news | Wednesday April 22, 2015

A Packed House for Phyllis Webb on Saltspring Island

Phyllis Webb reads from Peacock Blue, April 15, 2015. Photo by Lorraine Gane

On Wednesday evening last week, April 15, Saltspring Island locals Phyllis Webb and Brian Brett read poetry together for the first time in more than ten years at the Salt Spring Island Public Library in British Columbia. Today, we share the photos!

Both poets read from their collected works, Webb from her recently published collection, Peacock Blue: The Collected Poems, choosing the poems “Spots of Blood” and “The Metaphysics of Spring.” Diana Hayes read the opening poems from Webb’s book, Wilson’s Bowl (which is collected in Peacock Blue), as well as the poem “The Birds.” Local poet Lorraine Gane read Webb’s poem “In This Place.”

Webb received a standing ovation from a packed house – more than 60 people attended this small event. Everyone, including Phyllis, enjoyed the event, and every copy of Peacock Blue available was sold out before all who wanted one had the chance to buy one!

Phyllis Webb, treasure of Canadian literature, reads from Peacock Blue. Photo by Lorraine Gane

Blogger J. Rowlandson expressed the joy and lyricism of the event in fine words (read them here), writing that

The strength of [Webb’s] voice lifts us out of our chairs and onto a beach. Webb … is intimately familiar with the eccentric and predictable comings and goings of this little community. They share the stage with her.

“Four swans in Fulford Harbour …” In a miracle of movement her words locate a creative, resilient space between wind and wing that resists being named as either. “Uprush of inspiration brush past the broken shell of my ear.” Indeed.

Phyllis Webb signs copies of Peacock Blue for attendees. Photo by Lorraine Gane

This reading was one of many events in a campaign called Read Local BC, a project to celebrate the extraordinary depth of BC publishing. Running from April 1–22, the campaign features publishers, authors, bookstores, and libraries from across the province.

Peacock Blue is available in hardcover for $45. The paperback edition will be available in Fall 2015.

Finally, a poem. Lorraine Gane has written one in honour of Webb. In Gane’s words, “As Phyllis said in Hanging Fire, ‘The proper response to a poem is another poem,’ so this is what came in response to the event last week.” We thank Gane for sharing the poem with us – and with you.

for Phyllis Webb

A tattoo of lights lifts our eyes
to the black door of night
then you say O the stars,
as we step slowly to the car.
Earlier, your poems
held rapt a roomful of
listeners with spirits chittering
at fog-flyers up on Mt. Maxwell,
the silent beauty of a bowl
not a loving cup you drink from,
the space between brushing wings
of four swans in Fulford Harbour—
this night yours under
the infinite crossings of stars

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