It's been a few months since we last spoke. I'm Evan, in case you forgot, and I'm very pleased to be back as managing editor for the Atlantic Canadian Poets' Archive.
I've spoken before about the field aspect of this job; sometimes I have to get up from my desk, unplug my laptop, and venture out into Fredericton. I've taken pictures, tested the Poetic Places Fredericton app, and occasionally sat in on readings. About three weeks ago I was given the opportunity to watch another performance. I didn't have to travel far this time, either -- just across the courtyard from James Dunn Hall to Edmund Casey Hall at St. Thomas University. My last assignment was the Wolastoqiyik Sisters in Spirit Poetry Slam.
Don't let the name fool you, this wasn't just a poetry reading. This slam, the third annual, was a multi-genre primer in grief. It was an evening packed with music, ranging from traditional to contemporary; short films spanning from spiritual-metaphorical, to revenge, to hope for the future; and of course, poetry at its most. In full, about four hours of soul.
From long-time writers and first time readers, every poet pored truth into power that night. Some spoke to loved ones who've been absent for a while. Others weaved a thread between the brink and back again from addiction to violence and other traumas. Some lingered on not what had happened, but what could happen -- what they might suffer some day. They called on the divine and the government and the men who hold places to start helping them. After all, this was a declaration against the forces which enabled the disappearance and murder of thousands of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited people.
But as much as this was a night for grieving, it was also a night for hope. The show was book-ended with selections from the documentary The Spirit of Annie Mae, piecing together a particularly brutal killing in the 1970s. Its producer, Catherine Anne Martin, provided a brief epilogue detailing recent developments in that case. She used her time on stage to thank the poets and performers who gave voice to the missing and murdered: "I heard their voices in all of your work."
Poem: "dumpster kitten"
the scooby-doo cake melts into the kitchen
table & my pj bottoms. he took the unstruck, thumbing sourpuss--
bites back & knocks back; outside a helicopter, the tv an
amber alert, the garbage bags of filler-teeth— i look, he coos:
— he won’t be at his morning shift, i won’t be in bed
on time. hide-&-seeking--
kitty, kitty, kitty
mummy showers off coca-cola, mouths at
my nape & the baby hairs there. all fours, i mother the dustpan greys,
the stranded strays of a birthday present, & wait for the moans & claws
at a glass door
his waving to be let in
Hi, here's a little project I've been working on for the blog. I wanted to pay tribute and draw attention to the emerging artists coming from St. Thomas University's creative writing program. It took some planning, a whole new computer, plus an old friend who had a decent microphone we purchased when we were younger, but I'm happy to finally debut this.
The Atlantic Canadian Poets' Archive presents: Ramble Scramble, a limited series podcast produced for Wording Around. My guest this week is Sara Nason, winner of the 2018 Casto Prize for Poetry.
I'm going to have Sara back for a more relaxed conversation with some other people in a few weeks, so please leave a comment either here or on YouTube.if you have anything you'd like to ask.
You can read Sara's poem "hiraeth" right below this video.
Life is a circle, weaved
around fragments of her voice.
I keep entering an empty room;
drawn to the memory of her voice.
“Ghazal For Her Voice,” JP Howard
i hear her voice in just echo’s now,
tiny taps on a birdfeeder reverberations –
or in coughs late at night. except when i find crows
looming on the couch dancing in dew,
no shoes, never crochet or prick blood
thin thread cleaved, from flowers in bloom.
just two rods; dirt sticks between
two snakes. her craters in my fingers,
life is a circle, weaved. i keep entering an empty room.
cooking in vanilla- the still air tastes
splattered apron, no sash. of gingersnap cookies:
whistling with chickadees, burnt.
careful of barefeet i grasp at crumbs,
on sawdust floor. follow the oblivion path.
no choice ears filled with feathers,
to mid-morning movement. steps tilted downward –
the squirrels scatter shaking, shivering,
around fragments of her voice. drawn to the memory of her voice.
Part of this editing gig is taking pictures. While I could grab something from the internet, we don't need to ask permission to use our own photos. This gives me an excuse to get up from my computer and go for a walk -- and man, it's a hot one, a good time to be walking. There's only one problem: I'm not a photographer. All I have is my phone, the three-by-three grid on the camera display, and a vague understanding of something called the rule of thirds. Oh yeah, and my music. Can't go for a walk without a soundtrack.
One of the things I've been working on is the Poetic Places Fredericton app. A poem by Kathy Mac about the Bill Thorpe Bridge is going live soon, so we needed pictures of the bridge. The photos needed to be a wide shot and two close-ups, but those were the only directions I had. I might not know much about photography, but I think I know a little about writing.
So I get down there, find a good spot on the walking trail, and take this picture:
Alright, good start, a nice wide boy of a long boy. Now the obvious close-up is this next one:
So what we have here is probably the right answer: wide shot of the bridge, close-up of the memorial. Seems like an open-and-shut case.
Well, yeah, but it's boring, and obvious, and a little too much like what the tourism board would want. And we're not Fredericton Tourism, we're a Poets' Archive, man! That's a story for Heritage Minutes!
So I keep walking, looking for basically anything that isn't this plaque, and I notice for the first time that the trail doesn't just go up onto the bridge access, but downwards. I find this:
This homely nook under the bridge is exactly what I'm looking for. In that little ridge between the bridge and the support is an abandoned red gym bag. There's a trash can for cigarettes on the ground from the city. The view is much less romantic from behind those trees. It's moist. It's a mess. It's perfect.
I have a tendency to ignore good advice. Or rather, I don't like the obvious answers. I've done the creative writing program here at STU, and I've gotten a lot of good advice, but I've also ignored a lot of it. Not because my peers are wrong, but I already thought of a lot of their feedback. I don't think I'm better than that advice, especially since that stuff would probably make my writing better. But I don't know, man, wouldn't you rather be Ed Wood than Paul Greengrass? Wouldn't you rather make Plan 9 from Outer Space than Captain Phillips? I'd rather do something nobody else thought to do or actively chose not to do rather than just make something correctly.
I'd rather everybody see this monument:
Now that's ambition!
Evan James Kitts Mersereau
(P.S., the soundtrack to this excursion was Secret of Mana: Resonance of the Pure Land, a free triple-album from OverClocked ReMix. Dad wouldn't have much to say about that.)
Looking for literary fun this fall? Look no further. Here are three literary festivals taking place across Atlantic Canada this September:
Word on the Street Festival
Saturday, September 16th, 2017
The Word on the Street Festival is described as a “literary theme park”, bringing together authors, publishers, booksellers, aspiring writers, and readers “to increase awareness of the importance of reading and writing skills, in addition to encouraging discussion on the value of literature and literacy”. The festival showcases the work of both emerging and established writers.
Attendees are encouraged to attend author presentations, as well as meet with publishers and booksellers. It is free to attend, though their website advises you to bring a bit of money should one (or several) books in the marketplace catch your eye.
You can find out more here.
September 18th – 24th, 2017
A week long literary festival taking place in venues across the city. The festival will include readings, a lecture by Rebecca Rosenblum, and various workshops on poetry, fiction, memoir, and graphic novel writing. The festival features writers from all over Canada, including many New Brunswick authors.
You can find out more here.
Fog Lit Festival
September 27th – October 1st, 2017
Saint John, NB
“The Fog Lit Festival is a not-for-profit festival for readers and writers of all ages.” The festival hosts many events, including panel discussions, readings, and workshops. This year’s events include a poetry slam, a teen coffeehouse where teens can share their writing, and a “Novel Tea”.
You can find out more here.
Until next time,
a.k.a. the girl who is excited for fall weather (cozy sweaters and warm socks, here I come!)