry got a Margaret Atwood book bag.
And then we headed up to the classroom and, well, began. We spoke for ten minutes each on the writing life and our ‘formative experiences’ as young writers, then we read for ten minutes each, and then we took questions.
I think I bantered better this time around, mostly because I had to explain what aspects of pregnancy I was referencing in the poems I was reading, given that most of the attendees ostensibly hadn’t been knocked up yet. Which caused me to joke at one particularly graphic point that my classroom visit had been co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood.
We got laughs, sincere-ish applause, and a respectable crop of questions.
And then Kath MacLean, who was I fortunate enough to meet at Sage Hill (note her frightening/stupendous keychain in her office door...) whisked us off to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. It was probably the first satisfying meal of the tour, which is probably what made us lose track of time.
I was stuffing curry chicken soup into my pie hole when Kerry noted that it was 6:45. And our reading was to start at 7:00.
Granted, we were very close to the library where the reading was to take place, but EEP!
So Kath and her husband Tim put down their chopsticks and we followed their yellow bug to the entrance to the library parking lot. We were about to enter the lot when we saw waving hands from their car.
So we screeched to a halt in the middle of the street, switched on the hazards, and haphazardly pulled a copy of each of our books from the trunk. Kath put a wad of money in my hand, hugged me, and wished us well.
And then they were gone. We ran from our car, laden with books and t-shirts and full bellies, and attempted to find the space where we’d be reading. (EEP!)
Luckily, the woman from the library was forebearing and gave us five minutes to set up a display of our books before starting.
As you can see from the pic of Kerry’s reading, we didn’t have a full room, but we had a very attentive small room and I was so happy to be reading and re-reading the poems and inhabiting them in this new way that I enjoyed myself immensely.
One interesting thing that we did was to each read one of each other’s poems. I read Kerry’s all day, which is short but oh so intimate and something I wish I had written. She read Eight months: the square dance, which she very self-deprecatingly said was a good poem for her to read because she could pronounce all the words...
After the reading, I was approached by a latecomer to the event, who commanded that I read him one or two more, right then. So I did and we talked poetry and he was so excited at times that he shuffled his feet on the slick library tiles and then he bought a copy of the chapbook and I told him it was an honour that he bought one and, you know, it was.
Once he’d shuffled off, Kerry and I went for tea with Shawna Lemay and Marita Dachsel, who were kind enough to come out to the reading despite the wet night and their busy lives and the John Ralston Saul event across town.
And I had a perfectly acceptable cup of tea from the on-site Second Cup as we talked poetry, all the good things and all the bad things, and it was it was a very good end to a very full day.
Needless to say, we almost immediately collapsed into bed once we returned to the hotel.
But the tour is officially half over...
* * *
Edmonton McEwan classroom presentation/reading set list:
Two months: moving day
Three months: morning sickness
Six months: in the bath
Seven months: the navel gaze
Edmonton library reading set list:
Seven months: ultrasound introductions
Eight months: the peanut gallery (solo this time…)
Eight months: the eldest, after…
Eight months: the gathering
+ all day by Kerry Ryan (as read by Ariel Gordon)
+ Eight months: the square dance (as read by Kerry Ryan)
* * *
Books sold: 4
Books left: 14