Monday, April 11, 2011

AN EMPTY CHAIR: NATIONAL POETRY MONTH IN CASTLEGAR

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As I'm writing this, my next door neighbour has a large grader of some sort (bad on technical names of trucks) going up and down the driveway. Neighbour has every right to do so. I suspect a paving job of some sort may be in the works. Good for Neighbour. But every time the machine comes down to this end of the road the house shakes to its very foundations. The horse nearby doesn't like it. He's been whinnying loudly and thundering around his yard. I don't like it. I don't like things that can shake the earth, and lately there's been so much of that. War in Libya. Uprisings all over the Middle East and Africa. Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and Japan. Tsunamis. I could go on, but back to my point, the noise is making me feel quite nervous, and as I already suggested, there's no need, and I don't like the feeling. What must it be like when such a machine continues on through your old cedar fence and through your yard, eventually smashing your house down? How long is Canada going to be fortunate enough to not have to worry about such things happening here? Meanwhile, three or four carriers of sirens have just gone up the highway on the mountain behind our house. Someone's lives have just had some changes thrown at them. But these are not sirens of war or aggression. What must that be like? 


I've been mulling over such things after attending No Words Barred last Friday, a celebration by second year creative writing students in  Almeda Glenn Miller's Studies in Writing Program at Selkirk CollegeIranian-Canadian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, was present in the form of a photograph. I first heard of Hossein when George Stroumboulopoulos interviewed him on The Hour in 2006. You can watch the interview here. Hossein was wearing a T-shirt that said "I Heart Tehran" which is more than ironic given that he was arrested in that city November 1, 2008 and sentenced within the month to 19.5 years in prison  for reasons that are not completely clear.

Proceeds from the evening went to PEN Canada. There was an empty chair at each table with a picture of Hossein attached to it, and a minute of silence was observed on his behalf. During that minute I thought about my own blog, how in my last post I went off on Conservative Party policy but was still able to go to bed that night and not worry about someone pounding on my door because of what I wrote. I can't begin to imagine what that would be like, yet I know it is a reality for many people with whom I share this planet. 

Each table had its own student serving up menu choices of both words and food, one for the main course and one for dessert. The students had constructed their own little books  or chapbooks and donated copies for the PEN Canada fundraiser. 

Here's a look at some of the lovely books (with lots of variations of Coptic and Japanese stab binding), with some of the students in the background. 




Almeda, looking like a proud mom. She has every reason to be.



Our table: main course.


 And dessert.

Several local writers were there. That's Anne DeGrace, raising a glass of white, and Jenny Craig with the red. Rita Moir is on Anne's right and Antonia Banyard is beside her.


Readings were presented throughout the evening. Not too long, and not too many. I left wanting more, bought three of the chapbooks and had finished them all by Sunday. Riveting stuff! 


 Bill Metcalfe was there with the microphone that has become an extension of his hand, getting sound bites for a forthcoming CBC Radio show.

Here's another look at the book table





Terry listening to Almeda read some love poems. It was their 23rd anniversary. 

Not only were we treated to students reading, three of them managed to get us all singing!



Hossein Derakhshan, whose presence was felt, if not seen. Hopefully somehow, someday, he'll be free again and able to sit at one of these tables himself

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Finally, the League of Canadian Poets has a blog running for National Poetry Month featuring poems by several of its members on the theme of "nurturing". Mine, called Ritual, is here, or you can just go to the blog's homepage and wander about at will. On behalf of poets everywhere, I hope you will!
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1 comment:

Bill said...

This was such a great evening. Thanks for writing it up Linda, and for the lovely photos.