After the long Easter weekend and the rush of the new week, my trip to Toronto at the end of March already seems like ancient history, but I have fond (if slightly jet-lagged) memories of the reading. The 10th Annual Battle of the Bards was held at Harbourfront Centre on a surprisingly warm and clear night. Each of the nineteen poets read for five minutes. And having been duly warned by the organizers not to run long, nearly everyone kept to the allotted time … As you can imagine, with that many writers involved, the poems ranged widely in style and subject. The readers were all impressive, and one of the best things about the evening was the impression it gave of the liveliness and diversity in Canadian poetry right now. To my ear, no two poets sounded much alike.
At dinner before the reading, I met Aaron Tucker, a poet from Toronto who, it turns out, used to live in rural B.C. I was delighted when the conversation turned to pine beetles—and I didn’t even have to bring them up!
We appeared in alphabetical order—from Stéphane Bouquet to Catriona Wright—which meant that I read second. I chose three poems from Rain Shadow—“The Beasts,” “In Praise of the Mountain Pine Beetle,” and “Cycling”—which I thought gave a good sense of what the book is about.
The day after the reading, the judges declared Paul Vermeersch the winner. Paul was entirely deserving, but all of the authors read fine, inspired (and inspiring) poems. I’m grateful to IFOA for hosting us so warmly and generously. It was a privilege to read in front of such a large and enthusiastic audience.
The rest of my time in Toronto was spent in the archives at U of T, where I perused the old letters of a few Canadian authors (who shall remain nameless). The things poets say about each other! But that’s a story for another time …
I’ll see you in Edmonton in a few weeks for Literary Cocktails.