Parlour Poetry by Paul Strickland
Parlour Poetry by Paul Strickland
April was National Poetry Month and in Prince George was opened by a proclamation by the Mayor and followed with a reading by local poet, Gill Wigmore. There was a historical tour of the city with different local poets reading poems about the city and there were weekly poetry parlour events where numerous poets read.
The concluding event was held at the Nechako Branch of the Prince George Public Library and was emceed by poet, Gill Wigmore. Gill is author of the poetry books Dirt of Ages published by Nightwood Editions and Soft Geography published by Caitlin Press. As well, she has published the novel Grayling with Mother Tongue.
The audience first listened to poet, Kayla Czaga of Vancouver, who read from her book, For Your Safety, Please Hold On, published by Nightwood Editions in 2015. It was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. The book has mixed reviews, but all these suggest that Czaga shows promise.
Originally from Kitimat, Czaga said that her book was a “coming of age” collection of poems and that most poems related to her life in Kitimat where she didn’t have the happiest childhood.
The prose poem, “Another Poem About My Father,” confused me. I thought her complaint that her father gave her $1100 in small change for Christmas wasn’t such a terrible thing. But for her, the hardship was in the fact that she had to haul the money to the bank in a bag, through the snow.
Czaga also read “Aluminum” about the plant where her father worked, and “A Girl Like You” which deals with topics such as betrayals by boyfriends and what can happen to naïve girls.
Prince George poet Kara-lee MacDonald followed Czaga and read from her recently published collection, Eating Matters, about her struggles with bulimia. Most of the book was written while she lived in award-winning poet, Barry McKinnon’s house.
Because none of her poems have titles, she explained that most first lines indicate what the poem is about. As an example she read, “bulimic baking” and then one about her experience in therapy, which starts with the line, “…at my last session….” And another beginning, “she puts you in a room like a large closet….,” also about therapy.
MacDonald read what she termed “a come home poem,” and explained that her collection included sections such as, “The Binge,” “The Therapy Session,” and the “Scale,” which has lines such as, “….ten percent diagnosed die within ten years…” “We turn skeletons into goddesses….,” and “Westernization increases the risk.”
MacDonald subsequently read “my Princess Diana.” She claimed that Diana was bulimic and in her poem, referred to the “Diana Effect.”
It seems childhood fucks us up/
Princesses aren’t supposed to swear….”
The last poem she read was from the last poem in the book, which she called her “anti-dedication.”
“To the elementary school boys who called me ‘squaw’/
“To men who think a smile is an invitation to physical contact/
“To a guy in a bar who said I’d be hot if I lost five pounds….
“To leering body builders….”
Michael V Smith was the next guest to participate in the event. Smith is a creative writing teacher at UBC Okanagan and author of Bad Ideas, another Nightwood Editions book.
Smith read from his book a poem called, “Prayer for Irony,” with Irony being the name of a model puppy.
As a side observation, Smith claimed, “The Vancouver writing scene isn’t very supportive. They don’t come out for their friends’ or their students’ public readings.”
He went on to say he had written a whole series of poems about dreams. In “A Woman Dreams the Birth of Her Son” he asks, “How should we gender the son?” He then read a number of poems including, “The Summer,” “A Little Rant for Whining” and “A Prayer for Women in Film” which addresses the problem of trolls on Twitter.
Smith suggested that there needs to be more attention paid to the “queer perspective,” and made references to poems written in the form of prayers: prayers for hatred, prayers for happiness….”
He closed by reading “After my father died….There are all the things in the past you can’t change.”
Gill Wigmore returned to the lectern to announce the official “End of the National Poetry Month.”
Paul Strickland -- in his 28 years as full-time journalist and 6.5 years as a free-lance journalist, has worked for newspapers in Nevada, Medicine Hat and Prince George. Besides being an investigative reporter, he is a poet, a short story writer and an essayist. He currently resides in Prince George.
He has recently contributed to UNBC's Over the Edge, to CNC’s The Confluence and occasionally to the Prince George Astronomical Society's Pegasus newsletter. Paul also wrote a bi-weekly column for the P G Free Press and continues to freelance for electronic sites such as chickenbustales.com and www.dooneyscafe.com