Sunday, September 28, 2008

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.


* * *

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.

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