Tuesday, September 22, 2009

THIN AIR 2009

Hey all,

We're blogging again this year, over at thinair2009.blogspot.com.

Come visit!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hands on: Jane Munro



Jane Munro with the ring she won as part of the prize for Prairie Fire's Bliss Carman Poetry Prize.

(Yah, I know it's blurry. You try taking a good pic of someone's hand in uncertain light with a cellphone!)



Jane Munro with a motley assemblage of PF board/staff (Perry changed hats just prior to the taking of this photo...he's the chair of PF's board when not GM-ing for THIN AIR).

* * *

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg-based writer and editor. Her poetry has recently appeared in PRISM International, The Fieldstone Review, and Prairie Fire. In addition to being Events Coordinator at Aqua Books, Ariel also contributes to the Winnipeg Free Press' Books Section and Prairie books NOW.

A hand-made, limited-edition chapbook of Ariel's poetry, entitled The navel gaze (with Kingsville, ON's Palimpsest Press), was launched Oct. 1 at Aqua Books.

what a MAINSTAGE looks like

The point of this blog is to give people a sense of THIN AIR, and, sometimes, a behind-the-scenes glimpse that even festival attendees with their cash on the barrelhead don't get to see...

I think this video does a bit of both. But then, I'm biased.

video

Just for the record, this is the very end of the Saturday night Mainstage, namely the Poetry Bash, namely the last Mainstage of 2008.

* * *

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg-based writer and editor. Her poetry has recently appeared in PRISM International, The Fieldstone Review, and Prairie Fire. In addition to being Events Coordinator at Aqua Books, Ariel also contributes to the Winnipeg Free Press' Books Section and Prairie books NOW.

A hand-made, limited-edition chapbook of Ariel's poetry, entitled The navel gaze (with Kingsville, ON's Palimpsest Press), was launched Oct. 1 at Aqua Books.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Video: JonArno Lawson

Here's the first of the last of HOT AIR material I collected over the course of the festival.

I know, I know, it's a bit late. But I had to launch a book this week!

As you can tell from the tittering, people were quite delighted with Lawson, who seemed surprised, muttering about how "no one ever had him read."

video

He proceeded to give a rapid-fire career retrospective of his five books of poetry for children and adults.

Good stuff, even a week or so later.

More to come, dear HOT AIR devotees...

* * *

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg-based writer and editor. Her poetry has recently appeared in PRISM International, The Fieldstone Review, and Prairie Fire. In addition to being Events Coordinator at Aqua Books, Ariel also contributes to the Winnipeg Free Press' Books Section and Prairie books NOW.

A hand-made, limited-edition chapbook of Ariel's poetry, entitled The navel gaze (with Kingsville, ON's Palimpsest Press), was launched Oct. 1 at Aqua Books.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bloat

Hey all,

As you may have noticed, THIN AIR is over.

That doesn't mean that HOT AIR is also over-and-done. Unlike festival staff, who are even now re-acquainting themselves with beds all over the city, we here at HOT AIR still got a couple of videos, a end-of-fest slideshow, and some summarizing comments yet to make...

The only thing is that the rest of our lives have taken over, now that we no longer have the excuse of the ACTUAL festival and ACTUAL events.

I hope to post my gak by end of week. But, then, I said that last year.

Still, there's enough here to bloat even the most highly-interested voyeur or a herd of the most avid literati.

So, digest a bit, leave comments, and come back regularly to see what bright, shiny new content appears.

Thanks, all!

Monday, September 29, 2008

And So, We Come to the End

Does anyone else get an odd feeling that something’s not quite right when they leave a movie theatre when it’s still light outside? Perhaps it’s because while you’re in the theatre you inhabited a different world for a while and when you get back outside in the daylight you see that it’s the same old place you left a couple of hours ago. If that’s the case then no wonder I was so disoriented upon leaving Moving Stories Films; I had just visited 13 different worlds in one afternoon.

Perhaps “different worlds” isn’t quite the right way to describe the diversity of the films. They were more like a variety of different dishes, all with different ingredients, methods of preparation and presentation. Yes, dishes is a more appropriate term. These little short films were just perfect wee morsels of delicious story. Watching the films sort of felt like being at a buffet where you nibble away at this and that and then realize later that you’ve actually had quite a lot to eat. Unlike a buffet though, where if you fill up on too many diverse substances, your stomach may rebel, the components of this buffet complemented each other very nicely. “No Bikini,” “The Perfection of the Moment,” and “Nagasaki Circus” were particularly memorable and tasty.

And this was the perfect end to a perfect festival. Such amazing and inspiring talent came through our fair city this week, and I learned so much, that I have absolutely no excuses to not write and I can’t wait find out who’s coming next year.

Thanks for reading!

* * *

Emma Hill Kepron is a librarian at the University of Manitoba.

She is also an aspiring poet.

Her writing takes place in a small blue house near the river, which she shares with her husband and her dog.

The missing post

Jay,

Please don’t read this. Send it directly to Ariel after your Saturday post appears. It would be a big help if you could. Thanks.

Your Friend, Jay
(Ed. Note : followed by three blank pages)

Well guys, it looks like the end is near. I just spent the last hour in the very same room I saw George Elliot Clarke and all I feel is warm fuzzies. No resentment, no hatred. Just a warm fuzzy feeling towards the young writers of Juice magazine getting their starts in the very same place I got mine. The drugs are taking over.

From this point forward please don’t believe anything I write. Especially Saturday.
Saturday is the Poetry Bash. I have two weaknesses in this world; poetry and room temperature cheese. The Poetry Bash will have both. The drugs will take over between a clever line and the gouda. I’m sorry I couldn’t be stronger. You need to be.

While listening to those young writers I saw the most tragic part of the festival’s tyranny. It’s the kids. You have to keep fighting for the children. Today I had to watch these poor kids believe the festivals biggest lie; that being a writer is a good thing. That this kind of life is something to strive for, but it isn’t.

The pay sucks and the hours are long. You never get to sleep. You have to try and say something that hasn’t been said before, better. Have you ever tried that? Do you know how many things have been said perfectly by this point in our history? A hell of a lot. The whole point of your job as a writer is to do the near impossible. If you don’t, you have to work in a warehouse. And don’t think warehouses are cool just because they have forklifts. They’re usually cold and crass. You wouldn’t like it if you were heading there having previously wanted to be a poet. Trust me. And you know what the worst part is, the worst part is how everybody thinks you’re lazy. I’m thinking for crying out loud. Do you think things think themselves into existence? Ha!! Overall, being a writer is pretty brutal life’s work (however, if you marry someone with a good job you can take care of the kids and write for quite a while before anyone gets really pissed off).

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I can barely think straight. I think this is the end.

As my last act of defiance I’m going to hide this from myself. I want this post to appear after the Saturday night column. This way the last you hear from me will not be the festival’s propaganda, but instead, a message of solidarity and resilience against this Evil Empire. Stay fast my friends and let your unity buoy you. Together you can defeat them. And always remember, that somewhere, behind my glazed eyes, I applaud you.

J

* * *

Jason Diaz is a Winnipeg-based writer and bookstore employee. His poems and prose have been previously published in dark leisure magazine. He was interviewed for the Uniter once and is probably the only blogger here licensed to drive forklift. He doesn’t have any books coming out, but would most likely write one if asked.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Some not-so-incriminating photos



Stefan Aarino and Margaret Eve Mackinnon canoodling. Margaret Eve is another of my creative writing classmates, she is also the daughter of Margaret Shaw-Mackinnon. Stefan used to work at UMFM; he the one who suggested I apply for a radio show.



A Sears glamour shot of Tricia.



Jenny Yee and Kristel Jax, catching up. Thin Air: reuniting old friends. Jenny writes short fiction, Kristel writes online zines.



"Hey Adam Koreker, how's the novella you're writing for your M.A. thesis going?"
"Good!"



Stefan hoarding the gouda. The first time I met Stefan, he was talking about the "post-modern" paper he handed in for his Chaucer class. It was several blank pages, followed by a bibliography.



Sitting in the splash zone during JonArno.



The Thin Air crew: small, but powerful.



The infamous Loud Chair.



Adris Taskans and blogger-in-chief, Ariel.



Oh, cheese table. I think I'm going to miss you most of all.



Tricia got me back for posting those unflattering pictures of her, by taking this horrendous one of me and Mr. Mierau. No, he hasn't read my post yet.

* * *

Ashley Sy is a Winnipeg born and bred freelance writer specializing in arts, music, and culture. She has written for Stylus, The Manitoban, and MyWinnipeg.com, and has begun copywriting for the Regina-based firm Benchmark PR. Currently, Ashley is working on getting her short fiction published—she fully embraces the classification of emerging writer. You can hear Ashley every Saturday night on 101.5 UMFM, on her pop-punk nostalgia show, Parking Lot Rock.

Walking to the Poetry Bash or Confessions of a Kid from St. James

My relationship with poetry is a reluctant one, like there is something echoing through me saying, don't waste your time on this. I don't know why this is, or where it comes from. But it's there and I struggle with it.

Growing up, poetry was not a part of my life. Hockey, basketball and video games, snowboarding, drinking and girls: this was high school and a good chunk of university. It's not that I don't think poetry isn't compatible with these things, it just wasn't in the mix. It wasn't even a thought.

Last night, on my way to the Forks for the last night of the Writers' Festival, walking down McMillan and Wellington, through the Village, over the Osborne Bridge and then East on the River Walk, I decided that tonight, at the Mainstage Poetry Bash, I would try to figure out what poetry has come to mean to me.

As far as what poetry is, I'm not sure. Last night, Charlene Diehl put it well when she said there really isn't much point in trying to define what poetry is. Whether you think it's just playing around with the way words bounce off each other, or it's just writing with forms, like sonnets and villanelles, or if it's about images and metaphors, chances are that sooner or later you'll come across a writer that shatters your expectations and understandings of what a poem is or should be. Besides, I find myself more interested in how poems come about and why.

Roo Borson, as I wrote in a post below, mentioned that she collects images and thoughts and conversions wherever and whenever she can, scribbling them on whatever scrap of paper she can find, keeping them for later. I thought I might try this as I walked to the Forks, to see what came of it and to see if it helped me to understand why I have come to like poetry. Here are some things that I wrote:
• The railing that runs the length of the Osborne Street bridge is a little wider than my hand, fingers spread. Last week I watched a man walk this railing like it was a tightrope. There was a slight wind and he would wobble when it blew, throwing his arms out for balance. Cars slowed as they passed. I worried that he would fall, knowing I'd be helpless to save him.

• An old man shuffles his walker forward, leans on it, takes a couple steps, and then starts again from the beginning. A young man and a young woman walk at his side, checking their strides so as to keep the old man's pace, careful not to walk ahead. We are kind in small and important ways.

• Some fallen leaves are scratching and tumbling along the sidewalk. I'm still trying to figure out what Rilke meant when he wrote of Autumn that: Whoever has no house now, will never have one./ Whoever is alone will stay alone,/ will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,/ and wander along the boulevards, up and down,/ restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

• There are some people standing along the banks of the Assiniboine River, fishing. There is something about this that immediately disgusts me. But I don't know why it is that they're standing there, what it is that brought them there, and I shouldn't assume.

• Some graffiti on a wall reads: The wind dies.

• Using the kids urinal, which is lower to the floor, is oddly emasculating.

These thoughts are pretty random, yet so are the things that can happen to you and occur to you through the course of a day, let alone a thirty minute walk. The above is not supposed to be some sort of poem as a list, but I am starting to think that what I like about poetry is that it helps me make sense of this randomness.

Roo Borson, to refer to her again, writes about a friend whose cabin had recently burnt down. When the friend went to see what was left of the cabin, Roo went with her. She writes that, while there, looking through the charred remains, a neighbour approached them:

"'We'll always have our memories," said a kindly widowed neighbour, 'nothing can take those away.' But I wondered. There is the random, roving willfulness that plays through the senses - and a willful randomness which tampers, in our very cells, with what we hold beloved." (Personal History, page 61)

I still don't know what poetry means to me. In a way, I hope I never come to a firm answer. Yet, I think I will let the idea of "random, roving willfulness" guide how I approach poetry for the next while: willfully roving and logging all this randomness.

Until, of course, something comes along and changes everything.

* * *

Brad Hartle likes books. One day he may try to write one, though nothing is certain. For now, he spends his days in the basement of a big stone building in Downtown Winnipeg and his evenings in a big brick apartment in Crescentwood, where he lives with his wife, two cats, and a scattering of toothpicks, needed because he refuses to see a dentist. He is almost always happy.

Thanks + also poetry

I was supposed to publish a piece on the Juice launch, but it seems I can’t find it. It was the big finish. Funny thing is...I can’t really remember what it was about. I hope that doesn’t mean it will fall flat.

It had something to do with how the room the launch was in was the same room I saw George Elliot Clarke and that the festival was suckering more kids into this life of misery. Giving them false hope or whatever. But I don’t really remember so we’ll both have to wait until I find it to see how it all ends. It shouldn’t be hard to find. I think I might have saved it in my wife’s files. She was using the computer before me and I forgot to check if she changed the “save to” destination when I saved Friday’s blog. I should find it tonight and get it up by Monday.

Anyway, this week has been great. I actually got to go to the Winnipeg International Writer’s Festival for free because that was my payment for having to write for their official blog. How cool is that. This has honestly been one of the best experiences of my life. It was like vocational school for writers. I had my theory in the reading and book chats, and the practice in writing for the blog. What more could a guy who just quit his job to give being a writer one more chance ask for. I got a crash course in what I need to do. It’s been great.

I’ll get on to telling you about Saturday’s Poetry Bash in a minute, but first I want to say some thank yous.

The first one is to my family. Thank you for understanding Dad had to work. You boys were awesome. I love you.

Thank you Annette, for letting me try this craziness one more time. And for not being mad about me missing this Saturday night. I love you.

I’d like to thank Chandra for telling Ariel about me. You’ve always helped me, right from the beginning. From helping me get published the first time, to taking me to readings I needed to hear, you’ve kept me connected when I couldn’t write. Thanks.

I’d also really like to thank Ariel for letting me do this and always giving me enough rope to hang myself. It’s nice having a boss who will let you try new things and not get mad at you for being silly (though I’m pretty sure she’s the kind of lady who would have thrown me under the bus if it had become necessary). But really, thanks Ariel. And good luck with your launch on Wednesday at Aqua Books. Everybody go. It’s Ariel and Kerry Ryan. Yea, Manitoba writers.

I’d also like to thank everybody I made fun of at the festival. Everyone was a great sport and didn’t give me a hard time about anything I wrote. They all have great senses of humor. You guys are great.

I’d also like to give a big shout out to the rest of the blogging team. I loved reading all of your posts. It was awesome to have such a talented group of writers to share this stage with. And let me tell you, I looked into what the bloggers from last year went on to do and think the trend of “great things to come” will continue with this group.

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to thank Charlene Diehl. She is a great lady. It was either the first or second time I met her, but she said to me that I should give it to her “with both barrels”. Charlene, I did my best. I think this city is lucky to have someone like Charlene running this festival. She seems to be everywhere. It’s amazing this woman gets through the week constantly moving at the speed of light. Charlene, thank you for all you do for this festival.

Oh wait, I almost forgot Perry. Perry is also the guy you see everywhere, but with him you never really get to see what he does. He’s the guy behind the scenes. He’s the guy who makes the festival go. And on top of everything else he does, he’s always there to sell you a raffle ticket if you are not a contracted employee of the writer’s festival. Thanks Perry.

Well that does it for the thank yous, on to the Poetry Bash.

Since I am poet by trade, the Poetry Bash is always my favorite event. Every year I have gone something amazing happens. Every year I am reminded of what poetry can do. This year was no different.

As soon as I walked in I headed straight for the McNally table. I knew my friend Ryan was working and I was excited he was there. I’ve known Ryan since I was a kid. He’s one of my best friends even though he doesn’t really like poetry. He reads a lot and is really smart, but he’s just never connected with poetry. Who can blame him, sometimes poetry is odd. I was just glad he was there; things happen here.

When I got to the table I saw that my friend Erin was also helping out. She works at McNally too. Actually, if it hadn’t been for Erin, I probably wouldn’t be doing this. I don’t remember what she said exactly, but a few months ago Erin reminded me why I write and why it is still important. She’s also a terrific poet herself. Having both Erin and Ryan here led me to believe that tonight was going to be special.

The reading opened, as always, with Charlene. She was wearing a flashy red top...that looked great. Her intro was brief and before long the poets were on.

Now for me, poetry has always been a hit or miss thing. Some poets blow my mind. Some poets don’t. That’s just the way it is. It doesn’t mean other poets aren’t good, it just means I couldn’t find a thread to grab onto. Poetry is like that.

On this night, I found two threads.

The first to lasso me was Douglas Burnet Smith. His book Sister Prometheus is awesome. Smith’s delicate descriptions of a soldier’s war wounds reminded me of the power of poetry. The language was as sticky as the soldier’s wounds. I could see, hear and smell every detail of Currie’s visit with the dying man. It was incredible.

The second strand came from JonArno Lawson. I can’t really explain to you how amazing this guy is. The only way I can describe it is to say this; what he does is the best use of the English language in a long time. That’s it. That’s all I can say. Read his books and you’ll know what I mean.

So that was it. I had once again found some amazing poets to read thanks to the Poetry Bash. Overall it was a great night, but not really as life altering as I had hoped. But I figured given the radical changes in my writing life in the last few months, maybe it was time for a little peaceful joy instead.

With the set over, I went to see what Erin and Ryan thought of things. As I got behind the table something amazing did happen. I leaned down and asked,
“What’d ya think”?

“I think I’m starting to get it.”

“Jay, he’s coming over to our side, yea.”

“I’m buying this one and this one.”
And with that Ryan pointed to one book by Douglas Burnet Smith and one by JonArno Lawson.

I was right; things do happen here.

I guess that’s why I keep coming back.

Anyway, that’s it. I hope you all had a good time, I know I did. I promise I’ll get that Friday Juice piece over to Ariel as soon as I find it. In the meantime, why don’t you guys throw up some comments on the blog? We’ve been giving our thoughts on the festival all week, let’s hear yours. I think we only have like three comments.

Come on, you can do better than that.

Take care all.

J

* * *

Jason Diaz is a Winnipeg-based writer and bookstore employee. His poems and prose have been previously published in dark leisure magazine. He was interviewed for the Uniter once and is probably the only blogger here licensed to drive forklift. He doesn’t have any books coming out, but would most likely write one if asked.

Flicker-ing: locusts


Flicker-ing: locusts, originally uploaded by hotair.2008.

Thin air volunteers at the volunteer party at Aqua.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

The last ABC

To commemorate the last Afternoon Book Chat.



I guess everyone was at The Gap?



JonArno Lawson and Charlene do a sound check.



Charlene introduces JonArno and Douglas Burnet Smith. Douglas asked me if I was the one he saw sneaking out of the Hospitality Suite this morning.



People have trickled in.



"Bueller? Bueller?"



Douglas talks about completing a book: "After you've given birth, you're just changing diapers."



I'm no photographer.

* * *

Ashley Sy is a Winnipeg born and bred freelance writer specializing in arts, music, and culture. She has written for Stylus, The Manitoban, and MyWinnipeg.com, and has begun copywriting for the Regina-based firm Benchmark PR. Currently, Ashley is working on getting her short fiction published—she fully embraces the classification of emerging writer. You can hear Ashley every Saturday night on 101.5 UMFM, on her pop-punk nostalgia show, Parking Lot Rock.

Oh dear...

...I got to the Afternoon Book Chat at McNally Polo Park a little late this afternoon. Curses, Winnipeg Transit! Is there anything more wretched than a bus into, or out of, downtown on a Saturday afternoon? Well, yes I suppose there is, but I’m grumpy today and I want to indulge myself for a moment.

My surliness was not helped by the fact that I missed JohnArno Lawson reading from A Voweller’s Bestiary, full of poems I really wanted to hear. All that word play and vowel juggling is right up my alley.

Crankiness was lifted when I got to hear Douglas Burnet Smith read a couple of selections from Sister Prometheus, Discovering Marie Curie. The poem about the death of Pierre Curie kind of sucked the breath right out of us all in attendance; it was so intense and heartbreaking.

I wish I’d been able to see all the Afternoon Book Chats, because if they were all as interesting as Saturday’s I would have enough inspiration and motivation to keep my creative fires stoked well into the winter. As it is now, it looks like I’ll be hacking up my furniture by February, for firewood and a fresh idea.

But I did get something of an inspiration boost by seeing these two fine poets, who couldn’t be more different in their approaches to their latest projects. Obviously, the material, word play for children and the inner life of Marie Curie, dictates a different approach for each, but the process of poetry for these two authors was fascinatingly dissimilar. JohnArno Lawson talked of keeping lists of vocabulary and dictionary definitions and “workshopping” his work with his children, while Douglas Burnet Smith explained that he did a lot of research in Paris and Warsaw and that generally he writes by himself, and tends not to seek or receive comment from fellow writers or editors.

This reinforces the idea, which has been told to me many times, that there is no right way or wrong way to go about the business of poetry. It’s heartening to see such different approaches both resulting in success. Now, though, I can’t attribute any lack of success in my future to: Poetry. Yer doin’ it wrong.

* * *

Emma Hill Kepron is a librarian at the University of Manitoba.

She is also an aspiring poet.

Her writing takes place in a small blue house near the river, which she shares with her husband and her dog.

Overheard

A few sound bites from Andre Alexis, author of Asylum.

On stock characters: "What they [the characters in Asylum] represent are people at different moments trying to do the right thing. They are recognizable within what it is to be Canadian, but their responses are unique. Although they come from places you know, they act in unpredictable ways."

On growing up as an immigrant: "It's difficult to write about it directly. When characters have to come to terms with coming from an outside place...that's how I talk about it. To me, that's the essential immigrant experience."

On providing answers: "Literature is not the ideal place for political answers. I would write an essay, where morally, simplicity is necessary. Literature isn't a place for simplicity."

* * *

Ashley Sy is a Winnipeg born and bred freelance writer specializing in arts, music, and culture. She has written for Stylus, The Manitoban, and MyWinnipeg.com, and has begun copywriting for the Regina-based firm Benchmark PR. Currently, Ashley is working on getting her short fiction published—she fully embraces the classification of emerging writer. You can hear Ashley every Saturday night on 101.5 UMFM, on her pop-punk nostalgia show, Parking Lot Rock.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Flickr-ing: working title


Flickr-ing: working title, originally uploaded by hotair.2008.

Paul friesen, a member of the Winnipeg slam poetry team, works on his poem from the fainting couch.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

The City blog

a city is a place you are/ who you are is a place in a city

Is it the way you are shaped by memories of walking across the Maryland bridge? Maybe you walk it everyday on your way to work/maybe all it is to you is that one time you were following the ambulance that was taking your sister to the ER/maybe its where you live/maybe you don’t even know where it is.

No matter what it is to you/ its presence or absence in your life/ it is a part of this city. And in some way, it is a part of you.

Maggie Helwig tells us that cities are about how we live in them/who is included and excluded.

Cities are about our lives/and our lives are about our cities.

And when we write, our setting is something that is living

Our characters live in it and through it.

Andre Alexis
, with the soothing hum of his beautiful voice, read to us a story of a man trying desperately to kill himself. But his city just kept interrupting him.

Does your city ever interrupt you?

Larry Krotz told us of being in Nyrobi, Kenya. Of being the strange white man, there to learn from the Sex Workers Committee/saying the wrong half of the 2 part greeting he learned in Swahili. And when he is not in Africa/catching a hint of just the right accent/caught on the wind/sending him right back to Kenya.

Who are you when you are not in your city?

War-torn Sarajevo and a cellist who plays for hope. Steven Galloway asks us to come inside human connection in the midst of a snipers internal conflict with killing. The war inside the war, and the question “Does the music sound the same to him?”

How are you at war with your city? And how much is this about how you are at war with yourself?

Maggie Helwig, with her eccentric charm takes us under a bridge and into the mind of a man living in the liminal, both within himself and within the city.

Where do you exist within your city and where does your city exist within you?

Fantasies of having power over those who condemn you, by the colour of your skin, to a place of unrelenting powerlessness. So that you cannot walk down the street, take a breath, without remembering those hands of your back, that gun up your skirt. Austin Clarke takes us to a place of fear and resistance. A girl in a city that sees herself pushing back. A black girl that sees herself in the black man going through her garbage and begs him to push back too.

All of the faces in your city - who do you see yourself in?

What do you do with that/what does that do to you?

Charles Wilkins brings us to the city of the dead-with hints of who might walk there. Digging a grave that is filling with water, and dreams of a man with one arm who grows it back.

Is not our whole city one big cemetery? Which ghosts are yours as you wander through these familiar streets?

Home.

And the cities where we live.

* * *

Courtney Slobogian likes to sit quietly memorizing all of the reasons she is in love with this city. She graduated from University of Winnipeg in 2007 with her BA in Women’s and Gender studies. Her honours thesis was entitled “mother[loss]: An exploration of our silences in grief and longing.”

She is putting that degree to use mostly by insisting that there is a need for theory in everything. Along with writing academic papers for fun, she finds herself constantly playing with poetry (where it is desire, and not theory, that she finds most useful).

By day she busies herself with women’s reproductive health issues, by night she rides her bike.

Photos from this morning's Words On Screen seminar.



I needed a permission letter to get in. Note Tavia's stationary.



Perry videotaping the panel discussion.



The Words On Screen speakers: Judith Keenan, Susin Nielsen, and Paul Quarrington.



We got to watch a bit of one of Susin's projects, Alice, I Think. Susin has written episodes of Ready or Not, which I'd say is only to Degrassi High as the greatest Canadian teen sitcom (which Susin has done, too).

* * *

Ashley Sy is a Winnipeg born and bred freelance writer specializing in arts, music, and culture. She has written for Stylus, The Manitoban, and MyWinnipeg.com, and has begun copywriting for the Regina-based firm Benchmark PR. Currently, Ashley is working on getting her short fiction published—she fully embraces the classification of emerging writer. You can hear Ashley every Saturday night on 101.5 UMFM, on her pop-punk nostalgia show, Parking Lot Rock.

An Interview with Kerry Ryan

When I was first asked to blog for the Writers Festival, one of my many demands, my shouting, fist-banging-table demands, was that I be allowed to interview Kerry Ryan. I had never met Kerry (I still haven’t, come to think of it), but I had read her collection of poems, The Sleeping Life, and I really enjoyed it.

I would like to thank Kerry for taking the time to answer the questions below, and encourage everyone to pick up her book.

(Psst, I heard a little rumor that Kerry Ryan and Hot Air's own Ariel Gordon, who has her own book of poems coming out soon, will be heading out on a reading tour some time in the near future. I'd keep my ear to the ground on this one, if I were you.)

* * *

Brad Hartle: Many of your poems seem to exist somewhere between our sleeping and waking lives, and they do so with a very slow, dreamlike feel. In one, called writing to sleep, you write:
i fall asleep inside a poem,
inking dreams onto a page
until you gently slide the pen
out of my hand,
refill the aperture
with your fingers
Eyes like a camera and poems you feel asleep in. Its wonderful, and it seems sum up much of The Sleeping Life. What is it about this half-awake world that made you want to write about it?

Kerry Ryan:
First of all, thanks. That’s a nice thing to say. But, really, sleep: it’s such a good idea. I love, and am fascinated by, anything sleep-related – including those delicious overlaps between sleeping and waking. I find it such mysterious territory to think about and write about, but at the same time, if I try to analyze it too much it kind of loses its charm. Like trying to explain your dreams to someone and realizing that they’re not actually funny or terrifying, or even that interesting. Dreams only work when you’re asleep. So, I guess, in the poems, I was just trying to capture the little bit of that that secret, crazy other life and pin it down to look at it in the daylight.

And, in some ways that semi-sleeping, half-dreaming experience is kind of like my writing process, in the sense that I might know where I’m starting out but then have no, or little control, over where I go or what happens. I like that too.

BH:
There are also a few travel poems in the book, such as saturday night in new orleans. How do you go about writing travel poems and what are some things that you watch for while traveling?

KR: I really don’t think of a poem being a “travel poem” or having any kind of label like that. But I do write a fair bit about place, now that I think about it, whether it’s my house or my neighbourhood, or wherever I am in the world. I don’t consciously look at things and think “there’s a poem in that” but I find that I remember little details when I travel. And sometimes those details become the basis of a poem that tries to capture a place. My husband and I were in Portugal earlier this year and after a few days all the churches and castles and important landmarks kind of blurred together for me, but I remember that in Serpa – a gorgeous, ancient, picturesque town – there was an old guy wandering around whistling Jingle Bells really loud, in March. So, that’s the kind of thing I’d write about.

BH: The language in your poems is never pyrotechnical, in that it never seems like you are reaching for obscure words (like pyrotechnical). Rather, your poems flow with a very smooth and plain spoken tone. Is this something that you strive for while writing. If so, why?

KR: I’m not sure if I’m striving for it or if it’s my default. Honestly, I think it’s just that I don’t have a huge vocabulary. If I’m not comfortable using a word in a regular conversation, or have to look it up in the dictionary, I won’t use it in a poem – even if it has the sound and meaning I’m looking for. I definitely feel there are some words that are off limits because they’re just not me. I think my aesthetic tends toward simplicity – I love really spare line drawings, or, musically, just a guitar and a voice.

BH: Once you have an idea or a draft of a poem on the page, how do you go about revising and editing?

KR: For me, revising mostly means cutting stuff out, paring a poem down to the essentials. I can tinker with poems indefinitely. I never have much of a plan and I don’t really know what I’m doing (shh! don’t tell anyone) so, I just wing it – trying to figure out why a line or an image doesn’t feel right and playing with it until it does, or – often – cutting it if making it work is too hard.

BH: What's the best advice you have ever received about writing?

KR: Don’t quit your day job.

* * *

Brad Hartle likes books. One day he may try to write one, though nothing is certain. For now, he spends his days in the basement of a big stone building in Downtown Winnipeg and his evenings in a big brick apartment in Crescentwood, where he lives with his wife, two cats, and a scattering of toothpicks, needed because he refuses to see a dentist. He is almost always happy.

Dear Ruby,

You are 16 months old and are learning to say things like “eye” and “soulier” (which currently takes the form of “shh shh” and you, pointing down at my foot).

When your mum asks you “Ruby, c’est ou ton bouton?” You lift up your shirt and show us your beautiful round belly and point to that one spot in the middle that allowed you to be brought into this world.

You love to dance by shaking your bum and throwing your arms up in the arm at random moments. You are like a magnet to anything expensive-like cell phones and cameras.

Mostly though, you really love to show me your books and listen to your maman read them to you.

And today Ruby, I went and listened to David Bouchard tell stories at the library, and I wished you were there.

He talked about being a father, an author and Métis. He told us how he gets to travel all around the world and how much he loves it, but it also makes him sad, because he has to be away from his 10 years old daughter.

But don’t worry, because every single night, he goes on his computer and reads her a bedtime story and then blows her a kiss, and it flies right to her, right through the computer screen and onto her cheek.

He played his drum for us, and sang a story. He showed us the eagle feather and the sweet grass that he keeps inside of his drum. Did you know that an eagle is a scared animal because it flies close to the creator and sees everything and knows what is true? And did you know that sweet grass is braided like hair because it is the hair of Mother Earth? He told us so today at the library.

He told something else too. He told us how important it is for kids to read. He told us how he didn’t read as a kid because he has this thing called dyslexia and that means that things get mixed up in his head. He thought this meant he couldn’t read or that is wasn’t important. But then he told us how, when the creator gives you a problem, he also gives you a solution. And he learned that he could read things that had rhythm. And he writes books now. He has written lots and lots of them. And they have beautiful pictures, and the words have rhythm. And he writes for kids like him, who have trouble reading. He writes so that kids will read.

I bought you one of his books today called “If You’re Not from the Prairie...” and I can’t wait to read it with you.

Love, Auntie Courtney

* * *

Courtney Slobogian likes to sit quietly memorizing all of the reasons she is in love with this city. She graduated from University of Winnipeg in 2007 with her BA in Women’s and Gender studies. Her honours thesis was entitled “mother[loss]: An exploration of our silences in grief and longing.”

She is putting that degree to use mostly by insisting that there is a need for theory in everything. Along with writing academic papers for fun, she finds herself constantly playing with poetry (where it is desire, and not theory, that she finds most useful).

By day she busies herself with women’s reproductive health issues, by night she rides her bike.

Flickr-ing: sustenance


Flickr-ing: sustenance, originally uploaded by hotair.2008.

The line up for grub at pint of bitter murder.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Flickr-ing: the writer the book

Michael van rooy looking at his chapbook just before his reading at Aqua books.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Video: Roo Borson

Since most of my bloggers have commented on Roo Borson's Big Ideas lecture on creativity, I'm not going to try to find some angle not covered, some thought not aired.

video

So, here is a short reading by Borson from her new book Personal History.

Since Flickr hates me

My mobile provider, for all their youth-targeted advertising, isn’t Flickr friendly. My first attempt at a Flickr post was actually sent with a caption:
“I checked out Shutter Speed by Larry Krotz from the library. After my overdue fines I should have just bought it.”
Here’s a picture post to hold you over until I get down to writing something about the four events I went to today. These were all taken at The Mainstage event, The City.



Rob Ross and Tricia Arden Caldwell:
festival volunteers, emerging writers, my chums. We all met through being writers U of M. Trish and I were in the same creative writing class, and I met Rob at her post-Manitoba Book Awards party. Yes, we do sit around and talk about writing. It’s all very esoteric.



Rob hamming it up with my name tag, because he didn’t have his with him. For this year’s festival he played chauffer for the flown-in writers. Fun fact: Rob did his M.A. in Creative Writing at the U of M, the same program that Saleema Nawaz graduated from.



A very bad picture of Tricia. She’s actually quite cute. And a poet. On her Facebook page she claims her religion is “e.e. cummings.”



Two professional writers: Amy Karlinsky and Charles Wilkins. Amy
is an art critic, curator, and teacher in Winnipeg. I took her Writing About Art class when she was at the university. You know that Bruce Head exhibit on at the Winnipeg Art Gallery right now? That’s her work. She’ll also be doing a stint as the writer-in-residence starting next week at Aqua Books. She’s pictured here with one of tonight’s readers, Charles Wilkins.

Tomorrow I will bring a real camera around. Expect lots of pictures of above-camera-phone quality!

* * *

Ashley Sy is a Winnipeg born and bred freelance writer specializing in arts, music, and culture. She has written for Stylus, The Manitoban, and MyWinnipeg.com, and has begun copywriting for the Regina-based firm Benchmark PR. Currently, Ashley is working on getting her short fiction published—she fully embraces the classification of emerging writer. You can hear Ashley every Saturday night on 101.5 UMFM, on her pop-punk nostalgia show, Parking Lot Rock.

A Roo Borson Inspired Writing Exercise

I've been suffering from writer's block. I had some good stuff going earlier in the year, and then when school finished (and subsequently my creative writing class), I stopped. "The worse thing you can do is stop," my professor Struan Sinclair told me.

For the past few months I've been struggling to get my momentum back. I am stuck. I have fragments, but no real story. Before I could sit down and crank out 1000 words, now I trudge my way through 200. It's pathetic and sad. But more sad.

When I heard that Roo Borson was doing a talk on creativity for the Big Ideas series, I thought, "Ah-ha! Just what I need!"

Part of her creative process is writing fragments of ideas down ("Hey, I have those!"). She then takes years worth of these fragments, and collages them together like "newspaper clippings, except you wrote all the content."

I asked her, "What do you do when you have trouble putting together the pieces?"

Her response: "Rearrange them to get new ideas, but you'll likely have to write more to fill in the gaps."

"Write more."

So here are some fragments of my own from my Big Ideas experience:
Would David Waltner-Toews consider writing about the appropriation of food chemicals by molecular gastronomists?

My best friend started to pick "fair trade" when we went for coffee, but I think she just liked the taste.

A man had a U-shaped foam cushion strapped to his hiking backpack. He placed on his seat, but spent most of the reading standing up.

I eyed the last piece of a California Roll on the platter. The disposable chopsticks wrappers said "Sushi Train," but I was so hungry it didn't matter.

It's silly to stop the elevator going down on the second floor.

Now to fill in the gaps. Arg.

* * *

Ashley Sy is a Winnipeg born and bred freelance writer specializing in arts, music, and culture. She has written for Stylus, The Manitoban, and MyWinnipeg.com, and has begun copywriting for the Regina-based firm Benchmark PR. Currently, Ashley is working on getting her short fiction published—she fully embraces the classification of emerging writer. You can hear Ashley every Saturday night on 101.5 UMFM, on her pop-punk nostalgia show, Parking Lot Rock.