Recap by Rosie Long Decter. Photos by Brian Campbell.
Speaking to a packed house, host and curator Klara du Plessis began the night by telling the story of the Reading Series’ inception, how she started it six years ago while working there and how it grew to become one of the most established literary events in Montreal. This, she admitted, was part of her reasoning for closing it down: Resonance became “an authority.” Du Plessis doesn’t have the resources to curate the Series in the way she feels this authority would need, so she’s letting it reach its end naturally and going out on top.
The night was definitely a testament to the strength of the series du Plessis has built, beginning with the first reader, Rebecca Salazar Leon. Salazar Leon began with a warning that her poems would feature a considerable amount of gore and bad puns. She wasn’t lying, but the gore was soft and unsettling, not overwhelming, and even the bad puns were effective and affecting. “Are rooms so interchangeable with entrails to you,” she asked in the first piece she read, a trilingual poem examining sex, dating, and desire from the perspective of a young woman in Catholic school. She went on to read a couple of pieces that addressed the damage inflicted on her childhood home in Northern Ontario by mining companies, followed by several others examining misogyny and magic. In “Pain Management,” Salazar Leon probed intergenerational trauma, searching for a means of coping, if not healing. “My pain and I lay side by side,” she read, her voice resigned, like the act of accepting pain is as radical as overcoming it.
After Salazar Leon was Eric Schmaltz, a multimedia artist whose book Surfaces came out earlier this year via Invisible Publishing. Schmaltz read excerpts from the book, an interrogation of “what of us gets lost or erased in digital communications.” Schmaltz, realizing that the text itself contained few words, paired his reading with a visual display in which various geometric shapes and formulations rearranged themselves on a purple background. The poems were definitely sparse, consisting mostly of surreal phrases (“material information bleed”) that juxtaposed digital and mechanical processes with bodies and nature. With his even voice, Schmaltz’s recitations themselves felt almost mechanical, further blurring the line between screen and self.
Following a short break, Dani Couture took the stage. Couture has published three collections of poetry and one novel, Algoma, via Invisible Publishing. Her cool voice drifted across the room as she recited a poem that looked at life as a process of recycling and reorganizing: “here on earth, everything stands for one thing or what it used to be,” she read. “How did you keep splitting to only become one thing?” Her poems dealt carefully and quietly in connections and absences; a piece titled “Contact” asked plainly: “when does knowing a person begin?” Given Couture’s subdued presence, her reading felt a bit like floating through a hazy day, providing the lovely calm of not needing to arrive anywhere in particular.
Closing out the night – and the whole series – was Shannon Maguire. Maguire began with a piece about a wolf interpreted from Old English; the piece had intrigued them because it sat somewhere between a riddle and an elegy. Maguire enunciated each word with energy and enthusiasm, their diction adding new dimensions to the already vivid words. Another piece, “Pleasure,” from their book Myrmurs, chronicled a series adventures with a partner or lover, set in Maguire’s hometown of Sault Ste. Marie. With lines like “we stuck our index finger into our lower jaw” and “you were boy and girl and rabbit and hawk moth,” the piece was overwhelming in the best possible sense, flooded with life.
Du Plessis came back to the stage to wrap everything up. She remarked on how the readers had connected with one another over the course of the evening: Couture decided to read a piece about a phantom limb because she was inspired by one of Salazar Leon’s poems; Maguire mentioned that Sault Ste. Marie was not far from Salazar Leon’s hometown of Sudbury. This is one of the best parts of Resonance, du Plessis explained – allowing readers to influence each other, to form a community. Though the Resonance Reading Series may be finished for now, that sense of community carries on.
Read our review of Dani Couture’s Yaw, originally published in Vallum 11:2, here.
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