notes on a northern reading tour
November 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
- Fort St. John. Saturday morning, 3 October. I meet a unicyclist who works in the hotel. She tells me about the Northern Lights and gives me directions to the outskirts of town where there are hiking trails (go straight down 100th avenue), and also to a shop called Head Space that sells pot paraphernalia, and some good books too (straight down 100th avenue, turn right at 100th street). I mention I ride a road bike. “You should try a unicycle! You have a good one girl.” I walk down 100th avenue to the edge of town where it meets up with the Alaska Highway. The town is laid out on a grid, scoured and cold. Heavy machinery and pickup trucks.
- There’s an Oilmens meeting at the Lido.
- There’s a poetry workshop in the library. Jane and I read from our poetry collections and then we talk with the seminar participants about the language of dreams, and form. The poets Greg Lainsbury and Kara Macdonald from Northern Lights College are great hosts.
- Greg’s collection Versions of North offers a complex psycho-social-intellectual collagist mapping of the Peace. I read it later, on the Greyhound from Dawson Creek to Prince George.
- Stands of poplars on the drive to Dawson Creek. Something about the sunlight and speed, they flicker like super-8 film.
- Saturday night. The poet Donna Kane has kindly arranged a reading at the Diamond Willow Retreat. Singer-songwriters have been meeting over the years to have a communal dinner and listen to music. Tonight it will be Barb Munro. They are welcoming. Tonight it’s biscuits and meatball soup in a crock. There’s a standing heater, and blankets passed around. Blue fingers and toes. It snowed the day before and there are still traces on the ground.
- Sunday morning, 4 October. Dawson Creek. I’m walking along 8th street towards the Alaska Highway. The town is deserted at this time. I happen across a road crew putting up new banners on the lampposts. One of the workers, all bundled up in layers against the cold, says to me, “so are you here to read another poem?” It’s Bea, a woman I sat next to at the dinner last night. We chat for a bit and she gives me directions into town. Also empty, everything closed. Even the shopfront for the Planetary Peace Commission. My throat’s sore; I’m getting a cold.
- In Prince George we read in Rob Budde’s creative writing class at UNBC. The students ask questions about my alphabet poem, “Nothing is lost,” modelled on Psalm 119: 8-line stanzas, one stanza for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. I pass around a scan from the manuscript. They seem interested that I didn’t write the poem straight through, but more like a crossword puzzle, filling in lines, working on one letter here or there, then another. Jane’s techniques by contrast seem more intuitive, steeped in the imagery of dreams.
- At the Cafe Voltaire, Jane reads from her beautiful “Darkling” sequence which begins, “This is what I remember of life:/the glans of a penis, smooth as an acorn,//split like a cat’s eye with a vertical pupil./Weeping pearly tears.” (Here’s an audio recording of some of the poems from this sequence: “Jane Munro reads “Darkling” (1,2,12) from Blue Sonoma.”) We meet the poet Al Rempel (This Isn’t the Apocalypse We Hoped For–he has some interesting video-poems recorded from this collection). He has come from a staff meeting at the high school where he teaches.
- I’ll wake at four in the morning to catch an early plane home to Vancouver. There’s a kind of loneliness to travel like this, but also freedom.