Telephone: 604 444-4889
Outside Vancouver: 1 888 445-4176
Fax: 604 444-4119
by Daniel Zomparelli
Colin Browne and I set off to Alberta a couple months back to meet up with Weyman Chan to launch our new poetry collections. I was a bit nervous, as I had never read outside of Vancouver. I was born and raised in Vancouver, so any launches there wasn’t much of a concern because more than likely my contingent of non-poet friends would be there, cheering loudly from the back, having no clue what I was talking about.
The tour started off with a delightful conversation with a young man on the flight to Edmonton. If there is one thing I can do, it’s make random friends when placed in tight quarters and floating miles above the earth:
“I saw you reading an essay.”
“It’s about a poet George Bowering.”
“So you like poetry?”
“Yeah, I’m actually on a book tour for my first poetry collection.”
“Wow. Have you ever read the Book of Mormon? Because not only is it a great read because it’s religious, but it is also very poetic.”
“I haven’t, but I will check it out. Here, take this copy of Matrix Magazine. It has this story about when my friend dated a convict.”
Entering Edmonton was an awkward experience for me. Mostly because flat lands freak me out. We read that evening at Audrey’s Books, but not before placing a few beers down my throat. We drank at a lounge that had a giant library of books, and I was happy to find OJ Simpson’s book on the shelf. It reminded me that, no matter how poorly I do at a reading, at least I’m not OJ Simpson.
I started the reading off with poems from Davie Street Translations, followed by Weyman Chan and then Colin Browne, and as per usual Colin charmed the pants off of the listeners. I spent the entire trip listening in awe at his intelligence. His book The Properties is essentially Colin Browne wrapped into a collection of poems. The book floats around from the historical to the lyrical and blurs the line between the two. Sometimes playful, sometimes anxiety inducing, but always thoughtful. His book is like spending an evening with Colin Browne’s brain. It does one of my favourite things about poetry: has me thinking, “what the fuck am I doing?” that quickly turns into “what the fuck are we doing?”
I is for Invisible.
War, she discovers,
is a collaboration
for the perpetuation
transfer of wealth
and the indefinite
deferral of justice.
The next day we drove through Edmonton to Calgary. I sat in the back spending the ride counting the cows and drooling on myself during naps. When we arrived, Colin and I went off on a quick tour of the city. Colin and I discussed the current state of poetry in Vancouver, and where it will go. The conversations quickly became about collaboration. To summarize our random rant over lattes: “our generation’s creative types are all about curating and collaboration.”
If there is anything that I took from Calgary outside of the book launch, it was that they have bacon as an appetizer. (Also Calgary now has Jason Christie and Nikki Reimer, but I have plans to steal them back to Vancouver). I’m not sure what that says about Calgary, or about me, getting too excited about bacon.
Thanks to Weyman’s popularity, the Calgary launch at Pages Kensington was filled with supportive and engaged listeners. I’ve never heard so many nice things said about a person since I met Weyman. I’ve also never been to a book launch that had free wine. It was just missing some bacon 1.
Weyman’s poem about Robert Kroetsch—from his most recent book Chinese Blue—filled the room with delight and fond memories. His book Chinese Blue plays with lyrical in all of my favourite ways. It bounces and slips through language leaving you with the musical quality of song, but balances that with sharp lines that stay in focus long past the book is out of sight. While reading his book, I kept flashing back to a conversation we had in the car on the drive to Calgary. Weyman was explaining his background in science, and I admitted my jealousy of his career (and I’m paraphrasing myself):
”Because the work in science is interesting, and the language is weird and musical. It seeps into your poetry. I got my degree in literature. The only thing that seeps into my poetry is a lack of benefits and mediocre wages.”
an amoeba turns cannibal
just before it divides asexually
such photoplasmic hunger
on autonomic kill
dwells behind worlds unseen
transistor and nano-ninjas
wall the small of my back
before my eyes are opened
to a breeze of fresh flags won
On the flight back, I was saddened by not seeing my friend who recommended the Book of Mormon. I had two more books to suggest to him, and wanted to ask him if he knew that they served bacon as an appetizer in Calgary.
Seriously, bacon … as an appetizer.
1 I don’t actually like bacon that much.