Last night at the Ottawa International Writers Festival, Nicholas Lea read from his first poetry collection, Everything is movies (Chaudière Books, 2007).
Note that the other feature at the event was Dusty Owl published author, Daniel Allen Cox, Tattoo This Madness In. All I'll say about that is Jehovas' Witnesses, surveys and smurf cakes. Thanks Dusty Owls :)
When introducing the book, Lea mentioned, I suspect in response to the previous poetry cabaret’s Q&A session, that he, himself, doesn’t write much about geographical place.
Lea’s poems beg to be read aloud, so rich are they in sound play. He opened with the poem Dummies wonder which is an exercise for the tongue and the mind: “careening into sleep’s/cabbage-role afghan.” I would have laughed more at this pun, if I’d seen it on the page!
Midrift: “dislodge the hodgepodge of love” is a wonderfully playful yet earnest imperative.
Poems like Posture show Lea’s skill with imagery: “Find the nerve of the peach.”
His poetry is a combination of word play and word skill, real and surrealistic imagery, colloquial and formal language. He refers not only to the masters of poetry like Dylan Thomas and John Ashbery, but also popular musicians such as the Tragically Hip and its poet-musician, Gord Downey.
Above all, Lea’s poems are precise and he gets to the heart of things using this precision as we see in the poem Avatar: “Throwing hay from barn roofs is no/consolation—/the rain-veined knoll, the gold that shoots/through everything,/is water on your eardrums—“
There’s an absurdity and an earnestness to Lea’s writing that I haven’t seen with a lot of writers coming from his background these days in Ottawa. In his back-of-the-book blurb, Kevin Connolly says that these poems have “an ecstatic recklessness” and “an unfakeable spontaneity.”
Lea mentioned the collection had a lot of yoga references, yet he doesn’t do yoga himself. I’d say the book has a yogic tone: meditative, flexible and muscular. If I could read my own drunken hand-writing, I’d say more.
Later in the evening, after still more alcohol...
the poetry cabaret, featuring B.W. Powe, Sandra Alland and bill bissett. What I remember most is both Alland and bissett’s sounds, Alland repeating words orgasmically, bissett chanting “a long way from love” with his maracas, as he does. Alland read from or talked about her book, Blissful Times 63 poetic translations of one poem from Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days. One cool thing she did for the book was to alphabatize all the words, which she read out to us, joyfully.
Both of these writers and performers reminded me that it’s all about playing and risking. That’s what they did.
If I had organized the program for last night, I would have put Lea with Alland and bissett. The thread of experimentation weaved through the work of all three writers.
I don’t have anything to say about B.W. Powe except I didn’t think his style, which was of a more narrative nature, fit in with the playfulness and experimentation of the other readers.
I wish I could say more, and perhaps if I hadn’t had that last glass of wine, I would be able to. see rob's blog for a more coherent and informative description. also john's great photo of Sandra Alland.