#4 – After taking a four day break for the wrap party for the TV show I had been working on, Arrow, Easter, and my father’s birthday, I headed back out on the road. Winnipeg is always a favorite stop of mine with its particular blend of warmth and kookiness. I usually read at the main bookstore, McNally Robinson, apart from one time when I performed at the sadly-deceased Aqua Books. McNally does an amazing job of making a poster, setting up a book display and just generally hosting the event with grace and respect. Katherine
Bitney, at whose nurturing manse I stayed, recited her environmental paeans first to a crowd of about 20, including people I hadn’t seen for many years and others, like photographer Gabor Gastonyi, from my home town of New Westminster but in Winnipeg for a conference and who decided to pop by. Sometimes one feels detached before stepping up to the mic, in a state of waiting, not exactly nervous but not at ease either. Personal and performative spaces must be aligned for the reading to go not just smoothly but soaringly. To aid in this hunkering down, when it was my turn, I shifted away from the podium and tilted the mic so it was positioned in a more comfortable way, gripping it and getting into “the stance.” Starting with song especially demands this posture as the breath needs room to emerge on a more elaborate scale. And as one feels vulnerable.
I am quite self critical of how I perform but try to rise above such nattering voices while I am reading. Sometimes this works and occasionally I struggle. Reading the poems from the back of the book to the front, my “textual resurrection” of Chris, has definitely been the most crucial epiphany and one that enables me to keep pushing through these events. Introductions to the poems are actually the hardest part, as the least rehearsed and so I try to make them brief, while often finding I ramble a little, trying so hard to encapsulate. Yet there was silence and there were those small movements of sound too from the audience and at the end, there were people asking me to sign books and even signing up for my Grief Forms workshop the next day at the Free Press cafe. I went out for coffee after, then wine (thanks Ryan) as The Zoo metal bar had never heard of cider and I don’t really drink beer. There was also lots of soup in Winnipeg, some snow mixed with rain (or “snain” as Katherine dubbed it), a historical walk courtesy of the gracious Andris Taskans, and the icy Red River, along with much healing through talk, ritual and the deep discovery of the poems of James Merrill, and most especially his stunning piece, The Mad Scene, whose first line is, “Again last night, I dreamed the dream called Laundry.” If I only write one opening to a poem as powerful as that I will be happy. Will I.