You may remember that in the first installment of this blog, I expressed the somewhat quixotic hope that there might be other yeti-like big-footed ones dwelling on other continents besides Asia and North America (where the yeti is, of course, known as the sasquatch, and is the totem animal of this reading series). Well, the mysterious force called synchronicity made an instant connection.
On Saturday, February 25, the very day that that first blog appeared on our web page, an article in the Globe & Mail Travel Section announced that a new attraction at Disney World is a scale model of Mount Everest, with a huge, hairy, howling Himalayan yeti in residence. True, it is mechanical; but as Gertrude Stein once said about roses I’ll say about yetis: a yeti is a yeti is a yeti. Welcome to Florida, Brother (or Sister, for in the Globe & Mail article your gender was not specified). Canada’s snowbirds will no doubt find you thrilling, and perhaps a little scary.
Let me assure you that it is not our intention in this blog, despite the formidable associations of our name, to frighten; but merely to give a frisson to your literary instincts. In our blog I’ll tell you about our readings and the people who participate in them; and describe the books, chapbooks, CD’s, broadsheets and posters that we are offering for sale. There will also be a Guest Book, where you can enter whatever you want to say to us. Yetis or sasquatches may be huge and hairy but they’re thoroughly democratic. They’ve managed to tolerate humans for thousands of years, though pretty successfully staying out of sight. Smart of them. Can you imagine what a trophy hunter would give to put a stuffed sasquatch or yeti head on the wall of his or her den?
Our featured guest at the last Sasquatch, on Sunday, February 26, was Carlinda D’Alimonte, who was in Ottawa on a book tour with her collection of poetry entitled, “Now That We Know Who We Are”, published by Black Moss Press. Her reading was sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council of the Arts.
The daughter of Italian immigrants, D’Alimonte writes with eloquence and poignancy of prejudice, new Canadians, identity, the vulnerability of children, death and loss, and the emergencfe of a writer’s voice. Especially powerful are her evocations of the struggles of the children of immigrants to fit into the life of Canada. Immigrant parents are hard-working, struggling to make a good life in a strange land, often consumed by nostalgia for their homelands; their children are separated from them by a gulf of identity and experience that is often hard to bridge.
Carlinda D”Alimonte lives in Tecumseh, Ontario, with her husband and two daughters. She teaches English and Creative Writing in Windsor, Ontario.
As always, our Open Mic was full of surprises. For the first time ever, we heard a poem in Farsi, the stately language of Iran. The poet was Daryoush (he explained that his name is that of ancient Iranian emperors, known to the Greeks as Darius). He read several other of his poems in excellent English. Daryoush said, half-humourously that “everyone in Iran is a poet, even the fanatics”. Hearing him gave us a different take on the life of the people of a country chiefly notable in recent years as being part of the “Axis of Evil”.
Carol Stephen, from Carleton Place, read poems of hers for the first time in front of an audience, expressing herself with sensitivity and aplomb. She was nervous, she admitted, but to give herself courage wore an elegant three-cornered hat with a plume in it.
Carl Edgar Law, of Kingston, who has recently, after a long period of silence, started reading his work at various poetry venues, read several of his– poems: serious and well-crafted.
Lynne Alsford, always vivid and original, read several poems, including haiku and a poem about a definitive red dress.
K.G. Gordon, read a number of his thought-provoking aphoristic “Gordonisms”, brief and sharply to the point on a wide variety of subjects.
I read a poem about the lack of balance in media coverage of the world; how the humble and near at hand is neglected for the far away and sensational; and how I know more about Sunni and Shia, Afghans and Kurds than abut the homeless people of Ottawa.
Jacqueline Zena read sensitive inspirational work, with an emphasis on life-affirmation.
John Woodsworth played the balalaika and sang “Moscow Nights” and read some passages from his translation of “The Ringing Cedars” a series of Russian best-selling novels.
Nancy Rattle, read several of her strongly earthy poems.
That was it for Sasquatch, February 26, 2006.
But the afternoon was not yet over. As I emerged from the Downstairs Room at the Royal Oak II pub, where Sasquatch is held, I ran into an old friend, Alooktook Ipperle, an Innuit poet who writes with great insight and intensity of the life of the Canadian Far North. We spoke for a long time about the life and death of cultures, the crisis of global warming, nowhere more evident and alarming than in the Arctic, and how his people are struggling to preserve as much of their ancient ways as they can: for example, there has been a renaissance in throat-singing, which had become an almost lost art.
I left the pub, feeling inspired and challenged by the cultural riches available to Canadians.
The next Sasquatch reading is on Sunday, March 12. We will proudly feature young writers who studied Creative Writing under Seymour Mayne at the University of Ottawa during the 2004-2005 year. Now, one year later, they will launch an anthology of their work entitled “Norman Drive”. The writers include: Rhonda Douglas, Jesse Ferguson, Jeff Fry, Teresa Jewell, John Kelly, Jennifer Leap, Wanda O’Connor, and Tree Renaud. They will be introduced by Seymour Mayne. Readings every year by Seymour Mayne’s students are a Sasquatch tradition of long-standing.
There will of course be an Open Mic.
The date: March 12; the time: 2:00 p.m.; the place: Royal Oak II pub, 161 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa. We meet on the second and fourth Sunday every month, except July and August. There is no admission fee, only the passing around of El Sombrero for voluntary donations.