October 01, 2012

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow: Poetry Bash! (Friday, September 28)

By Jeannette Bodnar

Friday night’s Poetry Bash was the last of this year’s Mainstage events. The lineup included Jonathan Ball, JonArno Lawson, Sue Goyette, Patrick Lane, and Lorna Crozier. In true Mainstage fashion, the wine was flowing, the energy was high, and the audience was ready for the wordsmiths to cast their spells.

First on stage was Jonathan Ball. He began by reading the title poem from his book Clockfire. The poem, like the others in the book, is a script for an impossible to produce play. This seemed to me the perfect beginning to the evening’s performances.

The fascinating thing about Jonathan Ball is that he pushes the boundaries of writing by working outside conventional norms. He takes chances that other writers may not and makes a conscious effort to approach his work in new and unique ways. At a previous festival event I heard him say that he doesn’t understand people who like to relax with books, he likes to be challenged by them.  It shows in the way he challenges his readers. As a writer I find that inspiring.

Next to read was JonArno Lawson. Unfortunately due to the infuriating cough that I had been battling all week, I missed most of JonArno’s reading. However, when I first arrived at MTYP I encountered two ladies who were reading through his new children’s book Old MacDonald Had Her Farm and they couldn’t have endorsed it better if they were being paid. “It should be in every school library”, one of them told me. I caught a glimpse of the colorfully illustrated book at intermission and read enough to see the fun way in which JonArno plays with language. It was also very funny, which is great for readers of any age.

Sue Goyette was last to grace the stage in the first half of the evening. Her overwhelming authenticity makes her irresistibly captivating. As a blogger I’m not sure if I’m supposed to share who my favorites are, but her reading was my favorite of the week. There I said it. She’s fun and witty and her poetry is personal and inviting in a way that makes you feel like you’re reflecting on the life of an old friend. Whether she’s reading a poem about her mother’s rival at the senior’s complex, her close encounter with a moose, or the death of her children’s father, Sue Goyette is real, colorful, and masterful at sharing her world. The thing I like most about Sue is her ability and willingness to show both her darkness and her light. At the end of the reading she was presented a stunning silver, turquoise replica of poet Bliss Carman’s ring in honor of the award (Bliss Carman Poetry Award) she won earlier this year.

After a brief intermission author Patrick Lane took the stage. Although the tone of his poems had a more serious feel, the subtle wit he infuses into his work keeps it from feeling heavy. Lane’s timeless writing always astounds me for the simple fact that I know I could read him at any age. I read his poems ten years ago, I read them now and I know ten years from now, I will still be reading and rereading his work. It’s classic and consistently superb, which is probably why he is considered by many to be one of the best poets of our time. His reading of “The Mad Boy” was engaging and lovely and stuck with me for the remainder of the night. 

Wrapping up the evening, another powerhouse of the writing scene, was Lorna Crozier. I missed a reading by Crozier last year at the University of Winnipeg and lamented to my husband for months. So you can imagine my excitement when I had the chance to see her Friday night. Seriously I was like, thirteen year old girl sees Justin Bieber at the mall excited. And of course she delivered. Reading from The Book of Marvels, Lorna charmed the audience with entertaining insight into the lives of objects through poems like “Knife”, “Bicycle” and “Ironing Board,” to name a few. It was only fitting that she ended the evening with the poem “Snow”. At an autumn festival in Winnipeg it couldn’t end any other way.

This is the first year I had the good fortune to blog for Thin Air. I met a lot of great people, was star-struck on more than one occasion, and was inspired to write more, read more, and work harder to reach out to the rich literary community that the festival brings together. I feel privileged that I had the opportunity to share this experience and can’t wait for next year’s festival to begin.   

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