Some good coverage and photos by local paper, here: https://pickering.snapd.com/index.php?option=com_sngevents&id%5B0%5D=738970#/
The Music of Leaving, my new book of poetry, was launched in, dare I say it and I do, rather grand style on Saturday evening, November 1st in front of a large and enthusiastic audience at the Women’s Art Association of Canada in downtown Toronto’s Yorkville area.
During my presentation to the crowd I talked about the power and possibilities of poetry and what it has meant to me in my life, and then read several pieces from my book. I infused my presentation with humour wherever possible so the audience was not lining up to hang themselves by night’s end. My poetry can get a little dark…
And I was delighted to be introduced so eloquently by my co-M.C.’s for the event Karen Fraser, Toronto entrepreneur and champion of business women everywhere, me included, and my lovely brother Scott McCallum.
Oh. The cupcakes were superb!
I have been taking a break from writing and reading a backlog of old and newly discovered poetry collected on my bedside table. Nothing I like better.
This is one by Rachael Ikins that has quickly set itself apart, in so many ways, delivering to me the magical moment of understanding I always hope for, look for, in every poem I come upon.
It’s a jewel, a story so perfectly told that it made me feel stronger, maybe even a little wiser, after reading it. I hope it also reaches you in ways that matter.
At Miss Kitty’s Home for Wayward Girls
Rachael Z. Ikins (c) 2014
In the aftermath of winter storms,
broken marriages, death, and a quest
for independence a group of women
various ages, hair colors etc. gathered before a fire
to roast marshmallow Easter candies called
Peeps. Creme brûlée on a fondue fork.
Good scouts that they were, creativity
& indoor fireplace saved dinner. A sudden rainstorm
soaked the plan to cook wieners over a bonfire
in the back yard. Every single woman lost a father
to heart disease when those fathers were fifty.
A strange, sad community.
But the elders, this tiny group of survivors,
delighted to shock younger, tales of sex,
older women, erotic experience, LOL,
sex-toys and dream lovers. One dreamer,
a poet. She read to them while embers, eyelids simmered
low. They slept with dogs, woke up, faced new
adventures. Next morning, poet noticed the fire.
Rekindled through night, ash-camouflaged coals.
Not unlike an older woman; holds deep heat.
One candle continued to waver from mantelpiece after
they’d gone to bed, guarding all sleepers and travelers
through darkness with fragile constant magic.
Author Michael Ondaatje says of her work,
“Sharon Olds’s poems are pure fire in the hands, risky, on the verge of falling, and in the end leaping up. I love the roughness and humor and brag and tenderness and completion in her work as she carries the reader through rooms of passion and loss.”
Even Ondaatje’s reviews are pure poetry…
I’ve been to way too many of these over the years, the unexpected curse of the “writing workshop.”
Granted, some have been lovely… others, gotta tell ya, deadly.
At the hands of the latter, I have learned, tortuously, the things that should never happen at poetry readings.
Thus, after years of mind-numbing abuse suffered during the monotonous readings of over-zealous authors, I bring to you, then, my top six
Things Not to Do at a Poetry Reading.
1. Do not mention journalism schools, alma maters, your writing mentors or who taught you English in Grade Two. No one cares. In fact, do not even let the word mentor pass your lips in any context for the duration of the event.
2. Do not approach the podium clutching a six-inch thick duo-tang folder housing a single spaced document that it seems you are quite intent on reading. Unless you have a coterie of muscular men blocking the exits.
3. Never announce up front exactly how many chapters of your four unpublished novels you are about to enchant your audience with.
4. Do not quote the ancients. They aren’t there and cannot defend themselves.
And the final two things never to do at a poetry reading:
5. Do not charge admission.
6.Do not serve Mexican.
I just returned home from my poetry reading at the Haynes Library this morning in the harbor here in Eleuthera. My soundtrack today was the sound of the wind fanning the huge palms that surround the building coupled with the gentle insistent lap of water at the near shore.
It was a packed house. I looked out to a sea of shining faces, and as I told the people gathered I was thrilled at the turnout and appreciative to each and every one who made the time to come.
My poems are about universal issues, in this case the loss of a mother and father, and because of that, people can instantly relate to them. Many from the audience approached me afterwards, telling me my words caused the stirring of old and sometimes painful memories. There is such catharsis in that and I think many weren’t expecting to have such a visceral reaction to the work.
One elderly woman said to me she had never known her mother and listening to me talk about mine made her quite envious. “And I am not generally the envious type.”
Another woman said that although she didn’t know me well, she was proud of me. I was genuinely touched by her words. As she explained, we all have these memories and thoughts worthy of putting in writing but other things get in the way. She thanked me for doing it for all those who choose not to, or simply cannot.
I consider myself privileged to share such an important part of who I am with these lovely souls.
My Book Launch on Saturday was even more than I hoped for. About 50 people joined me for a day of celebration and support for my new book, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
Releasing the book feels a little like sending one of your small children out into the world. On a cold day. Without mittens. I am protective and a bit apprehensive, but I realize the work must stand on its own if it is to succeed. So off it goes on a wing and a prayer.
The Gallanough Library was the perfect setting for the event. Books everywhere, on shelves, stacked on tables and wherever there was space. Everyone arrived by 2:30 and I began signing books right away at my signing table, which was bedecked with off white roses and scented candles glowing. And, of course, a bowl of chocolates. Writer’s cramp set in after number 50 but I wasn’t complaining: I was thrilled.
The food was divine: wraps and nibbles, dips and wine. And a sweets table to boot.
About midway through the afternoon, my brother Scott asked everyone to gather around. He was in fine form as M.C. opening with the surprise news that this was actually not my first book, that I had written three others. He then produced three hefty books from a bag, with these titles taped over the real ones. The first was called “My Brother, My Hero.” Second, “Did I Tell You About My Brother?” and third, “How Great Is My Brother?” Scott is irrepressible.
Two close friends and my two sisters took turns addressing the crowd in very eloquent presentations. I drank it all in, of course.
And then it was my turn. I spoke briefly about the therapy that poetry offers, to both the writer and the reader, and then read three pieces from the book.
Everyone there seemed so genuinely thrilled for me and I think that was the sweetest gift of all.
I’ve always said that writing in and of itself is worthwhile, regardless of whether it achieves commercial or public success of any kind. Should my book catch fire and sell well I would be absolutely elated. But this is secondary to me. To have sent it out into the world as a tribute to my lovely mother and father is truly what means the most.
I am just getting ready to head off to my Book Launch and I am so excited. It is simpy the best Christmas present I could ever have. A long time in coming but worth the wait.
The weather is cooperating for those coming in from out of town with a huge storm holding off for tomorrow. My thanks to whatever/whomever is responsible.
I’ll be reading from the book, my brother Scott will be the M.C. and a few friends and family will weigh in also.
Not sure what I’ll say.. think I’ll just go with the moment.. but here’s a quote of Eudora Welty’s that I will probably include in my comments..
“The charm of poetry is that it rejects the edifying cathedral and, instead, indelibly photographs the small boy on the steps outside chewing a hunk of melon in the dust.”
Isn’t that perfection?
Here I go… wish me luck!
What a great experience. I was interviewed yesterday on the local radio station about my writing and my upcoming book. It was so relaxed and the interviewer was truly interested in my answers. She made it feel like a conversation we were having in my living room. We talked about the value of poetry in my life and how much it has helped me through my darkest days.
It was not all downbeat though… lots of laughs and lighter moments too. as when I said I couldn’t resist an interview that came with donuts and coffee.
It’s my first marketing foray for my book of poems to be published this fall, entitled “Nothing Gold Can Stay: A Mother and Father Remembered.” I am just over the moon about doing it.
I’ll be selling copies on my website.