Monday, March 18, 2013

above/ground press @ VERSeFest: a small report (with pictures): Markotić, McElroy, McNair, Hawkins, Dolman, Lindner + Gelens,

On Saturday, March 16, The Factory Reading Series hosted its annual lecture series as part of VERSeFest 2013, with readings and talks by Nicole Markotić and Gil McElroy. The text of each of their talks will be posted online in the next issue of seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics.Previous poets in the series (most of whom have already had their pieces posted online) include Monty Reid and Marcus McCann [see my report on such here], Barry McKinnon and Paige Ackerson-Kiely [see my report on such here], and Stephen Brockwell, Pearl Pirie and Cameron Anstee.

Windsor, Ontario poet, writer and critic Markotić's talk was a response (in part) to a recent piece by Joshua Marie Wilkinson, "On Poetry and Accessability." Gil McElroy's talk (which also launched his chapbook Twentieth) was far more informal, talking about chance and accident, astronomy and other threads.  

The talks were lively and compelling, and triggered an interesting question-and-answer period, with contributions by jwcurry, David Currie, Steven Price and Rod Pederson.

Markotić and McElroy are easily two of my favourite poets. I first heard Markotić read in Ottawa at The Manx Pub back in 1994, around the time I first started reading the work of Gil McElroy. I'm pretty sure that this event was McElroy's first reading in Ottawa.

above/ground press author and press favourite Christine McNair did a reading at The Dusty Owl event from her trade book, Conflict (BookThug, 2012), as well as a couple of new poems, finished just in time for the reading. Below is a picture of her in all yellow, reacting somehow to the light in the space.

At the 7pm event, VERSeOttawa inducted William Hawkins and Greg "Ritalin" Frankson into its first annual VERSeOttawa Hall of Honour. There was something oddly soothing about the regular sigh of Hawkins' oxygen tank through the sound system that a number of the audience noticed, and mentioned to me after the event. 

Despite looking a bit frail, William Hawkins [see his updated website here] was his usual sly self, and gave perhaps one of the finest readings I've heard in some time. Pearl Pirie was good enough to post some photos of such online.

Dutch poets Hélène Gelèns and Erik Lindner closed our third annual festival, with a brief opening reading by Ottawa poet Anita Dolman, who is also the translator of their new above/ground press chapbook, Two Dutch Poets.  

Dolman published a chapbook through above/ground press way back in 2004, and we've all pretty much decided she requires a trade book soon. Lindner, who has read in Ottawa previously through the ottawa international writers festival, read his poems in Dutch alongside David O'Meara (left), who responded with the same poems in English translation.

Hélène Gelèns gave an utterly charming reading from her work, performing a call-and-response in Dutch and English. Here she is reading from their chapbook, which was produced for the sake of making their work available in English translation. It's great to have the opportunity to produce a work by the two of them, but why hasn't someone else long produced a book each of their works in English?

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