On Friday night, I grappled with a decision to head out to the IFOA: Best Canadian Poetry launch at Harbourfront. I wanted to go, hungrily, but five months of new parenthood had left me bleary eyed by 7 pm (the launch started at 7:30) and, often enough, Pollock spattered in spit up. Short story, I made it out, and what happened was nothing short of electrifying.
Putting aside the sheer relevance of the anthology – Best Canadian Poetry aims not just to compile the best published work of the last year, but the editors (Molly Peacock, Anita Lahey and Jacob McArthur Mooney, in this case) explore the context from which these poems spring – I was eager for reconnection; after hundreds of hours spent in my office, reconfiguring words in order to build meaning, the offer of a nation-wide psychological landscape in which to house them – and reconnect with a community, my community, after almost a year away – was poignant.
I have been to a few of these launches, but rarely, if ever, have I listened to a night of readings like this; A.F.Moritz, Amanda Jernigan, Jeff Latosik, Shane Nielsen, Richard Greene, Stevie Howell, Hoa Nguyen, Barry Dempster, Karen Solie, Priscilla Uppal, and Alexandra Oliver. It was a heavy hitting night, with urgency sidling into the last lines of poems, and leaving you feeling like you should have noticed it earlier; looking around the room, in the pin drop silence and at faces nodding silently along with the poems, it was clear the impact was universal.
As Anita Lahey notes in her excellent introduction, ‘There’s joy in these poems, huddled in the midst of their catastrophic subject matter…” How much like life, that sounded to me. Kudos to Tightrope Books and the BCP Editors for offering up such a rich tableaux of readings. Each brought a different layer, and cadence, to the proceedings.
At the after party, looking around the room at poets and publishers who had chosen, year after year, to continue down a path that kept them in thoughtfulness, was nothing short of joyful for me. So much of writing life is solitary, and I think most writers would admit that we like it that way; I know very few hyper-extroverted poets. But in this room, writers, listeners, and publishers mingled with warm enthusiasm and laughter buoyed by recognition; differences in topic were irrelevant, because the theme that united us was reverence – for words, articulation, clarity. Sometimes reunion is the only way to realize that you spend most of your days alone. It’s not a tragedy, we are all alone in some way, but it is a journey, and reunion, however fleeting, with those who launch from the same fabric, and inspire you to keep moving, is nothing short of invigorating.