Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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So tomorrow (October 13) is my book launch. It's at the Gladstone Hotel in the ballroom and the doors open at 7pm.

And I'm pretty nervous today.

I used to run a series called Pontiac Quarterly that I set up like a "live magazine." That was more a reference to the way I approached my role as curator — or editor — of the night than it was a description of the content. There were a lot of magazine-appropriate pieces, but there was also a lot of performance-specific work. People read poems and stories and gave mini power-point lectures. Liz Clayton presented her witty and dry advice column, "Liz, What the Fuck?" (Liz also took the series over as host and editor to great success for its final year, when I needed a break from it.) Tyler Clark Burke painted live illustrations and hooked me up with excellent musical guests, like Gentleman Reg and Afie Jurvanen (then of Paso Mino, now of Bahamas). One night, author/playwright/social acupuncturist Darren O'Donnell initiated a game of spin the bottle (I still remember how certain folks bolted out of the room the minute they realized what was afoot). Usually close to fifteen people were involved with each issue.

My point is that I've had some practice setting up and hosting chaotic events. What I am not used to is setting up a production that's all about *my* work. It's a strange feeling. But I went at planning my launch in much the same way that I planned Pontiac — by asking my friends to help me.

Because I admired Chris Murphy's camera work and Rebecca Mendoza's choreography (they both performed separately at Pontiac), I asked them if they would be willing to make a short film using audio tracks from a couple of my Shaker-themed poems. The Shakers are a North American religious movement that flourished in the mid-nineteenth century; they didn't have sex and there aren't many left. Because dance was so important to the Shakers — they got their name for the way they moved during their worship — I thought it would be a good medium to extend the poems. I should say that I don't know a lot about real dance — neither ballet, nor jazz, nor tap, nor modern, nor electric boogaloo —  but the two times I saw Rebecca perform, I was completely blown away. Her sense of style, beauty, humour, and proportion all made sense to me immediately without me needing to understand the art on a technical level at all. Plus, I'd watched her dance to both the the Zombies and a choral rendition of a British weather report — if that's not range, I don't know what is.

Chris and Rebecca took tracks of me reading/singing two of my poems and created a beautiful short film on black-and-white Super 8, shot while they were on Prince Edward Island this summer. I love it. I'm so proud to be a part of it at all and I'm excited to show it tomorrow night. After my launch, we will put it up on the interweb.

My friend Tara White helped me build a listening booth (well she built it, I just stood by and handed her tools), which will be a three-walled miniature room containing a reproduction Shaker chair (which I made from a kit — I had to learn how to wave the seat out of chair tape!) and table with a pair of headphones playing a loop of me reading some poems. One person at a time can go into the booth — which will have a sheer curtain in front — and listen for however long they please. This is how I get around the fact that it is a This Is Not A Reading Series event. (Sneaky, right?) It's also a primitive example of an idea I've wanted to try for a long time. If it works well, Tara and I might try to develop a slightly more permanent version of the piece, if we can find a home for it besides my basement. I love installations that allow for a private moment in a public space, so I'd like to play with this more in the future.

For the performance aspect of the evening, novelist and playwright Claudia Dey is going to talk to me about Shakers, dance, the ecstatic state, writing, rock and roll, and other fun things. A bunch of great people are going to play music afterwards and I'm hoping to be able to do some dancing myself.

But right now, I'm just nervous.

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.

Damian Rogers

Damian Rogers lives in Toronto. Paper Radio (ECW Press) is her first book.

Go to Damian Rogers’s Author Page