Launch of Rebecca Păpucaru’s The Panic Room (Nightwood Editions, 2017)
Tuesday September 27th 2017 at Librarie Drawn & Quarterly, Montreal
On a brisk night at the end of September, a small crowd gathered at Librarie Drawn & Quarterly for the launch of Rebecca Păpucaru’s debut poetry collection The Panic Room (Nightwood Editions, 2017). The guests chatted amongst themselves, helped themselves to the complimentary wine. Old friends greeted each other warmly as they entered. The atmosphere was jovial and relaxed; anything but panicked. The room felt more like a friendly cocktail party than an official book launch, perhaps appropriate for one of the last events held at Drawn & Quarterly’s 211 Bernard Avenue Ouest location, before they opened their new children’s store and event space down the block a few weeks later.
The intimate yet casual mood was certainly fitting for the launch of The Panic Room, a debut poetry collection that draws readers into the humour, heartbreak, pain and banality of everyday life. Described as an exploration of “the complexities of identity and selfhood, memory, embodiment, loss, and family, through the lens of a second-generation Eastern European Jewish immigrant,” The Panic Room blends personal anecdote, stories passed down through generations, and historical narrative to weave an intricate web between the speaker and the world that surrounds them.
Opening for Păpucaru was Montreal-based poet, Vallum Pop-up Shop guest and a former Vallum workshop co-facilitator Linda Benser, whose latest collection Feel Happier in Nine Seconds was released by Coach House Books earlier this year. The observational wit of Besner’s poetry translated well throughout her reading. The irony suggested by her collection’s title—which she admitted was inspired by the self-help headlines of magazines geared towards women—made the moments of tenderness throughout her readings even more pronounced.
After Besner, the debut author took to the stage. An interesting conversation began to unfold between Besner’s poetry and Păpucaru’s. Both poets deftly employ an ironic tone to interrogate the complexities of understanding the self in today’s world. In one poem, Păpucaru’s speaker reflects: “I’m one generation apart from all this, / and ashamed. Of my father, before his / refrigerator, mourning age spots on lettuce.” Through her use of humour, Păpucaru encourages readers to grapple with larger questions of identity, lineage, history, and family. Halfway through her reading, an audience member’s cellphone rang, their Taylor Swift ringtone buzzing throughout the bookstore. “Are you kidding me?” asked Păpucaru, her voice dripping with mock indignation. She rolled her eyes and continued reading.
The launch, like Păpucaru’s and Besner’s poetry, felt familiar and cozy, the singsong conversation of a family reunited around the dinner table after a long time apart.
Read more about The Panic Room by Rebecca Păpucaru here, and Feel Happier in Nine Seconds by Linda Besner here.
Catch Rebecca Păpucaru at the Nightwood Editions Poetry Night in Montreal on Friday November 10th 2017. To learn more, visit their Facebook event.