Posted: Thursday November 13, 2014
Last evening in downtown Vancouver, about 80 people gathered to hear seven readings from new works published by Talonbooks: six collections of poetry and one novel. Staff members from Vancouver’s finest downtown indie bookstore, the Paper Hound, manned the book sales table, and the venue, Pyatt Hall (at the Vancouver School of Music), proved to be the perfect location for listening and experiencing poetry read aloud; all was silent but for the clear voices of the readers.
Kevin Williams, publisher, introduces the poets and shows off Peacock Blue: The Collected Poems of Phyllis Webb.
First up were three contemporary poets. ryan fitzpatrick read a few favourites from Fortified Castles ($16.95), including “Cutie Marxism” – which seems to have become a flagship poem from this collection – and one poem dedicated to Steve Collis, a fellow SFU poet who is currently being sued by Kinder Morgan for his part is resisting that corporation’s attempts to develop a pipeline in Burnaby, BC. Read a poem from this collection, if you like, on Meta-Talon.
ryan fitzpatrick reads from Fortified Castles
Sandra Huber reads from Assembling the Morrow
The poised Sandra Huber took to the stage next, having flown in all the way from Berlin. Huber described her experience in residence at a sleep lab, out of which emerged her first collection of poetry, Assembling the Morrow ($24.95). The audience was intrigued by a video which presented a concrete poem in the form of a sleep graph, which in the print book is formatted as a fold-out insert. Huber’s poetic essay and dropped pages established a certain mood.
Sleep and dreams began to take form as a motif throughout the following readings. Brian Henderson read from [OR] ($18.95), prefacing his reading with commentary on recent findings in neuroscience about cognition, consciousness, and our experience of time and memory. He described his poems as coming from that “half second” in the mind between experiencing and knowing.
Brian Henderson reads from [OR]
After an intermission during which the audience enjoyed wine, cheese, and other nibbles, the second half began with the poetry of Phyllis Webb, whose collected poems have now been published in Peacock Blue ($45). Webb, who is elderly and rarely travels, was not in attendance, but the wonderful and mesmerizing Daphne Marlatt read from Peacock Blue. (Stephen Collis was originally going to read Webb, but his involvement in the resistance to Kinder Morgan kept him from appearing. Marlatt noted this, and expressed support for him, which was felt throughout the room.) Marlatt’s reading was animated and joyful, truly channeling the spirit of Webb.
Daphne Marlatt reads from Peacock Blue
The one novel on the evening’s roster was Birth of a Bridge ($16.95) by Maylis de Kerangal, which is the down-and-dirty story of a bridge-building project told from lofty heights and set in a fantastical Californian city. Translator Jessica Moore was in attendance at the launch to read selections from this work, whose rich prose fit in well with the poetry – and Jessica’s dulcet voice and precision certainly didn’t hurt. Read an excerpt from Birth of a Bridge on Meta-Talon. Read Jessica’s thoughts on the translation process on Meta-Talon.
Jessica Moore reads from Birth of a Bridge
Poet and professor Jeff Derksen then introduced the oeuvre of Phinder Dulai, who read many selections from dream / arteries ($19.95), which explores the history of the Komagata Maru and its migrant passengers. This book, with its transparencies and extracts from archival material, also has a ghostly and dreamlike atmosphere, and Dulai’s rendition of it was evocative and meditative.
Phinder Dulai tells the audience about his archival research before reading from dream / arteries
Janet Rogers shows off her latest book, Peace in Duress
Janet Rogers closed the evening with her strong voice and her well-paced spoken word, reading from Peace in Duress ($16.95) and then performing other work. Listen to Rogers performing her poetry on Meta-Talon.
It is a privilege and an honour to publish works of such high calibre and to work with such innovative authors. We thank everyone who attended for coming out despite the chilly weather, and we hope to see you again next time!
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