Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lucky, Lucky Students. They’ve Never Had it So Good.

I hope the members of the English class that was in attendance at this afternoon’s reading at the U of M appreciate how unusual and exciting it is to have actual Real Life Writers read their stuff to them in class. Why is that so rare? It’s just not right that so many of us got through our English degrees without hearing a single author’s voice. (Obviously some voices are kind of out of the question. If you ever hear Yeats’ voice at this point in time, you might want to check yourself in some place where they give you green Jell-O with every meal.) Given that Winnipeg, and the U of M, has so much readily available talent, it’s a shame that more students (so gloriously impressionable!) don’t get to hear and talk to practicing writers. Anyway, I digress…

Is it really a digression if I haven’t actually started in on what I came here to say yet? Anyway, again...

I must confess that I haven’t yet obtained The Cellist of Sarajevo, despite my fascination at the story of the siege of that city. What I’ve always found so compelling and frightening about the record of those events is just how terrifyingly quickly Sarajevo went from being a cultural and economic success story to being a city where nearly every single building was damaged, tens of thousands of people were dead or injured, where mortar shells were dropping out of the sky multiple times a day and where going outside to do something as basic as getting water became life threatening.

Even the fact that it so quickly turned into the sort of place where you had to go out to get water is kind of horrifying. It also gives me pause to think about how, once everything is stripped away, we so rapidly turn on people who didn’t bother us much one way or another before.

OK, now I’m getting dour. Thank the gods for Gerald Hill’s poetry. Not that his work doesn’t cover some serious subjects also, but he chose to lighten us up a bit with some Roughrider/Blue Bomber rivalry (yeah, I don’t know what he was referring to either) and poems about increasingly hostile and militant English students; progressing from reading the poet’s material on his office door to outright military style abduction, complete with individuals rappelling from helicopters, multiple ropes and vigorous, loud demands for explanations.

Oh wait, maybe that’s why writers don’t read their stuff directly to students...

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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.

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