Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Call/response in Van

So I've been chatting with Bren Simmers and Anna Swanson for years, separately and together.

Our conversation started back in 2003 at Sage Hill, where I met Bren Simmers (and, also, Brenda Schmidt). We were both young ambitious poets. And that was about all you could say about us.

I met Anna Swanson (and, also, Gilly Wigmore) at the Banff Center a few years later.

We were the youngest poets in the Wired Writing Studio program that fall. And we gravitated towards each other other because of that, but, also, because we recognized each other.

Bren and Anna knew each other from BC's community of young queer poets. And they'd both spent time at firetowers in Alberta, writing and watching for smoke.

And we all happened to publish our first books in 2010. But we'd never been in the same room together, Anna, Bren and I.

Coming to Vancouver for a few days between my conference in Victoria and my conference in Saskatoon just felt right. I hadn't been to Van in years. And what better excuse to coerce your kind peers, your whipsmart sympathetic community, to read with you than a new chapbook?

We decided to do a call & response, reading-in-the-round kind of thing. Which meant a somewhat elaborate structure, where we introduced each other and then read poems one after another, poems that responded to the previous poem in some way.

But it was so refreshing to move between poems, to find and follow the link between that poem and this poem, to listen in this slightly different way. (And one of Anna's poems made me tear up, which is always surprising and wonderful and also slightly offensive...I'm in control of what/who makes me cry, aren't I?)

After we'd gotten through the bits we'd planned, we got a bit theatre-sports-y, and asked the crowd to shout out themes/keywords/ideas. The idea was to pluck something out of the air and read a poem. And nothing was calling to me, so I read a poem that had been cut from How to Make a Collage for space considerations.

It's called "How to Keep a Relationship Fresh" but my private name for it is "the toenail poem." And it's the latest of the insulting love poems I've written to M. And both Anna and Bren had wanted me to read it when we were doing our scheming. So I did it.

Thanks to Bren and Anna for all their various hospitalities over the years, but, also, for their kindnesses this particular weekend.

(And thanks to Anna's mum, who wielded Anna's iPhone during the reading, for these pics...)

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