Tuesday, April 26, 2016

above/ground press on Parliament Hill: Clarke, Earl, Reid + mclennan,

As part of his tenure as current Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke hosted a poetry reading in Centre Block of Parliament Hill this past Friday afternoon, featuring poets Amanda Earl, Monty Reid, myself and Romanian-Canadian poet Diana Manole [who posted her own report on the event here]. Incredible thanks to Mr. Clarke and all on the Hill who had helped make such possible!

I was unclear whether or not a poetry reading had been held on the hill prior (apart from, say, Milton Acorn, who used to perform his poetry on the grounds circa 1970, or the complete reading jwcurry did of bpNichol's The Martyrology in the gazebo behind the Parliament Buildings in July 2006), but Clarke claimed this was the first official poetry reading on Parliament Hill, which was incredibly exciting to think about (although I always consider such statements suspect, and am hesitant to back such a claim without further research). Sponsored by The League of Canadian Poets, this year's #NationalPoetryMonth theme was "The Road," to which Clarke appended William Shakespeare as well, and most readers (but for myself) read a short excerpt of Shakespeare's work as part of their performance.

The room was perfect for the event, known as room 256-S Centre Block (I attempted more information on-line of the space, but found little but this array of photos), decorated with maps, and paintings of ships, trains and other modes of transport. The road, indeed.

Clarke later offered that he originally launched Whylah Falls in Centre Block in 1990, also, as organized by his MP, Dr. Howard Douglas McCurdy (I know numerous books have been launched on the hill, having even been in attendance for a mid-1990s event of Anglo-Quebec poets), but this the first, he suggests, with League funding (I'd be curious if there's a list anywhere of prior poetry readings on the Hill).

The crowd was roughly forty or so, predominantly made up of a variety of Hill workers (and even the Romanian Ambassador to Canada!) as well as poets Roland Prevost and Janice Tokar (who were good enough to take these photos with my terrible camera) and Chris Johnson. Clarke's reading included King Lear, Earl's included an array of unpublished work composed around her hospital scare from a few years back, Manole read from her Romanian-English poetry collection B&W, and Reid read a selection of pieces from a number of his published books (given, at that point, I was recovering from newborn and night two of three sleeping at the Montfort with Christine and baby, I'm amazed I recall so well; the afternoon was a bit hazy. I was even wearing clothes I'd been sleeping in...). I read two unpublished poems, including this piece, composed for newborn Aoife.

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