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The poet Mary Duffy (Cate Barry)
The poet Mary Duffy (Cate Barry)

Wrap-up Wednesday Add to ...

Did you know we can lay claim to our very own Canadian Hall of Fame? S'True (and, equally true, it identifies our greatest writers, both historically and presently, as "talented contemporary authors," additionally noting our collective literary output ranks "as one of the world's best").

Me, neither. You learn something wonder-filling new . . . Great? Great! Judging by the news and events both recently celebrated and presently anticipated, no one could challenge such a great nation / notion; nor, come to think of it, would anyone really want to try . . . would they? Erm . . . Why? We's way too nice and too polite for such thangs :).

Thus, because Wednesday — Hump Day — generally provides columnists, commentarians and bloggers with the opportunity to look both ways before they cross the beat (or, in this instance, to catch up on what we've missed during health-hiatus), I put it to you (ironically) . . . sigh . . . I genuinely hope the following tids, bits and encharming briefs and beauts satisfy your appetites for all things greatfully Canuckian (with the proviso that a pair of exhaustive interviews — one with Buffalo, NY's poet and musician John Kloberdanz, the other with GG poetry shortlister, Vancouver, BC's Garry Thomas Morse — currently on the front burner, will appear in the near future to colourfully brighten and en/lighten these blech-grey winterfied daze.

Of course, we at In Other Words also plan to introduce TAKE TEN, a Q & A feature showcasing la crème de la crème of Canadian poets, leading off with Brick Books versifier John Donlan, perhaps one of our best-kept genius secrets who, not unlike Tom Thomson, exquisitely captures the spirit of the contemporary wilderness in astonishingly vivid shades of crimson-golden blaze as well as a sheen of briny-metallic verdigris glaze . . . BTW, should you wish to participate in this soon-to-be-regular endeavour, please feel free to contact me . . . Discretion both expected and assured.)

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Consider yourself officially invited to the League of Canadian Poets' 46th annual Festival & Conference, this year to take place at the Park Town Hotel in Saskatoon, SK June 15th to 17th with a line-up of dazzling poets and exciting events, the Joe Sherman Memorial New Members' Reading, the Anne Szumigalski Lecture (delivered this year by Robert Currie) as well as the Gerald Lampert and Pat Lowther Award Extravaganzas among them. Interested? You'll find the complete 411 on this always interesting and tasty food-for-thought poetic interlude here.

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From Max Layton, Irving Layton's son: "It occurred to me to ask if you, or someone you know, would be willing to organize an event for the centenary of my dad's birth this March 12, 2012? Events are already being planned for Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. My hope is to have some sort of poetry reading/birthday party take place the same day from Cape Breton to Vancouver Island. Some of these events may be video-linked live; but, all will certainly be linked by Facebook page. How the event is organized and what it consists of would be up to you — it could be as formal or informal as you like, as onerous to organize or as easy as you choose. Frankly, I'd be perfectly happy if a bunch of poetry lovers went down to the local pub and lifted a glass in my dad's honour." Should you happen to find yourself in Toronto on that date, why not email Max and make plans for a meetup with the son of one of our greatest poets, period?

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CHIP IN! Introducing Toronto's Coach House Press's new exclusive-membership programme, its Coach House Important Person Sodality, now up and running, offering avante-gardistes, excellent-writing aficionados and flâneurs the opportunity to join forces with other chirpy CHIPpers to obtain substantial discounts, freebies and historic tours for those among us who cannot get enough of some of the best CanLit on the planet: The world-famous and universally respected press plans to take the literary community to the next level. Become a loyal supporter by acquiring a reasonably priced C.H.I.P. Membership. (You won't regret it.)

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While cyber-surfing the virtual waves (read: procrastinating), I came across a lovely little essay J. Carpenter penned for Books in Canada concerning the time in which I "grew up" in Toronto; and, for the record, I did attend most of the events described herein; however, I often think of Hans Jewinski and wonder where he is, how he's doing, what Canada's famous "poet cop" has done lately et so forthia . . . If anyone knows, please leave a comment or contact me at the email address below the pic on our In Other Words sidebar. I have a burning-hot question for him :). Thank you!

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Do Gentlemen Prefer Poetry? That's the burning-hot question examined by The Saanich News concerning a poeteasically new black-tie event hosted by Burlesque Star Miss Rosie Bitts tonight at the Victoria Events Centre commencing 7:30 sharp, Gentlemen Prefer Poetry:

"The event was the brainchild of Missie Peters, producer of Not Your Grandma's Poetry, who wanted to create an environment for poetry that's similar to a jazz lounge. 'People think of poetry, especially slam poetry, as this straight, urban, rough and tumble kind of performance,' Peters said. 'But it also has a very literary sophisticated side that I hope this event will bring out' . . . And, there will be one woman on stage: Burlesque Star Miss Rosie Bitts will introduce the performers. Several other burlesque dancers will roam the audience selling candy cigarettes that will double as raffle tickets to win a grooming kit from Victory Barber."

I draw your attention to this wee item because the accompanying pic makes your click on the above link worth the wait it takes to load this delightful local-news page. N-Joie!

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Perhaps the most memorably heartbreaking event of the century to date, the departure of Christy and Karl Siegler from the design and sign wings of TalonBooks will, at least, never fade away, primarily because the already legendary Farewell Bash honouring the powerhouse pair, forever preserved on celluloid, additionally appears on Vimeo in byte-sized nibble-clips featuring luminaries the calibre of our freshly installed Parliamentarian Poet Laureate Fred Wah; award-winning composer, performer, novelist, arts commentarian and playwright John MacLachlan Gray; poet and novelist extraordinaire Daphne Marlatt; universally revered actor, musician and author Eric Peterson; the subject of our current baseball quiz (open to responses till March 1st, BTW); and, alongside the stellar likes of Adeena Karasick, Colin Browne, Renée Rodin, Jamie Reid, Sachiko Murakami, Jeff Derksen, Marie Clements and Roy Miki? The irreplaceable duo itself doing what comes naturally with grace, class, humour and poignant panache.

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Oh, no, I could and would not forget today we also mark the 1759 birth of Robbie Burns, "the sacred day when Scottish persons around the world stop arguing long enough to celebrate the birth of a poet whose works most of us have never read and who, as far as anyone knows, is currently dead." Pull up a chair for the feast at The Winnipeg Free Press to hear Doug Speirs tell the story entire (complete with yummy references to tartan wallpaper and less-than-yummy — Alright, downright yucky! — descrips of the "traditional dinner wherein people of Scottish heritage put on their kilts, pretend to tune up their bagpipes and feast on the national dish of Scotland, by which I mean haggis, which is technically a 'pudding,' but more like a mutant sausage with a frightening resemblance to a huge garden slug"). . . . Plus, in order to allow you enough time to book your preferred mode of transportation, don't forget that the 28th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the continent's greatest celebration of the North-American West, its people, culture and traditions, happens Jan. 30th to Feb. 4th in Elko, NV.

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Finally, because it happened to cross my e-threshold when I least expected a little beauty and a lot of love, please accept my wee poetic world-exclusive gift courtesy of one-time Maritimer, Mary Duffy, now a Vancouver librarian (and one of our finest up 'n' comin' lingua-maestra to make her presence felt in my ever-expanding universe these past few decades just because . . .):

Gift

"A cold coming you had of it," my baby brother Our mother entered a desperate race the coldest day of that bleak winter sailing in a fragile vessel from Red Island to Argentia icebergs chasing her all the way up Placentia Bay You were born in the darkest hour of that night

The curling shell pink umbilical cord froze into an intricate ice sculpture after it grew out of the warmth of our mother unfurling to create a gritty monument anchored down in frozen placental fluid atop her now empty belly

The skiff hit the wharf They lifted you up, a warm offering Hands reached to pass you to hands waiting on the stage but the boat listed, fingers slipped you went flying down toward the joyous boiling cold ocean fated to spend your future as a Mer child, lost to us whose cries we would hear only when foghorns warned us of choppy seas such as these ones

The priest sailing with the crew for fear his presence might be required on the voyage, to assist our mother or you, if needed, to another sphere leapt up and caught the tumbling bundle A great save! A tiny miracle

When they bring you to me — such a precious gift I, still a baby myself, cover my eyes and cry "No brother! No brother! No brother!" knowing that your comb of shocking red hair will put my nose out of joint and break it will take all the attention away from me a pale blond imitation of a real Red Island Barry

I should have been slightly more gracious in my acceptance speech The next winter, a big red rooster attacks and knocks our mother over as she gathers eggs killing our little brother still inside of her our father placed a lamb in her empty arms to comfort her in her grief

Now, there is only you and me left in this world to agree and argue over this and the memory of when Father Lewis, and his big black dog, Rex came down to our house after saying Mass and our mother spread the table with fresh bread and butter opens jars oozing gooseberry jam and celebratory tins of ham trying to make a big man even bigger

"Gift" © 2012 Mary Duffy. Author photograph © 2012 Cate Barry. All rights reserved. Used by written permission.

(Hat tips, Paul Lisson, Mary Duffy and Alejandra Gatica.)

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