Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

BookTour 2010: Calgary

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The bus arrived late, but I was able to grab a cab right away. The address for the reading was buried in my duffle. I told the driver I was going to Pages in Kensington, on Kensington I thought. He knew the place, and set off. After a moment, he looked back at me and noted that the store was probably closed.

“I’m going to an event there this evening.”
Pause.
“A book launch?” he asked.
“Yes, that’s right.”
Pause.
“Is it your book launch?”
“As a matter of fact, yes it is.”
“Are you a poet?”
“Yes, actually.”
“Okay, finish this: ‘Turning and turning in widening gyre.’”
“Ha, ‘The falcon cannot hear the falconer.’”

He recited the whole poem, and we talked about his favourite poets, such as Rumi, Eliot, and Wallace Stevens. He asked a number of intelligent questions about my work, and got out of the cab to shake my hand face-to-face in front of the book store. I stood in the snow for an extra moment before going in, with plenty of time to spare.

Pages on Kensington, which has no formal relation to the recently deceased Pages Bookstore in Toronto, is one of those wonderful, remarkable bookstores that are increasingly rare in this country. Not only do they stock books that I want (I picked up Larissa Lai’s newest – which includes her amazing longpoem “Rachel” – and Christine Stewart’s chapbook), but they foster a literary community by hosting and promoting events. Unlike the other bookstores that I’ve navigated on the first leg of this tour, they negotiated prices and profit sharing with me. I was thoroughly impressed with their professionalism and generosity. As one who comes from a city that lacks an independent bookstore, I revelled in the rich environment they create.

There were three other readers at this standing-room only event: Ross Priddle, Josh Barsky and Lori D. Roadhouse. Ross was the MC at my very first reading, ten years ago in Victoria. Another historical connection: derek bealieu, who was kind enough to put me up, published my very first poem also ten years ago. He’s got a gorgeous new hand-made artist book Silence out with Red Fox Press (as part of their C’est Mon Dada imprint series). Lots of other folks out as well -- Ryan, Paul, Kit, and more. Is there any wonder why I love Calgary’s lit scene?

Stephanie Davis, of the Flywheel Reading Series, was an excellent host for the event, and it was also a distinct pleasure to meet Laurie Anne Fuhr. There was more good news at the end of the night, when I learned that I had sold a bunch of books. We scuttled off to the bar, joined by Christian Bök (who had been roped into a rival UofC literary event) and derek (who had been roped into a work-related event). They both raved about a beautiful constraint-based chapbook by Calgarian Helen Hajnoczky, who I also had the pleasure to meet. Throw Filling Station and Dandelion into the mix, and you are forced to confront a question: Does Calgary boast Canada’s most vibrant literary scene or does it just feel that way?

derek had to leave at an obscenely early hour the next morning, which left me alone with his library. I browsed a couple dozen books, jotted down the titles of a half-dozen books, and skipped off to Higher Ground for a cup of morning joe. I guess a Chinook had come in, because the sun was shining warm, and the ice and snow were melting. At the bus depot, I met a French traveller, a Quebecois ski bum, and the first of many Australians. En route to Banff, I had no idea I was entering into the territory of the Aussie mafia.

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