On my way to Toronto, I find out that my second reading at Livewords actually isn’t happening at all, but has been, though confirmed twice over six months ago, somehow pre-empted by a Guernica anthology launch. I get irritated by miscommunications and/or lack of professionalism, especially seeing as how I spend so much time and energy planning tours in advance and double-checking all. And also because I have been telling people that if they can’t make the Piston launch, they can attend this reading. But I let it go. There are always uncontrollable aspects to touring, whether this relates to transportation, “roof” arrangements changing or, fortunately rarely, double bookings on events. I get in a day before the launch and hang out with Robert Priest, who has been generous enough to give me a home away from home the past few times I have stayed in Toronto. While I make the mistake of eating a panko chicken burger at the local Scottish pub way too close to crash-out time, I still enjoy the unbridled energy of his sweet dog, Bridey, and as ever, staying at a place so pervaded with words, music (including Robert’s whistling) and laughter. I collapse much of the first day in his scruff-lovely garden in the sun, sipping java and writing as the cardinals sing “whichirr, whichirr, whichirr, chuckchuckchuckchuck” from the new-budding willow tree, even a squirrel sprawling across the back fence in bliss.
The 29th of April is the Toronto launch at the Piston with Jacob Scheier and it rains. Heavily and with a chilly pinch to it. I am fine with this though know it will shrink the potential audience. Picked up by the adorably peppy group of young women who work at ECW including my publicist Jenna, we head to the venue early for a dinner of soup and wine, eventually joined by Michael Holmes, senior editor and the founder of the press, Jack David. The crowd is indeed intimate, though I am gratified to see some people I haven’t spent time with for years like Arthur Hanks (who snapped a bunch of cool flash-less photos) and my main scholar, Terry Trowbridge along with others who have been consistently supportive such as Rob Colman. Jacob read his heart-wrecking elegies for his mother first and then, after a gracious introduction by Michael, I take to the high stage beneath the rouged lights and begin to sing. The shadows fell across the page, making reading certain poems difficult and a few omissions occurred in two pieces, neither apparently noticeable as one, after all, simply carries on. In the moment, feeding a little off the feeling from those rayed alongside the bar’s walls, I substituted the madrigal for the more performatively effective palindrome and added a second love poem for Chris at the end, a piece about me falling on the ice called “Blood,” one I end up including in nearly every reading after this as it seems to offer a fuller picture of the reciprocal care between us, beyond the tragic. Only four books are sold here, but I have hope for the rest of the tour, picking up 25 more copies. And the press was so glorious to meet after having worked with them over email for months and months, I left with a warm, if agitated-with-excess energy, heart.
Still, I fought depression the next day, having one of those “unreceived for whatever reason” moments, wondering if I was making a mistake, touring this vulnerable book. But it passed, as it does. And the Grief Forms workshop with three bubbly women at the enchanting Wind Up Bird Cafe helped immensely. As did jamming with Robert. And chatting with the other Robert after the anthology launch I attended anyway, selling three more copies. And writing a Marrow Review. Essentially, just being in the flow, receiving, giving. What I live for in art.