Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Luminato 2011 - Notes from the Field – Montreal’s Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival

Share |
Luminato 2011 - Notes from the Field – Montreal’s Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival

The 13th annual Blue Metropolis Literary Festival kicked off in Montreal last Wednesday. I had the pleasure of taking the train down for my second fest, and one which is especially dear to my heart because of Blue Met’s 2011 celebration of Indian writing timed with the Year of India in Canada 2011. As a fan of South Asian writing, I couldn’t wait to meet Amitav Ghosh, Booker-nominee for the incredible novel Sea of Poppies and author of The Glass Palace and The Hungry Tide. Blue Met’s line-up also included favourites Bernard Schlink (The Reader), Kate Pullinger (The Mistress of Nothing) and Gore Vidal.

Being at Blue Met also gave me the chance to meet fantastic Lebanese-Canadian poet John Asfour. John read from his latest collection, Blindfold on Thursday. It was a wonderful intimate gathering and John, who lost his sight at the age of thirteen during the Lebanese civil war in a grenade explosion, read using his laptop and earphones. His poetry, which is deep and elegant, spans from childhood memories in Beirut (Eggs) to the current politics of the region. After the reading, I had the pleasure of talking to John about his upcoming appearance at Luminato. He reads with novelist Hisham Matar (Anatomy of Disappearance) and poet/translator Khaled Mattawa (Tocqueville, Adonis: Selected Poems) in An Evening of Arabic Poetry on June 14.

John’s event will be part of Luminato’s growing foray into presenting more poetry at the festival. In 2010 Luminato had the pleasure of partnering with Blue Metropolis to premiere a Chinese-English poetry slam before being presented at the Shanghai Expo as part of Canada’s Pavilion. It was Linda Leith, Blue Met’s founding Artistic Director, who introduced us to the project. Since Arabic literature has strong roots in Arabic poetry, we wanted to ensure we highlighted the genre in 2011 and continue growing this area of the festival. John, Khaled and Hisham are in conversation with returning Luminato host, and nominee for this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize, Dionne Brand (Ossuaries). At the press announcement for the Griffin's it was also wonderful to hear that Khaled was nominated for his translations of the Syrian poet Adonis. Read more here.

Blue Metropolis took place at the Holiday Inn in Montreal’s Chinatown . It was great to attend an afternoon reading by one of Egypt’s most prolific and well known writers, Alaa Al Aswany (The Yacoubian Building). Al Aswany was the recipient of Blue Met’s 2011 Al Majidi Ibn Dhaher Arab Literary Prize. Past winners include Lebanon’s Joumana Haddad, who joins Luminto for Beirut39 at Luminato, and Elias Khoury. After Al Aswany I headed off to hear Ghosh speak about his body of work, and the second installment of his trilogy which began with Sea of Poppies. The new novel, River of Smoke, comes out in June, and the fan in me can not wait. Ghosh spoke to Noah Richler about language and the creation of his trilogy. Afterwards he dazzled the audience by reading from the uncorrected proofs of the new novel.

Coming back to Toronto, I feel all the more excited to meet the authors who will be joining us in June. Blue Met reminded me of the actual pleasure of interaction in addition to programming. I look forward to those late night discussions about books that inevitably happen in the artists’ lounge, and after a signing in the lobby of our venues. That’s what makes it worth it.

1 comment

Loved you post about the Blue Met.. wish I could have attended it this year as well. What a great lineup they had.
Can't wait to see John Asfour in Toronto in June!

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.

Devyani Saltzman

Devyani Saltzman is a Canadian writer. She is the author of Shooting Water, a memoir, as well as articles for The Globe and Mail, The Atlantic Monthly, Marie Claire, TOK: an anthology of new Toronto writing, The Literary Review of Canada and Tehelka, India's weekly known for arts and investigative journalism. She is currently Curator of Literary Programming for Luminato, Toronto's Festival of Arts and Creativity.

Go to Devyani Saltzman’s Author Page