Poets & poetry back in YYJ

Ex-ville_CoverI’ve been to a few poetry (& other) readings since my return to Victoria, and even given one, and time to report on a bit of that with more on the horizon.

But first, I recently found this generous and thoughtful review of Ex-ville, from the online UK arts-zine London Grip, lurking in my inbox via Facebook, and this lovely one on GoodReads via Twitter. Social media seems to be kicking in to take the place of our print reviewing platforms, shattered as they were in recent years.

It’s gratifying to have the recognition: most of us are small fish in a small pond and it can make for a life of overcrowded isolation. These were the first reviews in any Cartographymedia that I’d had for the book, and I’m delighted. Not least because my last collection.  Cartography, of which I remain very proud – a dozen years in the making – garnered not a single print review, nomination or mention since its publication in 2006. That is, until social media struck most kindly again in December last year, and then out of the blue this month with a warm and thorough online review.

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Chris Levenson (poetry)

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Cathy Ford (poetry)

So. Returning to Victoria after the infinite literary delights of London… I have been more regularly attending Planet Earth Poetry, our local weekly readings series, than I had been able to over the last couple of years while travelling up and down Vancouver Island in search of nutrition training. We’ve had some great readers passing through from near and far, among them Christopher Levenson from Vancouver, Cathy Ford from Sidney,George Szanto from Gabriola Island, and Julie Paul from Victoria.

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George Szanto (fiction)

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Julie Paul (fiction)

Swiftly ollowed by Lorri Neilsen Glenn who took a cherry blossom break on the West Coast from a truly ugly Atlantic winter in Halifax to read us a mixture of poetry and memoir; and by Alice Major, taking a green break from a prairie winter in Edmonton, who read mostly new and unpublished work.

For my own part, I gave a local reading back in February, in the friendly performance space at Gorge-ous Coffee. The place is fully booked with events of all kinds, musical, poetic and beyond, so was delighted to find an open slot.

Coming up soon: April is National Poetry Month, and I have three performances booked for that. The first is billed as a Read Local BC event, Poetry Without Borders, and takes place on Wednesday April 8 at the very lovely Munro’s Books in downtown Victoria. I’m reading with local poets Patrick Friesen, Beth Kope and Inge Israel. Next up is Poets Converse With Street Art – a poetry tour organized by Victoria’s own newly crowned Poet Laureate, Yvonne Blomer, which will be a poetry tour of Victoria, with poets strategically placed to read works inspired by public art; look for me beneath a sculptural streetlight, as I’m engaging with a pair of hands that were part of The Hands of Time, a project that marked Victoria’s 150th anniversary in 2012. That takes place on Saturday April 25, with morning and afternoon strolls planned. On Wednesday April 29 I’m part of a Food, Farming & Fishing Poetry Potluck at Haliburton Community Organic Farm, with Brian Brett, Linda Rogers and Dennis Reid.

And that’s the poetry bulletin for today. Next time I’ll do a little food security/urban agriculture update. My interests and involvements are like a spreading pool, so I have to keep track of the rivulets and my inner librarian is trying to create order in all this. You’ll find most of my hands-on, face-down food writing taking a decidedly nutritional vein, over at the Go Local Nutrition site. I’m also tweeting @iambiccafe and @golocalnut, and Facebooking at Digging the City, Go Local Nutrition, and Rhona McAdam (my writer page) (please Like these pages rather than trying to Friend me if you don’t know me personally).

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Cambridging, graveyards, poets & lots of fibre

Last weekend I went on a fascinating, moving and timely tour of four Jewish cemeteries, which Tamar Yoseloff led, photographed and blogged here. I have a few photos of my own to contribute.

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My last reading in the UK was on Tuesday in Cambridge. I enjoyed a day of wandering in town, which I hadn’t properly done or perhaps not for ages. I poked my nose into a couple of galleries and had a look at the Ian Hamilton Finlay show at Kettle’s Yard, but his work leaves me a bit cold. Though I enjoyed a few pieces – Catameringue was my absolute favourite – I either wasn’t in the right mood for it or it’s just not my thing. I found more to wonder over at Primavera, which stocks a huge and stunning selection of contemporary British jewellery, art and craft. I missed the reportedly wonderful show at the Fitzwilliam, but one cannot be everywhere at the right time. I did find myself 2015JanCambridgePintShopPorkBellyin the right place for lunch though: The Pint Shop was pleasant and delicious. I had the pork belly with Heaven & Earth (it was sat on a disc of black pudding and surrounded by pleasingly tart stewed apple) and washed it down with a modest little glass of Sirens chocolate porter, which was suitably dark and complex and worked well with the pork.

The CB1 Poetry venue has changed since my last appearance there some years ago, and is currently at the Gonville Hotel. The granting agency requires the series to offer disabled access, which unfortunately narrows the options and cuts the charm of available spaces. Still, the organizers have done their best to soften the corporate feel of the room, and aside from a bit of spillage from the Rotarians meeting next door, it was a comfortable and well equipped reading space. There were some good readings from the floor before Rebecca Perry and I took the stage. Rebecca’s work was great – varied, funny, edgy and moving. She works a lot with found poems and deconstructions. We had a good natter on the train back to London and I look forward to having a closer read of her first collection, Beauty/Beauty, when I have time to catch my breath.

And I’ve been walking around London getting a few last views in before I leave next week.

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The last couple of days have involved dining out – lunch in Brixton with poet pals at a restaurant I’ve undertaken not to discuss but whose very interesting work is described here, and lunch in Whitstable with Kent poet Sue Rose and Canadian poet/novelist Steve Noyes. And… I attended a British Nutrition Foundation half day seminar on fibre research, and have discussed that in more detail at my nutrition blog, Go Local Nutrition.

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Travelling Through… London

Travelling Through BookshopLast Wednesday’s reading at Travelling Through Bookshop went well. A cosy crowd gathered in the downstairs cafe of this newly opened shop on Lower Marsh to hear poetry of place & travel from three poets. I was reading with Sue Rose and Tamar Yoseloff, poetry pals from way back. Sue and Tammy have small and lovely collections from Hercules Editions. Sue’s is called Heart Archives, poetic responses to Christian Boltanski’s Les Archives du Cœur audio installation and gorgeously assembled with her own photos. Tammy read from Formerly, which features her poems responding to Vici MacDonald‘s photographs of disappearing London. And I of course read from Ex-ville, which is perfectly suited to the reading theme, bristling with travel poems of many kinds. Thanks perhaps to Tammy’s apt observation that the book was not otherwise available in the UK, I enjoyed brisk sales: thanks to all my book-buyers!

Lower Marsh is a rather special little street tucked away behind Waterloo Station. I was very pleased to happen upon Greensmith‘s, a very different kind of supermarket, made up of a kind of accretion of different independent businesses – butcher, baker, greengrocer, coffee specialist, and wine merchant – and together able to provide just about anything an urbanite might need to keep a small household going. In a pleasing patchwork of adjoining rooms where visitors find a happy surprise on every floor.

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Hercules Editions takes its name from William Blake’s last home and printing works in Hercules Road, Lambeth. I had a wander down this road and happened upon some ceramic reminders of Blake’s time there. More about the mosaic project here.

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Another wander down memory lane took me to Daquise, a Polish restaurant that’s been around since 1947, clinging on in South Kensington through an era of fast food and chains. They’ve updated the decor since my last visit and now have their cooks serve at the table, which is quite fun. The menu has been upgraded too: almost sorry to find the borscht is not what it was (used to be thick with grated beetroot and other delights) but is tasty and elegant nonetheless.

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Markets, mezze & muses

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Brixton Village & Market Row

Last week was another busy one in London. It involved a visit to Brixton market, where the pickings were far from slim. Brixton Village & Market Row is populated more by smart shops, delis and cafes than traditional fare, although there are still a few butchers, fishmongers and less chi-chi retailers.

We browsed the offerings in both these arms of the covered market, looking for lunch, and settled upon Salon, which has its eye firmly on well produced local foods – cheeses, cured meats, bread and delicious lunch items. We had celeriac & whey soup, a salad of cauliflower & turmeric and a pasty beautifully filled with parsnip, cavolo nero and cheese – and could only gaze enviously on the many other offerings remaining on the table. One must stop somewhere.

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Meanwhile, in the poetry realm, I gave a reading last week at the Loose Muse‘s regular monthly series, co-starring with the delightful and entertaining Tania Hershman who read a few very short stories and recited some poetry in the first half. There were plenty of open mic readers – the series clearly attracts a supportive community of regulars, and there was as might be expected a good assortment of topics and styles. A good and responsive audience, but as is so often the case nowadays, not big book buyers. Which is their right of course, but tricky to predict when one is travelling in a transatlantic fashion with printed matter. Poetry tends to lack international distribution, so we poets are the hauliers of enlightenment, and it can be a heavy load.

Heavier still are books of photographs, and I had to resist picking up a copy of Dylan 2015JanTasMezzeThomas and the Bohemians, The Photographs of Nora Summers when I attended the closing reception for the photography show that had been gracing the Poetry Cafe’s walls since early December. Afterwards we wandered off in search of food and settled on Turkish mezze at Tas, which offered an ample selection that ended very happily for me with a small glass of Tokaji Aszu.

2015JanMuldoon1Last night’s reading by Paul Muldoon at Keats House in Hampstead was a treat – hadn’t heard him read before.  His reading manner is quirky, full of pauses and random interactions with the audience. He seemed amused by the readers in the front row who were following along in their copies of his new collection, 1,000 Things Worth Knowing, and paused from time to time to give them a page reference. His poetry is singular, challenging and complex, at times deceptively simple, at others tapping incalculable worlds of knowledge, waving come-hither flags of form and rhyme. Such are the poets to hear in person, hoping they will throw their readers a few clues. And it was delightful and absorbing.

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Pausing for lunch

Brunswick House Bar

Brunswick House Cafe

I’ve been working in various cafes and public spaces lately, as my wifi access is variable in the places I’ve been staying. Today’s most elegant setting is the lovely and unusual Brunswick House Cafe, which is attached to Lassco, purveyor of architectural salvage and and decorative oddities. Which I’m guessing makes this one of the few eateries where you can buy the decor. (Very tempted by some old medicinal posters, but luckily their frames would not fit in my suitcase.)

2015JanBrunswickSaltBeefSandwichLast visit I had the delicious sounding salt beef sandwich, but it disappointed with old cheese and not much flavour from the beef or pickled beetroot. Was good and filling though. However, today’s choice, Charred Hispi Cabbage with Lemon Mayonnaise, was most delicious in every way and very good with the nice fresh 2015JanBrunswickCabbagesourdough. Nice also to be able to enjoy a pot of lemon and ginger infusion on a chilly morning.

All of which fortifies me for this evening’s entertainment – travelling to Keats’ House in Hampstead to hear Paul Muldoon reading from his latest collection, One Thousand Things Worth Knowing.

Which should inspire me for my own reading tomorrow, with Tamar Yoseloff and Sue Rose, at Travelling Through‘s basement cafe. Snow is in the forecast but poetry will keep us all warm and dry.

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