Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

BookTour 2010: Vancouver

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Vancouver now has direct train service from the airport to the downtown. If nothing else comes out of the Olympics, this alone justifies a lot. My generous and gracious host in the maple-spangled city was Clint Burnham, of SFU. I ate on Commercial that first night at a restaurant that boasted collecting all its groceries (which were all organic) on bicycle. Team Canada lost its hockey game, leaving the thousands of human flagpoles grumpy surly or sad. The next morning, Clint kindly walked me around his local hood, popping into small galleries, book stores, comic stores, and eateries. The sun was shining its high beams, daffodils were knee high, and cherry blossoms pinked up the sky. This is what February is supposed to be like. We bid each other au revoir, and I skipped across town to the waterfront to have lunch with constructionist poet Kate Braid. It was cooler down there, but a glass of wine in the afternoon (winter) sun is a delightful indulgence. She led me by tiny ferry to Granville Island, where the reading was to be.

Stepping off the boat, we stepped into the Event. The Olympic energy of the city was overwhelming. I heard a handful of grumbles, but the patriots had clearly won the mood. I doubt I will ever see so many maple leafs; ironic for a town that has no native maple trees. Granville is one of the big Olympic sites, which meant that we were surrounded by the bustle of dozens of simultaneous events. My reading took place in the Theatre Playhouse, as part of an art exhibition known as the Candahar Art Bar. It was curated by hard core local Michael Turner, and my reading was hosted by KSW poet Donato Mancini. In his introduction, he described a thousand jobs and activities I may have done (geologist, astronaut, etc), including my purported interest in “normal sex”, and set a rather pataphysical tone for my reading. The place was full, but divided between poets – such as Nikki Reimer (celebrating her birthday), Jeff Derksen, and Rachel Baumann – and Olympic tourists who could not get tickets to figure skating or ice dancing. The mixed bag crowd proved lively and more interested in having fun than maintaining ironic distance. The only heckle I received was, “Go Canada!” Immediately after the reading, Turner handed me a cheque with an Olympic logo – my podium moment! And I sold some books. Does it get better?

It does! My friend, filmmaker Adam Thomas came out, and snuck me off to a brew pub around the corner where a friend of his served up free beer as fast as we could drink it. The national anthem burst out a few times over the course of a few rounds. I guess the Canadians won a gold medal or two. I don’t know. We laughed at this strange new mood infecting our formerly demure and detached country, rejoined the other poets, and set course for a more complete debauch. I was especially pleased with myself the next morning for having the sense to book an evening flight to Oregon.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Gregory Betts

Gregory Betts is an experimental poet, editor, essayist and teacher. He is the author of If Language (BookThug, 2005), Haikube (BookThug, 2006) and The Others Raisd in Me (Pedlar Press, 2009). He has edited editions of poetry by W.W. E. Ross, Raymond Knister and Lawren Harris. His latest book is The Wrong World: Selected Stories and Essays of Bertram Brooker (University of Ottawa Press 2009).

Go to Gregory Betts’s Author Page