Toronto, how incredible is this?!
Jaap Blonk with Robin Minard
Isabel Bader Theatre
Kronos Quartet with Tanya Tagaq
Isabel Bader Theatre
Danforth Music Hall
Ciara Adams and I will perform some old slumberish work, as well as some newer echological texts, at Plasticine Poetry Series (The Central, 603 Markham St., Toronto, 8pm). Other readers include Andrea Thompson and Phoebe Tsang.
After Ghent, I spent a few days in Brussels hanging out with YA novelist Leila Rasheed, whose debut Chips, Beans, and Limousines: The Fantastic Diary of Bathsheba Clarice de Trop! is quite clever, delightful, romptastic. Copious thanks to Leila for her generous hospitality!! We enjoyed a fab walking tour of Brussels, one of the most exciting meals of my life (Comocomo, where Basque cuisine is created fresh and travels on a conveyor belt), and text/dancing at the Iceland on the Edge Festival.
For the festival, we met again with Helen, Jelle, and Maja at the BOZAR, in the cavernous Henry Le Boeuf Hall (seats 2100, with a King’s box) to watch several poets. First up was Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, who read his series of dictator sound poems. Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason lip-synced his Montevideo poem via video broadcast. Kristín Svava‘s Icelandic/English poetry was accompanied by silent video of assorted dance-film clips. And Sjón ended the evening in a wrestling mask.
Following the poetry, we moved to a smaller subterranean space for music concerts. The audience felt largely confused in such a gallery space, unsure whether to view the music as an exhibit (passive in their watching) or to move, seethe, writhe to the cacophony. Leila, Maja, and I chose the latter, as the music of Stillupsteypa and Ghostigital infected us with flail.
Other highlights from my time in Brussels included much schlepping around the city with Eiki, and a visit to Sterling Books (“the English bookshop in the heart of Brussels”), where Helen works. You can see Wide slumber and Lemon Hound on the Sterling bookshelf, below!!
Merendree: Out of the city, into rural Belgium. We wound our way through cobblestone roads and cowfields to an art gallery for the visual poetry exhibit Woord en Beeld, including work by Helen White (Krikri hostess extradordinaire) and Maja Jantar (an incredible and unclassifiable artist working in polypoetry and multimedia theatre, among other grand things). The range of work in the two-storey exhibit was impressive, and it was eye-opening to see Belgium’s visual poetry scene. An excellent post-festival adventure!!
Wenduine: He took us to the place of his childhood, stretches of sand and flat ocean and horizon and the Flemish sky with its suspended turbulence.
Bruges: Rain. Green. Clean. Any tourist’s medieval wet dream.
Ghent: We sat in the tetrahedron and, though talk was small, our past lives commingled and the subtext instinctively traced a cellular map. Longevity itudinal ing. Oh, big words. Big, big words big as Belgian hail. The sun was skyward and then it hailed and then it hailed again, the tetrahedron filled with din, our talk diminished, except. What happened next has yet to happen.
Partyafterparty: We made a spectacular feast, ate chocolate, and made zen gardens in red-wine salt. We improvised Jelle’s klankpoezie score. Kristof, Helen, Jelle, and Maja read aloud numerous poems by Canadians, a cacophonous familiarity. Maja and I improvised on a Flemish grammar book (video below). Querida watched.
And so: how to return to Ghent? There’s so much begs doing.
Our first attempt at an improvised duet (using a Flemish grammar book) picks up midway once we suss the other’s sensibilities. Hopefully we’ll have more opportunities to play in the future!
“I see that it’s important that we surrender ourselves and expose ourselves to things that we don’t necessarily understand, that through innocent, impassioned excitement we can’t help share.” – Lisa Gerrard
“To make the familiar strange, but also to use the materials of the familiar to make something highly recognizable and personal.” – Amina
“What matters isn’t what you could do but what you really did.” – Björk
April 26th was an enchanted day for a poetry reading: warm weather, bright sky, lots of sleep, and savoury pannekoeken with Leila. Following an afternoon stroll, I prepped for the evening’s performance at the Minardschouwburg. Pre-event dinner was comforting, and provided an opportunity to chat with Rozalie Hirs as well as the music performers of the evening, Ghalia and Moufadel.
Jelle Meander introduced Spanish polypoet eduard escoffet to kick off the night, and midway through his set I knew I was in love. eduard’s poetry is studied and self-aware, providing performative buffers of humour between poems direct in their chaos, generous in their depths, swirling with repetition, insistence, languages rubbed into agitation/excitation. Every gesture from eduard was timed to punctuate moments in text; every movement proved necessary, careful, poignant… slow, engrossing, exact. I video-taped the end of a poem I assume was about rural cabin life, which eduard embellished by spraying some flowery air freshener. I also caught a snippet of him eating a newspaper. I missed snagging my favourite of the night, though — “por,” a list poem that ended his set. With the final lines of
por a no ser tu
por a no ser tu
por a no ser tu
eduard then stood stock still, the hiss of his tape players feeding the microphones. To stare at him in this moment had me with a rush of thought, how naked he became onstage, how potentially confrontational or open or courageous an audience member might read this gesture. And just that: like a word, eduard invited, possibly dared, each audience member to read him, to read into him, into his lit existence on that stage.
Well, that had me! Whoever programmed the evening deserved kudos for leading with eduard, a consummate performer committed to his work and so inviting to his audience.
I nearly needed a breather then, but Dutch poet and composer Rozalie Hirs was introduced, and she offered a counterpoint performance to eduard’s. Rozalie focused on longer texts, looping her voice multiple times with her computer. The Dutch lyricism wove its oneiric threads around the audience, an alchemic lullaby, dulcet. I managed to snag a longer video clip of her performance, so please check below.
We’d all been invited to perform a cover text, and I’d had some last-minute hmming and haaing over what to read. Given that it was a spring night, I thought I might read my favourite Hagiwara Sakutaro poem (Hiroaki Sato translation), but indecision gripped me after Rozalie’s set, as I thought how nicely Ted Berrigan’s “Sonnet XXXVII” would segue between our bits. I took the intermission to wrestle with the cover, and eventually decided to go with Jordan Scott’s “What is the utterance?” from blert, which had been my initial plan for some weeks. Both the cover and a favoured rendition of Wide slumber for lepidopterists went well; video clip of the slumber below.
Leevi Lehto anchored the night, proving a crowd favourite with his morphemic and lipogrammatic sound poetry. I’ve been looking forward to meeting Leevi, as a fan of his Google Poetry Generator and also curious about his writing practices and ntamo, so it was a pleasure to not only see him perform but also share the stage with him and chat about many things during the festival. Truly a lovely person. I started to get a little more adventurous with the video at this point (fear of running out of recording power kept my clips short early on), and so have four snippets of Leevi below. Enjoy!!
To close the evening, Tunisian musicians Ghalia and Moufadel performed Arabic music. Just gorgeous work.
eduard escoffet performs at the Zaoem Polypoetry Festival in Ghent, Belgium.
Rozalie Hirs performs at the Zaoem Polypoetry Festival in Ghent, Belgium.