|l-r: Cynara being saucy, me explaining HTPFF's Coil-O binding, the lovely crowd.|
So I was half-dead by the time the reading rolled around but found it wonderfully invigorating in the moment.
I first spoke to poet/publisher Peter Midgley the day after Robert Kroetsch died.
U of A Press, for whom Midgley is acquisitions editor, had just published what would now be Kroetsch's last collection, and my UMPish colleague had phoned UAP to offer her condolences.
Peter asked to speak to me. I don't remember quite what he said, but he spoke to me as a poet, not as a acquisitions editor, and it was both immensely affirming and also comforting, given the terrible occasion of our conversation.
And so, several months later, I was very pleased to accept Peter's invitation to read with him. I wanted to make sure I could deliver a good-sized audience, so I lined up a bevy of poets to support him, including former Winnipegger (like there's such a thing) Cynara Geissler and poet/publisher Sharon Caseburg.
We had dinner before the reading, which is always almost as pleasurable as the reading itself, and then proceeded to McNally's travel alcove.
And the crowd was such that they were forced to add more chairs, which falls in the category of 'nice problems.' I went first and read one poem from How to Prepare for Flooding and some more how-to poems, specifically from my recent collaboration with writer/visual artist DJ Berger.
Specifically, I read a poem called "How to Tell if Someone is Dead" that makes me intensely nervous. It was written after the deaths of Kroetch and Michael Van Rooy last year. And I'm glad to have written it and I think it does what it needs to do...but there's a difference between writing a ha-ha poem about ripping a phone book in half and trying to get at the awkwardness of sudden death.
But I read it and even pointed out Michael's portrait on the wall opposite McNally's travel alcove.
I had another one for Michael in the sheaf of poems I brought with me to the reading, but decided against reading it as it wasn't yet where it needed to be. I couldn't look into Michael's larger-than-life eyes and read something that wasn't just right...
So...thanks to Peter and Sharon and Cynara for agreeing to read with me. Thanks to McNally's too for being so dreamy to work with. (Though I must say, the events coordinator John has developed a series of nicknames for me that give lie to his polite demeanour...)
And thanks, as always, to everyone who came out!
p.s. If you're a Winnipegger and you missed getting a copy of my How to Prepare for Flooding at any of last fall's launches, McNally now has four Coil-O bound copies in stock.