Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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By Melanie Janisse

The Scream has infiltrated Ossington Street like a bunch of troublemakers. Amongst the now usual throngs of club and bar goers are the poets, hiding, usurping, infiltrating. I walk into the Levack Block searching for my friend Krysta. I have asked her to meet me here at the intersection between the regular Ossington street crowds and the poets that slip around inside of the spectacle, sometimes defying and sometimes simply joining in to what is. The lines are never so certain. They are lines in the sand and in our own judgments of us/them, you/me and artist/non-artist. My friends are spies decorating the bar. My friends are some of the regular bar goers. They graft together to become another entity.

Something has happened to me since visiting with Antin the inaugural Scream night at the Arts and Letters Club. Either that or something is happening around me, I am not so sure. That afternoon my friend Pat, freshly returned from Mexico, and myself met up for lunch on Bloor. In between bites, she spoke to me of her life and how it has changed (since a recent illness) into a "now" based existence. Her way through the day is a question. What is the will for me now? And now? And now? She follows the string of this line of questioning through her day like a detective and claims that it leads her on the widest of adventures. She is wide-eyed. It is real; I think that Antin himself would be astounded by her tales of living a life based on the now. Many worries seem to have slipped away and there is a keen sense of anticipation and adventure that replaces fear of the future, regrets and burnout. I am left feeling excited for what might happen next, with a glimpse into the experiment of now.

I remember my conversation with Pat as I approach the bar. The Levack Block has been converted into the Centre for Sleep and Dreams by angela rawlings and crew (Ciara Jane Atteridge Adams, Richard Windeyer) and one can sense the festive aspect of the evening the moment you enter the door. I am early and find myself in the middle of set-up. I find myself drawn into the back room — a bunker of sorts. I walk in to rawlings and Atteridge Adams preparing for the night with a sound exercise. They invite me into the circle. There is breath and sound as we all utter into the air. Riffing off of each other with squeaks and growls and song. Breath, I am in the space of the witches again. I have laid my elk hat to the side for fear of it getting crooked as I move to the noises that us three women create. I am digging the Scream with all of its secret rituals and special invites. I am beginning to get used to all of this shamanism. I have come to expect a secret room everywhere I go.

I leave the two women to set up for their event and head out to find Krysta. I eat pierogies and attempt to experience the normal bar resto side of the fence, but I am drawn into the dream world again as Angela moves about the bar signing individuals up for an intake into the Centre for Sleep and Dream Studies. I sign up and wait my turn enjoying the sound experiments and soundscapes that have begun to infiltrate the venue. When it comes my time, I enter the back room again. I have attached the questionnaire that Ciara took me through in order for you to have a glimpse into all that is liminal about me and about this.

As usual, it would seem that I could write a whole book about an assignment for OBT. I realize that I have hardly touched on the events of the Scream this year. The main stage was brilliant and the discussion panel on the avante garde sounds like it was poppin’ and lively. And of course, deep into the night, at the close of the main stage, everyone slow danced under the stars. I would like to think that the poets tricked the stars into smiling for those ten minutes. The poets took off their disguises and did their thing. The false moustaches lying in the grass like husks, the personas we all carry around shed into a sweet kind of innocence. Now that is refreshing.


AR: Welcome to the Centre for Sleep and Dream Studies.

MJ: Thank-you.

AR: Do you snore?

MJ: I never snore. Never. But I move around a lot in my sleep looking for a perfect place.

AR: Have you been told that you hold your breath while you sleep?

MJ: No, but I have been told that I hold my breath when I am afraid. I am only afraid while I am awake.

AR: Are you irritable most or all of the time?

MJ: There have been times where I have lost my peace.

AR: Do you sleep naked?

MJ: When I am with my lover I do. When I am alone I wear odd things to bed and sometimes warm socks.

AR: Are your eyes closed or open?

MJ: Right now, they are half of the two.

AR: Welcome to the Scent for Leap and Ream Studies.

MJ: Haven’t I always been here?

AR: Do you talk in your sleep?

MJ: I have been known to have sleep conversations.

AR: Do you walk in your sleep?

MJ: Only on dream paths.

AR: Do you kick in your sleep?

MJ: Only at the dust of my psyche.

AR: Do you jump in your sleep?

MJ: My heart does when I feel his touch through my dreams.

AR: Do you juggle in your sleep?

MJ: I do. Notions of responsibility and of slipping further away into my
imagination, into the murk of a primordial mind.

AR: Do you snuggle in your sleep?

MJ: Lately, yes. But so far only on Mondays.

AR: Do you juxtapose in your sleep?

MJ: Yes, but only when I am worried about things in the third dimension, like bills. They shore up against the flow of my mind.

AR: Do you adjust your knees in your sleep?

MJ: They knock, they pop off like small firecrackers, they nudge.

AR: Do you sneeze in your sleep?

MJ: No but I do in my bathroom. One of the smells in there is an allergy. I
look everywhere, but cannot seem to track it down.

AR: Do you sleep in your sleep?

MJ: Sometimes it feels like I do not. The veil between awake and asleep parts, or doesn’t shut right, or remains open despite my best efforts.

AR: Welcome to the Centaur for Elves and Demon Steeds.

MJ: That is fine, they are all friends. I wish I had known I was coming. I would have brought them loaves, acorns, white flowers.

AR: Who are you?

MJ: I look around and see only the air in front of me. So, I ascertain that I exist, but I am also a reflection.

AR: At what age were you born?

MJ: Thirty-seven, at right now.

AR: Describe what the future sounds like, bleeding out of a speaker.

MJ: Like the sound of a beckoning finger.

AR: Do you ever dream of dolphins?

MJ: No, but I have a memory of loving someone and walking up a coastal mountain that had rocks shaped like orcas.

AR: The most violent shape is;

MJ: A triangle.

AR: The most beautiful sound is:

MJ: A sigh of contentment.

AR: Do many innocent little waves weep over the softness of beds?

MJ: Yes. They sip the covers and slip into the sheets. They use our hair as tissue to dry their eyes.

AR: Have you ever had a dream that predicted the future?

MJ: No.

AR: Do you know the fate that awaits you?

MJ: Yes.

AR: Welcome to the Enter her Eep and Um Sturdy.

MJ: I come who cum to what is upright and hums.

AR: Have you been shut up in this cage for long?

MJ: Too long, my friend. The bars are golden. The heart is elsewhere.

AR: Are you about to abandon us?

MJ: Yes, always.

AR: Is the air thick?

MJ: Tonight it is soft and cool like a fall night. Tonight breathes like soft

AR: Do you dream of electric sheep?

MJ: No, but there are neon pigs and cows that flash through my window from a butcher shop. The invade my sleeping chamber.

AR: Well, cum. Elk.

MJ: I am a member of a secret sect. I want my tall hat.

AR: Have you beavered into loon?

MJ: I have worked hard to be so mysterious.

AR: Do you know what moose are?

MJ: To me they are my Canada.

AR: Do you want to know what moose are?

MJ: To me they are an apparition.

AR: Do you want to rabbit?

MJ: Always. Except in the surreal moments where if find them Harvey-like.

AR: Do you moose your loon?

MJ: Yes, but I am working on not doing this anymore.

AR: Have you beavered in moose?

MJ: It seems as though I have done this my whole life.

AR: Do you want to beaver in moose?

MJ: No, I do not. Not anymore.

AR: Are you in rabbit?

MJ: I was on Monday and for part of Tuesday.

AR: Are you in rabbit with loon or moose?

MJ: Definitely with the loon. I am rabbiting with a loon.

AR: Are fern moose?

MJ: No, no.

AR: Well Question qu’where.

MJ: Everything is a question, isn’t it?

AR: Do you question air?

MJ: Yes. I have asked air to enter, to exit, to help, to show itself.

AR: Are you a questing heir?

MJ: Yes, but I am looning towards something fernier.

AR: Do you request air?

MJ: I beg air, I forget air.

AR: Does this question err?

MJ: No, it leads and sends.

AR: Welcome to the Centre for Sleep and Dream Studies.

MJ: Thank-you.

AR: Where are you?

MJ: I am on the red road. I am under this.

AR: How aware are you?

MJ: When I think I am aware I have forgotten.

AR: Is your love everywhere?

MJ: Often it is.

AR: Is it how you see it?

MJ: Usually it is how I not see it.

AR: Isn’t it how we see it?

MJ: Usually not.

AR: Is it in the lines?

MJ: Never.

AR: Isn’t it, more or less?

MJ: Oh very much, yes.

AR: Be welcome. Sleep. Dream.

MJ: I will find my home here, my hearth and I will do my rest in the nook of your sand.

Photos by Melanie Janisse. Please click on an image to start the photo gallery.

Melanie Janisse is a native of Windsor, Ontario where she retains memories of old docks jutting out into the Detroit River and the smell of hops. Melanie began her education by leaving home early and wandering around the abandoned houses of inner city Detroit, and then the intense forests of the Canadian West Coast. Formally she holds degrees form Concordia University in Communications and Literature and from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Photography. Melanie has resided in Toronto for the past nine years, keeping active as a visual artist, poet, designer and shop owner. Her work has appeared in Luft Gallery, Common Ground Gallery, Artcite Gallery, Dojo Magazine, Pontiac Quarterly, The Scream Literary Festival, The Southernmost Review, The Northernmost Review and The Windsor Review. Her first poetry book Orioles in the Oranges (Guernica Editions) tells the tale of on old Metis legend, allowing it to dovetail with Detroit's gritty modernity in an unforgettable series of prose poems. Melanie is happy to be a part of Open Book: Toronto ruminating about books and book-like things around Toronto.

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