Argo Featured Reading #7: Cory Lavender, Darryl Whetter & John Wall Barger

Saturday, June 16th, 2013

ArgoFeaturedReading#7 – Cory Lavender, Darryl Whetter & John Wall Barger by Argo Bookshop on Mixcloud

On a very, very hot and humid day in June, the Argo housed an Atlantic reading with Cory Lavender, Darryl Whetter and John Wall Barger. You’ll notice there’s a faint yet annoying sound in the background of the reading; that’d be the fan continually running. Luckily, it didn’t drown out the voice of Carmine Starnino, who hosted the event (having edited both Barger’s and Whetter’s book from Palimpsest). The music for the recording was provided by Norm Sibum playing “Deep River Blues” by Doc Watson.

In order of appearance:

To begin the night, Nova Scotia-bred poet Cory Lavender read some of his work. He was a long-standing host of an infamous spoken word performance series in Halifax for years, known as Tensity, and his poems and essays have appeared in many prominent Canadian journals including The Antigonish Review, The Queen’s Quarterly, The Dalhousie Review and The New Quarterly. Cory also read from his first and eagerly anticipated manuscript, the tentatively-titled Smear, which contained material that ranges from the familial, to scathing political critiques and even the scatological.

Secondly, Darryl Whetter read from his latest collection of poems Origins (Palimpsest Press, 2012). He’s the author of two books before Origins, both from Goose Lane Editions: The story collection A Sharp Tooth in the Fur (2003), named by The Globe and Mail as one of the Top 100 Books of its year, and the novel The Push & the Pull (2008). He has published poems and stories over 40 times in some of Canada’s best journals—including Descant, The Fiddlehead, Arc, The New Quarterly and Prairie Fire.Darryl holds a PhD in English and has published or presented papers on contemporary literature in France, Sweden, Canada, Germany, the United States, India and Iceland. Nearly 100 of his commissioned book reviews have appeared in venues such as The Toronto Star, The National Post, The Vancouver Sun, The Montreal Gazette, The Globe and Mail, Detroit’s Metro Times and the national CBC Radio program Talking Books. While Whetter has been a professor of English and creative writing at various universities, he currently teaches at Université Sainte-Anne.

Here’s the write-up from Palimpsest Press: “Entombed within a thirty-kilometre-deep seam of rock, the fossils of Joggins, Nova Scotia are pried from a cliff-face by a version of the ocean out of which their creatures evolved—for the first time on Earth—more than three-hundred-million years ago. With probing metaphors and a keen eye on science, the poems in Origins create a multi-faceted portrait of evolution, extinction and climate change. Centered on the powerful Bay of Fundy, Origins compares the displaced, prehistoric marks of fossils with cultural marks like art and books. These varied poems observe eternal traces and lingering residues, from fossilized footprints to landscape sculpture to pollution and industrialization. With only one bone in a billion fossilized and a perpetually changing planetary surface, these celebratory yet cautionary poems also investigate chance, loss and ruin. The intersection of forces, which both create and destroy, are echoed by poems devoted to transitory art, the human addiction to energy, and an evolving media history (from nineteenth-century field drawings to twenty-first-century digital libraries). Origins is a nuanced ledger for a troubled world.”

Thirdly, we had John Wall Barger, who read from his latest collection Hummingbird (Palimpsest Press 2012), coming all the way from China to present this collection in Halifax, Toronto and Montreal. A good friend of Lavender, Barger has received shining praise from The Malahat Review (“Barger has an ear, so all pieces have that musical buzz, the rig-a-jig of craft”) and Prairie Fire (“poems sing through a maze of faceted opalescence that tends toward brilliancy”). Barger’s poems have appeared in many literary journals, including CV2, The Antigonish Review, The Malahat Review, Grain and Descant. His work has also appeared in anthologies including The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008 (Tightrope Books) and The Montreal Prize Global Poetry Anthology (Véhicule Press, 2012). His first book, Pain-proof Men, was published in 2009 by Palimpsest Press.

Here’s a write-up for Barger’s latest, also from Palimpsest Press: “The Portuguese word for “hummingbird” is beija-flor—flower-kisser. In Aztec mythology, Huitzilopochtli is the hummingbird god, the bloodthirsty god of war, requiring nourishment in the form of constant human sacrifices to ensure that the sun will rise again. In this book, Barger documents his recent itinerant years in closely observed, honest, and sometimes surreal episodes: on a filthy street in Delhi, inside a statue of Buddha in Taiwan, and on the back of a Vespa in Rome. The hummingbird is a territorial, aggressive creature whose life depends upon its quest for fuel, compelling it to taste up to one thousand flowers per day. Its pulse, as it flies eight hundred kilometers across the Gulf of Mexico, can rise up to twenty-one beats per second. In these gritty poems, the furor of the hummingbird’s desire to survive and the roving spirit of the poet merge to compel a reading of life in flux that is at once breathtaking, agitated and fragile.”


A fantastic reading!

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