Recap by Rosie Long Decter
There was barely space for readers to make their way to the front of the room at Argo Bookshop’s Summerfest Readings earlier this month. The narrow shop was lined with chairs, and by the time the evening started, nearly every seat was filled.
Curated by Ilona Martonfi, the readings began at eight and packed nine writers into the space of an hour. Robert Winters read first, his steady voice and stark poems invoking far-off battlefields, as he spoke of “heavy metal cracking old roadways like dry egg shells.” Following Winters was the curator herself, whose calm reading included a particularly captivating folk tale about a refugee girl. David Gates completed the first third of the night with meditations on change, place, and nature: “my questions, asked or not, are in the stones,” he recited.
Breaking with the poetry of the first three readers, Kitty Hoffman read a piece of prose about prose itself. Her reading was a poignant ode to intellectual investigation, chronicling her desire from a young age to spend her days thinking and writing, to “dance with the old rabbis” – as well as her understanding that this “special world of meaning” was reserved for men. After Kitty, singer-songwriter Mike Di Sclafani brought his guitar up to the front. Sclafani performed original songs straight out of the folk tradition, with a drawling voice and heartfelt lyrics.
Maria Caltabiano steered the evening back to poetry with a charming piece about the “poet’s companion,” and Jim Olwell after her brought to vivid life a “cafe for old men.” Catherine Chandler read from a series of poems for her mom, depicting a bittersweet scene of a mother wrapping a ribbon around a child’s curls. Chandler’s light, rhythmic voice paired with her clear language made her a standout. Her final poem, “Votiv,” invoked the ambiguities of faith and grief, describing a woman wandering through St. Joseph’s Oratory after the Sandy Hook shootings, testing her “limits of belief.”
After Chandler, the evening closed out with a final reading from Robert Martin Evans, who left the night on a wistful note with his delicate imagery: “I know you that way / an airplane passing like an arrow,” he read. Swift as an arrow, Argo’s Summerfest Readings concluded as smoothly as they started – a sweet sampling of Montreal talent on a late summer night.
For upcoming Argo events, check out their website.
Find Ilona Martonfi in Vallum 11:1 here.
Find Robert Martin Evans in Vallum 13:1 here.
Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE!